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Maurice Thorez: A Biography

Maurice Thorez: A Biography
John Bulaitis

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Maurice Thorez (1900-1964) was a major figure in the history of twentieth-century France and European Communism for over three decades. Under his leadership, the French Communist Party (PCF) became France's largest political party and one of the most important communist parties in the Western world. Born in a mining village and leaving school at the age of 12, Thorez's rapid rise in the PCF paralleled Stalin's consolidation of power in the Soviet Union. After the Second World War, he became a minister and, briefly, deputy prime minister, before the Cold War excluded communists from political power. The PCF became known as `the party of Maurice Thorez', an expression of the leader cult around Thorez that mirrored the `cult of personality' around Stalin.

This book, based on a wealth of original source material including Thorez's diaries and notebooks is the only biography of Thorez available in English. John Bulaitis outlines how Thorez's political life intersected with, and was shaped by, key historical events. Chapters are devoted to the Popular Front, the World War II years (spent in the Soviet Union), the trauma of the 1956 Hungarian Revolt and the crisis prompted by the Algerian War. The book also examines Thorez's role as a leading player within the world communist movement. At its heart, the book explores the paradox of the mass communist movement in France: its ability to fuse attachment to the French nation with fervent loyalty to the Soviet Union and Stalinist practices.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Thorez in the Biographical Matrix 

1. Young Man in a Hurry  

2. The Hesitant Revolutionary  

3. Class against Class

4. Popular Front

5. Exile in the Promised Land

6. In the Corridors of Power  

7. The Party of Maurice Thorez  

8. The Trauma of 1956  

9. Algeria and de Gaulle  

10. Final Years and Legacy 

Author Info

John Bulaitis is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Canterbury Christ Church University. He is the author of Communism in Rural France: French Agricultural Workers and the Popular Front (I.B.Tauris, 2008).


'John Bulaitis's stylishly written biography of Maurice Thorez will long remain a model of carefully crafted and judicious scholarship; an example of what dispassionate yet critical post-communist historiography can achieve. While the author does not hesitate to take issue with established French scholars, he avoids erecting a kind of tribunal where the biographer is judge and jury. Every deed (and misdeed) of the communist leader is situated in its proper historical context on the basis of an intimate knowledge of the archival sources. Thorez emerges as a complex figure, a leader who tried, often unsuccessfully, to balance political pragmatism with loyalty to the communist movement a far more interesting character than the traditional depiction of him as a mere Stalinist hack'
-- Donald Sassoon, Emeritus Professor of Comparative European History, Queen Mary, University of London

'An English-language biography of Maurice Thorez has long been needed. John Bulaitis has delivered a peerless study, guaranteed to become the definitive account of Thorez's life for some time to come.'
-- Matthew Worley, Professor of Modern History, University of Reading

'This is a beautifully crafted biography and political history based on solid research and an obvious command of the secondary sources. A biography of Thorez in English is long overdue and with it John Bulaitis has made an exemplary contribution to the historiography of European communism.'
-- Kevin Morgan, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, University of Manchester


Other titles in the Communist Lives series:

Palmiro Togliatti – Aldo Agosti (978 1 84511 726 9)
Imre Nagy – János M. Rainer (978 1 84511 959 1)
Georgi Dimitrov – Marietta Stankova (978 1 84511 728 3)
Tito – Geoffrey Swain (978 1 84511 727 6)
Antonio Gramsci – Claudio Natoli (978 1 84511 723 8)
Wladyslaw Gomulka – Anita Prażmowska (978 1 84885 133 7)
Ernst Thälmann – Norman LaPorte (978 1 84511 724 5)
Nicolae Ceausescu – Daniel M. Pennell (978 1 78076 334 7)

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Communist Lives

ISBN: 9781845117252
Publication Date: 29 Apr 2018
Number of Pages: 368
Height: 234
Width: 156

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