Mendès-France, Pierre

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mendès-France, Pierre

Pierre Mendès-France (pyĕr măNdĕs´-fräNs), 1907–82, French statesman. A lawyer and economist, he entered (1932) the chamber of deputies as a Radical Socialist. In World War II he was a pilot in the Free French forces. Popular as a democratic leader, he became premier in 1954 after the French defeat at Dienbienphu. At the Geneva Conference (1954), he arranged the armistice that halted the fighting in Indochina. He also helped bring about the formation of the Western European Union, and he proposed far-reaching economic reform. His cabinet fell (1955) on the issue of his liberal North African policy. His conflict with doctrinaire conservative Radical Socialists led to a party split; in 1957 he resigned as party head. He failed to gain reelection to the national assembly in 1958, and in 1959 he was expelled from the party. Mendès-France opposed the return to power (1958) of Charles de Gaulle, and he led the Union of Democratic Forces, an anti-Gaullist group. He won reelection from Grenoble in 1967, but lost his seat in de Gaulle's 1968 election victory. His writings include Economics and Action (tr. 1955), The Pursuit of Freedom (tr. 1956), and A Modern French Republic (tr. 1963).

See biographies by A. Werth (1958) and J. Lacouture (1984).

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