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Independent Radicals

The Independent Radicals (French: Radicaux indépendants) were a center-right French political current during the French Third Republic. It was slightly to the right of the more famous Radical-Socialist Party, and shared many doctrinal features in common. The prominent political scientist André Siegfried described them as "Social conservatives who did not want to break with the Left, and who therefore voted with the Right on [economic] interests, and with the Left on political issues".

Originally in the 1900s French political parties were campaign organisations, separate from the associated parliamentary group. Two parliamentary groups existed with a blurred boundary between them, and sharing a similar ideology: the Radical-Socialist group and the Radical Left group. In 1914 the Radical-Socialist Party ordered all of its parliamentarians to sit exclusively in the Radical-Socialist group, creating a clearer boundary between the two parties: the Radical Left group was now the parliamentary party of 'Independent' Radicals who quit the Radical-Socialist Party as well as those who refused to join it, normally out of disagreement with the Radical-Socialists' preference for allying with the Socialist Party.

From 1914 to 1940, Radical Republicans in parliament were therefore mostly split into two distinct groups, on the one hand the Radical-Socialist Party and on the other the Independent Radicals some of whom sat unaffiliated but most sitting in the Radical Left group. This largely came down less to ideology and rather their preference in coalition partner: the Socialist Party to their left or the secular conservative-liberals of the centre-right Democratic Alliance. This made the Radical Left a pivotal party, and regardless of whether the government was centre-left or centre-right there was usually one or more Independent Radical in cabinet. Several of France's most powerful political figures were Independent Radicals, including Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and President Gaston Doumergue.

At various moments during the interwar the Radical-Socialist Party was subject to small schisms over its attitude to the government of the day. Whenever the more conservative Radical-Socialists quit their caucus, they would either join the Radical Left group directly, or form a small splinter Radical group that eventually merged into the Radical Left. In 1938 an Independent Radical Party was formed from the merger of two groups that had at different points split off from the Radical-Socialist Party in protest at its choice of allies: Henry Franklin-Bouillon's anti-socialist Social and Radical Left (formed in 1927), and André Grisoni's recent anti-communist dissidents.

The tendency was described by André Siegfried (Tableau des Partis en France) for the case of Franklin-Bouillon's dissidents: "a group largely of former Radical-Socialists who from a sense of National Unity, preferred to side with Poincaré [the liberal centre-right] over the Cartel [Socialist Party], and who ened up turning vaguely into nationalists. Radicalism has always contained this kind of temperament, but has always ended up expelling them. Are they really a party of the Centre[-right]? In any case they have taken refuge there, without fully sharing the mindset, and in any case the pure Radical[-Socialist]s would not forgive their dissidency and welcome them back.

In 1930, the Independent Radical Raoul Péret became Minister of Justice in André Tardieu's cabinet. He was incidentally the cause of his fall because of his personal links with the banker Albert Oustric.

Over time the boundaries between the Independent Radicals and the Left Republican group (caucus of the Democratic Alliance) grew less clear. In 1936 an attempt was made by the liberal former-premier Pierre-Étienne Flandin to merge the two groups under the label Alliance of Left Republicans and Independent Radicals (ARGRI). It ultimately failed: while some Independent Radicals joined, others refused and continued the old caucus under the name "Independent Radical and Democratic Left" group.

In the Senate, the Independent Radicals sat in the Democratic and Radical Union (Union démocratique et radicale) parliamentary group.

After the Liberation of France, several deputies, including the mayor of Nice, Jean Médecin, formed an Independent Radical Party (PRI), which was a founding member of the Rally of Left Republicans umbrella party .


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