Georges Marchais's long tenure as the leader of the French Communist Party (PCF) witnessed a sharp decline in the party's electoral performance. Shortly after Marchais took over, the PCF received more than 20 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections. By the time he left office, the party's share of the vote had dropped to less than 10 percent. A new biography of Marchais, by Thomas Hofnung, provides a nuanced assessment of the French Communist leader, showing why Marchais's political instincts, which once proved so remarkably effective, began to fail him the longer he was in power. Marchais's decision to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979—1980 symbolized the decline of the PCF, but even then Marchais's colleagues were unwilling to remove him. He remained in office for another decade, as the fortunes of the party continued to ebb. Hofnung's perceptive book takes due account of Marchais's strengths but is especially illuminating in its portrayal of the French Communists in decline a decline that paralleled the waning of the Cold War.

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