CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1When one considers the birth of political parties, two things become clear. Firstly, there has been little research specifically focusing on the creation of political parties to date; secondly, the few existing studies are not very helpful in solving the sociological enigma of the genesis of a party. In the early 1980s, Angelo Panebianco had already noted that “although crucial, the problem of parties’ formative paths receives little consideration in the current literature on parties. Party formation theory has been unable to go beyond Duverger’s distinction between internally created parties and externally created parties”. [1] This theoretical gap has admittedly been partly filled by Panebianco himself, whose “genetic model” – building on Maurice Duverger’s intuitions [2] – has largely come to prevail in the field of research on parties. The Italian political scientist emphasises three variables supposed to account for the modalities of party creation: territorial construction (by penetration or diffusion); the support of a pre-existing organisation (or lack thereof); and the presence (or absence) of a charismatic leader. [3] However, the model devised by Panebianco studies the birth of political parties chiefly to shed light on their subsequent organisational development. [4] In effect, advocates of this approach only have a passing interest in the genesis of parties and primarily aim at analysing its more or less long-term effects on party structures and paths. [5] A similar observation can be made regarding studies of “new” parties, which certainly allow for a better understanding of the variety of party formation processes (fusion, fission, “genuinely new” parties) [6] and of the heterogeneity of factors involved in these processes (current political issues, institutional constraints, the attitude of existing parties towards new challengers [7] or the political project of the newly created organisations). [8] Yet, most of these studies focus on identifying the exogenous causes for the appearance of a party, without then examining that appearance too closely. [9] The approach favoured by researchers who launch into complex mathematical calculations to single out the explicative variable [10] seems to overlook this phenomenon altogether: such an etiological (and generally macroscopic) stance ignores the sociological density of the party formation process and party formation is perceived as a “transparent” phenomenon, devoid of “mystery”. [11] This observation also applies to a number of textbooks and monographs found in the literature, where the genesis of parties is often only mentioned because it is the starting point of their history, and is addressed in descriptive or naturalistic fashion, as if the process was self-evident for the actors involved. [12]

2A few notable exceptions aside, [13] the genesis of political parties in itself remains all too often overlooked. This paper proposes a new approach to party creation based on three case studies: the Front national (FN) in France, the Movimento sociale italiano (MSI) in Italy, and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria. The reader may find these choices peculiar. They derive primarily from the authors’ previous fieldwork: parties in Algeria [14] and far-right parties in Europe [15] (sources of this research are presented in the Appendix). We did not choose to study these parties jointly because of ideological criteria. The FN, a far-right party, the MSI, a neo-fascist party, and the FIS, an Islamist party, are arguably all politically extremist and/or “anti-system” parties. But neither this categorisation (which was unclear at the moment of party creation, and often established a posteriori by researchers), nor the variable properties that could be deduced from it a priori (type of organisation, action repertoire, relationship to the political establishment, etc.) were factors in our decision to combine our field studies.

3This comparative project is rooted in the formulation of a common “plot”: [16] with whom, why and on what basis do individuals who are initially outside the established political field create a party? This line of questioning, applied separately to each of our fields of study, has led us to be attentive to the material and political supports mobilised by actors, and to the reasons for which, at a specific time, they get involved in party political competition. In this perspective, it was necessary to study party creation in the making, methodologically suspending our knowledge of the outcome of those processes. [17] Such an approach enables us not only to account for their complexity and uncertainty, often overlooked as such, but also to conceive the act of creating a party brand as the result of multiple interactions between individual and/or collective actors. [18]

4Our analysis will be in two parts. First, we will study the “primogenesis” of these parties, in order to identify the actors involved, their modes of action and organisation, their social profile and the resources available to them before party creation. This preliminary investigation is indispensable to grasp how, little by little, through interactions between actors and their ability to anticipate and manage the external evolutions of the political game, a structure of potential mobilisation develops – a preamble of sorts to the (non-mechanical) “transformation” into a party. Next we explore the different processes for “shaping” the party, or rather “making it conform”: in order to make themselves known and collectively recognised as a party, the actors must first and foremost build a conventional façade. This entails careful observation of the various aspects involved for these actors in the process of manufacturing a party (name, programme, what form it takes on the ground, etc.) and of the variables (the social and political properties) that contribute to determining the modalities of this process.

5This approach, focused on the primogenesis and then the establishment of parties, might be thought to overlook the specificities of the creation processes of the three parties under study. As we will see, the FN emerges from “fusion”, the MSI from a “rebuilding” and the FIS from a process of “external creation”. We argue, however, that this is not the essential element. Although these processes can be categorised in various ways, they all proceed from a similar dynamic, originating in the mobilisation of pre-existing networks and ending with the implementation of a range of operations judged as necessary by the actors to make a party. It is therefore not because the FN, the MSI and the FIS supposedly have “political extremism” in common that their genetic dynamics are similar. We posit, however, that the modus operandi analysed in this paper is similar in parties that have introduced new actors with previous activist experience into the political field.

Mobilisation of pre-existing networks and definition of the organisation: the primogenesis of political parties

6The founders of a party generally agree to present the creation of their organisation as the result of a spontaneous grouping of individuals sharing the same political objectives. This strategy of presentation – inherent to the “party narrative” [19] – fulfils a range of functions: naturalising the party creation process, fostering the illusion of a party united since its inception, but also smoothing out the hesitations, internal conflicts and contradictions that necessarily come with the foundation of any organisation.

7Understanding the creation of a party firstly entails doing away with such linear or mythical conceptions and analysing party socio-genesis with specific attention to: 1) the circles in which the future founders are active; 2) the endogenous and exogenous processes that lead to the creation itself; 3) the struggles relating to the definition of the organisation. Undertaking this preliminary investigation enables us to perceive the foundation of the FN, the MSI and the FIS not simply as a birth, but as the product of interactions where, for a number of actors, the modalities of the continuation of prior (political, religious) engagements is at stake. Accounting for the uncertain and erratic character of party genesis requires adopting a processual and configurational approach, in the sense described by Norbert Elias: [20] a sequence of actions, involving a plurality of interdependent actors, which can be neither anticipated nor controlled.

Inside the “pre-party” circles

8The birth of a political party is routinely presented as a self-evident association of individuals who share common values. Often, nothing is said about the concrete conditions in which these individuals came to form such a group. In order to unravel the “founding narrative” of the parties, we must first look at the original actors, the circles in which they were active and their relationships.

9“When we created the FIS, we got in touch with people who we knew and trusted”, claims imam Hachemi Sahnouni, one of the main party founders, in an interview. While the FIS emerged out of an initial core of six individuals who launched a call to form a party on 18 February 1989, the party’s genesis more broadly derives from the activation of pre-existing networks that enabled the party leaders to present a board of 35 members on 10 March, in the Ibn Badis mosque in Algiers. The FIS is not an extension of a structured group; it is more largely based on the combination of a number of individuals who during the 1980s were involved in one or several of the following mobilisations: the 12 November 1982 meeting, the first collective action in support of explicitly religious demands, mostly focused on moralising public life; the creation of university mosques across the country; the terrorist activities of the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) from 1982 to 1987; the experience of prison and daily proselytising around mosques. These activities fall under the umbrella term of da’wah (proclamation of faith), referring both to the missionary action of preachers and to other types of proselytising, such as incentives to pray inside universities. All the founders have, according to several interviewees, “a history of da’wah”. This shared experience has fostered ties and largely contributed to forging a strong political identity, endowing the main participants with a prestige and resources that would subsequently prove invaluable at the time of party creation. [21]

10Similar dynamics were at work in the primogenesis of the MSI. In the wake of the Allies’ 1945 victory and the subsequent demise of the Italian Social Republic (RSI), [22] the fascist camp was considerably weakened, undergoing a wide-ranging campaign of extra-judicial (lynchings, summary executions) and judicial purges (arrests and trials). In June 1946, some 12,000 fascists were detained. Forbidden to “reorganize the dissolved fascist party, under any form whatever” (legislative decree no. 195 of 26 April 1945), Mussolini’s former supporters who managed to avoid the purges sought exile or clandestinity. The first clandestine groups looking to continue “the ideological and political battle of fascism” [23] were created in Rome. Although they formed a “very chaotic whole”, [24] these groups, which had no material resources, still managed to raise the spectre of a fascist threat through a number of spectacular actions (they launched attacks, played the fascist hymn Giovinezza on pirate radio, and stole Mussolini’s corpse). The future founders of the MSI (including Giorgio Almirante, Pino Romualdi and Arturo Michelini) were among the main leaders of these small organisations. They coordinated their initiatives and worked at creating unitary structures (particularly the Fasci di Azione Rivoluzionara, founded in the winter of 1945 by Romualdi and revived by him and Almirante in the autumn of 1946). They cumulated different types of capital, related to the functions they held in fascist institutions (organisational skills, routine practice of leadership) or to their close personal ties with Mussolini (notoriety, prestige). [25] The MSI was thus directly derived from the mobilisation of networks established during this time of clandestinity – a founding and unifying period, later described by top party officials as “genuinely heroic”. [26] Creating a party was however far from being on the cards at that point, and it was instead through the “most fanatic revolutionary intransigence” that the future founders of the MSI then strived to prolong their cause. [27]

11The creation of the FN seemed equally unlikely in the months that preceded its official inception. The French far-right was then made up of a cluster of “small groups, isolated, sectarian, completely cut off from reality and caught up in trivial feuds where personal issues and petty grudges prevail over political action”. [28] Yet, in that case as well, the foundation of the party derived from earlier efforts to constitute and activate networks of personal acquaintanceship, similarly undertaken by actors endowed with certain types of capital. The genesis of the FN must first and foremost be seen in the light of the effort to unify the scattered forces of the “National opposition” [29] spearheaded by Alain Robert from 1969. At the age of 24, Robert had already been involved in numerous far-right organisations (Fédération des étudiants nationalistes, Comité Tixier-Vignancour, Occident, Groupement Union Droit); and in this perspective of a “unitary fight against leftists and the regime”, [30] he launched Ordre nouveau (ON), a structure that served as a vehicle for the process of aggregation of the small groups that made up the far-right. ON, which progressively came to be the keystone of the “National opposition”, then had a collective capital of (material, activist, and organisational) resources whose mobilisation (originally intended for other purposes) proved crucial in the creation of the FN. Between 1970 and 1972, however, ON remained a radical organisation, fighting to “achieve the national Revolution, against the Regime and against the Reds”, [31] with violence as its main action repertoire.

12Our joint analysis of these three cases highlights at least two initial common features in the processual dynamic of party primogenesis: networks were constituted from previous mobilisations (activist, political, religious); and the future founders held specific forms of capital (prestige, political experience, organisational skills).

The moment of party creation: perceptions of the context and internal struggles

13By analysing the actors’ practices prior to party creation, we can identify the existence of a “pre-existing potential structure of action”. [32] The process through which this structure becomes a party is however not a natural or mechanical one. By comparing the three organisations, we will identify two common dynamics of transition to party formation: one pertaining to the practical interpretations of the political and institutional context; the other to be found in the dynamics of internal competition in the mobilised milieux.

14In Algeria of the 1970s and 1980s, the creation of an Islamist party was not an option in an authoritarian single-party regime that jailed many Islamist activists. But the future FIS founders’ perception of their scope of possibilities was considerably broadened by the new configuration that emerged after the October 1988 riots. Confusion reigned at the top levels of government and on 5 February 1989, a project of constitution struck out the reference to the single party and recognised “associations of a political character” (ACP). A handful of Islamists saw in this the opportunity to create a political organisation. Kamel Guemazi, a founding FIS member, confirms this shift in perspective: “To us, ACP meant party. […] Yes, of course we were reassured by the Constitution. […] It was then that we started thinking about creating a party”. [33] This was still a risky project as political authorities officially rejected party pluralism, resulting in a mixture of caution and boldness: “We went for it, but we were watching out”, [34] as another founding member put it. This window of opportunity was further opened by the competition between Islamists. As Hachemi Sahnouni pointed out, “we had to act fast for fear that the others would be quicker”. Indeed, a number of initiatives were taken at the same time. Mahfoud Nahnah and Ahmed Sahnoun, two key protagonists of post-independence Islamist mobilisations, respectively created a charity and the Da’wah League. This competitive climate accelerated things. Here, the “symbolic profits of establishing a political party” [35] had to do with the actors’ eagerness to prevail as the first representatives of political Islam. Thus, this perception of a favourable institutional context, related to the internal competition in the Islamist activist field, led to the proclamation of the creation of a political party, the FIS, on 18 February 1989.

15A similar process occurred with the MSI. Between April 1945 and June 1946, as we have seen, the fascist camp regrouped clandestinely. During this period, the creation of a unitary and legal political movement appeared impossible, both due to the insurrectional objectives of the clandestine groups and the ban on re-forming a fascist political organisation. Yet, the perception of the scope of possibilities progressively changed. Two factors proved decisive in the process: the end of the official purges (in March 1946), and the perspective of the June 1946 referendum, in which voters were asked about the nature of the future regime and called to elect the constituent assembly. The outcome of this referendum was going to be crucial for the future of civil peace in Italy; in this context, fascists and representatives of various parties met privately. As Piero Ignazi points out, these meetings gave “the signal of a possible return to political life for the ‘defeated, the survivors, the runaways’; in other words, they were a political legitimisation of neo-fascists as political actors”. [36] These talks between the fascists and the advocates of the Monarchy and the Republic yielded the following outcome: in exchange for amnesty, the fascists committed to opting for legality, i.e., respecting the referendum results and remaining neutral in the event of a conflict. Proclaimed on 18 June 1946, the results of the referendum saw the advent of the Republic. A few days later, on 22 June, a decree provided for the amnesty of fascists, including reduced sentences. In July, half of the detainees were freed. The opening of this unprecedented window of opportunity, with the return to civil life of those “exiled within their own country”, [37] was a crucial turn in the reorganisation of the fascist camp. The issue of the definition of a legitimate mode of action now came under the spotlight: did the fascists enter the political game or maintain clandestine activities? A struggle for the representation of the fascist sector ensued. A myriad competing organisations appeared, supported by diverse press organs; mostly however in favour of the creation of a unitary and legal organisation. This current did indeed come to prevail, with the support of the main clandestine leaders (and thus the future MSI founders) who saw the situation of the survivors of Mussolini’s regime as “disastrous” [38] but sought to retain their control over the neo-fascist circles. Yet, the “need to return to normalcy”, to “come back and be part of a world where they would be allowed to live” [39] was a specific contributing factor in the transformation of pre-existing networks into a party organisation. On 3 December 1946, a preparatory meeting laid the foundations of the “first” MSI. On 26 December, the party was officially founded in Rome.

16The genetic process of the FN was similar in some respects. The political (and specifically, electoral) context accelerated the conversion process which had begun a few months earlier. The forthcoming 1973 legislative elections were perceived by Ordre nouveau leaders as an opportunity to “broaden the audience of the National opposition” and add the “electoral struggle” [40] to the movement’s action repertoire (ON already had a few candidates running in the 1971 municipal elections). This dynamic – meant to pave the way for the “creation of a vast National Front encompassing the entirety of the National opposition” [41] – clashed with a different logic, that of the internal competition in far-right circles. Despite an influx of new members, ON still had to contend with the opposition of a number of groups (including the Œuvre française) in its attempts to conquer the monopoly over the nationalist space. The creation of a party was accordingly also seen as an opportunity “to increase the movement’s impact”. [42] Other variables should however be taken into account. The project of implementing a “national front strategy” [43] leading to the creation of a party is also related to what François Duprat calls ON’s “growth crisis”.


“At the present time”, he wrote in June 1971, “there is a necessity, an absolute priority […]: the creation and the formation of a revolutionary party, a nationalist party [italics in the original]. It is not a movement, but a party that we need and want, it is the only goal that must guide our current fight. Without it, we are nothing […]. Without it, we will never achieve anything […].” [44]

18The tone of this text sheds light on an often-overlooked motive for creating the FN: an urgent desire to transform the ON – essentially still a youth organisation – into an “adult organisation”. [45] In such an anti-system group, this transformation cannot occur without constraints: a process of rationalisation and redefinition of the legitimate foundations of the group’s action is required. Duprat undertook this task in 1971 and 1972; in each new article published in the ON’s press organs, he increasingly emphasised the need for the movement to become a party. It was in this perspective that, as a prominent “national” [46] with political capital, Jean-Marie Le Pen was contacted in September 1972 to collaborate in the creation of the FN. Although he is usually presented in the party literature as “the founding present of the Front National”, Le Pen only came in after the decision to launch the party was taken, during the second national ON congress, on 10 and 11 June 1972.

19Two dynamics are thus involved in the primogenesis of the three parties under study: the positive perception of the context and internal competition in pre-party circles.

What kind of party? The organisational form and the choice of name in question

20Our joint analysis of these three cases also shows that the choice and conception of the “party” as an organisational form was not necessarily self-evident at the time of creation.

21Because of the overwhelming success of the FIS in the first free Algerian elections (local in 1990 and legislative in 1991), we often forget the initial hesitations relating to its nature. In the beginning, the founders had not settled on a specific type of organisation. Some were thinking about creating an “association that would homogenise the da’wah”. [47] “At first, we preferred an association to a party. We had to educate the people before becoming more obviously political […]”. [48] Others, conversely, envisioned the creation of a genuine party organisation (hizb), to “do politics”, i.e., freely criticise the government. [49] This stance, it should be underlined, did not yet imply taking part in electoral competition (which was not on the government’s agenda) in the primogenetic phase – electoral participation would become the main preoccupation of the party a year later. It meant instead being able to bring together various actors scattered across the national territory, and acting as the voice of political Islam. The creation of the party thus allowed them to move from a plurality of voices to a political structure.

22Similar issues pertaining to the definition of a party can also be observed in the case of the MSI. As soon as the decision to create the party was made, it ushered in a period of struggle over the definition of its brand and its identity. The choice of acronym provoked numerous discussions [50] during November and December 1946. Several names were suggested, including “MOSIT” (MOvimento Sociale ITaliano) and “USI” (Unione Sociale degli Italiani), but then dropped in favour of “MSI”. The programme of the newly created organisation was similarly undetermined. Beyond the apparent consensus on the need to perpetuate “the idea of fascism” by maintaining “the ideal communion between the dead and the living”, [51] there were heated exchanges between the missini: some supported the entirety of the RSI’s programme (referring back to the previous fascist period, which drew its inspiration from socialism and revolution) whereas others “took into consideration the Southern reality of Italy” [52] (a reference to fascism as being in thrall to a corporatist and conservative regime). Drafted mainly by Pino Romualdi but reviewed and amended by the entire leadership, the “ten programmatic points” adopted in December 1946 were compromises between demands made by different factions and remained quite vague as to the actual ideological orientations of the party. [53]

23The competition around the definition of the organisation of the nascent Front National, a rather broad alliance of small groups, was also quite lively. The name of the movement and the affiliations of the future FN candidates in the legislative elections of 1973 were extensively debated during the movement’s national congress on 10 and 11 June 1972. Members attached to the ON brand supported the label “Front national pour un ordre nouveau”. But this choice was not unanimously supported in the congress’s electoral committee, where there was an “eagerness to take the strategy of openness further […]: instead of a hybrid name, why not open up all the way and just call ourselves the ‘Front national’? Many committee members were in favour of this and ultimately a motion to recommend this name was put forward.” [54] The contents of the motion provoked debates between delegates, mostly on the issue of the relationship to the movement’s identity. On the one hand, the “pragmatists” pointed out the “difficulties of using the name ‘Ordre nouveau’ in an electoral campaign, as it implies the necessity to adopt a strategy of full-on openness and a change of ‘image’”. [55] They did not mean to “renege on three years of struggle”, but sought “efficiency”. [56] On the other hand, the “traditionalists” feared “being watered down, losing everything that makes the nationalists original and strong”. [57] The electoral committee’s motion was eventually adopted, but the text specified that the nationalist-revolutionary movement would retain control over the organisation, by sponsoring and funding FN candidates. The congress offered an initial indication of the difficulties of transitioning into a party for activists who had “moral” ties with their original group.

24The primogenesis of the FN, the MSI and the FIS, quite unlike what the reconstructed tales told in the official party literature suggest, was in each case a complex and uncertain process. The launch of these three organisations was a product of the following: the mobilisation of the founders’ networks, which made up a structure that could potentially be turned into a party; the perception of a specific context contributing to the redefinition of the agents’ modes of action; dynamics of competition within “pre-party” circles; and the outcome of the struggles on the definition of the organisation. More widely, and as a complement, the moment of party creation evidences a belief in the performative efficiency of the act of creating a party as a means of consolidating positions held both in the original milieux of mobilisation (the far right or the field of religious activism) and the institutional sphere.

Shaping the party product

25The primogenetic process is quickly followed by various activities to shape the newly created organisations. First, let us point out that the creation of a party depends on a number of factors: the dominant representations of the “shape of the party” at a given point (which of course varies in time and space); a range of legal, political and financial constraints; the technologies available allowing a group of actors to give it life; and the dispositions and resources of said actors. In effect, the creation of a party should be seen as a conforming process: [58] for a party to exist, its founders have to set up a standardised façade or front and master the specific tools for establishing it as a legitimate political party. It follows from this that our analysis of the shaping of the party product must first consist of identifying the various “material, human and symbolic production processes [and] all the makeshift arrangements” [59] deemed necessary by the actors to “make” a party. We must then pay close attention to the social dimension of this process [60] and identify connections between the social and political characteristics of the founders and the specific form taken by the organisation. Applied to our three case studies, this approach has the merit of highlighting the singularities as well as the constraints and the hardships of party construction. Practices (political, religious) that pre-date party creation, organisational skills, and the social and political legitimacy of the founders’ circles largely contribute to shaping the initial form (structural, symbolic and programmatic) of the organisation.

Building a standardised party front

26In order to understand how a party is set up, we must focus on the actors’ practices, i.e., analyse what the founders of the FN, the MSI and the FIS deemed necessary to make themselves into a party and have it appear credible and acceptable. One of the first benefits of this joint analysis is to reveal the relatively standardised character of that process, since several ways of shaping their party appear to be shared by all three organisations. As we will see, each of these operations plays a complementary role in building the party.

27The primary corollary of this process appears to be the adoption of a new political brand, an operation which reminds us that a party first and foremost “exists” as a name and a symbol (see Documents 1, 2 and 3).

Document 1

MSI member card (1949)

Document 1

MSI member card (1949)

Sources: Fondazione Ugo Spirito, Fondo Mario Cassiano, Rome.
Document 2

One of the earliest FN posters (1972)

Document 2

One of the earliest FN posters (1972)

Source: Contemporary history museum of the BDIC.
Document 3

FIS logo

Document 3

FIS logo

28In the three cases under study, leaders of the FN, the MSI and the FIS began by choosing a name and a logotype in order to make themselves known and recognised as new political actors. The birth of the FN was announced in early October 1972 with a poster featuring a large-scale image of the party’s logotype (30,000 copies). Similarly, MSI leaders issued numerous posters bearing the party’s name. The name of the FIS was repeated frequently by its founders after the announcement of the creation of the party in February 1989. Leaders of all three organisations chose denominations other than “party” (“movement”, “front” etc.), for various reasons. [61] However, the FN, the MSI and the FIS are presented in official documents, statutes and speeches as fully-fledged parties. While the adoption of a new brand contributes to giving visibility to the party, it also fulfils other functions. Names and party symbols first produce an identity for the newly constituted groups, insofar as they crystallise a range of “distinctive marks, leading the members to recognise themselves both as different from those outside the group (identisation) and similar to those within the group (identification)”. [62] The delineation of this identity works through the mobilisation of referents (symbolic, axiological, historical) that must convey a meaning to the party community – particularly to members of pre-existing groups, who are most at-risk from identity-related confusion during this transitional phase. For instance, the MSI’s trademark flame, initially designed along the lines of the emblems of veterans’ organisations, conveys “the fire burning in a small chapel, the memory of death and sacrifice projected into the future”, as one of the historical leaders of the movement, Pino Rauti, later put it. [63] This logo made a tacit connection with the fascist regime while referring to the “cult of the dead” and the funerary imagery, both crucial to the Weltanschauung of the Italian Social Republic. Hence, in providing a potential space both for memory investments and emotional projections, party brands can also play the role of unifying and mobilising agents, decisive in the launch period of a new movement. As David Kertzer points out, “symbols are at the core of the process that ties individuals to […] political movements”. [64]

29Drafting a programme is also one of the operations perceived as inherent in manufacturing a party. The FIS founders thus believed that the creation of such an organisation, despite the absence of elections, required them to establish a genuine platform.


“Creating a party without a programme? That’s impossible. […] Saïd Guechi and Abassi Madani were highly politicised. They knew the Islamic movement and the parties. I had a lot of documents about Islamic movements all over the world. We had an idea of what a party was.” [65]

31The same goes for the Front National leaders. Drafting a programme was not only a matter of presenting the party’s political line: it was also supposed to confer on the nascent organisation a “profile as an accepted and well-considered political party”. [66] This idea was also shared by the leaders of the MSI, who saw the very existence of their programme as an indication of the legality of their party. [67] Being able to refer to a programme means conforming to the idea of what is expected from a party and making the new organisation credible in the eyes of competing actors, the authorities and the media. In all three cases, this conforming process also entailed the presentation of somewhat vague proposals on a wide range of issues: education, health and industry for the FIS; [68] the economy, teaching and the civil service for the FN; [69] the independence of Italy, the restoration of state authority and the introduction of a popular referendum for the MSI. [70] This was meant to display the organisations’ ability to address all kinds of issues. However, the implementation of these programmes was not yet a matter preoccupying them; their production was mostly aimed at strengthening the party front.

32Other operations appear similarly crucial in giving shape to the party. The structuring of the organisation is seen as a priority: as Kamel Guemazi says, “after the FIS was approved, building a structure became our main activity”. [71] This structuring process was twofold: internal (organisation) and external (territorial bases). For the FN, the shaping of the party product quickly came with the establishment of an “apparatus worthy of a real party”, in the words of the ON leaders. [72] Regardless of its degree of sophistication, an organisational chart is among the accessories necessary to be perceived as a genuine party. On 10 March 1989, a few weeks after the project of creating the FIS was announced, the 35 founding members of the party (including a board of thirteen members) were solemnly introduced to the faithful gathered in the Ibn Badis mosque of Kouba (Algiers). In order to exist, a party must first be embodied by one or several leaders, but also by a number of agents endowed with specific roles (president, secretary general, member of the board, of the national consultative council or the executive committee, etc., to mention a few of the titles used in the three parties’ official terminologies). By examining this political roster, we can identify selection criteria that reveal another side of the shaping of the party product. Although they played a significant role in the creation of the FIS, members of the MIA chose not to be included on the official list of the Islamist party’s founders: “[…] we feared the FIS would be associated with the ‘terrorists’ that we were! We settled on this in order to spare them the embarrassment. But obviously we were very much involved.” [73] The same goes for the MSI, whose founders – some of them still living in clandestinity – had to put the spotlight on individuals who had not been “compromised” by their involvement in the fascist regime. The first secretary of the national executive committee, the first provisional governing body of the MSI, was Giacinto Trevisonno, a second-rate politician about whom very little is known. Likewise, apart from Giovanni Tonelli, who was mostly known as a journalist, all the other members of the executive committee were rather obscure characters. Similar constraints can be observed in the FN, as ON leaders and activists chose to “wipe the slate clean”, [74] opting for a “momentary self-forgetfulness” [75] so as not to hinder the launch of the party. On the recommendation of the nationalist-revolutionaries, Jean-Marie Le Pen, seen as more respectable, was given a monopoly over the representation of the Front. The manufacturing of an acceptable party product therefore results from the selection of legitimate agents, with no ostensible ties to terrorism, fascism or nationalist-revolutionary activism.

33Structuring a party also entails establishing territorial bases. This process is also considered as central in party construction: “We had to show that we were organised”, Bouyali says about the FIS. Likewise, Giorgio Almirante and Francesco Palemenghi-Crispi explain that “the problem of the first few months [for the MSI] was not an ideological one […]; without any resources, we had to organise the new movement and make it known to the outside world”. [76] This goes some way towards explaining why the organisation was set up so quickly. As early as January 1947, a few days after its creation, the MSI already had its first local branches. [77] On 31 May 1947, the movement had (according to internal figures) 60 provincial branches and 240 municipal branches. [78] The process was slower and more uncertain for the two other parties. The FIS faced not only the impossibility of creating structures in all towns and provinces across such a vast territory, but also of setting up two structures at each level as was originally planned in the statutes (executive board and consultative council): [79] only the former were established. Despite the active mobilisation of networks of personal acquaintanceship developed in the Islamic movement, the FIS founders had a hard time finding available and competent individuals to handle duties at local and provincial level. Similarly, most FN local branches were generally opened at the initiative of “courageous loners” (so called within the movement) [80] and remained for the most part empty shells.


“Each of us learns to take responsibility and to be self-reliant […]; each branch leader is practically in charge of managing a complete and autonomous organisation at constituency level”. [81]

35Yet, purely formal though they may be (a meeting space, a room in an apartment, or even just a phone number), the existence of these structures contributes to conferring a tangible existence onto the party, as do the other types of action mentioned above. As Giuliana de Medici points out regarding the MSI, they allow for a “first encounter between the Italians and the new party”. [82] They also offer a material indication of the organisational and therefore political potential of the party, and constitute an important base for recruiting new members and securing financial resources. These structuring operations also show, however, the role played by improvisation and makeshift arrangements in the creation of a party.

36Lastly, the creation of the FN, the MSI and the FIS resulted from yet another operation: the establishment of tools or procedures for controlling party discourse with the objective of maintaining the illusion of a unified voice. As Julian Mischi shows in his analysis of the process of homogenisation of the French Communist Party (PCF), the reification of the party is deliberately part of the party actors’ strategy. [83] The idea is to give the impression that the party acts and speaks as “one”. The techniques used to ensure party unity are based first and foremost on centralising the production of political direction and of party material. “The MSI’s official opinion on a given issue, and the line on the basis of which [the party] intends to resolve it” [84] are exposed in circulars or newsletters sent to the local branches on a weekly basis.


“Each week, the MSI will send out these ‘newsletters’ directly to all municipal and provincial branches. They will begin with a piece on political direction, which the branch leaders may use for propaganda purposes, and which will contain all the information that the national executive committee needs to forward to all of the movement’s peripheral bodies.” [85]

38The same goes for the FIS. The members of the national board appointed the leaders of the provincial structures. This was seen as a priority, as those leaders were then in charge of mobilising and managing the population and setting up structures in neighbouring towns. Hachemi Sahnouni describes this procedure as centralised:


“Members of the board took care of finding people for the wilaya offices […]. Ultimately, Guechi [the president of the national committee for organisation and coordination] okayed them; he gave the FIS stamp to the person chosen as president of the office and a copy of the FIS’s approval to the Interior Ministry.”

40Guechi thus steered the standardisation process, issuing directives relating to management and mobilisation practices, and providing material resources such as letterheads, a logo and a delegation of signature authority. The board endowed the new representatives of these local structures with as many collective resources as possible, specifically material resources. Other techniques for unification can however be observed: the monopolisation of the production of discourse by a small number of agents; repeated calls for “party discipline” [86] in the MSI’s case (“We can only accomplish our duty if we succeed in moving beyond personal disputes […]; it is necessary that we all agree”); [87] interrupting publication of competing publications of Ordre nouveau in the FN’s case (“Regretfully, we are forced to open a two-month parenthesis in the publication of the monthly and weekly”; [88] “this momentary silence met […] a primarily political and psychological requirement: ONLY UNDER THE SAME FLAG CAN WE GO INTO BATTLE [capitals in the original]”. [89]

41Our analysis of the first operations which constituted the manufacturing of the FN, FIS and MSI sheds light on the practical modalities of the transformation of pre-existing groups into party organisations, where this transformation is undertaken according to a principle of conforming to what is perceived by these groups as necessary to “be” a party. We can observe that while the FN, FIS and MSI were not yet fully-fledged parties (if we refer, for instance, to the definition provided by Lapalombara and Weiner), [90] they tried their best to appear as such: at least, this was the result which they seemed to be seeking. As ON leaders stated, the point was to give the FN “the image and the sheen of a genuine political party”, [91] to act as if the FN were a party, by endowing it with a standardised front, or calling it a party. This process can also be observed in the case of the MSI and the FIS.

42However, these operations of party construction were not necessarily self-evident for the parties under study, for at least two reasons. First, the creation of the three parties amounted to a change in organisational being. ON leaders did not hesitate to refer to this transition into a party as a “metamorphosis”, stepping “into a completely new field, a terra incognita of politics”. [92] FIS leaders expressed a similar sentiment:


“Creating a party was really something new for us. We wondered: what are we going to do? We had no experience. I was only 27. We’d always lived under the single-party system, where we experienced terrible things. We wondered whether the authorities would accept us. Some people asked us questions we were not always able to answer. It was a kind of discovery for us. We had to discover the field. We didn’t have a lot of reference points.” [93]

44Similar problems can be read between the lines in a posteriori narratives of the MSI’s creation:


“Not a single person amongst us who was involved in the Italian Social Republic believed that the tragic twilight of April 1945 would bring about the end of fascism. Let’s start over: runaways, purge victims, hounded and imprisoned […] The Movimento sociale italiano was born in this climate, out of a powerful will to survive […], with men who would all deserve a commendation for bravery.” [94]

46This transformation can also have far-reaching consequences for the members of pre-existing groups, forced – in the case of the MSI and FN – to give up their original emblems, principles and action repertoires, or, as we have shown, to abstain from playing a significant role within the newly founded organisations.

The impact of the founders’ political profiles on the shape of the party

47The actors’ social and political characteristics also contribute to shaping the nascent organisations. Beyond the norms for shaping parties already observed, the party founders’ trajectories, their former practices, the organisational capital they have acquired, and the circles or networks in which they have been involved are all relevant variables that must be taken into account in order to understand how a party is created. Here, we will demonstrate the importance of this methodological aspect of our approach through diverse illustrations drawn from our three case studies.

48Although they lacked experience of party organisation, the FIS founders did not start from scratch. The mobilisations in which they took part (the November 1982 demonstration, the experience of prison with the MIA, networks in universities and the free mosques of Algiers) were all opportunities for politicisation and for the acquisition of practical and cognitive skills. They had read books on Islamist organisations in other Muslim countries and knew how the former single party, the FLN, worked. They had various skills acquired during their experience of religious activism. They had progressively developed a political conception of their religious engagement and participated in various social organisations (mosques, religious associations, neighbourhood groups, charities, etc.) – these experiences would all prove useful in various ways in manufacturing the party. The conversion of this capital accumulated in the religious sphere and the importation of religious conceptions into the political sphere are crucial in the manufacturing processes of the FIS. This can be observed most clearly in the organisational choices made by the party founders. To build the organisational chart, they largely drew inspiration from the structures generally found in other Islamist parties with which they had become progressively familiar during past experiences. They acquired knowledge on how these organisations worked mostly in the network of university mosques. Indeed, the student mobilisations in favour of creating university mosques in the 1980s often entailed setting up libraries and holding thematic seminars. The recourse to this specific type of organisation is thus largely informed by their experiences in that context; they also read books and specialist journals and talked with foreign Islamist students. Yahia Bouklika, a member of the FIS board and former student at the faculty of Oran, explains how they came to imitate these structures:


“We had an idea of what a party was, because we read a lot. Abassi too. We had the documents already. I had almost all the documents of the Islamic political parties that existed all over the world, I knew the structures of, for instance, El Aamal in Jordan, Arbakan in Turkey, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, so we had ideas. They had a Majilis too. Their documents were published. It was twenty years worth of preparatory work; twenty years of reading about the Islamic movement. I read a lot about the people in the Middle East and Pakistan, India. […] So we talked about what we had to do, we had ideas from history: El Mamun, Abbas, Harun al-Rashid, what they did, we had the existing material. So when we created our committees, we had the modern and historical information.” [95]

50The naming of the structures, starting with the supreme body, the Majilis-ash-Shura (consultative council), was directly inspired by numerous Islamist political organisations in other countries. [96] In the history of Islam, the majilis were “special consultative assemblies in the last century and a half of the Ottoman Empire” and in the “older Islamic states”, bringing together a range of leaders (Sultan, Grand Vizier, military chiefs, top officials) and where decisions were taken “unanimously” rather than by vote. [97] FIS founders borrowed the name and the organisation, considered as prestigious, as well as the consensus-based decisionmaking process for their own party. They mobilised existing organisational models that fit with their political culture, as the choice of the local structure further shows: osr and municipal and provincial executive offices, similar to many other Islamist political groups, particularly in North Africa. [98] As Frédéric Sawicki explains, “the strategies and ways of doing politics engaged in by political entrepreneurs cannot only be seen as a product of a reasoned and systematic quest for power; they are conditioned by cognitive and normative frames objectivised in rules and in a language that form a party culture”. [99] In the case of party genesis, this culture depends to a great extent on the founders’ past points of reference.

51The impact of the founders’ social characteristics on the organisational form of the party can also be observed, in the case of the FIS, in how they divide up and make use of their expertise. Party leaders quickly appointed Saïd Guechi to be in charge of establishing territorial bases. This was an “obvious” choice, according to Ahmed Merani, head of the social committee on the national board: “The organisational committee was immediately entrusted to Saïd Guechi. He decided the organisational chart and took care of the FIS’s organisation”. Yahia Bouklikha explains the reasons behind his appointment:


“Saïd Guechi was a former Mujahedeen, he was an old and a good francisant (Francophone), he had a lot of experience in the JFLN [FLN Youth]. He was very politicised. […] He studied under the French system; he did not pass the Bac, but he’s roughly Master’s level in political science, he’s very good. He was the best for that.”

53Saïd Guechi was thus chosen to be in charge of organising the nascent party on the basis of his experience, but this choice can also be explained in relation to the other leaders’ profiles. Saïd Guechi was older than the average FIS leader, enjoyed great prestige due to his status as a veteran of the Algerian war and had political experience; however, it is his extensive experience in associations which is most noteworthy. Among the founders of the Islamist party, he was without a doubt the most active in national organisations connected to the single party: such as the association of former Mujaheedens and the FLN Youth, which he largely contributed to “organising”. [100] Indeed, as soon as this mass organisation was created in 1962, he was particularly active in setting up the first local structures and coordinating various mobilising activities (in particular volunteer campaigns). He went on to devote his efforts to the Sétif federation. [101] With this experience of leadership in activism in the 1960s and early 1970s, he was able to master a number of skills that proved indispensible in the manufacturing of the Islamic party starting up in 1989: setting up structures, organising and moderating all kinds of meetings, making listings of active members, developing ties with the administration to secure venues or funds, motivating and training future leaders of local structures, drafting minutes and activity reports (in Arabic and French), etc. Saïd Guechi’s supposed organisational skills, attested by his professional trajectory, made him the right person to centralise the organisational structure of the FIS. How the leadership positions in the new party were divided up thus depended on the proven resources of each individual, on their ability to show that they had the qualities suited to such missions. This division of responsibilities, and the use made of these qualities, in turn influenced the very shape of the FIS.

54Linking the experience of the founders to the organisational structure of the party is crucial to a better understanding of the shape of the party in the cases of both the MSI and the FN. For both organisations, being a party was also about being part of the political system. Creating a party was about getting into the conventional political game, which meant breaking away from the (ideological, symbolic and practical) repertoire of the pre-existing groups. Ties were broken at every level. The political iconography of the MSI and the FN did away with the symbolic stigmata that had until then adorned the representations of the Fasci d’Azione Rivoluzionaria and ON (portraits of Mussolini, fasces, the Celtic cross, outstretched hands, etc.). Similarly, the action repertoires and the programmes did away with the preestablished anti-system aspirations of these groups. The missini leaders no longer called for a revolutionary struggle against the regime that had emerged out of the Resistance (even if some of them still implicitly supported the terrorist groups’ actions); they tacitly recognised the Italian democratic system and gave up all references to fascism (except for the socialisation of means of production). The FN dealt with similar constraints. As François Duprat explains, in order to “present itself as a regular, legal party”, ON had to “give up on all references to the past”. [102] Through the voice of its president, the FN stated its intention to comply with “democratic methods” [103] and presented a rather moderate programme (given the nationalist-revolutionary character of ON). This eagerness to euphemise a past judged as unsuited to democratic politics – whereas, with similar objectives of legitimisation, the FIS leaders conversely highlighted their past – does not mean that the leaders were disembodied actors or that this conversion went smoothly for the party members. As it affected their practices, their doctrinal principles and their usual symbolic references, this process shook up their very identity and stirred up internal unrest: “We must calm these passions which, though explainable and partly understandable at individual level, are yet destructive at national level”, [104] reads one of the MSI’s weekly circulars; “Our outward appearance must be as moderate as possible […]”, [105] stated ON leaders. Yet, some members and leaders had a hard time cutting ties with their original identities: within the ON they met in the rue des Lombards in Paris, “to unwind and forget about electoral vicissitudes for a little while, among [their] comrades, [their] emblems, [their] traditions”; [106] likewise, some MSI meetings were opportunities for reviving the fascist liturgy, with members singing the “Hymn of the Arditi” and the “Hymn to Rome” (two traditional mainstays of the fascist repertoire). To contain the aspirations of the original members while meeting the strategic demands of party creation, FN and MSI leaders developed a sort of “Aesop’s language”, in other words a “secret, coded, indirect language” [107] “conveying messages that are clandestine but nonetheless perfectly understandable for those in the know”. [108] This language was incorporated into the parties’ discursive matrix, discernible through a set of (doctrinal, symbolic, historical, etc.) references to be decoded and which established various connections between the pre-existing groups and the newly created organisations: like the symbol of the flame, the first FN slogan (“Avec nous, avant qu’il ne soit trop tard”) [109] had already been used by ON’s propagandists, who had themselves borrowed it from the MSI (“Con noi, prima che sia troppo tardi” was the slogan for a party poster issued during the 1970 regional elections). [110] The same kind of hidden language can be found in the MSI’s propaganda: the party’s initials form the acronym “Mussolini, Sei Immortale” (“Mussolini, you are immortal”). [111] The trapezoidal shape of the pedestal on the logo is a reminder of Mussolini’s grave. [112] All of these signs are meant to produce a sense of continuity and to facilitate the transition process. This process, however, necessarily impacts the initial activist habitus. Conflicting logics were soon at work in the MSI and FN, with (fluctuating) oppositions between pragmatists and orthodox traditionalists, advocates of legality and supporters of revolutionary action. The same opposition, crystallising in a struggle over the control of the organisation and its few resources, caused the FN’s first scission in June 1973. For their part, MSI leaders had to be very careful to maintain party unity; they called for an end to activist and terrorist violence and for action within the confines of “effective legality”. [113]

55The shaping of the party product appears as a twofold dynamic. First, the founders’ eagerness to have the newly created organisations enter the political field is a key element in understanding their initial choices, such as their efforts to conform to what is expected of a “real” party (a name, a programme, an organisational chart). Secondly, the specific activist culture, even though the parties are not always comfortable admitting it, is a factor in understanding the specific form the party takes. Thus past activist practices are continued and partly determine the organisations’ initial shape.


57Why and how do individuals – outside the established political field – decide to create a party at a given moment? Starting from this question, our ambition was to contribute to a better understanding of the processes of party genesis. Accordingly, we have endeavoured to show the benefits of an approach focused on party manufacturing in the making, putting aside what the organisations in question have become.

58This means taking a two-step approach to the process, focusing first on primogenesis, then on the shaping of the party. Such an approach highlights an undetermined party political reality that is generally overlooked in retrospective or naturalistic studies, and emphasises the dynamics of conformity at work in the process of building a political party. Finally we underline the need to focus on the impact of political characteristics on the organisation’s shape in the months following its creation.

59It may be argued that the general framework of this approach partly results from the specificities of the three cases studied – notably, their specific relationship to the political establishment. Yet, a similar modus operandi can be observed in other types of parties. [114] The following studies do not specifically investigate the mechanisms we have identified in this paper, but they too give indications that such mechanisms are also at work in other cases.

60Hence, the “primogenesis” of the FN, the MSI and the FIS is reminiscent of the Flemish ecologist party Agalev, which began with the activation of pre-existing networks (around a publishing house, think tanks and environmental demonstrations) to “prepare the ground for a gradual entry into politics”. [115] Electoral deadlines then accelerated the mobilisation of these networks around the constitution of a list (for the 1977 and 1978 legislative elections) and of a potential structure for action – namely, a political “committee”, the Werkgroep Agalev, which “became the crucible of the party”. [116] Then, “as early as 1980, tensions flared up between advocates and opponents of the creation of a genuine political party”. [117] Eventually, “after long and heated debates, the Agalev party saw the light of day during the founding congress in Tielrode, on 27 and 28 March 1982”. [118] This unplanned series of sequences also brings to mind the primogenesis of the Chilean socialist party [119] and of the Christian Democratic Party in Norway; [120] closer examination reveals that these parties were also shaped in a relatively similar manner to the FN, the MSI and the FIS. Indeed, in order to “make” a party, actors have to choose within a range of “technologies”. [121] These have admittedly varied across time and space. We may for instance recall that in France in the late 1870s, Gambetta supporter Jean-Jacques Weiss argued that “what constitutes a party is […] an established doctrine, a specific goal, a sustained action plan, a leader who has more ambition regarding the success of the cause he has embraced than his own personal development; around him, a tight staff of lieutenants […], other gifted men of affairs and skilled negotiators […]”. [122] Today, the internet should undoubtedly be added to the range of party technologies. [123] Yet, the various cases mentioned here show that a label, a programme (however sketchy), some territorial bases and a relatively unified party discourse remain general pre-requisites to existing as a party. Lastly, while the founders’ political profiles have played a key role in the shaping of the FN, the MSI and the FIS, this observation appears to apply to many other parties. Regarding the Greens in France, Daniel Boy emphasises the need to consider the skills acquired in associations pre-dating the creation of the party to grasp the specific form of its organisation. [124] In a similar vein, Jean-Paul Salles shows the importance of the “Trotskyist connection” and of past activist experience in the choice of structures and internal organisation of the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire at the time of its creation. [125] Likewise, other authors point out that the conception of Forza Italia drew inspiration from the pre-existing businesses owned by founder Silvio Berlusconi, as well as from the supporters clubs of A.C. Milan, a football club he also presided (“Forza Italia clubs”). [126]

61Obviously, we cannot claim on the basis of these few examples, too briefly outlined here, that our approach is generally valid and should be transposed to all cases of party creation. [127] We have, however, hopefully demonstrated the value of taking a new approach to the processes of party genesis, which we believe could be fruitfully applied to other organisations.



62The sources for the research cited in this paper come from fieldwork conducted by both authors during their PhD research.

63Myriam Aït-Aoudia made four research trips to Algeria between 2001 and 2006 and used four types of sources.

64First, she studied four Algerian weekly and daily papers as well as the FIS magazine El Mounquid (“The saviour”). This analysis of the press was used to collect factual information about party mobilisations (when and how they took place, tracts and communiqués published) and the speeches of FIS leaders (particularly at the time of party creation).

65She also conducted interviews with twenty FIS members (founders, leaders of national, provincial and local structures, and electoral candidates). These interviews (ranging from one to twenty hours long) classically aimed to factually reconstruct the events being studied, collecting precise information on individuals’ trajectories, modes of decision-making, and the sequence of certain episodes that for diverse reasons cannot be made public. These interviews were also an irreplaceable means to analyse the actors’ subjective perspectives (doubts, hesitations, difficulties, perceptions); they were however systematically confronted with other written sources (press, archives) that provided valuable elements to piece together a more accurate chronology. This cross-checking is especially important in the sense that it both keeps in check attempts at biographical reconstruction from actors eager to convey a positive and coherent image of their actions, and the knowledge derived from it can be used when faced with interviewees with memory loss or who are unwilling to speak. As with any other type of sources, interviews must be historicised: the researcher knows that more than ten years separate the facts under study and the time of research. Time and shifts in the political landscape will have got the better of some friendships and acquaintances: former partners have become opponents, such as a number of FIS leaders, who found themselves on opposite sides after the December 1991 elections were cancelled. Such situations occurred on several occasions: for instance a former FIS leader, jailed for a long time, minimised the role played by another member of the board who had in the meantime joined the government. In-depth knowledge of the Algerian political landscape between 1992 and the 2000s has always appeared as a necessary condition in order to be able to have some distance on the actors’ discourse.

66The third type of source consists of two types of FIS documents. First, propaganda material: tracts, political and electoral programmes, electoral posters, and lists of candidates, which are particularly useful in analysing the candidates and political leaders’ self-presentation, and how they justify and legitimate their participation in the political game, promote party identity and frame mobilisations. On the other hand, internal archives (statutes, documents from congresses and pre-congresses, meeting minutes of the national board, photographs) were used to retrace the structuring of the party and the preparation of the first elections. After the party was dissolved by the authorities in 1992, most documents were stored in members’ homes and have never been consulted by researchers (or journalists) before.

67The last type of source used was the legal material relating to the regime transition, including the February 1989 Constitution introducing a multi-party system and documents on the legalisation of political parties. Together with statements made by political leaders (of the FLN and the government), these sources give us insight into the institutional context of the birth of the FIS.

68Alexandre Dézé conducted fieldwork in three countries during his PhD research: Italy, France and Belgium (on the Vlaams Blok, which is not discussed in this paper). In the process, he collected and consulted several types of sources.

69Regarding the MSI, sources were collected by going through all seventeen boxes in the Mario Cassano Collection (a founding member of the party) of the Fondazione Ugo Spirito (former Institute for Corporative Studies of the MSI), via Genova in Rome; all fourteen boxes contained in the MSI archives of the Fondazione Ugo Spirito; the image and library collection of the Fondazione Ugo Spirito; sources available in some Roman branches of the MSI; and primary sources available in the libraries of Rome (the libraries of modern and contemporary history, Chamber of Deputies, Central State Archives). There are no institutional party archives for the Front National. Some of the documents were collected during several visits to the FN headquarters (where interviews with party officials were also conducted). Primary sources were consulted in the contemporary history museum of the BDIC (Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contemporaine), Paris; in the French national library, and in the library of the national political science foundation in Paris. The material collected includes documents on the internal life of the parties (statutes, congress documents, circulars, meeting minutes, mail, etc.); documents on propaganda activities (programmes, brochures, posters, tracts); writings by party members (analytical books, history books, articles published in the party’s press, notes) and party press.

70Specific attention was paid to iconographic sources, particularly posters. “Still” images are often overlooked in political science, where, as Pierre Favre puts it, they retain the “low status of illustration”. We sought to demonstrate the heuristic nature of this type of source in order to reach a better understanding of (among other things) certain aspects of the process of party manufacturing: choice of logo, symbolic functions or the discursive implications of becoming a party. [128]


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    Angelo Panebianco, Political Parties. Organization and Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988; 1st edn 1982), 50.
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    Maurice Duverger, Les partis politiques (Paris: Seuil, 1992; 1st edn 1951), 23ff.
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    For an application of this model to one of the organisations studied here (the MSI), see Piero Ignazi, Il Polo escluso. Profilo storico del Movimento Sociale Italiano (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1998; 1st edn 1989), 259-60. For a critical take on the analysis of “territorial construction”, see Hélène Combes, “Faire parti(e): construction et positionnement du PRD dans le système politique mexicain”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 12(3), 2005, 331-45.
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    See Jean-Claude Passeron, Le raisonnement sociologique. L’espace non-poppérien du raisonnement naturel (Paris: Nathan, 1991), 193ff.
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    Likewise, the perspective adopted by Herbert Kitschelt in his studies on the formation of ecological parties aims at shedding light on the (internal and external) factors affecting the political parties’ organisational forms and strategic choices rather than the dynamics of party creation. See Herbert Kitschelt, The Logics of Party Formation. Ecological Politics in Belgium and West Germany (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).
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    Simon Hug, Altering Party Systems. Strategic Behavior and the Emergence of New Political Parties in Western Democracies (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 2001).
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    Robert Harmel, John D. Robertson, “Formation and success of new parties. A cross-national analysis”, International Political Science Review, 6(4), 1985, 501-23; Piero Ignazi, “The crisis of parties and the rise of new political parties”, Party Politics, 2(4), 1996, 549-66.
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    Paul Lucardie, “Prophets, purifiers and prolocutors. Towards a theory on the emergence of new parties”, Party Politics, 6(2), 2000, 175-85.
  • [9]
    This is also the case of approaches strongly informed by evolutionism, which see the birth of parties as the first stage in their “life cycle” (before “adolescence”, “adulthood”, “old age” and “death”). See Mogen S. Pedersen, “Towards a new typology of party lifespans and minor parties”, Scandinavian Political Studies, 5(1), 1982, 143-66. Pedersen’s typology was refined by Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, “The lifespan and the political performance of green parties in Western Europe”, in F. Müller-Rommel, Thomas Pogunkte (eds), Green Parties in National Governments (London: Frank Cass, 2002), 1-16. Paul Lucardie also drew inspiration from it when he suggested a new typology of parties: Paul Lucardie, “Comment qualifier et répertorier les partis verts?”, in Pascal Delwit, Jean-Michel De Waele (eds), Les partis verts en Europe (Bruxelles: Complexe, 1999), 63-70.
  • [10]
    This includes Simon Hug’s book, based on game theory. Following intricate mathematical calculations, he comes to the conclusion that the appearance of new issues is the most influential variable in the formation of new parties. See S. Hug, Altering Party Systems.
  • [11]
    On the effects of the etiological illusion, see Michel Dobry, Sociologie des crises politiques. La dynamique des mobilisations multisectorielles (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2009; 1st edn 1986), 50.
  • [12]
    A few examples of monographs: Alexis Massart, L’Union pour la démocratie française (UDF) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999); Jean-Claude Delbreil, Centrisme et démocratie-chrétienne en France. Le Parti démocrate populaire des origines au MRP. 1919-1944 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1990); Jean-Claude Colliard, Les républicains indépendants. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (Paris: PUF/Publications de l’Université de Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, 1971). A few examples of textbooks: Jean Charlot, Les partis politiques en France (Paris: n.p. 1986); Colette Ysmal, Les partis politiques sous la Cinquième République (Paris: Montchrestien, 1989); Pierre Bréchon (ed.), Les partis politiques français (Paris: La Documentation française, 2005).
  • [13]
    Bernard Pudal, Prendre parti. Pour une sociologie historique du PCF (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1989); Combes, “Faire parti(e)…”; Myriam Aït-Aoudia, “La naissance du Front islamique du salut: une politisation conflictuelle (1988-1989)”, Critique internationale, 30, January-March 2006, 129-44.
  • [14]
    Myriam Aït-Aoudia, “L’apprentissage de la compétition pluripartisane en Algérie (1988-1992). Sociologie d’un changement de régime”, PhD thesis, Paris, Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, 2008.
  • [15]
    Alexandre Dézé, “Idéologie et stratégies partisanes. Une analyse du rapport des partis d’extrême droite au système politique démocratique. Le cas du FN, du MSI et du VB”, PhD thesis, Paris, Sciences Po Paris, 2008.
  • [16]
    Paul Veyne, Writing History: Essay on Epistemology (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984; 1st edn in French 1971).
  • [17]
    On the benefits of a similar methodological approach, see Michel Dobry, “‘Penser = Classer?’: entretien avec André Loez, Gérard Noiriel et Philippe Oliveira”, Genèses, 59, February 2005, 151-65.
  • [18]
    Regarding the FIS, the vast majority of studies have little to say about the formation of the party. Rather, they address its strategies for establishing local bases, the reasons for its widespread success after the 1990 local elections and its ties to terrorism. See Aïssa Khelladi, Les islamistes algériens face au pouvoir (Alger: Éditions Alfa, 1992); Séverine Labat, Les islamistes algériens, entre les urnes et le maquis (Paris: Seuil, 1995); Liess Boukra, Algérie, la terreur sacrée (Lausanne: Favre, 2002); Mohamed Issami, Le FIS et le terrorisme. Au cœur de l’enfer (Alger: Le Matin éditions, 2001). The same observation generally applies to the FN and the MSI: their institutionalisation and the causes of their success are studied much more often than their genesis. On the FN, see Guy Birenbaum, Le Front national en politique (Paris: Balland, 1992); Jacques Le Bohec, Sociologie du phénomène Le Pen (Paris: La Découverte, 2004). On the MSI, see Marco Tarchi, Dal MSI ad AN: organizzazione e strategie (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997); Petra Rosenbaum, Il nuovo fascismo da Salò ad Almirante. Storia del MSI (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1975).
  • [19]
    On this notion (“roman de parti” in French), see Pierre Ansart, La gestion des passions politiques (Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 1983), 126; Pudal, Prendre parti…, 23ff.
  • [20]
    Norbert Elias, What Is Sociology? (London: Hutchinson, 1978).
  • [21]
    M. Aït-Aoudia, “La naissance du FIS. Une politisation conflictuelle”.
  • [22]
    In July 1943, Mussolini was dismissed by King Victor Emmanuel III and then arrested, which led to the collapse of the fascist regime. Freed by a German commando in September, he founded the RSI with Hitler’s support, in the Northern zone of Italy occupied by the Nazi armed forces.
  • [23]
    Giorgio Almirante, Francesco Palemenghi-Crispi, Il Movimento sociale italiano (Milan: Nuova academia editrice, 1957), 26-7. Almirante acted as national secretary of the party for eighteen consecutive years and was also one of its founders.
  • [24]
    Mario Tedeschi, Fascisti dopo Mussolini. Le organizzazioni clandestine neofasciste 1945-1947 (Rome: Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, 1996; 1st edn 1950), 73. Aged 21 in 1945, Mario Tedeschi was one of the actors of clandestine fascism in post-war Rome.
  • [25]
    As Frederick G. Bailey points out, “being a successful leader is having more resources than one’s opponents and using them more skilfully” (Stratagems and Spoils: A Social Anthropology of Politics (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1969)).
  • [26]
    G. Almirante, F. Palemenghi-Crispi, Il Movimento sociale italiano, 29.
  • [27]
    Extract from the Rivoluzione bulletin published by the clandestine organisation Fasci di Azione Rivoluzionaria (FAR). Source: M. Tedeschi, Fascisti dopo Mussolini…, p. 54.
  • [28]
    A description provided by the leaders of the far-right movement Ordre nouveau themselves. See Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1972, special conference edition, 2nd edn, 73.
  • [29]
    This phrase was used as a synonym for “far-right” in the literature and discourse of far-right actors.
  • [30]
    François Duprat, Les mouvements d’extrême droite en France depuis 1944 (Paris: Albatros, 1972), 181. François Duprat, who was a member of OAS, Jeune Nation, Occident and Ordre nouveau, is considered as the main theorist of revolutionary nationalism in France. He is also one of the masterminds of the “national front” strategy (see below).
  • [31]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, 0, June 1971, 2.
  • [32]
    Loïc Blondiaux, “Les clubs: sociétés de pensée, agencements de réseaux ou instances de sociabilité politique?”, Politix, 1(2), 1988, 29-42 (30).
  • [33]
    Interview with Kamel Guemazi, Algiers.
  • [34]
    Interview with Hachemi Sahnouni, Bouzareah. In our study of the FIS, we interviewed each actor multiple times (for instance, six interviews with Hachemi Sahnouni between 30 October 2003 and 1 December 2006), which explains the absence of precise dates.
  • [35]
    Michel Offerlé, Les partis politiques (Paris: PUF, 1997), 20.
  • [36]
    P. Ignazi, Il Polo escluso…, 24.
  • [37]
    To quote the title of a book by a former missino activist: Marco Tarchi, Esuli in patria. I Fascisti nell’Italia repubblicana (Parma: Ugo Guanda Editore, 1995).
  • [38]
    Pino Romualdi, “Il ‘18 Brumaio’ dell’on. De Gasperi”, L’Italiano, 8, 1959 (cited in Il Borghese, 4 June 1971).
  • [39]
    M. Tedeschi, Fascisti dopo Mussolini…, 90.
  • [40]
    Ordre nouveau Hebdo, 4, 25 October-2 November 1972.
  • [41]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, May 1972, special conference edition, 163.
  • [42]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, May 1972, special conference edition, 163.
  • [43]
    Ordre nouveau Hebdo, 1, 5-12 October 1972.
  • [44]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, 1, July-August 1971.
  • [45]
    As Philippe Juhem points out, “the specificity of activism in student circles or youth organisations […] is that it forces its main leaders to retire soon after they have reached the top of their organisations. Upward activist careers can quickly stall or stop altogether when the individuals do not succeed in converting the resources acquired in youth activism into ‘adult’ organisations”. Philippe Juhem, “Entreprendre en politique. Les carrières militantes des fondateurs de SOS-Racisme”, Revue française de science politique, 51(1-2), 2001, 131-53 (151).
  • [46]
    A term used within the movement to refer to moderate “nationalists”.
  • [47]
    Interview with H. Sahnouni, who adds: “It wasn’t very clear at first, but we wanted to do something.”
  • [48]
    Interview with Habib Bouyali, MIA member, Oued Romane.
  • [49]
    Interview with K. Guemazi, Algiers.
  • [50]
    MSI, II MSI Dal secondo al terzo congresso nazionale (Documenti per la storia del Movimento sociale italiano: Edizioni del servizio esteri del MSI, 1953), 57.
  • [51]
    Rivolta Ideale, 26 December 1946.
  • [52]
    Giuliana De’ Medici, Le origini del MSI, 60.
  • [53]
    Fondazione Ugo Spirito, Fondo Mario Cassiano, Serie 2: “Attività nel MSI (1947-1990)”, Sottoserie 2: “Propaganda e documentazione (1947-1990)”, busta 14-48-5.
  • [54]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition.
  • [55]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, 13, July-August1972.
  • [56]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 11.
  • [57]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 11.
  • [58]
    The “contagion theory” developed by R. Harmel and K. Janda is a similar idea. These authors explain that within a pluralist system, parties come to imitate each other and conform to a common norm (particularly at organisational level) to be more efficient and considered as acceptable partners by other parties. Robert Harmel, Kenneth Janda, “An integrated theory of party goals and party change”, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 6(3), 1994, 259-87 (264).
  • [59]
    Combes, “Faire parti(e)… ”, 335.
  • [60]
    For an approach in terms of the “social construction of party organisations”, see Frédéric Sawicki, Les réseaux du parti socialiste: sociologie d’un milieu partisan (Paris: Belin, 1997).
  • [61]
    In the MSI’s case, this choice was explicitly justified by an anti-partyism inherited from the monist and corporatist tradition of Italian fascism, and fostered by a broader ideology rejecting the democratic system and its partisan actors. In the FN’s case, the term “front” is officially meant to refer to the primary vocation of the organisation, bringing together the “National opposition”, or the “social, national and popular right”. As far as the FIS is concerned, the absence of labelling as a “party” is due to the formal ban on this type of organisation at the time of its creation – the new Constitution only allowed the formation of “associations of a political character”.
  • [62]
    Jacques Chevallier, “Identité, organisation, institution”, in CURAPP, L’identité politique (Paris: PUF, 1994), 239-51 (239).
  • [63]
    “La fiamma, un simbolo ereditato dal MSI”, La Repubblica, 26 November 2003.
  • [64]
    David I. Kertzer, “Rituel et symbolisme politiques des sociétés occidentales”, L’Homme, 32(121), 1992, 79-90 (83).
  • [65]
    Interview with Yahia Bouklikha, Tlemcen.
  • [66]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 32.
  • [67]
    MSI, Circolare settimanale, 8, 1947.
  • [68]
    Mimeographed document. The FIS’s programme was published in the Tribune d’Octobre, 11, 25 July 1989.
  • [69]
    “Défendre les Français”, supplement to the Front national, 3, February 1973.
  • [70]
    The first proposals of the MSI were introduced in two jointly published texts: the Call to Italians and the Ten Programmatic Points. Sources: Fondazione Ugo Spirito, Fondo Mario Cassiano, Serie 2: “Attività nel MSI (1947-1990)”, Sottoserie 2: “Propaganda e documentazione (1947-1990)”, busta 14-48-1.
  • [71]
    Interview with K. Guemazi, Algiers.
  • [72]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 24.
  • [73]
    Interview with Mohamed Bouyali, active member of the MIA and brother of its founder, Oued Romane.
  • [74]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 85.
  • [75]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 85.
  • [76]
    G. Almirante, F. Palemenghi-Crispi, Il Movimento sociale italiano, 29.
  • [77]
    MSI, Notiziario settimanale, 1 February 1947.
  • [78]
    MSI, Circolare settimanale, 6-17, 14-21 June 1947.
  • [79]
    A FIS document signed by Benazouz Zebda, vice president of the national executive board and entitled “FIS, 2e mémorandum concernant le bureau exécutif wilayal et l’assemblée consultative wilayale, en date du 19 Rabie Ethanie 1410” (i.e., roughly late October 1989) addresses the role and the composition of these two statutory structures.
  • [80]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 33.
  • [81]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 33.
  • [82]
    Giuliana De’ Medici, Le origini del MSI (Rome: ISC, 1986), 64.
  • [83]
    Julian Mischi, Servir la classe ouvrière. Sociabilités militantes au PCF (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010).
  • [84]
    MSI, “Circolare SPAC no 22”, 20 December 1947, sent to all provincial branches.
  • [85]
    MSI, Notiziario settimanale, 1 February 1947.
  • [86]
    MSI, Circolare settimanale, 7, 1947.
  • [87]
    MSI, Circolare settimanale, 16-17, 14-21 June 1947.
  • [88]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 32.
  • [89]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, 18, April 1973, 2.
  • [90]
    Joseph Lapalombara, Myron Weiner (eds), Political Parties and Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).
  • [91]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 23.
  • [92]
    Ordre nouveau Hebdo, 2, 12-18 October 1972.
  • [93]
    Interview with K. Guemazi, Algiers.
  • [94]
    Giorgio Bacchi, “Il MSI attraverso le mozioni congressuali e i principali documenti programmatici”, in MSI, Direzione nazionale, Scuola di partito. Lezioni del primo Corso di preparazione politica per dirigenti giovanili (Roma: n.p., 1967), 62.
  • [95]
    Interview with Y. Bouklika, Tlemcen.
  • [96]
    See Marie-Lucie Dumas, Répertoire des partis intégristes musulmans, vol. 1, La Méditerranée (Paris: CHEAM, 1995). The author provides data about 101 political parties.
  • [97]
    “Madjlis”, “Madjlis al-Shura”, in Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Emeri J. Van Donzel, Bernard Lewis, Charles Pellat (eds), Encyclopédie de l’Islam (Leiden/ Paris: E. J. Brill/Maisonneuve et Larose, new edn, 1986), vol. V, 1027-80 and 1080-4.
  • [98]
    On the structures of the Movement of the Islamic Tendency (Al-Nahda), see Célina Braun, “À quoi servent les partis tunisiens? Sens et contre-sens d’une ‘libéralisation’ politique”, in Pierre-Robert Baduel, Myriam Catusse (eds), “Les partis politiques dans les pays arabes. Tome 2: le Maghreb”, Revue des deux mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 111-12, 2006, 15-61 (35-9).
  • [99]
    Frédéric Sawicki, “Les partis politiques comme entreprises culturelles”, in Daniel Céfaï (ed.), Cultures politiques (Paris: PUF, 2001), 191-212 (198).
  • [100]
    Interview with Aïssi Kassa, Algiers.
  • [101]
    K. Bouchama discusses the creation of the JFLN (youth FLN) step by step and Saïd Guéchi’s role in Kamel Bouchama, La JFLN: un passé glorieux, un avenir interrompu (Alger: ANEP, 1997), 91-221 and 447-66.
  • [102]
    François Duprat, Les mouvements d’extrême droite en France depuis 1944 (Paris: Albatros, 1972), 203.
  • [103]
    Jean-Marie Le Pen, presentation of FN electoral lists on the evening news, ORTF, 3 November 1972.
  • [104]
    MSI, Circolare settemanale, 10, Saturday 3 May 1947.
  • [105]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 23.
  • [106]
    Pour un Ordre nouveau, June 1973, special conference edition, 32.
  • [107]
    Pierre Bourdieu, “La représentation politique. Éléments pour une théorie du champ politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 36-37, 1981, 3-24 (9).
  • [108]
    Frédérique Matonti, Intellectuels communistes. Essai sur l’obéissance politique, La Nouvelle Critique (1967-1980) (Paris: La Découverte, 2005), 14.
  • [109]
    “With us, before it’s too late”.
  • [110]
    The MSI served both as an example and as a resource for Ordre nouveau during the creation of the FN, bringing logistical, material and financial support.
  • [111]
    Nicola Rao, Neofascisti! La Destra italiana da Salò a Fiuggi nel ricordo dei protagonisti (Rome: Settimo Sigillo, 1999), 22-3.
  • [112]
    Luciano Lanna, Filippo Rossi, Fascisti immaginari. Tutto quello che c’è da sapere sulla destra (Florence: Vallecchi, 2003), 325.
  • [113]
    MSI, Circolare settimanale, 12, 17 May 1947.
  • [114]
    In her doctoral research Myriam Aït-Aoudia also studied the simultaneous creation of another – Berberist and secularist – political party, the RCD (Rally for Culture and Democracy) by former human rights and pro-Berber activists. The corpus also included interviews with founding members and those responsible for the initial structures established (nine interviews), internal archives (newsletters, meeting minutes, documents of the preparatory committees for the first Congress, etc.), party literature and various documents and articles published in the national press. The study revealed similar primogenesis and shaping processes, which further suggests that the three cases studied in this paper are not exceptional.
  • [115]
    Benoît Rihoux, “Agalev. La transformation inachevée d’un ‘parti-mouvement’ en un parti de pouvoir”, in P. Delwit, J.-M. De Waele (eds), Les partis verts en Europe, 139-64 (140).
  • [116]
    B. Rihoux, “Agalev. La transformation inachevée…”, 141.
  • [117]
    B. Rihoux, “Agalev. La transformation inachevée…”, 141.
  • [118]
    B. Rihoux, “Agalev. La transformation inachevée…”, 141.
  • [119]
    Marie-Noëlle Sarget, Système politique et parti socialiste au Chili. Un essai d’analyse systémique (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994), 67ff.
  • [120]
    Emmanuelle Vignaux, Luthérianisme et politique en Norvège. Le parti chrétien du peuple (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003), 54ff.
  • [121]
    “The result of these continued processes is the construction and the recognition of the party form as a type of historically situated political enterprise. There are now technologies available to whoever wants to join the political competition, provided they have the dispositions and the resources to do so”: Offerlé, Les partis politiques, 36-8.
  • [122]
    Cited by Raymond Huard, La naissance du parti politique en France (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1996), 176.
  • [123]
    Alexandre Dézé, “Un parti ‘virtuel’? Le Front national au prisme de son site Internet”, in Fabienne Greffet (ed.), Les partis politiques sur le Web (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2011).
  • [124]
    Daniel Boy, “Comment devient-on un parti?”, Politix, 3(9), 1990, 15-17. Similarly, Florence Faucher observes that the party’s initial structure should be analysed in light of the founders’ “political vision” and “national culture”: Florence Faucher, Les habits verts de la politique (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1999).
  • [125]
    Jean-Paul Salles, La Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (1968-1981). Instrument du Grand Soir ou lieu d’apprentissage? (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005), 43-78.
  • [126]
    Jean-Louis Briquet, Mafia, justice et politique en Italie. L’affaire Andreotti dans la crise de la République (1992-2004) (Paris: Karthala, 2007), 248ff.; Christophe Bouillaud, “Les droites en Italie. La science politique italienne face à un objet renouvelé”, Politix, 30, 1995, 151-67(162).
  • [127]
    Passeron, Le raisonnement sociologique.
  • [128]
    An early draft of this paper was presented and discussed in thematic section n°7 on the “Birth and death of political parties” of the tenth conference of the French Political Science Association (AFSP) held in the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Grenoble (7-9 September 2009). The authors would like to thank the moderators of this section (Hélène Combes and Julien Fretel, also in charge of the AFSP’s Groupe d’études sur les organisations et partis politiques), and Frédéric Sawicki (one of the discussants) for his valuable insights. We also wish to thank the RFSP’s anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


Based on a study of the FN, the MSI and the FIS, this article aims to propose a sociological analysis of the creation of political parties and, from this, to attempt to overcome the bias of classical approaches which rarely deal with this phenomenon in itself and for itself. Leaving the outcome of their creation aside in order to better show the complexity and contingency of this process, we focus on the actors involved in the creation of the parties, their prior interactions in the “pre-party” environment, and their struggles to define legitimate strategies for the way forward. Finally we analyse the work of bringing parties into being.

Myriam Aït-Aoudia
Myriam Aït-Aoudia is an assistant professor in political science at the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) of Bordeaux and a researcher at the Centre Émile Durkheim (UMR 5116). Her publications include “Imams et dirigeants du FIS: analyse d’un mode d’entrée et d’action partisan”, Les Cahiers de l’Orient, 84, Winter 2006, 12-32; (with Mounia Bennani-Chraïbi et Jean-Gabriel Contamin) “Contribution à une histoire sociale de la conception lagroyenne de la politisation”, Critique internationale, 48, July-September 2010, 207-20; she co-edited the special issue “Enquêter dans des partis politiques. Perspectives comparées”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 17(4), 2011. Her research currently focuses on the sociology of political parties and activism and the sociology of higher education curricula (Sciences Po Bordeaux, 11 allée Ausone, Domaine universitaire, 33607 Pessac).
Alexandre Dézé
Alexandre Dézé is an assistant professor in political science at the University of Montpellier I and a researcher at the Centre d’études politiques de l’Europe latine (UMR 5112). His publications include (co-edited with Yohann Aucante) Les systèmes de partis dans les démocraties occidentales. Le modèle du parti-cartel en question (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2008); (with Denis Bertrand and Jean-Louis Missika) Parler pour gagner. Analyse sémiotique des discours de la campagne présidentielle de 2007 (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007); “Le Front national comme entreprise doctrinale”, in Florence Haegel (ed.), Partis et système partisan en France (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007), 255-84. His research currently focuses on the sociology of political parties, political iconography and the political uses of the Internet (Université Montpellier 1, Faculté de droit et science politique, 39 rue de l’Université, 34060 Montpellier cedex 2).
Translated from French by 
Jean-Yves Bart
Uploaded on on 03/03/2014
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