Founding of the Fourth Republic (1944–54)
After the liberation of France in 1944, the Vichy government was dissolved and the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) was instituted. With most of the political class discredited and containing many members who had more or less collaborated with Nazi Germany, Gaullism and communism became the most popular political forces in France.
Charles de Gaulle led the GPRF from 1944 to 1946. Meanwhile, negotiations took place over the proposed new constitution, which was to be put to a referendum. De Gaulle advocated a presidential system of government, and criticized the reinstatement of what he pejoratively called "the parties system". He resigned in January 1946 and was replaced by Felix Gouin of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). Ultimately only the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist SFIO supported the draft constitution, which envisaged a form of government based on unicameralism; but this was rejected in the referendum of 5 May 1946.
For the 1946 elections, the Rally of Left Republicans (Rassemblement des gauches républicaines – RGR), which encompassed the Radical-Socialist Party, the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance and other conservative parties, unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the Christian democrat and socialist MRP-SFIO-PCF alliance. The new constituent assembly included 166 MRP deputies, 153 PCF deputies and 128 SFIO deputies, giving the tripartite alliance an absolute majority. Georges Bidault of the (MRP) replaced Felix Gouin as the head of government.
A new draft of the Constitution was written, which this time proposed the establishment of a bicameral form of government. Leon Blum of the (SFIO) headed the GPRF from 1946 to 1947. After a new legislative election in June 1946, the Christian democrat Georges Bidault assumed leadership of the Cabinet. Despite de Gaulle's so-called discourse of Bayeux of 16 June 1946 in which he denounced the new institutions, the new draft was approved by 53% of voters voting in favor (with an abstention rate of 31%) in the referendum held on 13 October 1946. This culminated in the establishment in the following year of the Fourth Republic, an arrangement in which executive power essentially resided in the hands of the President of the Council (the prime minister). The President of the Republic was given a largely symbolic role, although he remained chief of the French Army and as a last resort could be called upon to resolve conflicts.
The wartime damage was extensive and expectations of large reparations from defeated Germany largely failed. The United States helped revive the French economy with the Marshall Plan, 1948-1951, whereby it gave France $2.3 billion with no repayment. France was the second largest recipient after Britain. The total of all American grants and credits to France from 1946 to 1953, amounted to $4.9 billion. The terms of the Marshall Plan required a modernization of French industrial and managerial systems, free trade, and friendly economic relations with West Germany.
After the expulsion of the Communists from the governing coalition, France joined the Cold War against Stalin, as expressed by becoming a founding member of NATO in April 1949. France now took a leadership position in unifying western Europe, working closely with Konrad Adenauer of West Germany. Robert Schuman, who was twice Prime Minister and at other times Minister of Finance and Foreign Minister, was instrumental in building post-war European and trans-Atlantic institutions. A devout Catholic and anti-Communist, he led France into the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO.