Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

France: Fascism or Worker’s Revolution?

(May 1958)

From The Newsletter, 31 May 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Memories of Franco’s revolt in 1936 have been stirred by the events in France. In what sense is the movement associated with de Gaulle a fascist movement?

In the same sense, I should say, as Franco’s was at its beginning.

Franco at the start led a military revolt, with little mass basis to it. The middle sections of Spanish society were either neutral or against him.

What brought him a certain significant degree of mass support as the civil war continued (finding organized form largely in the ‘Falange’) was the failure of the working-class parties to take over in Republican Spain and wage the war in a revolutionary way.

It did not stop at that, either; there was actual strangling of the workers’ attempts to take over the factories, form their own fighting forces and so on; a strangling carried out by the Communist Party under the direction of the Soviet representative in Spain.

Putsch need not succeed

In this sense, Stalin gave Franco his victory in Spain, making Spanish fascism possible.

Without the role played by the Stalinists, Franco might have remained a Kornilov.

In France at present, so far as can be seen, the middle sections are hesitant and uncommitted, some even anti-militarist in mood, much as they were in Spain in 1936.

The military putsch need never acquire the solid roots of a real fascist movement if the hesitancy (and worse) of the workers’ organizations does not drive the middle sections into de Gaulle’s camp.

‘There are no exceptions to this rule-fascism comes only when the working class shows complete incapacity to take into its own hands the fate of society ... We must not identify war dictatorship ... with fascist dictatorship.

‘For the latter there is first necessary a feeling of desperation of large masses of the people.

‘When the revolutionary parties betray them, when the vanguard of the workers shows its incapacity to lead the people to victory – then the farmers, the small business men, the unemployed, the soldiers etc. become capable of supporting a fascist movement, but only then.

‘A military dictatorship is purely a bureaucratic institution, reinforced by the military machine and based upon the disorientation of the people and their submission to it. After some time their feelings can change, and they can become rebellious against the military dictatorship.’

Thus wrote Trotsky in 1940 in one of his last articles. His ideas, based on a wealth of practical experience, are as valid today as they were then.

De Gaulle’s coup can lead either to a fully-fledged fascist system or to a workers’ revolution supported by the overwhelming majority of the French people.

The choice depends on the leadership given now by the most advanced elements among the workers.

Last updated on 10.10.2011