Charles Rappoport


A Triple Crisis

(17 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 5, 17 January 1922, p. 35.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2018). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The desperate and theatrical gesture of over-clever Aristide Briand, the politician of national and international “conciliation”, is not an ordinary political occurrence. It is a sequel and a beginning; the result of a profound capitalist crisis and the beginning of a parliamentary and presidential crisis. Politicians are only Chinese shadows projected on the screen of history by historical forces which are not understood by the marionettes of the political stage.

Capitalism had an historical mission: the development of the world’s productive forces and the economic unification of the globe. Up to the world war (1914–1918) it brilliantly filled this role. Immense productive forces arose and revolutionized the world’s industry and commerce. On the other hand the railways, the transatlantic liners, telegraphy, wireless and the telephone destroyed distances and created the economic, industrial and commercial unity of the world.

But this necessary historical task was only accomplished by capitalism according to the sacred commandments of its God Profit. Capitalism was well paid for its “work”, while leaving its collaborator – labor – only a miserable pittance. The triumph of Capitalism signified the subjugation and enslavement of the working and peasant classes.

In its triumphal march to power and riches, Capitalism, developing universal competition, was condemned to incite nations, races and continents against one another. Capitalism at the apogee of its power became nationalist and the instigator of wars. By that very fact it became a traitor to its historic mission. Instead of developing the forces of production it destroyed them with an intensity unprecedented in history. And instead of uniting the world it worked for its irremediable division, for eternal war. As every decadent regime, it did the opposite of what it should do. Marx would have said, “It submits to the law of history and, becoming its own negation, destroys itself.”

Bourgeois statesmen such as Lloyd George have, if not a clear comprehension, at least a vague intuition of this situation. They desire to lead Capitalism back to its primal task, the development of production. After having destroyed and ruined Europe’s economic system, the Lloyd Georges and the Briands demand its “reconstruction”, naturally on a capitalist basis. But since they cannot confide the vital task of reconstruction, which can only be carried out by the working-class after having revolutionarily seized power, to dying Capitalism become a destroyer – that is to say, militarist and nationalist – the capitalist crisis is without issue.

In France this capitalist crisis has been followed by a parliamentary crisis of which Briand’s resignation is only a symptom. The fear of Bolshevism or of the Revolution – this delayed but inevitable reply to the world war – brought about the election of the Bloc National, a capitalist coalition of the first water: The entire band of civil and military war profiteers united in the Bloc on the 16th of November 1919 to capture by surprise the confidence of the masses, insufficiently organized and wholly uneducated politically. They promised the people, tired by the war and burdened with mountains of paper signed by a state in undeclared bankruptcy, the gold in the pockets of the Germans. “The Germans will pay!” But the German pockets are empty and not even parliamentary science has found a way to fill a vacuum by a vacuum. Naturally enough the Bloc National could not keep its word. At first it held Germany’s unwillingness to pay responsible for this impossibility and then the weakness of the French government.

M. Briand, first-class dancer on the Parliamentary tightrope, attempted for exactly one year to adapt himself to the idiosyncrasies of the Bloc National. He played with words, with beautiful speeches and with parliamentary “tricks”. The diplomatic conferences multiplied in number, but the treasury remained empty. The rivals of M. Briand ceaselessly denounced his wiles and demanded realities. M. Poincaré and the Clémenceau group exploited Briand’s weakness and ended by obtaining his head.

But since the treasury of France will continue to remain empty, and the equally empty pockets of the German are in no condition to fill it, the government of the Bloc National will be unable to move from the spot and will be condemned to sterile agitation. M. “Poincaré-la-guerre” will not add one centime to the dilapidated fortune of the French treasury. The crisis will go on accentuating itself until the final collapse.

The parliamentary crisis is complicated by a latent presidential crisis. M. Millerand, the go-between and man of affairs of the Bloc National is an obstinate and very active nationalist. He is dissatisfied with the role of a signing machine which is, according to the Constitution of 1875, the sole function of the President of the French Republic. He intervenes upon every occasion in politics to serve the militarist and nationalist reaction which supports him. It was he who, in a telegram, partially made public, disavowed the Briand policy of international reconciliation without waiting for a vote of the Chamber as was his constitutional duty. M. Millerand only knows how to govern with personalities of recognized insignificance, such as M. Laygues, He is obliged to enter into disputes with men who do not blindly carry out his orders. M. Millerand has been exposed. And the fight against the nationalist and militarist policies of the Bloc National will ricochet against the President of the Republic and his assistant, M. “Poincaré-la-guerre”. That will be the third, the presidential crisis.

The French proletariat thus obtains the first opportunity of forming its united proletarian front, demanded by the Executive of the Comintern, to fight the war policy of its government, active only in the service or a decadent and mortally wounded capitalism.

Last updated on 5 May 2019