Leaders of French Socialism

Leon Trotsky

Political Profiles

In Paris

(March 1919)

THE French Socialist Party had found itself in a state of total demobilization. Jaurès was assassinated on the eve of the war. Vaillant, an old anti-militarist, returned to the patriotic traditions of Blanqui with the first days of the German offensive and poured out daily for the central organ of the party L’Humanité articles in the spirit of the most trenchant chauvinism. Jules Guesde, the leader of the Marxist wing, wore himself out in a lengthy and exhausting struggle against the fetish of “democracy”, and ended up being capable, like his friend Plekhanov, only of bringing the remnants of his political thought and his moral authority up to the altar of “national defence”. The superficial feujiletonist Marcel Sembat seconded Guesde in Briand’s government. The operator behind the scenes and the great master of little things, Pierre Renaudel ended up as “leader” of the party having automatically moved into Jaures’ vacant place, whose gestures and thundering he imitated in a strange way. Longuet tailed along after Renaudel though somewhat shyly.

Official syndicalism represented by the president of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) the upside-down Jouhaux took the same road. The self-satisfied “revolutionary” clown Hervé an extreme anti-militarist, turned himself inside out and in the capacity of extreme patriot remained just the same clown. Individual opposition elements were scattered here and there, but they gave scarcely a sign of life. There seemed to be no flickers of a better future.

In the Russian exiles’ circles in Paris, and particularly amongst the Social-Revolutionary intellectuals, patriotism bloomed poppy-coloured. When the military threat to Paris loomed a considerable number of exiles volunteered for the French army. The remainder clung on the deputies and the bourgeois press demonstrating in every way that now they were not just exiles but dear allies. The deeper grass roots and the proletarian elements were disorientated and confused. Some workers particularly those who had managed to marry into French families succumbed to the current of patriotism. But in general they stood firm trying to understand and to discover a solution.

World and Revolution, Vol.1, March 18, 1919/April 24, 1922.

return return return return return

Last updated on: 10.4.2007