From New International, Vol. I No. 1, July 1934, pp. 22–23.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
IN order to acquaint oneself with the present internal political situation in France, whose point of departure and at the same time clearest revelation was February 6, as it has been reflected in the various sections of the working class and its leaders, one should above all consider three things: the congress of the Socialists this Easter, the congress of the “Neo-Socialists” (a Right wing group which was expelled from the Socialist party towards the end of last year and constituted itself a separate party), and finally the Doriot “case”.
We speak deliberately only of a “reflection” of the situation in the camp of the working class: the shifting of the political relationship of forces, of which the present Doumergue government is the expression, is to be reckoned entirely to the account of the French bourgeoisie, however much of an indirect role the proletariat may have played in it. An independent influence, it did not exert; it did not emerge from its passive attitude in the whirlpool of events – apart from the general strike on February 12 – and to this day it has not yet acquired a creative force. It contented itself with registering the changes that took place in the country, with digesting them, with reacting to them as a “mass”. But the “mass” reacted gropingly, questingly, unclearly, more instinctively than with political consciousness. Occasions for coming forward as an active factor in the interplay of class forces are born spontaneously. But for the time being there is nothing capable of elevating these instinctive reactions to a higher level of consciousness, nothing that could give the instinct of the masses a conscious, propulsive expression. Nothing – that is, no truly Marxian-Leninist party.
Congresses of socialist parties should be the guides and trail-blazers of the clearest and boldest revolutionists of the working class. The two congresses which we will deal with were melancholy gatherings, where fusty bureaucrats and intellectuals pointed out roads backward, roads into the swamp, to reaction, where sterile “leaders” of the Second International fondled and rolled out the thoughts and ideas of the most backward sections of the proletariat, where – it is hardly conceivable – former “great men” of the Second International dropped even the flimsy veil of their pseudo-Marxism and erected the Fascist ideas of their petty bourgeois following into a finely woven system of a “corporative state” after the Italian model. But what else was to be expected from a party which for twenty years has perpetrated one betrayal of the working class after another, which has brought the proletariat in two countries, not to socialism, but to the gallows and the penitentiaries!
Nevertheless, after all the political convulsions which France has experienced in recent months, one would have expected a stormier convention. That this was not the case only shows, on the one hand, how firmly the leadership still holds the membership in its grip, and on the other hand, however, also how weak is the political maturity of these members.
Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany and the demolition of the social democracy set afoot a certain movement among the supporters of the Second International in every country. The leadership instantly reacted to this and draped itself in “red”. The leaders of the French party, Leon Blum and Paul Faure, also yielded to the pressure of the stirred up masses and preened themselves with revolutionary phrases, aiming in this manner to prove to their followers that they were something different from Stampfer-Wels. Radical phrases, radical gestures (like the expulsion of the Neos, who were only compromising them from the Right), could be employed without running any risk, so long as the play of class forces in France pursued the old, well worn democratic paths. The 6th of February showed that the epoch of democracy had reached the end of its rope even for France. A truly Marxian party would then have had to take to the offensive. But agents of the bourgeoisie that they are, the Blums and Faures, quaking with fear, threw off their red garments as rapidly as possible: they were gripped by the eternal fear of all the lords of the Second International, the fear that the masses might get the upper hand over them, might elude their control. And so they appeared at the congress in their plain democratic-reformist every day clothing, permitting of no “revolutionary” deviations, no rash speeches.
To be sure, the floor was taken by every possible shading in which the reformist parties, in contrast to the Stalinists, are so extremely prolific. There was the Right wing current which came out openly in favor of continuing hand in hand with the Radical-Socialists – who have, their people, like Herriot, in the Doumergue government There were the Left wingers who declared that the bourgeois parties had finally fallen into (!) the camp of the counter-revolution, of “anti-democracy”, who rejected any coalition with the Radical-Socialists, who even approved, under certain circumstances – with countless ifs and buts – of an armed seizure of power. Finally, there was a group which even flung the words “civil war” into the debate at one time – to be sure, to the great amusement of the majority of those present. But none of them, not even the most Leftward, actually ever rose above the level of the narrow-minded parliamentarian of the last century – insofar as clarity of thought and ideas is concerned – and on that score they were distinguished in no respect from the Blum-Faure center which carried off the “victory” over all of them.
More by what was not said at this congress than by what was said, is it possible to perceive what a thoroughly petty bourgeois counter-revolutionary company is at bottom represented by these people, over whose intellectual effects not even a trace of Marxism casts a disturbing shadow.
This February, their pride and joy, the Austrian brother party, was smashed by cannon and machine gun. Ground enough for a party, which is a member of an International, thoroughly to discuss this event in all its scope, even if the corresponding lesson could never be drawn without self-dissolution. But not a single delegate as much as tapped the Austrian question! Oh yes, one of the speakers, using the example of the Vienna struggles, proved Paul Faure’s ingenious discovery that nowadays, in face of the well-organized power of the state, barricade fighting is hopeless for the working class. The engineer Weissel  certainly did not believe that his death would prove sufficient grounds for a reformist knave to develop “theories” of past and future treacheries!
The central question of any labor congress today would have to be the war question. Certainly it is not the French working class for whom this theme is remote. Yet on this point there was literally not a single word said at this congress! That the parties of the Second International will bring out a new edition of their betrayal of 1914 in the event of a war is clear beyond a doubt. That even today nobody wracks his brain any longer about how to make this coming betrayal “palatable” to his followers shows that in the minds of these fellows there is no longer any room for questions of an international character, that they have finally reached the level of mediocre, bigoted parliamentarians. For these people it is more important to discuss for hours as to what policy to pursue at the coming elections in October; that there might conceivably come a time when ballot boxes will disappear and all parliamentary dodges will be worthless – such a notion does not occur even at this late date to a genuine social democrat. These people succeed in accomplishing the feat of speaking in one and the same breath of the “conquest of power” and of a “plan” for the salvation of (capitalist) economy. For “plans” à la Henri de Man are in style now, and the words “seizure of power” smell so terribly revolutionary. But everything is avoided that might look as if this seizure of power is being seriously prepared in any way: in the final resolution of this congress it says characteristically:
“The party authorizes its districts to form their defense and youth groups, not fashioned after the armed military organizations of Fascism, nor storm troops for an assault upon the capitalist fortress, but only as a means of protecting our propaganda, our organizations and members.”
No, there was no need at all of saying it so plainly, we can assert in good conscience that Messrs. Leon Blum and Paul Faure have never even grasped the idea of a workers’ militia!
As to the congress of the Neo-Socialists, what needs to be said can be put briefly. What is of interest here, is the very existence of such a party. It arose at the end of last year after the expulsion from the Socialist party of 29 deputies who refused to submit to party discipline (in the question of their conduct in the parliament). Its tendencies have meanwhile become more clearly delineated. The party may be regarded as the organizational expression of the reflection of a Fascist trend of thought among certain types of labor leaders who base themselves upon the most backward sections of the working class and their petty bourgeois following, which is particularly large in France. From the fact that the party of Blum and Faure has lost 2,000 youth comrades since February 6 alone (the Socialist Youth today numbers only something over 8,000 members!), the Neo-Socialists draw the conclusion that above all the “youth” must be offered something in order to keep them and to win them over: expressive of this was a debate on “uniforms”, where pleas were made for and against the acquisition of uniforms for the young members. This party bears within it the tendency to slip down into the Fascist camp. This is plainly shown in the speeches of some of its leaders, Marquet, for example, who said among other things:
“Put yourselves at the head of the movement which will liberate the working class lulled to sleep by Marxism”
“Tomorrow our little group will be the rallying center for the proletariat, the middle classes and even certain capitalist elements.”
Yet it would be false to depict the party and its leaders as already now being one hundred percent Fascist, as some zealots would have it (and naturally the Stalinists among them).
But that there are in the French proletariat also sections which are reacting positively to the events of recent months – at least to a certain degree – is shown by the Doriot case. Opposition in the Comintern! How long ago is it since an oppositional voice penetrated into this storage-room of broken-down revolutionary fossils! No wonder the Doriot case arouses the greatest interest everywhere, in every working class circle.
Doriot has been a Communist party member since its foundation in 1920. At first, he was leader of the youth, then a member of the Central Committee, the Political Bureau, the Chamber of Deputies. In addition, he has been mayor of the workers’ suburb of Paris, St. Denis, since 1929. Back in November of last year, then again in January, Doriot sharply attacked the Political Bureau because it “underestimated the Fascist danger”. How right he was is shown by February 6; two days before, l’Humanité had written an editorial: Don’t Get Excited! What confusion prevailed in the minds of the membership is further shown by the fact that on the same day they demonstrated at the heels of the Fascists and likewise demanded the retirement of the Daladier government. Even after these events the party has learned nothing. The same insane slogans, the same tactic of the united front only from “below”, have remained.
On the basis of the struggle against this united front tactic of the party, there arose – and has remained to this day – the Doriot opposition. In St. Denis, a united front committee of all the proletarian parties was formed under the presidency of Doriot during the stormy days following February 6 – contrary to the instructions of the Central Committee. The party sought with every means at its disposal to smash this first genuine combination of the whole working class for the purpose of self-defense and for a subsequent assault upon Fascism. But it met with no success here, for the overwhelming majority of the Communist workers stood behind Doriot. Thereupon it invoked the Communist International. In the meantime, Doriot voluntarily withdrew from his post as mayor, had new elections called, and ran again as a candidate. By means of this plebiscite he aimed to show that the working class of St. Denis fully approved of his policy. And therein he succeeded: he was reflected with an overwhelming majority. Meanwhile the decision of the Executive Committee of the Comintern arrived, signed at the very top by the parade-revolutionist, Dimitrov: Doriot must instantly cease his struggle, otherwise the Central Committee may resort to appropriate organizational measures against him.
One must read this declaration in order to appreciate it at its full value. It struck even the most ossified Stalinist that it doesn’t even attempt to argue ideologically with Doriot, that it doesn’t even deal with his arguments which he set out in an open letter to the Comintern in the form of a brochure For Unity in Action, that it merely declares in the full consciousness of its dignity:
“Doriot’s open letter ... is only a mask to cover up his splitting policy. Thus Doriot has entered upon the path once travelled by the counter-revolutionist Trotsky in his struggle against the Russian Communist party and against the Comintern.”
On this point Doriot himself writes in his local journal:
“It has now been proved that it is not possible to discuss loyally inside the party without being visited with the disciplinary sentence of excommunication. The system is bad and only two perspectives are left to a Communist: either to swallow the line and the mistakes of his party without ever discussing, or else to discuss this line and its mistakes and be expelled.”
As this is being written, Doriot is still a member of the party. Nevertheless he is now making the acquaintance of the “political” arguments against his line. They consist of calumny, of “disclosures” by mail, and – simplest method of all – strong arm stuff. In other words, he is making the acquaintance of Stalinism in its basest form ...
Commendable as this opposition is, in one sense, so may it prove to be pernicious in perspective, in another. And all signs point that way. Doriot has remained standing half way along the road: a question of tactics has brought him into conflict with his party. And there the matter has rested. It is a national opposition on a tactical question. Not a single question of an international character has been touched by Doriot. The Comintern is taboo to him. Should he be expelled now, which will shortly be the case, his movement may under certain circumstances do the French working class more harm than good. It will in all likelihood attract substantial masses. But, should he remain standing on his present “platform”, he will lead these masses into an opportunistic united front morass instead of toward a united front of action. If, however, Doriot will perceive at the last minute that, in France, it is above all a Marxian-Leninist party that must be built up – then and then only will it be possible to greet his opposition wholeheartedly.
1. Georg Weissel, 38 year old head of the Floridsdorf fire brigade, who commanded a small detachment of the Schutzbund during the Austrian uprising. He was the second man to be condemned to death by hanging by the drumhead court martial. Defiant and unrepentent, his last cry was: “Hurrah for revolutionary socialism!” – ED.
Last updated on 25 February 2016