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The New International, August 1946


Editorial Comment

France Shifts Right


From New International, Vol.12 No.6, August 1946, pp.167-168
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The vote on the Constitution in the French referendum and the elections to the Second Constituent Assembly both marked the shift of the French political situation to the right.

The controversy on the Constitution took place on definite class lines. The Constitution, product of the Assembly elected last October with its decisive Communist-Socialist majority, was supported by the working class parties and the trade unions. The fight against the Constitution was led by the MRP, which rallied behind it the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois masses. The defeat of the CP-SP Constitution marked the shift of disillusioned middle class voters to the MRP camp, whose votes gave the CP and SP a popular mandate eight months ago. The increase in the total vote, accruing to the advantage of the Right, revealed the importance each side, but above all the bourgeoisie, attached to the contest. It also revealed the greater ability of the bourgeois front to bring additional reserves into the political arena.

The politically unstable petty bourgeois masses again demonstrated that they will give a letter of credit to a political trend that holds out hope for them, but always with a definite date attached. The inability of the CP-SP majority to act decisively, their fear of taking the power into their own hands, their maneuvers with the MRP, their reduction of all social and economic proposals to a level acceptable to the MRP, their eight-month-long “Big Three” party coalition that lacked internal unity or common direction but lacked no end of bickering and squabbling, all combined to cause enough petty bourgeois voters to foreclose on the October letter of credit for the CP-SP and to bring enough additional, aroused petty bourgeois voters to the polls to topple their Constitution and then their majority.

The slogan of “A CP-SP Government” (discussed in these columns in our February issue) was the only means of crystallizing the petty bourgeois support which the working class gained during the occupation and the “liberation days” and moving the situation to the left. However, neither the CP nor the SP dared to propose this class solution. If the CP proceeded entirely from the interests of Moscow foreign policy, then the SP proceeded with one eye cocked on the French bourgeoisie (MRP) and the other on the Anglo-American imperialists. With their traditional attachment to bourgeois interests, the SP felt the need of MRP support in the coalition on all domestic issues against the CP which proceeded with less regard for bourgeois property rights. The CP, however, likewise felt the need of the MRP support in the coalition when it came to matters of foreign policy. Since the foreign policy of the French bourgeoisie today has more in common with Russian proposals than with those of the Anglo-Americans, the MRP and CP saw eye to eye more often in this field than either did with the Socialists' orientation toward London-Washington.

Prospects and Strategy

With the policies of the CP and SP proceeding from the above calculations and with the bourgeoisie not yet firmly enough entrenched to risk a completely bourgeois government, French politics threaten to continue to stagnate in this impasse for the coming period. However, the relationship of forces in such an impasse never remains frozen for long. The recent two elections indicate the direction of the shift – toward the right. Only when the latter has become strong enough will the French bourgeoisie feel confident to dispense with the coalition of the workers’ parties and re-establish its direct rule.

For the Marxists, the strategic aim remains the same – break the coalition. In the preceding period the specific tactic demanded by the given situation, a CP-SP majority in the Assembly, was concretized by the demand, “Out with the MRP! A CP-SP Government!” Today, with the failure of the CP and SP to command a majority in the Second Assembly, the specific tactic is concretized by the demand, “Down with the Coalition! CP-SP Out of the Bourgeois Government!”

The 45,000 votes polled by the French Trotskyists for some eighty candidates in eleven electoral districts indicates that there has not yet been any appreciable shift away from the CP and SP on the part of workers. However, the widespread activity of the French Fourth Internationalists, as indicated by participation in the elections on such a scale, cannot but bring the party to the attention of large masses. Even if the close contest between the CP-SP and the bourgeois front commands their attention today, the next shift to the left in the situation and the inevitable growth of dissatisfaction with the line of the CP and SP will bring the first heavy reinforcements to the Trotskyists from among workers who are only now hearing about the party that represents the revolutionary alternative to Stalinism and reformism. This will be all the more true if the shift to the left spills over the parliamentary banks and unlooses the mass struggles which are inevitable once the French proletariat recovers from the physical and psychological weariness from which all Europe suffers.

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