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Socialist Alternative, November 1936, Volume 2 No. 10, Pages 5-7
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Damon Maxwell in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Has France Found Her Man on Horseback?


FRANCE, occupying a key position in Europe and in 1 the world, a country with a tradition of revolutions, has crossed the threshold of her greatest and most significant revolution. It began with the tremendous strikes in June, coinciding with the accession of the Front Popularie to power. To the casual observer, things are still comparatively calm in Paris and the provinces. The only immediate result seems to be the tremendous growth of the official communist movement and the trade union movement. The Communist party and the Young Communist League together have well over 300.000 members, two-thirds of which they have recruited since the beginning of the year and half of which has been recruited since June. The claim of the Communist party that it receives 1,000 new applications every day does not appear to be an exaggeration to one who has spent a month in travelling about France. The C.G.T. (Confederation Generale du Travail) has grown from something less than 1,000,000 members before the strikes to almost 5.000.000 members today, representing a majority of the French proletariat.

Behind these bare statistics there are tremendous social forces at work, which even threaten to sweep away the organizations that are at present benefiting from them. French economy, founded upon an imperialist domination far out of proportion to the basic strength of French industry, has proceeded steadily from bad to worse. French hegemony in Europe is cracking under the steady pressure of a German imperialism that has put its internal house in order and is basically far stronger than French or even British imperialism. French trade, internal and (foreign, has dwindled to a small fraction of what it was in 1929. The rising cost of living, much more rapid now that the capitalists have gotten over their fright in June and are meeting the increased wages with increased prices (bread, newspapers, all the necessities rise in price from week to week, while the gold reserve decreases), is causing an unrest in France that is comparable to the unrest that seized Spain two or three months before the civil war broke out. Not even the super-exploitation of 80 million colonial peoples can maintain the profits of the French capitalists.

Rising Revolutionary Tide

The normal lull following the first great revolutionary wave of masses in action has not been so marked, due to the repercussions of nearby civil war in Spain. Everywhere in France there are tremendous meetings. Everyone talks politics – the factory worker, the railroad mechanic, the chambermaid, the bartender, the taxi driver, the small shop proprietor, the banker. The politician is in his glory, for he can always obtain an audience. The strike wave spread to the country and the provinces, awakening the peasant and the agricultural worker to political consciousness. It is now preparing to flow back to the cities, and with it will inevitably come the down-fall of the Front Popularie. Hundreds of French workers, enraged at the support given to the Spanish fascists by Germany and Italy, are streaming across the border to fight side by side with the heroic Spanish proletariat.

The Blum government is powerless to check the rising revolutionary tide. Already two distinct processes that foretell the coming bloody clashes in France (which the outbreak of war could only postpone) are discernible. On the one hand, the Communist party, although the main beneficiary of the leftward movement of the masses, is finding that it is beginning to lose control of the masses. Its most class conscious elements are Joining the P.O.I. (Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste), French section of the Fourth Internationalists (Trotskyists). Its most backward members, desirous of action, are swinging to the extreme right. Thus, although the Communist party will continue to grow during the next few weeks, this process of growth is beginning to taper off. On the other hand, the fascist movement is growing steadily. The recent by-election at the end of August in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, a predominantly working class district, saw the election of Chiappe, former police prefect of Paris and an outstanding reactionary, to the Chamber of Deputies by an overwhelming majority. Chiappe polled approximately 5,000 votes out of a total vote of less than 7,000. Soon the greater part of France will be two hostile camps, ready to die in the struggle to prevent the other from coming to power.

The famous “200 families” have been looking for their savior, their Hitler or Mussolini, ever since Feb. 6, 1934, when de la Rocque’s armed bands demonstrated to them the possibilities of achieving a fascist solution of the crisis. But de la Rocque failed due to his own lack of personal qualification. A fascist leader in a country with a strong working class movement must be a popular figure, a good speaker, a man who has emerged from the masses and can rally them under nationalistic and demagogic slogans – and de la Rocque has none of these qualifications. He is the typical hard-boiled army captain. He can play the role of a Goering, but never that of a Hitler. But de la Rocque also failed due to the efforts of Doriot. “le grand Jacques” of Feb. 9 and 12, 1934, the same Doriot who today is enthusiastically supported by the French capitalists and given front page publicity on every possible occasion by the “grande presse.”

French Capitalists Look for Fascist Savior

Who is this Doriot, who on Feb. 9, 1934 went into the streets with the slogan, “Unity or Death” – a cry that reached every town and village, every corner of France, for it corresponded to the desires of the masses, and resulted in the general strike of Feb. 12, 1934 that put a stop to fascism for the time being and led ultimately to the formation of the Front Popularie? Who is this Doriot, the object of the most popular (though unofficial) slogan of Bastille Day, July 14, of this year – “Doriot au Poteau” (which means “Hang Doriot”); the most talked about man in France today?

Jacques Doriot, the mayor of St. Denis, a working class suburb of Paris, joined the communist movement in France from its inception in 1920. He was the leader of the Young Communist League, a house painter by trade (not the least of his resemblance to Hitler), a man of great personal bravery, a powerful speaker and writer, and a born organizer of masses. When he graduated to the ranks of the Communist party, he accepted the bureaucratization of the party and with his personal qualifications forged rapidly to the front. He became the most popular figure in the Communist party, second in command to Cachin, a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, Stalin’s emissary to China in 1927.

Two things distinguished Doriot in his period as a power in the Communist party. Always a loyal bureaucrat, during the crazy zigzags of the party, he showed a decided preference for the opportunist course of the Communist party rather than its sectarian manifestations. And, above all, Doriot kept in close contact with the masses.

Thus, after the events of February, 1934, he realized before the other Communist party functionaries the tremendous desire of the masses for unity. In March, 1934, Doriot proposed a united front with the Socialist party. The Communist party, however, still regarded the social democrats as social-fascists. Doriot was invited to Moscow to “discuss” the situation. But Doriot knew what happened to people who disagreed with the party line and went to Moscow to “discuss.” He refused and was forthwith expelled, only to find that the Communist party concluded a united front with the Socialist party two months later.

From Communist Party to Fascism

Doriot’s path from his expulsion from the Communist party to his formation of the P.P.F. (Parti Populaire Francais) at the end of June. 1936 was a confused one. Like all expelled members of the Communist party, if he wished to remain actively engaged in politics, he had to analyze for himself the reasons for the false line of the Comintern, the reasons for its bureaucratization and degeneration. A successful Marxian analysis of his past would have led him to basic agreement with Trotsky’s position. Failing this, he has turned toward the road that led to fascism – the road of so many renegades from the working class movement: Mussolini’s road, made popular in France by such types as Laval.

Doriot, like so many trained in the Stalinist school, could not overcome his bureaucratic past. True, he came out with his paper, L’EMANCIPATION, which bore the emblem of the hammer and sickle, and flirted with such right centrist organizations as the German S.A.P. (Socialist Workers Party) in its fake anti-war meetings. But he supported the Front Popularie, and his opportunist leanings led him steadily to the right.

The decisive turn in his personal evolution came during the elections. He made a secret bloc with Laval. This had been prepared by his discussions with the agents of Hitler and Mussolini. Doriot still denies this, but the proofs are ample, most conclusive being the course of his subsequent evolution. From an important personage in the communist movement, Doriot has become France’s number one fascist.

The French Popular party was born in St. Denis on June 28, 1936 with a good 10.000 members, most of them workers. Doriot broke with the Front Popularie, claiming that it is dominated by the Communist party, agent of Moscow. The first issue of his paper after the formation of the French popular party graphically portrays Doriot’s change from red to white in the masthead. Formerly L’EMANCIPATION, it is now L’EMANCIPATION NATIONALE. The hammer and sickle has been dropped. In place of the confused ideas of workers groping for the truth, is to be found the conscious, nationalistic, demagogic, anti-communist line of the typical fascist.

At first the victim of a blind, unreasoning hatred of the Communist party and Stalin, Doriot’s line has become clever and subtle, but nonetheless clearly fascist. Taking advantage of the nationalistic propaganda of the Communist party, Doriot has become the real French patriot. His slogans are: “Against Social Conservatism” and “Against Foreign Interference.” Behind these ambiguities is a definite line. Doriot is against the class struggle, against communism, against Soviets. Like the real fascist leader, he is also against capitalism – “but the best features of capitalism must be maintained” as well as France’s colonies. “Socialism is not realizable,” says Doriot, and “Stalin and his theories are not worth a single drop of French blood.” Doriot poses as the “national revolutionary” of France, just as Hitler did in Germany.

C. P. Mistakes Aid Doriot

Like Hitler, Doriot is profiting greatly from the nationalistic degeneration of the Communist party. Many Communist party workers have gone over to Doriot. In Marseilles, he was joined by Sabiani, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist party. About 40 of de la Rocque’s followers are alleged to have gone over to Doriot. After two months in business as a fascist leader, Doriot claims over 50.000 members. A man of indefatigable energy, he is continually on the go, touring the country, speaking.

Doriot never speaks to an empty seat. Even in Paris, on occasions when his audience is predominantly bourgeois, he rolls up his sleeves, takes off his coat and tie, and with his shirt open at the collar, his powerful, sturdy figure bellows his imprecations against communism and his readiness to die in the struggle to save France from the “red menace.” No wonder the bourgeoisie supports Doriot in every conceivable manner. Especially do they love to hear him rant against the Soviet Union.

Nobody knows the working of the Communist party better than Doriot. His propaganda is calculated to confuse the workers by mixing together truths, half-truths and untruths – and thus leading the masses to fascism and against communism. At every meeting, without fail. he launches into his attack on the Soviet Union and Stalin. Stalin, according to Doriot, is the real master of France today. He is using France as a pawn in his game for world power. By making France oppose Germany, Stalin will have a free hand in Asia to deal with Europe and conquer the world, thus fulfilling Stalin’s “all-consuming ambition.” Mixed with this fantastic appraisal is a more or less truthful analysis of the growing inequalities in the Soviet Union, Stakhanovism as mere speedup, etc.. from which Doriot draws the correct conclusion that this is not socialism, and the incorrect conclusion that everything in the Soviet Union is bad and that socialism is not attainable.

Doriot’s fascist line is seen even more clearly in his attitude towards other fascists. Of de la Rocque Doriot has no criticism except to say that “De la Rocque failed because his program was not social enough.” He was already an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish civil war has forced him to come out openly for reconciliation with Germany, renewing his admiration of Hitler’s attempts to save the world from Bolshevism.

It is no secret that Doriot is now receiving financial support from the big capitalists. He claims to circulate over 300.000 copies of his weekly paper. He has had a pamphlet put out, entitled “Doriot, The Man of Tomorrow,” replete with pictures and praise of Doriot, the leader. The final proof of his anti-working class position, which marks his irrevocable break with the labor movement, is that Doriot has armed bands which roam the streets and break up workers’ meetings, attacking the vendors of workers’ newspapers. In his gangsterism, Doriot is particularly vicious against the Trotskyists, for small though they are, Doriot knows enough to realize that the Trotskyists are the only consistent Marxian revolutionaries in France today. At present, Doriot is increasing his activities as a strikebreaker, calling upon the workers not to strike.

Big Capitalists Behind Doriot

The Communist party realizes the danger that Doriot represents and has organized a campaign for Doriot’s resignation as Mayor of St. Denis. What effect it will have remains to be seen, but already Doriot, formerly the idol of every worker in St. Denis, now leaves his City Hall by the back door and goes around with a bodyguard.

Will Doriot take power and crush every workers’ organization, stamping out the revolutionary movement in France under a bloody fascist terror? That is impossible to say at present. The political scene changes rapidly in France and there are many difficulties lying in Doriot’s road to power. Pie has entered upon the fascia! scene very late, at a time when the French masses are predominantly revolutionary and moving steadily left-ward. In his favor is the nationalistic, class-collaborationist policy of the Front Populaire and its leaders, which is paving the way for fascism. The day when Doriot merges with de la Rocque (who has continued in operation with only formal dissolution of his fascist leagues under the euphemistic disguise of the French Social party) will signify the immediate preparation of the fascist counter-revolution. Whether de la Rocque will consent to play Goering to Doriot’s Hitler also remains to be seen. In any case, the answer lies not so much with Doriot, but rather with the French proletariat. If the French proletariat succeeds in building a mass revolutionary party before Doriot builds a mass fascist party, the inevitable disintegration of the Front Popularie will lead to a Soviet France rather than a Fascist France.

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