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Ian H. Birchall

Apolitical Party

(Autumn 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.22, Autumn 1965, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The French Radical Party in the 1930s
Peter J. Larmour
Stanford UP/Oxford, 68s

Though this book is of interest to the specialist rather than the general reader, it makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the blackest decade of this century. While giving a very readable account, Larmour also presents a wealth of factual material, though his own interpretation tends to give too much importance to the rdle of individual personalities. The French Radical Party, which governed France, alone or in alliance, from 1932 to 1940, was a party based on the peasantry and the petty-bourgeoisie, the very classes from which fascism drew its greatest support – in fact, the Jeunesses Radicales, the most lively section of the party, openly tended to fascist ideas.

The Radical Party was inadequate, both organisationally and ideologically, to resist fascism. It lacked real contact between the small group of Parliamentarians and its popular support, and was unable to finance itself. Its political philosophy was a confused jumble of freemasonry, anti-clericalism and the Spirit of 1789; above all it stood for ‘private property and public order’, but there seemed to be no political identity between its left and right wings. It is interesting to note that one of he main features of its programme – never implemented – was profit-sharing. And yet such a party was able to enter the Popular Front; its leaders were able to call Thorez ‘sensible’; and at times, it allied with the Communists against, the Socialists. The picture that emerges from Larmour’s book is one of the bankruptcy, not just of the Radicals, but of the whole French Left.

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