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Reva Craine

World Politics

(29 January 1939)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 5, 29 January 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

French “New Deal”

When General Charles de Gaulle was still living in exile and seeking to establish his leadership over the resistance movement, he promulgated a program of social reform which he promised to put into effect once France was liberated and he became the actual leader of the country. This program was hailed by some as a sort of French “New Deal,” in which all the evils, or at least the outstanding ones, of capitalist monopoly were to be eliminated.

Among the promises made by de Gaulle Was the one which provided for the ruthless purging and punishment of all Nazi collaborators, Vichyites and pro-fascists. In another he called for such social reforms as would guarantee the establishment of France as a country of social, political and economic equality. Big business was to be curbed. The banks and key industries were to be nationalized and run for the benefit of the people instead of the profit-makers.

This program, though it was by no means a socialist program, was welcomed and greeted by the French people because it corresponded to their desire for a social change which would end the constant threat of starvation, war and fascism. The fighters in the resistance movement insisted upon the carrying out of this program and for that reason sought to retain the arms they had obtained in the struggle against Nazi occupation.

Once de Gaulle landed in Paris and took over the reins of government he came into conflict with this movement. His attempts to incorporate the FFI into the regular army or to disarm it met with a great deal of resistance. The French workers proceeded to the purging of the collaborationists, that is, where they were not interfered with by de Gaulle’s police and courts of justice.

De Gaulle in Practice

From the time de Gaulle gained recognition by the Allies, his talk about punishment of collaborators and nationalization of the banks and key industries has become softer and softer, so that it is barely audible. He has established courts which proceed against collaborators very slowly, if at all.

Recently he addressed the Consultative Assembly, in which he urged greater tolerance toward those who held office under the Vichy regime, and making it possible for them to run for office in the coming elections!

The financiers and bankers, who cooperated so wholeheartedly when the Nazis were in control of France, are proceeding quite freely now to prevent any measures of nationalisation. The banks have thrown the entire holdings of the northern coal mines on the market in order to destroy their credit position. In the case of the chemistry industry, the banks simply stopped all credits as soon as plans for nationalization were announced. No measures have been taken against the banks!

Attitude Toward Labor

The measures taken with regard to the labor situation are somewhat different. There are over 600,000 unemployed workers in France, more than half in Paris alone. A trade unionist recently disclosed that these workers were not idle because of lack of materials, but rather because the banks refuse to advance the necessary credit. Instead of nationalizing these industries – that is, taking them over and operating them, the de Gaulle government has another plan for solving the unemployment problem. It has announced that it will resort to the conscription – not of industry – but of labor, for the “rebuilding of France.”

The French “New Deal” has in very short order followed in the path of its predecessor in the United States. Unlimited freedom for big business and the bankers, conscription for labor.

* * *

Ruthenian Secession

Once more, we see what treaties of friendship between imperialist powers are worth. At the end of last year, Russian signed a twenty-year pact of friendship with the Czechoslovak government in exile. President Benes went to Moscow and in return for a promise to enter within the Russian orbit of influence, he received from Stalin a guarantee that his country would be reconstituted on the basis of its pre-1939 borders.

Stalin has begun to demand payment from Benes, first in the form of recognition of the Russian-sponsored Lublin government and, second, Benes’ transfer from London to Czech territory, where he can be under the more direct influence of Moscow. Thus far, Benes has not complied with these orders.

Now Stalin prepares a new landgrab for himself. The Russians are demanding that Ruthenia, that is, the Carpathian Ukraine, be joined to the Russian Ukraine and thus come under Stalin’s domination. This territory was originally given to Czechoslovakia, a state created after World War by the Versailles Treaty makers, to insure the policing of Germany’s eastern border and to block the Russian revolution. It was seized by Hungary in 1939. The people who inhabit it are mainly Ukrainians who have always wanted their national freedom.

Stalin’s Aims

Stalin’s plan to unite Ruthenia with Russian Ukraine has nothing to do with national self-determination, in spitee of his attempt to pass it off as a demand coming from the Ruthenians themselves. It is rather for bargaining purposes, and as a threat to the Czechs that Stalin now supports any secession movement among; the Ruthenians. In the course of this, Stalin seeks to bring another territory under his control to be exploited by the Russian ruling class.

Indications are that Benes is prepared to cede this territory to Stalin. In exchange for what, is not now clear. Most likely in exchange for the hope that Stalin will make no further demands on him, such as swallowing up all of Czechoslovakia.

The people of Ruthenia, should they form part of a greater Stalinland, will become just so many new inhabitants of the “prison of the peoples” into which Stalin has reconverted Russia. They will exchange one oppressor for another. Their national aspirations and freedom will be no more realized than are those of the peoples at present oppressed by the Kremlin. Imperialism can only enslave peoples, it does not free them.

The solution to these aspirations lies in the reorganization of Europe on the basis of a voluntary and free union of all nations, that is, the socialist United States of Europe.

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