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Pierre Frank

The Marty-Tillon Affair Reveals
How Our Ideas Have Penetrated the PCF

(December 1952)

Source: La Vérité des Travailleurs, December 1952.
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (January 2013).
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2010.

Translator’s note: André Marty and Charles Tillon were two of the most important leaders of the PCF. Leaders of the Black Sea mutiny in the French navy against intervention against the USSR, Marty was the Comintern’s representative to the Republican army and political commissar of the International Brigades in Spain, where he ruthlessly purged the politically suspect (and it is in this character that he appears in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls), and Tillon was the leader of the French Communist Resistance to the German Occupation. For reasons still unclear, both became suspect after the war – Tillon perhaps because he had had a violent disagreement with Jeannette Vermeersh, wife of PCF secretary Maurice Thorez – and in 1952, in the heart of the post-war purges in Eastern Europe, they became victims of what Tillon later called “A Moscow Trial in Paris.” An internal PCF investigation was carried out led by Léon Mauvais, and both men were stripped of their leadership positions. Despite Marty’s appeals to Stalin, the decision stood. Tillon remained a member of the PCF but was expelled in 1970 after opposing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Two days ago the Central Committee (C.C.) of the French Communist Party (PCF) announced a decision concerning André Marty and Charles Tillon. The CC, which only heard a reading of Marty’s texts (it didn’t have the written copies) decided that these documents will not be published by the party. In other words, their publication and distribution to members of the PCF would result in expulsion.

In the meanwhile Tillon has been returned to the base.

Marty’s fate has been turned over to his cell, which must decide on “his relations with police elements” and on all the faults the have suddenly been discovered in him, notably his “capitulationism and panicked comportment.” (L’Humanité, November 19) Expulsion is not far off.

And so the members of the PCF will judge Marty based on accusations he has refused to counter-sign, and not on political positions he has expressed in writing.

In the intense campaign carried out against him as well as in the Mauvais report, political accusations were made against him that cannot be dodged: the role of the Soviet Union, the role and the national policy of the party during the war, action in defense of peace, the youth question, the colonial question, the concept of the party, and the question of the united front with the Socialist Party.

And also deviations on the question of Trotskyism: “It is certainly not by chance that André Marty, referring to Trotskyism, spoke of ‘a party (Trotskyist) in opposition to our PCF,’ thus leading people to believe that Trotskyism is a current of the worker’s movement instead of expressing himself in keeping with our usual policy on that gang of police agents and provocateurs in the pay of the enemy.” (L’Humanité, November 19)

Up till now Marty’s ideas are unknown to working class opinion, and we can’t take political grievances formulated against him as an indication of his orientation. In general, he is supposed to have been against the submission of the polices of the PCF to the changes in Soviet diplomacy, against participation in capitalist government at the end of the war, and against the policy of “production first”, i.e., against a policy of stabilizing the capitalist state and economy and for a policy of mass mobilization for the seizing of power. He is supposed to have been against the policy of fighting for peace being reduced to petitions and signatures. He is even supposed to have been for a party to party policy of a united front.

All of these positions and those similarly oriented are close to or identical with those that the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI), the French section of the Fourth International, has defended for several years. In the previous issues of this newspaper we have demonstrated the correctness of these positions as opposed to the so-called demonstrations of the leadership of the PCF.

But these positions were not only those of the Trotskyists or those Marty is said to have defended in private. They were also shared by many Communist militants. Doesn’t the Political Bureau’s October 3 say “excellent comrades might believe that the working class should have seized power at the moment of the Liberation”?

It is also well known that many militants, while voting in 1945 for the resolutions of the C.C. at Ivry nevertheless sought the means to keep their weapons. (In the same way that today many will vote for the sanctions against Marty and Tillon while thinking the same way as them politically.)

And how many militants, despite what Mauvais calls the Stalinist “political characteristic” do indeed consider the Trotskyists a current of the revolutionary working class movement?

The Marty-Tillon Affair has demonstrated that for more than eight years the ideas defended by us were the same as those that animated a current of Communist militants, many of whom knew nothing about Trotskyism other than the slanders spread about them, and that this left current was so powerful politically that it reached the very leadership.

And now? Marty and Tillon’s attitude could have serious repercussions. They might stimulate the revolutionary ideas of thousands of Communist militants by developing a Communist policy or on the contrary, as was often the case with past splits, lead them to believe that outside Stalinist obedience there is only a political void and class enemies. The future will answer this question, and let us hope the answer will be positive.

But it is not the only the attitude of these two men that will count. The situation that led to the maturing of a left current in the PCF will grow more acute. The coming war and the revolutionary rising of the masses on all continents will more vigorously lead a growing number of Communist militants towards the positions of the Fourth International, of world revolution.

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