Glotzer Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Sam Adams

France in Ferment as People
Demand Sweeping Changes

(September 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 38, 18 September 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The news from France is still too sparse and inconclusive to offer any definite picture of what is actually happening in the country. But several important facts are clear and well known. France is sharply divided between the de Gaullist forces organized outside of the country, the French underground and its armed detachments in the French Forces of the Interior, and the former collaborationist elements. These divisions, however, are not merely national divisions over matters of policy pursued prior to the Allied invasion of France and the subsequent expulsion of the Germans. They not only reflect the deep desires of the French people for their national independence from a foreign oppressor, an oppressor which united the French masses in a common struggle, but they also reflect the sharp struggles between the classes in France.

Behind the fact that the masses never ceased to fight against German occupation and French collaborationists is the additional fact that they were fighting against the “old order of things.” With good instincts, the French people, especially the French working class, recognized that the defeat of France was to be placed where the real blame lay: on the French ruling class, the financiers and industrialists who preferred Hitler to the rule of the French working class and peasantry.

The French people knew that their capitalist class played ball with Hitler before the defeat, as well as after, rejoicing in the fact that the defeat and occupation of the country by the fascist scum temporarily destroyed the French labor movement, the trade unions and the political organizations of the working class.

Not only that, the French workers today do not want a return to the conditions that existed before the war. They may not know exactly what they want in the same sense as class-conscious socialists who seek the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a system of production for use. But they do know that they will not accept a return to the long working day, the miserable working conditions that prevailed in the country, the years of unemployment, poverty and war.

They saw some of their bosses run to all four corners of the earth when the Germans came. They know that the big business men who remained in the country when the Germans came, collaborated with the Nazis against the French people, thus insuring for themselves continued operation of their factories – and profits.

Preserving “Order”

Therefore when the capitalist press talks about preserving “order” in France, they mean to keep the French workers from asserting their desires and demands. The Allies have made it plain to de Gaulle that he will receive their support only to the extent that he maintains this order and keeps the working class in check.

In check? What does that mean? It means to keep the workers from taking the factories, from asserting their full democratic rights. It means liquidating the Forces of the Interior, who fought so valiantly against the Nazis and who threaten to fight valiantly in behalf of the French masses.

We are now told that the FFI has weapons, that is composed of young, heroic men who know that they were the ones who stayed at home, braved the occupation of the Germans and never ceased the struggle for freedom. For this, the underground and the FFI demand priority in all considerations and deliberations concerning France, and demand that the “exiles” take second place. They don’t want the ruling class element who ran France into the ground to return and pick up where they left off. They want a say in the affairs of the nation, they want to direct them, and no one has a better right to this than the workers of the country.

The New Struggle Begins

But already the struggle inside the country is beginning. The press reports that the workers have seized plants when owners and directors fled as the Allied armies and the FFI made their appearance. In some instances there is no ruling force except the workers, and they have taken charge of the factories. This is exactly what the Workers Party predicted would happen. Allied policy is to prevent any social change which would leave the economy in the hands of labor. They want to insure ownership and control of the economy to the French capitalist class.

The French working class, however, is demanding guarantees of work, decent conditions, advanced social legislation, placing economic burdens on the backs of the French ruling class and the right to determine the economic life of the country.

Where will this conflict end? It is difficult to say now. We are only at the beginning of a great new struggle for freedom. The French workers are still in a state of disorganization. Those parties which do exist, like the French Socialist Party and the Communist Party, offer no hope to the French masses. On the contrary, they are preparing now to hand the workers over to the mercy of the old system and the old rulers. Their policies in France are the same as in other countries: work with the capitalist class, establish “law and order” and return to the good old days when they were “loyal oppositions” fighting for a few crumbs for the workers.

But they will not be able to halt the struggle of the masses for a fundamental change in the social order so as to guarantee them security, peace and freedom. Up to now there is no evidence whatever that these three desires and necessities of the French people can or will be realized under Allied rule, a de Gaullist government or from the existing reformist Socialist Party, or the Russian-controlled Communist Party. They all stand for capitalism and the old system.

What is needed in France is a new organization, a revolutionary socialist party which will carry forward the struggle for real freedom, real security, real peace through workers’ rule and the construction of a socialist economy of equality. This struggle will go on as surely as the world turns. The real hope of France, as of all of Europe, lies only in this direction.

Top of page

Labor Action 1944 Index | Writers’ Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 14 December 2015