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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(14 April 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 24, 14 April 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Fruits of the Popular Front in France

Readers of the Appeal are acquainted with some of the results of the People’s Front policy in France on the living conditions of the workers and the life of the labor movement. They already know that the institution, of the sixty-hour week in place of the forty-hour week achieved by the June 1936 strike wave is practically a fact; that the unemployed are to be regimented for forced labor in the best style of the Fascist countries; that the militants who took the general strike order of last November seriously are filling, the jails of Daladier’s “democracy”.

New fruits of this rotten and treacherous policy are coming to light every day, however. On March 1, 1939, the government issued a decree affecting the shop delegate system (the system of grievance committees established in June 1936). The decree sharply restricts the rights of the workers in the shops to elect delegates of their own choice, withdraws the right to recall an incompetent or renegade delegate and practically gives the bosses a free hand to dictate the election by ordering that “the chief of an establishment or his representative shall always have access to the voting place” – that is, the right to intimidate the voters. Not only have the Stalinists, socialists and trade union bureaucrats not taken any measures to fight the decree, but their press does not even see fit to denounce it.

For the first time in French labor history, we learn from Paris dispatches, the trade union movement is not to order the traditional May Day strike.

But, more indicative even than these political set-backs are the declining figures of trade union membership. In the Paris region alone, the “Union des Syndicats” or Central Labor Union, controlled completely by the Stalinists, reports that the membership there declined, in the period between September 1938 to December 1938, by more than 200,000. The workers are voting against the Popular Front with their feet.

Only a drastic push by the revolutionists organized in the minority movement in the trade unions known as the “Class Struggle Circles” (Cercles Lutte de Classe) can reorient the French workers and prevent the rout of the People’s Front from becoming a defeat for labor.

This movement is supported, and in many instances led, by Fourth Internationalist members of the P.O.I. (Internationalist Workers Party) and the P.S.O.P. (Socialist Workers and Peasants Party). Their immediate objective is the creation of a network of factory committees to take the initiative wherever it is impossible to get the regular trade union organization to act.

* * *

An Admission of Bankruptcy From the Anarchists Themselves

To Marxists, the role of the C.N.T. (anarchist trade union body) and the F.A.I, (anarchist political organization) in the course of the Spanish civil war has from the first confirmed the bankruptcy of anarchism. If a theoretical analysis of the petty-bourgeois character of this movement could only convince hundreds, the actions of the Spanish anarchist organisations clearly demonstrated to millions the uselessness of anarchist doctrine as a weapon of working class struggle.

To the very last, the C.N.T. and F.A.I, leaders pursued the old reformist policy of hanging on to the coat-tails of the capitalist politicians and to the People’s Front which supported them. Their continued collaboration justified every atrocity committed by the Stalinist G.P.U. gang in Spain. When the “Loyalist” bourgeoisie in order to finally make peace with Franco, used the Stalinists as scapegoats and shot down the rank and file Communist party members in cold blood in Madrid and Valencia, the anarchists condoned that action too. As is well-known, Val and Marin of the C.N.T. served as official members of the Miaja-Casado “Defense Council’’ which arranged for the final burial of the People’s Front and the capitulation to Franco.

Revolt, an anarchist organ published in England, prints the declarations of the “Defense Council” and concludes its editorial comment as follows:

“Having to choose between a Negrin (who, they claim, still worked with the Stalinists – P.G.S.) and a Besteiro (who worked with Miaja) the Spanish anarchists have chosen the latter in order to shorten a useless war. This is the lamentable situation, the result of having allowed the Stalinists for the past two years to crush the revolution and lose the war.”

If there has ever been a more patent declaration of political bankruptcy, it has still to come to our attention.

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Last updated: 3 March 2016