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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(17 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 88, 17 November 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

French Labor Under the Heel of the War Dictatorship —

Only the scantiest scraps of information regarding the labor movement have managed to come out of France. Labor news from that war-torn country is almost as rare as from Germany.

The labor press has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. All the Stalinist dailies have completely disappeared. Nor has there been any noticeable Stalinist effort to issue an illegal press. Only La Vie Ouvrière, the Stalinist trade union weekly still appears with a semblance of regularity. The last issue of that paper whose contents have come to our attention shows that the Stalinists had not yet made their turn from social patriotism to the new, camouflaged, “anti-war” position by the end of September. Thus, G. Monmousseau, the editor, writes in a leading article:

“The struggle for liberty against Hitlerite barbarism does not signify for those who fight in the ranks of the countries subjected to this aggression merely defense at any price of the nation itself against foreign oppression; it also means, at the same time, defense of public liberties, of democracy and of all that which comprises the possibilities of social progress and human liberation.”

In the Middle of the Crossing

This was written weeks after the C.P. had already been dissolved by the Daladier government, and only testifies in part to the great confusion in the ranks of the Stalinist functionaries, who for months now have been juggling phrases which try to reconcile “democratic” patriotism with approval of the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the line flowing from it.

The great trade union daily, Le Peuple, has been transformed into a weekly. The social democratic press has likewise suspended most of its daily publications, with only Le Populaire still appearing regularly.

Naturally, as was to be expected, the entire social democratic leadership, both the “collective security” faction under Leon Blum and the “pacifist” faction under Paul Faure, is completely hacking the Daladier government in its conduct of the war.

Syndicalism – Its Fruits

But even the pacifist syndicalists under Belin and Dumoulin have given up every pretense of an anti-war struggle. Thus, their weekly, Syndicats, declares that “we will take care not to give any council (sic) in the conduct of military operations” and further, that “in order to make all the arrangements corresponding to the necessities of such production as is indispensable to armament and to the human possibilities (sic), it is necessary that our syndicalism be freed from outside control.”

In other words, their slogan “for the independence of syndicalism” turned out in practice to be a cover under which control of the trade unions was transferred from the Stalinists ... to Daladier.

This inauspicious realization of “independence” has borne some pretty rotten fruit for the mass of the workers in the unions. Thus, their press is muzzled, hundreds of their militants arrested for “seditious” language, correspondence spied, communications suppressed, agreements violated, social legislation abolished and, above all – their 40-hour week transformed into a 72-hour week, their paid vacations abrogated, their wages reduced anywhere from 30 to 40 per cent, not to speak of the wholesale slaughter of the trade unionists sent to the front.

Belin explains all these fruits of “independent trade unionism” away as follows:

“In a period of war it is hard to see what remains of democracy and liberty ... In times of war, liberty and democracy, like the monuments in the public squares, are sort of hidden from sight by sand-bag embankments. Later on, the sandbags will be removed ...”

Thousands of workers have replied to this state of affairs with a mass exodus from the unions.

The First Rumblings of Revolt

But the revolutionary voices are not silenced altogether in the trade unions. Thus, the Federation of Technicians, with which militants of the Fourth International have long been identified, has publicly proclaimed its revolutionary internationalist position. Its stand has been endorsed by several local unions and trade union councils. At present they are engaged in a struggle to prevent their expulsion from the CGT.

Here and there in a factory, the International is sung spontaneously by the workers. In the Paris munition works a mass movement against reduction of wages has begun to make itself felt. In one factory a social patriot calling for support to Daladier was recently sent to the hospital by a group of enraged workers. Even at the front, the soldiers are beginning to grumble against the “war of the bosses.” Our comrades report that on a recent visit to the front, Daladier was booed in the trenches.

These are but the first rumblings of a native “bolshevism,” says one of our correspondents, which the French bourgeoisie fears far more than the so-called imported variety which it has been able quite easily to suppress.

For International Solidarity – S.O.S. from China

Recently a comrade representing the Chinese section of the Fourth International passed through here. The comrade gave an account of the work of that section which is testimony of an unquenchable heroism in the face of untold dangers. More than 500 comrades, concentrated in the main industrial centers and in the guerilla armies fighting Japanese imperialism, are waging a daily battle for the ideas of revolutionary internationalism. Two monthly illegal papers and a legal weekly make their way regularly to the factories in Shanghai and the other industrial cities.

We have just received urgent word from our comrades in China, however, that without immediate financial aid their organization faces almost certain extinction: In the past comrades here have responded promptly and generously to the appeals of our Chinese organization. Will we now, at this critical moment, fail to respond again?

We must not let down our valiant Chinese section in this hour of need! Rush donations, no matter how small, to the Socialist Appeal, 116 University Place, New York City! Hold social affairs! Take up collections among your friends!

Our Chinese organization needs your help at once. Do your bit!

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