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Paul G. Stevens

Events on the International Scene

(9 February 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. XII No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

French Workers’ View of Marshall Plan

Not everyone in France is waiting with bated breath for the salvation of the Marshall Plan. And not everyone who refuses it enthusiastic acclaim is an agent of the Kremlin. The way the thinking French worker looks at it is best expressed by an editorial in the current issue of the Trotskyist paper La Verité. Of the 17 billion requested from Congress for all European countries for four years, it says:

“The share provided for France In the course of 1948 is around 1.35 billion dollars, or 162 billion francs ... Let us grant that the best figure will be 170 billion francs for the first year and compare it with a few others. It just about equals the loss in national revenue caused by the strikes last November and December, that is, by the bosses’ and government’s refusal to grant the workers a living wage. It only covers about half of the military budget, a totally unproductive drain. It covers, only on the surface, the deficit in the trade balance with the U.S.”

The writer deduces from this that the figure cited can at best only serve to buy products which are indispensable to maintain -the present low level of production; to prevent an immediate crash of French capitalism, to give Wall Street’s grasping hands greater control over the country’s economy and – with the political stipulations attached – a say in the government’s domestic and foreign policy. Above all, it aims to prop up the decrepit French capitalists against the threat of being overthrown by the restive working class.

Sidelights on De Gaulle

The latest mass demonstration of the de Gaulle movement in the city of St. Etienne, where the General proclaimed his “social” program which smacks of the Fascist corporate state, is reported to have cost some 300,000 to 400,000 dollars – a lot of money in France these days. “Delegations” were transported to it from the most distant corners or the country. It is reported that the General’s eloquence did not get much of a response. After all the fanfare, only some 3,000 attended the indoor meeting that followed.

But the fact that he dared hold an open mobilisation of his forces in one of the big industrial cities is a challenge that the workers dare not ignore, say the French Trotskyists. During the recent strike, de Gaulle did not dare show his face in public; a mass meeting publicised in Paris for weeks by his RPF (Rally of the People of France) was hastily called off.

De Gaulle boasted at St. Etienne that while he was president of France there was not a single strike. The Stalinists, in reply, themselves claim credit for this achievement. For once they are right. But de Gaulle was no more grateful than the master class generally is to treacherous labor leaders.

Trotskyism in Ceylon

Under the above title, the London weekly, The Economist of Jan. 3 devoted a full length article which gives an informed review of the development of the revolutionary movement in that- far-off island. It starts out by calling attention to the “curious phenomenon that the-chief stronghold of Trotskyism In the world today” should be there, noting that the Lanka Sama Samaj Party won 10 seats and the Bolshevik-Leninists 5 out of a total of 95 elective seats in the island’s Parliament.

Intentionally or not, the writer creates a bit of confusion here. The Bolshevik-Leninist Party is the Trotskyist party of Ceylon, the official section of the Fourth International. The Lanka Sama Samaj Party is an organization formed by a group which last year split away from the Trotskyists.

The article recounts how the revolutionary workers’ movement there was originally organized in 1935 by a group of young men who had come into contact with Marxist ideas while studying in England. The conditions produced by the world depression “for the first time (made) the people receptive to radical ideas ... It must be appreciated, too, that there had never been any nationalist movement in Ceylon corresponding to the Indian National Congress, deriving its chief strength from the middle classes. There was a moderate reformist movement amongst landed and monied upper classes, whose interests then, as now, dovetailed fairly closely with those of the British, and a very weak labor movement, which, when the depression came, foundered on the rack of racialism and began to demand the repatriation of immigrant Indian labor.”

The article then recounts how,.the original movement, taking the name Lanka Sama Samaj, meaning Ceylon Equal Society, took root in this soil and how the majority in 1938 adopted Trotskyism and adhered to the Fourth International. It goes on to tell of the arrests of the Trotskyist leaders by the British authorities in 1940 and of their escape in 1942 from prison in India, where they aided in creating the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India, of which the framer Lanka Sama Samaj became the Ceylon section. Then it tells of how differences in the leadership developed which led to a split and the reorganization of the Lanka Sama Samaj by the dissident leaders.

Recently the differences between the organizations came out sharply when the Bolshevik-Leninists in Parliament voted against a government motion, while the representatives of the Lanka Sama Samaj Party abstained on the vote. The government motion was as follows:

“This House rejoices that, after many years of subjection to foreign rule, the struggle of the people of Ceylon for freedom has culminated in the attainment of independence.”

The Fourth International Secretariat addressed a letter to the Lanka Sama Samaj Party on this issue, wherein it asks:

“What possible justification can there be for abstention on an issue which poses squarely genuine independence versus camouflaged submission to imperialism?”

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