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World Politics

Paris, Saigon, New York

(27 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 4, 27 January 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A considerable fuss has been raised about the short-lived Blum cabinet in France. It has been hailed in the American press as a brilliant administration which has gone far to revive the French Social Democracy and the position of France as a power. There is no doubt that, within certain limits, the Blum cabinet has acted with energy and dispatch. It enforced a reduction of five per cent in France’s price structure and it initiated negotiations with England for a mutual assistance pact. If an election were held in France today it is quite likely that the Social Democracy would get a larger vote than it did in the recent election where it fell to the position of a second rate party.

At this point we should return to the words “within certain limits” which appeared in the sentence above describing the energy of the Blum cabinet. For the Social Democracy of France has been neither desirous nor able to lift itself from its basic historical role as agent of its native capitalism. The reduction in prices, though of some aid to the French workers, is conceived of mainly as a device to forestall their persistent wage demands. And the proposed pact with Britain is merely a maneuver entirely within the limits of capitalist diplomacy. The Social Democrats did not try to effect any basic changes in the French social structure; that is not their role.

But most revealing was their attitude toward the Indo-Chinese revolt. Blum’s behavior was in no essential respect different from that which would have characterized de Gaulle or Bidault. Blum sent a top military man and one of its most reactionary politicians, General Leclerc, to suppress the Indo-Chinese; he reaffirmed the appointment of Admiral d’Argenlieu, Indo-Chinese governor, whose callous imperialist behavior had so incensed the people of the colony; and he further supported his Minister, Moutet, who after a trip to Indo-China issued statements refusing even to negotiate with the nationalist rebels.

That is the record of Social Democracy. Whatever quirks of energy or verbal boldness it may indulge in, its historical role remains the same as before: it is indissolubly wedded to the maintenance of capitalism.

The French Stalinists And Indo-China

The Daily Worker in this country has maintained a strange silence on the Indo-Chinese events and especially on the statements of the French Stalinists in support of French imperialism (reported in Labor Action a few weeks back). It has, however, printed reports, which appeared simultaneously in the capitalist press, that the French Stalinists have come out in favor of negotiations with Viet Nam, the Indo-Chinese nationalist movement.

We should clearly understand the significance of this stand by the French Stalinists. They have not adopted a revolutionary position on this matter, or anything even resembling a revolutionary position. As a party of “responsibility” (that is, of complicity In the French parliamentary swindles) the French CP has NOT raised the slogan of independence for Indo-China. It has merely urged that negotiations be resumed with Viet Nam, a demand which the more intelligent variety of imperialists can and do support.

The sharpest contrast can be made between the Stalinists in France and the Parti Communiste Internationaliste, French section of the Fourth International. The PCI has a very simple position on Indo-China. It demands that French imperialism get out, lock, stock and barrel; it demands that every French soldier be withdrawn. It does not, as does the French CP, offer advice to French imperialism on how to resume relations with and therefore domination of Indo-China. It says: Get out, get out; let the Indo-Chinese people determine their own faith. That is a revolutionary socialist position; it is the ONLY democratic position on this matter. Everything else, anything else, the slightest equivocation, the slightest hesitation – means support of imperialism. And here too is a testing ground for political positions.

The American Liberals and Indo-China

One cannot read the so-called liberal and even radical press on the events in Indo-China without feeling a strong sense of nausea. Look through the New Republic, The Nation, PM, the New York Post, the Wisconsin Progressive, and that most wretched of sheets, The New Leader – and you will not find a word in behalf of Indo-Chinese independence. There were times when the American liberals, whatever their ultimate shortcomings, were at least able to rally behind comparatively simple issues like colonial independence where the democratic (if not Marxist) position is so indicated as to make impossible any double-talk. But even that day is past.

The Nation and The New Republic (Henry Wallace, Editor) hem and haw, and question if the French are conducting themselves quite properly. The New Leader, a sheet for the decayed minds of ex-radicals, prints tripe by Henry William Chamberlain, as witness:

“If Moutet is now convinced, as is reported in dispatches from Indo-China, that a military decision must be sought, I am inclined to believe that the responsibility for the recent flare-up of fighting is on the Viet Nam side. The Overseas Minister is not the kind of man who would lend himself to any act of imperialist aggression.”

This is tripe; this is a lie; this is support of French imperialism; this is writing as an enemy of simple democracy, which demands that the Indo-Chinese be allowed national independence. Strong words? Yes, they are; perhaps not the nicest language or most diplomatic characterizations. But there is a limit to everything. And the sight of these pious liberals, these democratic worthies who are so ready to read us lectures about “Bolshevik amorality” – the sight, I say, of these liberals twisting themselves all over creation in the attempt to condone the French suppressions, is more than any socialist should be able to bear without anger.

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