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Irving Howe

Blum and Thorez Support
Suppression of Indo-China

(6 January 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 1, 6 January 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“France,” said Admiral Thierry d’Argenlieu, French High Commissioner for Indo-China, in a Christmas message, “does not intend in the present stage of evolution of the Indo-Chinese people to give them total and unconditional independence, which would be an action gravely prejudicial to the interests of both parties.”

This is the message of the man who is the chief representative of French imperialism, today attempting to reassert its domination over the Indo-Chinese people. He is not merely, however, the representative of French imperialism in general; he is the representative of the government of Leon Blum, leader of the French Socialist Party, in particular. The cabinet of Blum has indicated no intention of disavowing this naval martinet, infamous for his desire to use fire and whip to smash the Indo-Chinese nationalist movement. On the contrary it has sent as “military inspector” for Indo-China and as aid to Admiral d’Argenlieu, Major General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc, expert on mobile warfare, who has a record of having previously suppressed nationalist movements in Indo-China.

In addition, the cabinet of “Comrade” Blum has dispatched a crack regiment of paratroopers from Algeria abroad the cruiser Duquesne and, says the New York Times of December 25, “it was reported that these would be followed by a full division, including legionnaires aboard the liner Ile de France.”

There is the behavior of “Comrade” Blum’s cabinet toward colonial people aspiring to national liberation; there is the true imperialist face of Social Democracy.

Blum, before his assumption of the premiership, tried to wriggle out of his difficult position. He wrote in Le Populaire, organ of the French Social Democracy, that he favored independence for the Indo-Chinese. When the Parisian rightist press howled, Blum retreated to the formula “independence within the framework of the French union” – the new patent medicine with which the capitalist parties hope to save dying French imperialism. But once he assumed the premiership – and how effectively does a cabinet post remind a Social Democrat of his responsibility to capitalism! – he said that while he favored an amicable agreement with Indo-China, he would “not be intimated by force!”

Is not this language typical of the imperialist suddenly confronted with a colonial people? Who has been invading whose country for these many decades – have French troops been in Indo-China or have Indo-Chinese troops been in France?

And what do Blum’s American comrades – the worthies of the New Leader who are so solicitous of “democratic values” – have to say about this?


If, the role of the French Social Democracy is scandalous, there is no word to describe the Stalinist attitude toward the Indo-Chinese rebellion other than outright treachery. Elsewhere in this issue we report the statement of the French Stalinists, opposing national freedom for Indo-China. Here we wish to present additional evidence that the French Stalinists are actively supporting French imperialism against Indo-China.

Stalinist Game

In a dispatch to the New York Times for December 24, C.L. Sulzberger writes: “The powerful French Communist Party has played a skillful juggling game, balancing between support of local independence factions and of a new form of imperial structures. At first Maurice Thorez, Jacques Duclos and Andre Marty (French Stalinist leaders) appeared to sponsor full independence for Indo-China, but a wave of popular indignation resulted in a backtracking more attractive to metropolitan French votes ... At present the Communists officially sponsor a colonial solution, with the federal concepts of an overseas France.” (My emphasis – I.H.)

But an even more dramatic indication of the Stalinist attitude toward Indo-China took place on December 24 when the new Upper House, or Council of the Republic of France, opened its sessions in Paris. In his dispatch to the New York Times, Lansing Warren writes:

“... the session was marked by a single Incident when the chairman asked the Council to join in a demonstration of gratitude to the French soldiers now fighting in Indo-China.

“The House applauded vigorously with the exception of a large contingent of Communists who remained in their seats while the others stood up to cheer. There was a full minute of hesitation while the applauding was maintained and then in a body the Communists slowly rose to their feet at a signal from their leader and joined in the demonstration.”

A really remarkable occurrence! Notice that while the Stalinists remained in their seats “the others stood up to cheer” – “the others” obviously including Blum’s fellow deputies of the Social Democracy. They were ready to cheer French imperialism in Indo-China.

We should also notice that the Stalinists didn’t spontaneously express their indignation against French imperialism, against the slaughter of nationalist forces by French planes. They merely sat quietly in their seats.

And finally, “at a signal from their leader” – what a commentary on the mind of Stalinism! – they stood up and “joined in the demonstration.”

There then is the face of Stalinism as well – applauding the French troops who maintain imperialist rule in Indo-China. We pose this question to any members of the Communist Party reading these lines: Is this what you stand for? Is this what you believe and want? And If it is not, why do you not raise these matters tn your party, demanding that the Daily Worker break its shamefaced silence about the behavior of the French Stalinists?


After what has happened in Indo-China and after the open support which the French Social Democrats and Stalinists have given to French imperialism, we have special reason to be proud of our French comrades – the Fourth Internationalists of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste, who, without the slightest ambiguity, have come out in support of the Indo-Chinese people; who have demanded the complete withdrawals of French troops from Indo-China; and who, as recently reported in Labor Action, defied the Parisian police to demonstrate their solidarity with their Indo-Chinese brothers in the streets of Paris.

Because of the internationalist position they have taken, we stand today – when Blum is preparing the troops of Leclerc to shoot down the Indo-Chinese nationalist movement and when Thorez is cheering him on, even if after a “full minute of hesitation” – we stand squarely by the side of the French Fourth Internationalists. They do not bow down before French imperialism; they rather defy it and send to their brothers of Indo-China the message:

We are with you in your struggle for independence; we are your brothers; we shall fight besides you against the Leclercs, the Blums and the Thorez’s.

It is a message which we of the Workers Party in this country wish merely to repeat.

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