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H.F. Roberts

People’s Front Cracks in Crisis

Radicals, Stalinists, Socialists Collapse at First Test

(30 November 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 49, 30 November 1935, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Bonapartist regime of Pierre Laval sought and secured a temporary renewal of its mandate this week from the Chamber of Deputies which reconvened on Thursday. Fear for the safety of the franc stampeded the doughty Radical Socialist leaders of the Front Populaire back into the arms of Laval. Under pressure from Herriot, darling of the Stalinists, the Radicals swung from the People’s Front and cast their votes for Laval, to whom they gave a majority of 120.

It took just that – a threat to the franc – to crack the parliamentary front of the Front Populaire – and the parliamentary front is all that it has! At the first critical moment the bourgeois politicians of the Radical party decided that power would be too hot to handle. The Socialists and Stalinists – whose only perspective was a Radical Socialist government – were left hanging far out on a lonely limb.

The best they can now propose is the substitution for Laval – of a workers’ and peasants’ government? – no, of Joseph Paul-Boncour or of Theodore Steeg or Laurent Bonne-vay or another one of that old school of hardened reactionary politicians at the nead of a new cabinet of Republican-Radical coalition ! In other words, the substitution of a French von Papen for the French Bruening.

Should the turn of the debate result by any chance in the downfall of Laval another “good Republican” will follow him to continue the Bonapartist regime which is rapidly clearing the road for the Fascist Croix de Feu.

The Front Populaire, cracked wide open, offers no other perspective. The working class parties have thrown their fate into the lap of Herriot and now that the “leftist” Herriot has failed them they’ve moved farther up the line to a Boncour! Anything, anybody but the struggle for workers’ power. Not the workers, but Herriot or Boncour or somebody like them must get in to – disarm the Fascists.

The Fascist Croix de Feu, armed and ready to seize power, looks with contempt on the proceedings in the Bourbon Palace. It jeers at the solemn insistence of Radical, Socialist and Communist deputies that Pierre Laval, their Bonapartist friend, dissolve the Fascist leagues and disarm them.

The Croix de Feu is contemptuous because it knows that France’s political crisis will be solved not from the tribunes of the Chamber but on the streets, arms in hand.

It jeers because it knows that neither Laval nor any Bonapartist successor to Laval can really dissolve or disarm it – any more than Von Papen could dissolve the Nazi storm troopers.

It jeers because it sees its Socialist and Communist opponents concerning themselves alone with the struggle on the parliamentary scene – with shadow boxing which will disappear when the glare of the real class struggle is turned full force upon it.

Herriot started the defection from the People’s Front last week and within the past few days – the rise of the discount rate to 6 per cent and the spectre of devaluation and inflation – turned the defection into a stampede.

During the last five days the whole French crisis reduced itself for these pitiful parliamentarians, Herriot-Blum-Cachin and Co., into whether they should let Laval introduce his budget first or whether they should insist on having their demand for dissolution of the Fascist leagues take precedence over all other issues!

Faced with the flight of the Radicals – and who but Cachin and his Stalinist confreres expected anything else? – the Socialists in turn grew frightened. And if Blum got scared – Cachin was almost petrified for Laval has been flirting with Hitler! The “differences” among the three groups were brought out in the meetings of the Delegation of Lefts, i.e„ the Radical, Socialist and Stalinist members of the Chamber early in the week.

The Radicals got Laval’s promise that he would discuss dissolution of the leagues after they helped him put his budget across. That was enough for them. They voted to support Laval’s motion on the agenda.

Tweedledum for Tweedledee

Blum and the other Socialist deputies, for whom the whole fight against Fascism consists in having Laval, or somebody like him, “dissolve” the Fascist organizations, discussed the advisability of forcing the downfall of Laval on some technicality of procedure and substituting – what? A government headed by Bonnevay, Steeg or Joseph Paul-Boncour – any one of them, according to Blum, “a leader known for his Republican convictions.” The function of this government, according to Blum would be to “dissolve the Leagues, dissolve Parliament, call new elections and ensure law and order during the campaign.”

In other words, the Blum perspective is to provide, in the event that Laval should fall, for a Laval counterpart. For this any of the old-school bourgeois politicians mentioned, Bonnevay, Steeg or Paul-Boncour would amply suffice

And the Stalinists? Where are they left hanging in this sorry parliamentary muddle?

Where Are the “Valiant” Radicals?

According to the Daily Worker for Nov. 26, the question is:

“Shall Laval be overthrown today or has the situation not sufficiently matured? If the Laval government is overthrown, what shall take its place, a People’s Front or a Radical Socialist government?”

The issue of the fight against Fascism, it seems, depends entirely upon the stalwart action of – the Delegation of Lefts! – and in the final analysis – upon a bourgeois government!

But our Daily Worker writer, who says that a People’s Front government would have to be a government of real struggle (sic!) but that the Socialist leaders “do not yet appear prepared” for such a struggle, has not followed his newspapers carefully enough. Cachin, Thorez, Duclos and Co. decided three weeks ago that a government of the Front Populaire at this juncture “could not be seriously envisaged.” (l’Humanité, Nov. 11.) What do they offer in its stead? “A government of the left to replace Laval.” A Radical Socialist government, in other words.

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