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H.F. Roberts

France Faces Civil War as C.P. Prepares
Government for Imperialist Defense

(2 November 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 45, 2 November 1935, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Approaching war – now closer than ever with the impending conclusion of an Anglo-French alliance – is hastening the maturing of the internal political crisis in France. Laval stands today atop a teetering structure which will dissolve and disappear in the decisive days to come.

France faces civil war. The result will be either a new star in the European Fascist constellation or a revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ government. The choice of those two alternatives is being made now, when the preparation of the French working class for the offensive against war and Fascism – which means and can only mean the offensive against the bourgeois state – is the only hope of preventing Fascism from grinding the workers’ organizations out of existence and hurling France and all Europe into war.

What is monstrous in the present crisis in France, is the fact that the way may well be paved to fascism and to war by a Government of the Front Populaire. Under the direct pressure of Cachin, Thorez and Co., the Front Populaire is striving to prove to the French bourgeoisie that it does not intend to fight the bourgeois state, that it is capable of mobilizing the French workers for the holy war against German Fascism – for the defense of “democracy” – for the defense of the French imperialist state.

Class Struggle Set Aside

Class lines and the class struggle have been entirely obliterated by the Front Populaire. At its meetings the red flag of the workers is set alongside the tricolor of the French bourgeoisie. On its platforms sit representatives of the French workers and the Daladiers, the Cots, the representatives of the French bourgeoisie. Daladier, “the murderer of workers of February 6,” urged the Front Populaire policy upon the Radical Socialist Party at its Congress last week as an “alliance of the third estate and the proletariat.” The Radical Socialist Party, which stands at the head of the Front Populaire, closed its congress with resolutions calling for “passionate devotion to national defense” and the “restoration of the authority of the state.”

At the head of this party stands Herriot, minister in the Laval government, responsible for the miserable regime of decree-laws, wage cuts, bloody repression against the workers. With all this the Stalinists of France are not concerned. For Herriot is an adherent of “collective security” and the Covenant of the League of Nations and when he speaks in this spirit l’Humanité nods happily: “We cannot but approve of these words and it would be good if Laval could be inspired by them.” (Sept. 30). The Stalinists are not so interested in protecting the workers against Herriot but they gratuitously offer to protect Herriot against the Fascists.

Protection for the French Bruening

“We can assure you,” wrote the C.P. to the Radical Socialist Party in Lyon, “that the adherents of our party are determined not to permit injury to a hair on the head of those who fight for bread, peace and liberty – and in the very first place, of Chairman Herriot.” (Quoted by Populaire, Oct. 19)

Herriot is a member of the Laval government which last week passed a series of decrees stated to be directed against “all anti-Republican forces” but which were patently designed to deal with the organizations of the workers – just like the decrees of Bruening, von Papen and von Schleicher – to ease the way for the Hitler, the de la Rocque of tomorrow.

The most important of these decrees increased the Garde Mobile, which is a force educated in the spirit of civil war against the workers, from 15,000 to 20,000 – and the new men were ordered to posts in 150 towns in the Seine and adjoining regions--the proletarian heart of France. Other decrees put restrictions on public demonstrations, on the carrying of arms by demonstrators and in addition give the government the right to dissolve any organization acting contrary to public order or the republican form of government.

These decrees will no doubt meet with the satisfaction of the gentlemen of the Front Populaire whose fight against fascism has consisted mainly in demands that Laval dissolve the Fascist leagues. The Front Populaire, after all, regards itself as the chief defender of the republican form of government, of democracy in France.

Such decrees, surely, can’t be pointing their finger at Monsieur Cachin who promised that the “Bolsheviks of France” who “love their country,” “must always do their best for our people, for the national unity of our own France” (l’Humanité, Oct. 8), or at Monsieur Thorez who declaims again and again: “Safety lies not in Rome or in Berlin. I repeat, I, whose heart beats in tune with that of Moscow, that safety is in our Paris, in our France!” (l’Humanité, Oct. 13). Or at Vaillant-Couturier, for whom “the interests of France coincide today with the interests of humanity”!! (l’Humanité, Oct. 4). Or any of these gentlemen like Monmousseau who are “for union at any price” (l’Humanité, Oct. 5) with the bourgeoisie or its flunkeys?

No, but they are pointing at the heart of the French proletariat who, unless they are directed along the firm lines of an intransigent, revolutionary policy of class struggle, stand to fall victim, however heroic their resistance, to the foul attacks of French Fascism and to the fouler betrayals of the Second and Third Internationals.

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