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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(30 March 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 13, 30 March 1940, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Playing once more the classic role of social patriots, six French Socialists have entered the new government of Paul Reynaud to help make the war more palatable to the workers. This is the main purpose behind the change of cabinet.

To keep justifying the regime of repression and extreme economic rigor which he introduced, Daladier would have had to have victories in order to counteract popular mistrust and passive resistance to the war. There must have been a real quickening of the pulse of protest that explains the act of the Socialists in abstaining on the confidence vote in Daladier. And there must have been a real sense of danger in the minds of the war-makers, for they decided Daladier had to go.

Paul Reynaud, instrument of French high finance, took over the government. He gave three portfolios to Socialists, one of them the classic post of social-patriotic hostages – the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Information was taken over by Ludovic Oscar Frossard, a former Socialist.

Thus under the new dispensation, the repression of all anti-war activity and the dissemination of all the lying propaganda needed by the bosses to bolster up their case for the world slaughter will be handled by men of the “Left.”

The new government came in amid a great show of “opposition” from the extreme Right. The rightist group of Louis Marin and the extreme rightist newspapers like Echo de Paris and Petit Journal denounced it as a “left” government. One Rightist newspaper l’Ordre, even went so far in eyewashing as to state that the Rightist opposition was based on the fact that “M. Francois de Wendel (the J.P. Morgan of France – G.S.) fears that the Socialists may have too great an influence in the cabinet.”

As though any government of capitalist France at war could go against the wishes of Wendel and his Commité des Forges – the powerful combine of financiers which really rules the country! No, all this Rightist opposition is designed to create the illusion among the workers that the workers have some stake in this new government, that it is “better” than the previous government because it has Socialists in it and is opposed by the Right, whereas Daladier spurned the Socialists and was supported by the Right.

Reynaud’s fundamental policy cannot differ in any important way from that of Daladier. This goes even for the matter of strategy ,ini the war. If Reynaud and Chamberlain decide on any course of action, Daladier will be there as French war minister to help carry It out. These changes are not due to matters of external war policy but are made with an eye to the internal situation, which is characterized by wholesale dissatisfaction, mistrust, cynicism, and germinating protests against the futility of the coming slaughter.

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