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Sherman Stanley

In Its Conquest of a World Empire
We See French Democracy at Work

While Playing Second-Fiddle in Total World Possessions to Britain,
France Has Aped Its Cross the Channel Ally
in Brutal Methods of Colonial Terror and Exploitation

(May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 29, 2 May 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The French “Popular Front” government stabbed Spain’s fighting Loyalists in the back by keeping an iron wall between them and war materials.

The “Popular Front” premier, Leon Blum, organized the Non-intervention Committee which served as a double-barrelled lock between the Loyalists and the munitions they needed.

When the Catalonian Loyalists and their women and children fled into France they were hurled into concentration camps, surrounded by electrified barbed wire.

Double-dealing, cynical, suave, ruthless, scheming. The French imperialists have developed these traits to a fine degree, in the process of carving an empire out of the world. The French have had to play second fiddle to the British when it comes to reckoning up colonial spoils. Where the British Empire contains 500,000,000 odd people, that of France contains 100,477,000. Each Englishman has approximately 13 colonial slaves working for him, while for France the ratio is 2½ colonials to each Frenchman.

World-Wide Extent of French Empire

The French Empire is divided as follows:

  1. The American and Australasian colonies: territory of 129,978 square miles – population of 1,112,000.
  2. African and Syrian colonies: territory of 9,910,710 square miles – population of 36,890,000.
  3. Asiatic colonies: territory of 900,842 square miles – population of 21,640,000.

This total world area of 11,000,000 square miles (excluding France) spreads over the entire globe and makes of France a world Empire, all of whose imperial possessions are at stake in the present conflict.

It includes the Canadian coast islands, West Indies islands, French Guiana, East Indian Islands, Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Tunisia., Algeria, Morocco, Jibuti, Madagascar, Indo-China, Somaliland, Equitorial Africa, Togoland, Dahomey, Ivory Coast, Niger, Cameroons and Syria. In addition, there are a host of small island groups dotting the Pacific, Indian Ocean, etc. which – as with the British – serve as naval bases, refueling stations, military centers, etc.

Colored Cannon-Fodder for the Slaughter

The colonies supply an enormous manpower for the French imperialist army. Figures for 1935 show that (1) In the French Foreign Legion there were 16,500 colonials; (2) The African army had 103,500 soldiers and (3) The Colonial army had 87,500. There were 230,000 soldiers overseas in 1935 and the number has probably doubled by now. Forced enlistments and recruitment drives have been going on for over a year.

French imperialism has had a history as long and bloody as that of the British.

As early as 1830 they held possession of Algiers, the most valuable of their possessions. For over 100 years they have drained this Mohammedan country. It is the India of the French Empire. Next came Tunis, an area likewise of great value.

In the 1860’s, the French took time off from their act of carving up China to take possession of the five provinces of Indo-China (Laos, Cambodia, Annan, Cochin-China, Tongking). All of them were subdued and occupied by a large military force. The English, incidentally, were the leading spirit in the London-Paris axis that existed at that time. They grabbed up the Malay peninsula while the French took over Indo-China. London and Paris were the forerunners of Berlin and Rome in imperialist teamwork.

A sharp struggle took place over Morocco which France needed to protect its Algerian colony. It was finally given to France in 1911 after the Agadir crisis led Europe to the brink of war.

After the World War, France and England wrote their Versailles Treaty. In addition to exerting a commanding influence over the “Little Entente” countries of Central and Balkan Europe, the French divided Germany’s African colonies with the British and also got a mandate for Syria.

Colonial Revolts Put Down

The French have faced two major revolts on the part of the Arabian nationalist movement for freedom. In 1912 they put down a general Moroccan rising and In 1920 they put down the Riffs who were led by the famous nationalist leader, Abd-el Krim. French imperialism aped its English brothers in ferocity and cruelty.

In 1925 they subdued a nationalist insurrection in Syria. Their administration of this “protectorate” was so vicious that even their own creation – the League of Nations – was obliged to formally condemn French maladministration.

The French Empire has consistently followed the British imperialist tactics of plunder and loot, military and dictatorial rule, suppression of all nationalist and democratic movements. The rulers of France-like their fellow imperialists across the Channel – can only have their tongues in their cheeks when they talk of fighting for “democracy” and “civilization.”

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