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Henry Judd

France in 1946

A Balance Sheet of Two Years of Liberation

(March 1946)

From New International, Vol.12 No.3, March 1946, pp.69-73.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“You ask me, monsieur, what the French in general think about you, the American soldier, a year after you have come to Europe? I will answer you frankly, monsieur. Nous sommes tellement deçu! (We are so disappointed.) Many of your soldiers are good fellows (braves gars), but most of you are, to us, les grands enfants et les gros egoistes (big kids and very selfish). You are now leaving Europe and we are happy to see you go. Best for Europe that it be left to itself, without you. Your soldiers understand nothing about Europe, they know nothing about France and our history. You treat the Germans too well, you keep the Nazi men in authority still. You do not punish the Germans severely enough ...

“But most of all, there is our feeling that you treat us with contempt, and look down upon us and consider us fit only to do your dirty work. Frenchmen are very proud, as you know. They consider themselves a cultured people, inferior to no one. We do not like the way your soldiers sneer at us, call us ‘frogs’ (les grenouilles) and trust us with nothing serious ...” — Told to the author by a young French worker-soldier in 1940, member of the Resistance Militia and Communist Party supporter.

In no country of Europe has the conflict between the national sentiments of the masses of people and the narrow, chauvinistic “nationalism” of the political leaders and bourgeois class so stood out as it has in France. Out of these deep French desires for national independence and freedom from foreign domination, for peace and economic reconstruction, for popular democracy and a new social order, the revived bourgeois leadership (with the indispensable aid of the French Communist and Socialist Parties) has succeeded largely in renewing the traditional blind patriotism, restoring the old relations of peasant and working class exploitation and continuing the political regime of police Bonapartism and bureaucracy. The net result of one and a half years of Allied “liberation” is that the pre-war economic, political and social crises remain, more hopeless of solution under capitalism than ever. It is worth our while to review briefly these traditional problems of France.

The general economic decline of French capitalism can be stated in the following descriptive terms:

“... that during the interim between the two wars we witness, despite certain appearances, a progressive weakening of French economy. This weakening has entailed, for French capitalism, mounting difficulties in its relations with world economy. It has entailed the breaking up of France’s monetary and financial system, as well as a fundamental trade balance disequilibrium, a disequilibrium full of the weightiest consequences for the continuation of those important sections of the French industrial apparatus depending upon import possibilities.” (La Crise Française, Essais et Documents, Editions du Pavois, 1945, pp.11, 12.)

Specifically, this weakening has taken place in the fields of industry, agriculture, foreign commerce and the monetary system. Industrially, the number of workers engaged in industry and transport grew only by 200,000 during the 30-year period between 1906 and 1936 — 7,225,000 (1906) to 7,415,000 (1936). A more basic symptom of industrial stagnation is the fact that the proportion of men in industry, out of the entire male population, which reached 44.4 per cent in 1931, dropped to 42.1 per cent in 1936 — not much above 35 per cent in 1906. The economist, Charles Bettelheim, in La Crise Française, page 15, takes the year 1913 as his industrial base line for French production. Reckoning that year’s production at 100, a maximum of 140 was reached in 1930, then a steady decline to 95 in 1938, “despite the return to France of the Alsace-Lorraine industrial regions.... The 1930 production level has never again been reached, signifying a stagnation of industrial production to a level approximating that of 1913.” (Ibid., page 15.) Despite technical advances, reconstruction of regions devastated in the First World War, etc., the greater part of French industry has remained at this low level of productivity. In 1913 France possessed 7.2 per cent of world industrial strength, in 1937 only 5.1 per cent; in 1913 French production was 14.7 per cent of European production, in 1937 it had fallen to a mere 9.3 per cent (Russia included).

Agriculture and Foreign Trade

In agriculture, this stagnation is not so marked. Total production increased about 10 per cent between 1913 and 1933. (Ibid., page 17.) But this contrasts poorly with yield increases registered by other European nations, due to the low technical level of French agronomy. Surplus agricultural products (wheat, beet sugar and wine) fared poorly on the international market due to their high prices in relation to those of competitive nations. Any brief trip through the French village and countryside reveals the sorry state of French agriculture: houses and buildings uncared for, roads and fences in poor shape, farming equipment badly worn, etc. The system of small-scale farming continues to drag French agriculture toward lower, unproductive levels and retains its traditional backwardness.

Most striking of all aspects of French economic decline has been that in foreign trade. Taking the year 1912 as a base equal to 100, the index of trade readied a high of 121 in 1929, then fell to 70, 82 and 95 for the years 1936, 1937 and 1938. “Thus, in 1936, the net total of French foreign trade was 30 per cent below what it was in 1912, despite the return to France of Alsace-Lorraine.” (Ibid., page 20.) Since this decline affected exports more than imports, there is an almost constant increase in the unfavorable trade balance. This deficit grew from 1½ billion francs in 1912 to 2½ billion francs in 1938, basing ourselves upon the stable gold franc. We witness

“... a progressive reduction of the nation’s purchasing power on the world market, entailing problems more and more difficult of solution so far as purchases of raw materials are concerned; raw materials particularly needed by French industry since it depends upon the world market for supplies.” (Ibid., page 24.)

The general causes behind this over-all decline in French economy are clear:

  1. France proved to be one of the “weakest links in the economic world” and was therefore harder hit than other capitalist nations by the economic crisis culminating in the 1929 crash;
  2. France suffers severely from a paucity of raw materials (metallurgical ores, coal, iron, oil, etc.);
  3. France is extremely backward in its technological development, both for industry and agriculture, and
  4. France has been burdened by monopolistic and banking formations which have limited the internal market, while simultaneously building up high tariff walls around the country.

Bettelheim summarizes this economic Malthusianism as follows:

“This action of the monopolies puts an end to the spontaneous expansion of production that, in the sphere of economic competition, results from the obligation of each producer to constantly improve his means of production so as not to be eliminated from the market. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, monopoly has progressively taken the place of competition in numerous sectors of French economic life ... limiting its production and investment to the immediate absorption possibilities of the market.” (Ibid., page 33.)

This monopolistic repression by the “200 Families” is still the principal factor weighing upon the French nation; the monopolists are as powerful as ever within the country, even if they have lost ground relative to the world market.

Basic Political Problems Remain

Politically, the same basic problems remain — the twin evils of government bureaucracy and the Bonapartist state. The eternal, self-perpetuating French civil service “fonctionnaires,” heads of government bureaus, manipulators and middle-men between the government and the top French bourgeois — this same crew that remained at its posts during the Vichy government interlude is still there. A minute fraction of this administrative caste has been touched by the so-called collaborationist purge of the de Gaullist government. It continues its mission of blocking, side-stepping and sabotaging whatever measures of a social character that the government may undertake, as well as weighing down France with what is undoubtedly the largest (in proportion to population), most cumbersome and antiquated bureaucracy of any nation. As for the de Gaullist state, established with Allied approval, suffice to state for the moment that it continues the Bonapartist police tradition kndwn to France since parliamentary democracy entered its permanent crisis after the First World War. The first basic acts of the neo-Bonapartist state were

  1. to liquidate the independent militia of the Resistance movement, along with every form, or shadowy semblance of “dual state power” that arose during the early days of liberation from the Nazis; and
  2. to insure the continuity of the state machinery (stemming directly out of the Vichy-Pétain regime), rebuild the pre-war army and police force (Garde Mobile included), with their former officers’ cadres maintained in charge.

That is, the de Gaullist “liberators” concerned themselves first and foremost with the revival of all the old institutions, bulwarks and forms of violence that were linked with the preoccupation and occupation methods of rule. We shall examine more of the “Fourth Republic’s” acts in more detail below.

And finally, the great social problems peculiar to the French nation have maintained their traditional sharpness. To begin with, the well-known problem of France’s declining birth rate and gradual depopulation (small number of youth; progressive aging of the population) is far from a possible solution. [1] The narrow backwardness of French provincial, village and rural life; the general insecurity of the city people before the dangers of unemployment, illness, old age, etc.; the very physical appearance of the cities and villages, lacking the simplest refinements of modern community living — all these testify to the acuteness of these old social problems. The recent struggle over control of the national educational system and its subsidization (l’ecole laique of the state versus l’école libre of Catholicism), with its complementary issue of separation of church and state is another instance of the tenacity with which reaction holds fast to France and refuses to let the people lift themselves out of the old ruts. The rigid hierarchization of the classes of French society into exclusive low-castes and sub-castes, so often forming the psychological basis of great French literature, has been largely untouched, even by the catastrophic events of defeat, occupation and liberation. The petty nobility, the aristocracy of the Parisian faubourgs, the cliques of bureau chiefs, the officers’ caste, the industrial and banking monopolists of the “200 Families,” the infinitesimal shadings of the petty bourgeoisie so elaborately described by Jules remains, the privileged workers’ aristocracy, the proletarians of Paris, Lyons, Lille and Clermont-Ferrand, the landlords and vineyard capitalists, the small land-holding peasant mass, the sharecroppers, the agricultural laborers. ... All classes, castes and cliques engage, as before, in an exhausting and uncreative struggle for the limited national wealth and production of a nation in decline, whose economic weakness lies at the heart of every political and social problem.

French War Losses

But we must examine and describe the more specific features of this long French decay and decline, as they are today. Obviously, the Six Years’ War can only have forced this downward tempo, and piled on additional burdens and hindrances. To begin with, we shall summarize the war losses of France. During four years of occupation, the Germans requisitioned, according to the French Ministry of Agriculture, eight million tons of grains and meat; 643,000 horses; 40¼ million tons of food products; nine million cubic meters of wood and lumber; one and a quarter billion liters of wines and liquors. This includes only those items officially requisitioned, exclusive of stolen goods, packages sent home by German soldiers, black market operations, etc. A plundering of France’s wealth on a mass scale! It is also estimated that the Germans imposed a total occupational cost of 1,000 billion francs ($20 billion, if we value the franc at its war value of two cents) upon the nation!

Then came the actual destruction caused by bombings and the fighting in Normandy and Southern France. The magazine, La Quatrième Internationale, summarizes this destruction as follows: 1,400 miles of railroad lines destroyed; more than 3,000 bridges blown up; about two-thirds of the nation’s locomotives and one-half the trucks destroyed; 1½ million homes damaged (of which 163,000 were entirely destroyed) as contrasted with one million in the war of 1914. The global cost of reconstruction (merely to bring the country back to its 1938 level) is estimated at 2,000 billion francs! The French merchant fleet has disappeared from the seas, while the famous fishing fleets of Brittany and Calais have dropped from a 1929 tonnage of 150,000 to 8,500 today. In October of 1945, France had 78,000 freight cars in service, a drop from a pre-war total of 434,000. In capital losses, France has suffered far beyond its losses in the First World War.

To what extent has normal production been resumed? Charles Bettelheim estimates that “industrial production at the beginning of 1945 represented only 30 to 35 per cent of 1938 production, while in agriculture there has been a considerable drop in the principal crops as well as livestock.” (Op. cit., pages 55-56.) This percentage of 1938 production has now gone up (one year later) to approximately 50 per cent, i.e., half of its pre-war total. But bearing in mind those requirements of French economic life not fulfilled by home production (e.g., prewar France only produced 60 per cent of its required coal), as well as the fact that import trade has resumed only on a minute scale, we see how desperately below normal is the country’s economic production. Actually, the situation signifies that no real national economy exists, but that economic life has been thrown back to a local (city and village), departmental and provincial basis. While it is estimated that 75 per cent of the nation’s productive capacity is still available, idle factories and machines are not solving the great struggle for national production. Le Monde (October 20, 1945) cited the great needs of French industry as follows: coal and lignite; electrical power; coke, steel and all metal ores; oil gasoline and carburants; glass, jute and textiles, etc.

But what of France’s import trade, clearly necessary for revival? Has that not resumed? We summarize a recent article by Marcel Tardy, from Le Monde:

“Can we import? Our program of imports has caused great disappointment in France. Three million two hundred thousand tons of imports planned up to September, 1945, but even this is uncertain due to shipping problems. In 1938 we imported forty-seven million tons; fifty-seven million tons in 1937. But to repair our damages we must import even more than before the war. Our import possibilities are and will remain greatly reduced for a long time. Today we are poor. What can we offer abroad in exchange for what we lack? Our agriculture barely feeds us; our luxury articles no longer exist; what remains of our credits abroad would hardly suffice for our exchange needs. Before the war, one-fourth of our imports came from continental Europe. What can a devastated Europe sell us? We need raw materials, and machines, but every other European country will keep for itself whatever it can produce. Aside from some coal and the return of some machinery and material, shattered Germany can give us nothing. North Africa and our colonies only furnished seven million tons annually before the war. They have little industrial raw materials to furnish us, aside from phosphates.”

This gloomy passage sums up the import situation, both reality and potentiality ... With an import program of $2½ billion designed for 1946, the Finance Minister further underscored this reality by remarking that France “must draw largely on foreign credits, notably in dollars, and without these credits our convalescence will drag on and we run the risk of vegetating in autarchy.” Pointed remarks directed at President Truman, who displayed his customary dull-wittedness and heard nothing.

The Financial Situation

And financially, how does the nation stand today? A 50 per cent devaluation of the franc has just taken place, making the franc equivalent to one miserable copper American cent! The once proud franc, with its 1913 value of approximately 23 cents, can now be purchased at 100 for the dollar (200 or more for a dollar on the black market). The sou and centime sub-divisions of the franc have disappeared from sight; worthless and meaningless. And already voices warn of a further possible devaluation. Mendes-France, former Minister of National Economy, wrote in the January 12 France-Soir: “unless France organizes a defense of the franc by internal and external recovery,” there might be a second devaluation within the year. Today in France, even after a reissue and partial confiscation of inflationary currency, there are 450 billion francs circulating, compared with 150 billion in 1939 — a tripling. The same financial madness applies to the basic question of the government’s budget deficits. This debt, which increased from 409 billion francs in 1939 to 1,000 billion francs in 1944, has been covered up to the end of 1944 in the following manner (La Quatrième Internationale, No.20-21, 1945):

30 per cent of debt paid by taxes,
47 per cent of debt paid by short-term borrowing,
23 per cent of debt paid by Bank of France advances.

In other words, the government runs at a 70 per cent deficit! Mendes-France has stated, to top the picture, that this year’s expected deficit: of 200 billion francs is, really, 300 billion francs because “the railway deficit, those of the departments and communes and the costs of liquidating lend-lease,” plus subsidies, for bread and meat, are not shown in the budget at all! But the master-minds of de Gaulle’s coalition government are not nettled by the mere addition of another 100 billion francs to their country’s debt ...

During the war, and while laboring in German enslavement, 350,000 Frenchmen lost their lives. A weakened nation like France could ill afford this loss of some of its best youth and popular leaders. The 2,000,000 who emerged out of the German wreck were in a weakened state, morally and physically. They returned to a homeland whose living standards were little superior to those of the German labor camps and prisons. Of clothing, decent housing and comforts, they found nil; a national black market sucked up the limited production and turned the best of everything over to those possessing the inflated francs of the Vichy-Nazi occupation. Food was drab, unvaried and as colorless as was the daily life, without recreation or cultural activities, except for Paris. Even the Parisian cannot find his beloved vin rouge et blanc, except on the black market! Present official rations represent, from a scientific dietary standpoint, about half the necessary minimum. The Parisian today gets about 1,750 calories average, 200 more than the German, who is admittedly on a starvation diet, and 700 below the minimum required (the American GI in Europe averages 3,500 per day). In addition, he is spending his second winter without any heat, and bread rationing at a standard lower than during the German occupation is to be resumed.

Thus we have the war consequences, heaped upon a national economy and life already in a sad state of decline. “Increased deterioration of equipment which, already antiquated before the war, has not been renovated for six years and which has been used under conditions that have not even allowed for normal maintenance; pillaging of means of production and articles of consumption by the Nazi occupants; massive destruction, notably in fixed properties; reduction in industrial and agricultural production; due to lack of labor and raw materials; lowering of living standards; aggravation of the financial and monetary situation.” (Ibid., page 53.)

The Governmental Crisis

The elections in October, 1945, brought about a contradictory political situation, reflected in the creation of the present coalition “Popular Front” government that rules France. The masses of people, by their overwhelming, two-thirds support to the working-class parties of France (Communist Party and Socialist Party), indicated dearly enough the nature of their political and social aspiration, as dearly as the British people had done earlier. But on the issue of a Constituent Assembly having full, untrammeled powers while drafting a new Constitution, these same masses split, with half following the line of the reformist Socialist leadership by voting real political power to be retained by the regime of de Gaulle. At the same time, the MRP (Mouvement Republicain Populaire) emerged as the new political face of de Gaulle and the French bourgeoisie he represents. François Mauriac, in the MRP paper Figaro, tells us the nature of this new political center of French reaction:

“The cliches about trusts, nationalizations and laicism are a sort of smokescreen that hides a heedless conflict in which there is no truce. We feel that what is at stake touches our very essence. It is the totalitarian spirit locked in battle with the Christian spirit in the whole world.”

Little wonder that every discredited politician, de Gaullist functionary, ex-collaborationist and the Catholic hierarchy have rallied to the MRP!

After a brief political crisis marked by the capitulation of the Communist and Socialist Parties to the General, a coalition cabinet including the three large parties was formed. The world press proclaimed the revival of living French democracy, but the new mixture refused to jell. Instead, as time approached for the general elections scheduled to be held in May of this year (under the new Constitution supposedly being drawn up by the present Constituent Assembly), the Cabinet became increasingly a battleground of the three big parties (MRP, Communist and Socialist), and the flimsy coalition rocked on its feet. De Gaulle’s position finally became untenable and he preferred to rid himself of governmental responsibility rather than risk further discredit prior to the elections.

We have already described how the historic roots of the de Gaullist regime led back, by way of Nazi-Vichy-Pétain, to the traditional regimes of decadent French capitalism and the “200 Families.” We know, likewise, the energetic consistencies of the General in resurrecting all the institutions of exploitation and oppression traditional to France (bureaucracy, police, army, courts, etc.). The Boulanger of today is out of office but not out of politics. He quietly mobilizes his forces, rebuilds and enforces his instruments of reaction, and prepares his future candidacy as the third Bonaparte seeking to strangle the not-yet born Fourth Republic.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy reflects internal policy, so that we find this government strictly in line with all specific aspects and drives of traditional French imperialism. The North African colonies are held, by the same methods, as before. The nationalist uprising of the Indo-Chinese is bloodily suppressed, by tanks borrowed from the anti-colonial “lend-lease” pool of Britain, America, China and Japan. The “Socialist Youth” of Leon Blum’s party, prematurely aged young cynics, announce the undying cultural and moral debt of the Indo-Chinese people to France; the Communists call upon the North Africans to produce more food for the motherland and are silent at the behavior of their imperialist generals in Syria and Lebanon. In Europe proper, de Gaullism imposes a ferocious vengeance upon those sections of Germany turned over to it by the Allies. [2] Too weak a victor in the Allied war camp to lay outright claim to the Ruhr district of Germany, neo-French imperialism has had to be content with the badly damaged Saar coal and iron ore districts. The General has stated tersely his program of European expansionism by his reiteration of the crude slogan of the ultra-chauvinist Marshal Foch: “The Rhine must become a French river.” He thereby affirms his heritage and places himself alongside the henchmen of Allied victory, whose efforts are directed toward maintaining a divided Europe, and a high-pitched degree of racialism and nationalism. But de Gaulle has an orientation in still other directions than that of Europe. Recognizing the pivotal position of France as the only nation of Europe proper that has emerged from the war with any strength or stability left, he desires the country to become the continental leader of the Western European “bloc.” England, of course, must be the acknowledged supervisor and organizer of this “bloc,” but France can find a suitable substitution for its shattered, pre-war Versailles system in this role of subordination to England; an orientation commensurate with its weaknesses and current abilities. Furthermore, there is the question of the relations between French imperialism and America. For de Gaulle, this is of vital significance since French economy admittedly can never recover without the fullest material support from the United States. The political struggles over foreign policy proceed within this area of a strictly limited national independence, with its varying orientations of subordination to England’s future Western European “bloc,” and dependency upon American imperialism. Clearly, France has little elbow room. Leon Blum’s Social Democrats wish to point the nation toward England and its Labor Government; de Gaulle is primarily concerned with America; while the French Stalinists are violently opposed to both these orientations (particularly the former) and, naturally, can only see Stalin’s Russia. But the treaty of alliance with Russia, against Germany, is largely meaningless — since Germany is about as much a threat to either power as Leon Blum is to French capitalism — and the building of a Western European “bloc,” along with dependency upon America, are becoming harsh realities. Therefore, the French Communist Party can only tend to become more and more an opposition party — opposition in the sense that it wants to subordinate France’s national independence to Russia; while de Gaulle and the Socialists have chosen other foreign masters. But all alike are caught in the same net of imperialist entanglements. None of these parties foresees any other future for France and its people than subordination to a stronger power, one or more of the Big Three, or a bloc organized by one or more of the Big Three. It is in this sense that the problem of national freedom for the French people is still a live issue and has not vanished with the ousting of the German occupant.

Historic Significance of the Resistance

The broad Resistance movement sprang from the depths of the French people, as their response to the German oppression and conquest. Yet, as is well known, this movement was no abstraction. It was no mystic order of patriots bound together by a romantic idealism, but a many-sided movement, with numerous (and conflicting) trends, currents and ideas. These trends, in turn, reflected through the prism of the national freedom slogan the underlying class struggles within the national entity that is France. Those who attempted to grapple with the Resistance as though it was a unified whole made the grave error of lumping together all tendencies under the self-same heading of “patriotism,” “la Résistance Sacrée,” as was designed by the self-appointed leader, General de Gaulle. How blind it was to consider one and the same thing the de Gaullist leadership (spokesmen of French, anti-German capitalism); the Communist-Socialist leadership; the petty bourgeois leadership (best expressed in the Resistance newspapers, Franc-Tireur, Combat) and, finally, working class leadership from the pre-occupation labor movement. Obviously, only the worst political errors could be committed by those who considered the French worker, to whom national liberation meant freedom from Gestapo oppression and exploitation by German imperialism, on a par with the French bourgeois, to whom this same slogan of national liberation meant a return to a full, unshared control of his factory, property and profits.

The New International has often stated its understanding and position on the “national question” and has candidly criticized the sectarian and dogmatic attitude adopted, in theory and practice, by the European (including French) sections of the Fourth International. We shall not repeat here the arguments and material contained in these easily available articles, but we cannot resist stating our belief that the history of France, occupation and post-occupation period, confirmed our basic position of the necessity for participation in the Resistance movement, as its revolutionary wing, by the French Trotskyists, under the slogan of national liberation instead of their sectarian policy which resulted in isolation and sterility, despite their heroic sacrifices in the struggle against the Nazis.

Nor does it improve matters by reverting to the other extreme and now denying the “existence” of any Resistance movement, or calling it “a metaphysical formula.” (La Quatrième Internationale, ibid.) What is needed is an objective analysis, a study of this movement for what it was and what it remains today; a clear differentiation of its various currents and ideas; a recognition of errors committed by its supporters and abstainers — in order words, an historic evaluation. Nor are we proposing an interesting but abstract lesson in history. We have already tried to make clear (in Part I) our opinion that the “national question,” while it has shifted its ground, emphasis and specific relations of forces, still retains its vital urgency and importance for Europe. It is time for the European revolutionists, now emerging from their most difficult period, to recognize this. Neither “metaphysical formula” nor a Gallic shrug of the shoulders, but analysis and estimation ...

Assembly in Impasse

What of the present Constituent Assembly, parliamentary (that is, cretin-like) expression of the decline and break-up of the Resistance movement? What a pitiful contrast this body makes with the classic Assemblies of revolutionary France, when live issues were debated and real social forces contended with one another for popular support! It bears a far greater resemblance to the impotent and multi-divided parliament that led France to disaster in the war; its show of unanimity on secondary measures is shattered by its utter division on basic questions of framing the new Constitution, the question of the army and military credits, the question of division of power between the Bonapartist pretender de Gaulle and the Assembly itself, the question of foreign affairs and orientation, the question of just how to revive French economic life, the question of the colonies and Empire, etc., etc. The Assembly, elected in October, 1945, and meeting since November (3 months) has made little progress on the problem for which it was ostensibly elected — the drawing up of a new Constitution for the Fourth Republic, and the preparation of the general elections to be held under the new Constitution in May of this year. During its brief career, this “supreme body of the French nation” has idly watched a worsening of France’s food situation to an extent that has brought the nation’s diet to levels never known during the worst days of Nazi occupation. Even the program of “nationalization,” in the style of the British Labor government, proposed by the Socialist and Communist parties have not been advanced (yet these two parties have a clear majority in the Assembly). The one important social measure adopted has been the alleged nationalization of the Bank of France. Shares in the nationalized Bank are being exchanged for “dividend-bearing instruments” yielding 2 per cent annually, to be bought back later by the government; the new National Council of Credit (to direct banking and credit) is composed of representatives of industry, business, finance and the former Governor of the Bank of France, with the inevitable handful of labor representatives thrown in. The measure no more breaks the financial hold of the “200 Families” on the national economy than did the similar measure in England.

In summary then, the Constituent Assembly — while reflecting the vague and generalized aspirations of the people by the very fact that the left-wing parties constitute its overwhelming membership — is a dangerous failure. It has opened up no new and independent paths, but has limited itself to being a pliant tool of the various political parties and a rather revolting spectacle of petty chicanery and maneuvering; “politics” in its pettiest sense. It has proven itself inescapable of fundamental solutions and has, therefore, contributed in its own way to a prolongation of the decay and decline which has so deeply permeated every pore of French life.

Most important of all, the atmosphere of disillusion, incapacity and helplessness which such an Assembly spreads provides the perfect yellow fog in which a militarist-Bonapartist candidate, à la de Gaulle, can plot and build his reactionary cadres for an attack upon the revived French labor and revolutionary movement. Nobody will dare predict when and in what form a right wing coup will be attempted, but it is absolutely inevitable. Under the slogan of “down with the Assembly-Parliament of do-nothing talkers; up with the National Hero of Action,” the Bonapartist apostle will attempt to accomplish what the German conqueror failed in. It is in light of this that one must follow the new activities of the French Fourth Internationalists (PCI) as they stubbornly but surely attempt to emerge from their semi-illegal status, and advance their political ideas in the light of full, open public life. [3] More than one encouraging sign (election vote, growth, recruitment among Communists, etc.) exists to indicate that the trend of revolutionary opinion is moving toward this party which, despite our open differences with it, commands our respect for its courage under the Nazi occupation and its vigorous efforts to gain influence among the people. It has bright possibilities to become an important factor in France, to lead the struggle against de Gaullist coup d’état attempts.

January 1946



1. For a brilliant theoretical study of the Marxian approach to the problem of population, we refer the reader to the essay, L’enfant et le Titre de Rente by Pierre Bessaignet, contained In La Crime Française, Editions du Pavels, Paris, page 153.

2. Part IV of this series will contain a description of French occupational methods.

3. Let it never be forgotten that André Malraux. the de Gaullist Minister of Public Information who has till this day denied the quest of the Trotskyists to publish their pape, La Verité, legally, is the same André Malraux who authored Man’s Fate and Man’s Hope! Bleak indeed would France’s hope and fate be if such a type’s influence were to remain decisive.

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