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Terence Phelan

LaRocque Calls for Ban on
National Congress of 4th International

(November 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 16, 27 November 1937, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Though the increasingly militant French workers still hope that the anti-communist actions of the Stalinists are only maneuvres (the CP increased its General Council seats in the cantonal elections, completed October 17, from 10 to 41), the Fascists, LaRocque, Doriot, deKérillis & Co. know better where lies the real threat to their gangs and plots. Galling upon the Popular Front government which has already seven times suppressed the Bolshevik-Leninist newspaper, La Lutte Ouvrière, LaRocque now publicly demands in Le Petit Journal, organ of his Croix de Feu fascist league (now thinly disguised as the Parti Social Français) that the government forbid the annual congress of the French section of the Fourth International, the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste.

His grounds are significant: because only the POI has on its order-of-the-day the question of mass occupation of factories to defend the 40-hour week, which is at present under savage attack, both frontal and sniping, by the tricksters of the Popular Front. LaRocque feels and fears the ground-swell of the workers’ renewed militancy, born of an angry disillusion with a government under which wages are frozen at 1933 levels though the cost of living has gone up 51% in the last year, under which all strikes are outlawed, and their trade-union and reformist political fakers give no reply to their outcries beyond ‘’Patience, patience.”

When, in mid-March, the Front Populaire was still prating patience. it was the aroused though leaderless workers who bodily heaved LaRocque’s fascist agents out of their factories, ‘not without a few caresses’. It is workers’ militancy he fears; but how much more does he fear lest these workers find the truly revolutionary leadership of the Bolskevik-Leninist POI! Hence his rejoicing when the Popular Front suppresses the POI’s paper; hence his demand that the P.F. ban its congress.

Tardieu’s Revelations

The French workers have recently had a signal opportunity to learn that capitalist democracy, far from being the antithesis of fascism, is its nurturer and trail-blazer, in the revelations made on October 26 by former Premier André Tardieu as a witness in the libel suit brought by Duke Pozzo di Borgo, a co-founder with LaRocque of the fascist Croix de Feu – for when thieves fall out, honest men get interesting information. Under oath, Tardieu testified that as Premier aad Minister in several cabinets from 1926 to 1932 he paid LaRocque secret government subsides, to the tune of from 220,000 to 256,000 francs, for services rendered the government by LaRocque’s fascist gangs. Thus, under “democratic” capitalism, the taxes drawn from the workers are spent to prepare their further bloody suppression and enslavement.

Revelations of this sort, combined with the united front appeals by the Stalinists to the Doriot fascist youth (see Challenge of Youth, October 1) are giving advanced workers food for serious thought on the real nature of Popular Frontism, as a form of “democratic” capitalism.

The New Upsurge

France remains in a pre-revolutionary situation amid a sharpening crisis which will soon put an end to the ‘pause’ which has existed since the Matignon agreements of last year. The new keynote was struck by the government communiqué of October 2, and the explanatory ministerial speeches that followed it. The Radical-Socialist Premier Chautemps piously appealed to both capital and labor to make “equal sacrifices’’ for the solution of the production crisis.

What is meant by equal sacrifices? Well, labor must return from a 40 to a 45 hour week. And capital? Capital must also help, by “rationalizing its production.” Pressed to define just what “rationalization” specifically means, messieurs the ministers frankly define it as “increase of labor-saving machinery,” more overtime, and a “higher tempo of work.’’ Such are the ‘sacrifices’ demanded of French capital!

But the French worker can stomach just so much. Though the conventions of the parties composing the Front Populaire have duly voted continuance of the coalition government, the sharpening of the political situation is shown not only by serious revolts within those conventions, but also by the results of the cantonal elections, in which the “extremist” parties gained at the expense of the “centre” parties. The North African colonies are in increasingly open revolt – so serious that the “government of socialist direction,” as Blum calls it, has had to despatch a fleet of 78 army bombing planes to overawe and terrorize the wretched Algerians; while daily clashes between the starved and brutalized natives and the police produce their scarcely reported but regular toll of dead and wounded.

Most significantly, the groundswell of a new militant labor upsurge, such as produced the revolutionary factory-occupations of May–June 1936, is increasingly to be felt, especially among the metal and building workers. Despite compulsory arbitration, despite the “illegality” of strikes, despite the increasingly noisome Stalinist sell-outs, the fury of the General Federation of Labor fakers, and savage police repressions, fierce sporadic outbursts of “unauthorized” strikes and factory occupations increase daily, and spread.

The miserably paid government employees, after interminable patient waiting at the behest of their union leaders and promises of the P.F. ministers, have just been fobbed off by Finance Minister Bonnet with a “compromise settlement” that is a positive insult. Even the reformist socialists, the SFIO ministers, had to protest against it.

Bolsheviks Provide Leadership

Thus French labor learns the bitter lesson of Popular Frontism. The “pause” in the class struggle, demanded by the P.F. government and its Stalinist supporters, is about over. The French worker has had about enough of compulsory arbitration boards, of slogans of patience and patriotism, of government leniency with the fascist gangs coupled with savage repression of militant workers. Bitter personal experience is proving to him the frivolity of the Stalinist explanations that it isn’t capitalism as a system, but the wicked “200 families,” who are responsible for his misery; shows him that “his” Popular Front government differs from other capitalist governments only in that it asks him to like and approve the way it crushes him.

A new strike-wave is beginning to rise. The advanced workers, fed up with the betrayals of the Front Populaire and its Stalinist supporters, look for true revolutionary leadership. That leadership is offered them by the Bolshevik-Leninists of the POI, with the slogans of direct class action, of workers militias to smash the bullies of LaRocque and prevent another Spain, of workers’ control of factories through the extension and amalgamation of the existing workers’ shop committees; and its courageous and open goal – the French workers’ state.

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