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Terence Phelan

Raids on ‘Hooded Ones’ Stir France;
P.O.I. Calls for Workers Militias

(December 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 18, 11 December 1937, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Spectacular charges and counter-charges in the inter-Fascist libel suit, paralleled by even more spectacular police raids upon Fascist arms-caches, have for the last month kept France in ferment. LaRocque has used court proceedings, ostensibly brought for libel against 17 persons and newspapers ranging from the Stalinist Humanité to the Royalist Action Française, as a base for attacking rival fascist groups, particularly those under Pozzo di Borgo and General Duseigneur, of which the theatrical French Ku-Kluxers, the Cagoulards or “hooded ones,” are the fanciest.

Sudden Raids

With a remarkable promptitude, the Popular Front police suddenly discovered a revolt plot, involving LaRocque’s rivals: two Paris raids, for example, uncovered 1,480 hand-grenades, 45 machine-guns, large stocks of ammunition, subterranean forts and arsenals, and elaborate military organizational plans leading throughout France. Duseigneur, who evidently fancied himself as the French Franco, and DiBorgo himself were jailed. DiBorgo’s allies, the Monarchists, counter-attacked from Switzerland with elaborate proclamations by the royalist pretenders (which fell flat). The government of the Front Populaire, slowly tapering off the raids, issued communiqués which for their exaggeration of the importance of the affair and for their self-congratulatory complacency, are theatrical masterpieces.

This performance has received an excellent official press; but the applause of the truly advanced workers has been more polite than enthusiastic. Regarding with well-founded cynicism the suddenness of the police discovery of the arms-caches of LaRocque’s momentary political adversaries, they point out the significant fact that somehow none of LaRocque’s far more numerous and well stocked arms-depots were discovered; and though they have been treated to exciting detective-story reports of complete membership lists found, and of great figures involved, they note that the arrests have been extremely few in number, and involve, apart from DiBorgo and Duseigneur, no one of any note; and that, furthermore, most have been released again.

The Fascist Danger

This is far from meaning that French Fascism is not to be taken seriously. Quite the contrary. Staged and limited as the raids were, their revelations are a symptomatic warning of the sort of which Spain had plenty prior to July 1936. They show once more that, just as in Spain, the Fascists are preparing, right under the nose of the Popular Front government, their eventual armed insurrection. The arms seized are only a drop in the bucket. Just as in Spain, the army officers are overwhelmingly Rightist in sympathy: the French counterparts of Sanjurjo, Franco, Goded, and Mola only await the signal. Just as in Spain, the Popular Front government takes only feeble half-measures that, on the one hand, are a positive provocation to the Fascists, and, on the other, tend to lull the workers to a false sense of security.

Summed up, the Front Populaire’s whole behavior, in a situation that obviously precedes either revolution or counter-revolution, leads inevitably, not as in 1917 Russia, to the former but as in 1936 Spain, to the latter.

P.O.I. Calls for Struggle

Against the false and fatal policies of the Popular Front, only the French section of the Fourth International, the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste, raises the slogans that can prevent France’s becoming another Spain. Against the provocations and plots of the Fascist gangs, and equally against the feeble and treacherous policy of the Front Populaire toward those gangs, the Bolshevik-Leninists call for workers’ militias. Against the increasingly violent attacks by the nationally organized bosses against what few remnants are left of the workers’ gains in the great strike of May-June 1936, and equally against the suicidal policies of class peace, legality, and merely “symbolic” 4-hour strikes foisted upon the aroused workers by the reformists, the Bolshevik-Leninists raise the slogan of “generalized mass-occupation of the factories, as in June ’36!” – for nation-wide wage contracts, for a sliding-scale of wages based on the cost-of-living index, for complete workers’ control over hiring and firing. Against the P.F.-Stalinist line of compromise and retreat, they raise the cry that the only real defense is “attack and workers’ victory – direct mass action” – “for mass occupations, for workers’ militias, for the general strike.”

Congress Prepares for Action

These are outstanding among the militant slogans adopted by the Second Annual Congress of the POI, held, despite LaRocque’s protests to the Front Populaire, October 30–31 and November 1 in Paris. No adventurism, they are backed by a carefully planned practical program of organization leading through the dual power to a workers’ state. The Convention, looking also outside France, pledged its continued defense of the conquests of October in the USSR, its solidarity with the Spanish workers and peasants in their fight against Franco, and their aid to the world proletariat, whether under democratic, fascist, or colonial domination, in its struggle against the real enemy, capitalism, and its Stalinist and other reformist lackeys. Cheered by a great organizational growth in the last year, the POI turns its face to the masses, to give them true revolutionary counsel in the most critical year the French workers have had to face since the last imperialist war.

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