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Terence Phelan

Daladier Regime Is Leading France
Swiftly to Fascism

(November 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 51, 26 November 1938, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

PARIS, Nov. 9 – French reaction pushes steadily on toward Fascism through the Bonapartism of Daladier.

French capitalism is determined to compete with fascist Germany’s “efficiency,” i.e. its ability to drive its workers a practically unlimited number of hours a week. It can do so, it claims, only by having an equally free hand in extending production-hours. And that means it must once and for all smash the last remaining workers’ gains won in the great 1936 strikes and half lost already by the treachery of People’s Frontism.

The question of fascism in France is no longer “Whether” but “How soon?” For how long a time still will Daladier’s Bonapartism be sufficient?

Daladier Declares War

Last month at the Marseille Congress of his Radical Socialist Party, Daladier, with hypocrisy rivalling that of Roosevelt, “defended” the social legislation in words and actually declared implacable war on the gains won by the workers in June, 1936.

This was Stalinism’s reward for its years of support to French imperialism, for its frenzied propagation of the slogan, “Daladier to Power!”

Daladier made savagely ironic use of the demagogy of the Stalinists of the past few years, with which they held the workers’ support by pretending to be concerned for their demands, while actually enslaving them to the French war machine which the Stalinists regarded as a firm ally of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia.

Stalinists Kicked Downstairs

Daladier repaid them with the Munich pact and at the congress he sarcastically asked the Stalinists why, if they preferred war to the “diktat” of Munich, they could not get the workers under their influence to work more than 45 hours a week for the national defense!

French capitalism no longer needs the People’s Front and with loud guffaws simply has kicked it downstairs. The Stalinists themselves have been among the first to feel the impact of the new situation. Two important Stalinist mass meetings have been flatly prohibited and broken up by police.

Fascism’s path to power has differed in each country. In Italy it was gangsterism, in Germany the parliamentary road, in Spain, revolt by the army. Bonapartism is a French invention and it may very well hand power over to Fascism more smoothly than Bruening cleared the way for Hitler in Germany.

Comrades Imprisoned

But French Bonapartism already yields little to Fascism in the mounting brutality of its repressions. It has already sentenced to one year in prison our comrade S. Charpy, editor of Révolution, the Fourth Internationalist Youth paper, for “provoking the military to disobedience.” It is bringing Duvernet and Jourdain to trial for articles appearing in the trade-union paper Reveil Syndicaliste; as well as the anarchist comrades Schek (already imprisoned in the Santé) and Leclerc; and others. During the great building-trades strike at Lyon, which has just gone down to bitter defeat, the government imprisoned 80 workers for picketing, 20 of whom it has already sentenced to from three months to a year. For mere picketing, these crushing sentences! Among the last arrests was Labrousse himself, Federal Secretary of the Building Trades Union. And this government pretends to be impartial.

To Resist Is “Treason”

Daladier frankly threatens the munitions workers that any struggle to retain the 40-hour week will render them liable not only to being fired, but to undergoing criminal prosecution. Workers’ rights are being redefined as treason. Meanwhile the radical Mistier, that one-time stalwart of the People’s Front, calls for the formation of “semi-voluntary” labor-camps and the muzzling of “demagogues” (i.e. protesting workers).

Now come home to roost the compulsory-arbitration and strike-illegality laws which the workers let the People’s Front put over on them in late ’36 and early ’37.

These “legalities” provide Daladier and the bosses with perfect pretexts for their increasingly smashing counter-attack. Lockouts, small and isolated strikes deliberately provoked by the bosses the more surely and finally to smash them, become the order of the day. With increasing intensity and thoroughness the daily police roundups drag into jail anti-fascist refugees whose “papers” are not in order. Only last week, under pretext of sanitary regulations, a hospital-train of wounded international anti-fascist fighters was turned back at the French-Spanish border by the government of this “great democracy.”

Creeping Technique

Noticeable is the creeping technique of Daladier Bonapartism. With each new repression it has skilfully taken the workers’ temperature, watched hawk-eyed for a real mass counter-attack. And then smashed on another repression. And again watched.

And how do the workers answer? What is their spirit? How are they fighting against this creeping fascisization?

An off-hand answer is difficult. The Communist Party is undergoing a fierce internal crisis. Not only rank-and-filers but district and regional leaders are tearing up their party cards in disgust and rage. Munich was the last straw. Throughout the working class spreads a black brooding anger; but also a discouragement, puzzlement, depression. But if they can find the way, they will fight with a fierce courage.

Our Tasks

The Fourth International in France is faced with an immense opportunity and an immense task. The workers are ready. Symptomatic was the war-crisis action of the Lille District Central Local of the General Confederation of Labor, representing 250,000 militant workers: not under telegraphed warning from the C.G.T. Paris Headquarters, nor under threats of mass arrests by the “socialist” mayor of Lille, would they take down their smashing anti-war posters. Such incidents are significant. The P.O.I., French section of the Fourth International is utilizing every opportunity for powerful united-front action.

A constantly rising cost-of-living, new taxes, fiercer and fiercer boss-attacks on the few remaining 1936 gains, are forcing the workers to turn to the only way – the Bolshevik-Leninist Marxism of the Fourth International. But time presses desperately; fascism creeps on; will the French workers find the only way in time? – break with the reformist and Stalinist parties of betrayal, return to revolutionary mass action?

They must, and the Fourth International must show them how!

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