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Pierre Naville

In France: À la Americaine

(November 1929)

Throughout the World of Labor, The Militant, Vol. III No. 1, 4 January 1930, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

À l’americaine is the slogan of the Tardieuse bourgeoisie. It has launched its good fellow like a new moving picture is launched, with the most modern methods of commercial advertising. All over the front pages of the newspapers, in shop fronts, across the screen of passing events is displayed the optimistic smile of Tardieu, succeeding the surly countenance of Poincaré. Big posters on all the walls of Paris vaunt the merits of the new product and rail at the unhappy rivalry of Daladier and company. The citizen standardized by advertising has let the new popular heroes be imposed upon him like Cadum soap. Scientific methods are being tested for manufacturing popularity. À l’americaine, the new government is making interchangeable parts, without worrying about the old party labels, which put the old, outmoded and slow machines on the scrapheap in order to set the traditional political parties in motion. Tardieu is beating the speed record in establishing his government. He does not spare expense to get a better and quicker yield. He takes men from here, from there, from the Right and the Left, in the largest possible number in order to satisfy the largest possible amount of appetites and to assure himself of the largest clientele.

The old political parties of democracy are indignant at these new methods of competition which disarm and beat them on a ground that isn’t their own, like the petty tradesmen protests against the methods of big stores. This ministry of confusion, composed of anomalous and unprincipled personages, is gravely denounced. It is gravely demonstrated that it cannot last because it violates the traditional rules of the game of the parties in a democracy. It is predicted that the unprincipled ministry will not last, that it will succumb to the joint assault of the Right, discontented with the foreign policy, and the Left, discontented with the domestic policy, and then they will see how they deluded themselves.

The success of Tardieu is stirring up a fever of political Americanism. The Right wing of the Socialist Party has not borne the torment of Tantalus inflicted upon it for many weeks in order to lead it to the final deception – it also hoists the banner of political rationalization inside the Party, of autonomy for the parliamentary group, of the revision of the statutes, of the struggle of the young against the old. Like Tardieu speaks to the “country” above the heads of the deputies, it threatens to speak to the voters over the heads of the militants and the regularly constituted organs. The struggle between the Right and the Left in the S.P. appears more and more as the struggle between the moderators and the mossbacks. While the Left remains attached to the old revolutionary forms, devoid of all content, which petrify and demobilize it into a grandiloquent dogmatism, the Right wants to arm itself with the methods of the most modern political technique so as to make its way along the new pathways of the bankers’ democracy.

With American methods, American results. Prosperity! Tardieu cries after Hoover. Optimism is on the order of the day. After the period of the lean kine, the period of the fat; after the days of penitence, great merriment. The economy of the speculator succeeds that of the father of the family. New days, new people. The countenance of Poincaré, draped in “the old honesty of a republican in the days of the empire”, watching at the bedside of his sick mother, the bourgeoisie, and his little franc, has given way to the broad smile of the cynical and corrupted Tardieu, the man of N’Goko Sangha and Homs Bagdad, who is leading the dance of the five billions and the reduction of taxes. Poincaré and the other republicans are in the discard, Tardieu triumphs with the methods of efficiency. And the political parties beaten in the competition, like the radical party and the socialist party, raise a loud outcry by accusing him of having stolen their program. But Tardieu moves fast and well ... This proves only one thing: all the bourgeois political parties (including the S.P.) are in accord on the general policy to be carried out. Their estimations of the kind of merchandize fit to pour upon the political market, converge for the moment but they are more or less well stocked up for the competition and all of them have let themselves be outdone by the “unprincipled” crew of Tardieu.

This fever of Americanism, of rationalization and of efficiency in every field, is not peculiar to France. It reaches right into the U.S.S.R. where the International Press Correspondence informs us of the manufacture in series of young “Soviet Americans” (sic!). And that is normal, inasmuch as American capitalism is the firmest, the best equipped with the most modern methods. But wait! The moment that! Tardieu chooses to tire our ears with his standardized screechings about prosperity is the same time that the colossal crash in New York bares the underside of this renowned prosperity. We learn of the formidable inflation of credit that lay at its base and which, all of a sudden, gives way, reducing it to its real and doubtless respectable, proportions. The electoral myth of Hoover gives way before the reality of the crisis that they sought to hold back. It is the law of the capitalist regime that all prosperity is unstable. By the American reality can be judged the value of Tardieu’s American myths!

In the language of the coarse mountebank, Tardieu promises prosperity precisely at the moment when events make the very possibility of this prosperity questionable, at the moment when the Bourse, in spite of the flattery and encouragement of power, is seriously weakening.

To be sure, French capitalism no longer suffers from post-war agonies; it lives and grows. But the harbingers of the international crisis which it will have to undergo are already apparent. The workers most take cognizance of them and gather together their forces. No decade will pass before Tardieu’s prosperity shows its real face: the furious efforts of capitalism to assure a stable rule, which allow of [word missing]ing, ruins everything, and which the workers will batter down.

Paris, November 1929


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