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Pierre Naville

Tardieu, the Man of the Hour

(November 1929)

Throughout the World of Labor, The Militant, Vol. II No. 20, 14 December 1929, pp. 3 & 8.
transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Tardieu is master of the situation. His appetite for power can be satisfied. And through him, the bourgeoisie will also be able to handle systematically the great ventures that world competition now imposes upon it.

Tardieu has succeeded in making himself appear as the candidate of the country and no longer only as the candidate of a majority of the deputies. There has been renewed for him the “mystery of confidence” with which Poincaré was surrounded in his day. The press, big industry, the whole bourgeoisie proclaims him: Tardieu is the man of the situation.

Back in 1926, Poincaré, the honest and ferocious accountant of the bourgeoisie, was the man of the situation. Since then he stabilized the franc. He balanced the budget, he realized the important budgetary surpluses. Now capitalism wants a builder and a spender man who knows how to undertake work, to invest capital, to develop and to coordinate – in a word, to rationalize. There he is: Tardieu! The press is burning incense, the economic groups caress him: he is their figure-head. The situation now demands a directing crew that attends actively to the business of capitalism. The Hague Conference, the Young Plan have changed international positions. The ever smaller field of markets necessitates an ever more violent struggle to conquer them. But the foreign markets are already so disputed that the home market must be arranged for the greatest absorptive capacity. The whole policy of the Tardieu cabinet, as far as it is defined in his declaration, is orientated in this spirit.

Here is the situation. Tardieu and his crew are not the only ones who would have to come through. It must be made clear that a Paul Boncour would have been unable to do otherwise. He would have imitated his colleague Snowden. The illusions of the petty bourgeoisie, of the “people” in power, through the Daladiers or the Blums, have vanished forever. The governments of French imperialism can only carry out one policy, that of big capital, of production, of finance capital. It is dictatorial policy that Tardieu will carry on and which Boncour would have carried on. Only the revolutionary policy of the proletariat can be set against it.

The declaration of the Tardieu government is addressed to the “country”, over the heads of the deputies. It puts the government under the control of the country, that is, of the capitalists. It promises “prosperity” to the country and considers itself responsible for it to the whole nation. Tardieu denotes, timidly enough as yet, his contempt for parties and parliamentary formations. He addresses himself to the producers, to the manufacturers, to the tradesmen, to the peasants. He brings them his program of endowments and reductions. He announces without a smile the lowest decreases in taxes on the transportation of manure or on pharmaceutical products. He makes it clear that all the communes in France will know how much the government will give to the country for technical education to give them an appetite, for tourists, to entice the dollars – three billions in all.

But the cynical demagogue does not speak of the tens of billions which are the share of the War and Naval departments!

There is the program that the situation requires. It upsets the “democratic” prerogative. It passes over the representatives of the people; it addresses itself to the country, but speaks only for the bourgeoisie, for the pillars of capitalism. Produce, trade; the State, which is your instrument, will help you; we will free it from the petty bourgeois obstructors, from the pusillanimous defenders of the artisans, etc.

For the working class, the program of Tardieu is the muzzle and the police, because it is the very program of the employers. The government cannot have or allow towards the working class any other policy than that of the capitalists. The declaration promises but one thing to the workers, the application of the law of social insurance. Insurance being carried out on the backs of the workers and by a withholding of their wages; Tardieu can do nothing but have it applied. But as to the rest, his declaration does not speak of a “social program”, as the bourgeois parties “of the Left” know so well to do, as Poincaré himself knew so well to do. And after all why should he speak of a social program. His social program springs clearly from his economic program. The economic program is that of the big employers and consequently, his “social program” is also that of the big employers: rationalization, squeezing of wages, repression of the labor movement and tormenting the revolutionary organizations.

The employers, encouraged by the State, will have all the latitude to reinforce its exploitation. “Order,” to whose rebirth Tardieu has already contributed, will be still more consolidated.

Under such conditions, the Communist party would have to revise its attitude. On the contrary, however, it continues to be rent asunder by persisting in all its errors. The day of the opening of the Chamber, Cachin delivered a wholly insipid speech from the tribune in which he limited himself to saying that Tardieu was not qualified to lead the “honest” working people. Wherein is Tardieu’s cast more scandalous for a Communist than that of most of the bourgeois “statesmen”? Aren’t they all accustomed to carry on their own business at the same time as that of the State? Aren’t they all in the service of economic groups of interests? It is evidence that when one speaks of a “dishonest” bourgeois statesman, he assumes that there are others who are honest; but this opposition does not exist. Honesty or dishonesty have a class meaning. Capitalist honesty is to despoil of the workers, to dispute over imperialist booty, to fatten at the same time as the State. Tardieu has not abstained from acting as in the past.

Precisely one of the myths of bourgeois democracy is to have the people believe in the “integrity” of their representatives, in their independence and their personal probity. But this myth must be unmasked by the Communists who show that these people are the beneficiaries of capitalist profit, on account of which they dupe the workers.

The honest Cachin is taking the wrong road in clinging to the dishonesty of Tardieu. He should, on the contrary have declared that Tardieu was the worthy representative of capitalist democracy, the proper executor of imperialist piracies.

Cachln also limited himself to saying the program of the Tardieu government is translated for the working class by a redoubling of the repression. It is true. But this repression arises at a time when the working class is disunited, when the Communist party gives it an example of confusion and corruption.

Tardieu governs all the surer for the revolutionary movement being misled and its perspectives wrong. The leadership of the party thinks that the strengthening of repression is a reply to the broadening of labor struggles. But on the contrary, the less violent these struggles are and the more the party separates itself from the masses, the more the government hastens to ransack the revolutionary organizations, to corrupt and weaken them.

The most pressing need of the Communist party is to find normal relations with the working class again, so as to be able to establish a front against the governmental attack. But it is clear that the party of Cachin or Bernard, bound to its international bureaucracy and entirely corrupted in its cadres, is incapable of it. The pressure of the conscious workers is needed, devotion and patient work are needed to create cadres .new, nuclei with clear ideas, – in a word, to recreate a Communist party.

Paris, November 15, 1929


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