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John Palmer

French Fry

(Winter 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.23, Winter 1965, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The French Socialists and Tripartisme 1944-47
B.D. Graham
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 30s.

Although Mr Graham deals in his book with a period in the history of the French working class when the perspective of power was a real one, nothing of the explosive potential of the situation is allowed to creep into the author’s narrow analysis. Taking the political parties of the war-time resistance as self-contained units neither acting upon nor profoundly influenced by social forces, Mr Graham understandably finds it difficult to account for the perplexing gyrations and manoeuvres that led to the Governmental alliance of the period between French Social and Communist Parties and the bourgeois MRP. Perhaps of greatest interest are the attitudes of the French Communist Party. Even in Mr Graham’s refracted account the total absence of either socialist principle or perspective of power for the working class in the tactics of the PCF is clear. At a time when the ‘Guesdiste’ left of the French Socialist Party were raising the slogan of no coalition with the class enemy, the French CP leaders went out of their way to ensure that any political grouping in power included the Gaullists and the MRP. In power too the PCF showed by its support for the coalition’s anti-working class and violent colonialist policies that it put the interests of an international deal between Stalin and the French Government higher than the pursuit of any ‘left’ policy. Thus the PCF refused to resign when De Gaulle pressed for one authoritarian measure after another. Instead the PCF ‘Bureau Politique’ stated, ‘A Government crisis would hinder post-war recovery and damage French prestige abroad.’ Again the PCF – this time part of the cabinet – refused to oppose the granting of military credits to smash the democratically elected Government of Ho Chi Min in Vietnam, so that, in the words of the Bureau, ‘there would be no occasion for the Communist ministers to break ministerial solidarity.’ The PCF ministers actually voted for the credits.

The role of the French socialist party is equally clear. Caught between the growing support for the PCF of industrial workers and the fear of its socialist past by the middle classes, the Socialist leaders, first under Blum and later under the ‘Left’ Mollet, were content to manoeuvre for positions in the coalitions without reference to any overall strategy. In the end they were virtually crushed between the monoliths of the PCF and the growingly confident capitalist MRP. Between them they performed in classical manner a rescue operation for French capitalism. At the end of the period they had blunted the militancy of a working class that was in many ways prepared for power in 194S, had disillusioned layers of its militants, and had prepared the way for the series of rightist Governments that led to the triumphant return of De Gaulle and autocracy 12 years later.

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