French Trotskyists Under the Occupation

As in June ’36: Class Against Class

Source: La Lutte Ouvrière, (Organ of the Parisian Region of the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste) July 1941;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

On June 13, 1936 “La Lutte Ouvrière,” central organ of the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste called on the striking workers to carry on the fight until the seizure of power. “In the factories, on the streets: power to the workers! Move from strike committees to permanent factory committees. Against the offensive of the exploiters and the profiteering merchants, help the soldiers and farmers to create barracks committees and farmers councils! Form your worker’s militias! Forward for a mighty congress of the committees!”

Leon Trotsky wrote: “What have taken place are not corporative strikes. They weren’t even strikes. It was THE STRIKE. It’s the coming together in broad daylight of the oppressed against the oppressors. It’s the classic beginning of a revolution. The French revolution has begun.”

The still weak voice of the POI, pursued by Blum’s police the same way it is now by that of Petain-Hitler, wasn’t listened to by the masses. On the other hand, those of the Socialist and Communist Parties and of the CGT are listened to by the greater number of them. They said to the workers: “Go back to work in a calm and orderly fashion. Trust Blum, Daladier, Chautemps, and Jouhaux.” The Communist (communist?) Party went even further in this direction: “You must know when to end a strike,” Thorez declared.

The French workers, like their Russian brothers in 1917, could have seized power under the most favorable of circumstances. EVERYTHING WAS POSSIBLE. Even today C.J. Gignoux – lawyer for the French employers association and a signatory of the Matignion agreements – says that, “Around the middle of June the situation in the Parisian region was clearly pre-revolutionary.” The two great workers parties and the reformist leaders of the CGT betrayed the working class in 1936. Only the POI made the revolutionary watchwords resound that could have led to victory.

Because it didn’t make the revolution in 1936; because it “allowed itself to be amused by ridiculous promenades around the streets, the planting of liberty trees, by sonorous lawyer’s talk,” the French proletariat had the right “first to holy water, then to insults, and finally to be fired upon. But always to poverty.” These harsh words of Blanqui, almost a hundred years old, should still be listened to by the workers.

In the combat against Hitler-Petain the workers are building their class front, the WORKER’S FRONT.

They aren’t listening to the vague promises of “liberation” of the royalist and Cagoulard generals De Gaulle and Giraud, but are now fighting in their own class front, the WORKER’S FRONT.

They will eventually profit from an Anglo-Saxon debarkation in order to mount an attack on fascism and reaction, though fighting on their own class front, the WORKER’S FRONT.

Only the proletarian revolution can bring us bread, peace, and freedom. This is the lesson of June 1936.