French Trotskyism During the Occupation 1942
Source: La Lutte de Classes, no. 1, October 15, 1942;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor.
Seventy years of parliamentarism were able to partially hide from the workers and farmers of France the rapacious and unscrupulous nature of their imperialism; current events completely unmask its role vis-à-vis the nation.
Big capital, which will exploit France as long as the workers and farmers haven’t seized the means of production, considers the nation a simple means: an instrument of pillage when it is strong enough to measure itself against the other imperialist brigands (the conquest of colonies), and a coin of exchange when it is reduced to purchasing the protection of a stronger imperialism.
French imperialism now finds itself in the latter case. If its servant Laval wants to furnish Germany with French workers it’s so that Hitler’s imperialist war can continue to allow the affairs of the French bourgeoisie to function. Despite its, defeat French imperialism intends to participate in the pillage, at the very least indirectly, while hoping for better. The relève, if the workers allow it to go on, is only a goal.
Radio London issues indignant cries against the slave drivers who decree mandatory labor forcing French workers to work in Germany. But this flood of indignation, which might lead one to believe that such a thing is incompatible with English democracy, doesn’t prevent that, with or without “democracy,” it is the very character of big monopoly capital to force the weakest peoples who fall under its direct or indirect domination to participate in its brigandage and to make them pay the principal costs of the war. Doesn’t England force tens of peoples (India, Ireland, etc) to participate despite themselves in the conflict?
In many factories on both sides of the demarcation line the worker’s riposte to the Laval-Hitler maneuvers has gone as far as open struggle and strikes. But it is clear that in the current situation things can go no further unless the proletariat can carry out the DECISIVE battle. And so the principal resistance of the workers has consisted in the refusal to sign on for “voluntary’ enlistment.
The 17,000 “voluntary” signatures were only obtained through the most shameful blackmail. And though the working class is not yet able to openly riposte it would be a serious mistake to say; “What’s the use of resisting; they'll send us away by force and we'll lose the promised advantages.” Said advantages are in reality just the strict necessary, indispensable to the worker so he can produce. If the use of force gave the two imperialist compeers Laval-Hitler the same result would they take so much trouble to organize the dupery of the relève?
In many cases young workers have joined the army, the navy or paramilitary organizations thinking they will in this way escape the relève and the ever more terrible stranglehold on the workers. Let them beware! Monopoly capital allows no one to escape its iron heel, unless it’s to turn them into its watchdog or cannon fodder.
Young workers: in imperialist Germany as in France there is a proletariat which, having morally recovered from the terrible defeat inflicted on them by fascism in 1933, is carrying out a merciless struggle against Hitler. Let those sent by force go with the conviction that their struggle against the imperialist war, welded to that of the German workers, will deliver Europe from oppressive capitalism and war. Don’t set out feeling beaten down; don’t allow yourself be isolated; the difference in languages is an obstacle that can be overcome by the firm determination to come to an understanding with your class brothers.
Imperialism, by sending masses of men to the slaughter is forced to resort to women for work behind the lines. Because of this the role of women in the fight against the war takes on ever greater importance. The revolutionary education and the organization of women are decisive factors in the fight against the war.
The workers’ unions were destroyed. In order to defend your rights replace them with illegal FACTORY COMMITTEES.
For the bourgeoisie the relève is only a stage. Though the French people have already suffered a great bloodletting ever greater sacrifices are demanded of it by French imperialism, which wants to drag them again into the conflict, though in the opposite camp.
Working men and workingwomen, we must stop our downward slide and prepare new combats. IF WE VOLUNTARILY MAKE FOR OURSELVES A FRACTION OF THE SACRIFICES IMPERIALISM FORCES US TO MAKE FOR ITS BRIGANDAGE and the working class will WIN!
Block the imperialist relève!
1. A program by which a French prisoner of war would be released for every worker who volunteered to work in a German factory. It was a dismal failure.