French Trotskyists under the Occupation


Source: Issue no. 1 of La Vérité, August 31, 1940;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2010.

Every day in Paris a press working under orders vehemently accuses Petain’s government of weakness, disorganization, and corruption. But it remains silent about its own corruption; it remains silent about what is happening in the occupied zone, about the weakness, the cynicism, and the brutality of its German masters.

Yes there are free regions where people fear famine. But what worker doesn’t know that famine lies in wait in the occupied zone this winter after the pillage of harvests, after the massive departure of footstock for Germany?

Yes, Petain’s government is in no hurry to demobilize the troops. But what woman in the occupied zone doesn’t know that Hitler refuses to return his 2,000,000 prisoners to France?

Yes, Monsieur Marquet is holding in his prisons and concentration camps thousands of communist, reformists, anarchists, and Trotskyist workers. But who can forget that Hitler’s prisons are full; that in Dachau and elsewhere thousands of heroic working class fighters are dying?

Yes Petain’s government is a reactionary anti-worker government acting under the orders of a bosses class without factories and a clique of defeated generals. This is why the workers detest him. But in the occupied zone power lies in the German bayonets, the S.S., the S.A., and the German dictatorship; in a powerful bourgeoisie, master of a formidable industry, determined to enslave all of Europe, to destroy French industry, a party whose sole and unique program is the annihilation through violence of any working class movement. The workers hate this dictatorship, and must unite all their forces to bring it down.

If it couldn’t count on German bayonets to save it the Vichy government would disappear with a shove. But the task of defending France’s riches, the French working class, and the working class of all of Europe, demands more than just a shove. It demands the patient and continuous labor of organization of working class France. In the first place a barrier must be built against the measures being prepared that will bring France in line: prevent the removal of food and machinery, prevent the establishment of a government working under orders. In order to do this, smash the fascist groupings that pose their candidacy and through indissoluble working class unity block the maneuvers that created five Frances (autonomous Brittany, Alsace-Lorraine annexed to Germany, the departments of the north annexed to Belgium, the zone of Paris, the zone of Vichy). The comedy of a divided France must end. Let the gentlemen of Berlin and Vichy honestly say what they want. The armistice commission has been meeting for two months in the greatest secrecy. We want to know what is being cooked up against the workers of France and Germany.

Down with the secret diplomacy of Wiesbaden. We demand the immediate conclusion of peace between France and Germany, of a peace without annexations or indemnities!

Finally, we must substitute worker’s administration and management for the weakness of the French and German bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is incapable of putting the factories work again. The German bourgeoisie doesn’t want to put French industry back to work again. The French administration is incapable of solving the least problem, and the German administration organizes confusion and anarchy. In the villages, in the factories, while waiting to clock in, while waiting in line, the workers must take their affairs in hand, must designate the delegates from among them who, substituting themselves for the bosses in the failing businesses will take in hand the organization of work, of resupply, of assistance.

From these action and solidarity commissions will come the government that will build a new France in a socialist Europe.