Maurice Thorez 1960
Source: Fils du Peuple, Éditions Sociales, Paris, 1970;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.
1956 was rich in events of considerable importance.
The year began with legislative elections. The Communists gained fifty seats, while the RPF lost about that amount. The Poujadist demagogues took their place. The SFIO suffered a clear setback. With 146 seats, the Communists were far in the lead, no other political group having won 100 seats.
What was the meaning of the elections of January 2, 1956?
It was the expression of the movement to the left of the masses, their desire for peace in Algeria, their will to see the new government promote a policy other than that which had enslaved, humiliated, and discredited France; that had impoverished the working masses; and increased mourning and suffering.
In vain we demanded the formation of the government of the Left that universal suffrage had called for. The Communists voted for the Guy Mollet government so that workers’ unity and the union of democrats could push back the ultras, the danger of which we already saw. We were determined to support and encourage every forward step towards a cease fire in Algeria and a peaceful solution to the conflict. We were committed to reinforcing the trend towards unity between Socialists, Communists, and other republicans; we abstained from any gesture or act that, in weakening the forces of the Left, would have served the fascist agitation that troublemakers tried to develop in Algiers and Paris.
In February, at the head of a French delegation, I went to salute the twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The very day the congress opened, the Pravda of February 14, 1956 published an article where I defined the national role of the proletariat:
“-The contemporary history of a country like France, from the Paris Commune up till the capitulation at Munich, from the resistance to the Hitlerite invaders to the fight against the Marshall Plan, the Atlantic Pact, and American control, supply striking proof that the so-called leading “elites” have betrayed the national cause, while the proletariat asserted, in an increasingly clear fashion, its will to carry France on, its will to show itself national, “though not at all in the bourgeois sense of the word,” as it is said in the Communist Manifesto. Popular patriotism tends in particular to vigorously fight against imperialist methods applied to the colonial peoples. The workers of France — in demanding a policy that makes of the people of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, etc, free people, friends of the French people — are conscious of defending the superior interests of France.-”
The Twentieth Congress of the CPSU outlined the radiant prospect of a near future that will see men’s lives transformed in an ever more profound way. It noted that socialism had left the framework of only one state to transform itself into a world-wide system. It confirmed the French Communists in their certainty that it was possible to prevent war, and in the opinion- as I had been saying since 1946 — that the French people will find its own its road to socialism.
With reason, the Twentieth Congress had criticized the cult of the personality. We refused to allow petit-bourgeois and opportunist elements to transform the just criticism of the errors imputable to Stalin into a condemnation of Leninism, the organizing principle of the Party.
I clearly explained myself on these questions during the study session for parliamentarians in April 1956, and again at the Central Committee meeting in Arcueil the following month. The cult of the personality leads to the minimizing of the creative role of the masses and the Party; to conceit and presumption; to rejecting self-criticism and criticisms from the base. For us it was not a matter of correcting errors which weren’t ours; the rules of democratic centralism hadn’t been violated in our Party.
The French Communist Party then held its congress — the 14th — in Le Havre in July 1956.
In my report I brought out the new features of the international and internal situations: the progress of the Soviet Union and the world socialist system; the agony of the colonial system; the shake-up of the capitalist world; the poverty of the French workers, etc. The Atlantic Treaty — which was counter to the interests of peace and the national interests of France — should give place to peaceful coexistence, to cooperation on the basis of equality among all states, whatever their social systems. I insisted on the need to bring into being unity in action. The Popular Front was
“- an element of the fundamental policy of the Communists, an application of the principles of Marx and Lenin on the necessary alliance of the working and the middle classes, above all with the working peasants, in the fight against capital.-”
The democratic forces should unite against fascism and oppose reaction’s campaign for a presidential system. It was important for us to remain faithful to principles, in order to reinforce the strength and the fighting ability of the Party. I called for an immediate cease fire in Algeria, for the prolonging of the war undermined the republican system, was favorable to the attacks against democratic liberties, and furnished a springboard for the undertakings of rebellious politicians and politicians.
It wasn’t to take long for events to justify the conclusions of our congress.
The Socialist proconsul Guy Mollet, the ultra’s man in Algiers, never ceased affirming that we were in the “final quarter hour.” But from final quarter hour to final quarter hour the war in Algeria continued, with its train of massacres and horrors.
Starting in August, a press campaign had been unleashed by the government in order to prepare French opinion for an attack on Egypt. Inflicting a defeat on Nasser seemed to Guy Mollet a means of being done with war in Algeria. On October 30, along with Anthony Eden, he sent an ultimatum to the government of Egypt. The expeditionary force was to be installed at Port-Said, Ismailia and Suez, in order to control the key points of the canal, nationalized by Nasser in July. Under the pressure of world opinion the operation failed. The expeditionary force had to re-embark, which didn’t keep Guy Mollet from declaring that “the military objectives have been obtained.”
It was against the French Communists that Guy Mollet was to try to get his revenge following the events in Hungary.
After the collapse of Hitlerism the Hungarian people had established the foundations of a socialist system. But errors in economic organization, and errors that compromised the links between the government and the popular masses had been committed by the former leadership of the Worker’s Party. In addition, a clique of traitors, grouped around Nagy, took advantage of the circumstances to openly play the enemy’s game and deliver Hungary to the counter-revolution, which had been plotting in the shadows. In fact, reactionary elements had maintained ties in a country that had suffered for a quarter of a century — from 1920-1945 — the fascist dictatorship of Horthy. Under slogans aimed at fooling the people, Hungarian fascists in Budapest massacred militant Communists, sacked Party offices, burned books, and attacked public buildings...Some of these fascists were to participate as activists in the plot of Algiers, as well as in attacks against worker’s organizations in France.
The return of the capitalists and the large landowners, the reconstitution of a reactionary and revanchard base in the heart of the Danube basin, the threat of aggression against the socialist states and of war in Europe: such was the program of Hungarian counter-revolution, encouraged from without by the imperialist powers — in the first place by American imperialism — and acting within by trickery, violence, and betrayal of the national interests. By responding — in conformity with the Warsaw pact — to the call for assistance sent out by the worker and peasant government of Budapest, in lining up at the side of the workers of Hungary, in aiding them in putting down fascist barbarism, the Soviet Union was being faithful to the principles of proletarian internationalism. The Red Army fulfilled its class obligations.
We had alerted the masses against the Suez adventure; we had opposed it in the national Assembly.
Using as a pretext the events in Budapest, fascist bands, encouraged by the attitude of the Mollet government and the furious press campaign it carried out against us, attacked the seat of the French Communist Party. They sought to set it on fire, and assaulted the offices of L'Humanité. Our comrades stood up to these screaming hordes, and the fascists were pushed back everywhere.
The Socialist government of Guy Mollet forbade our Party’s traditional meeting to commemorate the October Revolution.: it was the first time that such a ban had been issued. That day, several dozen Socialists attempted to organize a demonstration near the embassy of the USSR. That attempt failed miserably.
Before the Central Committee I reminded everyone that fascism and war were inseparable. I explained how the events in Hungary had unfurled. I spoke of the “hours heavy with threats” that the working class was passing through, and one more time called for the popular forces to unite to ward off these forces and prevent fascism from passing.
1. Mery and Serge Bromberger, in their book Les 13 Complots de 13 Mai (page 202) give these details: “ The bulk of the activist forces are made up of vaternas of Indochina, which amount to 1500 shock demonstrators, well-led, armed if necessary, inclding 300 Hungarians. A good number of them went to Budapest to fight the other year, or are escapees of the fight.”