Maurice Thorez 1960

France Before the Hitlerite Danger

Source: Fils du Peuple, Editions Sociales, Paris 1970;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

The Germans multiplied their intrigues all over France. They inspired and guided the activities of fascist groups, notably the Cagoulards, which recruited in part among leadership in big enterprises, in part among the reactionary cadres of the army. The Cagoulards received their arms from Mussolini and Hitler. They carried out numerous assassinations and provocations, like those at Clichy and the rue de Presbourg, where they blew up an employer’s association building in order to have militant workers accused of the crime. The Cagoulards were in liaison with the mercenary bands of the traitor Doriot, who was to sink to the lowest degree of abjection and wear the German uniform, before being killed in Germany.

In Paris the Nazis acted in broad daylight; they already felt themselves to be the masters of our capital. The spy Abetz, Hitler’s future ambassador to Pétain, was received with splendor in the salons of the “grand monde.” He was sought after as a dispenser of honors and places. He had founded the Comité France-Allemagne, which recruited its members among business circles, among politicians, and among writers. This effective leadership of the Fifth Column bribed the press, supported Hitlerite positions, and opened the way to invasion. The president of the Comité France-Allemagne was Scapini, who during the war was entrusted with the task of duping our unfortunate soldiers who were held prisoner; the general secretary was the traitor Brinon, who afterwards was Vichy ambassador... to Paris, and president of the Anti-Bolshevik League, which fought against our allies on the Eastern Front. Among the “eminent” members of the committee could be found Francois Pietri, later Pétain’s ambassador to Franco; Henri Haye, who represented Vichy in the USA; Bergery, ambassador of Vichy to Ankara; Abel Bonnard, of the Academie Francaise, who became a minister of Petain; Jean Goy, president of the Union Nationale des Combattants; Jules Romains, notorious Munichois writer.

The Cagoulards and other fascists, in order to put in place their domination over the French people, hoped for war, defeat, and invasion. A newspaper, edited by the Comité de Rassemblement Antibolchévik published the following lines, which announced Petainism, Vichyism: “We persist in searching for a man. Perhaps he will come out of the events? Perhaps the tragic hours that we will live through tomorrow will allow him to reveal himself? If it must be so, even if this must be at the price of a blood-letting, even if we must suffer the horror of a bloody collision with men of the same blood, let it come!”

The Communists denounced this march towards treason in France, and unmasked the traitors and the spies we were soon to see again, brazen as could be after the debacle of 1940. Lucien Sampaix — executed in December 1941 by the Hitlerites — commented in L'Humanité on the arrest of a news chief of Le Temps and of a publicity chief of Le Figaro who had been accused of treason, one for 3,500,00 francs, the other for 1,000,000. The government pursued Lucien Sampaix under the pretext that he'd divulged information relative to an inquiry in progress. On July 28, 1939, before the tribunal of the Seine Gabriel Péri expressed his solidarity with Sampaix. He rose up against the ignominy of Georges Bonnet, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had promised Count Welczek, the German Ambassador, to “fix the Communists.” This trial against a patriotic French journalist, Péri declared, was initiated under the orders of Otto Abetz. He ended his deposition with these words: “With certain of these ministers in the government, it’s impossible to go on a hunt for spies.”

Lucien Sampaix was acquitted.

The Communists also denounced men like Paul Faure, General Secretary of the Socialist Party, and Belin, Secretary of the C.G.T, who carried out their divisive work to the benefit of Hitler. They contributed to the break up of the national forces. They professed a weepy and reactionary pacifism, which tended to ideologically and materially disarm the working class and all good Frenchmen in the face of an enemy armed to the teeth, waiting for the favorable moment to leap on France like some kind of offered up prey. At a teachers’ congress a Socialist had dared to say: “better slavery than death!”

These “pacifists” were the zealous supporters of the policy called “non-intervention,” They found themselves in agreement with the “cannon merchants” who had become deafeatists, as well as the open fascists (like La Rocque) and the hidden ones (like Deat) in the task of strangling as quickly as possible Republican Spain, the last dam erected against the Hitlerite wave that was to unfurl over all of Europe.

The international situation quickly got worse. The workers and democrats affirmed their will to resist the aggressor. The French and English governments were obliged to send military missions to Moscow. The negotiations dragged on. Daladier and Chamberlain weren’t interested in bringing them to a conclusion. They had made a gesture for opinion’s sake, but they'd decided to torpedo the conference. The military missions were never invested with any real power. As soon as a point was decided upon, the discussion was re-opened.

The Soviet government asked for permission for the Red Army to effectively intervene in case of Hitlerite aggression. The Soviet Union didn’t have a common border with Germany. Its army thus had to pass through Poland, but the Polish government refused the Red Army this right. In addition, the French and English governments didn’t want to include the Baltic States in the guarantees that the Soviet Union legitimately demanded for its borders. Which is to say that Daladier and Chamberlain left the Baltic States at the mercy of the annexationist aims of Hitler. Lithuania had already been penetrated. The Baltic States had traditionally been claimed by pan-Germanism. Not to protect them would be to abandon them to the Nazis.

The goal of the Franco-English maneuver was clear: bring the Hitlerite armies to the borders of the Soviet Union, through Poland and the Baltic states, and push Hitlerite Germany into war against the Soviet Union, while the governments of Paris and London would not move, as the “drole de guerre” was to prove.

Before the duplicity of the French and English governments, before the hostility of General Beck and his clique, the Soviet government, threatened by a war that would be unleashed under the most unfavorable conditions, resolved to foil the plans of its enemies. August 23, 1939, avoiding the trap, it signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany.

From one day to the next the cry of ‘scandal!” and “treason!” rang out from those very people who, at Munich, had rejected the Soviet Union and the cause of collective security, who had done everything possible to sabotage the Moscow negotiations, whose secret — and sometimes open — desire was the invasion and crushing of the Soviet Union by Hitler. Only traitors, the short-sighted or fools could get indignant about the conduct of the USSR. Among government figures, politicians, and journalists, no one could in good faith fail to recognize the meaning and the breadth of the treaty concluded in Moscow. The Soviet Union gained a respite, from which it was to profit to intensify its armaments. The agreement completely changed the situation. It shattered the front of the capitalist states with which the Soviet Union was threatened. It led to the later isolation of the fascist states. It prepared against them the coalition of the democratic states, which the Soviet Union had recommended in vain in order to avoid catastrophe.