Felix Morrow

Social Democrats Try Hard
to Blur Lesson of France

(20 July 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 29, 20 July 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

If you read the labor and liberal press, you have been reading three basically differing stories about the events in France: (1) the bourgeois-democratic and social-democratic – these two tell essentially the same story; (2) that told by the Stalinists; (3) the story which we, the revolutionary Marxists, tell.

The differences between our account of the French debacle and those of the Stalinists and social democrats are not merely one of “interpretation.” Facts, as Lenin used to say, are stubborn things; some facts, if true, make impossible a given interpretation of the events. Hence no one can, with a wave of his hand about differing interpretations, avoid the task of determining what the facts are; he must then accept only that interpretation which flows from those facts.

In the coming weeks I shall deal with the Stalinists. Here I wish to add a few comments to what I said last week about the falsification of the facts about France by the social democrats. To its previous lies the latest New Leader, organ of the Social Democratic Federation, adds new distortions.

A New Alibi for French “Democracy”

The New Leader, apparently recovering somewhat from the hysteria induced by the transformation into fascists of its idols of yesterday, no longer repeats such obviously fantastic lies as the one about a “fascist putsch,” which was its previous explanation for the transformation of French democracy into totalitarianism. Its July 13 issue attempts a more subtle apology for the French bourgeoisie.

Here are typical paragraphs:

“This week, to a world mourning defeat after defeat of democratic forces, came the heartening news that Leon Blum, Paul Reynaud swathed in bandages, and scores of other French democratic leaders were in Vichy fighting to keep alive the French tradition of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

“The attempt to force upon the country a fascist constitution with the consent of a rump parliament met its first resistance from a group of deputies and senators headed by Herriot, president of the Chamber, who succeeded in forcing the government to submit the constitution to a plebiscite. This in itself may save the Third Republic, but it is symptomatic of the coming political battles in France, the consequences of which may be profound.

“Herriot also took the lead in repelling the shameful plan of the counter-revolutionary government to throw a sop to Berlin and Rome by trying Daladier, Mandel and other political leaders for alleged responsibility for the war. Leon Blum, one of the men upon whom the hatred of the reaction is centered, appeared challengingly at Vichy, ready to face the music and give battle.”

It is easy enough to show that this stuff is compounded of untruths and half-truths. For example: Herriot’s “leadership” against fascism actually consisted of (1) complete silence on his part as he presided at the Chamber of Deputies’ session which ratified the totalitarian proposals; (2) at the subsequent joint session of the Chamber and the Senate, Herriot was so r-r-r-evolutionary as ... to register his abstention on the vote; (3) if it was so wonderful for Herriot to defend Daladier, then Laval is also wonderful, for according to a July 10 A.P. report Laval defended Daladier and other absentees, and complained that they had been prevented from participating by the armistice commission’s refusal to provide transportation from North Africa.

But untruths about this individual or that is not the main crime committed in the New Leader accounts. The main crime is that these accounts deliberately seek to evoke, with references to Herriot, Blum, Reynaud, the impression that – although defeated and with a few defections – the “democratic leaders” of yesterday substantially remain also today. At all costs the New Leader will not tell the simple fact: that the same French bourgeoisie which held power yesterday by leaning on the workers’ organizations, today holds power by leaning on Hitler and a French military dictatorship – but yesterday and today it is the same French bourgeoisie. At all costs the “Marxists” of the New Leader will not use the Marxian categories of classes: for them there is no bourgeoisie, there are only “democrats” and “fascists.” That yesterday’s democrats become today’s fascists – that is something which the New Leader seeks to suppress as much as it can, for central to its ideology is the myth that there is an impenetrable wall between bourgeois democracy and fascism.

New Leader’s Method

As in other aspects of their degeneracy, the method employed in the above quotations by the social democrats is identical with that employed by the Stalinists. In China, for example, the Comintern swore by Chiang-Kai-Shek in 1925–27; then Chiang ceased to lean on the Comintern, changing to leaning on the imperialists; whereupon Wang-ching-wei took Chiang’s place in the plaudits of the Comintern; when Wang capitulated to Chiang, the Comintern transferred its praise to the banner of the (bourgeois) Kuomintang. In America the same business is taking place with Roosevelt and John L. Lewis.

The same method is employed by the social democrats. Yesterday they swore by Weygand and Petain; now these are traitors, and the praise goes to Herriot and Reynaud; if tomorrow these capitulate, maybe General de Gaulle (whom nobody ever heard of until June 15) will remain; if not, some bourgeois democrat might still be found; if not, there will always be Blum, as for the Stalinists there are always the Browders.

The method consists of avoiding like the plague all fundamental Marxist categories: bourgeois and proletarian, the nature of bourgeois democracy, the nature of imperialism, the nature of this epoch of the death agony of capitalism. Instead, Stalinism and social democracy are content with two fundamental categories: “good men” and “bad men.”

Last updated on 23 May 2020