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Mary Bell

Shift to Right in France
Despite CP-SP Majority

(10 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 23, 10 June 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

While the combined votes of the Socialist and Communist Parties of France in the June 1 election still represent the majority of popular sentiment, the increase in a million votes for the primary capitalist party, the Popular Republicans, with only small gains to the Communist Party and a loss to the Socialists, shows the handwriting on the wall to the parties which purport to represent the interests of the working class, and world capitalism breathes easier.

The shift to the right was foreshadowed by the defeat of the referendum on the constitution, around which the contending classes mobilized – the capitalist elements being against, the working class elements being for. The shift was guaranteed by the failure of the parties which claim the support of the working people, the Communists and Socialists, to break their coalition with the capitalist bankrupts, rule in the name of the workers and little people who supported them and embark on a program of nationalization and socialization.

While the Daily Worker touts the election results in France as a victory for the Communists, attested to by their increase of 140,000 votes, it overlooks what immediately strikes every observer except the Stalinist fanatics: the relative DECLINE of working class strength in the entire pool of votes. This decline is caused by the fact that these two parties, while having the allegiance of the workers, represent other interests; in the case of the Socialist Party, subservience to the French ruling class and Anglo-American imperialism; and in the case of the Communist Party, absolute fealty to Stalinism.

Battle of Superpowers

France, the most important large neutral nation in Europe, represents a battle ground of the two rival “superpowers.” The pressure of these powers was manifest throughout the period preceding the elections and mirrored in the campaigns of the French parties. Leon Blum, elder statesman of the Socialist Party, was credited with successfully negotiating the United States loan to France, which is vitally necessary for the reconstruction of tottering, war-ravished French economy.

On May Day the Communist Minister of Industrial Production began the election campaign by putting on the market large quantities of shoes and shirts below ceiling prices. The Communists, who opposed strikes and operated on the slogan “Produce!” tried to share credit for the loan by the allegedly favorable impression made on the U.S. through their speed-up and no-strike program. (“The Communist Party is exploiting to the hilt the leather and textile manna fallen from heaven.” – PM) Russian wheat shipments were sent as a counter to Wall Street gold.

The MRP tried to exploit the defeat of the referendum on the constitution as a demonstration of the strength and viability of the conservatives, “We appeal to our beloved children of the Catholic world to launch a crusade in the world against those who deny God,” said Pope Pius XII in a direct election appeal to assist the Catholic MRP in France, as well as the Catholic conservatives in Italy who are faced with similar problems.

Foreign Policy Issue

The issue of foreign policy was the great, overriding but silent issue in the elections. The Socialists and the MRP look to the West – to the financial assistance of the United States. The Communists strive to prevent the formation of a “Western bloc” and its inevitable accompaniment of a foreign policy directed against Russia. Harold Callender writes in the New York Times of June 2:

“There is a majority in France for closer ties with the Western world, such as were implied in this American credit. There is also a majority in France for nationalization of key industries, which is not readily reconcilable with the liberal system of foreign trade proclaimed in connection with this credit.

“While France wants a constitution more democratic than the last one, she also wants a large measure of socialization. To the majority of Frenchmen, Western democracy is the only possible system of government, but Western or any other capitalism is suspect in their view and in need of much restraint and limitation.”

Socialization and democracy – these are the immediate desires of the French people. Therefore, the stalemate will continue in France with the continuation of the tri-party coalition. The party which is associated with nationalization, the Communist Party, is the party of totalitarianism. To embark upon a thoroughgoing program of expropriation of- private property, it would have to enlist the aid of the working class against the Two Hundred Families, and like the sorcerer’s apprentice, call upon forces it could not control. Hence, the Communist Party is. limited to a mild program whose primary aim is to prevent France from falling into the toils of an anti-Russian bloc. The Socialist Party, representing the desires of the workers for an extension of democracy, is based upon the gradual reform of capitalism, which means no basic change at all.

Yet the mandate of the majority in France is clear – democracy and radical inroads upon capitalism. The first step toward achieving this is to break the three-party coalition, to form a government of the Socialists and Communists. This is the manner in which the general revolutionary socialist formula of independent class action is translated into life in France today.

True, these slogans are issued to the pro-capitalist Socialist Party and the anti-working class Communist Party. But only if radical slogans which represent the desires of the French workers are urged upon these parties – given their inability to carry out the wishes of the workers – will their supporters become disburdened of their illusions in these parties in a progressive direction and turn to the really revolutionary, working class party represented by the French Trotskyists.

Only by urging these drastic solutions will the workers be able to obtain the support of the middle class, which, as is evidenced by the election, is turning more and more to the parties of reaction.

Otherwise, the workers, too, will become apathetic, and the way will be paved for the restoration of “strong man,” Bonapartist rule.

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