Ted Grant

France: the Class Struggle Intensifies

Source: Socialist Fight, vol. 4 no. 2 (March 1962)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2009
Markup: Niklas 2009

“Peace” in Algeria, through a cease-fire between the forces of French Imperialism and those of the representatives of the Algerian people, the F.L.N. seems likely in the immediate period ahead. According to the terms leaked in the press, it seems as if French Imperialism has succeeded in safeguarding some of its basic interests, the exploitation of the mineral and oil resources of the Sahara jointly by the French and Algerians, the retaining of military bases in Algeria including the Mers El Kebir Naval base, and the retaining of French citizenship for either three or five years, before making a choice on the part of the European settlers.

This compromise, however, still represents a defeat for French Imperialism which has given up as hopeless the attempt to continue the national subjugation of the Algerian people. Far from constituting a source of revenue to the French capitalists it constituted a drain on the resources of France. Hundreds of thousands of Algerian dead, torture and the forcible resettling of 2 million of the Algerian people have not broken their spirit or their desire for freedom.

At the same time the French people have become more and more weary at the never-ending war, with its victims among the sons of the French people. They have become alarmed at the attempt to brutalise the young French conscripts in the Army in Algeria. It imposes useless sacrifices on the part of the French people.

It is this factor, as much as anything else, which has led the de Gaulle Government, a Bonapartist dictatorship, which is compelled to lean for support on sections of the French people, to endeavour to end the war. The repression and murder by the picked squads of the Gaullist police of unarmed workers, men, women and children in a demonstration, has been the spark to reawaken the radical traditions of the French people. The imposing funeral demonstration of 1 million people, the general strike for four hours in Paris, and other cities in France, were an expression of the rising mass feeling.

Radical mood

The mood of 1944-1947, of the great days of the stay-in strikes of 1936, is being rekindled among the French masses. The defeat of 1958, when de Gaulle was brought to power by the military coup in Algiers, is beginning to be overcome by the French working class. It is alarm at this awakening among the French people which has caused the de Gaulle Government to hasten to try and make peace, on terms which do not sacrifice the interests of Big Business.

De Gaulle hopes to use the usual Bonapartist trick of the referendum—For or against Peace—to gain an overwhelming Yes vote at the polls. He hopes that the impetus given by such a referendum vote in its turn would lead to a new electoral victory for the Gaullists at the general election, which would be simultaneous with or shortly follow such a referendum. He would be presented to the people as the man who brought “Peace” and safeguarded the Republic and democratic rights.

However, the O.A.S. hired assassins and picked thugs continue with their work of provocation both in Algeria and in France. Daily raids are reported on munition stores; plastic bombs in Algerian and also in Paris and French provincial towns, are planted with monotonous regularity. One of the most recent was the planting of two bombs in the presses of the Communist Party main journal l’Humanite, and at the doors of the capitalist paper Figaro.

Fascists penetrate “State”

The police seem impotent when it comes to taking decisive action against the fascist conspirators. These have a network of informants and supporters in the top ranks of the Armed Forces, the police and the civil service, not only in Algeria but in France itself. The de Gaullist Government cannot take real measures against these people without endangering the state machine of French capitalism. This is what explains the tender treatment of this scum, guilty according to the laws of France of high treason.

De Gaulle has recently called to see him the leading military commanders in France, including the notorious General Massu, who expressed himself so forcibly and crudely at the time of the Algiers coup which brought de Gaulle to power, in favour of mercilessly strangling French democracy.

No reliance [on the] army

If the Army, Admirals and Air Force generals do not rally to the call of the O.A.S., it will not be for love of “democracy” and “honour”. At the last attempted coup of Salan and Challe most of them prudently waited to see the way the wind was blowing before declaring themselves. It was the reaction of the French conscripts in the army, navy and air force which made them declare themselves against the mutineers. It was the reaction of the French people and the French workers in uniform which paralysed the reactionary mutineers and the paratroops.

Many times in the history of France and with the great revolutionary traditions of the French people, the use of troops or police to massacre unarmed demonstrators has been the starting point of revolution. So the impressive demonstration of a million people at the funeral of the latest victims of police brutality ties up with the past. Lenin had observed many times that such incidents and crises could be the starting point for the Socialist revolution.

Not only the industrial workers, but the white collar workers struck, and the “little people” of Paris, small shopkeepers and other middle class layers showed their sympathy with the workers of Paris.

No “Peace and Order”

Sections of the middle class, the white collar workers, and even layers of politically backward industrial workers had been attracted to the banner of de Gaulle as the man who would bring “peace and order and prosperity” to France. Without an alternative programme of decisive social change on the part of the organisations of the working class, it is this which explains the victory of de Gaulle.

However, the legend of Gaullist infallibility has worn thin. It is Big Business which has been the principal beneficiary of the Gaullist regime. The promised blessings have not materialised. Instead we have the disturbances of the O.A.S…That is why the Gaullist regime requires peace in Algeria for the purpose of trying to retain its waning support even among the middle class.

Independent workers’ policy

In this situation, with the rising radicalism and awakening of the French people, the role of the leadership of the workers’ parties, and the policies they pursue is of great significance. An independent class policy explaining the capitalist roots of the French state and of the de Gaulle Government could win wide support among the French people. Such a programme would include a whole series of demands in the interests of the French workers and middle class and peasants, it would link them with the perspective of a Socialist France.

It would explain the need for the French workers to rely only on their own organisations, committees of action in every factory and housing area to ensure their defence against fascist provocation. It would demand the setting up of committees of defence of the soldiers, sailors and airmen, linked with the committees of students, peasants as well as the factory committees. Such a network of committees would constitute an impregnable defence against any fascist provocation, as well as against such Army Commanders as General Massu.

Events will teach the French workers. In this rising tide of radicalisation the so-called leadership of the Communist Party has come forward with a new version of class collaboration, coalition with the so-called “Liberal” sections of the capitalist class, in the “strike-breaking conspiracy” of the People Front. At the moment of danger French capitalism will try and save itself by such a coalition agreement as they did in 1936 and 1944. But the authority of the leadership of the Communist Party is not so great as formerly. This new treachery can in its turn lead to a split in the Communist Party and the foundation of a mass Marxist Party pledged to the class struggle. This would change the situation not only in France but perhaps throughout Europe.