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James M. Fenwick

Politics of the International Working Class

(January 1946)


From New International, Vol.12 No.1, January 1946, p.12.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.


La Lutte des Trotskystes Sous la Terreur Nazie
Parti Communiste Internationaliste, Paris, 1945; 30 pp.

Even for the returned soldier, who has seen that silent wasteland which capitalism has made of so much of Europe, it is difficult to comprehend the extent of the destruction which has been wrought. What centuries of work and heartbreak created, six years of capitalist war have reduced to piles of rubble among which old men and women poke and try to make a home.

Along with the material destruction and the human slaughter went a political and moral abasement unparalleled in modern times. Systematically brutalized by capitalist nationalist propaganda, whipped on by chauvinist socialist and communist parties, abandoned by Russia, which has long since cynically trampled under foot socialist internationalism, whole populations have reached new lows of political passivity and contempt for the human personality.

Only the most politically advanced and resolute representatives of the working class, the parties of the Fourth International, in spite of everything, struggled for the cause of socialist brotherhood in a world riven by nationalist hatred. The Trotskyist Struggle under the Nazi Terror, published by the International Communist Party, the French section of the Fourth International, is the proud record of the struggle for socialism by our French comrades during and after the occupation by the nazis.
 

The First Organ of the Resistance

Truth (La Vérité) which began to appear clandestinely in August, 1940, was the first newspaper of the resistance movement to be published. Up until June, 1941, when Russia was attacked by Germany, Humanité, the organ of the French CP, said almost nothing regarding the activities of the nazis in France. In fact, during this period the French CP was negotiating with Otto Abetz for the legal appearance of their paper. All in all, seventy-three issues of Truth were published during the occupation. In addition, several issues of Our Word (Unser Wort) and Worker and Soldier (Arbeiter und Soldat) were published in German and distributed in the barracks in editions of from 5,000-10,000.

In 1940, in action and through its press, the ICP, well before the other organizations of the resistance, began the initial task of aiding in the regroupment of the scattered forces of the working class. Self-defense groups were formed which drove out the fascists from the Youth Hostels, the last remaining free youth organization. The struggle against Hitler and Petain was begun under the slogan of the workers and peasants movement.

In 1941 and 1942 the French working class began to raise its head. Great strikes broke out in the North. The ICP

... supported and increased the militancy of the strikes; fought for a better rationing program; it was the first to call upon women workers to form housewives’ committees and to demonstrate and take into their own hands the rationing program in a fight against the black market and the Vichy officials who were the agents for German imperialism’s requisitioning program; it organized the struggle of the city workers in close alliance with the poor peasants.

But especially, alone among all the organizations of the resistance, alone among all the workers’ parties, the ICP did not separate the struggle against German fascism from the struggle against world capitalism.
 

Against the Stream

At the same time, the ICP conducted a struggle against low wages, the reactionary Charter of Labor, increased hours, and night work. It conducted agitation against racism and anti-semitism. It fought the conscription of laborers for work in Germany. It organized a service for the manufacture of false identity papers, which saved thousands of young workers from deportation and jail sentences. It organized support for the maquis, and individual members fought in its ranks. It called for and engaged in fraternization with German soldiers. In August, 1944, it launched the slogan of occupation of the factories and led several such movements.

Such was, in brief, the activity of the ICP during the occupation. That serious political errors were committed is incontestable, especially in the organization’s failure to appreciate the progressive r61e of the resistance movement and to participate in it as an organization. The negative aspects of their work we shall examine at some future time. What is important to note at the moment is that in spite of the chauvinist tide which engulfed France and in spite of the brutal repression by the Vichy and German police, our comrades remained constant to the great principles of Marxist internationalism.

Needless to say, once France was liberated, the bourgeoisie, assisted in its thought processes by the “suggestions” of the Russian embassy, rewarded the heroic struggle of the ICP with semi-legality: though the party is technically legal, public meetings of the organization have been broken up, the legal appearance of Truth is forbidden, and members of the ICP are subjected to recurrent arrests.
 

“The Barbarians Wished to Kill Them
They Have Rendered Them Immortal”

Our French comrades paid the full price for their struggle against the barbarians of German and French capital. They were among the first to fall under the nazi bullets, two of them having been shot in 1941 in the infamous Chateaubriand executions. Nearly thirty – no small number considering the size of the organization – were executed by the gestapo, died at Auschwitz, Dora, and other concentration camps, died during the insurrection of Paris in August 1944 or were killed by the Vichy militia. Scores of others were imprisoned in nazi jails or were deported to Germany as forced laborers.

To these brave men and women who came from all walks of life to serve the cause of the proletariat may be applied the eulogy paid Marcel Hic, an outstanding founder and leader of the French organization, who died in a German concentration camp in 1944:

For all who knew him, Marcel Hic will always remain the most admirable example of the revolutionary leader and the most magnificent proof that our revolutionary struggle is not only the sole solution for a humanity victimized by the misery of the capitalist agony, but is, also, a school for superior men.


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