Communist Power in Europe, 1944-1949

By Martin McCauley | Go to book overview

9 France

EDWARD MORTIMER


THE STRATEGY

In later years, when Maurice Thorez was asked to explain why his party made no attempt at revolution after the Second World War, he gave three reasons. First, it would have provoked a civil war which the Communists would have lost. 'With the Americans in France, the revolution would have been annihilated. France would have experienced the fate of Greece on an even larger scale . . . ' Second, the 'great mass' of French people was not ready for socialist revolution: by no means all the sympathisers the party had won during the resistance could have been mobilised for this purpose. Third, 'you must take account of the international situation. To start a revolution would have meant ignoring this reality, it would have meant that we totally lacked the sense of our responsibilities.'1

Thorez meant, of course, the French Communist Party's responsibilities towards the international Communist movement and towards the Soviet Union which he identified with that movement. He might have added that in 1944, which was the most favourable moment for a revolutionary insurrection, a civil war in France was the last thing Stalin would have wanted, for it would have seriously disrupted the Second Front and thus diminished its impact on Germany. It would also have put a severe strain on his own alliance with the Western Powers, at a time when all the emphasis of Soviet propaganda was on Allied unity and the overriding importance of the war effort. At the time Stalin undoubtedly attached much more importance to the military advantages of the Second Front than to its political disadvantages. Only later did his propagandists reverse the equation, claiming that the Red Army could have liberated all Europe on its own and that the Second Front had been demanded by'émigré circles (including the pretender to the role of French dictator, de Gaulle) . . . not so much to crush the Germans as to struggle against the popular masses and the internal resistance movement'.2 Even then, Stalin himself may not have believed it, for in 1948 he told Tito that the Red Army 'did not and could not' have given the same assistance to the French and Italian Communist Parties as it did to that of Yugoslavia.3

In any case, the presence of British and American forces in France effectively foreclosed any military option for the French Communists once de Gaulle's government was established in power and internationally

-151-

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Communist Power in Europe, 1944-1949
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes on Contributors xix
  • List of Abbreviations xxi
  • Part One 1
  • 1- Economic Developments in Eastern Europe under German Hegemony 3
  • 2- The Baltic States 1940-50 22
  • Part Two 37
  • 3- Poland 39
  • 4- East Germany 58
  • 5- Czechoslovakia 73
  • 6- Hungary 95
  • 7- Romania 111
  • Part Three 131
  • 8- Finland 133
  • 9- France 151
  • 10- Italy 168
  • II- Greece 184
  • Part Four 199
  • 12- British Policy towards Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary 1944-1946 201
  • 13- Thirty Years after 220
  • Index 231
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