French Communism before 1934

As German communism went down under Hitler's blows, the Comintern found itself without a single party with mass influence. It seemed the end. Yet, the year after, communism, against all expectations, suddenly leaped into prominence in the politics of France, and ever since then the French Communist Party has remained the keystone of the Comintern in Europe--it might well be said in the whole world, down to the moment when the communists conquered China. The beginning of 1934 therefore marks the dividing line between a German and a French period of European communism, and to some extent of Comintern history as a whole.

In view of the paramount importance of French communism from that date onwards, it seems useful to give a continuous account of its beginnings. It was not difficult to reserve this matter for separate treatment, for two or three occasions apart (which we mentioned in their international context), French communism, all through the years down to 1934, was no more than a problem- child of the Comintern, giving much trouble yet producing very few results. It is only in view of what happened later that the early history of the French Communist Party is interesting.1

The story of French communism is adequately covered down to 1924 by André Ferrat, Histoire du parti communiste français ( Paris, 1931). Ferrat was a high party official down to 1934, but, being then a left extremist, objected to the Popular Front, and was expelled in 1936. He has since become an active socialist. He carried his story down to 1930, but the later sections are marred by an officious tendency to play down internal controversies, sometimes to the point of making the real story unintelligible.

Gerald Walter, Histoire du parti communiste français ( Paris, 1948), is clearly an attempt to make Ferrat superfluous. The pseudonymous author, while writing as a non-communist and admitting certain crises and errors of the party, writes so much in the communist vein that the utmost caution is advisable in following his conclusions. Despite his partisanship, Walter must be consulted for the


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