XI
France: The Worst of Traitors

The attitude of the French communists to the war did not differ basically from that of their British comrades. We can, therefore, now limit our tale to those aspects of communist policy which were specific to France.1

There were three important differences between the situation of the French and the English communists in August 1939. In the first place the French Communist Party was the biggest single party of the country. Its political actions were therefore. bound to have an immediate major effect. In contrast to the British Communist Party it represented an asset for Stalin, which could be equal in importance to a considerable number of divisions. At that moment the party was subject to two mass currents, running in opposite directions. On the one hand it felt the repercussions of the catastrophic defeat of the general strike in November 1938, as a result

____________________
1
For the period in this chapter w have now the two masterpiece of Angelo Rosssi: Les communistes français pendant la drôle de guerre ( Paris, 1951) (covering the phase August 1939 to June 1940) and Physiologie du parti communiste français ( Paris, 1948) (covering the phase June 1940 to December 1941; an English translation exist). These are the only two completely satisfactory monographs about any part and aspects of the communist movement outside Russia. In the presence of these two volumes, research on that phase of communist activities can be regarded as nearly complete. From our own point of view nothing more is therefore needed than to summarize Rossi's results and to stress, here and there, parallels between the action of the French communists and that of communists in other countries.

For spefic trade union questions Georges Lefranc, Les expériences syndicales en France de 1939 à 1950 ( Paris, 1950), provides an impartial summary.

Original sources are in the main limited to the underground publications of the French communist party, among which the underground edition of Humanité, appearing more or less regularly, is by far the most important; there are, besides, underground issues of Vie Ouvrière, of Cahiers, and occasional leaflets.

-296-

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