Decline and Fall
To return from the history of the Spanish civil war to the meandering story of the French Popular Front is to move from a scorching fire into sticky mud. Once the Popular Front had reached the necessary strength to form a government, it foundered in an unparalleled atmosphere of intrigue and failure. Maurice Paz, in what to me seems the best evocation of the atmosphere prevailing among the leading circles of the Popular Front,1 describes how 'after endless palavers, when they had tested the patience of their colleagues to the utmost and rupture seemed to be imminent, the communists made good their retreat. . . . Thus, from week to week, from month to month, the patient unpublicized efforts of the Committee [of the Popular Front] kept the government alive. . . . The two working-class parties forming the core [of the Popular Front] were not linked by any common solidarity: here everything consisted of feints, of pretence, of perfidy.'
The Committee of Co-ordination, formed in July 1934, had never done any actual work. The new Committee of Co-operation, formed after the Popular Front had taken over, met for the first time on 8th December 1936, but held only a few meetings. There, the constant socialist policy was to state:
'We shall not continue to discuss things with you [the communists], unless previously you return to the status quo, unless first you disavow this insult or that injury; the communists, on their side, tried to wriggle out of the situation, to elude these requests, to improve their position by delaying a decision . . . and then to start the whole game again.'
It was a simple implementation of Lenin's prescription about the ally, the rope, and the hanged man, and the socialists, however justified in their indignation, were not justified in being surprised____________________