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New International, August 1949


Against Both War Camps

Presenting Two Resolutions Adopted by the RDR

(July 1949)


From The New International, Vol. XV No. 6, August 1949, pp. 167–171.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Prefatory Remarks

In July of this year representatives of the French RDR (Revolutionary Democratic Regroupment) gathered in Paris to assess their work of the past year, as well as to re-examine critically the RDR’s part in the International Day Against War and Dictatorship held early in the year. We are printing below translations of the two most important resolutions adopted at this Conference in which the RDR reaffirmed the original policy and program upon which it was founded, objectively analyzed some of its shortcomings and failures since its foundation and sketched, in general terms, its approach to future problems.

As is known to our readers, The New International has followed the development of the RDR with utmost sympathy since the original Manifesto created this new force in French political life. The RDR has successfully overcome the initial difficulties met by any new political organization, particularly in a country such as France, where great masses have entered into a state of political apathy and indifference, for the moment, and must now prepare itself for more severe tasks. It has declared its continued belief in the principle that Europe must be freed from subservience to either the American or Russian war camps, and its opposition to Stalinism and reformism. The resolutions adopted naturally reflect the fact that the RDR is a heterogeneous political formation in which are united many political tendencies, with much in common.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the RDR’s national conference is the recognition, indicated in both resolutions published below, that a concrete and workable social and political program, capable of answering the problems of the French masses and arousing them from their present apathy, must be developed. The RDR has not fulfilled this need up to the present, and its ability to do so may well provide the answer as to its future and perspective. The RDR still remains the most hopeful and potentially significant organization in France, but it would be misleading not to recognize its many problems.

Perhaps it was with the idea of helping the RDR meet its historic tasks that the well-known American teacher and philosopher, Professor Sidney Hook, wrote his report on the “International Day” in the July 1949 issue of Partisan Review. Hook is a noted man of tact and charm, and his advice to the RDR will, we do not doubt, be taken in the same friendly spirit in which it is advanced. That the effect of Hook’s advice could mean nothing less than the instantaneous death and extinction of the RDR as any kind of a force, present or potential, in the life of France is beside the point. Professor Hook’s advice is based upon his experience at the “International Day” gathering where he, James T. Farrell and Karl Compton represented the American “left.” It would appear that the reception accorded these gentlemen by their French audience did not quite meet the standards of politeness and, above all, gratitude which one might expect from the recipients of America’s generously distributed wealth. But Professor Hook has his revenge upon the 6 or 7,000 Frenchmen and others who failed to respond with appropriate warmth!

What is Professor Hook’s advice, contained by implication in his article? The RDR must become the French and European champion of the program, ideology and practice of American imperialism. In the concrete, this means endorsement of the Marshall Plan as it is constituted and operated; a still warmer endorsement and support of the Atlantic Pact; and linking of the French democratic and socialist cause with that of America and its Western bloc. Hook is now a thoroughgoing and consistent champion of the American government’s broad international policy and, consistent logician that he is, misses no opportunity to speak his piece. As a polished and sophisticated person, he avoids the banalities of James T. Farrell who literally disgraced himself before a large audience by speaking as though he represented the American Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon banquet. The essence of his policy is that America is the champion and defender of Western Europe; that all political tendencies must subordinate any independent strategy to the needs of America.

In the course of his attack on the one-sided and distorted picture that many French intellectuals and socialists have of America (and it must be admitted that throughout Europe there is a widespread tendency to oversimplify efforts to grasp what America is like), Professor Hook lightly brushes over what he calls the “defects” of American capitalism. He handles the problem on the same simplistic level as those whom he attacks, except that “Jim Crow,” current red-baiting campaigns in all fields and cultural Philistinism become only slight blemishes on the creamy-white skin of American democracy. Class structure, social conflicts, exploitation and other characteristics of our social system evidently no longer exist to this State Department unofficial adviser, who urges a systematic campaign to “sell” the facts of American democracy abroad. But Hook doesn’t understand this Europe he visited only so recently. Its masses and its intellectuals know all about capitalism, and are not exactly unfamiliar with its conception of democracy. They have exhausted that phase of their experience, and it is excluded that America can be “sold” to them, even by sophisticated and cultured professors. True, the utmost confusion may exist as to what they do want, concretely; but they know what they no longer want. For them, it has failed, played itself out and only unique circumstances keep it alive and comparatively thriving in America.

Hook Musters Little Support

Professor Hook writes of the RDR leadership, French intellectuals and such men as Ignazio Silone (whose speech to the International Day gathering may be found in the August New International), as though they were political primitives and fools to boot. He makes much of the ludicrous behaviour of an insignificant group of orthodox, self-proclaimed “Trotskyists” who count for zero. He mocks the French Resistance movement (“The Resistance consisted of a handful around De Gaulle, the Jews, and after June 22, 1941, the Communists ...”) and generally exhibits a complete contempt for those with whom he organized an eager association only yesterday. Hook is a deeply disappointed man, it would appear. He has recourse to that rapidly growing attitude which can be observed among American intellectuals, particularly former radicals, and which can only be described as a kind of “intellectual imperialism” and anti-Europeanism. The rationale in this attitude, of course, is that an ungrateful and ingrate Europe refuses to follow an American lead, while still remaining to some extent, under Stalinist influence. Even those among the RDR leaders who tended to be somewhat sympathetic to the Hook position at the “International Day” were unable to muster any support at the popular mass meeting that followed and the attitude of the audience to the Hook-Farrell-Compton program was universally hostile. And how that has rankled Professor Hook!

The resolutions adopted at the RDR conference offer further evidence of the decisive manner in which all “left” forces reject pro-American tendencies. Americans like Hook should reflect long and seriously on this. It is not due to stubbornness or anti-American “bias” induced by the social writers and novelists [1] of past years. It is a rejection of the American way applied to Europe and international affairs: the way of aid administered with strings and out of self-interest; the way of atom bombs and B-36s; the way of Atlantic Pacts and strategic blocs. Hook slanders all progressive tendencies in Europe when he states or implies that rejection of this way is acceptance of the Stalinist way. It is, of course, an expression of the unique efforts of Europe to resurrect its own independence, to become once more a free continent with its own social, cultural and political destiny. In this effort, the advice of Professor Hook is worthless and Europe rejects it out of hand.




1. A characteristically nasty footnote of Hook contained in his article is worthy of a footnote reply. In commenting upon the well-known novelist, Richard Wright, who joined with Sartre in a statement rejecting the Atlantic Pact, Professor Hook suggests that an interview with Wright, published recently in our sister publication, Labor Action, was “edited according to Bolshevik ethics.” Not being trained in the editing school of Hookian ethics (if the Professor wants an example of this school, we urge him to compare his published Partisan Review report on the "International Day” with the report he originally circulated), we wish to state, it goes without saying, that not a word or comma was changed or edited in the interview with Richard Wright published by Labor Action. As to the charges in Hook’s footnote, Wright is quite capable of making the necessary reply.

* * *

(1) Political Resolution of the RDR National Conference

Gathered together in its first national conference for discussion and work after 18 months of existence, the RDR delegates from Paris and the provinces declare that more than ever its existence, effort and purpose are reinforced by the fraternal and unanimous accord of all its militants who, regardless of their particular nuance of thought and tendency, are in agreement in their common desire to advance a non-statified socialism in France and Europe.

In France, the RDR continues to be the only new force capable of reunifying a large number of militants of the democratic workers’ movement with a view to forming an autonomous and independent left against all the forces of social conservatism, reaction, dictatorship and war within the two blocs. It denounces the impotence of a purely governmental Third Force and is opposed both to any system represented by American capitalism and its European supporters, or Soviet statism extended to the so-called popular democracies. It rejects both oppression by the dollar and dictatorship by a single party.

It struggles for the social abolition of colonial slavery. It declares its solidarity with those first efforts, comparable to its own, being born and developed throughout the world: tendencies toward an autonomous socialism, opposed to blocs; movements for national and social emancipation of people beyond the seas; democratic, revolutionary opposition – legal or illegal – within the blocs.

The RDR will resolutely participate in international action for the formation of a unified and federated socialist Europe to which peoples emancipated from colonial tutelage may freely join.

The RDR is prepared to act in common with all forces struggling over the same road, with freedom of expression for all tendencies. It grants full autonomy to its local bodies to evaluate under what circumstances and by what means the militants of the RDR may encourage actions for common demands or join with other organizations, with full independence. It desires to be the assemblying force for workers and republicans against the attacks of the neo-fascist RPF and its shock groups.

It will not struggle against Stalinist-communism by borrowing the latter’s methods of calumny and persecution, but by demonstrating to the exploited and the oppressed that the RDR is in their camp and that its ambition is to become their best defender. The RDR will defend democracy, democratic liberties and the possibilities it gives to movements for human emancipation, against all neo-fascist aggressions, but also against that policy which would seek to reproduce in Europe the “Prague coup” and install pseudo-popular democracy.

In defending democracy by all means, the RDR places in the forefront working class and popular action which has, in moments of danger, guaranteed the defense and rebirth of liberty. It denounces as contrary to the elementary rights of democracy the imprisonment of miners for striking, as well as the persecution, arrest and internment of militant people overseas.

Now and forever, the RDR will support, encourage and develop all forces, commencing with and beyond political democracy, which tend to lay the basis for a true economic and social democracy.

It reaffirms once more the fundamental principle which existed at its foundation: there is no complete and real democracy without economic and social revolution; there can be no revolution or socialism possible if essential liberties and man’s elementary dignity disappear.

* * *

(2) Defining the Tasks of the Independent French Left

Note: The following resolution was written by a committee composed of leading RDR comrades (Altman, Dechezelles, Fraisse, Parisot, Rosenthal, Rous and Sartre) and adopted at the RDR national conference almost unanimously, after discussion had taken place.

When, a little more than a year ago, the manifesto for a Revolutionary Democratic’ Regroupment (RDR) was issued, the militants who immediately responded to this appeal could not define what the RDR would be: a mass movement, an organization of militants or groups for experiment and research whose destiny would be to prepare for the revival of those values leading to social emancipation in a broad democratic and working class movement.

Even though they underestimated the difficulties peculiar to their position from the moment they broke with the two power blocs which were struggling for Europe, the first militants of the RDR knew they were involved in a difficult venture. They knew that whatever might be the disaffection of the masses with regard to old formulas arid outdated formations, they would still have to overcome all the particularisms and preconceived ideas to which the workers’ and democratic movement, divided and in retreat, was subject. They knew that the existence of the cold war and the diplomatic, economic and political preparation for a new war was working contrary to their efforts on behalf of a democratic renaissance and tended to stifle these efforts.

The Balance

Now, after one year’s experience, the RDR has made its evaluation of what it is. Revolutionary democracy is an idea whose originality we ourselves must not underestimate. It imposes upon us the task of awakening the consciousness of and educating the masses. Under pressure of adverse forces, it is sometimes difficult to think in terms of such a perspective. Thus, it is not astonishing that, first of all, among intellectual circles and advanced militant workers, those apt to march ahead as scouts, we have carried out our first successes.

Beginning with its first public demonstrations, the RDR awoke a new hope among rather wide left socialist and left Christian groups, as well as trade unionists and militant workers of the extreme left, youth groups and colonial emancipation movements. The political principles of the RDR were revealed as capable of uniting these comrades belonging to tendencies isolated one from the other until then.

All subsequent meetings likewise showed that an attentive audience existed, and that a significant section of militants was accessible to RDR policy. The question was knowing how to win them over, to organize them and, by searching out together with them the means for our struggle, to render its meaning more precise.

In approaching the first national conference of our movement, all its militants are conscious of criticisms demanded by our one year’s experience.

First of all, the RDR has experienced a comparative check in the organization of a real militant collectivity. The RDR has not “capitalized” on its influence by recruiting and organizing militants into groups corresponding to the amplitude of the tasks is proposes.

Although there has been a series of very positive experiences in various regions, the RDR has not yet defined its organizational structure. This lack of a determined internal structure, which arises in a more profound sense from the fact that we are not sure of our form, has given, in certain instances, the impression of an absence of democracy; a serious stumbling block. It is the task of this conference to establish a small number of precise rules normalizing relations between the directing committee and lower bodies, guaranteeing those indispensable means for the movement’s internal democracy and establishing, finally, the responsibility of each body of the movement in common action.

The RDR’s political appearance has been outlined by a few large meetings organized in Paris. Political benefit can be drawn from them only by political cadres, united by a common point of view around several important problems on which we express the aspirations of many people who will be found for a certain period still outside the formal ranks of our movement. In this respect, it must be recognized that the commissions constituted during the RDR’s first months of existence have not fulfilled the role expected of them. It is urgent to form central commissions which shall work to unify and elaborate the political material necessary for propaganda campaigns and political action. This is the condition under which those militants now gathered would be able to appear as the central core around which the participants in demonstrations organized by us could be brought together.

Furthermore, in its attempts to find a wider milieu, the RDR has experienced the limitations of such action, that of its initial principles which its spokesmen have reiterated on each occasion.

Having made these essential criticisms, it must be noted that all experience acquired has made more precise the RDR’s mission as that of an organizing and animating center for different democratic and working class currents coming from the left wing of the MRP and the CFTC (Christian Trade Unions) to the extreme non-Stalinist left, among whom it has awakened many favorable echoes.

The first regrouping of militants brought about by it, its success in rooting itself in some working class and factory sectors, the meetings it has held in the provinces as well as the support given its ideas by Franc-Tireur, seem to be so many means leading toward a wider activity which should make of the RDR the regulating force in democratic life and which must be translated by its being strengthened in those activity sectors where it will work for the coming of a new workers’ democratic and revolutionary movement.

Political Principles of the RDR

In its Directing Committee as well as in various regions, the RDR has realized political unity among elements of different origin which form it. From this standpoint, it has given itself as an example and shown in a practical way the effectiveness of revolutionary democracy. Under these conditions, the first national conference must make precise its organizational rules, its sectors for activity and the mission of its movement.

Principles of liberty and human dignity, linked with the social revolution, have guided the RDR since the first manifesto upon which it was formed.

Recent events have made these reasons only more evident.

While ideological, political, economic and social conflicts today tend to be expressed in strategic terms according to adherence to one or another bloc, the profound meaning of the RDR arises in what we define as opposition to the policy of blocs, and the placing of the interest of the working masses and the emancipation of the workers and peoples above all strategic considerations.

To the proletarians and to all oppressed, to free men, the RDR offers the hope of a future free of war, servitude and exploitation of their labor.

To the capitalist world, it declares that the only worthwhile alternative that can be and must be opposed, is that of socialism, and not the social oppression of the USSR and its assimilated countries.

The RDR declares that it is necessary, possible and urgent to offer in opposition to the Stalinist world and the new exploitation of man by man which it bears, not the maintenance or re-establishment of capitalist exploitation, but the only worthwhile alternative, democracy.

These are the principles upon which the RDR calls proletarians and free men to reassemble. It is in their name that it stands against the front of reaction and neo-fascism gathered in the RPF (de Gaulle), against the economic, social, international and colonial policy of the so- called Third Force government, and against Stalinism which makes use of working class masses and the middle class, their will for social justice and their legitimate anger, for ends which are not theirs.

Immediate Tasks

The RDR is an indispensable element in French political life and already, to a large extent, in international life. Not only because the greatest part of its militants and sympathizers, despite its shortcomings, find in it the only movement to which they can give their support and in which they can continue their militant struggle, but also because it is the only movement capable of defending the traditional values of the revolutionary and democratic left by effectively intervening in public opinion.

Its first task, therefore, is to liven up its confrontments, its discussions, its contact work, its common actions and to advance its theme as a unifying force on the political or trade union plane. The RDR is the uniting vanguard of the democratic left.

In daily action, it supports all general and partial demands of the working masses by injecting them with a revolutionary democratic spirit, too often neglected.

For example, if it demands peace in Indo-China it is not to install in power the party which at present is leading the resistance, but so that the Vietnamese people may democratically determine their social regime, its law and its relations with the French Union, as well as the nature of its relations with France and every other nation. If it supports a strike, it is not to help a particular partisan agitation or a particular strategic plan which it may serve, but so that victory may bring about the just fulfillment of wage demands, and in the conviction that it is the fulfillment of workers’ demands that will remove any basis for political maneuvers as well as reactionary adventures.

In all fields of their activity, militants of the RDR defend freedom of thought and expression against blows from the state, bourgeois conformism, Stalinist monolithicism and fanaticism and sectarianism, which prevents any revival of the workers’ movement.

In the cultural field, the national conference decides that a methodical activity, which might take the form of a popular university, Will be organized with the support of all those intellectuals sympathetic to the RDR.

In the labor field and its struggles, the national conference decides to support all efforts tending to bring together in action the different trade union tendencies and to recreate as close a unity of action as possible between democratic trade union tendencies. The national conference, without intending to fix objectives or slogans proper to this struggle, calls the attention of all militants and friends of the RDR to the urgency of a revalorization of purchasing power by means of collective bargaining, on the basis of a freeing of wages.

In the scholastic field, the national conference confirms the RDR’s secular position and will struggle side by side with the Educational League, trade union and democratic organizations, and groups for secular action, to win advancement for the secular school, beginning with an intensive policy for school construction and equipment.

In the colonial field, the national conference confirms its support to the demands for emancipation by colonial peoples which it explains and interprets throughout France and Europe, and confirms its active participation in the “Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism.”

In the youth field, the national conference decides in favor of a major effort to reassemble democratic cadres for a youth movement, to help them by energizing youth institutions and organizing international youth gatherings.

In the international field, the national conference decides that an important part of RDR activity must be given over to the rapprochement and unification of the European and international left, to the broadest discussion between all its component currents and consequently approves the joining of RDR members in the “Socialist Movement for the United States of Europe.”

General Objectives of the RDR

The RDR, while resolutely undertaking to defend demands common to the working class and democratic left, affirms its essential political uniqueness, not only by insisting at each opportunity upon the practice of democratic liberties, without which there can be no possible progressive political action, but by putting forth its own program.

The RDR states that the condition of existence of the working masses can only be improved by realization of a plan of structural reforms whose general orientation it indicates and which it calls upon all organized tendencies of the labor and democratic movement to elaborate in common in the months to come.

The RDR takes into account the existence of already proposed plans. But, aside from the fact that these plans are the work of this or that movement or tendency and not of any large number of them, the RDR emphasizes as the basis for the plan it proposes to work out in common that it is a matter of working for the modification of economic forms which eventually lead to the end of social exploitation and liberation from economic and social yokes.

Only such a plan, publicly prepared and discussed, can give the working class masses confidence in the effectiveness of their struggle and reawaken the initiative of the democratic forces.

It would seem just as natural to pose before the broadest possible numbers the problem of Europe’s structure, its economic and political unification, the general raising of its living standard and the realization of social democracy.

The national conference empowers the directing committee to make out of this program an essential instrument for the regrouping of anti-capitalist, anti-totalitarian democratic forces for which the RDR works, and the central theme of its propaganda during the next months.

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