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Paddy Wall

De Gaulle’s dilemma

(March 1962)

From Young Guard, No. 7, March 1962, p. 2.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

AMID plastic bomb explosions, murders, kidnapping, police brutality, strikes and demonstrations, the myth of Charles de Gaulle, architect of a stable France, is crumbling. Four years of de Gaulle’s &lquot;Strong State" have failed to find a solution to the problems which divide the French nation. The festering sore of the Algerian situation lingers on.

In Algeria the O.A.S., underground army of right wing extremism, enjoys the support of most of the Colons, especially in Algiers and Oran. The campaign of terror, counter-terror, murder and lynching, as the OAS attempts to cower the muslim population of the cities is of no avail. All the death and mutilation wrought by General Salan and his followers cannot shake the solid support for the F.L.N. show by the Algerian people. For the first time since 1954 the Green and White flag of the Algerian Nationalists is openly paraded in the muslim quarters.

An important section of big business, the section which more than any other supports de Gaulle, wants peace. The war in Algeria costs France over £800 million a year; an army of half a million bas had to be maintained in Algeria. The representatives of the new modernised post-war industries wish to reduce this terrific drain on the resources of the economy. For this reason they are willing to reach an agreement with the F.L.N. and for this reason tired of parliamentary government they supported de Gaulle as the man who could achieve such an agreement.

The reactionary officers of the French army have a burning hatred of the working class, a hatred nurtured by successive defeats in Asia and Africa. Defeats which they blame on the “softness” arising from the democratic rights of the French people. Over the bones of the workers’ organisations this French equivalent of the Gestapo seek to establish a fascist regime in France. An agreement with the Algerian Nationalists could well be the signal for an uprising on the lines of the Franco revolt in 1936.

Facism is not popular today even with big business, yet it remains a reserve weapon to use against the working class, for this reason it is impossible for de Gaulle to deal effectively with the O.A.S. and its sympathisers in the establishment. Self-confessed torturers are acquitted by an army court martial, 8 demonstrating workers are killed by police thugs, right wing politicians escape from jail almost at will.

The Labour Movement in France has been repeatedly betrayed by its leaders – from the sell out of the sit-down strikes in 1936 to the massacre of 40,000 Algerians in Constantine in 1945, by orders of a government which included socialists and Communists. The French Socialist Party voted for increased war credits at the outbreak of the Algerian war, the communist deputies abstained from voting.

The workers have slowly recovered their strength and confidence, the recent strikes and demonstrations give proof of this. Learning from experience a new leadership can be built, based on a clear socialist programme and a recognition that one cannot fight bullets with resolutions of protest. For one thing every worker clearly understands what fascism means, even some of the less backward of the leaders may have learnt this lesson from history and this fact in itself can give a new impetus to a regrouping of the French left.

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Last updated: 5 October 2020