Dora B. Montefiore


The Congress of the French Socialist Party at Tours

Source: The Communist, January 6, 1921, p. 5 (1,111 words)
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

I am writing during the second day of the Congress at Tours, and the one fact that stands out, and that seems to overshadow any other subject under discussion, is the fact of the overwhelming majority of votes that have been cast, even in the most remote parts of France in favour of accepting the twenty one points of the Third International. Cachin spoke of it to me as “une majorité écrasante.” But the majority, consisting of the Longuet Centrists and of the Parliamentary Right, are leaving, like whipped and snarling animals, who once held supreme influence, but who see those whom they formerly dominated now in a position to dominate.

I was warned before the Congress began that it would be a Congrès mouvemente, and that the delegates might come to blows; the latter part of this programme has not yet materialised, but the noise, the interruptions, when the whole Congress shouts at the same time, the insults, (more or less good natured) hurled back and forth between the Left and Right. These happen about every ten minutes, and certainly prolong the proceedings. But we have the best part of a week to watch the labour pains of the birth of the Third International in France, and we feel that history is being made, made in the Moscow direction, so our time is not being lost.

The Congress opened at 11a.m. on Christmas day with the singing of the “Internationale” by a charming choir of little children, after which the proceedings commenced with the chairman and two vice-chairmen on the platform. The first question that arose was a proposed change in the Agenda. Reports on the management of “Humanité,” and on the work of the Parliamentary group were down for the first debate, while the discussion on the relations of the Party with the Third International held the second place. Froissard proposed a resolution to take first the debate on the Third International, and after some heated discussion this resolution was carried. Froissard then proposed that in order to throw the fullest light on the whole subject—the most important on the agenda—the delegates from the various provincial federations should each be allowed ten minutes, to explain to the Congress the reasons and the tendencies inspiring the various federation votes, and the results obtained by the propaganda carried on since Strasbourg Congress. These personal reports, it was calculated, would take till Sunday night to deliver, but the Congress voted that they should be heard, and the result has been a most illuminating exposé of the political psychology of the French working class, more especially of the peasants. The outstanding facts show the French peasant, the child of the soil, as almost solidly anti-parliamentarian. He has learnt his lesson, and with the frank logic of the French race, he exclaims; “Enough” of the camouflage of bourgeois ‘reconstruction’ we want revolution, and the shortest way to that appears to us through acceptance of the twenty-one points of the Third International. It was really a privilege to listen to one real expression after the other of the soul of the French workers, betrayed by militarism, by a vile peace, by a futile parliamentarism, but who now intend to stand on their own feet and fight the class war in unison with the awakened proletariat of the world.


Naturally, the outstanding dramatic incident among many dramatic incidents at the Tours Congress was the sudden appearance of our venerable comrade, Clara Zetkin, on the platform on Tuesday afternoon. I had been told in confidence in the morning that she was in the neighbourhood resting, and that it was hoped she would have recuperated sufficiently to appear in the afternoon. In the middle of Froissard’s two-and-half hours’ speech on the question of adhesion to the Third International, the Chairman suddenly announced the arrival of our German comrade, and for twenty minutes she spoke to us on the situation as it exists to-day, she denounced the actions of German Imperialism in invading and destroying Belgium and Northern France, but she also denounced with equal vigour the recent invasion of Russia by Polish troops and the burning of the Cathedral of Kieff, one of the most wonderful and interesting architectural monuments of Europe. Her exit was as sudden as her entrance, for it was a question of not taking any risks. Zetkin has an organically weak heart, and she had to be got away before the police were on the scent.

On Wednesday came the final struggle which was to decide the future of the French United Socialist Party. The actual crude result was, of course, known from the beginning, but it was hoped till the last moment that Paul Faure, Longuet, Verfeuil, and others whose record in the advanced Socialist movement was long and distinguished would sink personal ambitions and adhere to the Communist International. All day Wednesday, and far into the early hours of Thursday morning the battle of words and of gestures raged, until finally, at 1.30 in the morning the decisive vote was taken, the Communist Party was formed, and Longuet and his followers found themselves with no other spiritual home than with their friends of the extreme Right. Although the actions are reversed, our congratulations on the result of the vote, with hopes that the French and British proletariat would march shoulder to shoulder towards the world revolution. My only regret at the moment was that our chairman the result appears to me to be the same as the refusal of the Labour Party to admit our Communist Party to affiliation. In both cases the Centrists and the Right join together while the Communists pursue their propaganda unimpeded by opportunism and reaction.

It was after the vote was taken that I was called upon at 1.45 a.m. to give “les salutations fraternelles” of the Communist Party of Great Britain. I naturally added, Macmanus, was not there in person to speak for the Party, but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie had decided otherwise, and had refused him a passport.

On Thursday evening a most successful women’s meeting was held in one of the large halls of the Town Hall. The seats were filled with genuine working women, and the men stood all round four or five deep. Two Frenchwomen comrades and myself gave the Communist message from different points of view, and every point was intelligently and enthusiastically taken by the audience. The police interviewed me after the meeting, followed me to my hotel, and insisted on seeing that my passport was in order.