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J. Gerland

Pivert Swaps Courtesies with Gen. De Gaulle

(13 September 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 40, 5 October 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On June 25, Marceau Pivert, emigré leader of the French “Socialist Party of Workers and Peasants” (PSOP) wrote a letter to General De Gaulle, chief of “free” France in London. After hearing the voice of the General on the radio, Pivert could not resist the call, and offered to enroll in the troops of De Gaulle, his only stipulation being to be assigned to a special mission: “revolutionary” propaganda addressed to the German proletariat.

In order to justify his enlistment, Pivert cites the case of a French monarchist who offered his technical knowledge to Lenin to carry on the struggle against the Germans. That a bourgeois forgets for a minute the class borders in view of what he considers his national interest, is indeed an exception rare enough to be worth while mentioning. Fortified by this episodic, exceptional example, Pivert offers General De Gaulle the particles of “revolutionary dynamite” that he thinks he possesses. To make himself more convincing, he declares while presenting his merchandise: “Perhaps it won’t leave you indifferent.” Pivert only forgets that revolutionary “dynamite,” the genuine kind, and not its centrist counterfeit, cannot be peddled retail, from door to door, yesterday to Leon Blum, today to De Gaulle.

Pivert tells us that his aim is to “make an attempt of a political character against the totalitarian powers.” And as Churchill and De Gaulle “have not the slightest authority to take charge of this propaganda,” he comes to their help, he Pivert, who knows how these things are done, and brings them his “revolutionary dynamite”. Here, clearly, is the cynical blueprint of the social-patriots, always ready to consider the revolutionary energy of the workers as a subsidiary force which has to be chained to the chariot of either of the imperialist bandits.

The Stalinists Tried This Too

Perhaps Pivert, with his so “acute sense of reality,” hopes to “use” De Gaulle as a temporary instrument of revolutionary propaganda. We know the outcome of the mode, so dear to the Stalinist rascals in the last years, to “use” some broken reeds of imperialism. As for De Gaulle, Pivert asks him to spread the manifesto of the centrist agency, the International (!) Workers (?) Front, by all the means at the disposal of the General.

What can these means be? Leaflets thrown from British bombing planes, appeals in German over the English radio. It is assured beforehand that the German workers will remain deaf to this propaganda. Revolutionary “dynamite,” that is to say proletarian propaganda, is a formidably powerful explosive mat* ter, but a fragile one. If one drop of chauvinist poison dampens it, this dynamite immediately loses all of its explosive force. One nationalism cannot be disintegrated by opposing to it an adulterated internationalism which bears the mark of another nationalism. If Pivert should obtain some “practical” possibilities from De Gaulle, he would bring to the German workers nothing but an ersatz (substitute) of internationalism, that is to say, the most malignant form of chauvinist poison. Pivert’s appeals, spread with the help of De Gaulle-Churchill, would be an excellent weapon in Hitler’s hands to denounce the collusion of the revolutionary forces and foreign imperialism. Pivert would place the greatest obstacle in the way of the genuine German proletarian propaganda.

Finally, Pivert patiently explains to De Gaulle, probably in order that he repeat it to his friend Churchill, what the real policy of British imperialism should be in order to win the war. It should grant a few democratic reforms to its colonial slaves, and these would support it heartily in its struggle against Hitler and Mussolini. And he who preaches such twaddle calls himself a “revolutionary militant”! Better that he take the title of King’s counsellor in colonial affairs. However, he is so embarrassed playing this role that he declares that his communication “runs the risk of being misunderstood.” It’s really a great pity that Churchill cannot attain an “understanding” of Pivert’s views.

De Gaulle’s “Free” Colonies

The character of General De Gaulle’s organization appears most clearly in the question of the colonies. Before the defeat, France had a colonial empire of sixty million men, that is to say, that for every two Frenchmen there were three colonial slaves submitted to the most rapacious economic exploitation and to the most brutal political oppression. This was the basis of the imperialist “democracy.”

Since the military collapse some colonies have rallied to De Gaulle, leader of “free” France. Exactly what does this “rebellion” mean? Would it be the emancipation of the natives? Cables published in the bourgeois press soon give us the key to the mystery. The British fleet is blockading the coasts of French colonies, commercial relations with the metropole become impossible, thus the imperialist clique in each colony finds itself obliged to look for another “motherland, and turns its eyes towards London, tomorrow towards New York. This emancipation is but a change of address in the mail of the white slave-holders.

A still luminous star attracts to its orbit fragments of extinguished stars. So De Gaulle’s organization, debris of French imperialism, has come to gravitate around London and may gravitate tomorrow around Washington. This is a very clear phenomenon of the mechanics of imperialism. But what can we think of the “revolutionary militant”, wanting to do “what Lenin did in 1917,” partisan of the “revolutionary fraternization,” etc., etc., which comes to teach this debris of French imperialism how he can draw from the colonies “his real reserves of political projectiles”? What an infamous role!

The centrist is always ready to intoxicate himself with radical phrases: proletarian revolution, revolutionary defeatism, etc. That does not cost him very much. But at the first occasion he sinks up to his knees in the swamp of social-patriotism. For many years Pivert tried to teach Leon Blum how to make the proletarian revolution, until Blum finally bored by this chattering, showed him the door. Today Pivert, in quest of another would-be pupil, finds De Gaulle and prepares to give him a few lessons in the method of emancipating colonies and succeeding thus in beating Hitler.

September 13, 1940

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