The marking of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, the prelude to the liberation of France, presents an opportunity to make available two brief texts on the role of the Stalinists in the resistance.
The first comes from the extremely interesting short book Internationalists in France During the Second World War by Pierre Lanneret, valuable not only for its account of the French left under Occupation, but its immigrant’s view of the American left in the 1960s. Lanneret emmigrated to the U.S. from France (via Quebec) in 1958.
The second excerpt comes from a review by Boris Souvarine of Stalin and the French Communist Party—1941-1947 by Alfred J. Rieber that appeared in The Russian Review in 1963. Souvarine, author of an excellent biography of Stalin, was a founder of what became the French Communist Party.
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Internationalists in France During the Second World War (excerpt)
by Pierre Lanneret
Phoenix Press, London, 1994.
Historians still disagree on the number of summary executions which took place in France in 1944, with figures ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 or more (as advanced by the partisans of Vichy). It is beyond doubt that the Stalinist partisans liquidated a good number of political enemies in the areas they controlled. After having seen the Stalinists at work in Spain and elsewhere, one legitimately could have feared a reign of terror against the revolutionaries.
In fact, revolutionaries were murdered by the Stalinists, but the exact number is unknown, and full investigation of the crime was impossible under the political climate of the time. In October, 1943, five Trotskyists were among the 90 inmates of the Puy jail who were freed by a partisan raid. Four of them, Sadek, Reboul, Salini and the well-known Italian militant Pietra Tesso (Blasco), disappeared after their liberation. In Paris, a young militant of L’Union Communiste, Mathier Bucholz, was kidnapped, tortured and executed in September, 1944. Other Trotskyists were murdered in Paris and the provinces, as were also some Spanish anarchists and militants of the POUM in Southern France where Spanish Stalinists operated. (1)
Still, these crimes do not represent a “reign of terror.” In the chaotic atmosphere of the liberation the liquidation of the Trotskyist leadership would have been an easy task for the execution squads of the CP who had performed more difficult deeds. On the contrary, an historian mentions the liberation by the Stalinist Marrane of a group of Trotskyists arrested in Paris. (2)
This may suggest that the executions were due to local initiatives and that the CP had other priorities at the time.
(1) Dazy Rene, Fusillex ces Chiens enragés—le génocide des trotskistes, Ed. Orban, March 1981.
(2) Henri Denis, Le Comite Parisien de la Liberation, Paris, 1963, quoted in Peter Novick’s The Resistance versus Vichy, Columbia University Press, New York, 1968. No corroboration of this incident has been found in the Trotskyists’ literature or elsewhere.
Excerpt from a review by Boris Souvarine of Stalin and the French Communist Party—1941-1947
Furthermore, the French Communists played only an insignificant role in the real Resistance. They made a lot of noise, propaganda, smoke and steam to enhance their importance. In Mr. Rieber’s book, their role is exaggerated, while that of the Secret Army is almost forgotten. This is perhaps in part due to the limitations imposed by the title of the book, but is undoubtedly due to lack of discrimination in the utilization of the “source” materials. One example will suffice to demonstrate the value of certain “sources,”—the one about which the Communists have made such a to-do according to which 75,000 Communists were shot. When one draws up the list of names published by l’Humanite there are exactly…176, among whom many were by no manner of means Communists (cf. Paul Viret, Les 75,000 fusillés communistes, Paris, n.d.). All of the Communist claims are of like sort.