This book, or pamphlet to be correct, gives a wonderful insight into the way a communist party should act under occupation. The manifesto itself was written inside occupied France and widely distributed at the risk of certain torture and death, if caught, for those who distributed it. This was not simply because of the obvious ideological differences that the Nazi occupiers and their Vichy government puppets had with the communists but because the Manifesto was an inspiring call to arms to all French people to resist and defeat the forces of occupation and the traitorous Vichy fifth columnists.
Pollitt explains: “There were some of little faith who said: ‘Wait; wait till our allies come!’ This trend of thought was encouraged, unfortunately, by advice from outside France. How often have we listened to talks over the Radio saying: ‘Don’t waste your forces; wait! You will be told when to strike.’ It is clear from all that has happened during the last three years that had such advice been seriously heeded, France would by now have been a nation of helots, completely under the heel of the Nazi jackboot.
“Fortunately, another and wiser advice was given. It is to the eternal honour of the Communist Party of France that its voice was the first to call for resistance inside France.” (Page 3)
The French communists played an active leading role in the resistance movement. According to Pollitt some “ten thousand of its adherents have given their lives for France”, taking part in, and inspiring, actions including bombings, assassinations, and sabotage, which on occasion could lead to the deaths of innocent bystanders. The resistance fighters of France recognised, however, that the alternative of doing nothing, or of criticising the occupation in words while condemning the resistance for bloodshed, would ultimately lead to much more suffering and would serve only the interests of the occupiers and their lackeys.
The French CP did everything possible to unite all the forces in France under the aim of expelling the occupiers and punishing the traitors. They did not shy away from working with those of a religious disposition either: “The French Communist Party, although its philosophy is completely divorced from all religious beliefs, had, through its General Secretary, Maurice Thorez, extended the hand of friendship to the catholics; and the idea of unity of all Frenchmen, despite all barriers, was gathering strength in the hearts of all our countrymen.” (Page 7)
This was a party that led from the front, showed others that the occupation of German fascism could be fought and so gathered all those opposed to the occupation behind it in armed people’s war. Both the forces of occupation and the Vichy traitors tried all kinds of slanderous campaigns to try to shake the French people’s support for the communists – and therefore for the resistance.
Compare this with the situation today in Iraq. Neither the Anglo-American occupiers nor their puppet Allawi Government bother to slander the Iraqi Communist Party because that party, by condemning the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people, places itself on the side of the imperialist aggressors, despite any claims to the contrary.
Such was the courage, organisation and following of the French CP that General de Gaulle wrote to their Central Committee on 10 February 1943 saying: “The arrival of Fernand Grenier [who had been sent by the French CP as delegate to the French National Committee] and the support of the Communist Party for the National Committee which he brought me in your name, the putting at my disposal, as Commander in Chief of the French forces, of the valiant Francs-tireurs whose bands you have formed and inspired – these are all signs of the unity of France, and a renewed proof of your will to contribute to the liberation and greatness of our country.” He finished the letter by stating: “I know that Fighting France can count upon the Communist Party of France.” (Page 13)
This, then, was a communist party in a country under occupation that led the fight to resist and expel the occupiers. Not reams of words combined with inaction; not equal condemnation of the occupation and those who resist it, which only supports the status quo, ie, the forces of occupation, as the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and the Iraqi Federation of Trades Unions (IFTU) have done today. Not for them the ploy of taking part in sham elections held under the shadow of the guns of the occupation forces as the collaborationist Iraqi Communist Party is in favour of.
The Communist Party of France during the Nazi occupation earned and deserved the respect of all true communists and it was right and proper that the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) gave them that deserved support. But again, contrast this with today, when the misnamed Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and its ‘independent’ organ, the Morning Star, openly supports the collaborators of the equally misnamed Iraqi Communist Party and the IFTU.
The 1943 French Manifesto lays out the three main aims that anyone under occupation, let alone self-declared communists, should be working for:
“(a) To free the soil of France from the invader.
“(b) To punish all traitors.
“(c) To assure to the people of France the right to choose their own government.”
Both the ICP and the CPB have sullied the name communist and neither of them are fit to bear the title – they have become nothing but sidekicks of imperialism.