The growth of Fascism in France, handicapped by the failure of its leaders to seize their opportunities, nevertheless is a source of great concern to the believers and defenders of democracy and to the Left. It resulted in the last elections in a “united front” of Communists and Socialists which accounted for surprising Communist gains.
Since the municipal elections. France has gone through another Parliamentary crisis, resolved, for the time at least, by the establishment of the Laval government. A state of tension, however, strongly remains, partly due to the spread of many rumors as to the intentions of the Croix de Feu, the only important Fascist organization.
The Croix de Feu, under the leadership of Col. de la Rocque, now numbers about 250,000 members. It has lately been most active in a series of giant rallies in France and North Africa. The Left has been most vocal in its alarms over the organization’s fleet of thirty airplanes which participated in the Algiers Fascist rally. The organization, apparently, is well-financedâ€”according to the Communist papers by the leading French industrialists.
The Croix de Feu, unlike the Camelots du Roi, are not openly anti-Semitic. Col. de la Rocque has been at pains to deny that the organization is anti-Semitic, recently sending a delegation to participate in services for Jewish war dead. The organization, however, is treated by the Jews with much reserve, since many of its members are known to harbor anti-Jewish feelings.
The growth of the Croix de Feu and the increasing talk of dictatorship have been largely responsible for one significant development in French politics in recent weeksâ€”the broadening of the Socialist-Communist “united front” into a “popular front” including the left-wing Radicals and the bourgeois elements. Among the names now to be associated with this movement are M. Deladier, Radical leader, and Leon Blum, the Socialist spokesman in the Chamber.
At a recent rally of anti-Fascist forces, M. Deladier, speaking for his party, stressed the need of cooperation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. M. Blum, speaking for himself rather than his party, expressed the conviction that the anti-Fascist forces would have to assume the duties of the government in order to secure France against Fascism. The Socialist party, he said, would support an anti-Fascist government.
Meanwhile, Premier Laval has announced to the Chamber his intentions with regard to the renewed Fascist activities. Referring to the recent rallies of the Croix de Feu and the fears expressed that the French Republic was in danger, he declared that existing legislation was sufficient to cope with any danger in this regard and the government “would know how to enforce respect of existing laws.”
“Democracy,” he declared, “can defend itself only by showing its authority. The government is responsible for law and order and alone holds authority in the country. It will not allow this authority to be weakened and will defend the democratic institutions in the Republic against such attempts.
“No individual or group of individuals can claim sovereignty. The army has the high and noble mission of defending the country’s security and the government from all intimidations.”
Laval warned also against attempts to bring the army into the political sphere as the anti-Fascists claim de la Rosque has been attempting to do through his personal associations with high army officials.
The premier has also promised that the Croix de Feu will not be allowed to interfere with the great anti-Fascist demonstration throughout all of France on Bastille Day, July 14. The Fascist planes will not be allowed to fly over the Communist suburbs.
The demonstrations are being spnsored by the “popular front” which has issued an “appeal to the people of France” to unite in the face of the Fascist menace and defend the French democratic republic.
The proclamation states:
“On July 14, 1781, the people of France destroyed the Bastille and revealed liberty to the world. One hundred and fifty years of continuous effort and four revolutions have enabled them to keep and strengthen their gains. We appeal to you to take up again the great revolutionary tradition which makes of July 14 a day of memory and hope.
“Today an armed Fascist organization is trying to storm the Republic and to destroy liberty. A great conspiracy is on foot to strike down democracy and replace the rule of the majority by the dictatorship of two hundred feudal families….
“Since 1789 every defeat of the people was caused by a lack of unity. Neighboring democracies have been crushed because they were unable to unite against the common enemy.
“We swear to remain united, to defend democracy, and to disarm and dissolve the Fascist leagues. We swear on the day which marks the first victory of the Republic to defend the democratic liberties that the people of France have won, to give bread to the workers, work to the young generation, and a great human peace to the world.”
As Premier Laval declared before the Chamber, the existing political agitation in France is the result of the economic situation. The economic situation is also the fundamental basis of the wave of intense nationalism which has swept