1930s >> 1938 >> no-407-july-1938

The Popular Front Splits the French Labour Party

Those who preach the Popular Front place in the forefront of their arguments the gain in unity and strength that would be achieved. They say, very plausibly, that as there is a common need for peace and democracy all parties which attach importance to these objects should get together, even if they associate only in a loose Popular Front electoral arrangement. One fallacy in this argument is the idea that adherents of political parties are so many pawns who can be moved here and there without a will of their own. Experience shows that this is not the case. Party Boss “A” may get together with Boss “B” of a rival party and calculate that 2,000,000 votes plus 1,000,000 votes makes a grand total of 3,000,000, but in practice electors refuse to be added up. Many supporters of the Labour Party, for example, are strongly opposed to the Communist Party and others are equally strongly opposed to the Liberal Party. If an electoral arrangement were to be entered into some of these would simply refuse to vote, or give their votes elsewhere. In other words, most people who attach themselves to a political party do so because they have confidence in that party’s programme, and many of them refuse to be enthusiastic about electoral bargains, at which their votes are bought and sold.


A second weakness, or, rather, a particular aspect of the first, is that unity of the Popular Front kind is a forced and very delicate plant. It will not stand up to the cold winds of failure. Blum, in France, entered office at the head of a Popular Front Government two years ago amid hysterical enthusiasm. After early activity, the first Blum Government and later a second Blum Government faded out. Now a Liberal Government is being kept in office by Labour and Communist votes, and the consequence has been that Blum and his Executive Committee are having difficulty in keeping their own party together. Blum’s present policy of keeping the Liberal Government in office, in spite of his own declaration that members of it are very “reactionary,” was approved by the Party Conference last month only by a comparatively small majority, and one large group have broken away and formed a rival party because they disapprove.