How the Cold War Started in France

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Following the end of WWII and the death of President Roosevelt in the US, newly elected President Truman (and the out of office Winston Churchill) were powerless to prevent the British working class democratically voting in a Socialist Labour Party that instigated Revolutionary reforms in the UK very similar to the free medical and welfare systems existing in the Soviet Union. However, Truman and Churchill would ensure that there would be no ‘United Socialist States of Europe’ as proposed by Labour, as the most efficient means to re-build a shattered Europe and re-distribute the available wealth and resources fairly throughout the populations. In this regard, Churchill’s 1946 ‘Iron Curtain’ speech may be viewed as the official start of the US-fabricated Cold War, the purpose of which was to turn the working class of Europe a) against Socialism and b) against the Soviet Union (and the Communist Bloc). France was a very interesting case, as the Communists had formed the effective backbone of the wartime Resistance, and with barely any assistance from the UK, had waged a guerilla war against the collaborating forces of the Vichy Government and the occupying Nazi German forces (leading to the deaths of thousands of volunteers). The French Resistance was vital in the darkest hours of Nazi German executions and deportations, and the Communist Party of France gained a very good reputation amongst many sectors of the French population. Indeed, so well liked were the Communists that De Gaulle was forced by the weight of public opinion to defy Churchill and appoint Communists (who had won a substantial share of the vote) into high office after the war. What happened next is quite extraordinary in that the inversion of history can be clearly discerned through carefully assessing the history of France.

At the end of 1954, the British journalist Alexander Werth received a publisher’s circular from New York that eulogized a book written by the British traitor Sisley Huddleston (1883-1952) entitled ‘France: The Tragic Years (1939-47). Although the British captured and hanged ‘Lord Haw Haw’ (James Joyce), strangely, the same treatment was not meted-out to Sisley Huddleston who fully supported the Nazi German invasion of France, gained Vichy Citizenship and employed anti-Allied propaganda even after the D-Day Landings (which he opposed). Although temporarily imprisoned by the French Resistance in 1944, he was released unharmed and not arrested by the Allies, despite his continued pro-fascist output. Indeed, his pro-fascist output in the name of anti-Communism probably explains why he received very different treatment to the American-Irishman James Joyce. The example of Sisley Huddleston is important as it marks the appearance in the English language of what might be described as the first Cold War myth which stated that the Communist Resistance in France murdered around 100,000 French Citizens out of reprisals for alleged collaboration. Whilst imprisoned in 1944, Sisley Huddleston penned his bizarre book entitled ‘Terreur’. This was at the same time that he was kept safe from the fighting, and received scarce supplies of food and water from his ‘Communist’ captives. Sisley Huddleston claimed that the real ‘collaborators’ with fascism were the Communists who then accused and murdered innocent French people! I suspect that this is the first Cold War lie discernible within the narrative history of post-WWII.

Alexander Werth lived in France both before and after WWII (spending the war years with the Soviet Red Army as BBC correspondent). He could read, write and speak French fluently, and as an esteemed British academic he was able to thoroughly investigate and expose this Cold War lie for the nonsense it truly is. Of course, the association of the ‘myth’ of Communism and ‘mass killing’ would be further used by the US to demonize the Soviet Union (and the Communist Bloc), and Alexander Werth would spend much of his time debunking this disinformation through the process of providing hard historical data to counter this developing ‘pseudo-history’. This thinking eventually led to President Bill Clinton authorising the construction of a statue in a Washington park – bizarrely dedicated to the fictitious ‘victims’ of Communism (Although the statue would not unveiled until 2004 under George Bush Jr). What is particularly duplicitous about this aspect of US Cold War manipulation of public opinion, is that Bill Clinton spent time in the Soviet Union in his youth, as a means to avoid being conscripted into the US Army and sent to Vietnam (also taking part in anti-Vietnam War protests in the UK), but I digress.

Within French language sources (outside of Sisley Huddleston who wrote his disinformation in French), Alexander Werth traces the perpetuation of this fake story to one M Paulhan, a former member of the Resistance turned anti-Resistance. According to this turn-coat (in a pamphlet published in 1952), the Communist-led Resistance executed 60,000 French people without trial. When asked where he got this figure from, M Paulhan stated that it was from a report issued by the historical section of General Eisenhower’s headquarters. This ‘report’ estimated that in the Mediterranean sector of France alone, there were 50,000 summary executions in 1944. This falsification was repeated two years later in the ‘American Mercury’ (of April, 1946), with no evidence backing-up its assumptions. M Paulhan also claimed that the figure of 105,000 people had been shot and that he received this information from M Tixier’s staff at the time (M Tixier was Minister for the Interior). Although no one in France could recall any mass murders being carried-out by the Communist Resistance (as opposed to the very real mass murders and deportations carried-out by the Nazi German invaders), the Ministry of Justice (bowing to intensified US pressure) issued a statement to the nation which advised that the Government of France was willing to compensate the families of those summarily shot – but to their embarrassment only a few hundred came forward – all relatives of hardened criminals and well-known collaborators! Still unperturbed by this lack of material evidence, the rightwing Government of Pinay in 1952 held four debates (or fact-finding missions) to ascertain the facts, but the only number that could be proven as historical for people executed either during or after the war was 10,000 (a number already discerned by the Prefects in 1948). Of these 5,234 were carried-out before Liberation, and 3,114 after Liberation (without trial). A further 1,325 executions were passed after Liberation following ad hoc tribunals. This number was also quoted (and accepted) by M Bidault (in 1952).

It seems that the defeated Vichyites were trying to divert attention away from their own collaboration with fascism and the fact they did nothing to prevent the mass execution of French Citizens by the Nazi German occupiers, or attempt to block the mass deportations to Nazi German Death Camps, etc. What many do not remember today is that the Vichy established its own Death Camps in North Africa, within which untold numbers perished in the most terrible of conditions. Since 1952, as the US domination of France (and Europe) strengthened, the French conservatives (comprised in part of ex-Vichyites) made it their mission to re-write history and falsely state that the Communist Resistance and Free French Forces were all cut-throats and murderers. The US ideologues extended this rhetoric to include all Communists everywhere, and this is the prevailing (mainstream) narrative today. It is entirely a product of a US-derived disinformation programme designed to protect the middle classes and the highly exploitative capitalist economic system they prefer and perpetuate.

Reference:

Werth, Alexander, France: 1940-1955, Robert Hale, (1956), Pages 284-290

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