Leon Blum (1872-1950) was a prominent leftwing politician in France, who occupied a number of important political posts over a number of decades. He described himself as a ‘Socialist’ but remained steadfastly opposed to the Soviet Union and the Third International called by Lenin in 1919. His attitude appears to be a cross between the defunct Second International (which disgraced itself in 1914 by calling upon its worldwide working-class membership to return to its respective countries and fight against one another for their bourgeois overlords) and an emerging ‘Trotskyism’. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Leon Blum was a leading light in ensuring that France refused to support the democratically elected Socialist (Republican) government which was under attack by the fascist insurgency of General Franco and his Nazi German and Fascist Italian allies. As a French Jew, the puppet ‘Vichy’ government of France handed him over to their Nazi German allies, where he was promptly imprisoned in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp (where he suffered with millions of other Soviet POWs, Jews from all other Europe, homosexuals and disabled, etc). This experience appears to have softened his stance upon the Soviet Union (according to British journalist Alexander Werth who know him as a friend), but in reality his attitude was still generally of a derogatory nature, stating a continuous stream of untruths about Communism that any CIA field office would have been proud to have produced. (Alexander Werth states that after WWII Leon Blum conceded that the Soviet System HAD NOT corrupted the Russian character – as he had once asserted).
In 1946, he was sent as the representative of the tripartite government of France to the USA (indeed, he was the President of the Provisional Government and Minister of Foreign Affairs), where he would lobbied for more US Aid in re-building a shattered France. One of the issues for discussion was the developing hostile attitude of America toward the USSR, and how the British Labour Party was supporting this position in the UK. Whilst the in-power British Labour Party was busy internally mimicking the Welfare State and Socialised Medical System of the Soviet Union, its politicians were actively assisting an out of power Winston Churchill (and President Truman) begin the process of linking US Aid to an a priori ‘hostile’ attitude toward the USSR. The problem Leon Blum had with this position was that many in France understood that it was the French Communists who had resisted the Nazi German invaders, and the sacrifices of the Soviet Red Army which had allowed a Western allied force to successfully storm the beaches of Western France. France had to be persuaded that it must change its position toward the Soviet Union if it were to expect any more US Aid.
When visiting Washington in 1946 (to meet with Fred Vinson – Secretary of the Treasury) Leon Blum had been asked about the possibility of the French Socialists joining an anti-Communist coalition, the first act of which would be the ousting of French Communists from within the democratically elected French government. Of course, any such actions within a liberal, democratic State would constitute illegality of the highest order, and this US request appears to have been an attempt at a ‘regime change’ in France. When interviewed by M Jean Davidson (a reporter for AFP the French news agency), he was asked to define the situation he (and France) faced whilst negotiating with the Americans. Leon Blum replied:
‘But…you surely must know that there are two ways of understanding Marxism. Russian Communism is trying to capture and monopolize it with a view to setting up a tyrannical dictatorship. I am convinced that, thanks to our agreement with the United States, we shall be able to avoid a Russian invasion, which would be a real catastrophe for Western Europe, and, secondly, prepare, slowly but surely, a revolution towards real Marxism. We can use the Americans for that purpose. Numerous American diplomats with whom I have spoken are sure that Socialism can become the best rampart against Communism in Europe. Only it is all a matter of very delicate handling…’ Davidson replied, ‘You realise…that the Americans who talk of Socialism as a rampart against Communism in Europe, hope in reality that Socialists like you will, above all, form a rampart against Marxism as such – don’t you think so?’ Davidson continues in his account that at this point Leon Blum looked very tired and suffered a coughing fit which ended the interview.
To what extent Leon Blum had become corrupted by Trotskyism in 1946 is open to debate, but all the usual hallmarks are present despite Trotsky’s 1938 call to his ‘Socialist’ followers to unite with the fascists and assist in the destruction of the Soviet Union. This Trotskyite policy certainly made it easier for the Nazi Germans to initiate the holocaust against European Jewry – and imprison such people as Leon Blum. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that even after experiencing a Nazi German Concentration Camp, and meeting Soviet POWs confined therein, Leon Blum would not alter his bourgeois perception of the USSR. He even persisted after the war in his negative viewpoints, despite his life being saved by the Red Army assault on Nazi Germany, an act which allowed the US forces to ‘Liberate’ the Concentration Camp he was held in! What people like Leon Blum did (which may be counted as his lasting legacy), was to help the spread of US imperialism and assist in a) the destruction of European Socialism, and b) the eventual collapse of the USSR. He and his ilk also laid te foundation for the European Union.
Alexander Werth: France 1940-1955, Robert Hale, (1956), Pages 314-315