The Ambassador in France ( Caffrey ) to the Secretary of State 1

No. 291

Owing to the fact that the United States is being subjected increasingly to a world wide propaganda drive under the direction of the Kremlin which is designed to convince peoples everywhere that major American policies are “imperialist” in nature and consequently menace the world, as well as the Soviet Union, with the imminent “danger of war”, we consider it appropriate that an endeavor be made fully to understand the essential conceptions held by Stalin concerning “peace” and war.

The necessity of understanding the Soviet meaning of peace has been provoked by various “peace” congresses, as well as by recent declarations and articles appearing here in Communist publications [Page 636] and especially by the now famous declaration made public by Thorez on February 23, 1949, to the effect that Communists would remain loyal to the Soviet Union should the Red Army be “obliged” to cross the French frontier “in pursuit of the aggressors of the western imperialist block”. It was this declaration which provoked the great debate held in the National Assembly here on February 24 and which was immediately followed by the endorsements of Communist leaders throughout the world.

Actually this declaration was made about two weeks earlier by Thorez at a secret meeting of the Communist Federation of the Seine, namely on February 6, when he made what is undoubtedly the most important speech delivered and made public by any French Communist since the Liberation. The speech was not published until February 26 (in France Nouvelle) owing no doubt to the desire of Moscow that an announcement of such great significance should first be made public at the more important meeting of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party, that is, by the most important body of the strongest Communist Party in Europe.

The Thorez speech, of which a translation is attached herewith,2 reflects the sharp turn to the Left that the French Communist Party has been effecting since the Warsaw (Cominform) Conference of 1947 and which is essentially a revival of the world wide leftist zig-zag ordered by Stalin in 1928 when the Sixth World Congress was held. It was at this Congress that the basic program of the Comintern was established with respect to the strategy and tactics to be followed by Communists throughout the world, especially with regard to the “danger of imperialist war”. Since we have been struck by the close similarities, as well as certain differences, between the Thorez speech of February 6 and the program of the Sixth and Seventh World Congresses of the Comintern, we requested a well-known historian in Paris who participated on the program committee of the Sixth World Congress to furnish his views on the significance of the Thorez speech. We consider that the following observations are a valuable contribution to the understanding of Stalin’s basic conceptions on war, both civil and international, and on “peace”:

[Here follows a comparison of ideological principles and tactics approved by the Sixth and Seventh Congresses of the Communist International (held at Moscow in 1928 and 1935) with positions recently stated by Thorez and other Communist leaders.]

In the speech of Thorez there is a final point that should not be overlooked since it also constitutes a difference between 1928 and 1949. In 1928 France played only a secondary role in Moscow’s political perspective [Page 637] and moreover the French Communist Party was relatively feeble. But by 1935, at the time of the Seventh World Congress, France had been elevated to the first rank. In his efforts to seek counter-assurances to meet eventually the German menace, Stalin thought naturally of those countries which could most easily become the center of an anti-German coalition in case of necessity. It is for this reason that France became the first experimental grounds for the tactics of the Popular Front and that Dimitrov cited the French Communist Party as a model for all other Communist parties. Today France also is considered by Stalin as the key country to gain or to destroy because he knows that without France western Europe cannot organize or defend itself and that Italy and France are the only western European countries with strong Communist parties. It is therefore natural that the declaration on unconditional aid to the Red Army should first come from France and that the chief of the French party should be responsible therefor. In his speech of February 6 Thorez affirms the necessity of “manifesting the decisive position of France” in the European situation and of “wresting it from the imperialist camp” by struggling in every domain, that is, “on the diplomatic, military and armament level.”

It is thus clear that France today is the principal pawn that the Soviet Union intends to play in western Europe and that its policies in the months that follow will be dominated by this strategy.

  1. The action copy, which was sent to the Office of European Affairs, was unsigned; the despatch was drafted by Norris B. Chipman, First Secretary of Embassy at Paris.
  2. Not printed.