The Rise of Paris
By Robert Ballanger
Paris Resistance Fighter & Communist Leader 1945
FOREWORD by Ted Bramley
Secretary, London District Committee, Communist Party.
This is a story that will stir the blood and fire the imagination of every Londoner who reads it. It is the story of the people of
It is a first-hand description of history in the making, told by one of the people who helped to make it—a leader of the Paris Resistance Movement, Robert Ballanger.
A metal worker by trade, not more than 32 years old, the Secretary of the District Committee of the Paris West Communist Party, and member of the Joint Committee of the Communist and Socialist Parties, Ballanger worked -and fought in the front ranks of the people of
We give you this story just as he told it. The facts will speak for themselves. The rich experience, the valuable political lessons will be quickly grasped. Running -like a red thread throughout is the service rendered to the people of
We see how it strove to have Paris transformed into a fortress against the onrushing Germans in 1940; how it raised the banner of resistance in the blackest days; how its best leaders were taken to concentration camps and never faltered, even when hostages were executed; and how it rejected any idea of a truce with the Germans and reached its triumph when all Paris responded to its slogan:
"TO THE BARRICADES—PICK YOUR OWN GERMAN." -
No wonder with the record of such service for and with the people, it should have become the greatest Party in
To the Londoner who reads this story, I say—if this message means anything to you at all, you will want to join the Communist Party in
If you are already a member of the Communist Party, one conclusion above all others you are bound to draw, and that is that you will not want to rest by night or by day until you have gone out among your neighbours, your friends, and your workmates to convince one, two, a dozen or more that their place is with you inside the Communist Party. With 50,000 to 100,000 organised Communists in
This is a translation of the speech given by Robert Ballanger, Fraternal Delegate from the Paris Communist Party to the Congress of the London Communist Party on
It was with great pleasure that the Paris District Committees of the French Communist Party accepted your fraternal invitation. I bring greetings of all the Communists or the Pans region. I am sure that I am interpreting the feelings of every inhabitant of the capital of my country, in bringing to the citizens of your great martyred city the expression of our loyal and sincere friendship.
We are both faced with the same stubborn, cruel and bestial enemy—Hitler Fascism. Ever since 1933 our leader, our great comrade, Maurice Thorez, warned us of this peril and exposed the true face of Hitlerism. With clear foresight, he called upon all men who treasured Justice and liberty to stand together and combat the danger with threatened all free peoples.
Hitlerism was the hope of all the forces of reaction and when in our country, thanks to the wonderful rallying of our people during the memorable days of February, 1934, we checked the French Fascists, they turned towards Hitler, calling on him for help and support, and prepared to surrender, our country
to German Hitlerism. What they could not do to our country by themselves, they hoped to achieve by delivering
From that time onwards, the French Communists have been in the forefront of the struggle to defend our motherland threatened by the Hitlerite Fascists and their accomplices the Fascist Fifth Columnists, the Deats, the Doriots, the Lavals, the Bonnets, the de la Rocques and others.
I need not enumerate the various stages: the refusal to apply sanctions against
At that time, at the very moment when the Hitlerite hordes were advancing on Paris, our Central Committee, hunted by the police, threatened with the guillotine, made concrete proposals for transforming the character of the war, to turn it into a national war for independence and liberty, by freeing the imprisoned militant workers, by immediately arresting the swarms of enemy agents working in the Government and Ministries, and by arming the people to make Paris an impreg-
But these proposals were turned down and
This was a very difficult period for both our countries. We place on record our great appreciation, our admiration, our gratitude for the glorious Red Army which, by its heroism, its sacrifices, its strength, the warlike ardour of the Soviet people,
the military and political genius of their great leader. Marshal Stalin, alone held in check the Hitlerite armies, shattered the might of the proud Wehrmacht, and in three years of gigantic battles, killed or put out of action 9 million Hun soldiers and destroyed 70,000 aeroplanes and 60,000 tanks.
THANKS TO THE SOVIET
Thanks to the Soviet people, thanks to the Russian Bolshevik Party, the backbone of
Today, one single all-essential task faces all peoples, the destruction of Hitlerite Fascism, and this can only be achieved by fighting the war to a victorious and speedy conclusion.
At our Paris District conferences, we examined these problems and studied the best means of mobilising the people of Paris to build up a powerful national Army, to keep our great Paris engineering factories going, to enable our country to play an ever-growing part at the side of our Allies, because we want a strong, united, well-armed French army to march to Berlin alongside our American and English allies.
Yes, we want to fight so that we may restore our country to its rightful place as a great, free and independent nation. We want to fight with all our strength to wipe out that hideous disease called Fascism. We want to smash it in
We have suffered cruelly in this war: our towns, our villages, our factories have been devastated—1,100,000 of our houses have been destroyed You, too, have paid a heavy tribute in this war. The Hitlerite savages have vented their fury on your capital, but the mourning and the ruins, far from having under-mined us have, on the contrary, aroused us to fresh efforts We are absolutely determined to destroy Hitlerite barbarism once and for all. We are prepared to accept still further sacrifices for the complete crushing of
A TERRIBLE HATRED
Yes, we want to fight because we have in our hearts a terrible hatred against the Nazi barbarians who, for four years plunged our country into a blood-bath; we have this-hatred because for four years we have known the really terrible face of Fascism
One must have lived under this dictatorship to realise the crimes which are perpetuated by the Hitlerite soldiery. The tacts are so horrible that they surpass the imagination. I am sure that our comrades in Allied countries who have not known German occupation find it difficult to believe that the tales of the horrible Hitlerite crimes are in fact true.
In fact it: is difficult to believe the widespread massacres of millions of men, women and children in Soviet Russia, in
I want to describe to you some of the terrible crimes committed in our country by these savage beasts.
During the four years of occupation, 150,000 Frenchmen were tortured and shot. Of these 75,000 were from the Paris Region, and of these 60,000 were members of our Party.
A few eye-witness accounts will illustrate the degree of bestial cruelty of these killers far better than general statements.
The underground fighters who fell into the hands of the
the treatment inflicted on our comrades. I wish to insist that what I am going to describe was not exceptional but, on the contrary, it was the general rule of what happened to every patriot, every Communist fighter, who fell into the hands of the quisling police or the Boche.
A comrade was placed on his stomach, his hands and feet chained, then put into presses. His limbs, especially his feet, were completely deformed.
Another had on his buttocks wounds which bled so much that the blood came through his trousers and his back was in the same state. The next morning they took him into another room to recommence the same tortures as those inflicted on the previous day.
BEATEN FOR FIVE HOURS
A young worker at the police station at St. Denis was beaten with truncheons for five consecutive hours by eight police officers until his lung collapsed.
A patriot was tied stark naked to a table for 26 hours while police officers, in relays, beat him up with electrified truncheons.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the forms of torture inflicted. One of the most usual methods was to submerge our comrades first into an ice-cold bath and then into a boiling hot one. Another which was often used consisted in giving electric shocks to the most sensitive parts of the body. Finger-nails and toe-nails were often pulled out and the teeth of prisoners broken.
Very often tortures, which lasted for 8 to 10 days, resulted in the death of those tortured.
"MORROWS OF SONG"
These brutes wanted, by the odious treatment inflicted on our comrades, to force them to give information which would have led to further arrests, but the comrades remained silent.
The most terrible tortures brought nothing to these butchers but the disdainful silence of their victims. Our Party is proud to have given to
But they were not content to torture and shoot patriots active in the struggle: in their unrestrained savagery they massacred entire populations of peaceful citizens such as at Asq, at St. Claude, Oradour sur Glane and many other place which are now no longer villages of France—villages which were once so full of life, of joy and of prosperity, but are now heaps of ruins, horrible slaughter houses.
And these are not isolated cases: scenes equally atrocious took place in tens and hundreds of villages of
Our boys of the Maquis were tortured, and very often before being shot their eyes were gouged out, their limbs broken. The Hitlerite brutes trained strong-arm men recruited by Vichy, the Darnand militia, and criminal police agents, who assisted the Nazi torturers and sometimes attempted to be even more cruel,
showing in this way that Fascism is the most extreme expression of cruelty, of sadism and of the most primitive barbarism.
And it was in these conditions that our struggle took place—a hard struggle, a terrible struggle, a struggle strewn with the corpses of our martyrs. Yes, the French people as a whole have paid a heavy price in the war against Nazism, and it is the sum total of these sacrifices which today enables us to demand our
place as a great power by the side of the other great nations.
It is to the eternal glory of the French Communist Party that it was the first to call for struggle against the Hitlerite invaders within
In July, 1940, in a manifesto signed by Maurice Thorez, and Jaques Duclos, secretaries of our Party, we declared: "
Our hopes for national liberation and social well-being lie in the hands of the common people. Our working class, proud, militant, confident, courageous, will be the mainspring of the Liberation Front for the independence and re-birth of
And so General de Gaulle was not alone when he spoke in
We rejected the cowards and those with a wait-and-see policy. We rejected them because we were determined that our motherland should again become a great, free and independent nation and because we knew that independence cannot be won by passively awaiting help from outside, but that it can only be won in struggle. We are a proud and free people and we intend to remain so.
I should like to say a few words about the main stages of our struggle, the struggle which came to its climax with the magnificent national insurrection and especially with the Great Parisian uprising which enabled the people of
This insurrection was the fruit of four years of incessant struggle and, as our Comrade Benoit Frachon stated in an article in our illegal Humanite:—
" It was first of all necessary for us to reject the false notion that national insurrection would just happen one fine day by order of some committee or other, and until that day came we should sit around doing nothing, on the fallacious pretext of not wasting our forces. Those who defend this conception, which can only result in demoralisation, show a complete lack of understanding of the problems of national insurrection."
From July, 1940, our comrades formed Popular Committees to take the place of the Trade Unions, which had collapsed. These Committees organised the workers and called on them to take strike action for their demands.
It was the Michels, the Timbaults, the Poulmarchs, the Granets, who were later shot at Chateaubriant, who were the organisers of these first movements.
After that, dozens of strikes took place. Thanks to these Strikes hundreds of thousands of hours were lost to Nazi arms production and every day, thanks to this incessant struggle, the fighting capacity of our factory workers developed.
THE FIRST DEMONSTRATIONS
It was in response to our calls to the people that the first mass demonstrations, drawing in all sections of the population, took place in
On July 14 and
The Boches were afraid. They retreated before the people of
Further demonstrations were held on July 14 and
Each year these demonstrations of the people of
They were so many blows struck at the accursed Germans and their
During these four years we called for 'the unity of the whole French nation, for the unity of all patriots without distinction of opinion, because we knew that only by the complete unity of every possible French patriot could our country be saved.
It is to our Party that falls the honour of having formed the first group of Francs-Tireurs and partisans (F.T.P.F.). These F.T.P.F. have written one of the most glorious pages in the history of our country. Cowards shouted: "Stop! If you
continue your attacks against the Germans, French hostages will be shot." These eo-wards hid behind theoretical arguments in an attempt to bring our struggle to an end and to force us to take refuge in passivity, which would have, in fact, meant the final capitulation of
shall be free and independent." And we therefore fought strenuously. At first alone, then little by little the patriots joined us in the struggle, and it, was the first struggles of the F.T.P.F. which led to the formation of the French Forces of the Interior. This vast army, without uniform, made up of patriots of all opinions, conducted the most murderous fight against the Occupation forces under the most difficult conditions.
We fought without arms, because we had no arms. The men of the Trusts who, id their hearts, fear the people, prevented the few arms that were dropped by parachute from getting into the hands of the men who were fighting. They preferred to give them to the cowards,-the " wait-and-seers," who were building up depots for D-Day, depots which regularly fell into the hands of the enemy, while only too often our comrades succumbed because they were unarmed. In our Paris Region specially the struggle was difficult because we never received arms.
The first German officers to be killed were killed with improvised arms. It was with hammers that our courageous fighters struck down the first Nazis, in order to take their revolvers from them. What more striking example can be given of the fighting ardour of the people than the example of our great hero. Colonel Fabien who, in July, 1941, at the head of a group of F.T.P.F., brought down his first German officer and who, three years later, at the head of thousands of fighters,
brought about the capitulation of a proud unit of the Wehrmacht at the Palais du Luxembourg in
Yes, our armed struggle took place under the most difficult conditions, but nevertheless we obtained results. For instance, here is the balance sheet of three weeks of struggle, published in the communique of the Committee of the F.T.P.F. of the Paris Region on May 15 to June 10, 1943:—
1 General, 1, Colonel, ,2 Lieutenants killed.
135 N.C.O.s and soldiers killed or , wounded.
12,000,000 litres of alcohol destroyed. .
2 factories working-for the Boches completely gutted by fire.
2 E-boats, 25 wagons, 2 locomotives, 2 railway tracks destroyed or damaged.
2 German goods trains derailed.
3 Collaborators, 'traitors to
These heroic exploits, chosen from amongst thousands, were carried out in most cases with bombs made with sugar, of chlorate of potash, bits of metal and empty preserving fruit tins.
Do you know that incendiary bombs were made with sulphuric acid and petrol? Do you know that fires were started by comrades using tinder boxes instead of matches; that in factories, at the risk of their lives,
It is for this reason that our people are determined themselves to define their own policy without pressure from any outside source.
And alongside our armed struggle went our mass activity. In the factories the workers organised strikes. A day's strike was so many hours lost for the German war machine. Despite the dangers, despite the risks, despite the shadow of death which fell on them, the French factory workers ingeniously sabotaged their machines and their work.
The women of France also played their part in the struggle by organising demonstrations for their demands, by demonstrating for better rations, and it was this struggle of our people, of the whole of our Paris population, that brought about the conditions which made it possible to call the victorious Paris uprising.
However, it must be realised that all these actions carried out in conditions of the most terrible illegality were not easy. In the Party leadership down to the groups of three, which, as the basic organs of the Party, carried out the Party directives, distributed leaflets and organised the struggle in the Resistance movements, and in the Trade Unions, it was necessary to have a strong, central organisation, a closely knit network of liaison agents, illegal printing presses (on which 2 million pamphlets and leaflets were printed monthly), runners, and houses to use as " hide-outs."
I should like to describe to you the appointments at street corners in the suburbs, the moments of suspense and anguish when your comrade did not arrive because he must have fallen into the hands of the police. How describe those suspicious individuals who turned round as you passed and followed you, and the police agents you tried to shake off? And at home, in one's secret room, every unfamiliar noise aroused suspicion.
Suddenly at in the morning, while you were fast asleep, heavy steps would be heard and loud bangs on the door. Then you had to flee, to attempt to get away whilst firing on the traitorous police, or else to escape through the window.
Every day the life of a militant was an adventure, an adventure which brought so many of us to their deaths. But for every fighter who fell in the struggle, a new fighter came forward, full of courage and determination to carry on the fight. This was possible because we love our Party, because we were full of confidence in our leaders.
The landing of
In the course of July more than 17 big demonstrations were held in
The strike had been called for immediate demands,' but rapidly took on an insurrectionary character. On August 14 the General Strike shook Paris. Most
of the factories were brought-to a standstill because of the lack of electric power. Those that were still working stopped one after another at the summons of the leadership of the illegal C.G.T. On the evening of the 18th, the strike was complete throughout the Paris Region. Meantime, on August 10, the National Military Committee of the F.T.P.F. issued its Order No. 3, which declared:—
“The armoured columns of the triumphant Allied armies are throwing back on
" Now is the decisive hour of battle.
" Francs-Tireurs and Partisans of the Paris Region, make the slogan of General de Gaulle, " Everything for the struggle," the battle-cry of
On August 18 the elected Communist representatives of the Paris Region, in a manifesto posted on the walls of the capital and suburbs, called on the people of
rection against the Boche. And then followed the heroic epic of eight days of struggle, during which the enemy was tracked down and harassed in the various districts of
Col. Roy Tanguy, a young colonel of 32.
THEY WENT MAD
The Boches went mad. Their only wish was to get away after massacring, looting and destroying. They carried out negotiations with men whom history will record as traitors. They concluded an armistice, but our Party, ever vigilant and 'the
guardian of the interests and honour of
Our Humanite launched the slogan "All Paris to the barricades." "Each one pick his own German." "Parisians arise and fight." It was a moving and wonderful sight to see at every crossroad, at every street corner, men and women, young and old, .girls and children, build barricades, rent up streets, bring up everything available and which could be used to erect and reinforce the barricades they had constructed—their own barricades.
For the Hitlerites the end of the battle had come. Tracked down, pursued, trapped in the streets of our capital, the Germans were forced to capitulate. It is impossible for me to describe to you the innumerable acts of courage of the glorious fighters of the people of
was .necessary to wipe out an island of resistance, to destroy a tank which was still firing, to capture a Kommandatur, to force the surrender of German troops, isolated but still holding out in this or that house.
WILD WITH ENTHUSIASM
In this way German blood was freely spilled on the cobbles of
Such was the struggle of the Parisians during the years of German occupation. Our Party is proud of having been in the vanguard of the movement for liberation. Our underground activity was carried on under immense difficulties but despite
police terror, despite the Gestapo, the
THE NATIONAL ARMY
And now today our country is nearly completely liberated. Our Party has now resumed its legal activity. Tens of thousands of workers have joined our ranks, but the military situation remains serious. There are still Germans at
We also want this army to be an army linked to the people, a democratic army, and we therefore appeal to the whole population to become patrons of these fighters. Every soldier must feel himself surrounded with the affection and the solicitude of the whole nation.
For this army we want to provide arms, munitions and equipment. -At present our soldiers lack everything. The workers of
THE MEN OF THE TRUSTS
There are difficulties. The men of the Trusts, the same who from 1940 to 1944 placed the whole of our industry at the service of the Germans, now move might and main to prevent the economic reconstruction of France and to place obstacles in the way of reopening the factories. But we will outplay these
manoeuvres—standing together, workers, technicians, and patriotic employers—we will show the Trusts, which are the enemies of
Such was our struggle.
In the same way as the unity in struggle of the French people brought about the liberation of our motherland, so unity will enable us to rebuild our country.
The Liberation Committees which exist throughout the country already constitute a powerful patriotic united front
Several Resistance organisations have now decided to amalgamate and are moving towards the establishment of a vast united-front for the re-birth of the French nation.
WORKING CLASS UNITY
Finally, a Joint Committee of our Communist Party and the Socialist Party has been formed, and we have the fervent desire that this unity of action, which is so enthusiastically welcomed by the members of our two parties, shall lead to the establishment of a great United Party of the People of France.
Such are our present tasks. They are immense, but we will fulfill them. For us French, as for you British comrades, one urgent, imperative job lies ahead, to defeat Fascism.
All our efforts must be to this end. The Communists of our two countries are the best placed to fulfill this task.
Forward to crush the enemy! Long live the Allies! Long live England! Long live France! Long live the glorious
Maurice Thorez, Communist General Secretary Radio Moscow,August 24, 1944
Honor to the Representatives of Greater Paris who died for France
You didn’t die in vain, glorious martyrs of the French cause, representatives of Greater Paris, imprisoned by the Munichois and the Vichyssois and assassinated by the Hitlerite bandits. In these days of victory, your names are in all hearts, on all lips: Charles Michels, deputy of Paris; Gabriel Péri, deputy of Argenteuil; Carriou, Frot, Gardette, Le Gall, Losserand, munipal councillors of Paris; Pierre Sémard, Auffray, Grandel, General Councillors of the Seine.
You didn’t die in vain, my brave companions: Catelas, Cadras, Rebière, Sampaix, Lampe, Timbault, Granet, Mourre, Dalidet, Pierre Rigault, Guinsburg, Delaune, Moulie, Politzer, Solomon, Decour, Pitard, Gasteur, and a thousand, ten thousand valorous militants, ferocious patriots, organizers and animators of the fight for the liberation of Paris and of France.
You didn’t die in vain, young students, assassinated by the Germans near the Tomb of the your elder, the Unknown Soldier, the evening of November 11,1940. And all of you, men and women, Frenchmen and -women of all parties and all beliefs who shed your blood for the fatherland during those four years of foreign occupation.