Bernie Sanders: The American Léon Blum

In 1936, after he formed the leftist “Popular Front” in France, Léon Blum became the first Jewish leader of a major western European power. Benjamin Disraeli, who served as Prime Minster of the United Kingdom in the 1870s, was an ethnic Jew, but had been converted to Christianity in 1812 by his parents. The election of Blum as Prime Minister, who was a disciple of the great French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, the moderate social democrat who had led the struggle to free Alfred Dreyfus in the late 19th Century, caused a ferocious antisemitic backlash on the extreme right. French conservatives in the late 1930s would regularly raise their glasses with the toast “better Adolf Hitler than Léon Blum.” They meant it. When Germany invaded France in 1940, France was already in the middle of a low-grade civil war, socialists against nationalists, Catholics against secularists. Blum, who refused to leave France during the German occupation, paid a high price for his moral courage. The Vichy government Pierre Laval and Philippe Pétain had him deported to Germany, where he spent most of the war in a concentration camp.

Blum was among “The Vichy 80”, a minority of parliamentarians that refused to grant full powers to Marshal Pétain. He was arrested by the authorities in September and held until 1942, when he was put on trial in the Riom Trial on charges of treason, for having “weakened France’s defenses” by ordering her arsenal shipped to Spain, leaving France’s infantry unsupported by heavy artillery on the eastern front against Nazi Germany. He used the courtroom to make a “brilliant indictment” of the French military and pro-German politicians like Pierre Laval. The trial was such an embarrassment to the Vichy regime that the Germans ordered it called off. He was transferred to German custody and imprisoned in Germany until 1945.

Say want you want about the French, they like clarity, especially clarity of language. When a Frenchman’s a Nazi, he comes out and says it. When he’s an Islamophobe, he picks up the latest copy of Charlie Hebdo and chuckles over the obscene drawings of the prophet. Here in the United States, on the other hand, where culturally you’re also an Anglo Saxon and a Calvinist, whatever your religion or ethnicity, the very worst Nazis tend to believe that they’re the very best, most moral people in the world. Sexual, moral, intellectual and political repression have damaged the American mind. That brings us to Chris Mathews, the gross neoconservative cable news pundit who masquerades as a moderate Democrat on Russia obsessed MSNBC. After the Vice Presidential debate in 2004, Mathews, who bragged about how he voted for George W. Bush twice, was so taken with Dick Cheney’s performance over the admittedly hollow John Edwards, he almost seemed like a 1990s high-school girl swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. When the far-right-wing Democrat Zell Miller, who by that time was far into senile dementia,  threatened him on the air, you almost got the sense that he was ready to be Miller’s prison bitch.

You can always tell what a right-wing American like Chris Mathews thinks by what he accuses you of thinking. Indeed, if you hacked open an American neoconservative’s brain, you’d probably find two little men, one labeled “straw man” and the other labeled “projection” running on a hamster wheel. While the most prominent face of MSNBC and the most prominent Russiagate conspiracy theorist is of course Rachel Maddow, the guiding intellectual light behind MSNBC is Chris Mathews. Mathews, who’s now venturing into the same shadow of senile dementia as Zell Miller had been in 1994, has veto power over who gets hired and who gets fired at MSNBC. If you want to know why an otherwise decent liberal like Chris Hayes watches himself so carefully, it’s basically because he’s afraid of Chris Mathews. And now Mathews has compared the victory of Bernie Sanders in Nevada to Rommel’s Blitzkrieg in France. So get ready for the inevitable when Mathews, Maddow, Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and the rest of the “never Trump” neoconservative far right soon change their tune. There has always been a strong whiff of antisemitism about Russiagate. Get ready for the mask to come off. I can already hear them.

“Better Donald Trump than Bernie Sanders.”

10 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders: The American Léon Blum”

  1. Sanders Nevada victory speech was impressive. Without teleprompters or notes, without bashing his competitors, or Trump he said what he was FOR. Issue after issue, taking sharp and clear stands. I could hear the heartbeat of the Demo establishment sag.

    But Bernie is just another Leon Blum. Another in that endless chain of ‘progessives’ radicals, social democrats, rubbish revolutionaries who talk left but govern right. Sometimes, they are just outright traitors like Tony Blair or Hillary Clinton or Leon Blum who betrayed the Spanish Revolution. Sometimes they are weak like Corbyn or incompetent and stupid like Lula or Morales. But always, always this lot disappoints, falls short, sells out.

    Hell, even a loose cannon like Trump can barely make an impression on the ingrained power of the elite establishment of the United States. A Bernie as President would reign but never rule. The hopes Americans would place in him will be crushed. Perhaps he is a stage in their education that must be suffered.

    Until regular Americans turn out in large numbers as Yellow Vests with a lot of guns and are angrily FOR something, the machine will just stumble along. Only being ‘for’ Daniel by the tiny effort of bothering to vote him into the Lion’s Den doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Better to hope, plan and await the better opportunity of external events – debt/market crash, revolution in France, the Big One – to knock the fragile U.S. off its pins. After all, that’s what happened to Blum’s post Popular Front France. It was called Nazi Germany.

    1. After all, that’s what happened to Blum’s post Popular Front France. It was called Nazi Germany.

      Well technically it was called Vichy.

      I’m not totally up on what Blum did vis a vis Spain. But unlike Hitler and Mussolini, I guess he did fail to intervene. Well, so did Roosevelt. He wanted to keep the Irish Catholic vote in Boston.

      I wonder if Blum ever thought about Spain while he was sitting in Buchenwald. “Damn. Maybe I should have supported the communists.”

      Sometimes they are weak like Corbyn or incompetent and stupid like Lula or Morales. But always, always this lot disappoints, falls short, sells out.

      I’m starting to see liberals compare Bernie to AMLO, and it’s not meant as a compliment. I suppose on the positive side that means Klobuchar won’t know who he is and he won’t have to return her calls.

      Better to hope, plan and await the better opportunity of external events – debt/market crash

      I’m more worried about a repeat of 2008 than a repeat of Vichy (which according to establishment liberals we already have). I’ve always gotten the sense that the ruling class decided to let Obama that September win under the condition that he sell the bailout. Remember how almost overnight the media stopped talking about Jeremiah Wright and started talking about how Palin was stupid. The ruling class may decide that there’s a crash on the way and want to leave Bernie holding the bag.

      I also think a big part of the reason for Bernie’s popularity among millennials is that they think he’s too stubborn to be another Obama. They want to replay 2008 with someone who won’t (or is too old to care enough to) sell out.

      1. No actually. I did mean Nazi Germany. Blum survived imprisonment which was only in France if I recall correctly. Petain inquired after his health. Britain and France – but France under a Pop Front government most disgustingly betrayed Republican Spain by preventing it from obtining arms. He also refused to allow Trotsky into France. He was a general all round Tony Blair, who probably once sang the Red Flag.

        Americans have no history or culture of mass political action excepting lynch mobs. AMLO? Oh, wasn’t he some Big Talking Leftist at one time. Thought he was dead. Like that raving Brazilian Trotskyist Lula who after two turns in office so little changed the landscape that he got railroaded into jail.

    2. Blum did lead a march of over a half million people to the Wall of the Communards. Bernie has yet to match that.

      Every year since 1880, the organizations of the French left have held a demonstration in this symbolic place during the last week of May. Jean Jaurès — although a child in the provinces at the time of the Commune, hence with no direct memory — made the ascent several times, accompanied by Édouard Vaillant, Jean Allemane, and by thousands of socialist, syndicalist, and anarchist militants.

      The record-breaking demonstration took place on May 24, 1936: 600,000 people, led by Léon Blum and Maurice Thorez, right in the middle of the strikers movement, several weeks after the start of the Popular Front.

    3. Ah. He was bullied into neutrality in Spain by the British and by “moderates” in his own party.

      In July, 1936, José Giral, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in Spain, requested aid against the military uprising led by Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco and José Sanjurjo. Blum agreed to send aircraft and artillery. However, after coming under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of his own cabinet, he changed his mind. Blum now called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War.

      The Communist Party, that up to then had supported the Popular Front government, now organized large demonstrations against Blum’s policy of non-intervention. With the left-wing in open revolt against the government and a growing economic crisis, Blum decided to resign on 22nd June.

      Once in opposition Blum campaigned for France to end its nonintervention policy. On 13th March 1938 Blum returned to power as prime minister. He immediately reopened the frontier with Spain to allow vast amounts of military equipment to enter the country. Blum now came under considerable pressure from the right-wing press and political figures such as Henri-Philippe Petain and Maurice Gamelin. On 10th April 1938, Blum’s government fell and he was replaced by Edouard Daladier as prime minister.

      1. What kind of socialist are you when as head of a government are pressured by the right wing government of another country to fail to allow arms to a neighboring country led by a left-wing government engaged in a civil war with right wing fascists. To the point that the fascists triumph and crush the unions and workers.

        Whatever should we call such a person?

        1. Blair’s a war criminal who would have been tight with Adolf in breaking up Czechoslovakia. Blum made a mistake but he did have balls, staying in France under Petain. Maurice Thorez hightailed it to Moscow and he wasn’t even Jewish (although as a Communist he was probably headed for Buchanwald as well).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s