From A World to Win News Service:

France: Revising the Legacy of WW2 Nazi Collaborator and WW1 Army Marshal Pétain

| Revolution Newspaper |


November 16, 2018. A World to Win News Service. During the week preceding the imperialist WW1 commemoration in France, sharp controversy arose when French President Macron sought to glorify the man who headed up the government in France under the Nazi occupation in World War 2.

Just as with WW1, the Second World War arose from rivalry between the big imperialist powers and resulted in a reconfiguration of the global imperialist system and of neocolonial domination, particularly in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, which also gave rise to unprecedented anti-colonial struggles and for national liberation.

Before the weekend, Macron announced that in paying homage to France’s WW1 generals, it was legitimate to consider France’s Marshal, Philippe Pétain, “a great soldier,” separate from Pétain’s role in WW2. This is the same Pétain who was tried in 1945 for collaborating with the Nazis as head of France’s Vichy regime and actively deporting Jews from France to the German concentration camps. In WW1 Pétain was a key military leader in a bloody criminal war. He is most lauded for his role in beating back Germany as head of the French army at the battle of Verdun, where at least 300,000 men died and another 400,000 were wounded or disabled. When French soldiers in the trenches began a series of mutinies demanding an end to the war, Pétain had some of them publicly tied to poles and shot as an example to others who might refuse to fight. Seven years later, Pétain was sent to turn the tide of a war between Spanish colonial occupiers and Berber rebels in the Rif region of Morocco, bringing a large number of French troops and chemical weapons to put down a major rebellion against foreign control, where he befriended the upcoming fascist leader Franco of Spain.

The Pétain of WW1 was no less a blood-soaked representative of the French capitalist ruling class than the Pétain whose WW2 regime made “Pétainisme” synonymous with fascism and France’s own participation in the genocide against Jews. With this reactionary attempt to distinguish between the “two Pétains,” Macron legitimized the leading hero of France’s fascists today, provoking a widespread but far from unanimous outcry.

On the one hand, today Macron stands for France as it has been, a parliamentary democracy that still pretends to represent “liberty, equality and fraternity”, in opposition to the right, the extreme right and the fascist National Front party that is gaining in the polls and seeking to restore a violently patriarchal Catholic fascism guided by the virulently nationalist values that ended in genocide under Pétain. On the other hand, while railing against “nationalism,” particularly, but not only, at Trump during the weekend, Macron tries to laud “patriotism” at home—but this has its own chauvinist values with nasty anti-immigrant politics and new repressive policies that coincide with and encourage the extreme right. Macron recently barred the Aquarius ship from docking in Marseilles as thousands demonstrated to let the immigrants in. While Macron opposes the open hate speech of Italy’s fascist leader Salvini, France has, like Italy, shown how little the lives of immigrants actually matter in this system and it has financially supported Libyan coast guards and other measures to prevent immigrants from crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.

The November 11th protest in Paris against Trump and today’s war criminals in association with so many injustices of this system was important, but not nearly as powerful as it needs to be given the colossal crimes—and wars—being committed by the imperialists in the world today and the looming threat of much worse to come. But not only must this opposition to imperialism and the rise of fascism grow in size, the more it breaks out of the normal channels of trying to improve the failing social democracy of France to which people have been accustomed and/or trying to make incremental improvements to the injustices of the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole, the greater impact this opposition can have throughout society, with repercussions beyond France’s borders.


On March 17, 2017, A World to Win News Service (AWTWNS) announced its transformation into a more thorough-going tool for revolution based on Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. Read its “Editorial: Introducing a transformed AWTWNS” here.

Internationalism — The Whole World Comes First.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 5:8

The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests — they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 3:8


Get a free email subscription to

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.