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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

The Death of Stalin

Au Grand Staline, L’Humanité, 9 March 1953

Alexey Antoshin

Texte intégral

"Au Grand Staline", L’Humanité, 9 March 1953. The headings read in French : "Suprême adieu de l’Union Soviétique et des peuples du monde au grand Staline. En présence d’une foule immense, à 12 heures précises, le corps du guide immortel de l’humanité a été déposé auprès de celui de Lenine tandis que tonnaient les salves d’honneur. Malenkov, Beria et Molotov ont prononcé l’éloge funèbre" – ["Last farewell of the Soviet Union and the peoples of the world to the great Stalin. In the presence of a huge crowd at the stroke of midday, the body of the immortal guide of humanity has been placed beside that of Lenin under a gun salute. Malenkov, Beria and Molotov delivered the eulogy"].

1French Communists and their daily press organ L'Humanité, identified as the organ of the Central Committee of the Party, represented one of the most powerful Communist parties of Western Europe. In 1946, the number of PCF members reached its absolute maximum of more than 800 000 members. It was an especially noticeable force in the areas where the French Resistance groups of snipers and partisans operated during the war. The French Communists could also boast prominent figures of science and culture among their members: Paul Langevin, Louis Aragon, Frederic Joliot-Curie and Pablo Picasso.

2In October 1945 the French Communist Party and its allies received more than 26% of the votes in the elections to the Constituent Assembly of the French Fourth Republic. However, its influence on French government policy gradually weakened. In May 1947 the Communists were removed from the government. In May 1952 Jacques Duclos, the head of the parliamentary group of the French Communist Party, was briefly arrested. However, the Communists continued to be an important element of social protest movements in France and the Communist Party maintained its hold upon a certain part of the French population, especially upon workers.

3The French Communist Party at the time, like most other Communist parties, was an unconditional supporter of the Soviet Union, having bought into the rhetoric of the Cold War with its “for us or against us” positions promoted on both sides. Although L'Humanité had to pay due attention to the everyday concerns of its readers in France, it never stinted in its praise of the Soviet Union. Naturally, it shared in the drama of Stalin’s death. It was left to the “bourgeois” press to announce that Stalin was dying. L’Humanité reported his death on 6 March with a stark headline and a reproduction of the communiqué issued in Moscow. The title page of the 9 March issue shown here commemorates in grandiose form Stalin’s lying-in and his funeral. It mentions, though somewhat timidly, his possible successors – Malenkov, Beria and Molotov - though the implication is that no one can truly succeed Stalin.


Yarem Golitzki and Oleg Khlevniuk, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Class 1945-1953, London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Ronald Tiersky, French Communism 1920-1972, New York : Columbia University Press, 1974.


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