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À Staline, L’Avant Garde, 11 – 17 March 1953

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"À Staline", L’Avant Garde, 11 – 17 March 1953. The heading and the framed text on the right read in French : “A Staline. Gloire immortelle. Ses idées vaincront dans le monde entier” – [“To Stalin. Immortal glory. His ideas will win worldwide”].

1As its masthead indicates, Avant-garde was the “combat organ” of young workers. It had been founded as a monthly in 1920, at the time of the creation of the French Communist Party by young socialists who were following their elders into what was to become the French Communist Party. After the Second World War it became the weekly of the Republican Youth of France, also mentioned on the masthead, an outgrowth of the Resistance-based efforts to unite all leftist forces. In the immediate post-war period it was the most widely read youth weekly publishing more than two hundred thousand copies.

2The popularity of leftist ideas in the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s was associated with a complex socio-economic situation and the difficulties of post-war reconstruction of the French economy. More than four thousand strikes broke out in the country in 1951-1952 alone involving around three million people. The General Confederation of Labor, France’s main trade union under Communist sway, comprised more than five million people, was very active at that time. Inflation, retail and wholesale prices were growing in France. Significant budget expenditures were related to the conduct of the war in Indochina (1946-1954). All this strengthened the position of the Left. Under the pressure of social protest movements in December 1952 the right-wing government of Antoine Pinay eventually resigned.

3It was in this context that Avant-Garde published the commemorative title page and editorial dedicated to Stalin portrayed here. The youthful workers of both sexes, though not all equally youthful, are looking up in the direction to which an oversized Stalin is pointing. Their faces portray anxiety rather than hope and confidence but the defiant legend assures them that Stalin’s ideas will triumph throughout the world. No doubt, some of the members of the crowd are thinking of the war in Vietnam being waged by France notwithstanding the fierce opposition of the Communist movement in which they are playing an active role. In the background, one sees Soviet skyscrapers, the pride of Stalinist architecture, that include the buildings of Moscow State University where some of the young progressive intelligentsia of France dream of studying.


David Caute, Communism and the French Intellectuals, 1914-1960, London: A. Deutsch 1960.

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

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