THE French Communists were at the zenith of their power at the end of 1946 and early in 1947. The Party at that time was almost a state within a state -- a force strong enough to imperil governmental authority if not to capture it. But during the last two years it has been dislodged from its key positions, the tide of public opinion has run against it, and today it is only a fifth column which, in a national crisis, could be scattered as it was scattered in the autumn of 1939 after the conclusion of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. The story of how that Communist power was built up and how it was destroyed supplies an interesting page of French history. And it is of more than local significance, I think, since the question of the promotion of insurrection by a foreign Power and of the means to be taken to combat it is a practical problem in nearly every nation not already controlled by the Soviet Union.
In the elections to the first Constituent Assembly in France, which took place on October 21, 1945, the Communists garnered 26.1 percent of the votes, and after a vehement controversy they exacted from General de Gaulle six seats in the Cabinet. General de Gaulle successfully resisted their claim to receive at least one of the three ministerial departments which they thought vital for their purposes (Armed Forces, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior). But he had to give them control of the national economy. Marcel Paul, the secretary of the Federation of Light and Power Unions, became Minister of Industrial Production, and filled that office for a year. Charles Tillon ruled over the armament industry. Ambroise Croizat was appointed Minister of Labor (and a very competent Minister of Labor he turned out to be). François Billoux took over the portfolio of Reconstruction. And the outstanding leader of the Party, Maurice Thorez, was given the rank of Minister of State and a special assignment to supervise
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