From Vacillation to Resolve

The French Communist Party in the Resistance, 1939-1944

Title Details

Pages: 96

Illustrations: b&w photos

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 07/01/2018

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8381-5

List Price: $17.95


NewSouth Books

From Vacillation to Resolve

The French Communist Party in the Resistance, 1939-1944

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From Vacillation to Resolve tells the little-known story of the French Communist Party’s role in the Resistance movement against the Nazis during World War II. Author Julian McPhillips Jr. researched this story and published it as his senior thesis at Princeton University in 1968. It is being published in book form for the first time on the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation.

McPhillips divides the behavior of the French Communist resisters into three stages: The first brief phase in the late summer of 1939 was an anti-fascist reflex which was repressed in the early occupation.

During the second stage, from October 1939 to mid-1941, the party’s members fought vigorously against the French war governments of Daladier and Reynaud. Following the fall of France, under the Russo-German Pact, French Communists achieved a brief “semi-legality” in the period leading up to the German attack on Russia. Even in this period, however, some French Communists left the party to resist the Germans on their own initiative.

The final stage was from June 22, 1941, to the liberation of France in August 1944. The French Communists were united in their resolve and effected sabotage, distributed clandestine media materials, and fought bravely in organized guerrilla (maquis) actions. Despite playing key roles in the fighting, however, the Communists jockeyed with the Gaullists not only on Resistance tactics but also on post-war plans.

Overall, following the German attack against the USSR, the war for French Communists changed from an imperialistic conflict to the defense of liberty.

From Vacillation to Resolve is an expertly written, carefully researched, and objectively presented study of an often overlooked chapter of World War II history. McPhillips skillfully describes reversals of French Communist policy during World War II. In so doing he raises the question of whether the French Communist Party was more loyal to France or the Soviet Union. McPhillips makes a convincing argument that despite the reversals of policy, the French Communist Party became the vanguard of the French Resistance Movement, partnering with the Allies to defeat Hitler, and earning a deserved place in the post-war French government.

—Daniel L. Haulman, chief, Organizational History Division, United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, author of The Tuskegee Airmen Chronology, The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949, and other books

About the Author/Editor

JULIAN L. MCPHILLIPS JR. was born in Birmingham, Alabama; grew up in Cullman; and has attended Sewanee Military Academy, Princeton, and Columbia University Law. After four years as a Wall Street attorney, Julian returned to Alabama in 1975 as an Assistant Attorney General. His private law practice from 1977 to date has involved considerable civil rights and public interest work. Julian is the subject of the People's Lawyer, Civil Rights in My Bones, and now a new autobiography, Only in Alabama. He has won numerous awards from the SCLC, NAACP, and other civil rights groups. Julian is also co-founder (with his wife Leslie) of the Scott and Zelda Museum and lay minister/administrator of Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church. Julian has been married to Leslie for 42 years. They have two married daughters, Rachel and Grace; a son, David; and three grandchildren.