851.01/3327: Telegram

The American Representative to the French Committee of National Liberation at Algiers (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

87. The debate in the Provisional Consultative Assembly on plans for the return to a republican form of government in France will begin in about a week. My telegram No. 197, December 19, 2 p.m.3 gave a summary of the report known as the De Menthon plan, drafted by a group of the French Committee presided over by De Menthon, the Commissioner of Justice. A counterproposal has been drawn up by a group of Socialist members of the Consultative Assembly, comprising Socialists of the resistance movement as well as former parliamentarians, which is known as the Vincent Auriol counterproposal.

The latter differs from the Committee’s plan in that it opposes holding any elections in the period immediately following liberation. It expresses the view that conditions in the country, the state of mind of the people, et cetera, immediately after liberation will not be such as to permit the holdings of fair and regular elections. The proposal, therefore, provides for reconstitution of the municipal councils and the general councils by reappointment of members removed by Vichy, as well as for removal of those who have collaborated with the enemy or Vichy, and for filling of vacancies by various procedures. Upon the return of the war prisoners, general elections would be held for a legislative and constituent assembly which would elect a provisional President of the Republic of [apparent omission] who would also be prime minister. This assembly would draw up a new constitution for the Republic and would then be dissolved as soon as the assembly created under the new constitution has been elected. During this interim period between liberation and the holding of general elections [Page 636] after return of the war prisoners (estimated to last about 5 months), the proposal is that the French Committee of National Liberation be regarded as the Provisional Government of France and that a Provisional National Assembly be constituted within 15 days after liberation, composed of 120 members elected by the Departmental resistance groups in France, 120 elected from the political parties in proportion to their representation following the last general elections, and 120 members elected by the general councils as soon as the latter have been reconstituted. The powers of this Provisional Assembly would be the same as those contemplated for the National Assembly with exception of the constituent power. This Provisional Government would be responsible for the Provisional Assembly and in the event of a vote of lack of confidence on the part of the Provisional Assembly confirmed by a second vote in the same sense 8 days later elections would then take place within a month for the Legislative and Constituent Assembly.

The following comment occurs to me regarding the two plans. The De Menthon plan with its provision for immediate elections for municipal councilors paving the way to constitution of a Provisional Assembly before which the French Committee would present its resignation represents the views of the younger militant members of the Committee and resistance groups who feel that new men must govern France and new forces be brought to bear in shaping the economic and social life of the country. They fear that if elections in any form are postponed for a few months and the Communal and Departmental Assemblies merely reconstituted with a few changes here and there, the old line party politicians will regain control and the country drift back into something like conditions in the years preceding the war.

The Socialist plan reflects primarily the traditional Socialist fear of the Communists, based on the belief that elections held in the turbulent atmosphere immediately following liberation would profit the extremists particularly the Communists.

It has been interesting to note in talking with supporters of both projects the great interest and concern expressed as to the reaction of American public opinion and of the United States Government regarding their plans. Both groups profess the same objective, namely, the return to a republican form of Government at the earliest possible moment under the conditions which they expect to find after liberation. The point on which they differ basically is the advisability of holding municipal elections immediately on liberation. I believe that there are many members of the Assembly and a few in the Committee who while sincerely apprehensive that immediate elections would be irregular and may play into the hands of the Communists [Page 637] nevertheless will support the De Menthon plan because they feel that the feature of immediate consultation of the people following liberation will convey to public opinion abroad an impression of the sincerity of the authorities in Algiers in planning for the return to a democratic system. Conversely they fear that adoption of Socialist plan postponing any election for 5 months or so during which period the French Committee would remain as the Provisional Government would give the impression abroad of an intention to perpetuate the committee in power. In other words the estimate made here as to the reaction of opinion abroad will be an important factor in decisions reached regarding the principles incorporated in these plans.

The Communists are understood to be working on another counter-proposal.

Sent to Department as 87, repeated to London as 8.

  1. Not printed.