The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 20—8 p.m.]
309. My 308, January 208 and previous telegrams. A friendly official told me this evening that De Gaulle had deliberately provoked the present crisis because he had decided that the time had come for him to leave the Government. My informant said that in the Cabinet meeting this morning De Gaulle told his Ministers that it was impossible for him to govern when the different political parties in the Government were all playing party politics looking to the next elections rather than trying to solve France’s present pressing problems; therefore he had decided to return to the Assembly the powers it had granted him to form a Government. He then walked out of the meeting. The Cabinet remained in session for some time thereafter but decided nothing.
This afternoon Socialist, Communist and MRP leaders held separate meetings to decide on what to do.
This evening De Gaulle sent a letter to Gouin (President of the Assembly) returning to him the mandate he had been given in November to form a Government. According to sources close to De Gaulle the latter has decided that his decision is “irrevocable” and that he will not “at this time” accept the responsibility of trying to form a new Government “even if asked to”.
There is much speculation as to what will happen next. De Gaulle was scheduled to make a radio address to the country tomorrow evening but Bourdet, Director of the French Radio, tells me that he has received word from De Gaulle’s office that the broadcast may not take place. Despite this Bourdet believes De Gaulle will take to the air to explain his position to the country and then will “temporarily retire from the political scene”.
While no one is sure what will eventuate a number of political observers believe that a Communist—Socialist or a Communist—Socialist—Radical Socialist Government (without De Gaulle of course) may be formed. While the MRP might be included in some coalition this is considered possible but unlikely in view of Communist hostility. [Page 402] There is little doubt that the suddenness with which this major political crisis has come will be a shock to the majority of the population who, while greatly dissatisfied with the Government at this juncture, had little if any inkling that it might be dissolved at this time.
Repeated to London for the Secretary and repeated to Moscow as 24.
- Not printed.↩