The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 5—7:41 a.m.]
1595. My 943, February 27.37 While no qualified political observers are willing as yet to speculate on the outcome of the June elections, a number of them have expressed the opinion that potentially the Socialist position seems stronger than a month ago, when it was generally believed that they would lose a very considerable number of votes to the Communists. It will be recalled that following the Congress of Socialist Federal Secretaries a number of newspapers and some observers believed they detected a serious fissure between the Blum-led majority and the Communist-attracted Left Wing. The relative absence of friction and the extent of general agreement in the recent special Socialist Congress (my 1558, April 138) has created a generally favorable impression, particularly since an overwhelming majority voted against joint lists with the Communists and no serious controversy developed on this point.
While as a result of the foregoing the Socialists seem to have gained ground, most observers agree that the Socialist position in the coming elections now depends largely on the degree of Léon Blum’s success in obtaining substantial credits in the United States. Should his mission be really successful the Socialist Party might make a very good showing. Such an event should serve to strengthen Blum’s leadership as well as the majority elements in the Socialist Party which are opposed to fusion with the Communists and are willing to work with other progressive elements, particularly Liberal Catholics.
The Communists are, of course, keenly aware of this possibility and of the vital importance of the coming elections. They are trying to counteract the possibility of a success by Blum by giving tremendous publicity to Soviet wheat shipments to France and by spending hundreds of millions of francs in electoral propaganda. Bogomolov39 is proceeding to Marseille to meet the first Russian wheat ship, and I am reliably informed that no money or effort is being spared to make this arrival a tremendous Communist propaganda show. In addition, the Communists are making huge outlays in their electoral campaign. In the past ten days when Paris has been enjoying magnificent spring weather, it is not uncommon to see convoys of 10 to 20 large trucks filled with children headed for excursions in the country. There is music and the trucks are gaily decorated with banners stating that [Page 422]the excursions are arranged by the initiative of the Union des Femmes Françaises (powerful Communist Front organization). They also bear placards announcing that this is “initiative laique” which is obviously a poke at the M. R. P.
I well realize there are difficulties in granting at this time substantial credits to France. I believe, however, that such difficulties should be weighed in the light of our long-range political and economic objectives rather than solely in financial terms. It is in our interest to strengthen the elements with which we can work, which share our basic conceptions and which therefore make for stability. The coming French elections are of paramount importance for they will establish the pattern which France will follow in the vital period of the next several years. Anything we can do in this critical pre-election period to encourage Frenchmen to believe that we are not abandoning Europe and particularly France but that we are doing (there is gratitude for our efforts to make food and coal available) and will continue to do our best to aid French economic and financial recovery and independence, should work to our long-term political and economic advantage. While the Socialists stand to benefit most in the elections from substantial long-term credits, such credits will unquestionably encourage all Frenchmen who share our basic conceptions. If on the other hand they believe that the United States is losing interest, they probably will feel they are being abandoned to the Communists. While they abhor this prospect, nonetheless it leads them psychologically to think that under such circumstances they have no alternative but to make the best of a very bad situation by either going along with the Communists or simply taking no part in politics, such as voting.
If we are to encourage those elements which would like to work with us—and they are a majority—we must let the extent of our interest be sufficiently known prior to the elections on June 2 so that it can sink in and be reckoned with when the ballots are cast. The timing is important. If we delay too long it is difficult to see how the Communists, with their iron party discipline and powerful propaganda machine oiled by billions of francs, can fail to benefit in the coming elections.