The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:30 p.m.]
1659. For the Secretary. In this critical pre-election period it becomes daily more evident that each decision of the present tripartite [Page 423] coalition govt—whether on domestic or foreign policy—will be taken only after each of the three parties has carefully anticipated the reaction of the French public and is reasonably certain that the position it has taken will have the least adverse effect on its electoral chances. As applied to foreign policy one of the clearest cases of this pre-election jockeying on part of the three big parties is the question of German policy which came to a head last Friday (my 1632, April 639). To understand the decision reached then it is necessary to examine the approach of each of the three parties to the German problem in the light of the coming French elections rather than solely in light of foreign policy considerations.
The Socialists are internationally minded and are opposed in principle to the partition of Germany. Therefore they are more willing than others to try to meet the British views on the German question, particularly the Ruhr. In addition there is a deep affinity between the French Socialists and the British Labor Party. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that the Socialists are only thinking of the foregoing in their efforts to re-orient French policy towards Germany, for this is not the case. For purely internal political reasons the Socialists saw several real electoral advantages in securing a change in German policy. First, should a revision of German policy lead to the rapid conclusion of a Franco-British pact (which the majority of the French people desire) the Socialists could, claim that it was their initiative alone which had made this possible and they, rather than Bidault and the MRP, would have perhaps received the credit. Secondly, knowing that Bidault’s German policy has very wide popular support the Socialists could hope that Bidault and the MRP would bear the brunt of the criticism “for abandoning France’s legitimate security requirements” if Bidault agreed to a change. This is important since the overwhelming majority of the French people believe (as a result of constant reiteration in the French press since liberation) that only Bidault’s German policy will insure France’s minimum security requirements. Thirdly, the Socialists believe that a modification in German policy would assist Blum in obtaining more substantial credit in the US which is their greatest hope in the coming elections. When Bidault refused change his policy the Socialists who believe it is of paramount importance that the Coalition Govt last till elections saw that MRP could not have a better issue on which to leave the Govt and should they do so on this issue the Socialist position would be vulnerable (politically). Therefore the Socialists somewhat sullenly backed down.[Page 424]
MRP on other hand was placed in a somewhat paradoxical position by Gouin’s pressure to change previous policy. While sincerely desiring a Franco-British pact to bolster France against Russia, Bidault and the MRP are equally sincere in their belief that the Ruhr and Rhineland must for security reasons be detached from Germany. The MRP was also convinced that any change in German policy would be seized upon by all parties except the Socialists as a pretext violently to attack the MRP on the grounds that they had abandoned France’s vital security requirements. MRP which already fears taking a severe beating in the coming elections has as MRP leaders freely state “no intention of playing the Socialist game which means suicide for the MRP”. By standing fast the MRP could be sure of overwhelming popular support on German question and could claim (as it is now doing) that French security would have been “sold down the river” were it not for MRP vigilance.
When after a running duel between Gouin and Bidault this Socialist–MRP dispute over German policy finally came to a head in the Cabinet meeting last Friday the Communists found themselves in a perfect position both to further Moscow’s aims and to strengthen their own internal position for the coming elections. By supporting strongly (and for the first time clearly) the Bidault thesis in the Cabinet meeting, that the Ruhr and Rhineland should be separated politically from Germany, the Communists saw clearly that they could handicap negotiations for a Franco-British treaty by urging that British acceptance of the French thesis on Germany be a condition for such a pact. Since Communist apprehension is constant that a Franco-British pact may serve as the basis for a western bloc anything they can do to throw a monkey wrench in Franco-British negotiations suits their purpose. For equally important domestic reasons the Communists also found it most advantageous to support Bidault. Now that the German Communists (who the French are convinced make no move without Moscow’s directive) have come out in opposition to political separation of the Ruhr, the French Communists by urging it can pose as “the real champions of French security” and also convey the impression that far from being Moscow’s puppet they are essentially a French party which will oppose anyone including foreign Communists when they take a position detrimental to “France’s real interests”. At same time by centering their arguments against the British Ruhr plan in the thesis that a British alliance and guarantee is not a satisfactory substitute for political separation of the Ruhr—as events after the last war proved—the Communists leave the way open to shift their stand and justify the change by new guarantees from the USSR or even UNO.[Page 425]
In conclusion I feel I cannot overemphasize that in this critical pre-electoral period all decisions made by the present uneasy Coalition Govt on both foreign and domestic questions will necessarily be taken with the coming elections in mind—each party trimming its sails so as to catch the maximum electoral wind and to out-manoeuver the other in the jockeying for position which precedes the electoral race. To understand what is happening here this must be kept constantly in mind.
Sent Dept 1659; repeated London 245, Moscow 110, Berlin 125.
- Not printed.↩