851.00/7–1847: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

2866. Last night I saw Maurice Schumann and several other prominent and decidedly friendly Cabinet Ministers and other French politicians. All said they were gravely concerned about effect of “Anglo-American proposals” for Germany1 on French psychology and [Page 723] on internal political situation; they said: “if the impression prevailing here about your intentions in Germany is not corrected, the Communists will walk away with the October municipal elections”.

Yesterday morning André Colin, Secretary General, and Albert Gortais, Delegate General, of MRP, asked to see a member of my staff urgently. While they wholeheartedly back Paris conference and see prompt elaboration of European response to Marshall proposals and implementation of these as essential to preserve a democratic France, Colin and Gortais are extremely worried and alarmed over reports which they are now receiving from grass roots throughout France as to response which current Communist campaign is obtaining. Deploring the chauvinistic point of view of the average Frenchman vis-à-vis Germany, and admitting that they have occasionally catered to this same instinct in the past, they nevertheless point out how deeply it is grafted on average Frenchman after centuries of struggle against first Austria and subsequently Germany, and the consequent instinctive response of many non-Communist Frenchmen to the party’s line.

They state that the Communist propaganda now having the most telling effect is not their well-worn saw of the United States desiring to “colonize France economically”, but the story that the United States, as after 1918, has poured money into Germany and is interested primarily in rehabilitating Germany rather than France so as to protect American vested interests; that reparations are being abandoned, the Ruhr’s resources lost to France, and French security placed in jeopardy. They stressed that the recent decision to increase German steel capacity gives an appearance of truth to the Communist charges, and add: “why was this necessary now, when German production is still well below five million tons?”

These MRP leaders declare that their party, as well as the majority of responsible French leaders, fully support and back the policy of maximum use of German industrial capacity for German reconstruction, as well as for European reconstruction, but beg, repeat beg, that no further measures for German rehabilitation be announced until European plan under Marshall proposals be prepared, when German program can be made to dovetail with it.

Colin and Gortais appeared convinced that should any further proposals on behalf of Germany be announced by the American authorities in the immediate future and prior to the elaboration of the European plan, the Communists would be able, without resorting to any new pressure tactics, to torpedo the Paris conference,2 merely using the ancestral French hatred and fear of Germany, supported by the false appearances of primary American concern in her defeated [Page 724] enemy rather than in her allies. “The French Government’s position will thus be made untenable”, concluded Gortais.

Independent newspaper Combat in article from London stresses British reluctance to go along with USA in “economic and industrial reorganization of western Germany” while describing Americans as being “very enterprising”.

British were painted as reluctant, embarrassed, and as having succeeded in temporarily disengaging themselves “in view of necessities of Paris conference”. Paris, thinking of the future and of the “fragility of American assistance to Europe”, and London, “loath to close immediately certain doors leading to eastern Europe,” are said to be anxious to slow the movement down, while Washington is “eager and insistent”. Of course, should this line be followed by French press, it would definitely give the French the impression that the initiative and responsibility for German developments are wholly and only ours.

Politburo minutes published this morning in Communist Humanité include the following paragraphs under heading: “Defense of French Security”.

“The political bureau has expressed its concern in the face of the new initiatives of American reactionary forces which aim to salvage German war industries and to liquidate the reparations policy, in other words, to endanger France’s reconstruction and security.

The Political Bureau has stressed the necessity for our country to return without delay to a foreign policy defending France’s security through a just settlement of the German problem and in accord with all her allies, France’s independence being respected.”

Humanité also features on page one an unsigned article with scare headlines “Washington takes the Ruhr and gives over its management to the men who served Hitler. France excluded from the control of the mines. ‘I have come to Europe to reconstruct Germany’ declares Averell Harriman”.3

Article goes on to state Harriman on his arrival in Paris declared: “I have come to Europe to hasten the recovery of German economy. It is necessary that Germany by its exportations shall become an important artisan in European reconstruction”. Humamité comments this shows clearly it is no longer question of reparations but exports, decided upon by Germans themselves with American advice.

Sent Department 2866, repeated London 555, and Geneva for Clayton via pouch.

  1. Reference is to revision of the level of industry plan for Germany, For documentation on the subject, see vol. ii, pp. 977 ff.
  2. For documentation on the conference of 16 European nations, see pp. 249 ff.
  3. Secretary of Commerce.