851.61311/9–2547: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
top secret
us urgent

4152. Many of our best informed friends, among them publishers-editors of Ouest France, largest provincial daily in France, right wing of MRP, Gaullist tendencies, 430,000 circulation, covering 12 departments [Page 760] Brittany and west with 28 regional editions; Le Maine Libre, Le Mans daily, Socialist, 80,000 circulation; L’Ouest Republicain, Rennes daily, Socialist, 20,000 circulation, are deeply concerned over extremely violent Communist Party propaganda, in view October municipal elections, in rural districts heretofore predominantly anti-Communist, and over danger of Communist gains there as result of this propaganda. Communist campaign is based largely upon current 200 gram French bread ration. Arguments most frequently advanced are:

US has sent less cereals than promised;
US is now sending less than it could send, in order to aggravate French shortage and at critical moment to send more on condition that France submit to American anti-democratic imperialistic conditions;
US sends mildewed corn to France keeping wheat and good corn for German civilians of American zone;
US allows German civilians daily bread ration at least double that of France;
Ramadier has sold out to Americans and will not procure wheat from Russia although stocks are available there;
Severe crop fires in August and September are acts of arson, fires being set by Fascist agents, ex-Vichy militia and Gestapo men, working for reactionary clique, De Gaulle and American interests with Truman’s blessing in order to further deplete French stocks and thus the more easily to force France to submit to American conditions.

The journalists mentioned above have all volunteered the opinion that a statement by a high ranking official of US Government re shipments which have been made to France would be most helpful in counteracting Communist efforts in rural areas. They have also expressed the opinion that to obtain the maximum usefulness such a statement should have a “newsworthy peg” and that repetition would greatly strengthen its impact.

These unsolicited views have served to strengthen my own conviction that we should proceed at once with the plan outlined in Deptel 3304, September 3 and that, as indicated in mytel 4021, September 17, the statement should be made by a high American official. My own view is that the statement would carry great weight if made by Under Secretary Lovett who has received excellent press in France in recent weeks as result of his sympathetic approach to question of interim aid.

It is reported in today’s press that Ambassador Bonnet has recently made representations to our government for additional allocations of wheat. It seems to me that Bonnet’s representations might serve as a suitable “peg” for a statement focused on the French situation, and that he might be called in and given the statement after which it could be given to the press. The statement itself might begin with a reference to Bonnet’s representations which would have the advantage of [Page 761] making it appear that the whole matter resulted from French initiative, thereby tending to counteract the Weintal story.

If this is done it would seem best to limit the part of the statement concerning the relative contributions of the US and USSR to France itself rather than have it cover “western Europe” as contemplated in the Dept’s original plan. The inclusion of western Europe might also give the Communists here an opportunity to point up their argument that we were sending much more grain to Germany than to France.

An alternative possibility would be to await Clayton’s return to Washington and have the statement emanate from him. In my opinion, however, the time element alone is sufficient to favor the first alternative.