The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
227. While outwardly at least the present social and political atmosphere in France is relatively calm as compared with the turbulent [Page 595] period of strikes and public disorder last November and early December, there are nonetheless ominous political undercurrents which indicate that the present government is in for a very hard time during the coming critical period. The next few months are now generally considered in Paris as the most vitally important which any French Government has had to face since the liberation, and most qualified observers believe that they may well hold the answer to the question of whether or not the Communists can be contained and beaten back and the situation—economic, political and social—stabilized and ultimately restored.
In the final analysis it is obvious that social and political stabilization in France and western Europe depends largely upon economic stabilization (wages and prices, budgetary equilibrium, sound fiscal policy, etc.). The Schuman Government recognizes this and is making a determined and very courageous effort in this direction. In view, however, of the universal unpopularity of draconian measures it has been obliged to invoke, the government attempts would be difficult enough even under the most favorable political circumstances. (By favorable circumstances, I mean a political situation where the government had solid support of all French parties and groups except the Communists.) At present, however, the Schuman Government is far from enjoying any such solid support. In addition to all-out Communist efforts aimed at its destruction, it is also being sniped at and undermined by the right which is marching under De Gaulle’s banner. Furthermore, there are also groups and individuals of the so-called center and moderate right (particularly in the Parliament) which for reasons of partisan politics or personal ambition are either openly opposing the government or withholding support. (In addition to Gaullists, I refer both to the agrarian group and other deputies from agricultural constituencies who are strongly opposing the government’s efforts to make the farmer bear a proportionate share of the national burden and to deputies elected by essentially bourgeois votes.) Still other centrists are reluctantly supporting the government but with weather eyes open to a change of course should the political winds veer or shift. In this latter category are a considerable number of Radicals, elements of the UDSR composed largely of Gaullists and some MRP and Independent Republican deputies who know that in any new elections they would stand small chance on their present ticket and are accordingly keeping a close eye on the De Gaulle bandwagon.
With such a situation in the Assembly (which was pointed up in the recent confidential vote on the Mayer plan1 when the government’s majority on the 5 votes never more than 38), it seems apparent that [Page 596] should De Gaulle decide that the time has come to “pull the rug” from under Sahuman on some controversial issue, his chances of causing the government’s fall would be very considerable. Or to put it another way, the government’s chances of obtaining a majority in Parliament against all-out opposition of the Communists, the right, the Gaullists and disaffected elements of the center would be very slim.
For the moment De Gaulle does not wish to return to power and indeed he could not do so today because there is still a definite reluctance particularly in the left but also in the center and moderate right to embark on an “adventure” with the General when it is still considered barely possible that a centrist solution may succeed. On the other hand while De Gaulle’s prestige is unquestionably now lower than at election time last autumn, it could snowball overnight if the general situation deteriorates. In my opinion, however, the moves of both the Communists and Gaullists in the coming weeks will depend largely on the extent to which the government’s efforts to stabilize the economic situation succeed or fail.
That the Communists are still strong and dangerous (they did not make an all-out effort last November) and will use every means to insure the failure of Schumann economic plan is a disturbing certainty. Even more disturbing, however, in the light of the political situation and particularly the currents within the Assembly described above, are indications that De Gaulle and the RPF, far from wishing the present govt to succeed, appear to wish it only to hold together until the situation appears ripe for them to take over. If this is trae they may be expected to follow a course calculated to undermine and gradually destroy the position of the Schuman Government.
In informal conversations with De Gaulle’s advisers, I am stating frankly that while it is an internal matter and none of my business, I am strongly of the opinion that any premeditated efforts by the Guallist machine deliberately to undermine the present govt will be very damaging to De Gaulle prestige in the United States.
I have told them that I realize that Schuman Government may fail and that in the course of events De Gaulle may be called back to power. Under such circumstances and by their own statements De Gaulle would desire the close friendship, aid and confidence of the United States. Should he act in such a way as to give the impression that he is putting personal ambition ahead of national interest, that his sole desire is to return to power and that in so doing he will not hesitate to smash the truly democratic elements of the left and center, he can hardly fail to cause serious misgivings in the minds of the American Government and people—misgivings which are hardly calculated to inspire trust and confidence in his future course of action. In this connection [Page 597] it has been noted that while De Gaulle remained silent when the government was faced with its most serious test of strength with the Communists (that is during the strike period) his representatives and he himself have “stepped up” their attacks when the government showed signs of weathering the storm.
Furthermore, I am also telling them that it appears to me that any effort which is obviously designed prevent the success of the present government’s economic stabilization plans is simply playing the Communist game, for it will not only create further divisions with [in] France—particularly alienating the Socialist[s] within and without the vital trade union movement and forcing them towards the Communists with whom they have broken—but will result in increased hardship and misery for the mass of the population, which is precisely the situation the Communists are endeavoring to create in their efforts to recapture the support which they lost last November and December.
- A series of measures to curb inflation, promote exports, and otherwise strengthen the French economy.↩