851.002/7–2048: Telegram

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

secret   niact
us urgent

3781. The resignation of the Schuman Government last night following vote against the Government on the Socialist amendment to reduce the military budget by twelve billion francs (actually Schuman had not posed question of confidence on Socialist amendment but only on Radical-Socialist amendment which was withdrawn by latter [Page 640] yesterday) has brought to head a protracted latent crisis which began shortly after the Parliament reconvened in April after Easter recess.

As I pointed out in mytels 2733, May 22 and 3237, July 181 and as demonstrated by the Assembly debates of the last two months on the lay school issue, reduction in number of government workers, et cetera, a pre-electoral atmosphere was developing in the Assembly accompanied by clear and unmistakable signs that the governmental parties were progressively showing less inclination to make the mutual concessions which were necessary if even a semblance of governmental unity was to be preserved.

The fall of the Schuman Government was certainly unwanted by a majority of the Deputies and political leaders. Even the Socialists who bear, of course, the heaviest responsibility for provoking it are among the unhappiest and a number of Socialist Deputies and leaders including SFIO were strongly and openly opposed to the uncompromising stand taken by a majority of the party leadership. Such Socialists believed that Schuman’s fall under existing circumstances would not only be blamed on their party but much more important, that only the Communists and Gaullists— particularly the latter— would profit from it. The Radicals are also not without responsibility because of the introduction last Saturday of the Anxionax amendment {my 3746, July 18)2 implying censure of Teitgen. Yesterday, however, they did their best to repair their initial error by withdrawing the amendment and in the vote only one Radical opposed the government, the remainder supporting it or abstaining. (My immediately following telegram contains analysis of vote).2 The Radicals’ clear desire to avoid a major crisis gave rise to restrained optimism yesterday afternoon that Schuman would survive, but their action came too late as the position of both the Socialists and Schuman had become frozen.

It can be said with justification that when the debate on military credits began last week everyone realized that it would be acrimonious but no one actually then believed it would result in the government’s demise. It is clearly evident that the real cause of the crisis was not a difference of opinion over a reduction of three and half billion odd francs in the military budget but by electoral preoccupations and party maneuvers connected therewith which, when put in motion, could not be stopped.

It is impossible at this juncture to predict the composition of the next government or who will head it. Early this morning Auriol3 began conferring separately with leaders of all the different parties and the parties themselves have all been meeting. As things now stand [Page 641] there are several combinations which arithmetically and in principle could muster the 311 votes necessary for investiture but which politically do not appear possible. For example, a popular front government (Communist, Socialist, Radical) appears inconceivable because even if the Socialists would play, the burning hostility of most Radicals towards the Communists makes such a coalition improbable to say the least. Similarly, a coalition grouping together representatives of all parties, is scarcely less improbable for much the same reason. Another theoretical possibility would be a center-right coalition (excluding Communists and Socialists) but, in the improbable event that such a coalition would be formed, it is difficult to see how it could exist for even a short time without the active support of the Socialists. Still another formula would be government of “technicians” to carry on until after the October elections but any such solution would be rightly viewed as simply transitory caretaker government and would therefore have little or no authority. In the light of the foregoing, hazard that the most probable solution at this juncture will be a coalition based on approximately the same component elements as the Schuman Government, but with new or reshuffled Cabinet faces. Such solution cannot be expected to inspire public confidence. A government composed of the same elements as Schuman’s will cause the average Frenchman, who is becoming increasingly tired of “too much politics”, to utter the classic remark “the more things change the more it is the same old things”.

While I do not wish to appear unduly pessimistic, there is little doubt in my mind that the present crisis, showing as it does so clearly the obvious lack of unity and purpose of the Democratic forces of the center, has in terms of the coming critical period hurt the chances of a centrist political solution in France and has correspondingly strengthened both the Communists and the Gaullists—but at this juncture particularly the latter.

That De Gaulle was keenly aware, even before the vote last night, of the fact that the present crisis was working in his favor is apparent from remarks which he addressed to the RPF National Council yesterday afternoon. He said: “Never in my life have I felt a sense of duty with such intensity; we must take France in charge in order to lead her, but it is necessary that France bring us to power of her own free will.” He also deplored “the state which has been dislocated by reason of party politics; the nation feeling that the germs of dissolution are fermenting within itself; a foreign situation immensely grave; an economic, social and financial situation which can be summed up in the one word “disequilibrium”; the “breakdown of the whole structure; [Page 642] on top of it all a sense of discouragement which would take possession of ail France if we were not here. But we are here.”

Sent Department 3781, repeated London 677, Berlin 448, Rome 820, Moscow 333.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Vincent Auriol, President of the French Republic.