The Chargé in France ( Bonsal ) to the Secretary of State
2041. Following is Embassy’s tentative appraisal position of Pleven Government as it faces Parliament when latter convenes October 17 after 2 and ½ months’ recess.
Government faces a dozen problems any one of which, in words of French observer, capable in normal times of causing fall of two or three governments. This does not mean, however, that Pleven necessarily about to be overthrown. Public and political observers are centering attention on specific problems and difficulties of solving them, not actively speculating on problem of government’s survival or its possible successor. But fact is that mutual suspicions are rife among parties forming coalition, that government’s record does not look particularly good to any single party, and that on several important issues cabinet not working as a united team.
Such a situation is of course to some degree chronic. Embassy would therefore conclude that government likely to withstand first parliamentary shocks. Dangerous situation could develop rapidly, but Embassy believes no party has yet found the concrete issue on which it would be prepared bring Pleven down. Must also be realized that negative considerations tend to shore up cabinet in office, notably (1) difficulty of formation successor, and (2) undesirability of responsibility for certain thankless tasks facing any government.
Basic to any estimate is of course fact that France is already in an election year. Not only are moves with regard to electoral law calculated almost exclusively with party interest primarily in view, but treatment of all other problems (or failure to treat them) affected by what deputies believe to be their electoral advantage in 1951. But while all this sharpens suspicions and makes parties jumpy, very [Page 1417] difficult to see what specific effect coming election now having directly on issue government’s stability.
MRP is currently most discontented member of coalition. It feels it is giving way on electoral law without visible compensation. Responsible for three exposed Ministers of Labor, Industry, and Agriculture, it finds price indices rising and disequilibrium between agriculture and prices, and yet does not have all levers of command. MRP mood might be described as fretful, and MRP President Bidault is widely regarded in other parties as not at all happy as an ex-Prime Minister, and preparing steps to alter his status.
Socialist leadership appears desire continuation present governmental formation, but frankly anticipates party’s early November National Council will be occasion for trouble over continued participation with party militants, who have ungrateful task combat high-powered Communist Party (CP) exploitation variety of discontents among workers.
On eve of Parliament’s return, Pleven Government’s prestige hurt by unexpected serious blow of what is popularly regarded as humiliating disaster in Indochina, with worse expected by many to follow.
While public does not seem to have settled on a particular scapegoat, open or veiled attacks have been launched not only at present government but by particular interests at either socialists or MRP, successively holders of Ministry responsible for Indochina. Coming parliamentary debate on Indochina policy will expose government to attack from all sides.
In these difficult circumstances, Pleven Government faces particularly unwelcome issues as first important topics on which legislative approval required. Instead of being in position to ask for action in support of some program backed by popular demand, he must request approval extension period of military service and costly plans of rearmament. While public and deputies can undoubtedly be expected to accept these necessities, they will thereby hand CP a propaganda weapon of considerable value unless simultaneous efforts are being successfully made on standard-of-living front.
To cap it all, Pleven Government confronted with responsibility for stating French attitude on principle of German rearmament. Thus a leading Gaullist, who personally approves idea rearming Germany and is of course scornful of “third force” government, should declare to us he considered “brutality” of US approach in matter had forced French Government to take a stand more negative than that another treatment would have induced.
Sent Department 2041, repeated information London 490.