J.R. Johnson

The Low Art of High Diplomacy

Who Will Govern France?

(June 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 26, 26 June 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

The press says that an accord is imminent on the Roosevelt-de Gaulle crisis. That is a joke. They can patch up something for the time being and fool the people for a little while, but of genuine accord there is none. How can there be? Roosevelt did not lead America into war to win France for de Gaulle. Moreover, the de Gaulle conflict symbolizes a double threat to America: a threat from all the capitalist governments of Western Europe and a threat too from the, European masses.

Europe strategically can be divided into three areas: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and, bordering on both, Southern Europe. The Mediterranean divides Southern Europe from North Africa.

Now it is perfectly obvious that for some time to come, Stalinist imperialism is going to be the most powerful imperialism in Eastern Europe. From Finland to Rumania, all will bow to Stalin. Roosevelt has made up his mind that he can do nothing about that.

France’s Potential Power

On the west coast of Europe, however, the most powerful country is France. France owns as colonies the coast of North Africa, Algeria, Tunis, Morocco. In alliance with Spain and Italy, Britain and France could form a bloc which could handicap the intention of America to make for itself a powerful economic and military base in Western Europe.

Churchill was ready to throw in his cards with de Gaulle at first. But Roosevelt put his foot down heavily and Churchill as good as banished de Gaullism out of Britain. He even prevented the de Gaullists from publishing their paper by saying that he couldn’t spare them any newsprint.

Churchill swallowed the defeat for a time, but some months ago he paid a personal visit to de Gaulle. He then praised Franco in a recent speech. All the arts of British diplomacy are being used to win over the Italian people to the idea that Britain is their friend.

The two pillars to this maneuver are Franco and de Gaulle. Franco’s regime at least has not been devastated by the war. And a new imperialist France can be a perfect ally for Britain. Whereas Britain was jealous of France’s power in Europe after 1919 and repeatedly played off Germany against France between 1919 and 1939, France today can be an ally but no threat. That is the perfect imperialist ally.

There is now the third factor – the underground movements in Europe, particularly in France. Roosevelt played with Petain as long as he could. He made a deal with Darlan. He made a deal with Badoglio and, until Britain started openly intriguing with Franco, the State Department was extremely friendly to him.

To suppress the French masses on the day of “liberation,” the reactionary, fascist-minded Giraud was chosen. Giraud was just the man to take a stern stand against “anarchy,” i.e., the revolt of the masses.

De Gaulle saw himself being pushed out. Between Giraud and de Gaulle, a large section of the fascist-minded French ruling class were almost of one mind – Giraud. The trouble was

that the underground movement threatened open civil war if Giraud was imposed upon them. To them Giraud meant the Vichy-minded French capitalists in Algiers. Facing ruin, de Gaulle played a bold, ambitious hand which helps to explain the present bitterness more than any nonsense about de Gaulle’s vain and arrogant personality.

De Gaulle’s Fight on Giraud

De Gaulle said in so many words that any attempt to impose Giraud upon the French people would result in a mass revolution. He implied that he could prevent it.

He also did something equally offensive to Roosevelt. He carried on a violent agitation for the defense of the national integrity of France against American domination. He said that nobody could decide the fate of France except France herself.

The result was very favorable to de Gaulle. It placed him before the French masses as the one who fought against Hitler without weakening, as the one who was opposed to Vichy at home and abroad, and as the one who stood for the independence of France against American domination.

This was exactly what the leaders of the French underground wanted. They attached the underground organizations to de Gaulle in some sort of provisional government in Algiers. Giraud was squeezed out of the military command.

The Action of Others

To complete Roosevelt’s defeat, all the smaller nations, Holland, Belgium, etc., which had made up their minds that there was nothing for them to do but to capitulate to Roosevelt, now gathered courage. They began to support de Gaulle’s claims to be considered the provisional government of France. They saw a chance to “liberate” themselves from their “liberator.”

It is this capitalist intrigue that Churchill is blowing into flame, very cautiously, but nevertheless anxious to build a strong bloc against Roosevelt. Roosevelt unconditionally refused to give way. Up to the latest reports, he does not want to have anything to do with de Gaulle.

Roosevelt’s Position

He says for the record that he does not want to give authority to anyone before the French people have had a chance to express themselves. At the same time other “provisional governments,” with no greater standing, are recognized.

If worse comes to worse, Roosevelt can always fall back on de Gaulle. But de Gaulle is the last man he wants, first because de Gaulle, to gain popularity in France, had to talk about a “Fourth Republic” and great social and economic changes, and, secondly, because if de Gaulle has any real mass support he has it because of these promises to make a new France, on the basis of independence against American imperialism. Worse still, de Gaulle has carried on an open flirtation with Stalin. He has even gone so far as to say that although Germany must be punished, she must not be destroyed.

Meanwhile the troops of Britain and America are actually in France and the French people are in immense confusion.

Whatever accord they may patch up, the quarrel will remain. Its future course depends, in the last analysis, upon the action of the great masses of the French people.

Last updated on 14 October 2015