From New International, Vol.12 No.1, January 1946, pp.8-9.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
For Glory gives herself only to those who have always dreamed of her. – General Charles de Gaulle
Nothing illustrates the depth of the profound crisis in France today and the utter bankruptcy of its present leadership quite as well as the fact that a one-time obscure army brass hat has been elevated to the position of “strong man and savior of France.” Only a few years ago a miserable politician, Daladier, was similarly projected to the world. Who recalls Daladier today? Tomorrow one will be able to ask the same question about Gen. Charles de Gaulle.
Unless one were accustomed, as we should be, to the volumes of lies palmed off as truth in wartime, one would truly be surprised at the impudence of the bourgeois journalists in presenting events and individuals like Charles de Gaulle to the people.
Let us take, for example, General Charles de Gaulle as presented by one of his ardent admirers, the American writer, Walter Millis. In his foreword to de Gaulle’s highly touted book, The Army of the Future , Millis writes:
“This is the now famous little book by a French officer on the principles on which the French did not act – while the Germans did . .. The book brilliantly etches the quality of mind which he brings to the task. His record sufficiently demonstrates his capacity as a man of action. The book shows that he combines with them intellectual powers to which we are, perhaps, too little accustomed in our own military men.”
As a matter of fact, a simple reading of de Gaulle’s work reveals that there is nothing original in his military ideas; he lacks social vision of any sort; and at best he can be described merely as a brass hat who is able to write lucidly, if not accurately.
The political wisdom of de Gaulle, to those who have not followed his opportunistic career in the last four years, is displayed clearly in his major theoretical work. Here is how de Gaulle sees the future of France – this is his social vision:
Gaping wide open, exposing her defenseless body to blows, deprived of all respite and all refuge, where then can our country find her latent protection except in arms? The sword is not only the last argument In her quarrels, it is also the only thing that makes up for her weakness. Everything that is ill-adapted in her territory, absurd in her political system, infirm in her character, has, in the last resort, nothing to offset it but the war-like arts, the school of her troops, the sufferings of her soldiers.
When one recalls that this book was written in the year 1934, it is quite obvious that de Gaulle was nothing but a flag-waving, war-mongering brass hat.
De Gaulle had a classic solution to the problems of France in 1934. He wanted a professional army; plus, to be sure, “our mass of reserves and recruits (the principal element of national defense).” It is not disclosing a military secret to point out that de Gaulle’s views were simply a copy of the military views that had been adopted in Germany and Russia ten years before de Gaulle wrote this book. (Incidentally, one of de Gaulle’s “potent” arguments in this “now famous” book was to demand a three-year period of conscription instead of one year.)
To be sure, de Gaulle understood the impact of a technological age on warfare better than the dullards of the French general staff. His chapter outlining a panzer division and the effect of a mechanized army is quite lucid. He also understood the tactical use of air power. But every idea he expresses in this book of 1934 was ABC to the Red Army and the Wehrmacht; besides which, de Gaulle lacked the courage of a Douhet or a Gen. “Billy” Mitchell to fight for his views. Like every other brass hat, he failed completely to understand the only decisive new development of warfare since the first World War, namely, strategic air power. That de Gaulle was a “brilliant” man in the French army simply indicates that it was still the backward, corrupt, and reactionary army of the Dreyfus case, the blunders of the First World War, and its hero, Marshal Petain.
In this allegedly brilliant work, there is no major criticism of the views symbolized in the so-called Maginot Line mentality. How could de Gaulle attack the rotten core of the French army? He was a protege of Petain’s. As a matter of fact, his argument for a professional army and a specialized army in a mechanical age was dictated not so much by the strictly military needs of the day as by the political requirements of the reactionary French regime. His military system is concerned with other things.
France would be imprudent to rely entirely on native troops to protect the Empire in Algiers, which reverberates to all the rumblings of Islam, and in Indo-China, which reacts to every disturbance in Asia. From the day upon which a force shall be created of men from our own country who are professional soldiers and in consequence more prepared to go on distant campaigns quite unconnected with politics, and from the day upon which from time to time we can parade some of our well-trained troops in carefully selected regions, from that day we shall be sufficiently guarded against danger to render it immediately less probable.
De Gaulle’s future policy today is crystal clear from a reading of that notation written in 1934. De Gaulle is concerned primarily with the question of how to preserve the French imperialist plunder of bygone days.
It is easy to understand why de Gaulle refused to play Charlie McCarthy to Churchill and then to Roosevelt when one reads his major work. It is not so much because de Gaulle is interested in a democratic France or a solution of its burning problems. Quite the contrary, it is primarily because he has a MacArthur complex, but, alas, lives in a poor country. Listen to this gem of profound wisdom:
Actually, everything shows that she (France) is predestined to shine in the realm of quality. Our country, with her tinted skies, her varied contours, her fertile soil, our fields full of fine corn and vines and livestock, our industry of artistic objects, finished products and luxury articles, our gifts of initiative, adaptation, and self-respect, make us, above all others, a race created for brilliant deeds, and a picked body of specialists. Independence of tasks, cooperation of ingenuity, that competition of skill in the use of adaptable machines which will in the future require fighting by professionals, are naturally suited to aptitudes of our best brains. The same causes that give us many specialists in our delicate work will also favor us in the series of technical exploits which tomorrow will give the victory to specialized troops. It would appear that Destiny, in opening out the fresh path, desires once more to serve the fortunes of France.
If we were to change the word France to Germany in this quotation and credit it to Hitler instead of de Gaulle, it would be accepted everywhere as a typical example of the false racial superiority theory propagated by the Nazis.
Is it any wonder that de Gaulle concludes his book with this stirring call to arms: “In the hard task of restoring France’s youth, the new army will serve, remedy, and leaven, for the sword is the axis of the world and greatness cannot be shared.” Sieg Heil!
As for de Gaulle and his glory complex, perhaps a fitting epitaph can be found in Thomas Grey’s Elegy:
The voice of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
1. The Army of the Future, by Charles de Gaulle, foreword by Walter Millis. Lippincott, 1941 Philadelphia.
Last updated on 24.9.2005