The socialist coalition that forms the present French government is rapidly being squeezed to death. In desperate scrimmage with the Communists on one side, the government this week saw Charles de Gaulle rip off considerable yardage through the broken field of French politics. DeGaulle's heavy gains in the advisory Council of the Republic have greatly strengthened his bargaining position, although the voting was indirect--done by local and Departmental councils--and the Council itself is a body with very limited powers.
Now the rightists' clamors for a general election will have a new note of authority, and the government may not be able to produce the absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies necessary to override an adverse vote by the Council. The Qucille regime has been fighting hard, and will undoubtedly go on fighting, but the odds are against it. And the odds are definitely for the de Gaullists, even in a country where political risks are manifold.
Many Americans have taken a quick glance at de Gaulle, and figured that he is the leader France must have in order to escape chaos and Communism. They minimize his authoritarian tendencies. The socialist center groups have failed, the argument goes, and it is high time the General came to power. He will straighten out the economy, make the most efficient use of Marshall Plan aid, and run the Reds into a back corner.
Unfortunately, this view is more hopeful than reasonable. First, not only is French labor in general hostile to de Gaulle, but important bloes of workers are controlled by the Communists. If labor goes out on strike against socialist governments, it will most assuredly strike against de Gaulle. His prospects of restoring order to French industry are worse than those of the current administration.
Secondly, the Communists are evidently trying to put de Gaulle in power. Their hold on labor will be stronger under a conservative government, and many radicals who are now for Queille might join them. The Communist Party is doing everything it can to wreck the socialist coalition; and if the socialists fall, it will be de Gaulle--not Communist leader Thorez--who will take charge. Under a de Gaulle government, Communist agitation through the unions would force an already conservative leader to move further towards dictatorship.
The West is dealing with too many rightist governments even now--a fact that gives the Communists excellent propaganda. And de Gaulle's leadership would be highly nationalist, to the detriment of Western cooperation on both economic and military planes.
If the General could pull France along to economic recovery, however, his other "shortcomings" might be swallowed with a minimum of disgust. For France cannot have political stability without this recovery, and a chaotic France means, to a large extent, a chaotic Europe. But it is unlikely that de Gaulle can bring recovery back to France. His advent to power will only mean a further split in that country, and in Europe. The West must place its hopes with the socialist moderates who now hold shaky authority, and recognize that a de Gaulle government will be a damaging defeat for the free world.