§907 Pétain and De Gaulle (1940-1969): III-72.

20th century:
§907 Pétain and De Gaulle (1940-1969): III-72.

The good old man buried right alive,
Near the grand river for a false suspicion:
The new old man of wealth and dignity
Deprived halfway of all his gold for ransom.

(Le bon viellard tout vif enseveli,
Pres du grand fleuve par fauce souspeçon:
Le nouveau vieux de richesse ennobli
Prins au chemin tout l’or de la rançon.)

NOTES: The good old man buried right alive, Near the grand river for a false suspicion: Marshal Pétain aged 89 in 1945 sentenced wrong to death, then commuted to life imprisonment in the island of Yeu in the Atlantic near the Loire for high treason:

France (1944-6) Following the liberation of Paris (25 Aug. 1944), the Resistance and General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) formed a ‘government of concord’ (Aug. 1944). France received a seat in the U. N. Security Counsil and a German and Austrian zone of occupation. 1944-5 Persecution and (sometimes arbitrary) conviction of ‘collaborators’ and ‘followers of Vichy’: Pétain (1856-1951) and Laval (1883-1945(executed)) among others were condemned to death; Pétain’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. 1946 de Gaulle resigned (Jan.) A popular referendum decided against the 1st draft of the constitution.” (PenguinAtlas 2, p.246)

The trial and sentence of Pétain: July 23 – August 15. The trial of Marshal Pétain begins on July 23, 1945. In the first session, the defendant pronounces an opening statement in which he justifies his past deeds and leaves them to the verdict of the history: “ [...] I spent my life serving France [...] I conducted her armies to the victory in 1918 [...] On the most tragic day of her history, it is still to me that she turned [...] Thus I became the heir of a catastrophe of which I had not been the author and the actually responsible persons hid behind me to shelter from the anger of the people. When I demanded an armistice in accord with our military leaders, I practiced an act of necessity and saviour. Yes, the armistice has saved France and contributed to the victory of the Allies, in assuring the free Mediterranean Sea and the integrity of the Empire. The power was then confided to me legitimately and recognized by all the peoples of the world, from the Holy See to U.S.S.R. Of this power I have made use as a buckler to protect the French people. For the sake of the French people I dared to sacrifice my prestige. I remained at the top of a country under occupation. Will you understand the difficulty to govern under such conditions ? Every day I fought, a dagger upon my gorge, against the requirements of the enemy. The hitory will say what I have deviated for you, when my adversaries would not reproach me but for the unavoidable. The occupation forced me to indulge somehow the enemy, but it was only for the sake of my true indulging yourselves untill our territory should have been liberated [...]” Pétain then observes a complete silence and leaves his advocates the care of defending him. On August 15, the High Court condemns the Marshal to death, but asks General De Gaulle, according to the vow of the juries, to sign his pardon. Pétain is then interned in the fort of Portalet, then in the fort of Pierre Levée, in the island of Yeu, where he shall die on July 23, 1951, aged 95.” (Kaspi, 1995, p.525)

The new old man of wealth and dignity:
What were de Gaulle’s achievements?
(i) The new constitution was a marked improvement on the previous one since it allowed strong and decisive government for the first time since 1871. It tranferred the power to make law from parliament to the President who could choose his own Prime Minister and other misisters. The Assembly and the Senate had to agree to laws before they could be carried out, but the President, elected by a national referendum for seven years, could dissolve the Assembly. He controlled foreign policy and defence and could hold referendums on important questions, thus reducing the influence of parliament.
(ii) He settled the Algerian problem. Troubles in Algeria reached a climax in 1958 and the crisis brought de Gaulle back to power. Vicious fighting continued with the FLN (National Liberation Front) and the army both committing atrocities; de Gaulle soon realised that militray victory was out of the question and opened negotiations with the FLN, offering them independence. When some French generals defied him and seized power in Algeria, de Gaulle, appearing on television in his general’s uniform, denounced them, and the rebellion collapsed. Public opinion in France was now sick of the war and when it was agreed (March 1962) that Algeria should become independent, the decision was approved by a 90 per cent vote in a referendum. The Algerian settlement was probably de Gaulle’s greatest achievement after 1945.
(iii) The economy continued to expand steadily between 1958 and 1963 with many new industries established and moves made to modernise agriculture.” (Lowe, 1988, p.399-400).

Deprived halfway of all his gold for ransom: “ De Gaulle was at the height of his popularity in 1962 at the end of the Algerian war. By 1965 his prestige was already waning and in that year, although he defeated the socialist François Mitterrand in the presidential election, the margin was much smaller than in 1958 – 54 per cent to 46 per cent. This trend continued until in 1969 he failed to win a referendum and retired into private life.
Why did de Gaulle lose power?
(i) His foreign policy aroused criticism. In his quest to make France a great power again, he pursued an anti-American, anti-NATO and anti-British line, twice vetoing British entry into the EEC. In 1966, he withdrew France from NATO and insisted on having his own nuclear deterrent. Many people were horrified at the vast expense of this policy and realised that it was absurd of France to be developping her defences in isolation instead of co-operating with other states in western Europe, especially as France’s real weakness had been shown up in Indo-China and Algeria.
(ii) By 1968, all was not well with the economy: coal, steel and railways seemed to have expanded too far and were showing deficits.
(iii) Pressing social problems had been ignored by de Gaulle; there was a serious housing shortage making it almost impossible for young married couples to find homes.
(iv) In February 1968 there was a wave of student strikes and demonstrations; students were objecting to poor accomodation, irrelevancy of courses and the authoritarian and undemocratic nature of the regime. In May, ten million workers joined the students and there seemed a real danger of revolution developping. However, de Gaulle was able to weather the storm by promises of wage increases and shorter hours and by playing on the danger of a communist takeover if he fell.
(v) The economic problems and inflation still remained and de Gaulle tried to revive his prestige by creating regional assemblies and abolishing the sanate. In April 1969 he held a referendum seeking approval of the changes and indicated that he would treat the result as a vote of confidence. Nearly 11 million voted in favour but 12.5 million voted against; consequently the general resigned.”
He died in 1970, a controversial figure who, as Walter Lacqueur says, ‘outlasted his usefulness. By clinging to power too long, he put in question the achievements of the earlier years of his rule.’ (Lowe, 1988, p.400-401).
© Koji Nihei Daijyo, 2014. All rights reserved.


Koji Nihei Daijyo

Author:Koji Nihei Daijyo
We have covered 143 quatrains (§588-§730) concerning the World Events in the 19th century after Napoleonic ages [1821-1900] in the Prophecies of Nostradamus, and 218 in the 20th [1901-2000] (§731-§948).

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