How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine
The Case Against Incrementalism
THE French censorship and physical difficulties of transatlantic communication have restricted the flow of French newspapers and periodicals to the United States. Thus it has come about that the full texts of many of the public pronouncements of Marshal Pétain, who on July 11 assumed full powers as Chief of State, are still lacking in the United States; while the reports of them transmitted by American correspondents have often been very meager. Among the most important "programmatic" statements by Marshal Pétain is one given by him to the Revue des Deux Mondes, and printed by that periodical in its issue of September 15, 1940, under the title "La Politique Sociale de l'Avenir." It has been widely reprinted subsequently in the local newspapers of unoccupied France. We reproduce below several striking passages from this statement, taken from La Nouvelliste de Lyon, an old-established Royalist organ, of September 20.
Marshal Pétain, who addresses his statement to all Frenchmen, begins by saying that he wishes to discuss politics -- not, however, the "barren and gloomy struggle of parties and factions" but politics as a science and art, "the art of governing men in conformity with their highest and most general interests." A strong State is an indispensable factor in good government. He says it is his intention to build such a State "on the ruins of the monstrous and flabby State which collapsed under the weight of its weaknesses and mistakes far more than under the blows of the enemy." He continues:
"Not being in vassalage to any individual interest or group of interests, the new French State has the freedom, the strength and, I may add, the will to play its rôle of arbiter, and by meting out stern and impartial justice to assure that triumph of the general welfare over individual rights which is so important for the maintenance of national unity.
"There was nothing more illogical, more incoherent, more contradictory than the economic system which, for fifty years or more, brought us chronic agitation, marked by violent clashes in which the strike and the lock-out competed in producing ruin.
"Liberty was perpetually invoked by the powerful, on whom she bestowed intolerable increases of power; and when the law intervened in favor of the weak, it did so with such clumsiness that in the end it tipped the scales against them.
"This is the pitiful story of the so-called 'social' laws of the Third Republic. They did not improve the conditions of the working class; they did not humble capitalist feudalism; they succeeded only in half-ruining our national economy. To what must we attribute so complete a failure? Not so much to the incompetence or wickedness of man as to the weakness of the State -- the inadequacy of the governmental machinery."
At this point Marshal Pétain explains that he is in a more favorable position than his predecessors to approach social problems in a free spirit and with effective means of action. He describes the family as the core of the social structure. "In the new order which we are setting up," he says, "the family will be honored, protected, aided." He also considers the needs of youth. He then continues:
"When our young men and our young women enter life we shall not mislead them with lofty statements and illusory hopes. We shall teach them to open their eyes wide to reality.
"We shall tell them that it is fine to be free; but that real 'Liberty' can be attained only in the shelter of a protecting authority which they must respect and obey. We shall not be content to give them the liberty to die of hunger, even if this liberty confers on them the right to drop a ballot in a box every four years. We shall recognize their right to work -- not, however, at any occupation they may choose, for in this domain freedom of choice will be limited within the possibilities of the economic situation and the demands of the national interest.
"We shall then tell them that 'Equality' is a beautiful thing on certain planes and within certain limits; but that, if men are equal in the face of death, if they are equal before God, if it is the business of civilized society to make them equal before the law and to give them an equal chance in life, these different kinds of equality must be fitted into a rational hierarchy, based upon diversity of functions and merits and regulated for the common good.
"Finally, we shall tell them that 'Fraternity' is a magnificent ideal, but that in the state of nature to which we here have fallen there can be true fraternity only in natural groups such as the family, the city and the Fatherland.
"We shall tell them that if it is normal for men to form into groups according to their trade affinities, their social level, their manner of life, and that if it is legitimate for these various groups to assert their interests and their rights against each other, then we shall tell them that the class struggle -- which was considered such a great stimulus to universal progress -- is an absurd concept which leads peoples to disintegration and death, whether by civil or by foreign war.
"We shall tell them that, if competition is the law of life and if the interests of employer and employee sometimes conflict, yet the general interest of their common occupation must dominate the clash of their individual interests, for it is but part of the still more general interest of production. Whence arises a triple necessity:
"The necessity of organizing the trade or profession on a corporative basis, wherein all the elements of an enterprise can come together face to face and reach an understanding.
"The necessity of having in each organized trade or profession a representative of the State with supreme power to arbitrate differences which otherwise would be irreconcilable.
"The necessity of having, outside and above the corporations or communities of enterprises, a State organism with power to orient national production in accordance with the capacities of the domestic market and the possibilities of foreign markets.
"Conceived in accordance with these principles, the new social order will not be 'Liberalism,' because it will not hesitate to combat violence which conceals itself under certain ostensible liberties, and to seek in certain legal restraints an indispensable instrument for liberation.
"It will not be 'Socialism,' because in large measure it will respect individual liberty and will preserve the powerful motive of individual profit.
"It will not be 'Capitalism,' because it will put an end to the reign of economics and its immoral autonomy, and because it will subordinate the money factor, and even the labor factor, to the human factor.
"One of the great innovations of Christianity was to teach man to accept willingly the necessity of work, and to give the most humble work a spiritual value. We yearn with all our soul to restore that value, which in the last analysis rests on our respect for the human being.
"In conclusion I would like to emphasize that this conception of social life is purely and profoundly French.
"Liberalism, capitalism and collectivism are foreign products imported into France. France, restored to herself, rejects them quite naturally.
"She understands today that she was misled in trying to transplant to her own soil institutions and methods which were not at all meant for her sun and her climate. And when she examines the principles which made her enemies victorious, she is surprised to recognize in all of them a little of her own self, her purest and most authentic tradition.
"The idea of a concrete economy, defined by human will and submitted to the judgment of moral conscience, is the same idea which dominated her own traditional social system.
"We find little trouble in accepting the National Socialist idea of the primacy of labor, and of its essential reality in contrast with the fiction of monetary tokens, because it is part of our classical heritage -- so much so that we find the idea expressed by the most French of our writers, the most national of our poets, the good La Fontaine." He then recalls the fable of "The Worker and his Children."
Marshal Pétain concludes:
"I could pursue this thought still further. It would lead us, by a variety of roads, to truths which were ours, which we have forgotten, and which we can recover without borrowing them from anyone, and, moreover, without disregarding the merit of those who have known better than we how to turn them to good account. And thus we shall see how -- without in any way disavowing ourselves, but, on the contrary, by finding ourselves again -- we can articulate our thought and our action with those which tomorrow will preside over the reorganization of the world."