THE French people have now chosen the 586 members of the Assembly which is to draft a new constitution for France. The form of that constitution will in large part settle the course and fate of French representative democracy and will foreshadow, in turn, the trend of events in many other European countries.

Representative democracy has never worked smoothly in France. This new constitution will be the fourteenth since the French Revolution. Each constitution reflected the public opinion then prevailing, and although economic and social problems grew in importance during the nineteenth century, and were the paramount issues in 1848, the chief conflicts of that century centered around the fight between authority and liberty -- around the questions of political and civil freedoms, a more liberal enfranchisement, and relationships between the State and the Church.

Under the Constitution of 1875 France experienced a magnificent colonial expansion, steadily improved living standards and industrial equipment, acquired a leadership in letters and arts, knew the glory and exhaustion of the First World War -- in which, at Verdun, she played the rôle that England took during the blitz -- and met, finally, the disaster of 1940. From 1870 to 1940, 106 different Cabinets governed the country, with an average life of eight months each; only eight Cabinets lasted more than two years, only ten more than one year. There were 31 that did not last three months. It may be noted that this ministerial instability was not a phenomenon of the postwar period; President MacMahon had presided over ten Cabinets, Grévy over twelve, Carnot over ten. The situation did become worse after 1919, however. President Doumergue cheerfully solved 15 political crises, and President Lebrun, with less cheerfulness and more austerity, struggled with 17. President Roosevelt pointed out to General de Gaulle that it had sometimes been difficult for him to remember who was head of the French Government. What was really new after the First World War, however, was that instability was no longer accepted as a natural element of the political game, of concern only to professional politicians. The foreign and domestic responsibilities of the government had grown far greater, and the country became conscious that political instability was jeopardizing the future. Examples of other forms of government were at hand in Russia, Italy and Germany, and the wisdom of retaining a representative democracy which seemed to work so badly came into serious question.

This political disorder was the most spectacular aspect of the spiritual, moral and social crisis which undermined French society in the years between the wars. The crisis was primarily the result of a maladjustment between the various élites and the political framework, taking the term "élites"to mean groups of men whose technical and moral qualifications are respected by large segments of the population. Certain hierarchies had been deprived of their former influence, but their places had not yet been taken by representatives of the new moral values; important political groups refused to accept political responsibilities; and other groups of highly trained personnel claimed a behind-the-scenes political power which exerted a demoralizing influence on the whole structure of representative democracy.

The collapse of the landed aristocracy and the downfall of the ruling classes trained under Louis Philippe and Napoleon III had been followed, at the beginning of this century, by the collapse of two other traditional French hierarchies. The Army emerged from the Dreyfus affair as a reactionary class, weakened in prestige and under constant attacks from the Left; and following the merciless fight led by the Radicals against religious congregations, the Catholic Church was no longer a political power. These events had a tremendous impact on French political psychology and, for a long time, destroyed the principle of an accepted authority. The struggle against these two hierarchies was the dominant theme of French spiritual and intellectual life for twenty years; after Ernest Renan, it was Anatole France, Ferdinand Buisson, Jean Jaurès against Brunetière, Albert de Mun, Barrès and the traditionalists. The magnificent debate on "Church, Democracy and Modern Education" in which Jaurès opposed Barrès in 1910 is one of the landmarks of French political thinking. The Socialists and the Left in general were looking for a new élite; the Radicals hoped to find it in their local political machines; the Socialists sought it among skilled workers and technicians, intellectuals and public school teachers. In 1924, the formation of the Cartel des Gauches was the triumph of what Albert Thibaudet called "La République des Professeurs;" in 1936 the formation of the Popular Front was a victory of labor and of the anti-Fascist university professors.

The parallel rise of modern capitalism and of the Socialist and Communist Parties had an important bearing on representative democracy. Socialists and Communists firmly believed in the class struggle and in its Marxist implications: as long as those parties could not identify the interests of the labor class with the national interest, they remained aloof from the government and thus condemned their own élites to permanent opposition. In 1924, Léon Blum had refused to accept political responsibilities with Herriot; he accepted them in 1936, but at that time the Communists, although in the majority, refused executive positions and exercised power without responsibilities. Rising capitalism simultaneously had a corrupting influence on representative democracy -- on deputies and senators during the Panama, Rochette, Oustric and Stavisky scandals, on their political machines, on the press. One of the most discouraging features of French politics in the thirties was the way big businessmen, true leaders of their own élite, cynically boasted of subsidizing both conservative and Socialist papers.

The economic legacy of the First World War -- reparations, war debts, tariffs and quota, budgetary deficits and devaluations -- confronted Parliament with gigantic tasks. It could not cope with them. Parliamentary procedures gradually yielded to government by qualified experts, that is to say, to a bureaucracy -- and the bureaucracy never balanced its extraordinary power by any increase in its sense of political responsibility. Meanwhile, the Parliament delegated its functions to the executive branch, which governed through decree-laws, without discussion. Through the high bureaucracy, pressure groups came to dominate the government; the Banque de France and the Comité des Forges dictated the economic and financial policy of the 1934-1935 governments, and the Federation of Governmental Employees and the General Labor Confederation similarly inspired the left-wing governments of 1933 and 1936-1937.

It is abundantly clear that prewar France suffered primarily from a lack of adjustment between its élites and the pattern of its politics. The political professionals, sure that they "knew the ropes," too easily accepted the scandals which weakened France; big businessmen and experts distrusted Parliament on account of its left-wing tendencies and its social legislation; bureaucrats scorned it from the eminence of their own technical skill. Some trade union leaders were reconciled with the government and were members of its committees; but some were Communists who still considered the government the personification of their bourgeois enemies, and some were die-hard syndicalists trained in the teachings of George Sorel and both opposed to "reformism" and to the Stalinist discipline. French public opinion held no common views as to the ultimate mission of these different élites. The Radical-Socialists, afraid of the rebirth of dead hierarchies, had a negative attitude. One of their intellectual leaders, Alain, denounced the permanent "plot" of the élite against the masses; their feeling was that any attempt at long-term projects, at greatness, implied a threat against the common man and civil liberties.[i] This tendency toward an equalitarian provincialism was curiously compensated by ambitious aspirations in the international field; the Radical-Socialists were the best supporters of the League of Nations, which satisfied in abstracto their rational ideals. Their influence had a destructive effect on democracy, but their positive contribution to the defense of the individual and the fundamental liberties was real.

A positive attitude toward the élite was of course to be found in the managerial circles of big business and among the upper bureaucracy which, as we have seen, claimed a political power which often transcended their actual abilities. It was found also in the circles connected with the General Labor Confederation, which rightly considered union leadership an excellent training for higher responsibilities. The moderate and reformist labor leaders conceived of the unions as the nucleus of a new ruling class within a liberal political framework; Communist organizers, trained in the Bolshevik tradition, had more faith in authority from above.

In the early period of the Third Republic, the demand for a revision of the constitution had come from the left wing. Radicals like Clemenceau attacked the Senate, some members of which could not be removed and which was the guardian of the decaying élite made up of the Catholic hierarchy, the landed aristocracy, the Army and the old monarchist and imperial bureaucracies. They demanded drastic constitutional changes. But these republicans came to perceive that they could achieve their own ideals within the existing framework; they succeeded in democratizing the Senate, in strengthening the Chamber and in submitting the executive branch to the relentless and sometimes tyrannic control of the local political machines and of the parliamentary committees. The government's power of dissolving the Chamber, misused by President MacMahon, was practically abolished; at the beginning of the present century, the Chamber of Deputies emerged as the most powerful organ of French democracy.

Following the First World War the attitudes were reversed. The right wing asked for a revision of the Constitution; President Doumergue, André Tardieu, reactionary leagues, spokesmen of the managerial élite described above, stressed the shortcomings of the French system and urged a strengthening of the executive. But at that time, 1934-1936, the Left looked upon any attempt to change the constitution as an effort of the Right to perpetuate its own power: Radical-Socialists fighting in the name of civil liberties and anticlericalism, Socialists and Communists fighting on the ground of class opposition, joined hands to defeat the so-called Fascist plots. Issues of political technics were overshadowed by personal hatreds and group antagonisms.


On October 21, 1945, about 96 percent of the French voters declared in favor of a new constitution. Speaking at Brest on July 21, General de Gaulle had said: "Such a Constitution should lend itself to broad and profound reforms which are needed in this new era in the administrative, economic, social, moral and imperial domains. But at the same time it should favor continuity of effort within the government and effective execution of new laws without which a great modern nation cannot exist."

At the end of July, an important debate took place in the Consultative Assembly on the plans prepared by General de Gaulle for the national elections. The government's initial plan had provided that, in addition to electing the members of a new Assembly, the French voters would answer two questions: (1) Will the Assembly be a Constituent Assembly? (2) Does the electoral body approve the government's plan for the administration of public offices until the constitution is applied?

This plan provided that during the seven months' period in which the new Assembly was to draft the Constitution, the government, whose President would be elected by the Assembly, would simply consult the Assembly on such matters as the establishment of a budget, the ratification of treaties, social and economic reforms, etc., and would not be responsible to it.

Objections were made to the governmental draft on three main grounds: that the procedure constituted a "double referendum," that it abolished ministerial responsibility, and that it suspended the prewar bicameral system. M. Marcel Plaisant, former Senator of the Cher and Reporter of the Committee on State Reforms, declared bluntly that the referendum would be a half-veiled plebiscite, and added: "Our Committee has opposed a draft which implied the total abolition of ministerial responsibility, the suppression of any parliamentary control over governmental actions and a seven-months' period of political immunity during which the Government would be free to act and dispose without any discussion." MM. Laurent Bonnevay and Labrousse, dignified veterans of the old struggles for civil liberties, protested the trend toward a single and sovereign Assembly. The 1875 constitution was still valid, they said; to it, and to the Senate (despite its social backwardness), France owes most of her political and civil liberties. And they pointed out that individual, electoral and municipal freedoms, freedoms of the press, of association, of assembly, of trade union organization had all been upheld by the Senate and by the great fighters of times gone by: Jules Ferry, Challemel-Lacour, Léon Bourgeois, Waldeck-Rousseau, Clemenceau; while in 1924, the Senate even saved the Communists from an indictment for conspiring against the safety of the state.

The plan was defeated by a vote of the Consultative Assembly and a compromise suggested by the Socialist Party was adopted. The Assembly was unanimous in demanding a greater degree of ministerial responsibility during the interim period; but the plea of moderates and Radical-Socialists in favor of the Senate was also turned down by 196 votes to 91.

These debates, which always remained on a high level, clarified the opposite tendencies of two generations. The defenders of the prewar bicameral system emphasize that man as a moral person has certain fundamental rights, and insist that somewhere in the government there must exist a body or procedure to protect the individual against an all-powerful assembly or an all-powerful bureaucracy -- a Supreme Court, a rule of law built on a Bill of Rights, or a careful, slow but vigilant Senate. The majority of the Assembly, including most Resistance leaders, agree that these individual rights must be protected; indeed, they are mentioned in the preamble of the platform of the National Council of Resistance. But they reject what they look upon as a negative attitude which places main emphasis on protection of the individual. The question of civil liberties, they contend, no longer embodies the real issues of government; emphasis must now be laid on economic rights and social achievements. The issue no longer lies between the individual and the collectivity, but between the roads that the collectivity will take toward constructive revolution: leadership by a strong Assembly or leadership by a strong executive.

The elections of October 21, 1945, took place in an orderly and dignified fashion. This is in itself a fact of great significance: here was the most important of the liberated countries returning wholeheartedly and in full independence to complete legality. The results of the elections to the Assembly in Metropolitan France were as follows: Communists 142, Mouvement Républicain Populaire (Christian Democrats) 140, Socialists 133, Moderates 48, Independents and Miscellaneous 40, Radical-Socialists 19. What conclusions as to the future of French democracy may be drawn from these results?

A fact of prime importance is that about two-thirds of the members of the Constituent Assembly will be newcomers to political life. This is of course partly due to the political purge which followed liberation and to the fact that most deputies and senators who had voted for Pétain in July 1940 rightly became ineligible. The new members of the Assembly will obviously be much more free from routine and local commitments than their predecessors; as "Pertinax" has pointed out, they will also be somewhat inexperienced. But young blood now circulates in the French body politic.

The occupational affiliations of the new Assembly also indicate a sharp break with the past. The leading occupations represented are white collar and other workers, with professors and teachers next. Lawyers now are only the third most numerous group; then come businessmen, newspapermen and farmers. While legal talents are obviously necessary in the difficult work of drafting a constitution, the Assembly should benefit much from the presence of many workers and professors who will emphasize and defend the principles of civil liberties and representative democracy.

Another important factor is that three powerful parties now muster about 80 percent of all members.[ii] The multiplicity of parties has been the plague of French politics and furnished one of the most powerful weapons of reactionary elements in their campaign against the representative system. The French party was much more the political expression of individual ideas and aspirations than, as among Anglo-Saxons, a tool for common social achievement. When a few members of a party changed their views on principles or strategy, secession seemed honest and necessary. The idea that there might be a right, a center and a left inside a party, that two different or opposite parties might have a fairly similar program, that the right-wing of a party might be much closer to the right-wing of another party than to the left-wing of its own party -- all these assumptions, which are quite familiar to Americans, never were the rule in France. The new Catholic party, or Mouvement Républicain Populaire, will obviously have a right, a center and a left, and so will the Socialists. Even the Communists, who are now ready to accept governmental responsibility, are bound to present nuances of opinion, and Communist ministers may not satisfy all the wishes of their rank and file. It will be the task of French political leaders to keep all these nuances disciplined within these few parties and turned, once for all, toward common social achievements. The important fact is that, for the time being, a discipline seems to have been achieved. Will it be maintained in the future? This is the real problem.

The collapse of the Radical-Socialist Party symbolizes the general desire in France for something new. The Party had advised its followers to answer "no" to the question regarding the change of constitution, and thereby contributed to its own downfall. It was in any case too deeply involved in many unpleasant aspects of prewar French politics to be saved even by the noble leadership of Edouard Herriot. The Radical-Socialists were on principle too much opposed to any élite to be willingly accepted by a country which is in search of new values and of spiritual greatness. But we must remember that, by its very negations, Radicalism was also the traditional defender of human values and of the rights of men. Its virtual extinction as a party has created a gap which will not be easily filled.

The emergence of a powerful Catholic liberal party, the MRP, has been said to be the striking feature of the elections. Some analysis of the regional composition of the party is necessary if its nature and possible influence is to be understood. Roughly, about two-thirds of the MRP representatives can be ranged in seven well-defined regional groups, namely, Paris and suburbs, northern France, Brittany, Normandy, Alsace-Lorraine, the large urban settlements of Lyon, Marseille and Sainte-Etienne and a few scattered districts like Hérault, Marne, Indre-et-Loire, Haute-Savoie, Tarn. In all these regions the MRP has practically replaced the prewar conservatives. In Paris and its suburbs, for instance, only two avowedly right-wing candidates were elected, as compared with 17 MRP; in Nord and Pas-de-Calais, only one right-wing, as contrasted to 12 MRP; in Brittany, the bulwark of the French right-wing, five conservatives were elected and 16 MRP.

Since most of the reactionary deputies and senators had upheld Vichy, or at least voted for Pétain in July 1940, their disappearance from French political life is a welcome gain. But it must be realized that those who would have voted for these right-wing candidates are precisely the ones who now have voted for the MRP. This may have two meanings. It may indicate that conservative but patriotic electors, emerging from the ordeal of German occupation, have reëxamined their political convictions and are now reconciled to the progressive social teachings of the Christian Democrats. Or it may mean that the old prewar reaction has momentarily wrapped itself in the lofty cloak of the MRP, or has accepted the new party as a lesser evil, feeling it would be easier to adjust to a system of nationalization sponsored by MRP than to what is advocated by the Communists. Quite probably the new party will include both young, energetic and progressive elements from the Catholic Resistance and reactionary die-hards striving to save big business and to minimize the impact of nationalizations. The question whether the new party is leftist is really a futile one. What is "the Left" ? If we stress the social connotations of the term, then the MRP will quite probably be leftist in its majority. If we stress the question of Church and State, the answer is probably the opposite, especially if the principles of the lay state remain obligatory for a left-wing program. But yet again, this principle may not be a fundamental one in postwar French "leftism."

Before the war, the French Socialist Party ceased to be strictly a labor party; it represented many farmers and governmental employees. The strong ties now built up between the Party and the rising governmental bureaucracy, the emergence of many Socialists in important executive positions -- as prefects, regional commissioners, technical and economic advisers in Paris and the provinces -- is bound to accentuate the Party's loyalty to the government. In any event, the great and interesting new fact is the friendly attitude of the Socialist Party toward the Catholic liberals of the MRP. This may imply the end of aggressive anti-clericalism; it certainly indicates that the Socialists recognize the courage and patriotism displayed during the German occupation by so many young elements of the Catholic group.

The victorious rise of the Communist Party seems to offer another instance of the French thirst for some kind of well-integrated organization. The Communists are both an army and a church. If they bitterly attack the trusts and big business forces, they have nonetheless a healthy respect for the machine age and technical efficiency. If they have opposed the food and wage policies of the government, if they have vehemently denounced some of its ministers, they have at the same time accepted responsibility as Cabinet members and have filled technical positions with real competence. The high regard for technical ability shown by the Communists, and their sense of social coöperation toward common aims, may cause them to make a definite contribution in French politics.


Such are the basic political forces which, under the leadership of General de Gaulle, will strive to draw up a constitution for the Fourth Republic. What are their chances of success? What are their handicaps? Is it possible to foresee the broad features of the new constitution or at least to express a few hopes as to what the constitution could be? And, finally, what would be the future of representative democracy in France within the constitutional framework? These are the great problems to which the writer will attempt to sketch some answers.

First of all, the rebirth of a true patriotism and a common aspiration for French greatness are hopeful factors. In the words of the first article of its platform, the National Council of Resistance decided to remain united after liberation "to restore France to her power, her greatness and universal mission." Marcel Cachin, the old Communist leader, recently stated: "The Communists will take their place in the front ranks of all republicans in the gigantic undertaking of the nation's moral and material reconstruction which will arouse the ardor of all Frenchmen worthy of that name."[iii] Combined with this strong patriotism there is a vivid awareness of the ordeal through which France has passed; all are in the mood for compromises which would prevent its recurrence.

A second hopeful factor is that all parties seem in agreement as to the basic characteristics of the future French economic and social system. There will be debates on the methods and extent of state control over economic activities; but the fundamental principles themselves have been accepted by a very large majority of the Assembly, on the basis of the program of the National Council of Resistance. This community of views is new and important. Ten or twelve years ago, as we have noted, the left wing was bitterly opposed to the constitutional amendments suggested by the late President Doumergue and André Tardieu: Doumergue amounted to a "Fascist," and Tardieu was either an "adventurer" or a "condottiere," with a background which did not entitle him to teach political honesty. Now it seems quite possible that the new constitution will be fairly close to the drafts prepared at that time and branded as "Fascist" by the Left. Twelve years ago, to the neo-socialists who wanted "order, authority, nation," M. Léon Blum had cried in an historical meeting, "I am terrified." M. Blum's present program is pretty close to that neo-socialist platform. What does this mean? Simply that the social and psychological setting of these prewar attempts has changed; political hatreds and antagonisms between leading politicians which poisoned the air in the middle thirties have disappeared. The approach to a new constitution may be therefore much more technical and much less emotional.

Finally, there is a universal desire to rebuild France around a new "élite," a new aristocracy. The very idea of greatness implies an aristocracy as the necessary tool. But what kind of élite? Here, of course, the point of view varies. To the Communists, "élite" obviously means the leaders of the Communist Party and of the Communist unions; but also, as pointed out above -- and here, perhaps, is a new field of harmony -- any disinterested competency devoted to the public interest and not subservient to the "trusts." To the Socialists, in addition to the élite of the party and the unions, the term connotes the high state officials with liberal leanings, and the professors, intellectuals and professional men. To the Christian Democrats of the MRP the "élite" is composed of the leaders of Church organizations, of Christian unions and also -- just as for the conservatives -- the managerial élite of business, the moderate governmental bureaucracy, and eventually of the Army and the academies and learned societies.

Of course there are points of tension and potential conflict. Coöperation between the MRP and the left-wing groups may raise the old issue of relationship between the Church and the State, in particular the question of state subsidies to the private schools. Even if leaders as liberal and open-minded as Léon Blum are ready to compromise on the issue, the Socialist committees and plenary congresses will probably take a very strong stand against any change in the pre-Vichy principles of disestablishment.[iv] It is to be hoped that by common accord the problem will not become a constitutional one, and that the discussions which are bound to arise will be held later on in the ordinary course of legislative debates.

This Constituent Assembly is also legislative. It will reflect all the disturbances which may arise in consequence of the hardships of this winter. Cold and hunger may become the worst enemies of the future constitution. This is a major factor in potential discord.

Relationships between the Socialists and the Communists are still stormy. Communist Party influence presses constantly on the rank and file of the Socialists and on the Socialist unions; both parties, in fact, have the same political clientele, or rather, there is among the followers of both parties a fluid group which may easily shift from one to the other. While we have constantly stressed the new atmosphere of coöperation and mutual give-and-take which has appeared so signally in French political life since 1944, animosity between Socialists and Communists is still noticeable. It came into the open when Léon Blum began championing the western European grouping or "bloc," and his views were immediately branded as anti-Russian by the Communists. M. Blum holds that France may choose England and Russia; to the Communists, the choice is England or Russia.

Further difficulties in the colonies -- in Indo-China, for example -- may arouse serious controversies between the Communists and other groups, and on this issue the Socialists may side with the Communists. All problems of foreign policy can impinge on the smooth process of constitutional discussions, and sharp divergences on foreign alignments between the Communists and the other groups may stiffen the general attitudes and turn any technical controversy into an explosive emotional issue.

Finally, there will be the general opposition of viewpoints between the defenders of the "élites" -- whatever they are -- and the defenders of the common man, of the masses; in France, too, the philosophy of Hamilton is now opposed to the philosophy of Jefferson. The young resistance groups which so boldly kept the flame of French spirit alive studied the political reconstruction of France. In 1943 and early in 1944 several drafts for new constitutions were published underground: we must admit that many of our young reformers were very much on the side of Hamilton, that they did not seem greatly concerned with the common man and with bills of rights. The leitmotiv of all plans was the strengthening of the executive. One of the most drastic frankly advocated a presidential régime. According to this plan, the President would be the Chief of State and the Chief of the Government; he would be elected through indirect suffrage; he would introduce constitutional amendments and new laws; he would have a veto power over the legislation and the right to dissolve the assemblies; he would appoint all civil and military officers, including the members of a supreme court; and ministers would be responsible only to him. Scorn for the old political parties was common to all these groups, at least one of which frankly labelled all political parties "parasitic institutions" and favored their abolition.

These plans are typical of the sociétés de pensée which will remain the glory of occupied France, and they disclose the clear-cut convictions of a new élite. But let us also admit, as the Communists pointed out, that in its justifiable emphasis on the strengthening of the executive branch, this aristocracy was not fully aware of the needs and aspirations of the masses. There was also perhaps the subconscious assumption that this élite itself would be the executive. (The assumption is human enough. The adherents of planned economy, for example, are usually recruited among those who think they would direct the planning and not among those who would be directed by it.) Their prophecy of the decline of political parties was to be thoroughly discounted by the events which followed liberation: if these reformers are to play a great rôle -- and it is quite likely that they will -- they will play it within the political parties, not outside them. In fact, many of them have been elected to the new Assembly on different political tickets.

Is it possible to find a common denominator to all these contrasting aspirations, and a constitutional modus vivendi which would pave the way to France's greatness and also safeguard "all that to free men is dear" within the framework of representative democracy? Such a synthesis can be sketched only in very broad outline.[v] Its main elements might be: (1) A strengthening of the executive, balanced by the elaboration of a bill of civil and social rights as part of the constitution. (2) The preservation of the bicameral system, with emphasis in the upper Chamber not on representation according to professional activities but on the various élites as such. (3) The strengthening of the control of the legislature over the bureaucracy.

Let us comment very briefly on each point:

(1) In the writer's opinion, strengthening the executive must not mean the adoption of a presidential régime. If it were possible to transplant to France the presidential system as it works in the United States, with its full background of federalist thinking and political and judicial tradition, the matter would certainly be worth considering. But such a transposition is utterly impossible. In fact, it is worth noting that most French publicists and politicians who praise the American system (and there have been quite a few of them in the past two years) praise chiefly the wartime powers of the President and are usually fairly ignorant of the constitutional limitations of the presidential functions, as Pierre Cot very clearly pointed out before the Consultative Assembly. In France, moreover, the "presidential system" does not carry the connotations of Lincoln, Wilson or Roosevelt, but the connotation of Bonaparte; that is unfortunate, but it is a fact.

Strengthening the executive should mean stabilizing it. There might be a Chief of State and a Chief of Government with a Cabinet responsible to the Parliament; but dissolution of the lower Chamber should become automatic at a certain stage. André Philip recently suggested that automatic dissolution of the Chamber should take place on the third reversal of the Cabinet. Besides, the Chief of Government should perhaps have a veto power over the Parliament -- a veto that could be overridden after further deliberations and under certain majority rules. While the government and the parliament would both have the initiative of introducing new legislation, the government alone could propose expenditures.

Such measures would undoubtedly strengthen the executive branch; in fact, they are the core of the reforms suggested in the middle thirties which raised a great uproar among the Left. But many members of the Assembly think that this reënforcement of the executive should be balanced by the promulgation of a new bill of civil and social rights, as a written part of the constitution. The generous humanism and the legal talent of the French can be trusted to make sure that this bill of rights is drafted in a comprehensive yet workable form. Socialists like André Philip have stressed its necessity. The right to individual freedom should be stressed, along with rights of free speech, free press, free exercise of religion, and so on. Among the rights of labor, special emphasis should be put on the right to strike, to bargain collectively and, above all, the right of all workers and producers to choose their own representatives without coercion and governmental interference. If France is to remain a democracy, true representation must exist at every stage. The lack of freedom for the workers and producers to choose their own representatives has characterized the Fascist and other dictatorial régimes much more than has compulsory unionization or a single union.

(2) Like many French people, General de Gaulle is reported to favor the bicameral system. The MRP is said to favor an advisory and technical second chamber composed of representatives of the departments and municipalities, overseas territories, the professions and family associations. It is no secret that many members of the managerial groups, even members of the trade unions, would favor an advisory professional assembly. But would an advisory assembly have power and responsibilities? And, if so, is it not to be feared that, in this assembly, representatives of private professional interests would, because of their skill and by their very nature, soon become the prevailing element? Would their eventual conspiracy against the average consumer be watched and denounced by representatives of local political bodies and family associations? Would they truly defend the national interest?

The necessity of rebuilding a French aristocracy might well lead to the constitutional creation of some kind of Chambre des Élites as the upper chamber of the Parliament.[vi] It would not be simply a professional chamber and would not be merely advisory; it would have clear powers. This chamber would include elder, highly respected statesmen like MM. Marin, Herriot, Bonnevay, Jeanneney, Léon Blum, who would be selected by the lower chamber; representatives of the different sections of the Institut de France, elected by these sections; representatives of the French universities and institutions of higher learning; representatives of the welfare institutions and family associations; representatives of the so-called Grands Corps de l'État, namely, the Cour de Cassation, the Conseil d'Etat, the higher financial bodies, the state engineers, the Army and Navy, the diplomatic service, the bar; and also, of course, it would include representatives of the different trade associations, labor unions, farmers' associations, etc. These latter professional representatives should not constitute the majority of this upper chamber, but their technical skills and competency would contribute usefully to it. All these members should be selected by their respective groups and unions on the basis of free elections. The government could be reversed only by the lower chamber and, as mentioned above, such reversal would be followed by automatic dissolution after the second or third adverse vote. But both chambers would have the right to initiate legislation.

(3) Provisions for the control of the bureaucracy by the Parliament are essential. Rightly or wrongly, France is entering an era of state control of economic activities; a tremendous growth of the governmental bureaucracy will follow the program of nationalization and economic planning. The managerial élite will emerge with enormous powers: this is the most conspicuous aspect of the revolution of the "élites." Let us welcome this élite; but let us avoid creating a new Leviathan.

It seems to the writer that the main difficulty in economic and social planning is to determine the objective of the planning. There can be planning for autarchy and self-sufficiency, or planning for war; there can be planning for full employment, or planning for welfare, for a better standard of life, for the good society. It is difficult to accept the dictum that the governmental bureaucracy must determine the goal. The bureaucracy must perhaps be left free to arrange and adjust the technics of planning, but the question of the goal must be decided by the Parliament. This responsibility of Parliament should be written in the constitution. In a democratic society, power implies responsibility, and the rise of bureaucratic power implies the growth of bureaucratic responsibility. It might be advisable to generalize the practice of parliamentary hearings; in prewar France, by long-standing practice, the minister alone was responsible before the Parliament for all deeds of his administration. Such a centralization of responsibilities may not be compatible with the planning age. To make sure that the new élite does not become an oligarchy, this élite might be made directly responsible to ad hoc parliamentary committees.

Such are some of the difficult problems to be solved in the coming months by General de Gaulle and the new Constituent Assembly. Obviously, their final adjustment will require much skill and leadership, much compromise and concession. Let us repeat that never before have the opportunities been so great. Within the new constitutional framework, the future of French representative democracy is at stake. There the rights and duties of the new élites and those of the masses may still be peacefully adjusted, so that, reconciled with herself, France can follow her course of true spiritual leadership.

[i] In an article in FOREIGN AFFAIRS for July 1941, Julien Benda has also shown how certain groups of Socialists and Radicals (including Alain) were indeed pacifists at any price and might have preferred servitude to war. Such groups were small, although they may have been quite influential among some young intellectuals. One of the outstanding results of four years of German occupation has certainly been to save many French intellectuals from too much sophistication.

[ii] While the official returns still mention 18 different parties, ten parties do not include more than six members each. The most important right-wing group has only 26 members, less than 5 percent of the Assembly.

[iii] This resurgence of patriotism is symbolized by a universal desire for a sizeable army. There are conflicting views as to how this army should be organized. Treasury officials, for budgetary reasons, and regular Army officers, on account of their esprit de caste, seem to favor a small professional army; while the Socialists and Communists incline toward a popular mass army. But there is no divergence of opinion as to the necessity of an army, and of army expenditures.

[iv] Very harsh polemics took place before the October 21 elections between MM. Francisque Gay, one of the leaders of the MRP, and Albert Bayet, son-in-law of the famous historian Aulard, an old-guard of anti-clerical liberalism.

[v] The constitution will quite probably deal at length with a further integration of the French Empire with metropolitan France on some kind of federative basis. Following the recommendations of the Brazzaville Conference in February 1944, liberal and farsighted trends are to be expected in this field.

[vi] The idea was advocated before the war by M. Bernard Lavergne in his "Gouvernement des Démocraties Modernes." It is easy to recognize here the influence of Renan and his "L'Avenir de la Science."

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  • LOUIS R. FRANCK, of the French Ministry of Finances, now detailed to UNRRA as chief of the West European Branch; author of several books on social and political problems
  • More By Louis R. Franck