Courtesy Reuters

France Gets to Her Feet


DOUBT and skepticism are heard nowadays concerning the future of the French nation. It is said that France has lost her old recuperative power, and that the record of the French Cabinets since General de Gaulle's resignation from the Government, January 1946, is an unbroken chain of failures. It is true that France has at times seemed to be splitting up under the pressure of sectional interests, but I believe that these troubles are accounted for by the magnitude of the disaster which befell her in 1940-44. The fact is that the executive branch of the government is gaining the strength it needs to cope with the situation.

Not only were the French military and political leaders of the war and prewar periods utterly discredited at the time of the liberation by their errors of omission and commission, but nearly all the existing élites were swept off the board. By "élites" I mean the men who, because of their own achievements or the achievements of their forefathers, had been leaders in the administrative departments of government, in the professions, in the Academies, in society. Many were replaced by amateurs, with much resulting incompetence in government and a general absence of leadership throughout the nation. Moreover, the hasty adoption of an extreme theory of proportional representation in the electoral law of September 1945 aggravated the handicap of the government. Proportional representation made the "machines" of the political parties supreme. Small caucuses at their own pleasure chose deputies to the Constituent Assembly, high officials (not excluding ambassadors) and so on. An independent individual has had to possess exceptional energy to force his way into political life against the will of such oligarchs. Deputies were elected and officials selected by bunches -- and bunches of yes-men they were. During the last half-century public life in France has more and more failed to attract the best elements, and first-rate men have been still further repelled by the domination of bosses whom they consider their intellectual and

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