CERTAIN great problems confront France and the United States in common. I shall try here to explain how they are viewed in France and suggest how they should be handled, to the mutual advantage of our two countries and for the general good.


Anyone who thinks that the French people are motivated by a desire for revenge on their neighbors beyond the Rhine is profoundly mistaken. All of us wish to see a democratic and peaceful Germany play her proper part in the community of European nations.

Last year in London the United States, the United Kingdom and France adopted certain principles which they would like to have incorporated in a German constitution. In consequence, a German Constituent Assembly has met at Bonn and is now engaged in drawing up a democratic constitution of a federal type which will guarantee the rights of the participating states against abuses by the central power. We believe it necessary, in the light of experience (and of our own mistakes in the past, for which we paid dearly), to prevent the rebirth of a strongly centralized Reich. This is not in our own interests only. A centralized state would be just as much a threat to German democrats as to France.

The economic problem of Germany is, of course, especially difficult. We must prevent her resources from being concentrated for future aggression; and yet we must make sure that after the losses of her victims in the war have been made good her industry can contribute to the well-being of all Western Europe. The administration of the Ruhr seems to us the heart of the problem. As Germany's boundaries are now drawn, 90 percent of her coal, 70 to 75 percent of her possible production of cast iron and steel, and 70 percent of her rolled steel products are located in the Ruhr. It is indeed a formidable industrial center, one of the most powerful in the world. After the Second World War, France demanded that the Ruhr be transformed into a separate international entity. Later she made concessions on this point. But when Ordinance No. 75 of the British and American Military Governors declared, following instructions from London and Washington, that a freely elected German Government would itself determine the final ownership of the coal, iron and steel enterprises of the Ruhr, France was stirred to her depths.

The recent statute of an International Authority for the Ruhr removed some of the French fears. It fixes both the amounts and the qualities of the coal, coke and steel destined to go from the Ruhr to other European countries; provides an opportunity for intervention to determine commercial practices and prices; and gives the Authority powers of inspection and investigation. Above all, it provides that in two or three years the control of management, production, investments and equipment is to be transferred either to the International Authority or to the Military Security Board or its successor. These powers should be adequate to prevent the reconstruction of the cartels and the restoration to positions of influence of the men who encouraged the warlike policies of National Socialism.

The central aspect of the French policy can be described simply as an effort to see that the powerful industrial arsenal of the Ruhr is henceforth utilized not against Europe but for Europe. Side by side with the International Authority, and coöperating with it, the Military Security Board will ensure that the Ruhr remains disarmed and demilitarized. The Board will advise the Military Governors, and will take care that industries which can serve warlike purposes do not exceed authorized levels. It is understood that all excess output must be allocated to reparations. When the sum requested is compared with the damage done by Germany it is seen to be modest. If the original reparations program is carried out, France will receive compensation for less than 0.5 of her war damages. (By comparison, she was awarded a 31 percent indemnity in 1918.)

Germany cannot utilize her industrial equipment fully. The experts of the Bizone concede that this is not necessary in order for her to reach a favorable balance of payments by 1952. Is it not reasonable to apply the surplus to the recovery of Europe? We should note that the signatories of the Ruhr agreement stated that the proposals made in 1946 would be corrected to whatever degree might later prove necessary. I repeat, we do not wish to make Germany miserable; but if she really wants peace, we ask for her help in establishing a well-balanced Europe.


In his memorable speech at Harvard on June 5, 1947, Secretary Marshall demonstrated forcefully that the war's most serious economic consequence was not material destruction but the dislocation of international trade. He said:

For the past ten years conditions have been highly abnormal. The feverish preparation for war and the more feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economies. Machinery has fallen into disrepair or is entirely obsolete. Under the arbitrary and destructive Nazi rule, virtually every possible enterprise was geared into the German war machine. Longstanding commercial ties, private institutions, banks, insurance companies, and shipping companies disappeared, through loss of capital, absorption through nationalization, or by simple destruction. In many countries, confidence in the local currency has been severely shaken.

And he likewise stressed the delay in economic recovery, as demonstrated by the failure to conclude peace treaties with Germany and Austria; the abolition of the traditional division of labor between peasants who produce foodstuffs and industrial workers who furnish tools; the dangerous transformation of cultivated fields into pasture lands (already begun after the first war); and the need of governments to have recourse to their supplies of foreign exchange or credits in order to pay for necessary imports. The Secretary of State concluded that Europe must either disintegrate or receive supplementary aid from America. "Our policy," he added, "is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos." Secretary Marshall wished to reëstablish prosperity in order to let freedom live. History will honor him for it. Very naturally, he also declared that Europe must help herself if she wished outside support.

To unify the European national economies means achieving free circulation of men, capital and goods over the entire Continent; in other words, the reverse of the control over trade, inconvertibility of currency and immobility of populations which prevail in Europe today. A policy of economic integration would start with a customs union of the countries of Western Europe. Budgetary and fiscal practices would be harmonized. The creation of a European currency has also been proposed.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to describe such a program than to realize it in practice; systems that have been in effect for centuries cannot be easily changed. A step toward the goal was taken with the signing of the Convention of European Economic Coöperation at Paris on April 16, 1948. Under its terms, the signatory governments recognize that their economies are interdependent and that the prosperity of each of them depends upon the prosperity of all. They consider that only a close and permanent coöperation of the contracting parties can restore and maintain the prosperity of Europe and rebuild the ruins of the war. By Article I, the contracting parties agree to practise close coöperation in their mutual economic relations. They take as their immediate task the establishment and execution of a common recovery program. This program, which is intended to enable the contracting parties to maintain themselves at a satisfactory economic level without outside assistance of an exceptional character, takes into account particularly their need to develop exports to non-participating countries to the greatest possible degree. To these ends, they promise by individual efforts and in a spirit of mutual assistance to fulfill the obligations defined by the Organization for European Economic Coöperation. Thus ideas of autarchy are officially repudiated and the fact of interdependence is recognized.

The O.E.E.C. has drawn up a program of production and trade for 1948-1949, a forecast for 1952, and has begun work on a program for 1949-1950. It established an intra-European payments system which prevented an almost complete suspension of commercial exchanges. The Brussels study group for customs union is trying to define the conditions which will permit the creation of broader economic units. However, the countries which are benefiting from the Marshall Plan have yet to devise a long-term program of common action. If national policies are not changed, a deficit of perhaps $3 billion will remain in the European balance of payments in 1952. Without American aid there would already have been a sharp reduction of imports and, consequently, of the standard of living in most European countries. These are the truths which the statesmen of Europe must never cease explaining to their countrymen, who unfortunately are more accustomed to declamations borrowed from the inexhaustible resources of political theory and demagoguery.

One remedy for Europe's persistent deficit in trade with the dollar zone is to increase European industrial production and intra-European commerce. For this the removal of the fetters placed on trade by clearing arrangements and import duties is essential. It likewise is necessary to lower the costs of European production through specialization and to develop European overseas sales by a joint program of information about European products. The countries of Europe are beginning to understand the necessity of getting together. We must not crow too soon. Nevertheless, certain historic prejudices have been overcome already; and theoreticians who until now have been divided by abstract differences are coming closer under the pressure of reality.

Secretary Marshall and his compatriots obliged Europeans to examine their consciences; this is not the least of the services of the "Marshall Plan."


What, more specifically, is France's place in the Marshall Plan? The aid given us under its terms followed a gift of interim aid, under the law of December 19, 1947, amounting to $283,000,000. At the moment when our own resources in gold and foreign exchange were exhausted and interim aid was at an end, and when there must have been an almost complete stoppage in French imports from the dollar area, the Marshall Plan came into operation. For the financial year 1948-49 it allows us a direct credit from the United States of $980,000,000 plus a sum granted by the other European countries associated in the ERP. The total amount of foreign aid granted France by the Marshall Plan is $1.350 billion, which will enable us to receive free the equivalent of this amount in goods which we could not otherwise have paid for. The extent of this aid can be gauged by the fact that our total imports amount to slightly more than $2 billion. Thus more than half of our imports come to us as a pure gift.

The total of French imports from the dollar zone is now slightly lower than in the previous years. Thus American aid has on the whole increased French resources; it has taken the place of former methods of financing--by gold reserves and foreign loans -- which are no longer available. And our American friends will learn with pleasure that since the Marshall Plan began operations French agricultural and industrial production has undergone a general increase.

Last year's production of wheat was 75,000,000 quintals, as against 52 for the preceding year; potatoes, 140,000,000 quintals as against 102,000,000; industrial beets, 90,000,000 quintals as against 60,000,000; oilseeds, 1,500,000 quintals as against 800,000. Weather conditions were favorable -- one reason why the Government is warning the French people now against excessive optimism -- but the increase must nevertheless be put down in large part to American aid. The consumption of fertilizer was 125 percent of the prewar figure and the number of tractors rose from 65,000 in January to 80,000 in July. In order really to appreciate what this means one must see the joy of the French peasant, a tireless worker always short of help, when he succeeds in obtaining a tractor. I have witnessed it myself over and over again.

The consumer has not yet felt the resulting improvement in the food supply because of the numerous middlemen, heavy taxes and the high cost of transportation. The continuing high prices have intensified the quarrel between advocates of "liberalism" and "planning," echoes of which must have reached the United States. In my opinion it is a futile quarrel; common sense must provide the solution. If a product is scarce, it cannot be allowed to get into the hands only of privileged individuals. The ideal is certainly absence of all economic controls; but this presupposes abundance of the product in question, as well as real competition and non-interference by pressure groups -- trade unions or others -- which so often exert control when the state keeps hands off.

American aid has also been of great importance in increasing industrial production. Ten percent of our coal came from America, for example, and since the total amount of coal available for French use in 1948 was 13 percent greater than in 1947, it can be seen how crucial the American coal was. Without it we should have had much less coke at our disposal, and iron and steel production, machine tool output and the production of building materials would have been correspondingly less. Incidentally (if this can be called incidental!) the French people would have had no coal for heating their homes. The figures on liquid fuel are even more striking. American aid accounts for 45 percent of the output of the refining industry, which reached a level 75 percent higher than in 1947. Without it, France would have had to rely solely upon her share of crude oil from the Middle East, and a considerable proportion of French motor vehicles would have been immobilized.

Our supplies of non-ferrous metals declined by 20 percent as compared with 1947, and of those available the United States provided 35 percent. Without this addition our electrical construction would have been reduced at least 30 percent, and our program of hydro-electric development would have fallen by 30 percent. Approximately one-third of the supplies necessary for the textile industry is furnished by Marshall Plan assistance. The suspension of deliveries of raw cotton for our mills would have had very serious consequences, not only in France itself but for the populations of our overseas territories.


At Brussels on March 17, 1948, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom signed a treaty providing for coöperation in strengthening their economic, social and cultural ties. The five countries also pledged themselves to render mutual aid and assistance, in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, to ensure international peace and security and resist aggression. The Treaty created a Consultative Council of the Foreign Ministers of the five Powers which meets whenever necessary (or at least once every three months) in any of the five capitals. At the first meeting in Paris on April 17, 1948, the Council set up a Military Committee; and at the third meeting in Paris in October 1948 the Council accepted the principle of a defensive Atlantic pact. Conversations about this pact have been in progress in Washington among representatives of the five Powers and of the United States and Canada. The Consultative Council likewise set up a Study Committee for a European Union, discussed below. Between sessions, the Consultative Council is represented by a Permanent Commission with headquarters in London. It consists of the ambassadors of the five Powers and is supposed to concern itself principally with military organization.

The military organization includes a Defense Committee, composed of the Defense Ministers of the five Powers, a Committee of Chiefs of Staff (with which the head of the American delegation and the Canadian representative are invited to meet), and the Military Committee, meeting permanently in London and composed of a representative of each Power. The Committee of Chiefs of Staff is completed by Army, Air and Naval Advisory Committees, a Plans and Policy Committee, and Committees of Joint Intelligence and Joint Logistics. The actual command of military forces is in the hands of a Western European Commanders-in-Chief Committee ("Uniforce"), of which Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery is Chairman. Other members are General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Commander-in-Chief of the ground forces of Western Europe; Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb, Commander-in-Chief of the air forces of Western Europe; and Vice-Admiral Robert Jaujard, Flag Officer of Western Europe. None of the members of this committee exercises effective command in peacetime. The Chairman's Forward Headquarters have been established at Fontainebleau.

Obviously, this organization is theoretical rather than practical. How could a committee which does not exercise real command dispose of all the forces of Western Europe immediately on the outbreak of war? The weakness of such a division of authority is an old story. In organizing Western Europe, the factors making for dispersion outweigh the factors making for unification. Since strength comes from unity, authoritarian régimes are always stronger than democracies at the start. The need for unity within a multiplicity of authority poses a hard problem. We meet it not only in organizing the military defense of Western Europe but in our work of organization in the economic, the financial and even the cultural field.


Under this heading I must begin by saying frankly that France has so far been deeply disappointed in the achievements of the United Nations. It seems to us to be thought of too often as an abstraction, indeed (as I remarked in the National Assembly) as an organization which moves in the fourth dimension.

Thanks in particular to the efforts of Mrs. Roosevelt, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been drawn up. It also proved possible -- though not without difficulty -- to define what has been called the crime of genocide, that is to say, persecutions directed against a group of human beings. But I feel constrained to say that what is of critical importance today is less the reaffirmation of the laws of morality than the expression of those laws in the acts of international life. It costs little to pay homage to virtue; it is hard to make one's conduct conform to it. The latter, however, is the prime necessity. So far every effort to turn the abstract into the concrete has been thwarted by ideological differences. One school seeks to subject peoples and individuals to the materialist discipline of Marx; the other holds that freedom of opinion, springing from freedom of conscience, is a precious attribute of civilization and must be preserved as a sacred right.

In this conflict of ideologies France will not yield. Frenchmen who have remained faithful to their historic tradition -- the combined teachings of pagan humanism and Christian idealism -- have only one choice in a conflict between spirit and matter. We are for the spirit. If the conflict persists, it will be impossible to organize international peace. Already it is almost a scandal that the necessary treaties with Germany and Austria have not been concluded. In practical matters it is not unfair to say that the United Nations is probably less effective than the old League of Nations, with which the Russians eventually collaborated. For my part, though the problem of how to free the world organization from the stalemate of differing ideologies is enormous, I do not despair that someday a way will be found. Meanwhile, U.N. will have served to make clear what a fundamental contradiction there is between the spirit of dictatorship (supposed to have been overcome in the last war) and the spirit of freedom.


In order to end on a more optimistic note I would like to say a few words about our recent efforts to organize Europe. On October 26, 1948, the Consultative Council, mentioned above, set up a committee representing the signatories of the Brussels Treaty to examine and propose the measures to be taken with a view to realizing a greater degree of unity between the countries of Europe. This Committee was to study the suggestions both of governments and of private organizations, and was charged especially with examining the Franco-Belgian proposals for the convocation of a Consultative Assembly and the British proposal for the establishment of a European Council designated by the governments and responsible to them. It was asked to prepare a report for the next session of the Consultative Council. Of this Committee, including five represenatives of Britain, five of France, three of Belgium, three of the Netherlands and two of Luxembourg, I had the honor to be elected President.

Though all the discussions were marked by most friendly courtesy, contradictory British and French theses emerged. After many meetings, which need not be described in detail, a report was submitted to the Consultative Council suggesting that since all had confidence in its good will it should arbitrate our differences. Our confidence proved not to have been misplaced, thanks especially to the smiling tenacity of M. Schuman and the warm kindness of Mr. Bevin. The Consultative Council finally agreed upon the establishment of a Council of Europe, to be composed of a ministerial committee whose deliberations will be secret and a consultative body whose meetings will be public. Other European countries, in addition to the five, will be invited to participate in drafting the organic texts. The question of the composition of the consultative body had raised the greatest difficulties; this was settled by giving each government the right to decide how its representatives were to be designated. The total number of members of this consultative body will be about 100; decisions will be taken by a majority of the members present and voting; and it will have one annual session, to last not longer than one month.

Absolute minds, accustomed to resolving problems in the abstract, will be dissatisfied with this solution. Those like myself who saw for themselves the difficulties which attended the institution's birth will pay tribute to the liberal spirit of all the delegates of our Paris Committee and to the efforts at conciliation made by the various governments. Even in its modified form the Council of Europe will find itself faced with many difficulties which can be overcome only by steady wisdom and in a conciliatory spirit.

In short, peace has not yet been made. We are reminded constantly how truly my illustrious friend President Roosevelt spoke when he said that the basic requirement of peace is to guarantee the nations against fear. Today fear still divides the world. Despite her cruelly exposed geographical position, France tries not to give way to it and not to add to it. I hope I have made sufficiently clear here in these lines for Foreign Affairs that France bears only good will to other nations. I hope I have expressed, too, my appreciation of the immensity of the rôle assigned by history to America. In this twilight of my life, as I address to her once again the homage of an old and constant friend, I want to tell her how much confidence I have in her -- in her strength, in her wisdom, in her ability to protect our pitiful humanity. The fate of the world rests, in large part, in her hands.

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  • EDOUARD HERRIOT, President of the French National Assembly; three times Prime Minister, and Cabinet Minister in many French Governments; for many years Mayor of Lyons
  • More By Edouard Herriot