THE Queuille Government has strugg:ed meritoriously. Success is perhaps within its grasp. Although the loan has been attacked by both the Gaullist and the Communist opposition, it has already brought in over seventy-five milliard francs of fresh money, and can be expected to bring in well over the minimum one hundred that is needed before it is closed at the end of the month. This is not exactly a triumph, since the State is in fact paying between six-and-a-half and seven per cent. But to induce people to buy fixed-interest-bearing stock at all, when the franc has in five years declined to little more than a sixth of its previous value, is already a success. Food prices have at last been falling—. though unhappily, in this country of inflated intermediaries and superfluous retailers, falling more heavily to the farmer than to the consumer. The budget has been voted balanced—though whether with prices, and therefore incomes falling, it can be kept balanced and the expected extra 30o milliards revenue will in fact be found is a question that succeeding months will answer. At all events, the task of the town housewife has been substantially eased. It looks as if for a few months the Government will be less constantly preoccupied with turning the next difficult corner.
Yet anyone looking at the long-term prospects of the Fourth Republic is forced to admit that these successes, sober but so valuable, give surer promise for France than they do for the regime. Recent elections to municipal councils have shown the Communists recovering lost ground. The opposition between the Government coalition parties and the Gaullists remains undiminished. The General at the " National Assize of the French People," as he calls the congress of the French People's Rally, has spoken of the parties with his usual contempt, and his organisation continues to invite men of all political beliefs to join it, while at the same time casting scorn on the parties to which these political beliefs might reasonably be expected to lead them. All Gaul thus remains divided into three parts. The peculiarity of the middle part, however, the one, that is to say, which supports the Government, is that the average age of its supporters is certainly higher than in either of its rivals. Nor does it necessarily follow that increased maturity will lead Gaullists or Communists into its ranks. There is very little sign of the latter coming in as their hair turns grey. Communism is now a well-organised church, offering satisfactions to all eyes. Of the Gaullists it is more difficult to speak with certainty. Here certainly the boundaries are fainter, but it can at least be said that there is no noticeable current back to the fold of parliamentarism.
French Parliamentary Republicans have always been very indifferent to one of the principal defects of their regime as it has functioned since the fall of Marshal MacMahon—that is, its lack of appeal to the imagination. M. Queuille, indeed, seemed to glory in this when he stated the other day that France would have recovered her health when Governments could once more fall without causing alarm. A falling Government may, in fact, cause not alarm but irritation, and this irritation is cumulative and dangerous. In a world of ever-increasing strain Frenchmen are not even satisfied with the fact that the cart has once more not fallen into the ditch although it seemed so very much as if it would. Above all, they get very tired of a regime in which muck-raking seems to be a constant necessity. That the monarchy had more scandals than the republic but concealed them, that the scandals of democracies are nothing to those of Fascist dictatorships, are old arguments and not very effective ones.
The spectacle of M. Andre Marie, the Minister of Justice, defending himself in the Assembly two weeks ago was unhappily reminiscent of 1934. M. Marie won, but he was soon to discover that his victory was intended to facilitate his departure. The issue was not merely whether it was for interested motives that he had decided that a firm which had helped to build the Atlantic Wall should not be prosecuted. On this point he was victorious. The explosive power of the allegations lay in the fact that, except for newspaper proprietors, it is the wealthy who have escaped prosecu- tion for- association with the Germans. There may well have been
excellent reasons for not prosecuting this particular firm—the need, for instance, to have one of the biggest constructional firms in the country in a condition to carry out important reconstruction con- tracts, the fact that it was not only the head of the firm that might be accused of collaboration but a very high proportion of the employees of the other grades. (The works council had, indeed, asked the Minister, on behalf of all the workers of the firm, not to prosecute, an awkward fact for the Communist dogma that collaborators are capitalists ; the Communist-led building union obtained a penitent retraction.) But if a firm which had made money by building the Atlantic Wall was not to be prosecuted, why should other people, who had at least not made money by their association with Vichy—M. Gaston Bergery, for instance, a politician who had accepted from the Vichy Government the embassies of Moscow and Ankara and has just been acquitted after the jury had been reminded that the Public Prosecutor before them was the same man who had signed the order to pigeon-hole the Atlantic Wall affair ? It is the moral confusion of this that troubles the young men and women whom the parliamentary republic needs to secure its future. - For a variety of reasons the idealistic Socialist- commonwealth dreamt of in Resistance days has not come into being. The Fourth Republic is therefore rapidly slipping back into a likeness of the Third—that is to say, a regime based on a hundred years of monetary stability and very slow social evolution. It was a regime, as the ten years previous to the war showed, that was ill-adapted to structural reforms. M. Queuille's revival of it has the advantage that public affairs have resumed an accustomed air, but it is also a somewhat dusty and old-fashioned air. It can claim to be leading France still further along the road to recovery—a road along which she has been travelling steadily for four years in spite of crises, strikes and some disorders. But to what kind of future she is travelling, with what kind of hope, the Radicals and even the Socialists in the Government can give little in the way of an answer. The M.R.P. is the youngest element in the coalition, but is also the one which has suffered most by the Gaullist expansion.
That France could not prolong the nineteenth century into the 193os was already clear before the war ; and it is still more clear that she cannot do so into the 195os. The Queuille Government with its sober successes is a valuable and necessary stage of the recuperation of France. It is not an answer to the question whether French parliamentarism can survive ; whether, in other words, there is to be a way out of the dilemma—Communism or Gaullism. If practical problems can only be solved in the moral confusion pre- sented by the decision not to prosecute the firm that helped to build the Atlantic Wall, then most young French people would like to feel that morals were at least being disregarded in the service of some great cause. This cause might be the Parliamentary Republic, but if it is to be that it will have to recover some of the charms of youth and beauty as well as health.