24 FEBRUARY 1950, Page 1

Heavy Weather for M. Bidault

M. Bidault's task would have been hard enough at the present time, even if there had been no impact of the "Case of the Generals" on inter-party relations. But that impact is considerable. The names of a number of prominent Socialists, including two ex-Ministers who at an earlier stage made an attempt to prevent the growing scandal from becoming public, have been dragged into the affair, and since M. Bidault had been hoping to attract the Socialists back into the Government coalition, which they only narrowly decided to leave earlier in the month, he is obliged to walk very delicately. He has always taken a serious view of his duty to hold some sort of Government together at this critical time, and he knows that his present command of less than a 'working majority in the Assembly makes that duty almost impossible to perform. He knows that the most powerful group within reach of persuasion are the Socialists, but at this very moment he finds the Socialists

the victims of an almost certainly exaggerated suspicion of implica- tion in a major scandal. And so, with his attenuated forces, he faces the persistent strikes, which have now been hampering the national life for nearly three weeks without a break. Often enough the strikes are unsuccessful, but they still go on, and the present stoppage in the metal trades and car factories is getting serious. In the recent cases the strikes have been over wage demands, but in the background is the deliberate Communist attempt to sabotage the war in Indonesia by preventing the movement of arms and troops—an attempt which is all the more serious in that many French people besides the Communists find it impossible to regard this war with anything but dismay. Yet it would probably be agreed by a majority that the only alternative to fighting is the acceptance of yet another Communist Government in the Far East, and conse- quently when the Council of Ministers took the drastic step of authorising the prefects to bring in troops if necessary to repress violence and sabotage the decision was accepted quietly. But the time is coming when M. Bidault will need something more than passive support.