28 APRIL 1961, Page 3


THE sudden collapse of the generals' rebellion in Algeria is due, in the first place, to the icy inflexibility of President de Gaulle, and, in the second, to their own almost incredible lack of foresight as to the course' of events after their pronunciamento had been made. Evidently far more troops and their officers remained loyal to the State than seemed at first to be the case, and the firm will of the President managed to impose on the Fifth Republic measures of defence which the Fourth was unable to adopt in May, 1958. Of the factious generals themselves it might be said that they had so much honour in their mouths that they had none of it elsewhere. Using words like patriotism and duty they were prepared to make nonsense of them by dividing the French army and destroying the French State to which they had sworn allegiance. Their attempt to bring about a civil war has been defeated by the French people and its President. It is not an attempt which can be made again. So much has been gained by this mad adventure.

But, when this is said, what a condemnation it is of France's political life since the war that Frenchmen should have had to, be prepared to fire on Frenchmen. In any just analysis of the events leading up to this botched coup d'etat it is impossible to spare the political leadership either on the Right or on the Left. Those politicians who kept a war going in Indo-China, which they could neither win nor lose, are certainly partially re- sponsible for the state of mind of sections of the French army, but those on the Left who carried their anti-militarism to the length of guaranteeing to blood donors that the plasma would not be used for wounded soldiers were their equals in folly. The alienation of the French regular army from the body of the nation took just fourteen years to accomplish from the re-entry into Paris of General Leclerc. It will take more than that time to undo, despite the progress since 1958.

For a foreigner contemplating France at this

moment, there are now more grounds for hope than for fear. The possible consequences of the putsch—the collapse of NATO and the Common Market, a wild adventure in Tunisia or Morocco —will not take place. The worst has been averted. France, which is the heart and, often, the soul of Western Europe, will not have to pass through the agony of a Spanish Civil War, which would have destroyed utterly the community to which we as well as the French belong. And perhaps, we may hope, the psychological shock which these events have administered to the French people will have a salutary effect in reviving political interest and civic sense where there was boredom and apathy before. Also the defeat of the generals should remove the last obstacle to- wards negotiations for an end to the Algerian war that has destroyed so. much. President de Gaulle's firmness over the last few days appears to have done a great deal to overcome lingering suspicions in the minds of the leaders of the Algerian Provisional Government. It may even make co-operation between an independent Algeria and France easier in the future. If that is so, the eater will have brought forth meat.

Finally, no Englishman should feel superior about what has taken place in France. We have our own battle to fight for a peaceful and just transition to self-government in our remaining African colonies. Events in France show what happens if a colonial war is dragged out at the behest of settler interests and politicians with no historical sense. Every piece of news from Algeria has 'been a justification of Mr. Macleod's African policies and a condemnation of those advocated by Lord Salisbury. The latter's ancestor—the great Marquess—once chose to write in a small girl's commonplace book the words of Mephistopheles: 'Ich bin der Geist der stets verneine-1 am the spirit that always denies. What we have seen in Algeria is the catastrophic result of such a damnable denial.