31 MAY 1957, Page 5



THE President of the Republic has soon dis- covered there is no short way out of the political crisis. He has settled down to a slow siege of the difficulties with M. Pleven, a former Prime Minister, investigating them for him. Algiers is furious with impatience, Paris much less so. This is a real crisis in the sense that it corresponds to real difficulties; and a grave one in the sense that it is not very likely to open the way to a general solution of the gravest problems.

It is easy to say, as many people are saying, that the French Conservatives put the Socialist Prime Minister in a minority because they did not wish to pay the bill for the Right-wing policy for Algeria that he was pursuing. The Conservatives retort that the Algerian policy is his as much as theirs, that sound finance is essential to it and that it., as M. Mollet says, he gives Algeria top priority, then he ought to be willing to postpone further social reforms until he has secured in North Africa the victory that he has so often announced It& just around the corner. M. Mollet has been "defining the privileges of the leader of a National iriknion Coalition, while in fact he has been at the .'1111ead of a minority Cabinet based on less than a quarter of the Assembly. To this M. Mollet might reply that because he has restricted his Cabinet to Left-wing and mostly Socialist membership he has so far been able to keep wage demands within bounds. He can continue to exercise this restrain- 1-14 influence if not encumbered by Ministers from the Centre and the Right. Otherwise he will be happy to remain in Opposition.

The Catholic MRP, sitting quietly between the Socialists and the Conservatives, raise their eye- brows at this point and observe that, though ex- cluded from M. Mollet's Cabinet, they have loyally supported. it. He did not want them to Share power with him, and they have no intentidn or taking it over from him now that he wishes to retire into Opposition. The MRP are ready to Share the burdens of government with the Social- tia4, but would not dream of bearing them with- r'llkit Socialist participation. 8ehind all this disinclination to govern lies, of purse, Algeria. M. Mollet boasts of his restrain- ing influence on the Left that has made possible Al `nationar policy, but the drawbacks of this 4re.sitraining influence are becoming apparent. re is only a 'national' policy for Algeria; no one has discussed any serious alternative. To do 80 would have been betrayal, giving comfort and assistance to the Republic's enemies. The idea of !.11 Algerian sovereign government is still rated in the daily press as peculiar to enemies of France and madmen. The Algerian rebellion would long ago have been finished, it is alleged, were it not for : (a) Colonel Nasser.

(b) The prospect of a motion favourable to the rebels in the last UN Assembly.

(c) Help from Tunisia and Morocco.

(d) The present government crisis.

(e) The prospect of a motion favourable to the rebels in the next UN Assembly.

((e) his not in fact been given much publicity as yet, but it seems to be playing a considerable part in the conversations that M. Pleven is conducting with the political leaders.) According to this thesis, the unsuccess of Government policy is due to alien interference ex- ploiting the comments of certain factious French politicians or journalists. But in fact less and less comment is possible, not only about the main lines of Algerian policy but also about its working out —about the many things which go wrong (as they are bound to do) in the endless proceSs of pacify- ing Algeria with an army of 400,000 men.

There have been signs even of an increased effort to eliminate critical remarks. M. Bourges- Maunoury, the Minister of National Defence, has persuaded Cardinal Feltin, the Archbishop of Paris, to make a speech describing the criticism (much of it by young Catholics) of some of the methods employed as factious; he has invited critics to remember the difficulties of the army, and its specific achievements (often, indeed, ad- mirable); and the fact that misdeeds have been punished. The Cardinal overlooked the fact that the difficulties and the specific achievements of the army are described in every newspaper and that few critics drew attention to the things that were going wrong. It was not admitted that any were— much less that anybody had been punished for them.

When for the fourth or fifth time parachutists broke loose after the murder of one of their comrades in an Algerian street and, on this occa- sion, shot thirty Moslems in the neighbourhood of their barracks, there was only one newspaper, Le Monde, which had the courage and common sense to criticise severely the lack of fire discipline in an elite regiment, and point out that this played straight into the hands of the rebels. Most of the press stuffed the news into a corner and looked the other way. There have been no comments in the press about M. Lacoste's sudden announce- ment behind a half-closed door that the allega- tions of M. Peyrega, former Dean of the Faculty of Law in Algeria, are false; yet this is a matter of great public concern. This timidity inevitably reduces France in the eyes of the world, leaving her reputation for independent thinking to be saved by students, Professors of Ancient History, novelists, and other flighty persons with courage and less sense of 'national' responsibility. But a worse drawback of this interpretation of national duty is the quandary in which the politi• cian's now find themselves. It would no doubt have been at any time an awkward problem for any French public mhn to open before his fellow citizens' eyes the perspective of an independent or even fully self-governing Algeria. Today there are new obstacles—the powerful lure of Saharan petrol for a France chronically short of energy; the fact that 700,000 young Frenchmen have served in Algeria with the official assurance that they were preserving it for France; the fact that the professional army has been told that this time at any rate its members would not be giving their lives in vain, as in Indo-China. Yet no one has explained that the outside interferences which are alleged to have bolstered up the rebellion are not fortuitous, but the proof that the Algerian prob- lem cannot be isolated from the consequences of France's attempt to keep it out of the natural stream of history. France's own new policy in black Africa, which has already created twelve provincial parliamentary governments, is the best comment on her desperate efforts to avoid creat- ing in Algeria a state with a government respon- sible to the majority.

Just before his defeat M. Mollet told the French that they must be prepared to keep an army of 400,000 men in Algeria indefinitely, and rebuked them for too lighthearted holiday-making. They are still making it. They have not kicked yet.

We are, indeed, solemnly told that Algeria is the one thing on which there is agreement. We are told, too, that the place is free, that no public liberties are endangered. In fact, there would have been no crisis if the Government had been in sight of success, and there might have been a useful crisis if the press had been discussing Algeria instead of putting its fingers to its lips and whisper- ing 'Eavesdroppers.' In that case potential Prime Ministers would not be wondering, as they are today, how to affirm convincingly that they will stand fast in Algeria, while simultaneously leaving themselves a possibility of retreat.