wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

Philippe Roger

The American Enemy

The argumentation was set as of 1948. We find a reliable expose of it in a book by Georges Soria published in May of that year (with a preface by Frederic Joliot-Curie): La France deviendra-t-elle une colonie americaine? (Will France Become an American Colony?). The book's primary objective is to destroy the myth of a 'gift' or a 'generous gesture' on the Americans' part. How could the French believe that the Americans, who were hardly known for their altruism, were prepared to tighten their belts in order to assist fifteen distant and needy nations? Obviously, with the Marshall Plan, the United States had a lot to gain, starting with new markets. The Americans were making an investment. What they were 'giving' France they counted on getting back, with interest. How? Business as usual: in human flesh, in cannon fodder. It was all, as Soria put it, very 'simple and subtle.'

So, to sum up the scenario: the Marshall Plan was the result of a conspiracy that had taken shape right when the French Communist ministers were being thanked. But the first act had taken place in Washington in March 1946, when Leon Blum, the Gouin government's extraordinary ambassador, went there to negotiate the famous Blum-Byrnes agreements. The first stage of these agreements stipulated that the French war debts would be annulled. Were the Americans to thank for that? Not on your life! It was a simple 'calculation' faced with a financially devastated France, Soria commented—'an intelligent measure for self-protection.' It was also a sucker's market: the Americans had used it to get rid of their untransportable surplus goods, all the while compelling the French to buy unusable Liberty ships...But the worst part was in the agreements' second stage, which forced France to give up the protectionism that was indispensable to its industries. It was a veritable abandonment of 'a part of the nation's sovereignty.' Doing so voluntarily, as Blum advocated and aspired to, was resignation pushed to the point of betrayal—the 'American party' was using a 'philosophy entirely in the spirit of Munich.' After dealing with the economic side of things, now it was time for the political and military angle.

Handing over the national economy to the enemy was just one stage in a complete subservience to America's will. The Marshall Plan not was only organizing France's economic colonization; it was paving the way for its military dependency. Diplomatically, the first stage consisted in putting the victors and the vanquished on the same footing: not only would there be no German 'reparations,' but a Germany that had not been 'de-Nazified' would be put back in the saddle. This was a priority for the bellicose Americans in their projected confrontation with the USSR. And the (not so) secret side of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation was that it would lead straight to the European Defense Community and NATO. 'All that had a terrible stench, a well-known one: Munich!' Soria, in his functions as a journalist, had met the French negotiators: 'These people foresaw the country's economic colonization, just as the people in Munich in 1938 had agreed to give in to Hitler's demands. The ulterior motives were the same.' From Hitler to Truman, then, there had simply been a change in coercive tactics: 'coercion by starvation (instead of coercion by war).' But in a supplementary Machiavellian stroke, the famine coercion was meant to pull France into the next war. Once again, the pound of flesh—this time in exchange for rations.

In the rhetoric of these anti-American campaigns, which reached a much wider audience than just militants or Communist sympathizers, the struggle against the Marshall Plan was inseparable from a 'defense of peace.' As Soria wrote, 'the Marshall Plan is in the end nothing but a war plan, just like the Truman doctrine.' The tirelessly reiterated Munich analogy should be taken with all seriousness. History was repeating itself while wearing different masks. The mechanisms were the same, and some of the actors would never change; the 'Anglo-Saxon capitalists.' One year later, in 1949, the discussion was getting even more heated. In a 'Letter to President Truman' published by the Combattants de la Paix et de la Liberte (a 'wide front' organization), Charles Tillon vituperated 'the nation's new gravediggers, who have accepted all their American masters' wishes.' But also, and much more originally, he lashed out at the United States with accusations the Far Right had charged it with before the war, of having shamefully favored Germany. Which, in Tillon's 1949 version, meant having financed Nazism. France 'has not forgotten that Hitler's aggression was made possible by a growth of German industry fostered by an influx of Anglo-Saxon capital.' 'Truman, Hitler's authentic successor': the expression would no longer surprise anyone. In 1951, during a speech before Communist officials, the Communist leader Georges Cogniot repeated it as automatically as a Homeric epithet. This was not just a verbal escalation; it was physical, too, whether it took place before the Assembly, where brawls were not uncommon, or in the ports, where dockworkers blocked equipment destined for American bases. The Mouvement de la Paix launched spectacular initiatives and contributed to the success of the Stockholm Appeal's signature campaign: 15 million Frenchmen and-women thus requested a ban on nuclear weapons (which the USSR did not yet possess). Convinced, like Georges Cogniot, of the importance of 'ideological weapons,' the Communists made considerable efforts to denounce a Europe they stamped 'made in USA.'