No. 76 NAI DFA 313/4

Letter from Seán Murphy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Paris, 25 January 1946

The political crisis created by the sudden resignation of General de Gaulle on Sunday last January 20th was resolved yesterday in so far as the election of his successor is concerned. Between Sunday and Wednesday there were political conversations amongst the parties. The Communists being the largest party put forward their Secretary General Thorez1 as successor to de Gaulle without much hope that such a proposal would be accepted. The Communists favoured a coalition of themselves and the Socialists, but the Socialists were afraid of this association and declared for a tripartite Government. The MRP2 declared that they would not accept Thorez. The Socialists put forward Vincent Auriol3 but the Communists refused him and proposed Gouin4 President of the Assembly who is also a Socialist. After a good deal of manoeuvring Gouin was accepted by all three parties but the government program continued to cause difficulty. MRP wanted guarantees about the Constitution and the attitude of the parties towards the government. A program was finally agreed which it is said does not deal with the Constitution question but which does provide for some sort of party truce. Gouin is now trying to form a government which is not expected to be very different from its predecessor in personnel. Gouin's reputation is that he is a party politician with very little to him except that he is agreeable. He is not in any sense a leader and has clearly been selected because he is manageable.

There has been great speculation as to the reasons for de Gaulle's sudden departure. He took everyone by surprise including members of the government who were quite unsuspecting. Everyone knew that on January 1st he all but resigned on the Army Vote, but having got away with that there was no new factor as far as anyone knew to change the atmosphere. In some quarters he is criticised for giving in too easily and for not explaining his reasons. In other quarters his departure is regarded as a clever political move which will give him and others a free hand between now and the elections to prepare a campaign. Most people think that he has not definitely withdrawn from the political scene. He has promised to give his reasons for his withdrawal in a letter to the press as soon as the new government is formed. In anticipation of this statement I think it is safe to say that the following were among his reasons:-

  1. He was tired of being used as the cloak of unity in the government.
  2. Uneasy relations with the Communists members of the government from the beginning.
  3. Disappointment with the attitude of the Socialists members of the government who were yielding to their party pressure.
  4. Resentment of Communist criticism.
  5. Assembly's attitude on army vote.
  6. Strong resentment at the appointment by the Assembly of Commissioners to inspect the French Army of Occupation in Germany.

In conclusion I think that the political outlook as far as France is concerned might fairly be described as 'very unsettled generally'.

1 Maurice Thorez (1900-64), Vice-Prime Minister of France (1946-7), leader of the French Provisional Government (January-June 1946).

2 Mouvement Républicain Populaire (MRP) was a French Christian democratic party founded in 1944.

3 Vincent Auriol (1884-1966), President of the French Provisional Government (November-December 1946); President of the Fourth Republic (1947-54).

4 Félix Gouin (1884-1977), President of the French Provisional Government (January-June 1946).

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