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Voices of Europe produced and recorded by Milton Mayer in cooperation with the University of Chicago under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. And now Milton Mayer. In the spring of 1956. When the French debate of the war in Algeria was at its hottest. The French government performed the extraordinary act of arresting an independent French editor. Went close aboard a went to jail. For calling the French operations in Algeria a dirty war he had used the same expression in connection with the war in Indochina. It was not his first prison experience. But this one lasted less than a day and the French
government changed its mind. Your birthday knows better than most what it is to be a hunted man. During the whole of the Nazi occupation of his country he was editor of the famous underground newspaper comeback. Printed secretly all over France. The lifeline of the French Resistance a member of the Supreme Council of the resistance this year birthday was apprehended just before the end of the war and the victorious allies released him from a German concentration camp and saved his life. After the war he was vice president of the first French Assembly under General de Gaulle and the later director of Radio France. He is now the editor of The
Independent radical weekly France observe a tear which a great American news service on the occasion of his sensational arrest in 1956 gaily and incorrectly referred to as a fellow traveller of the communists. Miss your birthday I want to ask you about the perennial French collapse. People have been asking one another for as long as I can remember and quite seriously too. How long will France last. How long can it go on. Well you know you had better joke about I think it's an American journalist and rather well-known one who invented it first who said that the trouble with France is very it had too many successive governments. But he said The trouble with America is very it had too
many similar tenuous governments. Well of course I can't comment on America but I think that every country has its own troubles. And I don't think that that kind of trouble has impaired very much America's possibilities in the past and I don't think that our successive governments have changed very much the actual course of French policy. But there isn't there a sense underneath all of the superficial changes that there's a basic in the stability of basic unworkability somewhere in the French system I took I don't mean just the political system. Well there is certainly a number of drawbacks in the friendship political system for instance when there is a difference of mind between the British parliament and the British government. British Parliament has to face a new election and that of course tends to make.
The flow down of the government more difficult because every single member of the British Parliament wonders whether he's going to be elected next term. Now we don't have that here and we don't have it and with the same we don't have exactly the same law and it's a pity because that would make certainly things most table here. But you're quite right in saying that there's probably something that goes deeper than a simple political matters. Now the trouble with France I believe is fair that the working class is being still divided and so powerless in the last 30 to 40 years since exactly since 1920. So the division between the socialist and the Communist Party since the commonest party in 1920 broke away from the working class from the whole working class. There the workers have never been able to organize and to
form a real left wing government. Of course there's always been a lot of protests. The leaders of industry and newspapers of pretended at many times to be afraid of revolution and so on and it is also true that there's been a lot of hullabaloo of noises and strikes and things like that. But it is very typical that finally all this. Every single time all this big noise has subsided into a reaction we got. Now I want to go if I can find a back of that a little bit. And I asked why has this development or non-development occurred specifically in France and not say in England or in the United States will it. It has occurred in our country because we had developed a communist party and we have developed a Communist Party probably 920 not through any influence of Russia and so on Russia was powerless at that time but because
the French word was evil French the French the rulers of industry and commerce in the 19th century were so ruthless that they provoked the formation among the workers of a very violent wing of people who believed that you couldn't put up with them with French business that you just had to that you just had to fight it. But Army wasn't this true elsewhere in Europe why has it been a Sue Storm and well I guess I'm just wondering whether it is not the Roman Catholic influence. In our countries in Italy in Spain in France there has not directly of course but indirectly that has caused this attitude of mind. I think I do want to blame this on the churches so on I think it's something that was much deeper than that. But I think that the Protestant frame of mind.
And with that even with all the humbug that goes with it but with the attitude of mind that believes very very Everybody must get his share. In this world and not in another world. You see there with the Protestant frame of mind there has gone a certain. Well a certain template of the business world too. Make people earn money to make things a little bit better for the workers. Also it is very is also a possibility that the Protestant frame of mind has been favorable to the development of powerful industries. I think we can go into their blood think its effect that in Protestant countries you find the frame of mind that enables larger industrial bodies the corporations to be formed. Whereas in Catholic
countries you always have the small succubus mentality even among the big bosses of industry. And they're there for the French and Italian and Spanish and so on letting countries we let in industrial countries have always tried to make their profits rather on the back of the workers. Then on we went on to higher production and better production. Now to go back. To the influence to the political influence of the suspects. What I would say is various. The our working class has been has divided itself into a violent wing and a less violent way that protect is that it has divided itself and that it has been unable to read about itself except for very short periods. And whether there were Russians or no Russian I don't think would have changed much and
that therefore the other part of the population of the employers clause has always been able to play one part of the working class against the other and therefore always remain at the upper end of a stick. And the other result has been that it is never been obliged to make big efforts. Now if you take Germany or if you take the States or if you take Britain so all the pressure of them all is united working class has been so great in the last 50 years that the employers have had to produce better quality higher production. They've had to have higher production and so on an other part at least of the industrial results have flown back to the workers. That is very economic aspect. But you know other aspects a political one is there really employers class has had to be very cautious and for instance take
Britain. The conservative part isn't so one cannot afford to have Internet sign wars between themselves to have Mr Churchill fight against Vista Eden and so on because if that happened of course the Liberal Party would immediately take charge. Now here in France as been a division between the Socialist and Communist and other working class groups is so great. Mr Ed Gough or Mr P Man Mr Manders frost and all the people of the right can fight furious battles against with selves and still they know but one or the other will remain in power. Maybe Mr P mail Mr Edgar for and so on wants to be on top. But the real rulers of industry the bankers were fine and seers of industrialists don't care as long as it's one of the good men who is in charge they don't care whether it's Mr So-and-so Mr So-and-so. So you see the result is that we've never been able to have a real. We're working class Labor
government as bait had in Britain and I do understand Mr birthday that the consequence of this is political development of the last 50 years has been that of a French economy hasn't developed. That is also very very very That is the small shopkeeper mentality as you say there is to be other side of the business the other side of the business is that whereas in America or other countries other big capitalist countries there is a tendency to produce too folk a capitalist to great to get the greatest collective profit by selling the greatest possible quantity of matter of. Motor dies of goods with a small individually profit. There is a tendency in frogs to produce as little as possible to get the greatest possible profit on every individual goods and their
QC produces no wages. A state of discontent at the same time. A great difference of situation between the upper class and the underdog. Can you ascribe this tendency to produce the smallest amount of goods. Restrict production or highest profits and so on to the employers to the employing class and not to the workers. I think. The workers in any country don't have direct influence on that. But I think will be a strong and united. There are pressure forces the working class to have better management. And to produce better to be able to pay better wages. Whereas in France's repression of the working class has been too small although it has been sometimes violent but it has not been continuously strong and therefore there is always a possibility for the ruling class to be lazy.
Do you have a dispirited or a lazy working class in the sense that most Germans that one meets regard the French French worker as basically lazy and nine and an industrious. I think it is entirely wrong. I think if you consider if you asked for instance American engineers who been in France and American trade union dues they will all tell you that the average French worker. Is exceedingly efficient. And that their capacity of work is of course different. Maybe they have qualities but Germans don't have and very Have the Germans have qualities which the French don't have it is quite possible that for Germans work in a more continuous way the true French are able to make probably Avis has been told to me as I am an engineer and primarily before being a journalist and I have seen many technicians of various countries and be generally correct writes the
Finnish workers being highly efficient. A bit of a cold boasters a bit an even in his work but capable of making tremendous efforts. And therefore coping with very difficult situations which other workers are not able to cope. To what extent should the day has War of the last two world wars and the military operations since 1945 broken the back of the French economy or prevented its revival. Well I think it has neither broken the back nor provoking a revival after all our production is much higher than it was in 939. It is even higher now it is about 20 percent higher than it was in the best period of 1928. So compared with fringe circumstances I'm quite sure that we are on we are price and that of course if you spoke to a French
economist not of course maybe to a French businessman because us don't know if you have the same tendency in America but in France speaking with businessmen is a little bit like speaking with farmers. They always say all that the weather's been so bad and there's probably again going to be more hail storms and so on. SPIEGEL business spends pretty much the same. But if you speak of an economist you say but never has French economy been so good a condition. But of course compared with the achievements of American British and German economy and so on we're pretty long way. But there are the superficial signs that a foreigner sees here such as housing and the inflationary situation of the retail prices don't lead one to suppose that the economy is in too good shape. Well that of course can be traced back to certain events which would could since 1947. After
all we've had a war in Vietnam. Which although we've had American aid since about 1950 for that war has been a dud if it has cost. Did it have a French economy after all. We have spent. French money more than 500 billion francs a good for a couple of years and we have had to part of the industry working for war instead of peace. And if there are so few houses in France it is largely due to the Indochina War. So where is part of it is very. Now we are having the same situation in Algeria as the Algerian situation. All I'm mentally going to take the same turn as Indochina that is to what extent has France the French economy and the French polity dependent upon colonial markets and the exploitation of colonies and what's the future of the French economy and polity in terms of these colonial are anti
colonial developments. Well. I think I would like to work with a kind of quotation from George Clemenceau. You remember criminals which were grand old man of the First World War who led France to victory in 1917 with American help of course but he did a lot to reorganize French army French economy and so on. Now before Colonel so little so is generally known as being that grand old man and his name is very much used by all the reaction in fascist elements in France nowadays as being the man who might if he was still alive put to reason all the traitors of the people who are anti colonialist and who want France to have another policy in Africa for instance. But good now so who was very much active against treason in the first world war was primarily in and to get noticed. In 1885 when France was at war in
Indochina and was trying to conquer Madagascar our. He was fighting against those colonial expeditions colonial adventures in the French parliament. I remember a great speech of his where he explained that it was utter folly. That was about his words to try and go and conquer foreign markets in colonial arrogance. Because ministers were clueless ministers of that time said This is one way to have markets. This is one way to have good markets where the French flag will always be hoisted or whatever. And there. In those areas it will always be possible to sell French goods and Climo so ourselves. That you've got to take into consideration the cost of the colonial expedition. He said You've got to take into
consideration all of the costs of all the colonial expeditions in which France has been indulging. And the results of all those enormous costs is that the France of the prices of goods in France a much higher than anywhere else. He gave this example he said this was 1885 and the French flag the Swiss franc had equal parity at that time he said. The Swiss pay 17 francs ahead taxes. We pay eighty six francs eighty six francs and it is 700 Swiss francs which were sitting very easy. So this was about five times more or four times more at least taxes in France Sweden Switzerland and Glyn also said the only reason for that difference of a crazy colonial expeditions in which France has been indulging. And the results of those Colona looks preditions has been two fold. First.
It has made French depend on protected colonial markets where they have been protected from competition from external competition. They have been able to sell low quality goods at high prices and not via other side. It has made it has made French the French costs so high that the French are unable to compete on the real markets on the real international markets. And this which was already true in 1885 has been getting truer and drawer every year since. But doesn't the present French economy still rest in part on the. On the profit of colonial markets now it's if you speak of French economy it's entirely false. If you speak of the profits of a certain number it is entirely right of wires France and gauged in this bankrupting military effort to mean a Carson because something which you know very well in America and which the French are
beginning to realize plays an equally big part in France and lobbies the wood lobby has been I think popularized by my newspaper in France. It was not known before because people didn't realize but we had lovers exactly like American novels. Well there is an exceedingly powerful lobby of colonial interests in France and because it is possible to make such huge profits by selling goods on the protected markets of those colors even if it's a small quantity of the goods in a small number of firms those firms have all the possibility to dole out a large part of their profits to politicians to journalists and so on and to exert enormous pressure on any government. You must add to that. That there are quite a number of politicians of the members of parliament who are linked in some way with colonial economies. Either they
have been elected or in protective territories by a more or less think to vote or they have shares in Colonial corporations and so on and into the kind of balanced circumstances of French policies. Those are these little group of colonial or colonial interested members of parliament exerted enormous pressure on any government whether left or right. Power is the heart of the French people as a whole in these military adventures as they see it as as a patriotic chorus or as an economic problem. Well I will give you a small example. A few days ago. There was a large meeting in I'm young. In Amir's a town in the north of France and the meeting was organized by all sorts of liberal left wing organizations. If there was one communist speaker and he
was a very timid professor and certainly he was molested vocal of all of us. But there were three thousand five hundred at least maybe 4000 people of the population attending the meeting. Workers intellectuals teachers shopkeepers every possible kind of people in the country. Now there was a counter manifestation a counter meeting organized by the care system reactionary colonialists. The county manifestation brought a hundred people in the streets. But now an interesting factor is how the French press how at least a large sector of the French press which is in capitalist hands described a matter. First of all although the Communists were very few in number. Not at all in the organization of the meeting. They said that this was smallest communist sponsor because they had to slanderous in some way. Second part they described the threat
that there were a few clashes after the beating that we knew. The small group of verses students and so on and the large group of workers who were in the meeting they described this as being a kind of contest between two equal parts of the population. Therefore what was beginning of his description it was to make the government believe that half of the population of the area was first or the Algerian war at least and that we have a hawk was against and also that this would bring if meetings like this were allowed it would bring very serious clashes and that were the only way was to forbid them. So this shows you in what a delicate situation we are I think one can say that the very largest part of the French population is against this war. But the most powerful and wealthiest part of the French population is in favor of
war. And when a minister whether he's a socialist or liberal or left wing or anything. Comes to his office every morning. He finds. A good Normas amount of newspaper clippings on his table which describe the Algerian War in favorable terms. Add a small number of clippings which describe it in unfavorable terms because this is not the balance of French opinion but it is the balance of will. Between the liberal papers and the reactionary papers in this country. Then I take it in closing the should be a day your own view is that the loss of Syria the loss of Algeria and the loss of Vietnam in a word the loss of France's colonies and their colonial markets will strengthen France rather than weaken or will it all depends you know is its just like giving a
medicine to a patient a strong medicine may cure the patient or it may kill it kill it. I think is Frances capable of reacting signaling that it will indeed bring saner conditions of competition for French economy. On the other hand we are not bound to lose North Africa. You see. After all the amount of financial and technical help which France has been giving Algeria could be given to any Algerian government even to a Muslim government. I think that we cannot keep our jury by a war. I think we're losing Algeria. I think that the people who are so good for protecting Algeria and the Europeans in Algeria by this role are either lying or kidding themselves. But I think that if we had a truce and we had if
we discussed matters with the leaders of the rebellion. Then I think we could come to terms because I think France is assess financial assets. Also the fact there is very little possibility for the ordinary Algerian worker to earn his daily bread in Algeria and that thousands of them come every go to France. This could go on. There is also a possibility which the French government could offer to an Algerian government tomorrow and which nobody else can offer. And Algerian government I think do we have a country and Europe can use the thousands of Algerian workers who come to France every year. So I think if we discussed sanely and soberly across the table you see with the Algerian leaders well we might come to quite decent terms. There might be a kind of French Commonwealth with Algeria Tunisia and Morocco and so on. But if we go on with this war then it is quite sure that we lose any influence. Thank you very much monsieur but.
Voices of Europe
Claude Bourdet
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents an interview with Claude Bourdet, a French writer and journalist who was active in the French Resistance during World War II.
Other Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Political activists--France.
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Interviewee: Bourdet, Claude, 1909-
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-7-15 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:21
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Claude Bourdet,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 16, 2021,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Claude Bourdet.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 16, 2021. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Claude Bourdet. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from