Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 7, No. 7 July 26, 1944
The last Monday evening talk held by the International Relations Club was given by Mr. A. Thom on France and de Gaulle.
Mr. Thom, V.U.C. liaison officer, gave first a summary of French characteristics. Above all, he stated, Frenchmen loved three things—their security, their country, and justice. This thesis he illustrated from French history and literature.
Division of society played an important part in the French scene. First came the two hundred families, wealthy and aristocratic; the bourgeousie, ambitious, cultured; thirdly the peasants, with low living standards. Compulsory military service served to estrange peasantry from the townsmen. Population decline, Mr. Thom puts down to inheritance laws and foreign immigration.
The political system: President chosen by electoral college, Senate of men over forty, and an elected Lower House. He stressed political groupings, main ones being Radicals to the right and Communists to the left. He referred to the increasing number of professional politicians.
The Great War tended to make the French turn to "peace at any price" and fascism (especially the middle class), stated Mr. Thom.
Fascist attempts at a coup in 1934 failed, and Popular Front developed but was later smashed. 1938-1940 saw a preferment of form of fascism and agreements with Mussolini and Franco. Munich was partly because of French trade union pacifism.
On outbreak of war France's army was riddled with fascists—anti-revolutionary, anti-socialist, anti-communist, but not anti-Hitler. Then came the French debacle when Paris was declared an open city and Government fled. Communists had been imprisoned, a breach of the democratic principle. Petain wanted "Peace with Honour."
Resistance-leader de Gaulle is a 53- year-old professional army man. He stands for strict control of newspapers, democratic elections in liberated French territory, increased governmental ownership of means of production, and better conditions for the workers.
An interesting talk on a controversial subject. The I.R.C. is to be congratulated on its club's activities.