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FRANCE, HER POLITICIANS, AND THE WASHINGTON

CONFERENCE

BY SISLEY HUDDLESTON

I

NEVER would I consent to write petually surprised at the healthy reacabout France's present-day politicians tion against Bolshevism on the one without making it clear that the poli- hand and against flamboyant and fireticians are not the French people. For eating patriotism on the other hand it is impossible, with the utmost indul (though it must be confessed that every gence, for anyone who has honestly re- chansonnier has his couplet against garded them at work to refrain from England). Anyone who supposes that some criticism of them. Unfortunately, the people liked the call-up of Class 19 there has grown up a fallacy that, in of the army, the demobilization, the speaking without flattery of a country's remobilization, and the demobilization accidental and temporary leaders, one again of young Frenchmen; anyone who is in some way attacking the country. supposes that the French people love It is not so: for my part, I think France to indulge in flourishes and menaces is relatively sound. The French people toward Germany, threats of occupahave superb qualities; they deserve all tion, of dislocation, vauntings of victhe eulogies that have been or could be tory and vainglorious strutting, need written of them, though naturally they only listen intelligently to the skits on have not escaped the contagion of the drum-beating in the spirituel shows of world-sickness. They have shown a solid Paris, which are applauded vociferoussense, a rooted stability, a laborious- ly. Ministers and Muscovites are good ness, that are beyond praise. If France game: they are not angrily railed at, has ever shown signs of revolutionary they are wittily satirized; they are for tendencies, -as she did during one the most part tolerated as inevitable period at least, – it has been because and not particularly important. I have she was misguided; and she quickly re- heard nearly every politician of note covered herself. No country in the twitted, with the full approbation of the world is less likely to break loose, to audience. To tell the truth, throughrun into excesses, whether of Militarism out the history of the Republic, Paror of Socialism. Always does the re- liament and Cabinet have been held straining force of the people keep the in little esteem, while President after wilder spirits — whether those wilder President has been mercilessly mocked. spirits are Nationalist ministers or There is, in short, a curious separation Communist agitators — in check. of people and rulers; and the rulers do

Whenever I wish to know the true not always adequately represent the sentiments of ordinary folk, I make a sentiments of the people. For my part, little tour of the cabarets of Paris. In I do not know any country in which this the revues there presented I am per- division is more marked.

Nor, oddly enough, do the journals tion and obviously official representawhich are read by everybody reflect, in tions of facts provoke only a smile, or their politics, the spirit of the people: even an exclamation of disgust. As an they reflect the particular view of the organ for propaganda the press is beQuai d'Orsay and of other government coming played out: it has been overoffices, from which, by an elaborate worked. system, they receive the mot d'ordre. This is not, of course, to suggest that Less and less am I inclined to form my the present French politicians do not appreciation of public opinion from a possess admirable qualities. They are reading of the French newspapers. nearly all intensely patriotic; though Public opinion, in the sense in which the patriotism is a virtue that may easily term is now employed, is merely the become a vice if pushed to extremes. passing opinion of a passing minister, They have considerable parliamentary transmitted through ‘inspired' journal- ability; though this again is a merit ists. Many misconceptions about the that was better suited to the pre-war French may be avoided if it is remem- days, when the problems were not of bered how deliberate is the present a vast, universal character. It is when method of doping the journals. As for one judges them by the great internathe foreign pressmen, it is unhappily tional standard of world needs that true that the red ribbon which indicates one regrets to see no truly big figure the Legion of Honor exercises a hypnotic emerging. effect on many of them. I know some But, then, in what country does the who lose no opportunity of writing com- world-man emerge? Where is the statesfortable things, of placing themselves man who sees, what so many thinkers at the disposition of the propaganda now see, that what the times call for is service which has been openly set up- someone who can lift himself above and of submitting their claims to be frontiers, who can escape the limiting decorated at due intervals.

moment, whose vision can embrace the The very word propaganda, since the future and go round the globe? It is war, has become obnoxious. It is not, heartbreaking, when superior intellect, of course, a peculiarly French institu- superior emotion, are needed as never tion: all governments now advertise, before, to subordinate the smaller craft like automobile manufacturers or soap- of national parliamentarianism to the makers, and have brought the art of bigger task of announcing and realizing suppression, of distortion, of extrava- the interdependence of the peoples, gant praise, to a point where it slops that more than ever we should be all over into the grotesque. American working in our watertight compartvisitors to France, of any degree of note, ments, doing our partial, uncoördinated are particularly fêted, and columns of jobs. It may be that the machinery of the newspapers are devoted to the tours civilization has outgrown the capacity of American associations. It is probably of its mechanicians. What was good the French rather than the American enough before the war is not good organization which is responsible for enough now; and the pre-war mind is this fantastic fanfaronnade. I submit incapable of grappling with post-war that, while we should try to know each problems. The terms of those problems other, the present methods of propa- have changed: they are not affairs of ganda do not help us to know each State, but affairs of the world. It is exother. On the contrary, they serve to traordinary that the peace has thrown rouse suspicion; and extravagant lauda- up no new men. This is true of all countries (excepting Russia, where the

II new men have indulged in a disastrous experiment). It is particularly true of It is a somewhat extraordinary fact France, where practically all the men that three, at least, of the little

group worth mentioning are the old, tried men. of men who are most conspicuous in

As I write, I cannot forecast what French politics, who have climbed to will be done at Washington; I can the heights of power, began their career only anticipate that the American dele- as Socialists. Robert Louis Stevenson, gates will be purely American, the Brit- I remember, suggests somewhere that ish purely British, and the French pure- most of us begin as revolutionaries and ly French; each concerned to defend the end up, somewhere about middle age, narrow interests of his own country, as conservatives. Certainly it would when it is a generous coöperation of all be difficult to find better examples of countries that is called for. There are this inevitable evolution in the human some questions, such as general disarm- spirit than are furnished by that trio, ament, such as a general economic and Alexandre Millerand, Aristide Briand, financial settlement, that nobody seems and René Viviani. Of course, it is foolbig enough to tackle seriously and hon- ish to make a charge of inconsistency. estly; nobody seems big enough even to No man can be judged by his youth. It approach them, except with the desire is to their credit that, before they to show that his own nation is in an ex- acquired the reticences of later years, ceptional position and cannot conform before they learned that progress is to any suggested world-order. Most of slow and must be orderly, these distinthe ills from which we suffer are not guished Frenchmen were aflame with national: they cannot be settled by na- the passion of putting the world to tional statesmen, but only by men with rights. However violently, in certain the international mind, men with an cases, aspirations toward a better order outlook as broad as mankind. There of things were expressed; however inare no sectional cures: there are only candescent were their sympathies with radical remedies.

the downtrodden; however excessive H. G. Wells, in his Outline of History, were sometimes their remedies, it does says of the politicians of a certain honor to them that they were moved by Roman epoch that they only demon- essentially noble impulses. He is, instrate how clever and cunning men deed, a poor man who has never felt may be, how subtle in contention, how wild yearnings, has never been guided brilliant in pretense, and how utterly rather by the heart than by the head. wanting in wisdom and grace of spirit. When I look round the political field It seems to me, as it seems to Mr. Wells, in France, I am invariably surprised that this is a true description of most with the recurring discovery that not of the politicians of all countries to-day. Only these three, but nearly all promIt must not be supposed that France is inent publicists and politicians, have in this respect different from other na- passed through this stage of ardent, if tions. I am bound to say this much; but, unruly, enthusiasm. They have not enhaving said it, I must take another tered the arena coldly, calculatingly. measure and paint the French politi- They became gladiators because of cians for what they are. They do not, their generous emotions. They have any more than do the men in power in been shaped into what they are to-day other countries, reach ideal dimensions: by experience. This is excellent, and is they must be judged on their plane. entirely in their favor. It may be that

instances could be discovered where the Most of his ministerial work has ensuing disillusionment has induced been in connection with internal affairs. cynicism. But, on the whole, such a He has been an able organizer; he is a beginning is a proof of sincerity. hard worker of the dogged rather than

On the other hand, they are naturally the brilliant kind. Certainly he is open to the attacks of the Communists tenacious. When he became Prime of to-day, who frequently quote against Minister after the defeat of M. Clementhem their speeches of other days and ceau, who had expected to become show that they now oppose that which President of the Republic, French opinthey aforetime promoted. For example, ion was just beginning to turn against M. Millerand, in 1896, in a famous dis- the authors of the treaty, and was becourse, proclaimed the right to strike; ginning to proclaim that England (to and in 1920, following a strike, he insti- employ a French expression) had taken tuted proceedings against the Confé- most of the blanket for herself. Mr. dération Générale du Travail, which Lloyd George, regarded as too clever have helped to bring this association of by half, was beginning to be cordially trade-unions to its present position of detested in France; and it was not long impotence. He was, again, a foremost before M. Clemenceau was accused of figure in anti-clerical movements and having given way on almost every liquidated the congregations, while dur- point to the British Premier. The old ing his premiership last year he com- Tiger, who had been placed upon a menced the negotiations for reëstab- higher pedestal than any statesman of lishing relations with Rome. It is, how- the Third Republic, now discovered ever, a peculiarly little mind that would that the Tarpeian Rock was near to the make these apparent reversals of policy Capitol. There were even clamors for a reproach. There was a moment when his trial in the High Court of Justice, it was important, above all, to assert for having sacrificed French interests in the right to strike. There was another favor of his friends, the English. moment when the superior interests of The task of M. Millerand, following the country demanded the suppression this amazing fall of M. Clemenceau of dangerous agitation. There was a from the heights of popularity to the moment when the priesthood had be depths of unpopularity, was difficult. come mischievous in France and men- It was his function to resist Mr. Lloyd aced the Republic. And there was George. With his shrewd sense, howanother moment when diplomatic rea- ever, he was aware that a compromise sons urged the appeasement of the old with Germany was inevitable and dereligious quarrel. Those abstract poli- sirable. But behind him was the clamticians who forget that circumstances orous Bloc National, refusing, even in are of more importance than doctrines the name of a policy of realism, any are open to criticism. Whatever M. further concessions to Germany in reMillerand has done, it should never be spect of reparations, and declining to forgotten that, when he entered the cab- take any practical step which might be inet of Waldeck-Rousseau as the first construed as a concession to British Socialist minister, he initiated many views. There began a long-drawn-out remarkable social reforms. To him are fight between France and England. due pensions, a weekly rest-day for The attempt to get away from the workers, and the shortening of hours sentimentalism of the Versailles Treaty, for women and children employed in with its grotesquely impossible deindustry.

mands on Germany, was rendered hard

VOL. 128 - NO, 6

by the suspicions of Parliament. While will still take some years before Europe dislike of England grew, anger against can get far on the right lines. But it Germany grew; and every time that must be said of M. Millerand that he Germany's debt was defined (still in un- did at Spa adumbrate the possibility of reasonable terms), M. Millerand was in voluntary arrangements. . danger of being overthrown.

M. Millerand would not be human More time was needed for the truth if he did not sometimes give way to to dawn on the politicians, not only of sudden impulses. There was in this France, but of the Allies generally atmosphere of opposition between the truth that there are limits, easily France and England every excuse for reached, to the transfer of wealth from his desire to demonstrate the indepenone country to another; that, speaking dence of France - not to be forever broadly, wealth can be transferred subordinate to England. There were only in the shape of goods which it is several incidents that appeared to be against the industrial and commercial inspired by a determination to break interests of the receiving country to the supposed hegemony of England. accept. This truth has also its applica- The Entente is not to be lightly thrown tion to America, who can be paid what away; but some of the consequences is owing to her by the Allies only in the of the Entente, when they run counform of goods which she puts up tariffter to French policy, must be destroyed. barriers to keep out.

M. Millerand may be looked upon as a Gradually the world is awakening to friend of the Entente, but an enemy of the fact that the only rational policy is British domination. Thus, he revolted one which consists in canceling, not of against the British tolerance of Gernecessity nominally, but virtually, the many's non-fulfillment of her obligabulk of international debts, German tions, by marching on Frankfort. Then, or Allied, and in resuming as quickly against the express advice of England, as possible normal trade-relations. he recognized Wrangel, that anti-BolThis does not mean, of course, that shevist adventurer whose moment of Germany should make no reparations. glory soon passed. Then he took PoShe should be made to pay all that it land's part when Poland had foolishly is possible for her to pay; but chiefly provoked a war with Russia, and Engshe should be obliged to help in the re- land counseled conciliation-sending building of the ruined North, as now, General Weygand to save Warsaw. It at long last, she promises to do under was precisely this lucky stroke which the Loucheur-Rathenau accord, which secured for him the Presidency of the makes hay of the treaty and of the Republic. It seemed hopeless to think London Agreement, and of the prin- of beating back the Bolsheviki from ciple of collective negotiations and before Warsaw — but the miracle hapaction against Germany. France has, I pened. He soared into popularity, and think, reached a point where the more as, at that time, M. Deschanel, the or less willing coöperation of victor and President, had fallen ill and was comvanquished is seen to be necessary. pelled to resign, he was carried triumphBut when M. Millerand was in power, antly to the Elysée. he was unable to carry out such a It may be taken that, as President, policy. At Spa, where he consented to M. Millerand exercises more authority meet the Germans, matters only be- than most of his predecessors have excame worse. It was assuredly not his ercised. He is extremely strong-willed, fault. Events could not be hurried. It and on his acceptance of his seven-year

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