France History – The Referendum and the Elections of 1962

A first novelty had already been offered by the replacement, in April, of Prime Minister Debré with Pompidou, considered more docile and loyal to the Elysée directives (see the entry pompidouin this App.). The attack in August offered the opportunity to raise the question of the election of the president of the republic. Rather than by the college of notables provided for in Article 6 of the 1958 Constitution, de Gaulle proposed that he be designated by universal suffrage, leaving the question to a forthcoming referendum. The objective of de Gaulle, always hostile to parties and to the degeneration of parliamentary life, was transparent. A president of the Republic elected by universal suffrage would have been invested with a degree of authority that would place him clearly above the parties, becoming the direct representative of France. On the part of the opponents they reacted by making the National Assembly (and it was the first time that this had happened) a motion of censure in which the procedure chosen to reach the referendum was declared unconstitutional. But de Gaulle in turn replied by dissolving parliament and calling the legislative elections, to be held after the referendum. This took place on October 28, 1962 and saw the victory, albeit not overwhelming, of the yes, equal to 62% of the voters (taking into account 23% of the abstentions, this figure was equivalent to only 46% of the subscribers).

On the other hand, the elections of November 18-25 were triumphal for de Gaulle. It was rightly spoken of as a real settlement of accounts with “the disastrous regime of the parties”. The UNR in fact obtained 233 deputies, who were joined to make up a stable majority by the 35 independent republicans of Finance Minister Giscard d’Estaing. The left opposition totaled 117 seats (66 socialists, 41 communists). The Democratic Center (but some MRP deputies would have sided with the government) 55; the Rassemblement démocratique by M. Faure and France Mitterrand 39. Among the other data not to be underestimated was the large renewal of the political staff: over a third of the National Assembly was newly appointed, while among the jokes there were prominent personalities, such as P. Reynaud and P. Mendès-France.

A new foreign policy. – The France – had written de Gaulle in a famous passage from the War Memoirs – could not exist without grandeur, that is, without proposing objectives of international affirmation adequate to its past and its possibilities. To the party regime he had indeed blamed, and continued to blame, the oblivion of a similar one, for him incontrovertible truth. The commitment to give back to France a foreign policy worthy of her had therefore been placed as a priority from the beginning.

According to THERELIGIONFAQS, the premise was the repudiation of the balance of power sanctioned by the war and, even more, by the subsequent post-war failures. This was not meant to deny a basic solidarity with the “free world” of which France continued to be a part: it had been demonstrated in 1958 at the time of the Berlin crisis, it was demonstrated in October 1962 on the occasion of the crisis of Cuba. What was not accepted was the institutionalization of an inferiority relationship, it was the systematic subordination of the France to the United States: it was, more generally, the dominance of the superpowers.

The alternative to such a state of affairs had to be realized first of all by reviewing the position of France within NATO: that is, saving the political alliance but promoting military disengagement. This is based on the principle that a nation must demonstrate its vitality by providing its own defense first and foremost. Another crucial point therefore became the atomic armament: despite the evident detachment from the superpowers, also the France had to be able to dispose in full autonomy of even a reduced nuclear potential. More than of a strategic nature, the objective that was believed to be achievable in this way was clearly of a political nature. The no to the constitution of an atomic multilateral force in the

From the Gaullist point of view, the downsizing of the international role of the two superpowers presupposed the realization of Europe: not, however, of Europe at the time predicted by J. Monnet or R. Schumann, the Europe of the federalists or the “Eurocrats” of Brussels, endowed with supranational powers; but rather of a Europe “of homelands”, a confederation of sovereign states. In order for such a Europe to be viable – it was another fixed point – it had to free itself from American protection at all costs. The detachment from the plans of a Kennedy who hoped for European unification, but within the Atlantic constraint, could not therefore be clearer. Consistent with such approaches, there was no place for Great Britain in de Gaulle’s Europe. longa manus of Washington, and this had to be avoided at all costs.

The ever clearer emergence of the conflict with the USA had immediate repercussions on Franco-German relations. Adenauer’s rapprochement with Germany culminated in de Gaulle’s triumphal voyage across the Rhine in September 1962 and the signing of the cooperation treaty the following January. But in October 1963 Erhard took over from Adenauer. All the more reason, at that point, the Gaullist hypothesis of achieving, in perspective, German reunification in the context of a Europe freed from the American mortgage and pacified “from the Atlantic to the Urals” must have proved too uncertain to sacrifice it. the protection ensured in the meantime by the USA and recently reaffirmed during his trip to Germany in June by Kennedy himself.

However, de Gaulle did not give up on continuing on his way. While the disengagement from the NATO military organization was taking place, the initiatives aimed at sanctioning the autonomous role by now typical of philosophy in international politics multiplied. In January 1964, People’s China was recognized; in May 1965, the United Nations Security Council condemned the American intervention in San Domingo; in September-October of that same year, de Gaulle made a long trip to South America. At the same time, starting from February 1965, the attacks of Foreign Affairs multiplied on the hegemony of the dollar in the international monetary system. And at the same time a policy of rapprochement towards the East was launched with the usual emphasis, both towards the

The attitude of Gaullist philosophy in European organisms appeared to be characterized by an analogous style. When in March 1965 the Executive Commission of the EEC chaired by W. Hallstein proposed (according to a procedure that was not faultless) to endow the Community with its own budget, increasing the powers of the European Parliament (which would have translated into a step forward in the sense of supranationality), the French side strongly opposed it. Having failed to agree on a financial regulation, on 1 July the permanent representative of France in Brussels was recalled to his homeland: several months had to pass before he returned to occupy the empty seat.

France History - The Referendum and the Elections of 1962

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