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Chapter 6
The Gaullist Exorcism
Anti-Americanism Encore

The French encounter with America during the 1960s had several dimensions. There were the troubles in international affairs generated by President de Gaulle. The political and strategic sources of these tensions will be presented here, and the economic and financial aspects of Franco-American relations will be examined in the next chapter. In this discussion of Gaullist policy toward the United States we shall hear dc Gaulle himself, the political class, and, to a lesser extent, elite and popular opinion. In addition to Gaullist diplomacy the Franco-American encounter had a second dimension. The process of Americanization within France reached the point that it gave rise to a spirited debate about the merits of the American social prototype. This debate, reminiscent of yet different from that of the 1950s, will be treated in a later chapter.

Anti-Americanism revived during the 1960s in part because of the foreign policy of Charles de Gaulle. After Washington rebuffed his proposal to overhaul the Western alliance and once he ended the war in Algeria, de Gaulle launched a forceful attack on what he called the "American protectorate." The West's nuclear strategy, the structure of NATO, and West German dependence on Washington were only some of the issues that fell subject to Gaullist revisionism. Anti, to the dismay of officials in Washington, in 1966 at Phnom Penh the French president denounced American military intervention in Vietnam. French public opinion endorsed this new aggressive stance against America;


at the height of troubles between the two allies, half the French agreed that the Fifth Republic's posture was "as it should be."

Meanwhile expressions of anti-Americanism were commonplace in the 1960s. One combative Gaullist tract, after listing the ills of American society—its violence, racism, vulgarity, moral laxness, and seductive materialism—quoted Montherlant, "I accuse the United States of being in a continuous state of crime against humanity."[1] On the left, opposition to what was termed American imperialism in Vietnam erupted in bombings of offices of companies like American Express and burnings of the stars and stripes. Representative of this defiant French mood were three best-selling books whose tides convey the message: L'Empire américain, Parlez-vous franglais?, and Le Défi américain . And audiences in the Latin Quarter were alternately amused and horrified with images of racist lynch mobs, police brutality, and seemingly idiotic public officials in a purportedly documentary film, Pourquoi l'l'Amérique? But such attacks concealed an equally important, but less dramatic, drift away from anti-Americanism—a shift that was obvious by the end of the decade.

In comparison to the activity of the preceding decade, anti-Americanism of the 1960s lacked intensity and scope. Criticism of the United States most frequently occurred as an analogue to praise for de Gaulle's show of independence against the American colossus. Of course cultural purists continued to denounce creeping Americanism, and groups on the left, especially students, pursued the struggle against "American imperialism." Yet this struggle looked to the Third World rather than to the West for its battleground. Student radicals, other than protesting against the war in Vietnam, were not much concerned with the United States or Americanization. As for the posturing of leftist intellectuals against the United States, much of this was only a way of dramatizing their dissatisfaction with trends in France—and before the decade was over they were less certain than they had been in the 1950s that they should aim their critique across the Atlantic. Similarly, while there were serious interests at stake between Washington and Paris, much of de Gaulle's policy was pure spectacle.

Antipathy for America was balanced by contradictory expressions of affection, such as the enthusiastic reception awarded President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on their visit to Paris in 1961 (fig. 15). Less noticed, but more significant, the issues and forces that accounted for anxieties and resentments during the early Cold War years began to fade. The 1960s unobtrusively prepared the way for the turnabout in the 1970s and 1980s that saw France shift to a far more positive appreciation of


15. Presidents de Gaulle and Kennedy, 1961. (Charles de Gaulle,
1890–1970 [1970], 309)


America. Once the pyrotechnics of the Gaullist display subsided, observers noted that France was moving toward an accommodation with Washington and Americanization. Thus the principal paradox of this decade is that de Gaulle's policies served to dampen anti-Americanism. In this sense the 1960s performed an exorcism of the American devil.

As president of the Fifth Republic, Charles de Gaulle dominated his decade as perhaps no other French statesman had since the nineteenth century. After his return to power in 1958 he presided over the republic he created in a manner reminiscent of the Bourbons and the Bonapartes. Until his resignation in 1969 he captured the attention of his fellow citizens, Europe, and sometimes even the world. But he especially made the United States take notice.

The Fifth Republic, unlike the Fourth, adopted an overtly anti-American foreign policy. De Gaulle's energetic effort to make France master of itself and to overturn the bipolar system of East-West hegemony that divided Europe and, increasingly, the world—a system that, in his view, subordinated French interests to those of an American-dominated Atlantic community—brought him into conflict with Washington and the American people. He struggled to give France greater independence than it had possessed under the Fourth Republic and to restore its global role. In the Gaullist lexicon he aspired to grandeur . His grand design challenged the status quo in Western Europe and made his opposition to the hegemonic power that guarded the status quo inevitable.

There was, to be sure, considerable continuity between the policies of the Fourth and Fifth Republics toward the United States.[2] While the general may have fulminated against the supposed subservience of the Fourth Republic and contrasted its self-effacement with his show of independence, France before 1958 had demonstrated its unhappiness with American policy. Paris and Washington had been at odds over many issues, including economic and military aid, German recovery, European defense, Indochina, and North Africa. On occasion the Fourth Republic had successfully manipulated Washington and, in other instances such as the European Defense Community and Suez, had openly opposed the United States. It had also taken the first steps toward constructing a French nuclear deterrent and, in the final days of the republic, expressed its determination to control American nuclear weapons stockpiled on French territory. The French people meanwhile had demonstrated their


dislike of American military bases, voiced misgivings about American leadership of the Western bloc, and, in general, expressed resentment about Washington's treatment of France.

Yet the Fourth Republic, much to de Gaulle's dismay, had also subscribed to an integrated and Atlantic-wide defense community and to the inception of a supranational Europe. To de Gaulle both these communities, NATO and the European Economic Community (or Common Market), deprived France of its independence and encouraged American hegemony. NATO prevented France from exercising the primary attribute of sovereignty, national defense; it jeopardized French security by submitting strategic planning and, especially, the use of the nuclear deterrent to American decision-making. NATO's integrated command structure precluded French control over its own defense. Furthermore, as the Soviet Union moved toward constructing a credible nuclear retaliatory force and as President Kennedy adopted a more flexible military posture toward an attack on Western Europe, American nuclear protection seemed less assured. Similarly European supranationalism, launched with the inception of the Common Market just before the general came to power, led France in the wrong direction. A supranational or "technocratic" structure, De Gaulle believed, lacked the cohesion or the will to act and would inevitably become a feeble organization subject to manipulation by the American superpower. In his view, only the nation-state could be a viable actor in world affairs. European unity should thus be constructed around a loose confederation of nation-states. The president tolerated the new Common Market and worked to mold it to his goals, which included separating Europe from the Atlantic community.

Gaullist policy aimed principally at securing independence and status for France as a player in world affairs. Beyond this goal was a grand design for remodeling Europe. It was predicated on the assumptions that the bipolar world in which the two superpowers competed against each other was inherently unstable and dangerous and that a multipolar system of independent decision-making centers was more secure. An alternative international system was not only desirable but possible because Western Europe had recovered its strength and because the burgeoning Sino-Soviet conflict and the diplomatic defeat over the Cuban missiles signaled the retreat of the Soviet Union. And there were stirrings of independence in the Third World and possibly even in Eastern Europe. In his grand design the American and Soviet hegemonies over Europe were to be relaxed, though Western Europe would still need a reliable American


guarantee. A European Europe, one led by France in tandem with West Germany, would play an independent role and negotiate a détente with the Soviet Union, leading to a loosening of the Kremlin's control over Eastern Europe.

As a prerequisite to implementing this grand design, de Gaulle would first have to rebuild French political institutions and end the war in Algeria. He would then try to reorganize NATO so as to give France full partnership with its Anglo-American allies while also building an independent nuclear defense system. Then would come the construction of a European Europe complete with economic, political, and defensive capabilities. Of course there was no plan for these changes; de Gaulle moved only as circumstances and opportunities permitted. Blocking the path to this Gaullist future lay Washington.

De Gaulle charted a different course for France than his predecessors did. Whereas the Fourth Republic, for example, saw a unified supranational Europe as the way to independence, the Fifth Republic saw it as a pawn in America's game. Where the pre-1958 regime found security in an integrated American-led defense system, the post-1958 regime saw NATO as undependable, perhaps dangerous, and possibly expendable protection. Where the Fourth Republic welcomed the United States because it provided security for Western Europeans, de Gaulle thought the United States was exploiting its excess of power.

In his mind the United States had been an imperialist force since the war and cloaked its expansionism in the guise of an altruistic crusade for freedom. Washington, in his view, wanted to retain the bipolar status quo because it guaranteed American hegemony and turned Europeans into dependents. For this reason Washington did not want to share decision making, especially over nuclear strategy, with France. The force de frappe, or French nuclear strike force, threatened American control over deterrence. The Gaullist grand design would, if implemented, fundamentally alter the status quo—especially with respect to Western defense, European unification, and East-West relations.

If the substance of policy differed, so did the style. De Gaulle more openly challenged the United States. His assertive and seemingly arrogant diplomacy contrasted with the more manipulative and conciliatory demeanor of the Fourth Republic. He demanded rather than negotiated and, when blocked, resorted to obstructionism. He patronized American leaders and publicly criticized American policy.

While the issues dividing Washington and Paris were formidable, there was also a broad area of agreement. In the last resort France and the


United States were allies. When the Soviets became aggressive, as they did over Berlin and Cuba in the early 1960s, de Gaulle gave President Kennedy his unqualified support. Ideologically, France and the United States were on the same side. In his speech to the United States Congress in 1960 the French president proclaimed:

If, in a material sense, the balance between the two camps that divide the world might seem equal, it is not the case morally. France, for its part, has chosen. It has chosen to be on the side of free peoples. It has chosen to be with you.[3]

The Franco-American dispute was a family feud.

The initial Gaullist confrontation with the United States occurred in 1958–59 during the waning days of the Eisenhower administration when the French president tried, in vain, to reconstruct the alliance system embodied in NATO. De Gaulle had grave reservations about NATO's integrated command structure that subordinated the French military to de facto American command. In memoranda written to President Eisenhower, de Gaulle urged substituting a tripartite—that is, joint French, British, and American—control over the West's nuclear arsenal as well as over global strategic and political planning. If accepted, the French proposal would have ended America's centralized control over both NATO and the West's nuclear strategy. By elevating France to a new inner oligarchy, it would also have ended the United Kingdom's privileged position within the alliance and subordinated other Western Europeans. In practice de Gaulle sought a veto (except in the case of national defense) over the use of American strategic arms in order to prevent the United States from beginning a nuclear war outside Europe that might engulf NATO and Europe and to advance France's status in world affairs. He also wanted assurance that American nuclear weapons would be used to defend French interests. Memories of America's tardy entry into two world wars haunted most French statesmen. While using memoranda diplomacy to effect this restructuring, the French president also continued to build the force de frappe . In 1960 France exploded its first atomic device. In this way it opened both avenues. If Washington did not accede to joint control over Western strategy, France would soon have the means for its own national nuclear deterrence and could safely modify its commitment to NATO.

Neither Washington nor London had any interest in granting full partnership to France either in formulating nuclear defense strategy or in creating an intergovernmental network outside NATO to resolve international crises. The Eisenhower administration refused to allow


France a veto over decisions concerning the use of American strategic nuclear weapons.[4] While Washington rejected de Gaulle's demands, it tried to show some flexibility in order to avoid provoking the French president into taking independent action against NATO. But de Gaulle knew a rebuff when he encountered one.[5] At the same time, the general contested Washington's tepid support for French policy in Algeria (since France believed U.S. arms deliveries to Tunisia and Morocco ended up in the hands of the Algerian rebels) and its denial of France's preeminent political role over North Africa.

Rebuked by Washington over restructuring Western defense, de Gaulle began, step by step, to limit French participation in NATO. One reading of de Gaulle's rationale is that since he could not acquire a say in when and how the American nuclear arsenal would be employed in the defense of Europe, he concluded that Washington was not dependable. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962, in this version, further persuaded the general that Washington might give priority to American, rather than European, security or, worse still, might involve Europe in a conflict of America's making. And the Kennedy administration's formulation of a new conception of nuclear defense (the so-called flexible or graduated defense) deepened French concern about the uncoupling of the American nuclear arsenal from Europe. An alternative reading is that de Gaulle, after the Soviet retreat over the Cuban missile affair, felt safe to act independently, knowing that if a crisis occurred, the United States could and would protect Western Europe. Whatever de Gaulle's reasoning, Washington's policy toward Western Europe irritated the general. Under President Kennedy the United States tried to halt France's development of an independent force de frappe, continued to give the United Kingdom a privileged position within the making of Allied nuclear strategy, and maintained its centralized control over European defense.

Lyndon Johnson's succession to the presidency in 1963 did not make the United States more accommodating, and Johnson's deepening commitment to a "hot" war in Southeast Asia worried Paris. Viewed from the Elysée (presidential) palace, American intervention in Vietnam underestimated the force of Vietnamese nationalism and concealed American expansionism under the guise of anticommunism. It was one more reason for France to distance itself from the United States. This policy had become possible since the Algerian war ended in 1962, the force de frappe was in the making, and the Soviet danger had diminished after the Cuban missile crisis.


Unable to transform the alliance into a tripartite partnership and increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of American policy, de Gaulle acted unilaterally. After a series of actions that disengaged French military forces from NATO, the climax came in 1966 with the announcement that France was withdrawing from the integrated command structure and demanding the removal of United States military installations and personnel from French territory. Few, if any, of de Gaulle's other diplomatic moves seemed more anti-American than this decision. France did not leave the Western alliance, but de Gaulle may have considered that one day he would take this final step toward neutralism.[6] In the end he went no further than withdrawal from the integrated command.

Parallel with his effort at restructuring NATO, the general labored to remodel the emerging European Economic Community. Here too he tried to strip away the Atlanticist and Anglo-American facade of European integration. In 1961–62 de Gaulle proposed to the nations composing the Common Market that they replace the supranational structure with a confederal arrangement in which intergovernmental consultation would make economic policy. De Gaulle also suggested adding European defense to the confederal body's responsibilities. His drive toward creating an independent European Europe free of Anglo-American control, though still sheltered by the American nuclear umbrella, was confirmed by his veto of British entry into the Common Market in early 1963. A parallel initiative in 1962–63 aimed at tying West Germany to France and weakening Bonn's dependence on Washington reinforced the anti-American direction of Gaullist policy. A Gaullist Europe would have encompassed economic, political, and defense strategy and permitted Europe to mute the tension and right the imbalance in the allegedly dangerous bipolar system. Europe with its own defense, that is, one pivoting on the French force de frappe, might one day rival the superpowers and be able to effect a détente with the Soviets and Eastern Europe. But de Gaulle's Common Market partners rejected his proposals and the West Germans failed to embrace the Paris-Bonn axis. In retaliation de Gaulle resorted to obstructionism. During 1965 he tried to slow down or halt the move toward building a centralized, supranational European community.

The climax of the Fifth Republic's diplomatic offensive against the United States came during the mid-1960s. Gaullist initiatives, economic and financial policy aside, included granting diplomatic recognition to mainland China (when the United States hoped to isolate China); visiting the American preserve of Mexico, Latin America, and Canada; pursuing détente toward the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; rejecting the


16. De Gaulle's notion of grandeur extends to the
United States, according to Herblock. (The Herblock
Gallery [Simon and Schuster, 1968])

American-sponsored nuclear nonproliferation treaty; and publicly criticizing growing American military engagement in Vietnam. At the same time France took giant steps toward becoming an independent nuclear power.

By 1967 it was evident that within the Western alliance Gaullist France was the principal obstacle to American policy. By then the American press and the public were howling about French "ingratitude" and "arrogance." There were boycotts of French products by American stores and a motion in Congress for the return of the remains of American soldiers buried in France. President Johnson's break with his predecessor's style of entertainment at the White House, which featured French cuisine and wines, appeared to be part of this anti-French campaign. In Paris Sartre and other leftist intellectuals tried to stage a war crimes trial against Americans responsible for the war in Vietnam. Antagonism peaked on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967–68 (fig. 16).


Did the French people approve of their president's diplomatic offensive against the United States? The answer has to be "yes." For to a considerable extent de Gaulle expressed popular desires and grievances. But he was also leading and shaping opinion—though not always successfully, since some of his anti-American projects were greeted with considerable skepticism.

There is no question that de Gaulle's affirmation of French independence vis-a-vis-à-vis the United States was welcomed by much of the country's elite. Politicians, administrative officials, military officers, business leaders, and intellectuals, including those who opposed the president's foreign policy, expressed pride in de Gaulle's assertiveness. They justified his policy by stressing their nation's uniqueness, for example, its civilizing mission and its European vocation.[7] They also expressed ambivalence about the United States. Within a context of friendship the elite complained about American imperialism and capitalism and argued that France and Europe no longer needed to depend on the United States as they had in the past.

Among left-wing politicians and intellectuals, where anti-Americanism was common, Gaullist policy toward the United States, as might be expected, had a certain appeal. Distancing Paris from Washington earned quiet applause from the Communists. And the so-called groupe des 29, which included several intellectuals who had openly opposed de Gaulle, published a manifesto in support of his withdrawal from the NATO command structure.[8] Certain socialists, such as Jean-Marie Domenach and Serge Mallet, expressed hope that de Gaulle was leading Europe toward independence and integration. Domenach accepted Stanley Hoffmann's reading of Gaullist policy as a step toward European autonomy and disengagement.[9] Domenach categorized himself as a "leftist anti-American"—though he admitted he had come to like much about America—who believed Europe should not abandon itself to "American supervision." He wrote:

The entire question is knowing if through its foreign policy Gaullism expresses only an outdated nationalism, or if beneath the nationalist language other demands, such as the political independence of Europe and a planned European market, are being broached.[10]

The force de frappe might, in Domenach's view, be stripped of its nationalist character in order to serve Europe and eventually disarmament. Speaking of the goal of European autonomy, Domenach wondered, "Is de Gaulle the last sign of this will before Europe sinks into


comfort and Americanism?"[11] Serge Mallet, a sociologist who wrote for Esprit, endorsed the Gaullist premise that France should and could free itself from American tutelage, arguing that capitalism would stifle any future evolution of Europe toward socialism.[12]

Such "left Gaullists" went beyond what others on the left would support. Some Socialists shared Domenach's and de Gaulle's aversion for American dominance but were more skeptical about the European credentials of the Elysée. Thus Gaston Defferre, the Socialist would-be candidate for president in 1965, credited de Gaulle with calling attention to the problem of American hegemony, but he argued that the general wrongly offered outdated nationalism rather than European integration as The solution.[13] Only a strong supranational Europe could force Washington to accept Europe as a player.

At Le Monde Beuve-Beuve-Méry, The editor who had once advocated a neutralist posture and grudgingly came to accept the American alliance as a prelude to détente with the East, found fault with many of de Gaulle's positions as well as his style.[14] Beuve-Beuve-Méry denounced the general's illusory pursuit of independence. He argued that, given the nation's modest means, atomic weapons would not make France truly independent. The force de frappe was ineffective, dangerous, and immoral to boot. The journalist also criticized de Gaulle for trying to build Europe around French hegemony and, failing that, resorting to obstructionism. While Le Monde endorsed de Gaulle's attacks on American imperialism and applauded his withdrawal from the NATO command, Beuve-Beuve-Méry also chastised the president for his vanity, his nationalism, and his authoritarianism. "Tirelessly, the old man pursues his pipe dream: to restore full and complete sovereignty to France and to force his way into the group of global powers equipped with nuclear arms."[15] In short, Gaullist policy toward the United States divided the left while appropriating part of its foreign agenda.

The public, according to opinion polls, welcomed the Fifth Republic's display of independence from the United States. American military presence on French territory had not been popular. Even before de Gaulle's return to power more people wanted the troops to leave than wanted them to stay. Opposition continued to mount in the 1960s.[16] Some reasons given for this opposition were that the GIs were no longer necessary; or the troops represented a "foreign occupation"; or that "everyone should stay where they belong." Only a few said the GIs' presence was provocative toward the Russians or that the soldiers were badly behaved. In this respect "Yankee Go Home" was the people's will.


With regard to reforming NATO, de Gaulle had support—up to a point. Under the Fourth Republic nonalignment had been a popular position, but this was more a vote to stay out of a future war than it was a vote against Washington.[17] Restructuring NATO was popular, but there was no majority, before or after 1958 to relinquish either American protection or the alliance. As long as de Gaulle's search for détente retained the cover of the Atlantic alliance, he reflected the wishes of a majority of the French people. A 1967 poll taken after French separation from the integrated command revealed that 54 percent wanted to retain NATO while only 12 percent preferred withdrawal from the alliance. Much of this allegiance to the alliance merely expressed acquiescence to necessity. Nevertheless, about two-thirds of the voters from every political party—including the Gaullists but excluding the Communists—wanted to retain the alliance.[18] De Gaulle would not have enjoyed popular support had he actually withdrawn from NATO.

There is no question that de Gaulle led the French to adopt a more negative stance toward the United States. If a majority of the populace was visibly angry with Washington over Suez and Algeria during 1956–57, those voicing a "good opinion" of America became increasingly numerous after 1960, despite Gaullist policy, and reached a high of 52 percent in 1964.[19] But once de Gaulle became stridently anti-American, opinion followed. In 1965 when asked which country they considered to be "the best friend of France," French citizens ranked the United States a poor third behind West Germany and the United Kingdom. A year later when asked whether French and American interests were close or different, almost half said they were either "rather" or "very" different. Approval of de Gaulle's adversarial stance toward the United States grew from about a third to half of the population after 1962 and remained high throughout 1966.[20] At the peak of Franco-American troubles, when asked whether de Gaulle's policy toward the United States was too harsh or too conciliatory, half those surveyed said it was "comme il faut"—just right.[21]

It seems then that if de Gaulle enjoyed a consensus on his American policy, he helped build it. He capitalized on popular misgivings about American influence, especially the stationing of American troops, and he exploited yearnings for independence and grievances about how Washington had treated France since the war. But America was generally liked, and it was the general.who shaped and mobilized opinion to assume a more anti-American stance in the mid-1960s.


Yet there were limits to realignment and independence. A total break with the Western alliance would have encountered serious resistance. Moreover, as President de Gaulle's policy hardened toward America so did the views of his opposition. He polarized opinion. From 1962 to 1966 those who opposed his stance toward the United States increased from 15 to 29 percent.[22] And his criticism of Israel in 1967 and his theatrical behavior in Quebec offended many. Equally important, the proportion of those who believed that independence was possible for France diminished steadily between 1965 and 1968.[23] In the early 1970s, after de Gaulle's resignation, skepticism about national independence, especially among French elites, only deepened.[24]

Was then de Gaulle "anti-American"? Not in the sense that he harbored some visceral dislike of Americans or American institutions, though it seems he did not approve of the American way of life. In fact he expressed admiration for American vitality, power, and love of freedom. He referred, in a press conference, to the United States as Europe's "daughter."[25] Whatever personal antipathy he may have felt about American society or civilization, it is not evident how such feelings shaped his policy. They probably mattered rather little, given his hard-edged realism in international affairs. Nor was he anti-American in the sense that he was an unreliable ally during moments of international crisis. This argument was one that he employed to deny the charge, as in a television interview in 1965:

In reality, who has been the Americans' ally from beginning to end if not the France of de Gaulle? It could not be otherwise. And if the case arises, if misfortune were to happen and if the world's freedom were at risk, who would automatically be the best and most natural allies if not France and the United States, as they have often been in such cases? Besides, as for me, I don't say that the Americans are anti-French and yet. . . . In 1940 they weren't there and we were overwhelmed by Hider. . . . I am fully aware of The immense service that they have rendered, to themselves, to the world, and to us, by going to war in 1917 and again in 1941. I know it well. I don't say they arc anti-French because they haven't always accompanied us. Indeed. I am not anti-American because at the moment I don't always go along with the Americans, and in particular, for example, with the policy that they are conducting in Asia. It's entirely true that I don't approve it. But on that basis to say that I am anti-American! I can't prevent it, but that's the heart of the matter![26]

Ambassadors to Washington and to Paris during the 1960s, respectively Hervé Alphand and Charles Bohlen, concurred in the view that


de Gaulle was not anti-American.[27] Yet none of these arguments are conclusive. We retain the impression that the label still fits.

For de Gaulle was anti-American in two significant ways. First he challenged the bases of the Western system of containment that pivoted on American power. He tried, but failed, to overturn this global bipolar order that the United States had constructed after 1947 through a kind of dialectic with the Soviets and that Washington labored to maintain—pending the ultimate demise of the Soviet threat. This system included a centralized and integrated Western defense structure dependent on American nuclear weapons and controlled by the United States; a federated European community open to the Anglo-Americans; a West Germany dependent for its security on the United States; a global commitment to isolation and containment of the Communist bloc; an international monetary order in which the dollar enjoyed a privileged position; and, in general, a France relegated to the position of a secondary ally in a Western bloc not only dominated by America but one that also gave precedence to the United Kingdom and West Germany. Each element of this system faced a Gaullist challenge. Above all, de Gaulle deplored America's excess of power, which he considered dangerous for America and for others. De Gaulle was anti-American in trying to subvert this international order that the United States believed served its best interests. In addition, any judgment on this question cannot dismiss his gratuitous attacks and rebuffs to the United States, such as his refusal to attend commemoration ceremonies of D Day in June 1964 or to assist, in case of need, in the recovery of the Gemini space capsule in the Pacific. These were acts of spite.

Second, he harbored a certain antipathy for what America, as a society, represented. If we lack a substantial and coherent body of data about de Gaulle's views on America—at least until his private papers are opened—the historian can still piece together what the general said about America even if his observations were often casual and spontaneous. Because a remark was impromptu, however, does not in itself invalidate it; quite to the contrary, being less rehearsed it may more accurately reflect his feelings. As a second source we can look at what those, both French and American, who were closest to him have said his views were. Finally, we can compare this record with what we know about his values, principles, and outlook.

The evidence suggests two conclusions about de Gaulle's view of the American way of life. First, he held an unflattering stereotype of American society as soulless and materialistic. We were a commercial empire.


Second, de Gaulle found us to be a society without history and thus without an identity.

In the first instance he occasionally voiced the conservative Gallic caricature of America. Writing in 1934 about how nations mobilized their economies for war, he noted that even in wartime Americans relied on the profit motive to stimulate production; more broadly, he observed that in the American social system, "material gain is the motive for all activity and the basis of all hierarchy."[28] Thirty years later in a discussion with an Arab journalist, de Gaulle observed:

If we wish to create around this Mediterranean—the cradle of great cultures—an industrial civilization that does not follow the American model and in which man is not merely means but purpose and aim, then our cultures have to open up toward each other.[29]

It is likely that in his innermost convictions he, like many other conservative Frenchmen, frowned on the uprootedness of American society and its obsession with gadgets and consumer comforts. In his memoirs he expressed his disappointment that the immediate issue of the 1960s was "not victory or annihilation, but living standards."[30] Geopolitics, not consumerism or américanisme, was his arena. Of consumer society, de Gaulle warned that inevitable dissatisfaction accompanied it: "Despite the variety and the quality of the food on every table and the clothes everyone wore, the increasing numbers of appliances in homes, of cars on the roads, of aerials on the roofs, everyone resented what he lacked more than he appreciated what he had."[31] Here before the fact he seemed to sense the troubles of 1968 rooted in this Americanized society.

In contrast with the individualistic way of life that many generations of their ancestors had followed as farmers, craftsmen, merchants, and rentiers, contemporary Frenchmen found themselves, not without some distress, forced into a crowded and mechanized existence. In factories, workshops, construction sites, or stores, their job demanded uniformly mechanical and repetitive movements with always the same companions. . . . As for commerce, it was carried out in identical supermarkets, with rows of shelves and imperious advertising. Everyone's housing now resembled a cell in some nondescript block. Gray anonymous crowds traveled in public transportation. . . . Even leisure now was collective and regimented: meals efficiently served in canteens; cheers in unison from the grandstands of sports stadia; holidays spent in crowded sites among tourists, campers, and bathers laid out in rows; day or evening relaxation at fixed hours for families in identical apartments, where before bedtime everyone simultaneously watched and heard the same broadcasts on the same wavelengths. It was all a matter of circumstance, but I knew that it weighed more heavily on our


17. De Gaulle, the traditionalist, at his desk. (Jean Lacouture, De Gaulle: le
Souverain [ 1986], 3:444)

people, by reason of their nature and antecedents, than on any others, and I felt that a sudden addition of annoyances one day might well touch off an irrational crisis.[32]

A leader who celebrated heroic values of sacrifice and public duty, who tried to move the French toward the "high road" of heroism and grandeur and away from concern with self-interest, who was wedded to such traditional economic values as the gold standard, who celebrated the virtues of historical continuity and social stability, and who loved the land and the old ways, was sentimentally at odds with the American way of life (see fig. 17). During his visit to California in 1960 the president of France was taken to see a new traffic cloverleaf where hordes of vehicles crisscrossed above and below. He commented to an American aide: "I have the impression that all this will end very badly."[33]

Perhaps the key to explaining the general's sentimental distance from America and his disapproval of America derives from a perception common among conservative members of his generation—that America had no continuity, no identity. He was a traditionalist steeped in history who was forced to confront a hegemonic power that, to him, lacked a


sense of history. He made the following offhand remark about the American past: "America was a virgin land where the pioneers found only the bones of some 'redskins' who'd been 'done in.' And a bit later they had to have a civil war and it continues."[34] Ambassador Bohlen, who was close to the French leader, thought de Gaulle did not understand the United States because it lacked the elements necessary for stability—such as a military tradition and a unifying religious heritage.

We were immigrants from dozens of countries—in his eyes, a somewhat messy collection of tribes that had come together to exploit a continent. He felt we were materialistic without a solid, civilizing tradition of, say, France.[35]

Or as one of his oldest and most intimate companions, René Pleven, observed:

The reason that General de Gaulle misunderstood the United States and Roosevelt is that he was a man for whom history counted more than anything else. In order to understand states and policies, his natural and unvarying tendency was to resort to history. That was why he was so successful in describing and dealing with Britain, Germany, or China. But where the United States were concerned he was at a loss; he found no historical keys. Not that the United States possess no history. But de Gaulle was not acquainted with it . . . and did not think it could be compared to that of "real" nations.[36]

In short, de Gaulle could not conceive of America as a nation on the same scale as France—a serious misperception on his part. "Anti-American" is an appropriate label for a statesman who struggled consistently and mightily to upend an international order built by and for America, who disapproved of America's "arrogance of power," who harbored personal misgivings about American civilization, and who incited, even if indirectly, anti-Americanism.

At the end of his presidency de Gaulle retreated from his earlier anti-American stance. He endured several diplomatic setbacks, including the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which frustrated his aim of creating a European Europe. There were lost skirmishes with West Germany and the Common Market. Then in May 1968 came massive civil disorder at home. Government mishandling of the student-led demonstrations damaged the president's stature. In the midst of these troubles de Gaulle told the new American ambassador that the two countries "were bound together in all the great tragedies" and "must remain so." For "at the bottom we are, you and we, in the same camp of freedom."[37] When President Nixon visited Paris in early 1969 de Gaulle was especially


cordial. At this point de Gaulle's interests seemed to be shifting toward internal affairs. The Gaullist storm over the Atlantic was subsiding.

At the domestic level the Gaullist years witnessed the efflorescence of consumer society. Paradoxically it was de Gaulle's administration with its deep respect for tradition that pursued economic modernity and in so doing ushered in the new age of Americanization. Just as he led France away from Washington's political and strategic tutelage, de Gaulle moved la vieille France toward economic affluence and international competitiveness. Yet the consequence of this departure was to promote the Americanization he personally disliked.

The debate over Americanization figures in a subsequent chapter, but the nature of this socioeconomic and cultural transformation under de Gaulle's presidency merits some discussion here. De Gaulle's republic sought economic growth even more assiduously than had the Fourth Republic. Among its economic objectives, the Fifth Republic promoted financial stabilization; industrial mergers into "national champions," especially in high-tech sectors like aerospace and computers; the massive demographic exodus from the farm; the struggle against hidebound vested interests; European economic integration; and national economic planning. Since the bounty of prosperity brought rising levels of income and consumption, de Gaulle was clearly a champion of what the United States had been promoting in France since the days of the Marshall Plan. He took credit for the high productivity rates that the Fourth Republic and American officials had extolled as the route to the American way of life a decade earlier. In 1967 de Gaulle boasted that France had surpassed other Western European countries in per capita national product and was second only to the United States in this respect.[38]

The economic mechanism that generated abundance in the 1960s was quite simple.[39] Prices for most goods and services (in terms of hourly wages) fell while purchasing power rose rapidly. Transfer payments through the welfare state were substantial, and credit buying finally caught on—as did the slogan "Jouissez d'abord, vous paierez ensuite" (Enjoy now, pay later). Per capita income increased 80 percent from 1958 to 1974 under Presidents de Gaulle and Pompidou.

A manager from Sears and Roebuck visiting France in 1963 as a member of an American commercial mission compared French buying to what he had seen eight years earlier:


I was astonished by the space allotted to kitchen appliances, to washing machines, and especially to leisure. From year to year the French are changing their style of living. They have picked up the habit of eating lunch in three-quarters of an hour and of working five days a week. Offices are being modernized more rapidly than residences. The efficiency of the service sector is improving. . . . The French are beginning to make themselves comfortable. . . . They are starting to like things typically American and we think we can sell more leisure products: camping equipment, luxury and scientific toys, sport clothes.[40]

The data confirm this manager's impressions. France was experiencing the consumer revolution. The part of household spending devoted to subsistence, for example, food and rent, fell from one-half to a quarter between 1954 and 1975 as spending increased for health, comfort, communication, and leisure. Thus if French consumers spent more on food and clothing in value and in volume, the share of spending on these items regressed. What began in the late 1950s was virtually completed in the 1960s. If one in four households had a refrigerator in 1960, fifteen years later nine out of ten owned one. If one in four households owned a washing machine, three out of four did (over the same period).[41] If only three in ten households owned a car in 1960, over six out of ten did so in 1973, and the market had become virtually saturated.[42] By that year 85 percent of households had a television set. Dishwashers and freezers arrived more slowly, as did bathtubs, while telephones were still to come (only one of four families owned one in 1973).

The consumer revolution of the 1960s reached the countryside. If the 1950s had brought kitchen stoves, gas heaters, electric irons, and the like to villages, the 1960s brought indoor toilets, refrigerators, washing machines, and television. The rural home began to imitate the urban home. One sociologist of a Breton town observed: "The urge for consumer goods was still considered scandalous in 1950. It was associated with the extravagance of sailors, who introduced what was once regarded as a life of luxury, later as a life of comfort, and now—more and more by the young—as ordinary life." Spending replaced hoarding. One Breton woman commented, "It's better to have things rather than a lot of money. If you don't spend money, you never have anything, you die without ever having had anything."[43]

The new abundance brought a flood of novel American products to France during the 1950s and 1960s. To the familiar names of Gillette razors, Singer sewing machines, Carnation milk, Frigidaire, Johnson wax, Simmons' mattresses, Columbia records, Addressographs and IBM office machines, Hoover appliances, Mobil petroleum products, Colgate


toothpaste, and Kodak cameras that date from before the war came jeans by Levi Strauss, Coca-Cola, Tide soap powder, Camay bath soap, Quaker Oats, Q-Tips, Ronson lighters, 3M Scotch tape, Black and Decker electric drills, Hollywood chewing gum, Marlboro cigarettes, Jantzen swimsuits, Playtex brassieres, Firestone tires, Timex watches, Libby's canned foods, computers from Texas Instruments, Tupperware, Tampax, Polaroid cameras, Culligan water softener, and Formica kitchen counters. Magazines and newspapers routinely carried ads for such products. One American clothes manufacturer advertised the "Kool shirt: la première chemise de sport air-air-conditionnée." A Frenchman could now stay at a Hilton hotel in a room cooled by a Honeywell air conditioner and rent a car from Hertz. American advertising companies set up business, as did American banks, management consultants, accountants, and similar firms to serve their American manufacturing or commercial clients. In 1963 L'Express devoted an issue to France's coming affluence, predicting that by 1975 the French standard of living would equal the American standard of the 1960s and that the gap between the two countries would disappear entirely by the end of the century.[44]

For decades America had influenced French popular music, dance, film, and, to a lesser extent, literature; in the postwar era radio and television programs, science fiction, and language itself joined the list of American exports. (In contrast, certain areas of creativity proved highly resistant to influences from the United States.)[45]Sélection du Reader's Digest continued to sell over a million copies in the 1960s. In the film industry several genres became exclusively Americanized—musicals, children's films (Walt Disney), and movie spectaculars. Hollywood steadily increased its share of films projected in France. the first American dramatic series appeared on French television in 1964 and films from across the Atlantic quickly dominated foreign films shown on French television.

As if to cap the Americanization process, at the end of the 1960s McDonald's opened its first outlet for American fast food. And now the dictionary contained words like "le weekend," "self," "jeans," "look," "minijupe," and "le standing" (status). According to ad agencies, it was the muffled sound of a closing car door that conveyed "le standing." The title of a popular record was "Le Temps du plastique," and Georges Perec's "story of the sixties" entitled Les Choses portrayed a young modern couple wandering through a world of material objects in which "joy was confused with possessing."[46] A product was more chic if it was


described in English: "New, Smart! C'est Dacron"; "Night Cream pour la nuit." One newspaper ad in franglais evoked California-style living for its new luxury homes: "Les tennis-quick . . . avec des amis; piscine . . . pour goûter la détente d'un 'crawl'; centre commercial, lieu plaisant du shopping; barbecue chez soi." To one British observer, France in the 1960s surpassed its neighbors in Americanization: "It is this glossy, restless, hedonistic new surface of French life, much of it American-inspired, that as much as anything differentiates the mood of the late '60s from the struggling, cautious, riven France of the '50s."[47] Some manifestations of the craze for America were not only banal but ludicrous. In one resort there was a mock Wild West town with a sheriff who greeted visitors with "Hi ya, pardners, comment ça va? "

Oddly enough the rush of abundance did not mean the French believed their daily life was more comfortable. Polls showed the majority did not perceive that either their standard of living or their purchasing power had increased. Only 20 percent saw an improvement in their purchasing power and 30 percent saw a decline, while 50 percent noticed no change. Compared to their neighbors, the French were extraordinarily pessimistic about economic progress and far more likely to expect the future to be worse than the present.[48] "Consume without thinking about it" was the sentiment of most, according to one historian.[49] The French failed to credit de Gaulle with improving their lives. At the end of his presidency in 1969 only 5 percent of those polled believed their standard of living had improved while 41 percent said it was unchanged and 49 percent thought it had declined.[50]

Abundance did not necessarily translate into support for de Gaulle or inevitably bring satisfaction. But, as we shall see, it certainly brought intense self-examination.

The 1960s mark the weakening of postwar anti-Americanism. Given that the Gaullist decade also represented the highest level of a second wave of criticism that surged around Gaullist foreign policy and the war in Vietnam, this result may appear paradoxical. Nevertheless, the experience of these years went far toward exorcising the American demon.

De Gaulle's affirmation of national pride served in the long run to dampen French combativeness toward the United States and subdue the country's assertiveness in world affairs. Perhaps what the nation needed was a strong dose of self-confidence before it could gracefully accept its diminished rank. After all, de Gaulle did remove some of the irritants to French self-esteem such as American military bases. He also liberated the


nation from its colonial past and gave it the means, in nuclear weapons, to acquire a respectable national defense. Since the general also wanted to lead the French in certain directions that made his compatriots uneasy, such as a break with the Atlantic alliance, his successors could jettison much of the Gaullist program without neutralizing the psychological boost he had provided. Then in the 1970s the United States, after Vietnam, seemed a less arrogant and a less dangerous power while the Soviet Union, after Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, assumed a more threatening posture. American protection was more welcome. For all these reasons, France after de Gaulle seemed more content: with its place and less eager to assert itself at the expense of the United States.

Since de Gaulle's resignation in 1969, France has behaved more independently than it had under the Fourth Republic. In this sense he altered the course of French foreign policy. No matter how much his successors might retreat from his position on certain issues, like the Atlantic alliance or the shape of Europe, a Gaullist posture has survived, but without the open confrontations with Washington that marked the 1960s.

At the same time that de Gaulle was correcting the imbalance in Franco-American relations and thus removing an essential source of anti-Americanism, Americanization was advancing within France, and America itself was becoming less odious and less central to the domestic debate about modernity. De Gaulle's deliberate promotion of economic growth, technological leadership, and affluence facilitated this domestic Americanization. And with American-style consumption and the proliferation of Yankee products came a passive acceptance of the American way—even if this was not what the chief of state sought. Taken together, Gaullist foreign policy, Gaullist-sponsored affluence, and a new, blurred, even appealing, image of American society account for the exorcism of the 1960s.


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