The role of the M.R.P. in French foreign policy
Capelle, Russell Beckett
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The purpose of the writer is to demonstrate that the principal handicaps to the success of the Mouvement Républicain Populaire in its foreign policy objectives, while in control of the French foreign ministry from 1944 to 1954, were the contradictions to be found within its political philosophy and among party personalities. The M.R.P. sought to be too much to too many. Being a distinctively regional party and lacking adequate contact with industry, the bureaucracy and the press, it was something less than a "movement". Being strongly centralized, it did not reflect in its structure the pluralism that was part of M.R.P. political philosophy. Such contradictions as these and others to be mentioned presently led to a striking contrast batween words and deeds of party leaders, and between a professed preoccupation with foreign policy and an actual preoccupation with domestic policy. During ten years of continuous control of the foreign ministry, European integration was the key foreign policy of the M.R.P. After initial success in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the party's task was complicated by uncertainty within the party as to what type of "Europe" should be built. Moreover the growing social Catholicism of this "Catholic Party" made it suspect of promoting a clerical "black Europe". Finally, the plans for supranational functional institutions, although partly in accord with M.R.P. pluralism, were opposed by strong political and economic pressure groups and were incompatible with the French concept of sovereignty. The M.R.P. also believed that France as mediator should try to heal the East-West split. This led the party into a dilemma because of its philosophical affinity with neutralism but its actual support for American policy in Europe. Moreover, although the party was in opposition to a "crusade" against communism, the overwhelming concern of the M.R.P. for the French national interest led it to oppose negotiation and concentrate on resistance in the Indo-China war. Similarly M.R.P. devotion to supranational schemes of European integration came into conflict with its nationalistic policy toward North Africa, where it sought to preserve centralization of control in the "métropole". Although party leaders opposed the Mendès-France thesis that "to govern is to choose" and insisted on a consistent world policy, in their deeds they were forced to make choices inconsistent with party political philosophy. The M.R.P. may have accepted various compromises in order to preserve the continuity of its program of European integration, but party leaders preferred conciliation to compromise. They played a waiting game, and it is striking how well the party held together during this difficult period. Nonetheless, the M.R.P. was troubled by internal disagreements on methods of achieving objectives, by inexperience of some leaders in political skills, by contradictory statements, and by significant fluctuation in enthusiasm for objectives. Most important, perhaps, were a disregard for the sensibilities of the French parliament and a lack of elasticity of approach to objectives. Despite these many contradictions and weaknesses, the M.R.P. succeeded in preserving the continuity of French foreign policy and paved the way for the European common market and "Euratom". It played a part, also, in making foreign policy an increasingly important factor in the survival of French Governments. However, being tied as it was to the nineteenth century through its church connections, the M.R.P. was doomed to failure in its attempt singlehandedly to lead such a secular and national state as France into an integrated European community.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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