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FRANCE: Threshold of Power?

3 minute read
TIME

France faced its most important decision since 1940. Yet the campaign preceding this Sunday’s Constitution referendum was strangely blurred. The speeches of party spokesmen did not bring home to French voters how the Communist master carpenters of the Constitution were on the threshold of a new phase of power.

Naturally, Communist gloating was restrained. Deputy Raymond Guyot predicted, “After the triumph of May 5 [the referendum on the Constitution] we will go on to triumph on June 2 [the election of a new Assembly], when Maurice Thorez will become the new Premier!” But he did not explain the connection between the referendum and Communist control of the Government.

Nor would Socialist President Félix Gouin explain it. His party has collaborated with the Communists on many points over the last year; its policy of trying to please both Left and Right had finally brought it into a reluctant approval of the proposed Constitution. Gouin argued that defeat of the Constitution would postpone Government stability.

As for the Catholic M.R.P., it definitely opposed the Constitution; but its punches were inevitably pulled because M.R.P. participates in the “present coalition Government with Communists and Socialists. M.R.P. feared that a complete break with the Left would identify it with the unpopular Right.

The chief advantages which the Communists would derive from the proposed Constitution were: 1) an all-powerful unicameral legislature, even more unhampered by checks and balances than the old French Assembly; 2) a new electoral law (not incorporated in the Constitution but closely tied to it) which would set up a complex form of proportional representation which seemed likely to favor the Communists; the electoral setup would emphasize parties rather than candidates—another help to the Communists, the best disciplined party. (Commenting on the voting system, famed French mathematician and Rightist Assemblyman Jacques Bardoux said: “I read these texts once without understanding them. I read them a second, then a third time, pencil in hand. It was in vain . . . so I finally consigned to the Devil this opus born of mating of Socialist and Communist thought.”)

Most Frenchmen had less time than Bardoux to analyze the issues. They got little help from the French press, dazzled by the return to France of peacetime plenipotentiaries.

At week’s end the wise money in Paris was betting seven to five that most Frenchmen would vote “yes” in the Constitution referendum. If they did, M.R.P.’s seven months of cooperation might end soon—with M.R.P. tossed out to make way for a Government of the Left.

What They Want

Not enough French towns were destroyed, according to famed Edouard Le Corbusier, pioneer of town planners and functional architect.

Le Corbusier thought his job as technical adviser to the Minister of Reconstruction and Town Planning would be a golden opportunity to replace France’s 150,000 war-damaged communities with fine new cities and villages with attractive parks. Last week he admitted that spotty bombing and human nature had him stumped.

Home owners insisted on erecting immediate, temporary shantytowns on the site of their former homes, blocked Le Corbusier’s efforts for large-scale reconstruction projects. Even in completely leveled towns like Saint-Dié in the Vosges mountains, deep-rooted French villagers wanted just what they had before the war. Sighed Le Corbusier: “They don’t want a new, clean, modern town. They just want to rebuild their same old hovels on the same old spots where their grandfathers built them.”

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