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Francois Mitterand’s Fascist Past and the Formation of the European Monetary Union

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COMMENT: As the glob­al econ­o­my reels from the Euro­zone debt cri­sis, it may be use­ful to pon­der a lit­tle known aspect of the back­ground of for­mer French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Mit­terand [5], the man who [offi­cial­ly] insist­ed on the for­ma­tion of the com­mon Euro­pean cur­ren­cy.

As dis­cussed in Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M61 [6], Mit­terand had a his­to­ry of par­tic­i­pa­tion in, and col­lab­o­ra­tion with, the French fas­cists who desta­bi­lized French democ­ra­cy in the years before World War II and active­ly sub­vert­ed the French mil­i­tary resis­tance to the Ger­man inva­sion of 1940. (The infor­ma­tion about Mit­terand is on side 1c.) [7]

Mit­terand was asso­ci­at­ed with the Cagoule and Croix de Feu, French fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions that attempt­ed to over­throw the French gov­ern­ment [8]in 1938, much as U.S. fas­cists attempt­ed to elim­i­nate Roo­sevelt in 1934 [9]. Under­min­ing the French defens­es, these same ele­ments real­ized their goal when the invad­ing Ger­mans cre­at­ed the col­lab­o­ra­tionist Vichy gov­ern­ment.

Mit­terand’s asso­ci­a­tion with French fas­cist Rene Bous­quet [10] extend­ed decades into the post­war peri­od. Bous­quet helped finance Mit­terand’s post­war polit­i­cal career. Details of Bous­quet’s polit­i­cal career and Mit­terand’s asso­ci­a­tion with him are cov­ered in detail below.

A num­ber of con­sid­er­a­tions sug­gest them­selves in this regard:

In addi­tion to reflect­ing on Mit­terand’s past, we will also high­light the endeav­ors of Robert Zoel­lick [15] in the con­text of Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion. Zoel­lick recent­ly con­firmed that Mit­terand insist­ed on the estab­lish­ment of a com­mon cur­ren­cy as pre-con­di­tion for Ger­man  reuni­fi­ca­tion. Zoel­lick was a prin­ci­pal archi­tect of that reuni­fi­ca­tion, as well as a prob­a­ble oper­a­tive [16] on behalf of the Under­ground Reich [13].

We should not lose sight of the fact that it is large­ly the advent of the euro itself [17] that has brought about the finan­cial cri­sis  in Greece, Italy, Por­tu­gal and Spain.

“A Euro Pow­er Play that Back­fired” by Oliv­er Mark Hartwich; Busi­ness Spec­ta­tor; 8/17/2011. [18]

EXCERPT: To ful­ly appre­ci­ate the sub­tle ironies of the euro cri­sis it takes a sense for his­to­ry. Europe’s com­mon cur­ren­cy has prac­ti­cal­ly achieved the very oppo­site of what its cre­ators orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed. Instead of fram­ing the Ger­mans in Europe, the cri­sis has ele­vat­ed Ger­many to the continent’s new, albeit reluc­tant, hege­mon. For­mer French Pres­i­dent François Mit­ter­rand must be spin­ning in his grave.

Last Sun­day, the Asia Soci­ety host­ed a din­ner for World Bank Pres­i­dent Robert Zoel­lick in Syd­ney. His warn­ings about a fur­ther esca­la­tion of the debt cri­sis were wide­ly report­ed, and the high-cal­i­bre audi­ence cer­tain­ly appre­ci­at­ed his views on the state of emerg­ing mar­kets. How­ev­er, Zoel­lick also gave a fas­ci­nat­ing insight into the ear­ly his­to­ry of Euro­pean mon­e­tary union.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in Novem­ber 1989, Zoel­lick was the lead US offi­cial in the ‘two-plus-four’ nego­ti­a­tions that pre­pared Germany’s re-uni­fi­ca­tion in Octo­ber 1990 (so named after the two Ger­man states and the four allied forces – Britain, France, the Sovi­et Union and the US). He was thus inti­mate­ly involved in the diplo­mat­ic bal­anc­ing act of uni­fy­ing Ger­many while reas­sur­ing the British and the French that they had noth­ing to fear from this new and big­ger coun­try in the heart of Europe. For his achieve­ments, Zoel­lick was even made a Knight Com­man­der of the Ger­man order of mer­it, a very high award for a for­eign nation­al. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.]

British Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatch­er was hor­ri­fied about the prospect of a unit­ed Ger­many. “We beat the Ger­mans twice, and now they’re back,” she alleged­ly told a meet­ing of Euro­pean lead­ers at the time. Thatch­er even invit­ed his­to­ri­ans to a sem­i­nar at Che­quers to dis­cuss the ques­tion of how dan­ger­ous the Ger­mans real­ly were. Her trade min­is­ter, Nicholas Rid­ley, was forced to resign after he had com­pared Ger­man chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl to Adolf Hitler in an inter­view with The Spec­ta­tor. . . .

. . . There had always been rumours that in the two-plus-four nego­ti­a­tions the French had demand­ed Ger­many to give up its beloved Deutschmark in return for a French ‘oui’ on uni­fi­ca­tion. More than once the dom­i­nance of the über-sol­id Deutschmark had caused the French and oth­er Euro­pean nations pain. Forc­ing the Ger­mans to aban­don their cur­ren­cy would sure­ly be an appro­pri­ate way to weak­en them so they could not become a threat to oth­er nations, the French prob­a­bly thought.

The only prob­lem with this account of his­to­ry is that there is no sol­id evi­dence for it. When Der Spiegel news mag­a­zine report­ed these rumours once again last year, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the old Kohl gov­ern­ment were quick to dis­pute that there had been any secret deals at the time. “There nev­er was an agree­ment,” Ger­man trea­sur­er Wolf­gang Schäu­ble (who was home sec­re­tary at the time) bold­ly claimed. His pre­de­ces­sor Theo Waigel flat­ly denied any link between uni­fi­ca­tion and the euro.

Such pre­vi­ous denials made Robert Zoellick’s remarks at the Syd­ney din­ner all the more remark­able. Almost in pass­ing, and as if it was the most obvi­ous thing in the world, he explained his under­stand­ing of how Europe got its com­mon cur­ren­cy. And his account con­firmed the rumours that it had a lot to do with Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion.

As Zoel­lick told his audi­ence (that was prob­a­bly unaware of how con­tro­ver­sial these issues still are in Europe) it was very clear that Euro­pean mon­e­tary union result­ed from French-Ger­man ten­sions before uni­fi­ca­tion and was meant to calm Mitterrand’s fears of an all-too-pow­er­ful Ger­many. Accord­ing to Zoel­lick, the euro cur­ren­cy is a by-prod­uct of Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion. As one of the key insid­ers in the two-plus-four nego­ti­a­tions, trust­ed and high­ly dec­o­rat­ed by the Ger­mans, nobody would be bet­ter qual­i­fied to know the real sto­ry behind Euro­pean Mon­e­tary Union. Despite all offi­cial denials com­ing from the Ger­man gov­ern­ment until the present day, there are no good rea­sons not to believe Zoellick’s account of the events.

The great his­tor­i­cal irony of this sto­ry is, of course, that if the French had real­ly planned to weak­en the pow­ers of new­ly reunit­ed Ger­many through mon­e­tary union, this attempt has now com­plete­ly back­fired. Sure, the Ger­mans will pay mas­sive­ly for the sake of keep­ing the euro project alive (if they don’t pull out of mon­e­tary union once they realise this). But in strate­gic terms, Germany’s influ­ence has nev­er been greater. As the con­ti­nent wants to bank on Germany’s AAA rat­ing, Berlin can now effec­tive­ly dic­tate fis­cal pol­i­cy to Athens, Lis­bon and Rome – per­haps in the future to Paris, too. . .

. . . As it turns out, the euro is not only an unwork­able cur­ren­cy. It actu­al­ly start­ed as a French insur­ance pol­i­cy against Ger­man pow­er. But even as an insur­ance pol­i­cy it has failed. Against their will, it has turned the Ger­mans into the new rulers of Europe. And it has con­signed France to be the weak­er part­ner in the Fran­co-Ger­man rela­tion­ship.

If Mit­ter­rand had known all this in advance, he would have insist­ed on Ger­many keep­ing the Deutschmark as the price for Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion. . . .

COMMENT: In addi­tion to infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed in Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M61, Mit­terand’s rela­tion­ship with Rene Bous­quet is of great impor­tance in appre­ci­at­ing “the real Mit­terand.”

“Mit­terand and the Far Right”; Wikipedia. [5]

. . . . Les Volon­taires Nationaux, la Cagoule and l’in­va­sion métèque[edit [19]]

Many com­men­ta­tors and authors line up along par­ty lines, and con­sen­sus in their views is dif­fi­cult to achieve. It is, how­ev­er, wide­ly accept­ed in France that Mit­ter­rand’s actions film 1934 to 1945 are open to con­tra­dic­to­ry inter­pre­ta­tions. An exam­ple is his mem­ber­ship of the Volon­taires Nationaux (Nation­al Vol­un­teers), an orga­ni­za­tion relat­ed to François de la Rocque [20]’s far-right league, the Croix de Feu [21], for one to three years, depend­ing on the source.[2] [22] On 1 Feb­ru­ary 1935, Mit­ter­rand joined the Action française [23] march, more com­mon­ly known as “l’in­va­sion métèque [24]”, to demon­strate against for­eign doc­tors set­ting up in France with cries of “La France aux Français”. There are two pho­tos that show Mit­ter­rand fac­ing a police line,[3] [25] pub­lished in Les Camelots du Roi [26] by Mau­rice Pujo [27].[4] [28] Mit­ter­rand admit­ted being there but denied tak­ing part in the demon­stra­tion in a TV inter­view with Jean-Pierre Elk­a­bach [29] in Sep­tem­ber 1994. He was quot­ed as say­ing “Je n’y étais pas pour ça” ( “I was not there for that”)[5] [30] and in France, there was some debate over the sig­nif­i­cance of his pres­ence at the march.

Sim­i­lar­ly, many young peo­ple, most­ly stu­dents, lived at 104, rue de Vau­gi­rard, Paris with the “pères maristes”, and they all knew the lead­ers of La Cagoule [31] (a right-wing ter­ror­ist organ­i­sa­tion), Eugène Delon­cle [32] and Eugène Schueller [33], with­out overt­ly adher­ing to their cause. Pierre Guil­lain de Bénou­ville [34]Claude Roy [35] (the writer), Mit­ter­rand and André Bet­ten­court [36] all reg­u­lar­ly vis­it­ed the apart­ments in rue Zédé and rue Cher­noviz, where La Cagoule met.[6] [37] That does not prove that Mit­ter­rand was a mem­ber of la Cagoule. He, how­ev­er, kept up rela­tions and fam­i­ly ties with Delon­cle.[7] [38]

Dur­ing the win­ter of 1936, François Mit­ter­rand took part in action against Gas­ton Jèze [39]. Between Jan­u­ary and March 1936, the nation­al­ist right and the Action française, cam­paigned for Jèze’s resignation.because he act­ed as a coun­sel­lor [40] for Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia [41], after he was dri­ven from Addis Aba­ba [42] by Mus­solin­i’s troops dur­ing the Sec­ond Ita­lo-Abyssin­ian War [43].[8] [44]

Mit­ter­rand, in the Elk­a­bach TV inter­view and also in his mem­oirs, defend­ed his actions by say­ing they were typ­i­cal of many apo­lit­i­cal inex­pe­ri­enced young men from provin­cial, mid­dle-class, Catholic fam­i­lies at this time, but at best, his behav­iour seems to indi­cate an ambi­tious young man look­ing for action and mak­ing con­nec­tions with lit­tle dis­cern­ment and poor insight. At worst, it sits very uncom­fort­ably in the his­to­ry of a high-pro­file left-wing politi­cian.

. . . The most damming of all charges against Mit­ter­rand and his right wing con­nec­tions is prob­a­bly his long last­ing friend­ship with René Bous­quet, ex secré­taire général of the Vichy police. Charles de Gaulle said of Mit­ter­rand and Bous­quet “they are ghosts who come from the deep­est depths of the collaboration.”[24] Georges-Marc Ben­amou quotes Mit­ter­rand as say­ing of Bous­quet “his career shat­tered at the age of 35, it was dread­ful... Bous­quet suf­fered bad­ly. Imag­ine the break, the career shot to pieces”[25] which shows Mit­ter­rand felt that Bous­quet was unde­served­ly bad­ly treat­ed. In 1974, René Bous­quet gave finan­cial help to François Mit­ter­rand for his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign against Valéry Gis­card d’Es­taing. In an inter­view with Pierre Favier et Michel Mar­tin-Roland Mit­ter­rand claimed that he was not the only left wing politi­cian to ben­e­fit from Bous­quet’s mon­ey, as René Bous­quet helped finance all the prin­ci­pal left wing politi­cians from the 1950s to the begin­ning of the 1970s, includ­ing Pierre Mendès France. Worse still after Mit­ter­rand’s 1981 win René Bous­quet was received at the Élysée palace “to talk pol­i­tics”. In an inter­view with Pas­cale Fro­ment (René Bous­quet’s biog­ra­ph­er) Mit­ter­rand declared “I lis­tened to him as a polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He saw me as a con­tin­u­a­tion of his halt­ed career.”[26] Only in 1986, when media crit­i­cism of Bous­quet began to gain in vol­ume, did Mit­ter­rand stop see­ing him and he did not com­ment on the mat­ter until the 1994 inter­view with Jean-Pierre Elkabach.[27] Lionel Jospin com­ment­ed that he was lit­tle impressed by the Pres­i­den­t’s expla­na­tion say­ing “One would have liked a sim­pler and more trans­par­ent rise to pow­er for the leader of the French left dur­ing the 70s and 80s. What I can’t under­stand is the con­tin­u­ing rela­tion­ship into the 80’s with the likes of Bous­quet who orga­nized the mass arrests of Jews”[28] and Charles Fiter­man also felt let down: “these rev­e­la­tions leave the uncom­fort­able impres­sion of hav­ing been deceived by the man. 50 years lat­er we see no trace of regret nor crit­i­cal analy­sis, but a con­tin­u­a­tion of a com­pro­mis­ing rela­tion­ship which casts new light on events such as putting flow­ers on Pétain’s tomb. This seems to show a con­ti­nu­ity in the choic­es of a leader call­ing in favors from a net­work of friends.”[29] Pierre Moscovi­ci, com­ment­ing on Pierre Péan’s book said ” What shocked me is his rub­bing shoul­ders with some­one who was instru­men­tal in state anti­semitism and the ‘final solu­tion’. We can’t tol­er­ate such tol­er­ance of evil, and for me René Bous­quet was absolute evil”[30] and the his­to­ri­an Pierre Miquel com­ment­ing on the TV inter­view said “the com­ments... of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic are part of a dis­course from the right... on the sub­ject of the occupation”[31] . . .

COMMENT: In light of Mit­terand’s long-stand­ing, pro­found rela­tion­ship with Bous­quet, more detail about Bous­quet’s wartime activ­i­ties is instruc­tive.

“Rene Bous­quet”; Wikipedia. [10]

EXCERPT: . . . . On 2 July 1942, Bous­quet and Carl Oberg pre­pared the arrests known as the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv). Bous­quet per­son­al­ly can­celed orders pro­tect­ing some cat­e­gories of peo­ple from arrests, notably chil­dren under 18 and par­ents with chil­dren under 5. After the arrests, some bish­ops and car­di­nals protest­ed; Bous­quet threat­ened to can­cel tax priv­i­leges for Catholic schools.

Under the pre­text of not sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies, Pierre Laval ordered that Jew­ish chil­dren under 16 be includ­ed in depor­ta­tion con­voys, thus sur­pass­ing the require­ments of the Nazis. Bous­quet oblig­ed, per­son­al­ly set­tling that chil­dren under 2 years also be includ­ed. Chil­dren were actu­al­ly deport­ed sep­a­rate­ly from their par­ents.

In Jan­u­ary 1943, he organ­ised with Carl Oberg a mas­sive raid in Mar­seille, known as the Bat­tle of Mar­seille. Dur­ing this repres­sive oper­a­tion, the French police assist­ed the Ger­man police, in par­tic­u­lar in the expul­sion of 30,000 peo­ple from the Old Port, and the sub­se­quent destruc­tion of this neigh­bor­hood, con­sid­ered as too dan­ger­ous and as a “ter­ror­ist nest” by the Ger­man police, because of its wind­ing, small streets. Bous­quet eager­ly offered his ser­vices dur­ing this oper­a­tion. The French police con­trolled the iden­ti­ty of 40,000 peo­ple, and the oper­a­tion suc­ceed­ed in send­ing 2,000 Mar­seillese to the exter­mi­na­tion camps. The oper­a­tion also encom­passed the expul­sion of an entire neigh­bor­hood (30,000 per­sons) before its destruc­tion. For this occa­sion, SS Carl Oberg, in charge of the Ger­man Police in France, made the trip from Paris, and trans­mit­ted to Bous­quet orders direct­ly received from Himm­ler. It is a notable case of the French police’s will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nazis.[1]

In April 1943, Bous­quet met with Hein­rich Himm­ler [45]. Himm­ler declared him­self “impressed by Bous­quet’s per­son­al­i­ty”, men­tion­ing him as a “pre­cious col­lab­o­ra­tor in the frame­work of police col­lab­o­ra­tion”. . . .