Domestic Policy

France 1959-1968
the Economy

France 1959-1968

Between 1959 and 1968, France had only two prime ministers, indicating political stability extraordinary for France. This political stability has to be credited mostly to the personality of President CHARLES DE GAULLE, respected as the father of the nation. Yet in the early years of his reign, ALGERIA threatened to split the French nation into hostile camps. Many of the white settlers (about 1 million) and, most of all, the army were adamant in holding on to the 'overseas province'. The OAS (Secrey Army Organization, founded/supported by the army) engaged in terrorist activity in Algeria, and is blamed for two attempts to assassinate de Gaulle himself. Yet the army could not openly challenge de Gaulle who negotiated with the FLN and released Algeria into independence in 1962; with independence came a mass exodus of refugees from Algeria.
Already in the late 1950es the Gaullists had reorganized hemselves as a political party - the Union pour la Nouvelle Republique (UNR). They quickly emerged as the dominating political party; communists, socialists formed the opposition. The radicals became a negligible force.
In the middle of the 1960es Charles de Gaulle dominated French domestic, economic and foreign policy. Providing France with leadership in many sections, determined for France to go her own way, he did not take precautions to deal with a coming, predictable crisis - the BABY BOOM GENERATION entering universities whose facilities and staff were hopelessly inadequate to deal with their numbers. In 1968 this situation would spark a chain of demonstrations which soon focussed on topics differing from university facilities, questioning the state in its core. When the demonstrations were joined by workers who went on a massive strike, a political crisis had emerged.

The Baby Boom Generation had grown up after the war, had no memory of the war. They were influenced by France's intelligentsia (Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus) which tended toward an idealist marxism, had discovered new idols such as CHE GUEVARA and MAO TSE-TUNG. The students of 1968 were critical of CONSUMERISM, criticized the generation of their parents for not having prevented the Holocaust, having tolerated the Vichy administration, for being responsible for colonialism. They blamed authoritarianism for these evils, making ANTI-AUTHORITARIANISM a goal to achieve. Among the structures where traditional authority was to be replaced by (anarchic) democracy were the family and the school. ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE included life in communes.

The Strangest Betrayal : How the Communists halted the French Revolution of 1968, from Jesse Friedman
France : The General Strike of 1968, from All about Anarchism
France, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
DOCUMENTS List of presidents, premiers, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
Yelah Bildarkivet, Swedish language collection of historical photos, a number of them on Paris 1968
Le mouvement ouvrier francais et les immigres apres la seconde guerre mondiale. Quelques documents, posted by AHI
Mai 1968, from Voir et Revoir, posted by Institut National de l'audiovisuel
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.228-246
W. Scott Haine, The History of France, Greenwood Histories of Modern Nations, 2000, pp.172-191
Andrew Shennan, Profils in Power : De Gaulle, Harlow : Pearson 1993 [G]
Chapter 6 : The Person of de Gaulle, pp.68-76; Chapter 7 : Changes and Perplexities in France, pp.77-90; Chapter 8 : The Army, Algeria, and Africa, pp.91-104, in : John Gunther, Inside Europe Today, NY : Harper & Bros., 1961 [G]
Article : France, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1961 pp.282-285, 1962 pp.275-277, 1963 pp.388-391, 1964 pp.379-381, 1965 pp.373-375, 1966 pp.327-330, 1967 pp.353-357, 1968 pp.357-360, 1969 pp.353-356 [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1961 pp.279-285, 1962 pp.280-286, 1963 pp.258-264, 1964 pp.254-259, 1965 pp.284-288, 1967 pp.286-293, 1968 pp.279-285, 1969 pp.298-305 [G]
Article : France, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1961 pp.124-127 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on September 28th 2007

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