Charles De Gaulle Essay, Research Paper
Charles de Gaulle s Vision of France
At the end of World War II, many European countries were damaged politically, socially, and economically due to the invasion of Germany. Europe was in pieces and many people thought that it would never recover from such a devastating blow. However, during these hard times in search of hope and a better future, European countries pushed onward towards massive recovery and restoration of power. During this period a man by the name of Charles de Gaulle became a leader of the French people. He envisioned France to become recognized as a great power as it once was in the past and he would lead his country into its new future. De Gaulle was seen as a leader of France during World War II, but he disappointedly declined gaining government authority during the 1940 s. Finally in 1958, de Gaulle came back to power with great expectations to establish France s independence and to restore France as a world power, however his dreams fell short to reality.
Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890 and grew up in Lille. His father had a great impact towards his life, which helped develop de Gaulle s great patriotism for his country. Growing up as a child Charles was always smart and was a very good student. Instead of going to a polytechnic college, he went to a French military school because of the passion he had for his country. He fought in the trenches during World War I and made his way through the ranks to General during World War II. During this time, in disgust with his French leaders for not fighting the Germans, de Gaulle refused to surrender and fled to Great Britain. Soon after the fall of France in 1940, leaflets were published, signed by a virtually unknown brigadier general: France has lost a battle, it has not lost the war. De Gaulle had not given up the fight against the Germans and was determined to see France victorious.
In London during 1940 de Gaulle began to take action which gained him popularity and marked the beginning of the Free French Movement. De Gaulle was totally convinced that he had a historical mission to save France, to restore its honor and dignity, to make it again a great nation. The nation of France was in chaos, the people were looking for someone to turn to and de Gaulle was this man. De Gaulle was recognized as leader of the French government in exile and most of the resistance groups in Great Britain supported him. However, the British and the Americans did not take his leadership seriously. During 1943, the Casablanca Conference was held in which the British and Americans claimed unconditional surrender to Germany, however both countries refused to recognize de Gaulle as leader during this conference. De Gaulle saw himself as the leader of France but his allies did not, this lead to tension between them and made communication difficult. De Gaulle was stubborn and refused any help that would be given to France from his allies. He believed that he had whole authority over France and he should decide what it needed.
De Gaulle returned to France in August of 1944 embraced by the French people and looked upon as a hero. His main focus was on the liberation of France but other than this, his plan for the future of France was unclear. The French economy during this time was very bad and the people were not paying much attention to government authority. The war was not entirely over and all of France was not yet liberated but de Gaulle still pushed to restore the authority of the central government. As restoration took place social grievances became the main concern. The French people wanted to concentrate on problems caused by the war such as industry, agriculture, communication and transportation. However, economics was not de Gaulle s main concern, he was more focused on establishing France as a great power. Although he had different interests, De Gaulle was elected head of government in 1946, but due to limitations enforced on his power he resigned. The transition from war to peace was over; the political parties, he said, could now assume full responsibility for affairs of state; de Gaulle was no longer needed. De Gaulle did not like the political system or government that was established in the Fourth Republic. Although he was no longer an active participant in government he still continued to work in politics and had not forgotten his vision of France.
As de Gaulle predicted the Fourth Republic of France was unable to fulfill the needs of the French people. In 1958 by popular demand Charles de Gaulle came back into power. One of the first priorities on de Gaulle s agenda was to establish a constitution for the new Republic. The creation of a new constitution was of great importance to de Gaulle because he wanted more power as president. The constitution stated that the president of the Fifth Republic had the right to choose his own Prime Minister, to dissolve parliament, to call a referendum on specified issues if proposed either by the government or jointly by the two Assemblies; and above all, at times of grave crisis, to assume plenary powers under Article 16. With the influence of de Gaulle the constitution of the Fifth Republic contained key policies that he had been dreaming to obtain for many years. De Gaulle believed that in order for him to make France a great nation again he must obtain these presidential powers.
De Gaulle took power in 1958 and one of the immediate problems he was dealt with was the issue surrounding the colonization of Algeria. De Gaulle told the people of France that he would not lose Algeria, however foreign affairs were never de Gaulle s strong point. Although the people believed that de Gaulle was trying to keep Algeria French he actually began to decolonize it. De Gaulle was determined to get France out of the Algerian impasse, which, as he could see, blocked her economic and diplomatic recovery and her military-technological modernization. Although de Gaulle did this for the best interest of France he failed to follow through with what he had originally promised to the people.
De Gaulle did not forget how Great Britain and the U.S. treated him during World War II. De Gaulle insisted that both the U.S. and British did not have the same interests as France or Europe. De Gaulle felt that the Americans were trying to take control of Europe making decisions for Europeans to help benefit the U.S. This outlook led de Gaulle to refuse any contribution the U.S. tried to make to help Europe. Unlike the rest of the world de Gaulle saw France as a world power and should not be looked upon as anything less.
In 1959, one year after de Gaulle came to power he ordered the French naval unit to withdraw from NATO. By 1966 de Gaulle had withdrawn all French forces from the treaty organization (NATO) which resulted in the headquarters of NATO to be moved from Paris to Brussels. De Gaulle carried out these actions to prove France s independence and to stress not having to rely on other countries for help or decision making.
By 1958 the European Economic Community (EEC) allowed Europe to bounce back from economic crisis caused by the war. De Gaulle was first against the notion of the EEC because it took away from the idea of an independent France. However the results the EEC produced forced de Gaulle to change his mind. Although the EEC was an agreement between six countries the main contributors were France and Germany. By 1963 the EEC had the greatest trading market in the world and its goal was to remove all internal custom barriers within the six countries by 1967. In 1963 Great Britain applied to join the EEC as it saw to help strengthen the European Community. However de Gaulle thought differently and vetoed its application. De Gaulle feared that Great Britain would gain too much power within the EEC destroying what the French had already accomplished. I want England in the Common Market. But naked and powerless. Although de Gaulle had this fear of losing power he pointed out that agricultural differences in Great Britain would cause a negative impact towards the EEC. De Gaulle did not want Great Britain to come in and start running the show. He was very conscious of France maintaining power, which was exemplified again when he vetoed Great Britain for a second time in 1967.
De Gaulle was soon to find out that France s government was not as strong as he thought. In 1968 many demonstrations and riots took place throughout France. This proved that de Gaulle did not have complete control over the French society. In 1969 de Gaulle challenged the voters and called for a referendum. This failed, as the majority of voters no longer wanted to see De Gaulle as leader. Understanding that the people did not want him, de Gaulle resigned quietly and left for his home in the countryside of France. Charles De Gaulle died a year later taking with him the vision of his France.
Charles de Gaulle was never a politician he was a leader for the French society. He spent most of his life trying to revitalize France so it could be recognized as a world power. The actions and decisions de Gaulle made may not have always been the correct ones, but from his standpoint they were vital for achieving his goals. Although de Gaulle never fulfilled his dream of France he made a great effort for his country to be recognized as a world power.