June 18: Celebrating Charles de Gaulle


Who cares that the French (“les bleus”) are a stagnant Fussballmannschaft who is on the verge of being bounced from World Cup play?

Because tomorrow in Europe begins today: it is the seventieth anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s announcement of “la Resistance” from a radio booth in London.  Which means that French President Nicholas Sarkozy will be — where else? — in London, with a Gaullist book between his hands, to commemorate. In short, he has not been able to say “Enough with the De Gaulle!”

I’ve been sparring with this man (de Gaulle that is, but also his inheritor Sarkozy) in a renewed and highly sporadic fashion for about the past year and a half, but this article in Liberation encapsulated the meaning of the man, for me anyway, in the most beautiful fashion:

Alain Dudmel, “Que reste-t-il du gaullisme aujourd’hui? [What Remains of Gaullism Today?,] Liberation, Paris, June 17, 2010, p. 17.

[translation by Adam Cathcart]

The [French] President Nicholas Sarkozy will be in London tomorrow to commemorate the appeal of 18 June 1940.  The seventieth anniversary becomes an occasion for a national consensus and, also, an edifying retrospective.  If today nearly all the French give their admiration to the rebellious general who saved the day and the honour of the tricolor French flag, at the time, things were different.  Between the wrecked military [naufrage militare/ 功败垂成的士兵], the perilous exodus, and the crushed politics [effondrement politique / 崩溃政治情况] , most French people regarded Marshal Petain as the supreme savior.  The shield with seven stars eclipsed the lone sword [Le bouclier (盾)aux sept etoiles eclipsait le glaive (关刀) solitaire.]

l'appel dans la nuit, via Le Figaro

Since then, the legitimacy of Gaullism has justly erased the legality of Petainism.  The Gaullism in London has easily [haut la main] won the battle of history.  The man of June 18 remains, for eternity, the most glorious Frenchman of the 20th century.

But is that to say that Gaullism was itself also fated to expire in its time?  In fact it is an entirely different affair.  The Gaullism surely triumphed in the war, thanks to Free France, thanks to the Resistance, thanks to the sovereignty regained after the Liberation.  And afterwards we cannot forget how less than two years after the apotheosis of his decent down the Champs-Elysees, the General DeGaulle would abandon power.  (The right to ingratitude is the priviledge of democracy.)

After this we could not omit his adventure with the RPF, irresistable in 1947 but miserable (déconfit/难为情)  in 1952 .  Partisan Gaullism was hoisted on the petard of its originator.  Then there remains the institutionalized Gaullism of the Fifth Republic.   Towards this, it is natural that we should withhold a response.  But is the Gaullism of the war destined to always be unforgettable?

The author then goes into a discourse on how French government was deeply impacted by Gaullism, but how society has moved well beyond its conservative mores.

This translation has been brought to you by the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington!

All the Parisians in Berlin are allegedly dejected, but they still seem to be loving life.  I knew there was a reason that my bicycle mantra for the day has been “Viva les Allemandes francophone.”

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