“Algériens, je vous ai compris.”
“On ne complote pas contre le Général de Gaulle”
General de Gaulle, at various times.
it must have been almost a relief to General de Gaulle when he crashed his head through a pane of glass.
The occasion will be remembered. He was on one of his provincial tours and at Lens he leaned forward through a window to acknowledge cheering. Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to open the window. The General staggered back, crying out to his horrified courtiers: “Ce n’est rien, ce n’est rien.” One sees his point. After spending the best part of two years banging his head up against a brick wall, trying with inadequate theories to get to grips with the 20th century, a pane of glass must have seemed little more hostile than a pillowcase.
But still, it couldn’t have been pleasant and someone must have been to blame. It was the Daily Express which found the culprit. “The window-pane,” it observed, “had been specially polished for the General’s visit to Lens.” So there it is. It was the special-polisher of Presidential windows who was at fault. And it is always that way. France may be in just the same mess as it was when the General seized power, but he is never at fault.
The same mess? Well, with one difference. When Algiers settlers staged a rising in January, there was no distinguished, retired General waiting to stab the Republic in the back. And Paris was more ready to compromise with the settlers. As soon as Massu had been sacked, the Government announced the resumption of the execution of Algerian prisoners. Four condemned men died next day. Paris had explained its arithmetic. One sacked General equals four murdered Moslems.
There were the other compromises in his crisis speech—the renewal of his refusal to negotiate with the FLN, the call to “wipe it out,” the backing for “the most French solution” in Algeria and the promise that the Army would supervise a referendum. Against this, there was only his maintenance of the offer of “selfdetermination”—as phoney an offer as ever was counterfeited with trick phrases ambiguities and escape clauses sufficient to enslave the Algerians for a century. It was vanity, not principle, that made him stock to this.