TO LATIN AMERICA
Charles de Gaulle
THE SPEECHES OF GENERAL DE GAULLE pp. 22- 23.
In Latin-America, so many people understand the French language and the workings of the French mind, so many realize the universal importance of France's destiny, that a soldier like myself finds it easy to address them frankly and freely.
It so happens that I am also a soldier who was personally able to follow closely the deplorable collapse which led to the capitulation.
This collapse was due to military causes. In spite of the warnings given to our rulers and to the men in command, the French army was neither organized nor armed nor led with a view to a war of speed, surprise, and manoeuvres corresponding to modern mechanized weapons. But the enemy, for his part, had prepared methodically for just such a war, with the result that the French army was literally crushed.
Faced by this situation, our rulers could choose between two possible lines of action. The first was to surrender and lay down arms. Taking advantage of the state of panic and illusion, a Government was set up in Bordeaux to place the country at the enemy's mercy. As it was necessary to find a screen for this operation, which was certainly rather lacking in honour, men who, for a long time past, had been plotting in secret, pushed forward the aged Marshal Pétain.
The other decision would have been to continue the fight shoulder to shoulder with our Allies. This was the. honourable solution, since France had given a solemn undertaking not to abandon the struggle while her Allies were still fighting. It was also in the best interests of the country, for it is evident that France can never be herself again unless the enemy is defeated. This is the path I have chosen. Thousands of young Frenchmen have come from France and from the four corners
of the earth to follow this path with me, and I have proof that there are still hundreds of thousands who burn with the desire to join me and will do so at the first opportunity.
It does not seem possible, at this stage, that any doubt can still exist as to which of these two is the right path, the right path for France.
Through the armistices, France and her Empire have been placed in a terrible situation, both from the moral and from the material point of view. Materially, France, with two-thirds of her territory under enemy occupation and her Empire disarmed, is entirely under German and Italian domination. It may be said that true French sovereignty no longer exists. Moreover, in occupied territory, the enemy is busy looting everything of value. In the unoccupied zone, which is much the poorest part of the country, the difficulties of finding work, food, and supplies are such that it will be impossible to avoid ruin and famine.
Morally, the French people are subjected to the most terrible trials. The so-called authority of which the Vichy rulers boast is nothing but a miserable and empty show. Deprived of any possibility of thinking freely, exposed to the abominable propaganda spread by the enemy and his accomplices, the French people are falling back upon their own thoughts. In the security of his own home, each one of them closes his eyes and stops his ears. Each awaits in silence the day of liberation. And liberation will come. The defenders of liberty may have lost the vanguard battle in France, but they are going to win the war. In the free world, there are immense forces which, once brought to bear, will overthrow the diabolical conspiracy of the tyrants. The Latin-American countries, so strong in their Catholic and Liberal traditions, and so justly proud of their progressive modern civilization, cannot hesitate in their judgment or in bestowing their sympathies. People in Latin-America who love France and believe she is necessary for the maintenance of world order can wish her nothing less than victory. So far as I and my comrades are concerned, our one aim is to fight on until victory. And when, as a result of that victory, we have restored our country's independence, then, we solemnly swear, we shall re-establish her greatness. We shall do so by combining, like Latin-America, the power of ancient tradition with the generous enthusiasm of youth.