The Voice of France Will Be Heard
A POWER IN VICTORY, WORLD ORGANIZATION OR PEACE .
By GENERAL CHARLES DE GAULLE, Leader of the Provisional French Government
New Years Address to the French People, Paris, France, January 1, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 241-242.
A YEAR has gone by of which history will say that it was one of the greatest through which France has lived. This does not mean that our country appeared in all her power this year. During these twelve long months, she was a country tortured by the enemy, ravaged by battles, disrupted in her means of existence and production. But a determined country, with confidence in herself, and master of her own destiny, has reappeared between the Atlantic and the Rhine. Just as a man, who arising after a serious accident, ascertains whether he is injured, attempts to walk, and then regains his strength and balance, we also have taken stock of the situation. We have been wounded but are standing upright.
Before us is the enemy, who in the west, east and south has gradually retreated, but an enemy who is still threatening, who has stiffened up in a last outburst of rage. During the course of 1945, he will play all of his trump cards lavishly.
France weighs the new trials which this tenacity implies for herself and her Allies. But France understands that fate is again giving her a chance to have access,—through an increasing war effort—to the eminent place which has been hers for many centuries, and which she must retain for herself and others—the place of a power without whom nothing can be decided, neither victory, world organization nor peace. For, in spite of the losses we have suffered, the internment of 2 and a half million men, the destruction of our factories and means of transportation, the cruelshortage of raw materials, we have begun to re-form a great army, called upon to play a major part in the decisive task of the war.
Every Frenchman who thinks of the conditions under which we are living, can see the hard effort for organization, and the competence and discipline which are needed for such an undertaking from the highest to the lowest ranks of the hierarchy.
I once before said, and sow repeat that the government has drawn up a plan, is following it, and will carry it through.
After the splendid forces, who are now waging the battle for Alsace, were organized in Africa, after they took part in the battles of the Mediterranean, Normandy, Paris and Lorraine; after the incorporation of the magnificent youth who fought for liberation on this territory in the very midst of the enemy; measures for calling up classes and mobilizing them have begun in the Metropole. All this, of course, is linked with the progressive possibilities for arms and equipment which are provided by our own factories and by Allied help. Concerning this, I am happy to announce that cooperation is assured us for arming a great number of new units within satisfactory periods of time. Until the total defeat of the enemy and the permanent establishment of French security on the Rhine, no day will pass without our sword growing heavier. Victory will find France in the front rank with her weapons in her hand.
Victory will find France free. Except for the necessary restrictions of war, each Frenchman and each Frenchwoman has recovered possession of his or her identity, and the possibility of thinking, saying and believing what he or she pleases. Our people, the collectivity of 42 million French men and women, will again begin to exercise their right to vote. Unless the circumstances of war oppose this, the municipal and departmental elections will be held next spring. Of course, these elections will be temporary, and will be valid only until the return of those who are absent. These elections will take place in a spirit of human dignity and freedom of opinions, which must mark the choice of citizens in a nation like ours, accustomed to democracy, and all the more resolved to recover it since she suffered so greatly from having lost it. The elections will be held under the aegis of a single protection—that of the Republican State which is exercised by the Government and its appointed and responsible representatives.
But while she is being reborn to the life of free countries, the French Nation is struggling in the midst of many difficulties concerning production and trade. It is useless to enumerate the obstacles. It would be no less vain to pretend to have a transcendant secret, which would make it possible to surmount them when and how we wished. The country's economic activity will be reborn only little by little—as transportation, the distribution of energy, and the importation of raw materials gradually improve—and as our soil ceases to be the battlefield of nations.
I have reasons to believe that 1945 will bring slow but constant progress. In particular, next spring will see the return to our ports of a considerable number of ships which will be loaded more exclusively with troops, armaments, ammunition and military food supplies.
Today we must avail ourselves of what we have by making the most of it and by bravely bearing restrictions and shortages. But it is our duty to create a true and sincere atmosphere of cooperation in the effort of national initiative among those who are participating in the sacred task of French production—business heads, engineers, workers, and peasants. We must continue as we have begun, seriously and firmly a certain number of basic reforms which correspond to the necessities of modern economy and of social progress. The supreme effort for Victory, freedom and rebirth necessitates the unity of all Frenchmen—a sincere and fraternal unity—not the kind one speaks of, but the kind one practices.
In the war which has been lasting for 30 years, it is only too easy for each one to discover the errors and faults of others. Except for an infinitesimal number of unfortunate people who knowingly preferred the enemy's triumphs to the Victory of France and who must be fairly punished by the justice of the state, the great mass of French people desired only the welfare of the Nation, even though some of them sometimes went astray on the road.
In view of all that remains to be done to save ourselves, reestablish ourselves, and strengthen ourselves, internal discords, quarrels, and insults are unjust and harmful. In the French community, all Frenchmen, peasants, workers, the middle class—as it was once called—rightists, moderates, or leftists, have their place and must retain it. There are not too many of us to reconstruct war-torn France.
At the moment when the year of liberation fades into a year of power, let the thoughts of the 106 million men and women of France and the Empire unite loyally and fraternally in trust; let their thoughts go toward our soldiers, sailors and aviators who are proving our country's glory; let them not forget the Allies who are suffering and fighting as we are, for the same cause; let them find in their sadness the dear, brave men who were taken prisoner by the enemy, each one of whom holds a share of the honor of the fight for France's future; let them surround the men and women who are suffering in silence for their country—mothers in mourning, women with empty homes, unhappy children, aged parents who are alone, all those whose hearts sadly cradle sorrow tonight.
French men and women, let your thoughts gather over France. More than ever, she needs to be loved and served by all of us who are her children. Above all, France has earned this.