The Real Meaning Behind the News - FRENCH CRISIS ROCKS EUROPE
Colin A Wilkins
Here is an on-the-spot report of the French riots, what caused them, and what they mean for the future of Europe and the world.
Paris, France Fox a while Paris had the appearance of a city under siege. As we drove from Le Bourget airport at night, traffic gradually came to a standstill in one of the freeway tunnels. The front truck of a column of army vehicles had broken down, and in the eerie half-light we watched a worried noncom frantically trying to halt oncoming traffic, speeding to the downtown area, as his men did a hasty repair job. The troops needed to be on hand within a few hours, as everything indicated the outbreak of fresh disturbances. Every time I drive through the center of Paris, I am impressed by the "Arc de Triomphe," especially as it appears by night under floodlights. But during the first wave of student rioting which swept the French capital in late May, the scene was entirely different. At every corner and along the broad sidewalks of the Champs-Elysees I saw dozens of forbidding black "paniers a salade" — salad baskets — as the French affectionately and somewhat derisively call their police wagons. The French Police expected another night of rioting.
French Industry Grinds to a Halt
Next morning, the entire French nation was paralyzed by a wave of strikes which have rapidly brought industry and communications to a complete standstill. What had begun as student insurrection against the traditional ways of running the universities was followed, on a massive scale, by a walkout of millions of discontented workers. Public transport in the French capital ground to a halt as "metro" train drivers ordered passengers to disembark and trains were abandoned at intermediate stations. Buses stood idle in depots. Orly International Airport was virtually closed to all traffic, the staff of the control tower refusing to continue operating. For all practical purposes, French Industry had ceased to function. The giant Paris automobile factory of Citroen was forced to halt production as workers downed tools on assembly lines. Strike action spread to other large towns — Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux, Rennes, Limoges. These were no ordinary strikes! In many cases, workers, copying the example set by the students, held factory managers and production chiefs virtual prisoners in their own offices! As the days progressed, the tempo of events accelerated. Tempers grew hot, emotions were whipped up by a hard core of professional revolutionaries who seemed to be highly organized. Relatively peaceful protest marches and union meetings quickly degenerated into horrifying scenes of mass violence and bloodshed, approximating recent race violence in the United States. The streets of Paris and other large French cities became tumultuous battlegrounds between groups of police and thousands of irate demonstrators — students, workers, and "criminal elements" which the French classify by the term la pegre — "the mob." The forces of public order, as the riots spread, were hopelessly outnumbered, in one case by as much as 5 to 1! After eight days of relative calm, student unrest again reached the boiling point in Paris' famed Latin Quarter. But this time government forces cracked down hard and fast, preventing the recurrence of full-scale nationwide civil unrest. Now, at last, France is beginning to look normal again. De Gaulle took a big lead in the first round of voting on June 23 and, as we go to press, his prospects are good for obtaining, on June 30, a good working majority in the French National Assembly. But the country will never be the same again. The riots have dealt the government of Charles de Gaulle a severe blow, even though he won at the ballot box.
There is no doubt that the rioters were highly organized. Reporters noticed a similarity between recent student revolt in Czechoslovakia and events in France. It is also clear that certain subversive elements are at work and that riots are carefully planned. Evidenced for instance, by the way in which vehicles were overturned and used to effectively barricade the streets. Also, highly trained groups of commandos were seen transporting supplies for rioters in trucks and cars bearing the familiar red cross — symbol used by public ambulances, doctors and nurses! It is a proclivity of human nature that a bad example is more easily copied than a good one. Basically, French university students don't differ much from those in America, Britain, or even in Czechoslovakia. What started on the campuses of Columbia University and in the streets of Prague, continued in the Sorbonne and on the boulevards of the French capital. French students, angry and embittered at what they call the "purposeless technical society," decided to revolt against it. Recent campus revolt in the United States strengthened French students in their belief that insurrection against their faculty and forcible occupation of their university buildings is the only way to achieve their goals. Of course, by no means every French student was an enrage — an "enraged one" — as they are termed over here. But the tinderbox of dissatisfaction with the current order of things was soon lit and fanned to a flame of insurrection and violence by a hard core of highly trained anarchists and revolutionaries who infiltrated student ranks. The average student lost no time in conforming to the views and meeting the demands of what he believes to be the way chosen by the majority of his colleagues.
Students are determined to bring about a complete reorganization of the French universities and insist upon having a much greater say in their overall running. "Student Power" is the new slogan! M. Jacques Sauvageot, Vice President of the French National Student Union, summed up the aims of students: "The immediate establishment of an active student power representation amongst the Faculty with the right to veto any decision taken!" The goal of the students, in other words, is to run the universities themselves, to make their own rules and to reject any legislation they don't like! Carried to its logical conclusion, the professors will only be free to teach what the students are prepared to accept and with which the students are in agreement! Moreover, the French Student Union demands the right to reorganize the examination system and control the conferring of diplomas. It is generally recognized that it is the youthful element in the factories which is provoking the violent demonstrations. In short, it is the youth of France which is forcing the hand of the government. This very situation was prophesied in your Bible over two thousand years ago: — the tribe of Reuben, "unstable as water" (Gen. 49:3-4). The prophet Isaiah thunders at France and all Israel: "And I will give children [young people] to be their princes and babes shall rule over them" (Isa. 3:4). And again: "As for My people, children are their oppressors..." (verse 12). How clear it is that Isaiah was speaking of our day! Listen to what a Paris student leader declared recently in the course of a discussion on French TV: "I believe that violence raises the level of a discussion." Outbreaks of violence are becoming commonplace in the nations of modern Israel (America, Britain, France, etc). I mentioned this to a French friend of mine recently who was forced to take part in the French general strike of 1936. His comment serves to show how far our nations have progressed along the road to anarchy: "In 1936," he declared, "we marched, flag in hand, to protest against conditions, but we never dreamed of resorting to violence in those days." Events are deteriorating in modern Israel. French students are protesting against "a society which lacks a goal — a purpose" — and they are right! But they fail to understand why society has no goal. The French people, just like the Britons and the Americans, have rejected God — the One who reveals the purpose of life. The revelation of that purpose is contained in His Word, the Bible! "My people [Israel] are destroyed for lack of knowledge [and that includes a goal]: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (Hosea 4:6). But what is the immediate result of this French crisis?
On June 19, French Finance Minister Maurice Couve de Murville warned that his country was "in a very serious economic condition." He said the economy, which lost $2 billion a week during the worst three weeks of the strikes, will likely take a year or two to recover! The critical issue now will be, he said, attempting to control galloping prices. The cost of bread, milk, taxi fares and newspapers has already shot up, along with wages. Earlier the Finance Minister conceded that France faced a budgetary deficit this year of two billion dollars! The government has been forced to dip into its hard-earned gold and currency reserves to the tune of $307 million to cover its widening balance-of-payments gap (which had begun to develop even before the May revolution). In addition, Paris has made a $745 million drawing upon the International Monetary Fund to tide the country over the next few weeks and months.
Weak Link within EEC
The French government has also been forced to seek "financial first aid" from its five Common Market partners. As we go to press, Premier Pompidou announced his government is asking for emergency temporary exceptions to the final Common Market tariff cuts scheduled to take effect July 1. The protected items are believed to include household appliances, automobiles and textiles. Without the temporary restrictions, weakened French industries will face the full effect of duty-free entry of Dutch light bulbs and radios, Italian washing machines and refrigerators, German automobiles and Belgian textiles and steel products. Pompidou made it clear that if the Common Market Commission in Brussels does not approve the emergency request, France might have to take extreme measures to protect its economy no matter what the Treaty of Rome stipulates. It is a bit ironical that France, in times past, has often chided the other five members for failing to live up to the rules of the community. It is also ironical that France, for so long a time the obstructionist "odd man out" within the Common Market, now must approach Brussels on its knees and plead for help in time of great national need. The other five will now be able to extract French cooperation on key EEC issues in return for the aid they render Paris. The halting, spasmodic march toward European unity — with West Germany assuming the helm and less interference from France — has received new impetus. When the end result of this process — a powerful ten-nation resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire — finally appears, it will ASTOUND THE WORLD! Rev. 17:8 says that "they that dwell on the earth shall wonder" at this religio-political system symbolically referred to as "the beast." Readers of The PLAIN TRUTH, however, constantly appraised of behind-the-scenes events in Europe will have been forewarned.