Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened March, 1982
Oral History Interview with
April 29, 1970
by Richard D. McKinzie and Theodore A. Wilson
WILSON: We are interested in the efforts after the Marshall plan was initiated to provide support for non-Communist labor activities. There were labor advisers, of course, attached to both the United States Embassy and to the ECA mission under Governor [Averell] Harriman. Were they aware of the problem of Communist penetration of labor unions, and did they encourage...
MOCH: Yes. But you know, it's very difficult to answer. I must be a little diplomatic. I've seen that often the propaganda went against the object. For example, I told once to General
[Dwight D.] Eisenhower, whose friend I was, when he was President of the United States, that the "Voice of America" in Rumania helped the Rumanian Communists. Yes. Because they took as speakers only men of the old Fascist movement, and so it was very easy for the Communist government to say, "Look what is in America. America has only the Fascists from here." And so it worked against the cause, because it was not a good understanding of the situation. I think in the matter of labor unions, there was a man in Paris -- I don't remember the name now -- who was one of the heads of the American delegation of labor unionists. He lived in Paris -- in Versailles, and helped the non-Communist labor unions, but who helped so openly that it was a pleasure for the Communists to say, "You see, they are paid by the Americans."
WILSON: Yes, yes.
MOCH: It must be made much more discreetly than it was.
WILSON: It's fairly obvious from the records we've seen that there was difficulty between American labor officials who came out of this non-political tradition, that is, emphasizing collective bargaining, but not emphasizing political action. Of course, the European tradition they found rather difficult, I think, to work with.
MOCH: Yes. In France the fundamental document in the labor movement was published in France in 1906, sixty-four years ago. In it is written that the labor unions had to work for better wages and for better conditions of work for the laborer, and not let the political parties or sects interfere with their job. Since that time the non-Communist labor movement was officially, absolutely independent from the Socialist movement. In reality, it was not absolutely true. In fact, the same man who headed in a little town the non-Communist labor union was a member of the Socialist Party, but when he attended
the Socialist sessions, he did not speak for the labor movement, and when he came to the meeting of the labor movement, he didn't speak of the Socialist movement. That you didn't know; and that was exploited by the Communists. They said quite openly that the Communist C.G.T. [Confederation generale du travail] was under Communist direction. A man like Fajon, who is the General Secretary of the Communist C.G.T., was a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of France. Everyone knew that Leon Jouhaux, who was head of the non-Communist labor union, and who was politically near to the Socialists, never would have said that he was a Socialist and would never have been under our direction.
MCKINZIE: In the United States in 1947 when the discussion came up about Marshall plan and European aid and reconstruction, the public stance of most American officials was that France would never
survive the winter of 1947-1948, as an independent nation, without some kind of American interim aid. It was understood that France and Italy were in serious trouble in 1947 and 1948 as a result of the Communist threat. I have since seen some Europeans who say that that really wasn't true, that the people in the United States tended to blow up the Communist menace to something larger than in fact it was. Of course, in 1947 you were in a position to tell how strong the Communist menace really was.
MOCH: I was Minister of Public Works and Transportation in the [Charles] De Gaulle Government of Liberation, from 1945 to November '47 -- two years. In November of '47, in the middle of the first wave of Communist revolutionary strikes, they asked me to go from the Technical Ministry of Public Works, where I worked early as an engineer, to the Ministry of Interior. I took the Ministry of Interior in November '47, in the middle of the wave of strikes, and I kept it until 1949. Then
I went in as Defense Minister at the time of the war in Korea. I was always at a good post! No, the danger was not so great, and I speak quite frankly.
I will give you an example. It will be a rather long five minutes, but it will show you better than a greater speech, what is a part of the Communist movement, not all of it. I was at that time a member of Parliament for South France, the country of the vineyards -- French wines. I had a village whose municipal county was 100 percent Communist. And I was astonished because this village was the richest of the Department, because the earth was good and they had water. They made three times more wine than the ordinary district; and they were very rich people. And it was the landowners, themselves, who were the members of the Communist municipal county. So, I tried to understand why; and I went to the archives and I learned that in 1851, a century before, this village
revolted against Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, when he was President of the Republic and became Emperor. The people of the village took their hunting rifles and marches in the direction of the capital of the Department, Montpellier. They were arrested by half a dozen gendarmes, taken to prison and all were condemned to be deported to New Caledonia or to South Algiers. Well, then they became fearful in their village.
They came back after an amnesty; then they had the right to have a pension, which was very important, as they had been deported as victims of coup d' etat. The pension went then to their sons, a pension which was as we say, a paper like the papers you have in your Bibliotheque here, as a doctor's certificate or certificate deporte, and so on. This paper was in every house in an honored place. Since then they have thought that their duty, the duty of a son or a grandson, or the great-grandson, is to be as leftist as possible. They were Republican under
the Second Empire; they became radical at the beginning of the Third Republic; then Socialists; then in 1920, Communists. Ideologically, they were nothing; they were leftists and they were democrats.
The following is even much more curious. In 1951 or 1952, a century later, they became so rich that they decided not to work, but to import workers. They had no salaried workers in that village; they decided to import workers. These were workers of the earth. The workers of the earth in France belonged to the Communist labor union, C.G.T. When they arrived in this village and they saw that the landowners were Communist, they tore up their membership cards in the C.G.T. and they formed a unit of the C.G.T.-Force Ouvriere which was Socialist -- in protest against the landowners being Communist. At the next municipal elections they made a list of workers against a list of landowners. As the landowners were Communist, the workers were Socialist, and the workers had the help of the Catholic priests, too.
They put one or two Catholics on their list, and they have beaten the Communist landowners. Since then, this village has been no longer a Communist municipality.
I have given you such detail to show you that of the five million voters of the Communist party, there are maybe four million who don't know the ideology of the party. There are one million, including three hundred thousand members of the Party, who know it and who are strong Communists. So the Communist danger was always over-estimated in America. This little village council was not a danger for the Republic, even if it were Communist, you see. In fact, the danger would have been a political one, and only if the key posts, as in Czechoslovakia, would have been in the hands of Communist ministers.
In Czechoslovakia, in February 1948, the Prime Minister was a Communist. They had a coalition government, with the [Eduard] Benes Party, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. But the Communists had a Prime Minister;
they had the Minister of Interior; they had the Minister of Information; and they had a fellow-traveler -- not member of the Party -- as the Minister of Defense. He was General [Ludvik] Svoboda; he entered the Party afterward, and he is now President of the Republic there. With those four men they made their coup d etat. The Minister of the Interior ordered the police not to intervene; the Minister of Defense gave rifles to the workers; and the Minister of Information called on the workers to march against the President. In three days, without one wounded or one killed, they took the only country of the East which, first, had interest in the Allies, and second, had a long tradition of democracy seen first in the fifteenth century. It is a country which was less good for Communist influence.
In France, the situation was quite the same. The proportion voting for the Communist Party was the same as in Czechoslovakia, but the difference is that the Communists were ousted in 1947 from the government as I told you before. And at the
time of the biggest strikes, in November '48, the Prime Minister was the Radical Socialist, Henry Queuille; the Minister of Defense was a Socialist, Paul Ramadier; the Minister of Interior was me; and the Under Secretary o£ State foR Information -- we had no Minister of Information -- was [Francois] Mitterand. So we had four men we were able to resist without difficulty.
WILSON: For a short time, we seem to recall, in October and November of 1947 you were Minister of Reconstruction. Is that correct?
WILSON: What was the nature of that position?
MOCH: Ramadier's government fell two times. His government was formed when [Vincent] Auriol was elected President in January 1947. We were at that time twenty-two ministers, of which there were five Communists, as I told you. Four of the five Communists were ousted later [in May 1947]. Then we had to take the ministries; for
example I took from a Communist Minister the Ministry for Construction that I added to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works at that time. But then in October '47, for a reason I don't know very well because I was in America at that time, I learned that all of the ministers had given their resignations, and that Ramadier had formed a compressed cabinet of eleven members only. I was in Martinique or Guadeloupe at that time and I received a telegram saying that I had been put in charge of my old department of Public Works and Transport plus Construction, plus National Plan, plus National Economy -- all the technical departments.
MCKINZIE: Yes. The plan which we know as the [Jean] Monnet plan for modernization and expansion of French industry was in operation, or at least it was being discussed and began to be implemented, before the Marshall plan. Do you recall having any feelings about the effect of the Marshall
plan on this inherently French plan, the Monnet plan for modernization? Did the Marshall plan conflict with that in any way?
MOCH: As far as I can remember, because I was not mixed in the negotiations, there were negotiations between [Maurice] Petsche and [John W.] Snyder at the time of these questions. As far as I remember the Marshall plan gave us the means to go farther on the lines of the French plan.
I give you an example, which will show to you what difficulties we had. During the two years I was Minister of Public Works, we rebuilt every day three big bridges. I call a bridge something that is more than forty meters, fifty yards, in length.
MOCH: Not the little bridges in the d' Orsay. We had to build every day three bridges; no country in the world had ever done such a thing. That
means a thousand bridges a year. We had 9,600 big bridges destroyed in France, so it was a program of ten years, you see. In building three bridges a day, we had ten years work. We went on with our plan, but with the help of the Marshall plan.
MCKINZIE: With the counterpart funds?
MOCH: Yes, yes, the counterpart funds. We had our plans before the Marshall plan; we knew exactly what we should do, and never did the Americans ask you to do this rather than that. They gave us money to do as we liked, as we thought was necessary.
MCKINZIE: You have indicated that you weren't pressured by the Americans who were in the French mission. There was some discussion in the American mission, about whether or not there ought to be some emphasis on reconstruction of housing in France...
MOCH: Ah, yes.
MCKINZIE: ...and evidently that caused some little discussion at the time.
MOCH: Yes. The position of the French Government was that our people had so much suffered from the war that they could suffer from bad lodgings for some years, and that it was more important to give top priority to the construction of the harbors, of