211 Hodgson to Watt

Letter (extract) PARIS, 12 November 1946


[matter omitted]

... In the campaign headed by Australia against Great Power dictatorship France can be, to my mind of very little use to us.

France cannot afford to offend the U.S.S.R., and will accordingly extend no substantial support to any Australian proposal. Equally the French Foreign Ministry, which is covertly anti-Soviet, will not risk a conflict on our behalf however minor, with the United Kingdom and the United States. I can hold out little hope therefore that on any vital issue where we were opposed to the policy of the great powers we might successfully invoke French support.

With the country politically emasculated as it is and really not a serious factor in international affairs, there seems small prospect of attaining what I take to be the major object of any Australian mission, namely the persuasion of the French government towards our own policy on current issues. This is particularly true I think of French support at international conferences. I wish there were more to hope for in the sphere of Pacific affairs, but again I doubt whether there is much prospect of the French being of great value to us. All parties here except perhaps the Socialists, who are the most liberal, are unregenerately imperialist, the Communists included, largely because of their determination to use nationalist and chauvinist sentiment for their own ends. Their policy in Indo-China is to put the clock back as far as possible and to retain as great a degree of dominion over the country as expediency will permit. We shall see at the forthcoming conference on the South Seas Regional organisation whether the situation is likely to be very different in the French island possessions. In the long run this diehard policy is bound to lose them any advantage in the territories concerned and it would be retrograde and inept for us to identify ourselves too closely with French rule in any of the French Pacific possessions, most of all in Indo-China.

This is a gloomy picture and one might well ask what good there is maintaining a mission here which sees no prospect for useful diplomacy. I think that the answer must be this. There are other very important fields here where we can act with profit at once.

The study of economic and social reforms and the supply of information on the multitude of activities which never secure mention in the Australian press is one major activity. To gather information concerning western Europe [in] general from a city which is unparalleled for what the French would call Australian 'radiation' is a third. To act as a base for conferences is a fourth. And while France may be little value to us politically for the time being I do not think this will last for ever. This is a rich country, with a large and skilful population, and sooner or later its economic recovery is certain. When that time comes the political obscurity and frustration of the present time will largely be dissipated and I think the communist element here will either dwindle in importance or draw away from Moscow. In short I think that economic recovery will largely restore to France its independent place in the world and its value to other countries.

In the meantime the main role of France in international affairs will, I feel somewhat ruefully, be to act as an irritant in the interest of Soviet policy. I think that the Soviet Government wants no more of France in Western Europe than to use it to prevent any Western bloc being formed even on the economic plane.

For the next two or three years then this situation, which is unsatisfactory most of all to the United Kingdom, is likely to continue.

1 Handwritten.

[AA:A4387, A/46/45]