Monday, October 28, 2013

The 2nd most important man in France's modern history




Introduction

What I call "modern history" when talking about France is the period since the beginning of WW2. Undoubtedly, the most important man who influenced the destiny of France since that time was the general Charles De Gaulle. who played a key role in winning WW2 and later became president and exerted a somewhat dictatorial power in the conduct of affairs. Regardless of what he achieved and how we may judge it with today's standards, De Gaulle is very famous of course.

By contrast, the 2nd most important man who defined France's history is virtually unknown of French people themselves. Even among the older generations who might recognize his name, hardly anyone knows much about him. How is it possible? Shouldn't the 2nd most important man be also a president of the French Republic? Let's have a look!


Jacques Foccart

Jacques Foccart's political history starts during WW2 around the age of 30. After contacting the Resistance in 1942, he created provincial organizations affilitated to the Resistance and became the leader of this movement in 4 French provinces including some provinces of Normandy which would be the stage for D-Day. He also joined the secret services of The Free France which was based in London and where he met Charles De Gaulle.

From this position of leadership and his involvement in the secret services, he naturally joined the French secret services upon the liberation of Paris.

At the end of WW2, the political situation in France and in the world was peculiar. USSR was trying to extend its influence in France through the French Communist Party, labor unions, terrorist organizations, and press propaganda. Conversely, the USA were showering money on the French politicians and the French economy to develop a capitalist society, financing alternate labor unions to counter USSR's influence on workers, right wing newspapers, and organizing sleeper cells (Gladio networks) to become a new Resistance in the hypothesis of a future Soviet invasion of Europe. The USA were also trying to influence France's politics and get to control it via a puppet president, but De Gaulle wouldn't let them and worked hard to keep France independent. Simultaneously, decolonization had started all over the world, creating a threat for France's geopolitical influence and its future economic prospects, especially in the domain of oil.

Foccart pursued a political career within De Gaulle' party, and in the 1950's was put in charge of African Affairs. Effectively, he acquired the nickname of "Mr Africa". With his experience of secret services' Realpolitik and his personal attachment to Africa, he established bonds of confidence, corruption, mutual agreements, etc. with the leaders of many countries and created a situation of domination of France over these countries, allowing France to weigh in on national politics of West African nations. This is what was later called "Françafrique" (Francafrica). With these special relations, Foccart established a relation of dependency towards France, and beyond the purely economic aspects, it also offered France benefits like the sharing of secret services, intelligence and diplomatic resources.

Despite his involvement in politics, Foccart maintained a strong bond with French secret services and would often participate in exercises, especially shooting, whether it was for maintaining his skill or establishing relationships with the agents. This can only have had positive effects in the coordination of efforts to keep the USA from overturning governments in Africa. In particular, the USA were interested in nations with oil resources like Saharan countries (Libya, Algeria, Niger) and mid-Africa coastline countries (Gabon, Cameroon, Ivory Coast).

Inside of France, loyalists to Charles De Gaulle feared that any remotely left-wing organization would be somehow affiliated to the communist cause and would try to undermine De Gaulle' power and the right-wing independent conduct of France. Nationalism ran high. Foccart, along with Charles Pasqua and Alexandre Sanguinetti created a non-profit organization named "Service d'Action Civique" (Civic Action Service) abbreviated SAC with the aim of inconditionally supporting De Gaulle's politics. In practice, the SAC recruited strong and violent men with a nationalist sensibility among militants, police, military police, and criminals. The SAC acted as a militia, militant support group, and informal security service. In this regard, they looked similar to groups of skinheads who nowadays follow the political meetings of far-right political parties. But the SAC had a public front that skinheads don't have and which gave it an air of respectability. Members would assault left-wing organizations, kidnap them, and beat them to deter or punish any action seen as negative. A theory still remains that the SAC was separated in 2 groups, one being in charge of the respectable tasks and the other one in charge of dirty jobs. The SAC lived until 1981 when it was dissolved after the murder of one of its members and all of his family: the Auriol massacre (French wikipedia article).

Though he left office in 1974 to be replaced by his assistant (on whom we can guess he still held influence), I think Foccart kept good connections with the following presidents (Giscard d'Estaing, Mitterrand and Chirac) as well as African leaders and his influence continued almost until his death in 1997.


Conclusion

You discovered a little-known but highly important figure of France's modern history. Yay! \o/

You were reminded of long-forgotten history lessons! Yay again! \o/

In some aspects, Jacques Foccart appears as a French counterpart to Henry Kissinger, though he was more secretive than the American war criminal (yes! I view Kissinger as a war criminal) who enjoyed public praise and celebrity.

Judging Foccart's record by today's standards seems a difficult and unfair task because it's hard to understand the ambiance, the zeitgeist of the post-WW2, decolonizing, Cold War world. In some aspects, Foccart certainly wasn't a pure and innocent soul, but his methods sound somewhat adequate to the boiling situation of the world he was living in.

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