No Longer a Great Power
Shortly before the Moscow Conference, Georges Bidault quietly confessed to the American ambassador to France, Jefferson Caffery, that the policies of grandeur that he had so doggedly pursued since de Gaulle's resignation had not been fulfilled. "I am only too well aware that France is a defeated country," he sighed, "and our dream of restoring her power and glory at this juncture seems far from reality."1 In May, Bidault bravely declared to his MRP colleagues that France had stood firm at Moscow during the debate about Germany, though firmness had not advanced French national interests. Bidault failed to secure Allied agreement to the separation of the Rhineland from Germany or the internationalization of the Ruhr. Worse, as Europe entered its third spring since the end of the war, France's economy remained stalled. Industrial and agricultural production, despite signs of activity, had not surpassed prewar levels and were restrained by a lack of coal. A critical shortage of gold and dollar holdings, as well as continued disruptions in the transport and shipping network, impeded imports. The economy began to suffer from serious inflation that undermined wages and sparked working-class discontent. Citizens continued to struggle just to meet daily needs: the bread ration, fixed at 250 grams per day in May 1947, actually fell to 200 grams in August, less than during the German occupation.
Domestic political life, too, remained as unstable as ever. No sooner had Bidault returned from Moscow than the gravest political crisis of the fledgling Republic erupted within the governing coalition. Following months of struggle with the Communist ministers in the governing coalition, the Socialist prime minister Paul Ramadier revoked their portfolios on May 4, 1947. Ever since de Gaulle's resignation and the emergence of tripartite coalitions, the PCF had tried to pose as both a party of government and a party of opposition. Yet too many issues placed the