Journal of Cold War Studies 2.3 (2000) 74-76
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A Response to Andrew Moravcsik
John T. S. Keeler
Andrew Moravcsik's "De Gaulle Between Grain and Grandeur" is a rigorously constructed and generally insightful article that will compel many readers to reconsider their images of Charles de Gaulle and his European policy. I applaud Moravcsik for providing a reminder of how often de Gaulle proved willing to set aside his concerns about European integration to lock in a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that he viewed as indispensable for France on economic grounds. 1 As a scholar who has written extensively on French agricultural politics and policy, however, I must say that I find some aspects of Moravcsik's historical analysis to be objectionable. In his effort to debunk the notion that de Gaulle should be viewed as a heroic leader standing above interest group pressures and driven primarily by a concern for a unique geopolitical vision, Moravcsik exaggerates the extent to which de Gaulle's agricultural policy represented the appeasement of powerful interests within a backward sector, and he fails to acknowledge that achievements regarding "grain" could indeed be viewed as a potential source of "grandeur."
In Moravcsik's account, de Gaulle "viewed agriculture as a backward sector, the promotion of which was not in the national interest," and thus "initially sought to liquidate" the French farmers "swiftly" with a liberal policy of lower prices and lower subsidies. 2 However, "opposition from farmers, sometimes violent, swiftly stymied these reform efforts. Repeatedly during the early and mid-1960s, de Gaulle was forced to reverse course and retain high subsidies" [End Page 74] (Part 1, p. 18). Given "the failed domestic reform of agriculture" and "relentless pressure from particularistic domestic interests," de Gaulle concluded that "the only enduring solution was to export surpluses within a preferential and externally protected European market" (see Part 1, pp. 18, 29, and Part 2, p. 58).
What is misleading about this account is its suggestion that de Gaulle capitulated to an "archaic" group (Part 2, p. 62) and embraced the CAP as a substitute for serious agricultural reform at the domestic level. Moravcsik does not mention that when the Debré government began to retreat from its "experiment in quasi-liberalism" in 1959-1960, it did not revert to the policies of the Fourth Republic. Instead, the government produced an Orientation Law for agriculture that launched an innovative program of structural reform. The legislation was passed despite the staunch opposition of the two most powerful farm organizations and the Senate. 3 During Edgard Pisani's tenure as minister of agriculture, the 1960 law was reinforced by a Complementary Law (1962), which was unpopular with traditional agricultural interest groups but hailed by progressive younger farmers as "the longest single step yet taken toward genuine structural reform in rural France." 4 As the reform laws were implemented, a plethora of new agencies and subsidy programs were created to stimulate agricultural modernization and accelerate the rural exodus while maintaining social peace in the countryside. In addition, the Gaullist government used a host of methods to promote the status of reform-minded farmers within agricultural associations and to enlist their collaboration in the administration of the modernization program. 5
Contrary to Moravcsik's portrayal, de Gaulle himself did not always rail against the farmers and did not view agriculture as an irremediably backward sector. Indeed, passages in the memoirs of both Pisani and de Gaulle portray the General as impressed with the productivity gains made by French farmers and looking forward to the day when the Republic would "begin to reap the benefit" of the modernization process. 6 De Gaulle thought that agricultural subsidies should "fund progress, not stagnation," and he viewed the CAP as a valuable tool for changing attitudes and encouraging farmers to become more productive. 7 [End Page 75]
That said, is it possible to argue that de Gaulle viewed the agricultural dimension of the EEC as a means of enhancing French grandeur? I have no interest in defending the extreme position that grandeur was de...