French History @ IHR: Luc Brunet, ‘Industrial organisation and Franco-German integration from Vichy to the ECSC’

160118 L BrunetDate & Place: Monday 18 January, in the Wolfson Room NB02, IHR Basement, North block, Senate House

Speakers: Luc Brunet (EUI)

Paper Title: ‘D’une Europe à l’autre: Industrial organisation and Franco-German integration from Vichy to the European Coal and Steel Community’

Chair: Andrew Smith (UCL)

Click HERE to listen to an mp3 recording of the paper (right click to save).

Continuities between the Vichy state and the Fourth Republic were controversial, and part of the lingering trauma historians have come to know as ‘Vichy Syndrome’. Beyond the extremes of policing, collaboration, and anti-Semitic round-ups, however, there were more subtle entanglements that survived the Liberation. In his paper, Luc Brunet sought to reconcile two bodies of work: the first, teasing out these continuities in the vein of Robert Paxton and Philip Nord; the second looking at the role of the Fourth Republic as a motor for supranational engagement. In this focus on European Integration, Brunet outlined how Vichy’s “New Industrial Order” survived at the heart of Europe’s fledgling federal institutions as a useful organizational expedient.

Vichy’s industrial policy had been built on the pillars of Organizing Committees, typically presented at the time as representing the “patriotic defence of French Industry”. For some, they have been seen as a sort of Vichy mediation, yet in reality the Occupier was involved at every stage of planning. These were not inventions of any National Revolution, but built from the blueprints of German organisations and praised by Nazi economic officials like Walther Funk. Although vaunted as bringing together worker, technician, and employer, they were ultimately dominated by a patronat that showed strong links to the Third Republic. What had changed, however, were the personnel. Vichy authorities promoted a raft of younger, technocratic managers with the aim of integrating the French economy with their vision of what Europe would become. These committees were not a German imposition, nor a statement of French defiance, but rather conscious emulations of German wishes by figures within Vichy that suited all parties.

These economic structures were discussed in January 1944 by the Comité français de Libération nationale, and although they were characteristic of the Vichy regime, they were also seen to be useful expedients for ensuring postwar stability. Mendès-France worried that their abolition would create “a serious void”. The individual industrialists of the Organization Committees were positioned along a continuum of support for Vichy aims. As a result, after the bodies were purged and democratised, many of the “hommes nouveaux” remained in place, and the structures became “key stones” of the Monnet Plan for national recovery, reconditioned as Modernisation Committees. Key figures within these committees, like Léon Daum and several others, were involved in the formation of the European Coal and Steel Committee, and, as Robert Marjolin said: “the functional model of the Monnet Plan was transferred to Europe through the ECSC.” Intriguingly, these men of the New Industrial Order were crucial to the supranational dream of Europe in the postwar world.

Vichy provided institutions that were later incorporated into the Fourth Republic by the constitution. The technocrats who embodied this transition were not new, but rather represented continuity from a very different France. The committees that survived did not drive the processes they were involved with, but were tools to realise institutional ambitions that transcended individual regimes. In this analysis, Brunet developed a fascinating thread of continuity, picking out the organizational and institutional inheritance between Vichy and the Fourth Republic. In these continuities, we can come to understand that the federalist vision of an integrated Europe was built from the wreckage of a very different and much darker European project.


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