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France and NATO

It might be a good time to remind myself of the sometimes fractious relationship between France and NATO, and in particular, France and the USA.

In 1966, President Charles de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO’s integrated military command structure.

He cited the overbearing, overarching dominance of the USA – which no one could deny because the USA was and is the dominant partner in terms of muscle power and its contribution to the upkeep of NATO.

France banned the stationing of weapons, including nuclear weapons, on its territory.

NATO’s political headquarters and SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe) moved from France to Belgium.

It was not until 2009 that Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated the return of France to the integrated military command and the Defence Planning Committee, the latter being disbanded the following year.

France remains the only NATO member outside the Nuclear Planning Group and unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, will not commit its nuclear-armed submarines to the alliance.

That is not to say that France has remained outside NATO’s missions, but it shows how France could decide unilaterally against which countries it was going to take action.

It’s a good time to remember that Donald Trump has railed against the cost that the USA bears in NATO, and how he has said that the USA has been taken for a ride and that the European countries must to pay more or risk losing NATO.

You’ve Never Had It So Good

Harold Mcmillan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom speaking in 1957, famously said the following:

You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.

Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.

Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.

What is wrong with that? What is it that gets people’s backs up when they hear You’ve never had it so good repeated today?

What is it that gets my back up? It is this:

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the conditions under which the workers worked were terrible. Adults and children worked in conditions that literally killed them.

Today, their descendants work in much better conditions. But to say that people have never had it so good is to miss the question that should be asked.

The question should be, how good could things be?

If those who profited from those terrible conditions had not done so, then the capitalists of today would not be where they are.

They live off and are the heirs of those terrible conditions. If they wanted to redress the wrong, they would share. They would give back what their predecessors took from the ancestors of those working people who in 1957 ‘never had it so good’.

There is a counter-argument that the Great Leap Forward of the Industrial Revolution could only have happened with the imposition of those terrible conditions.

That is the argument put by the interrogator in Darkness At Noon.

Perhaps. But while we will never know what would have been lost, we know the human cost that reverberates today.

The State promised and the State failed. The State promised to take over from the family and the community. It promised to support whenever someone needed support, and it failed.

The plunderers took control of the State, and if history teaches us anything, it is that once in power, plunderers cannot help themselves.