It is too well-known a fact that governments in France fall too often. Everyone is also fully aware that there is a connection between government falls and the plethora of French political parties, of which right now there are 11, six of them being major. To Americans, with their old-fashioned system of two parties, and even to the British, with their three parties, there seems to be something comic in France's having nearly a dozen. Obviously, the fact that there are 11 parties here is a tragedy. Since 1953 is bound to be filled with the acute argumentative decisions looming on both sides of the Atlantic, the prestige of France as West Europe's leader can ill support the strain of crumbling governments. Some sort of reform - under Premier Rene Mayer, if he doesn't fall before or during the attempt, or under whoever comes next - is regarded as inevitable, for to remain in power now is like trying to walk on marbles. The Fourth Republic's constitution, in memory of Marshal Petain and in terror of General de Gaulle's position of solitary eminence just after the liberation, was expressly created weak, to prevent dictatorship.
From Paris Journal 1944-1965 by Janet Flanner (Gollancz, 1966)
(Research by Kate Oldfield)
Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until