The threatening magnitude of the present crises specifically due to the Monnet Myth is why I felt it necessary to ask a few questions that perhaps the young people may care to explore, given that the older generation appears incapable or too lazy to do so. I hope that they will also ask a few more questions too about national broadcasting media.
Beyond Borders, a play about Jean Monnet by Mike Walker;
BBC Radio 4, 16 December 2011, 14.15 GMT.
The European Dream, a documentary by John Tusa, BBC Radio 4, 17 December 2011, 20.00 GMT. Both programmes were later repeated.
The play and the documentary were designed no doubt to glorify Jean Monnet as the ‘inspirer’ of the European Union. They presented no evidence that Jean Monnet was behind the European Community idea. Strange. But also indicative of the lack of critical thinking about someone who was after all trained as a salesman. One excruciatingly flattering biography says that ‘Monnet was above all a public relations man.’ Shouldn’t that be a red light warning to communicators? (M & S Bromberger: Jean Monnet and the United States of Europe, p33.)
In Monnet’s case he was a salesman of cognac, he received little education, wrote very little but was surrounded by a group that included publicists and journalists. Compare that with Schuman. From 1919 on, Schuman was an elected deputy for the great Steel City of Thionville that had to import German coal to survive. He knew a thing or two about the industries where Monnet still showed ignorance, even when he was President of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community. The Monnet myths started being publicized at this time and are now paid for out of taxpayers’ money by the EU-funded Jean Monnet professors.
‘I feel obliged to speak about Jean Monnet,‘ said one such professor recently, ‘because I am a Jean Monnet professor.‘ This sort of nonsense should be stopped. He should be reminded that he is paid out of public funds not out of Jean Monnet’s treasury. Universities have fee paying students. It is an insult to subject them to glorified public relations operations. They should be taught how to discern the truth from falsehood.
Chris Patten, former European Commissioner, now Lord Patten, is Chairman of the BBC Trust, its governing body. Lord Patten is a history graduate of Oxford University and currently Chancellor of Oxford University. Doesn’t he feel a little shame that the BBC has fallen to such depths and poor scholarship? The British and international audience of the BBC deserve better than propaganda and repetitions of the Monnet industry lobbyists.
Both the play and the documentary were fiction. The documentary by John Tusa, an experienced journalist and former managing director of the BBC World Service, was frankly disappointing for the same reason. It failed to ask critical questions or even look into the myth-busting national archives that are now open for all to see. It largely ignored Schuman but then reiterated Communist propaganda that Schuman had fought for the Germans in WW1. He never even wore a German uniform. A quick look at the British archives alone would destroy Monnet-centered mythology. Why wasn’t this done?
What happened to investigative journalism? Any self-respecting broadcaster or journalist should ask: Are Europeans a victim of a clever salesman and public relations campaign? This is a reasonable question, as the testimony of other witnesses and the archives of the USA, Great Britain, Germany and France provide no evidence that Monnet had the part he says in the invention of the idea of a supranational European Community. All that is certain is that several members of Schuman’s staff were involved with Monnet in writing a document. If three or four Schuman staffers were involved, why suddenly does Monnet become a prima donna? What happened to Schuman?
Paul Reuter, a member of Schuman’s staff, wrote the first draft of the Schuman Proposal, not Monnet. Monnet made few useful or substantial corrections. Monnet himself says he eliminated some essential sentences. So was Monnet at the center or did he play a different part at the periphery? Schuman, an erudite, multilingual, innovative Prime Minister, finance minister and foreign minister, had already introduced the concept of a supranational European Community into public discussion long before Monnet was ever involved. Monnet is factually incorrect in saying it was discussed only once in the French Cabinet. It was discussed twice in Cabinet. What does that say about Monnet’s understanding of events?
Schuman, however, was the opposite of a self-publicist. He was humble and shunned personal publicity. Schuman was unstinting in his praise for all his collaborators, including Monnet. But this does not mean that Monnet’s subsequent story of self-praise is true. Schuman, very unusually for a politician, concealed his own part. It was effective politics. After Schuman, many other people, such as Bidault, Reynaud and Philip, claimed that they were the originators of the European Community. Yet only the followers of Monnet persisted with this outrageous personal claim. Persistence, powerful PR or impudence is no proof of Monnet’s involvement. Persistent Public Relations about lies are still lies.
Documents now out in the open after the thirty-year rule show what is true and what is factually impossible in Monnet’s claims. The BBC did not check the facts. Thus the listener is left with a sad conclusion: the BBC doesn’t seem to care about truth when it comes to Europe and the future of millions of Europeans.
The play shows Monnet having some ideas after a walk in the Alps in April 1950 – when he is supposed to have hit on the idea of European unity. But hundreds of people had written books about European unity before this famous walk – and they all had specific ideas. Monnet did not. He even says he had no clear ideas. Where are they, even today? No facts were presented to indicate that he made any special contribution, except being involved in the preparation team of the Schuman Declaration.
There is nothing that is specially Monnet’s in the Declaration. Far more important words and action are evident in Schuman’s work in the years before April 1950.
Thus the big failure of the play and the report of John Tusa is the failure to take any critical microscope to the Monnet fable. Instead the Monnet fairy stories were not only repeated but augmented with other quite imaginary material that were demonstrably nonfactual.
Here are a few items that any student of history can check.
- Monnet did not invent the term Community. In his Mémoires, (pp 379, 625,), he claimed to have invented the term European Community on 21 June 1950. However Robert Schuman had used it many times before including at the United Nations General Assembly a year before this. Schuman also talked to the Member State delegations to the Schuman Plan conference and defined the supranational European Community. When? On the 20 June 1950! Monnet was part of Schuman’s French delegation that included Jurisconsult André Gros and deputy Jurisconsult, Paul Reuter.
- Monnet did not invent the idea of supranationality. (In his Mémoires, p352, Monnet says he did not like the term and never fancied it. So obviously he was not the inventor of supranationality!)
- He was not the inventor of the term High Authority. In his Mémoires Monnet says that the term came from Paul Reuter, a close Lorraine colleague of Robert Schuman.
- Paul Reuter was not just a professor as Monnet maintains. He was one of the highest officials working for Schuman in the Foreign Ministry. He was Deputy Jurisconsult, empowered to supervise and check all treaties and legal documents. He provided a political guard for Schuman because other top civil servants such as the two directors general in his own ministry, were hostile to his policy of reconciliation with Germany.
- The play only provided a series of hype and non-factual events, meetings and conversations, which can be easily disproved by any competent historian who has looked at the material mentioned above. Proof comes from the other people in the conversations who refute the Monnet version.
- Monnet seems to have persistently claimed the parentage of earlier ideas that were first circulated by others. The BBC should have been aware of this, especially when it could easily be checked where it dealt with British politics. For example, in 1940 although Monnet may have played some part presenting a paper to de Gaulle about the wartime Franco-British union idea, he was not the inventor of the idea. (Nor was de Gaulle an alternative government at the time.) It was being circulated independently six months earlier by other Frenchmen in government and British people before he arrived in London. Curiously one of the major exponents was a close friend of Robert Schuman, then serving as under Under-Secretary of State in the French government. (De Gaulle was also an Under- Secretary of State in the government – which is why the British thought it useful to deal with him.)
- Sylvia says in the play that Monnet was a very good liar. Later Monnet says that he thought Schuman had the reputation for being an honest man. He made it sound like a public relations trick. But it came from deep within Schuman’s character. In contrast to Monnet, Schuman always told the truth even when his life seemed to depend otherwise – such as when he was held by a Nazi Gauleiter and SS general and interrogated. He said politicians should always tell the truth. He refused to lie even though he had been threatened with death by the Nazis and offered posts as a collaborator. The incident where Monnet had a conversation with Schuman about honesty had nothing to do with the Schuman Declaration. It occurred years before. Schuman was insistent that, following years of Nazi and government propaganda, Europe had to be based on TRUTH.
- In April 1950 Monnet was ‘inspired’ to say ‘there will be war’, as if no one else knew about the threatening Cold War with the Soviet Union. Nearly everyone expected a war at this stage. The Statesmen too! Schuman not only understood the significance of the Soviet Atomic bomb but proposed a solution – Euratom – in 1949. Both the UN’s International Atomic Energy Treaty (IAEA) and the European Atomic Energy Treaty have similar goals, even the same articles.
- Monnet says: ‘We have done nothing.’ He meant the statesmen had done nothing, those who were not guided by him! This is rubbish. Schuman had started the Great Debate on the future of Europe, asking whether it should be a federation, confederation or something else (such as a Community). Hardly anyone was interested in the question. Where did Schuman pose these questions? Everywhere, to stimulate a debate. He said it in the Parliament and around Europe. He said it at the United Nations in 1948 and again in 1949. Yet Monnet did not seem to have read the speech even though it was obviously in all the newspapers and on the international radio etc.
- Schuman’s government and the following ones where he was foreign minister created the Council of Europe. Its specific task was to define the new Community system – which they did in detail. Monnet seems to have been ignorant of this – but it no reason why the BBC should be.
- The main problem of Europe and its wars was not about land, as Monnet says. It was about coal and steel cartels that controlled governments and world politics. Such cartels including financial ones could control political parties and were often the cause of wars.
- Monnet never seems to have written anything at the Planning Agency about Germany – a country he knew nothing about and did not know the language. He had never visited Germany as far as it is recorded. How could he advise Schuman about Germany? Schuman was involved everyday in German politics as Foreign Minister and it was the major thrust of his policy. He knew Germany well, being the foremost German specialist in the government, spoke the language, had many German friends, knew exactly about Nazis having been threatened with death by them, and had many meetings with the new German democrats and shared ideas with them about a supranational Community for coal and steel. A stream of his friends maintained contact with German democrats. As Foreign Minister he also received the diplomatic reports.
- Schuman gave a masterly analysis of the postwar problems, German and Soviet, in a speech, perhaps the most important postwar speech, in May 1949. This was the year before Monnet was brought into Schuman’s editorial group. Monnet seems to have no knowledge of it, even though it was distributed widely within the French government and to all European governments. The lack of consideration of Schuman’s achievements in Monnet’s Memoirs indicates either widespread prejudice against Schuman’s achievement or vast ignorance by Monnet and those who helped him write it.
- Who controlled the Ruhr? French governments where Schuman served as minister or prime minister brought in the International Authority for the Ruhr (IAR). It was not run by the Americans, as Monnet says. It was run by an Authority (like later the Community was) composed of representatives of the Allies, such as France, UK, USA (three votes each) and the Benelux (one vote each) plus Germany (THREE votes)!! Thus this is a direct distortion of historical fact.
- Why did Monnet use the term Authority – suggested by Schuman’s staff member, Paul Reuter? Because this was the term Schuman had selected to point to a new way to do European politics. He used it for the Ruhr.
- The anecdote about Monnet and Hirsch in wartime Algeria is misleading. Monnet’s discussion merely involved modifying minor aspects of de Gaulle’s preposterous idea of recasting Belgium, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine plus Switzerland into some new State called Wallonia or Lotharingia. Monnet was also thinking in terms of destroying the constitutions of these countries and reforming them into a buffer State. Totally unrealistic. He even believed this was possible as late as 1950! It has nothing to do with a Community system which is based on the existing nation states. Hirsch told Monnet it was rubbish (‘utopian’). How could the Americans dismantle the existing European States! What chaos it would have caused. At this stage Monnet was still greatly influenced by de Gaulle who was active but out of power. De Gaulle fulminated against the newly created Federal Republic of Germany at Bonn, calling it a Fourth Reich and wanting to dismantle it. US diplomatic records show that the Americans and British followed Schuman’s lead about creating German democracy.
- Monnet who was in charge of the Modernisation Planning Agency seems to have been oblivious of the German steel problem until the last minute. Schuman was involved with this on a daily basis as it was subject to Allied diplomatic discussions. It was by Allied agreement that the steel ceilings for production were set.
- Coming to the time of the Schuman Proposal, the BBC continues to propagate Monnet errors of fact. The anecdote that in May 1950 Schuman had to present a proposal on Germany and a European solution at the Allied conference in London is also fictitious. Schuman said the opposite at the time. It was not on the agenda. Schuman said other factors showed it was the time to act.
- Monnet did not first attract Professor Paul Reuter to do some work by jumping into his taxi to the train station of Gare de Lyon. Why should he? The idea makes no sense. The phrase ‘A chance to save the world’ is also fictitious. Reuter’s accounts show this is all false. Monnet had no concrete ideas at this stage, so he says in his Mémoires, p342. Reuter was the initiator not Monnet. Reuter took exact notes about what happened and wrote a detailed report later. Monnet’s Mémoires were written by friends because Monnet had a poor memory for details. Reuter wrote the phrase ‘World peace can only be safefguarded etc..’ It is in his notebook written in pencil by his own hand. Reuter describes when he wrote it.
- Reuter came to Monnet’s office and then got Monnet into a long conversation which ended in Monnet accepting the idea of helping write a paper. So it was Reuter who got the ball rolling (to use Reuter’s phrase). Monnet said of Reuter that he was a young professor that he did not know that chance had brought to his office. He was Schuman’s right-hand man in the Legal Department of the Foreign Ministry! He was known for clear thinking and writing. He arrived the day after Clappier, Schuman’s Director of Staff arrived to talk to Monnet and try to persuade him to write a paper. The reason why Monnet was brought in at all relates to internal French politics.
- Reuter, not Monnet wrote the first draft. This was then typed in the office not at Monnet’s home. Monnet made minor changes to some of the subsequent drafts. Reuter re-introduced some phrases and thoughts that Monnet had cut out. Monnet did not know the background of Schuman’s ideas which were expounded at the Council of Europe.
- The word ‘supranational’ is a precise legal and political term used frequently by Schuman. It was not used by Monnet before 1950 and very little after that as he did not like the term. It is not the equivalent of international as was implied in the play.
- The term Authority was used by Schuman in the years before 1950 and Monnet. Several supranational Authorities were discussed at the Council of Europe. It was also used practically by the International Authority of the Ruhr.
- The last draft of the Schuman Declaration was not finished on 17 April, as stated. The final typing was on just before the Cabinet meeting of 9 May and Schuman made last minute, hand-written changes as well.
- Schuman’s Declaration included a page-long introduction that was never seen by Monnet and is far more important in many aspects. For reasons that the European Commission has yet to explain adequately, the Commission has never published it.
- In the play the alleged absence of Clappier to receive ‘Monnet’s paper‘ in April-May 1950 was farcical. If Monnet wanted to speak to Clappier and his whole grand design depended on it, why did he not phone him? He was prepared to speak to Schuman directly. It is factually incorrect to maintain that Monnet went to the train station and breathlessly gave the paper to Schuman before leaving on the weekend of 6 May 1950. The Cabinet papers were given as usual to Schuman by Clappier a day before.
- It is also nonsense that Schuman decided on the Monnet paper only over the weekend. The drafts of the paper indicate that Schuman made changes to them to correct errors in the earlier drafts.
- The incident with Monnet and Dean Acheson in a restaurant is also pure fiction. Schuman specifically arranged the stop-over of Acheson in Paris. Schuman spoke to Acheson on the Sunday and explained to him what he said would be the greatest innovation in European politics for centuries. This shows Schuman’s minute planning. The US Secretary of State does not end up in Paris by mistake. The BBC should check the interviews Michael Charlton did with Acheson’s team. The BBC published it as a book, The Price of Victory.
- As for Monnet writing his ‘guarantee’ that the scheme did not involve a cartel on a napkin – this is just plain crazy. Would a scribble on a napkin convince Congress, given that the German cartels had financed Hitler and encouraged his dictatorship?
- The Adenauer incidents are also laughable. Robert Schuman had met Adenauer several times and kept a correspondence with him. Monnet had no contacts. Robert Mischlich was a member of Schuman private staff and was sent with the documents secretly to Adenauer – two days in advance!
- Monnet was not manning the phones for the message from Bonn as Mischlich had already communicated to Schuman the day before the Cabinet meeting. The reception book in Bonn and Adenauer’s return letters prove this date. There was no break for lunch on 9 May with Schuman recalling the ministers to the Cabinet table. There was a long debate in the Cabinet as is clear from the books of those present – Auriol, Teitgen, PM Bidault, etc.
- The remaining material about Great Britain was very badly drawn and gave entirely the wrong impression that it was a fait accompli by Monnet against the British. Was the purpose of the play to antagonize the British or present history? There is no point in writing false history that makes plots against the British. Schuman was anxious to have them on board and bent over backwards to do so. His idea of creating a European democracy would have been greatly helped had the British been there to support the French and others.
- In the Documentary, The European Dream, John Tusa, and the academics Kiran Klaus Patel, Desmond Dinan, Piers Ludlow should be well aware of previous political designs for Europe. Schuman listed and addressed failed utopian schemes in his great speech in May 1949, before the Council of Europe actually met. There is a great deal of difference between the Pan-Europa ideas of Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, which involved classical federation of States, and a supranational European Community of Coal and Steel. What do these academics teach their students? Schuman said these classical federalist ideas were unworkable and history had proved them so. That’s why he introduced the idea of a supranational union at his St James’s Palace speech in May 1949 with an audience of diplomats and foreign ministers.
- Academics have to ignore a whole series of events to come up with the ridiculous idea that Schuman suddenly realized he needed to do something and luckily Jean Monnet ‘turned up at his office with a solution‘. Take the oft-repeated story of Churchill’s Zurich speech of 19 September 1946 on building Europe based on French and German reconciliation. What about Churchill’s first postwar European speech that he gave in Metz, capital of Lorraine and home city of Schuman, on 14 July 1946 on the same theme with Robert Schuman at his side? What about Schuman’s role in organizing The Hague Congress of 1948?
- What do the academics think was the origin of the supranational Community? When was the term first used? Why supranational? It was not coined by Monnet and was used many years before 1950. How did the Community stop war that had been the constant feature of European history for more than two thousand years?
- Have the journalists and academics not read the documents which show that the plans for the European Defence Community were called the Schuman proposal before it was ever called the Pleven Plan and Monnet even knew a thing about it?
It is sad to see that what should be independent news organizations like the BBC being victims of a PR con trick and that so many academics go along with it. The world needs peace and a way to stop wars. Monnet did not have a clue how to do so.
The public deserves better. It is hoped that next year the full extraordinary account of Paul Reuter will be published written from his original notes made at the time. He had a few laconic remarks about the Monnet Memoirs which broadcasters, journalists and academics would do well to read.