GENERAL DE GAULLE has recently been compared to Hitler. The analogy. will not hold, except in one instance. His henchmen in the French Cabinet kow-towed to him with a spinelessness that only a dictator could have expected when on Monday the hubristic General exploited the hideous diplomatic gaffe that he had perpetrated in Canada last week.
The French President was invited by Mr. Pearson, the Canadian Prime Minister, to see the world fair in Montreal. It was the centenary of Canada's complex nationhood, and although the country's internal Anglo-French relationship is delicate, it is much happier now than it was WO years ago.
There is a minority group of militant separatists in French-speaking Quebec who use the slogan, "Long live free Quebec." During De Gaulle's visit there, people used every trick to give the General the impression of a resounding popular reaction to his own romantic Gallicism. It swept the old man off his feet and he answered the agitators fervently in their own coin : "Long live free Quebec.
It may have been merely a misguided flood of emotion on his part, but it emerged as a wanton piece of interference in a Canadian domestic matter. Mr. Pearson put the General in his place. The General flew off in a huff.
Most men would have left the matter there. But not the General. He made no apology for his indiscretion, but on Monday affirmed that France had "told the French Canadians and their Government that France intended to help them to realise the freedom aims that they have set themselves."
Everyone knows de Gaulle's past achievements. He gave a heart and a soul to the Free French during the war. And it was not until de Gaulle was recalled to lead his country in 1958 that France began to be taken seriously again in international affairs. With this in mind, the world -including Canada perhaps — might have forgiven him his original gaffe at this time of his life.
But now he has wrecked the possibility of such a rapprochement. He has decided to play the role of a cavorting Mademoiselle France, Phoenician cap and all, promising liberty, equality and fraternity to an I8-century type bourgoisie that he imagines he saw last week in Quebec chaffing against some tyrannical Anglo-Saxon yoke.
The mystique of de Gaulle is now dead-killed by his own mouth. What remains to be seen is whether Gaullism itself can survive such antics from the General. The French Cabinet certainly does not speak for the whole of France.