According to the Serge Berstein’s point of view, Gaullism cannot be considered as either a doctrine or a political ideology and is not inclined to whether left or right. However, according to some policymakers, Gaullism stems from the specific thoughts, mainly the pragmatic approach of General Charles de Gaulle to particularly historical circumstances. As a result, the Gaullist idea is chiefly based on the historical progression of the ideas, and also a pragmatic observation of the power. Gaullism is a peculiarly French phenomenon and that engendered its pivotal seeds in French Foreign Policy amid the Fifth French Republic.
One of the main scholars, Lawrence D. Kritzman who is an American scholar, points out that Gaullism can be characterized as a special form of French patriotism and also it carries out the seeds of French nationalism. Gaullism is the political verification of French national sovereignty and unity of French people which is completely against to the divisiveness of the country. Within these circumstances, one question rises concerning the foundation of the Gaullist ideas. The idea of Gaullism has developed in different stages and can be classified in three main development phases.
The historical progress of the idea of Gaulism in different years is composed of three stages.
The first phase of the development includes the periods of between 1940 and 1945 related to the World War II. During those periods, Gaullism was identified with the idea of the rejection of joint allies with Nazi Germany and the Vichy government run by Phillipe Petain and force people to take jointly decisive missions and actions with General Charles de Gaulle and Free French Forces to resist against Nazi Germany on the Allied side.
The second phase relates to the periods from 1946 to 1958. Amid those period, the idea of gaullism had taken toe opposed stances against the Fourth French Republic which caused the unstable condition in the Parliamentary Government. Therefore, it was needed to take a radical change on the governmental structure concerning the replacement of Parliamentary Republic with a Presidential Republic with preeminent constitutional powers.
In the third phase during the periods of 1958-1969, Gaullism was only about the own stances and political actions of General de Gaulle in French Foreign Policy. Upon he returned to power in 1958, he served as a President of the newly forme Fifth republic from 1959 until his resignation in 1969. During that period, General de Gaulle officially verified the idea of Gaullism in his stances and actions during his presidency. It was an idea of the soverign state, the unity of people, nationalism, and patriotism. Hence, since the period of 1969, Gaullism is used to describe those identified as heirs to de Gaulle's ideas.
The primary principles of the Gaullism concern on the certain idea of France as a strong state. The main idea of a strong state originates from General de Gaulle’s ”War Memoirs” in which he describes France as an indomitable (courageous) entity or a person. According to the American scholar Kritzman, the Gaullist idea in France set out to reestablish the honor of the nation and also affirm its independence. In his idea of Gaullism, General de Gaulle was mainly most admired by political figures including Louis XIV, Napoleon Bonapart, and Georges Clemenceau.
The idea of Gaullism or exact meaning of Gaullism is classified in varied dictionaries with different meanings. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the idea of Gaullism originated in the 1940s and means ”the principles and policies of Charles de Gaulle, characterized by their conservatism, nationalism, and advocacy of centralized government”. Collins dictionary defines the meaning of Gaullism in two different meanings according to British English. First meaning is about ”the conservative French nationalist policies and principles associated with General Charles de Gaulle”, the second meaning relates to ”a political movement founded on and supporting General de Gaulle's principles and policies”.
However, the Gaullism signifies the different meaning in American English in conjunction with Collins dictionary, which consider the idea as ”the political policies of Charles de Gaulle, characterized by extreme nationalism”. By the same token, Merriam Webster dictionary established in 1828, gives another explanation of Gaullism meaning that it is “a French political movement during World War II led by Charles de Gaulle in opposition to the Vichy regime or a postwar French political movement led by Charles de Gaulle established offically in 1943”.
The successors of the Gaullism ideas, who are called Gaullists mention the need for a strong economy and a stable society. They also take into account the idea of national interests, which mainly relates to the paradigm of realism. Realists more elaborate on the power of the state and see it as an only major actor of international relations and also refer to the idea of national interests or interests of the nation-state. Therefore, as realists, Gaullists also take these ideas as the main principles of Gaullism. The Gaullist economic policy is based on the idea of dirigisme considering state stewardship of the economy. At the same time, as a backbone of a strong state, De Gaulle also supported the idea of creating state institutions within a strong executive and administrative power. However, De Gaulle and its successors, mainly Gaullists, did not support Europe as a supranational entity, instead, they were in favor of European integration within the form of a confederation of sovereign states, and envisaged the idea of common foreign policy, being autonomous from the superpowers, and significantly influenced by France. Over the historical course, De Gaulle’s political thoughts and ideas recognized as a Gaullism has been dominant in France. His successors as president, Georges Pompidou implemented these idea during his presidency in France from 1969 to 1974. The same politically Gaullist policy also were consolidated by his president successor socialist Francois Mitterrand between the period of 1981 and 1995 amid his presidency. However, his ideas weakened in the 1980s. Since that time, there have been several periods of cohabitation, in which the president and prime minister have been from different parties, and took a radical shift from the imperial presidency of the Gaulle. The ”Dirigisme” concept of economy of General de Gaulle also gradually lost its position due to the privatization of many state assets in France. In conclusion, the Gaullism as a General De Gaulle’s legacy, has been the backbone of the reverification of unity of nation-state, society and patriotism in France.