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AB 2000 studies

Alain Boublil Blog


Bak to 1981 ?

The conclusion of an agreement between the different political formations claiming they belong to the left and the ecologist movements with the view of the coming parliamentary elections make us inevitably thinking to the Seventies alliances between the left parties and to the Common Program. They were going to lead to the François Mitterrand election 1981 May 10th, followed by a large victory in the parliamentary elections some weeks later. A similar alliance in 1997 will allow the “plural left” to winning the parliamentary elections and to constraining Jacques Chirac to nominate Lionel Jospin Prime minister. The cohabitation will last five years.

Circumstances are today different regarding political issues as economic ones. Tensions between the Communist party and the socialists were real in the Seventies, during the cold war and the right was threatening voters about the arrival of the Soviet tanks on the Concorde Square. The Common Program had not yet been updated in 1977, which will not be without link with the left defeat in 1978. But the differences were much less brisk than today. The leaders of the different members of the left were paying respect to each other and there was no real doubt about the choice of the one who, in case of a victory in 1981, will run the country because the matter was a presidential election.

Today we are facing an electoral agreement to select one candidate per constituency, even if some of them have expressed positions considered as unacceptable. A list of proposals has been elaborated in a hurry due to the very short time between the announcement of the dissolution and the snap elections. The president of the Republic will choose the head of the next government, according to the new composition of the National Assembly. The personalization of the political life became so strong that the debate, especially inside the left, is about this choice much more than about the content of the proposed programs which sum up to a list of proposals.

The right, thinking to caricature the measures selected by the left, recalls the remembrance of the policy followed after 1981 and asserts that it will increase the budget and the foreign trade deficits. But we know for a long time that the rebound policy decided at that time has protected France against the deep recession which had notably affected Germany and the United States. It was for nothing in the aggravation of the foreign exchange deficit because this one was exclusively provoked by the increase of the oil bill resulting from the dollar rise which was caused itself by the sharp increase of the interest rates decided by the Federal Reserve.

The main lesson to be taken from the result of the European elections is that it expresses the deep discontent of French people regarding the economic and social situation of the country. The adopted policy, based on a reduction of the enterprises charges, in order to restore their competitiveness has not reached the expected results as are testifying the country de-industrialization and the continuous degradation of the foreign trade excluding energy. Everything occurred as if the huge financial transfers have mainly profited to the big enterprise margins, to their market value and to the bonus of their executives, generating a deep unfairness feeling because the large majority of the population did not profit of these transfers. That policy, from a neo-liberal instigation, was launched from 2012 and qualified as a supply-side policy in opposition with the policies supporting demand, qualified as Keynesian which prioritized the demand support to reach full employment.  

The main economic proposals of the New Popular Front are inspired by this Keynesian logic which has generated critics and a caricatural mention of the 1981 program. But it is unjustified. The repeal of the pension plan reform asserts itself because this one, due to the very low senior employment rate, will only transfer a share of the general pension plan deficit to a charge increase of the unemployment insurance system. There is a much more efficient way to recover the general pension plan equilibrium: to increase every year the contributions ceiling. That will not affect the complementary pension plans which have at their disposal huge reserves and have a structural surplus, as show it their last two years financial results.  

It is perfectly justified, in order to reducing the general inequality feeling, to increase the low wages and to index social benefits. It is much more efficient than to create any kind of “premiums”, offered by an invading and costly bureaucracy. To the opposite, VAT rates reduction, excepted for the regulated activities, must be avoided because nothing allows to being sure that these reductions will be transferred and will profit to consumers. The project to intervene in Brussels in order to put an end to the opening to competition of the public services is legitimate. That policy has failed. Users did not take any advantage, neither on prices, nor on the quality of the offered services.

But these steps have no chance to be successful, as regarding the energy markets reform, except if they are done by a government which is not in an open conflict on other issues as the public finances. They will have a lot of difficulties to be convincing if the steps come from political forces which during a long time have proposed the exit from the European Union and so from the euro zone and which have abandoned this position only for purely tactical reasons. The New Popular Front as the Union of the left in 1981, is, itself, deeply committed to the European project unlike the National Rassemblement.

Remains the public finances issue. The former majority is badly placed, due to the evolution of the public indebtedness for ten years, to give lessons. The deficits increase has allowed, during the Covid-19 crisis, to avoiding a catastrophe. But globally, the adrift budget situation has been beneficial neither to growth nor to investment. Social progress must be a major objective of a policy and we see this principle neither in the exiting majority, nor in the proposals of the far right which are hurting the European rules. The far right coming into power would hugely weaken France ability to make them accepted by Brussels.

The Eighties, so frequently deplored, yet have shown that it was possible to make going together social progress with economic progress. They have been the scene of major European advances with the unique market and, few after, the euro. They saw the achievement of great projects like the development of high-speed lines, the signature of the Treaty about the building of the tunnel under the Manche, the construction of the nuclear power plants, the creation of the European biggest business center in La Défense or again industrial progresses with the steel industry restructuration and the constitution of an aeronautic and space industry competitive on the world market.

The left has always been in favor of Europe since its coming into power in 1981. It must today constitute a bastion against these who threat to weaken it and even to marginalize France in its heart. Because Europe is indispensable. But it is not perfect. That is one more reason to give to France a government able to contribute to its adaptation to the today world, for the biggest profit of the European people with in its first position the French people. We so are not in 1981 but the social progress remains a requirement and its achievement would be impossible if France had its role marginalized in the institutions due to the political composition of the next government.