Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Patrick Weil Critiques the Socialists in Power

Mediapart has published an interview with historian Patrick Weil, who critiques the Socialists' use of the power they won in 2012. His first point is that the PS arrived in power unprepared to wield it and therefore allowed the bureaucracy to generate its own plans, contrary to what happened in 1981 and 1997:
Le caractère commun de ces trois postures, c’est qu’elles permettent de ne pas travailler puisqu’elles donnent réponse à tout. Du coup, ce nouveau pouvoir politique impréparé s’est soumis à l’administration, contrairement à ce qui s’est passé lorsque la gauche est arrivée au pouvoir en 1981 ou en 1997.
He attributes this unpreparedness to the existence of three types of Socialists: the hard-core, for whom reform is simply a matter of will; the double-minded, who consider themselves generally on the Left but concede that the Right has a point on some issues; and the temporizers, who don't take a position until the dust settles and the winner is clear. This is an interesting characterization of the party's supporters, but I don't think it explains the lack of preparation to wield power, which in my view has more to do with Hollande's compromise-at-all-cost, minimum consensus style of leadership, as I explained yesterday.

Weil touches on this in his second point, where he accuses Hollande of "talking socialist" in order to win votes while privately nursing a different view of what ailed France. His example is the now infamous 75% marginal income tax rate on high earners. This, as Weil points out, was a poor substitute for comprehensive tax reform (such as the version that Thomas Piketty urged on Hollande before the election) and in any case it has now been struck down by the Constitutional Court.

By contrast, he singles out Christiane Taubira for special praise:

Elle sait faire de la politique. Elle a donné de l’énergie et un sens à ce projet : celui d’un mouvement vers l’égalité des droits, démarré pendant la révolution française. Ce projet a créé des clivages, une opposition forte, mais Taubira a aussi créé une mobilisation forte, une fierté.
... Le mariage gay est donc un exemple, rare, de réussite d’un cap gouvernemental finalement tenu, et appuyé sur une vision politique qui mobilise les parlementaires de gauche, ce qui me semble être la clé des quatre prochaines années à venir.
Weil is also critical of the government's approach to innovation:
Est-il possible que le gouvernement puisse faire confiance à ceux qui, souvent très jeunes, sont déjà ou sont en train de devenir des as de ces secteurs d’avenir, si seulement ils pouvaient rencontrer d’autres personnes ? Est-ce que vous croyez qu’aux États-Unis, Apple aurait pu naître ainsi avec une commission et un concours ?

Cette approche est typique d’une pensée des hauts fonctionnaires des années 1950 qui ont fondé le plan. Que l’État stratège s’organise, c’est bien. Mais l’État ne peut plus tout organiser et planifier. Il doit en revanche faire en sorte que les « garages »qui ont permis à Steve Jobs et d'autres de créer leurs start upsoient ouverts, que les jeunes puissent s’y réunir.
There is much more in this interview, including a stinging critique of Manuel Valls. Definitely worth reading.

2 comments:

James Brown said...

This might sound silly, but I take Hollande to be someone who has the temperament and patience of a "campagnard", and who thinks real change that stays & sticks happens slowly. I wish improvement would take place now, but I am also inclined to think that nobody - left, center or right - really knows what to do to navigate out of this quagmire. Its a given that the Socialists know entrepreneurship & the private sector less well than the "Right". But we'd been under the "Right" since 1995, and we still found ourselves up shit's creek without a paddle in 2012.
And for sure, if only Hollande had pounded his fist on the table last year and compelled Merkel to drop austerity...nah, there's more at stake that needs to be handled with care than mere fiscal & monetary policies. Its because there is so much grey and ambiguous & unquantifiable aspects in politics that we vote for civilian politicians in the first place - they, and Hollande, have the experience handling these nuances.

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