Thursday, December 22, 2016

Guaino Schools Fillon on Laval--and Austerity

Well, I guess if this is the 93rd most important political blog in the world, I ought to blog something.

How about this? I agree with Henri Guaino. Not something I say very often. But apparently he irked François Fillon by comparing him to Pierre Laval. One can understand why such a comparison would rankle, not that it's likely to shake many voters loose: As Fillon is fond of pointing out, French schoolchildren don't learn any history anymore, so today's voters aren't likely to know much about Laval. Still, if they look him up on Wikipedia, they might be dismayed to learn that he was un collabo. So Guaino, perhaps afraid he might be challenged to a duel, backtracked a bit:

J’ai appris, cher François, que tu t’étais ému de ma référence à Pierre Laval à propos de ton programme économique et social. Je souhaite d’emblée dissiper tout malentendu pour qu’il ne subsiste aucune ombre entre nous.
Nous nous connaissons depuis très longtemps. Assez pour que tu saches que je n’aurais jamais pu songer à faire le moindre rapprochement entre toi et le Pierre Laval des années 1940, celui de Vichy, du déshonneur et de la collaboration. C’est au Laval de 1935, président du Conseil de la IIIe République, et à son programme que j’ai fait explicitement référence, programme qui est resté comme un cas d’école dans les annales des politiques économiques.
Indeed, it turns out that Guaino was comparing Fillon not to the collabo Laval but merely to the dimwit prime minister who opted for a deflationary economic policy in the midst of the Depression.

Now, for Guaino, to be sure, this was a disastrous choice not so much because it deepened the misery of millions of Frenchmen but because it brought on the Popular Front, which Guaino regards as a national catastrophe. I'm rather more sympathetic to the Popular Front, but I have to agree with Guaino about the foolishness of imposing austerity in recession, which is what Fillon is proposing in his platform for 2017. It really isn't very wise.

The lengthy historical detour via Laval 1935 may not be strictly necessary to make this point, but Guaino knows Fillon better than I do (il le tutoie dans Le Monde!), so perhaps he's right in thinking that the best way to penetrate Fillon's well-armored mind is to appeal to his vanity as a connoisseur of French history.

The former prime minister's pride in his knowledge of the past may not be entirely justified, to judge by the rather banal examples he chose in his speech on the subject (M. Fillon, I knew François Mitterrand, François Mitterrand was a friend of mine, and you're no François Mitterrand--at least when it comes to showing off your knowledge of history), and Guaino's lesson may therefore serve him more than he knows, even if he is unlikely to follow his economic advice.

When it comes to following the eminently respectable precepts of German Ordoliberalism down the road to ruin, François Fillon has no peer.

Number 93

French Politics has been named no. 93 of the 100 top political blogs. That might not seem like much to write home about, but the NY Times is only no. 4. And they probably have somebody to brew the coffee for them.