Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sour Grapes from Attali

Jacques Attali doesn't think the IMF is a prize worth having. Nor does he deign to mention the name of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he pursues his philosophical musing on the subject, which ends with the cheering thought that any reform of global institutions must await a catastrophe. Can this be the same Jacques Attali who headed the Banque européenne pour la reconstruction et le développement (BERD) from 1991 to 1993? Perhaps a BERD in the hand is worth an IMF in the (land of) Bush.

Hirsch Cuts Own Salary

Martin Hirsch, the high commissioner for active solidarities against poverty, chose not to become a minister or secretary of state when he accepted his post, as I reported some time ago. What I didn't know then is that he also asked to be paid a reduced salary in order "to keep faith with his personal history and remain close to the people he seeks to defend." It seems that it took a special decree to reduce his salary to 28 percent of what would be paid to a secretary of state. Perhaps the meaning of "active solidarity" is to be sought in this gesture.

It's interesting that Hirsch's name has not figured in the attacks launched by various Socialists against former comrades who accepted positions in Sarkozy's government. There has been little criticism of Jean-Pierre Jouyet, either. Contrast this with the treatment of Jack Lang. After Lang's blistering letter of resignation to Hollande, in which he attacked the latter's "authoritarian" style of leadership, Hollande issued a rather conciliatory response, in which he suggested that the threatened suspension of Lang would last only as long as he served on the commission for institutional reform, a post he hasn't yet accepted. So Hollande is already mitigating a suspension that hasn't yet taken place for an offense that hasn't yet been committed. By contrast, Lang's letter seemed to be drawing a quite different conclusion about his relation to the PS, at least as long as it remains under Hollande's direction.

Patrick Weil on Economic Immigration

Patrick Weil explains why 50% "economic immigration," the mission Sarkozy has assigned to his minister of immigration and national identity Brice Hortefeux, is an impossible one.

Five Years

Five years is a long time in politics. If DSK leaves France for the US to take up the reins of the IMF, he may well be thinking of returning for a presidential run in 2012. The aller-retour route to power has been tested by Romano Prodi among others (see Libé's comment on international organizations as springboards to domestic power here).

Will the Socialist Party accept him as its leader after such a lengthy abandonment? Will the Socialist Party still exist? The question is not idle. Five years ago, in 2002, the Front National polled more votes in the first round of the presidentials than the PS. Yesterday, the same FN appealed to its supporters to donate money to rescue it from its financial plight. Like the PCF, it is also contemplating selling off or subletting some of its real estate, as well as laying off party staff. A political party that fails badly can collapse quickly.

And the PS, despite its relative success in the legislative elections, may be collapsing quickly. Jack Lang resigned from the leadership today after being scolded like a child yesterday by Hollande's right-hand man, Stéphane Le Foll. Ségolène Royal, feeling no great urgency even as Sarko occupies the high ground at all points of the compass, plans to take the entire summer to reflect on the "strengths and weaknesses" of her campaign before gathering strength "for the next victory"(!?) An alarmed cohort of quadragénaires, formerly followers of one or another of the éléphants, is trying to find its bearings in a landscape no longer hospitable to large gray quadrupeds.

There is much to think about here for students of both political theory and French political history. Sarkozy, like an expert lumberjack, has deftly picked apart two logjams that had been damming the currents of political change. He has demolished the blockage on the extreme right and cut the middle-of-the-road socialists loose from the anti-liberal left. The middle of the channel is moving swiftly (as Bayrou stands on the riverbank, wondering what happened). France today looks quite different from France sixty days ago.

"A green thought in a green shade"

Not everyone is happy about DSK's decision to go for the IMF. Noël Mamère, the mustachioed and telegenic Green, says, "I wonder what somebody who's regarded as a socialist thinker is going to do as the head of an agency of liberal persuasion, a machine to impoverish rather than to reduce inequalities." Not one to mince words, M. Mamère, or to hesitate to give lessons in economics to a professor at Sciences Po and former finance minister.

It's sad that the "L-word" is as much a gros mot in France these days as it has become in America. Though the meanings of the word in the two countries are diametrically opposed, the use of the term to arouse ugly emotions and short-circuit thinking is identical.