[Marxism] Socialist in name only
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 11 07:49:05 MDT 2014
NY Times, April 11 2014
In French Premier’s Blend of Socialism, Conservative and Centrist Notes
By ALISSA J. RUBIN
PARIS — France’s new prime minister introduced the country this week to
his particular brand of Socialist Party politics: more centrist on
social issues, more conservative economically and more combative than
the man who appointed him, President François Hollande.
Mr. Hollande chose Manuel Valls, 51 — until days ago the tough-talking
interior minister — in the hope that his very different style could help
reverse the political fortunes of the left. The Socialist Party is
reeling after losing at least 150 towns and cities to the mainstream
right in local elections in March and has been weighed down by the
unpopularity of Mr. Hollande, whose approval ratings are lower than
those of any modern French president.
Mr. Valls will appear day in and day out before a nation struggling with
an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent and concerns about its
capacity to maintain its role on the world stage. And his first act was
to deliver bad news — asking the left wing of his fractious party, and
the public, to accept cuts to cherished services in the name of reducing
the budget deficit.
“Too much suffering, not enough hope: Such is France’s situation,” Mr.
Valls said on Tuesday in his first speech to the National Assembly.
“The reality is there, and we must look at it without trembling,” he
said in a speech interrupted far more frequently by boos than by cheers.
He promised that he would “tell the truth to the French” and added:
“Truth about the critical state of our country. Truth about the
solutions that are needed. France is at a moment in its history when we
must concentrate on the essential, and the essential is giving
confidence back to the French in their future.”
Despite the mixed reception, he easily won a vote of confidence after
the speech for the Hollande government’s new slate of ministers.
Mr. Valls — who, according to some reports, once tried unsuccessfully to
persuade the Socialist Party to take the word socialist out of its name
— has long endorsed a more centrist, free-market economic policy than
many on the left who espouse a more centrally planned economy. Public
spending accounts for 57 percent of France’s gross domestic product, the
second-highest level in Europe.
His relative conservatism was clear from the approving editorials and
columns published in right-leaning magazines and newspapers after he was
named. Franz-Olivier Giesbert, editor of the weekly magazine Le Point,
wrote, “By imposing Mr. Valls against a large part of his camp, the
president is completing the transformation of the left.”
Le Figaro, a daily newspaper that often expresses the views of the
French right, used its front-page editorial on Tuesday to urge Mr. Valls
to “stay himself” in his new position and not “suddenly dilute his
The choice of Mr. Valls suggested a calculation by Mr. Hollande, among
others, that the country needed someone who could reassure the European
Union that France is serious about meeting its financial obligations as
a member of the bloc, while also projecting a dynamism at home that will
appeal to voters.
On Tuesday, Mr. Valls offered the most detailed summary yet of how the
government intends to meet its promise to enact $69 billion in spending
cuts by 2017. He called for $26 billion in cuts to the central
government bureaucracy, $13.8 billion to the national health care system
and $13.8 billion to local governments — an element at which many
legislators on the right booed loudly, having just won control of a
number of local governments. He did not specify how the remaining $15.4
billion in cuts would be made.
But in deference to the left and to anxious workers, Mr. Valls also
announced $7 billion in tax cuts for low-wage employees and renamed Mr.
Hollande’s “responsibility pact,” aimed at encouraging businesses to
create jobs by cutting employment costs, a “responsibility and
solidarity pact,” signaling that the government had not forgotten
laborers in its effort to help business.
At once an outsider and an insider, Mr. Valls, who emigrated from Spain
and became a French citizen at 20, is an experienced politician. He
started as a parliamentary aide and later became a spokesman for Lionel
Jospin, who was prime minister at the time. Most recently, he was Mr.
Hollande’s communications director during the 2012 presidential
campaign, and he has a well-tuned ear for how to handle difficult subjects.
As interior minister, his voice and face became familiar to radio and
television audiences, not least last fall, when problems involving the
Roma made headlines. He gained infamy in some circles, and approbation
in others, for saying: “The Roma should eventually return to Romania and
Bulgaria. They have a way of life that is extremely different from ours.”
His blunt language about the Roma, and to a lesser extent other
immigrants, was less harsh than that of Mr. Hollande’s predecessor,
Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative who also served as interior minister.
But Mr. Valls’s stance put him at odds with his party’s orthodoxy on the
issue, one of the most emotional in French politics today.
Mr. Valls has his own presidential ambitions: He ran in the Socialist
primaries in 2011 in the hope of challenging Mr. Sarkozy, but lost to
Mr. Hollande. He does not hesitate to use his outsider status as a way
to show the depth of his allegiance to France and to remind voters that
he is not quite the same as other French leaders, many of whom attended
the country’s most elite schools.
Mr. Valls’s father was an artist in Barcelona, his mother’s family
originally came from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland and he
attended a public university in Paris. His wife, Anne Gravoin, is a
violinist. He was married previously and had four children with his
Toward the end of his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Valls gave an impassioned
description of his feeling for his adopted country that also suggested
long-held ambition. “France has the same greatness it had when I saw it
as a child,” he said, listing the French luminaries who had inspired
him, including Charles de Gaulle, the wartime leader who went on to
establish the Fifth Republic and become its first president. “And this
is why I wanted to become a citizen and be prime minister of the
government of France.”
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