Wednesday, June 21, 2017

For many French leftists, Hollande’s presidency did not represent the first betrayal at the hands of the Socialist Party. The only other Socialist president of the Fifth Republic, François Mitterrand, was an even greater disappointment. When he was first elected in 1981, Mitterrand ran on an anticapitalist platform, vowing to nationalize industry, raise wages and reduce the retirement age. His victory was met with jubilation on the left, and some supporters believed Mitterrand would end French capitalism. But outside France, political winds were blowing in the other direction. The 1980s were the era of deregulation and economic liberalization, the age of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Europe was advancing toward a single market. Mitterrand’s policies couldn’t contain inflation, threatening the country’s place in the coming monetary union. He was forced to choose between his revolutionary agenda and European integration. By 1983, Mitterrand chose Europe and implemented spending cuts, a move referred to in France as the tournant de la rigueur, or the austerity turn. Today, French leftists compare Hollande’s shift to Mitterrand’s U-turn and ask now, as they asked then, Is socialism dead?well it was fun while it lasted

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