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Article about Mitterrand wriiten by Lee ho-chul
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  • 2018-12-20 14:08:14

Mitterrand/ Lee ho-chul

 

The first leftist government in French history appeared when Socialist Party candidate Mitterrand was elected president in May 1981. Since then, there have been 3 leftist governments, but they have all been short-lived. Since the establishment of the fifth republic in 1959, the right wing government of Pompodu and Giscard Desteng have been in power. In the midst of an economic recession caused by a second oil crisis, Mitterrand formed an alliance that encompasses the communist party and other factions within the right wing. Even though at that time there was suspicions raised on how long such a liberal government would last, President Mitterrand lasted in office for 14 years.

 

During the presidential election, the Socialist Party pledged to make changes that would improve the quality of life of people. During those days, there was a large amount of social inequality: approximately 700,000 workers had to work overnight more than 40 times a year, of which half of these workers were not allowed to take leave. While three quarters of company executive’s children attended college, only 4% of worker’s children attended college. As soon as President Mitterand took office, he raised the minimum wage by 10% and raised family allowances by 25%. He also drastically changed working conditions - mandating a maximum of 39 work hours a week, compulsory 5 weeks of paid vacation for all workers and a mandatory retirement age at 60 years old. To better distribute wealth among all the classes, a wealth tax was imposed on asset holders.

 

Above all, the Socialist Party also launched a radical industrial policy nationalizing 13 of the top 20 conglomerates in the country. The state took control of the financial markets by nationalizing 36 banks/ investment banks.

 

The main reason why such an economic policy was implemented was to increase the purchasing power and real income of workers. By increasing the real income of workers through welfare benefits and raising the minimum wage, these workers would have increased purchasing power and their spending would in turn stimulate the local economy. However, this intended spending cycle did not take place due to rising prices and unemployment rate in the country. Instead, the resulting increase in unemployment decreased the industrial competitiveness of the country, caused trade deficits and outflow of capital problems. France faced a crisis where the country is finding it difficult to remain in the European Monetary System (EMS)

 

After losing the local elections in March 1983, Mitterrand made a bold move to change his economic policies. He also separated from the Community Party, which in turn seated 37-year old Fabius as the prime minister and formed a separate coalition. In Mitterand’s third year of office, the unemployment problem in the country became very serious, with youth unemployment rate exceeding 20%. The government had since invested a huge amount of funds to create 55,000 jobs in the public sector, but this has proved to be insufficient. To prevent an increase in unemployment rate in the country, 230,000 jobs must be created by the government, an act which is not sustainable economically. Unemployment can only be prevented by local economic growth.

 

Eventually, Mitterand began to promote private businesses by privatizing industries. The French government also lowered taxes to help the country grow. VAT (Value-added tax) was reduced on food items and inheritance tax was also reduced. Funds were raised through the development of the capital market and sale of shares by state-run companies. The country also changed its industrial policy- the government reduced the direct government intervention by emphasizing on the profitability of state-run companies and promoting autonomy. The government also pushed for job cuts and corporate consolidation to improve the local economy.

 

After the establishing the framework for working conditions, Mitterrand shifted his attention to the future of Europe and France’s national interest. In 1988, Mitterrand appealed for France's integration with the rest of Europe without making any compromises and succeeded in reelection. To create a strong France, he strengthened industrial competitiveness and displayed leadership in the European Union. Cooperation between Germany and France is vital to the integration of Europe. Mitterand sought friendly relations with Germany by supporting German reunification without baring grudges on Germany’s occupation of France during World War II. In addition, unlike other left-wing parties in Europe, France solidified their alliance with the U.S. in favor of the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe.

 

Mitterrand had been in power for 14 years even though he was a member of the right-wing faction. His ability to unify the people of France and possess power for a long time was put to practical use- he put the country’s national interest first by focusing on practical matters. The process of President Mitterrand’s assumption of  power, governing the country, and changing his life to protect and build France is detailed in Jacques Atalli's book, ‘Miterrand’s Peace’.

 

http://www.kookje.co.kr/news2011/asp/newsbody.asp?code=1700&key=20181204.22026000744  

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