France

A report
Prestige vs. reform

Nevertheless, with an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, and with the French Left at its lowest ebb in half a century, De Gaulle will certainly have his way, and there will be a participation law. There will also be new decrees which, in Couve de Murville's words, will recognize “the need for Paris to delegate wider powers to the local authorities beginning with the prefects, and the need for a certain degree of decentralization in favor of local governments."

All of this will of course keep the legislature occupied and the French bureaucracy busy turning out more paper – but it will it really change much in France, is it the kind of reform which France needs? Pierre Uri, the distinguished French economist, is one who has strong doubts.

“What is at stake is a major policy reversal,” he has written. “Prestige projects have retarded national growth. The tax system is worn out and its rates cannot be increased without making the inequities even worse. Overhaul of the budget, radical reform of taxation and absolute priority for industrial growth would have to be carried out together. The main obstacle is raised by the nature of Gaullism. It has tried to have France do alone what can only be done by Europe as a whole. Now in the economic as well as the diplomatic field the time has come to tailor action to the true stature of the country."

Trouble next time

But having finally exploded a French H-bomb in the far Pacific in August, in the middle of the Czechoslovakian crisis, President de Gaulle is not about to order any such major reversal of his policies of the last ten years. Those in France and elsewhere in Europe who have felt that the Czech crisis ought to signal a new impulse toward greater integration of Western Europe in particular, British entry into the Common Market—will find De Gaulle equally determined that his policy of 'breaking up the power blocs" is correct whatever the Russians are doing to Eastern Europe, and that this is no time for new ventures in Western European integration.

Meanwhile, although police control of the Latin Quarter and wouldbe student demonstrators will undoubtedly be firm and ruthlessly effective this winter, the police can do nothing about rising unemployment, rising cost of living, increased budget deficit, continuing balance-of-payments deficit, and falling national currency reserves.

In this situation, the Gaullist reform measures in particular, participation—are going to seem increasingly irrelevant to France's real problems. Whether this bursts into renewed violence and demonstrations once again is anybody's guess, but most informed observers here think that the trouble will start next time with labor, not the students. Pompidou, who remains the most important political figure in the country next to De Gaulle, may well be glad that he is sidelined and sitting out the next round.

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