The death of a friend always sends us back to what we shared with him, in
what we said to each other, and what we did not say. The death of a
personality, an intellectual or a politician, leads to say publicly things
that we should have said before, during his lifetime.
The death of Philippe Seguin sends me back to our largely common origins and
youth, to our shared judgments about politicians, to what separated us on
protectionism, the Euro and the Treaty of Maastricht, with endless
conversations on the misfortunes of the PSG and in the necessary reforms to
improve the effectiveness of the State. Until a last conversation, some
weeks ago, on the dangers of the public debts and the future of our
Philipe embodied honesty and intelligence, qualities so rare in politics. He
also embodied a very special conception of the republic, today apparently
totally anachronistic: Gaullism of the left. And more still, the obsession
not to see Gaullism being hijacked by the right. Nowhere to be found
position, politically impossible, because not accepted by the majority from
the right wing as well as the left.
He would have been able to win this battle only if Jacques Chirac had
appointed him Prime Minister in 1995, or more still in 2001, as he had the
moral and political obligation to do so. But it did not take place, because
it could not take place: Gaullism, since 1958, has become identified with
the right wing, no matter what their leaders have been saying for 50 years.
And all those who tried to escape this, from Capitan to Valley, from Fouchet
to Seguin, failed.
And yet in other times in France and today in other countries, this
mixture of passion for greatness and care for the weakest, has been
successful. It was even the mark of all great periods of our history.
We can even go as far as thinking that Philippe Seguin’s failure is a bad
sign for our time. As if the construction of Europe, globalization,
privatization, deregulations, made it impossible for any national ambition;
as if France experienced a loss of taste for itself, as if the republic
merged with the elections; as if freedom was allowed to dissolve in
liberalism; as if there was no more room, between the left and right wing,
but for opportunists changing sides according to the polls.
And yet we cannot, we must not, give up that France must defend its
identity; and we can imagine what could be, beyond the grandiloquent speech,
a Seguin politics style for the decades to come. It would stress
participation of the employees (that is to say a policy of bonus for the
workers and not for the traders), fiscal justice, intensification of our social
welfare, a major effort of integration of minorities and improvement of
social mobility, an inflexible independence of our army, finicky defense of
our language and our culture, protection of Europe against the dangers of an
The left, more than the right, could take back this inheritance. I imagine
Philippe grumbling and smiling reading this.