150. News of the World (1965-1975): France
Jacques-Maurice Couve de Murville and Willy Brandt
seeing here during one the diplomatic meetings of
the first attempt for a German-French rapprochement
Many were surprised when Jouhaud called for elections in 1965. Not so many were surprised by the right-center victory, though. Jacques-Maurice Couve de Murville
had been able to form a suitable coalition rangin for the center of the right to almost the right of the center politician into a viable party. For the first time since the end of the war, the Conservatives were trully united and able to articulate a message that appealed to most of the French voters. Thus, de Murville became the new prime minister and as the foreign minister. Soon it was clear that the de facto head of the government was Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, as de Murville focused on the international relations.
Giscard, listening to those in his party and in the industry who were frustrated by the contradicting policies of previous governments, which, in his opinion, forestalled the development of the French economy, In spite of Giscard's good intentions, he had only one term in office to carry out his plans, but he achieved remarkable results. He launched a massive modernization plan of the French railways, which led to an impressive expansion of the railroad system. He also launched a reshaping of the industry as a whole with a big program of privatizations and then embarked into a tax-break bill to encourage French industries to invest in new technologies and sites. This measure would come to bit him back, as the modernization of many industries led to many thousands of wrokers to loose their jobs. Thus, for many, Giscad is remembered as a man who attempted to modernize France. However, his terrible social policies -or, better said, the absence of social measures- and the rising unemployment led to the collapse of the Conservative government in the elections of 1970.
Murville's successor, the Socialist François Mitterrand is source of a long lasting controversy. For many, he was a champion of social justice. For many others, he divided France and opened an abyss that still divided the country in two. Mitterrand agreed with Giscard in the need of modernsing France. The methods were where they departed ways. For Miterrand the answer was not in the industry, but in the French society. He began with the School Bill of 1971 and went on. In short, private education was greatly reduced in France, in spite of the oposition from the conervative parties, and classic education was replaced by more technical studies, too. Then, the French economy came to a sudden halt when most of its industry overextended itself in their modernization process and had to cut losses. Even this crisis could not stop Mitterand, who won the General Elections of 1974 with a healthy majority in the French Parliament and with good opinion polls. However, as the crisis made itself deeper in the following, the French society turned fast against him and his own party decided to remove him from power to cut losses as his government collapsed amidst internal quarrels of its members. It was just a question of time that a vote of no-confidence ended Miterrand's suffering.
Thus, France would return to the polls in 1976 just as Fausto Guilo announced to the world that Italy was going to open a process of "openness and transparency", and France would change forever, again.