LETTER: Europhobes are not Gaullist

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Indy Lifestyle Online
WHY do British commentators like Neal Ascherson think that Euro- sceptic British Conservatives represent "English Gaullism" ("Don't expect businessmen to protect any interests other than their own", 5 March)? It was de Gaulle's government that nationalised basic industries from coal to banking after the Second World War. It also set in motion the famous indicative state economic planning system and expanded the French welfare state. Under his presidency France pursued an aggressive "national champions" industrial policy and an expansionist macro-economic policy in the 1960s. The Gaullist state was run by civil service whiz-kids - technocrats imbued with the goal of modernisation and the ethos of public service in the higher interests of France.

De Gaulle saw French "independence" as necessary for defending corporatist state interventionism from the dangerous free-market liberals in Brussels, whom he believed would expose France (and Europe) to the depredations of multinational businesses and international markets that would act in their own interests and not in the interests of France. "Independence" was based on the ideal of a proactive state not afraid to intervene in economic matters where it served the common interest - a "third way" between capitalism and communism.

How unlike Britain's free-market Europhobes, who would not know what to do with "independence" if they had it (if it were indeed possible in today's world). Call them "little Englanders", but not Gaullists.

Philip G Cerny