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Gaullism: the Past changing the Present

When I want to know what France thinks, I ask myself.

Charles de Gaulle

The pandemic as a global crisis situation has revived the demand for a strong leader who is ready to take responsibility and realizes how to act promptly in challenging and unpredictable conditions.

Such claims from society are not something exceptional. The main thing here is the presence of a proposal from authorities represented by a particular person who accumulates the expectations of the population and has the ability to lead.

The post-war France observed an example of coincidence of the interests of the parties, which was brought to its logical conclusion by Charles de Gaulle. The French president has forever remained in history as the founder of a political ideology called Gaullism.

Whatever the assessment of Charles de Gaulle today, many of his ideas and approaches are still relevant. And not only for France.

The pillars of Gaullism were:

  • a stable political system;
  • resilient economic growth;
  • strong positions of a sovereign state.

The first thing Charles de Gaulle started with was to consolidate the executive power, which had been largely limited to the National Assembly. The vote of no confidence in the government formed the basis of the political realities of the Fourth Republic. Sometimes governments were in power for two days.

Charles de Gaulle proposed to establish a presidential republic, the powers of parliament were limited. In September 1958, 80 percent of the French supported the president and radically changed the system of government. Article 16 documented special powers of the head of State.

"Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take measures required by these circumstances, after formally consulting the Prime Minister, the Presidents of the Houses of Parliament and the Constitutional Council. Parliament shall sit as of right and shall not be dissolved".

In economy, Ch. de Gaulle made a bet to manage inflation, liberalize the market, develop the service sector, internationalize the economy, including by increasing exports.

But a special place in Gaullism was given to foreign policy. The role of France in the world was considered by de Gaulle as a zone of special responsibility. All his efforts were aimed at bringing the country to its rightful place in the world. Sovereignty and one more time sovereignty. This simple thesis of the president described his vision of France on the outer contour. General de Gaulle's formula for success was military-style brief: the presence of military potential (nuclear weapons) – partnerships based on national interests – anti-Atlanticism.

Independent development and implementation of the nuclear program allowed France to join the club of nuclear powers. The lessons of the two world wars, in which he had participated, laid a solid foundation for understanding European processes with the Germany's role being one of principal, both in economics and politics. In addition, the general was firmly convinced that permanent control over a dangerous neighbor in the east of France was the best solution. In 1962, Charles de Gaulle went to Germany which initiated convergence of the two countries.

The ideas of Gaullism could not exist in parallel with the growing influence of the United States in Europe. De Gaulle himself worked his way through Atlanticism with independent and extraordinary approaches.

You can be sure that the Americans will do all stupidities they might think of, plus some more which are hard to imagine.

In 1966, France withdrew from NATO, and de Gaulle went to the enemy's lair - to Moscow. For many decades his visit has been called historic. Ideological grip by no means prevented the president in any way, since national interests were above all.

When implementing the Gaullism ideology, France was able to upgrade significantly the domestic political sphere, combine market mechanisms and protectionist policies, create a solid national currency and strengthen the country's weight in the region and the world.

The experience of France has proved clear enough that in times of crisis, the most effective are centralization of power, strengthening the role of the head of state, consolidating positions through operational tactical actions. Of equal importance is the fact that in such times citizens do not think in terms of "power usurpation".

The subsequent history of France confirmed the stability of the Gaullism ideology in the political environment. The presidential form of government has remained unshakable for the country. Despite the transformation of the political sphere that has taken place globally, the slogans of French presidents are still based on Gaullism.

“I choose, like General de Gaulle, the best of the left, the best of the right and even the best of the center!”

E. Macron