It was official, senator, MP, minister and prime minister. But it was above all and always an activist. Warm, inexhaustible, friendly, weighted with an overflow of ideas that retailed at the speed of a machine gun, he was the leader revered and contested this “second left” both more pragmatic and more inventive than the first pioneer of social democracy to the French, historic rival Francois Mitterrand, reference of a political generation. Late despite two stroke and cancer, he has traveled, written, spoken, thousand discovered new passions, agitated thousand ideas, led thousand fights, smoking in secret, enjoying good food and good wine, despite continuing to converse early deafness which forced his interlocutors to speak up. This passion, this love of discovery, it needs to do and say, have done all his life.
Dedicated to the policy, its existence is also that successive enthusiasms, for finance, the economics, history of socialism, for tennis, sailing practice it regularly Breton skiffs, for the glider he learned to fly at the age when others are already thinking about retirement for dogs and cats love that his last wife, to the icy lands of the poles he loves to go and defend. To his friends, he gathered around him as soon as possible. To her friends, three women head and character, with whom he lives long successive passions, until the last, Sylvie, with which he had just bought a large house on the edge of the Rambouillet forest.
As party leader, Michel Rocard has marked the history of the left. As head of government, it leaves precious reforms and, above all, a moral action that will serve long model for those who want to govern.
“I am ashamed”
Among the scouts that he frequented a good part of his youth, was called “Hamster scholar.” Rodent, he had a pointed nose, the eyes sparkling, body without fat and feverish nervousness. As for his erudition, she was boundless when it was the government of men or of the administration of things. He drank constantly in his entourage quickly stunned by a convulsive eloquence, where one sentence, divided into countless brackets could occupy an entire speech. Assénés a metallic voice punctuated by volleys of sound or sarcastic laughter, enveloped in thick curls from these he smoked Gauloises until the end, the arguments lined up as if they came out of a book, gathered in an apparent and torrential disorder to justify a policy that was building in speaking.
in conflict with an imperious father, the great scientist and great resistant, he refused scientific career to which he intended to enter at Sciences-Po in 1947 and at the ENA. Learning that choice, Yves Rocard, polytechnicien patriot, one of the fathers of the French atomic bomb gives it some scathing sentences, one final – “I am ashamed” – and him cutting funding. He has to work in the laboratory of the Ecole Normale to pay for her studies and met a worker, Bertin, who introduced him to the world of work and socialism. Barely out of his teens, he joined the SFIO by European and progressive conviction, vainly attempting to lead them his friend and classmate Jacques Chirac.
1 st May 1971. Rocard then national secretary of the PSU. (Photo AFP)
Dissident colonial war
Socialist Michel Rocard will remain all his life, but in a sense that owes much to the great experience of youth: the Algeria. The uprising that erupted in 1954 leaves the IV th entangled Republic and soon torn. She instilled in reaction a political generation in the drama and moral split. As these two French departments and one million Europeans live there, the political forces, including communists, do not imagine that the colony to become independent. It represses, but also seeks to negotiate.
Soon, the left is divided. Some – Guy Mollet, Mitterrand – make war. Other – Pierre Mendes France, Alain Savary or Daniel Mayer – want a compromise. In 1956, it is believed that Mendes France will become chairman and negotiate, as he did with the Vietnamese nationalists in 1954. Guy Mollet is designated. The young Rocard and sees the leader of his party, the SFIO, mobilize the contingent, encouraging action paratroopers, cover torture. In Christian culture activist, who took for his political activities the pseudonym of a heretic burned by Calvin of Geneva, Servetus (he held in reserve duty as a public servant), this colonial drift and this downfall are inconceivable. At the same time, François Mitterrand’s Minister of Justice and aims Matignon. To stay in the game, he applies again the repressive policy of the government in Algeria. Contrast between two men who do not know but that antagonistic conception of politics already opposing …
Rocard advocates for peace in Algeria, he even went on site to support missions as assigned administration. The young inspector of finances, dissenting from his own government, denounced in reports the treatment of the Muslim population and refuted in a few sentences the legitimacy of the war: “The equality of all citizens before the law, which is the basic principle of our Constitution, has never been practiced. Equality of duties existed, including the blood tax, but no equality of rights “ he wrote, before finding that ” raging hard mentality close to the racial segregation that forbade Muslims, without exception, access to functions responsibilities, even minor, in their own country. ” The report on population groups practiced by France, published by Le Nouvel Observateur and the World a scandal and helps turn public opinion against the war.
it is this time that Rocard’s aversion to what we would call the “molletisme”. Resistant courageous, uncompromising Marxist at the end of the World War, Guy Mollet conquers the SFIO in 1946 on the basis of a radical discourse of strict orthodoxy, lambasting the humanistic and pragmatic drift Blum supporters (today we would say “drift social-liberal “). But almost revolutionary discourse quickly covers political practice is remote. Mollet control the party through two large federations patronage, North e0t the Bouches-du-Rhône. In government, the SFIO leads anything but a revolutionary policy. In the Algerian case is a Marxist accustomed to “take the party to the left” that leads the colonial war. Rocard hate this abysmal distance between radical rhetoric and opportunistic practice (it is often found to the left of the left when it arrives – rarely – to business) and, probably on the basis of this experience, it will “talk true “ the basis of his moral policy.
” We will tell you afterwards! “
Secretary of Socialist Students, he rejects the war waged by their elders and prepares split which led to the foundation of the autonomous Socialist Party (PSA) with Edouard Depreux, Alain Savary and Daniel Mayer, the disciple of Blum, the righteous of the SFIO dishonored by the colonial war. Rocard spends most of his time in the back rooms of cafes and section seats tirelessly remaking the world and socialism small tireless hand of the struggle against the war in Algeria.
1960 PSA merges with other small groups left to found the unified Socialist Party (PSU) which Rocard, militant activist who impresses with its slaughter and its economic competence, became secretary general. It emerged in 1966 at the symposium of Grenoble, which lays the foundation for a moral and reformist left in the line of Pierre Mendes France. The general public discovered in 1969 when the PSU candidate in the presidential election, achieving a score just below that of the candidates of the old left.
The PSU is fashionable, daring please intellectuals, pragmatism managers, its sixty-eighter perfume youth. Edmond Maire, Jacques Delors, Jean Daniel and Jacques Julliard, Michel Rocard becomes spokesman quicksilver of a renewed left, halfway between the Social Democratic wisdom and imagination of May 68. He disdains not the language of the time, presents himself as the candidate of the “transition to socialism” and praised the Yugoslav self-management. In a debate with Edgar Faure, the subtle radical who asked if his socialism will be imposed by legal or revolutionary means, Michel Rocard responds to the punch: “We will tell you afterwards!”
But it also depends on the economic coherence, is wary of the rhetoric that flourishes antimarché left, knowing that the state economy attempts failed miserably. He feels the rise of the individual in society, relies on grassroots initiative, anticipating the renewal of themes and methods that will be much later alterglobalism that chronicles a Michel Bosquet announced in Le Nouvel Observateur.
at this time, reformism has bad press. The Communist Party still dominates the left electorally and his companions held the upper hand in the intellectual debate. On the extreme left, it communicates in the theoretical anti-humanism, libertarian structuralism of Foucault and the fundamentalist Marxism of Althusser. The PSU welcomes those who want to renew the thought of left, part of which comes from the far left, particularly after 1968, which was temporarily re-inflated the revolutionary myth. By dint of maneuvers, debates and speeches, Rocard was able to keep a fragile majority in the small party of which he is the spokesman
In 1969, before the presidential election where he represents the Socialist Party unit. (Photo Juillet.Sipa)
The audacity of the “second left”
This is where is the “doctrine Rocard” that will give political foundation to the “second left “(the rocardiens, CFDT, Le Nouvel Observateur, almost Libération to use an expression coined by Patrick Rotman and Hamon Hervé …). In a state, centralized, Jacobin country, second left rehabilitates local action (as in Grenoble with GAM, municipal action groups), the activist community action initiative, social invention. She speaks self-management, ecology, new lifestyles, consumer movements, urban policy, release of the body, while the other left continues to debit the post-Marxist catechism, based on nationalization, public intervention and antimarché rhetoric.
in a left dominated by Marxism, Michel Rocard claims to Proudhon and French socialism before Marx, despised by Marxists and Leninists. He does not believe in a socialized economy and accept the realities of the market economy, to the dismay of his opponents on the left. Activist still, he knows by heart the debates that agitated European socialism in its infancy. It can summarize the Kautsky-Lenin controversy or quarrel reformism launched by Eduard Bernstein, or the invention of “liberal socialism” by Rosselli brothers, better than Trissotin of Marxist orthodoxy. He chose his camp: that of European social democracy, the only one that really improved the working conditions in the history of XX th century, far from the massacres perpetrated by Leninists and Stalinists in name of revolutionary purity and anti-capitalism or repeated failures of state socialism in the countries of the East or South.
This doctrinal clarity obviously earned it the incessant curses congress halls of Savonarola always quick to track down the heresy and prefer verbal radicalism action reform patient. Michel Rocard is processed by the Communist Party of capital agent, reformist ladle, from bourgeois of the “caviar left” while Chevènement, already holding a national socialism, criticizes “American Left” of rocardiens. Creativity and sincerity are not enough. The PSU does not take off, lack of staff and organization.
with François Mitterrand, at Audience of socialism in 1974. (Photo Didier Maillac)
the irreconcilable rival Mitterrand
in 1971, Mitterrand is the cunning political and literary, with its success in the presidential 1965 against General de Gaulle, who becomes the leader of the left, leaving the backdrop énarque talker to the brilliance of tax inspector. François Mitterrand renovated the Socialist Party and an agreement with the PCF. In 1974 he came close to victory in the presidential election. LED PSU deadlocked, Michel Rocard joined the PS that year at the congress of socialism and immediately arouses suspicion of Mitterrand, who sees the top sixty-eighter an official horrifying and illegitimate rival.
the fight between the two men together in the same party will dominate the life of the French left for fifteen years. Everything between them. Ambitious and talented young man from the previous generation, that of the World War, Mitterrand started right. During the Occupation, he went to Vichy before joining the Resistance. Ambitious and talented young generation of the war in Algeria, Rocard has denounced the outset a war that Mitterrand agreed to do everything in the reproving. full policy, Mitterrand did not believe that the economic Rocard handled with precision and skill. Literary enthusiast trees and old books, Mitterrand made use of a safe and elegant French, while Rocard, who spent more time sifting through reports to read novels, truffait its torrential discourse of technical terms and convoluted sentences. Mitterrand made fun of this mid-technocratic rhetoric mid-sociological. “I do not understand what he says,” he confided to his friends often. One day, to illustrate the difficulties of French foreign trade that worry, Rocard said he “struggling to balance the books.” Mitterrand judge the ridiculous medical metaphor. He replies: “What this trial balance? A forgotten organ? A vertebra ignored? A metacarpal bones? “
Two conceptions of politics, above all, make them irreconcilable. Ductile, calculating, cynical maneuver though Republican and genuine progressive, François Mitterrand used programs and symbols as needed over time, more relying on personal connections he knows weave relentlessly over time. “With a hundred men decided, we take power,” he said one day. “novel of character,” in the words of François Mauriac, faithful to the obstinacy in friendship, Mitterrand raises devotion to life and is a discreet and formidable network beyond spheres of the left. “We blame myself for my skill, he said, but it must necessarily be awkward in politics?”
Rocard militant is not averse to intrigues. Nourished by student politics, he has broken the convention of operations, majority of reversals, with unexpected alliances. He knows how to use the media, he will say so much trouble later on. Darling of the press, tax Mitterrand “archaic” highlights its modernity in perfect command the television language. The evening of the parliamentary elections of 1978, after another defeat of the left, Rocard began a pathetic peroration that strikes the opinion. In fact, it has long repeated this false improvisation which poses the candidate in the future. But he believes the ideas, rational debate, structured action plans, and we hate sacrificing economic truth on the altar of electoral cause. For Mitterrand, power is the aim, which can make history with a capital H. In Rocard, power, that search but he mistrusts, is an instrument of reform.
After challenged without much result the seizure of the member of Nièvre on french socialism, Rocard missing the boat in 1980, missing his nomination and leaving the field open to a Mitterrand was said exceeded and wins 1981 presidential election.
in the campaign before the Congress Socialist Party in Vannes, in September 1985. (Photo Philippot.Sygma)
” L hell of Matignon “
Marginalized during the first seven, Michel Rocard chomping at the bit in the second rank of ministries, he nevertheless manages with a seething passion. Holding the edge, “second left”, however, took revenge all morality. Rocard Reform had often criticized the carelessness of the joint program, overspending, willingness to nationalize 100% industry and the banks, which was costly to the budget without much improving the efficiency of the economy. François Mitterrand was right against it by sacrificing economic seriousness of his project to the necessity of the alliance with the Communists. But in 1983, reality catches up the left launched in breach of policy. The accounts are deteriorating, the financial risk is thrombosis, statism suffocates the economy and the rise of individualism makes obsolete the rhetoric of socialist. After denouncing for years the social democratic policy of the second left Mitterrand must implement under the constraint of the economy and society. The austerity turn causes the first left to resume the second themes, Mitterrand to do without Rocard Rocard.
triumphantly re-elected, the president feels compelled to call Matignon Herald People of a more modern left that door part of the opinion. It has rapidly exhausting but Rocard, surrounded by a competent and cunning team led by Jean-Paul Huchon, succeeds very well to master “Hell of Matignon.”
He brilliantly unravels the New Caledonian imbroglio, established in October 1988 the RMI (revenu minimum d’insertion). Two years later, he created the CSG, a new tax levied at source whose base covers all income (work or heritage). Michel Rocard reduced unemployment and heads the government with a creative safety that eventually upset François Mitterrand. “In six months we’ll see through” had said cruel, Machiavelli’s “United France.”
Rocard resists three years, protected by its popularity and incessant activity, so that Mitterrand dismissed him abruptly without cause, mired in a seven-calamitous end and cynical. Rocard never forgive him this vindictive gesture.
He then tries to impose on the head of the left but François Mitterrand, twisted, lance against him Tapie torpedo in a European election. Michel Rocard is beaten and humiliated. He retired gradually of the race. With the support of rocardiens, Lionel Jospin became leader of the PS and Prime Minister.
The always feverish wise old
Rocard becomes militant pragmatism Herald left, wise old teenager, always feverish always inventive. It is ambassador of polar lands, glider pilot, awareness of French social democracy still under construction. He wrote much, yet speaks more runs the world criticizes finance “criminal”, unconsciousness leaders, indifference to the fate of the planet and the corruption that plagues politics.
Enthusiastic to the end, “Hamster scholar” has continued without respite the impossible dream of a just society, bringing the french socialism on earth to better illustrate the ideal. By his energy, his rectitude, his taste for real change here and now, by the constant discipline of “talking”, Michel Rocard has carried high morality in politics and stand as a model for every progressive activist who wants to leave the sky confused prejudices and dogmas to see the end of his acts