Correspondence

Stakhanovism in Reverse

Letter From Paris

Last April, Claude Imbert, editor in chief of the moderately conservative weekly Le Point, dared to make an astonishing mea culpa.  In a minor masterpiece of melancholic irony, he confessed the awful truth that he was a “liberal”—which, in present-day French parlance, means someone who believes in free enterprise as a necessary antidote to socialistic regimentation.  Alas, he admitted,

in France liberals are not popular.  Here a moderate liberal is called an ultraliberal and stinks of heresy.  The Left, wearing its heart on its sleeve, consigns us to the camp of the heartless.  Its intellectual phalanx denounces us as lackeys of the MEDEF [the French equivalent of Britain’s Confederation of British Industry, or of our National Association of Manufacturing].  The communists—truly the last straw!—lecture us on the course of History, which we don’t, like them, interpret correctly.  As for the official Right, like us it creeps along the walls, it hides us as though we were wanton sons.  It’s enough to make one believe that in every Frenchman there is a Proudhon, a lurking maker of systems.  One who, having retained nothing of the lessons of the past, still dreams of whittling away our creative freedoms.  One who wants to coop us in, in order—with a more “social” hand—to share out revenues...

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