At 34, he is one of these new faces of LR, hatched in one of the most uncertain periods in the history of the right. Appointed secretary-general in October by the new president of LR Christian Jacob, Aurélien Pradié has advocated for a “social right”. Able, he advocates, to address the most vulnerable French, even if it means revising several of its traditional certainties. In an interview with Liberation, the Lot deputy sees the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to precipitate this aggiornamento. Tracing paths promised to passionate debates within the party.
Centrality of the State, criticism of globalization, fiscal stimulus … Are these issues of the coronavirus crisis the right one best equipped to think about them?
What is certain is that given the gravity of the moment, the answers can no longer be the ones before. I say it as a challenge to the political class and to myself: the real solutions will not be comfortable. They challenge a form of collective cowardice over the past few years. This cowardice consisted in not changing much, in avoiding certain fundamental questions. It was shared by all political parties, including mine, and in some respects by citizens. No one, at any time, said: you have to turn the table upside down.
What are these “questions”?
We will not avoid questioning liberalism, that is obvious. I’ve been doing it for a while, even if it means passing for a communist. The fundamental question is there: the idea that money is the only scale of value, and that the state has no role to play. We killed the idea of the state. We said it was a problem, we stripped it and disqualified it. The crisis demonstrates this, for example with the question of masks.
Then there is the budgetary question: if we have destroyed the health care system, it is because we have made this question a dogma. The values were reversed: we wondered how to keep a budgetary doctrine before wondering what to do for the country. Finally, there is unregulated free trade. Can we talk about a “war economy” and continue to buy our food abroad? Ceta’s vote [traité de libre-échange entre le Canada et l’UE, ratifié par la France en 2019, ndlr] was a rocking moment. Politics has resigned. I asked myself: since when has it not changed the course of history?
You say that certain public services should escape budgetary rules?
By reinventing the State, we will fix the strategic sectors of the Nation: food, health, security, defense. These sectors, which have been reduced to the skeleton state, cannot be subject to the market or to budgetary doctrine. In these areas, we are not playing management controllers: they are “out of bounds” and must be the subject of a national strategy. I believe in planning: it is a point of agreement with communist thought, which has moreover applied it with the Gaullists.
You will be asked, especially in your party, how to finance it.
Nobody imagines opening without control the budgetary valves. We finance these sectors by notably reviewing our taxation and our priorities. What this crisis reveals is that what seemed impossible becomes possible. Housing the homeless has been telling us for years that we don’t know how to do it. And there, in a few days, we find solutions. We rediscover the miserable wages of cashiers, nurses, alongside the mad wages in certain purely speculative enterprises. I’m not saying, “Let’s take the money where it is,” but … This crisis is going to cost us billions of euros. All the public money we saved by narrow-mindedness will be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Caregivers, cashiers, delivery men… The crisis reveals how our society is based on these professions which are often poorly recognized and poorly paid. But what can they expect from the right?
Today I have as many questions as answers. At LR, we’ve been wondering about the question of wages for a few years. It is a great evil of our time not to compensate at the right height those who deserve to be. This will require radically revolutionary thinking. If sectors are recognized as strategic, their workers will have to be recognized as well, with the appropriate remuneration. We can do it according to the activity income of the company, the strategic challenges of the profession … Gaullism has elements of answer, for example with the big idea of participation. One certainty: this must go beyond the bonus of 1,000 euros which can be distributed on time. It is not with a small bonus that we will get by.
Should we rethink the role of borders?
When we ask the question of the state, we necessarily ask that of borders too. It must be linked, not only to migration issues, but also to the movement of goods and capital. Of course, if we closed them tomorrow, we could no longer eat. But the heart of free trade is price freedom. And on food issues, we must be able to question this freedom of price.
How to assert your proposals in a party which supported, not so long ago, the very liberal program of François Fillon?
When I ask myself these questions, I say to myself: am I losing myself in my political values? What is certain is that comfort would be to wrap it up and get excited about small short-term measures. It would be guilty cowardice: if saying things must cost me a political commitment, it does not matter. Besides, I observe that this doxa has been losing ground for several months. No one here knows that society has changed, and I do not despair of convincing. Everything I tell you is the subject of discussions with our president Christian Jacob and others. Many of us say that politics has become tiny. Even the most reluctant understand that you cannot reduce everything to an Excel spreadsheet.
How will LR work on the post-crisis?
For such a large site, we will need a little time. When the confinement is over, we will bring together experts, philosophers and sociologists to rethink everything around a new idea, that of the State, and imagine it stronger, more protective. With two emergencies: health and food. We must do away with the small scoops and other “observatories”.
But what would be the identity of the right after such an aggiornamento?
We come back to a fundamental idea: Gaullism, which theorized the protective and strategist state. Modern Gaullism, because what was worth in 1940 is not necessarily worth today. One of the effects of this crisis is to put the clan spirit into perspective. The right in which I believe will be able to bring together the vast majority of French people, whether they are fundamentally right and not. At stake, basically, is the survival of the political, all sides combined. But this cannot be worn by Emmanuel Macron. What is dead is the “new world”, it will disappear with the bathwater. He cannot survive the crisis of his own model. It’s his last light.