French Presidential Candidate Jacques Cheminade Defends Bank Separation and a Public Credit System

With just over ten weeks to the first round of the French presidential election on April 23, a serious political crisis is unfolding. The conservative candidate François Fillon (Les Républicains), who was still considered the front-runner two weeks ago has been severely weakened by allegations that he used taxpayer money to pay his wife and two of his children for jobs they did not carry out. Fillon has since been overtaken in the polls by Marine Le Pen of the Front National and Emmanuel Macron, a renegade socialist and former Economics Minister of François Hollande, who is known as the “bankers’ man”.

Jacques Cheminade is the only pre-candidate who is campaigning for separating commercial banks from investment banks and implementing a credit system. He had a chance to bring his proposals to a larger public at the Salon des entrepreneurs in Paris on Feb. 2, where he was interviewed by journalists from Les Echos and the Parisien Economie and by the vice president of the employers association MEDEF.

First of all, concerning the signatures of the 500 elected officials he needs to officially run for President, Cheminade said he was confident he would have them by the March 17 deadline.

When asked what he meant with his slogan about “liberating France from financial occupation”, Cheminade said “this is what François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron did not do. I met Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée and he said he would do it. But they did something worse than not implementing it, they pretended to do it without doing it.”

We need to recommit ourselves to financing labor, industry and infrastructure, Cheminade said, but “the current system does not allow that”. Concretely, he went on, that would mean separating the banks, where

“banks that invest on financial markets would be told ‘okay, you can continue, but if go bankrupt, we will not rescue you, too bad for you.’ On the other hand, there are banks such as had at the Liberation [end of WWII], when we fought financial feudalism. We had banking institutions that ensured lending and deposit management and that allowed for the separation that even Maurice Allais, our Economics Nobel Price, demanded at the time, and which is a French tradition. Henri Germain of the Crédit Lyonnais anticipated it bank in the 19th Century. But we moved toward an English banking system, which does not work.”

Cheminade was also asked the “ritual question” of the Salon des Entrepreneurs: if the State were a company and you were president, would it be more of a start-up, an SME or a CAC 40 [stock market corporation]?

“All of this together, he answered. “But not a CAC 40 company as they are today, where at least 50% is controlled by non residents, and these non residents are not always concerned with the interests of France. The State needs to be a promoter, an inspirer and a mediator internationally.” In that context, he mentioned the need to work together with China’s New Silk Road and the BRICS, and with the United States now under Trump.

In Cheminade’s view, France needs to inspire the other European countries – which is not happening now. The first visit abroad of François Hollande, he quipped, “was to Angela Merkel and lightning struck his plane. I think that was a bad omen of the future and what has happened since was coherent with that moment.”