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Antoine Pinay

(b. 1891)


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(b. Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise, 30 Dec. 1891; d. Saint-Chamond, 13 Dec. 1994)

French; mayor of Saint-Chamond (Loire) 1929–79, Prime Minister Mar.-Dec. 1952 The son of a hat-maker, Pinay was educated at a Catholic church school, and became a leather-maker. A volunteer in the First World War, he was awarded the Croix-de-guerre medal. He voted full powers to Marshal Pétain in 1940 but after the Liberation, in 1946, he was returned to the Constituent Assembly for the Loire and remained a deputy until 1958: he headed the Independents and Peasants Group for Social Action in the Assembly from 1956 to 1958. Pinay is now chiefly remembered for his brief government from 6 March 1952 to 22 December of the same year. He was hostile to public sector growth, planning, technocrats, and dirigisme, and sympathetic to business. Like most non-Gaullist conservatives he was Atlanticist but he was not a die-hard colonialist. His success in forming an avowedly right-wing administration was important because it showed that conservatives were no longer shut out of Republican government. France was then gripped by inflation and Pinay took the unpopular post of Finance Minister along with that of Prime Minister to enable the introduction of measures to deal with the crisis. He presented his plan as commonsensical and himself as the defender of the consumer and the franc and at the same time issued a government loan (emprunt Pinay) which was predictably popular as it enabled families to escape the tax net. When Pinay's government fell 56 per cent regretted his departure. However 1952 was a year of recession and the overheating of the world economy, which was the result of the Korean War, was being dissipated with falling wholesale and retail prices. The slowing down of the economy also reduced the demand for credit and this too brought down inflation. Although Pinay did restore faith in the franc he did so at the cost of a fall in investment, balance of payments problems, and the talk of a balanced budget was rhetoric. He tried several times to form another administration without success, although he was briefly Foreign Secretary in the government of Edgar Faure from February 1955 to the end of that year and represented France at the Messina negotiations to promote European integration, to which he was well disposed. Pinay helped create the majority for de Gaulle's investiture. He was made Finance Minister in de Gaulle's government of June 1958 and was associated with de Gaulle's stabilization policies as well, although this time the position was more intricate even if his reputation was important in ensuring its success. He endorsed the overall plan even though he had opposed some of its key measures. Pinay's remaining time in de Gaulle's government was very uncomfortable. In a famous encounter Pinay raised the matter of de Gaulle's attitude to NATO at a Cabinet meeting. This, perfectly constitutional, request was met with ‘Monsieur le Ministre des Finances is interested in foreign policy problems’. Pinay persisted so de Gaulle closed the meeting. De Gaulle later accused Pinay of being in the wrong Republic. Pinay was dismissed on 13 January 1960. Pinay thereafter played a secondary, if inspirational, role in French conservative politics.

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Subjects: Politics.


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