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Never before have I seen blind anger like this on the streets of Paris

John Lichfield

The factors that gave rise to this weekend’s shockingly violent riots will not be easily addressed. A recurrence is likely

France is a republic that was founded in popular violence. Politics runs to the street here more rapidly than in any other western democracy. I’ve lived in France for 22 years and have witnessed street protests by workers, farmers, wine producers, truck drivers, railway employees, university students, sixth-formers, teachers, youths in the multiracial suburbs, chefs, lawyers, doctors and police officers. Yes, even police officers.

I have never seen the kind of wanton destruction that surrounded me on some of the smartest streets of Paris on Saturday – such random, hysterical hatred, directed not just towards the riot police but at shrines to the French republic itself such as the Arc de Triomphe. The 12-hour battle went beyond violent protest, beyond rioting, to the point of insurrection, even civil war.

The centre of Paris has not seen violence on this scale since the student and worker rebellion of May 1968. Much of the worst violence in 1968 came from the police.

And France has not seen widespread destruction of this kind since the riots that burned like a forest fire through almost all the multiracial inner suburbs of French towns and cities in 2005. Then, the violence stopped at the invisible moat that divides the centre of prosperous French cities from their troubled banlieues, or suburban ghettos.

On Saturday, the gilets jaunes – or a large, violent fringe of the wider, peaceful “yellow vest” movement – took evident joy in smashing up the grandest and wealthiest parts of the French capital. Appeals on social media, where the movement began a month ago, are calling for another assault on Paris this weekend.

How can a movement that began a month ago with broadly peaceful protests against high fuel prices have generated such vicious enmity towards not just President Macron but the entire French political system? Some French commentators have suggested that the yellow vests should be rebranded “yellow shirts” – a fascist rabble. This is dangerous and misleading talk, for now.

An extreme wing of the gilets jaunes has turned towards the nihilist detestation of democratic institutions and symbols of success and wealth. But while Saturday’s crowd was mostly white (there are many black and brown gilets jaunes) this movement shows, so far, few outward signs of racism or extreme nationalism. The great bulk of the movement represents genuine economic and social distress in a peripheral and middle France which, with some reason, says that it is despised and fiscally exploited by the country’s thriving cities. Part of the French media suggests that Saturday’s protests were hijacked by ultra-violent sects of the hard right and hard left. This is also misleading.

There were groups of masked, young men among the 5,000 or so people on the Etoile and its radiating avenues but they were a minority. The great majority of the rioters were, by my reckoning, men and some women in their 30s and 40s from suffering rural towns in northern or western France and the hardscrabble outer suburbs of greater Paris. They came dressed and armed for combat.

There are similarities between the insurrection of 2018 and the student rebellion of 1968 – and even similarities between Saturday’s events and the banlieues riots of 2005. All three movements lacked accepted leaders. All three had no clear or broadly agreed political objective or manifesto. But the comparisons should not be pushed too far.

There was a joyous side to the 1968 rebellion. It was a revolt against the ennui of postwar social conservatism as much as capitalism. It was hijacked by the trades unions and then resolved by a general pay rise and the summer holidays. Above all, 1968 was a time of growing prosperity in France. In 2018, part of the country is thriving but much feels abandoned and rejected. The 2005 riots were a shout of anger against police violence and economic deprivation. They were never the religious-political “intifada” decreed by some in the French and foreign media. After exhausting their anger, the very young rioters went back to normal life.

The gilets jaunes do have a series of demands but they are not accepted by all. They range from the abolition of next month’s planned rise in green taxes on petrol and diesel, to a referendum to impeach Macron, to a new constitution in which all laws would be decided by popular vote.

The yellow vests do have informal leaders or spokespeople but they are rejected or disputed or threatened with violence by other gilets jaunes as soon as they emerge. Part of the movement is faux-Maoist in pushing its hatred of politicians to the point of hating any would-be politicians who emerge from their own ranks.

A second attempt by the yellow vests to create a delegation to meet the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, will be made this week. Even if a programme of negotiations emerges, it is unlikely to be accepted by the blindly angry people I saw on the streets of Paris last Saturday. Will Paris burn again? Quite probably.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/03/paris-streets-riots-violence

Edited by Beltaine fox

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Terrible scenes in Moscow as police beat protesters against the President

Oops no, sorry it's Paris, so it's not any kind of indication of the tyrannical nature of Macron, which it definately would be in Russia. As such, Victoria Nuland will not be handing out cookies to the Gilets Jaunes ... not nearly fascist enough yet.

 

 

 

Edited by Beltaine fox

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The Guardian had another very Guardian opinion piece on the crisis in France which, although well written, exhibited everything wrong with the Guardian/liberal/centrist conceit.

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Riots, low ratings … where did it all go wrong for Emmanuel Macron?
Marion Van Renterghem

The French president hasn’t just lost his touch, he is enabling the populism he was supposed to defeat

[...]

For those who, like myself, see no other solution than a unified Europe in a globalised world, a Europe facing China and Russia and deprived of the support of the United States, Macron was like a gift from heaven. In 2017 the uproarious French presidential election had at one point seemed likely to come down to a showdown between Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who have more similarities than differences – particularly in their shared hatred of the EU. The man who beat both was this reformer who came out of the blue with neither a party nor a political base.

In a politically moribund landscape, Macron was the sole bearer of optimistic values – the opposite of populist parties that feed off their hatred of the system and elites. And yet he conquered the Elysée by defending as a priority the unpopular European project – a high-risk strategy.

Now the carriage has turned into a pumpkin. Macron’s popularity has plummeted to 26%. Opinion polls for the 2019 European parliament elections predict that Le Pen’s National Rally will be level with Macron’s La République En Marche – if not far ahead. According to political scientist Pascal Perrineau, he has lost three parts of his voter base: the left and the centre-left through his fiscal measures in favour of the rich; pensioners who have suffered cuts; and the middle classes and young voters. With these last ones, the bottom is falling out of Macronism: there is no longer any centrism as defined by Macron’s famous “at the same time” expression.

[...]

His phrases stigmatising “people who are nothing” and claiming “I only have to cross the street and I can find you a job” didn’t help, and the diesel revolt was the final straw. Because of his political inexperience, his intellectual arrogance, his hubris, and by taking himself for a solitary Jupiterian hero, Macron has locked himself into the image of the president of the rich. Now, France – which prefers equality to freedom – is slapping him in the face.

Macronism was magnificent – but so far it has failed. I get the feeling of a huge waste. Walking down the Champs Elysées last Sunday and seeing the rioters’ destruction from the night before offered a hint of what we have ended up with. The most anti-populist leader France could have hoped for finds himself actually reinforcing populism. And the experience of his centrist cousins doesn’t bode well: Barack Obama gave rise to Donald Trump, Matteo Renzi to Matteo Salvini, and Angela Merkel’s departure could result in chaos.


 


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/28/emmanuel-macron-populism-french-president

It was plain from the very beginning that Macron was going to be a massive failure, he was a fake populist centrist backed by the banks offering the same tired and failing neoliberalism we've had shoved down our throats since the 80's. Macron won not because he presented anything new but because the left were forced to back him by Le Pen being the alternative. Macron had nothing new whatsoever to offer except his stupid little pompous arrogant face. 

I cannot imagine the depths of delusion of anyone who could believe Macron offered something positive. Also note the author uses a fear of Russia to support her belief in keeping the EU together and nothing else, she doesn't seem to even grasp that the EU was not about Europe being unified against an outside threat, but about stopping us fighting wars among ourselves, something we've done throughout history! Ultimately the author is clearly contented, and frightened of change, her hopes in Macron were that he could 'hold the fort' against the discontented, but of course he's only exhibiting the utter redundancy of everything he advocates, how could he do anything else?

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This scene of the trouble in Aubervilliers seems to show one of the rioters carrying a hand gun (the big guy in black at the beginning)

 

 

 

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The People Of France Reject Macron's Policies - How Long Can He Survive?

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The current wave of protests in France, which started two weeks ago, is growing in impact and applied violence. On Saturday some 120,000 people took part in demonstrations around the country. The movement was initiated from the political right but many other parties also support it. Most of the participants seem to take part spontaneously. The movement is supposedly leaderless. But it is too early to exclude that there is some larger organizing power behind it.

In short: The Arab spring arrived in Europe.

parisriots4.jpg

"The people demand the fall of the regime."

Like the 1968 May protests that started in Paris this new movement will have echos in other countries.

While mostly peaceful protest were held in all parts of France the situation in Paris caught the most attention. On Saturday the protesters stormed the Arc de Triomphe. They rearranged the interior, damaged a statue of Marianne, and redecorated the outside.

When the riot police tried to intervene it came under a hail of cobble stones (vid) and had to retreat. Graffiti left behind by the protesters read: 'We’ve chopped off heads for less than this', 'Topple the Bougeoisie', 'May 1968 December 2018'.

The immediate reason for the protests are an increase of the fuel tax that President Marcron defends as a step to fight climate change. But the fuel tax is only the last drop of a steady stream of price increases for the poor and middle class while their income stagnates. Meanwhile the rich are receiving one tax cut after the other. The fuel price is important for anyone who needs to drive to work. Public transport may work well within the Paris ring-road but most people live beyond the view of the Elysées and do need a car.

On Saturday the peaceful protesters in Paris were accompanied by 'moderate rebels'. They left behind the usual trail but are still waiting for foreign powers to arm them.

Trump does not get along with Macron. How long will it take for him to suggests a no-fly zone?

The use of yellow warning vests, gilets jaunes in french, give the protester a smell of an arranged 'color revolution'. Then again - it is always helpful in demonstrations to distinguish one's side. These warning vests are mandatory emergency equipment in each car, they are readily available and sell for as little as €0.65.

After seeing the same neoliberal policies executed under the presidencies of Sarkozy and Hollande, the French people despised both the conservative party as well as the 'socialists'. But they well still not ready to move to a more radical parties on the right or left side.

The powers that be put up a former Rothschild banker as an alternative to the established parties and the media pushed him over the finish line. But Macron is even more neoliberal that Sarkozy or Hollande ever were and he is way more aloof and arrogant than both of them. He resembles a modern Marie Antoinette: 'If they don't like my fuel taxes let them buy electric cars.'

Macrons next projects are a pension reform and changes in the unemployment insurance. Both will cause more protests. Polls show that the French public overwhelmingly supports the yellow vests protests and their demands while Macron's popularity has fallen from 55% in May 2017 to some 27% now.

Some commentators blame the EU for Macron's policies. But that excuse is false. The EU did not demand the elimination of the wealth tax in France. Moreover - the EU implements the policy guidelines the large EU countries set out. Macron could surely change those if he wanted to.

On Saturday both sides were violent. But Macron and his police are far from innocent in the escalation. On May 1 Macron's top security aide Alexandre Benalla was filmed beating up protesters. In July a scandal ensued when Macron attempted to cover up the case. He sees violence as an appropriate way to handle resistance against his polices.

On Saturday the police even deployed sniper teams on roofs.

One clip purports to show a protester going down after being hit by a bullet, followed by a light streak that seems to be from a tracer round fired from above. Another clip shows some ten heavily protected policemen using their tonfa sticks to beat the shit out of one lone unarmed protester. As usual it is difficult to verify these videos.

Today an 80 year old lady in Marseille got killed when a police tear gas canister hit her face.

Anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd commentated (vid, french) on the riots on a French TV show. Sophia translated his main points:

"The violence comes from Macron. He seems to take pleasure in humiliating ordinary people. With with the Benalla affair, we saw the violence coming out directly, not only from the Elysées, but from the mind of the president.

By refusing to enact a moratorium on the taxes that provoked the protests, the govt is enacting the strategy of chaos whereby if these protests, which are popular now, continue, a layer of the population will rise against them."

Macron might enact a state of emergency but that would only fuel the protests. It is doubtful that Macron's plan of a 'strategy of chaos' will work. The French president gets elected for 5 years. Only 18 month in Macron managed to move a large majority against him. It is unlikely that he will serve out his full term.

 

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/12/the-french-people-reject-macrons-policies-how-long-can-he-survive.html

Edited by Beltaine fox

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Saw this coming a mile off. Macron was hailed as some sort of centrist saviour, a new neo-liberal who could champion a new era of stand-for-nothing empty-suit middle-management dickheads. He was never this. He was the alternative to the fascist. The French had enough self respect to not elect a fascist. So they elected a half empty glass of piss.

 

Folks talking like this is a huge deal though, it's France. They riot hard. It's not the end of the world. 

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I'm extra angry because he's setting back the cause of carbon emissions reduction by doing it in the most stupid way possible :(. Other governments are going to point to this and use it as justification for not making big enough cuts. The real lesson they need to learn is that you don't try to use a price signal to stop people using fossil fuels without making sure there's a cheap, viable, widely available alternative for people to transition to. If you're raising prices using a tax you have no excuse - you're collecting extra revenue. Use it to improve public transport, subsidise electric vehicles, install charging points, give transport workers rebates, whatever you have to do!

Edited by lisae

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The fuel taxes are just part of the problem. According to people in France, the real issue is wealth inequality.  Click the link and read a few testimonies. Painting these folks as anti-planet thugs will just damage people's sympathies for the green movement.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/03/paris-streets-riots-violence#comments

Edited by mikey mikey

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Just as yet another illustration of what a pompous little prick Macron his, he publically humiliated a teenager for addressing him with the informal "Manu" (short for Emmanuel)

 

 

Edited by Beltaine fox

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This is something bigger than the usual French rioting, attacking the Arc de Triomphe is something radically new for France. 

 

 

 

Edited by Beltaine fox

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See I get that this is more rioting than maybe people expected but I'm still not surprised. The man is a giant dickhead. He crawled over the line as an unpopular alternative to national humiliation and started to immediately carry himself like Napoleon. His politics was always toxic as fuck. France was already a deeply troubled country. Had he approached the job with more respect for the task at hand, and more respect for the French people, he might have done better but instead he has always had the demeanour of a monarch who having been crowned expects everybody to fall into line and respect his bullshit.

It's far more personal I think than a lot of folks want to think, the bottom line is that being the darling of the centrists counts for nothing. Being a centrist in the 21st century is just not going to cut it. The political centre cannot survive in a world where radical decisions need to be made on both sides. You can't save democracy by sitting on the fence.

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Les Gilets Jaunes – A Bright Yellow Sign of Distress

DIANA JOHNSTONE • DECEMBER 3, 2018 

Every automobile in France is supposed to be equipped with a yellow vest. This is so that in case of accident or breakdown on a highway, the driver can put it on to ensure visibility and avoid getting run over.

So the idea of wearing your yellow vest to demonstrate against unpopular government measures caught on quickly. The costume was at hand and didn’t have to be provided by Soros for some more or less manufactured “color revolution”. The symbolism was fitting: in case of socio-economic emergency, show that you don’t want to be run over.

As everybody knows, what set off the protest movement was yet another rise in gasoline taxes. But it was immediately clear that much more was involved. The gasoline tax was the last straw in a long series of measures favoring the rich at the expense of the majority of the population. That is why the movement achieved almost instant popularity and support.

The Voices of the People

The Yellow Vests held their first demonstrations on Saturday, November 17 on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was totally unlike the usual trade union demonstrations, well organized to march down the boulevard between the Place de la République and the Place de la Bastille, or the other way around, carrying banners and listening to speeches from leaders at the end. The Gilets Jaunes just came, with no organization, no leaders to tell them where to go or to harangue the crowd. They were just there, in the yellow vests, angry and ready to explain their anger to any sympathetic listener.

Briefly, the message was this: we can’t make ends meet. The cost of living keeps going up, and our incomes keep going down. We just can’t take it any more. The government must stop, think and change course.

But so far, the reaction of the government was to send police to spray torrents of tear gas on the crowd, apparently to keep the people at a distance from the nearby Presidential residence, the Elysee Palace. President Macron was somewhere else, apparently considering himself above and beyond it all.

But those who were listening could learn a lot about the state of France today. Especially in the small towns and rural areas, where many protesters came from. Things are much worse than officials and media in Paris have let on.

There were young women who were working seven days a week and despaired of having enough money to feed and clothe their children.

People were angry but ready to explain very clearly the economic issues.

Colette, age 83, doesn’t own a car, but explained to whoever would listen that the steep rise of gasoline prices would also hurt people who don’t drive, by affecting prices of food and other necessities. She had done the calculations and figured it would cost a retired person 80 euros per month.

“Macron didn’t run on the promise to freeze pensions,” recalled a Yellow Vest, but that is what he has done, along with increasing solidarity taxes on pensioners.

A significant and recurring complaint concerned the matter of health care. France has long had the best public health program in the world, but this is being steadily undermined to meet the primary need of capital: profit. In the past few years, there has been a growing government campaign to encourage, and finally to oblige people to subscribe to a “mutuelle”, that is, a private health insurance plan, ostensibly to fill “the gaps” not covered by France’s universal health coverage. The “gaps” can be the 15% that is not covered for ordinary illnesses (grave illnesses are covered 100%), or for medicines taken off the “covered” list, or for dental work, among other things. The “gaps” to fill keep expanding, along with the cost of subscribing to the mutuelle. In reality, this program, sold to the public as modernizing improvement, is a gradual move toward privatization of health care. It is a sneaky method of opening the whole field of public health to international financial capital investment. This gambit has not fooled ordinary people and is high on the list of complaints by the Gilets Jaunes.

The degradation of care in the public hospitals is another complaint. There are fewer and fewer hospitals in rural areas, and one must “wait long enough to die” emergency rooms. Those who can afford it are turning to private hospitals. But most can’t. Nurses are overworked and underpaid. When one hears what nurses have to endure, one is reminded that this is indeed a noble profession.

In all this I was reminded of a young woman we met at a public picnic in southwestern France last summer. She cares for elderly people who live at home alone in rural areas, driving from one to another, to feed them, bathe them, offer a moment of cheerful company and understanding. She loves her vocation, loves helping old people, although it barely allows her to make a living. She will be among those who will have to pay more to get from one patient to the next.

People pay taxes willingly when they are getting something for it. But not when the things they are used to are being taken away. The tax evaders are the super-rich and the big corporations with their batteries of lawyers and safe havens, or intruders like Amazon and Google, but ordinary French people have been relatively disciplined in paying taxes in return for excellent public services: optimum health care, first class public transport, rapid and efficient postal service, free university education. But all that is under assault from the reign of financial capital called “neo-liberalism” here. In rural areas, more and more post offices, schools and hospitals are shut down, unprofitable train service is discontinued as “free competition” is introduced following European Union directives – measures which oblige people to drive their cars more than ever. Especially when huge shopping centers drain small towns of their traditional shops.

Incoherent Energy Policies

And the tax announced by the government – an additional 6.6 cents per liter for diesel and an additional 2.9 centers per liter of gasoline – are only the first steps in a series of planned increases over the next years. The measures are supposed to incite people to drive less or even better, to scrap their old vehicles and buy nice new electric cars.

More and more “governance” is an exercise in social engineering by technocrats who know what is best. This particular exercise goes directly opposite to an earlier government measure of social engineering which used economic incitements to get people to buy cars running on diesel. Now the government has changed its mind. Over half of personal vehicles still run on diesel, although the percentage has been dropping. Now their owners are told to go buy an electric car instead. But people living on the edge simply can’t afford the switch.

Besides, the energy policy is incoherent. In theory, the “green” economy includes shutting down France’s many nuclear power plants. Without them, where would the electricity come from to run the electric cars? And nuclear power is “clean”, no CO2. So what is going on? People wonder.

The most promising alternative sources of energy in France are the strong tides along northern coasts. But last July, the Tidal Energies project on the Normandy coast was suddenly dropped because it wasn’t profitable – not enough customers. This is symptomatic of what is wrong with the current government. Major new industrial projects are almost never profitable at first, which is why they need government support and subsidies to get going, with a view to the future. Such projects were supported under de Gaulle, raising France to the status of major industrial power, and providing unprecedented prosperity for the population as a whole. But the Macron government is not investing in the future nor doing anything to preserve industries that remain. The key French energy corporation Alstom was sold to General Electric under his watch.

Indeed, it is perfectly hypocritical to call the French gas tax an “ecotax” since the returns from a genuine ecotax would be invested to develop clean energies – such as tidal power plants. Rather, the benefits are earmarked to balance the budget, that is, to serve the government debt. The Macronian gas tax is just another austerity measure – along with cutting back public services and “selling the family jewels”, that is, selling potential money-makers like Alstom, port facilities and the Paris airports.

The Government Misses the Point

Initial government responses showed that they weren’t listening. They dipped into their pool of clichés to denigrate something they didn’t want to bother to understand.

President Macron’s first reaction was to guilt-trip the protesters by invoking the globalists’ most powerful argument for imposing unpopular measures: global warming. Whatever small complaints people may have, he indicated, that is nothing compared to the future of the planet.

This did not impress people who, yes, have heard all about climate change and care as much as anyone for the environment, but who are obliged to retort: “I’m more worried about the end of the month than about the end of the world.”

After the second Yellow Vest Saturday, November 25, which saw more demonstrators and more tear gas, the Minister in charge of the budget, Gérard Darmanin, declared that what had demonstrated on the Champs-Elysée was “la peste brune”, the brown plague, meaning fascists. (For those who enjoy excoriating the French as racist, it should be noted that Darmanin is of Algerian working class origins). This remark caused an uproar of indignation that revealed just how great is public sympathy for the movement – over 70% approval by latest polls, even after uncontrolled vandalism. Macron’s Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, was obliged to declare that government communication had been badly managed. Of course, that is the familiar technocratic excuse: we are always right, but it is all a matter of our “communication”, not of the facts on the ground.

Maybe I have missed something, but of the many interviews I have listened to, I have not heard one word that would fall into the categories of “far right”, much less “fascism” – or even that indicated any particular preference in regard to political parties. These people are wholly concerned with concrete practical issues. Not a whiff of ideology – remarkable in Paris!

Some people ignorant of French history and eager to exhibit their leftist purism have suggested that the Yellow Vests are dangerously nationalistic because they occasionally wave French flags and sing La Marseillaise. That simply means that they are French. Historically, the French left is patriotic, especially when it is revolting against the aristocrats and the rich or during the Nazi Occupation. It is just a way of saying, We are the people, we do the work, and you must listen to our grievances. To be a bad thing, “nationalism” must be aggressive toward other nations. This movement is not attacking anybody, it is strictly staying home.

The Weakness of Macron

The Yellow Vests have made clear to the whole world that Emmanuel Macron was an artificial product sold to the electorate by an extraordinary media campaign.

Macron was the rabbit magically pulled out of a top hat, sponsored by what must be called the French oligarchy. After catching the eye of established king-maker Jacques Attali, the young Macron was given a stint at the Rothschild bank where he could quickly gain a small fortune, ensuring his class loyalty to his sponsors. Media saturation and the scare campaign against “fascist” Marine LePen (who moreover flubbed her major debate) put Macron in office. He had met his wife when she was teaching his theater class, and now he gets to play President.

The mission assigned to him by his sponsors was clear. He must carry through more vigorously the “reforms” (austerity measures) already undertaken by previous governments, which had often dawdled at hastening the decline of the social State.

And beyond that, Macron was supposed to “save Europe”. Saving Europe means saving the European Union from the quagmire in which it finds itself.

This is why cutting expenses and balancing the budget is his obsession. Because that’s what he was chosen to do by the oligarchy that sponsored his candidacy. He was chosen by the financial oligarchy above all to save the European Union from threatening disintegration caused by the euro. The treaties establishing the EU and above all the common currency, the euro, have created an imbalance between member states that is unsustainable. The irony is that previous French governments, starting with Mitterrand, are largely responsible for this state of affairs. In a desperate and technically ill-examined effort to keep newly unified Germany from becoming the dominant power in Europe, the French insisted on binding Germany to France by a common currency. Reluctantly, the Germans agreed to the euro – but only on German terms. The result is that Germany has become the unwilling creditor of equally unwilling EU member states, Italy, Spain, Portugal and of course, ruined Greece. The financial gap between Germany and its southern neighbors keeps expanding, which causes ill will on all sides.

Germany doesn’t want to share economic power with states it considers irresponsible spendthrifts. So Macron’s mission is to show Germany that France, despite its flagging economy, is “responsible”, by squeezing the population in order to pay interest on the debt. Macron’s idea is that the politicians in Berlin and the bankers in Frankfurt will be so impressed that they will turn around and say, well done Emmanuel, we are ready to throw our wealth into a common pot for the benefit of all 27 Member States. And that is why Macron will stop at nothing to balance the budget, to make the Germans love him.

So far, the Macron magic is not working on the Germans, and it’s driving his own people into the streets.

Or are they his own people? Does Macron really care about his run of the mill compatriots who just work for a living? The consensus is that he does not.

Macron is losing the support both of the people in the streets and the oligarchs who sponsored him. He is not getting the job done.

Macron’s rabbit-out-of-the hat political ascension leaves him with little legitimacy, once the glow of glossy magazine covers wears off. With help from his friends, Macron invented his own party, La République en Marche, which doesn’t mean much of anything but suggested action. He peopled his party with individuals from “civil society”, often medium entrepreneurs with no political experience, plus a few defectors from either the Socialist or the Republican Parties, to occupy the most important government posts.

The only well-known recruit from “civil society” was the popular environmental activist, Nicolas Hulot, who was given the post of Minister of Environment, but who abruptly resigned in a radio announcement last August, citing frustration.

Macron’s strongest supporter from the political class was Gérard Collomb, Socialist Mayor of Lyons, who was given the top cabinet post of Minister of Interior, in charge of the national police. But shortly after Hulot left, Collomb said he was leaving too, to go back to Lyons. Macron entreated him to stay on, but on October 3, Collomb went ahead and resigned, with a stunning statement referring to “immense problems” facing his successor. In the “difficult neighborhoods” in the suburbs of major cities, he said, the situation is “very much degraded : it’s the law of the jungle that rules, drug dealers and radical Islamists have taken the place of the Republic.” Such suburbs need to be “reconquered”.

After such a job description, Macron was at a loss to recruit a new Interior Minister. He groped around and came up with a crony he had chosen to head his party, ex-Socialist Christophe Castaner. With a degree in criminology, Castaner’s main experience qualifying him to head the national police is his close connection, back in his youth in the 1970s, with a Marseilles Mafioso, apparently due to his penchant for playing poker and drinking whiskey in illegal dens.

Saturday, November 17, demonstrators were peaceful, but resented the heavy tear-gas attacks. Saturday November 25, things got a big rougher, and on Saturday December 1st, all hell broke loose. With no leaders and no service d’ordre (militants assigned to protect the demonstrators from attacks, provocations and infiltration), it was inevitable that casseurs (smashers) got into the act and started smashing things, looting shops and setting fires to trash cans, cars and even buildings. Not only in Paris, but all over France: from Marseilles to Brest, from Toulouse to Strasbourg. In the remote town of Puy en Velay, known for its chapel perched on a rock and its traditional lace-making, the Prefecture (national government authority) was set on fire. Tourist arrivals are cancelled and fancy restaurants are empty and department stores fear for their Christmas windows. The economic damages are enormous.

And yet, support for the Yellow Vests remains high, probably because people are able to distinguish between those grieved citizens and the vandals who love to wreak destruction for its own sake.

On Monday, there were suddenly fresh riots in the troubled suburbs that Collomb warned about as he retreated to Lyons. This was a new front for the national police, whose representatives let it be known that all this was getting to be much too much for them to cope with. Announcing a state of emergency is not likely to solve anything.

Macron is a bubble that has burst. The legitimacy of his authority is very much in question. Yet he was elected in 2017 for a five year term, and his party holds a large majority in parliament that makes his removal almost impossible.

So what next? Despite having been sidelined by Macron’s electoral victory in 2017, politicians of all hews are trying to recuperate the movement – but discreetly, because the Gilets Jaunes have made clear their distrust of all politicians. This is not a movement that seeks to take power. It simply seeks redress of its grievances. The government should have listened in the first place, accepted discussions and compromise. This gets more difficult as time goes on, but nothing is impossible.

For some two or three hundred years, people one could call “left” hoped that popular movements would lead to changes for the better. Today, many leftists seem terrified of popular movements for change, convinced “populism” must lead to “fascism”. This attitude is one of many factors indicating that the changes ahead will not be led by the left as it exists today. Those who fear change will not be there to help make it happen. But change is inevitable and it need not be for the worse.

Notes

The exception was the student uprising of May 1968, which was not a revolt of the poor but a revolt in a time of prosperity in favor of greater personal freedom: “it is forbidden to forbid”. The May ’68 generation has turned out to be the most anti-French generation in history, for reasons that can’t be dealt with here. To some extent, the Yellow Vests mark a return of the people after half a century of scorn from the liberal intelligentsia.

 

http://www.unz.com/article/les-gilets-jaunes-a-bright-yellow-sign-of-distress/

Edited by Beltaine fox

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4 hours ago, Snorky said:

The French lurch right towards Le Pen.

 

So the decrepit, discredited and redundant neoliberal centrists say, in an effort to trick the left into helping them hang on, but they are the sort of people who still live in the 70's and go on about the horrors of Harold Wilson.

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Quote

 

We’re With the Rebels
BY
AURÉLIE DIANARA

France's "yellow vest" protests against fuel prices weren't organized by the Left. But the fight to widen their demands is key to blocking the growth of Marine Le Pen's far right.

[...]

But also notable is the media coverage of these protests: indeed, no other recent social movement in France has had similar visibility. For ten days, the whole French press has been busy figuring out who these unlikely  protesters actually are. Many of them tell journalists that they have never previously demonstrated: it proclaims itself an apolitical citizens’ movement, and indeed, emerged outside of the political and trade-union frameworks that usually dominate large mobilizations.

This is, indeed, a composite, embryonic movement with many faces: men and women, employees, precarious workers, those on unemployment benefits, the economically inactive, retirees, teachers, businessmen, and workers. Some party members and trade unionists are there, too, mixed in among the mass. They come from both right and left. But they do have one point in common: this is the France that struggles to make it to the end of the month. Simply put, a movement of the people. But not all of them.

The people who are mobilizing in the gilets jaunes movement are the people of peripheral France: those who come not from large urban centers but from smaller towns and rural areas. A part of the country that is not usually seen is today rising up. To make itself visible it wears the flourescent yellow vest, a reflective garment every driver has to keep in their car. They came together, and organized, on social media — a few weeks ago groups started being created for each département (small administrative units of France) — and sometimes they held a few preparatory meetings before they took to the streets on dawn of Saturday 17.

[...]

In terms of their demands, the gilets jaunes first of all want to get rid of this “carbon tax.” But behind the anger there is something else. As they and their supporters have repeated over the last two weeks, to justify their actions (which have stirred no little upset), the fuel price issue is something of a “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The voices heard in recent days express a clear feeling of exasperation, the sense of being the objects of the contempt of (and exclusion by) a political class which they generally reject. Many call for the government and President Emmanuel Macron to resign. They continually insist on his low support and weak electoral legitimacy: after all, in last year’s presidential contest he only scored 24 percent in the first round, and turnout in the runoff hit historic low. “Macron, resign!” is a slogan that thunders through the provinces and along the Champs Elysées.

This feeling of exasperation is the result of years of fiscal and social policies that have gradually strangled the low and middle classes, including in terms of the tax take. Immediately upon reaching office, Macron abolished the Solidarity Wealth Tax (ISF), giving €4 billion to the richest; and has strengthened the Tax Credit for Solidarity and Employment (CICE), a tax cut and exemption program transferring €41 billion a year to French companies, including multinationals. Shortly afterwards, with the 2018 budget bill, Macron established a flat tax that allowed a lowering of taxation on capital, handing another €10 billion to the richest.

At the same time, the government has increased the General Social Contribution (CSG) income tax to be paid by pensioners, while pensions themselves have ceased to be indexed to inflation (and thus to retirees’ ability to buy consumer goods). It has got rid of the subsidized contracts (which allowed large numbers to work on contracts partly financed by public bodies) and lowered by five euros a month the amount of housing contributions (APL) for the most disadvantaged.

As if that were not enough, the new “carbon tax” will weigh five times heavier on the budgets of the middle classes than on that of the upper classes. Yet the government has taken no steps to counterbalance this obviously unequal treatment — for example by giving aid to the families on the most modest budgets.

Building on policies already implemented by presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, the effect has been to produce a further massive increase in inequalities. Over the last two decades the largest fortunes in France have increased tenfold, while according to a recent study by OFCE and INSEE, French families’ average “purchasing power” has fallen by €440 a year since the 2008 crisis. In this context, it is unsurprising that a sense of injustice and humiliation has spread, as well as that of an arrogant “president of the rich.”

This has exacerbated a divide between the people and the privileged elite represented by the president, aggravated by a series of recent financial scandals enveloping recent heads of state. If governments have continued to repeat that tax breaks for the richest and big companies would stimulate investment, the figures tell us otherwise: we are still waiting for the million jobs promised by Hollande and his then-adviser Macron when CICE was launched in 2012.

The movement is not limited to mainland France, but has also reached France’s “ex”-colonies in the overseas territories and in particular the island of Réunion. In a territory where unemployment is sky-high and 42 percent of people live under the poverty line, the prices of petrol, gas, and electricity have also continued to increase. As in rural and peripheral France, such territories have particularly suffered the degradation of public services over the last decade or more, as governments close the hospitals, courts, and train stations taxes are meant to pay for. The social contract crumbles, and gives way to anger.

In Réunion, in fact, the movement has assumed particularly impressive proportions, with clashes with police, the torching of cars and “self-discounts” (collective shoplifting) all leading to the introduction, Tuesday last week, of a curfew imposed by the island’s police prefect.

Indeed, while the regional council announced on November 21 that it would freeze fuel prices for the next three years, the tensions have not abated and the gilets jaunes now demand a cut in petrol costs. The movement’s demands have also spread to include the cost of living, access to jobs, measures to tackle inequality, and a broader demand for respect.

On November 26 the gilets jaunes across France named eight “national communicators” on Facebook, responsible for dialogue with the government. While some in the movement question how representative they are, these spokespersons have requested a meeting with the government to carry forth the movement’s demands.

The main proposals formulated thus far are a general decrease in taxation and the creation of a “citizen’s assembly” to discuss the ecological transition, respect for citizens’ voices, the increase in purchasing power, and renewed value being attributed to labor. The assembly would also discuss such diverse measures as a ban on glyphosphate, the marketing of biofuels, the abolition of the senate, the organization of frequent local and national-level referenda, the increase in subsidies for the creation of jobs (and not precarious ones), respect for gender parity and equal treatment, an increase in the minimum wage, and the cutting of employers’ social contributions.

Yesterday, the gilets jaunes issued a press release including about forty “peoples’ directives,” sent also to MPs. These included measures such as the complete resolution of homelessness, a more strongly progressive tax system, a universal social security system, MPs on the average salary, forbidding outsourcing and posted work, creating more open-ended contracts, abolition of the CICE, investment in sustainable transport, the end of austerity policies, the introduction of a maximum salary (at €15,000 a month), rent controls, and an immediate end to the closing of rail lines, post offices, schools and nurseries, and so on.

All this seems like a challenge to the policies of the “anti–Robin Hood” president who robs from the poor and gives to the rich. Countless placards call for Macron’s resignation, and indeed this movement follows after many others which began even before November 17, from the fight against university reform and public-sector cuts to the battle against the repression conducted in the name of “fighting terrorism.” Yet it remains to be seen whether the much-sought-after “convergence of the struggles” will finally come true.

The gilets jaunes are looked at with a good deal of confusion, suspicion, and mistrust — not only by a condescending media, but also across large swathes of the comments coming from the varied world of the Left. Criticisms of their behavior have been influenced by an evident contempt for the “lower classes”: social media are awash with jokes about the “pig-headed” “imbeciles” of the “France d’en bas.” Such derision also appeared across the social networks close to the autonomous “movement” left, before the powerful demonstration of November 17.

Some doubts are legitimate. Ecologists and the defenders of nature have been, to say the least, disconcerted by the hubbub around a movement that basically asks to be able to burn more fuel at a lower price and that seemed initially uninterested in the government’s at least explicit intention to use this “carbon tax” to fund the ecological transition.

This is one of the main reasons why the unions and leftist forces initially did not support the movement. Faced with the extent of the mobilization, however, many have reconsidered their positioning; indeed, all the forces of the opposition from left to right (with the exception of the Greens) have discreetly expressed their support for the movement, while also being careful not to be accused of opportunistically “recuperating” it for their own political ends.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, writer and MP François Ruffin, and other figures from France Insoumise — as well as many of its grassroots militants — took part in the mobilizations alongside the gilets jaunes. On Tuesday November 20 the moderate trade union FO Transports voiced its backing. Even Philippe Martinez, the general secretary of the main French trade union, the initially skeptical CGT, has finally expressed his cautious support and called for a joint demonstration on December 1.

Support has also begun to arrive from the left of the movements. For instance, the Vérité pour Adama committee — which fights for justice and truth on the death of Adama Traoré, a twenty-four-year-old killed in a police station in July 2016 in Beaumont-sur-Oise, a poor district in the Parisian suburbs — has announced that it will join the gilets jaunes in the streets next Saturday. Most of the “big names” of the activist and intellectual French left – such as Assa Traoré, Frédéric Lordon, and Edouard Louis – have now called to take to the street in support of the movement.

Despite these late expressions of support, many on the Left continue to doubt this mobilization. The movement’s self-proclaimed apolitical character, and the fact that many gilets jaunes claim to have never taken to the streets before, attracts accusations of “selfishness” or claims that the movement is “petty-bourgeois” in nature. Even those who call for the “convergence of the struggles” found it hard to support the demands of people who did not mobilize last year against the government’s triple offensive against railway workers, students, and migrants.

Above all, there are suspicions of infiltration by Marine le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN, formerly known as Front National), or even claims that fascists are providing direction to the movement. Since the start of mobilization there have been occasional expressions of racism and Islamophobia — incidents which have, unusually, been given wide media coverage. On Friday, CGT leader Martinez alerted his members that gilet jaunes blockades could include “elements of the far right that mix up the demands made with the question of immigration.”

Faced with these doubts, many activists have called for caution, to wait and see what will happen and what direction the movement will take. It is undoubtedly true that the roadblockers include all sorts: above all the “apolitical,” but also the fascists of the RN, supporters of the hard conservative right behind Laurent Wauquiez (Les Républicains), nationalists, Socialists, Insoumis, Communists, trade unionists, anarchists, and so on. But precisely for this reason, the wait-and-see attitude — “let’s see how it turns out” — risks delivering the movement to reactionary tendencies.

Even the moralistic criticisms that accuse the gilets jaunes of materialism and selfishness can be  called into question. Was not the increase in the price of bread the main factor pushing the women of Paris to mount their furious march on Versailles in October 1789? The history of social struggles is peppered with movements arising from an exasperation that owed to the material conditions of the popular classes, movements that can give rise to greater awareness, bring out wider demands, and which can converge with other struggles. Or not.

The gilets jaunes’ situations are complex and multiform, but they express a real discomfort. For the political left to participate in the movement poses many difficulties, but it can at least try to intercept this discomfort, to give it useful slogans, and to prevent it from being recuperated by the far right. This will help the gilets jaunes develop into a movement concerning not only tax but also important ecological and redistributive demands.

[...]

On Tuesday, November 27 Macron made a series of announcements on the ecological transition, without making concessions to the movement. This Friday, a delegation of gilets jaunes should meet with the French prime minister Edouard Philippe. In the meantime, the state has been breaking up the roadblocks and arresting hundreds of people: some have already been sentenced to jail time. On Saturday night a tweet from Macron confirmed his support for the police and declared: “Shame on those who tried to intimidate elected officials. There is no place for violence in the Republic.” As usual, mainstream media have largely served the government’s strategy, focusing attention on violence to discredit the movement.

But there is something more subtle and more Machiavellian — and certainly more dangerous — in Macron’s own strategy. In the government’s (and the media’s) attempt to paint the gilets jaunes movement as a reactionary movement directed by the far right, there is a maneuver to rally support behind his La République en Marche, and thus prepare the ground for the European elections.

This maneuver already began some months ago, and is also connected to the police raids on the offices of La France Insoumise, the main opposition force on the left. In September, after a spring of mobilizations, but especially after the “Benalla affair” (the revelation of videos in which the president’s bodyguard, disguised as a police officer, beat protesters) Macron crashed into the polls.

The France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, conversely, reached his peak support, becoming the main opposition leader. In October, the government hit further crisis with the resignations of the environment minister, the Green Nicolas Hulot — who quit denouncing the lobbyists’ influence on government policy — and of Interior Minister Gérard Collomb.

This was the context in which police raids were ordered on fifteen LFI and connected properties. This was an operation of unprecedented breadth in French political history, especially if we consider that it was just part of a preliminary investigation into LFI’s electoral expenses.

Macron thus opened his campaign for the European elections of May 2019, which aims to present his party as the only “progressive” force standing against the various “nationalisms,” thus pairing the Rassemblement National and France Insoumise in the same “populist” basket. In 2017, Macron was elected mainly thanks to the vote against Le Pen — as had already happened in 2002 when Jacques Chirac won the election against her facther Jean-Marie Le Pen, with the important difference that while Chirac had won with 82 percent of the votes, Macron took 66 percent.

 

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/11/yellow-vests-france-gilets-jaunes-fuel-macron
 

Edited by Beltaine fox

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Parisian cathedral tours were booked out as touring Russian spies flocked to the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, Saint Pierre de Montmartre and Notre-Dame before donning their hi-vis vests and setting fire to the joint.

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Latest opinion poll shows Macron has now dropped further to a 23% approval rating with various other polls showing support for the Gilets Jaunes up to 80%, despite the violence this weekend.

https://www.sudouest.fr/2018/12/04/sondage-emmanuel-macron-au-plus-bas-edouard-philippe-en-forte-baisse-5624737-710.php

The govt has postponed the introduction of the fuel tax and is now saying they will bring back the solidarity tax on the rich (on those with more than 1.3 million Euros), removing this tax was a central pillar of Macron's policies. But voices from the Gilet's Jaunes say it's too little too late and they will continue this weekend, they are becoming more and more about forcing Macron to resign.
 

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11 minutes ago, Beltaine fox said:

they will bring back the solidarity tax on the rich (on those with more than 1.3 million Euros), 
 

That must be the massvie swing to the right that Suggie was talking about.😏

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle seem to be taking this angle, along with preposterous notion that Macron is not actually a right-wing neoliberal intent on smashing the French welfare state, trade unions and public sector while bankrolling the uber rich

 

So folks who want to tax the uber rich  "right wing" and those who want to give them massive tax breaks them while impoverishing the general public represent the political center.

Git ta fuck

Edited by mikey mikey

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