France: Beacon of Hope

I must state that this article refers solely to the masses, not the riotous minority attempting to usurp the movement for their own gain.

These individuals, known as ‘yellow vests’, have started a movement that is spreading across continental Europe – with calls for similar action even being heard in the United Kingdom.

Initially, the movement was a response to the fuel tax rise implemented by French President Emmanuel Macron. However, the movement swiftly grew to encompass a number of issues affecting the lower classes in society – similar issues being experienced by people in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Political austerity is a choice, and this has been recognised by the people of France. Their legislative were failing them, so they rose against the state to express their anger and frustration.

They effectively won, as their legislative were forced to make concessions regarding taxation and wages – if not, the movement would continue to grow and cause disruption across France.

Similar movements have a historical precedent in France – dating back to the 18th Century. France, once again, has sent a message to the people of Europe:

Enough is enough, we do not have to tolerate the systematic exploitation of the lower classes within our society.

This message is universal, just as the values of republicanism were in the 18th Century. France offers a beacon of hope to the rest of the world – especially Europe.

For example, similar movements have emerged in the Netherlands. In Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters marched peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing a song about the Netherlands – they also handed flowers to passer-bys.

Sisters Beb and Ieneke Lambermont, two of those amongst the protesters, said: ‘Our children are hard-working people but they have to pay taxes everywhere. You can’t get housing anymore.’ She continued: ‘The social welfare net we grew up with is gone’.

‘The government is not there for the people. It is there to protect its own interests,’ she concluded.

The only downside to this thriving spirit of reform amongst the people is the potential for violence, but violence remains the preserve of a minority denounced by leadership figures. But, the fact remains, opposition is growing.

Should these movements be replicated by people in the United Kingdom? Well, protests serve an important societal function as they help to maintain the balance of power – but the outbreak of violence can often destroy these movements.

AROUND THE WORLD: French Left Seeks To Trigger No Confidence Vote As Crisis Continues

 

France’s major left wing parliamentary parties are set to launch a no confidence vote against Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government. It comes as the ‘Gilets jaunes’ yellow vest movement show little signs of easing up on their militant protests.

Despite concessions ceased by the Macron administration in face of the widespread militant riots, including a temporary six-month suspension of controversial increases to fuel taxes, the cross spectrum protest movement has remained committed to the struggle. “The French don’t want crumbs, they want a baguette,” yellow vest spokesman Benjamin Cauchy told French news channel BFM.

One of the main parties that makes up the anti-Macron parliamentary left pursuing the no confidence vote is the French Communist Party, a longtime critic of Macrons neoliberal reforms that seek to smash the still strong French trade union movement. The historically communist linked union the CGT has already previously participated in violent demonstrations against the governments reforms and now with farmers set to go on strike next week, the radical trade union movement will likely attempt to capitalise on the success of the yellow vests.

Other left parties partial to the no confidence vote discussions include Jean-Luc Melenchon’s La France Insoumise party. Melenchon, a figurehead of the french left, looks to be the likely radical left candidate set to face off against Macron if such a vote is successful. The more mainstream French Socialist party has also joined in the talks with First Secretary Olivier Faure stating, using the hashtag #Gilesjaunes, “We’ve decided to work together to file a no confidence vote next Monday. During the coming days, we will seek to increase the number of signatories. We have to show that other ways are possible,”

Despite the left unity sentiments not usually seen in other countries, the parliamentary French left will unlikely succeed in passing the no confidence motion due to Macrons LREM party holding a parliamentary majority of 308 in the 500 seat National Assembly. Unless there is a serious defection of deputies, the vote will fail. The government is far more likely to collapse as a result of the dismantling of the French Fifth Republic. It would however, not be the first time radicals have triggered a total collapse of the French political system.

The talks come as both left and right are currently undertaking moves to co-opt the anger and militancy of the yellow vest movement. French fascist leader Marine Le Pen has called for the dissolution of the French National Assembly, no doubt seeking to capitalise on fresh elections in a manner similar to Charles de Gaulle after the May uprising in 1968. On the ground various left and right factions in the yellow vest movement have clashed with each other as well as police. In one incident notorious French Neo-Nazi Yvan Benedetti was knocked out by yellow vest anti-fascists who recognised his presence.

This weekends events will no doubt be a turning point for the movement as the government fears major violence in the coming days. The movement has grown rapidly since its inception and now includes an interlinked union of workers and students. It is clear that this familiar union will struggle tirelessly, as they did in ’68, for their near revolutionary reforms. If such an effort is successful, it will no doubt set France on a new course to that of neoliberalism.

Calls for a ‘State of Emergency’ in France

2nd December 2018

President Emmanuel Macron has been forced to chair an emergency security meeting, following a day of riots by hundreds of anti-government protesters in Paris. One government spokesman has said that a ‘state of emergency’ could be imposed to tackle the social unrest – following over two weeks of civil unrest in France.

 

More than 400 people were arrested on Saturday, with over 300 remaining in police custody on Sunday. President Macron recognised the legitimate concerns of peaceful protesters and said that he would hear their ‘anger’, but he denounced the infiltration of rioters across France. In Buenos Aires, at a news conference, President Macron said he ‘will never accept violence’.

 

Shouts could be heard from the estimated 5,000 gilet jaunes demonstrators at the Champs Élysées: ‘Macron, resign!’ But, by the afternoon the streets witnessed battles between rioters and police. Police have fired tear gas, stun grenades, and deployed a water canon against the disorderly protesters in Paris. Christophe Castaner, Interior Minister, claimed that thousands of troublemakers had come to ‘pillage, smash, steal, wound and even kill’. He claimed those rioters were ‘professionals at causing disorder’.

 

Who are the protesters in France?

 

It is estimated that 300,000 individuals participated in the first country-wide demonstration on 17 November. Grievances include ‘rising taxes’ and ‘falling standards of living’. One of the protesters stated: ‘We’ve got no choice. We have to use our cars in the countryside.’ In response to be questioned about their economic struggles, she said: ‘Every day we feel the impact.’

 

Protesters are from various locations and have a range of political affiliations – the most common attribute is their anger toward the fuel increases in France.

 

The price of diesel has risen by around 23% to 1.51 per litre in the past twelve months – its highest since the early 2000s. Oil prices began to fall, but the increase was exacerbated by the hydrocarbon tax which was raised by 7.6% per litre of diesel in 2018. His decision to impose a further increase of 7.6% on diesel in January 2019 has been seen as the cause of the demonstrations in France.

 

Concerns initially centred on the price of fuel, which led to yellow vests (gilet jaunes) being used as a symbol to unite drivers across France. However, demonstrators have now been raising concerns surrounding the cost of living for individuals and families in France.

AROUND THE WORLD: Anti-Macron Protests Turn Violent As Fuel Crisis Develops

Protests against recent fuel tax rises turned violent in France as citizens clash with police. The protests are just one of the many anti-Macron movements developing within France. Facing pressure from both left and right, Macron see’s yet another challenge to his leadership as his popularity plummets.

100,000 people participated in the most recent protests, and around 8,000 in the capital, engaged in clashes with police. Protestors removed police cordons and tear gas was launched into crowds, leaving 19 people injured, including 4 officers. 30 officers have been injured on the poverty stricken Reunion Island, where troops have been deployed. Overall 2 people have died in the protests so far.

This most recent anti-Macron movement is a different. They describe themselves as apolitical and are leaderless unlike the recent union led protests. Protesters cross political boundaries as anti-tax right wingers and cost-of-living issue leftists have, at least seemingly, united to face off against the embattled president.

These are not the first protests against the centrist leader. Soon after Macron’s election, union leaders and left wing activists actively fought against him, fearing his neoliberal reforms threaten workers rights. Led primarily by the historically linked French Communist Party union, the CGT, large scale protests using physical force tactics have shown that Macron faces a complete crisis.

Macron has taken an unwavering stance against all protests in a manner held by nearly all French presidents who often see themselves facing down an angry, revolutionary section of the masses. France has a proud history of physical force protests, drawing back on its historically significant revolution. The protests hark back to the days of May 1968 where workers and revolutionary students, who held the portraits of Lenin, Marx and Mao, united against Charles De Gaulle.

What can be taken away from these most recent, as well as past, protests is that Macron will very much likely not face re-election. The future of France is in the hands of either the far right or the far left. French National Front fascist Marine Le Pen is one potential future candidate having qualified for the second round in last years election or Communist Party backed past candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon . If the French radical left united around the figure it is likely he could be a suitable challenge to Le Pen.

In any case France is once again caught up in a cycle of its own history. The only way to stop this cycle of centrist leadership leading to protests and violence is the election of a radical candidate. Whether it leads to the rise of the radical left or the far right, like so many times in history before, remains to be seen.