by Robert Wheeler
The recent protests in France seem to have caught everyone by surprise, particularly the French government. Macron’s government seems to have underestimated the demonstrations and the determination of the protesters.
The Western media seems confounded in their attempts to understand or explain them and the rest of the world appears surprised that, in a “rich” Western nation, people could be so discontented over something that doesn’t involve race, gender, or whatever other flashpoint of social justice is being fed to them by MSM and academia, that they would take to the streets for weeks on end.
Every indication we have at this point shows that the French people have finally and legitimately had enough of being oppressed by the government. Still, no one fully knows where the protests are going or how the government is going to react. There has been talk of more and bigger demonstrations with concerns over greater violence and the government has hinted at the possibility of imposing martial law.
As of the writing of this article, there has essentially been a war on the streets of Paris all day and it seems that war is going to continue throughout the night.
The Official Story Of The Protests
Initially, we were told that the protests were the result of a single issue – taxes. This is believable enough. People have been protesting taxes for years. But these protests seem different. First, it is not a mere financial issue such as what taxes have long been considered in the US (mainly because taxes have been relatively low compared to socialist countries in Europe . . . for now) but also because the taxes allegedly spawning the protests have come as a result of the imposition of a fuel tax under the guise of environmental concerns.
The Macron government claims that the taxes are being imposed in order to transition France off of fossil fuel and toward alternative energy for the purpose of combatting climate change.
The taxes are, of course, simply more eco-fascism and money grabbing from the French government which is acting the great tradition of Western governments using climate change, as the Club of Rome once devised, as the crisis that would “fit the bill” to force “wealthy” Westerners to accept much less in terms of their living standards and disposable income. The taxes would have raised the price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in France, by 6.5 cents on January 1. This comes after a previous 7.6 cent hike earlier this year which raised fuel prices by 23%.
While Europeans are generally more accepting of eco-fascist policies (particularly those which do nothing to protect the environment), this rise in fuel prices seems to have been the straw which broke the camel’s back in France. Per the usual, the taxes would have hurt an already seriously overtaxed, overworked, and underpaid populace of middle class, working, and poor people.
And that is precisely who have come out to protest.
The Working Class Is Fed Up.
As a result of Free Trade, European Union Soviet-style “democracy,” socialistic high taxation, and unfettered immigration, the French economy has been going down the tubes. Wages are stagnating and getting lower, unemployment is on the rise, and taxes all around have been going up.
With protest being part of the French culture, thousands of French people took to the streets, donning the yellow vests they are required to keep in their cars by law, as a symbol of “emergency.” Those numbers swelled from thousands to tens of thousands, to a hundred thousand. Now, there really isn’t a way to tell how many protesters are on the streets as Paris itself has become a battleground.
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.
But In Reality, The Protests Are About More Than Taxes
But, as usual, the official story is not the whole story. It appears the protests are about much more than fuel taxes but that the taxes were the fuel to a fire of greater discontent with the entire system. Fuel taxes were just one more example of how an already overtaxed population are being taxed at higher rates yet again when all they want is to work and survive. But it brought to mind just how phony fuel and carbon taxes are – i.e., they do nothing for the environment but they do lower living standards and make it incredibly hard for working people to survive which, ultimately, is their purpose.
But taxes also reminded the French people of how much they are already overtaxed everywhere else, how the elderly can barely survive on their pensions, and how workers, even middle-class ones, are watching their livelihoods shrink. For the poor, they are sitting idle and helplessly unemployed.
On top of that, they watch Emmanuel Macron tell them there are no problems with the economy. If you’re out of a job, just walk across the street and get one! In fact, Macron actually said this to unemployed workers who questioned him as to what he was going to do to remedy growing unemployment in France, furthering his reputation as a lofty limousine liberal vastly disconnected from the population.
Macron himself is an interesting component of this whole situation, having been chosen by power broker Jacques Attali and given a run at a Rothschild bank before assuming the Presidency to impose austerity measures, continue France’s foreign adventures, and essentially destroy the nation with more immigration.
The Protests Are About The State of the Economy, Not Just Taxes.
The protests now seem to be about the general situation of the country, not about the fuel tax specifically. This is relatively obvious since, soon after the protests, the French government put the tax on hold yet the protests continue.
Many of the signs seen at some of these rallies have provided an interesting dimension. For instance, one picture circulating on the internet (assuming the photo is real) shows a sign that reads “Schiappa por pedophile” (Schiappa is a pedophile) while another reads “Vaccins cons poison” (Vaccines are poison). It should be noted that Schiappa is Marlene Schiappa, the French Gender Equality minister.
It should also be noted that France is experiencing a growing anti-vaccination movement even as the French government makes greater moves to mandate and require vaccines. Yet another instance of the growing divide between the French government and the people.
Diana Johnstone describes the protests in her article, “FRANCE: Les ‘Gilets Jaunes’ – A Distress Flare from the People That Macron Should Not Ignore” where she writes,
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 anymore. The government must stop, think and change course.
Things Are Worse Than We Realize In France
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.
Health Care Is Being Undermined.
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.
The Things They Pay Taxes For Are Being Taken Away.
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. Meanwhile, 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.
Are The Protests Real Or Are They Something Else?
At this point, the protests seem entirely genuine. The issues being addressed are very real and the people attending the protests are not the usual suspects. The protesters are the poor, the working class, and the middle class. In general, they are not major trade unions, political parties, or typical political activists. The latter groups tend to be the most easily controlled and manipulated due in part to their own consistent interest in political events coupled with their ignorance of true solutions and how mass movements can be controlled by the forces they believe they are protesting.
By contrast, middle and working class, as well as poor people, tend to be less involved or interested in politics until a tipping point has been reached, a point that is almost never reached by the protests of radicals, activists, or unions.
It also seems that the protests do not have a political bias at all. The protesters do not seem left or right, though some “extreme” left and right-wing political parties have called on their own supporters to support the yellow vest movement. Johnstone states,
Are The Protesters As Radical As They Are Being Labelled?
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!
Indeed, labeling the protesters as “fascists” is not only inaccurate, it is the predictable response of Communists and those on the far left for whom any resistance to their agenda is considered “fascism” and “Nazism.”
Perhaps it is because the protesters are carrying the French flag at their protests that cause so much consternation on the part of globalists. In 2018, any national pride is considered “nationalism” and “nationalism” is considered another appearance of Hitler’s Nazi ideology. Neither is true, obviously. But it is still no surprise that an elite ruling class wishing to eliminate borders and impose neo-liberal globalist policies would find the French flag so stomach-churning.
Nationalism is only dangerous if it becomes aggressive toward other nations and legitimately xenophobic, not when it inspires pride and participation.
The Violence Is Racheting Up
In another development, anarchists have turned up for the protests and, predictably, so has the violence.To be clear, identifying as an anarchist does not equate to violence and the majority of anarchists are indeed non-violent. Still, the present of anarchists in a protest movement with legitimate grievances and legitimate demands is a recipe for disaster since the only contribution anarchists can make is the presence of a body at best. Otherwise, violence, destruction of property, and demands to “smash the state” do nothing but provide a reason for the state to paint the protest movement as unreasonable and thus justify its hold on power or its refusal to give in to those demands.
Anarchists also tend to fall prey to manipulative agendas during the course of mass movement and, as a result, tend to sideline such movements, consume them, and burn up whatever revolutionary fuel they might have had in a blaze of futility. For that reason, the anarchist is one of the more effective grassroots tool in the state’s playbook. Instead of smashing the state, they tend to smash the resistance to the state’s tyranny. See the article “The Duping of Anarchist Revolutionaries – The Modern Anarchist Movement and The Russian Revolution.”
Thus, it is important to separate the “yellow vests” from the anarchists.
So far, the movement seems to be leaderless. On one hand, this makes the movement more likely to be organic and genuine. But the state apparatus is not going to sit back and let its power be challenged. Where a leader is lacking, a leader will be provided – either by the protesters or by the intelligence services or non-governmental organizations that are so skilled at subverting and misdirecting mass movements.
For now, the protests remain genuine as many of this writers’ French contacts have reported. But the yellow vests need to stay focused and on message and they must be wary of any “leaders” with connections to big Foundations, NGOs, or “activist” groups.
Only a set of guiding principles, rigidly adhered to, can keep this movement on track.