Contributed by Joe Montero
It is often not easy to know what is happening on the other side of the the world, especially when volumes of misinformation are involved. The present unrest in France is a good example.
Big media has concentrated on creating a picture of trouble makers attacking the police, putting up roadblocks and attacking the police. There are those who suggest that on the one hand that the political right is behind it. Others that it is Antifa causing trouble.
All of this evades what is going on. Frustration and danger have been growing in French society for some time. Emmanuel Macron won an election, not because the electorate was excited by the policies he offered, but because they were so thoroughly disgusted with the usual brand of politicians. He won by default, because fewer hated him than they did the others. Only the National Front (Now called National Rally) on one side and the Jean Luc Melenchon led Unbowed France on the other, gained genuine bases of support.
Discontent is not unique to France. It’s the situation across Europe and further afield. Even in countries as far away as Australia.
Once in office, Macron went about the business of carrying on the same old neoliberal type cuts and restrictions on the population. A few months ago, attempts to cut working conditions and government benefits and welfare met with rebellion in the streets. The introduction of compulsory military service at 16 and cuts to education opportunities angered the young. This is see nas a government for the rich and it is not going down well at all.
The difference in France is that Macron began with a considerable organised movement prepared to defy him, and there is along French history of getting rid of rulers they find beyond the pale. Uprisings and revolutions are a tradition.
Seething discontent was already on the boil, waiting for a spark that would light it. This came in the shape of two truckies and a woman who started a change.org online petition, teamed together and the Yellow Vests came into existence. People across France and from all walks of life, were ready to take on Macron.
The immediate focus was on the excise on diesel fuel, not because the French are against reducing carbon emission, but because they are against forcing the cost on those whose living standards are already falling, forcing most to pay more tax, while the one percent at the top gets to pay less.
Who are the Yellow Vests?
Video from the Wall Street Journal
This is why up to 80 percent of the French population is behind the Yellow Vests, and why their protest quickly escalated into a general movement against the economic and political direction of the Macron government.
This is what has been going on
Unions and social movements are taking part. School and university students have joined in. People in the owns and country are involved. It seems to be growing every day. The harder the police were sent in, the harder those at the other end fought.
Interviews in the street
Video from euronews (in English)
There are even growing signs of discontent among the police. Many don’t want to be used in this way. Isolation has forced Macron to backtrack on the fuel excise, tax breaks for the rich and other measures. It was too little too late. The movement had already gone past this and shows no sign of backing off until the other concerns have been met.
High school students take to the streets
Video from No Comment TV
Shocking scene of high school students being arrested
Video from euronews (in English)
Protest in the streets may not last for ever. Nevertheless,this is a movement not about to go away and stands a good chance of transforming the political landscape. Macron and his government seem to be on very shaky ground and might not last much longer.
Yesterday, Macron met with representatives of employers organisations and unions, members of parliament and local officials to try and build support for an easing of tensions. It is reported that he has put on the table further tax relief for he average french citizen. There is no sense yet that this has been enough to get support.
He has just addressed the nation on television sand claimed to be on the side of working people. The early indication is that this is making little difference.
Paramedics join in the movement
Video from Al Jazeera English
But what is going to come next?
How will this impact on the rest of Europe and what will be the effect on the rest of the world?