The ‘gilets jaunes’ movement in France represents one of the greatest victories for social justice in recent history. It has proven that the country will not stand idly by as a nieve government continues to pass disastrous laws that harm the people, but as protests descend into prolonged violence and anarchy we have to ask ourselves “how much is enough”?
What started out as a protest against Marcon’s new fuel tax in rural France on November 17 quickly escalated into a full scale rebellion. Over a hundred thousand of angry citizens have swarmed the streets of Paris and provincial France for over a month, demonstrating their outrage with street blockades, vandalism and violent clashes with police.
The protesters represent the citizens that France has left behind; the lower-middle and working class poor who can no longer afford to live in the rapidly inflating economy, and Marcon’s new tax was just the ant that sunk the the boat. Wearing the the yellow safety jackets required by law to be kept in every car, the symbolism of which can’t be ignored, the protesters have rapidly grown in number with essentially anyone who has a gripe being able to easily join their ranks just by putting on a vest.
President Emmanuel Macron initial shock at the rebellion only serves to reinforce just how out of touch with the people his government really is, but after a few weeks of protests, which have shaken French democracy to its foundations, he decided to scrap the fuel tax which initially sparked the protests. A few days later, on Monday December 11, told the nation in a solemn televised address that he had seen the error of his ways. In his statement he offered €15bn in financial relief for people from “peripheral France”, a de facto 6% increase in the minimum wage, a tax-free Christmas bonus for low-earners, and the partial abolition of a hated new tax on pensions.
We undoubtedly haven’t been able to provide a sufficiently fast and strong response for a year and a half,” said Macron. “I take my share of responsibility for this.
The statement went further than many expected, and an instant poll after Marcon’s address showed that more than half of the people who were initially in favour of the protests, were now against them continuing. However, the rebellion had already spiralled out of Marcon’s control, and violent protests continued this weekend with extremists now seeking to overthrow the government entirely. The movement has also spread to other European countries like Belgium, Germany and Spain, and even as far as the middle east where yellow jackets have been spotted in Iran and Serbia.
Obviously the problem we are facing runs much deeper than Marcon, who is just a symptom of a deeply fractured economic model that has poverty and collapse hardwired into it. Since the 80’s it has been evident that the price to pay for the new globalised economy embraced by the west was the middle class, but nobody expected that it would consume the lower-middle class too. For those living on top of the pile life is good, great even, and large scale activity focused at the top end of the economy keeps the markets stimulated and the cost of living on the rise. On paper it actually looks like the economy is growing, which fuels the illusion and gives just enough statistical ammunition for an out of touch government like Marcon’s to make catastrophic decisions that directly affect the working class poor.
Hopefully the gilets jaunes movement serves as a valuable lesson to politicians that the needs of the people must come first. People will not be the voiceless accessories to a self-interested government agenda, and now that the point has been made it’s up to everyone to continue to keep our politicians honest.