Cole Stangler, a Paris based journalist, explains to readers of The Nation, that the so-called Gilets jaunes, or Yellow Vest movement in France has caught every political party by surprise. It is a shock that Macon has landed himself in such a mess, after promising to maintain a business friendly agenda while campaigning. It can hardly be suggested that raising taxes on energy, the lifeblood of business, could be considered a business-friendly policy. Stangler writes (abridged):
French President Emmanuel Macron isn’t a fan of protests. He has mocked union demonstrators in the past for being “lazy” and “cynical” and criticized his predecessors in the Elysée Palace for too easily succumbing to the demands of their critics. This presidency, Macron assured, would stick to its business-friendly reform agenda—even when unpopular. As the former investment banker and economy minister put it bluntly last fall, “democracy is not in the street.”
While Marine Le Pen of the far right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the left have both endorsed the gilets jaunes movement and clearly hope to capitalize from its success, their respective parties have played a minimal role in the planning of the hundreds of nationwide protests.
Further contributing to the cloud of dread now enveloping the Elysée is the fact that the gilets jaunescount broad public approval—a rarity for any political movement in France.
Not a single leading party enjoys close to majority support, according to opinion polls. And yet a poll conducted just after last Saturday’s riots in Paris showed that, while most disagreed with the use of violence, seven in 10 still backed the gilets jaunes movement as a whole. Support closely tracks class lines.
Why should ordinary people, they ask, be forced to fork over another couple hundred euros each month while the super-rich are rewarded simply for being super-rich? Likewise, as outlandish as it may sound, many protesters are calling on the president to resign.
Through both his policies that disproportionately benefit the rich and his tendency to ignore his critics, Macron exemplifies the state’s abdication of responsibility toward the least well-off.
Clearly caught off guard by the initial appeal of the movement, left-wing trade unions are seeking to turn out members and sympathizers, too. While it still hasn’t endorsed the Yellow Vests by name, the heavyweight General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has finally called for a nationwide “day of action” on December 14. It’s a clear attempt to turn France’s unexpected wave of contestation in a more progressive direction, to shift the conversation from tax relief toward hikes in direct compensation:
Read more here.