Friday, December 07, 2018

What's Going On In France?

You may have noticed snippets of news about French people in yellow vests gathering in their townships to rabble-rouse. Do you wonder what it's all about?

My husband was born in France, and we travel there regularly. He turns on the French news every morning, and the scenes of discord and violence are taking up more and more of the daily broadcast. In my opinion, it’s developing into a second revolution, already getting worse than the student rebellion of ’68 that became quite violent. 

I suppose technically it’s a tax revolt. People have been struggling for at least 15 years now, first under a socialist government under Mitterand, then a right-wing-but-ineffectual-middle-of-the-road party under Chirac and Sarkozy, then another left-wing attempt under Mitterand, and now under Macron. Macron was Holland's finance minister who is in fact what I would call a “Third Wayer,” an amalgam between socialism and capitalism. He’s trying to pick a path between European-imposed austerity and an all-providing state, but he's discovering that oil and water don't mix.

He began properly by modifying the federally imposed employment contract terms. But then he promised more purchasing power to the populace and started by … raising taxes! Go figure. People then got hit with rising gasoline costs plus the added insult of a higher “environmental” tax (which most of the electorate supports in theory), and this was the last straw, apparently. 

The uprising started on social media and just exploded, somewhat like the Arab Spring events a few years ago. Now everybody is getting into the act: the labor unions, the truckers, the professors, the students, the nurses, the retirees, the unemployed, the hooligans–you name it.

It might not end until Macron and his government resign, although maybe he can salvage something temporarily by handing out some goodie or other. In the end, it may be the best news yet for France’s populist party, the Front National of Mme LePen (now called the Rassemblement National). She wants to close the borders, stop international trade, stop immigration, throw out the Arabs, tighten security, and still maintain the socialist national benefits. Good luck with that. 

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