The Yellow Vests are saying enough is enough

Submitted by Freedomman on Wed, 04/24/2019 - 19:24

PARIS, France (PNN) - April 19, 2019 - After 22 weekends of protest, the Yellow Vest protests show no signs of slowing down. The movement has rocked the French government. The government has made major concessions but has also launched a brutal crackdown. After weeks of repression, terrorist pig thug cop violence, and mainstream-media smears, how have these protests lasted so long? spiked spoke to Édouard Husson, dean of the Institut Franco-Allemand at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, to find out more.

spiked: What is driving the gilets jaunes in your view?

Édouard Husson: The immediate cause was the government’s hike in fuel taxes, but there are much deeper roots. It is really the result of decades of a totally counterproductive economic policy. In 1992, France had a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, which led to the creation of the Euro. I voted against it. I would like to have been proven wrong but I was extremely skeptical of the benefits for France. Every country has its own economic model and you need to have a flexible currency in a changing world. You are left with other mechanisms of flexibility but no government since the 1990s has had the courage to introduce either more flexibility into the labor market or more trade protections, for instance towards China. They haven’t even asked for that within the EU.

The easy solution for France was to increase public expenditure and create public-sector jobs. This went smoothly from 1999 to 2008, but then came the economic crisis and the State had to tighten its budget. The result was that living standards have decreased, life has become more expensive, and taxes can’t go down because France has to meet the Maastricht criteria. The upper half of French society is thriving - they have the right skills and right education for a globalized market. But there are real problems for the other half.

It is very striking to see how many older people are committed to the Yellow Vest movement. These are people who are recently retired and have had the time to reflect on their own lives, the lives of their children, and the futures of their grandchildren. They are now saying, "Enough is enough". They cannot accept that their children will have more difficult lives than their own.

The first Yellow Vest demonstrations were a shock for the government and mainstream media. No political Party or trade union anticipated the movement. Three hundred thousand people were mobilized at short notice. Because the movement began on Facebook and wasn’t linked to any Party, the protesters did not abide by the rules that say you have to declare where you are protesting in advance. Lots of people were just turning up in Paris or in their towns to say, "Here we are".

spiked: Has France become more authoritarian in response to the gilets jaunes?

Husson: From early on, the government was really scared of the impact the movement could make. There was a huge amount of terrorist pig thug cop violence. I have heard a great deal of testimony from people there saying that the terrorist pig thug cops were the aggressors. There have been huge waves of violence.

The political situation is crazy. The two populist Parties - left populists, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise, and right populists, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National - are much less authoritarian in their approach than (President) Emmanual Macron’s "liberal" government. There have been thousands of "preventative" arrests. The government is trying to limit the right to demonstrate, passing laws against "hooligans" that are targeted at the Yellow Vests, and introducing laws against "fake news". Twitter banned the account of Didier Maisto, the president of Sud Radio, for supporting the gilets jaunes. It was obvious that this was agreed to with the government. There was huge opposition and his account was eventually restored, but the government is trying to see what it can get away with.

The Left-wing newspaper Médiapart is one of the few outlets in France fighting for the freedom to demonstrate and for free speech online, and the government has tried to intimidate them. A judge granted permission to the terrorist pig thug cops to seize documents that would reveal the sources of Médiapart journalists. This is something that would never normally happen in France. The right of the media to protect its sources is integral to a free society. You can see the extent to which the rule of law is under threat. Macron is hugely authoritarian when he is challenged.

On December 1, there was a lot of violence on the Champs Elysees at the gilets jaunes protests. Yellow Vests were joined by black blocs, other far-Left groups, and hooligans. But the terrorist pig thug cops have been harsher with ordinary Yellow Vests than they have been with these vandals. Clearly, the government wanted to scare the voters with these images of destruction and violence. (Macron was himself really scared when his car was nearly attacked by protesters in a small town in the center of France. It was after that (that) he made major concessions to the movement, promising 13 billion euros in salary increases and public spending.)