Rioting has been taking place recently in France, but trying to get a clear idea of what’s behind the demonstrations isn’t easy.

The first thing to say is that the riots certainly seem to be anti-Macron. But there are plenty of reasons to be anti-Macron, some emanating from the left and some from the right or from some other impulse or belief system.
The MSM so far seems to be labeling the riots as “anti-elitist,” and saying that they began with people angry at a fuel tax increase. The Macron administration has announced that the controversial fuel tax hike will be postponed for six months, with Prime Minister Philippe stating that “No tax is worth threatening the unity of the nation.”

I don’t have my finger on the pulse of France, but I would venture to say that the “unity of the nation” is threatened by more than just this tax, and a delay will not change that fact.

I also think that the French want to have their cake and eat it too. In this respect they are hardly unique; it’s a common human desire, and welfare states give people the illusion of being able to accomplish it—for a while, that is, until (as Margaret Thatcher remarked about socialism) they run out of other people’s money.

This article purports to get to the bottom of things, but I don’t think it sheds all that much light on more than the surface:

The protests were initially described as a largely working-class, grass roots movement with many among the demonstrators saying their livelihoods will be threatened by higher fuel prices.

However, the protests have now morphed into wider discontent at the high cost of living in France and dissatisfaction with Macron, whose popularity continues to fall. A poll by Kantar Public in late October showed that 71 percent of 1,000 respondents in the poll had no confidence in Macron.

The higher fuel prices were “part of the government’s proposed carbon tax designed to improve its environmental credentials” with the Greens, prior to the next elections. But many demonstrators feel it’s a hardship that will hurt those who are already struggling (unemployment is around 10% in France).

The unrest could spread:

The French protests seem to be inspiring others in Europe with copycat riots in Belgium this weekend. Famke Krumbmuller, partner and head of political risk at OpenCitiz, told CNBC that the disgruntlement of protesters in France could be felt elsewhere in Europe.

“I guess what’s specific to this movement is that it is relatively apolitical, so they (the protesters) are not from just one party on the left or right. They’re white, middle-class people that are squeezed by the welfare state. They pay a lot of taxes but they don’t get a lot of benefits in return,” she told CNBC’s Julianna Tatelbaum in Paris.

Although I don’t generally trust the NY Times’ take on things, sometimes they write straight news and do it well. This Times article on the French riots describes something that sounds a bit like a protest from a group of people that in this country would be called the Trump voters.

I also turned to a blogger who lives in France and writes:

There is nary a single media report about the Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris and France that I’ve read or watched that has not been slanted by Fake News.

It has (usually) not been deliberate, I gather, and nobody has said anything factually wrong; what is the problem is the fact that (very) important stuff has been omitted.

Fancy that.

It is not wrong to say that the demonstrations were caused by the government’s decision to raise gas prices. What is missing is that this is just one of several draconian measures dating back half a year, i.e., ‘tis the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

For the past four to five months, the French government has done nothing but double down on bringing more and more gratuitous oppression and more and more unwarranted persecution measures down on the necks the nation’s drivers and motorcycle riders.

In fact, the imposition of ever harsher rules has been going on for the past decade and a half or so — whether the government was on the right or on the left …/…

And this is interesting, as well—student rioting that seems to be piggy-backing on the other riots but as far as I can tell has different motivations:

At the moment, all high school students who pass their final exams have the right to study any course at their local public university, for a nominal tuition fee.

This has led to some popular courses being oversubscribed and some 60 per cent of French university students do not finish their first year.

President Macron’s government wants universities to be able to apply admissions criteria and select students on merits such as exam results or entrance exams for some oversubscribed degrees.

So the students appear to be rioting against the imposition of some form of merit system in a situation in which taking all comers has overburdened the resources available. I suppose you could call that “anti-elitist” as well, but it’s an anti-elitism that seems to be coming from the left, whereas the other rioters seem (accent on the word “seem”) to be coming more from the right.

Meanwhile, the so-called “far right” in Spain has made gains in recent elections. What does this far-right party advocate? Well, here’s one description:

A far-right party won seats in a Spanish regional parliament for the first time since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Vox, which opposes illegal immigration and Catalan independence, won 12 seats in the Andalusia parliamentary elections, bringing an end to three decades of socialist rule in the southern Spanish region.

Vox did better than predicted.

“The Andalusians have made history… and got rid of 36 years of socialist rule,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal said…

Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party suffered their worst result in history, picking up 33 seats, while its potential left-wing ally Adelante Andalusia (Forward Andalusia) won 17 seats…

Next year Spain will have municipal, regional and European elections which could be an even tougher test for the ruling Socialists.


[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]


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