The Yellow Vest Movement, at times an insurrection, will be a marker in the history of France. There are only three ways a leaderless, spontaneous, grassroots revolt could have ended up:
- Violent confrontation, blood and chaos, with its share of tears and gritting of teeth, for in a battle between the rabble and the organized state, the state’s machine of repression always wins.
- A charismatic leader steps forward, galvanizes the movement and manages to impose its political will on the system, stopping its normal functioning, forcing elections, creating political and economic instability for a prolonged period.
- The movement fizzles out, leaving in its wake massive demoralization and a total lack of confidence in the system and its actors; Like a volcano leaves its trail of destruction, hot ambers remain with the occasional after-shocks. Nothing gets done.
It seems the French Yellow Vest movement is now in the third option, but that does not mean President Emmanuel Macron can go on with business as usual.
The Arrogance of King Macron
The “arrogant” Macron, and his government, along with the political system, have lost all credibility in the eyes of the vast majority of the French people. “The president of the rich” will no longer be able to go ahead with his reform program to encourage capitalists to invest in France, create jobs and lower government spending and chronically high unemployment.
Even if he could carry out new pro-business reforms, the political chaos of the Yellow Vest movement will dissuade “job creators” from investing in France. There is just too much instability. It is estimated the revolt cost France over two billion euros in revenues. The government welfare offer to hand-out 100 euros per month to those on minimum wage will cost at least ten billion euros a year. It is hard to see how Macron can keep the deficit under three percent and bring down a debt which is already 100% of GDP.
Macron also scrapped a fuel tax hike, which sparked the yellow Vest movement, and which was meant to compensate for the elimination of a wealth tax on the super rich. Macron refuses to reinstate the wealth tax, so there is another five billion in lost revenue.
The Yellow Vest revolt has not only hurt the French economy, it is also responsible for a fall in the value of the Euro (click here).
And this is where Germany and other European partners come in. Wealthier, better performing countries, are fed up with subsidizing French “labor privilege” which comes at the expense of “excessive government spending.” All face European elections in May and the so-called ‘populists’ will be hitting the system on the very issues the Yellow Vest raised: globalization only serves the rich, the Euro Zone bailouts hurt workers, Brussels has too much power to dictate domestic policies and, yes, immigration.
Macron’s March Stopped Dead
Macron and his En Marche Party are set to suffer a humiliating defeat in the European ballot. Polls show that the right wing National Rally party of Marine Le Pen has benefited the most from the November rebellion and is now France’s leading party. For, no matter how many ‘Brown’ faces you saw on television, this was an overwhelmingly White, ethnic French, working class revolt of people who vote right and harbor much animosity to those of migrant background. (Click here)
As this Tweet shows, Macron’s MPs tried early on to paint the Yellow Vests as extreme right wing thugs.
Polls released mid-December seem to back a right wing thrust. They show the left wing Insoumis party, which backed the Yellow Vests, continues to fall and is at 9% today, down from 18% a year ago. Macron has become the least popular president since the Fifth Republic was created in 1959, with 24%-26% popularity, and his party is at 18% of voter intention. 72% of the French still identify with the Yellow Vests demands although many reject the violence. (click here).
Macron has repeatedly complained of the “reform recalcitrant Gauls.” He has now met those Gauls and they proved to be a formidable match. He should have realized that history has proven time and again, that the Gauls, when suffering, will not stand for inequality. Macron failed to reform in such a way as to show people the sacrifices were being shared and rather concentrated his efforts on making France ‘business friendly’ to the detriment of worker’s rights.
The French president and his government only have themselves to blame for sparking a revolt which has probably now stopped a much needed reform process. The consequences on the European level of the Yellow Vest revolt have not yet even begun to make themselves felt.