It was one of the worst experiences of my life. The room in my Moscow student dorm was infested with bedbugs. After two painful and sleepless nights, I was taken to a Soviet hospital to face a doctor with a needle as big as her hat, and made for horses, full of something they said was supposed to calm my suffering.
“You are testing new weapons against us Americans!” I told them. They just shrugged their shoulders. For some societies, bedbugs are a given.
But not in France where Cimex Lectularius was driven out in the 1950s by chemicals that are now forbidden. “Invasion!” “The Plague!” “End of the world.” The French press compete in hyperbole to describe their return: “Bedbugs!”
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.
Paris Rioting hit mainly the chic districts, targetting the symbols of wealth and the 1%: 5-star-hotels, luxury cars, banks, jewelry stores…
After two weeks of Yellow Vest protests, government insults and deaf ears, President Emmanuel Macron is scrambling for answers but unwilling to compromise. There is a no-confidence vote is in the making, the left and right oppositions are calling for new legislative elections and an already weakened economy is teetering. This leaderless, grassroots movement by mainly angry, lower and middle income white French families, may still peter-out, and then again, as I wrote on November 22, in ‘France’s Deplorables Explained’ (Click here), it may not.
“A medieval peasant revolt with social media. An Arab Spring without the Arabs. Don’t underestimate the potential danger of the Yellow Vests.”
They are the ‘deplorables’ of France. They get up early and go to work. If they were American, they would be those that make up Trumps hardcore base but no French worker is stupid enough to believe a billionaire can represent their interests. In the 1960s and early 70s they would have voted Communist. Today they vote for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and other hard right conservatives. The Yellow Vests are White and ethnic French. They are mad as Hell and won’t take it any more! (1.)