By Mark Buckley
The protestors of the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vest) movement have inflicted a humiliating defeat on French President Macron. He has been forced to climb down and, in a Presidential TV address, has offered a series of reforms in order to try to head off the movement, including a €100 a week increase in the minimum wage.
The protests began in opposition to a rise in fuel taxes but rapidly broadened and deepened as a protest movement against a wide number of taxes, impositions and injustices. Prior to this movement there had been a series of trade union mobilisations against job losses, pension cuts and worse working conditions.
The response has been a brutal crackdown by the gendarmerie and other state forces, which have been widely circulated on social media. It did not deter the protestors.
A subsequent drive to demonise the protestors alternatively talked about ‘a coup’ and dismissed them as anarchists and more recently as all supporters of the Front National. In ruling circles, there is also a clear preference that any radicalisation is channelled towards the far right, not the left.
All of this is fiction. In fact, while Macron’s rating may have suffered a blow from which he cannot recover, it is the left which is the big winner politically. Mélenchon is now the most popular party leader in the country (see poll reported here, reproduced below), and the others’ popularity declines in accordance with their position to the right, with Le Pen the least popular major politician.
For now, this is a big defeat for the champion of the ‘centrist’ project which is failing all across Western Europe, and a big advance for the left.