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Confused about what is going on in France? You should be.
Fortunately, former Ricochet editor @claire has made an ambitious and, in my view, largely successful attempt to clarify the who, what, when, where, why and how dare you of the Yellow Vest Revolution and has published the article in The American Interest, I strongly recommend reading it.
This is not to say I go along with all her conclusions.
She is quite right to point out that basically, the French don’t have much to complain about. We Brits, who are mostly descendants of King Henry II Plantagenet, who was as French as they come (Count of Anjou and Maine), and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and are therefore French through and through, have tried for 700 years to bring our Continental cousins up correctly, but complain they always have done and complain they always will.
The statistics quoted by @claire in support of her argument are national and do not reflect the unevenness in the distribution of France’s wealth. She has herself opined that the great American divide is urban/rural rather than conservative/liberal, and this observation, probably correct, applies to France as much as to the US. The original protest about gas taxes was entirely justified, as the flight from rural to urban living has left many isolated and dependent on vehicular transport.
The main point on which I disagree with @claire’s analysis is her insistence that ‘they voted for Macron’ and that ‘he has a mandate’. They didn’t and he doesn’t.
‘They voted primarily against Marine Le Pen. We don’t know how much of the vote was against Le Pen and how much for Macron, and never will, but cast your minds back to the presidential election of 2002, when the run-off was between Marine’s father Jean-Marie and Jacques Chirac. Chirac won by a landslide but never claimed he had a mandate. He couldn’t. A huge part of his votes came from Socialists and Communists who swallowed their pride just to ensure Le Pen’s defeat.
Do read the section entitled Useful Idiots. Although @claire’s articles, like the chapters in her books, are interminable, she does sub-divide and label them clearly. Here she is at her strongest with the ‘convergence’ argument.
She also makes the important point: ‘There has never been a fully honest reckoning here with the Revolution [of 1789]. This is true, and it always puzzled me when I lived in France. The violence of the Terror always seemed so out of kilter with the avowed ‘nobility’ of the revolutionary aims: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
I am less pessimistic than @claire when it comes to her conclusion. I do not deny that the risk of extremist Left-Right violence exists, but Le Pen doesn’t have a Sturmabteilung to pit against ANTIFA. The greater risk is that she herself would be deposed by a French Gauleiter who might create one. But I still believe that this movement will peter out sooner or later, though Macron might have to dissolve parliament and call new elections for a semblance of normality to be restored.Published in