Welcome, Townhall readers! We live in near-revolutionary times. And in France, protest has become interesting, as it is normal working people who are in revolt.
The column is at Townhall, yes, but the links below point in other directions. Towards France, of course, but also . . . to a possibility for a better future?
“It is the expression of a people who for 40 years has been dispossessed of everything that allowed them to believe in their future and their greatness,” spoke Priscillia Ludosky of the gilets jaunes or “yellow vests” protests, which have rocked France these last six weekends.
The demonstrations take place on the weekend because during the week the demonstrators have . . . jobs. Come Saturday, French folks, such as Ms. Ludosky, the 33-year-old Parisian entrepreneur originally from Martinique, will take to the streets by the hundreds of thousands.
“President after President, elections after elections, betrayals, lies and abandonment succeed one another,” Ludosky said into a bullhorn. “Yes, Mr. President we are exhausted, yes, we are full of anger and yes, we have no other means to be heard but by humbly donning this now famous yellow vest.”
The rebellion has been dubbed the “yellow vests [jackets] movement” to mock the government’s anti-driver mindset: “all motorists had been required by law — since 2008 — to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles when driving.”
Americans have mainly seen news reports showing fire engulfing vehicles in living color, amid a voice-over calculation of the extent of the property damage. No doubt, certain thugs have taken advantage of the cover of a political clash, but the grievances are real, serious, longstanding and felt by many hard-working, tax-paying French citizens.
These are not Antifa-like mobs bent on class struggle; this is a tax revolt.
These yellow-jacketed rabble-rousers demand to be able to afford to drive to work. Against which, the French Government’s tax hike raised the price of gas by a whopping 30 cents (a gallon) to push the cost of petrol to an absolutely ginormous $7.60 a gallon.
We’re talking worse than California.
That’s why Priscillia Ludosky posted a petition on Change.org back in May, labeled “For a Drop in Fuel Prices at the Pump!” Now more than a million people have signed it.
“Taxation as a whole represents about two-thirds of the price of fuel,” the French activist informed. And she asked a question every taxpayer in America and around the globe wants answered, “[W]here the hell is all this money going?”
Keep in mind, too, that these fuel tax increases were part of a carbon emissions reduction program — the kind of taxes that Democrats are eager to put into place in America. Leftists and environmentalists worldwide should pay special attention.
There is, however, a whiff of class warfare here. Against the political class.
“We are exhausted by a colossal tax burden that robs our country, our entrepreneurs, our artisans, our small traders, our creators and our all energy workers,” charged Ludosky, “while a small elite constantly escapes taxation.”
In addition to insisting on “a serious reduction of all taxes on the necessities,” Ludosky issued a demand for “a significant decrease of all the rents, wages, current and future privileges and pensions of elected and senior officials.” She explained that “[E]lected officials take advantage of power to become aristocrats of public money.”
Weeks ago, the protests forced the removal of the fuel levies. French President Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating has plummeted down into the low 20s, while polls show two out of three French citizens support the protests.
“Dear Madam, dear all, you have been hit hard by rising fuel prices, and have decided to react by signing this petition,” President Macron wrote her this past week in direct response to her petition. “Your message, I have heard.”
And he admitted, “You’re right.”
With Christmas approaching, and all the government moves to appease, the protests have indeed begun to draw fewer participants. Still, this movement will likely continue to influence change — as it is about a lot more than taxes or the current price of fuel.
“[O]ur anger does not rest only on our wallet, however empty it is. Our anger is deeper,” explained Ludosky. “It comes from the fact that for decades, we have no longer any control over the march of our country.”
As noted by France 24, an English language news channel, “The citizens’ initiative referendum [is] now one of the main demands of Yellow Vest protesters in France. The RIC [Référendum Initiative Citoyenne] would in theory allow the people to propose a law, get rid of one, change the constitution or demand the resignation of an elected official.”
For the last ten years, France has had a national initiative and referendum process, but citizens are dependent on the support of legislators, none of whom have taken the initiative — pun intended.
“The idea is that once 700K people ask for it,” the report continued, “there would have to be a national referendum on the issue.”
It seems an essential democratic check on power that the French — and all people — should have.
Just consider: How might Washington’s current impasse over a border wall be avoided, if only the American people could vote on an actual proposal to build it?
December 23, 2018
- Allocution destinée au Président..va t-il refuser d’organiser un referendum? (change.org)
- Yellow vests movement (Wikipedia)
- ‘“Vous avez raison” : Emmanuel Macron répond directement aux signataires de la pétition de Priscillia Ludosky’ (LCI)
- ‘How hi-vis yellow vest became symbol of protest beyond France’ (The Guardian)
- ‘Priscillia Ludosky (Gilet jaune): “Nous sommes épuisés et remplis de colère”’ (BFMTV)
- ‘Pour une Baisse des Prix du Carburant à la Pompe!’ (change.org)
- ‘Macron’s Nightmare’ (ccc) on polling of his collapsing support
- ‘Two-thirds back Franc’s “yellow vest” protests: poll’ (msn)
- ‘“Yellow Vests” open a new front in the battle: Popular referendums’ (France 24)