I’m starting to feel like an extra in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, what with the two big protests in London today by Brexiteers and Remainers; but let me stick with France for the moment. A few days ago l’Humanité (a newspaper closely associated with the French Communist Party) published a piece which featured an interview with an anonymous CRS/riot police officer. This officer said that since the start of the gilets jaunes protests he’s taken sick leave, because he’s sympathetic with the protestors and doesn’t want to have to confront them. The officer said that many of his colleagues feel the same way. During yesterday’s riots in Paris there were nearly 10,000 police on the streets and I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that on a number of occasions police took off their riot helmets and joined the protestors. Of course these protests are taking place all over France. The gilet jaunes are picketing toll booths on the autoroutes, and they’ve been pushing up the barriers and allowing drivers to go through free of charge. The police have largely ignored this. As was shown in places like East Germany and Romania, when law enforcement starts sympathising with protestors it normally means a quick end for the ruling elite.
But this is France in 2018 and what’s happening with the gilet jaunes is totally unprecedented – ie, a popular uprising totally unconnected to political movements. However it all pans out there’s no going back now. Things will never be the same again (governments all around the world will be quaking in their boots when they see what’s going on in France). This is a revolution, but as with all revolutions at some point the political process has to take over from boiling anger on the streets. Talking of which, the 2017 French presidential election was quite a close run race, with just six points separating Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In the first round Macron got less than 20% of the vote, and in the second round Macron only won the presidency because most of the French voters didn’t want the (then) even worst prospect of Le Pen as president. Now it seems almost certain that Macron is toast and won’t see out his presidency. The French will either go for Mélenchon or Le Pen. It looks like we might, sometime soon, have the rather interesting prospect of a genuine socialist in power in France, and a genuine socialist in power in Britain. With the way it’s all panned out, you really couldn’t make this stuff up. I think I’ve already mentioned that I feel like an extra in A Tale of Two Cities.
Here’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, speaking the day before this fourth wave of protests. There should be English sub-titles on this video. If the sub-titles don’t appear click on the first little icon on the right of the tool bar.