By Nathan Barton
Since the middle of November, the streets of Paris and of other cities in La Belle France have seen weekends of protests by the “Yellow Vests,” decrying the massive fuel tax increase and other policies of the Macron government.
That continued for the ninth weekend in this first weekend of 2019, as reported by RT. This week’s protests, held in numerous cities across the nation, features much of the same things as past weeks:
- Seemingly random destruction and vandalism by protesters (burning a floating restaurant, barricades, trash cans and cars)
- Response by armored and armed police, using tear gas and other weapons
- Cries for Macron and his cronies to resign
- More cries for the elites to stop treating the common people like “beggars.”
- Hundreds were arrested, including some for “unsanctioned” rallies.
The authorities stated that more than 50,000 people protested on the 5th.
While we may think of these as being the equivalent of “anarchist” or “Occupy X” protests and demonstrations in some of the cities of the Fifty States, they do seem different. Indeed, these episodes of protest, street fighting, and rebellion (even revolution) have been part of French history for centuries.
These things are far more common in France than here in North America or places like Great Britain. Something like we find in Germany and Ireland.
Some of the differences?
- The protesters include a wide range of ages and social and economic status.
- At least some of the protesters are military veterans – perhaps a significant number.
- These seem to be grassroots, and not organized by some organization or backstage entity.
- They seem to have some sort of organized agenda or platform: a platform that is extremely radical and populist – and progressive, even anti-religious.
- They may be making a difference.
This last point is important. Macron backed down on the fuel tax increase, and there are rumors of more accommodations being made.
As I said, this is part of the common cycle of French history. Most of us are aware of THE French Revolution of 1789, which lasted most of a decade (until the rise of Napoleon). Fewer are aware of the French revolutions of 1830 (the “July Revolution”) and of 1848 (the “February Revolution”). Both of these also threw out kings, although not actually killing them. But these are far from the only revolutions and rebellions that have “made” modern France.
Going back just a couple of centuries before THE French Revolution, we find both successful and unsuccessful endeavors in which the common people (even peasants) tried to gain liberty or were used without mercy by various contestants for power. In the last half of the 1500s, France’s “Wars of Religion” included attempts by Protestant commoners to overcome the tyranny of Catholic rulers, and then of various nobles and pretenders, right up to the establishment of an absolute monarchy in the 1590s, as the people were betrayed by their leadership. In the 1640s, the monarchy crushed the rebellion called the Fronde, and also crushed the Catalan Republic (yes, the same Catalonia now seeking after four centuries to regain independence from Spain). Louis XIV and XV kept a lid on things for most of the 1700s, but bankrupted the nation and set the stage for the 1789 Revolution.
Since then, of course, it has been a long series of constant turmoils and attempts to get, destroy, restore, limit, or expand liberty. In addition to the 1830 and 1848 revolutions, there were other conflicts and events that can be called such, from Napoleon’s rise to power in 1799 (although he kept the Republican facade until 1804) and the Grand Alliance’s defeat of L’Emperor in 1812 and 1815 on.
The popular novel and movie and play, Les Miserables, fictionally tells the story of one of many rebellions: the June Rebellion of 1832, which failed to overthrow the monarchy.
The February Revolution of 1848 established the short-lived Second Republic, but the elected President, a Bonaparte, made himself Emperor in 1852. This Second Empire lasted until the Germans crushed France in 1870, accompanied by various revolutions (including the first known Communist regime, the Paris Commune).
This was put down, and the Third Republic was established, and lasted (theoretically, at least) until 1940 – an incredible feat for France after the death of Louis XV in 1774. But it was far from peaceful, internally or externally. In addition to the horrors of the Great War (1914-1918) with (among other things) mutinies by French soldiers, there were internal squabbles with various left-wing and right-wing groups protesting, clashing, and always a fear of some sort of rebellion. In addition, the old royalist factions remained a thorn in the side of the French Republic: Bourbonists, Orleanists, and Bonapartists all feuding with each other and the “Republican” movements.
Most times, it seemed like all the different factions could agree on just one thing: that people do not need, deserve, or be allowed to have liberty. It is no wonder that time and time again, various people rose up in rebellion.
Then came the Fall of France, in 1940 after less than a year of renewed war with Germany. France was divided into a German-occupied zone and the Vichy Republic (with strong Royalist participation). Even here, against both the Germans and the Vichy State, there was rebellion: today we call it the French Resistance. Together with the Free French forces, it was a revolution in all but name.
France in 1945 was a far different place than in 1940.
TO BE CONTINUED.