France is under siege. Some 90,000 security forces are being deployed across France with particular attention to always combustible Paris and Marseilles. Armored vehicles are moving into the capital. Certain military units are on high alert.
The storm that is hitting France came out of what looked like a clear blue sky. The angry demonstrators, known as ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow jackets), for the warning vests all motorists must keep in their cars, inundated Paris last weekend in peaceful protests over the government’s planned increases in fuel prices, which were already among Europe’s highest.
As too often in France, violent vandals known as ‘the breakers,’ infiltrated the demonstrators and sought to put the most beautiful parts of Paris to the sack. I watched with horror as the magnificent Arc de Triomphe, France’s premier war memorial, was befouled by spray-can graffiti. The majestic Champs Élysée was ravaged by hoodlums, who smashed showroom windows, burned cars, looted luxury stores and set scores of fires.
For people like me who love and esteem France, it was like seeing your mother or daughter being raped by barbarians. The forces of order in France were overwhelmed and outpaced by the fast-moving bands of ‘breakers.’ Media called them anarchists of far right and far left. But anarchists have at least political philosophy. We remember how the Spanish anarchist POUM ruled Barcelona during that nation’s bloody civil war.
The vandals who attacked Paris and other French cities had no philosophy. They were simply scum of the gutter reveling in an orgy of burning and looting. These sewer rats poured out of the back alleys and bleak, suburban housing projects, garbed in masks, goggles, iron bars and jars of gasoline. They are the frightening, violent underclass that has plagued French cities since the Middle Ages.
President Emmanuel Macron appears to have ordered his police forces to go easy on the ‘breakers’ as well as the peaceful yellow jackets. This allowed the rioters and vandals to run amok and overwhelm the police. More of the same impends for this weekend. This was a mistake.
The French Army should have been called in to protect monuments and key thoroughfares. Army troops already patrol airports, train stations and important tourist locations like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum. They should be heavily reinforced. More important, anyone setting fires, as happened last weekend, is a dangerous criminal and should be shot on sight by the police or army. Arson is not a democratic right. It’s a grave crime.
However, the ‘yellow jackets’ should not be confused with the breakers. What we are seeing is a justified national revolt in France against impossibly high taxes that were ignited by the unwise fuel price increases. After the riots, the price hikes were hastily eliminated. This was a necessary move, but it also undermined the authority of President Macron, whose popularity rating was at rock bottom even before the uprising.
The underlying problem is that France’s taxes are far too high. France has the highest taxes in Europe, almost 50% of gross domestic product, and twice those of the United States. But the French at least get their money’s worth from their sky-high taxes. Historic buildings are lovingly maintained; France’s rail system is splendid – when not on strike. Medicine is top drawer though hospitals need more funding. Streets are clean, highways in top shape.
France is one of the world’s most beautiful nations. There are special inspectors for rivers and streams to ensure their cleanliness and ecology. Pensions are generous and often available to those over 60.
Education is ‘par excellence.’ French high school graduates are often better educated than American university graduates.
It’s superb, but unaffordable. The fuel price increases were the proverbial straw that broke the French camel’s back. Taxes are just too high compared to incomes. Besides, French are being nibbled to death by swarms of taxes that lurk almost everywhere.
King Louis XVI faced the same fiscal problem and lost his head as a result. President Macron, a former Rothschild banker, now faces the angry bourgeoisie and mobs of gutter vandals calling for his head.
With the departure of the UK from the EU and the end of Angela Merkel’s long tenure in Germany, it appeared that Macron would become Europe’s leader. Now, there is even talk of a coup in Paris. Mon dieu!