The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vest)movement, which began as a facebook group for dissatisfied French drivers almost a year ago and since the Macron government proposed a hike in fuel taxes for petrol and diesel cars spakred the first street protests, has mushroomed into a general rejection of the globalist elite, with yellow vest movements springing up around Europe and even futher afield, looks as if it could be a people’s rebellion against globalism and corporatism. It has rattled worried the French establishment and succeeded in forcing the usually arrogant and imperious President Macron into offering what globalist fellow travellers in mainstream media call major concessions from the government,but which the movement has rejected as inadequate. They continue to march, with events taking place all over France this weekend.
Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluyâ€™s study, “La France Peripherique,” (peripheral France) caused some consternation in sections of the media that are really only propaganda publishers for the soft left, globalist consensus. Guilluy highlighted the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities, from this Brave New World created by the metropolitian elites. In identifying the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon, the author correctly foresaw the consequences of undermining the prosperity of the lower middle and aspiration working classes. In his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of France, he elaborated on these themes.
“Peripheral France,” Guilluy said recently, “is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities, far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York.
Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The Gilets Jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places.
They tend to be people in work, but who don’t earn very much, between €1000 and €2000 per month. Some of them are very poor if they are unemployed. Others were once middle-class. What they all have in common is that they live in areas where there is hardly any work left. They know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.
Not only have the working and lower middle classes of France fared badly in the modern economy, we have seen the same dissatisfaction and alienation manifested in the UK’s Brexit vote and the election of donald trump in the USA. People have lost faith in the ability of the elites govern their nations competently. The elitisys and their supporters, mostly university educated technical and managerial professionals blame this on poor education, small mindedness, xenophobia and racism which only shows how pitifully inadequate their understanding of working class life and attitudes actually is. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century grass roots movement, just as the UK’s Labour Party, now unfortunately hijacked by technocrats, was a grass roots movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Both the Labour Party in its early days and the Yellow vests now are not solely political movements, they are cultural movements too. An illustration of the cultural divide between professional and technocrat classes and the masses is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by Hollywood luvvies, ageing rock stars, entertainers and writers and the intellectuals anxious to display their “right on” credentials, (think of how they worshipped Obama and sucked up to Hilary Clinton, how they unanimously agree we should welcome Muslim fundamentalists into our societies, safe in the knowledge that such immigrants are not going to arrive in the elite suburbs.
But none has come out to express approval of the Gilets Jaunes. Of course not, the protestors are predominantly white, straight, and socially conservative. The strength of their support has been a psychological shock to the political and cultural establishment who complacently believed that ‘the masses’ were ignorant, ineducable, infantile imbeciles who could be distracted by television game shows and online porn as the plebs of ancient Rome, according to the Roman poet Juvenal, could be distracted by “bread and circuses.” It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit referendum result that they are still struggling to get their heads round now.
The Brexit vote had a lot to do with culture. It was more than just the question of leaving the EU. Many voters, disenfrachised because they live in ‘safe’ conservative of Labour seats that have elected representatives from the same party since World War Two, (If you’re a Labour voter in a conservative seat or vice versa, you may as well not have a vote,) saw it in the way they saw recent elections to the European Parliament which upstarts UKIP won, as an opportuinity to remind the establishment that they exist and can think for themselves. That appears to be what French people are using the Gilets Jaunes for, to say we exist and we demand that our voice is heard.
We are seeing the same effect populist revolts across the world, Italy’s Lega / Five Star coalition, an unlikely collaboration of right and left, are hugely popular because they are putting the interests of ordinary Italians first. The Sweden Democrats and Germany’s AfD are rapidly gaining strength and now threaten the entrenched duopolies in their countries, with Eurosceptic messages and a commitment to oppose mass immigration.
The elites have only been able to respond in their usual superior, sneering, condescending way by trying to make words like populism and nationalism synonyms of Naziism and Fascism. But the working classes, Hillary Clinton’s Deplorables, Gammons to those Brits that would surrender our nation to a bureaucratic dictatorship in Brussels, are not stupid and they are not buying it, and the elites are worried. For the first time since the aftermath of World War Once there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the tried and trusted political and propaganda mechanisms. The Gilets Jaunes didnâ€™t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no off button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for trying to impose a kind of soft totalitarianism. And in the current atmosphere that would go down like the proverbial Lead Zeppelin.