Is it 1789 all over again?

When in 1789 Louis XVI, King of France, was obliged to revive the old consultative body of France, the Etats Generaux, which had been in abeyance since 1614, the representatives of the three orders which were held to compose society – clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie – arrived at Versailles with their ‘cahiers de doleances´, which contained the views of those who elected them on how the country should be governed.

The current ‘monarch’ of France, the Eclipse of the Sun King Emmanuel Macron, alarmed by the possibility of his party losing heavily in the forthcoming elections to the parliament of the European Union, has in his turn decided to consult the nation, but, warned by the example of Louis XVI, has decided to do it his way…by having maires and ‘appropriate bodies’ hold meetings in which the populace can express their views and their wishes. They can even write them in books kept open in public buildings for that purpose.

What they can’t do is pop up to Paris to tell him in person.

He doesn’t like that.

Last week the people who are trying to tell him something broke into the building housing his official spokesman – the person trying to tell them something they are fed up with hearing.

He legged it before they could deliver their message.

Macron does not fancy being defenestrated from the windows of the Elysee Palace….and, unlike poor Louis, he doesn’t have the Swiss Guard to protect him. The poor bugger doesn’t even have his security guard extraordinaire behind him any more.

Monsieur Benalla would have come in useful now, with his experience of beating up protesters while dressed as a policeman but, alas, these days he is confined to confidential missions to African dictators bearing not one but two diplomatic passports…passports he said that he left in his desk when he resigned his post at the Elysee.

So Macron has to rely on the real police….where, once again, he has made a faux pas. To encourage the men on the ground to maintain the energy with which they employ tear gas, batons and something called flash ball which is capable of inflciting severe injury he has given them a pay rise.

Unfortunately he forgot the maxim of the French public service…if the man at the bottom of the heap gets a rise, his superiors get one too, to preserve the necessary distance between them.

So the Police Commissaires, Divisionnaires and other panjamdrums did not get a rise and they are not happy bunnies.

Already they have to try to maintain the morale of their forces in the suburbs of the major cities which are effectively no go areas for them. Where a gang can surround a police car and hold the doors firmly shut as they try to burn alive the three occupants, shouting ‘we want roast chicken’ the while.

There might be a knee jerk reaction from central and local government, but the no go areas remain no go for all that and the police are hung out to dry by local and national politicians if they attempt to maintain order.

But Macron’s government does not have to worry about the yobs from the suburbs or the people upon whom they prey…its members live elsewhere, well protected.

It is worrying instead about the rise of a popular movement, the ‘gilets jaunes’, named after the high vis yellow jacket one is obliged to carry in the car in France which those in the movement have adopted.

It is composed of people who work, pay their taxes and find that there is not sufficient money to go round to provide them with a decent standard of living.

Starting out as a protest against the rise in fuel tax it has become a movement demanding that Macron resign and his policies which favour the rich be overturned. Every weekend there are protest marches in Paris and the big cities….out in the sticks they blockade motorway toll booths and roundabouts.

Inevitably violent incidents have occurred…cars have been set alight, shops looted… in the wake of the marches but the police do not seem to be unduly worried by this. They are intent on ensuring that the marchers do not reach the Elysee and these wreckers make it easy for the government to accuse the demonstrators of violence.

Macron is gambling all on being able to beat the protesters into submission. The media report government spokesmen labelling them as fascists, communists, delinquents….people who wish to overthrow the state…

The police attack with – so far- impunity.

But the Commissaires, Divisionaires and associated panjandrums must be aware of something which seems to have eluded Macron.

People, generally, deplore the lawlessness which has overtaken their society.

They contrast the lack of effort to master the problem with the resources employed to silence decent people with genuine grievances.

They begin to view the police as being more focused on collecting motoring fines than on the protection of law abiding citizens.

Accordingly, they withdraw their consent from the government…just as have those who have had to suffer the lawlessness of the suburbs.

They no longer see the police as the guarantors of order…but as a government militia.

And once you see the government not as the embodiment of the people but as its overlord then revolt becomes acceptable whereas before an attack on the institutions of the republic would have been unthinkable.

Henry of Navarre’s great finance minister, Sully, noted that the great rebellions were not motivated by the wish to overthrow the government but by the impression that one had suffered long enough and it is evident that a tranche of the French population feels just that while a further tranche sympathises with them.

Already Macron’s proposed national debate is in chaos. The head of the body charged with organising it has withdrawn from the task after criticism of her 14,700 euro per month pay cheque. Not that she is resigning, of course….just refraining from workng on the project.

If you wanted a better example of one rule for the elite and another for the rest you could not have wished for better.

No one seems to know what will be done with the results….Macron gives no promises, but one suspects they will simply be trawled for spin material, while enabling the government to condemn the protesters for continuing to protest while the process is underway.

In the meantime a Monsieur Dettinger, a former professional boxer, has been arrested for laying into riot police in Paris. He gave himself up, admitted that he should not have done it, but said that after eight weekends of demonstrating where he and his wife had been teargassed each time he had just had enough of police brutality.

A fund was set up to assist with his legal fees which drove the Justice Minister to demand that the company running the crowdfunding site give up the names of all those who contributed, on the grounds that they were accomplices in his alleged crime.

How you can be an accomplice after the alleged crime has been committed is beyond me, but don’t let mere legal principles rein in a Justice Minister.

But will we have 1789 all over again? The storming of the Bastille? The heads on pikes?

I doubt it. The Paris of that period housed people of all conditions…the Paris of today has driven any but the comfortably off to the surrounding dormitory towns and you have to be made of stern stuff to take the RER into Paris in order to demonstrate.

The gang bosses of the lawless suburbs, though capable of extreme violence, are taking no part in this. Their livelihood comes from benefits, drug dealing and theft….undisturbed by a handcuffed police force. They have no interest in disturbing the status quo.

Macron’s head is safe…though we should always remember Sellar and Yeatman’s observation that uneasy lies the head which wears a throne….as far as Paris is concerned.

Ironic that the man who proclaims that the French expect something for nothing should be saved from the shipwreck of his project by the very forces which reflect just that philosophy.

But in the provinces it may be a different story….


35 thoughts on “Is it 1789 all over again?”

        1. J’ai suivi votre blog pendant quelques années, toujours avec intérêt, car il fait écho aux préoccupations de mes amis français. Je ne vis plus là-bas, mais ce qui s’y passe aura toujours de l’intérêt.
          Pour ce qui est de Macron, il était clair qu’un coup d’État avait été planifié … Hollande démantèle le PS, puis l’élimination de Fillon par une campagne de presse pour une conduite qui était que trop courante chez les politiciens et Macron n’a alors plus qu’à affronter Le Pen. Une victoire garantie.

  1. Interesting, if a bit scary, that in so many Western democracies, the same thing is happening.Ill-educated , oafish leaders skimming the cream while ignoring those who are denied basics.

    1. Macron, like a number of politicians, reminds me of a saying of my grandmother’s salty tongued neighbour…
      ‘Him?” She would say. ‘All mouth and trousers!’
      The policy seems to be to kep honest people’s noses to the grindstone while they are preyed upon by lawless thugs on the streets and in the banks.

  2. Helen, it has become vast and confusing to me. It has been too long since I could add an intelligent word (even one word!) to discussions. But I read and admire that people can still stay abreast.
    And on another note, will you drop me a note at jnoragon@gmail, so I can have your email and drop you a note back.

  3. The man is an amateur and should take basic instruction from our ‘Boss’! I’ll bet a Mars bar with you that this is the year of Macron’s political demise – the ‘system’ (read: deep state/real controllers) will spit him out to try and avoid further disruptions.

  4. I had such hopes for Macron when he took office but it seems he has joined his predecessor in being distained for his clueless policies. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow and unrest will likewise grow. Economic injustice puts those at the bottom at their wits end when it is the rich who are the benefactors of those policies. When will governmental leaders ever get the message?

  5. Macron took power by a coup d’etat….
    His predeccessor, Hollande, split the socialist party.
    Macron’s backers – big business – roused a media storm against the right wing candidate, Fillon, who had been only as dishonest as any other French politician, no more.
    That left Macron v Le Pen…and everyone knows that you can’t vote for Le Pen.
    So with a low turn out, Macron was put in power to reform France.
    Yes, France needed reform, but a reform which gave people jobs and security, not a reform which aided the already rich.

  6. It is a huge stuff up putting it politely. Apart from the main issues, every roundabout in the country is ruined, I am going to miss all our local ones filled with wildflowers. They will never survive the damage….. Hope all is well with you. Diane

  7. That is a real shame….I remember some beauties, as well as the ones where maires had installed monstrosities!
    I think there is a website, or a blog, about roundabouts in France…i wonder if they will be updating it with the GJs on site!

  8. The whole thing is terribly unpleasant. Here they were at the roundabout which gave access to a commercial area where many people making minimum wage work. That seems fairly counterproductive.
    Ideologically, they’re a mess. In 1789 at least there was a good degree of clarity and intelligent leadership. I imagine that just like the 15-M in Spain there will be much noise and no real difference in the way things work.

    1. Feisty lot down your way, aren’t they.
      Are they letting people through to go to work? Friends tell me that in my old area the police are keeping access clear and the GJs are co operating as long as they can give out their leaflets.

      They seem to eschew leadership, while wisely keeping Melenchon and others who want to fill the breach at a distance…I can just see Monsieur M. as the new Ledru-Rollin…’Je suis leur chef…il fallait bien les suivre.’

      People generally are a mess, in the mass. Look at the U.K. Leavers and Remainers…as much idea of a united policy for either of them as fly.

        1. Perhaops they should copy the GJs in Poitiers who were letting people into the car parks without paying…encourages trade by letting pople into the city centre without worrying about astronomic parking fees.

  9. Macron is indicative of what happens when career politicians run things, and in nearly all western democracies career politicians run things.

    These are individuals who begin grasping for power while in college or shortly thereafter, and continue their entire careers. They spend their time with other career politicians and those who can fund their careers or get them access to those who can.

    So many career politicians are out of touch with the vast majority of those they represent because they’ve never done anything except be politicians.

    And, of course, when outsiders, usually businessmen or women, enter the fray they are decried as “buying their way in,” as though the career politician has purer motives. Here in the U.S. most all politicians who spend any length of time in high office – presidents, senators, U.S. representatives – come out of office much wealthier than when they went into office.

  10. Public service now seems to mean the public serving the politicians……
    The rot was indicated when Kennedy came out with not asking what your country could do for you but what you could do for your country. You already do it, giving up your liberties in return for a promise of basic security……a promise not worth two pennorth of cold gin in practice.

  11. A fascinating article, as ever. I’m so wrapped up with our own issues at the moment, it’s easy to miss what’s going on just next door. I’m also impressed that someone else has heard of Josef Locke, on of my father’s favourites: I have two of his songs on my phone; Mrs Britain hates them. 🙂

  12. Like most of the French people I know, I support the GJs. The only negative comments I’ve heard personally have come from British immigrants bemoaning that they were held up for a while. Knowing that the protests are taking place, we have allowed extra time in the case of appointments. However, although there have been groups of GJ at the Auchan roundabout in Poitiers for weeks now, they have all been cheerful and friendly and traffic holdups have been minimal. They are standing there in the cold and rain, one was there yesterday on his own, a one-legged man in a wheelchair. At least they do stand up for what they believe in and are not influenced by weasel words.

    Provided they are not violent or destructive I’m with them.

  13. I had not realised how bad things had become in France. At the moment we have more than enough to think about on this side of the Channel without worrying about what is happening else where in the world.

  14. Ah yes, a familiar story. Start a national “consultation” or “conversation” in which everyone can express their frank and honest views, and then take absolutely no notice of the results. Except as you say to spin any suitably complimentary comments. Once again the shiny new national leader soon reveals his incompetence and tries desperately to quell the growing fury and disillusion. And the French are much more willing to take to the streets and cause mayhem than the more deferential Brits.

    1. I see you’ve been studying M. Macron…….
      He started at a disadvantage for me anyway….in a comic of my youth there was a strip called Dan Dare…about space. His enemy was The Mekon…a shrivelled thing with an enormous bonce coloured a lurid shade of green, who moved about on a levitating chair. The combination of the name, the oversized head and his anti social attributes made Macron the up to date version of the Mekon for me…and so he remains.

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