Yellow vests: redeveloping the welfare state from the margins and the grass roots

yellow vests: redeveloping the welfare state from the margins and the base

Protests on 24. November 2018 in Paris. Photo Bernard Schmid

A new social contract is indispensable, demands the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Drian

With the Yellow Vests protests, the discussion is now heating up in France, as it did in Germany, about how a welfare state should be created early on 21. The first part of the story could look like this. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Drian makes a start within the government. Given the serious moment that can be felt throughout the country, it is now essential to create a new social contract, Le Drian said.

Der Aubenminister, der im Marz dieses Jahres nach 48 Jahren Mitgliedschaft die sozialdemokratische Partei Parti Socialiste verlassen hatte, appelliert an Macron, seine Politik neu auszurichten. It must pay more attention to social balance.

The competitiveness of the economy

Of the two objectives of Macron’s election campaign – the restoration of French competitiveness and a new social justice – too much attention was paid to the first and not fast enough to the second. Now the two must be combined. However, Le Drian said, care should be taken not to overemphasize government from above. He is reticent to make concrete proposals, but wants a different basic orientation: now is the time for the regions to get more involved, it is their time ("l’heure des territoire").

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire belongs to the other camp in the government. He described the economic damage caused by the protests as "catastrophic". The conservative minister, formerly with the French Republicans, places great emphasis on the competitiveness of French companies.

It will be interesting to see which of the two positions French President Macron will emphasize with what weight in his long-awaited speech this evening. There is to be "strong speech" media, who have spoken to government officials, are raising expectations of a.

Last but not least, Macron has also raised expectations by his silence in recent days. The stakes are high for him, too, write not "Russian Twitterbots" or "Political saboteurs" on Facebook, but rather the rather nuchterne business paper Les Echos. The presidency of Macron is at stake.

Left and Right

The protests that are shaking the ground in the palace are characterized by something that is also characteristic of the government. There are representatives and sympathizers of several political camps. What Macron proclaimed in his election campaign as a new orientation, namely that he and his movement are beyond the classic divide between left and right, also applies to the Yellow Vests. The Yellow Vests movement reflects some of the dynamics that are part of the success of the La Republique en Marche movement, namely that it breaks through old familiar formats.

No doubt about it: in fact there are some prominent heads of the extreme right who are clearly exposing themselves at the protests. From the beginning, France Debout party leader Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who supported Marine Le Pen in the presidential elections, tried to make political capital out of the movement.

One of his party members, Frank Buhler, formerly of the Front National, agitated for the Yellow Vests through Facebook postings that received millions of hits (cf. Street blockades in France: "I think with my EC card") and Eric Drouet, who has become one of the spokesmen of the Gilet-jaunes protests, is not exactly portrayed as a leftist either.

But the demands (here in German) cannot necessarily be sold as a catalog of a right-wing movement. It cannot be overlooked that the followers of the former Front National, now Rassemblement National (RN) share the sympathy of party leader Le Pen for the Yellow Vests. According to an IFOP survey of 5. and 6. December it is 69 percent among the adherents of the RN.

The Yellow Vests’ annexes in political camps

However, 60 percent of the supporters of the left-wing movement La France Insoumise and 36 percent of the supporters of the French Social Democratic Party (PS) were also present. In contrast, only 22 percent among supporters of conservative Republicans. The appendix from the left of the political spectrum is very strong, notes Jerôme Fourquet.

Fourquet is a senior analyst at the opinion polling institute IFOP. In an article published on the French website Atlantico, where, it should be added, in the last few years the left in France has been criticized very intensively and positions of new right-wing currents have been highlighted more strongly, the IFOP analyst presents figures that illustrate that the drawer "Right-wing and reactionary" for the protest movement and its supporters in the broad picture does not fit. Even if not a few in France and Germany would like to explain the phenomenon with this classification "banned" had.

What emerged instead is that the Yellow Vests are the antithesis of La Republique en Marche. By far the fewest supporters or sympathizers (9 percent) are conspicuously to be found there. The composition of those who have sympathies for the Yellow Vests is also like an antithesis: only one-tenth of Yellow Vest sympathizers are active in the upper echelons – in France, the leadership class is found in companies and government offices "cadres" called, the majority of them supported Macron.

The sympathizers of the Yellow Vests are 27 percent blue- and white-collar workers, who belong to the category of "blue-collar workers "populaire" are paid more than the upper class counterpart. 13 percent are employed in the middle category (professions intermediaires) and 27 percent are unemployed. Also "independent workers" are said to be among the sympathizers in a surprising proportion.

Fourquet does not give an exact number. The poll results are presented only in two charts, which do not support some figures that Fourquet mentioned in his interview with the publication. This is also the case for the 18 percent that Fourquet gives as a rough figure for those who have "Yellow vests" define (the show board shows only 17 percent here).

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