Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Breton Revolt

This Breton uprising of les bonnets rouges is quite interesting. Here is Le Monde's comment with emphasis added:
La fronde de la Bretagne, terre socialiste, majoritairement proeuropéenne, mieux dotée que d'autres régions frappées par la désertification ou l'atonie industrielle, est un vrai signal d'alarme. « On voit des publics aux parcours très différents se mobiliser contre le pouvoir central. C'est comme si la France d'en bas était en rébellion contre l'Etat central », analyse François Miquet-Marty, président de Viavoice, institut d'études et de conseil en opinions. « Ces derniers temps, l'exaspération est montée d'un cran,constate-t-il, elle se cristallise sur la politique fiscale vécue comme un matraquage à la fois injuste et inefficace. Les gens ont l'impression qu'on les mène en bateau et ils sont en colère. »
Here, at last, we have the emergence of a populism whose basis is not racist, xenophobic, or identity-based. It is an eruption of anger against a government that has failed to persuade its own electorate that its policies have a chance of working. It is a rebellion that is economic at its core.

Of course it's very early to say where this is headed. It could all fizzle out rather quickly, as similar flashes of anger have done in recent years. I'm hoping for a different outcome: perhaps the parties that now seem to be racing each other to catch up with Marine Le Pen will recognize that there are issues other than controlling the borders and cracking down on crime that matter to large numbers of voters. And perhaps the Socialists, in particular, will be encouraged to look more closely at unemployment numbers than at the red ink in the budget. The Breton revolt is in part a tax revolt, but it is also a protest against a wave of layoffs in a number of Breton firms directly threatened by intensifying international competition. Nothing in the Socialist version of austerity so much as hints at an answer to this problem. There's nothing like a vigorous stirring at the base to concentrate the minds of party leaders and ambitious présidentiables.