Whatever else the French Gilets Jaunes – the ‘yellow vests’ – crisis has done it has reminded us that that no one does protest with the panache of the French. After years of silence and electoral abstention, the hike in the diesel tax of 6.9 cents, or 6p, a litre was the straw that broke Jacques’s back. Since mid-November the Republic’s most invisible citizens have taken to exhibiting their true colours on roundabouts throughout the country. And colourful they certainly are – well beyond the fluorescent yellow that has become their brand.
The movement is fascinating in its variety: from far-left to far-right in terms of ideas, but extremely divided on the matter of whether or not to participate in formal politics with a capital P; in its tactics – that are a combination of revolutionary uprising and Facebook mobilization; and also in its demands – that range from Macron’s head on a stick to institutional reforms.