France’s Yellow Vest Movement Comes Of Age

In fact, so far at least, France’s movement remains relatively unstructured. It has yet to be hijacked by either the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, or the far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, try as they might to claim ownership.

And that is what makes France’s movement unique, compared with, say, the Five Star Movement in Italy, which grew up out of a similar disgust with political parties and a distrust of elites, and which has held itself out as the authentic expression of the popular will.

But Five Star was always less movement than new-age political party. While organized over the internet, it was led by prominent figures (Beppe Grillo, for one) as well as more obscure ones (the Casaleggios) who stoked, channeled and harnessed the popular discontent from the start.

Much the same can be said of the now-floundering U.K. Independence Party in Britain, which gave voice to Brexit and the public’s rejection of European Union structures, as well as its class divides with London. Or for that matter, of President Trump, who demonstrates contempt for institutions. His rural and exurban supporters agree with him.

“It is the same fear, anger and anxiety in France, Italy and the United Kingdom,” said Enrico Letta, a former prime minister of Italy who now teaches at Sciences Po university in Paris. “These three countries have the highest level of class slippage,” he said.

For the 30 years after World War II, “they were at the top of the world,” Mr. Letta said, “at the very center.” These countries “used to live with a very high level of average well-being,” he said. “Now, there is a great fear of seeing it all slip away.”

Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/world/europe/yellow-vests-france.html

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