Must we raise taxes?


Gilets jaunes protestors in Le Mans, north-west France. Photograph: Jean-François Monier/AFP/Getty Images
Gilets jaunes protestors in Le Mans, north-west France. Photograph: Jean-François Monier/AFP/Getty Images

Who are the gilets jaunes?

Source: The Guardian
A grassroots citizens’ protest movement began in early November against a planned rise in the tax on diesel and petrol, which Emmanuel Macron insisted would aid the country’s transition to green energy. A poll at the time found that the price of fuel had become France’s biggest talking point.

The movement was named “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) because protesters wear the fluorescent yellow high-vis jackets that all motorists must by law carry in their cars. But what began as a fuel tax protest has now morphed into a wider anti-government movement.

How have the protests escalated?

Unlike previous French protest movements, it sprang up online through petitions and was organised by ordinary working people posting videos on social media, without a set leader, trade union or political party behind it.

A first national day of protests was held across France on Saturday 17 November and the protests have continued daily, including roadblocks, barricades of roundabouts and the blockading of fuel depots.
A poll for Harris Interactive conducted after the violence on 1 December in Paris found 72% of French people continued to support the gilets jaunes but 85% said they disagreed with the violence in Paris.

Who are the protesters and what are their grievances?
Protesters have largely come from peripheral towns, cities and rural areas across France and include many women and single mothers. Most of the protesters have jobs, including as secretaries, IT workers, factory workers, delivery workers and care workers. All say their low incomes mean they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month.

The movement is predominantly against a tax system perceived as unfair and unjust, but there are numerous grievances and differences of opinion. Most want to scrap the fuel taxes, hold a review of the tax system, raise the minimum wage and roll back Macron’s tax cuts for the wealthy and his pro-business economic programme. But some also want parliament dissolved and Macron to resign.

The first 18 months of Macron’s presidency were defined by his drive for businesses to become more competitive; he cut taxes on companies and transformed France’s wealth tax, easing the tax burden on the very wealthy.

He is now under pressure to consider the gilets jaunes’ demands, and to that end the government executed a U-turn on 5 December when it scrapped the fuel tax rise, one day after announcing a six-month freeze on the policy.


Source: The Guardian

In the meantime...

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, had the opportunity to address a global climate change conference this week, where she didn’t mince her words.


A 15-year-old girl told world leaders and their governments that they are ‘not mature enough to tell it like it is’ when it comes to tackling climate change – so she did it for them.  She told diplomats and ministers assembled at the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland: ‘You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.’

In the speech, which last less than five minutes, she took leaders to task over continuing to move forward with the ‘same bad ideas that got us into this mess’.

She added: ‘Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. ‘It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.’ Greta spoke on behalf of Climate Justice Now, a global network of climate advocacy groups, as officials from nearly 200 countries gathered in Poland.

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