Skip to main content

Energy crisis

Rioting gets results – just ask the French

A gilets jaunes protester in 2018. Lucas Barioulet/AFP/Getty

Britain is a “powder keg”, says Owen Jones in The Guardian. Polling shows that nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 29% of the country as a whole, think rioting is justified in present conditions – and this is before the winter fuel crisis hits. Governments that truly fear such threats tend to offer their citizens more support than those that don’t. Take France: upon learning that the country’s poorest households are among Europe’s best-shielded from price rises, one British political commentator wondered “why the French are always so angry with their government”.

But it’s precisely because the French love riots and rallies that their rulers try to buy them off. In 1968, a general strike and “mass revolt” prompted President Charles de Gaulle to temporarily flee the country, and the terrified French establishment to concede “a massive hike in workers’ wages”. When Emmanuel Macron recently tried to introduce a carbon tax, the gilets jaunes protests forced him to backtrack. Of course, we had a revolution nearly a century and a half before the French – from suffragettes to trade unionists, “rebellion is a tradition as English as queueing or afternoon tea”. And we may see that in action this winter, with the Enough is Enough campaign to fight the cost-of-living emergency. “Its task is straightforward: a crash course French lesson for Liz Truss’s likely government.”