Economic and social conditions in France have inflamed passions among workers who have been hit hard by soaring energy prices and a cost of living crisis.
The French government raised the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64, inflaming the country’s protest movement throughout the first half of 2023. Then, nationwide protests followed the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old teenager of Algerian descent by a police officer during a traffic stop at a Paris suburb at the end of June.
The riots reopened the deep division of the nation so recently fragmented by France’s ‘Yellow Jacket’ protests symbolizing the forgotten middle class who feel like the political elite is forgetting about them.
Those 2018 protests —sparked by the increase in fuel prices— became an outlet for people to express their discontent with the high cost of living, President Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, and the elitism of France’s ruling class.
The French demonstrations reflected sentiments that were evident in the United States after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in 2020, as well as the economic frustration displayed by the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party protests.
While these public demonstrations were largely inconsequential in both the US and France, they indicate that modern democracies are not invulnerable to destabilization that could foment revolution, even when such countries are among the world’s nine nuclear powers.
As their leaders provoke unpredictable changes in the citizenry, these nuclear powers create a greater danger than anyone has imagined.
However, in response to the constant deterioration of the living conditions of workers, the widening of inequalities, and the rise of violence and insecurity, the government offers no prospect of a change in approach, as if President Joe Biden is unaware that after eight years of President Barack Obama, Americans were so dissatisfied that they elected Donald Trump.
Initially, Trump radically transformed the Republican Party, coalescing all the zany hard-right, anti-tax, and pro-bigotry forces that were cultivated by a GOP establishment that failed to foresee inmates eventually taking over the asylum. Four years later, very few members of the Party of Lincoln cared enough to repudiate an attempted coup d’etat and many other Americans see his brand of neoNazism as a valid alternative in 2024.
Biden and Macron are representatives of the wealthy, powerful political establishment that has been cultivated to serve the interests of oligarchs, a new aristocracy of corporate power or the manifestation of the military-industrial complex about which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans on January 17, 1961.
Eisenhower cautioned that the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Trump used his job as commander-in-chief to be America’s arms-dealer-in-chief in a way no other president has since Eisenhower, promoting defense jobs in swing states; pushing through arms sales to Saudi crown prince Muhammed bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates; while giving industry figures top jobs, including three defense secretaries who worked for Raytheon, for Boeing; and for General Dynamics.
Of the $14.5 trillion the Pentagon spent between fiscal years 2002 and 2021, 55 percent went to military contractors.
Rather than chart a new path after Trump’s massive military outlays, Biden has also delivered the opposite of a peace dividend by approving the biggest military spending hikes the Pentagon has ever seen each year. The Pentagon got billions more each budget year compared with the last.
Biden signed a $782 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022, $850 billion for fiscal year 2023, $886.3 billion for fiscal year 2024.
All around Europe right now, far-right parties of different flavors—nostalgic nationalist, populist nationalist, ultra-conservative with neo-fascist roots, and more —are enjoying a notable resurgence in a sad continuity of the decline of democracy.
Spain joined Sweden, Greece, Finland, and Italy, by giving the far-right power for the first time in generations. It’s a significant development for Europe, where hard-right parties have scored election victories by advancing harsh attacks on LGBTQ people, women, and migrants.
Old taboos dating back to Europe’s devastating 20th Century war against the Nazis and fascist Italy, when most voters felt they should never again vote for the extreme right, are gradually being eroded.
Mainstream political parties that once refused to collaborate with far-right groups are finding common cause with anti-immigration neo-fascist ultra-conservatives.
Now, the EU’s third-largest economy, Italy, is run by Giorgia Meloni, head of a party with neo-fascist roots.
In Finland, the far-right nationalists The Finns joined the coalition government.
In Sweden the firmly anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in parliament, propping up the right-wing coalition government there.
In Greece, three hard-right parties won enough seats to enter parliament, while in Spain, the controversial nationalist Vox Party – the first successful far-right party in Spain since the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 – outperformed all expectations in recent regional elections.
Then there are the ultra-conservative, authoritarian-leaning governments in Poland and in Hungary.
The list does go on and on, but it seems clear that genuine liberal Democrats—such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Marianne Williamson—are boxed out by corporate-owned media outlets working in concert with the oligarch-back political establishment, but the door for fascist demagogues like Trump remains wide open.
Biden’s push to supersize already historically high Pentagon spending, efforts to censor political opponents by pressuring social media companies, and ratcheting up instances where the White House gets directly involved in the operations of private companies to do that which the federal government cannot do itself.