In 1675 there was a violent uprising in Brittany against a tax increase. A year earlier Louis XIV had imposed Stamp Duty on all legal documents. It was rumoured a Salt Tax was next. Apart from violence against tax collectors, the protest widened into an attack on feudalism. It was defeated by Royal troops. The rebels wore red bonnets. Louis XIV was an extreme champion of state intervention, offering that most candid and piithy message: “L’etat c’est moi.”
This morning, The Times reports (£) that the red bonnets have returned:
President Hollande “suspended” the “ecotax” green levy last week after protesters blocked roads with piles of cauliflowers and burning tyres, and pelted police with pots of chrysanthemums, but his U-turn failed to appease the Red Caps, who have now widened their protests to a range of issues, from punitive tax increases to the stubbornly high rate of unemployment.
The movement is an unlikely coalition of farmers, trade unionists and employers, spanning the political spectrum.
Tens of thousands have been demonstrating. A small minority have engaged in violence and that has no justification. Unlike Louis XIV, President Francois Hollande was elected. The way to prevent socialists imposing tax hikes is to defeat them at the ballot box.
Lawful protest is certainly justified against the tax rises in the interim. There will be no football in France from November 29th to December 2nd in the top two divisions in a protest by players against a 75 per cent income tax for those on high salaries.
Another effective protest is for wealth creators to cross the Channel. In the streets of Fulham I notice an increasing number of smartly dressed people speaking French.
Ils sont les bienvenus!
For some of the other victims of the tax increases – the lorry drivers, the fishermen, the farmers, the unemployed – moving to Fulham is not such a realistic option.