April 2, 2023

Ah, Paris in the springtime! Clouds of tear gas. Tough CRS riot police breaking heads. Plate glass windows being smashed. Heaps of noxious garbage burning away. Retail stores being denuded of business or looted. Tourists cowering in their tiny, overpriced hotels.

In short, a city under siege. Ironically, the French are doing far more damage to Paris than did the retreating Germans in 1944. The government of President Emmanuel Macron is wobbly. There is talk of its collapse and a new, weaker Republic dominated by assorted leftists.

Paris old-timers, like this writer, know that street mayhem is as much part of its life as afternoon aperitifs. Rioting is France’s favorite sport, even surpassing the traditional ‘cinq a sept’ time for sensual rendezvous between married folks.

Street demonstrations have been part of Paris life since the Middle Ages. This ancient city, founded by the Romans, has always been a haven for rebellious and often violent malefactors known as ‘sans culottes’ or those without underwear. They form an explosive lumpenproletariat ready to erupt into violence and looting at the least excuse. That’s why King Louis XIV built his palace at Versailles, well distant from the teeming back alleys of Paris.

Students feature prominently in the violent demonstrations. One would think that twenty-something students would not get riled up over pension reforms that will affect them 40 years later. But the Paris street has fastened on to President Macron’s necessary pension reforms as a wonderful excuse to riot and break things. Paris always has a large mob of unemployed anarchists and hooligans just waiting for trouble, egged on by far left academics and professional revolutionaries.

Everyone remembers the massive street uprising of 1968.

Many of today’s rioters are students. Small wonder. The entire French education system is excellent compared to the second-rate American system, but it is top heavy with Marxists, Communists, Trotskyites and anarchists. They infuse their young students with all sorts of leftist claptrap and a general hatred of the free market and United States – while teaching the wisdom of Aristotle and Voltaire.

For many French, government is the sole source of all wealth and social benefits. Government is in effect ‘le papa.’ To get goodies from this paternal figure students demonstrate and throw violent tantrums. Governments usually back down after a lot of tough talk few believe. Great damage is done to the world’s most beautiful capital. Small armies of violent rioters always lurk in the old city and university area. The most violent are known as ‘les casseurs,’ or ‘the breakers.’ Many are anarchists (supported of course by government handouts) and some unemployed riff raff.

In 1848 and again in 1968 Paris erupted in revolt against the bourgeois government. Both revolts were brutally put down by the army. In fact, wide swathes of the old city were subsequently demolished to open broad boulevards that could be swept by cannon fire and cavalry charges.

Today, there is no mass killing, as during the infamous Paris Commune uprising of 1871. But each lurch to the left in France has always been met by a powerful reaction from conservatives and the Church. Given this dire history of left-right conflict, it seems odd that the current fracas in Paris and around France is all about retirement age. It is high time to amend France’s retirement policies.

France is a nation awash with unemployed 60-something retirees. Women tend to stay home and bake; men shuffle around and look for things to do. In the part of France I frequent- Alsace-Lorraine – retired men refurbish 100 year old forts, a labor of love that I, a military historian, heartily encourage.

But what a giant waste of talent and manpower. Vital, capable, educated men killing time because of France’s absurdly low retirement age. What’s more, the early 60’s national retirement age was enacted in an era when most people died in their 60’s. Today, a full ten years of natural life have been added. It’s really sad to see armies of talented French playing cards or playing ‘boules’ when the rest of the world is coming after France’s business.

President Emmanuel Macron was right, if heavy-handed, to ram the retirement legislation through government. The spoiled French need a kick in their ‘derriere’ to revive their fighting spirit. Napoleon did not conquer Europe and much of Russia with any army of 60-something card players.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2023

This post is in: France


  1. Pig Shit says:

    Mr. Margolis,

    Why did you not make any mention of the 2006 Paris riots, which involved French Muslim immigrants?
    The rioting took place mainly in suburban areas. Unlike in the United States, French suburbs are where most of the immigrant minorities reside.

  2. The Work Farce says:

    We’ve always looked up to France as the guardian of democracy, the beacon of liberty, equality and fraternity. Paris is the place where love, freedom and art are far more important than money and wage slavery.

    In North America we’ve heard of Freedom 55. I often like to joke that France has the best retirement plan in the world. It’s called Freedom 25. In North America we call it turn on, tune in, and drop out. Young artists and idealists are always the avant garde of political, economic, social and cultural progress. We need many more people focusing on solutions to toxic capitalism and imminent environmental disaster. Viva la France!

  3. To prevent further losses, it’s necessary to call a ‘general nationwide strike’.

  4. hughballen@gmailcom says:

    Nice to hear from you. Provocative and imaginative. Hope to read more from you soon. I appreciate your writing.

  5. LawrenceChanin says:

    Great to see this new article, Eric. Welcome back to the war of words. Enjoy Paris!
    I agree that 62 is an early age to retire. But this is France we’re talking about. As the whole world goes further and further radical right to the extent of fascism, we need France to lead the return to progressivism. As European nations grow richer and richer at the expense of the other 90% of the world’s people, we need France to lead the fight against wage slavery, greedy austerity, and the 1% living on the backs of the rest of the world.
    Retirement age of 62 remains one of the last symbols of liberty, freedom, and equality anywhere on this planet being destroyed by toxic corporate capitalism.
    The fight is a fight well worth fighting for anyone who loves the ideals France has always stood for, against greedy toxic capitalism and fascism.

  6. It’s not often that I disagree with you, Mr. Margolis.
    If a country decides that it wants to create an environment where the elderly can retire at an early age and not live in abject poverty they can do so. If a country wants to provide free healthcare, and other befits for the citizens, it is entitled to do that; it seems like a civilised way to do things. It just means the ‘ultra rich’, are less ultra rich. They can do this by taxation on individuals, and businesses, collecting a percentage of extracted resources, tariffs on imported goods, etc. It may mean that the cost of living is higher, and the business environment is not as ‘friendly’ as in a capitalist state. It is, however, the civilised thing to do. They are rewarding the retired for their lifetime of effort and hard work. This is not like some societies where the elderly are ‘cast aside’, and live by eating canned ‘cat food’.
    One of the few legitimate purposes of a government is to look after the long term interests of the citizenry. Most governments, of late, have failed in this regard. Your own government has over 1,000,000 Covid deaths; most of which were avoidable.
    If subsequent governments fail in achieving that mandate through their actions by malfeasance or poor direction, it is not the fault of the individuals that originally gave the government the mandate to provide these retirement services. The French government, like so many others around the world, have dropped ‘the baton’. People are understandably upset, and are reacting to it.
    A large part of France’s problems have been created by a huge influx of immigrants that have not contributed to the ‘retirement pot’. I’m not anti-immigrant. It’s simply and issue that should have been addressed. The failure to address this lies with the government policies and is not a fault of the ‘contributors’. To reiterate, they are justifiably upset.

  7. I don’t know what strategy the French government is using to keep senior Frenchmen working but reducing hours to 20 or 30 per week and allowing tax-free “400 Euro” jobs like Germany would transition people through semi-retirement far more easily than putting in 40 hours and then completely retiring.
    A good strategy is beneficial to all as sitting at home is a killer for men between 60 and 75. Activity and purpose promote interest which increases health.

  8. McRocket 8 says:

    Thank you for this informative and enjoyable article.

  9. Joe from Canada says:

    Imagine if those wild leftists took over USA.

    They would do something really silly like stopping endless wars on the rest of the world, and put that money into health care and education.

    They might even get really silly and replace all their dronings and bombings with foreign aid.

    Thank goodness for the nice guys in the military industrial complex.

    • The USA cannot have a decent healthcare program, because their population level is too low. For that you gave to go to India, where they have medical care for all of its 1.4 billion citizens. And education in the US would require an average IQ level quite a bit higher than the present one. And thanks to the foreign student population, the average IQ of the graduates is sufficient to have a sound future. How can several European countries have free education for all? In a true democracy the capitalists would have been ousted a long time ago with their policies of greed and corruption. Instead of criticizing the Chinese, try to learn from their superior way of governing. Yes, it would close the wage gap, but that would benefit the vast majority of the citizens. Isn`t that what a real democracy is supposed to be?

  10. I agree this is absurd. Here in Canada I have to wait until I am 65.for my pension. Good thing We went Paris in September before this lunacy happened. The real joke is the number of people on Twitter who think these people are heroes protesting over France’s blind support of Ukraine.

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