In recent weeks France has been convulsed by the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) protest movement, which brought hundreds of thousands to the street in cost-of-living protests sparked by a fuel tax increase. It was the most substantial challenge to the government of centrist hero Emmanuel Macron since his election in 2017, with his approval rating falling to just 18 per cent at the height of the demonstrations.
In 2017’s presidential election, Macron’s most prominent opponent on the left was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who narrowly missed out on facing the future president in the second round. In the period since, Mélenchon’s movement, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), has become the most prominent parliamentary opposition to Macron’s government, condemning its authoritarianism, its anti-union reforms, and its tax cuts for the rich.
Mélenchon regularly polls as France’s most popular politician — although his movement trails both Macron and the resurgent far-right leader Marine Le Pen ahead of the European elections in May. Here, Mélenchon speaks to Tribune about the politics behind La France Insoumise, how he sees the debate over sovereignty and internationalism, and the need to challenge the hegemony of the German right-wing over European politics.