January 3, 2014
When Claudie Le Bail joined tens of thousands of Breton “red cap” demonstrators protesting in Carhaix at the end of November to oppose regional job losses and a green tax on road freight, she took her 79-year-old mother with her.
“It was her first demonstration. She said the disappearing jobs will affect her children. Every generation is affected,” says Le Bail, a 55-year-old educational worker with disabled children who lives in a small village in the far-flung and economically-depressed Breton department of Finistère.
The town of 15,000 is ground zero in the revolt of the red caps – named after Breton bonnets rouges who led an anti-tax protest in the 17th century. The red caps mobilised in a wave of nationalist fervour at the end of last year, bringing together bosses, farmers and workers in a single cause, and crystallising the French disgust at their rising tax burden. “It’s rekindled Breton pride,” says Le Bail’s husband, Daniel Caillavec, who has watched the competitors to his plant nursery vanish one by one in the recession. “We’re now taking our destiny in hand.”