Jeered and whistled at by protesters at the Arc de Triomphe during Remembrance Day ceremonies Nov. 11, and with France's credit rating downgraded yet again, Hollande appears weak, indecisive and clueless as France sinks back into recession. A brief promise of renewed growth in the summer has given way to another quarter of falling economic activity.

But the political activity is intense, not least in Brittany, where local opposition to the latest eco-tax on heavy goods vehicles has spawned what one newspaper called a "jacquérie," a peasants' revolt. Tax-collection points have been burned and hundreds of the widely hated speed cameras have been destroyed.

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