The revolt of the Gilets Jaunes has been interpreted and analyzed many times in many, sometimes completely opposing, ways. It has been largely viewed, by the right, especially, and most of the dominant media, as a quasi-fascist movement, a form of uncontrollable collective delinquency, in a word: a threat to democracy and existing institutions. But even among those who were generally sympathetic to social movements, including many activists on the left, reservations about completely new forms of political action and wariness about individuals who do not quite fit in politically have remained very strong, sometimes even leading them to refuse to support what they consider “impure,” “confused” or “unreliable” struggles.
On January 30, 2019, already one year ago, the Council of Europe through its Commissioner for Human Rights expressed “very serious concerns” about the type of injuries wreaked on Gilets Jaunes protesters (the Yellow Vests) by French police forces. Later in February 2019, the European Parliament and the UN strongly condemned the disproportionate use of police violence in France. One year later, by the 51st day of protest against the neo-liberal measures of Emmanuel Macron’s government, involving members of almost all professions (nurses, electricians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, university professors and researchers, dockers, sewer workers, gas workers, train drivers, subway drivers, radiologists, postmen, labour inspectors,and so forth), what is the outcome? One year later the picture is frightening, a fortiori when it comes to a democracy.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris on Monday and clashed with riot police as the pension reform bill reached the French National Assembly for debate. Tensions between the demonstrators and riot police were visible, as the police tried to keep protesters at bay with batons, before arresting a few. Yellow Vests and unionist with flares could also be seen joining in with the rally. “Sixty per cent of the French are against this reform and against a certain number of measures which have been taken before. We are under attack from all sides on social justice, in a country that prides itself on its freedom, its fraternity,” said a protester. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a two-year-extension of the working period necessary to earn a full pension in December, triggering the anger of workers and trade unions.
Wearing protective clothing, firefighters set themselves ablaze in the streets, performing perhaps the safest self-immolation protest in world history. Yet few outside France saw the action; protestors took to social media to decry the mainstream disinterest in the growing movement, the largest and most sustained protests in the country since May 1968. Many asserted that if repression on this scale were happening in Venezuela or Iran, it would be the number one story in North America and across the globe. Yet a Wednesday morning search on the homepages of the New York Times, Google News and Yahoo! News found that there were zero links to coverage of the previous day’s events.
Today, hundreds of “yellow vests” from France and protesters from other countries across Europe, including Belgium and Britain, are protesting outside Belmarsh maximum security prison in London to demand the freeing of WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange. A principled and courageous journalist whose revelations exposed imperialist crimes against humanity and encouraged working class protests around the world, Assange is the target of a relentless state campaign to destroy him.
Representatives of the unions of teachers, doctors, lawyers and railway workers marched again Thursday in the streets of Paris, capital of France, against the social policies and economic President Emmanuel Macron, particularly its reform of pensions . Among the main demands of the French is the revision of the pension reform proposed by Macron, before it is approved by the Council of Ministers, reiterating that it violates their fundamental rights. After 43 days of general strike, the Executive has yielded in provisionally withdrawing the retirement age, however, asks for an agreement with social organizations, while the Secretary General of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), Philippe Martínez, said that the government did not convince them with the recent announcement.
The nationwide general strike in France, now entering its record seventh week, seems to be approaching its crisis point. Despite savage police repression, about a million people are in the streets protesting President Macron’s proposed neo-liberal “reform” of France’s retirement system, established at the end of World War II and considered one of the best in the world. At bottom what is at stake is a whole vision of what kind of society people want to live in – one based on cold market calculation or one based on human solidarity – and neither side shows any sign of willingness to compromise.
Montpellier, France - On the eve of an “unlimited” (open-ended) General Strike called for Dec. 5, more and more unions and protest groups are pledging to join in. Two things are unusual about this strike. The first is that it is open-ended, rather than the usual one-day ritualistic protest marches, and it may be prolonged from day to day by workers’ assemblies as long as necessary. The second is that the Yellow Vests, the self-organized, horizontal, social movement that sprung up spontaneously just over a year ago and is still popular despite severe repression, have decided to converge with the strike. Just as surprising, Philippe Martinez Secretary General of CGT, France’s largest union federation, who had originally spurned the Yellow Vests, immediately welcomed them, making for a heady mix.
France - Today’s strike against pension cuts in France will mark a major escalation of the class struggle. A year after the eruption of the “Yellow Vest” protests against social inequality, the government has only intensified the attacks on the working class. Now rail, transit, airline, hospital, energy and port workers, together with students and lawyers groups, will strike and march. The strike has the support of two-thirds of the public, polls show, including 74 percent of manual workers and 70 percent of public-sector workers. It is part of a vast international resurgence of the class struggle this year. In Chile, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria and beyond, workers and youth are mobilizing in protests driven by opposition to obscene levels of social inequality.
ROAR is proud to present a powerful new independent documentary that tells the story of three lives affected by police violence in France during the popular uprising of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement. Mutilations and deaths through so-called “sub-lethal” riot control weapons have become all too common in the modern day Republic. Two dozen people lost the use of an eye from LBD (flashball) rubber bullet launchers, and five people have had their hands blown off by military grade grenades thrown by the police at the protesters.
November 2019 has arrived, bringing in its wake the one year anniversary of the Gilets Jaunes. Those who talked about running out of steam in January, then this spring, then again this summer, still don’t get it: the essence of the movement, encoded in its DNA, is that it can’t end. Each social movement has its own temporality, its own specificity, its own way of ending. A few months after a huge strike, mass protests or popular uprisings, the media and political experts wrap up the sequence in newspaper and file it away in the archives of History.
France - After a quieter period during the summer, the Yellow Vest movement hit the streets in larger numbers for Acte 43 on Saturday. Protests were held throughout France from Rouen to Paris to Montpelier. Police responded, as they have been, with tear gas and other forms of violence. Permanent Revolution reports that hardcore yellow vest protesters continued to march every Saturday throughout the summer and also demonstrated at the G7 meetings in Biarritz. The increase in protests on Saturday was marked as a "return" in what the movement is calling a "Black September." President Macron's popularity is still low, and distrust in the government is high. They write: "The first visible lesson is that this Saturday marked a re-mobilization of the hardcore of Yellow Vests, from a few hundred to several thousand in large cities, or even making its return in a series of medium-sized cities."
The welcome awaiting Macron, Trump and the other G7 world leaders in Biarritz later this month promises to be not so much warm as hot. The Basques already have a proud tradition of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle. But from August 24 to 26 the opposition to the summit will be bolstered by the mass participation of the Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, who have been protesting every week non-stop since November 2018. Not only is the G7 being hosted by their primary hate-figure in President Macron, but it will also receive – in the words of the Bayonne group of Gilets Jaunes – ‘world leaders who defend an ultra-liberal economy which offers us nothing’.