Converge With Planned Labour Strikes
This past weekend the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) celebrated their first birthday, with convivial barbeques on traffic circles (roundabouts) all over France followed by direct actions like liberating tollbooths. Although number of protestors has declined to about 10 per cent of the estimated 400,000 who rose up a year ago on November 17, 2018 – thanks to a year of violent police repression, media distortion, and sheer fatigue – a surprisingly large number of women and men throughout la France profonde (“middle France”) came out of ‘retirement’ and donned their yellow vests for “ACT 53” of the weekly Yellow Vest drama – double the previous weeks’ numbers. Recent polls indicate that 10 per cent of French people consider themselves “Yellow Vests,” and two-thirds still support them (although a majority wish they would go home!).
The first anniversary of the Yellow Vest uprising marks an historic moment: perhaps the first time in history that a self-organized, unstructured, leaderless, social movement has survived for so long. This weekend there was much eager discussion out on the traffic circles of the upcoming unlimited general strike called by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and other unions for December 5. Two weeks ago the Yellow Vests’ nationwide “Assembly of Assemblies” called for “convergence” with the upcoming strike, and the leader of the CGT, who had previously snubbed the Yellow Vests, reacted by inviting them to join.
So, after a year of lonely, increasingly dangerous, physical resistance to the neoliberal counter-reforms of the arrogant, unpopular “President of the rich,” suddenly new perspectives are opening for the Yellow Vests in their unequal struggle with the powerful, unified, increasingly authoritarian, capitalist state. (We will turn to this enticing possibility in a moment.)
This Revolution will not be Televised
None of the above events transpired through the French mainstream media, which as usual concentrated on two subjects: violence and Paris. In the capital this Saturday, as happens every Saturday, brigades of robo-cops outnumbered demonstrators and prevented them from actually marching along routes that had been (for once!) previously agreed upon, while a few bands of black-clad casseurs (vandals who somehow never seem to get arrested or even shot at) managed to smash bank windows and set a couple of cars on fire.