The Yellow Vest movement is making the global elite tremble. In the space of a few short weeks, it has forced Macron, the darling of neo-liberal Europe, to retreat. And it has found an echo around the world. The dictator of Egypt, Sisi, has banned the sale of yellow vests, fearing an uprising in his own country.
The movement began in the rural areas of France over a tax on diesel fuel. As in Ireland many workers have to live outside the main cities and drive to work. Coming on top of other attacks, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
After an online petition attracted hundreds of thousands, Facebook groups were set up and a lorry driver called a blockade. It spread like wildfire from then, with 300,000 people participating in over 2,000 blockades at one point.
Macron tried, at first, to crush the movement with huge repression.
Last Saturday the state mobilised 90,000 police across France to prevent protests. In Paris there were 8,000 police supplied with 180,000 tear gas grenades and backed by 12 armoured cars
Police fired tear gas at Yellow Vest protesters in Paris from 10am. They had arrested around 300 people in advance of the demonstrations and hundreds more were seized on the streets by 11.30am.
A video of school students being forced to kneel with their hands behind their heads by French riot police sparked particular outrage. Police taunted the young people in the video, saying, “Here is a class that is behaving.”
Macron’s aim was to split the movement by frightening off some people with images of violence and then to give a token apology to appease others.
But it has not worked. The Yellow Vests have become a movement that is uniting many social sections to fight the grievances of the poor.
Despite a slow start, the unions have joined the movement. The Sud-Rail union, for example,—the third biggest in the industry—has called explicitly for support of Yellow Vest protests
What we are witnessing is an uprising against the elites. It is an example that should be celebrated and spread everywhere.
We should not fall for the lies the media tell about the movement. Here is how the French writer, Edouard Louis, described the game they play:
‘Right from the start of this movement we have seen “experts” and “politicians” in the media belittling, condemning, and mocking the gilets jaunes and the revolt that they embody. I saw the words “barbarians,” “idiots,” “yokels,” “irresponsible” spread across social networks.
‘I heard of the “violence of this movement” when a car was torched or a window was smashed or a statue was tarnished… a large part of the media-political world wanted us to believe that violence is not the thousands of lives destroyed and reduced to misery by politics, but a few burnt-out cars. You must really never have experienced poverty, if you think that graffiti on a historic monument is worse than the impossibility of being able to take care of yourself, of living, of feeding yourself or your family’.
Nor should we accept their suggestion that it is a movement run by the far right. It is true that the far right are trying to shape the movement – but in reality it is moving to the left. One of the main voice to give the movement political expression is the left wing leader, Melanchon, who has called for a ‘citizens’ uprising’
Act V of the movement is next Saturday and the aim will be to force Macron out of office. Calls have also already gone out for general assemblies so that the movements can debate its precise goals.
If it deepens further, it will be the signal for a revolt throughout Europe.
Speed the day!