06/02/2019 by socialistfight
By Viriato Lusitania
1 – This movement is a spontaneous response from the most exploited sections of the French population to 40 years of bosses’ offensive through the policies put in place by all governments. This has been going on since the third year of Mitterrand’s first term in office (1984), it speeded up and got much worse under Sarkozy, Hollande, Macron to the present day.
2 – This mass movement which has developed throughout the country has highlighted the complete bankruptcy of the left, i.e. the remains of the Socialist Party, the Communist Party (PCF) as a whole, including dissident groups, France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in large part, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA – created after the dissolution of the former section of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International in a “broad party”) NPA, Lutte Ouvrière, and the pro-Brexit/Frexit Parti Ouvrier Independent Democratique (POID, a split from the Lambertist POI a few years ago, led by former Lambertist leader Daniel Gluckstein). The only party that has maintained a position of support for the GJ movement has been the Lambertist POI but without being able to do the full political work that would have been necessary. The POI is also strongly Brexit/Frexit but having previously worked only in the Force Ouvrière, has begun to work in the CGT, which was once dominated by the PCF. Both Lambertist groups are referred to as ‘sovereigntist’, i.e. nationalist. In addition, the Social Democrat Mélenchon has had a decent positioning. Also active are the small Groupe Marxiste Internationalist (GMI) which leads the international grouping COREP (Collectif Révolution Permanente, formerly linked to Socialist Fight) ; and Révolution Permanente (associated with the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International, ahead of the Left Voice network / Red Izquierda Diario) (details from Revolutionary Regroupment article, https://rr4i.milharal.org/2019/01/25/the-yellow-vests-movement-in-france/) .
3 – The real basis of the movement are the crying needs of large segments of the population impoverished by capitalist politics. There are 9 million poor people in France and the working class, petty bourgeoisie and even small entrepreneurs are suffering the weight of the capitalist crisis, often in the form of ever-increasing taxes.
4 – The conciliatory activity, of compromise, of “dialogue”, of objective betrayal of recent demands and workers’ struggles by trade unions and left-wing parties, has created a feeling of deep mistrust of trade union leaders and by extension of the trade unions themselves by a growing number of workers and proletarians.
5 – The absurd sectarian centrism and the opportunism observed by the most known extreme left parties, has made that certain minority layers among the most backward of the proletariat pass to an extreme right-wing vote as the only form of protest against the capitalist policies they are subjected to.
The majority of proletarians either continue to vote for left-wing parties or seek alternatives such as France Insoumise, which does not propose to change the system but to improve it, or, more often than not, abstain massively allowing the election of bankers’ and capitalists’ candidates thereby giving the opportunity for open enemies of the working classes like Marine Le Pen to be elected.
6 – The complete bankruptcy of the French Communist Party and its relative loss of political influence is accompanied by a total lack of circulation of the Marxist ideas, for more than 25 years now, although they had been concerned with them for a long time. However, it remains a workers’ party because of the number of its militants, but it has not been very active for a long time, but has a popular respect of long standing.
The fall of the USSR and the transition to capitalism in China and bourgeois anti-communist propaganda campaigns, which have been very little countered, because intellectuals have all moved rightward to capitalism, and this has created an ideological and political vacuum that the far left has been unable to fill.
Marxism, Socialism, Communism have only been discussed and circulated (and on what form?) in narrow circles, far from the masses, for years. The only ones who propagate it to the masses (LO and POI-POID) or, very briefly address the most backward sectors of the class or do so through poorly read newspapers.
This policy of addressing the lowest level of understanding is assumed and even claimed. The most advanced sectors of the class must be satisfied with what they already know through the press or at most with simple explanations.
If they decide to go further, they can find some reviews but no real polemics, no ideological work, and remain at the level of what they can glean by themselves or submit to a corporal “discipline” that stifles any democratic discussion and leads them through trade unionism to centrist and sectarian political positions.
7 Faced with such a situation, the right and the far right find themselves in front of a political boulevard, almost without opposition after the “socialist” government of Holland which has put the prestige of the left and its party the PS, lower than the ground. But both the right and the far right are still rejected by a significant mass of the people who are wary of them because they know that this will still mean serious attacks on liberties and their living and working conditions.
8 – These conditions, therefore, have allowed lobbies and capitalists councils of administrations plus some unscrupulous intellectuals to work out a plan to put in place draconian measures, in order to align French capitalism with its foreign competitors. This plan, which was the same as all the candidates of the right have, either Juppé or Fillon or even Marine Le Pen but under a disguise, will be put into practice by Macron, a former minister of Hollande, a former employee of the Rothschild bank, who will be elected President of the Republic.
This plan he will put it in place brutally and with an arrogance that will quickly make him hated by the population. This aspect, his arrogance and his contempt for workers and the people explains why the first demand of the Yellow Vests will be his resignation.
9 – The last straw that breas the camel’s back, which triggered the movement, was a new fuel increase, an old technique of every government: to tax the population (taxes represent more than two thirds of the price of fuel). A self-employed woman published a call on the Web which, in a few days, was answered by more than 800,000 people and will exceed one million in a short time. This issue of rising fuel costs was mainly against the interest of workers who travel to work, but also to small companies, even large ones if they are truckers or taxis or transporters.
10 – The right and the extreme right, always demagogic about the “small bosses who are the source of employment and models of “effort and work””, immediately thought of recovering this movement to give a “popular” character to their electoral race.
11 – As the movement awakened the desire of the whole population to demonstrate, the voices of the workers began to be heard saying that “lowering taxes was good, but it was not just that” and that they would join the demonstration. This “it’s not just that” simply meant that a significant number of workers “finish the month”, i.e. on the 20th or 15th of the month (that they have no money from that date), so wage demands were also important.
12 – This situation triggered a social movement supported by the extreme right and the right, composed of small bosses and of very poor workers on the fringes of trade union demos, on the fringes of left parties or unions appeals ( even the extreme left, which is not heard, or never calls) and which from the beginning showed mistrust towards all trade unions and all political parties without exception. The support of the right and the far right therefore remained external and ignored by the movement.
13.- At that very moment, before the first demonstration, the left totally ignored the calls to demonstrate, the unions declared against the most basic truth “that they were not marching alongside the far right” and all the parties of the far left (except the POI and the very small groups that decided to support) were disgusted, bet that it was not going to succeed, were making sibylline and hypocritical statements or gave half support if the movement did as they pleased, that is, if they only addressed workers and according to their conception of things.
That is, the social movement must be as they understood it, otherwise they would not participate. Nevertheless, some, perhaps the most hypocritical decided to “observe” as it was going to happen on November 17, the first meeting of the Yellow Vests (fluorescent vest mandatory to wear in all vehicles, to be visible from a distance in case of accident).
14 The Left and the Extreme Left abandoned the movement from its beginnings, even before its first demonstration, except for small parties that are insignificant and often leftist. We left a boulevard on the far right and objectively helped Macron, who rightly feared the strength of this movement, which was totally outside the control of the unions and therefore very difficult to “negotiate”, to control and to send it into “consultation and dialogue”, into the usual sidelines.
15 – The first demonstration, on November 17, showed that the vast majority of the demonstrators were very poor proletarians (pensioners, workers without fixed contracts, unemployed) and very few “small bosses” who wanted to continue to demonstrate and who raised the question of their material living conditions, well ahead. This was more than expected by any activist who have followed the statements of support to this movement that brought together hundreds of people that don’t know themselves, to prepare the day. Some left-wing activists and trade union sections reported the mass phenomenon that was happening, but this ‘stir with no future’ left indifferent both trade union leaders and parties caught up in their daily routines.
16 – In view of the magnitude of the demonstration, some organizations changed their discourse, not their attitude. They did not undertake any serious political work in the masses, in the countless rally points of the Yellow Vests, which continued the movement by trying to interrupt the circulation of goods from the outside by blocking or making filtering barriers for trucks and cars.
17 – Since then, the movement without political leadership, the right abandoned the movement as soon as it realized that the demands went from “taxes” to wage and pension demands (although these do not yet take a well-defined form), and the far right has never been able to lead the movement politically despite the presence of active far right groups in some of France’s main cities like Lyon and Paris.
The Gilet Jaunes’ movement, in its confusion and inorganization, has embarked on a path that, all things considered, goes towards the demands of purchasing power and, with strong oscillations, takes the path of adopting a social-democratic program with additions such as the RIC (Referendum D’Initiative Citoyenne) which is interpreted in various ways depending on whether it approaches the Referendum d’Initiative Populaire included in the Marine Le Pen program, or in the program of France Insoumise of JL Mélenchon; or in Lenin’s theses on the elected representatives in his book “the State and the Revolution”.
All its demands remain well present in the minds of the GJs but are not approved everywhere because of the inorganic nature of the movement. But that too is changing, too slowly, that’s for sure, but it’s going in that direction.
18 – A workers’ movement that claims both political elements: the RIC, such as the resignation of the President of the Republic, as the defense of public freedoms and an end to repression and social, ecological and wage demands, through its own dynamic tends towards the left. But because there is no reliable, clear political direction, which organizes the troops, this path will be unsure, slow, oscillating, advancing by the method of successive approximations, trial and error, with no guarantee of success.
For some leftist critics, it is too slow for it ever to succeed.
19 – The time spent has shown that a basic proletarian movement, the small bosses have almost entirely abandoned the movement, is impermeable to the far right even if some of its members may go wrong as to vote ED. But despite the presence of some organized ED groups, their watchwords do not take hold and their activity is viewed with suspicion and even disgust by the mass of Yellow Vests.
20 – The mistrust of politicians and trade unions that persists, both because of the very action of trade unions and left-wing parties, is one of the major obstacles to the development of the movement. The few militants who act in its midst with a left-wing perspective are also confused by the forms that take the movement.
They must learn and react at the same time as the movement changes direction, whether it oscillates in one direction or another, whether new problems are constantly emerging, they must not get lost in the details and not forget to put forward the right watchwords at that particular moment. The need for a political organization or comrades to exchange information and opinions becomes essential.
21 – Without a minimum size of a Leninist or real Trotskyist’s political organization, such a movement cannot be oriented nor conducted. Without orienting a spontaneous movement that mainly it is in the workplaces towards unity with active workers, in the short or long term, it is destined to fade away. There are too many obstacles ahead of him.
22 – By the method of successive approximations, the movement, partially conscious of the need to organize itself better, despite the opposing interventions of all those influenced by semi-anarchist or spontaneous forms, has advanced in two directions.
Both in terms of the program, a strong demand from those who have some political education from parties or unions, as well as in terms of organization, there has been some advances. Thus, after two months of a sometimes quite strong struggle that has left many people seriously injured and dead, there are already forms of organization such as the Commercy meeting such as the establishment of demands and a program. All of this recognized by a part of the Gilets Jaunes.
23- The most advanced organization is that of General Assemblies by locality or city. These A.G.s are made by direct initiative of those who organize them without referring to anyone, that’s it, by their own initiative.
This produces all forms of A.G.s different from each other, but like all the activities and oscillations of the movement, they manage to find the right way and finally to meet in a large “A.G. of A.G.s” (General Meeting of Meetings) in Commercy and approve, in an atmosphere of true democracy, a program based on three fundamental points; The increase in salary income, pensions etc. so that “all can live decently” a claim that objectively puts out the “small bosses” and the extreme right; the RIC, which for a time was a very confused and strong claim but which is declining; and the defense of public freedoms, against repression, for the end of judicial persecution.
24- As in any mass movement that continues, situations of “installation” in the movement arise. Many isolated people have made friends, established acquaintances, feel like “a family”. There is a very good thing here, the relationships forged during political or trade union struggles are very strong because they are real, but the risk of stagnation of the movement by refusing to enlarge it because we “feel so good at home”, or the image of a movement established over time that no longer bothers anyone and is part of folklore or the landscape, can appear.
It is clear that we must always bring a new perspective to a movement that, like all social movements, if it does not move forward and takes important steps, it risks defeat.
The need to amplify the movement is always imperative.
25 – The task of the few active left-wing militants who remain inside (some organizations send their militants as “observers” or passive Yellow Vests who do not intervene during the GAs or stay half an hour and leave), is to work towards the junction with the trade union base for a renewable strike, in fact to unite the Yellow Vests movement to the workers movement despite mutual reluctance.
26 – Over time, there is an inevitable polarization within the movement that responds to the hidden but latent politicization that exists because of the presence of various political currents. In what could be called the “left” of the movement, there is a dividing line between those influenced by the ideas of La France Insoumise, as well as those who are more inclined to spontaneous and/or ecological conceptions and the few militants who keep a Leninist conception.
Within the extreme right are both those who follow Asselineau’s ideas (high-ranking civil servant, unfortunate presidential candidate) and fascists “identitaires” who find Marine le Pen to be “socialist”…
In some cities, such as Lyon, clashes between spontaneous currents, reinforced by “state capitalists” as well as by the two ML groups and the “antifa” movement (anti-fascists) in total not too much people, clash with the identities of ED, a group of about thirty well organized, disciplined and possibly armed. These individuals who integrate Saturday demonstrations to fight against “antifas” or molest Arabs or homosexuals. Last week they get some fight coming from young people who gives them a “stone” lesson.
The proposed tactic of staying together with the mass of GJs in the demonstration and politically denouncing ‘identaires’ while defending themselves vigorously has not yet been considered, but the movement’s own tendency, always towards social demands and against repression (watchword which is still advancing but not yet sufficiently) plus an active and political defense will delimit the field, because the ED no longer finds demands at their convenience, except their conception of the RIC.
27 – The government has tried various tactics to defuse the movement. So, it has promises a lot and through some minimal concessions in the firsts weeks, and then … a brutal repression having nothing other but a “referendum” to propose. This recently as a maneuver and a trap.
The clashes in Paris were provoked by whoever they were. Certainly not by the Yellow Vests, which, for the most part, only seek to make their movement “visible”. The press has greatly exaggerated the extent of the fighting and damage. On December 1, there were only a few pallet fires and a lot of tear gas on site. No more.
Afterwards, two Saturdays later, there was a change.
Then, according to reliable source reports, it was more the activity of provocateurs, also unconscious people who came only to the fight and extreme right-wing militants. Some of them will be expelled from the demonstrations but as the movement generally remains unorganized, they come back, to do the same.
This has reduced the number of demonstrators who, for the most part, are peaceful, that is, they do not seek to fight when the balance of power is not there, but to increase the number of participants in the demonstrations.
Macron has also tried other maneuvers, such as the organization of a “Great National Debate” which did not fool the GJs and recently he is doing everything possible to channel the movement through “Yellow Vests electoral lists in the European elections” without any success. The various tries to enlists the movement by those dubious “Yellow Vests” have all sunk souls and bodies.
But, a social movement, for some ones even ‘a revolution’, which is far from reality, cannot survive without moving forward and constantly progressing. This requires a solid organization and a sure direction and among the GJs this is under construction but very slowly.
The most militant have tried to converge with factory workers and others, but it can also become a “first-class funeral”.
Tuesday, February 5 there will be a demonstration and “Renewable Strike” called by the CGT and supported by the “Assembly of Yellow Vests Assemblies” which also called for a “General Strike” (which is different but much more risky because the GJs are not in the works).
Several GJs think that the CGT wants to “show” that people are not ready to mobilize for a general strike, that there is a danger that this demo will link the movement to a union known by its ties to the system and that everything will become a monthly union walk until the demonstrators are exhausted, thus the end of the Yellow Vests movement.
Some propose to continue a movement that advances slowly but can stop Macron’s counter-reformations, others already give the movement a dead end because it is stagnating and does not yet find strong organizational forms and demands.
Tomorrow will see, (this is being written the 4 th February 2019) but the announced death of the movement is the conjunction of a very unfavorable environment, but above all of the total bankruptcy of the left and the extreme left.
If we look closely at this question, some Left parties no longer has militants to do the work, it has long since abandoned all Marxism and does not want to do the hard work. The far left, is, or right-wing or centrist, has only seen the problems and has not wanted to engage or has do so in such a clumsy way for lack of discipline, design or lack of political know-how. Those most able to do political work at the national level have made very few commitments, without committing the majority of their troops, without doing the work, making lip-statements to save their faces.
28 – Tomorrow is today. The demonstration took place in Lyon. There were nearly 10,000 demonstrators with a large presence of Yellow Vests coming or from the CGT ranks who had endorsed their Yellow Vests or from Yellow Vests coming directly to participate.
As it was organized by the CGT, they were present all the political organizations of the left, anarcho-syndicalist, extreme left, even associations that were protesting against the coup d’état in Venezuela.
The route was fixed in advance, authorized by the Prefecture and supervised by few police officers because they know that a CGT parade always takes place in total calm. In short, a parade like so many have done before and which produce no concrete results other than giving leaders sufficient support so that they can continue to live off it, betray us and find themselves as “valid interlocutors” and consensual of the government.
So we covered this short trip, the Yellow Jackets clearly visible by their Jackets well in the middle and once finished the march according to the authorized route and while we were undergoing the soft speeches of the CGT, they organized themselves, put themselves in front of the procession and the Gilets Jaunes followed by some unionists from the base, launched towards the city center to invest it with their own slogans, singing the Partisans’ anthem and shouting “the street is ours! ” and the traditional “Macron resigned! “pointed by Castaners in prison! ». We have ‘robbed’ the demo from CGTs hands. That will surely be in the future the way the Union bosses could be dispossessed of the masses they mislead.
Behind, in the full sense of the word, remained both the leadership of the demonstration and the most organized parties. LO had come in force with slogans, newspaper sales activists, the presence of more than sixty grouped militants and others in the procession, the NPA with a big flag, the POI in the middle of the Regional Force Ouvrière union which do not followed beyond the national slogan of FO leaders not to go to the demo. Needless to say, none of these “revolutionary” parties followed Yellow Vests that pass through the authorization of the Prefecture.
News from other cities, shows exactly the me trend, even if Lyon is not characterized, has never been characterized for its revolutionary or combative spirit.
So, if this was possible in Lyon, it may well happen again elsewhere. The Yellow Vests have become anti-trade unionists precisely because they are fed up with walks without a tomorrow and the fact that they have gone beyond the limits set by the CGT’s leaders is not only a proof of their determination; it has not only taught honest union activists a fighting lesson but also shows that the Yellow Vests movement is indeed the beginning of a new wave that points like a small distant clearing but a clearing anyway.
“A spark can set fire to the prairie” because of the dry straw there are tons accumulated and a lot of anger held back among the people.
I do not know if this will be the case, I do not know either if this CGT-Yellow Vests demo will be only a straw fire, all I know is that without this movement of Yellow Vests, despite all its flaws and lacks, it has put in great difficulty the bourgeoisie and its servant of the moment, Macron, it has highlighted to the masses the true nature of the left and of the Union’s bosses, that this movement means hope for a lot of in the lowest strata of the working class disgusted with politics that there can have hope for them and, perhaps, that they are opening their eyes to proletarian politics (in whichever form that begins).
Now the need is for a real communist party to help this awakening, which can certainly go through ups and downs, but which is marching ahead with difficulties, with oscillations, with no guaranteed of success, but in the good direction.
That’s the way things happened in France during the last three months.