The General Assembly of Yellow Vests in Saint Nazaire

1

16/04/2019 by socialistfight

By Viriato Lusitania, 9 April 2019


What marked Act 21 of the Yellow Vests movement the most is probably not the demonstrations, but the great success of the second edition of the “Assembly of Assemblies of Yellow Vests” held in Saint-Nazaire on April 5th, 6th, and 7th. Indeed, the more than 200 delegations of nearly 700 people representing 10,000 Yellow Vests throughout the country tried to lay the groundwork for the structuration of the bottom of the movement, saying openly not to recognise any self-proclaimed leader.

Since the beginning of this movement, we have tried to show the development of a spontaneous movement of the most impoverished sectors of the working class as it is, excluding the pollution of other classes, because we have understood that the need that had created this movement, would push it to the left.

Less than in the interpretation of it, we fought within it and tried to give it an orientation in the sense of the fundamental demands it advocates: social and democratic-socialist demands (an RIC [1] conceived as an extension of the traditions of the Paris Commune) and against the fierce repression of a government at bay and without any other possibility of response.

This involved a fight against anarchist and extreme right-wing conceptions, which were much less present and abandoned the movement because they did not find any response and were expelled ‘manu militari’ (forcibly). Their only “contribution” to the Yellow Vests, where they appeared, was the formation of “antifas” (anti-fascist) groups among the proletarian youth who fought and expelled them. There are still some very minorities that fight for a “Frexit” (France Exit EU) in the midst of general indifference.

Semi-anarchist thinking, which paralyses the movement with ultra-democracy, the negation of any “pyramidal” organization and the fixation on objectives intended to attract the media have wasted a lot of time and alienated many people from demonstrations and prevented a more advanced political awareness.

The betrayal and abandonment of this movement, as was the case previously with unemployed movement in the last years of the 20th century the 2005 suburban revolt, [2] by most left-wing and far-left parties (except the POI, some tendencies of the NPA and other small meaningless groups) and unions, have completed a framework that has delayed the movement’s progress.

And yet, the deep roots of the movement always end up making it possible to find the right course. Alas, at the speed of snails and with many remaining elements of bourgeois ideology.

So, the struggle for more organization and national demands has progressed very slowly. But already in January, the first General Assemblies were very successful, as it was obvious for a large number of the GJs to strengthen their organization. Many of these GJs were activists or trade unionists, active or not.

The first “Assembly of Assemblies” was held at the end of January at the initiative of the local Commercy group. [3] She spoke with the participation of 75 delegations who drafted a number of demands in line with France Insoumise (F.I.), a political party of the social democratic left (led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

These resolutions have been approved wherever they have been presented but, as it is one of the characteristics of a movement traversed by ultra-democratism coming from young semi-anarchists opposed to any form of Leninism (a centralized organization) and to F.I. militants also opposed to Leninism and according to the same concept of what they completely ignore, these resolutions have remained a dead letter.

Everyone continued to do as they pleased. Nevertheless, some GJs, relying on the resolutions, were able to direct part of the work towards workers and markets in the proletarian neighborhoods.

Among the resolutions was the will to meet again in Saint Nazaire.

Some GJs have fought to bring a mandate from the Lyon General Assembly for a national coordination, some national spokespersons, common national demands, essentially “social” (to increase income) and against repression.

Here is a comment of a local radio on the event, my comments in parenthesis:

“More than 250 delegations (200 in fact), about 800 people, three days of debates and concrete proposals. All this weekend, the Assembly of Yellow Vests Assemblies set the table again. A second edition organized at the Maison du Peuple in Saint-Nazaire. All of them came together to establish the roots of the movement and its propose in another way of inventing our democracy. (The challenge to bourgeois “democracy”… is advancing but it is still a firm prejudice in the political consciousness of many GJs, but the brutal repression has generated many ideas to understand its true nature)

Creating common (we can’t understand what this means, perhaps a trend towards equality), thinking of a sixth Republic (very France Insoumise), reclaiming public services (likewise), fighting tax fraud (also), pooling work tools (still incomprehensible but probably of semi-anarchist origin) and even destroying capitalism (an important point of support). At the Maison du Peuple de Saint-Nazaire, all these ideas and many others animated the debates, exchanges and decisions taken during these three intense days of general assemblies.

Nearly 800 people from all over France debated during the various workshops devoted to all the themes of the movement. Among them, the establishment of demands (? they might mean national demands), reflection on a democratic functioning but also questions of strategy (semi-anarchist formalism in all its splendor), communication, repression and preparations for joint actions. Proposals were debated during major plenary sessions, sometimes with heated exchanges. A little bit of Standing Night air (a chatterbox during the fight against the El Kohmri laws [4] that brought together the semi-anarchists, the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and others always ready for this kind of hollow and useless tilting at windmills) sometimes floated in the debates.

And now, the rest of the movement.

The eternal (!!!! We feel the reporter contaminated by the anti-trade unionism of some semi-anarchists. Melenchon’s (F.I.) does not fall into this imbecility) convergence of struggles was very often mentioned (this already shows the majority awareness of the need to join the struggle of all workers and it is an important step forward). The link with the working-class districts is sometimes recalled (another important step forward). Environmentalists have not been forgotten. The local NVA group COP21 came to present under the cheers its actions to remove Emmanuel Macron’s portraits from the town halls (Some were tried and sentenced to prison for this). The next actions were at the heart of the discussions: blockages and other mobilizations will fill the schedule in the coming months.

Overall, all the participants were impressed by the extremely detailed organization of the weekend and are already thinking about the next one.

What is good about this report is that it correctly presents the three tendencies mentioned in the other article and shows the difficulties left-wing communist have working within this movement.

It must also be said to have a complete picture that the delegates are under the influence of the movement, of its proletarian base in particular which could not go to Saint Nazaire because they have no money. From Lyon to St Nazaire it is 12 hours by car and the train is expensive for people who are on 1000 euros per month and often less than that.

Then the class composition of the Assemblies is in dissonance with the social composition of the demonstrators or participants in the A.G.s. Those who are still working cannot go on a Friday, nor can they afford the return trip, most Yellow Vests have very low incomes. There are not enough finances and they are used for actions or leafleting and they cannot be better organized by the lack of organization intrinsic to the movement. In fact, due to the lack of a centralized and democratic organization.

The abandonment of the left and the far left is not purely an abstract political issue.

Yesterday, during a stormy General Assembly, the “Appeal of Saint Nazaire” was presented. It is too long to translate and repeats, generally with a more focused formulation against “the system”, the claims of the last “A.G. des A.Gs” (AGM of AGMs?) of Commercy.

Unfortunately, the “social demands” (wage increases, pensions and various allowances) are not precisely defined. Just at the end of the document it says, “Conscious that we have to fight a global system, we consider that we must overthrow capitalism”.

This sentence provoked a rather characteristic discussion in St Nazaire. It must be said that the resolution had been voted on in a plenary Assembly and that each paragraph was put to a vote that once obtained was final, as the time was too short to return to an issue.

The sentence, quite moderate in my opinion on capitalism, was voted when most of the 800 GJs had left (for reasons of distance, trains to catch, etc.) and there were only 200 GJs left among the most probably politicised. The discussion was heated between those who thought the sentence would split the movement and a group that shouted “anti-capitalist! anticapitalistic! anticapitalistic! “and who finally imposed, after three votes, their hold-up.

This sentence was repeated in the press without giving rise to too many attacks or comments. The bourgeois press is currently practicing a blackout in an attempt to stifle the movement.

The same discussion took place in the A.G. of Lyon and it is logical to assume, in other places.  The text can be modified locally and nationally. The positions present were, for the most part, in favor of preserving the text as it stood because:

·         We had to give a name to the “system” we are fighting (some FIs and some NPAs)

·         For reasons of opportunity, the sentence was already in the press and accepted

·         Because it can correspond to a new situation

·         Others argued that it was not a sentence that was important but the continuation of the movement (especially the Lambertist POI)

The minority was so opposed because:

·         We were not a political movement (a few people who are still in the early stages of the movement)

·         It was an NPA robbery that could only split the movement and bring it to a halt (one of our delegates and his argument could be considered because the erratic course of the NPA (some trends in fact), the NPA as such is not there, goes from right to left)

·         Classified the movement and gave Macronism arguments to say that the movement was led by the far-left.

Since the outcome of a vote was clear, the minority did not want to put the sentence to the vote and the text remained as it was. It should be said to be honest and clear,  that the opinions of the A.G., some 150 persons, are not mandatory at all, even not known by the others GJs that demonstrate in Lyon.

Some people have put forward the possibility of expressing “social demands” more clearly, in the hubbub of a discussion where the demands of workers who come to ask for our help in their struggles or the interventions of individual GJs who call for such and such an “action” or “distribution of leaflets”, his voice has been lost without reaching anything.

Maybe next Monday……

Discussing quickly, at the end of the GA, with POI activists, it seemed to me that they were in favour of the movement learning from their own experience without forcing the issues.

In any case, it is very difficult to find your way in the midst of leftist hold-ups, apolitical, chaotic meetings and very divergent opinions of a social movement such as has existed in France for five months now and which has come a long way fundamentally to the left but still insufficient.

In my opinion, the tactic of letting the masses learn must be accompanied by orientations to move it forward, not by leftist maneuvers but by a long and patient explanation.

If I go into so much detail it is with the intention of showing you what you will be confronted with (or worse) if a movement of the same nature in the UK.

Truly class struggle is not an easy path.

Notes


[1] ‘Yellow Vests’ open a new front in the battle: Popular referendums, 17/12/2018, “Many of the “Yellow Vests” who hit the streets again on Saturday wielded signs with the acronym RIC – for “Citizens’ Initiative Referendum” – as demonstrators demanded popular votes be held to allow citizens to vet government policy proposals. In a list of demands released in late November, the Yellow Vests ask that any policy proposal garnering 700,000 signatures trigger a national referendum to be held within a year. The RIC is one item on a list of 42 measures being demanded by the Yellow Vests.” https://www.france24.com/en/20181217-france-yellow-vests-battle-popular-referendum-RIC-citizens-initiative-macron-philippe

[2] The 2005 French riots was a three-week period of riots in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities, in October and November 2005. These riots involved youth of African, North African, and (to a lesser extent) French heritage in violent attacks, and the burning of cars and public buildings

[3]  CALL OF YELLOW VEST OF COMMERCY, TO POPULAR ASSEMBLIES EVERYWHERE, REFUSE THE RECOVERY!,

LIVE DIRECT DEMOCRACY! “NO NEED FOR REGIONAL “REPRESENTATIVES”! Here in Commercy, in the Meuse, we have been operating from the beginning with daily popular assemblies, where each person participates equally. We organized blockades of the city, service stations, and filter dams. In the wake we built a cabin in the central square. We meet there every day to organize ourselves, decide on the next actions, interact with the people, and welcome those who join the movement. We also organize “solidarity soups” to share beautiful moments together and get to know each other. In equality.” http://fiaube.com/les-appels-des-gilets-jaunes-de-commercy/

[4] The El Khomri law a piece of national legislation in France relating to employment. It came into force

on 9 August 2016. The legislation was designed to revise France’s Labour Code in a way the government claimed would reduce unemployment. The law makes it easier for companies to lay off workers, reduce overtime payments, and reduce severance payments that workers are entitled to if their company has made them redundant. On the other hand, it allows workers to transfer untaken days off between employers and provides additional support for young people without training or qualifications. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Khomri_law

One thought on “The General Assembly of Yellow Vests in Saint Nazaire

  1. Viriato says:

    To complete this I should say that “next monday”, yesterday, 15/04 then, there was a vote on the “St Nazaire Call”.
    There were some minors propositions on détails but also the ones who do not want that the phrase about “the overthrough of capitalism” should be included in the Call. The “Call” can be modified by the local General Assemblies. (A.G. in french)

    The result was 46 for changes, 50 not to change a line of the Call, 12 abstention, between them a POI which maintain that the issue was meaningless. “Better that the movement continues thazn split the movement for a phrase”.

    But, it would be a “split Problem” or a step forward in the conciousness of the movement, of it’s more militant part in fact? Time will say.

    The most important thing in yesterday’s A.G. (Assemblée Générale= General Meeting), in my view, were two calls coming from workers and Union activist demanding us, the Gilets Jaunes, to support their action (for the Health Public Service, today in strike in Paris and, as they have said, all over the country in the coming days) and the invitation to the 1 rst Mai demonstration wich traditionally gathers all Unions, all left and far-left parties, even immigrés associations and parties.

    This shows that the working class is needing, as the thirsty one a drop of water, another fighting spirit and determination that today is recognized as one of the characteristics of the GJs.

    As told, even in the brodel that is as organizational and ideological as the GJs movement is, it finds it’s way, alone, instictively, pushed by the need and elementary logics, to the left. And the other parts of the working class, orfans of any real direction, looks to them as their inspiration and support.

    I cannot imagine what should be the real energie hidden in the masses, but it is tremendous. They seems ready to explode with a force never seen before if there is a correct direction within them.

    Personnally, even if I am there the week long with some days out, I am fearing all the time that this wolud go down as many movements that were boycotted by the Unions and the parties, but it is still there.

    I do not know how much can it goes this GJs movement with their erratics ways, but if they join the Unions massively (against the stupid “semi-anarchists”) it will be worthwhile.

    In any case, this a turn in the downdrive of the French working class and a severe coup against bureaucrates and “left and far-left” parties.

    What it is needed, of course, is a real working class party, but this is another way long from where we are for the moment.

    The bankrupcy of everyone albeit the POI (which is the only one to have at least save their faces in the far left, not the POID that has capitulated from the begining) and the socialdemocrat Mélenchon, many years ago of lambertist education; is an international trend that, has begun in the international Arena, but, od course, it could not but be continued in the national questions.

    in this last question I am needing a sound analisis of working class world outlooks or perspective.
    Is there or is there not an “awakening” of the working class?

    If it is the case, you should live more or less the same in the UK and, in my opinion, in every country all over the world. It is the path (even if ideological confused) to get ride off bureaucrates and so called “left parties”.

    It needs and organized, planified work but it is possible.

    This should sound “anarchist” but they are even more out of tune and a nuissance in every sens. No it is a call for a real left communist party.

    V.

    Like

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