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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #291 - Yellow Vests: What the Revolt Has Already Changed (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 8 Feb 2019 08:07:05 +0200

The movement of yellow vests has not only hit the government. He also jostled the entire social movement in his representations, codes and habits. It is however intended to animate and organize these popular layers in all their diversity, to allow them to block. ---- This event not only surprises us because it is unexpected but also creates a break (always relative) in the sense that it introduces a before and after. This prevents one from returning to the status quo ante . This forces all actors to reposition themselves in relation to the event in question. ---- Under this double report, the movement of yellow vests was an event. Needless to recall how much he surprised everyone, including the yellow vests themselves and themselves. Let's focus here on the way in which yellow vests have changed the French political situation.

From the nothingness of being
And first from their own point of view. By suddenly bursting in mid-November, the yellow vests first made visible a whole part of the French society which was then largely invisible organizations and institutions supposed to be representative. These popular layers, which no longer interested them, any more than they did not interest the dominant media, are mostly composed of members of the proletariat in its diversity (statutory workers, under permanent workers, precarious, self-employed and self-employed, unemployed) but also include members of the petty-bourgeoisie (artisan and tradesman) alongside representatives of the small capital [1], almost exclusively concentrated in peri-urban areas or in the deep rural areas, as a result of the liberal policies of recent decades, which are synonymous with wage austerity, the deterioration of employment conditions, the widening of social inequalities, " Move " from the territory to degradation or even disappearance of public facilities and services. Who had heard of these small Vosges valleys where yellow vests will arise in dozens of roundabouts Saturday, November 17, except for the ninth rebound of the Gregory case ?

Act VI of the movement in Paris, December 22
By making themselves visible to others and thus immediately posing a problem to them (who are they ? What do they want??), by challenging the public authorities, demonstrating their capacity for harm and their determination in the face of power, the yellow vests have not only recalled the existence of these popular layers but made them aware of their social power, their capacity to intervene in the balance of power, as the mobilization brought them out not only of anonymity but of atomization, loneliness and the feeling of helplessness. They turned an apparently amorphous mass into a sociopolitical actor with which everyone had to rely overnight. And to these despised beggars, they and they rendered a dignity that was immediately expressed in a salutary irreverence with regard to power: each of his servants will have taken for his rank, starting with Macron.

Power in the deadlock
So, the situation has changed for power too. He who managed to pass almost as a letter to the Post his abolition of the ISF, the sustainability of the CICE, its Labor XXL law, the reduction of housing benefits and the increase in the rate of CSG pensioners, its reform of the status of railway workers, the Parcoursup system for the selection of high school and university students for entry into higher education, here it is for the first time obliged to report a measure - the rise in taxation of hydrocarbons - and to make concessions to attempt to calm a social movement.

Without achieving it. Because - new disappointment - the bulk of yellow vests were not fooled by the nature and scope of the concessions: scoops on the Smic barely worthy of alms and the powder of snake a " great national debate ". Especially since, in the meantime, the movement had gained in determination and clarity, demanding a general increase in the standard of living of the working classes (and thus direct and indirect wages), a reduction of inequalities in income and wealth. through taxation, the recognition of structures of direct democracy by the representative bodies and the end of the contempt with which the popular layers are treated by the economic, political and media elites.

That these requirements, still vague, yet go against the direction of the current government - as precedents - is illustrated by the fact that it has nothing else to oppose for the moment vests yellow as a club more and more heavy. But this signifies precisely how weak he is: he has lost all that hitherto allowed him to govern by counting on the consent, even passive and resigned, of the popular classes he now sees against him. And who will continue to stand up as long as it has not yielded a little bit to their own requirements, suddenly having to give up its own orientations, enslaved to the interests of transnational big capital.

The radical left arrested
However, the awakening was not painful only for the power. It has also been for its radical opponents in principle. Needless to point out that, apart from a few activists, all the radical left's trade union and political organizations shone by their absence during the first two weeks of the mobilization of the yellow vests. That some (LO, AL, NPA, LFI) have acted quickly or that others (certain federations of the CGT, SUD-Solidaires) have quickly recovered themselves does not prevent to note that the main ones of them ( starting with the CGT) continue to sulk the movement.

Act III of the movement in Paris on 1 st December
No doubt the yellow vests are partly responsible. From their previous experience, they concluded that there is nothing to expect from organizations that have abandoned or ignored them for ages. Their forms of action (outside of the companies) and their demands (aimed at the government but seeming to exonerate the employers) have also contributed to distance union and political organizations. Not to mention the presence in yellow vests of elements and themes of extreme right.

It would, however, be a serious mistake and a political mistake if these organizations persisted in their ostracism. For a long time, they would cut themselves off from a section of the popular strata that they nevertheless intended to animate and organize in all their diversity, to enable them to make a bloc. They would not allow the potential for political radicalization that still exists in yellow vests, on both the programmatic and organizational levels, to be updated. And, above all, they would take the risk not only that the movement weakens and ends but that at least a part, by resentment, turns to the sirens of the extreme right.

Alain Bihr (AL Alsace), January 19th, 2019

[1] These tiny bosses whom Marx called " formal capitalists " or " nominal capitalists " .

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