a leaflet for a yellow vest demo, February 9th 2019
a translation of Nique l’État
(a leaflet co-written by me and a friend, distributed in Montpellier 9th February, 2019)
FUCK THE STATE! DEATH TO FRANCE! DOWN WITH GLOBALIZATION!
DEATH TO NATIONALISM AND BORDERS!
The true community is the community of struggle internationally – the mass of individuals who have no power against the rich and the powerful!
“It will be as exciting as the 1930s”
– Steve Bannon, Trump’s fascist advisor during his election.
The future seems more and more uncertain. Will the yellow vests movement become a way for the extreme fascist right to make massive advances in France, whether at the political/electoral level or at the level of street violence? Or will there be a growing number of yellow vests ready to confront the perspectives of the nationalists who hide the real social misery?
Some actions of the yellow vests are interesting but a number of others seem absurd and even disturbing.
The fact that toll gates on the motorways, banks, property (public or private), luxury cars and luxury shops have been attacked shows that anger is being directed, correctly, against some symbols of exploitation. And so, the general image of a country at peace with itself has been significantly dented and the outbreak of other movements such as that of high school students and riots in Réunion are other exciting aspects of this.
But, despite initial opposition to political and union representation, various aspiring politicians have appeared (Drouet, etc…), trying to gain power on the back of a very incoherent and contradictory movement, ranging from the xenophobic extreme right to those fundamentally opposed to any form of state. This inconsistency even goes so far as calls from the ultra-right to support the window-breakers. The Italian Minister of the Interior, the fascist Salvini, called on the yellow vests to continue the movement. Whilst the « list of grievances »1 demands an increase in pensions, his own government attacks pensions in his own country. This epoch is marked by an incredible confusion created mainly by the destruction of class solidarity and ideological invasion from the media and social networks by manipulators ranging from the far right to the far left. In fact, there is often something in common between the far left and the extreme right in the simplistic reduction of the cause of our misery, suggesting that it might be due to the power of banks, financial capital or Jews. Beware of false revolutionaries, opportunist-populists who want to seduce people with anti-human ideologies so as to advance their political ambitions!
As always, when threatened, leaders promise reforms but when they benefit the poor, they are only temporary. Once the political crisis has passed, the money that’s been redistributed is then taken away either by inflation or by new reforms. Prime Minister Philippe recently declared: « Those who question our institutions will not have the last word » . It’s obvious that the political class have the last word, otherwise it would mean that the social struggle has transformed itself into revolution. However, we are very far from this state of affairs since so far the Yellow Vests don’t attack all the institutions, managers and methods of creating misery. They would be really scared if the Yellow Vests started to recognize the need for an international revolution directed against capitalism and the commodification of the world at the origin of the devastation of the planet.
Among the reforms supposed to be the most “reasonable” is the R.I.C.2 For some, it seems like the solution to all our problems. With this, it seems, there’ll be no need to demonstrate, no more need to strike, no need to fight …it should even become our only demand! But if this demand has also been taken up by political parties (France Insoumise3, Rassemblement National4…), it’s because it favours their interests as politicians and represents no real danger to economic and political power. They always have an interest in domesticating our anger by calling on us to vote. History has shown us that at the same time as the male population were given the vote in the wake of the uprisings of 1848, “universalist” republican ideology also gave the industrial proletariat the idea of being part of the pseudo-community of “France” despite their conflicts with their masters. The sense of democratic participation that the RIC might bring about will actually only reinforce a mini-politician mentality. By agreeing to submit to the manipulations of bourgeois democracy, “citizens” hoping to alleviate their misery, only respond to the false choices of the rulers. The example of Switzerland suggests to us what could be the type of proposals to vote for in future referendums. In 2014, the result of a referendum there banned “mass immigration” to this territory. If we don’t struggle against ideas coming from the dominant culture, we are colonized by these ideas. From our youngest age, education, the media and everything that’s called “culture” tends to colonise our understanding of the world. We doubt that any referendum proposals would include a demand calling for political leaders to commit suicide, the abolition of the economy or the destruction of all borders.
The symbols of French patriotism are very present in the mobilizations of the yellow vests – a significant number of people carry the tricolor flag and chant the Marseillaise. Some say that this national anthem was a revolutionary song, but we know perfectly well that the bourgeoisie has long recuperated and assimilated the revolution into “republican universalism”. Aspects of this song are more against the aristocracy, thus allowing “ancient slavery”5 to be transformed into wage slavery.
The French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is also false. Liberty for the bourgeoisie is freedom to exploit, freedom of the market, freedom for a few, whilst meaning despair for the masses. Equality aspires to present current capitalist misery as offering equality of opportunity, when it is obvious that the rich and powerful have many more opportunities than those who at the bottom of the hierarchy. Fraternity for the rich and powerful is synonymous with complicity in the general need to maintain their domination, which means ensuring that there is the least amount of fraternity possible at the bottom of the ladder: divide and rule.
Let’s not forget that at the beginning of the 1914 war, the same proletariat that had so often fought the bourgeoisie ferociously, appropriated the patriotic fervor of “their” country, voluntarily becoming the cannon fodder for French capitalism. Today, far from having overcome this nationalism, more and more young people are joining the army at a time when French capital defends its economic interests in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Afghanistan and elsewhere. That’s why the symbols of French patriotism should be completely unwelcome in the current protests.
Calls for assemblies and popular occupations involve seizing space and talking about our problems, our contradictions and ways to solve them. But they can be very limited if the commodification of the world, of the idea of a State and of hierarchical relations don’t become an essential critical aspect of the struggle. Even worse, if they remain tolerant towards xenophobic ideas or political parties, they simply conform to the citizenist notion that all ideas are equivalent and deserve to be politely discussed, as if we could have a polite conversation with our future executioners.
The coming years risk becoming increasingly marked by political confusion at all levels; after the Yellow Vests, the struggle will have to continue against all the pseudo-critics of exploitation so as to draw out new emancipatory perspectives.
Some Red & Black Vests,
8th February 2019
FOOTNOTES (not in original leaflet)
1. « Cahiers de doléances » was originally a list of grievances drawn up in the months before the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 (see this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahiers_de_dol%C3%A9ances ). With the ‘yellow vest’ movement the same expression has been used to get people to provide a list of their grievances today. Most of them concern the high cost of « living », though some, getting more publicity than it seems they deserve (since the majority of those who have signed this list have not been interested in this at all) concentrate on either further limiting immigration or emphasising the necessity of migrants to become Frenchified. Macron, despite the fact that most ‘yellow vests’ seem not to be particularly concerened about this, has focused on this, in part to try to win votes off Marine Le Pen, in part just to intensify the divide and rule generally.
2. « Référendum d’initiative Citoyenne » – referendum initiated by citizens. See this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens%27_initiative_referendum_(France)
3. « Unsubmissive France », led by Melanchon, a former Socialist Party minister with a left-wing form of populist-nationalist ideology.
4. The new name for Le Pen’s old Front National.
5. « Ancient slavery » is a line from the Marseillaise.
The above leaflet was generally well-received, though, ironically, those from the so-called anti-authoritarian milieu were the most critical. Those least addled by oppositional ideology seemed to like it, though it’s hard to know whether this was politeness or that they hadn’t had time or space to read it all or whether they genuinely found it interesting and pertinent.
There were some remarkable acrobatic-tactics – like 2 people climbing up to the 2nd floor on the outside of 2 buildings, without ropes or any other equipment, to put up some banners. One was simply “Social ecological emergency – Stop capitalism”. The other was “Police – don’t obey orders – obey your ideas!”, to which lots of people clapped. An almost unbelievable naivety (a friend pointed out that a large percentage of cops vote for Le Pen, so that if they obeyed their “ideas” things would be even worse). I shouted out “But these shitheads have no ideas, otherwise they wouldn’t be cops” but without any response.
The demo was largely peaceful until the cops in front of the prefecture responded to fireworks (not being thrown at them, but merely lit on the large traffic island in front of the large building) with teargas and teargas-laced water projected through large hosepipes. As evening descended the cops fired more and more teargas until much of the centre of town was filled with it, the main square becoming a thick fog of the stuff. At one point, plain clothed cops from the BAC got teargassed by other cops who mistook them for black blockers. A few bins started to be torched, stones were thrown and at one time a strange firework that took a 5 meter length 2 meters high form right in front of the line of cops about 3 meters behind it. I only had one second to appreciate this curious display before the cops started firing massive amounts of teargas. Running off, my eyes burning for a short while from the gas, I followed about 200 people, amongst whom were some wheeling a very large wheelie-bin with its contents on fire, which they took down a long flight of stairs down to the tramway where they left it to burn. The clashes continued into the night but I was knackered, after having walked round town for about 6 hours.
Chronology and comments about the yellow vest movement, and other related events
In countries where nationwide movements hardly exist, people looking for optimistic events that point to something significantly opposed to this shit world seem to take heart from developments in France. In listing events below I may tend, by default, to contribute to such an unwarranted optimism, when, as mentioned in the leaflet above, in reality there are a lot of dangerous nationalist, and other, sentiments which should not be minimised. Contrary to assumptions which are far too prevalent, the movements in France (and not just the ‘yellow vest’ movement) are very far from having a clear opposition to the world of hierarchy. A new class of rulers — whose members will be recruited, under the cover of current assaults, from all the present spheres of social life (from among the most extremist “anti-authoritarians”, from amongst the ultra-right as well as from sections of the current ruling classes) — would certainly have better reasons for optimism than the amorphous minority of revolutionaries around France who try to genuinely live out an anti-hierarchical perspective. There exists no serious public opposition to the mish-mash which is confusedly developing before our eyes and which aims, whether peacefully or violently, at nothing more than reforming a few social irrationalities that have become too glaring. Which is not to say that the struggle for reforms which may benefit those at the bottom of the hierarchy cannot lead to a more profound opposition once these struggle come up against the brutal brick wall of capitalism and its state. But for the moment, a genuine struggle to reverse perspective and base a movement on individual desires and needs, is only just on the horizon of present conflicts. However, such pessimism of the intellect only leads to pessimism of the will if the miserable absence of class consciousness isn’t confronted directly and actively rather than left to internet sites or conversations amongst small groups.
(above paragraph added on 15/2/19)
France, Paris: about 500 ‘Black vests’ occupy part of Charles de Gaulle airport to demand documents for everybody ““France does not belong to the French! Everyone has a right to be here!” one of the demonstrators shouted into a loudspeaker….The protesters called for ‘papers for all,’ a meeting with Philippe to discuss asylum policy, and a meeting with the leaders of Air France to demand they stop “any financial, material, logistical or political participation in deportations.”
France, Toulon: clashes between “casseurs” and cops Interesting to see, in a town dominated by its military presence and noted for being right-wing, a hooded yellow vest carrying a a placard saying “Get rid of the political system!”. A friend told me that on a previous yellow vest demo there, where she was wearing black with a little hood (though not in fact part of any black block), a man turned to her to say “Here we’re white block not black block”. Despite its National Front reputation, there are clearly signs that not everybody is a nationalist.
France, Paris: head of sell-out CGT union attacked by black bloc See “The CGT – sheepdogs in wolves’ clothing” for a critique of this racket…State and media resort to the Big Lie…eyewitness account…Besançon: yellow vests try to break into police station
France, Strasbourg: yellow vests attack EU headquarters “Smoke canisters were hurled about outside the EU headquarters, with demonstrators holding placards and flags that warned eurocrats not to “forget 2005”, a year that saw three weeks of violent riots that included assaults and the burning of cars and public buildings.”
France, Paris: further yellow vest protests “Marching from outside the economy ministry, protesters calmly carried French flags with slogans against Macron written on their yellow vests, such as: “Macron, you take from the poor to give to the rich.” Some carried banners slamming the “hypocrisy” of wealthy billionaires pledging a total of more than €1bn (£865m) to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, saying business leaders had done nothing to address low salaries and the plight of people who couldn’t make ends meet. “Humans first, €1bn for the gilets jaunes,” read one banner.“Millions for Notre Dame, what about for us, the poor?” read a sign worn by a demonstrator. “Everything for Notre Dame, nothing for Les Misérables,” read another sign that evoked Victor Hugo’s novel.”…Toulouse: and more clashes“A little after 7pm, the prefecture of Haute-Garonne counted two wounded “in relative urgency”. Seventeen people were also arrested, in particular for throwing projectiles, violence against people in charge of public authority or outrages…. Without a defined route, the demonstrators circulated several hours in the streets of the center of Toulouse, avoiding the Capitol Square, which was prohibited from 10am to 9pm by a prefectural decree. “I’m scared but it’s not going to stop me from coming,” says Claudine Sarradet. … “We get millions for stones, but nothing for people, it makes me very angry,” says Sarradet in reference to donations, mostly private, for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame. “Notre Dame v Notre Drame” [Notre Dame v. Our Drama] or “Rehouse Quasimodo and the homeless with him”, could be read on posters posted in town by the demonstrators. The tension rose in the late afternoon, shortly before 5pm, near the War Memorial. Protesters clashed with security forces who advanced to block them, firing tear gas and stun grenades.“
France: clashes in 13 towns on yellow vest demos… Montpellier: yellow vest clashes as 4,500 demonstrate The cops used a new type of teargas this day – far stronger than before. One person I know was totally blinded and debilitated for 5 minutes because of this (and she hadn’t been sprayed directly in the face). Lots of stuff was smashed, as usual. And also as usual, an eclectic mix. Hundreds of people on the demo often shouted anti-capitalist slogans, but, as far as I could see, they didn’t confront those people wearing a black t-shirt, with the words “Strength and Honour” and a skull in yellow, one waving a flag with the same logo – indicative of a military/fascistic mentality. The dominant tendency, though ‘anti-capitalist’, was “though we may disagree with lots of different ideas expressed here, we’re united for the moment around this issue” – an excuse to avoid arguing or confronting people with very nasty ideas, and, I assume, a practice to match (though that’s not invariably the case). Though we’re living through a very very different epoch, I’m reminded of aspects of Weimar Germany, when – in the 20s and early 30s – “Communists” and Nazis often fought the cops side-by-side. We can see where the attitude “Though we may disagree with lots of different ideas expressed here, we’re united for the moment around this issue” led to. This is certainly not to take a resigned and depressing abstentionist attitude towards this movement, which is merely a way of remaining an intellectual spectator; there are definitely aspects which are worth supporting and encouraging, but avoiding challenging the elements extremely dangerous to a libertarian perspective only encourages our enemies, whose future is significantly more hopeful for them than it is for a libertarian revolution. However, there were some tags which, though not at all imaginative, included “Down with the state, the cops and the fascists” amongst others.
France: yellow vest clashes in 17 towns I wasn’t in Montpellier this Saturday, but a friend told me that on the route of the march an enormous amount of ATMs, parking meters and especially CCTV cameras were wrecked. A breakaway group of about 50 ‘yellow vests’ headed for the main shopping precinct of the city and before they got there the whole building was closed, to would-be shoppers and demonstrators alike.
France: several high schools & universities blockaded as General Strike is called by unions, leftist parties and yellow vests… Paris: wildcat yellow vest demo teargassed (includes video)…bank, currency exchange place and MacDonalds smashed Apparently (at least in other parts of the country, though probably also in Paris) the unions and their followers stuck to the officially designated routes, whereas many of the yellow vests insisted on wildcat demos going all over the place…Meanwhile the ruling class vote in extra cop powers against demonstrators
France: ‘yellow vest’ clashes in 21 towns Please note that even if things get smashed up it doesn’t automatically mean for the best of reasons; nowadays in France, there are even sections of the far right who call on people to smash things up. Equally, there’s no reason to dogmatically dismiss everything that goes under the ‘yellow vest’ label as being automatically reactionary.
France: the dictatorship of the marketplace takes its mask off “Prime Minister Philippe said the government would support a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare [protests], those who take part in unauthorised demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks”….Known troublemakers would be banned from taking part in demonstrations, in the same way known football hooligans have been banned from stadiums. The onus would be on “the troublemakers, and not taxpayers, to pay for the damage caused” to businesses and property during the protests….”Those who question our institutions will not have the last word,” Mr Philippe said.”
France, Val-de-Marne: yellow vests denounce xenophobic attitudes of Rungis “Encouraged by the hooting of motorists in solidarity, about sixty yellow vests gathered this Sunday in front of the town hall of Ivry. An open-air general meeting organized by the Yellow Vests of Val-de-Marne to record each ones’ proposals. …”If I’m here, it’s because people have to choose between eating and heating!” says a resident. And to denounce the attitude of some yellow vests around the country, shocked by the fact that on blockades (note: this was the case in Rungis) we let French trucks pass but not those of foreign drivers. The bosses put us in competition, but we must unite! “ To get some idea of what’s been happening in Rungis, see entry for 24/12/18. According to someone I know, this article does not “make precise the fact that the Ivry yellow vests, which are made on the same model as those of Montreuil, Saint-Denis, etc., in towns in the suburbs of Paris, whose mayor is Communist Party, are just active members of the Front de Gauche [“Left Front”, a mixture of members of the French CP, ex-members of the New Anti-Capitalist Party and others], supported by the NPA. At the General Assembly of Yellow Vests in Ivry, January 6, people I know immediately raised the problem of housing immigrants, while the town hall promotes more and more gentrification, as elsewhere in the immediate suburbs of Paris . Answer: “It’s not on the agenda of the first General Assembly” which “must remain apolitical”!”
Nowadays even this could be fake news. Perhaps it always was so ever since World War I, but undoubtedly in unprecedentedly insecure times it’s increasingly hard to sort out the facts from the fiction, the real conspiracies from the conspiracy theory. Confusion has long been the result of colonisation by dominant or so-called “oppositionist” ideologies – but nowadays it seems it’s a central part of their goal, because confused people remain submissive to fear and are easily manipulated.
A friend from the UK writes re. the above: “It appeared on Victor Lewis-Smith’s twitterfeed with the comment, “This is not a joke”. I’m generally quite suspicious of random claims being bandied about, so you’re right to hedge it with the comments you put underneath. All I can say is that VL-S is a longstanding TV producer and scriptwriter who started on Radio4 – he invented the Gay Daleks and there’s a documentary he’s done that’s waiting to be shown on the nonagenarian Scottish comedian, Stanley Baxter. Although he’s estranged from the BBC these days, he still seems to have a lot of connections and I would have thought he’d be able to sniff it out if it was just bullshit.
In the middle of December I noticed on the account of someone who’s SWP and pro-Brexit the sharing of all sorts of daft anti-EU conspiraloon stuff showing pictures of that armoured car in Paris with the EU flag on it – indiscriminate sharing of anti-EU/pro Gilets Jaunes tweets from pseudonymous Polish Nazis and American Trump fans – totally playing up the nationalism. There definitely is a whole miasma of social media that seems to be at the nexus of various psyops operations. A Foreign Office-funded social media scheme called the Integrity Initiative – supposedly to counter Russian cyber-propaganda – was recently exposed. It is run by military-types connected to the Strategic Studies Institute (US) and the Institute of Strategic Studies (UK), is based in a converted mill in Scotland and a leaked document shows what it calls ‘clusters’, groups of journalists in print and broadcast and other ‘influencers’ in academia.
The ‘Yellow Vest’ phenomenon in the UK is 100% fascist. A group in Manchester demonstrated against the EU, while a yellow vest demo in Liverpool at the weekend harassed an RMT picket line for being ‘lefties’, and racially-abused an Asian picket”. This friend also added the following about the BBC: “It sometimes strikes me how, with the eruption of certain social-contestatory movements …the BBC can come up with a very slick, ‘explanatory’ narrative (after weeks of ignoring/downplaying) that shows the sophisticated work of many minds, that has a ‘plausibility’, but is actually obfuscatory and wrong, reeking of propaganda.”
France, Paris: minister forced to leave ministry as courtyard gate is smashed open with a forklift truck and ministerial cars and windows of ministry are smashed by about 15 ‘yellow vests’ More here “…protesters threw rocks at police and officers used a water cannon to disperse the crowd. Scooters and a car were burned along one of the capital’s symbols of wealth and prestige, the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Protesters and police clashed on a pedestrian bridge linking the two banks of the Seine, a span heavily visited by tourists. Underscoring the seriousness of Saturday’s protests, President Emmanuel Macron reacted sharply and quickly on Twitter. “Once again, the republic was attacked with extreme violence — its guardians, its representatives, its symbols”. Should be pointed out that an attack on the ministry is not necessarily indicative of radicality, as in the past ministries have been attacked by the right. In this specific case, it’s not clear who did it…clashes in 22 towns…More here in English…Montpellier: fires and clashes on ‘yellow vest’ march
In fact this report minimises what happened. First of all, in the morning there was a small demo of about 200 to 300 that got teargassed repeatedly even though it was totally peaceful and even though they sang that wonderful dirge “The Marseillaise” (perhaps the cops misheard the refrain “Aux armes citoyens” – “To arms, citizens!” as “Aux larmes citoyens!” – “To tears, citizens!”). At least 2 yellow vests had “Macron – we’re not fucking you up the arse – sodomy is between friends” written on the back of their yellow vests. There were several people with home-made placards showing bad wounds from the cops’ flashballs from the week before, and today one guy got hit by a teargas canister which badly burnt part of his head (the canisters contain several teargas ‘bombs’ which are ejected by an explosion from the main canister). Then later, in the afternoon, the demo got larger with about 2000 people (always hard to tell how many, but at one stage it was quite large), and a couple of banks got their doors, windows and ATMs smashed up. At one point I shouted out near someone with a French flag, “Down with France!”, and a guy from the anti-authoritarian milieu that I was with ran off. Clearly opposing authority for him didn’t involve commitment to taking the slightest risk. I continued shouting “…Down with the UK, down with all nations! Down with borders!”. On the plus side, nobody seemed bothered; on the negative, no-one seemed interested. That’s part of the problem with this movement – very little interest in discussion or in critical ideas beyond opposition to unfair taxation. One woman shouted at me about how wrong it was to invest so much in foreign aid, and so little for the French. Unable to understand that so-called foreign aid helps the French bourgeoisie exploit other countries, she was too agitated to listen to my critical response. Emotions run high but not backed up with independent thinking. Clearly potential fodder for political demagogy.
The main station got closed by the authorities, with passengers and staff locked inside. So some people on the demo managed to pull open the gates to the main part of the station just through 5 minutes forceful shaking, and the crowd went up to the glass doors, also locked, and started to smash them open. As soon as they did so, teargas was thrown from within the station to prevent people entering through the thick fog of gas. However, it seemed like the only people actually effected by this gas would have been staff and passengers locked inside the station. Then, just outside the back of the station 2 very large wheelie bins were set on fire before the CRS started to approach under a hail of missiles. A car and some small bins were torched. For the next couple of hours the demo, constantly trying to get to the prefecture, was teargassed repeatedly.
At one point, whilst talking to someone else, Richard Greeman (see this and this) came up to me. I’d met him about 16 years ago, but hadn’t spoken with him much since then, apart from last April when I bumped into him at an occupation of part of the University, where he’d agreed with and later reproduced much of my text on the CGT. I said I really disagreed with his text, not only about the RIC (Rassemblement pour l’Initiative Citoyenne – a demand to have constant referendums on specific subjects, like happens in Switzerland, easy prey to the manipulations of various political rackets) but the danger of minimising the significant contradictions in this movement. I elaborated with the other guy, whilst RG just stood there looking non-plussed and couldn’t find a single word to say in response. An embarassing silence before he turned away and walked off.
My conversations with people were varied, but often I focused on the national flags that were around (mind you, not that many considering there were about 2000 people – perhaps 10 national flags and 2 or 3 regional ones). Some people said they were internationalists, others defended the use of the flag as somehow meaning “equality, liberty and fraternity”. I made a critique of one guy carrying the tricouleur, saying it implied unity between bosses and those exploited, that Macron also waved the flag, that it implicitly excluded migrants, that the struggle was international. He didn’t seem to be annoyed by this and said I had a point, seeming to consider it. I don’t know how much this was just politeness, or a genuine reflection on his part. Someone walking with him certainly agreed with what I said. It should be obvious that people who have never participated in a movement before hold stupid ideas that can sometimes break down with the influence of meeting people they’d never normally meet or reading things they’d never normally read. It should be obvious, but unfortunately there’s a tendency to fix and categorise people as if this isn’t a fluid situation.
I left at about 5pm, but I heard later that some rednecks in the evening round the prefecture started singing an anti-semitic song. Wonderful!
PS I recommend this text for those wanting to understand French nationalism in its historical development, and how its universalism colonises people of all classes in submission to and identification with the nation state and the ideology of the national economy.
France, Strasbourg: cops attacked with projectiles, cars torched in 5 different parts of town…Paris: 277 vehicles torched in capital and surrounding counties; Minister of Interior, unusually, refuses to release figures of vehicles torched nationally on New Years Eve …Bouches-du-Rhone: tollgates in 2 areas object of arson attack once again I passed (for free) through this twice over the last 2 weeks. It had some graffiti which at least shows that this cannot simplistically be described as a reactionary movement. There was an A in a circle, a tag saying “Here it’s not like on the telly” and a 70 kph sign had been carefully re-painted with “68” on it instead (not that what’s happening can in any way be simplistically compared with ’68, but ’68 was obviously opposed by reactionaries). This movement is very confused and confusing, which is no surprise given the counter-revolution of the past decades. There are few genuinely searching attempts to unravel this confusion, because it’s far easier to resort to already well-developed attitudes pre-existing this movement, whether simplistically for it or simplistically against it or simplistically ‘neutral’. Few people try to unravel attitudes which justify and minimise this confusion; few try to unravel how people tolerate the intolerable in this movement; and few try to explain why there are far too many good people who tend to dismiss the whole thing as simply “interclassist” and “reactionary”. The desire to say it’s all inevitably confused represses the attempt to try to clarify the contradictions. The desire to exaggerate what seems to be radical represses consciousness of the extent of fascist participation and elements of statist ideology amongst many ‘yellow vests’. The desire to see everything in black and white, to see it all as simply an expression of the ultra-right, represses any connection to what does not fit this characterisation, represses consciousness of the nuances. Such perspectives have partial truths contained within them, but hardly any of them usefully contribute to helping provoke something better. They are not attempts to help a movement move but freeze what is going on into fixed “positions”, positions which once publicly adopted will search out anything that confirms them and occlude anything that contradicts them because proving themselves ‘right’, and defending a theoretical role, takes priority over trying to influence or be influenced. These generalities will obviously have to be made more concrete.
Bordeaux: journalists chased out of square by ‘yellow vests’ More here… Rouen: ‘yellow vests’ clash with cops…Banque de France door torched (video)…Montpellier: railtrack blockaded…Toulouse: burning barricades…Nimes: demo outside main police station This is an over-simplified take on the movement (e.g. minimising any critique of flag-waving or the singing of the Marseillaise), but interesting.
Paris: 1st hand account of ‘yellow vest’ blockade (sent by email) –
As you probably know, the Halles de Rungis site has for several weeks been subjected to filter blockades at the main access gate, the Thias Gate. Taking my courage in both hands, braving the wind and rain, I got up at 4 am, took the subway, then the bus, and after a depressing more than 1 hour trip to the industrial areas south of Paris, I found myself facing dozens of yellow vests that filter the entrance, just to take the temperature of the apparent “blockade” myself.
I already had some suspicions, given the interviews conducted, about the content and purpose of these brilliant “direct actions” (says “Paris Lutte Info”). But I admit, in all modesty, that the atmosphere exceeded all my expectations. I was faced with bands of vulgar nationalist nags, both sexes, one of whom was from the French West Indies and accepted because he “was French too”: “We are not racist”, proudly affirmed the leader of the group… They were there, in their words, “to save French peasants and traders” from the “unfair competition” “organized by the Europe of bankers represented by Macron”. After a few attempts at awkward approaches and some attempts to get me to wear the famous yellow uniform, which I refused with a lot of courtesy (for fear of maybe getting my face broken), I innocently asked the question: “Which bank is Macron the representative of?”. I was told by the leader, with strong nods from her acolytes: “Well, the Rothschild bank, of course.” I therefore focused on the eminently revolutionary nature of their opposition to finance capital, which, as is well known, has been in the hands of rabbis since time immemorial.
To expand somewhat on the scope of this communication that had begun so well, I timidly evoked the role of Macron’s brilliant second-in-command, the so-called Philippe whose origins are not from the banks but from nuclear power – in this case, Areva . To which the chief replied that she did not care and that besides she was a partisan of French nuclear power and hostile to all the “Parisian bohemian bourgeois ecologists who want to deprive us of electricity.” A position which was so typically popular it was also shared by her groupies.
I began to feel somewhat lonely and tried to reach a conclusion, before clearing off, about these interesting modes of “direct action” that “Paris Lutte Info” had loudly proclaimed. I was not disappointed: these remarkable saboteurs of “European trade” had first filtered exclusively foreign trucks for 30 minutes, and then very soon after, for the sake of justice probably, French trucks for 15 minutes and then foreign trucks for 45 minutes. They did not even realize that, because of the European agreement, French trucks can carry foreign goods and vice versa. In the final moment of my visit, their last exploit consisted of delaying for almost three hours one of the Spanish trucks, threatening the driver, who was transporting oysters, French molluscs in fact, from Oleron to Rungis. Which led the Rungis wholesaler to throw them in the bin. No comment.
Merry Christmas !
France: ‘yellow vest’ clashes in 18 towns and cities…Toulouse “Garbage cans that blaze at the corner of boulevard de Strabourg and Jean-Jaurès alley but also rue Remusat, rue de Metz, rue du Langedoc … Shattered bus stops, billboards tagged, ATMs “exploded”, a Caisse d’Epargne and a Crédit Agricole, in the devastated Carmel district, bars packing away their terrace furniture at top speed, shops forced to pull their shutters amidst torrents of tear gas throughout the city center… 48 hours before Christmas Eve, Toulouse sank into chaos yesterday between 4pm and 7pm. An outburst of violence that police and gendarmes tried to contain but they met again a lot of difficulties facing groups of mobile individuals, determined “to show Macron that nothing has been settled,” warns a man… eyes reddened by gas….The watches were at 3:15 pm and fireworks were flying in the sky accompanied by the applause of the yellow vests. The temperature very quickly hotted up. The fireworks no longer went into the sky but horizontally towards the police. The first salvos of tear gas fell on the heads of the demonstration where those who were the most virulent, masked, hooded and ready for a conflict were gathered. The face-to-face lasted about fifteen minutes. The wind helped, sending the gas back to the police, the atmosphere taking a festive “red and black” color….tear gas fell from the sky en masse, causing a huge crowd movement and the real start of the mess and violence. The water cannon truck chased after the irreducible ones and the incidents multiplied. Often violent. Even acid had been thrown at the forces of order according to the prefecture. …”We will not give up. We have nothing. What can we lose? It is a shame the way we are treated”, cried a young woman, supported by her companion.” …. Paris video
Should be pointed out that the media is saying that the less participation there is in these situations the more the ultra-right take prominence. Hard to know how much this is true, how much this is a self-fulfilling media strategy – intended or not. Certainly on December 22nd at Sacre Coeur (built explicitly against the Paris Commune in the 1870s) there were Nazis openly displaying their anti-semitic etc. agenda, complete with gas chamber denial.
France, Var: toll booths burned down …250 toll booth areas vandalised or destroyed during this ‘yellow vest’ movement “The damage amounts to tens of millions of euros for the operator, not to mention the shortfall in toll payments. In some places, motorway tickets are no longer distributed and there are no more barriers at the exit.“
France, Paris: further ‘yellow vest’ clashes, though a lot down on previous Saturdays…state had been prepared to use knock-out chemical gas “…some of the 14 armoured police cars deployed at the weekend contained “a radical device” that was only to be used as “a last resort” against their own citizens… the “debilitating powder” has the same power as 200 tear gas grenades and can knock people out immediately. The weapon which is mounted on top of vehicles, has the ability to spread across an area the size of six football pitches in ten seconds.“
France, Guadeloupe: high school students block roads, attack cops with stones, home-made ‘bombs’, burn bins…Report on high school clashes here over the last 3 days…report on strikes called by unions throughout France For a critique of the CGT union see this.
France, La Reunion: burning barricades and burning bins during clashes at high school, as movement on island expands…Guadeloupe (another French department, this time in the Caribbean): high school students clash with cops “Thursday’s protest shut down schools and some roads across the island as students burned debris and threw rocks at police….The government also has temporarily banned businesses from selling gasoline to anyone seeking to fill jerry cans or other types of containers.“…Essonne: high school students clash with cops
France: 450 (out of 4000) high schools blockaded; ‘disturbances’ at 170 of them …details in French about 16 of the towns involved in these disturbances…Montpellier: 9 schools blockaded; lively wildcat demo involving about 350 meandering through the centre of town Some of the variety of homemade placards: “Power makes us mad – let’s hospitalise Macron”, “Macron, Macron – we’re not fucking you up the arse – sodomy is between friends”, “The state pisses on us, the media says it’s raining”, “French people, foreigners – same studies, same rights” (reference to a new law making foreign high school students pay money to go to school), “Run Emmanuel – the sea is rising” (with a picture of the planet and a thermometer showing very high temperatures),“Shoot at children, steal from the poor, burn the planet”. And there was a massive banner referring to the kids in Mantes-la-Jolie who, on 6th December, were forced to kneel with their hands behind their backs, which said “A class on their knees – Montpellier stands up!”, and about 100 teenagers imitated what those at Mantes-la-Jolie had been forced to do and then everyone stood up together in a roar of defiance. More in English “The really important point that we’ve been hearing from students is that they are not the Yellow Vests – they want to say that, while their anger and frustrations are similar to those of that movement, their goals are very different.”
France – high school student movement – Beauvais: clashes with cops …Creil: cars overturned & burnt.(video here)..Compiegne: street furniture trashed…Loire-Atlantique: 8 schools involved, various clashes, improvements to property, etc.…Montpellier: bins burnt on tramlines…Hauts-de-Seine: 6 high schools blockaded…up to 10% of high schools throughout country blockaded…details in French about 37 of the towns involved in these disturbances…universities blockaded…Disneyland blockaded by ‘yellow vests’ A little anecdote: apparently staff working at Disneyland used to call it Mauschwitz because of the miserable working conditions. Management threatened them with the sack if anybody continued referring to it like that (specifically online). Within half an hour workers started calling it Duckhau…Nouvelle-Aquitaine: prefecture bricked up within hours of Macron’s speech Three aspects of his promise to increase the minimum wage by 100 euros per month not mentioned by the international media is that, firstly, an increase of 28 euros, paid by the boss, had already been decided before the ‘yellow vest’ movement. Secondly, the rest is an allowance paid by the state but not by the bosses; more importantly, this ‘minimum wage’ is conditional – if your partner gets above the minimum wage, the average of the 2 wages is taken into account. Thirdly, all this is not an increase in the minimum wage at all but in fact an increase in the activity premium, paid by the Family Allowances Fund (the ‘CAF‘). This increase was already planned for the entire five-year period for which Macron was elected, so it just accelerates the process. …yellow vests enable cars to drive at 300mph without being caught in a speed trap (more like “News of Opposition to all sense”)
France, Paris: preventive arrest used in advance of any actual “crimes” to contain protests Arrest without the slightest evidence of a crime already shows how readily the diaphanous gown of legality tears when confronted by the necessity of keeping the boutique districts intact. However, despite the massive deployment, TV news has said that there was more damage than on December 1st, with looting (particularly of jewellers) etc. being carried out away from the thoroughly policed centre. On December 1st 3 ‘arrondissements’ (Parisian boroughs) were involved, but today there were 7 arrondissements involved). See this “The sector concerned by the incidents was much larger. With fewer barricades, the protests were more dispersed so many more places were affected by the violence…There was much more damage yesterday than there was a week ago.” …Toulouse: looting, clashes, etc…Bordeaux: burning barricades in pedestrianized street decorated for Christmas…St.Etienne: cop car torched, looting…Clashes in: Dijon…Lyon…Caen…Avignon…Tours…Bourg-en-Bresse…Nantes…Marseille: armoured trucks and teargas during clashes as 10,000 march for the climate “Hundreds of young people, mostly masked or hooded…were dispersed around 5pm by jets of tear gas launched by the police…In the surrounding streets, small groups of protesters confronted the police in the middle of thick fumes caused by tear gas and garbage fires.A blue armored vehicle of the gendarmerie intervened as reinforcement, followed by several mini-cars of the police force, while a helicopter flew over the area. The police prefecture said it had conducted eleven arrests in the department of Bouches-du-Rhone including 7 in Marseille, stating that the march of marchers for the climate that gathered 10,000 people on the Old Port early afternoon was dispersing. In the morning, 2,000 “yellow vests” had also marched peacefully in the center of Marseille.“ …video here
France, Herault: disturbances outside high schools in 5 towns in this county…Nimes…Lyon…Mulhouse: masked motorcyclist deliberately runs down cop at high school blockade…clashes at high school student demos in 35 towns… armoured cars to be deployed in Paris “A government official said 89,000 police and gendarmes would be mobilised across the country, 8,000 of them in the French capital, alongside a dozen VBRG armoured vehicles….Staff at the Bastille Opéra were reported to have locked the orchestra’s instruments somewhere safe fearing an assault on the building.” There have been calls for people to arm themselves against the state, others are hoping to occupy the Elysée Palace tomorrow. But before you get all excited, the probability is that these calls are coming from the ultra-right…or maybe sections of the state trying to frighten people away from Paris for fear of people starting shooting all over the place. A strange atmosphere, not easy to get to grips with either emotionally or intellectually, and not at all like the more lighthearted, and more clearly class-conscious, epoch of the anti-CPE movement of 2006.
France, Beziers: clashes as 500 high school students take to the streets; 2 cars overturned, bins burnt, etc…clashes in 29 towns…video of cops humiliating youths at a banlieu school…700 high school students arrested…Ariege: at least 10 vehicles, a hanger and the ground floor of the management building belonging to Enedis, national electricity company – all burnt
St. Ouen: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Incendiary at Auguste Blanqui high school
“Why… in spite of the virtues and talents for which they are so noted, are the academies generally centres of intellectual repression, stupidity, and base intrigue? That question ought to be proposed by an academy: there would be no lack of competitors.”
France: clashes between high school students and cops in 22 towns…blockade of 2 Paris universities. This is a more balanced take on the situation than most texts. In France, there are principally 2 tendencies amongst those who claim to want a revolution: those who tend to opportunistically over-emphasise the radical aspects of what’s happening and those, partly in reaction to this tendency, tend to exaggerate the bad aspects. We live in confusing times and trying to unravel this confusion is not helped by trying constantly to impose more classical proletarian ways of thinking and categories onto a movement that involves lots people who have never confronted this society before. People are trying to break out of their isolated individualist responses to intensified misery by trying to come together but with a whole load of other baggage from the past and present of this society colonising their brains and habitual discourse. These people have lived through a period of intensified ignorance of the contradictions and obstacles we have to confront and trying to help ourselves and them clarify the significant changes in both the composition and consciousness of ‘the working class’ will be part of overcoming such ignorance. Which involves neither opportunist cheer-leading demagogy involving intellectual contortionism of the most spurious kind nor impotent laments that the course of class struggle is not running smoothly according to notions developed through over a hundred years of previous movements. This epoch could lead to a kind of totalitarianism very far from classical fascism (though reflecting aspects of it) or to a genuinely subversive movement with the potential to create serious problems for all forms of capital, not just the current neoliberal form. Remaining content to merely comment on these tendencies will inevitably ensure the victory of the former.
France: unions announce unlimited lorry drivers strike from next Sunday…There are also rumours of post office workers going on strike soon… high school students clash with cops in 22 towns in protest against the reform of the ‘Bac’ and increased limits on university access…Nice: 2,500 high school students block many roads throughout town…about 200 high schools blockaded or partly blockaded throughout country
Bins and pallets burning in Blagnac, where the fire spread to the entrance of Saint-Exupéry high school and caused significant damage to the project of conditioning that goes under the absurd name of ‘education’. The high school closed for 48 hours for ‘security’. 24 schools in Toulouse were blockaded, amongst which a dozen were blockaded with burning bins and pallets. A young demonstrator was seriously wounded in the face by a flashball.
Below: outside a high school in Bordeaux
France: over 100 high schools blockaded in protest against the reform of the Baccalaureat…Seine-St.Denis: some looting etc. during high school protest “Protesters burned garbage cans, destroyed street furniture, and attacked businesses that were looted. Several vehicles were burned.…On images broadcast on social networks, we see police fleeing from dozens of “casseurs”.” …clashes between cops & high school students in 14 towns Though this was for the most part initiated by the high school union, obviously in many cases they went beyond the limited protest the union envisaged.…Paris: ambulance workers clash with cops “…ambulances… blocked a bridge leading to the National Assembly in Paris on Monday. Lines of riot police officers stood in the rain to prevent the ambulance workers from getting too close to the building. Ambulance drivers were also pictured facing off with officers during a demonstration at the Place de la Concorde.“…Cote d’Azur: increasing problems of getting petrol due to blockades…Report on how ‘yellow vest’ blockades are effecting work in UK…La Reunion (East Port): heavy clashes between ‘gilets jaunes’ and cops as state tries to unblock blockade of port “According to the prefecture, “nearly a thousand customs-cleared containers are awaiting delivery: fresh products, wheat for bakeries, raw materials for the manufacture of animal feed, medicines and medical equipment intended for hospitals and hospices for the elderly …other Yellow Vests invaded the university campus of Moufia. Taking over the amphitheatres, they presented their demands to the students.”
France, Narbonne: night of rioting as Vinci building-cum-police station, toll both etc are torched “Last night dozens of “casseurs” burned buildings around the southern toll booth of Narbonne on the A9 motorway. Buildings and cars on fire, barriers broken, panels torn off, toll booths attacked with pickaxes… Events took a violent turn in the night of Saturday to Sunday….Near the toll booth, all the buildings were evacuated, including the premises of the gendarmerie highway platoon. There were 8 gendarmes and 6 policemen inside… …A group of vandals went to the headquarters of the General Society in Croix Sud and attacked the windows with projectiles. At the toll booth, the extent of the damage is considerable…The few policemen and gendarmes present on the spot received Molotov cocktails launched by a horde of 200 people and saw their premises set on fire. …The operating premises destroyed during this arson attack included those of the district and the security police.“
France, Paris: far left and far right clash with cops in ‘yellow vest’ protests…lots of luxury cars & cop car torched; also a restaurant… More here “…masked protesters fought running battles with police, torched cars, set fires to banks and houses, and burned makeshift barricades on the edges of demonstrations against fuel tax. Near the Arc de Triomphe, one of Paris’s best-known monuments, masked men burned barricades, set fire to buildings, smashed fences and torched luxury cars on some of the most expensive streets in the city as riot police fired teargas and water cannon. Then, by early evening, rioters spread around Paris in a game of cat and mouse with police. Luxury department stores on Boulevard Haussmann were evacuated as cars were set alight and windows smashed. Near the Louvre, metal grilles were ripped down at the Tuileries Garden where fires were started. On the Place Vendôme, a hub of luxury jewellery shops and designer stores, rioters smashed windows and built barricades….Anti-Macron graffiti was scrawled over the Arc de Triomphe near the tomb of the unknown soldier and protesters burst into the monument smashing up its lower floors before climbing on to the roof. More than 250 people were arrested and at least 100 injured – including one protester who was in a serious condition on Saturday night…“ It was later revealed that the cops ran out of teargas.
So long, Marianne – it’s time that we began to laugh
and cry and cry and laugh about it all again: a smashed statue of Marianne, symbol of the French Republic, inside the Arc de Triomphe (some suggest that this may have been done by right-wing monarchists, but given that there were all different strands of the political spectrum, including anarchists & ultra-leftists, round the Arc de Triomphe, this is pure speculation). Protesters smashed other statues in the monument and destroyed the gift shop…On the other hand, some ‘yellow vests’ protected the tomb of the unknown soldier – a symbol of militarism – from those who wanted to attack it.
Can all this seriously be simply reduced to just petit-bourgeois populism and nothing but? This is not to underestimate the growth of ultra-right populism, but it’s clear that there’s a lot more to what’s happening in France than just that. It’s a weird difficult-to categorise mix of people…Possible state of emergency to be declared. The government has asked all the other main political parties to have a meeting with them. Marine Le Pen asked Macron if he wanted to be the first president of the 5th Republic that had ordered the shooting of protesters. But during ’68 at least 2 people were shot dead by the cops towards the end of the movement (and several others either disappeared or turned up to have apparently died in car accidents). Moreover, in 1961, also under de Gaulle, something like 200 Arabs were killed, most of them thrown into the Seine. And in ’86 an Arab was killed by the cops, though not shot. But for the daughter of the torturer of Algerians, these incidents are obviously irrelevant.
See this Crimethinc article for an account of the day.
This round-the-clock French TV station gives constant news (but also about different things)….I’m tempted to say “Watch this space” but, apart from the fact that you can probably get more information elsewhere at least until Monday, it also implies you should just “watch”….clashes in 17 other towns…Nantes: airport invaded…Puy-en-Velay: prefecture burned downThe media presents this crowd as being callous & bloodthirsty, indifferent to the fact that this was full of workers as well as the prefect; hard to know if their being constantly subjected to teargas had made them blind to the situation or that it was the media, indifferent to most people’s real lives, typically doing their worst…Marseille: looting as 3 demos converge (CGT, ‘yellow vests’ and those protesting 2000 people evacuated following collapse of buildings 4 weeks ago) “Thirteen people were arrested in the evening… including for the looting of a phone shop and the burning of a police vehicle on the Canebière.“
….An 80-year-old woman killed by a teargas grenade fired at her face (the official version is that she died because the hospital made some medical mistakes)
France: 100 high schools blockaded in solidarity with the ‘yellow vests’; cops particularly brutal in Tours Apparently quite a few of them were not independent initiatives, but were started by unions. In Nice a walkway near the airport was blockaded by high school students.
France, St.Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique): ‘yellow vests’ teargassed in clashes round the Town Hall 8 ‘delegates’ (delegated by 30 ‘gilets jaunes’ sections by a vote on the internet) were meant to have talks with Macron, but they received death threats, anbd only 2 turned up, one saying her couldn’t represent anybody. Previous meetings with ministers were secretly recorded against the will of the government and broadcast over the internet. This reminds me a bit of the negotiations with the state in Gdansk in Poland in 1980, when they were broadcast through loudspeakers throughout the shipyard. In terms of form, this is an advance on the standard union negotiation procedures of having secret talks with the government. Of course emphasising form without looking at the content is as much a distortion of what is needed as emphasising content without looking at the form.
France, Beziers: ‘yellow vests’ chuck projectiles at cops as they try dislodge blockade of supermarket… La Réunion (department in Indian Ocean): clashes with state on ‘yellow vest‘ picket as cops force removal of picket with teargas(La Possession)…same in Gillot…St Andre…St.Louis
France, Calais: about 50 people use ‘yellow vest’ picket as pretext to attack riot cops Generally speaking, people tend to reduce the ‘yellow vests’ in Calais (and elsewhere) to a movement of the extreme right. Undoubtedly, some of them are (and it reminds me of those in the Somme, who denounced migrants hiding in vans a few days ago), which has been part of Calais life for some time (with demos against migrants over the last 2 or 3 years). However, this journalist’s report mentions things such as the use of ACAB slogans (hardly something the right proclaim) and the fact that most of the people have never been on a demo in their life before. Nevertheless, many, if not most, of the yellow vests here have said they don’t want the ‘casseurs’ around.
France, Paris: state claims extreme right responsible for clashes More here. “By nightfall, barricades were set on fire, luxury shop windows smashed and traffic lights uprooted.” Apparently anarchists and people from the Parisian banlieux also joined in this conflict (one banlieusard said he joined in for revenge against the brutality of cops in his area). I’ll try to write something about this ‘yellow vest’ movement over the next week or so, as I try to get my head around its contradictions and the contradictions amongst those who either support or oppose it…But for the moment, to counter the caricature that this is purely a right-wing movement – take a look at these bits of graffiti from Paris:
Government – resign
System – abolition”
(Thanks to Crimethinc for these photos)
France, Perpignan: high school students teargassed for blockading their schools (including Rosa Luxemburg High School) in solidarity with ‘yellow vests’…Gironde: toll booth torched (video)…Minister of Interior complains that as many cops have been injured (92, 17 of them seriously) in 3 days as over 3 months at Notre-Dames-des-Landes…Côte d’Armor: “ultra-leftists” set fire to pallets, barricades and smash windows…Seine-Maritime: people in ‘yellow vests’ (denounced by others) loot 2 businesses “They stole all the alcohol from us and the freezer was emptied…. it must be said that it was not the Yellow Vests that did that. On the contrary, they secured the restaurant and escorted us to our cars when we left….The computer shop Nicolas et Fils, also close to the roundabout, was also robbed, suffering significant damage.” No link for this, but several toll gates on motorways have been opened up so motorists can drive for free.
However, this ‘gilet-jaunes’ video is horrendously nationalist and overtly political, calling for a referendum, a change to the constitution (something sections of the ruling class would love to be able to do), and negotiations (which up until now have not been part of this movement). Many classic leftist themes, though it adds explicit nationalism, are there – such as the ideology of unity, the ideology of blocking the economy…Above all it insists that people “speak with one voice”. But whether this represents a significant attempt to make this movement explicitly populist and hierarchically controlled, and rein in the best aspects of it – the excesses of those who use it as a pretext for their own anger – remains to be seen. In its favour, the constant noise of a siren in the background, and the fact that the whole thing is spoken in a voice with an echo in the form of a scary announcement on a station tannoy warning of imminent disaster, is not conducive to watching this crap: the idea of everyone speaking with this one voice, transforming France into a nation of robots, certainly terrifies me. Even if it’s an expression of a small minority wanting to represent a movement that so far has no clear representation, it’s a miserable development – and small minorities often succeed in drowning out the majority, particularly a majority that doesn’t explicitly express much more than opposition to an increase in the cost of survival.
France, La Réunion (French department in Indian Ocean): 70 cars torched at dealership, shopping mall wrecked, etc. during ‘yellow vest’ movement, as refineries are blocked on the mainland and tollgates are made free More here “In Saint-Denis, the Score supermarket in the Vauban district was vandalized. They then went to Vauban’s pharmacy. At the Cauldron, a fast-food restaurant was invaded by about thirty masked people. A major fire was ignited on the roundabout of this fast food place….Young people then gathered near the Simply Market store in La Providence. A crowd formed, garbage cans were burned to prevent traffic circulating. Then, the young people attacked the iron shutters of the Simply Market before entering inside and emptying the liquor section of the store….In Saint-André, there was a report of a fire being started at the annex of the town hall of Cambuston. In Saint-Gilles-les-Bains, two fires were set in Montroquefeuil and another in town towards the Score. In Saint-Paul, an SFR building and an Orange store were targeted. At the Port, the MacDonalds was burned and vandalized….and looted. Cars were also burned, especially in Saint-Denis….In the Vauban district in Saint-Denis, but also in Mufia, clashes took place between young people and the police from the start of the evening….The road was cut off by protesters at the intersection “Chemin Neuf”. The police intervened with tear gas to dislodge them. The helicopter of the gendarmerie was mobilized for a good part of the evening to fly over Saint-Denis.” In all, 8 towns (Saline les Bains, La Providence, La Possession, Saint-Benoit, Saint-Denis, Saint-Paul, Le Port and Saint-André) experienced riots on the island. Some obvious bad aspects of this have been gangs playing the state by forcing car owners to pay a “toll” to travel along certain roads. A curfew has been imposed on 14 towns.
France: about 300,000 block roads, do “operation snailspaces” (deliberate slowing of traffic), etc. throughout the country, in social-network-organised movement against high fuel prices (called the “yellow vests”) A demonstrator is killed by an angry driver, and 409 throughout the country are injured (14 of them gravely injured), mainly by fucked up individualist drivers (many of whom the cops avoid arresting). And over 200 arrests. Though aspects of this have something rather nationalist about it (some demonstrators sung the Marseillaise and there are often affirmations of France, or regional flags) it also has something vaguely libertarian about it as well – e.g. they refused the support of Marine Le Pen and Melanchon; e.g. some toll boths were liberated so drivers could drive for free; e.g. various ideologues have lamented the lack of leaders with whom the state could negotiate, and the rejection of trade union involvement in the movement, which would give some semblance of acceptable organisation. And so far no person has come forward to represent the movement in the media (though obviously there are a lot of individuals who speak to journalists on the roadside). In Paris the Champs Elysée was blocked and many demonstrators went to the Elysée only to be blocked by the cops (surprise surprise). Barriers were thrown at them in the Champs Elysée and they responded with teargas. In Troyes about 200 people broke through the barriers of the prefecture and briefly occupied the courtyard, where the gate was vandalised, and the hall, where a window was broken and a cop was badly injured, and 3 cop cars damaged. There were heavy clashes at Quimper (Finistere)….Funny mix of videos, including footage of middle-of-the-road line-dancing/ hokey-kokey, here. Some shopping precincts were blockaded and throughout the country lots of shops sold very little, many closing at midday. According to this, “shopping malls saw revenues fall by an estimated 35 per cent” (though this says 40% down for 17/11 and 20% down for the whole weekend). It looks like this will continue beyond this one day, including many who have prepared to stay the night. In Lorraine, toll gates were wrecked and intervening cops were beaten, and molotovs were thrown at them
In La Réunion (French department in the Indian Ocean) there were several interesting events: “Scuffles occurred all night in several cities of Reunion after the demonstrations of the day. Several roundabouts were set on fire in Saint-Denis, clashes also took place between police and young people in Saint-Pierre. Garbage cans and other objects are on fire all along the South Boulevard in Saint-Denis and part of the Cauldron. The damage is also visible in Camellias with a service station partly ransacked. Traffic is also difficult in the area of Vauban where the police were still firing tear gas around 11 pm. Boulevard Sud to the East exit of Saint-Denis is dotted with garbage cans and cars on fire. A tree from the Moufia roundabout is even prey to the flames. Scuffles also occurred in Saint-Pierre in the area of Ravine des Cabris.” More here “…in the early evening, more than 200 individuals gathered near the CGSS roundabout on the South boulevard between the Camellias and Vauban playing cat and mouse with the police, including the BAC… supported… by the helicopter which circled around for a good part of the night. These riots continued until late at night, with tear gas bombs thrown on one side and stones and bottles thrown on the other.…When the situation seemed to calm down in one place, it degenerated in another. In a large number of municipalities, the roundabouts and strategic crossroads were taken over by young people who lit several fires on the road. This was the case in Saint-Denis (Moufia roundabout, Chaudron, Candin roundabout, etc.), but also in Saint-Benoît (Plaines roundabout), at Rivière-des-Galets (roundabout – Sacred Heart point), in Salazie … In Mufia, apart from the many garbage fires, thugs have repeatedly tried to get into the Express Score [supermarket], put to flight by the police. But they finally realised their goal late in the evening….Saint-Denis for its part, was able to find a relative calm after 1am, with the lifting of several blockades of roundabouts…still all littered with debris and burnt objects. Vehicles were burned here and there…In the middle of the night, a vehicle was still burning in the middle of the road on the South boulevard, near the Region….at La Rivière: from the end of the day until midnight, garbage cans burned and dozens of young people occupied the roundabout High School. In the district of La Palissade, it was later that the situation began to stir, with the presence of hooded youths lighting fires near the Leclerc roundabout. In Sainte-Anne, young people opposed the gendarmes. The police, like the firefighters, were overwhelmed all night in several municipalities. A blockade persisted in Bourg Murat …and traffic jams lasted most of the night. At Saint-Paul, it was also up until late that the police had to deal with young vandals. From the waterfront to downtown, young people were present in the streets, sometimes hooded, not hesitating to throw stones. At La Possession, a school …windows were broken shortly after midnight….other blockades, already held by day by the “yellow vests”, continued to be occupied calmly all night or at least a good part of it. Protesters remained at the airport roundabout in Gillot, for example, or at the Azaleas roundabout in Tampon.“
Undoubtedly there are aspects of this that are inter-classist, but it’s uselessly unilluminating and lacking in nuance, to drag out the old ‘petit-bourgeois’ knee-jerk insult particularly in an epoch where increasing amounts of proletarians are forced into petit-bourgeois means of survival just as many petit-bourgeoises are increasingly proletarianised. See, for example, this about the UK fuel blockades of 2000. This is not to minimise crudely populist aspects of this movement, but to reduce it all to the “petit-bourgeois” put-down doesn’t clarify anything.
It should be pointed out that the figure of 300,000 is the highest official (media) estimate – those who blocked the roads have not issued any estimate whatsoever, as they have no way of knowing, since there is no central organisation. The Ministry of the Interior put it at between 244,000 and 282,000 (depending on the time of the day they gave out the information) but then they invariably underestimate.