On the Gilets Jaunes: Dispatches from France

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The following is a collaborative effort of translated analyses from France focused on the Gilets Jaunes movement between Agitations, Carbure, Otto Mattick & Ediciones inéditos. More texts will be translated in the coming days.

In the last few days, the Left has struggled to politically apprehend a new phenomenon called the “Yellow Vests” [“Gillets Jaunes »], since it does not emerge directly from traditional forms of protest. Consequently, any critical analysis of the movement is forsaken in favour of a blissful support without questioning anything (who mobilizes itself? why? how?) or a blatant contempt for “beaufs” who do not demonstrate for “good causes”, as if class consciousness should magically impose itself on the proletarians. In the same time, we cannot summarize the events as a gross manipulation of the far right based on nothing but wind and creating a completely artificial social discontent by means of Facebook videos.

The craze for “yellow vests” is a symptom of the political sequence in which we find ourselves, a sequence bred by a capitalism in crisis and the dissolution of any recognizable and commonly shared workers’ identity. This loss of landmarks has been brutal, and some debates within the radical left (sometimes more attached to a fantasized past than to the understanding of the complex class composition of current social struggles) have consisted in questioning the proportion of proletarians using a car and are thus directly affected by the rise of the price of diesel. They very often return to the reactionary fantasy of a good old rural peasant France where the majority of the “poor” would live (the concept of the proletariat quickly slipping through the cracks). In our opinion, it is more relevant to focus on the political content of this movement and on what it practically translates.

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