The following text appeared December 6th on the French platform lundimatin; they describe it as the best sociological and political analysis to date on the yellow vest movement. Although we are no more optimistic about the “non-ideological” character of the first phase of the yellow vest phenomenon than we are about the antiquated methods of organization it supplanted, the movement itself has become a battleground to determine what form the next wave of opposition to neoliberal austerity will assume—and no one can afford to stand aside. This text concludes with a cool-headed appraisal of the risks and possibilities before the gilets jaunes and all who will follow in their wake.
Contrary to all that we’re hearing, the real mystery is not that we revolted, but the fact that we didn’t do it sooner. What’s abnormal is not what we’re doing now, but all that we’ve put up with until now. Who can deny the bankruptcy of the system, from every angle? Who still wants to be shook down, robbed, and left precarious for nothing? Will anyone weep as the wealthy avenues of the 16th arrondissement are plundered by the poor, and the bourgeois watch their gleaming SUV’s go up in flames? As for Macron, he can stop complaining; it was he who asked us to come to him. A state can’t keep legitimating itself by reference to the corpse of a “glorious revolution” and then denounce the rioters as soon as a revolution gets going.
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.