Socialist Worker

Rising costs fuel anger on French highways

But the ‘Yellow Vests’ movement pulls in different directions, argues Charlie Kimber

Issue No. 2631

Blocking Nationa Route 19, Vesoul in eastern France

Blocking National Route 19, Vesoul in eastern France (Pic: Wikimedia)


Over 2,000 protests took place across France last weekend against rising fuel costs.

One protester was killed after being hit by a car and hundreds were injured. The interior ministry said 287,000 people took part.

Police arrested over 50 people as the “yellow vests”—named after the hi-vis jackets people are required to keep in their cars—blockaded motorways and roundabouts.

Police used tear gas as protesters slowed traffic trying to enter the Mont Blanc tunnel leading to Italy, while reinforcements were deployed to stop angry demonstrators reaching the presidential Elysee Palace. Further protests have been called for this Saturday.

President Emmanuel Macron is under huge pressure over fuel prices and many other issues. Last Saturday a poll showed the percentage of people who disapprove of him reached an all-time record high for any president—73 percent.

The yellow vest protests are highly contradictory. The central focus initially was “green” taxes and rising costs for small businesses.

Early backing came from the mainstream right and the fascists of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally—the renamed National Front).

It was denounced by the unions.

Reactionary

The revolutionary socialist NPA party warned against the influence of the racists and strengthening reactionary big business opposition to the government.

But it also said after last Saturday's protests, “Even if the right and the extreme right wanted to be the spokespersons of this anger, it is a class policy, a policy at the service of the rich, which has been denounced today.

“The anger expressed today is that of the working class, men and women forced to take their vehicles to work.

“The yellow vests mixed their anger against fuel price increases with the decline in pensions, and multiple attacks led by Macron for over a year.”

NPA spokesperson Philippe Poutou tweeted, “Are the yellow vests achieving where the union movement did not succeed?

“It’s a surprising movement which clearly expresses determination and anger against the government.

“A general mobilisation [against Macron] becomes possible.”

There is a battle to see who will gain from Macron’s demise. The threat of an increase in nationalism and racism is very clear.

Le Pen’s party heads recent polls for next year’s European elections—although only on 22 percent because politics is so fragmented.

But there is also a high level of struggle.

This week saw national strikes by health workers and job centre workers on Tuesday. A national day of action against racism, with significant union support, was set for Wednesday.

Last week saw a very successful national teachers’ strike over job cuts, the narrowing of education and the increasing disciplinary measures used against pupils.

The left and the unions need to show a clear way forward to beat Macron and offer positive change for working class people.


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