Yellow Vest protests took place across France on Saturday as the revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberalism continued. They were met by 70,000 police determined to break “Act V”—the fifth week of Saturday actions.
In Paris police used pepper spray and then tear gas against peaceful protesters. At least 90 people were detained.
Celine, a student, told Socialist Worker, “We knew the police would be brutal, although the scale of it always comes as surprise.
“I saw them beat a Yellow Vest who was curled up on the floor and semi-conscious. It’s hard to see.
“But it makes many of use even more determined to beat Macron.”
Protesters rightly ignored the government’s calls to suspend the action in the interests of “national unity” following Tuesday's attack on Strasbourg's Christmas market where a gunman killed four people.
As well as in Paris, there were demonstrations in many other cities and towns.
In Bordeaux more than 6,000 protesters took to the streets. Yellow Vests joined with a student demonstration and the two groups chanted together, “Students, Yellow Vests, same Macron, same struggle”.
In Nantes, some 1,800 protesters had rounds of tear gas fired at them.
Similar scenes occurred in Toulouse, Avignon and Besançon.
Thomas, a bus driver from Toulouse, told Socialist Worker, “The police were looking for revenge after we drove them off last week. But for a long time they could not control us.
“Everyone knows that the Saturday demos will get hit by the cops. But we aren’t giving up.”
In Calais, a group of 200 Yellow Vests blocked the access road to the port.
Near the southern city of Perpignan, demonstrators riding motorbikes blockaded the main road on the approach to the Spanish border.
There were also demonstrations in Marseille, Lyon, Nantes, Lille, St Etienne and elsewhere.
Sections of the media, including the BBCnin Britain, are crowing that the protests are getting smaller and are essentially over. They are speaking too soon.
Repression and over 4,000 people arrests inevitably have some effect. Macron’s concessions and retreats have made some people think the movement has gone as far as possible for now.
But there are also signs of new life and new demands.
Disabled people, accompanied by other Yellow Vests protesters, rushed onto the runway at Toulouse-Blagnac airport last Friday afternoon causing all inward bound flights to be held or diverted.
They were protesting about the conditions facing disabled people and demanding better accessibility and a decent income.
The demonstrators were also highly opposed to a new law that lowers the standards of accessibility in new housing.
This underlines that the movement has come a long way from a protest about the price of fuel.
And in the schools and universities there are big mobilisations.
Yellow fever is contagious!
The revolutionary socialist NPA party reports, “For more than a dozen days, trained by the movement of the Yellow Vests, high school students have come out massively in the battle against Macron.
“Mobilisations have spread like wildfire in hundreds of high schools, some of which had not seen any movement for years. Blockades, rallies and demonstrations have put thousands of high school students on the street all over the country.
“Yellow fever is contagious! The slogan ‘Macron resign’ is seen in front of schools, and some high school students even wear the yellow vest. Students know the lack of resources for education has the same cause as miserable wages and pensions.”
The critical question is whether the energy and determination of the Yellow Vests can flow into strikes and a convergence of different forms of struggle.
Unfortunately the leaders of the CGT union federation did very little to build their day of action last Friday and the strikes were much smaller than had been expected.
Union leaders have so failed to provide the bridge from the streets to the workplaces.
In recent days some Yellow Vests have stepped up their action by blocking the entrances to large firms and industrial estates.
On Wednesday 12 December around 100 Yellow Vests blocked access to the airbus warehouse in Cornebarrieu near Toulouse, halting all traffic. They said they wanted to “slow down the economy”.
Police and CRS riot police swept in and forced them off, so they moved to block a series of major roads and the entrance to an Amazon warehouse.
Near Vichy on Monday and Wednesday last week Yellow Jackets blocked access to a factory of cosmetic giant L'Oreal, halting many trucks.
It’s urgent rank and file trade unionists take the initiative to use the official calls for action on 18 December to raise the level of workplace resistance.
A group of leading trade unionists in the CGT union federation published a statement in the Liberation newspaper this week saying, “Some of us expressed reservations about this movement at first because of its programme limited to the issue of tax and its relations with the far right.
“But nobody can doubt today that this is a popular movement, a general fightback that goes well beyond the fuel issue and has nothing to do with the far right.
“Those wearing the yellow vests are our colleagues, our friends. They are often precarious workers, outside large cities, small business people, or unemployed. They are workers who cannot make ends meet, like many of us.
“It is largely those that we have not organised in our unions, and that must raise questions for us.
“The CGT, and grassroots activists, can’t look away from this social anger.
“Our confederation is at a crossroads. Either the CGT turns its back on this movement and the majority of workers who compose it, which will undoubtedly deepen the crisis of trade unionism and make it easier for the far right to channel the distress of the working classes, or we seek to converge, to realize the ‘All together’ slogan which emerged from the great strikes of 1995.”
It's crucial to realise that unity.