Socialist Worker

Mood of rebellion moves to French trade unions

by Zack Lewis-Griffiths in Lyon and Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2639

The Yellow Vest assembly at Commercy over the weekend

The Yellow Vest assembly at Commercy over the weekend


Yellow Vests and trade unionists could together deliver a crushing blow to France’s president Emmanuel Macron.

The CGT union federation has been forced by pressure from below to call a general strike on Tuesday of next week.

Its demands are similar to several of those raised by the Yellow Vest movement—higher wages, a tax system that hits the rich rather than the poor, more money for public services and defence of the right to protest free from police aggression.

Other trade unionists beyond the CGT have backed the call. The SUD Rail branch at Paris Nord said, “Rail workers, are you ready? We have our accounts to settle with the government! Stop job cuts, raise wages, no to privatisation. On 5 February, we have to block ­everything, we need to build an unlimited general strike.”

Allies

Such rank and file mobilisation will be needed to make the strike effective and to convince Yellow Vests that the unions can be their allies.

The Solidaires federation says 5 February must not be an isolated event but a launchpad for bigger Yellow Vest demonstrations and for a general strike that goes beyond a day.

If the power of organised ­workers is linked to the militancy and determination of the Yellow Vests then the movement can take a giant step forward. But it can’t be left to the union leaders who have largely spurned the movement up to now.

Last Saturday’s Act XI of the Yellow Vests again saw many large demonstrations and tens of ­thousands of people on the streets.

Macron’s hope that his fake “Great debate”—a series of highly?orchestreated and restricted “public” meetings—would end the revolt has failed. So repression has again come to the fore.

Jerome Rodrigues, a popular figure in the Yellow Vests, was hit in the face by a rubber bullet or flashball on the demonstration in Paris. He is expected to lose the sight in his right eye.

Rodrigues was placed in an artificial coma overnight after the incident at the Bastille.

On Saturday in Lyon a rally in the city was declared to the authorities by the local Yellow Vests assembly.

But said student Soumia, “It didn’t stop the police from using repression right from the ­beginning” on the march.

“A girl was shot in the foot by a flashball and there was a lot of tear gas,” said Soumia.

“This time the crowd was more organised and fully fighting back, not letting themselves be divided by police strategy. They insult us, shoot tear gas and flashballs and charge us but we kept coming back.”


Yellow Vests round-up

  • The contingent of the revolutionary socialist NPA on the Yellow Vest march in Paris was attacked by “The Zouaves”, a fascist group. Several NPA members were wounded. The NPA said, “The groups of Yellow Vests present during the assaults were also shocked by these attacks, and some intervened with us to repel the fachos.”
  • The first Yellow Vest “assembly of the assemblies” met last weekend bringing together about 26 delegations from across the country.
    It agreed a statement which included, “ From the smallest village, from the rural world to the largest city, we have raised ourselves against this deeply violent, unjust and unbearable society. We won’t let it go! We will fight against a life of precariousness and misery. Twenty six billionaires possessing as much as half of humanity is unacceptable.
    “We demand the immediate increase in wages, social security, allowances and pensions, the unconditional right to housing and health, education, free public services for all.”
  • “Nuit Jaune”’ (Yellow Nights) protests have taken place in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon and some other cities with activists attempting to occupy city centres all night.
  • Riot Police are being armed with new, more dangerous, weapons to put down the protests even more ruthlessly. Some squadrons of the CRS (riot police) are now being armed with assault rifles. In addition the CRS in Nantes are using the Riot Gun Penn Arms. It shoots six rubber bullets of an apparently harder calibre than the standard—and highly dangerous—LBD-40 that has been used so far.
  • In Paris, Lyon and other cities the police are bringing their dogs for the first time. They are highly aggressive and tearing at leashes to get at civilians.
  • Police have begun filming demonstrations across France as part of Macron’s attempt to list and criminalise suspected leading members of the Yellow Vests.
  • In Toulouse the demonstration was attacked with particularly large amounts of tear gas rounds raining down from one of the police helicopters usually used for reconnaissance at all the larger protests.
  • A march of up to 10,000 counter-protesters calling themselves Les Foulardes Rouge (The Red Scarves) had a march in Paris on Sunday to express annoyance at traffic blockades and problems for small businesses. They also claimed the Yellow Vests are a risk to democracy. Several sarcastic comedians from the Yellow Vests infiltrated the march and waved mocking signs spouting love for Macron and riot guns—“Courage President” and “LBD mon amour” with big love hearts—before being roughly ejected.
  • Next week for Act 12, rallies are planned outside police stations in solidarity with those injured and in protest at police militarisation. There are also plans to "Paint the cities Yellow", according to one of the larger Yellow Vest facebook groups.

The full Commercy declaration

We, the Yellow Vests of the roundabouts, parking spaces, seats, assemblies, demonstrations, are meeting on 26 and 27 January 2019 in the "Assembly of assemblies", bringing together about 26 delegations, Responding to the call of the Commercy yellow vests. 

Since 17 November, from the smallest villages, from the rural world to the largest cities, we have raised ourselves against this deeply violent, unjust and unbearable society. We won't let it go!

We will fight against life’s current precariousness and misery. We want, for our loved ones, our families and children, to live in dignity. 26 billionaires possessing as much as half of humanity is unacceptable.

Let's share wealth and not misery! Let's finish with social inequalities! We demand the immediate increase in wages, social security, allowances and pensions, the unconditional right to housing and health, education, free public services for all.

It is for all these rights that we take on a daily basis, that we organise actions, demonstrations and debates everywhere. With our Yellow Vests, we return to the world we never had.

And what is the government's response? Repression, contempt, denigration. Deaths and thousands wounded, the massive use of weapons that maim, mutilate, hurt and traumatise.

More than 1,000 people were arbitrarily convicted and imprisoned. And now the new "Anti-breaker" Act is simply aimed at preventing us from protesting.

We condemn all violence against demonstrators from law enforcement or violent groups. None of this will stop us! Protest is a fundamental right. End of impunity for law enforcement! Amnesty for all victims of repression!

And what a trick that this great national debate is, in fact, a government communication campaign, which will build our will to debate and decide! True democracy, we practice it in our assemblies, on our roundabouts. It is neither on the tv trays nor in the round tables organized by Macron.

After insulting us and having treated less than nothing, now he presents us as a hateful, xenophobic crowd. But we are the opposite: neither racist nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together, with our differences, to build a society of solidarity.

We are strong in the diversity of our discussions, at this very moment hundreds of assemblies develop and propose their own demands. They put forward real democracy, social and tax justice, working conditions, ecological and climate justice and the end of discrimination.

Among the most debated strategic demands and proposals we find: the eradication of poverty in all its forms, the transformation of institutions, the ecological transition (energy insecurity, industrial pollution ...), equality and consideration of all, regardless of nationality (persons in situations of disability, gender equality, end of the abandonment of the popular neighbourhoods, the rural world).

We, the Yellow Vests, invite everyone, within their means, to join us. We call for the continuation of acts (Act 12 against police violence before police stations, Acts 13, 14...), to continue the occupation of the roads and the blocking of the economy, to build a massive and renewable strike from 5 February. We call for committees to be formed in workplaces, colleges, schools and elsewhere so that this strike can be built at the base by the strikers themselves. Let's get our things in hand Don't stay alone, join us!

Let us organise ourselves in a democratic, autonomous and independent way. This Assembly of Assemblies is an important step that allows us to discuss our demands and our means of action. Focus on the transformation of society!

Macron resign! Long live power to the people, for the people and by the people.

 

 


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