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‘The struggle is still on in France – now we all need to unite against Macron’

This article is over 4 years, 11 months old
Richard Greeman, a Marxist writer and activist best known for his work on Victor Serge, reports from France
Issue 2661
The third Assembly of Yellow Vest Assemblies was held this weekend in Montceau-les-Mines
The third Assembly of Yellow Vest Assemblies was held this weekend in Montceau-les-Mines (Pic: Reporterre)

It was 108° Fahrenheit in France this week, and police were still teargassing peaceful demonstrators – whether Yellow Vests in Montpellier or ecologists in Paris.

They were protesting over capitalist-generated global warming on the hottest day in French history!

As the contradictions between neoliberal economics and human life become more visible, police repression seems to be the new normal even in the “democracies”. And I have seen little coverage, much less indignation, in the media at this latest outrage.

“Kill the messenger” seems to be the only response left for the defenders of capitalism, even in the world’s two oldest republics – France and the US.

Forget about the so-called authoritarian “populists” and outright tyrants like the darling Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (who will host the next G20 after murdering a journalist).

And yet we struggle on. My local Yellow Vest group is right now participating in the national Assembly of Assemblies, presenting our Convergence34 resolution.

It calls on Yellow Vests to join with ecologists, workers, unions, students and oppressed people to block the whole country and force fundamental changes.

With the total collapse of the parliamentary Left in the European elections, the Yellow Vests’ “demand the impossible” solution seems the only reasonable one left. And although Emmanuel Macron’s government claimed “victory” in those elections, his party came second behind far right Marine Le Pen’s.

Only 11 percent of the electorate voted for Macron’s party.

Voting during the third Assembly of Yellow Vest Assemblies last weekend

Voting during the third Assembly of Yellow Vest Assemblies last weekend (Pic: Reporterre)

On the local level we are meeting this Tuesday, bringing together 20-odd autonomous local Yellow Vest groups for the third time. It has taken us seven months of being beaten over the head and vilified to get organised, but we are still here.


And still prepared to keep things going over the sacred summer vacation – normally the death of French social movements from 1936 to 1968 – just to remind folks we’re still around.

For example there was a “Yellow Beach” demo this weekend.

The hope is that the situation will heat up in the Fall, when people return to work and school, and lead to a general strike. The issues are still there, and Macron has given nothing in his neoliberal steamroller drive to gut schools, hospitals, public transport, retirement, health, unemployment and to privatise everything in sight.

So our Yellow Vest groups will continue to hold the door open for more folks to join the struggle. We are beginning to get structured. We will go on standing in the hot sun on a few traffic circles with our flyers and yellow vests.

We will continue to support the striking emergency room personnel and the striking teachers – some of whom are refusing to turn in their students’ grades at the crucial Baccalauréat exam. The crisis ain’t over yet.

A year ago as vacation-time arrived, the dilatory tactics (one-day “strikes”) of the French union leaders had led to the total defeat of the organised working class.

Then in the Fall, out of nowhere, the Yellow Vests sprung up like mushrooms in the damp woods – a  vast social movement, 300,000 strong, with the backing of 75 percent of the French public.

It was struggling against the same reforms but from a poor consumers’ point of view. Quite a surprise, and still alive eight months later.

Unfortunately, the two movements failed to unite, despite the efforts of some of us, and the Macron steamroller continued to move forward. It has crushed civil liberties and the right to demonstrate in the process, leaving the Yellow Vests bloodied but unbowed.

A convergence of movements and a resultant runaway general strike is not a totally impossible hope. If the social struggle rises again next Fall, as it must in this increasingly unequal society with a long revolutionary history and a hereditary hatred of the contemptuous aristocrats who rule over it, who knows what will happen.

Anybody got a better idea?

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