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Fight for the soul of the yellow vests

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Issue 2636
 The Yellow Vest movement in France shows that often anger will erupt in contradictory ways.
The Yellow Vest movement in France shows that often anger will erupt in contradictory ways. (Pic: PA)

The liberal centre is disintegrating—and a battle is raging about whether the left or right gains.

We need a war on racism, fascism and austerity. These are urgent times.

Millions of working class people have been shafted by free market policies and austerity, then ignored by mainstream politicians of all stripes.

Sometimes their anger can find a left wing expression. We have seen that with the massive surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn.

But the Yellow Vest movement in France shows that often anger will erupt in contradictory ways.

It is an inspirational revolt. But with the intense racism pushed by the French state, it was inevitable that racist ideas would be reflected in parts of the movement.

And at the beginning fascist Marine Le Pen’s National Rally—the renamed Front National—tried to make the running.

Subsequently fascist forces and racist arguments have been largely marginalised within the Yellow Vests. But that wasn’t inevitable. It took—and still requires—argument, involvement and socialist politics. Most of the French left didn’t stand aside or line up behind neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron as a bulwark against the right.

The far right in Britain have grown in confidence and are trying to claim the Yellow Vests.

Fascists wearing yellow vests staged a day of action in favour of Brexit last Saturday.


Organiser James Goddard is going it alone after falling out with Nazi Tommy Robinson.

In London a group of 90 protested outside parliament. And in Manchester they marched on a RMT union picket line in Manchester Victoria station to harass the striking Northern rail guards. A Leeds Socialist Party meeting was attacked this week.

The group in Manchester were clearly from the North West group of the fascist English Defence League.

Brexit was a contradictory electoral revolt, which saw ordinary people give the establishment a kicking.

Both the official Leave and Remain campaigns pushed racism against migrants and increased an already-existing right wing atmosphere within society.

Tory prime minister David Cameron had pushed vicious scapegoating of Muslims, migrants and refugees.

Unfortunately, during the Brexit referendum the majority of the left ceded the ground and let the right shape the debate.

The left can win out of the crisis of the centre.

It means not lining up behind the establishment—and not making any concessions to racist arguments that are thrown up when anger erupts.

Join the Stand Up To Racism national demonstrations on 16 March in London, Glasgow and Cardiff. More details at

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