Build local Action Committees! Push the Trade Unions to Join the Movement! Organize an Indefinite General Strike!
Statement of the European Bureau of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 03.12.2018, www.thecommunists.net
1. France is rocked since weeks by a series of mass protests which are increasingly turning into violent riots. A spontaneous mass rebellion – called the “Yellow Vests” movement because of their high-visibility vests which all motorists are required by law have in their vehicles – erupted on 17 November protesting against higher diesel taxes. Denouncing rising living costs and declining incomes, the movement increasingly also calls for the resignation of the country’s President, Emmanuel Macron.
2. While Macron claims to raise the tax for ecological reasons, it is in fact part of the government neoliberal austerity policy attacking the working class and lower strata of the middle class. It is therefore not surprising that the movement has a focus on rural and peri-urban areas where people strongly depend on their cars as public transport is poorly developed.
3. The “Yellow Vests” have become a massive movement mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people every week. According to polls, between 72% and 86% of the population supports its demands while Macron’s popularity has been driven to record lows. Protesters are blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. While making empty offers to hold talks, the neoliberal government is increasingly turning towards brutal repression against the movement. On Saturday 1 December police reported to have arrested more than 400 people in Paris and that 133 were injured. Some 10,000 tear gas canisters and stun grenades were fired as well as water canon were deployed. After these clashes, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux indicated the Macron administration was considering imposing a state of emergency.
4. The “Yellow Vests” movement represents a spontaneous mass rebellion of workers and the lower strata of the middle class. It mobilizes via social media and lacks organized local structures. Its leaders are not party functionaries, mostly not even long-standing political activists, but rather people who seem to have been pushed accidently to the forefront. Reflecting a widespread mistrust against established parties and trade unions, the movement rejects the presence of their banners at the demonstrations (this resembles similar phenomena like the libertarian sectors of the anti-globalization movement in the early 2000 or the protest movement against the price increases of public transport tickets in Brazil in 2013). On Réunion, a French colony in the Indian Ocean with a majority population of groups of African, Indian, Malagasy, and Chinese descent as well as a white minority, the protests have already transformed into a semi-insurrection so that the government has imposed a curfew. While the movement is clearly a popular movement dominated by workers and lower middle class, its political confused character, its lack of local and national democratic structures and its rejection of the participation of trade unions and left-wing parties give it a rather raw, petty-bourgeois populist character. However, it is a petty-bourgeois populist mass movement driven by opposition to the neoliberal austerity policy of the government (“Macron is a President of the Rich” is a popular slogan) and with legitimate, progressive goals like the opposition against higher diesel taxes or for the resignation of Macron.
5. Shamefully, the reformist leaderships of the trade unions CGT (close to the “Communist” Party”) as well as the CFDT (close to the “Socialist” Party) refuse to support the movement or even its demands! However, many local CGT branches as well as another important trade union federation, (FO) support the protests. Important left-wing parties like La France insoumise led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon (who received nearly 20% at the last Presidential elections), the NPA, LO as well as others also support the movement.
6. However, right-wing opposition parties like the conservative Les Républicains but also racist parties like Le Pen’s Rassemblement National as well as fascists also try to infiltrate and exploit the widely popular mass movement. Many activists of the movement are disgusted by the infiltration attempts of these reactionary forces and there have been a number of cases where people attacked such racists and threw them out. Nevertheless these attempts are ongoing and they represent a big danger for the movement! It shows how important it is to build democratic local and national structures and to lift the ban for open participation of trade unions and parties (such lifting would make it more difficult for right-wingers to secretly infiltrate the movement.)
7. The liberal pro-government media try to present the movement as a bunch of backward blockheads who are manipulated by “right-wing and left-wing extremists and hooligans”. Sectors of the academic left in Paris (as well as of the European “left”) share this sentiment. They denounce this popular movement as “reactionary” and refuse to support it. Clearly, such academic “leftists” are useless fools who treat the politically raw masses with contempt. They are no less criminal than the reformist CGT leadership. Instead of supporting the legitimate protest of the people against neoliberal austerity and fighting inside the raw and confused mass movement against right-wing forces, these reformist and centrist idiots prefer to arrogantly glance down at the ordinary people and leave the field to reactionary forces! Can it be excluded that this movement degenerates and that right-wing forces could succeed in brining it under their control? No. But this is a negative possibility of the future and not the present situation! And if such a degeneration would took place in the future, it would be the fault not of the people but of the reformist leadership of the trade unions and the left who failed to energetically intervene in such an impressive spontaneous mass popular movement!
8. The RCIT proposes the following perspective for a revolutionary intervention into the “yellow vests” movement:
Stop the state repression!
Build democratic committees of action on a local level and a national conference of delegates of these local committees!
Drop the ban for the participation of trade unions and parties!
Push the CGT and other trade unions to actively participate in the movement!
For a united front of all workers and migrants organizations (trade unions, LFI, NPA, LO etc.) in order to marginalize and drive out the right-wing provocateurs from the movement!
Any negotiations between leaders of the movement and the government must be broadcasted live in internet so that they are transparent!
For an indefinite general strike – organized by the mass movement and the trade unions! For the creation of self-defense committees to defend the movement against the police and provocateurs!
9. The RCIT looks forward to collaborate with revolutionary activists in France on the basis of such a perspective.
For our analysis of France we refer readers to various RCIT documents which we have published on our website in the section on Europe https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/
In particular we draw attention to:
RCIT: France: Pour la Grève Générale – Illimitée, militante, multinationale! 2 May 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-pour-la-greve-generale/
Manfred Maier: France: Down with the decrees of the Macron/Philippe government! 17.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-macron-s-labor-bill/
RCIT: Fight Macron's Labor Bill: Time to shake France to its very foundations! 28th August 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/fight-macron-s-labor-bill/
RCIT: Presidential Elections in France: Neither Le Pen nor Macron! 05.05.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-neither-le-pen-nor-macron/