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Communique on The Social Revolt in France (December 2nd 2018)

Warning to the English reader : we could not make this translation verified and corrected by a ’native’ English comrade. Thus, we apologize for the difficult reading that this may provoke. For the political content and possible mistakes, every one can refer to the French version (as well as Spanish).

On the third Saturday of the ’yellow vests’ movement, the pictures of riots in the Champs Élysées and their rich and chic bourgeois Paris neighbourhood makes the headlines of the news. But this December 1st, and after two weeks of blockades of the roads and roundabouts, it is a genuine social revolt mixing up workers, unemployed, pensioned, artisans, peasants, self employed workers, small entrepreneurs that has exploded throughout the country. The clashes with the police multiplied in the cities of Toulouse, Marseilles, but also Tours, Avignon, Dijon, in various cities more or less important… to the Puy en Velay where the Prefecture [the state delegations in the local departements] has been burned by the demonstrators [1].

Exacerbation and Generalization of The Popular Anger to The Whole Country

If some extreme-right groups [2] and extreme-left ones, such as the Black Blocs, have certainly been active at the beginning of the clashes in Paris [3], it is seriously doubtful that it has been the same in Puy en Velay (18 000 inhabitants in central and rural France) or still in Charleville-Mézières (48 000 inhabitants in the Ardennes). In front of the repression by the CRS and gendarmes’ [the anti-riot police], many ’yellow vests’ have decided to respond to the state violence, either by assuming themselves their own defence or by directly or passively associating themselves with the violences of the various more or less informal groups presented as ’extreme’. This physical refusal to yield to state police had already been expressed during the 2016 working class’s demonstrations against the ’Labor Law’, which have been violently repressed; and during which, thousands of workers nevertheless claimed their solidarity with the ’black blocs’ and others in front of the police. This ’radicalisation’ of the demonstrators during the social mobilizations responds to the daily violence imposed by capitalism and the dictatorship of its state; and more broadly to the capitalist crisis and the miseries of all kinds that it imposes on billions of human beings. Beyond the increasing disarray of the government, which seems incapable of dealing with the immediate situation and which seems only able to throw oil on the fire, its refusal – until now – to withdraw even the increase in gas taxes, which could have calmed down the general explosion of anger, illustrates both the urgency for French capitalism, but also for international capitalism, to impose ever more miseries and exploitation as well as the explosion of massive social violences at the world level of which we see only the beginnings. Similarly, the fact that, until yesterday, the polls indicated that 85% of the French population supports the movement despite the December 17 and 24th violent confrontations – hundreds of wounded and two dead – expresses this radicalization and generalization of the anger… as well as the contradictions and limits of the ’interclassist’ movement; that is in which small entrepreneurs, artisans, even peasants, salaried, workers and pensioned mix up.

As we are writing, the impasse seems total. On the one hand, without withdrawing any of the taxes and other rises in the energy prices it has decreed, the government is focusing all its communication on the rioters, the media are speaking of the insurrectionary situation and the police unions are calling for the army intervention and for a new declaration of the state of emergency. On the other hand, the ’yellow vests’ movement, because its characteristics, its diverse and even contradictory social composition, its also diverse and contradictory demands, is unable to organize itself at a minimal level and even less able to offer a genuine perspective of struggle against the state and capitalism.

Limits and Impasse of the ’Interclassist’ Movement

The photo of about thirty of ’yellow vests’ kneeling in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Triumphal Arc of Paris and shouting at the top of their lungs the Marseillaise, arms raised towards the sky, whoever their perpetrators were (extreme right or not), in the middle of the confrontations, illustrates very well the limits and contradictions of this movement.

For one part, besides the demands calling for the President Macron’s resignation and the dissolution of the National Assembly, which are typical petty bourgeois and extreme-right’s demands, the one for lower general taxes and taxes on gas enables ’everyone’ to identify with them and to rally behind these demands. A large majority of the workers, proletarians, especially in province, who are not accustomed to mobilize, most have never mobilized before, either by the strike or in street demonstrations, who are rejected far from cities and workplaces by rental and property prices, are forced to use their car to go to work. Thus, the increase in the taxes on gas, was experienced as yet another aggression on their living conditions, ’the straw that broke the camel’s back’. It is precisely on these petty-bourgeois demands and characteristics, in the name of the ’French people’, bringing together all the strata of the ’workers’, either salaried and proletarians or also small entrepreneurs, self-workers, artisans, shop keepers, sometimes even peasants, that the left-wing party La France Insoumise of Mélenchon disputes with the extreme-right and the Rassemblement Nationale of Marine Le Pen the leadership of the defence of the French people, the national flag and the most filthy nationalism.

On this ground, the working class individuals who are isolated and drowned as proletarians in a mass with heterogeneous and even often contradictory interests, isolated and drowned in the ’people’, will gain nothing. And they have everything to lose by letting themselves be drawn into these methods and goals of struggle that can only harm the defence of their interests and lead them to the impasse of nationalism and xenophobia, indeed racism.

It is up to the Proletarians to Take the Lead in the Struggle against Capitalism

For the other part, the individual participation of many workers, pensioners and unemployed had made that some demands, which can be taken up by the working class as a whole, by the proletariat as an exploited and revolutionary class, have clearly emerged above the bric-a-brac of demands of the ’yellow vests’. Apart the cancellation of the increase in the gas prices, the increase in the official minimum salary, the SMIC – much ’proletarian’ yellow vests set it up to 1800 euros monthly –, as well as the general increase in the wages and pensions should be taken up at the production places for the working class mobilizes and engages resolutely, that is collectively, in the struggle. It is so that the working class would offer to these demands a real path not only for them to be won, for French capitalism to withdraw for the first time for long, but also for the destruction of capitalism as such, which brings the whole humanity into misery, into the ecological catastrophe – for which the bourgeoisie wants to make the proletarians and the populations pay and to which the pursuit of capitalist profit inescapably leads – and, more largely, towards the generalized imperialist war.

However, we can’t rely on the so-called ’workers’ unions to call for the struggle and strikes in today’s situation. That is what the working class components of the ’yellow vests’ have understood very well after the successive failures of the past massive mobilizations, the one of 2013 to the 2016, against the ’Labour Law’, and the 2018 railway workers’ ones. In the absence of any working class perspective, this ’anti-union’ feeling among these less experienced sectors of the proletariat in France wrongly identified with the petty-bourgeois’ ’anti-unionism’, which is not other than the expression of its pathological fear in face of the working class struggle and the perspective of communism. The unions will avoid carefully to do so, unless some workers sectors force them by their own mobilization, even more since the emergence of working class struggles, strikes and demonstrations, in the present situation would quickly risk, and truly (unlike the ’yellow vests’), to be a real danger for the French bourgeoisie and capitalism. Given the circumstances and the apparent radicality of the ’yellow vests’ and the generalized atmosphere of revolt in the country, a dynamic of proletarian mobilization in France would provide immediately another character to the social revolt behind wages demands, a class character, in which the tricolour flag would quickly give way to the red flag; the Marseillaise anthem to the song of the International – and by the way, would break the ’interclassist unity’ of the yellow vests. And above all, it would rapidly challenge the existing power, the current government, and would provoke a political crisis affecting the state power [4].

But for this perspective of working class struggle can open up, yet it is still necessary that the proletarians, the most militant workers, engage and mobilize themselves for the start as soon as possible of the workers fights so that they intervene towards the yellow vests workers and show them the genuine terrain and path for the opposition to capitalism. To this end, they will have to politically confront with… the unions and the left-wing parties in the workplaces as well as in the street demonstrations. But for this perspective to develop, the most conscious working class militants and the revolutionaries must regroup, organize themselves, in struggle committees or any other form, and address to all, proletarians in the work places as well as to the ones, dressed in ’yellow vests’, on the road blockages.

The IGCL, December 2nd 2018.

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Notes:

[1. Since November 17th, another movement of the ’yellow vests’ has developed, at a lesser degree, in Belgium.

[2. It matters to point out that the initial attempts of the extreme-right to drive the ’yellow vests’ movement to the racist and xenophobic terrains were not successful and the latter, in their majority, turned away of it. The danger of fascism to power is not on the agenda.

[3. Without mentioning here the police provocations of all kinds, including the common practices of police infiltration within the very street demontrations.

[4. This does not mean that the questions of the working class insurrection and of the workers councils’ power, the ’soviets’, are posed. The proletariat is far from being at the level of confrontation to capitalism and the bourgeois state.