Translation provided by Sgt. Ghân with Frodois le Blanc
As you may know, the protest started because of some tax increase on fuels. It was the starting point but very soon, as the movement got bigger, it became a general protest against the government (elites) and raised questions about how people’s wealth is redistributed through taxes (which is still totally obscure). What is very interesting is that, even though it is a mass movement, it somehow keeps its coherence because it is naming with accuracy the source of the problems: banks, international finance, its oligarchic system (the EU politics) and their ideological tools: the mass media.
Consequently it transcends political opinions and refuses any official support from any political party. It also refuses any official representative of the movement, any “leader” that might negotiate with the government. Slowly we are getting from “demand” to “order.” It’s not about negotiating, it’s about taking. This movement is said to be supported by 80% of the population (so we can guess it’s even more than that).
It is totally new in the history of France. Compared to that, May ‘68 was like kids playing on the streets, but also the background context is totally different. If May ‘68 actors were fighting against authority, the Yellow Vest movement is claiming authority. This protest comes from the deep “peripheral” (white) France, 90% of the population, living in small towns and countryside that are totally ignored as taxes are increasing their pauperization. Again, it is a general scream from the forgotten majority.
It is multifactorial, but these various factors are direct results of the EU oligarchic and cosmopolitan politics. Since 1973 a law called Pompidou-Rothschild, is simply preventing France from getting interest-free loans from the national central bank; instead of that, the government has to get interest-bearing loans from private international banks. 40 years later, we experience the catastrophic result of it. The general tone of the media’s constantly insulting the “beaufs” (French “rednecks”) and praising the “oppressed minority” with all its mythology of the good “migrant” is turning the nice and naive native-born Frenchman into a radical revolutionary (in its true meaning) ready to hang.
If the country were prosperous, this propaganda could kind of work but the economic situation is so deteriorated that the strategy is simply not working anymore. The Yellow Vest is the movement that shows that the straw broke the camel’s back. Until a few weeks earlier I was telling myself that French people were not poor enough to risk too much. How things are going on shows me I was wrong.
- What are the protestor demands?
First, the president’s resignation. An important part of the protestors’ demands is an increase in the minimum wage, but an even more important part is claiming what probably has become the core of this movement: the RIC (référendum d’initiative citoyenne) that we might translate as “citizens’ initiative referendum.” The government is more afraid of that than anything else because it will imply a radical shift that tends to fundamentally change the exercise of power.
Basically it is about having a system of constitutive assembly organizing referendums for ANY laws in ANY fields. The RIC does exist in a few countries, such as Switzerland, but of course it is not in force for ANY field (especially for the crucial ones). A man named Etienne Chouard has been working around that for more than 10 years. With the Yellow Vest protest he has gained considerable attention and respect; for the mainstream media he is, of course, a fascist. First these constitutive assemblies might collect the most important points to start with, and then commence referendums.
It is actually starting through the internet now; people’s opinions about many subjects are being collected. The RIC aims to make people VOTE and stop ELECTING, and end this oxymoron: representative democracy. The concrete and technical details for the RIC’s implementation would be too long to evoke here. I am sure there is much available information in English. The RIC is like “OK, the thing we are all sure of is that we don’t want the power of the cosmopolitan oligarchy anymore, we will let the people choose WHATEVER they vote for. The RIC might actually lead to ANY kind of government but the main idea behind it is the possibility of revoking the elected representatives. The ones who are defending the RIC are just avoiding any expression of personal ideological opinions. These questions would and should appear later. The RIC “in any matter” seems to have become the central claim of the Yellow Vests. It’s on almost all yellow vests and signs.
- What has the government given in response?
The repression is getting worse and worse. Already 12 people have died and we have 1500 injured (with more than 700 severely). Moreover, all the mainstream media are saying that the Yellow Vests are racist, homophobic, misogynous and antisemitic. So we have two types of repression: the soft one, mainstream media propaganda; the strong one, extreme brutality, thousands of arrests, legal proceedings, imprisonments and deaths.
- Who are the different groups and what percentage breakdown is there between groups in the whole of the protest movement?
As I said the Yellow Vest movement totally the transcends political divergences. Now the people won’t tolerate any expression of political opinion in the protest process. Sometimes, some left-wing movement joining the protest is simply kicked out. This is what is really new. Of course anyone can feel that there is a strong “popular common sense” or, as some thinker might call, an “eternal return of the concrete / reality.. Some might consider this as fundamentally right-wing. But again, before talking about the contents of political opinions, it’s about thinking a new way of doing politics. To me, this is what makes the strength of the movement.
- How long can this last?
It might last for a long time, until the people get what they want (but clearly, the financial elite would rather fight until they die than help organize their own dispossession). Or we can have a kind of fake (false flag) military coup d’état, orchestrated by the government, that will change the situation. I think we normal people can’t imagine the scenarios considered by the intelligence services. They might be really busy these days. It’s very difficult to guess the future but something is sure, the people won’t do any compromise and their determination is great.
- What type of government / police action has been most effective in discouraging protesters?
- What type of protests have been most effective in bringing the government to negotiate?
Again, the Yellow Vests don’t want to negotiate anymore. They don’t trust in any possibility of a real debate with the government. It’s too late now. After the first violence, the government started to announce—with incredible audacity (or shall we say chutzpah?)—some bonuses and wage increases that were actually fake because they were already in Macron’s program. These supposed compromises were nothing new, they were just pretending to listen and respond to the people’s claims. So this made the people much angrier. Until we get this deep transformation of the political system, people will probably be in the streets. As I said before I was doubting about this until a few weeks ago, but people’s determination seems to have reached a certain level that it’s now impossible to give up.
- What’s the vibe or mood now that this is multiple months in?
Very important question. People get more and more motivated as the government keeps defaming them through the media. People actually start to enjoy gathering in roundabouts. (You might know that what happens in Paris every Saturday is just a small part of the process; the rest of the week, especially in the countryside, people are gathering in roundabouts everyday, day and night, they make tollgates free, etc.). There is a new popular solidarity that has appeared. People are bringing food, beds, blankets. People just don’t want to go home. People are conscious that they are recovering a solidarity that seemed totally lost. I think this is really what will make this movement last.
- How are the non-participants responding? Are they pulling in new participants?
There are non participants of course but the only persons that are openly criticizing the movement are politicians and mainstream journalists. Not any possible popular counter protest for now.
- How much planning goes into the weekend protests for dealing with wounded protesters?
There is a lot of organization. Voluntary doctors and firemen are bringing first aid care. Older people and handicapped people have got a white armband. We even have some “security” people that will prevent thugs stealing from shops and bringing violence. We can clearly see that the violence coming from the Yellow Vests is now always responding to police violence that has been ordered to start the fight first. That was not the case in the beginning of the movement but this is clear now. The presence of independent media filming the protest all day long all shows the same things: increasing quantity of protesters, increasing police violence, more and more structured claims.
- Do they share protocols or have guidelines if police escalate with control devices like water cannons/guns?
I don’t have this information in particular but surely, it seems that the organization is getting more and more professional.
- What decision makers or power players are they petitioning for assistance?
- What coordination is there with other Yellow Vest movements outside of France?
There are a lot of exchanges especially with Belgium. We recently saw some protest in Germany as well. Everything is still going on. Right now it seems that before working in order to make the movement more international, it’s really about focusing on France and keeping the rhythm I might say.