Yellow Vests Turn Violent Again, Cars Torched, buildings Vandalised As Macron’s ‘Great Debate’ Ends

After several weeks of largely peaceful protests, with no reports of significant violence during weekend 13, 14 and 15, France’s Yellow Vests are back in full swing on weekend 16, following the end of President Macron’s unsuccessful ‘great debate’ – during which thousands of local meetings were conducted over a two-month period in the hopes of solving national issues through citizen debates.  Unfortunately the tone of the meetings was patronising and condescending to people who attended, with officials taking the line that ordinary people were not well enough informed on matters of economics and international relations to understand President Macron’s programme for transforming France.

Unfortunately after Macron signed the treaty of Aachen with Germany’s Angela Merkel, a committment to further integrate the two nations economically and politically, some people suggested, a tad unkindly perhaps, that Macron was simply rebooting Vichy France, the government of collaborator Marshal Petain during the Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1944.

Up to half-a-million people participated in 10,000 meetings across the country to discuss social issues ranging from taxes – which the French pay the most of any OECD country in the world, to immigration, surrender of national sovereignty to the EU, the state of French democracy and climate change.

“We have been patient but now we want results,” Yellow Vest Laurent Casanova told press agency AFP.

With no meaningful changes yet apparent or on offer after twelve weeks of nationwide cathartic venting which began in November 2018, the Yellow Vests are now back to angry demonstrations as the protests kick off their 16th week with an ‘ultimatum’ rally – marked by lootings, fires, and mayhem that organizers maintain are due to a radical minority.

Some protesters attempted to erect barricades to block streets around Place Charles de Gaulle – prompting the police to respond with water cannon, tear gas and other riot control techniques.

Vehicles were set on fire according to AP as the demonstration turned into yet another riot, and the lootings began. Shop windows were mashed and furniture broken. Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

Wooden boards nailed over the windows of iconic stores such as Boss and Lacoste in the most fashionable street in Paris were ripped off and thrown onto burning heaps as looters emerged, arms laden with stolen clothes, some of which were used to fuel the flames.

Cafe tables and chairs also ended up on the fire and the famous Fouquet’s brasserie — favorite locale of the rich and famous, including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy who controversially used it to celebrate his 2007 election — was also sacked in an orgy of anti-capitalist destruction.

“It’s unfortunate but this is the only way we can make ourselves heard,” a yellow vested protestor who traveled from the southeastern Bourgogne region for the protest, billed as an “ultimatum” to Macron, said as he looked on.

The police, having erected a ring of steel around the Arc de Triomphe, battled for over seven hours to disperse the protesters, using copious amounts of tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannon.

But for most of the day the protesters, who waved French as well as regional flags and chanted “Macron resign”, held the famous avenue which was shrouded in smoke and teargas.

“It’s the apocalypse!,” one demonstrator shouted with glee.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe vowed to “severely punish” the radicals responsible for rioting and setting fires around one of France’s richest neighbourhoods.

Philippe visited the Champs-Elysees on Saturday to show his support for riot police and firefighters struggling to get the unrest under control after it broke out amid yellow vest protests.

He estimated up to a few thousand troublemakers were responsible for Saturday’s “unacceptable” violence. Speaking to reporters, he praised firefighters who saved people trapped in a building set fire by protesters.

Saturday’s riots were so severe that President Macron had to cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

 

In December, Macron attempted to assuage angry protesters with 10 billion ($11.2 billion) in tax cuts and other benefits for low-wage pensioners, but nobody believed he intended to turn promises into action.

Ghosts Of ’68 Threaten Macron’s Technocratic Dream.

The idealistic hope that mass protests and civil disobedience could trigger real social change met with some success in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but looked to have died after the USA’s 1960s civil rights movement and anti – war protests. The recent mass demonstrations of Frane’s gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement in 2018, a movement which has spread to Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Canada looks to have resurrected this style of political activism.

The yellow vest movement is not idologically fuelled as protests from the 1920s to 1960s were; it’s fueled by desperation and what Francis Fukuyama in a recent essay (Against Identity Politics (Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct. 2018),termed the working classes’ “perception of invisibility” a view echoed by French geographer / author Christophe Guilluy who said that “the French people are using the gilets jaunes to say we exist.Unstoppable”: Christophe Guilluy on the cultural divide driving the yellow vests (via Arshad A.)

“Not only does peripheral France fare badly in the modern economy, it is also culturally misunderstood by the elite. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century movement in that it is cultural as well as political. Cultural validation is extremely important in our era.

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.”

The author expands on how the working-classes have come to be excluded?

 “All the growth and dynamism is in the major cities, but people cannot just move there. The cities are inaccessible, particularly thanks to mounting housing costs. The big cities today are like medieval citadels. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, Paris is going to start charging people for entry, just like the excise duties you used to have to pay to enter a town in the Middle Ages.

The cities themselves have become very unequal, too. The Parisian economy needs executives and qualified professionals. It also needs workers, predominantly immigrants, for the construction industry and catering et cetera. Business relies on this very specific demographic mix. The problem is that ‘the people’ outside of this still exist. In fact, ‘Peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of French people.”

And the role the liberal metropolitan elite played in this?

 We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people.

The middle-class reaction to the yellow vests has been telling. Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms. The gilets jaunes didn’t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no ‘off’ button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for a kind of soft totalitarianism.”

By mobilizing 80,000 heavily armed “security forces” in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress dissent, as President Macron has, looks more like hard authoritarianism than soft totalitarianism. The boy Macron has of course tried to justify his heavy handed response by a fatuously claiming  he has a duty to defend “the social order,” i.e. to maintain the  domination of the ruling elite.

But the French elites are discovering the unsettling reality that it’s impossible to defend every traffic-speed camera, every bank, etc. from sabotage and that their working class challengers are smart enough to know this. I’ve often finished article calling for civil action against authoritarianism with the line, “THEY CAN’T PUT US ALL IN PRISON.” It is intended as a warning to those who would control society, rather than an exhortation to those who challenge authority.

The class analysis of the current crisis shows a reversal of polarity from the 1968 general strike of elite students and labor unions. Fifty years ago, the students of the elite universities, in an orgy of virtue signalling (the left never changes though they scream for change,)  lent their support to the trade unions and this combination nearly toppled the government with a general strike.

Now, students of the elite Paris universities, brainwashed with politically correct ideology on gay and trans rights, the desirability of mass immigration and the duty of nanny state to micromanage our private lives, are supporters of the technocrat elite, as the most fervent hope of most of these students is to nail down a position in a government department or QANGO, jobs which are threatened by the yellow vest dissenters.

The labor unions are also missing in action, as they are now adjuncts of the ruling elites, feeding at the same trough of tax revenues and corporate globalization-financialization profits and promoting the same policies that are damaging to working class living standards and social mobility: mass immigration, globasisation (which the working class recognise as exporting jobs,) Islamification of society, erosion of national sovereignty and cultural values and so on.

The gilets jaunes / yellow vests are a working class revolt against the elites, who like medieval aristocrats, regard the “lower orders” as stupid, infantile and in need of paternalistic guidance, and those among the working and lower middle class who identify with the elites: the pseudo-progressive hipsters, the aspiring technocrats and the comfortably secure state employees, all of whom are now on the elite side of the barricades.

The Paris elites and their enablers may find that the next general strike won’t immobilize Paris, it will strangle Paris from the periphery. The unions which were on the democratic side of the barricades 50 years ago may find their identification with the ruling elite challenged, and they’ll be forced to either remember their roots and side with the authentic working class (yellow vests) in a general strike or throw their support behind the undemocratic technocrats like Marcon and those in his administration, who planned to run France for the benefit of their own caste, the university educated, progressive liberal, globalist, soft left.

The quasi-progressives claim to be anti-fascist but are themselves the anti-working class fascists (Beniot Mussolini defined fascism as the collaboration of state and corporate business to exercise absolute power,) and are not appreciating the fact that the ‘stupid working class oiks’ of the Yellow Vest movement are exposing their self-serving hypocrisy. Like the US liberals of the early twentieth century, they are all for civil rights “so long as the niggers don’t leave the plantation.”

Here”s a news snippet that encapsulates exactly what is wrong with the way Marcon and his elitist cronies are trying to handle the crisis. “On Tuesday, the person picked to lead the country’s planned “great debate” on the issues resigned over her €14,666 monthly salary (£13,200; $16,800)” which is $200,000 annually, roughly seven or eight times the average worker’s salary.

Now what kind of plonker would put an academic who already has a well paid position in charge of establishing dialogue with truck drivers, factory workers and labourers who, thanks to elitist policies, are stuggling to make ends meet. That’s the kind of insensitivity responsible for triggering the anger that drives the protests, an illustration of class division in a nutshell. The fake-progressive technocrats are skimming $200,000 a year to defend an indefensible undemocratic neofeudal system of exploitation that handsomely benefits the few at the expense of the many. And the hypocrites call Marcon’s opponent Marine Le Pen “far right.” Bollocks.

 

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