Yellow Vest : The great debacle

So, second post about the Yellow Vest movement in France. In the previous one, I tried to give a little bit of context on this movement, and how other political blocks tries to gravitate around it.

Since then, there’s been quite a lot of things. For one, there’s an increasing number of violent act done by the cops. If you want to be exhaustive, you should have a look at the work done by David Dufresne. On his — very graphic so be warned it might hurt you— page ¨Allo place Beauveau ?¨ he document most of the wounds and mutilations caused by the cops and their use of the now infamous LBD40 flash ball and GLI-F4 grenades.
We’re getting to the XIVth act meaning it’s the XIVth week of nationwide mobilization on Saturdays.

And the government is trying to react to it (about time would say anyone) by spreading wildfires about Russian interferences, and organizing the great debate using Cahiers de Doléances, yeah, like in 1789. But more on that later.

What I want to write about first, is the changes going through this unique movement. And how it is organized (or disorganized), and tries to resist to interfering. So, here we go.

Roundabouts and Cabins

The Yellow vest, as said before, gathers weekly onto roundabouts, or other places where they can locally block the traffic. Every Saturday, people gather to places — using last minutes messages to spread information about the how and where making it hard for cops to block them. And they talk. To each others or to anyone willing to talk rather than staying blocked in traffic jams on a Saturday.

And what happen then, should be no surprises. Since people are talking, not trying to win a debate or to score some points, they get a better understanding of their situations, their places in a society and that they do, eventually, share a lot of ideas with each others, building a class awareness on those roundabouts

Going a step further, some local groups started to build cabans on their place of protests. It’s easier to get people to come on a Saturday morning while the temperatures are freezing cold, if you have a bonfire, and things to eat and drink with you’re fellow yellow vests, it’s much easier to get people coming.

And some groups are going hardcore on this. For instance, in Saint Nazaire, they’re squatting a former Pole Emploi building, renaming it Maison du Peuple (People’s House). Or, on the other side of France, at Commercy, they built a cabin and have daily meetings, embracing the organizational ideas of Libertarian municipalism, preferring a decision making process based on collective discourse than one putting individuals forwards.

They even publish calls to actions on a regular basis. They also call for each groups to find way to organize themselves, for way to share between them and with other groups what’s they’re talking about, and how they take decisions. They even call for a general national assembly of all groups who wanted to join them, which resulted in interesting discussions about the place of the fascists among the Yellow Vest (and for once, they’re talking about it, which is more than I can see on other political groups and organs), how they position themselves with mainstream unions, political game or other issues (yes, they’re talking about feminism, racism and homophobia. Again, it’s more than I can see on some self proclaimed allies).

In short, they’re doing street politics, far away from the political organs, denying any public relationship person any power over them, trying to stay away of the political game as much as they can, trying to (re-)discover horizontal ways of organizing. Far away from the Parisian political apparel or from the last big movement Nuit Debout.

They use Facebook a lot to organize themselves one would say. I personally think they’re using Facebook mostly as a way to share information, not for organizing. Most of them don’t trust mainstream medias, for good reasons. Or perceived reasons. That s why they rely alot on Facebook groups to share informations.

One could think it then leads to disinformation, conspiracionism or worse, but I do not believe that there’s more flat-earthers among them than in any other social groups. They do use a lot of self-organized media to host their communications and informations (websites such as https://manif-est.info/, or https://paris-luttes.info/). Some of them are working to build a webradio. They are their own medias, they are doing what we — hackers and stuff— have been pretending to do with more or less success.

So, let’s take a look at what their opposition is doing, namely the government.

The great debacle

In order to give the impression that M. Macron is listening at them, and in an attempt to sway the yellow vest opinions away from the road, they created a Great Debate Committee. Which is going absolutely fine. They even have a second website. Of coure, it blew up.

Ms. Jouanno, former head of this committee, resigned — or got fired — because of the clear willingness of the executive power to use it to push their personal agenda. I really think this is because M. Macron have never been elected on his proposals but because he wasn’t Ms. Le Pen, and, since then, he’s been trying a lot of things to find public support for his personal neo-liberal agenda.

When a subset of the questions — on the first website — leaked, it was clear that this debate would be an interesting attempt at manipulating public opinion. I have to credit them for trying new way to push propaganda, it is interesting.

For instance, they understood that, if they want to touch a public they usually evade, it would be interesting to have Ms. Schiappa, a state secretary, to co-animate a TV show with M. Hanouna on Direct 8 — a media own by M. Bolloré. M. Hanouna is known for he’s daily TV Show, pushing public humiliation at a new level, and his public does intersect a lot with the 18-25 subforum of a big video game forum, known for their harassment tactics ant anti-feminist positions.

I guess that, wanting to prove that Yellow Vests are fascists pig which wants to debate immigration politics, M. Macron thought that this could be a good idea. So, they did a talk show and asks people to vote for some proposals. And if you want to see someone feel alone while shit hit the fan, I suggest you to look at the State secretary face as the 7 most voted propositions are revealed.

For the record, I’ll retranscript them here:

  • Suppression of VAT on product of prime necessity
  • 2 to 4 % increase in hospital budgets
  • Re-instantiation of the ISF (Tax on the Fortune, a bit like what Ms. Cortez is proposing in the states)
  • Analyze and question the utility of all the tax niche
  • Jail time for tax frauders
  • Tax credit on innovation and competitivity reserved to the small businesses
  • Change the police time of policy

So, basically, except for the last one, people just asked to the government to undo what they did the last two years. And it was an attempt at swaying Yellow Vest movement toward immigration and identity politics. It blew up in interesting proportions.

Since then, we didn’t hear a lot about our president. He’s probably busy trying to find way to exerts control on M. Benalla — this scandal keeps on giving — and then he decided that he should probably write us a letter. It did not get well received.

So, now he’s talking to the press — after pushing them out of the presidential palace and tried to keep them under control by choosing which journalists would be allowed to follow him — and it’s wild. He claims Russian influence is behind the Yellow Vest movement, that there’s only extremists (from the left to the right) on-line, that there must be a hierarchy of speech (his own speech should be above elected representative which should be above media and the above educated people and then everyone else).

And that is not really compatible with the way Yellow Vests are organizing, since they never endorse leaders, or think that there’s no negotiations to be done. The Yellow Vests are preparing themselves for a long run, and that’s why they gather on Saturday instead of going on strike. It’s because they can afford it. They do not care if it take them a year of protesting, they do not want crumbs and leftover given to them through unions, they want all the cake and to share it with everyone.

And yes, I said it before, it’s not a perfect movement, it never will be because there’s no such thing. But they did dedicated one act to women, this saturday they’ll dedicate the act to the wounded by the cops, there’s talk about feminist issues — and no, they do not want to reopen the debate on assisted reproduction or mariage for everyone as some conservatism tries to imply.

What I see, from where I stand, is that all the people who abstained themselves from voting because they were disappointed by elective representation are now the Yellow Vest. They’re building, experimenting or re-discovering street politics tactics. And yes, it gives me hope that there’s more decent people out there than non-decent one.