Yellow Vest Protest Movement: Inequality and the Hollowness of the French Regime

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1714 ... December 4, 2018
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Yellow Vest Protest Movement: Inequality and the Hollowness of the French Regime

Richard Greeman

Ignored by French President Emmanuel Macron, distorted by the media, courted by the Right, snubbed by the Left, the self-organized mass movement known as the Yellow Vests (Mouvement des gilets jaunes) is seriously challenging the political and economic order in France.

In Paris, on the morning of Saturday December 1st, as thousands of self-organized Yellow Vest protestors attempted to gather to express their grievances on the Champs-Elysées at a planned, peaceful demonstration, French CRS riot police in Paris attacked them savagely with tear-gas, flash-bombs and water-canons. By the end of the day, cars were burning near the Arc de Triomphe, and all of Paris was in chaos as groups of... would-be peaceful marchers, joined by the usual casseurs (smashers) spread throughout the capital, expressing their anger at the system and calling for the resignation of President Macron.

This militarized state over-reaction to a peaceful mass demonstration breaks with a long tradition of tolerance for muscled demonstrations by rowdy angry farmers and militant labour unions. A tolerance Macron, in speeches, has blamed for the failure of previous governments to pass needed pro-business counter-reforms. Predictably, Macron (who must have ordered Saturday morning’s unprovoked, violent attacks on unarmed demonstrators arriving early for the planned march) blamed the victims: "What happened today in Paris has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of legitimate anger," he said on Saturday. "Nothing justifies attacking the security forces, vandalizing businesses, either private or public ones, or that passers-by or journalists are threatened, or the Arc de Triomphe defaced."

Meanwhile, throughout the French provinces, at least 75,000 Yellow Vest protesters (police estimate) were blocking highway entrances, intersections, and shopping centers all day -- all with minimal violence and apparent general approval (80% according to recent polls).

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