by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog
Western culture has been so prevalent for two centuries that I think much of the world assumes that they already intimately know a major European country like France. Many outside of the West may be saying, “We know the West, but the West doesn’t know us!”
It’s just not that simple.
(This is the nineteenth and final chapter in a new book, France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. Please click here for the article which announces this book and explains its goals.)
A contemporary progressive demand correctly says that local histories must be prioritised and no longer imposed from the outside – stereotypes must be broken. The end of feudalism finally allowed the average person to say the truth in public – there is a class struggle – and using this most high-powered lens we realise: the people of France deserve this right as much as any other people because the history of their working poor masses, too, has been repressed, ignored and slandered.
That didn’t all start with the Yellow Vests.
Yellow Vest: “It’s not only in Paris, or in France – discontent is international. The poor, the young, the old – so many sectors of society are doing poorly because of a lack of humanity in our social and economic policies. The beauty of the Yellow Vests is that we gather together every weekend to communicate with each other – otherwise, people are just home alone with their misery.”
By far the best part of this book, in my opinion, is their words. I hope you have been as delighted as I have been to read their analyses right alongside the deeds of Napoleon, the revolutionaries of 1848, Communards, true Trotskyists, etc. Not only do their words tie this humble book together, but they tie together over 200 years of French history. France has this tremendously exciting history of political resistance, but it gets buried, distorted and untaught by the Liberalist elite – the Yellow Vests exhumed it and brought it back to living reality.
After more than a dozen years living in France I must admit that I, too, didn’t know France and Europe anywhere as well as I assumed I did before I moved here. What an enormous mistake I made – assuming that I “knew” France even though I knew hardly any French people!
One doesn’t have to be on the world’s bottom socioeconomic rung to have their culture and history falsely portrayed – every nation without a Socialist-inspired revolution to protect them has their own bottom rung which is silenced, crippled, massacred, etc. This book has been an effort to view modern French history from their ground up and not in the Liberalist fashion – their top down.
Yellow Vest: “Macron has ended so much social assistance to poor people. He tells lies about the poor, and also about his own policies. We are sick of his policies! We must finish the Macron era! We demand more aid for poor people, such as myself!”
Ah, still more progressive Yellow Vest thoughts! Yes, more, because this book is not my book but theirs. This book is not an attempt to give my version of French history, but the version from the average French person.
The average French person has much to learn from this book, I humbly insist, because the history of their working-poor has been so suppressed domestically, and also because the truth of the new pan-European project has been so suppressed.
Admit the truth: the euro has totally failed in its promise to bring about prosperity and economic security. The European Union has totally failed to act in a democratic manner. The pan-European project has not waged bilateral war (perhaps “yet”) but it has waged social war on its own citizens across the continent. Many permanently disfigured Yellow Vests would say I am even being too lenient here.
Yellow Vest: “By denying that there was any police brutality the government legitimised it. How we can have confidence in a government which cripples its own citizens, or in institutions which do not intervene to stop that? It is truly barbaric violence, which mutilated people because they believe in a better future.”
The immediate, perpetual and ongoing failure of Liberalism; the notion that Western political culture has actually been excised of the influence of immoral, arrogant and unjust monarchism – a misconception which rather turns Iranians apoplectic; the clear goal of modern politics to move from absolutism towards citizen involvement and empowerment; the obvious historical trajectory of Western political structures from absolute monarchy, to aristocratic oligarchy, to a bankocracy which inflicts neo-imperialism on anyone it can reach – I hope this book has clarified these realities. Admit the truth.
I am convinced that what Europeans definitely agree on is that they all want an end to the wars which have gutted their lower classes for so long, to easily move around within Europe and the basic advances of mere Social Democracy. The working classes want peace, ease of movement and a decent social safety net. The pan-European project has manipulated these desires – the 1% has teased with the carrot but just given the stick. The only real success of the pan-European project has been the flexibility of the EU passport – Europeans are quite relieved to be able to move around the continent without the previous hassles.
Europeans, in my experience and according to polls, mostly want a united Europe – it’s unfortunate that they are misled into believing that there is no alternative to this thus-far woefully unsuccessful version of it.
Yellow Vest: “I can’t tell people how to vote, but I certainly advise them to not vote for Macron. He hasn’t done anything for the French people, but has instead worked for the rich bankers, corporations and Brussels.”
Even though his autocratic repression of the Yellow Vests should have disqualified him from ever holding public office again, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected, incredibly. The false branding of the Yellow Vests as mere “hooligans” has largely stuck in France, stunningly. There is a dysfunction, a Marxist “barrenness”, an autocratic schizophrenia which Western Liberal Democracy is forcing the average Frenchman to endure – this book shows how long this sickness has been imposed on the French poor, working poor and working classes.
Without the courage to call things by their rightful names – Western Liberal Democracy means failure for the 99%; Socialist Democracy justly puts the 99% at the forefront of government policy – France as a whole will never heal. How very few political analysts say this!
This postscript was finished the day after France’s 2nd-round legislative elections. Macron has not been handed another absolute majority by a slim margin – it’s another Yellow Vest victory, but not one which was resounding enough. It’s certain that Macron was never a “centrist” but a mainstream conservative, merely with a new logo and of his younger generation. Thus, his coalition will continue to unite with the mainstream conservative les Républicains party (and also many fake-leftist Socialists and Greens) for an absolute majority on all issues involving far-right economics, the re-imposition of Liberalism and the pan-European project. French parliament will now be less stable and more combative, but in appearances only – in reality French parliament remains only for appearances on the major questions of economic and political power distribution. It’s certain that the reason an absolute democratic majority of France (54%) didn’t even bother to vote is because they implicitly know that modern autocracy – rule by the 49-3 executive decree and the overruling of national sovereignty by Brussels – rules, thus rendering Europe’s national parliaments a waste of time, their breath and our attention. I would conclude that Liberalism in France is on the verge of becoming so preposterously dysfunctional that it’s surely about to be consigned to the dustbin of history but, alas, I recall that Marx and Trotsky wrote the same thing.
It’s certain that these analyses will not be popular among my journalist colleagues.
What is so unfortunate is that as early as the summer of 2019 people kept asking me: “You’re going to report on a Yellow Vest demonstration? But I thought they had stopped marching?” The media blackout on the group extends beyond the common excuse of the corporate domination of Western media: it doesn’t explain the refusal of France’s state-owned media to cover the group. French taxpayers deserve better. Capitalism is an issue, but the larger issue is obviously political and cultural – it’s elite-driven Liberalism.
Yellow Vest: “We marched as Yellow Vests for two years, and we are still Yellow Vests today, but we all saw that nothing changed! The cost of living is too expensive – we can’t pay our bills at the end of the month! We don’t want this government – and their violence – any more.”
The fact that the Yellow Vests have marched every Saturday for over three and half years (not including the coronavirus pause) is actually more important than how they have been wilfully ignored:
As the West comes out of the coronavirus era, during which they actually employed some Social Democratic-inspired economic measures, they are immediately reverting to extremist Liberalist economic solutions: forced recession, in order to perpetuate the elite’s dominance over the working poor. The first half of 2022 was supposed to be a time when France’s elections were going to garner great interest, at least in France, but the vote was overshadowed everywhere by total economic disaster – much of it self-inflicted in the West. Betting on a period of economic disaster – always a constant in Liberalist capitalism – seems like a gamble that will pay off quite big, and quite soon, in the world’s weakest and least-sovereign macroeconomic bloc.
Yellow Vest: “Things really could explode because prices keep going up but wages do not. If Emmanuel Macron somehow wins re-election then social unrest will go sky-high. The Yellow Vests will really take to the streets then, and it will be much worse than in 2019.”
For those who marvel at the insight of these Yellow Vest quotations – they truly are just that politically intelligent and aware! Give them all the credit. The idea that they are just rioting berserkers is… well, this book has already disproven that completely.
The perspective of the daily hard-news reporter is, I think, a unique and useful one. There is an urgency to this particular area of journalism caused by the reality that (after starting from the ideal of objectivity) serious conclusions must be drawn immediately and presented – they cannot be drawn-out, postponed, frittered away by mealy-mouthed relativism. Additionally, I interview and learn the opinion on the day’s most vital events from everyone, from hedge fund mangers to think-tank analysts to pensioners to protesters to Yellow Vests and to – most often – the everyday Frenchman and Frenchwoman on the street. That’s not something which can be easily replicated. Personally, my favorite chapters may be Chapters 9 through 11 – covering 2009-2022 – which condensed over 1,500 2-3 minute television hard news reports for PressTV (which equates to more than 3,000 soundbites from French people) and hundreds of columns. That can’t be easily replicated, either, nor can my honest claim to have reported on more Yellow Vest demonstrations than any other journalist in any language.
At the next Liberalist-provoked disaster the Yellow Vests will be there – they have never left. That should give France great hope. This book has aimed to share their fundamental message of hope and civic-mindedness.
Yellow Vest: “What voters should do is to not be scared, and to rejoin the Yellow Vests. We have lost our purchasing power, our social services, our individual freedoms – stop crying about these two candidates from behind your television or computer and come join us!”
The ideas of the Yellow Vests are not new – this book examined many different modern French eras to show precisely that. There is obviously a human unity across spaces, and there is also a political unity across time. The interspersed quotes of the Yellow Vests should have given you the clear understanding of: it’s been the same political and economic struggle for the past 233 years. It’s not complicated: just examine how and why they repressed the Yellow Vests so brutally, and why that failed to stop them.
Yellow Vest: “The government doesn’t know what to do because they see that the movement continues despite so much repression. We will not stop until we get the right to citizen-initiated referendums, the end to corporate tax evasion and a rule of social justice so that people can live decently.”
That’s perhaps the most simple encapsulation of the primary demands of the Yellow Vests. Mine might be a bit different, but I was honoured to be alongside the Yellow Vests to insist on our right to live decently.
The West’s best values are not imperialism, elitist Liberalism, oligarchical parliamentarianism, free market chaos, suppressive austerity and a rat race to “become bourgeois”. Look at the Yellow Vests for the West’s true virtues, and then join them wherever you can.
June 20, 2022
Complete chapter list of France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values
- New book announcement – ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s best values’ – March 15, 2022
- Introduction: A Yellow Vests’ history must rewrite both recent & past French history – March 20, 2022
- The UK’s endless reaction: 1789 & feudalism’s end creates modern conservatism – March 25, 2022
- Glorious Revolution of 1688: England declares ‘death to all other revolutions’ – March 29, 2022
- Modern political history makes no sense if Napoleon is not a leftist revolutionary – April 2, 2022
- The ‘Counter-Revolutions of 1848’ stillborn child: Western Liberal Democracy – April 7, 2022
- Louis-Napoleon: The revolutionary differences between Bonapartism & Western Liberal Democracy – April 11, 2022
- The Paris Commune: The true birth of neoliberalism and EU neo-imperialism – April 17, 2022
- Where the West is stuck: The fascism of the 1930s and the ‘fascism’ of the 2020s – April 23, 2022
- On ‘Leon Trotsky on France’ in order to reclaim Trotsky from Trotskyists – May 2, 2022
- Growing up Yellow Vest: Seeing French elites, not French people, conquered by neoliberalism – May 8, 2022
- The pan-European project wanted a Great Recession, winds up with Yellow Vests May 13, 2022
- To Yellow Vests he’s the radical: Macron imposes ‘radical centrism’ for Brussels – May 19, 2022
- Yellow Vests: At worst, the most important French movement for a century – May 24, 2022
- Who are they, really? Ask a reporter whose seen a million Yellow Vest faces – May 31, 2022
- Yellow Vest Win: Ending the West’s slandering of all popular movements as far-right xenophobes – June 9, 2022
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western parliamentarianism as the most progressive government June 14, 2022
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western unions as leftism’s hereditary kings – June 20, 2022
- Yellow Vest Win: Proving that Western Liberal Democracy is the same old autocracy – June 27, 2022
- What the Yellow Vests can be: a group which can protect Liberalism’s rights, at least July 4, 2022
- Postscript: Looking back and looking forward with the Yellow Vests
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.