by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker blog
If I am permitted only one word to describe the Yellow Vests it is this: civic-minded.
They are always referring to the common good and not the individual – in Western Liberal Democracy, with its emphasis on individual rights, competition and elitism, that is a revolutionary idea.
(This is the thirteenth 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.)
What are the Yellow Vests? It’s not easy to define because they are a social revolt instead of a social movement, which is focused on only a single area. Given all the Western propaganda against them it’s best to start by refuting what they are accused of being.
They are “rural-based”:
The near-total urbanisation of France is a completed fact: According to Aurelien Delpirou in “La teint de gilets” (The Complexion of Vests) 92% of France lives – in their mode of life and style – an urban, and not rural, life. This is a complete inversion from 1822.
And while we can argue about the details of “mode of life and style” the undeniable point is that mass jacqueries (peasant rebellions) simply cannot be rural-based in the 21st century. Rural life isn’t what it used to be, and while that doesn’t make rural life “urbanised” it does means we need new and more accurate conceptions.
The rarely understood reality is that the Yellow Vests are a result of suburbanite turmoil even more than rural dissatisfaction. The cause of this misunderstanding is poor translation and poor understanding of modern French urban development. The best translation for “suburban” in the French context is actually “periurbaine”. Periurbaine is best translated as “exurbs” or “outer suburbs”. The far more common usage of “banlieue” as being the less-populated barrier between city and country misleads because that refers to something quite different in France – namely, the settlements just outside the city limits but often as dense as the city itself. In the US, for example, the slums are inside the city limits – not so in France.
Modern France has developed thusly: a historical city centre, followed by a ring of ugly suburbs for the poor workers, and then recently a larger, well-built and thriving periurbaine/exurbs area.
The periurbaine area developed far later in France than the “suburban” areas of the United States, where they first sprouted on its un(war)scarred landscape immediately after World War II. In France the urbanisation of this exurb area didn’t happen until the 1980s and 1990s.
To many of France’s isolated city elites these outer suburbs are still thought of as being essentially rural even though they are not cow towns any longer – this is the most common home of a Yellow Vest.
These historically new periurbaine areas have infinitely more political and social representation than the impoverished banlieues, and they even have higher average incomes (€20,975) than the average city centre inhabitant (€19,887). The periurbaine is neither urban hellhole nor rural wasteland – they are vibrant places, but what the Yellow Vests have proven is just how little political influence they have in policymaking compared to the city centre. The economic quality of life of those who live there – petty-bourgeois shop keepers, minor professionals, intermediary positions, government workers – have been absolutely gutted by the Age of Austerity’s successful imposition of Liberalist rollbacks to Social Democracy.
It’s not for nothing that the Yellow Vests began over a petrol price tax increase – 85% of French households own a car. A car is is indispensable for living in the periurbaine exurbs but not for living in the city centre, which benefits from well-funded public transportation. It’s also not for nothing that the most repeated violent assaults on property were the smashing of the toll booths on the outrageously priced tollways on France’s denationalised highways. (Current price of tolls to drive from Paris to Marseille, on the Mediterranean: €61.90 – wow.) Speed-ticket cameras also bore a major brunt of the Yellow Vest’s wrath.
This geographic/demographic recalibration should instantly make the Yellow Vest movement more clear: a primarily exurb population, and then secondarily rural and banlieue dwellers, who are disempowered by the rich elite and disrespected by the snobbish city centre hipster.
They are “populist”:
In an elite-forced pan-European project which has exacerbated and manipulated the Great Recession worse than any other area of the world, we can see why the call for “populist” solutions is such a personal affront to the elite – they think things are going great.
The term “populist” is mainly used to describe lower- and middle-class people who disagree with the prevailing Liberalist orthodoxy.
However, “populist” also asserts that it has found the material to bridge the unbridgeable chasm between leftism and fascism, when no such material exists. A “red-brown” (leftist-fascist) alliance is fundamentally impossible – the irony is that it is usually talked of without an open denigration of Liberalism, which is the only thing they agree on. We have already seen how Liberalism happily subsumed key tenets of fascism after a historically brief, but intense, period of antagonism.
A far more interesting concept is that the Yellow Vests are “counter-populist”, a term defined in Le sens du face-à-face (The Meaning of Confrontation) by Etienne Balibar as being equidistant from both the political oligarchy (i.e. Liberalism) and the ideological populisms of the left (the struggle of the working class) or of the right (the struggle of the ethnic nation). The adding of a key adjective makes it “transnational counter-populist”, which acknowledges that the ideological problem is international capital, and that the practical solution for a multi-national Europe now run by Brussels cannot be limited to one nation.
“It was (and remains) just a name to indicate that we need a concentration of forces and an assemblage of ideas to recreate a politics made by the people and for the people. With populism ‘counter-populism’ shares a formal characteristic: criticising the dispossession or disempowerment of the masses in the oligarch regime. Against populism, it doesn’t confer the task of ending dispossession to the dispossessors themselves, but seeks and requires the empowerment of the citizenry, therefore pushing its capacity beyond the limits and across the borders that in the past defined the political.” (emphasis his)
Balibar isn’t going to openly write that Liberalism and “the oligarchic regime” are synonymous, and nor does he openly write that the fundamental motivation of Socialist Democracy is the “empowerment of the citizenry”. But terming the Yellow Vests as a “counter-populist” movement has more than just newness going for it: it takes the best of “populism” – resistance to the Liberalist oligarchy – and leavens the right-wing connotations it carries. Certainly, conflating Brexiteers, Trumpers and Yellow Vests as all “populists” – as all the same – is a way to avoid and prevent any serious political analyses.
A major criticism I make of the Yellow Vests is that they don’t understand how they need to be more “transnational” – a point I’ll clarify later in this chapter.
They are “anti-migrant” and “anti-immigrant”:
What the Yellow Vests oppose is travail détaché, which can be translated as “temporary workers” or “posted workers”. This is a problem which is specific to the pan-European project.
Travail détaché was created in 1996 to allow European Union members to work across national lines, and on an industrial scale.
Travail détaché has been a way to gut the power of the local artisan/craftsman/small businessman by flooding the market with cheaper labor, greatly damaging the economic prospects of both the French artisan/craftsman and the French petty bourgeoisie, who cannot organise the influx of such workers as easily as corporations. Travail détaché is an obviously neo-imperialist device which allows a rich international class to reap enormous profits while eliminating competition and reducing costs.
Being against this, in pro-capitalist Western media, is falsely conflated as being equivalent to wanting to deny asylum to refugees from war!
The Yellow Vests are completely right to insist that every foreign person who works on French territory must have the same rights and salary as a Frenchman, and that their employer must pay the same taxes as a French employer would.
Travail détaché is a subject which strikes at the core of the neo-imperial and neoliberal pan-European project, but many leftists are so woefully misinformed that they do not see how it proves the vital need for an alliance between the proletariat and the petit bourgeois shopkeeper, which the Yellow Vests exhibit. Such persons falsely see these two groups as having opposite interests, when they are in fact united against big capital.
They are “a tool of Russian disinformation”:
In the book Dans la tête des gilets jaunes (In the Head of the Yellow Vests) the authors provided a quantitative study of supposed Russian influence, which the French government and mainstream media repeated endlessly.
In 2018 from November 10th through December 4th there were 200 Twitter accounts presumed to be linked to Russia, which provided 1,600 tweets and retweets on the Yellow Vests. Wow, hundreds of accounts – seems like a problem, right? Well, over that same timeframe in English and French Twitter there were 360,000 accounts which emitted 1.6 million tweets and retweets about the Yellow Vests.
Obviously, Twitter was abuzz about the Yellow Vests because an unpopular government was sponsoring unprecedented attacks on protesters, and not because malign Russian influence had duped 75% of France into supporting the Yellow Vest anti-government movement.
The authors of the book concluded with what should be obvious to all: “Well, even before getting into quantitative analysis, it seems at least surprising to us that the activity of 200 Twitter accounts could spark an important impact and, worse, lead certain observers to see in them the mark of foreign interference. Making this one of the causes of mobilisation of the movement seems a tenuous argument, to say the least. … This approach doesn’t say anything about the profound causes of the movement, and closes the door to all sociological and political analyses.”
They are “outside agitators”:
Well, they could never expect the rich areas of Paris to march against Emmanuel Macron and the failed leadership of the “bourgeois bloc”, so they had to bring the march to them every weekend.
This accusation was constantly levelled by mayors of all of France’s major cities but it held little currency in the small cities and towns, where some locus of activity was necessary.
If there’s one thing the Yellow Vests have reminded everyone here it’s that France is the world’s number one user of roundabouts, a fact repeated ad nauseam in coverage of them. They were a smarter modern choice than the small-town centre: far more people pass through the roundabouts than small-town downtowns. What has been delocalised is not the protests, but French economic success and vitality.
They are “half-revolutionary”:
An idea among the French left is they have proletarian incomes but hopes for bourgeois lifestyles. Such an idea can only stem from total non-contact with the Yellow Vests, and it obviously contradicts the primary description of them: civic-minded. The Yellow Vests are concerned with the lack of economic equality in France – they are not grasping capitalists.
Nor is it “bourgeois” for the working-poor Yellow Vests to want a stable middle-class lifestyle in modern France – to believe that is to completely neuter “bourgeois” of its indispensable historical context.
So who are the Yellow Vests, really?
At the beginning the Yellow Vests included every class and type of Frenchman, with one exception: the “bourgeois bloc”, a bloc which has historically been against democracy and in favor of oligarchical elitism. This was clear from the very beginning.
In December 2018 researchers in Bordeaux published the pioneer analysis of the Yellow Vests in Le Monde, which immediately revealed the unique composition of the group.
Nearly half (45%) of all active Yellow Vests were office workers/clerks, and that’s even though such workers only make up a quarter (27%) of the overall workforce. Also overrepresented by double (14%) were craftsmen, shopkeepers and lower-level bosses, who make up only 7% of the workforce. At almost the same rate of Yellow Vest involvement as in the national workforce were laborers/workers (20%), farmers (2%) and the inactive (retirees, housewives, unemployed, students). Drastically underrepresented were management, intermediary- and upper-level professions and intellectuals.
The median income of a declared Yellow Vests household is €1,700 per month, which is 30% less than the national average. The poorest 10% of Yellow Vests households earn less than €800 per month, compared with just €519 for the poorest 10% of French households. Thus they are the working poor: not enough to get stability, too much to get social assistance.
This allows us to make a point which is rarely touched upon: the Yellow Vests are certainly not anti-youth, but this is clearly a “grown person’s” movement. It’s a movement of the people who pay the bills.
In the West the political leadership is so often handed to their totally inexperienced youth class, something I have always found bewildering. Over and over again the youth are told to inspire new political movements even though they have the least experience, usually the least emotional fortitude and the fewest resources with which to sustain their combat – it’s a recipe for failure. However, that seems to be precisely why Western Liberal Democratic societies pick them to lead movements which demand political change.
The average Yellow Vests was found to be 45, which is to say several years older than Macron. Here is another rarely touched upon point: This is a middle-aged person’s revolt, and a revolt against a youth made heartless by four decades of the restoration of Liberalism. However, a less dramatic – and more far-reaching – reality is that Yellow Vests are people who have grown up with but become disenchanted by Western Liberal Democracy.
The political spectrum analysis revealed the biggest difference was that 33% of Yellow Vests declared themselves to be “neither right nor left”, compared with just 22% of the overall population. For those who did pick a side you had three times as many far-left (15%) as far-right (5%) with 43% being on the centre-left. Of course, the mainstream media constantly accused the Yellow Vests of being fa-right, in a lie which was disproven almost at the very start. We see that the far-right is the least represented spectrum among the Yellow Vests and that the Yellow Vests are movement in which the majority is leftist and centre-left. There are a lot of independents, but that’s merely due to modern Liberalism’s scrambling of what left and right means, mainly due to the alliance between Liberalism and fascism. As we’ll soon see below, their list of demands left no doubt as to the leftist nature of the group.
A whopping 47% of Yellow Vests said this was their first time demonstrating, which does buttress the importance of political independents in the movement. Nearly 9 out of 10 said they rejected violence to property as a way to make their political message or demands known – a civic-minded group is not trying to tear down the community, even though this was precisely the primary claim of the mainstream media. Educationally the level of the Yellow Vests is mostly close to the national averages, with an overrepresentation of vocational degrees, as reflected by the abundance of craftsmen.
Their reasons for protesting were dominated by calls for increasing purchasing power, reducing taxes and a better distribution of wealth. Down at the very bottom of the list were ecology and immigration, two subjects obsessed over by the bourgeois bloc.
There were also major numbers of working-class women, a group historically not known for political activism. It’s certainly in keeping with French history: it was a women’s march which first apprehended Louis XVI and his family in Versailles, on October 6, 1789. (In an infinitely less significant event 188 years later: the author would be born on this day.)
The reasons why working-class women would be spurred to action is obvious: Austerity’s biggest victim has been women – this has been justly reported countless times. In a lapsed Catholic France increasingly disinclined to accepting the sacrament of marriage single-motherhood is widespread. In general, women are paid less, they are more often underemployed via part-time work, that leads to reduced pensions thus they are poorer in old age – so add in Austerity’s cuts to much-needed social services and it’s clear why this is a feminist movement as well.
Thus it’s no surprise that Martiniquaise Priscillia Ludosky provided the first major petrol price petition, which garnered over 1 million signatures, and that she was also a co-organiser of the premiere protest on November 17, 2018. It’s notable not only that yet another leading French activist is a female, but also one with roots in France’s overseas neo-colonies – they have consistently been the political canary in the coal mine, or rather are at the crest of political consciousness, for mainland France.
So what do the Yellow Vests want, really?
As Trotsky witnessed, during a pre-revolutionary time economic demands for social legislation does not cease but “on the contrary, expands to an unheard-of extent.” This was proven during the Paris Commune as well.
Here is the list of the Yellow Vests’ demands, based on online surveys of over 30,000 people and first delivered to the government in December 2018:
- Zero homeless people – urgent
2. A more progressive tax system
3. Minimum wage of 1,300€/month, net
4. Measures to protect small businesses in villages and city centres (stop building malls, no more “big box” stores), more parking spaces in downtowns
5. Government program for insulating homes & other buildings
6. Big businesses (McDonald’s, Google, Amazon, Carrefour,…) should pay big taxes & small businesses pay small ones
7. Same health insurance system for all (including self-employed). End of RSI (social security scheme for freelance and independent workers).
8. Keep retirement system the way it is now, based on solidarity and thus socialised (no new system based on points)
9. No more increases on fuel taxes
10. No old age pensions below 1,200€/month
11. All elected officials should earn French median income + reimbursement of travel costs if justified + meal tickets
12. All salaries & all government benefits must be indexed on inflation
13. Protect French industry, outlaw de-localisations (moving overseas). Protecting our industry is protecting our know-how and our jobs
14. End the European system whereby workers from other European countries are paid lower salaries and benefits of their respective countries rather than French wages and benefits
15. Job security. Larger businesses should be obliged to give more employees permanent contracts (CDI)
16. Create a French industry of hydrogen powered automobiles
17. End the politics of austerity. An end to the interest payments on debt which is declared illegitimate, and start to repay the debt without taking that money from the poor and the lesser-poor and instead going after the €80 billion lost to tax fraud
18. Treat the causes that are forcing people to migrate
19. Those requesting asylum must be well-treated. We must give them lodging, security, food, and educate any minors. Work with the UN for camps to be opened around the world, while asylum-seekers wait for France’s decision.
20. Accompany those who are not granted asylum back to the countries they came from
21. Create a program for integrating immigrants. Living in France entails becoming French (certificate program in French language, history, civics)
22. Maximum salary fixed at 15,000€/month
23. Jobs for the unemployed
24. Increased assistance for those with disabilities
25. Rent control. More social housing and in particular housing for college students, contractors, gig economy workers, people without steady jobs
26. Outlaw the sale of French public property (dams, airports…)
27. Allocate much more money to the justice system, the police and the armed forces. Pay police officers overtime or allow them to take the corresponding hours off
28. The totality of sums collected at toll booths should go to maintaining the country’s highways & roads and road security
29. As the prices of natural gas & electricity have risen since these sectors were privatised, we demand the re-nationalisation of these industries and the lowering of prices
30. An immediate end to the closing of smaller train lines, post offices, schools and maternity wards
31. Well-being for our elderly. Outlaw for-profit elderly care. The time of “grey gold” has come to an end, and the time of “grey well-being”
.32. A maximum of 25 students per class from nursery school through high school
33. More public financing of psychiatry
34. Write a popular referendum system into the Constitution. Create an on-line referendum site where citizens can propose new laws, overseen by an independent body. If a proposition receives over 700,000 votes it should be introduced into Congress, accordingly completed, amended and discussed before all citizens are allowed to vote on it (within exactly one year of obtaining the 700,000 signatures)
35. Return to a presidential mandate of 7 years. The election of parliamentarians to be held 2 years after the presidential election, which permits to send a positive or negative signal to the president regarding his or her policies. This will allow the voice of the people to be heard
36. Retirement for all at 60 years old and at 55 for people in professions that are hard on the body (construction work…)
37. A child cannot be alone at 6 years old: Extension of public aid to parents paying for day care for children up until 10 years of age
38. Incentivise transportation of merchandise by rail
39. No withholding of income tax
40. Presidents should no longer receive a salary for life
41. Outlaw the tax paid by shopkeepers each time a client pays by credit or debit card
42. Tax kerosene, air and maritime fuels
What the list reveals is a primarily economic movement – half the demands are related to economics. This obvious rejection of “Liberal economics” has often been summarised in France as “moral economics”, which is an obvious euphemism – based on either fear or ignorance – of using the term “socialist economics”.
The relative dearth of political demands reveals that the Yellow Vests do not realise the incapacity of Western Liberal Democracy to care about how economic policies affect the average person – not caring is entirely the point of “Liberal economics”.
Their demands and group composition was summarised in Dans la tête des gilets jaunes (In the Head of the Yellow Vests) thusly:
“Among the versions of their demands which have circulated they singularly resemble those of France Insoumise (a left-wing party headed by Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came 3rd in the 2022 election and 4th in the 2017 election): anti-capitalism, super-Keynesian in economics, welfare state, 6th Republic. … Nothing at all like the February 1934 complacently evoked by members of the government.”
(In February 1934 a royalist and fascist demonstration led to the deaths of 15 people in Paris. It spurred strikes, sit-ins, the formation of the Popular Front leftist coalition and was a political movement unrivalled in modern French history – until the Yellow Vests.)
After clarifying the aims and composition of the Yellow Vests we see that the slandering of them as royalists and fascists is particularly odious, but that is precisely what Liberalists and the bourgeois bloc did.
What a great list! What a disappointing list!
The list makes it clear the ambiguous nature of the Yellow Vests as regards to revolution.
What we can say for certain is that the Yellow Vests created a pre-revolutionary situation, and that is truly a historic accomplishment.
The list shows there is no overt call for an overturning of property relations in the form of mass nationalisations, but there is a call for nationalising the industries of natural gas and electricity, a call to end future privatisations and a call to refuse to pay illegitimate debt. It’s instructive to return to a quote from the chapter on Trotsky in order to delineate the basic definition of a progressive revolutionary country:
“Meanwhile the hypothetical government (Trotsky is referring to a Western Liberal Democratic government which actually stood up to fascism) would give nothing either to the workers or to the petty-bourgeois masses because it would be unable to attack the foundations of private property; and without expropriation of the banks, the great commercial enterprises, the key branches of industry and transport, without a foreign trade monopoly, and without a series of other profound measures, there is no possible way of coming of the aid of the peasant, the artisan, the petty merchant.”
Jean-Luc Melenchon and his movement also have an ambiguous relationship with revolution: their call to found a 6th Republic is revolutionary, but many of its guiding principles are half-measures rooted in Social Democracy and Liberal Democracy. So it’s not surprising that on an ideological level the Yellow Vests – so fundamentally patriotic in their civic-mindedness and so inculcated to believe There Is No Alternative (to Liberalism) – also fail to realise that seemingly all of their 42 demands can only be realised in a situation where a socialist-inspired revolution has taken place to progress onwards from Liberal Democracy.
It’s a great list, sure – but because it’s so surely impossible to implement in the pan-European project there will not even be serious discussion about them. There is one lone demand which has been seriously discussed: #35. The alignment of the presidential and legislative elections in 2002 is widely regarded as a disaster in France: it has caused abstention levels in the latter to soar to levels which threaten France’s democratic credibility.
Extremely, extremely revealing is that the words “Europe” and “European” do not figure in any of these demands. It shows that there is a widespread lack of understanding of the rules governing post-Lisbon Treaty France.
The total lack of transparency regarding the activities of the Eurogroup, the lack of discussion permitted on the undemocratic passage of the Lisbon Treaty, and the denial that aristocratic oligarchy played such a huge role in Western Liberal Democracy means that many in France assume that the French president has far more power to control French policies than he or she really does. It’s a fatal political misunderstanding – some people are playing chess while other people are playing checkers.
This would be evidenced during the 2022 presidential debate between Macron and Le Pen: Macron easily portrayed Le Pen as being anti-Europe because he pointed out that any changes she is naively espousing – no matter how sensible – are violations of pan-European treaties, and thus impossible without leaving the pan-European project. She had no retort for that because there simply is none. Thus, Macron called Le Pen a “vote against Europe” over and over, which she was even though she didn’t seem to know it, just like so many Yellow Vests.
There is simply a dearth of honest reporting since 2009 which has engendered a lack of comprehension that France does not control its own currency, public services, budget, trade treaties, laws, skies, rails, prices, the ability to end Austerity and much, much else. Western Liberal Democracy decides these things in an autocratic fashion, but Macron is actually not an all-powerful autocrat who can implement these 42 demands even if he ever wanted to.
The above paragraph represents a huge problem because it shows how far away from contemporary political reality truly is the most enlightened and popular political group in recent French history. Western Liberal Democracy clearly has two different political realities which exist simultaneously: there is that of the bourgeois bloc (formerly limited only to the royal aristocracy) and then that of masses – the former rules the laws and policies, as they always have.
The Yellow Vests do not realise that not only are their demands impossible in Western Liberal Democracy in general, but that their demands are specifically impossible in this pan-European project. This obvious impossibility means that the bourgeois bloc views such demands to change – from Le Pen to the Yellow Vests – as nonsensical, uninformed and exasperatingly infantile. That is precisely the affectation Macron repeatedly took towards Le Pen during the 2022 debate: a repeatedly disrespectful posture of a professor dealing with a student who has wild ideas engendered by having only a partial understanding of fundamental precepts.
Any “counter-populist” movement should be “transnational”, but especially any such movement with Europe. The Yellow Vest movement spread to 30 countries and yet within France it was, paradoxically, insufficiently transnational in its conception.
Trotsky pointed out that communists contradict themselves when they say that society is based purely around economics: “The truth is just the opposite: the masses make hardly any response to appeals for strikes on a purely economic plan. In politics, how can anyone avoid facing the facts.” It takes more than just economic demands.
The list revealed the lack of an ideological demand – which is to say a demand for a new political system, not merely just a new economic system – which is the only sustaining spark that can keep combusting a pre-revolutionary situation into a revolutionary situation, and this ideological demand was missing precisely because so many do not understand the reality of the post-2009 political system in Europe.
It is a new Europe.
Now that the British have (sensibly) left, Hungary is proving over and over who has sovereignty and who does not in the pan-European project: they kept their own currency (the forint) thus they do have the ability to push against the dictates of the autocratic oligarchy running the European Union. Countries who accepted both the euro and the European Union – like France – have handed away their national sovereignty completely, but even the Yellow Vests haven’t fully grasped that yet.
The French masses did respond for six months on primarily economic demands, but it wasn’t enough. The conclusion is clear: it was a pre-revolutionary situation, and the fault was in thinking that a revolution against the French president was needed instead of a revolution against the pan-European project.
The group with truly revolutionary potential is pursuing reforms which are impossible without a Frexit or without major reforms to this version of the pan-European project. It’s thus a “pre-revolutionary situation”, and not a “half-revolutionary” situation. It may take some years but a revolution is certain because the failure of the pan-European project – for the average person – is baked into the Liberalist project itself, and certainly into the “neoliberal” and neo-imperial pan-European project.
Even if the next step – promoting the inadequacy of Liberalism – is not taken for years the Yellow Vests still represent a major step in understanding of what revolution means within the contemporary Western context. It may not be expressly written in their demands yet, but it certainly is already engraved in their spirit.
Upcoming chapter list of the brand-new content in France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values. The book will also include previous writings from 2018 through the 2022 election in order to provide the most complete historical record of the Yellow Vests anywhere. What value!
Publication date: July 1, 2022.
Pre-orders of the paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the Kindle version may be made here.
Pre-orders of the French paperback version will be available immediately.
Pre-orders of the French Kindle version may be made here.
Chapter List of the new content
- 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 25, 2022
- Who are they, really? Ask a reporter who’s seen a million Yellow Vest faces
- Yellow Vest Win: Ending the West’s slandering of all popular movements as far-right xenophobes
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western anarcho-syndicalism & unions as leftism’s hereditary kings
- Yellow Vest Win: The end of Western parliamentarianism as the most progressive government
- Yellow Vest Win: Reminding us of the link between fascist violence & Western democracy
- What the Yellow Vests can be: a group which can protect liberalism’s rights, at least
- The 2022 vote: The approach needed for ‘Before’- what came ‘After’ polls closed
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.
Mr Ramin Mazaheri,
First of all, please excuse my English.
Secondly, I like your articles. I read them with pleasure.
I think you are an expert on the Yellow Vests movement which has been written about very little here in Romania. I suspected from the beginning that the image presented about the Yellow Vests is false: a chaotic movement, of fascist hue, a movement that being promoted by Putin’s troll factories attacks the foundations of the democratic and free western state (of course we have to get to).
Allow me a question: are you a Trotskyist?
I found in your articles quite a few quotes from Trotsky. Quoting implies a certain approval of his ideas. It is not an accusation. Although he is now denigrated as much as possible Trotsky is the model of a practical revolutionary. In the early years of the Bolshevik revolution he was one of the two who knew what had to be done to succeed. The other Bolsheviks, including Lenin, were with theory.
And I agree with much of what Trotsky said. Here is his speech at the 3rd Congress of the Russian Social Democrats (it was held in Belgium):
Товарищи, я Лев Троцкий, сбежавший из ссылки, прошедшей через ад царской тюрмы, видевший деградацию русского человека и русской правовой системы.
Cчитаю своим долгом обратиться к револуционерам. Правда здесь таких немного.
Расселись по Парижем, Берлином, Лондоном. Балтаете статеики. Подписывайте, жиром заплывает! Hельзя спасать крестьян и направлять рабочих сидя в кофейне, нельзя попивая кофеёк вооружить пролетариат. Посмотрите на себя. Вам самим не стыдно? Да вы все здесь импотенты! Вы не борётись! Bы имитируете борьбу, тем самым дискредитируя великую идею революции!
Товарищ Плеханов а вам удобно на сытый желудок рассуждать о революции? Спинку не подувает ли? А русский мужик потерпeть. Пускай подождёт чужой революции! Вы только развитых европах. Не тaк ли Георгйи Валентинович?
А вы, товарищ Ленин чему улыбаетесь, чем вы лучше? Сидите в той же кофейник и за соседним столиком и плетёте интриги. Вы и такой же импотент как и все остальные.
Русской революции надоело терпеть безпомочность парижских и венских питyхов!
Ей нужны новые лидеры, новые борцы. Она как женщина, ждёт настоящего мущчину. Хватит болтовне! Настало время русской революции!
Будте мущинами, оплодотворите её и она разродиться новым справедливом мира.
Плох тот революционер кто не может стать уличным экстремистом. Плох тот революционер кто боится утанут реках крови.
До здраствует русская революция!
До здраствует очищение через крови!
Although I’m not fluent in English, I try to translate:
Comrades, I am Leo Trotsky, who escaped from exile, who passed through the hell of the tsarist prison, who saw the degradation of Russian man and the Russian legal system.
I consider it my duty to address the revolutionaries. True, there are not many of them here.
Spread out all over Paris, Berlin, London. You’re dabbling in articles. Sign it, you’re getting fat! You can’t save the peasants and guide the workers sitting in a coffee shop, you can’t arm the proletariat by drinking coffee. Look at yourselves. Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves? You’re all impotent! You’re not fighting! You imitate the struggle, thus discrediting the great idea of revolution!
Comrade Plekhanov, are you comfortable on a full stomach to talk about the revolution? Doesn’t it blow on your back? And the Russian man is patient. Let him wait for someone else’s revolution! You are only in Europe. Isn’t that right, Georgy Valentinovich?
And you, Comrade Lenin, what are you smiling about, how are you any better? You sit in the same coffee house and at the next table and weave intrigues. You’re just as impotent as everyone else.
The Russian revolution is tired of tolerating the helplessness of the Parisians and Viennese faggots!
It needs new leaders, new fighters. She’s like a woman, waiting for a real man. Enough talk! It’s time for the Russian revolution!
Be men, impregnate her and she will give birth to a new just world.
Bad is the revolutionary who cannot become a street extremist. Bad is the revolutionary who is afraid to drown in rivers of blood.
Long live the Russian revolution!
Long live the cleansing through blood!
A pre-revolutionary movement – as you call it – like the Yellow Vests will go nowhere because the occult forces or the secret services will not get involved.
Want examples? Here they are:
– The French Revolution was supported by occult Freemasonry; quite a few of the 1789 revolutionaries were Freemasons;
– the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution were protected and supported (including financially) by the German secret services;
– the fall of Ceausescu was the work of French, Hungarian and Soviet secret services in collaboration with local ones (In Romania there was no revolution, it was a coup d’état).
In all cases small groups seized power which they then exercised at will, usually for their own benefit.
The leading group of the 1789 revolution enjoyed the delights of power until they started killing each other. The guillotine and not the tearing down of the Bastille became the symbol.
Lenin and especially his companions began to taste power, they flooded with blood through civil war, admittedly with the “disinterested” help of the West until Stalin began to clean up.
In Romania, the group that got its hands on power sold the entire economy (good or bad, but it had been built during Ceausescu’s time) to the West at a low price (plus commissions for personal pockets) and obeyed the orders of the West.
Do you think that if the Yellow Jackets forced their way into power the same would not happen? A small opportunist group would seize power and history would repeat itself?
Very nice comment, thank you.
I’m not a big fan of Trotsky, but you can better understand Ramin’s vision of Trotskysm in this article:
I’m also not a big fan of Revolutions: those events are always quickly spoiled, even when they start with the best intentions. A sincere Rebellion is preferrable to me, even though both Revolutions and big Rebellions very often lead to dictatorship in the short-mid term.
Another importanto topic is inter-nationalism. Communist’s international spirit has always appeared to me as a mixture of blind hope, naivety and fanatism. But apart from that, I feel like the theoretical principles of struggle between classes have always made difficult for them to think about a serious solution for substituting national-states with something more credible and efficient than a globalist blob of like-minded persons.
A credible alternative to the nation-state is still to be found.
Ramin: Thank you for your continuing analysis in detail. I agree with your criticism of Yellow Vest political thinking. You say that the communists contradict themselves when they base their analysis purely on economic grounds. Clearly a one sided and limited approach. Vulgar Marxism is a carry over from 19th Century thinking. Implying that a more satisfactory approach would be to base demands on a “political” critique. Well yes, integrating economy into political-economy would be an intelligent step forward I agree. However I would also suggest that any successful political theory and movement would need to have motivational roots that go deeper and in so doing transcend mere political economy.
Marx did not start and end with mere political economy. HIs real foundation was philosophy, which he applied to political economy. Leftists attempt political economy but fail to anchor it successfully into philosophy. This makes them weak culturally. Which leads to defeat.
Successful political movements that generate creative solutions also need their own supportive ideological foundations. Those ideological, or better yet philosophical foundations, must be found in the living movement of the culture itself. Culture is the real basis of political thought which is in turn the basis of economic thought. Therefore lurking within the factual data of your analysis (with which I agree) I see you as drawing attention to an underlying cultural problem.
Deficiency within the culture is the real problem, and yet it is only from the culture itself that any radically revolutionary solution can arise that would be worthy of trust and support. But then again culture is itself psychologically dependent upon its own foundations. That being what I would call spiritual culture. So lurking beneath the economic and political malaise we have a cultural malaise. And in turn that cultural deficit is a consequence of problems and inadequacies in Christianity itself. Marx began the work of confronting the inadequacy of conventional Christian religion, but his wisdom in that regard has not really successfully communicated to the political Left. It has created more misunderstanding and confusion than enlightenment.
It seems to me that two civilizations whose success in socialist democracy prove the point I am trying to make are China and your own country Iran. China was able to graft Marxist analysis into its own long tradition of spiritual culture. That rendered their revolution stable and successful. Political thought in China has recognizable cultural and spiritual foundations. In essence, Chinese culture validates Marxism.
Is it not true that in your own case, Iran; that the organizing motivational force for the Iranian revolutionary success came from Shia Islam and its spiritual attunement with the welfare of the masses? It was not the Iranian Communists who led the nation’s liberation. It was the religious leaders. To their credit they seem able to sustain an understanding of the unity of authentic religious culture and Leftist values. Hence Iran’s political freedom has the support of its cultural and spiritual foundations. The West suffers from its present inability to duplicate this balance.
Surely it will take a comparable integration of spirituality, culture and political-economic thought to free the people of Europe from this seemingly overwhelming transnational Leviathon.
The thing I really like about your ongoing work is that your honesty and clarity of focus does seem to me to well support this larger goal, so thank you again. Does this make any sense to you?
Yellow vests movement is a “Jacquerie” where police and army haven’t be allowed to coup the governement.
An “fench spring” slowly and painfully put under the rug “by the forces of the bayonettes”.
“La démocratie c’est cause toujours , la dictature c’est ferme ta gueule.” as we use to say in France…
Thank you Ramin for a very excellent informative article.
bravo for the author !!
Nail meet hammer – without asking for a Frexit the Yellow Vests truly do not understand what’s going on with the “pan-European” project.
I’m surprised that Europe was nowhere in their list of demands.
Another way of describing the Gilets Jaunes movement fits in one word: “poujadisme”. A spontaneous revolt of the middle society of independent hard workers against the confiscation of the product of their work by the apatrid capitalism/salarialism and the omnipotent statism. And like the original upraising initiated by Pierre Poujade, sociologists will say that it died for not organising and converting into a political movement (original poujadisme died when elected into the parliament), while the truth is that its aspirations cannot be satisfied within the current regime, but these modest people cannot think of changing this regime.
The description of the yellow vest situation seem good to me, but the argument that this is caused by the EU elites I don’t agree in many ways:
* «Hungary is proving over and over who has sovereignty and who does not in the pan-European project»: Aquitaine has no sovereignty within the pan-French project, so the argument should be that it should become independent of France.
* «the autocratic oligarchy running the European Union»: there is no such oligarchy, the oligarchies of most EU countries run their own countries as they please. The EU has very little influence on member country governments, as proven by brexit, after which there have been almost no changes in UK domestic and trade policies.
* «Countries who accepted both the euro and the European Union – like France – have handed away their national sovereignty completely» But Aquitaine that had accepted both the franc and the French Republic had handed away their national sovereignty some centuries ago.
The problem is the very idea of national sovereignty in this context: Bordeaux has little national sovereignty within Aquitaine that has little national sovereignty within France, and that is not a problem, because what matters is the sovereignty of the people of Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France, and the EU, and that depends on *representation*, and the people of Bordeaux are represented in the governments of Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France and the EU, and that’s fair.
The EU is neoliberal not because it is secretly controlled by an oligarchic neoliberal clique, but because the voters of each member country and region quite publicly elect neoliberal governments, and that happens because neoliberal governments represent primarily vested interests, and with longer lifespans, long pension periods, diffuse property and share ownership a much larger percentage of the electorate of EU countries have joined the “petit bourgeoisie” and have vested interests and want lower wages and smaller taxes.
If the voters of most EU countries elected social-democratic governments, then the EU would have social-democratic policies, because the EU does what the majority of member governments make it do. As am example of this, the UK right-wing Conservatives have long complained about the “EUSSR” being dominated by socialist cliques, because the right-wing neoliberal elites elected by continental voters are not quite as right-wing as the UK right-wing elite, and this is in effect a complaint that continental voters are not quite as far right as UK right-wing voters.