By Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV
On December 1, 2018, the Yellow Vests announced themselves to France, the world and the history books with their revolutionary graffiti tagging of the Arc de Triomphe.
“The Yellow Vests will win” was a slogan gaped at worldwide as they would become the biggest, most organic, most devoted and most truly revolutionary threat any Western country had faced for 50 years. It was their third week of protest, and there was now no going back.
The colonised world never expected a genuine resistance movement to sprout in one of the modern West’s worst imperialists. The French were – many insisted – too self-righteous, too spoiled, too propagandised, etc., and yet for the next six months every single Saturday was a war zone across France. France was truly in a revolutionary situation back then, and it was because the French way of life isn’t as sumptuous as people may think.
The Yellow Vests didn’t bravely endure all this – at least 11,000 arrests, 1,000 political prisoners, 5,000 protesters seriously hurt, 1,000 critically injured, scores maimed for life and 11 deaths – because they have a luxurious lifestyle.
I’m not sure what was worse – the repression by the French regime, or the way Western media and NGOs slandered and ignored the weekly blood baths, tear gas and mass arrests. The Yellow Vests are an immediate, permanent rejoinder to any Westerner who claims their governments are more protective of democracy and less brutal than those of non-Western countries. That’s one of the three great legacies of the Yellow Vests.
The key to understanding the Yellow Vests is this, and it’s implicitly understood by the average European, totally not understood in places like the United States, and has been intellectually mastered by the vanguard Yellow Vests:
Ever since the pan-European project went fully on-line in 2009 it has done nothing but fail. Prosperity, stability and democracy – none have been implemented. France is not really France anymore – not unless Brussels says so – and it’s getting less like France with each passing day under a political system which is really still quite new.
So the Yellow Vests were truly 10 years in the making. They even arrived after a decade full of major social movements, because the first war of the European Union wasn’t a proxy war against Russia but the social war it waged against its own citizens.
The problem was not just the Great Recession of 2008 but the fact that the European Union/Eurozone was the only macro-economic bloc which implemented absolutely no major recovery plan. Even worse, its response was to undemocratically ram through far-right austerity policies instead. The Yellow Vests were this “working-poor class” cemented by the changes of Brussels’, and their opponent was the highly-unequal “bourgeois bloc” which only saw the pan-European project in a rainbow glow of total success.
The Yellow Vests disproved the insistence of the Anglosphere – whose cultures are all extremely conservative politically – that all populist groups in the West are necessarily on the far-right. As soon as December 2018 it was clear in France that the Yellow Vests were steeped in left-wing economics, anti-imperialism and a non-Islamophobic, modern conception of healthy patriotism. This explains their nearly 80% approval rate, a staggering popularity anywhere but especially in a France which had grown extremely cynical, due to the undemocratic failures of the pan-European project. .
If only given one word to describe the Yellow Vests I require a hyphen, please: civic-minded. Concern for their fellow citizens and the downward spiral of the non-elite masses is what has motivated any popular revolution, after all.
These simple, obvious and pro-community concepts are forbidden in the Western mainstream media. There is no “working-poor class” in France – there are only racist, backwards, lazy, always-complaining Frenchmen. There is no “bourgeois bloc” – there is only an elite group of enlightened and deserving technocrats who have all the answers to decide for us about what constitutes “reality”.
These are truly the two classes of the 21st century West – forget “middle class”, because the pan-European project has been (thus far) the final blow to what Reaganomics/Thatcherism began. Fully understanding and opposing the West’s current social class reality is the second great achievement of the Yellow Vests, but of course one cannot find class discussed in the English-speaking media.
However, there is another achievement which is even greater but even less discussed, and probably because it requires a complete overview of modern Western politics, which began in 1789 with the anti-monarchy/anti-aristocrat/anti-privilege French Revolution.
The arrival and the repression of the Yellow Vests reminds us all of the undeniable failure of “liberalism”. The Yellow Vests aren’t actually new, but are a true piece of French revolutionary history transported from 1848-71 – the struggle today is the same as it was back then.
It’s a struggle against always-elitist liberalism and its attendants: oligarchical and anti-democratic parliamentarianism, free-market chaos, the anti-government ideology encapsulated by austerity cuts to social services, and the encouragement of a rat race to “become bourgeois”. The Yellow Vests took France and Europe back to 1848, when the “2nd Republic” re-ended the French monarchy and claimed the mantle of the French Revolutionary “1st Republic”. Liberalism was installed for the first time and… immediately proved that it was plagued by all the problems described above.
Liberalism has failed since 1848, and the liberalist principles (“neoliberal” is more commonly used today, in order to differentiate itself from the discredited, original “liberalism”) which underpin the pan-European project have failed today. They always fail. The arrival, desperate passion and durability of the Yellow Vests is proof of this, and showing the hypocrisy, brutality and ineffectiveness of always-unequal liberalism is the third and greatest historical achievement of the Yellow Vests.
Liberalism, infamously, does not promise anyone the right to a decent existence. Back in 1848 Marx and other socialists demonstrated these facts about Western liberal democracies – the Yellow Vests have brought us back to these inescapable political and social truths.
Why did the Yellow Vests “fail”? Quite simply: Via guaranteed police violence, fines, arrests and imprisonments, the French government scared the average person away from protesting. That’s why their protests dwindled – fear of absolutely certain repression.
The fear has had dramatic, lasting consequences: the French have been reduced from the most politically-active nation in the West to being apathetic and uninvolved – typical of Western liberal democracies. The apathy surrounding this year’s re-election of Emmanuel Macron was completely atypical for France, but the nation saw quite clearly that there was no stopping the will of the 1% and their fanatical “bourgeois bloc” toadies.
The Yellow Vests marched to commemorate their 4th anniversary, but you likely didn’t hear about it. You likely haven’t heard that they’ve been marching every Saturday since “Season 2” began in October 2021, following a 1.5-year coronavirus pause – a pause which no world leader embraced with more joy and relief than the embattled Emmanuel Macron. However, the media blackout on them actually began way back in June 2020.
France is no longer in a revolutionary situation, but the Yellow Vests haven’t gone anywhere. The average person has put their reflective yellow vest back where it belongs by law – in the car – but the network, relationships and experiences created by the unprecedented Yellow Vest movement ensures that they’ll be back one day.
And they will be back – the history of Western liberalism has proven over and over that the average person’s right to live decently will never be guaranteed.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He is currently covering the US midterm elections. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His latest book is ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is also 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’.
” …the history of Western liberalism has proven over and over that the average person’s right to live decently will never be guaranteed.”
This is because liberalism, a political and economic doctrine based on individualism cannot, by definition, have an ethical foundation. Ethics are the standards that protect communities, therefore in the liberal world when push comes to shove, individual rights take precedence over community rights.
Hi Ramin: A good summary of an unfortunately all too predictable situation in France. I am reminded of the fundamental organizing motive in the construction of NATO. “No more French revolutions.” The original French revolution provoked a tremendous reactionary response – the result of which is so well established in Western Europe now. Western Europe is now a deliberately constructed multi-dimensional superstructure dedicated to unrelenting bourgeois hegemony.
As far as I can see modern reactionary France was created by the invasion of the armies of the “City of London” in 1815, wherein the redcoats turned France slowly but surely into a French version of the Anglo Zionist empire. The banking oligarchy in the city of London then slowly and secretly took over the United States. So if we say the American version of the British empire created the EU in line with its capitalist agenda, that is really saying that the City of London, via its hidden domination of a no longer autonomous USA, created the EU.
So the City of London created its own preferred version of the USA, which then eventually created the EU.
Now the Tory party in London wants out of the EU so that it can protect its secret web of off shore criminal banking enterprises from any threat of EU regulation. That being the real essence of English power now. So the Tory’s had to evacuate from what was really London’s own original creation.
This leaves me appreciating that the Russian SMO – anti terrorist operation is really a globalized manifestation of what can fairly be called a second Russian revolution. Which contains within it a definitive answer to the repression of the Yellow Vests. Seeing how world reaction has now such a powerful multinational and global lock in this dictates that the answer to the enigma of progressive liberation struggle can not be found merely inside any single nation state. The answer must be found in a convergent “global” process.
So can we recognize a process of convergence which integrates the struggle of the French Yellow Vests with that of the Russian design to break the back of the very force that so savagely repressed the Yellow Vests?
Today I went to the psychiatrist, yes, I suffer from mental illness, but my intelligence is not clouded by the prescribed pills because I haven’t taken them for a long time.
In the consultation I asked him if it is normal in these times “The Single Opinion” for everything and for everyone to meekly surrender to servitude; the psychiatrist looked at me with eyes full of fear and suddenly I felt inside a dictatorship of any name. This time he didn’t prescribe another med to zombie me because of the question. If they detect a dangerous way of thinking, they inflate you with pills (like me, I took up to 7 different ones and 100% zombie) and incidentally you save social services hours of brainwashing with psychologists.
In Spain millions are spent prescribing tranquilizers and we have legalized marijuana to turn the working class into idiots and zombies. That’s why no one complains, because it’s all Russia’s fault, just like in Franco’s times!!! If everything here is Russia’s fault and in the absence of Franco, then we put Putin.
I hope I have not offended anyone and if so I apologize.
I just wanted to say how they repress us in Spain, with legal drugs.
Hello there Oscar, so sorry to hear of your troubles.
My advice is (I’m not a doctor !) keep asking the right questions, and stay off the medications for as long as possible. When psychotropics are prescribed in multiples they can kill. The doctor who prescribed you seven at the same time had lost control of whatever the problem was.
I can recommend just about any of the books by Peter Breggin – Talking Back to Prozac, or Your Drug May be your Problem, or The Anti-depressant Fact-book, to name a few.
I understand your comment, I have 4 kids that have mental illnesses. 2 of them also have severe medical issues. One with autism, one with bipolar disorder, two with depression, all with adhd. The medications are prescribed so they can fit into society, not to make them compliant but to alleviate the problems with well diagnosed conditions.
Finding a good doctor that truly can identify the problem and know what meds to prescribe using caution and a minimalist approach is/was so very hard. Two had a good doctor but when the vaccines became available the doctor physically refused to see them unless they were vaccinated. That was the end of that dr. We found another. I look up doctors that work with their medical plan. Then I go online and find reviews by patients. It does take time to do that. I am blessed because I am able to discern when difficulties in their lives require medication changes, or even medication reductions when circumstances in their life get better. They are all adults ranging in ages from 23 to 33 now, but they don’t necessarily make connections between how they are feeling when meds are working or not. The one with bipolar disorder has been hospitalized 5 times in 10 years. Three medications seem to be the right combination for their problems, 5 meds for one as he has diabetes with adrenal insufficieny, hypothyroidism, severe learning difficulties, and sleep apnea that causes extra emotional difficulties because of the fluctuating hormones associated with those health issues. I attend their appointments with them when the meds are no longer working and I am their advocate when I feel the doctors aren’t listening to them.
The only thing I have to offer is that you keep trying different doctors who actually listen to you when you describe your symptoms, one who helps you define what your problem is, one who acknowledges that the meds he prescribes needs to be dropped when it doesn’t work and a different one tried. Do not be afraid to say I want to try taking less meds or this one doesn’t work. Take someone with you if you can, who can affirm or help you define how the meds help you or not if they notice that. If you have troubles noticing how they work or not (my daughter with bipolar can’t associate how her mood changes in relation to medication changes or when her behavior changes because they no longer work, my son with cystic fibrosis has the same problem), keep a daily journal of how you feel when medications are changed to present to your doctor.
If your doctors are just prescribing medications to keep you numb, to be compliant, that is the wrong doctor for you, even if that’s what the medical boards want them to do. Keep trying different doctors, go in with your notes, but be realistic. It unfortunately takes upwards of a year for the right medication/s to be found to work. Best rule of thumb, see them every two months, until you find what works, because by six weeks the meds should be working. And if something definitely makes you feel worse, you decide that you can’t take it and call and leave a message for your doctor that you stopped it.
I hope this has helped you in someway because no one should be medicated to conform to societal goals, only to goals to help the problem.
Wishing you better care and better health.
I was in France at the time of the protests. In fact the Gilets Jaunes were middle class older ladies directing the traffic where roads had been blocked and at the blockage the vests were mainly tradesmen, farmers, small businessmen, in fact anyone who had to make a living using a car or van and was sick of the previous socialist and then Macron’s technocratic green government. Previously, diesel had been heavily discounted in France because it gave better economy and CO2. They reversed this and made driving much more expensive. Also speed limits on ordinary roads were reduced to 50mph, making the long distances in France even longer. Taxes were raised and just about everything was peeing people off. Hence the 80% support. What’s not to like about necklaces speed cameras?
As to the suggestion that the Tories and City of London are all for Brexit, the problem is that 75% of them voted to remain and they have carried out a coup putting in globalist leaders who are doing what Macron was doing. Taxing, raising fuel prices, banning gas and oil heating and older cars and vans and in other words putting in WEF agendas.
The British are just as peed off as the French but don’t protest as much if at all. But being driven out of business by the lockdown resulted in large protests. These were ignored by the bribed media and clobbered by the police. On the other hand XR protesters were offered cups of tea and the most wealthy City boy contributed to them.
Appreciate your simple explanation of what you’re seeing. People in the US are too complacent with their cozy lives and until these past three years have lived a relatively carefree life. Even with this past year of mandates, rising gas, electric, and food costs, there are no strident voices organizing protests against government policies. Media suppresses the truth, government officials outright lie and no one does anything. The WEF agenda will be implemented and our loss of freedoms will be our own fault.