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Alain Badiou: Lessons of the "Yellow Vests" Movement


At the Verso blog, Alain Badiou casts a critical eye on the yellow vests movement in France, finding in it much to bemoan, but also the seed of something better. He chides the movement for being disorganized and largley middle class – striving for the restoration of a previous order rather than the revolutionary establishment of a new one. But he also suggests that the yellow vests could give rise to a more organized and powerful force down the road: “Once the hyperbole and bluster are over, the yellow vest movement can be very useful in the future, as Marx put it: from the standpoint of its future.” Here’s an excerpt:

Naturally, without the massive incorporation of the new proletarians, the yellow vests cannot as such represent ‘the people’. That would be to reduce this people to nostalgia on the part of the most deprived section of the middle class for its ruined social status. To be ‘the people’ in politics today, the mobilized crowd must include a strong central contingent of the nomadic proletariat of our suburbs – a proletariat from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. It must display clear signs of rupture with the dominant order. Firstly, in visible signs, such as the red flag instead of the tricolour. Next in what is said, like tracts and banners bearing injunctions and assertions antagonistic to that order. And then in the minimal demands it must advance – for example, a complete halt to privatizations and the cancellation of all those undertaken since the mid-1980s. Its main idea must be collective control of all the means of production, the whole banking apparatus, and all public services (health, education, transport, education). In short, in order to exist, the political people cannot make do with assembling some thousands of malcontents, even (as I believe) one hundred thousand, and demanding of a state – declared, and rightly so, to be detestable – that it condescend to ‘consider’ you, organize referendums (on what?) for you, maintain local services, and slightly increase your spending power while reducing your taxes.

Image via France 24.