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"Yellow-Vest Diaries": A View From the Streets of France



In Commune magazine, Rona Lorimer provides an absorbing on-the-ground account of recent “gilet jaune” (yellow vest) protests in France, which have been going on weekly for almost two months. Lorimer not only offers a gripping first-person narrative of the demonstrations and riots that have beset Paris. She also reflects on the unusual political composition of the uprising and what it means for left-wing movements. Here’s an excerpt:

By 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, 425 preventative arrests had already been made. News circulated that Julien Coupat, acquitted last year in the Tarnac railway sabotage case, was arrested for having a yellow vest in his car—an ironic turn of events, given that drivers are legally required to keep one at hand. His arrest should be understood as a political move by the French state to put the violence of the movement down to extreme-left and extreme-right elements, who they say are manipulating the gilets jaunes. This mirrors the rather unconvincing attempts by the Minister of the Interior and the media to split the casseurs off from the “real gilets jaunes,” stripping the movement of its insurrectionary character by ascribing the violence to a few minority elements rather than a great, whirling mass that nobody has quite managed to identify yet. This attempt continues to fail. On a live TV program on Saturday, three female gilets jaunes were interviewed about the property damage and looting. Each woman replied, deadpan, “ Franchement, je comprends ” (frankly, I understand), one after the other.

Image via Commune.


Whatever the yellow vests do in terms of action, they cannot spontaneously generate correct scientific revolutionary understanding (Marxism-Leninism).
So surely the key intervention to the Yellow Vests movement is to explain that they are battling a WORLD capitalist slump (not just France’s Macron) that is heading for worse trade war and actual world war (WW3). It is vital to give a Marxist-Leninist perspective that the imperialist system’s global “over-production” crisis requires mass unemployment, ramped-up exploitation, harsher taxes, and ever deeper cuts to public spending – and even then total financial breakdown worse than 2008 still looms.
In other words, to loudly CONFIRM that the yellow vests are RIGHT to be in conflict with Macron, and should NOT believe a single promise of reform or respite made by the French government because the capitalist system’s civil war against them will be stepped up.
Literally, the only solution is socialist revolution and the instigation of a planned economy under a party-led workers state. Marxism-Leninism has to be in CONFLICT with all social-democratic reformist illusions.
There will be a lot of talk about “the need to fight for workers democracy” or “democratic control of factories” (both of which reformist formulas would see workers’ hopes of social transformation swept to oblivion) by fake “lefts” of all varieties – all of which will try to cover up the need for PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP and the building of a Bolshevik party, dedicated to revolution.
But it is crucial to make the Leninist explanation that ONLY the real socialist revolution will firmly establish an invincible WORKERS STATE in France or anywhere else; the only good thing about the turmoil in Venezuela is that it shows how precarious and unstable is any “third-way, democratic socialist” half-way-house “socialist state”.
(Obviously, it will be great if the US imperialist coup attempt is DEFEATED in Venezuela, but it has to be said that, for all its achievements, the Bolivarian “revolution” has not fully expropriated the bourgeoisie and its media; has not fully armed the revolutionary workers; and has not broken with left-nationalist reformist ideology in favour of Marxism-Leninism. It is not like Cuba, which is a real socialist revolution and far more secure than Venezuela – which for years counted on its oil wealth, when it should have been preparing for total onslaught by imperialist reaction including sanctions and embargoes and the crippling of food and medicine supplies.)
To repeat, Marxism-Leninism has to be in unity and conflict with the Yellow Vest movement, seeking to build up cadres who understand all key issues, and stoking up the GREAT PUBLIC DEBATE that must come over all the Cold War history, history of the socialist revolution, what went right and what went wrong with the Soviet Union, the true nature of the treacherous social-democratic parties and the need for Leninist science.
Vive la revolution!