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#GiletsJaunes: “The simple will to rebel against poverty and bondage”

The Unorganized Revolt – An Anarchist Perspective on the Yellow West Uprising in France.

Originally published by Lower Class Magazine. Edited machine translation by Enough 14. Image above Wikipedia Commons.

Note: Enough 14 is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Read all our Gilets Jaunes articles: https://enoughisenough14.org/tag/yellow-jackets/

At the end of October 2018 a social movement started in France, which became internationally known as Gilets Jaunes. The spontaneous mass protests, initially directed against a rise in diesel prices, quickly grew into a social movement directed against the neoliberal Macron government as a whole.

From the start the German left in particular found it difficult to correctly assess the increasingly militant uprising. We reported from the beginning from different, but always solidary perspectives (1,2,3,4,5).

At the beginning of December, German-speaking activists*were also in France and took part in the mass mobilizations. In an interview with LCM, they talk about their experiences.

You took part in the protests against the Macron government on December 8th. With what intention did you go to France?

We didn’t actually take part in the protests against the Macron government. We only took part in a small revolt in which many use this slogan, which calls to overthrow of Macron.

The revolt is carried by very different people, even those who do not reduce themselves to being against this particular president. Of course, we think it makes sense to promote regicide and even if the French President only has to accept a loss of power or loses his post, that would be a success for the Gilets Jaunes.

Our motive was to participate in this uprising and not to miss the opportunity to get to know its spirit and to support and influence it a little through our presence.

In the end it was also crucial that there were international calls to participate. These calls followed after the great mobilizations against the El Khomri law (Loi Travail) and together with other events like the G20 they form a continuity of anarchist activities in Europe. In the context of these mobilizations, it has happened time and again that we have fought against the cops together with the rebels* of the French suburbs. Their revolts against state murders correspond to our medium-term goals.

What were your impressions on the ground, especially regarding the degree of organization and the composition of the people involved in the protests at different levels?

In the preliminary assessment of the Gilets Jaunes, we were positive that the Left could not conceal its rejection in France and Germany. Above all, we find the dead analysis on the basis of left moral repulsive. We therefore show our solidarity with the people who dare this uprising, even if they did not know all left wisdom.

What connects us to the insurgents is the diffuse, spontaneous and – admittedly – also the almost unorganized. What we have been practicing for years suddenly happens on a massive scale: the rejection of self-proclaimed leaders and movement managers, the rejection of organizational discipline, which degrades the people, for example in the trade unions, to a pure infantry of a social democratic pacification policy. We had heard this assessment in advance from the media and rumours and it has been absolutely confirmed on the ground. We also found and find it interesting that there is an enormous range of targets for the various Gilets Jaunes.

Here, too, we see parallels with the activities of the anarchist movement. The results confirm that it is possible to bring the economy and the state to the brink of the abyss without the help of a military apparatus, if one acts persistently in the consciousness of one’s own power. Through damage to property, strikes and blockades, several thousand people can be very strong.

As expected, the level of organisation is low. This is the power of theGilets Jaunes, because the insurrection is not collectable. Although the government can make general concessions to smooth the waters, the revolt does not reveal itself and becomes more important as an instrument of the oppressed.

The (radical) left in Germany has found it difficult in recent weeks to take a position on the events. When positions were taken, most of them were marked by distancing, some of which called for a boycott of the protests. The justification of the distancing was mostly based on the participation of organized Nazis. How did you perceive the handling on the ground? Especially in social media mobile phone videos were distributed in which a consequent dealing with Nazis could be seen. Can you confirm that?

We do not see ourselves as part of the “radical left”. Those who could be described as such lack a practical reference to insurgent or even militant practice. And thus they remain meaningless in such situations. But we also have a focus on Nazis, which is why we like to share our thoughts and experiences.

Around the Arc de Triomphe there were a lot of national flags, the Marseillaise (French national anthem) was sung constantly and by a lot of people. It has to be mentioned that the French anthem is patriotic, but fundamentally different from the German anthem. The double cross of the Resistance (A sign of the resistance against the Nazis in Worldwar 2, Enough 14) was partly painted on the flags. We would not do this ourselves, but we include these circumstances in our assessment of this mass of people.

What we find decisive in our wrap-up is that there never seemed to be room for racist slogans at any time. Organized Nazis were there, but they were not able to show their essential identity-forming characteristics. Not at the Arc de Triomphe, where the mood was partly patriotic. And not in the riots that poured over the rich districts of Paris for hours in the most violent manner. There they would have risked their lives.

On the contrary, in many places and situations we have felt an anti-fascist spirit. Large crowds again and again chanted anti-capitalist and anti-fascist slogans.

All in all, in our opinion, the uprising simply revolves around other problems. Not an abstract, possibly racist analysis of how poverty and bondage arise, but the simple will to rebel against this poverty and bondage. And it hit just the right ones: the powerful and the rich. The poor and the weak, on the other hand, were able to participate. So in some situations with banlieube residents and anarchists we confidently wandered through the city. We didn’t perceive moments where we thought antifascist intervention was needed. Anyone who thinks that more offensive anti-fascist commitment was needed would have had the opportunity. We do not know how the situation in other cities was.

Basically, we would recommend all those who have been satisfied with defaming the current protests as a “cross-front movement” not to immediately measure every social rupture against their own limited horizon. It should be obvious that the uprisings and the widespread demands for resignation have not been ignited by any “refugee crisis”, as is the case with racist mobilizations in Germany. If nevertheless fascists try to establish their politics in the protests, then this is not primarily because of an alleged nationalistic mood with the Gilets Jaunes, but first of all because the fascists are not completely stupid.

However, this did not prevent anti-racist initiatives from the Paris suburbs from mobilizing on Saturday to their own meeting place in the inner city, which was then joined by railway workers and anti-authoritarian groups, and which, like the numerous riot mobs, contributed to the fact that there is less and less to win for Nazis in this revolt.

The French cops were very harsh against demonstrators, especially against students. The pictures of young people kneeling on the floor, fixed with cable ties and with their heads facing the wall, went around the world. Which tactics are used by people or with which means do people defend themselves against a military superiority? What roles do the insurgents, anarchists and the anti-authoritarian left play in the current Riots? And what role do the youth from the suburbs play?

Unfortunately the experiences of the fights of the last years could not be applied very well. Especially when it comes to the use of weapons against the cops, we are back to the Stone Age level. Everything that wasn’t nailed down was used. To our knowledge molotw cocktails or petrol bombs were not used, although their use was successful in recent years.

The role of the rebellious, anarchist and anti-authoritarian left is thus limited to enlarging the core of motivated street fighters and to help determine their expression in the attacks.

However, it is questionable whether these experiences is applicable at all. Military superiority is an appropriate formulation. On Saturday morning many people went into the fighting with the feeling that we could be a few less at the end of the day. And also the cops prepared themselves for the use of firearms, which became clear in their announcements before. It didn’t happen because the masses didn’t seek confrontation with the cops, but preferred evasive movements.

The pacifists who did neither one nor the other were literally shot down by the cops with flashballs. The evasive movements of the militant masses through the streets of the inner city, of several thousand people, were in our opinion exactly the right answer. It quickly became clear that a distance to the cops was vital. That’s why we went in different directions, where there were the most heavy lootings and property damages in the richest quarter of Paris. The price for the protection of cops can therefore be measured for the state by the devastation of the bourgeois centre. In these moments, the motivation of experienced street fighters with and without a political background was conducive to the mood. Exactly this role was fulfilled by the youth of the suburbs.

In fact, over the last few years we have been able to observe something like a rapprochement of anarchists and parts of the youth from the suburbs in situations of street militancy, and so it seemed natural to us on December 8 that the young people sought the proximity of the anti-authoritarians (and vice versa), in order to subsequently visit the magnificent boulevards together.

A mixture that, according to statements by French comrades, for the first time in a long time has managed to bring widespread looting from the suburbs to the centre of the rich. A circumstance that many of the young people have used to acquire the one or the other withheld utility value.

What do you want to tell people from Germany about the protests?

We didn’t really know what to expect, we had the mere hope to meet allies and also to draw energy, which we rarely feel in the fights in Germany. We do not want to address words to Germans, to a German scene. But we would like to say to all those who looked at the pictures from France with tension and joy that there is hardly a more beautiful feeling than walking through the streets with people you don’t know, but whom you trust in those moments.

The point is to determine the moment when we attack these atrocities of the whole consumer world and cop presence. To look around in this mass, to hear and observe how everyone is happy to finally break out, to pick up and throw stones is comparable to little else in this world for us. For these experiences it is always worthwhile to drop everything simply drive off.


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