France: A Warm Late-Autumn with Yellow Flames – an introduction

Sandeep Banerjee

Aloïs Gury, whose little poultry at Bresse province supplied chickens that were used for the gala presidential dinner hosted by President Macron for Trump, Putin and Angela Merkel, took up a yellow jacket, wore it, and took a video of himself and posted it in his Facebook page, in what he angrily addressed Macron: you do not deserve my chicken, you do not understand anything of agriculture, I am disgusted. Working 77 hours a week, earning only 700 € a month, getting only one seven-day holiday in last three years… made him appalled enough to show he too is with the Yellow Jackets. (Incidentally bright fluorescent yellow jackets for safety are compulsory there for bikers and drivers.) This showed that in the countryside too there is some sympathy for the yellow vest protesters of town and suburb all across France.

Ms Priscilla Ludosky, a coloured woman 30-year old online sales professional, who started a petition in end-May protesting so high tax on motor fuels (she said she was aghast finding in the fuel bill given from the filling station that taxes were two third of the price) could not imagine that the petition will snowball in October and get well above a million signatures. Two truck drivers, Bruno Lefevre and Eric Drouet, too were smelling the air and had suggested in Facebook for a protest event to be staged in November 17, where everybody would have to display her/his yellow. More than one hundred thousand marked ‘interested’. Another person voiced the same message in a Facebook video post that was seen by 4.4 million. By the way, some ultra-right politicians supposedly called for a day of action also on the same date.  But nobody could fancy that more than a quarter million people will come out to protest on that Nov 17 and some did protest in such a way that many decent opposition members of parliament and parliamentary left parties found ‘unruly’. And ‘ungodly’ too, because the protesters were shouting against the holy green carbon tax.

The established lefts watched. There were researches – how rightists were fanning the unrest, how 5 out of 8 spokespersons of the Gilet Jaunes in different occasions sided with the right wing (including things like ‘he liked those posts of…’ or ‘he once shared that post of …’). But after two weekends of hundreds of thousands of persons on street, and support of rank and file worker members of trade unions CNT staged their own protest event on the third weekend, i.e. Dec 1, and did not mention the Gilet Jaunes in its statements. (One opinion poll result from PSA Peugeot Citröen Valenciennes published in a so-called Trotskyite webzine Révolution Permanente, on Nov 23 showed: (1) do you favour the yellow vest movement – Yes 96.1%, No 3.1%; (2) do you think that union of your factory should call for a strike – Yes 55.3%, No 35.7% … in all cases there was a ‘cannot say’ option. Though the poll suggested that majority workers at that moment were not yet ready to start a strike.) Yes, this is that CNT, one of the largest unions of Europe which tried its bets to douse the May-68 rebellion.  The Force Ouvrière announced its support earlier, on Nov 20.

In the meantime, the spontaneous movement ‘chose’ 8 persons of different towns as their spokespersons, Priscilla and Eric included; they did a survey online where some thirty to forty thousand persons gave input as to what their charter of demand would be; and ultimately they produced 40-42 points as Peoples’ Directives for the MPs. Also the movement saw a division – Gilet Jaunes Libres came out against Gilet Jaunes ‘official’ – Benjamin Cauchy of Toulouse and his ‘free’ (libre) associates called themselves representatives of the movement – they tried to ‘frighten’ the government that if government do not start negotiation immediately, an ‘insurrection’ may occur! How worried and scared the French gentlemen always are when they see streets boiling with disobedience.  

There were ample reasons of discontentment. To present the condition briefly we may read some lines from a report from the website of Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (the long quote may be forgiven): “… this year the price of diesel has increased by 23 percent and petrol by 14 percent due to the jump in the price of a barrel of oil. In addition, the government has recently announced that diesel and petrol prices will increase further — by four and seven cents a litre respectively… … Immediately upon reaching office, Macron abolished the Solidarity Wealth Tax (ISF), giving €4 billion to the richest; and has strengthened the Tax Credit for Solidarity and Employment (CICE), a tax cut and exemption program transferring €41 billion a year to French companies, including multinationals. Shortly afterwards, with the 2018 budget bill, Macron established a flat tax that allowed a lowering of taxation on capital, handing another €10 billion to the richest…. At the same time, the government has increased the General Social Contribution (CSG) income tax to be paid by pensioners, while pensions themselves have ceased to be indexed to inflation (and thus to retirees’ ability to buy consumer goods). It has got rid of the subsidized contracts (which allowed large numbers to work on contracts partly financed by public bodies) and lowered by five euros a month the amount of housing contributions (APL) for the most disadvantaged….”

Leaders of two newer movement-turned-party organisations, François Ruffin of Picarde Debout (he was the initiator and one leader of the so-called ‘leaderless’ movement Nuit Debout) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise, both MPs, declared support even before the first protest day of Nov 17. Mélenchon is an avowed Eco-socialist and his party proclaims itself so. But it did not deter them from joining a movement which started with said opposition the burdensome Carbon Tax (a tax purportedly to veer consumers away from high emission fuel use). Mélenchon even called MPs to put forward a motion of dissolution of the national assembly.

Before we end let us look into the demands of the yellow vests, demands or ‘Peoples DIrectives’ to the MPs. Those are (as far as this author could understand those, taken from two sources only and authenticity is not ascertained:  and )

  1. Zero Homelessness
  2. Change in housing design (insulation?) to save energy
  3. Rent regulation and more low rent housing for needy persons
  4. More progressive income tax with more steps
  5. Taxes: let big ones (Carrefour, Amazon, Mac Donald, Google etc) pay more, smaller ones (craftsmen) less
  6. No withholding tax
  7. End of fuel tax hike
  8. Tax marine and aviation fuels
  9. End CICE for business, use the money for researching French Hydrogen Car, which is more ecological
  10. End deducting fees and taxes while customers pay
  11. Make minimum wage € 1300
  12. Pensions should be socialised
  13. Retirement not before/below € 1200
  14. Combine salary and pension with inflation index
  15. Limit fix term contracts (contract workers) for large companies, more permanent jobs
  16. Fix maximum salary at € 15000
  17. Create jobs for the unemployed
  18. Stop privatisation, end profiteering, gambling with pension funds
  19. Fix retirement age (naturally, with pensions) at 60 in general and 55 for those who are manual workers like masons
  20. Protect French industries, no relocation to other countries
  21. Same job same salary for everybody working in France (no ‘detached’ work for migrants)
  22. Treat the causes of migration, immigration (otherwise people when much troubled will migrate from their country)
  23. That asylum seekers should be treated well, we owe them housing, security, food and education
  24. The asylum seekers who are rejected may go back
  25. Real integration policy for asylum seekers with French language education, history, civics etc courses
  26. Same social security for everyone
  27. Increased allocation for handicapped people
  28. Substantial resources for psychiatry
  29. Favour small business and stop construction of areas of big business in cities
  30. Spend highway toll money for highway maintenance and construction
  31. End closing down of schools, post offices, maternity wards, small route lines of railway, etc
  32. Promote goods transport by railway
  33. MPs and all representatives should only get median salary, TA should be monitored
  34. Go back to 7-tear terms for president and deputies election 2 years after president election (which would show approval/disapproval of policies followed)  
  35. Stop president’s allowances for lifetime
  36. Maximum students per class to be 25
  37. Government assistance for looking after children till age of 10
  38. End Austerity program
  39. Prohibit sales of properties of France (dams, airports, etc)
  40. More grants to judicial system, police and army, whether police persons’ overtime paid or recovered
  41. As electricity, gas etc prices have gone up after privatisation, these should be nationalised
  42. The popular referendum must enter the Constitution. Creating a readable and effective website, supervised by an independent control body where people can make a proposal for a law. If this bill obtains 700,000 signatures then this bill will have to be discussed, completed and amended by the National Assembly, which will have the obligation (one year to the day after the 700,000 signatures have been obtained) to submit it. to the vote of all the French.

This list is not exhaustive but afterwards, the will of the people will be heard and applied by means of the creation of the popular referendum which will have to be quickly set up.
Members of Parliament, make our voices heard in the House.

Obey the will of the people.

Apply these Guidelines.

Yellow Vests

These demands may not be well-formulated, we may not agree with all of those, but again, those demands may tell us will of a good section of people. 

This much for time being.

Dec 5, 2018

Sandeep Banerjee

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