banner
left-barhomeaboutpast-issuesarchiveright-bar

Gilets Jaunes March Continues – General Strike Again on March 19

Sandeep Banerjee

The amazing movement of the Gilets Janues is still continuing. According to The Guardian of Feb 9 it is the longest-running movement in France since World War II. From its start date Nov 17, it had already completed its “Acte XVII” or the Saturday Marche umber 17 on March 9; there is an announcement and appeal for bigger demonstration on March 16 before the second National Mass Strike on March 19, that is 6 weeks after the first national strike of Feb 5.  

The Gilets Jaunes believe that the Interior Ministry is trying to undermine the movement by showing a smaller number of participants in Ministry’s communique and so they are publishing parallelly “Le Nombre Jaune” which is available with a twitter handle @LeNombreJaune and some news sources are giving participation figures from this source also.

Here are the Number of Participants in Gilets Jaunes Actes —

Date

Acte

Participants according to
Ministre Interieur

Participants according to 
Le Nombre Jaune

26-Jan

XI

69,000

1,23,151

02-Feb

XII

58,600

1,15,954

09-Feb

XIII

51,400

1,18,222

16-Feb

XIV

41,500

1,04,070

23-Feb

XV

46,600

1,23,087

02-Mar

XVI

39,300

96,427

09-Mar

XVII

28,600

90,469

  
Before we go farther, there are some corrections to the mistakes I made in the last reporting, sent by Alix Hugonnie of La Colonie, Paris, after reading the report “After a January with Gilets Jaunes — brace yourself for an engaging February” that appeared in Frontier on Feb 3, 2019. His corrections are —

  1. The Paris meeting with Toni Negri, Etiene Balibar and Omar Slaouti was not organised by Comité Adama and Gilets Jaunes – rather Toni Negri proposed if this meeting could happen, La Colonie hosted the event.
  2. Though Omar Slaouti is of Colectif Rosa [and also he is attached to the New Party Anti-Capitalist] he wanted to speak his own views in the meeting.
  3. Regarding Police Violence: Actually an 80 old Algerian woman called Zineb Redouane received a piece of a tear gas grenade in Marseille while she was watching at the protest from her balcony, and she died on December the 3rd ... The picture of Zineb Redouane was used in one of the banderolle [banners] at the head of Saturday’s protests [in Marseilles in a subsequent Gilets Jaunes march there].
  4. The minimum wages were kept untouched. What Macron suggested is actually a « prime d’activité » (activity bonus) of 100 euros paid by the government. This prime d’activité was in reality already planned by the government but was just accelerated. The governement is the one givin the prime d’activité to the workers not the companies. So, the companies actually don’t pay their workers better.  The workers don’t contribute on those 100 euros which are taken from global contribution… The left wing is very much againt this prime d’activité because in the end it doesn’t make their total income any better, it takes money from the common ‘caisses’ [funds] and not from the companies and it doesn’t create any common wealth.
  5. In that reporting in Frontier I mistakenly wrote, “In that letter Macron made it clear that he would not bulge from his pro-rich anti-people rightist economic policies, he would not reconsider re-imposition of Wealth Tax on the rich, the tax which his government abolished. Benjamin Griveaux, spokesman for the government, said that it was out of the question to restore the ISF. Rather, he tried to divert focus to immigration issue with a subtle reference to fixing some immigration quota.” According to friends at La Colonie it was not a case of ‘subtle reference’, rather it was bluntly mentioned there.

 

In the last few weeks there were several interesting happenings. 

  1. Toulouse, at least for time being, got a fame as the capital of the movement. In January Saturdays even the interior ministry recorded 10000+ number of participants. There, the daredevil Mayor, belonging to the Prime Minister’s party Les Republicains, anonymously infiltrated within the Gilets Jaunes in camouflage, so that non can recognise him, to ‘study’ actually how the ‘extreme rights’ and ‘extreme lefts’ organise themselves for clash with the police. That was in January. His reports came out in some newspapers. But what he did not or could not observe was the animosity in between the anti-fascist ‘extreme’ lefts (called ‘antifas’, mostly the Anti-capitalist party cadres are lamed to be so) and extreme rights (called ‘fafs’ or ‘France aux Français’ or France of the French, can be guessed as belonging to Mme Le Pen’s party, RN). On the Acte XIV on Feb 16 there were reports of clash in between the extreme lefts and extreme rights, according to a source the rights attacked the lefts. That reporter mentioned that clashes had been there all along since December Saturdays as early as Dec 1. On that particular day, Feb 16, the report mentioned about some of the very organised team of 40-50 fafs carried Flags with Celtic Cross, an open Nazi symbol.  Apart from fists and kicks they also use cobblestones and rods or sticks.    
  2. Israeli press Times of Israël (on Feb 24, after the Acte XV of Feb 23, in their French portal) seemed to be worried about Anti-Semitism inside the movement Giles Jaunes, though they clearly said that only a little part of the movement behaved in a Anti-Semitic manner like fascists, the other part of the movement was not anti-Semitic, rather they openly criticise anti-Semites. The newspaper mentioned some names of both camps – for example the famous ‘star’ Fly Rider (actual name Maxime Nicolle) behaving in a anti-Semitic way, in the famous Montmartre Gilets Jaunes mockingly singing the well-known anti-Semitic song ‘La quenelle’, while on the other hand, the ex-Algerian Karim Mohammedi organising under the slogan ‘Unite Against Anti-racism” (Unis contre l’antisémitisme). Such actions were reported from Paris. However, in March 9, last Saturday, a vandalism took place in the south, at Tarbes, near mid-night or past-midnight, as reported by La Dépêche. That time only about 100 Gilets Jaunes were still there, though most have gone after the evening when the Gilets Jaunes march ended. The crowd then moved to a well-known Freemason ‘temple’ at that town and vandalised the place, breaking down glasses, destroying interior decors, furniture, and even displaced the swords. Right-wingers, openly fascists, are trying to put their imprint on the Gilets Jaunes movement.    
  3. Reporter Laurent Dauré of the monthly journal Ruptures have published an article “12 Macronist Fake News on the Gilets Jaunes” exposing how the Government led by Macron is actively spreading fake news to scare the French people about the movement. The second part of his writing was published a few days ago.
  4. On Feb 4 Amazon workers in France received "dozens of notifications" of dismissals sent to employees for their ‘misconduct’. That misconduct of the Amazon employees was that they were taking active part in Gilets Jaunes blockages in many cities in France.
  5. In many factories and establishments workers staged local strikes in the atmosphere of struggle created by the Gilets Jaunes movement. In Blagnac, near Toulouse, about 200 employees of the company Derichebourg Aéronautique, a subcontractor of Airbus, began a strike on Tuesday, February 19 in front of the company's headquarters. Yellow vests came in support. In that atmosphere several big companies like Arcelor-Mittal, L’Oréal, Renault, PSA, Airbus etc tried their best to cool down their workers with announcements of bonus increase as reports the revolution permamnente.  

 

Six central trade unions CGT, FO, Solidaires, UNEF, UNL and UNL SD jointly issued a small leaflet with the call of a General Strike on March 19 (it is available as a pdf at http://www.fo-snfolc.fr/Mardi-19-mars-greve-interprofessionnelle-pour-l-elargissement-et-l). There they declared, “The social situation in France is marked by the diverse and multiple expression of a growing social discontent… The movement of yellow vests is the recent expression of this deep social crisis.” While prices and unemployment is continuously on the rise the government and the President did not consider a requisite rise of minimum wages as expressed by the Gilets Jaunes. Students are facing great difficulties in continuing studies. The President has declared a National Debate but the proposal as well as the conduct of the government clearly say that it will not be able to address the concern of the people. And so, the unions are calling for a great Day of Action on March 19. On this Saturday, March 16, the Gilets Jaunes expect more mobilisation.  

The IFOP organisation regularly surveys the public on many issues. Related to Gilets Jaunes there are some disturbing facts: after a steady 58% support from the people of France for the January, in early February support dropped to 55%; while opposition or hostility, after being steady 27-26% in January, rose to 29% of the people of France! But amount of support or sympathy or indifference or oppose or hostility is different, naturally, among supporters of different parties. Let us see the picture as on early February — (below each party a known leader’s name is given)

Attitude

% among France Feb 05-06 2019

% among La France Insoumise
[Mélenchon]

% among Parti Socialiste
[Hollande]

% among La Républic En Marche
[Macron]

% among Républicains
[Sarkozy]

% among Rassemblement National
[Le Pen]

You Support

29

65

16

9

16

54

You Sympathise with them

26

28

38

6

25

23

You are Indiffernt

16

4

17

12

15

7

You Oppose

17

3

20

40

27

8

Your are Hostile to them

12

-

9

33

17

8

TOTAL

100

100

100

100

100

100

Total Sympathy Support

55

93

54

15

41

77

TOTAL Opposition
Hostility

29

3

29

73

44

16

Source: IFOP  https://www.ifop.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/116176-Rapport-Atlantico-Gilets-Jaunes-08.02.2019.pdf

Anyway, in the beginning of March we have a different picture of French support or opposition to Gilets Jaunes. In brief it is – as on March 07-08 Support and/or Sympathy climbed up to 54% from 50% in mid Feb; Opposition or Hostility dropped to 30% down from 34% in mid Feb. 90% among LFI (of Mélenchon) and 70% among RN (of Le Pen) supports or sympathises with this movement. Detail is available at https://www.ifop.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/116276-Rapport-Atlantico.pdf

How long this Gilets Jaunes affair will continue is really difficult to predict. But surely it will make a long-lasting impact. 

Frontier
Mar 15, 2019


Sandeep Banerjee [email protected]

Your Comment if any