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Paul Street writing at Counterpunch:

“Yellow vest-wearers demand real democracy – popular self-rule. They have called for a popular referendum whereby 700,000 citizen signatories would force the French Parliament to debate and vote on a law within one year.  There have been calls (evoking memories of the great French Revolution of 1789) for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution meant to create a new French government – a Sixth Republic based on popular sovereignty and majority rule, not the plutocratic commands of a de factocorporate-financial dictatorship.  Imagine!

Calls for Macron’s resignation have been prominent in Gilets Jaunes rhetoric and graffiti. Many, probably most French people want a new and genuinely democratic governmentnow, not on the ridiculously time-staggered scheduled imposed by an outdated Constitution.

Despite predictable attempts by the right to hijack the movement and notwithstanding an absence of coordination by Left parties or unions, France is experiencing a left-leaning popular and working-class uprising consistent with the French revolutionary tradition of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”  It is not a neo-fascist or anti-immigrant or anti-environmental petit-bourgeois rebellion. As Mercier writes:

…. What the yellow vests of the Gilets Jaunes symbolizes is blue-collar workers, struggling retirees and students who revolt against the suits of the political class and CEOs. …The Gilets Jaunes movement is strictly horizontal, without a hierarchy or recognized leaders. It has, so far, refused to be hijacked by political parties: either the Rassemblement Nationale of Marine Le Pen on the far-Right, or La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Melenchon on the Left. It has also rejected association with French labor unions. Without spelling it out, the Gilets Jaunes movement is anti-capitalist:a guttural revolt of the have-nots against the elite.It is a popular, not a populist, movement.Europeans and even American populist-nationalists are already distorting the Gilets Jaunes’ significance to serve their political agenda. As opposed to the rise of nationalism-populism elsewhere, such as in Italy, Austria, Hungary, the UK as expressed by BREXIT, the US, and Brazil with the election of Bolsonaro, the Gilets Jaunes do not have an anti-immigration or even an anti-EU agenda that reeks of racism and neofascism.…The Gilets Jaunes are in revolt against capitalism or neoliberalism, which is a worldwide system of concentration of wealth and power into a few hands. With our pending ecological collapse and vanishing biodiversity, capitalism has failed and is reaching its end game. Unlike the neofascist science deniers, the Gilets Jaunes perceive climate change as a crisis, but they say that it is hard to focus on a global ecological collapse when you live from paycheck to paycheck. They feel that they deal with the anxiety of putting food on the table at the end of the month while the rich talk about the end of the world. Thinking about humanity’s survival is hard to do on an empty stomach.”

The Gilets Jaunes have resisted the nativism of the nationalist right.  They have called  not for closed borders but rather for improved integration policies to help foreigners settle in France (language and civic education), for all foreign citizens working in France to have the same labor rights as French citizens, and for policies that address the causes of forced migrations.

The yellow vest uprising was/is no small development in a nation that is a leading nuclear power and one of just five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council!

You wouldn’t have known it from U.S. cable news last week or weekend, however. The chatterboxes on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News could barely break from their week-long commemoration of the imperialist war criminal George H.W. Bush and their breathless reporting of the  latest developments in Bob Mueller RussiaGate investigation to give any serious attention to the momentous events in France.”

There may be hope for us yet.

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