In the occupied roundabouts of france, occupations which are the most emblematic expression of the gilets jaunes or “yellow vest movement”, the word or speech has been freed. Individuals, people, who would formerly never have encountered each other, find themselves protesting, debating, occupying together. If the movement is heterogeneous, it is at the level of “ideas”, “beliefs”, but at a “deeper level” (I am tempted to say bodily or existential level), they share a common trait, a sort of negative commons, namely, that they are nothing, superfluous, that that which was once celebrated as the “middle class”, the evanescent triumph of capitalism, was also the first glory to be abandoned to the rubbish bin, when the violence of the “system” is all that remains.
The gilets jaunes is comprised of a plurality of subjects and expressions, and a diversity of expectations. For some, this is a failure, a weakness. But to so interpret them in this manner is to ignore that our societies share precisely the same features, i.e., contemporary capitalism, by erasing local times and places in the universal flow of commodities, renders all perspectives possible (In other words, contemporary nihilist relativism is not a consequence of the loss of absolute truth, but rather the result of the universalisation of capital and capitalism). All social movements from hereon in cannot escape this plurality, and thus social movements, in all of their complexity (like the society as a whole), will become fields of political conflict.
If struggles for power filter into the smallest interstices of every society today, to expect that social movements would express unified and hegemonic ambitions (as earlier celebrations of the “people”, the “working class”, the “peasants”, the “Third World”, “blacks”, “women”, “gays”, or the many other candidates for “revolutionary subjects”, testified to) is delusional.
If capitalism is “totalitarian”, in the sense of increasingly shaping all social relations of production and reproduction, then the “movements” that contest it will be equally marked by (often similar) relations of domination. All contemporary anti-capitalist movements must abandon the self-illusion of being intrinsically opposed to capitalism; whatever such movements may emerge, they will constitute themselves in the very struggle to destroy/escape capital.
The heterogeneity of contemporary social movements also condemns all possibility of representation. The gilets jaunes possess the virtue of self-consciously embracing this condemnation or refusal. The question then is what is to follow.
We share two statements or manifestos that have appeared amidst the “movement”. They are neither representative or programmatic. They are rather the expression of singular desires, struggled for, among others.
The call of the gilets jaunes of Commercy to popular assemblies everywhere
LET US REFUSE TO BE CO-OPTED! LONG LIVE DIRECT DEMOCRACY! WE HAVE NO NEED FOR REGIONAL “REPRESENTATIVES”!
For nearly two weeks, the gilets jaunes movement has put hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, all over France, often for the first time. The price of fuel was the drop of diesel that set the plain on fire. Suffering, indignation and injustice have never been so widespread. Now, all across the country, hundreds of local groups are organizing themselves with different ways of doing things each time.
Here in Commercy, in the Meuse, we have been operating from the beginning with daily popular assemblies, where each person participates equally. We organised blockades of the city, service stations, and erected filtering barricades. In their wake, we built a cabin in the central square. We meet there every day to organize ourselves, decide on the next actions, interact with the people, and welcome those who join the movement. We also organize “solidarity soups” to live beautiful moments together and get to know each other. In equality.
But now the government, and some parts of the movement, propose to appoint representatives by region! That is to say a few people who would become the only “interlocutors” of the public authorities and summarise our diversity.
But we do not want “representatives” who would end up talking for us!
What’s the point ? At Commercy a temporary delegation met with the sub-prefect, in other big cities, they met directly with the Prefect: these already increase our anger and our demands. They already know that we are determined to bring to an end this hated presidency, this detestable government, and the rotten system they embody!
And that’s what scares the government! Because it knows that if it begins to give in on taxes and fuel, it will also have to back down on pensions, the unemployed, the status of civil servants, and all the rest! It also knows VERY well that it risks intensifying a GENERALIZED MOVEMENT AGAINST THE SYSTEM!
It is not to better understand our anger and our demands that the government wants “representatives”: it is to supervise and bury us! As with the union leadership, it looks for intermediaries, people with whom it could negotiate. On whom it can put pressure to appease the eruption. People that it can then recover and push to divide the movement so as to bury it.
But that’s without counting on the strength and intelligence of our movement. It’s without counting on that we are thinking, organising, changing our actions, all of this is what scares the government and amplify the movement!
And above all, it is not to count on that there is a very important thing, that everywhere the movement of the gilets jaunes clamors in various ways for far more than just an increase in purchasing power! This more is power to the people, by the people, for the people. It is a new system where “those who are nothing” as they say with contempt, regain power over all those who gorge themselves, over the rulers and over the power of money. It’s equality. It’s justice. It’s freedom. That’s what we want! And it starts from the base!
If we appoint “representatives” and “spokespersons”, that will eventually make us passive. Worse: we will quickly reproduce the system and function everwhere like the scoundrels who lead us. These so-called “representatives of the people” who are filling their pockets, who make laws that destroy our lives and serve the interests of the ultra-rich!
Do not put your finger in the machinery of representation and co-optation. This is not the time to give our word to a small handful, even if they seem honest. Let them listen to us all or listen to no one!
From Commercy, we therefore call for the creation throughout France of popular committees, to function as regular general assemblies. Places where speech frees itself, where one dares to express oneself, to educate oneself, to help one another. If there must be delegates, it is at the level of each local people’s committee of gilets jaunes, as close as possible to the people. With imperative, revocable, and rotating mandates. With transparency. With confidence.
We also call on the hundreds of groups of gilets jaunes to have a cabin, as in Commercy, or a “people’s house” as in Saint-Nazaire, in short, a place for rallying and organisation ! And that they coordinate themselves, at the local and departmental level, in equality!
That’s how we will win, because that kind of thing, up there, they are not used to managing! And it scares them a lot.
We will not let ourselves be ruled. We will not let ourselves be divided and co-opted.
No to self-proclaimed representatives and spokespersons! Let’s take back the power over our lives! Long live the gilets jaunes in their diversity!
LONG LIVE THE POWER TO THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE!
Tract circulating at different roundabouts …
Vests of all colours, unite
Our vests are yellow because it seems urgent to us to join, organize and fight by all necessary means against what breaks our lives. The first violence is social violence, the one we live in: it has an origin, it is has structured itself over several years, but together we can bring it to an end.
Our vests are red with anger at the contempt of those who govern and who seek to save a world that must be surpassed.
Our vests are green because we are aware of the ecological disaster. We want ways of life that are not self-destructive but we reject the hypocrisy of an “ecological transition” that builds cities made of “eco-neighborhoods” for the rich, where the poor have no place. The same people who defend this biased vision of ecology are the same ones who encourage mining projects in Guyana and in the sacrificed areas of the periphery.
Our vests are black with shame and rage against the repression and criminalisation of this social movement, like those that preceded it. It is the same people who condemn the violence of protesters on TV who use weapons that mutilate or even kill.
Our vests are rainbow coloured because we refuse the false solutions to the current crisis: the headlong rush towards an even more liberal form of capitalism and even greater nationalist and xenophobic withdrawal.
We refuse to point the finger at the false culprits: “foreigners”, social wlefare recipients, the unemployed … We are all the victims of a world whose only logic is the accumulation of money. To struggle against the high cost of living is to refuse the logic of money. Capitalism is misery.
There is no longer any reform to carry out, there is a world to build.