The gilets jaunes: Understanding the movement(s) beyond final defeat or victory

The political soothsayers and diviners will cynically proclaim the yellow vests’ movement dead: Act XXI brought less than 25,000 people into the streets this last Saturday.

We however refuse to be political accountants. And rebellions and revolutions have never been about numbers, but about the intensity of the desires and creativity unleashed.

And we will continue to share the movement(s)’ voices.

Gilets Jaunes Victory Communique Nº 1

(lundi matin #185, 02/04/2019)

Every week, our editorial staff receives numerous leaflets or calls that we are not able to publish as such, that is to say outside of any contextualisation and editorial work on our part. In this instance, we make an exception, with this release from the roundabout of Campanile de Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

Victory: the anger that everyone thought was theirs to feel alone, was found to be felt by the greatest number!
Victory: the yellow vests shattered in the population the feeling of despondency and inevitability that gave to the powerful the certainty of having definitely won!
Victory: the roundabouts, areas without lives and very expensive for local authorities, became human places for encounters and sharing!
Victory: what was meant to manage traffic, to speed up fluidity and productivity has turned into spaces where time is spent without counting, chatting directly about life and the world!
Victory: State terrorism led by mutilations, LBD 40 [a flash-ball weapons model], military threats and unparalleled brutality failed to stop the protests, demonstrations and rallies, week after week!
Victory: despite the winter, the cold and the rain, the yellow vests continued to hold the roundabouts everywhere!
Victory: the State must deploy armored vehicles and pull down the mask of lies about democracy!
Victory: the police and surveillance services are caught off guard and are constantly confronted with situations whose logic escapes them!
Victory: the yellow vests movement has put an end to the false consensus in society, and finally enabled everyone to see those who want a common well-being and those who think only of their own interests!
Victory: despite all the blows, lies, slanders, insults, contempt that the media and politicians have constantly poured out, the yellow vests have not mixed in polemics and false debates!
Victory: starting from an opposition to taxes, the yellow vests entered onto the field of a radical questioning of society!
Victory: the labels, automatisms and political fetishes have been scrapped in favor of concrete practices!
Victory: after four months of existence, the movement does not intend to find a leader, much to the chagrin of the authorities who have no one to spectacularly put their teeth into!
Victory: in the face of State terror, the creative and collective capacities of the yellow vests are constantly inventing new strategies!
Victory: the political parties, among the yellow vests, are seen with hostility!
Victory: after decades of humiliation, isolation and being crushed, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are raising their heads!
Victory: the yellow vest movement inspires millions of people all over the planet!
Victory: on the evening of December 1st, the Medef [Mouvement des entreprises de France] asked its members to “give up some ballast vis-à-vis employees” “at the risk of losing everything” ….!
Victory: faced with the quantity and quality of discussions, research, inventions and exchanges, the “Great National Debate” appeared for what it is: a grotesque comedy whose only benefits are for the leaders!
Victory: it is more and more common to hear yellow vests refuse to bow to the false division between vandals [casseurs] and pacifists (!)!
Victory: the yellow vests are and remain the nightmare of decision makers, authorities and predators of all kinds!
Victory: the movement builds itself and gradually, with great confidence in its popularity and with the greatest mistrust of obsolete methods of organization!
Victory: the yellow vests put the issue of society as a whole at the center of discussions and reflections, not just work-related or sector-specific concerns!
Victory: most politicians debate ridiculously with each other about who is “the most yellow vest” or who “identified them before everyone else”, while the yellow vests look at them with indifference, contempt or mockery, according to the day!
Victory: the government has been ridiculed by the UN for “excessive use of force and severe restriction of rights to demonstrate”!
Victory: social networks finally seem inadequate to this thirst for meetings, exchanges and direct coordination between people!
Victory: equality, benevolence and tolerance are the intangible principles to which, in fact, the yellow vests hold!

AND IT IS FAR AND AWAY FROM BEING FINISHED!

The yellow vests of the roundabout of Campanile, named the Olivier’s roundabout, in tribute to our friend killed on December 20, 2018

Villeneuve-sur-Lot, March 28, 2019

Yellow Loves II

(lundi matin 02/04/2019)

On November 21st, our friends Anshel K. and Amos L. confided to us their excellent analysis of a then nascent movement: Les amours jaunes. Four months later, here is the sequel.

The real path goes over a rope that is not stretched high, but just above the ground. It seems more made to tripped over than to be crossed.

Franz Kafka

Schelling said that “a thing lasts because its existence is inadequate to its essence”. Unlike so-called “social” movements, which follow well-defined forms of negotiation, real movement is always a kind of unreal event, that is to say, it escapes its own determinations. We can say that something shines there, shivers, sparkles beyond its beaten track: something is at stake that disturbs as much as it seduces. In short, what fascinates within it is the free play of chance: this moment of the gesture as a miraculous event.

*

Today, the yellow upsurge teaches us that every revolution is at first a mystery. It reminds us of how a life that has excluded chance is a life without impetus, barren, an infinite plain without hills; its necessity is that of cheap insurance, of a weak turning into oneself in the face of all novelty, a bland repose within a dried-up rationality. In truth, the movement teaches us that if it had incorporated revolution forever in its world, a revolution would not need chance at all, it would be in it nowhere and everywhere. For if the wisdom of mystery is of value as a wisdom of limits, the experience of limits brings the soul to full consciousness, to a consciousness of self which is only full because it knows itself limited.

*

The politics of the yellow vests offers itself up in effect to classical politics as an anarchy of the chiaroscuro: nothing in the movement is accomplished totally, never does anything go to term; always new voices mingle, that sow confusion in the chorus of the one already resonating. Everything flows out, everything mixes unhindered and forms an impure alloy; everything is destroyed, everything is dismantled. To live like a yellow vest is perhaps paradoxically wanting to live something to the end – beyond any preconceived idea of the struggle, beyond the social movement – the very edge of the abyss of politics.

*

For several months, the truth of the uprising of the yellow vests does not reside in any unknown a posteriori of the movement, regardless of whether it be revolutionary, democratic or fascist, but in its ability to coagulate, then to crash together radically heterogeneous futures into a common negativity. The movement draws the sum of its energies from a principle of strong reactivity.

*

The yellow sequence marks a painful return to the real. By forcing anyone who declares her/himself as revolutionary to re-establish contact with something outside her/himself and her/his little evident truths, it forces everyone to dissolve themselves in what there is to rediscover of the chaotic rhythms of a certain reality of the period. Admittedly, this meeting with the dangerousness of reality could prove fatal to many and such a threat weighs all the more on the last ideologues of France. In this sense, we have for example been able to see orthodox Marxists wallow before proletarians they no longer understood, democrats whining about the absence of any meaningful delegation within the movement, or fascists crying over their sad fate. In the so-called “revolutionary” camp, we will have first witnessed the pitiful sinking of a certain leftism that no longer wanted to intensify an ongoing uprising, but to correct it, to replace its certainly vague, vital force – but which on the 1st of December could have swept everything away – with an irrelevant, eternal general strike.

*

We can say that as the insurrectionary character of the movement takes shape, the modes of existence which are therein expressed endeavour to follow the new realities of the current confrontation. Sharing the intensification of a common denial, while a base of collective truths forces the absolute necessity of overthrowing this regime, the being of the insurrection at least tries to correspond to the reality of the repression that falls upon it – and it is not an easy task.

*

The men and women of our confused age experience what is unique to them during fortuitous events, unclear misunderstandings, and fruitful distractions. Those who still feel some coherence speak of fidelity to ideas. But ideas are nothing to which one can be faithful; they are an afterlife that unfolds before us in the highest moments, and then again escapes. On the roundabouts, we perceive openings in the the grand narrative of time. That is to say, in regular life, busy with the unreal of the daily, well-being 3.0, itself held within a system of prohibitions, all precautions, where the maxime quieta non movere [above all quite, do not move] maintains the order of the world and wants to eclipse its next extinction – the effervescence of the festival rises up against it.

*

“The Danger of the Happiest Ones.  To have fine senses and a fine taste; to be accustomed to the select and the intellectually best as our proper and readiest fare; to be blessed with a strong, bold, and daring soul; to go through life with a quiet eye and a firm step, ever ready for the worst as for a festival, and full of longing for undiscovered worlds and seas, men and Gods; to listen to all joyous music, as if there perhaps brave men, soldiers and seafarers, took a brief repose and enjoyment, and in the profoundest pleasure of the moment were overcome with tears and the whole purple melancholy of happiness: who would not like all this to be his possession, his condition!  It was the happiness of Homer!” (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche)

*

The revolutionary tone of the current sequence could only erupt thanks to a vast combination of contradictory demands. If, at the beginning, the active psychic forces had clearly identified each other, their unanimous mobilisation would never have occurred. It was through a great confusion as well as a solid impurity of the different categories of demands that the creation of the subversive atmosphere was possible.

*

Besides, have you not heard of those fools who – on November 24th – lit fires in the middle of the afternoon and then started running on the Avenue of the Champs Élysées, shouting all the time “I’m looking for Macron! I’m looking for Macron!”? They had also named themselves by their clothes and said they were yellow vests. In fact, they were mad – mad about life, like others among their brothers who committed suicide, as others before them were mad about redemption, politics, revolution, this and that.

*

Thus gathered under the Republic, on the Champs Élysées and the roundabouts of France, a hundred thousand people also struck by the same disease: they would all reveal themselves to be endowed with a enough energy to be faithful to something of an event, sufficiently honest between themselves so as to avoid betrayal.

*

From a violent concision, the riot – this overly brief art that is measured by the exiguousness of time – operates likes a fascinating shortcut. It is its strength and, at the same time, its greatest limit. On the 1st of December, contemporary materialism in all its murderous exhaustion [crevardise] was attacked. In any case, the order of the profane is doomed to annihilation. So it’s time for a historic riot. Are they fascists? Leftists? The people ? Singularities? Are we talking about a revolution to come? If we do not go home tonight, is this the beginning of an insurrection?

*

“To the spiritual restitutio in integrum, which introduces immortality, corresponds a worldly restitution that leads to the eternity of downfall … To strive after such passing, even for those stages of man that are nature, is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism.” (Walter Benjamin)

*

The mask is also chaos become flesh. Violence, yes or no?

*

On the week of December 8, everyone asks themselves if we will see the Élysée [presidential palace] destroyed. Battle of communication, a false martial air, barbarians at the gates of Rome, but not forgetting to prepare a helicopter just in case, the party of order is feeding an apocalyptic pressure. One asks on television who will be the first to open fire. All that France has as police is no longer enough, the government must deploy tanks against the yellow vests, to say that everything will be well, that the worst will be avoided. In the evening, the situation remains ‘under control’ – it will still have been necessary to arrest more than a thousand people.

*

As regards destitution, that the road traveled by the yellow vests is more direct does not prevent it from also being more uneven. There is a great wind of subversion and the time is no longer for clemency. Order is not a fact, but simultaneously a value to be imposed on the real and the instrument by means of which it is imposed. The expected summons arrives, the police is the body of nothingness, a thunderous stun. At the price of an inflation of repressive power, unprecedented since the Algerian War, in mid-December, the Prince announces that he would like to dialogue with his people.

*

Many are the pessimists who cynically agree that this world has become a complex of frozen, alienated meanings, such that it can no longer move one’s interiority, that it deteriorates more and more on the model of an ossuary of decomposed interiorities. The yellow vests offer a scathing denial and laughter to such cultural pessimism – at such spiritual poverty. In the middle of December, there are still many here and there, defending their roundabouts to build cabins where they do not want to eat alone.

*

Anti-elegiac, anti-narrative, anti-discursive, the poetic of the roundabouts really looks like a poetic of enlightenment. Elliptical, oracular, it is that of a new network of signaling and intensely shared alerts. In no way an everyday poetic, it has its roots in the banality of everyday isolation, in poverty, boredom and depression. In the strict measure that it refuses to be a poetic management of the misery of everyday life, it rather resembles a poetics of the moment. And the moment feeds itself, by elaborations, by growth from other contributions, by accumulation and dilation. The continuum of the sadness of daily life breaks out and it goes forth from a here and now, as if to stop a world.

*

The seasonal variations which marked the rhythm of Eskimo societies allowed Marcel Mauss to show in winter the high point of social life. An intensely social time of life, a time for the condensation of groups, with an intensification of exchanges, affects, expenses, the rigour imposed by the winter favors collective introspection. While the cold, the rain, the snow and the ice cause a mute cleaning, slow and without recourse, like a rising tide of death, the sedentary, refugees in their overheated homes are exhausted in the revival of their limbs, where the frozen blood in their veins no longer circulates, and where they think to cure their fissures and affective frostbite, in vain, for they are only good at shivering in the anguish that they feel for the outside. The yellow vests are not afraid to take the risk and so bareheaded, in the jubilation of their whole body, they go out laughing in the wind, intoxicated by this frosty and tonic impetus, which slaps at their stiff-haired heads. It is said that some will spend the night of the 31st on the Champs Élysées, it is said that others will wake up on their roundabouts. Conscious of their strength, perhaps they are waiting together for a new spring to consecrate their destiny.

*

Anyone who has risked donning a vest knows how much the grand debate is a falsification and a grotesque appropriation of reality. Not only in that it steals all the fullness and richness of the encounters that have taken place on the roundabouts or in the demonstrations, that it deprives all real discussions of their most subtle psychological subtleties, that it deprives them of their terribly emotional nature; but above all, with this staging by the Prince in his narcissistic soliloquy, there remains only the public scene of the destructive nature of the economy that captures everything.

*

To recognize the presence of this field of forces, of these spaces which fill and empty themselves to again see press forward a crowd of organisms in tension, leads one to consider the entire movement in its extremely uneven diagram as a unique movement in continual formation and transformation. The anomic world in which we live produces anomic movements of its own accord. Neo-liberal deregulation is total, it affects the economic and the social, but also the physical, the metaphysical and the emotional. It is a vast and anarchic movement of tearing away, the propagation of chaos preserved by its own police. A desire to tear oneself away from tearing away rather than to spare it, to care for it, that is perhaps what yellow vests signal in the present.

*

However, many of those who claim a so-called revolutionary theory generally take into account only the social movements that, in whatever capacity or under whatever title we want to give them, would be at the center of history. History has taught revolutionaries on all sides for two centuries that the principle of transformation can only be found in places of strong centrality. It is in these neuralgic zones – where the control of the economic field, the management of the technical units and the capacity to promote subjects, would be disputed – that the revolutionaries would be expected to operate. But what hell!

*

“Is there anything in the world today that does not concern us directly – and not only morally as it was still the case thirty years ago? Globalisation of the rejection of capital is not enough; what deserves to be globalised is the opposition of life to death, to the narrowing that the later carries out. It is not a question of federating opinions, of opposing, of saying no. The radical opposition to this strangulation of the human can proceed only by the affirmation of a more indeterminate dimension of existence which is itself, by its own manifestation, the answer to its own question, which is the cruelly missing affirmation before so much denial.” (Jean-Paul Curnier)

*

To get rid of the Totality, the unity, the absolute, whatever. One can not fail to take it for the supreme authority and to baptise it “proletariat”, “revolutionary subject”, “society”, “people”. To take back as close and as ours what we have left to the unknown, which makes us impotent, Nietzsche said that we should “break up the universe, lose the respect for the Totality”. From the extreme Right to the far Left, all the idealism of classical politics is on the point of falling into nihilism, into the belief in the total absence of value, that is, of meaning. Nihilism is a normal state. The chaos of the contemporary world excludes all activity. There is only a future for those who are bound by the common values they give to life and to the worlds that welcome them. If becoming and life form a vast indecipherable cycle, everything is equally precious, eternal and necessary. This is what we are just beginning to feel since we have plunged into the yellow vests movement.

Anshel K. – for the Internationale Vitaliste, Paris (March 2019)

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1 Response to The gilets jaunes: Understanding the movement(s) beyond final defeat or victory

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