Though the Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement in France may appear to have erupted from nowhere, its arrival has been a long time coming.
– John Wight
“Men make their own history,” Karl Marx reminds us, “but not of their own free will; not under circumstances they themselves have chosen but under the given and inherited circumstances with which they are directly confronted.”
And confronting the thousands of Yellow Vest protesters who’ve been laying siege to central Paris these past few weeks – along with millions of ordinary working people across France – have been and are the deepening consequences of a broken and defunct neoliberal economic model, compounded by the refusal of its prime movers, chief among them French President Emmanuel Macron, to wake up to the deepening dystopia fashioned in its name.
The French government’s decision to suspend the proposed levy on fuel was a victory for the French people, whose tradition of fighting and struggling for the right to a quality of life consistent with human dignity is centuries old.
In forcing Macron – whose disregard for those at the sharp end of the neoliberal god he worships has been inordinate – to back down, the Yellow Vest movement has rendered working people throughout the EU a great and significant service, reminding them that passivity in the face of injustice only succeeds in inviting more injustice.
Macron’s initial ‘let them eat cake’ refusal to countenance backing down (before, that is, he did back down), proclaiming with the bombast of the mouse to the cat that “People complaining about rising fuel prices are the same ones who complain about pollution and how their children suffer,” will follow him all the way to his resignation or the next French presidential election, whichever comes first.
Clearly and obviously the fact (remember those?) that just 100 of the world’s leading companies and corporations are responsible for 71 percent of emissions is not something that overly intrudes on the consciousness of the current occupant of the Elysee Palace. It is those very companies whose interests and whims Macron with his recent raft of tax cuts for employers and the wealthy and cuts to pensions and welfare benefits for those at the bottom of the income scale, serves so avidly.
Moreover, said companies and corporations are the recipients of mammoth sums of institutional largesse, courtesy of the world’s leading banks and financial institutions; the very banks that brought us the 2008 global financial crash and worldwide recession. This, in turn, was met by the unleashing of an economic war against ordinary people, who were not responsible for the crash, in the form of austerity. …