Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Politics of the Gilets Jaunes and the Far-Right.

with 4 comments

Les Zouaves Paris après l'attaque du cortège du NPA dans une manifestation des Gilets jaunes.

“…the fact that the far right is present in this violence puts them off quite a bit. But it doesn’t bother me.” Verso Author, Éric Hazan.

The group who attacked the Nouveau Parti capitaliste during Acte XI of the Gilets Jaunes march turns out to have been created by former members of the violent far-right organisation, GUD, and (its continuing counterpart outside of Paris) ” Bastion social”.

Zouaves Paris: la résurgence de l’extrême droite radicale violente dans la capitale

France Soir, today.

And here:

“Je songe à ces méthodes qui consistent à violer l’intelligence révolutionnaire des militants (nombreux en France) qui ont l’habitude de se faire eux-mêmes leur opinion et qui se mettent loyalement à la dure école des faits.”

1939 Lettre à Trotsky [Marceau Pivert)

I refer to those methods which consist in violating and brutalizing the revolutionary intelligence of those militants – numerous in France – who are accustomed to making up their own minds and who put themselves loyally to the school of hard facts.

Pivert Answers Trotsky 1939

To read English language left-wing commentary on the Gilets Jaunes is to enter a world in which the far-right appears in the movement only from the outside. They are not the “real Gilets Jaunes”. The US left publication Jacobin has published an article that claims that criticism comes from supporters of Macron, and snobbish attitudes towards the “working classes (who) have been neglected and ridiculed” (IMEN NEFFATI). This academic defender of Gammon is not alone. Just translated into English is the contentious ‘sociology’ of Christopher Guilluy’s book, (Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France). Jacobin’s co-thinkers in Spiked recently interviewed Guilluy, who said,

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

‘The gilets jaunes are unstoppable’

Christophe Guilluy on the cultural divide driving the yellow vests.

I have not read the translation but the book was published a couple of years ago and is now in a cheap paperback (on the shelf…). It  is not a work of sociological investigation: it is an illustration of a thesis. That is, that the left has dropped the working class, the ‘popular classes’. It has succumbed to ‘globalisation’ and is now based on urban ‘people from nowhere’, the ‘elite’. The rest of society, the “periphery” is left to rot.  This view, shared by the former radical leftist,  Jean-Claude Michéa (who has also written on George Orwell’s concept of ‘common decency’), is that French society has become Americanised, “ inégalitaire et multiculturelle ” – unequal and multicultural. 

The last word should set alarm bells ringing.

The book will merit a fuller discussion but for the moment one can see the opening that the idea of a popular revolt against the globalised elite by the ‘real’ French (as the Gilets Jaunes call themselves, as, for example in the “Gaulois de Calais)” gives to the far right. Marine Le Pen, like the British extreme-right, is a strong critic of “globalism”. The infinitely flexible picture of the “people”, the left-behind, the “somewheres” is ready-made for their use. The below illustrates one effort at being humorous about the brave little Gauls standing up to the arrogant cosmopolitans.

Some of the French left, and not only those in la France insoumise who wish to channel this fight against the “elites” into their Rally’s strategy to “federate the people” behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon, see in the Gilets Jaunes a social movement in which they can intervene.

Some of those “accustomed to making up their own minds” have been a lot more sceptical..

Facebook sert l’extrême droite. Et l’extrême droite pilote les Gilets jaunes depuis Facebook.

There are large numbers of leftist activists, often from the most radical parts of the left, who, like the highly regarded comrades of  patrie ni frontières who have produced their own independent – often highly critical – assessments of the Gilets Jaunes.

And of the police violence:

This Blog, which shares a common political origin in the self-management (autogestion) current, considers that these voices need hearing.

From André Y.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and text



Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm

4 Responses

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  1. From the wrong side of the pond your news is puzzling. On the one hand we have Frenchmen who are happy with EU Anschluss and Ecological National Socialism, while others differ but still prefer a different flavor of socialist control and taxation. To properly situate between the Extreme Right and the Extreme-but-Sympatique Left, which planks of the Communist manifesto of 1848 and the National Socialist Programme of 1920 ought a “Centrist” to mix together and support?


    January 29, 2019 at 5:00 pm

  2. This might give some answers (and is, from everything I hear and talk about on FB every day looks accurate).

    France’s gilets jaunes are marching to a different beat
    These are not student anarchists but middle-aged conservatives from country towns
    VICTOR MALLET Financial Times

    “Some gilets jaunes marchers are environmental activists who grow their own vegetables. Some want all major decisions put to referendums instead of taken by elected politicians. Some wave Corsican flags. Others are “Frexit” nationalists who want France to leave the EU. Still others are casseurs (wreckers) bent on looting, burning cars or attacking the police.”

    “The comparison with the past is misleading. Many of today’s gilets jaunes are not student anarchists or leftwing trade unionists but middle-aged, rightwing conservatives from country towns. They want lower taxes. They frequently express their distaste for immigration and are suspicious of globalisation. Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party has so far gained the most political capital from the protests.

    The gilets jaunes typically have more in common with contemporary supporters of President Donald Trump in the US, Brexit voters in the UK and the Italians who propelled the anti-immigrant League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement to power in Rome. They live in one of the richest societies in history, but feel neglected and insulted by an out-of-touch metropolitan elite. Mr Macron’s advisers sparked the crisis by failing to appreciate how their lofty environmental and road safety goals would hit the pockets of the millions of workers who commute by car.

    For the gilets jaunes, the hate figUre is the sometimes haughty Mr Macron. Even as the movement splinters, rejection of the French president is the one position on which the protesters I have met can all agree.”


    Andrew Coates

    January 29, 2019 at 5:39 pm

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