We Are All Yellow Jackets … And This is Just the Beginning!

December 11, 2018

Published in the Étincelle Workplace Newsletter — Translated from French

L’Étincelle is a fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA).

So, what do we get from Macron’s attempt to kiss and make up? To begin with, a long threatening preamble: he will give “the most rigorous instructions for the return to peace and order by every means”. So we can expect repression, over and over again.

Then, after a few violin tremolos, come the measures that are supposed to calm us: a 100-euro increase of the monthly minimum wage (called SMIC), but let’s be clear: “without it costing the employers a single euro”. Oh, really? And so it will be up to us to pay? So it’s a scam! Macron’s gift will boil down to an increase in the activity premium paid by CAF (Caisse d’allocations familiales — a state aid to families) to some minimum wage earners, the actual amount of which will depend on multiple family criteria. In addition, they’ll be no tax on overtime pay. This is perfect for encouraging bosses to give us over-time rather than hiring more staff and raising our wages. What we all want, however, is a 300-euro wage increase without over-time!

Finally, he adds an “end-of-year bonus” for low wages earners, basically alms for the poor … but again he adds, “for those employers who can.” And, to wrap it up, reversing himself regarding the elimination of the tax on the rich is out of the question. So, the rich and the bosses have nothing to fear.

To sum it up: this is not enough, by a long shot, to calm the anger and determination on roundabouts and barricades. All in all, the president of the rich has insulted us again: on the one hand he gives us crumbs, smoke and mirrors, and on the other he declares war on our children: assaulting them with tear gas, arresting them, forcing them down on their knees, with their hands behind their heads.

Panic and Government Maneuvers

After weeks of contempt, the government is looking for a way to put out the fire it has caused.  It has summoned for this purpose all the institutional authorities that the country depends on, great or small. From the Medef (the national employers organization) to the union leaderships, from local officials, to showbiz stars,  this new party of order is calling on the Yellow Vests to go home. Not to mention Marine Le Pen and other Dupont-Aignan who, having been marginalized in the movement, want to mislead it by targeting immigrants deceptively, while carefully refusing the workers’ demands.

As for Laurent Berger (leader of the CGT union — originally formed by the Communist Party and respected historically as the most militant) or Philippe Martinez (leader of the CFDT union — formed by the Socialist Party), and some other union leaders, they have paid for the dishonor of disassociating themselves from the Yellow Vests, and playing advisors to the government, when we know the dice are loaded in that area. Fortunately, they are being challenged by rank and file union activists, more and more of whom are joining the Yellow Vests.

We Are Not Letting Up

But for the hundreds of thousands of workers who for weeks have all been wearing the same yellow vests on the barricades, as well as at every Saturday demonstration on the Champs-Elysees or in the large provincial cities, despite the diversity of their status as workers and their personal situations, there is no question of letting up while the power of the government in on the ropes.

Since the fight against the fuel tax hike (revoked last week), the struggle has extended to hundreds of demands. Unlike what we hear in government propaganda, they are not “a motley assemblage”. On the contrary, they express in their multiplicity the same anger with regard to the high cost of living, social injustice and the government of the rich. To live a life worth living rather than just to survive is what the Yellow Vests want, and they do not intend to return home in exchange for some powder thrown in their eyes.

All Together

This determination of the Yellow Vests has encouraged other sections of the population to enter the fight: last week, university students and high school students began to block their institutions and to demonstrate in the streets by the thousands, both in support of Yellow Vests, and to protest reforms in education. For us, in the workplaces, it’s our chance to have the autumn and winter of 2018 mark the first great victory for working people in the 50 years since May 68.