What if we were witnessing the beginning of a general social fight against the rich, a fight between workers and capitalists? A fight that does not leave any room to the right and far-right politicians? On Saturday 17th, many people have expressed their anger. Perhaps sometimes in muddled or contradictory ways. Nevertheless, the invisible members of society in their high visibility vests were able to show that they keep their heads up and refuse to be run over by Macron.
And this was probably only a start. Of the 287,000 demonstrators on Saturday, tens of thousands were still mobilised on Sunday. Swat teams were not always able to remove the blockades. And in Quimper they even provoked a real mini riot.
Against taxes… and everything else
At the moment, the anger is focused against all kinds of taxes. And rightly so: whether we’re on minimum wage or even unemployed, we pay the same as millionaires. So, when the government pretends to care for the environment and increases the energy consumption tax on gas, it forces the poor to stay home or walk, so only the rich have the right pollute.
But for the people participating in the blockades, gas prices are just the last straw. They talk about prohibitive rents and minimal heating in their homes during winter. In short: the high cost of living. Consciously or not, what’s being put on the agenda are increases in wages, pensions, unemployment benefits. “To live, not survive”, can be read on demonstrators’ banners. This can be made a reality only by increasing the minimum income to €1,800 monthly, after tax.
How to follow up?
Some propose “Next Saturday, with a big demonstration in Paris” and then every weekend. Others suggest “to blockade all week long.” Others even say “we are used to work shifts in the factory; now let’s do the same while we fight: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of blockade.”
This Monday, many yellow jackets hope that truck drivers will join the movement and use their trucks to block the roads. But if the truck company bosses head this action, they will be able to make a deal with the government to get a tax exemption for themselves and abandon the movement. Some yellow vests openly talk about this risk. And they are right, as we see the Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne, try such a scheme. On the other hand, if the employed drivers went on strike for wages, they could be part of the same wave of workers that could sweep over many companies. A strike also gives much time to organise, prepare and carry out new actions. And a strike hits the capitalist system where it hurts the most: profits. So the yellow vests protest must become a general fight for all workers, which is exactly what the defenders of the bosses, like Wauquiez or Le Pen, do not want.
To make sure the movement is not a platform for the far right, workers must organise to win
The government criticises the movement for its lack of organisation. What’s bothering the government, really, is that there is no clear leader with whom to negotiate a rotten agreement. We can be happy about that. But to win, workers will need to organise their anger and lead the movement. That is the only way to prevent the right and far right demagogues from perverting the protests into an electoral platform.
Workers must organise and take the initiative, particularly in companies where daily exploitation takes place. If there were committees against the high costs of living in companies, these committees could lead the blockades and the rallies by setting up relays with their colleagues and with workers from other companies. And they could encourage those who haven’t participated yet to join the movement and prepare for a strike. Wearing red vests.