Paris Police Teargas Peaceful Climate Demonstrators

It was 42° C (108° F) in Montpellier, France, last week, and the French police were still teargassing peaceful demonstrators – whether Yellow Vests in Montpellier or ecologists in Paris protesting capitalist-generated Global Warming on the hottest day in French history!

Source: Dernieres de Cordée.

As the contradictions between neoliberal economics and human life become more visible, police repression seems to be the new normal even in the “democracies” and I have seen little coverage, much less indignation, in the media at this latest outrage.

“Kill the messenger” – whether it be a peaceful crowd of citizens or a whistle-blower like Julian Assange – seems to be the only response left for the defenders of capitalism, even in the world’s two oldest republics: France and the US.

Forget about the so-called authoritarian “populists” and outright tyrants like the darling Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (who, having murdered a journalist, will host the next G20).

And Yet We Struggle On

My local Yellow Vest group in Montpellier has just participated in the national Assembly of Assemblies, presenting our Convergence34 resolution calling on Yellow Vests to join together with ecologists, struggling workers, unions, students, discriminated people, women, etc. to block the whole country and force fundamental changes.

With the total collapse of the parliamentary Left in the European elections, the Yellow Vests’ “demand the impossible” solution seems the only “reasonable” one left. And although Macron’s government claimed “victory” in those elections, in fact his party came in second behind LePen’s, with only 10 per cent of the electorate voting for it.

On the regional level (Department 34, L’Herault) we met this Tuesday, bringing together 20-odd autonomous local Yellow Vest groups for the third time. It has taken us seven months of being beaten over the head and vilified to get organized, but we are still here. And still prepared to keep things going over the sacred summer vacation – normally the death of French social movements from 1936 to 1968 – just to remind folks we’re still around… For example a ‘Yellow Beach’ demo this weekend. And handing out flyers during the July 14 Bastille Day fireworks proposing a new revolution.

The hope is that the social situation will heat up in the fall, when people return to work and school, and lead to a general strike. The issues are still there, inequality still growing, and Macron has given nothing in his neoliberal steamroller drive to gut schools, hospitals, public transport, retirement, health, unemployment and to privatise everything in sight (eg Paris airports).

So our Yellow Vest groups will continue to hold the door open hoping more folks will join the struggle. We are beginning to get structured; we will go on all summer standing in the hot sun on a few traffic circles with our flyers and yellow vests; we will continue to support the striking emergency room personnel and the striking HS teachers (some of whom are refusing to turn in their students’ grades at the crucial Baccalauréat exam). The crisis ain’t over yet.

A year ago as vacation-time arrived, the dilatory tactics (one-day “strikes”) of the French union leaders had led to the total defeat of the organized working class, steam-rollered under Macron’s Thatcherite counter-reforms. Then, in the fall, out of nowhere, the Yellow Vests sprung up like mushrooms in the damp woods – a vast social movement, 300,000 strong, with the backing of 75 per cent of the French public, struggling against the same reforms but from a poor consumers’ point of view.

Nothing Solved

Unfortunately, the two movements failed to unite, despite the efforts of some of us, and the Macron steamroller continued to move forward, crushing civil liberties and the right of free assembly in the process, leaving the Yellow Vests bloody but unbowed.

None of the outstanding issues have been solved. A convergence of movements and a resultant runaway general strike is not a totally impossible hope. If the social struggle rises again next fall, as it must in this increasingly unequal society with a long revolutionary history and a hereditary hatred of the contemptuous aristocrats who rule over it, who knows what will happen? •

Richard Greeman has been active since 1957 in civil rights, anti-war, anti-nuke, environmental and labour struggles in the U.S., Latin America, France (where he has been a longtime resident) and Russia (where he helped found the Praxis Research and Education Center in 1997). He maintains a blog at