By Joe Montero
This last Saturday at least one hundred thousand Yellow Vests, Gilets Jaunes in French, marched through the streets of Paris. Marches also occurred in other cities and regions throughout France.
It was the tenth consecutive weekend of protests, and the embattled president is still hearing the shout; “Macron resign.”
Video by Ruptly
Yellow Vest’ protests hit Paris for the tenth week in a row.
Battles with the police continue, although many of the same police and the police union have sympathy for the protesters. Just like most French people do.
Video by Global News
Police attack the protesters again
Although the rebellion began over fuel tax hikes, to soon became much bigger than this, morphing into a movement rejecting government in the hands of an elite.
Video by Andrew Bowen
French firefighters join the yellow vests
Since it began, the debate in the streets has been over building an alternative, towards shifting political power downwards, into the hands of ordinary men and women. This has been bringing together diverse political trends and communities.
In other words, they want to change the political system. This is the reason why the few compromises offered by Emanuel Macron have not been enough to restore order.
This has not been an easy battle. Ten people have died so far and many more have been injured, forty of them severely, mainly at the hands of the paramilitary force, which has supplemented tear gas and water cannon with rubber bullets and flash balls. Thousands have been arrested.
Yellow Vest women’s march on 9 January hold a two minute silent vigil to pay tribute to those who have been killed
The strategy has been to clear the streets through force, under the pretext of combating violence and trying to create division within the ranks of the Yellow Vests. It has been ineffective.
Most French know that this has been about Macron and his government clinging on.
Macron’s other response is his “Grande Debate,” to stage manage public debate and social media, and gain the initiate it has gone down like a lead balloon.
It did not help to bring in Senator and Macron supporter Chantal Jouano, who is on a monthly salary of $A23.000, when most French are doing it hard. She has become a symbol of an elite out of touch with the rest of society.
These are big political events and much of the big media is now ignoring them. One would presume that this might be that ongoing rebellion poses a real threat to vested interests.
Nothing threatens vested interests more than a challenge to the political system that threatens existing privileges. And the Yellow Vests are taking about at this time is the matter of representative democracy, in the forms of citizen initiated referendums and citizens’ assemblies.
Fear runs deep through traditional French political parties. They have benefited nicely from the way things are, in the dependency on the political system on the big end of town. They have good reason not to back the revolt. This includes the Socialist Party, which was born out of the 1968 uprising. Together, they show a bipartisan desire to safeguard the status quo as the first priority.
An effort has been made to blame it all on Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. Although she has given some support, it has been inconsistent. Besides, if this party tries to take advantage of an existing popular movement, it does not deny the legitimacy of this movement.
There are plenty other supporters who do not share Le Pen’s political views. There is Jean-Luc Melancon and the France Unbowed movement on the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Greens, and even supporters of the Socialist Party. There are even some former Macron supporters.
The movement is not gravitating in the Le Pen direction. Opinion in the streets is is that the form of government, where the only role of citizens is to elect a government every few years, is not good enough and part of the problem. A small minority uses it as a fig leaf, to cover up the reality that it is really in control.
On 26 January there will be a meeting of 30 delegates from across the country will aim to start making change a practical reality, the shift towards involving everyone in the making of political decisions.
It will not be an easy road. The broadness of the revolt is both an asset and a problem. Melding varying political perspectives into a working whole is a challenge.
Nor will the old order give in to change so easily. It will fight back for its own preservation.
Where ever the road takes them, they are taking a major step, and in doing so are making history. Not just for France, but for the world.