Yellow Vests: The Appeal of Saint-Nazaire

What marked Act 21 of the Yellow Vests movement the most is probably not the demonstrations, but the great success of the second edition of the “Assembly of Assemblies of Yellow Vests” held in Saint-Nazaire on April 5th, 6th, and 7th. Indeed, the more than 200 delegations of nearly 700 people representing 10,000 Yellow Vests throughout the country tried to lay the groundwork for the structuration of the bottom of the movement, saying openly not to recognise any self-proclaimed leader.

The first “Assembly of Assemblies” was held in Commercy in January and had a smaller number of delegations (75). In this sense, St-Nazaire represents a leap in terms of participation and representativeness.

Without wasting time, in the early hours delegates began their discussions first in several thematic workshops and then in a plenary session where a summary of the discussions in the working groups was presented and appeals amended and voted.

Obviously, all of this is sometimes in the midst of stormy discussions and misunderstandings related to a kind of “learning of self-organisation”. However, the appeals that emerged at the meeting are very progressive in relation to the political and social situation in the country and beyond. And this is all the more important since, as was explained to us by Torya, the Yellow Vest delegate of Rungis, “among the participants there were delegates with very diverse political views, from more or less long-time political activists and trade unions and/or associations to first time activists engaged in political action with the Yellow Vests movement”.

Thus, in the consolidated appeal of the “Assembly of Assemblies” we find a summary of the main points discussed: the authoritarian turn of the government and police repression; the question of a general increase in wages, pensions, and social minima, and on an improvement in working and living conditions; the struggle for environmental protection and other forms of democracies, all ending on an anti-capitalist tone when it is said that “we are aware that we have to fight a global system, we consider that it will be necessary to exit from capitalism”.

In the same vein, the voted appeal on ecological issues denounces that it is “capitalism’s same logic of infinite exploitation that destroys human beings and life on Earth”, and concerning the so-called solutions put in place by liberal governments like Macron it was affirmed: “The carbon tax is the perfect example of the false punitive ecology that targets people who are not to blame”.

Another key issue discussed over the weekend was the fight against the police and judicial repression against the Yellow Vests, as well as against all people fighting for social causes. Thus, in the specific appeal on police violence and repression: “Police violence that mutilates and kills is an act of political intimidation, they seek to terrorise us to prevent action: they constitute a state crime (…) The judicial repression follows the police violence to stifle the movement: 8700 in police custody, 2000 on trial, including 1500 immediate appearances, nearly 40% of prison sentences are affirmative, and more than 400 bails were posted”.

But they do not forget that this denunciation of state violence against protesters has been practiced for years in the poor neighbourhoods: “What we are experiencing today is the daily life of the working-class neighbourhoods for decades. Now, authoritarianism is spreading to all of society”.

In order to denounce this repression the text calls “for a huge national act on Saturday, May 18th, everywhere in France” and demands “the annulment of sentences handed to thousands of prisoners and convicted Yellow Vests and all other criminalised struggles, and the cancellation of the prosecution of accused and charged persons, among others.”

In the appeal on the European elections, there is a denunciation of the undemocratic and neoliberal institutions of the European Union, but without falling into a nationalist retreat the text states: “whatever the result of the vote, we will have to count on ourselves! It is in this struggle that the Europe of peoples will be built. (…) It is by conducting a coordinated struggle against our common exploiters that we will lay the foundations for a fraternal understanding between the peoples of Europe and elsewhere”.

This is a general feature of the Yellow Vest movement (which was inevitably expressed in the “Assembly of Assemblies”) that could be used, in one way or another, by populist political tendencies defending projects of reconciliation between the exploited and the “good exploiters”, even by reactionary populisms.

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However, it is the development and deepening of such self-organising frameworks that will allow to discuss all these issues and beyond. In addition, the appeals voted on at St-Nazaire contain very progressive elements that the movement could rely on to accentuate its political clarification and to lay the foundations for its structuration.


Philippe Alcoy, Revolution Permanente

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