Paris is on Fire

Paris is on Fire

We are publishing this translation from Russian of the Internationalist Communists of Krasnoyarsk. We should warn readers that the latter is machine translated and we have not been able to verify its accuracy. The article has since been overtaken by events (e.g. at time of writing this 4 people have now died) and the opinions are those of the Russian comrades.

In France on November 17, to the surprise of the whole world an uprising of "yellow vests" broke out. 2,039 anti-government actions were counted by French police for that Saturday alone. 287 thousand people, according to the police, took to the streets.

The “yellow jackets” protest, which blocked the roads and oil storage depots, was originally caused by a significant increase in fuel prices: gas prices in France increased by 10-15% over the year, while the most popular fuel in the country, diesel, went up by 24%. Moreover, from January 2019, Macron promised the country a further tax on "fuel".

France is geographically arranged in such a way that in every department cars are often the only means of transport for workers and small farmers. This gives them a strong incentive to resist the bourgeois government.

Thousands, tens of thousands of French people attended rallies. It was workers themselves who began the demonstrations. About a dozen women are said to have been the first to rebel first, and posted a call on the Internet to take to the streets on November 17. Only then did political parties try to connect with it.

Starting from November 17, throughout the week, groups of yellow vests self-organised throughout the country. These groups blocked fuel storage facilities, oil refineries, erected barricades on the roads, established free parking without reservation. The volume of transactions in hypermarkets decreased by 40-50%.

This result of the movement on November 17 confirms that this is a true mass self-organised and resolute movement against the high cost of living and against Macron, whose figure has become a symbol of the arrogance of capitalism.

On Sunday morning, November 18, 150 pickets of yellow vests in various regions of the country were still on the roads. In addition, yellow vests blocked nine entrances to Disneyland, leaving only two free for visitors.

On November 19, protesters against rising fuel prices blocked access to French storage tanks. The oil and gas company Total decided to temporarily close one of its storage facilities near the city of Rennes. Several dozen activists completely blocked access to it and did not allow trucks to enter the oil store. The tailback of trucks that could not get to the storage tanks caused large traffic jams.

In the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, opponents of rising fuel prices flooded the entrance to the tank farm with tyres. The protesters, who had gathered at the gates before dawn, agreed to open access to the oilmen only after the appearance of a special police unit (CRS).

On November 21, as a result of these protest actions, two people have died, 552 have been injured (95 of them were law enforcement officers). 450 people were taken into custody.

On December 1 in Paris, there were new clashes between the police and the "yellow vests." According to French Prime Minister Edouard Philip, more than 36,000 people took to the streets throughout the country, of which 5,500 in Paris. But, judging by the reaction of Macron himself, who held an urgent meeting with the government, the problem is much bigger. Participants in an emergency meeting discussed the possibility of introducing a state of emergency in the country. Such measures would hardly be necessary because of five and a half thousand people armed only with sticks, stones and paint.

Police used tear gas against the crowd. The demonstrators threw yellow paint at the police. More than 120 people were detained, according to Reuters. Clashes began before the official start of the demonstration according to BBC News. The demonstrators tried to remove the barricades that blocked the entrance to the Champs Elysees. During the many hours of dramatic protests in the capital of France, one of the buildings was set on fire on a street near the Arc de Triomphe.

As a result of clashes in Paris, about 100 people were injured, more than 200 were detained, according to Reuters. The protesters broke windows in several shops, began to turn over and set fire to cars and started several fires. A gun was stolen from the police. The police said that representatives of “radical movements” had penetrated the ranks of the "yellow vests". French police report that another person died as a result of the protests, and the total death toll reached three.

One of the most famous sights of the capital of France – the Arc de Triomphe – was closed to tourists on Sunday, December 2. This was due to the damage caused to the historic structure during the riots in Paris. This statement was made by the chairman of the Centre for National Monuments (CNM) Philip Bevalal: “thousands of people armed only with sticks, stones and paint. Police used tear gas against the crowd. The demonstrators threw yellow paint at the police”. More than 120 people were detained, according to Reuters.

Yellow vest roadblocks were not confined just to Paris. The protesters on December 1 did not allow wagons on either side to pass through the Frejus tunnel connecting France and Italy.

Unfortunately, the "yellow jackets" do not raise the question of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in France, they do not try, as far as we know, to create in the course of the struggle at least a prototype of the most democratic form of power – the workers' councils. And, of course, this is due to the weakness and disunity of the real communists, who are the only ones who could connect the revolutionary potential of the masses with Marxism, but cannot do it.

The revolt has a local, national character; it did not even join up with the general daily strike in Greece last November 28. Naturally, without the support of proletarians from other countries, the protest of "yellow vests" is doomed to remain only at the level of acts of petty vandalism, which sooner or later will be stopped by the law enforcement agencies of the Fifth Republic.

Since the movement has grown through social networks, it does not have a single focal point, no clear leaders, no single political demands. There is only coordination through Facebook and a lot of public support. The French insurrection is a natural spontaneous reaction of the working people to the bourgeois world order, but not yet completely out of the control of the bourgeoisie. From this, Marxist workers conclude that it is necessary to use any protest to bring scientific and communist consciousness into the labour movement, to strengthen the organisation of the working class, and improve our own organisation.

If we can solve this problem, then such local riots, sooner or later, will become, managed and organised by the workers themselves in a global process of socialist transformation of the world.

Internationalist Communists of Krasnoyarsk
3 December 2018