"The 'Yellow Vest' movement: the proletariat must respond to the attacks of capital on its own class terrain!"

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jk1921
"The 'Yellow Vest' movement: the proletariat must respond to the attacks of capital on its own class terrain!"
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I agree with the article that this movement is not entirely on the proletarian terrain, but it seems like the working class doesn't struggle on its own terrain until its own struggles on its terrain. Its not entirely surprising that the proletarian struggle emreges in fits and starts, lacks clarity and puts forth confused demands, even some that may seem "right-wing" at times. But I think we need to avoid the mistake of judging the action strictly by its content. Just because there are certain petty-bourgeois ideas put forward, doesn't mean that the proletariat is not present and expressing a genuine class response to the social conditions of the moment. The idea that this movement is a kind of "trap," seems too Machiavellian, even if in a figurative sense it is true that the bourgeoisie will use it to drown out a more class based response. It seems this struggle, in all its confusion and contradictions, reflects something about the historic moment we are in. But I am not sure that every protest over taxes has a petty bourgeois nature, as taxes hit the working class as well. Moreover, the idea that fossil fuels should be affordable is probably anathema to environmentalists, but the cost of petrol is probably one of the more volatile elements in the everyday budget of the proletariat. Whether it is some machinations of the OPEC cartel or the state raising taxes on fuel consumption, even relatively minor increases in the cost of fuel can have a major impact on the proletariat at the same time it drives self-employed lorry owners into bankruptcy.

baboon
The article makes it clear

The article makes it clear that the working class in all its elements is the vast majority in this mobilisation and it's the working class that's been the most affected by the state's austerity - not just fuel price increases. However, I think that this movement is something more dangerous to the working class than "certain petty-bourgeois ideas being put forward" (jk21 above). Nationalism, democracy and citizenship, even when expressed by the petty-bourgeoisie is no less dangerous for the class particularly when it's being mobilised behind it and its ideology. A point that's attracted some anarchists is the idea that "there are no leaders to the movement" but they are all over the place: various self-employed truckers, businessmen and women, academics and intellectuals, politicians from the right and left, the media, all are driving it, all speaking "on behalf of the movement". Both Marine Le Pen and the boss of the CGT have baptised the movement "legitimate", the latter indicating that the unions are becoming more involved.

There isn't a genuine class response here because in a well-documented drama such as this it would be apparant; but there's no general assemblies which are vital for discussion and direction and there is no centralised and organised expression of an autonomous class, nor anything that looks to be moving towards it. On the contrary, it's dispersal, atomisation within the crowd, "everyone", the French people.

The comparison in the article with the Arab Spring is a good one I think. There, in a great many places throughout the Middle East and North Africa, during that whole upheaval, many workers protested as individuals or were diluted in crowds sometimes led by Mullahs and the elders. But at the same time internationalist slogans and appeals for workers' solidarity appeared here and there, women demonstrated with men and youngsters, demonstrations broke ethnic divides. And there were strikes, very important strikes, some in war zones showing something more than a petty-bourgeois revolt. Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan all hit by significant strikes. The depth of that movement, a class difference to the "gilets jaunes", can be estimated by how much blood imperialism subsequently drowned it in.

I don't think that this movement of the "gilets jaunes" is a set-up or a "trap". I don't see where that comes from. It's an example of neither of the two main classes able to seize the reins and it's a further example of how the bourgeoisie turns its decomposition back onto the working class.

 

KT
Trap?

This notion of a trap on these boards probably came from the end of my intervention on an earlier thread: "This may or may not be a "testing moment" for Macron, as the media insists. But it is certainly a trap for the working class..."  I did not mean to imply that the bourgeoisie had deliberately staged the situation to confront the class - far from it! - but that for many militants (the anarchists mainly) this was a situation to be celebrated and lauded, while for the working class as a whole, there was a danger that it's energies and consciousness would be further dissipated into the multiple rivulets of  'the citizenry', struggling under the Tricolour. In fact, the situation was and is a product of the absence of the class as a distinct social force, so far. That said, the notion of a 'trap' in the wider sense is not something I particularly want to defend and the discussion shouldn't be axed around it, in my opinion. 

JK1921 is correct to infer that the proletarian struggle doesn't emerge fully formed, free of the muck of surrounding classes and their ideology, and that we should be vigilant. However I think the article - and Baboon's intervention above - are correct to note the nationalism and absence of specifically proletarian elements in this movement.

One example is the question of leadership: it interests me how much the apparent 'lack of leaders' is vaunted and promotoed by the media and the movement itself (not strictly true in any case, as Baboon points out). Nonetheless, what is strikingly absent from the events in France today is precisely the leadership of the working class, its methods of struggle, its political goals, its historic perspective, its political parties... Without these this movement is a quagmire.

 

KT
Trap 2

The article itself does contain this phrase: "...This movement of "citizens' "revolt is a trap to drown the working class in the "people of France" where bourgeois cliques are found as "supporters of the movement"...

baboon
At first glance the numbers

At first glance the numbers of "gilets jaunes" on the streets of Paris do not seem much greater than last week, if at all. Yesterday on social media there were, I don't know where or what the details were, large numbers of "gilets jaunes" having a punch-up among themselves.

I think that jk21 misread the idea of a "trap" in the sense that the "gilets jaunes" movement wasn't a machivellian plot laid out in advance, but a trap it certainly is in the sense that the working class has been corralled onto grounds that are inimical to its struggle. It is a trap in the sense that the movement is going nowhere positive except into a dead-end, an impasse as far as the working class is concerned.

jk1921
Is it still a "trap," if the

Is it still a "trap," if the proletarian class elements paticipating in this learn from the experience? It seems like everything short of the revolution itself could be called a "trap." I agree that revolutionaries should not be encouraging or promoting this kind of "citizen's movement" as some kind of means to achieving a higher end, but I think Luxemburg was right when she said that the working class movement is unique in history in that it advances not through a series of progressive victories, but through a series of defeats.

I think we have to be careful to understand the context and the direction. Is there any positive direction in the fact that proletarian elements seem to want to struggle, even if misled, or is this a step backwards from the heights (if you can call it that) of the response to the "Great Recession," ca. 2010-2011: Indignados, Wisconsin mobilizations, Occupy. Certainly, there were many problems with these movements, but we saw something positive in their direction at the time. Since then, we have had nearly a decade of intervening events: the Obama years (hard neo-liberalism dressed up as progressivism and a new anti-racist dawn); the entrenchment of identity politics; the emergence of populism; Brexit; Trump; the rise of a newly insurgent "anti-fascism" in response to this, etc.--a period in which class struggle receded to a dim light and there were predictions of an ominous rightward turn globally. Obviously, the Yellow Vests Movement is marked by all of that, but is there any semblance of a break with the more recent trajectory or is this just a throw away, a petty bourgeois, nationalist morass? 

jk1921
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

 Both Marine Le Pen and the boss of the CGT have baptised the movement "legitimate", the latter indicating that the unions are becoming more involved.

 

Well, even Trump has tried to claim leadership of the movement. Claimimg that the protestors are chanting, "We want Trump." That is probably fake news, but even if it weren't, what would that show? That participants are confused and disoriented? That hardly seems surprising given the broader global social situation. But just as Trump has claimed ownership of it, so have numerous leftist elements. Very confusing times, indeed. I suppose Fox News will say it is a rebellion against France's "socialism," while Jacobin will see it as a revolt against Macron's phony progressive neo-liberal austerity. Could it be both? Even if there is little proletarian content in the end, is this at least one of those "social revolts," reminiscent of the earlier period of this decade? How do we situate it in a broader context?

baboon
Incidently, there are a

Incidently, there are a couple of images from the protests over the weekend that has stuck with me: one a lone "gilet jaune" waving a large tricolore bent down on one knee in front of a charging squad of the CRS. The latter made their violent intentions known very early on on Saturday and this guy just knelt down in front of them and allowed himself to be trampled over as they made an early charge. Another was lone guy standing in an island of emptiness among the crowd, again waving a large tricolore with a sign saying "vaccination is murder".

More importantly, Jk above raises the question of "leaders" and leadership in this movement and that's indeed very relevant to this discussion. Leaders are everywhere in this movement because this is a movement of "everyone"; in fact "everyone" is the defining element and nature of this movement so there are leaders all over the place. The most obvious point about leadership though is the complete absence of working class leadership or any potential step towards it.

The ICC, the CWO, the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) and all of the media from left to right all agree that anger is a fundamental of the yellow vest movement. But, legitimate though it is, anger alone is never enough and can be counter-productive if it stays at that level. We've already seen on the world stage how anger can be easily recuperated, manipulated by the bourgeoisie and turned back on the working class as a weapon against class consciousness.

Jk sort of puts the idea forward that something positive might come out of this movement, that options should be kept open just to be on the safe side and that this could be one of Luxemburg's "series of defeats" that, though inevitable in the class struggle, are nevertheless a step forward for it. It's a view shared by the CWO and the anarchist ACG. But this rise from the fall, learn from defeats argument, absolutely valid in the context framed by Marx and Luxemburg doesn't at all apply to this inter-classist melange. If something proletarian was to follow on from this nationalist circus it would be so far divorced from it and against it as to render any possible connection to it pure wishful thinking.

That there's "something" positive in this movement is a common theme of the anarchist ACG and the CWO (and most of leftism). The ACG carefully details its weaknesses but concludes that it's a "real popular movement with an obvious class dimension" and it would be an "admission of weakness" not to see its potential. The weakness of the anarchists here is to take a weakness of the working class for its strength.

The CWO position is even more shocking (I'm talking about the French article, the Russian one is even worse): according to the former the movement is "developing" in a positive sense and you "can't wait for pure struggle" (echoing jk's position) because the yellow vest movement is against the "conquering bourgeoisie" while calling for a "true participatory democracy from the ground up". It refers to the workers "involved" not as atomised citizens but as some kind of apparant force. None, not one of these arguments is an excuse for supporting a movement (just to be on the safe side) that's imbued with petty-bourgeois nationalism.

On the "you can't wait for pure struggle" argument, the French CWO article gives the examples of the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. The first according to it came out of a situation where the working class in the National Guard originally supported a patriotic response. This is a lie that was put about by the French bourgeoisie at the time and since and the CWO repeats it here. The National Guard under the proletariat was a confirmation of its existence as class and was a stage in a proletarian movement of a class for itself that was already developing. On the Russian revolution it says, it was "part of a womens' revolt for bread". There's no denying that seemingly innocuous sparks can be catalysts to set off much wider and profound movements; such is the nature of proletarian struggle. But those wider and more profound movements have to be there in the making and they were in 1905 and in the factory committees and soviets, up to 1917. The build-up to both these historic events was marked by the definition of class identity, of class against class, not inter-classist dilution.

The CWO here suggests that the movement of the "gilets jaunes" is stronger than that of the Arab Spring (it is "taking the initiative against the conquering bourgeoisie"), which I think is an inversion of reality. Among leftism there will be celebrations of the "victory against Macron" with his concessions to some of the "gilet's jaunes" demands, but these will result in further spending cuts and further attacks on the working class. This will further increase the present weakness of the working class, an analysis that the CWO however ascribes to elsewhere. There is nothing to be gained by denying this weakness as the CWO implicitly does in my opinion in its contradictory French article. There is nothing positive in the working class being sucked into a nationalist "everyone".

jk1921
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

Jk sort of puts the idea forward that something positive might come out of this movement, that options should be kept open just to be on the safe side and that this could be one of Luxemburg's "series of defeats" that, though inevitable in the class struggle, are nevertheless a step forward for it. It's a view shared by the CWO and the anarchist ACG. But this rise from the fall, learn from defeats argument, absolutely valid in the context framed by Marx and Luxemburg doesn't at all apply to this inter-classist melange. If something proletarian was to follow on from this nationalist circus it would be so far divorced from it and against it as to render any possible connection to it pure wishful thinking.

Learning not what to do, is often as important as learning what to do. Let's examine some other recent movements: Occupy, Indignadoes, etc., were these also "inter-classist melanges"? Your argument seems to deny the possibility of the "subterrean maturation of consciousness." Is the working-class leading this movement? No. Is it present? Yes. Is it fighting over material issues regarding its condition of life? Seems so. There is no mistake that this is ultimatel a dead-end as movement itself, but that doesn't mean that it can't be a learning moment in the SMC. Could this also lead to demoralization? It could, but I think that depends on the historical context, which is why I put forward the wave of struggles from 2009-2011, the intervening half a decade plus of populism and political confusion and now this: a social movement that appears to have caught the bourgeoisie off guard, a spontaneous eruption from the remanant of civil society that if not a pure class movement, neverthless reflects a real anger over the conditions of life. This does not appear to have been some orchestrated "trap" or "maneover" by the organs of the state, even if they will ultimately get control of it.

d-man
Like I said on the earlier

Like I said on the earlier thread (on the yellow vests), the ICC's application of standards isn't consistent. In case of the "Arab spring" there was even a greater amount of waving of national flags, but that didn't stop the ICC from giving it enthusiastic support (and this support was one of the reasons for some Turkish comrades in the minority to be critical). Jk1921 brings up the concept of "subterrean maturation of consciousness", which in my view is a flawed concept which can be used to support any kind of movement, but he's right to throw it in the ICC's face (so to speak). As to the petty-bourgeois presence, let's remember that Mohamed Bouazizi, who put himself on fire in Tunisia which started the protests, was himself a street vendor. It is obvious that the petty-bourgeoisie covers a wide range of people, including those close to the living conditions of workers. Macron's speech, which made (pseudo-)concessions on purchasing power, is proof that even the bourgeoisie understands that the yellow vests are now, or at least run the risk to become, driven by the working class. I'm all for ruthless critique of movements, this is the task of communists, but you have to be consistent then.

About the protests being held on each Saturday (which by this point gets to be a repititive), I think it was said that this was perhaps due to the protesters being workers, who cannot afford to miss work (and paycheck) on a week day. If they are to stay independent of unions, they can't rely on their strike funds. Perhaps this is also a practical reason for why workers act as "atomised citizens". To act as a really independent class, it would be basically necessary to go on an indefinite general strike, and to win an insurrection against the forces of power. I don't think the ICC falls into such "immediatism", I think it wants (as always) to see workers committees of action, etc. But in practice, as intervention by militants, this amounts to basically the same "enthusiatic" position of the WSWS (whose position, like Tagore said, it is interesting to contrast with the ICC). So in a sense, it doesn't matter what our differences are (even leaving aside the pseudo-argument about our small numbers).

 

Teivos
Tendencies driving the Yellow Vest Movement

If you think that the Arab Spring was of the same characteristics as the 'Yellow Vests', and that the ICC has treated equivalent movements in different ways, why not direct the discussion activity to clarify these differences and similarities, instead of "throwing things at the face " of the ICC? We should understand the evolution of class struggle since then. In fact, the ICC did not give this kind of general "enthusiastic support" to the Arab spring but it was very critical with the democratic illusions which were carrying it to a dead end.
The working class can learn from all events in society: from bourgeois politics, from movements in which it is absorbed by the bourgeoisie, from war itself. That does not mean 'per se' that the mobilization of the working class is always for the benefit of itself (I am not discarding that the Yellow Vests might have some potential proletarian characteristics in a certain degree -but are these able to overcome the democratic-nationalist tendency? is it showing signs of extension?). Additionally, nowadays, when the working class is living in a decomposing capitalist society it´s much more difficult to find its own means of struggle (which need to show a tendency toward open general assemblies, solidarity and internationalism-which are nothing else than characteristics of the nature of the working class-). Sometimes this tendency appears but is very weak and not the main driver of the movement. Sometimes the working class might spontaneously show rage towards its situation but direct its anger toward scapegoats (evil elite politicians and bussinessman, or even qualitatively worse: immigrants), because burgeois ideology is not just implemented by conscious manipulation. I agree here with 'baboon' in the sense that it might be a trap, even when it was not at the first instance prepared by the burgeoisie, and might be directed toward demoralization, isolation and purely gregarious hooliganlike enlisting. We also have to pay attention to the burgeoisie insistence on its leadersless character while this is not true at all. This apparent "lack of influence of any kind" is totally naïve and spreads the democratic thinking. It could be also positive to compare this to NuitDebout, so we can understand better the machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie in order to not be paranoid but also not naïve. Also, place this events in an international context and analyse the characteristcs of its apparent weak spread to Belgium and perhaps other countries: is it really solidarity and internationalism?

Teivos

d-man
comparison

True, the ICC's reaction to the Arab spring was also critical, how could it not be, when for example there were monarchist flags waved by protestors in Libya: https://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/d-man/4256/libya-popular-uprising-buried-bourgeois-faction-fights

It spoke of merely social revolts against the state, of intitial popular uprising, where the working class is mixed in, that gets recuperated by bourgeois factions, and the weakness of the proleterat to assert itself, and so on. But I feel this was just token-criticism, as opposed to the general position that was at first adopted with regard to the yellow vests (Tagore even using the term Poujadism).

One of the first articles was titled: Revolts in Egypt and the Arab states: The spectre of the development of the class struggle.

And earlier, on Tunisia in particular Baboon commented: "There is no doubt about the spontaneous nature of this uprising and it's one more expression of the fight back of the working class."

" The present movements of youth affecting Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, as far as I can see, have been expressions of a proletarian response, even if they've been mixed up with a democratic idealism that will only deliver more of the same. And while the latter remains the greatest danger in the longer term, these expressions are part of the fight back of the working class and, to some extent, have unsettled the actions of the major imperialisms. "

As for extention to neighbouring countries, well in Bulgaria there were already protests against fuel tax I believe and the French yellow vests are inspiring some protests in other countries. Of course it should expand, there is no difference between the enthusiastic WSWS and the cautious ICC on this score fundamentally.

 

 

baboon
"token criticism"?

Read any of the ICC's reports on the Arab Spring, most of the reports on the class struggle (2016, for example) and you will find anything but "token criticism" on the weaknesses and dangers of that general movement, right up to events in Spain. It would help the discussion, it would be a good starting point, if you were to address the actual texts of the ICC rather than dismissing them as phoney. There's no discussion to be had if your idea is that the ICC's 'real' position is hidden behind a subtefuge of tokenism

 

d-man
Nobody ever endorses

Nobody ever endorses something 100% in blind faith. Any fundamental/"real" support or endorsement always comes also with criticisms, caveats and some hedging of bets. They can be called token-criticisms. You are claiming that the ICC's criticism of the "Arab spring" is of the same degree of sharpness as that of the yellow vests today. I just quoted the title itself of one of the articles on the "Arab spring", which read: "The spectre of the development of the class struggle". Just compare that to the assessment of today's protests in France: proletarians running around like turkeys, no proletarian methods, just inter-classist petty-bourgeois movement, rise of far-right/Le Pen at the next elections. So I think it's clear that the assessments are different, it's another question whether deservedly so or not, but you haven't deigned to address that.

slothjabber
How does the proletariat respond?

Movements (especially at the start) are very confused about their own direction and develop by contradictory jumps. 

Some of the slogans and statements coming from the <<gilets jaunes>> are confused, some genuinely nationlistic, some proletarian. 'Tax petrol profits, not the workers' - 'the real disturbance is injustice' - 'down with caviar! Long live kebabs!' - 'against the state, the cops and the bosses (A)' - 'no Christmas for the bourgeoisie' - 'we want some cash while we wait for communism' - 'XThiersX The Commune High School is angry!' - express anger but not necessarily a way forward for the proletariat. I'm going to mention the decking of a prominent French fascist as well, because there may be fascists trying to take control of the movement but that is not uncontested, and not every blow against fascists is a blow for bourgeois democracy, sometimes it actually is a blow for the working class.

On the other hand there have been calls for mass assemblies to determine the direction of the movement. The protests (or protests inspired by them) have reportedly spread to Belgium, the Netherlands, Serbia and Montenegro. It's inspired high-school and university students to protest against student poverty, and the police repression of the young people has led to more massive protests - state repression in this case is fuelling the protests and the questions of student debt and state repression are becoming linked. Students are being radicalised before our very eyes, learning the hard way about capitalism and the state. The CRS have been, on the one hand, beating workers, students and the elderly, and on the other, have been chased from the streets by angry... workers? Petites-bourgoises? Lumpens? Youths of indeterminate class composition? Sometimes it doesn't matter so much.

It's not a revolution. It's not even a pre-revolutionary situation. But there are lots of angry workers involved. Where can they go next? Strikes seem the obvious next step. Mass assemblies would be marvellous to see. They don't exist at the moment. But the proletariat needs to learn to fight ('we want cash while we wait for communism' might also be understood to mean 'we want struggle while we wait for revolution'). And while it does, what should be the attitude of communists to the movement?

Concretely, how do we apply this to the current situation - "... In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole."?

I'd argue, that we must be involved in the protests and the discussions workers are having, and everywhere we can we warn against letting the unions, the leftists, or the right take control, we warn against trusting the promises of the state, we warn against the traps of nationalism; and we instead put forward solidarity, mass assemblies, class struggle and extension both inside and outside the national framework as being the path to ending capitalism and all nations.

This is not the revolution or anything like it. But it's part of the proletariat's learning process. If we think we have any answers or even insights at all we have to be presenting these to the class. Not on message boards and small periodicals and tiny meetings (not that I have anything against those as forms, in fact I approve of all of them, but they're not appropriate to what is necessary at the moment) but as far as possible where workers and students actually are, out in the streets.

KT
'Victories'?

It’s a lot easier for the proletariat’s political organisations to intervene in the decision-making assemblies of working class expressions when they actually exist! This is possibly the biggest difference between the present events and those of the anti-CPE assembles in 2006 and the four-year long, international and varied phenomena that constituted the inadequately labelled ‘Arab Spring’.

“In 2011, we saw the wave of social revolts in the Middle East and Greece, culminating in the Indignados movement in Spain and “Occupy” in the USA. The proletarian element in these movements varied from country to country, but it was at its strongest in Spain, where we saw in the widespread adoption of the assembly form; a powerful internationalist impulse which welcomed expressions of solidarity by participants from all round the world and where the slogan of “world revolution” was taken seriously, perhaps for the first time since the 1917 revolutionary wave; a recognition that “the system is obsolete” and a strong will to discuss the possibility of a new form of social organisation. … Of course, most of these movements had many weaknesses, which we have analysed elsewhere, not least a tendency for the participants to see themselves as “citizens” rather than proletarians, and thus a real vulnerability to democratic ideology…,”(Fifty years since May 1968: The advances and retreats in the class struggle since 1968, International Review 161, p 13).

Nonetheless it’s indeed necessary to intervene in the manifestations even if their direction has already been decided by forces who shudder at the very idea that “the system is obsolete”. Intervene with articles like the one under discussion, and the leaflet based on it. Precisely because, as the article from the outset asserts the breadth of this movement is above all witness to the immense anger which eats away in the entrails of society and notably within the working class faced with the austerity of the Macron government.”

We all know the quote from Marx’s letter to Ruge: “We shall not say: Abandon your struggles, they are mere folly; let us provide you with true campaign-slogans. Instead, we shall simply show the world why it is struggling, and consciousness of this is a thing it must acquire whether it wishes or not.”  That seems to me the approach of the ICC’s article: to show clearly why the struggle has broken out, who is directing it and what the working class must become conscious of it is to succeed. Above all, it points to the need for the class to act as such – as a class, with its own methods of organisation. As Slothjabber points out, this is not the case at present, thus this is the primary need of the class struggle.

On the question of learning lessons through defeats, this too is harder when the movement appears to have succeeded: succeeded in pushing back the attacks of the state; succeeded in scrapping the fuel-price rises; succeeded in raising the minimum wage; succeeded in forcing the Government into a humiliating climb-down. Hoorah! But what is the lesson of all this? That the working class doesn’t need its own organs! Doesn’t need its assemblies and councils. Doesn’t need to control and extend its own movement. Doesn’t even need to recognise itself as a class… These temporary ‘victories’ (in reality, tactical retreats by the ruling class) have been bought at the price of a further depression of the development of class consciousness within the proletariat, however short-lived.

Re the violence witnessed in the events: again the article is clear: “Before anyone else, it's the forces of repression which are aggressive and provocative! On November 24 in Paris, tear-gas grenades were incessant, as were the charges of the CRS on groups of men and women marching peacefully along the Champs-Élysées.” There were also reports that (as in 2006) French cops donned yellow vests and smashed windows in order to blacken the movement and to provide pretexts for further repression, reports denied by the government as ‘fake news’. The widely circulating videos of police in the French regions encircling and beating schoolchildren are indeed sickening.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

On the question of learning lessons through defeats, this too is harder when the movement appears to have succeeded: succeeded in pushing back the attacks of the state; succeeded in scrapping the fuel-price rises; succeeded in raising the minimum wage; succeeded in forcing the Government into a humiliating climb-down. Hoorah! But what is the lesson of all this? That the working class doesn’t need its own organs! Doesn’t need its assemblies and councils. Doesn’t need to control and extend its own movement. Doesn’t even need to recognise itself as a class… These temporary ‘victories’ (in reality, tactical retreats by the ruling class) have been bought at the price of a further depression of the development of class consciousness within the proletariat, however short-lived.

I have a difficult time seeing this as a necessary conclusion. It could be the case, but I think the moment is more contingent than you suggest. The ICC has always made a distinction between the development of the combativity of the working class and its consciousness. At the very least, these events seem to demonstrate a increase in combativity, which although not enough in itself may be an important development compared to the electorlist expressions of wroking class anfer over the previous years channeld through populism: Trump, Brexit, etc. and even Macron marketed himself in a pseudo-populist way as a departure from the establishment consensus. This, of course, doesn't mean that populism as a kind of electoral recuperation of working class anger is over. The discrediting of Macron could lead the way for Le Pen, but it is also clear that there is a certain willingness to go beyond electoralist expression of anger. Of course, one has to ask compared to what? Compared to the Indignadoes, this movement likely looks more like a set-back, but compared to Occupy, its less clear: Occupy championed the assembly form, but in a highly refied way, and the movement itself was quite isolated, mixed and confused, regrouping only a small minority of the proletariat, along with all kinds of other elements: professional activists, etc.

But as the examples Slotbjabber posts, the consciousness expressed in the yellow vests movement is highly heterogenous, there are obviously certain nationalist elements present, and perhaps even a certain protectionist sentiment emanating from the bottom-up regarding the migrant issue, but there are also expressions of class anger and even calls for communism.

KT
Leaders or led?

Some pertinent issues raised by JK1921 above. The comrade is correct to draw out the distinction - as well as the dynamic, the relationship - between proletarian combativity and consciousness. A working class that can’t defend itself won’t make a revolution. Defensive, ‘economic’ struggles – against prices rises, taxes, etc, etc - are absolutely a precondition and possible fertile soil for the development of revolutionary consciousness within greater layers of the working class and should not be opposed to this potential process.

However, concretely, in the movement under discussion, it appears (to me at least) that other layers of the population – many of them no doubt ‘non-exploiting’ (that is apart, perhaps, from themselves and their families:  ie a certain strata of the petty bourgeoisie) - who are also combative, but whose ‘world view’, whose visions and actions are not those of the proletariat, dominate the ‘Yellow Vest movement to a determinant and detrimental degree.

Working class elements, individuals – who must at some stage have formed a majority of the Yellow Vest movement – were being led onto the streets by the actions and ideas of classes alien to their immediate and historic interests. This was and is not just expressed in the overt racism, nationalism or ‘reformism’ of certain highly influential groupings within the Yellow Vests.

JK asks if the anger and combativity in France is not an antidote to and an improvement upon the electoral populism of issues generated around Trump, Brexit, or Macron himself. But aren’t the major political aims of this Yellow Vest Movement – which has split into at least two if not three factions – precisely the replacement of Macron (through the electoral process) or the creation of some kind of electoral college to better represent ‘the people’, the ‘citizens’ of France? Just France, mind! The combativity exhibited (let’s not forget that of the 30s in France, behind the United Front) is precisely being channelled into ‘populist electoralism', if it wasn’t inspired by it in the first place, and isn’t a step beyond it, in my opinion.

There have been isolated attempts to counter the weight of inter-classism that has characterised this movement: a strike by some ambulance personnel (I know very few details); students denouncing the racism inherent in so much of the apparently non-existing’ leadership … but without its own organisation, without equipping itself with the means to combine both discussion and action, the working class as a class has been suppressed by and drowned in this movement, Wish it weren’t the case. Maybe it isn't in Hungary or Iran at present...

baboon
I agree with KT above. I

I agree with KT above. I support the ICC's position on the fact that nowhere has the working class suffered a profound ideological or physical defeat and its revolutionary potential remains intact, if presently weakened. But for political, historical and geographical reasons, a full mobilisation of the working class in France behind the petty-bourgeoisie would go someways towards being a serious blow to the working class and its revolutionary perspective.

I think that we have to be clear what the stakes are here; anger is never enough. The anger of many proletarians about similar issues in the United States, because it stayed at the level of anger, was easily manipulated by the Trump campaign using the figurehead of Hilary Clinton in much the same way that the personality of Macron is being targeted as the root of all ills.

The "combative", anti-state elements of the petty-bourgeosie today in France will, as the ICC points out elsewhere and as history has shown us, tomorrow become its most subservient and willing executioners of the proletariat..

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

JK asks if the anger and combativity in France is not an antidote to and an improvement upon the electoral populism of issues generated around Trump, Brexit, or Macron himself. But aren’t the major political aims of this Yellow Vest Movement – which has split into at least two if not three factions – precisely the replacement of Macron (through the electoral process) or the creation of some kind of electoral college to better represent ‘the people’, the ‘citizens’ of France? Just France, mind! The combativity exhibited (let’s not forget that of the 30s in France, behind the United Front) is precisely being channelled into ‘populist electoralism', if it wasn’t inspired by it in the first place, and isn’t a step beyond it, in my opinion.

There have been isolated attempts to counter the weight of inter-classism that has characterised this movement: a strike by some ambulance personnel (I know very few details); students denouncing the racism inherent in so much of the apparently non-existing’ leadership … but without its own organisation, without equipping itself with the means to combine both discussion and action, the working class as a class has been suppressed by and drowned in this movement, Wish it weren’t the case. Maybe it isn't in Hungary or Iran at present...

 

Many of these same things could be said about the council movement in Germany after WWI. Then, the radicalness of the forms of class combat didn't manifest itself fully in the class's consciousness, which is why despite the proliferation of the council form, the proletariat kept turning power back over to the social democrats. For the last half a decade plus, sectors of the working class have been quiet angry about their declining working and living conditions throughout much of the West, from where there is no place to migrate to (expcet maybe in retirement!), but it has manifested itself almost exclusively in electoralist phenomena. Now, there is an actual social movement, in which elements of the working class are present in the streets. At the very least this is a social revolt, on the order of some of the immediate responses to the outbreak of the Great Recession. But remember Occupy, which was seen imbued with some level of potential by the ICC, was itself recuperated into electoral processes--the second Obama campaign, but more directly in the Bernie Sanders campaign which took over Occupy's language about the 99 percent (could there be a more inter-clascist slogan than that?) and made it part of his Presidential campaign.

That the Yellow Vest Movement expresses some electoral demands to remove Macron and replace him with somebody else does not in and of itself say much about its ultimate dynamic or meaning. But what is the meaning in the fact that there are sectors of the proletariat not willing to wait for the next election to express their growign anger at the trajectory of life under capitalism? 

KT
I don't agree that the

I don't agree that the 'Yellow Vest' movement in France (now being copied and pasted for Germany, or at least that's the plan) has very much in common with the events of 1917-1919 in Germany, in content, context, depth or extent. 

 

d-man
"workerism"?

Whilst looking for the first use of the term "workerism" (found no results in Lenin text archive, so likely a modernist invention, in any case little useful), I stumbled on an ICC passage (from 2013), relevant to my above comments that the ICC's response to the 2011-ish protests was rather uncritical, unlike its sharply negative response to the yellow vests. Read it with a comparison to the yellow vests in mind: https://en.internationalism.org/international-review/201601/13794/appendix-2-workerism-and-economism

But we can also detect these [workerist] influences in certain analyses of the ‘social revolts’ which have been put forward within the left communist milieu (ICT, Devrim, but also within the ICC). The underlying emphasis of these analyses is to see all the movements of the past two years as ‘cross class’ or ‘inter-classist ’movements, and to identify strikes as the only ‘real’ class struggle (cf. the recent headline over an ICT article about the miners’ strikes in South Africa: ‘This is class war’ – as though other expressions of struggle were not). From a more obviously bourgeois standpoint of course there is also the ideological mystification which holds that the revolts in Spain, Brazil, Turkey etc are movements of the ‘middle class’.

In the phase of decomposition the employed sector of the working class certainly remains a crucial element in the development of a radical class movement; resistance, strikes and self-organisation beginning at the workplace will make an indispensable contribution to the growing capacity of the working class to sense its own power in society. But given the enormous weight of precarious working and permanent unemployment, the ‘real movement’ of today’s proletariat has no choice but to draw in those vast masses who are more or less excluded from the workplace: this is already the key to understanding why the principal social revolts of the last two years belong to the proletariat. As we said some time ago in our theses on unemployment, the unemployed may have lost the workplace, but they have gained the street.

There is another aspect to this problem which eludes an analysis limited by workerist spectacles. To a far greater extent than in the period 1968-89, the proletarian character of a movement, and its prospects of evolution, will be shown less in its sociological or economic character and more in its political character, in the extent to which ‘theory has gripped the masses’, in its capacity to locate the immediate struggle in the perspective of the revolution and communism. We can see this reflected in the question of demands. The outbreak of the movement in Turkey, for example, began around the defence of a small area of green in Istanbul, threatened by the insensate urban development projects which characterise a large part of the ‘growth’ of capitalist economies today. This was not at all the only factor in the explosion of the movement – the repression the state doled out to the original protesters was probably a far more potent element. But behind the concern for a small plot of green is the growing awareness of the ecological question, the dawning realisation that capitalism is incompatible with a sustainable interchange between humanity and nature. This kind of reaction is very different from the struggles of the 68-89 period, where there was a much wider divorce between ‘class issues’ (mainly economic demands) and largely petty bourgeois campaigns about the environment. It is a step towards the proletariat becoming what Lenin referred to as a tribune for humanity. We can see a similar development around the problem of violence against women and other ‘social’ questions".

Tagore2
Anyone whose standard of

Anyone whose standard of living is above average has an objective interest in maintaining inequality. Anyone whose standard of living is below average has an objective interest in equality.

Everything else is nonsense.

Ask for the standard of living of a yellow vest, and you'll know if he can be revolutionary or not. People do not make the revolution to shoot themselves in the foot.

Comunero
I'm not sure about that,

I'm not sure about that, Tagore. Surely a good number of excellent revolutionaries through history have lived "above the average standard of living", whatever that means. And surely a good number of lumpen and provocateurs lived well below that average, plus counter-revolutionaries of every possible kind. I don't think the proletariat, the revolutionary class,, can defined as "those who live below the standard of living".

Tagore2
This is the exception that

This is the exception that confirms the rule. Communism will drastically reduce inequalities, and the revolutionary period will reduce the standard of living for several years.

Only people below the average standard of living who really have nothing to lose will be truly revolutionary. There is a substantial minority, perhaps 1 billion people, for whom the revolution would mean a massive decline in their standard of living with no hope of recovery.

It's basic: people do not shoot themselves in the foot.

d-man
"workerism"? (cont.)

To continue my previous inquiry on the origin of term "workerism", it comes from the French 'ouvriérisme'. Judging from a search on GoogleBooks, the term took off in the early 1920s from bourgeois papers (by 1925 there's a mention in a socialist journal), however without a defined meaning. It could refer to a literary theme; in 1953 the communist novelist André Stil used the term in this literary sense. While in a 1953 issue of the PCF's La Nouvelle critique the term is pejoratively used to politically argue against those who stand in the way of forming alliances with the middle class and intellectuals in the fight for peace: "L'ouvriérisme, c'est l'aveu que la classe ouvrière est impuissante à faire alliance avec les classes moyennes et les intellectuels. L'ouvriérisme, c'est la capitulation devant les nécessités de l'union la plus large pour la défense de la paix."

In the early 1950s some (progressive) catholic Père Maydieu called it apparently an extremist ideology similar to nationalism. We find a prominent usage of the term by Ben Bella in 1962 (reported in English in 1965):

Condemning labour particularism, President Ben Bella applied the word ouvrièrisme to this socialist error. Self-interest being by definition anathema in a socialist society, he argued that labour as an associational interest grouping must give up its revendicatif role. This so-called atavistic trait is not unique to Algeria. Tunisian President Bourguiba used the Arabic equivalent of ouvrierisme, for example, when he addressed the UGTT Congress on 31 July 1965. President Nasser has also expressed himself on the subject.

In English the first time it appears in a 1958 newsletter by Brian Pearce:

Prolier than thou

In The Brothers Yershov [looks like an interesting novel btw], which I mentioned last week, we are shown how some fine, hard-headed, disciplined Workers rout some nasty, spineless, tortuous-minded Intellectuals who try to draw too many conclusions from the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party.

‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,’ said Dr Johnson. What the French call ‘ouvrierisme’ – the Cult of the Manual Worker – is always, the first refuge of the bureaucracy in the Labour movement, whether Stalinist or reformist, the Bevin type or the Pollitt type: ‘Out with your spanners, lads, and get bashing those egg-heads.’

This tactic served the leaders of the British Communist Party fairly well in 1956–57.

It has the disadvantage in the long run, however, of stirring up the class consciousness of the workers; in a period like the one we are in now, this means that the Pollitts arnd Gollans are digging a pit for themselves into which those who today are their most loyal supporters may-soon be disgustedly kicking them.

--

^ So here it is defined as "cult of the manual worker", an appeal by bureaucrats to the workers to pit them against the egg-heads (who in this context appear to be Krushchevites, ie more liberal-minded Stalinists), but which at the same time does have a radicalizing effect since it stirs up the class consciousness of the workers.

In 1958 it is still a rare term in English.

It seems that only after 1968 does the term come in wider use, but still with an undefined meaning.

The ICC's use of the term in the passage I quoted above shifts the focus on "humanity in general", issues such as ecology, violence against women, and other social questions, and street actions (not necessarily workplace).

It's a quite a wide-ranging political use, and so I think the term should be used with great care, or preferrably not at all.

This is relevant to the yellow vests, because for example on libcom a text by MC was denounced (by Red Marriott) as workerist because it dismissed the street protests as not occurring in stereotypical industrial bastions. A cheeky person could denounce the ICC's take on the yellow vests as "workerist", just as the ICC did toward the ICT/Devrim for their take on the 2011ish protest wave.

 

 

baboon
I agree that workerism

I agree that workerism represents a limitation on the workers' movement and a break with its revolutionary perspective. But on the last few paragraphs of D-man above I haven't seen the ICC call the yellow vest movement "workerist". Where is that? The 2011 wave of protest, for all its weaknesses, contained many positive elements particularly in the areas of discussion and organisation involving workers from all areas. Aside the demonstrations and protests there were also a number of large-scale and important strikes. Though beaten back, and sections of the working class and the oppressed paid heavily with their lives, this movement had tendencies towards a positive cohesion with internationalist expressions - the "Gilets Jaunes" movement goes in the opposite direction.

The CWO?ICT has just published another text on the "Gilets Jaunes" movement. Despite its formal analysis of the weakness of the working class and in line with its previous publications on the issue, it draws positive conclusions from it that go straight from a disorganised, directionless citizenry to the necessity for the international party; there is nothing about the need for proletarian discussion and organisation - except the Party of course. It's no accident that the text equates the high point of the "Gilets Jaunes" movement so far with the France of 1789.

d-man
misunderstood

"I agree that workerism represents a limitation on the workers' movement and a break with its revolutionary perspective."

That wasn't my point at all, to be clear. It's a very vague term, that I think should be rejected. It even reminds me of the term "class reductionism", used by the identity politics crowd.

"I haven't seen the ICC call the yellow vest movement "workerist". Where is that?"

No, I said a naughty person could call the ICC's own take on the yellow vests "workerist" (thereby I indicate the loose uses this vague term allows for). The ICC called the ICT/Devrim's criticism of the 2011 protests (which pointed to its inter-class nature) "workerist". Of course there were workers on the street in 2011 (and even strikes, which is just natural also for mere bourgeois revolutions/protests). But then the same can be said today in France, yet the ICC, in its "workerist" mood, denounces the yellow vests as a dead-end. There is a call for an AG this Thursday evening in Paris: https://www.facebook.com/events/2374959009203622/

Alf
how about....

How about "Economism", the idea that the class struggle is limited to the immediate conflict between worker and employer? I believe that Lenin used this term a few times. 

A good example of workerism: Proletkult in Russia, which tended to exalt the workers they appear within this society, not in terms of their historic becoming, their communist future. https://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_proletkult

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

I don't agree that the 'Yellow Vest' movement in France (now being copied and pasted for Germany, or at least that's the plan) has very much in common with the events of 1917-1919 in Germany, in content, context, depth or extent. 

 

The point was that even at the height of the revolutionary wave, the proletariat's combativeness may have outperformed its consciousness.

I think we need to be careful not to commit the "No True Scotsman" fallacy here and suggest that because a certain kind of consciounsess is present that in itself means the movement is not "proletarian." It seems to me that whaetver the confusions and the manipulations, this movement (and perhaps more to follow) are reflections of the times we are in. The class is not sure what it is for anymore, but it thinks it knows what it is against: the same old neo-liberal paradigm, pushed by all the mainstream parties of the bourgeous apparatus. This may momentarily legitimate whatever bourgeois political expressions can best present themselves as "outside" the consensus, from whatever political flavor, but at the very least there is a certain combativeness present that consciousness perhaps rather confoundingly, but also rather predictably, lags.

d-man
Proletkult was for the

Proletkult was for the creation of a new proletarian culture, not a cult to existing proletarian habits, ie backward anti-gay, sexist or racist sentiments. Economism is a well-know term from Lenin, and it apparently is associated with "workerism" (given how vague the latter term is, this is no surprise). Like I said workerism is used by idpol-ists also to mean "class reductionism", as for example Ernie Haberkern in 1994 testifies:

It is this thesis [ie that capitalism had solved its economic problems – C. Wright Mills, Daniel Bell and Irving Howe made such an argument in the late ’50s and early ’60s] that still dominates the thinking of the left even though the social and political conditions that made it seem plausible have long since disappeared. Behind phrases like “workerism” and “class reductionism” lies this obsolete assumption. In the ’60s, most radicals and liberals – the ”New Left” – saw a mass movement, the civil rights movement, driven by the grievances of a minority oppressed, apparently, by non-economic, culturally-determined prejudices. Racism seemed a cultural phenomenon pure and simple. The same analysis was applied to the later movements for an end to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. The hidden conclusion – hidden for most members of the New Left though not for Mills, Bell or Howe – was that socialism was a chimera. Reform the existing society by spreading its benefits around.

--

I believe Lenin's fight against Economism is turned by some into advocacy of identity politics. Or environmentalism (as in ICC's defence of the Gezi park protests). Did Lenin accuse the Economists of pandering to backward working class racists/sexists, that is exalting the existing workers' culture, or of creating a cult of the manual worker? I don't think so, but I'm open to be proven wrong.

Perhaps hipsters can be called "workerist" because they like to wear newsboy caps and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, but it's not a serious category IMHO (and like I said, in English it only came into use in the 1970s).

 

baboon
The movement contnues with

The movement contnues with not much sign of any proletarian tendency appearing from the morass - on the contrary. The theoretical basis of many anarchists, libertarians and, to some extent, the CWO on this movement (parachute in the Party), is that there are a lot of angry workers involved. That's undeniable but there were a lot of angry workers involved in the election of Trump, a lot of angry workers behnd the Italian 5-Star movement,a lot of angry workers behind the support of Brexit. Nationalism, the down-trodden citizen, anti-immigrant, walls and barriers are just as much factors in the "gilet jaunes" movement as in all the other populist movements around the world.
Again on the "trap" for the workers in France; you could say that anything short of a revolution is a trap, as jk does above, but that doesn't take you anywhere and it's not historically accurate either. The bourgeoisie hasn't deliberately laid it (the "gilet jaunes" movement, like its counter-parts in the US, Britain and Italy is particularly strong on "conspiracy theories") but it exists in these dangerous conditions for the working class. There's a left/right pincer movement along with a legal/illegal approach with the dynamic towards a "Citizen's Initiative Referendum" (RIC) becoming stronger. The far-right has been behind this movement for years ever since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in France over ten years ago. And this movement is clearly gearing up to the May 2019 European elections and the French municipal election of 2020. In the meantime some of the leaders of the movement like Eric Drouet and others have been extolling the merits of the "Ukranian Revolution", where anarchism again meets the far right. Also anarchists and some left-communists have been depicting as "proletarian" the occupation of roundabouts and the stopping and harassement of "foreigners" (they obviously don't mention the latter)
The "direct action" anarchists have another problem which is their "direct actions" against various institutions acts as an adjunct to the right wing of the movement, effectively supporting the latter and contributing to its anti-Macron "struggle of the people".

 

jk1921
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

Again on the "trap" for the workers in France; you could say that anything short of a revolution is a trap, as jk does above, but that doesn't take you anywhere and it's not historically accurate either.

That's the exact opposite of what I said.

baboon
Above, jk21 December 8, "Is

Above, jk21 December 8, "Is it still a trap if the proletarian class elements participating in this learn from the experience. It seems everything short of the revolution itself could be called a trap".  This goes along similar lines as jk's "it seems that the working class doesn't struggle on its own terrain until it struggles on its own terrain". The real political difference here is that jk, as many others, continue to see this yellow-vest movement as a "genuine class response" (jk21 above).

The same class response continued today with Act XI and it's not from the proletariat. The right-wing Eric Drouet and other social media leaders of the "gilet jaunes" are now planning boycotts of some multi-national businesses (obviously not Facebook) and supermarkets as well as blocking refineries and shopping centres. There are further plans being organised by other leaders for all of France to hold hands in sympathy.

But in another example  of how the recurring theme of right meets left in this movement of the "gilets jaunes" expresses itself, Drouet and others in the movement have proposed the resurrection of the 2016 protests against labour laws called "Nuit Debout" ("stand up in the night"). This movement at the time was already a travesty of the anti-CPE youth movement and that of the Indignados that it claimed a false affinity with. "Nuit Debout" was another 'reinvention of politics' so beloved of anarchism and some elements of left communism today. It was an anti-elitist movement of the left which had its ideological roots in the democracy of 1789. There was no continuity with the Indignados but there is plenty of continuity with it and the "gilet jaunes" movement today. "Nuit Debout" was also lauded as a "spontaneous" and an "apolitical" expression of the working class when it was set up by the left and extreme-left with the aim of "permanent citizen's assemblies". This movement, like the "gilets jaunes" of today is not an expression of a "genuine class response" but symbolic of the present weakness of the working class.

jk1921
I think it was pretty clear

I think it was pretty clear my earlier comment was meant as a criticism of the overly-Machiavellian sentiment that everything short of a certain standard is a "trap," not an endorsement of the idea that everything short of the revolution is a trap. But the focus on this concept of a trap seems a semantic diversion. It may be a useful device in a concrete intervention in the struggle, but it is much less useful in an objective analysis of the dynamic of the current juncture, I think.

As far as right meeting left today: Yes, there is much of that going on. I am not even sure what those distinctions mean anymore today. At the very least, today they exist among a number of other political contradictions in bourgeois ideology and they seem to be losing their central place as the main contradiction in bourgeois politics: insider vs. outsider, globalist vs. localist, sub-altern vs. privlieged, woke vs. deplorable, etc. seem to be as much, if not even more important nodal points of bourgeois ideology today. Heck, there was even a recent piece from a serious journalist declaring Trump the most leftist President the US has had in recent times.

But, simply because certain "right-wing" ideas emerge in the course of a struggle, doesn't mean the struggle itself is not proletarian in sense of emerging from the proletarian class in the course of its spontaneous response to capitalist society. That's the classic "No true Scotman," fallacy. We can still debate about whether or not this is true of the Yellow Vests, but that would raise more thorny questions about the very possibility of non-proletarian "social movements," reactionary social movements, etc.

But it seems to me the task is to analyze the overall dynamic of the social situation today. Where are we today, versus where were we at some point in the past. if you judge the Yeloow Vests against the recent history of populist electoral victories, you might come to one conclusion, if you judge them agaisnt the Indignados or May 1968, you would come to another.

Others have remarked on the apparent disconnect between the ICC's analysis of the Arab Spring, Occupy, etc. on the one hand and the Yellow Vests movement on the other. That could be another point to focus the dicussion going forward.

baboon
V

V
Jk says that, if I understand it correctly, the very possibility of non-proletarian social movements and reactionary social movements are "thorny questions". Of course such movements are possible: religious, nationalist, democratic, ethnic and populist. The yellow-vests movement is such a movement with elements from different areas that combine to give it a clearly anti-proletarian force. It is riddled through with French nationalism, from 1789 to the anti-fascist Resistance; it was sparked off by conspiracy theorists and racists on social media, who then rode on the back of the protests of the citizenry, which including a majority of the working class, to formulate their various anti-elitist, anti-Macron strategies which attracted both the right and the left wing elements of the bourgeoisie including Marie Le Pen, leftist political structures and the trade unions. As they did in Ukraine, elements of anarchism, its black blocs particularly, play the role of auxilleries in the "struggle" to the far-right. Both elements of left and right have been active in intimidating dissenting views and the "proletarian" roundabout occupations have been launching pads for racist harassment and abuse.
The ICC has laid out in some length the weaknesses of the movement of what's loosely called the "Arab Spring" but there is no comparison with that movement to that of the yellow-vest which, as it has since the beginning, moved in a direction that is againsts the interests of the working class. The question of a large sector of the  working class subsumed into the citizens of France has drawn the curious answer from the CWO about the necessity for the Party.

 

d-man
It was already clear that in

It was already clear that in the ICC's asessment the "Arab spring" moved in the direction that is in the interests of the working class, whereas the Yellow vests moves in the direction of fascism. The question is what standard/criteria do you use? For example the mainstream politicians pretty much agreed with the ICC's evaluation, regardless of criteria: "Arab spring" (and Gezi park etc) celebrated, yellow vests condemned. It's not insightful (or practically useful – but let's leave that one aside) when there is no perspective offered on the themes/demands and context. And what perspective is offered in case of yellow vests? Class "identity"? Okay, would be fine. Do it then: put out an article that teaches workers currently in the yellow vests movement about the concrete meaning of class independence. That would be insightful for everyone. For example the WSWS has intervened to stress the necessity of internationalism, of avoiding the bear-hug of the unions and leftist parties. But you will say it is impossible to intervene in the yellow vests, despite the fact that one of the key demands is about equality and living standards.

Let's take anoter case, where the ICC does find it possible to intervene: in the Brussels climate protests by students going on. Here the ICC published (in French) a quite warm note, fully understanding the students' worry about climate change and the street action against politicians. It put forward the need to link the theme of ecology to the struggle against capitalism, and provides two ICC texts on ecology for deeper perspective. This is a pretty normal response you would expect from ICC or any leftists organization, but it's okay. What the ICC didn't say was that the student protests is being taking over by various bourgeois politicians, like the Green party, and even the Liberal party can get behind it, and will like Macron in France propose a neoliberal anti-working class solution. If the ICC were consistent with its criteria (re:the yellow vests), then it should strongly condemn these students' climate protests as submerging the proletariat into one big "people" neither left nor right, since the bourgeois media tells us that climate change effects all people.

baboon
Had a bit of trouble with the maths question

"But you will say it is impossible to intervene in the yellow vests, despite the fact that one of the key demands is about equality and living standards", says d-man.

Two things don't sit right here:
First, the key demands, all of them, come from an anti-elist populism that was reactionary from the outset. No one has ever denied the justifiable anger of workers but the dynamic for this movement and it's "demands" come from right-wing elements of the petty-bourgeosie and the bourgeoisie itself.
Second, the assumption made by d-man that the ICC will say that "it is impossible to intervene in the yellow-vests" is based on no evidence at all - it's just wishful thinking. The ICC has intervened in the movement; it has produced and distributed texts, engaged in discussion on the streets and with workers. It has held public meetings.

I haven't read the texts on the climate issue but to equate this with the yellow-vests is similar to that equating the latter with the Indignados; it's an attempt to give the yellow-vest some proletarian credibility through a tenuous proxy. At any rate, climate change is an issue that's of concern to the proletariat and particularly its new generations. To protest against these threats from capitalism, recuperated or not, is not to support nationalism and xenophobia.

jk1921
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

V
Jk says that, if I understand it correctly, the very possibility of non-proletarian social movements and reactionary social movements are "thorny questions". Of course such movements are possible: religious, nationalist, democratic, ethnic and populist.

In what sense are these things "social movements," if they are entirely contained within the perspective of bourgeois politics? In decadent captialism, in which civil society has been nearly totally (or totally, I am not entirely sure) swamped by the state, what space is there for a non-proletarian social movement? It seems something is either a real social movement that challenges captialist relations in some way or it is an effect of the state. Which one is the Yellow Vests?

jk1921
baboon wrote:

baboon wrote:

I haven't read the texts on the climate issue but to equate this with the yellow-vests is similar to that equating the latter with the Indignados; it's an attempt to give the yellow-vest some proletarian credibility through a tenuous proxy. At any rate, climate change is an issue that's of concern to the proletariat and particularly its new generations. To protest against these threats from capitalism, recuperated or not, is not to support nationalism and xenophobia.

Again, you are judging the social signifigance of a movement by political critieria. To say that climate change is an issue important to the proletariat is meaningless if the proletariat is not in fact all that concerned about climate change. But to assume a priori that it must be, means that any movement that emerges around this issue must have a proletairan character. Essentially, what it seems to come down to for you, is if there is any hint of "racism," and "xenophobia," in a social movement, it can't possibly emerge from the proletariat or have a "proletarian character," regardless of whatever actual proletarians think about these issues. There is more than a bit of circular logic here.

Alf
social movements

Some of the posts here seem to impy that we were full of uncritical enthusiasm about the movements of the Arab spring, in contrast to our attitude to the yellow vests. In fact in 2011 we tried to be as precise as possible about these movements, which included pointing out that some of them reflected a greater influence of the proletariat and its methods than others:    

"The class nature of these movements is not uniform and varies from country to country and according to different phases. On the whole, however, we can characterise them as movements of the non-exploiting classes, social revolts against the state. The working class has, in general, not been in the leadership of these rebellions but it has certainly had a significant presence and influence which can be discerned both in the methods and forms of organisation thrown up by the movement and, in certain cases, by the specific development of workers’ struggles, such as the strikes in Algeria and above all the major wave of strikes in Egypt which were a key factor in the decision to dump Mubarak (and which we have written about in these pages). In the majority of these countries, the proletariat is not the only oppressed class. The peasantry, and other strata deriving from even older modes of production, although largely fragmented and ruined by decades of capitalist decline, still have a weight in the rural areas, while in the cities, where the revolts have always been centred, the working class exists alongside a large middle class which is on the road towards proletarianisation but still has its specific features, and a mass of slum dwellers who are made up partly of proletarians and partly of small traders and more lumpenised elements. Even in Egypt, which has the most concentrated and experienced working class, eyewitnesses in Tahrir Square emphasised that the protests had mobilised “all classes”, with the exception of the upper echelons of the regime. In other countries the weight of the non-proletarian strata has been much stronger than it has been in the majority of struggles in the central countries". https://en.internationalism.org/ir/145/what-is-happening-in-the-middle-east

We have applied a similar method to recent social movements. In our view, the methods of the school students in Belgium and elsewhere may not be a definite movement of the working class (unlike the anti-CPE movement of 2006 which was a direct response to an attack on the proletariat), but it certainly does show a proletarian influence which is almost entirely lacking in the yellow vest demonstrations - the use of the strike, the avoidance of pointless clashes with the police, and, as comrades have already noted, a strong tendency to go beyond national divisions. And we would add that a deep concern for the future of humanity is indeed consistent with the nature of the proletariat, which is precisely the class which holds the future in its hands. It may well be, in fact, that the recovery of class identity (or if you prefer, the proletarians' consciousness of themselves as a class...) will indeed tend to have a very strong political dimension and will be obliged to take up issues like the threat to our environment for which capitalism clearly has no answer.  

baboon
 Jk says that my position is

 Jk says that my position is that "if there is any hint of "racism," and "xenophobia," in a social movement, it can't possibly emerge from the proletariat or have a "proletarian character,..." That's not what I said at all, nothing like it. In some strikes in Britain a few years ago there were definite "hints of racism and xenophobia", but their (minority) context was within a proletarian struggle that, among other things, was largely self-organised and implicitly against the unions and the law - the weaknesses of these struggles didn't negate their strengths. It's always the content.

I assume you are referring to the "hints or racism and xenophobia" in the "gilets jaunes" movement; these are not "hints" in this movement - it is riddled with it and the elements of pogromism that it's given rise to. The movement wasn't instigated by the bourgeoisie but it was instigated by right-wing and reactionary elements; that's its indisputable genesis and its present marque. This social movement wasn't instigated by the bourgeoisie, although it's jumped on the bandwagon, but by elements of the petty-bourgeoisie through social media. It wasn't constructed by the bourgeoisie but is an emanation of putrefying capitalism.

This is not a proletarian movement but a populist movement with strong racist undertones and open expressions of xenophobia. Where's the organisation of the proletariat underneath the tricolore and the national anthem? On the roundabouts where the right French faces are let through and foreigners stopped - it's like the check points that militias of the right and left set up in peripheral countries. I've seen some Yellow-Vest-wearing workers on roundabouts and they didn't agree with the racial harassment but their isolation on a concrete island being choked with fumes was something of a metaphor for their hopeless situation. And then there's the anti-fascists, the new Resistance, intimidating anyone making the mildest criticisms of the Yellow-Vests including burning down one guy's restaurant and calling him a "fascist". This is the left wing, the anti-fascist wing, auxillaries to the right and using the very methods of fascism in the "struggle" of the movement. There have been just a few reports I know, but the atmosphere is the same as Brexit and we know that racial attacks and assaults rapidly spiked. To get an idea of the putrid nature of the atmosphere of this movement you need only look at the "international" expressions of the "gilets jaunes": racist, xenophobic, violent, and nationalist.

Where's the proletarian content to this movement?

Again on content, I think that we can point to some elements of positive content in the school strikes and demonstrations over climate change.

baboon
True to their democratic

True to their democratic/citizenry form,some of the organisers of the "gilets jaunes" are actively preparing for the European elections on May 26. Inevitably and predictably, the movement has splintered into more than several elements with those for and against participation (leader, co-founder and right-winger, Benjamin Cauchy against) and between the factions that are enrolling onto the electoral lists.  There are three of the latter so far, with the latest that of Thierry Paul Valette, author, comedian and founder of "national equality" and organiser of demonstrations in Paris. Another faction is led by retired commercial director, Patrick Cribouw, active in the south in organising demonstrations and roundabout occupations. He's written about immigration and French sovereignty, denied he's close to Marine Le Pen, and has set up an electoral group called "union jaunes". He was one of the main figures responsible for the "list of demands" that, for some reason, the CWO seems to regard as a positive development.

There are others of a similar ilk organising for the elections, with backgrounds rooted within the petty-bourgeoisie but all of them consistently for French citizens, democracy and anti-Macron. There can only be more fractionation among these element but one effect may be that in splitting off the left/centre/right vote in the coming elections they will strengthen the position of Macron.

Meanwhile, in further signs of tension between France and Italy over the latters' populist government meeting pro-election standing Yellow-Vests, a whole diplomatic row has broken out. The populist Italian leaders met leaders of the "gilets jaunes" movement in Paris, including Cristophe Chalencon, blacksmith, racist and organiser of Yellow-Vest events in the Vaucluse region and Ingrid Levavesseur, an unemployed teaching assistant from rural northern France, who was active in social media organising and wants "to bring the roundabout challenge to Brussels". The meeting between these, others and the 5-star movement was, the latter said, in "total agreement".  However, other Yellow-Vest leaders were not invited to the meeting including the right-wing Eric Drouet, Maxime Nicolle, conspiracy theorist and one of the first leaders and organisers of the movement and Priscilla Ludosky, businesswoman and one of the early main participants, along with Drouet, of social media organising. She later fell out with Drouet maybe over her meeting government figures. All of this reactionary and motely crew, whether meeting the Italians or not, for European elections or not, are united in their concern for the citizens of France and the needs of French capital.

d-man
Alf, there's no point in

Alf, there's no point in denying the ICC's different 'levels of enthusiasm' (wrt to 2011 and yellow vests). Baboon selects wretched aspects of the yellow vests, which is all very good, but in the 2011 protests in Lbyia I recall there were pogroms against blacks (or conspiracy theories like that Jewish texts were found at some Qaddafi place), and in Bahrain Asian migrant workers were run over by car. You say the Italian minister met with yellow vests, very well, but also remember the salafist, Muslim brotherhood, states like Turkish and Aljazeera support for the protests. Further, Alf says that the yellow vests should avoid confrontations with the police (as if the yellow vests seek them out); and the Egyptian protesters, did they not clash with police?

But this discrepancy isn't due to some evolution of ICC orientation over time. In fact baboon, the same person is defending now the street protests in Iraq (against criticism from Int. Voice), saying the workplace is a trap, and street protests are good. Reading baboon's text I just remembered the news report about the Iraq protesters wearing yellow vests (in a gesture to the French protests) and Egyptian government pre-emptively banning the sale of yellow vests.

Like I already said, the bourgeois seems to better understand the class nature of the yellow vests than the ICC. which is still stuck on the (mainstream) intitial mode of reprehension.

baboon
There's been a breakthrough

There's been a breakthrough according to this week's Socialist Worker: "The movement took a massive step upwards (on Tuesday) by linking up with strikers..." The CGT and some other unions, including some of the schoolchildren, called some brief strikes, with a unity call with the Yellow-Vests. The CGT, for the first time, invited Yellow-Vests to join the Red-Vest (limited) strike. Fabrice Angei, Secretary of the CGT, said that despite differences the two sides could come together for "nationwide" issues. There were other workers joining actions of the Yellow-Vests in other parts of France. From what I saw they were mostly blockades with the tricolores above them. The unions, like the left, have had to jump on the bandwagon but the idea that this movement can work together is delirious. There are major differences not only between the left and right wings, but within the Yellow-Vest movement itself. The only thing that is giving it any political cohesion is that it's against Macron, it's against the elite, it's populist.

D-man's "wretched aspects" of the Yellow-Vest movement is a variation on jk's "hints of racism..." in the movement. It is absolutely clear who the originators and organisers of the movement were and what they are turning into and to talk about "worse aspects" and "hints" without confronting its real content is misleading. Another misleading methodology is to say the ICC said this about this, so it must say that about that. I'm all for consistency and deepening but all of these situations are obviously not the same regarding content and dynamic and an amalgamation of everything doesn't take you far.

At any rate, I think that the latter critical approach: "you said this, so you must say that", is devoid of method but more than that is just a smokescreen over and a diversion away from the real issue of the class nature of the "gilets jaunes".

d-man
I'm not downplaying the

I'm not downplaying the wretched aspects now (and btw the WSWS too has warned against the attempt of cooptation by the trade-unions), just that you/ICC downplayed them in 2011. Like I said, the initial Tunisian protests were started from a street vendor (so if you will also a 'businessman') setting himself on fire (not a proletarian method of struggle). Apparently he belonged to an important famliy, and so the initial protestors induced by his act had some social influence, moreover, he had been humiliated/reprimanded by a female policewoman. The presence of national flags and focus on the resignation of the president/leader were there, which you admit and say to have criticised: fine, let it be so, then we have no reason to argue, but I still think your level of enthusiasm was quite different, that's all, and your justification for this difference is not fleshed out (except to vaguely say that different things are different things).

KT
‘Enthusiasm’ or Analysis?

D-Man is quite correct. ICC’s has said different things about the extensive, contradictory, self-consciously internationalist movement of 2008-2011 to that of the current Yellow Vests episode in France. Quite right too!

The issue here is not one of ‘enthusiasm’ but of analysis. 2008 is not 2019. And France is not Libya.

First I must ask if D-Man suffers bad eyesight or bad faith.

First he implies that the ICC would not deign to intervene towards the proletarians, towards the population as a whole, embroiled in the Yellow Vest movement when quite plainly it had devoted a great deal of time, energy and at some risk doing just that, including a nationally-distributed leaflet which also appeared on the front pages of the website in French, English and no doubt in other languages if you didn’t receive a copy on the streets of Paris, Toulouse, Marseilles or elsewhere in France. And when this error is pointed out to D-Man, there’s absolutely no acknowledgement from him that he’s turned reality on its head. I will return to this issue of the ICC’s intervention in the YV (or GJ) movement.

Next, in post #44 above, D-Man implies that the ICC was ‘enthusiastic’ over the events in Libya (as part of the 2008-2011 movement) – Baboon selects wretched aspects of the yellow vests, which is all very good, but in the 2011 protests in Lbyia (sic) I recall there were pogroms against blacks (or conspiracy theories like that Jewish texts were found at some Qaddafi place)” – when in fact what the ICC at the time asked concerning events in Libya was:  But why has the situation in Libya been so different to that in Tunisia and Egypt?” https://en.internationalism.org/wr/342/libya Again, D-Man reads what he wants to find in the ICC’s texts and practice, not what it actually said and did. Why is this?

Neither is the issue one of how movements started (we all know or should become acquainted with father Gapon and Russia in 1905) nor whether proletarians are involved (as they are at football matches, or in church, or in riots and looting).

The question is firstly one of proletarian methods of organisation (discussions, street assemblies, the self-organisation – at least in embryo – of the class through collective decision-making and revocable delegates, not individual text initiatives, and its deployment of the strike weapon and the avoidance of futile and harmful provocations with the state apparatus, all linked to a consciousness of the class acting for itself as a class. All these elements were painfully absent in the recent movement in France while at certain moments in particular places, they were evident in the movement of 2008-2011. The issue is one of the proletarian terrain.

I’ll return to the centrality of France in proletarian history and the ICC’s intervention there over the past 40-plus years in a subsequent post.

d-man
"First he implies that the

"First he implies that the ICC would not deign to intervene towards the proletarians, towards the population as a whole, embroiled in the Yellow Vest movement when quite plainly it had devoted a great deal of time, energy and at some risk doing just that"

^No, to the extent that the ICC's message is to radicalise the movement to the left (towards internationalism, towards workers' committees, warning against tailing leftist parties, etc), it would be, for all practical purposes, doing the same work as the 'enthusiastic' WSWS does. But then the ICC would see at least a possible positive evolution of the yellow vests. But given that the ICC's message rejects that premise, it intervenes only in the sense of putting it down, which, if it is true that the YV are a reactionary movement, is a justified course.

" proletarian methods of organisation (discussions, street assemblies "

^There are assemblies eg Lyon as someone on SocialistFight (Trot) reports and elsewhere. But the problem, like also was the case with Occupy (etc.), for now is that they are general talk shops, with not much real decisions being made. Besides, as was pointed out, these assemblies can be easily taken over/dominated by reformists/bureacrats. What's new.

KT
Rot

“No, to the extent that the ICC's message is to radicalise the movement to the left (towards internationalism, towards workers' committees, warning against tailing leftist parties, etc)…!

Oh dear. D-Man gets it wrong again. It might be amusing if this wasn’t a really serious moment which demands a proper discussion amongst internationalists about the nature of the Yellow Vests movement – a discussion which is in danger of being drowned here by a wanton disregard for what's actually been done and said by the ICC.

Why on earth should/would the ICC’s message be to radicalise a movement which it says is not on the proletarian terrain? Can you ‘radicalise’ an expression of populism – the epitome of capitalist decomposition – into a proletarian movement? The ICC would say not. Never.

Perhaps it’s because D-Man didn’t realise that the ICC had intervened widely on the subject of the Yellow Vests movement that he then has to invent what it did actually say (that he’d never actually read, like .. cos … he didn’t know it was there …) … Ludicrous.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Fess up to knee jerking and engage with the real discussion. Read the ICC leaflet which, as befits its analysis of the situation, in no way attempts to ‘radicalise’ what can’t be radicalised (ie a petty-bourgeois, inter-classist movement) but which situates the moment in the global and historical context, the retreat of class consciousness within the proletariat as a whole, and points out, in general, what the class has to do if it is to translate unconscious anger and resentment (expressed widely today in Zimbabwe, in Sudan, in Hungary and, yes, in France) into a an effective response to bourgeois austerity and decomposition. This is, as befits the role of revolutionaries today, a general orientation, not an immediate demand or a pious hope that an inter-classist movement can achieve these aims.

For D-Man, the self-organisation of the working class, its assemblies, its councils, is just not good enough. “These assemblies can be easily taken over/dominated by reformists/bureacrats. What's new.”  

Assemblies, councils, soviets would be nice. Forgive us if we don’t see them arising in France at present. Does D-Man see something different? Convince us!

I had wanted to say something about the international nature of the proletariat (arising from the global extension of capitalist social relations) and, within the context of the (still) uneven development of capital, the preponderant weight (still) of  the ‘old centres’ in Europe and of France (along with Germany) in particular. The Paris Commune.  May ’68, etc. I’m talking here of the experience, the knowledge, the lived world of the proletariat.

It’s where the ICC was centred – not a ‘Eurocentric view’ (the comrades came from Russia, via Palestine, via France, via South America) but a Marxist understanding of the specificities of capitalist development within a global overview. What the ICC - a minority of the working class, produced by the historical experience of the working class – says about the movement in France may be up for debate. May even be wrong. But, please, first of all recognise that it made a very specific intervention, based on over 40 years expereince; deal with what it actually says. And give it due weight.

d-man
"Perhaps it’s because D-Man

"Perhaps it’s because D-Man didn’t realise that the ICC had intervened widely on the subject of the Yellow Vests movement"

^I thought we usually understand by "intervene" an attempt to "radicalise/improve". I fully know that ICC's "intervention" isn't to radicalise the YV, as I said:  "But given that the ICC's message rejects that premise [of a possible positive evolution of the yellow vests], it intervenes only in the sense of putting it down". This is just a statement of fact, not yet judgement. Fine if you want to use the word "intervene" in the sense of condemning/rejecting a movement, my point stands, namely that you find it impossible to "radicalise" the YVs. But apparently you (despite the difficulty) just still manage to "intervene" in the sense of opposing it.

"Read the ICC leaflet"

^To which I repeat my earlier post:

"And what perspective is offered in case of yellow vests? Class "identity"? Okay, would be fine. Do it then: put out an article that teaches workers currently in the yellow vests movement about the concrete meaning of class independence. That would be insightful for everyone. For example the WSWS has intervened to stress the necessity of internationalism, of avoiding the bear-hug of the unions and leftist parties."

Judging from the disagreement I enounter from you, I should conclude that the ICC, unlike the WSWS, does not recommened the following "pious/immediate" demands to the workers among the YVs: beware of leftists parties and the unions, create workers' committees, take an international perspective, etc. Apparently that is not an effective response to the bourgeoisie. You say that the ICC leaflet instead speaks about the general situation, gives a general orientation, that class consciousness is in retreat. Ok, so you're trying to teach (in your view) quasi-fascist workers that what they're doing isn't real class struggle and things don't look good for the future. I repeat, I don't find this informative or insightful. I hear you asking: what would be helpful/informative then according to me? I already gave the example of the ICC's recent intervention among the Brussels climate change protests: the ICC linked to two in-depth texts on ecology, and, in nice pedagogic tone, said to connect the struggle against pollution etc with the struggle against capitalism. It's nothing spectacular, I know, but it suffices for an intervention. (I then contrasted with how the response to the climate protesters would have looked if it was done one the same basis of your response to the YVs).

 

"Assemblies, councils, soviets would be nice. Forgive us if we don’t see them arising in France at present. Does D-Man see something different? Convince us!"

I already mentioned the report-backs by a guy on the SocialistFight website on Lyons, and earler I linked to the one of Paris (Commercy I think, it was videod and commented on even by WSWS critically).

baboon
As d-man sqirms around trying

As d-man sqirms around trying to bend the definition of "intervene" to cover up his ignorance of the ICC's response to the YV movement, he makes even more odious and inappropriate comparisons to rubbish the ICC's views. It would make the discussion clearer - and there is nothing clear about d-man's positions - if he gave us his political analysis of the movement.

 

An Ifop poll in France, published in the Telegraph today, showed that 46% of gj's thought that immigration is deliberately being orchestrated by an elite to replace Europeans (in relation to a fifth of the general population). 62% believe that the pharma industry is covering up the harmful effects vaccines. Forty-four percent believe that there's a planetry Zionist plot ("Juden" was daubed on a bagel shop in Paris' Jewish quarter during Act XIII) and 42% voted for Le Pen. These views accord with the known organisers and leaders of the movement. This is not to "teach quasi-fascist workers" as d-man says above, again putting false words into the mouths of the ICC and its sympathisers, but to point to the dangers of petty-bourgeois populism.

d-man
I'm not sure what the sense

I'm not sure what the sense is in intervening in a petty-bourgeois movement by pointing to the dangers of a petty-bourgeois movement. If the intervention would criticise said petty-bourgeois ideas, than you might have some more effect, but this entails that you're attempting to convince people for your ideas (instead of eg like the anti-fascists forcefully driving out the fash), and so that you do harbour hope of being able to radicalise people. But that's apparently not your intent.

As for "my" political analysis of the movement, I pointed out that what you say about the dangers of the YVs was already said about the 2011 protests by others back then, but their warnings were a bit dismissed by you. I'm not dimissing your warnings about the YVs now, for me it's just confirmation/continuance of the "pessimist" outlook I adhere to. But in the present context with the YVs, to be openly against them requires no swimming against the tide, it is tail-ending the government/media narrative (and leftist reaction was the same reprehension, even libcom didn't report on the YVs at first and their twitter-account initially viewed them as anti-ecologist). This doesn't mean that I endore them in their present form either (as if that would be meaningful anyway). I think the best to do is clarifying discussion about the "general situation" of economy etc., like for example with Tagore2 we started talking about the living costs and whether or not it pushes people into poverty in France. That would be insightful, but it is not as easy for everyone to spend time on such study (except one hopes a communist organisation to have such capable people).

jk1921
Alf wrote:

Alf wrote:

And we would add that a deep concern for the future of humanity is indeed consistent with the nature of the proletariat, which is precisely the class which holds the future in its hands. It may well be, in fact, that the recovery of class identity (or if you prefer, the proletarians' consciousness of themselves as a class...) will indeed tend to have a very strong political dimension and will be obliged to take up issues like the threat to our environment for which capitalism clearly has no answer.  

This is a serious point Alf raises and it has been expressed elsewhere by the ICC recently. But I find it rather troubling in that it seems puts the cart before the horse, seeking to identify proletarian influence in various social expressions by political content. It may be the case the proletariat will have to take up the ecology issue if it is to fufill its historical mission to overthrow captialism and construct a truly human community, but it doesn't follow from that every socio-political expression today that appears to take up the ecology issue necessarily has a proletarian influence. Similarly, while it is undoubtedly true that proletarian solidarity across race, ethnicity, gender, etc. barriers is necessary for a proletarian revolution, it doesn't follow that struggling proletarians will recognize this immediately and in all likelihood the class will have to go through a painful process of defeat, discovery and learning before this truly international consciousness will emerge. Simply put, its bad method to judge the "class nature" of a phenomenon on ideological grounds.

I still do not understand Baboon's point much at all. He ridicules the YVs for being riddled with racism (which seems an emprical question, but what is the measure?), yet says he doesn't think every movement with racist elements is by definition non-proletarian. Could he tell us the necessary quantum of racism that makes the difference?

If it is true that the YV's are "riddled with racism," as Baboon puts it, an assertion that will no doubt be contested by others, perhaps that says more about the current state of the proletariat than it does the movement's class character? On another point, the evolution of Baboon's use of "populism" here is telling. It has become a kind of replacement for fascism, in that any movement that is tainted by it, must by definition be rejected. But I think this fails to deal with the novel features of the period, which, let's be frank, I don't think any us have a firm grasp of at the moment, but which appear much more complicated that a simple binary narrative of right vs. left, populist vs. class movement, etc.

In any event, I share DMan's concern that the ICC is a little too close to the establishment narrative on the YVs, and, in my view, populism/anti-populism, as well. This is not an endorsement in any way of the YVs or populism, but a call to step back from the categorical pronouncements and recognize the uncertain nature of the period and the situation the class finds itself in today.

baboon
Jk says that I "ridicule" the

Jk says that I "ridicule" the YV movement for being riddled with racism (as opposed to his "hints") and asks, how do you measure this? First of all, there are very similar ideas on this issue from jk and d-man, that to imply there's a strong racist and populist element to this movement is the same as calling workers "fascists". D-man uses the term "quazi-fascist", whatever that means, and jk uses the term "fascism". Once again I have never used these terms in any specific or general sense.

How do you measure the racist element in the YV jk asks? For a start you could point to the organisation and disposition of racist thugs to man check-points at roundabouts, not in a disorganised, haphazard way, but deliberate, wilful and knowing the consequences. It is a matter of record that it was effected by influential right-wing individuals through social media, by a leadership that jk was denying existed even when its existence was evident. It's like a couple of dozen or more Tommy Robinson's manning check-points on a couple of dozen or more roundabouts and who, like ex-tanning saloon owner Tommy, would be acutely aware of the skin tone of who they stopped as well as the "foreign" nature of non-French transport. Not so much a "hint" of racism, more like the beginnings of an expression of pogromism. And the leadership that directed them to these points knew exactly what they were doing.

So there's the obvious nature of the racist nature and activity of its leadership and the mobilisation of its thuggish followers. Indeed the "liberal minded" elements among the organising leadership were happy in their agreement with the populist 5-Star movement and to have their pictures taken with them. But the movement has also seen left wing elements, anti-fascists, black blocs and the like, acting as de facto auxilleries to right wing thugs as the mildest criticisms of the YV's is met with accusations of "fascism", threats and firebombing, in an ambient situation of growing violence. There is a significant racist element to this movement that is something more than a "hint" and it's been there since the beginning. The workers in yellow vests, some of whom have disagreed with the attacks on "foreigners" are not fascists, or crypto-fascists but are drowned in a movement of the petty-bourgeoisie because they have been mobilised onto its individualist and nationalist terrain. And now the unions and CGT have joined the movement that doesn't mean that there's any attenuation to its racist and nationalist rump. On the contrary there's no more racist institutions in France than the unions in general and the CGT in particular. The one consolation is that the majority of the central working class, though sympathetic in many ways, have not been mobilised to join the YV's on the streets; but this has rather been from a position of weakness rather than strength.

First of all jk criticised me for saying that if there was any "hint" of racism in a movement it couldn't be proletarian. I said nothing of the sort but jk continues to maintain this falsification even after I clarified it and gave a concrete example of an element of racism in a workers' series of strikes. But jk doesn't accept this, like he doesn't accept many evident truths of the YV movement, and asks me to say "what the necessary quantum of racism is it that makes the difference?". Just reading the question shows how ridiculous it is.

I note jk's relatively sober and useful analsysis in relation to the point made by Alf and the way his whole analysis goes to pieces when faced with the concrete situation in France  and the points put forward by myself. It's not surprising because for jk populism is everything and anything and he is open, at the end of his last post, about his confusions on the question. But that doesn't mean we have to share them and recognising the "uncertain" nature of the period makes a clear attempt at analysis from revolutionaries all the more important

d-man
If I understand jk's point, I

If I understand jk's point, I agree with him that the category of 'populism' is not useful. The historian Annie Lacroix-Riz (true, a Stalinist, that is anti-fascist, but that's irrelevant) has stressed (even recently apropos the YVs), that the category of populism is used in the bourgeois disciplines to avoid the term fascism. So Le Pen's RN is called populist, instead of fascist. Apparently in the case of the YVs baboon (perhaps out of a sensititivity to trap of anti-fascism) likewise avoids the term fascist, instead using the term right-wing individuals/organisers for Tommy Robinson-types, pogromists, conspiracy theorists and the large number of voters of Marie Le Pen, but here (at least I speak for myself), I'm more strict than baboon, and have recognised that there are straight-up fascists involved from the beginning. But if we truly want to avoid the trap of anti-fascism, I think the point stands that it is the governing parties who are the 'populists' that is fascists, with their state of emergency and repressive laws and inviting of Le Pen to the Elysée.

LBird
'Populism' as a mystifying concept?

d-man wrote:

If I understand jk's point, I agree with him that the category of 'populism' is not useful. The historian Annie Lacroix-Riz (true, a Stalinist, that is anti-fascist, but that's irrelevant) has stressed (even recently apropos the YVs), that the category of populism is used in the bourgeois disciplines to avoid the term fascism. So Le Pen's RN is called populist, instead of fascist. 

This is a very interesting point that you've made, d-man, about the ideological power of the ruling class to 'set the agenda' by introducing the key concepts for a political debate, so that the following social discussion is already skewed in favour of the 'academic' viewpoint of the capitalist class, and hides their historical responsibility for very similar processes and their horrific outcomes. It's a bit like Basil Fawlty and his "Don't mention the war!".

Does the ICC also go along with this identification of 'populism' with (a 21st century form of) 'Fascism'?

KT
Fascism?

d-man wrote:

If I understand jk's point, I agree with him that the category of 'populism' is not useful. The historian Annie Lacroix-Riz (true, a Stalinist, that is anti-fascist, but that's irrelevant) has stressed (even recently apropos the YVs), that the category of populism is used in the bourgeois disciplines to avoid the term fascism. So Le Pen's RN is called populist, instead of fascist. Apparently in the case of the YVs baboon (perhaps out of a sensititivity to trap of anti-fascism) likewise avoids the term fascist, instead using the term right-wing individuals/organisers for Tommy Robinson-types, pogromists, conspiracy theorists and the large number of voters of Marie Le Pen, but here (at least I speak for myself), I'm more strict than baboon, and have recognised that there are straight-up fascists involved from the beginning. But if we truly want to avoid the trap of anti-fascism, I think the point stands that it is the governing parties who are the 'populists' that is fascists, with their state of emergency and repressive laws and inviting of Le Pen to the Elysée.

LBird wrote:

"Does the ICC also go along with this identification of 'populism' with (a 21st century form of) 'Fascism'?" (L Bird)

I don't speak for the ICC but would venture to suggest that the fascism of the 1930s of which comrades speak so lightly was a very different beast compared to the populism of today and one born of different circumstances. Perhaps an extended examination of the differences (as well as what these political expressions have in common) might be necessary.

Meanwhile, in the context of the YV movement, one major difference between fascism - obviously in those countries in which appeared as a major force - and today's populism is that fascism, built on the political and physical defeat of the working class - represented a tendency towards homogeniety within the bourgeois political apparatus, a solidification of means and aims, in particular regards preparations for war,

By contrast, today's expressions of populism are the product of a blockage in society, with neither the two major classes, proletariat nor bourgeosie, able to offer in practice a solution, a perspective for overcoming economic or ecological crisies or the resultant social fragmentation and dislocation. Thus populuism, unlike fascism appears (because it is) the product of a divided, impotent bourgeoisie (despite its belicose language and often ill-judged use of repression). It encounters widespread opposition within the ruling class itself, as well as from other strata. 

How this (and I've only touched on one aspect) impacts on the unfolding of present social relations and conflicts is in part what this discussion of the YV is about.

LBird
Populism unlike Fascism, for the ruling class?

KT wrote:

I don't speak for the ICC but would venture to suggest that the fascism of the 1930s of which comrades speak so lightly was a very different beast compared to the populism of today and one born of different circumstances. Perhaps an extended examination of the differences (as well as what these political expressions have in common) might be necessary.

Thanks for your own opinion, KT. And I think that you're right, that an ICC article about differences/similarities would be welcome. Regarding your points...

KT wrote:

... one major difference between fascism - obviously in those countries in which appeared as a major force - and today's populism is that fascism, built on the political and physical defeat of the working class - represented a tendency towards homogeniety within the bourgeois political apparatus, a solidification of means and aims, in particular regards preparations for war,

[my bold]

I don't think that Fascism was 'a tendency towards homogeniety' - in fact, I think it was the complete opposite.

KT wrote:

By contrast, today's expressions of populism are the product of a blockage in society, with neither the two major classes, proletariat nor bourgeosie, able to offer in practice a solution, a perspective for overcoming economic or ecological crisies or the resultant social fragmentation and dislocation.

[my bold]

To me, this seems to cover both today's Populism and pre-war Fascism.

KT wrote:
Thus populuism, unlike fascism appears (because it is) the product of a divided, impotent bourgeoisie (despite its belicose language and often ill-judged use of repression). It encounters widespread opposition within the ruling class itself, as well as from other strata. 
[my bold]

Again, I think that this 'ruling class opposition' is a characteristic of both.

Anyway, thanks again for your answer, and perhaps the ICC can offer an opinion about what, in their opinion, separates Populism from Fascism.

d-man
Just another example (on

Just another example (on libcom here) of Baboon/ICC's take on the YVs being condemned as 'workerist':

"Doubtless these events will be dismissed as not conforming to a vulgar marxist definition of proletarian struggle by the ouvrierist Baboon. Dogmatic black/ white thinking, though, is typical of this ICC fellow-traveller."

So you see how easily that term is bandied about (like the ICC did against ICT, Devrim and some within the ICC apropos their take on the 2011 protests, as I quoted above). A bit like the term 'populist'. Again, preferrably it should not be used.

baboon
One of the most pernicious

One of the most pernicious ideas on the "gilet jaunes" movement that comes from the left and extreme-left of capital, and by no means restricted to them, is that there is something positive that can come out of this movement; i.e., that a movement organised, headed and impulsed by nationalist, racist and inter-classist elements of the French citizenry for a change of leadership in the state apparatus, which parties and elements of the right and extreme-right were immediately attracted to like flies to shit, can act as a springboard for independent working class struggle.

This movement, its supporters and apologists, present a clear threat to the working class and its necessity for an autonomous struggle based on its position as an exploited class. Fortunately, despite the urging on by the left of capital and the disorientating position of the apologist exponents of "everything is everything", the more this movement has exposed itself for what it is the working class appears to be rejecting the illusions sown by the left and the confusions sown by others (though it still doesn't do so from a position of strength).

By Act XX yesterday, the tricolores were still being waved, the Marseilles sung, the slogan "Macron out!" still being shouted. From the beginning this was a French nationalist movement that harkened back to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the French Republic. Such a reactionary anti-working class movement, which the proletariat overcame a century and a half ago with its appearance as a distinct class in the Paris Commune, can easily accommodate the sentiments and approaches of populism where the workers are subsumed into a classless mixture of the "French people". It may have been an irritant for it, but the French bourgeoisie has used this movement, which never seriously or remotely threatened the power of the French state, to strengthen its own political and repressive apparatus.

With its obscuring of the fundamental issue of class, the "gilets jaunes" movement has not only performed a useful service to the French state and capital generally, but will continue to do so through the consolidation of its various organisations and its electoral and democratic turn. There's more anti-working class propagation and more confusion to come from this movement and from its supporters on one side and its apologists on the other.

d-man
Just for your information,

Just for your information, the line of Baboon/ICC on the Yellow Vests is identitical to that of for example this French hardcore Maoist grouplet: agauche.org (previous site: lesmaterialistes.com). Each week they write a denunciation of the YVs. Of course there are also differences, such as that they openly argued for an anti-fascist Popular Front (against Le Pen), against what they call "anarcho-Trotskyist" infantile boycottism.

baboon
Above, d-man says that the

Above, d-man says that the "line" is identical to a Maoist group but "of course there are obvious differences". If it's identical can you provide a specific link that demonstrates this? Or if it's different, what are the differences?

d-man
Specifically eg the point in

Specifically eg the point in your last post that the repressive state apparatus has been strengthened, is the same one made in their latest piece on the YVs: https://agauche.org/2019/03/31/acte-xx-des-gilets-jaunes-peur-sur-la-ville/

The article's conclusion reads:

"Non seulement les gilets jaunes ne servent à rien, mais en plus ils éduquent l’État pour savoir comment faire lorsqu’il y aura une véritable contestation populaire ! Heureusement que lorsque celle-ci s’affirmera, les choses n’auront rien à voir avec cette comédie. Lorsque les ouvriers, qui ont refusé dès le départ de s’embarquer dans cette histoire (et ils ont eu raison), les choses auront une autre substance ! "

Translation:

"Not only are the yellow vests useless, but they also educate the state to know how to carry out [repression] when there will be a real popular protest! Fortunately, when it asserts itself, things will have nothing to do with this comedy [of the YVs movement]. When the workers, who refused from the start to embark on this [Yellow Vests] story (and they were right), [will assert themselves] things will have another substance!"

--

The differences with the ICC are, as I stated, that this is a hardcore (very well eduacted) Maoist group, and it upholds anti-fascist Popular Front, eg they called for a vote for Macron. See some of their (older) articles in English here: http://lesmaterialistes.com/english

But if you focus just on their position of the YVs, it has been clearly a rejection from the start, just like the ICC did. One of their headline documents lists Nationalist/Le Pen protest participation in various cities across France.

baboon
Whatever way you look at it,

Whatever way you look at it, d-man's statement that the ICC position on the yellow vests is identical, "identical", to Maoism is a lie, a slander.  When asked about this "identical" nature, d-man explains that it's in the view that both say that the French state has strengthened itself in the face of these protests. Since everyone and their dog know full well that the French state has strengthened in relation to the protests, d-man, with his "method", could well argue that the ICC position is identical to everyone and anyone - and their dog.

When asked what the differences were between the ICC and Maoism, d-man suggests the latter support an anti-fascist popular front voting for Macron. Identical, he says, but different in respect that the ICC does not support an anti-fascist popular front voting for Macron presumably? While that's true it's entirely secondary and diversionary because the class nature of Maoism, an expression of the counter-revolution and "a complete falsification of marxism", is entirely an expression of and bound up in capitalism. There's no indenticality or similarity here but a difference of class.

Another similarity that d-man notes between the Maoists and the ICC is that both rejected the yellow vest movement "from the start". Here d-man re-works an earlier slander (lie) against the ICC through which he was suggesting that the ICC was above such a movement, wouldn't dirty its hands with it (which is probably an element of the Maoist group), whereas, as it was pointed out to him, the ICC had been concerned and involved with the movement "from the start". This has continued up until recently when the ICC held a number of public meetings on the issue, as well as continuing with its other work on the issue.

At any rate, the despair and desperation of this movement is distilling into new forms with the same or similar reactionary agendas and at least the working class, even if sympathetic to it, hasn't been mobilised behind it in growing numbers.

d-man
Quote: Since everyone and

Quote:
Since everyone and their dog know full well that the French state has strengthened in relation to the protests, d-man, with his "method", could well argue that the ICC position is identical to everyone and anyone - and their dog.

If it was just that "easy" an observation, shared by everyone, then it would not be worth making. Did the point not veer more toward a stronger point, almost "victim-blaming", ie that the YVs are somehow to blame for the state's stepped-up repression (literally the word used by the Maoists is that the YVs are "educating" the state)?

Quote:
When asked what the differences were between the ICC and Maoism, d-man suggests the latter support an anti-fascist popular front voting for Macron. Identical, he says, but different in respect that the ICC does not support an anti-fascist popular front voting for Macron presumably? While that's true it's entirely secondary and diversionary because the class nature of Maoism, an expression of the counter-revolution and "a complete falsification of marxism", is entirely an expression of and bound up in capitalism. There's no indenticality or similarity here but a difference of class.

I was referring to the previous election, and of course there are other differences in general. But as to the concrete case of the YVs, the stance is pretty similar between ICC and this Maoist grouplet. Maybe your reasoning/motivations are different, but the judgement is the same.

Quote:
Another similarity that d-man notes between the Maoists and the ICC is that both rejected the yellow vest movement "from the start". Here d-man re-works an earlier slander (lie) against the ICC through which he was suggesting that the ICC was above such a movement, wouldn't dirty its hands with it

No, again, I didn't suggest that. I said that you believed it was impossible to move the YVs in a positive direction (which is how I understand "engaging" with something means).