Monday, 10 December 2018

The Gilets Jaunes Stop France In Its Tracks - Has The Insurrection Arrived?

Another long gap in this blog.   I've had a tough and unpleasant autumn,  personally and professionally.  Believe me.

I'll be in Paris in a few weeks.  I look forward to it immensely.  The city enthralls me.  But, though I am as susceptible to the romance of Paris, to the myths of Paris, as anyone (or more than most), I must also acknowledge that the city - for most visitors this is the city inside the périphérique ring highway - is a beautiful fortress.  Outside the walls dwell the latter-day serfs whose often grim, often impoverished, often bleak lives constitute the conditions of possibility for the world of the boulevards and the cafes and the myths.  Just as fewer and fewer working class or lower-middle class persons can now afford to live on the island of Manhattan in New York, so fewer and fewer of the ordinary workers one meets in Paris - the hotel receptionist or the women who clean your rooms, the bus drivers or shop workers, the men selling food on the sidewalks or at the metro entrances, the brisk waiters, the students - fewer and fewer of these people can afford to live within the modern walls of Paris, inside the ring road.  They commute in the shadowy dawn, long journeys by RER or Métro or  bus, hours on end, to make the city possible for someone like me.

Some of those people go to make up the gilets jaunes.  Some of these people are increasingly politicized, although in ways which the mainstream cannot or will not recognise.  Even Macron's apparently apologetic speech of December 10 does not really show much understanding of what faces him.

The protests may yet sputter and die, though they've appeared not only in Paris but in cities all over the country.  Their first strength may also be their last weakness - their spontaneity, their lack of structure.   It is not yet clear if the crowds can become a party.

Some reading to help us understand this moment - a moment which perhaps has been coming for decades.  The Verso site has posted a great deal of valuable commentary, which I'll put up here:

Posterity and Revolutionary Citizenship

Towards an Anti-Bourgeois Bloc?

Fréderic Lordon, economist and philosopher at the CNRS and a leader of the Nuit Debout movement: 

End of the World?

A Lesson in How Not to Mitigate Climate Change

The Yellow Vest: A Floating Signifier

The great autonomist Marxist Antonio Negri - one of the stars of the wonderful Marx conference held at Maynooth in May of this year: 

French Insurrection

The incomparable Eric Hazan, author of The Invention of Paris and founder of La Fabrique, which publishes the work of the Invisible Committee: