Rebellion Extinction: a capitalist scam to hijack our resistance

acorn 2019b

Special report

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[UPDATE. WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 2019. FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD GRASSROOTS DISQUIET OVER THE XR BUSINESS WEBSITE, IT HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR XR AND ITS POSITION ON CAPITALISM IS NOT YET CLEAR. WE WILL PUBLISH FURTHER REPORTS AS INFORMATION COMES IN]

When Extinction Rebellion first burst into action in the UK last November, it felt as if something was finally going to change.

Their high-profile arrival on the political scene had a noticeable effect on awareness of environmental issues and gave people permission to speak more freely than before about our society and its relationship to nature.

Yes, there were many criticisms of XR tactics and language from the likes of the new Green Anti-Capitalist Front and activist Emily Apple.

But when this month’s big week of action in London got underway, with Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked and Marble Arch occupied, it felt as if something important and radical was happening.

And perhaps it was, because, presumably, the vast majority of those who turned out, including the nearly 1,000 who were arrested, genuinely believe that our civilization needs to change course if life on this earth is to survive.

But the integrity of XR as an organisation was dealt a fatal blow on Easter Monday, when its Twitter account started plugging links to a new website called XR Business, which had been announced in a letter to The Times.

Among the signatories was Gail Bradbrook, director and shareholder of Compassionate Revolution Ltd and Holding Group member of XR. This is just not some separate support group, but an intrinsic part of the XR apparatus.

The very existence of the site was bad enough, but the home page was (and is) hideous. A corporate satellite view of Europe lit up like a Christmas tree. What sort of environmental movement would choose such imagery?

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We should have seen this coming. We had, after all, already read investigative journalist Cory Morningstar’s excellent digging into the “climate change” industry on her Wrong Kind of Green blog.

But somehow we wanted to give XR the benefit of the doubt and even naively plugged the London protests in our last bulletin.

The XR Business site, however, is a declaration of Rebellion Extinction. This is now officially an ex-Rebellion, shorn of all pretence of radicalism.

Instead, what we find is a list of “business leaders” who have identified environmental catastrophe as yet another get-rich opportunity.

And they are prepared to hijack and exploit people’s real love for life and nature in order to push their profiteering agenda.

First name on the list of these so-called “leaders” is Seb Beloe, partner at WHEB

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Seb Beloe

WHEB describes itself as “a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy”.

It adds: “We focus on nine sustainable investment themes with strong growth characteristics, derived from providing solutions to major social and environmental challenges”.

On a page headed “thought leadership” WHEB announces that it is “actively involved” in organisations “at the leading edge of sustainable and responsible investment”.

These include the Global Impact Investing Network, which explains in turn on its website that it brings together “impact investors and intermediaries who have the capacity to invest and intervene at scale, making multi-million dollar investments and aggregating funds large enough to access institutional capital”.

Another XR “business leader” is Amy Clarke, co-founder of Tribe Impact Capital LLP, which boasts the snappy tagline “A New Wealth Order”.

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Amy Clarke

Clarke is very proud of having “spent time” at investment firm EY (“helping clients embrace industry disruption as an opportunity“), PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Microsoft, and the Bank of America.

Needless to say, Tribe Impact Capital shows little interest in challenging capitalism (the clue is in the name!) or in calling for degrowth. Its goal is, rather, “long-term positive impact and growth for everyone”.

XR “business leaders” John Elkington and Louise Kjellerup Roper, come from Volans Ventures Ltd.

They are involved in the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry backed by companies like Aviva Investors, The Body Shop International, Covestro, and Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.

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Paul Polman

Paul Polman, until recently CEO of Unilever plc, is also on the XR roll of honour, in fact.

And Jeremy Leggett, very active in promoting XR Business online, is founder and director of Solarcentury Ltd, which names Unilever as one of its “partners”.

Another XR business groupie is Jake Hayman, whose Ten Years’ Time programme “is tailored for the next generation of high-net worth families who are looking to invest capital into ambitious new ideas rather than following the crowd to safe ground”.

It’s that c-word word again!

Another XR Business enthusiast for “green” technology is Samer Salty, co-founder and managing partner of the infrastructure and private equity fund manager, Zouk Capital LLP.

Its site tells us: “Zouk’s infrastructure strategy capitalises on the global shift to greater sustainability.

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Samer Salty

“The fund targets a diverse range of sectors across Europe, including emerging utility-scale battery storage projects as well as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, electric vehicles and geothermal”.

It was announced in February 2019 that Zouk is entering into exclusive negotiations to manage the UK Government’s £400m CIIF investment fund aimed at helping to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK.

No vested interests involved there, then, nor with XR supporter Michael F. H. Bonte-Friedheim, CEO and founding partner of NextEnergy Capital, “the leading international solar investment and asset manager”.

XR Business also boasts the support of Tomas Carruthers, CEO of Project Heather: “We’re building a stock exchange for the 21st century. It’s time to add ‘impact’ to ‘risk and reward'”.

The key to understanding the XR phenomenon comes perhaps from its business backers Charmian Love and Amanda Feldman.

They are co-founders of Heliotropy Ltd, terming themselves “Builders of a brighter future”.

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On the surface everything seems yummy and wholesome. Explaining its name, the site says: “Heliotropy is a phenomenon in nature where certain plants (or parts, like flowers) grow in response to the stimulus of sunlight, so that they turn to face the sun.

“We believe humans are similarly motivated by the power of heliotropy. We will grow taller, faster and stronger when motivated by light, warmth and positivity, rather than fear and despair”.

Heliotropy says it is all about “Mobilising Movements”. It declares: “Today’s problems are interconnected, and movements must join forces to solve them. We are convening emerging leaders from global movements to imagine new ways of collaborating”.

But Heliotropy is a microcosm for the world of XR as a whole. Beneath the nicey-nicey surface lurks something rather nasty-nasty.

If you click on the section entitled “Reimagining Corporate Capital” you are taken to a site called Corporate Impact X.

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This explains: “Corporate Impact X is a practitioner-led project designed to support corporations in developing high impact venturing, collaboration and investment strategies”.

It offers a report called “Investing Breakthrough: Corporate Venture Capital”. Sadly the link does not work properly, though it does point the would-be investor towards Volans, the aforementioned buddies of XR, Tomorrow’s Capitalism and Unilever.

The link to a second report, “Beyond the B1nary – Delivering Profits and Purpose Through Corporate Venturing” does work.

The “Thank You for Reading” section here is extremely revealing:

“Thank you to Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, for managing this project and to the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), a global partnership implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for providing the funding. We are
grateful for the support of Global Corporate Venturing and Saïd Business School, Oxford University”.

It adds that the project was developed and delivered by Charmian Love (CorporateImpactX), whose email is given as charmian@corporteimpactx.com

Just to be clear, this is Charmian Love of the fluffy-sounding Heliotropy Ltd, who is one of XR’s select band of business leaders.

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This Corporate Venturing project was developed and delivered by Extinction Rebellion’s Charmian Love. Well done Charmian!

It should be clear to anyone who has taken a look at the snarling capitalist agenda behind XR’s smiley eco-mask that they are not to be trusted.

If the movement is as democratic as it claims to be, it may still be possible for genuine environmentalists to wrest control of XR. Who knows?

Otherwise, decent people should get out as fast as they can and form new networks of resistance which fight to bring down the ecocidal industrial capitalist system, rather than to prop it up.

As the eco-activist Judi Bari put it: “There is no such thing as green capitalism. Serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.

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Green and yellow: our common struggle against liberal-fascism

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Here is a quick translation of an important piece on the French lundi matin website, close to The Invisible Committee. Radical ecologists call for a convergence with the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement in the struggle against the neoliberal system which is destroying the living planet.

[Photos : Nour]

For more than five months now, hundreds of thousands of people in every corner of France have been fighting against the neoliberal steamroller represented with such singular brutality by the Macronist regime.

This revolt, which began on the roundabouts, places of conviviality and self-organisation which at times looked quasi-insurrectional, is part of a history of revolutionary uprisings which have interrupted the course of the prescribed order.

It is a simple fact that the intensity and surprising staying-power of this revolt were born from moments of shared experience, from what you could call the ungovernable “commons”.

In a space which was supposed to be occupied only by the icy waters of the Economy, bearing its gifts of subordination, atomisation, resignation and silence, in a space where we were only supposed to be able to hear the chattering of those in power, of experts and of journalists, long-silenced voices made themselves heard.

It was no surprise that the first repressive measures were aimed at destroying this conviviality by evicting roundabouts, demolishing protesters’ cabins and making it impossible for them to block roads or experience shared empowerment.

Stubborn Yellow Vest resistance was countered by repression of rare violence: Zineb Redouane was killed in Marseilles by a grenade fired by the police; dozens were mutilated, hundreds locked up and thousands charged.

On top of this there was the ultra-aggressive and arrogant propaganda war waged by a media which was almost unanimously against the rebels. After the insults and contempt, after the ferocious repression, after special new laws, they now want to make it acceptable to use armed intervention against demonstrators. To be clear, they want nothing less than to be able to fire on the crowd with live ammunition.

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Emmanuel Macron, basking in his historic mission, is going about a reorganisation of the forms of government. In doing so, he is carried by a surge which has come from far away and is sweeping the world: the extension of the fascist elements of neoliberalism.

Unlike historical fascism, this global project does not want to rule the whole world by means of the State, but instead by the Economy, to which all state institutions must be subservient.

We call this approach to governing “liberal-fascist”. It is not fundamentally about state control but about economic control of the world and of our lives in the fanatical aim of pulling into its grasp every single being, every single thing and everything around them.

They will use force and violence against all the runaways and nobodies who resist their world.

Beyond the level of mere words, what real difference is there between Salvini’s Italy and Macron’s France? Does not each of them let thousands of migrants die at sea, when they are not locking up them en masse in detention centres, while criminalising hospitality?

Aren’t they both engaged in the destruction of the last remnants of social protection and public services, in the pauperisation of the working classes, in the destruction of solidarity?

But that’s not all: nobody can pretend not to know that this insane acceleration of capitalism which they are pursuing is also leading to the collapse of our means of living, to the poisoning of earth, water and air, to inevitable climate chaos with unprecedented consequences.

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The breathtaking impact of this series of disasters, both existing and to come, has opened the way for new perceptions and realisations in our relationship to the world. And these have led increasingly huge numbers of people to take action, from ZAD eco-camps to climate protests. More and more eco-activists are turning their backs on political parties, those crumbling temples to their leaders’ blatant career ambitions, and are looking elsewhere for answers on the scale of the challenges we are facing.

This deep change in awareness has also seen a renewed attention to words, to what they show us and what they hide. Thus, more and more people are refusing to use the word “Anthropocene” to describe this age of environmental devastation which just gets worse from decade to decade. The term suggests we are all equally responsible and a preferable one is “Capitalocene”. We have to properly identify the systematic and all-embracing force behind this disaster: it is capitalism and its forms of government.

Everywhere we are witnessing a profound crisis in political representation; with the revolt of the Gilets Jaunes like those of the new eco-movements. The happy flip-side of this crisis is the emergence of new communities of struggle, experiments in our ways of inhabiting the world. But here, the question we have to ask is the following: do we seriously think that it is enough to protest for the climate on A to B marches; to launch petitions; to “raise the awareness” of governments? Can we keep on ignoring other forms of revolt which are suffering the brutal violence of the State? Can we really just aspire to be governed a bit better?

Certain organisers of climate marches last autumn now admit it: they “messed up”. And they find themselves a few days later in a police cell like a common Yellow Vest. Too politically inoffensive, trying at all costs to find the vaguest lowest common denominator at the expense of strategic innovation, drawing up lists of grievances for the attention of the authorities rather than challenging the institutions of power. Now eco-collectives are telling us it is time to rebel.

We definitely need to reaffirm communal ways of living; mutual aid, sharing. We need to experiment with new kinds of solidarity and hospitality. And we need to take care of our ways of being in relation to the world. But aren’t these affirmations also, at one and the same time, negations of the dictates of the Economy? As “ecologists”, how can we not confront those who want to rule us in its name?

It is urgent to forge alliances against the disaster which, for the moment, is identified with Macron.

We invite you to join the meeting of environmental organisations and Gilets Jaunes which will be held on Wednesday April 24, from 7pm, at the Théâtre de l’Echangeur in Bagnolet, Paris.

Calls have been made for Saturday May 4 as a day for re-taking the roundabouts, streets and squares, with shared Yellow Vest banquets. Eco-activists should also take part.

Some eco-yellows.

Original article

More Gilets Jaunes articles

Organic radicalism

“This is a turning point in history!”

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Make no mistake, the Gilets Jaunes are in this for the long haul.

Today, April 13, was the twenty-second successive Saturday that they have taken to the streets in huge numbers to revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal regime.

Five months on, there is still the energy, determination and critical mass to bring about a major change in the course of modern French history.

Each new round of police violence, each new draconian piece of repression, each new sneering dismissal of the yellow “mob” by right-wing politicians, just seems to give the uprising a new burst of energy.

The Mediterranean city of Montpellier was not the main Yellow Vest event in the south of France for Act XXII – all eyes were on Toulouse, where a massive turn-out was met with police violence and teargas.

But, remarkably, some 5,000 people turned out in Montpellier to support the Gilets Jaunes cause and condemn the brutality with which they have been repressed.

This is where the real strength of the movement can be seen – in the scores and scores of protests held in cities and towns all over the country week after week, which are hardly even noticed on the national, let alone international, level.

The Gilets Jaunes hold protests in Montpellier every week, but this time they were marching alongside the French human rights league LDH (Ligue des droits de l’homme) and various local associations, trade unions and left-wing political groups, such as France Insoumise.

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As people gathered in the warm spring sunshine on La Place de la Comédie in the historic centre of the Montpellier, Yellow Vest Nathalie told me this coming-together was a good thing.

“We need this convergence,” she said. “There needs to be lots of us out there”.

Fellow protester Charlotte agreed, saying: “At the start the Gilets Jaunes didn’t want to work with other groups, but now they realise we have to come together”.

A few metres away, Jean-Luc told me the same thing: “It is very important that the struggles converge, because it’s only that way that we’ll win.”

The huge protest through the streets of Montpellier featured all the diversity and energy for which the Gilets Jaunes have become known.

French national flags waved proudly as clenched fists were raised to the sound of The Internationale, as broadcast by the CGT trade union’s lorry. Later they switched to The Clash.

A feisty young woman beat ferociously on a drum and people sang and danced to the now-familiar Yellow Vest songs about the reviled Macron.

“Work, consume and shut your mouth!”, came the ironic chant. “Don’t watch us, join us!” passers-by were urged.

When the protest arrived back at the Comédie after its second tour of the city centre, it was met with applause from a small group of Kurdish protesters who had gathered there.

The respect was returned by the Yellow Vest protests. “Tous ensemble!” they shouted. “All together!”

The police presence this time around was minimal, except when there was an important public building, or the rail station, to be protected.

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Montpellier is the seventh biggest city in France and has expanded rapidly in the last 20 years or so.

But while the sprawl of new business development around the city has brought in a degree of superficial wealth, the underlying issue of poverty has not gone away.

Valérie told me she had been waiting for the last seven years for something like the Gilets Jaunes movement to explode.

She added: “I am a single mother, I work, and I work just to survive”.

Fellow protester Lucile said it was “scandalous” that her elderly father had seen his pension reduced.

Even petrol prices were going up again, despite the respite earned by the first wave of Gilets Jaunes protests back in the autumn.

I asked protester Pascal whether he thought the Gilets Jaunes uprising could succeed in its aim of bringing about radical change to France.

He said: “We haven’t got any choice. If we fail, it’s slavery”.

He said time was on the side of the Yellow Vests and they knew it, which was why the protests kept on going and going.

This same point was made by a placard suggesting that the protests had only just begun – there were only another 160 Saturdays before the end of Macron’s presidential term in May 2022.

Stressed Pascal: “People realise that this is our last chance. This is a turning point in history”.

Jean-Luc said: “It’s a very big movement, the Yellow Vests, which has lasted five months and is going to keep going.

“Macron is never going to resign. The only way out is the dissolution of the national assembly.

“And we need more than that. We need the end of the fifth republic, we need different ways of representation – delegation, direct democracy.

“That’s going to be a revolution, if we move into a sixth republic”.

Valérie was also confident that success lay ahead. She said: “This is the first social movement which has lasted.

“I knew, even back in January, that it would go on at least until the European elections. There will always be another good excuse to keep going!”

Lucile said she could no longer put up with the contempt shown by Macron or the violence used against protesters.

“People go on a protest and are beaten up by the police and it doesn’t shock anyone. That’s what shocks me!”

She was less sure than the others I spoke to that the Gilets Jaunes movement would ultimately triumph against the raw power of global neoliberal capitalism.

But she added: “Days like today give us back some hope!”

Report by Paul Cudenec, a member of Shoal Collective.

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Only another 160 Saturdays of protest to go before the Gilets Jaunes see the back of Emmanuel Macron…

For more Yellow Vests reports see our Gilets Jaunes page

The Acorn – 48

acorn 2019b

Number 48

In this issue:

  1. Shutting down the capital
  2. Final push against UK fracking
  3. Gilets Jaunes: “We must exit capitalism”
  4. Judi Bari: an orgrad inspiration
  5. For an anti-sectarian revolutionary left
  6. “The Land Shall Sink”
  7. Acorninfo

1. Shutting down the capital

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Eco-protesters are planning to bring London to a standstill from Monday April 15.

Supporters of Extinction Rebellion (XR) aim to block traffic at four central locations “around the clock” to highlight the urgent issues of climate change and wildlife declines.

They will take to the streets from 11am at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.

As part of an international day of protests, thousands of people will converge on the four busy locations in the UK capital, blocking traffic and creating a festival of action including people’s assemblies, performances, talks, workshops and food.

And the idea is that they be will back the next day, and the day after that, for up to two weeks. Unless, of course, the UK state suddenly sees the light and decides to dismantle the industrial capitalist system.

Say XR: “Under our current system, we are headed for disaster. Catastrophic climate breakdown will cause food collapse, destroy communities, kill millions, and render many more homeless.

“Mass extinction of wild species will lead to ecological collapse, and when they go, we go. Destruction of natural habitats will lead to genocide of indigenous peoples and the loss of our planet’s life support systems”.

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As we reported in Acorn 45, XR’s first big day of action was on Saturday November 17 2018, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.

While recognising XR’s amazing success in mobilising people, some activists who have “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” (see Acorn 47) have announced a parallel mobilisation.

The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is calling for like-minded folk to gather at 12 noon on Monday April 15 outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

They add: “We will be assembling at St Paul’s for a tour of the heart of global extractive finance, also known as the City of London.

“Unlike Extinction Rebellion, we are not asking you to get arrested but we must highlight the fact that capitalism is the root cause of this crisis and bring this message to the workplaces of the people profiting from environmental destruction.

“We are calling for all anti-capitalists to join us on the street and show that London is both red and green”.

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For our part, The Acorn would add that the only real way to solve the environmental crisis is to end the global industrial capitalist system.

Governments, which are a central part of that system, are not going to do that, no matter how loudly we ask them. The people will have to do it for themselves!

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2. Final push against UK fracking!

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Is the tide finally beginning to turn in the battle to stop fracking in the UK?

That was the hope sparked on April 3 by the dramatic legal victory against the draconian injunction used by fracking firm Ineos to try and stop legal protests.

The court of appeal struck out the sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking protests, climbing on to vehicles and blocking the road. It also removed the section on protests against the supply chain.

The ruling declared: “The citizen’s right of protest is not to be diminished by advance fear of committal except in the clearest of cases.”

Joe Corre, one of the frack-free campaigners involved, told The Independent: “I’m pretty confident we’re going to win this war, and we are not going to have fracking in this country.

“But because they have invested so much time and energy and money into this, they are not going to go quietly, so we’re going to have to double down, up our efforts and finish them off.”

Campaigns like Extinction Rebellion and the French Yellow Vests have been effective because of the sheer numbers of people taking part, from a diversity of backgrounds.

The last push against fracking will only be successful if it is not left to the same hardy but weary group of activists who have been fighting the cause for years.

The fracking industry is well aware of the massive public opposition to its nature-destroying activities and Ineos representative Tom Pickering seemed to be in panic mode when he denounced campaigners, claiming: “We stand for jobs and opportunity. They stand for anarchy in the UK”!

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The main focus in the English battle against fracking is currently in the north. Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire is paused, but there is still some activity there and regular protests.

Rathlin Energy’s “tight oil” site at West Newton, near Hull in East Yorkshire is planning to use acidisation.

At the IGas shale gas exploratory site in Mission Springs, Nottinghamshire, horizontal drilling is due to begin soon, then fracking.

A solidarity day is being staged at the gates there on Monday April 22, from 10am. Say Mission Springs campaigners: “We will have music, speakers, cake and hopefully beautiful sunshine!”

It is crucial for the future of the English countryside, and indeed of the living planet, that the fracking industry is kept on the run.

As one online frack-free bulletin declares: “Could 2019 be the year fracking is finally consigned to the dustbin of history?

“Well, that all depends on what each one of us does to make sure that it is! After all, fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!”

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3. Gilets Jaunes: “We must exit capitalism”

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On the weekend of April 5-7, more than 800 Yellow Vest delegates from all over France gathered in the town of Saint-Nazaire for the second Assembly of the Assemblies of the Gilets Jaunes movement.

At the same time as occupying roundabouts, blocking roads, liberating motorway toll booths and filling the streets of French cities and towns every Saturday since November, the astonishing Gilets Jaunes have also been experimenting with a system of direct democracy.

A call was issued at the end of the assembly, which will now be sent back down to more than 300 local groups for their approval.

Our comrades at yellowvests.wtf have published this English translation of the call.

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

We submit this call for adoption by vote of the local assemblies.

We, Yellow Vests, constituted as an assembly of our local assemblies met in Saint-Nazaire on April 5th, 6th, and 7th 2019.

We address the people as a whole.

Following the first assembly in Commercy, two hundred delegations continued their fight against liberal extremism and for freedom, equality, and fraternity.

The struggle has taken root to overturn the system embodied by Macron! This despite the government’s escalating repression: the laws that worsen everyone’s living conditions, that destroy rights and freedoms. The only response to the movement embodied by the Yellow Vests and other struggles was government panic – and an authoritarian turn. For five months now across France we have continued: on the roundabouts, in parking lots, in the squares, at toll booths, in the streets, and in our assemblies. We have continued to debate and fight against all forms of inequality and injustice, for solidarity and dignity.

We demand:

* A general increase in wages, pensions, and welfare.

* Public services for all.

Our solidarity in this struggle is with those nine million who live below the poverty line. Fully aware of the environmental emergency we declare: end of the world, end of the month, same logic, same fight.

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Faced with the masquerade of “great debates” and a non-representative government who serve a privileged minority, we are putting into place new forms of direct democracy.

In concrete terms, we recognize that the Assembly of Assemblies can take up proposals from the local assemblies and issue resolutions as did the first Assembly of Assemblies at Commercy. These resolutions are then systematically submitted to the local assemblies for approval. The Assembly of Assemblies reaffirms its independence from political parties, trade unions, and any self-proclaimed “leaders”.

For three days in plenary session and in working groups, we all debated and elaborated proposals for our demands, actions, and means of communication & coordination. Planning for the long-haul, we decided to organize the next Assembly of Assemblies in June.

The Assembly of Assemblies calls for actions to tip the balance of power in our favor and marshal the citizenry against the system. A calendar of actions will soon be published on a new digital platform.

The Assembly of Assemblies calls for new, expanded, and strengthened sovereign citizens’ assemblies. We call on the Yellow Vests to echo this call and the outcomes of our Assembly’s work. The results of our plenary deliberations will feed into the actions and reflections of the local assemblies.

We are making several appeals: on the European elections, the local popular citizens’ assemblies, against repression, and for the annulation of penalties against the movements’ condemned & imprisoned. We believe it is necessary in the next three weeks to mobilize all the Yellow Vests and convince those yet unpersuaded. We call for a Yellow Week of Action starting the first of May.

We invite all those who wish to put an end to the monopolization of life to fight against the current system, to create together by all necessary means a new social, ecological, and popular movement. The multiplication of ongoing struggles calls us to seek united action.

We call for a collective fight at every level across the territory to guarantee our social, economic, ecological, and democratic demands. Knowing we must fight a global system, we must exit capitalism. This way we can collectively build the famous “all together” that we sing and that makes everything possible. We are all building together across the territory.

The power of the People, by the People, for the People.

Don’t watch us, join us.

– The Yellow Vests’ Assembly of Assemblies

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For more Yellow Vest translations, reports and articles see our Gilets Jaunes page.

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4. Judi Bari: an orgrad inspiration

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A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system. It presents the ideological alternative of an organic radicalism which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.

This philosophy, explains the orgrad site, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.

We at The Acorn very much identify with this tradition – hence the change in our masthead! Below we reproduce the article on Judi Bari, one of dozens of profiles of key orgrad inspirations on the site.

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Judi Bari (1949-1997) was an American feminist and environmental activist, who organized Earth First! campaigns against logging in the ancient redwood forests of Northern California in the 1980s and ’90s.

There was a car bombing attempt on her life in 1990.

In ‘The Feminization of Earth First!’ in 1992 she recalled: “I was attracted to Earth First! because they were the only ones willing to put their bodies in front of the bulldozers and chainsaws to save the trees. They were also funny, irreverent, and they played music.

“But it was the philosophy of Earth First! that ultimately won me over. This philosophy, known as biocentrism or deep ecology, states that the Earth is not just here for human consumption.

“All species have a right to exist for their own sake, and humans must learn to live in balance with the needs of nature, instead of trying to mold nature to fit the wants of humans”. (1)

In a 1998 essay, ‘Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology’,  Bari went into greater depth about her ideological position.

She wrote: “Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

“I believe we already have such a theory. It’s called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement”. (2)

She stressed that the central importance of nature exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not: “And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems”. (3)

Bari shared the core organic radical understanding that basing a political belief system on “ancient native wisdom” is, in the context of today’s industrial society, “profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core”. (4)

judi bari banner

She rejected as absurd the idea that human beings could “own” parts of the earth and explained that because capitalism is based on private property it is “in direct conflict with the natural laws of biocentrism”. (5)

Bari was defiantly revolutionary, declaring: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people.

“There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”. (6)

She was unimpressed by the Marxist disregard for nature and emphasis on industry. Bari contrasted its centralism and statism with a decentralised left-wing organic model for human societies.

She insisted: “Ecological socialism would mean organizing human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way that nature is organized. And I believe the natural order of the earth is bioregionalism, not statism. Modern industrial society robs us of community with each other and community with the earth”. (7)

Bari saw clearly the links between patriarchal and industrial-capitalist ways of thinking and acting.

She wrote: “Contrary to this masculine system of separation and dominance, eco-feminism seeks a science of nature. And this science of nature is a holistic and interdependent one, where you look at the whole thing and the way that everything interacts, not just the way that it can be when you separate it.

“And also it presupposes that humans are part of nature, and that our fates are inseparable; that we have to live within the earth’s fertility cycles and we can enhance those fertility cycles by our informed interaction”. (8)

Judi bari 2

1. http://historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/barifemef.html
2. http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html
3-8. Ibid.

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5. For an anti-sectarian revolutionary left

RED fist

The 10 hypotheses below were published recently by the Radical Education Department, an autonomous US-based collective “dedicated to the construction of a radical internationalist Left through the training and federation of its cultural warriors”.

They stress that they are not meant to serve as rigid principles but are part of an ongoing attempt to develop tactics and strategies that will maximize collective anti-capitalist power.

1. Our historical conjuncture is characterized by the widespread victory of global capitalism, which has succeeded in oppressing and exploiting the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, while simultaneously destroying the biosphere at an unprecedented pace. As we are given daily lessons in what the “end of history” actually means, it is increasingly urgent that the entire spectrum of the anti-capitalist Left find ways of working together in order to build collective revolutionary power.

2. Sectarianism divides the Left by pitting against one another individuals and groups that share a common enemy: capitalism. This is precisely why the hegemonic order has been so intent on fostering disputes and sectarian divisions within the hard Left, as the history of Cointelpro and the CIA’s psychological warfare campaigns demonstrates in great detail. “Divide and conquer” is the Establishment’s mantra.

3. Capitalism is a socioeconomic order whose history goes hand in hand with colonialism, racism, gender exploitation, ecological destruction and so forth. In identifying it as the central enemy, it is not a matter of privileging class over race or gender, as if these were all somehow separate and isolated phenomena, nor is it a question of crude economic reductionism. On the contrary, it is a matter of recognizing that capitalism has always functioned as a socioeconomic system in which racial and gender hierarchies structure the global division of labor and stratify society in such a way as to increase the exploitation and oppression of particular populations.

4. Non-sectarian revolutionary politics does not require the dissolution of communist, anarchist, revolutionary socialist, autonomist, indigenous, ecological or other radical organizations, nor does it necessitate their unification in an umbrella organization that seeks to efface the important differences between anti-capitalist groups. On the contrary, non-sectarianism simply means being open to working across traditional party and organizational alignments toward the common end of dismantling capitalism, and it can take many forms, such as the establishment of radical left coalitions on specific projects or the founding of groups and organizations that are not aligned on a single party platform.

5. Non-sectarianism does not mean the loss of a program. Instead, it should be understood as the furthering of a common negative strategy—anti-capitalism—advanced through a diversity of positive tactics, which will vary based on the precise material contexts and the groups involved. Non-sectarianism thus aims at developing a common program of capitalist abolition that does not, however, dictate the “only acceptable” tactics for contributing to it.

RED logo

6. There is no definitive blueprint for an anti-capitalist social revolution. There is a complex and multi-dimensional material history from which we can learn, and there are ongoing experiments with radical social transformation. Rather than presuming that the course of the future can be predetermined, activists on the hard Left would be better served to trade in unquestioned self-assurance and dogmatism for experimental fallibilism that draws on the entire spectrum of past and present revolutionary struggles.

7. The fact that there have been deep and sometimes bloody conflicts between radical leftists in the past should not mean that we are destined to repeat them in the future. On the contrary, we should learn from these conflicts and seek out strategies for overcoming them so that we can work together against our common enemy.

8. Revolutionary politics is an ongoing process of collective labor, which is at once theoretical and practical, and it thrives on the reflexive incorporation of multiple perspectives. In order to foster counter-hegemonic power in the current conjuncture, we need all hands on deck, and collective contributions to the forging of new methods and techniques that draw on the Left’s unique ability to mobilize productive self critique.

9. Our conjuncture is in dire need of new political imaginaries that open up the horizons of possibility by tapping into the collective creativity of the entire Left, which far surpasses the capabilities of individual revolutionaries or parties. Experimentalism has always been one of the strengths of revolutionary traditions, as well as the creative ability to develop unforeseen tactics that put our enemies on their heels, if not on their knees.

10. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves as capitalism daily edges us closer to the veritable end of history, we should identify points of convergence and cultivate forms of coalitional solidarity that allow us to build collective power. This requires expanding our political imaginations beyond the restricted confines of established political ideologies and the entrenched conflicts of the past, in order to join forces in the very real and urgent task of vanquishing the dominant socioeconomic order before it definitively destroys all of us!

luttesanticapitalistes

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6. “The Land Shall Sink”

cthulu

Eric Fleischmann explores the Lovecraftian nature of sea level rise.

In 1917, H.P. Lovecraft wrote the following lines in his short story ‘Dagon’: “I dream of a day when [the nameless things] may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind – of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.”

Now, in the 21st century, it appears as though his unnamed narrator’s horrific vision has escaped Lovecraft’s fiction and entered into the real world.

As outlined by GlobalChange.gov, sea level is expected to rise anywhere from one to four feet by the year 2100 and only continue at the current rate or an even higher one in the following centuries.

Even small rises in sea level can have disastrous effects and, as Marine Insights reports, this poses an extreme threat to coastal areas – where almost 40% of the population in the United States resides – with flooding frequency projected to rise from 300% to 900% in comparison to what was recorded fifty years ago.

Other than the outer reaches of space there is possibly no place quite as mysterious and terrifyingly unknown as the ocean.

The National Ocean Service writes that more than 80% of this realm that covers about three fourths of our planet “remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.”

The ocean has also historically presented a seemingly unfathomable dimension to reality – spawning legends of enormous beasts like Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey, the biblical Leviathan, and the infamous kraken.

hplovecraft

This is certainly a central reason for Lovecraft’s interest in – along with those furthest regions of space – the watery deep, which helped inspire such things as the octopus-like Cthulhu who resides in the sunken nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh.

To be openly dramatic, when we cause sea levels to rise, we are messing with forces we do not fully comprehend.

But saying we, as many on the left have pointed out, is a misleading generalization.

Although most individuals do have substantial impacts on the environment, many major environmental issues can be traced directly to a minority of capitalists.

As the often quoted point goes: Only about 100 companies are responsible for around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions – gases which are causing the heating of the earth and consequently sea level rise.

These capitalists are akin to Obed Marsh from Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth who, in order to obtain wealth in the form of gold and a strange “foreign kind of jewellery,” is said to have helped the undersea monstrosities known as the Deep Ones infiltrate and genetically infect the town.

The drive of global capitalism to squeeze every last cent out of the natural world is bringing the ocean to our doorsteps, just as if we were the partially complicit yet also victimized residents of cursed Innsmouth.

The aforementioned link between the heating of the earth and rising sea levels is specifically the expansion of water when it warms and the deterioration of ice sheets, but certainly the most famous such process is the melting of glaciers.

This is all well and widely known, but consider that the oldest glacial ice in Antarctica is possibly 1,000,000 years old and the oldest in Greenland is more than 100,000 years old.

This whole affair is not just about the stirring of deep and mysterious forces but also ancient ones, and perhaps no one mulled over the consequences of awakening ancient hibernating entities more than H.P. Lovecraft.

at the mountains of madness

At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s novellas, is written as an account by the geologist William Dyer of his encounter with the strange Elder Things and shoggoths – existing in a formerly-passive state beneath the arctic – in the hope it will deter further exploration.

These creatures, like the annual 260 gigatons of water released from glaciers between 2003 and 2009, are being brought back into play, and humanity is now under existential threat because of it.

Many authors have discussed how climate change poses certain cosmic and anti-humanist threats to our anthropocentric understanding of the world.

Eugene Thacker, in In the Dust of this Planet: Horror of Philosophy (Volume 1), considers how it is difficult to think “of the world as absolutely unhuman, and indifferent to the hopes, desires, and struggles of human individuals and groups.”

But this “Cosmic Pessimism” is represented by media images of, for example, “the cataclysmic effects of climate change.”

In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Timothy Morton discusses the titular hyperobjects – objects massively distributed spatially and temporarily – in particular global warming along with several other items of ecological concern such as Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, and nuclear radiation.

According to Morton, “By understanding hyperobjects, human thinking has summoned Cthulhu-like entities into social, psychic, and philosophical space. The contemporary philosophical obsession with the monstrous provides a refreshing exit from humanscale thoughts.”

glacier

Glaciers and oceans are certainly hyperobjects and the images of their respective melting and rising can serve as some of Thacker’s representations, but sea level rise is Lovecraftian in a particularly vivid aesthetic dimension.

The ocean is an alien and largely unknown portion of the earth and glacial water is a primordial force finally being released after a slumber that has lasted eons.

In a video released a few months ago, academic internet personality ContraPoints makes the observation that one problem facing environmental activists is that climate change fundamentally lacks an antagonist.

Furthermore, an important point of Morton’s book as well as James Bridle’s New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future is that climate change is so vast and vague that it cannot be pinned down, quantified, or fully thought.

Bridle even derives the title of his work from a passage in The Call of Cthulhu — which he also quotes wholly within the book – that contains the line “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”

In the context of this piece, this apt metaphor seems to verge on the literal. With all this in mind, perhaps a strategy of environmental thought could be to identify an antagonism within this gargantuan, undefinable, and unthinkable thing called climate change.

If we are capable of revealing a more horrifying, Lovecraftian nature to at least sea level rise, is it possible we might induce a response closer to that which would ensue if Cthulhu truly rose from the depths?

sealevel 2

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7. Acorninfo

Action against the coal-mining industry is being planned in the Rhineland from June 19 to 24. Says the 2019 Ende Gelände call-out: “Last year we fought with thousands of other people in a broad alliance for the Hambi (Hambacher Forest). This year we stand side by side with all the people whose homes are being destroyed by coal and the climate crisis. In solidarity with the people from Keyenberg, Kuckum and the other villages at the Garzweiler opencast mine, we want to stop the destruction on site. Therefore we will block the coal infrastructure. This is our immediate measure for global climate justice. All villages remain – in the Rhineland and worldwide!”

endegelande19

* * *

Earth First! UK has announced that its 2019 summer moot will be held in north-east England from August 14 to 20. This will be a week-long camp to build a culture for active non-hierarchical grassroots ecological resistance.

EFsummer19

* * *

June 1 2019 has been designated Global Degrowth Day by campaigners calling for a “Good Life for All”. There will be public events all over the world to share alternatives to a society based on profit and economic “growth”. People are invited to take part with their own happenings.

degrowthday

* * *

“Rather than engaging with the fact that capitalism itself is destructive, governments and liberal environmentalists are promoting corporate responses to the problems posed by climate change,” warns this very relevant article by Crimethinc on false solutions to global climate change. It adds: “They aren’t going to stop destroying the planet until we make it too costly for them to continue. The sooner we do, the better”.

crimethinc-climate

* * *

Gilets Jaunes in the Basque country are calling for a massive mobilisation against the G7 when it meets in Biarritz in August. They will be protesting against “world leaders who defend an ultra-liberal economy which offers us nothing”.

GJ basques

* * *

The US state-business complex used the 9/11 “terrorism” paranoia to launch a McCarthyite “Green Scare” assault on radical environmentalists. In this in-depth article in The Intercept, Alleen Brown unveils the machinations behind the systems’s war on those it smears as “eco-terrorists”.

greenscare

* * *

The dystopian nightmare of “predictive” policing is highlighted in an article by Peter Yeung on the Wired website. He writes: “The implications of being on the matrix can be chilling, but finding out why you are on it, let alone how to be removed, is extremely difficult. One family received a letter warning they would be evicted from their home if their son didn’t stop his involvement with gangs – but he had been dead for more than a year.”

predictivepolicing

* * *

“Identity politics is not liberatory, but reformist. It is nothing but a breeding ground for aspiring middle class identity politicians. Their long-term vision is the full incorporation of traditionally oppressed groups into the hierarchical, competitive social system that is capitalism, rather than the destruction of that system”. This timely and searing attack by the Woke Anarchists Collective on the curse of reformist anarcho-liberalism is now available in the online Anarchist Library.

Woke Anarchists

* * *

The impact of direct action is explored in an April 2 article on the Conflict Minnesota site. It discusses how actions can produce “signals of disorder” and ripples that influence many other people. It explains: “When someone witnesses the aftermath of an action before it’s been swept away from view, or hears of an action later, the action can resonate with them, it can inspire them to act as well”.

conflict minnesota

* * *

Acorn quote: ““All life, whether social or individual, that is permanently divorced from communion with the vitalising influences of free air and sunshine, will be a stunted and diseased life”.

Henry Salt

Henry S. Salt

(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)

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Organic radicals: new site launched

orgrad logo

A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system.

It presents the ideological alternative of an “organic radicalism” which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.

This philosophy, it says, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.

The site explains that it rejects the industrial capitalist view of nature as something to be exploited, commercialised, dominated or relegated to second place behind an imagined human priority.

“For us, humankind’s interests cannot be separated from the wider interests of the natural world, because we are nothing other than an extension of that world.

“We reject notions of economic growth or technological advance as any kind of worthwhile basis for society and propose instead a world founded on the healthy values of respect for nature and other creatures; simple but joyful living; an appreciation of inner and outer beauty; a sense of communal responsibility and belonging”.

In its Q&A section it defines the “orgrad” position as an evolution of anarchism.

But it adds: “From our perspective, contemporary anarchism does not go far enough in its opposition to industrial capitalism.

“In the same way as other leftists can become stuck within the broader capitalist mindset, merely seeking greater equality, individual freedom or self-management within the context of capitalism and the state, so do too many anarchists base their vision of the future on the industrial society created by and for capitalism.

“Orgrad also proposes a holistic world-view, based on organic belonging to community, species and nature, which is considered unacceptable by many contemporary anarchists, due to the influence of modern ideologies appropriate to capitalism.

“To be clear, orgrad has no interest at all in the dead-end narcissism of ultra-liberal identity politics”.

The site stresses that organic radicalism is firmly anti-fascist, defining it as “a left-wing, internationalist, humanist, universalist, anti-racist, anti-state, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, anti-authoritarian ideology”.

The organic radicals website is at https://orgrad.wordpress.com

The email contact is orgrad(at)riseup.net

Roadblock!

 

Ales roadblock2 - Copie

Report by Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective.

There weren’t too many hi-vis jackets in evidence when we arrived at one of a series of roundabouts on the “rocade”, the ring road, at Alès in south-east France on Tuesday March 19.

Would there be enough protesters to pull off the roadblock that had been agreed at the previous night’s meeting of the Gilets Jaunes assembly at the trade union HQ in the former mining town?

I needn’t have worried. It was just that the 6.30am meet-up time had been a little too early for some, and a steady flow of people soon arrived. There were 30 or so at this point.

A dark blue gendarme van arrived, toured the roundabout but didn’t stop and disappeared again. They weren’t going to interfere at the set-up stage, it seemed.

Suddenly, Yellow Vests started streaming off the roundabout towards a side road. They were heading towards a large white van which had just pulled up.

The doors were flung open to reveal that it was packed full of road-blocking material – palettes and tyres, mainly huge lorry ones.

This was all quickly carried, or rolled, to the edges of the roundabout. Some Gilets Jaunes headed off down the ring road towards the next junction.

Before long, this stretch of dual carriageway was blocked from both ends. The operation was remarkably efficient. These people knew what they were doing!

As the morning rush-hour got underway, the blockade, part of a national day of action to coincide with a trade union strike, firmed up even further.

There were enough Gilets Jaunes, easily more than 100, to send a second group to block another roundabout a few miles down the road.

At the original site, the filtering operation came into effect. This was made easier by the use of trolleys borrowed from a nearby supermarket, weighed down with tyres and decorated with yellow cardboard fists.

Someone driving a flat-bed truck loaded with old tyres, apparently on the way to the dump, decided to make an impromptu donation to the Gilets Jaunes cause, creating an impressive heap of rubber on the roadside.

Ordinary car drivers were not allowed through the road block. If they stopped to ask, they were given directions for an alternative route.

However, doctors or nurses on duty were allowed to pass if they could prove who they were. Ambulances and firefighters had the automatic right to go through the barricade.

Every time one was seen, or heard, approaching, the call went out – “pompiers!” – and people rushed to pick up the palettes and roll aside the supermarket trolleys until they had passed, taking care not to let any uninvited traffic through in their wake.

Although car drivers were obviously inconvenienced by the ring road being blocked, and had to take the long way round, they were not the real target.

The aim was to block the economy, in the shape of the heavy goods vehicles which are the life blood of capitalist commerce across Europe.

When lorries – or certain lorries, anyway, as there were some complicated criteria that I never quite grasped – approached the blocked section of road, they were not turned away but invited to enter.

Some of them took a bit of convincing, with Gilets Jaunes standing in front of their vehicle or blocking their way with some of the ample supply of tyres.

But others were more than happy to pass through the blockade into the stretch of road sealed off at both ends by the protesters, where they would have to remain until the end of the action at 8pm.

I was a little surprised by this, until it was patiently explained to me that this amounted, effectively, to a day off for the lorry drivers.

They could phone their boss, report that they were blocked in by the Gilets Jaunes, and spend the day sleeping in their cab, sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, chatting with other drivers or protesters, or whatever. And be paid for it.

When we see a HGV branded with the name of some foul capitalist business, it is too easy to forget that the man or woman driving it is not part of that business, but a victim of that business and can be a willing accomplice in a struggle against the world which that business represents.

After six hours of the blockade, there was no space for any more lorries and disappointed drivers had to be turned away at the barricades.

I took a walk down the blocked stretch of dual carriageway, which was essentially now a lorry park with a narrow central lane for emergency vehicles.

More than fifty lorries had rolled into the Yellow Vest net – mostly French ones but some from Poland, Hungary and Romania. Quite a haul!

There had been a lot of talk at the Monday night assembly about the possible reaction of the police, who had previously used tear gas to clear a roundabout and against a town centre protest.

People were advised to bring protective masks, goggles and so on and were armed with information on solicitors and arrest support.

So it was slightly surprising that when the Police Nationale first turned up at the action, they exchanged smiles and handshakes with some of the Yellow Vests.

I asked somebody about this. “It’s because they’re local police, they’re from here,” he replied. “They’re friends, family members even. One of the Gilets Jaunes is a retired cop, in fact!”

Later the gendarmerie, part of the French armed forces, also turned up and were surrounded by a huddle of Gilets Jaunes.

Something termed a “negotiation” took place and the “forces of order” went on their way. The local paper, Midi Libre, reported later that the authorities in Alès said they did not, on this day of national action, have enough policing resources available to dislodge the blockade.

THE GILETS JAUNES

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The sunshine revolution

Dions832
3,000 Gilets Jaunes gathered in the countryside near Nîmes in southern France

Report by Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective.

Saturday March 16 2019 will probably go down in history as the day that Macron and his government gave up waiting for the Gilets Jaunes movement to fade away.

Huge numbers of Yellow Vests packed the Champs Elysées in Paris for Act 18 of their revolt and were immediately attacked by police.

But they had come ready for a fight, for a revolution even, and took the offensive against the armed forces of the regime, despite all the tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, grenades and armoured vehicles.

Police were pelted with stones and repeatedly forced to retreat, in an eight-hour battle in the boulevard that has long symbolised chic Parisian affluence.

The rabble that had invaded this inner sanctuary of wealth wasted no time in trashing boutiques, eateries and banks, leaving them inscribed with their own philosophical reflections on the state of French society.

To the general consternation of the Parisian media and political elite, they even laid waste to that tiny minority’s spiritual home, the swanky gourmet restaurant Le Fouquet’s.

There was also much one-per-cent outrage over a video showing protesters in Black Bloc mode being cheered by others wearing the usual hi-vis singlets.

All of the lies peddled for months by the government were falling apart. No, the Gilets Jaunes movement had not faded away to insignificance. No, there was not a clear divide between the “extremist vandals” who broke windows and the rest of the movement. It was all just different aspects of the same uprising.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner declared afterwards that there had been no Gilets Jaunes in Paris that day, only 10,000 “casseurs” or vandals (there were at least ten times that many protesters, in fact).

This rhetoric allowed him to, again, completely brush aside the reasons behind the revolt and instead focus on a hard-line repressive strategy, firing the Paris police chief for not having ordered enough violence and announcing bans on protests and unspecified action against prominent Gilets Jaunes spokespeople.

A couple of days later the government announced that the army would be deployed to “protect public buildings” in France, a decision greeted with alarm and derision even by rivals on the conservative right.

Big shows of “strength” are tell-tale signs of an underlying sense of weakness, and the regime’s aura of authority had suffered as badly as the shop windows of the Champs Elysées.

* * *

Hundreds of miles away from Paris another huge crowd of Gilets Jaunes had gathered together, in completely different circumstances.

The occasion was a pre-release screening of the first film to be made about the movement, the documentary J’veux du soleil (I want some sunshine).

The local Gilets Jaunes at Dions, in the Gard department of southern France, appear in the documentary, made by Gilles Peret and François Ruffin, a well-known MP for the left-wing France Insoumise party.

Ruffin’s documentary Merci patron! (Thank you, boss!) was a massive box office hit in 2016 and fed into the mood of popular revolt of the Nuit Debout movement.

This was an outdoor event, as are so many such occasions in this Mediterranean corner of the country – in any case, no village hall or cinema could have accommodated the 3,000 people who turned up!

The giant inflatable screen had been installed in a manade, a ranch, on the rural plain north of Nîmes, surrounded by the vineyards which dominate this famous wine-producing region.

Before the film showing – which was after sunset, of course – there was a concert of the Spanish gypsy-style music that is very popular in these parts.

The culinary focus of the event was a “giant paella”, for which tickets had to be reserved in advance, but there were also plenty of food stalls and a “buvette”, an outdoor bar, where you could acquire a plastic beaker of local red wine for ninety-something pence.

The event as a whole was free, as might be expected for a political movement that is, above all, the voice of those with no money.

I took the time to look around me and to try to sum up the kind of people who were present. I was struck by the fact that it was impossible to do so.

Obviously it wasn’t “everyone” who was there (there was a serious overflow of the massive makeshift car park as it was! ) but this was certainly a cross-section of “everyone”.

These were the people you see everywhere here – at the market, sitting outside the cafés, or attending other general concerts or social events.

They were of mixed age and sex. There was nothing about the way they looked or dressed that marked them out as part of any particular “scene”.

That, perhaps, is the role played by the yellow vests worn by about half the people present – it represents the spirit of shared identity which unites these people and turns them from a collection of individuals into a whole.

This was a theme which cropped up again and again in the film, which is a kind of road movie in which Ruffin and Peret call in on Gilets Jaunes occupying roundabouts across France, from the Somme in the north to the Mediterranean coast.

People had been suffering in life but keeping it to themselves. They felt personally responsible, ashamed even, to struggle to pay the bills and feed themselves or their families.

Then the Gilets Jaunes appeared. They were accessible, friendly, and ready to talk. You didn’t have to pass an ideological examination to be allowed to take part in their revolt. You didn’t have to dress in a certain way or eat the right sort of food. Nobody even asked you how you voted at the last election.

Lonely and desperate people, spat out and cast aside by the capitalist consumer society which has taken hold of France, had suddenly rediscovered the community from which they had been separated.

In the Gilets Jaunes movement they did not just have political comrades, but friends. A new family, even. The hours spent on the roundabouts together had built solidarity, warmth, love.

J’veux du soleil is a powerful documentary because Ruffin allows himself to fade into the background and lets the Gilets Jaunes speak for themselves, with a frankness and intimacy that is rarely seen on camera.

The film intersperses these interviews with clips of Emmanuel Macron. The effect is stunning – the empty slickness of the neoliberal poster boy is the complete opposite of the raw honesty of the featured Gilets Jaunes.

The footage shows the arrogant “centrist” president, from his position of ultimate power and privilege, dismissing protesters as “people who are nothing”, as “lazy”, and as a “hateful mob”.

At the Dions screening, I was clearly not the only member of the audience who found Macron’s feudal contempt for the revolting peasants hard to stomach. His words were all but drowned out by a huge chorus of boos every time he appeared.

There were bursts of applause for particularly well-chosen words from Yellow Vests from elsewhere in France and great cheers of approval at the video of Gilets Jaunes famously smashing through the front gate of a government building in Paris with the aid of a construction vehicle they had borrowed from some nearby roadworks.

There was an outbreak of dancing at the end, too – the film draws its title and its sense of jaunty yet bittersweet optimism from a 1992 song by the group Au p’tit bonheur.

There were also, I was told later, plenty of tears – not just tears of sorrow for all the lives crushed by the dictatorship of money, but tears of joy for the renewal of hope in resistance.

THE GILETS JAUNES

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