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Are the Gilets Jaunes Today’s Sans-Culottes?

Presage to Revolution? Analysing the protests in France

Gilbert Mercier

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“Pour le peuple, il y a toujours la misère!” Anonymous Gilet Jaune

From the Island of La Reunion to the Napoleonic symbol that is the Arc de Triomphe, through big and small towns, as well as the usually bucolic countryside in France, there is something special in the air: the smell of fires on barricades, the smoke of tear gas, the anger built upon decades of inequality, injustice and despair for most. Among the Gilets Jaunes, many understand intuitively that the current democratic process is dead, and therefore the only option is the occupation of streets and roads. History usually moves at a snail’s pace, but sometimes a series of events abruptly push societies to a breakdown, to the fascinating and somewhat beautiful and chaotic quantum leap that is a revolution. Some cultures have it in their collective DNA to embrace, without fear, the chaotic changes of revolutionary turmoil: France is not only one of them, it was arguably the first one when its sans-culottes citizens cut off the head of their absolute monarch Louis XVI. It was unthinkable then; could it happen again?

From gas-tax protests to “Macron Démission!”

It is still premature to call the Gilets Jaunes movement a revolution, but one can say categorically that this unexpected and spontaneous grassroots movement has put France on track for the preliminary stages of such a dramatic event. While the Gilets Jaunes started as an apolitical protest mainly focused on gas taxes deemed unfair, it has, in a matter of three weeks, morphed into a movement that calls for many structural changes as well as the resignation of France’s President, Emmanuel Macron. The French government is under attack and says that the Republic is in peril from the chaos of the unreasonable extremists within the Gilets Jaunes. What the yellow vests of the Gilets Jaunes symbolizes is blue-collar workers, struggling retirees and students who revolt against the suits of the political class and CEOs. The Gilets Jaunes feel betrayed by the political class and even the Republic, and they view Macron as the president of the rich, acting often like a king and as if he is whispering about his subjects the “let them eat cake” of Marie-Antoinette. It is an anger over social inequality that fuels the Gilets Jaunes. While the integrity of the European Union should be defended for geopolitical reasons — otherwise European nations will lose their voices on the world stage — if the Gilets Jaunes movement spreads, perhaps the EU can fully become a European Union by and for the people, not the current EU of a rarefied ruling class.

A popular anti-capitalist revolt not a populist neofascist rise

The Gilets Jaunes movement is strictly horizontal, without a hierarchy or recognized leaders. It has, so far, refused to be hijacked by political parties: either the Rassemblement Nationale of Marine Le Pen on the far-Right, or La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Melenchon on the Left. It has also rejected association with French labor unions. Without spelling it out, the Gilets Jaunes movement is anti-capitalist: a guttural revolt of the have-nots against the elite. It is a popular, not a populist, movement. Europeans and even American populist-nationalists are already distorting the Gilets Jaunes’ significance to serve their political agenda. As opposed to the rise of nationalism-populism elsewhere, such as in Italy, Austria, Hungary, the UK as expressed by BREXIT, the US, and Brazil with the election of Bolsonaro, the Gilets Jaunes do not have an anti-immigration or even an anti-EU agenda that reeks of racism and neofascism.

“Les riches parlent de la fin du monde, on a peur des fins de mois”

The Gilets Jaunes are in revolt against capitalism or neoliberalism, which is a worldwide system of concentration of wealth and power into a few hands. With our pending ecological collapse and vanishing biodiversity, capitalism has failed and is reaching its end game. Unlike the neofascist science deniers, the Gilets Jaunes perceive climate change as a crisis, but they say that it is hard to focus on a global ecological collapse when you live from paycheck to paycheck. They feel that they deal with the anxiety of putting food on the table at the end of the month while the rich talk about the end of the world. Thinking about humanity’s survival is hard to do on an empty stomach.

May 1968 or 1789? 

Some outside observers, as well as a few Gilets Jaunes have made an analogy between this movement and the events of May 1968 in France, from which the main result was the resignation of General Charles de Gaulle. This is questionable. The 1968 movement was, at its origins, a student movement partially inspired by neo-Marxist ideas. In France, and worldwide, especially in the US, there was the somewhat fuzzy hippy peace-and-love cultural trend dancing to the soundtrack of Woodstock. This was more like a mini cultural revolution: a clash of generations, with the youths revolting against the moral rigidity of their parents. As the ultimate father-figure, General de Gaulle was a prime target. As the baby boomers came of age, the late 1960s everywhere were more about sexual liberation than anything else. In our darker times, when humanity’s extinction has become a legitimate topic of discussion, this hedonist element is entirely gone. The Gilets Jaunes are about bread-and-butter issues, not free love. This is not the Gilets Jaunes reality, as their demographic is, on average, much older. In this regard, the Gilets Jaunes have more in common with the sans-culottes of the 1789 French Revolution than the sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie of 1968. Gilets Jaunes is at its core a blue-collar revolt against unfair taxation and blatant social injustice, a revolt against the dead end that isglobal capitalism.

The “casseurs” are insurgents: repression or compromises?

French mainstream media, which are all on the side of the establishment, have  portrayed some Gilets Jaunes as “casseurs” responsible for what they describe as urban guerrilla warfare. By doing so, they are attempting to gut the protests of their sociological and political content. Casseurs break things and attack riot police for no reason, whereas the insurgent segment of the Gilets Jaunes target symbols of capitalism, such as luxury stores and banks, and retaliate against the blind violence of the state personified by the CRS riot police. Macron’s compromise to scrap the gas tax hike is viewed as too little too late. Gilets Jaunes demands have grown to include systemic fiscal and social changes, such as: reinstalling the Impot sur la Fortune (ISF) that taxes the rich; and increasing both the minimum wage and minimum retirement income to 1,300 Euros a month. Macron can either compromise on these and other points, get rid of his prime minister, and perhaps dissolve the National Assembly and call for new elections. Or he could harden the police repression by declaring a state of emergency and, even worse, call on the French Army to maintain order as some police officials have suggested, in which case the state of emergency would become a de-facto martial law. Playing hard ball with the Gilets Jaunes could be a fatal mistake for the French government. Back in 1789, King Louis XVI had a chance to abdicate his absolute power and become a constitutional monarch: he refused, and this mistake cost him his head.

Revolutions need revolution

Revolutions never happen in a sociological and historical vacuum. This being said, the spark that can light up the fuse of such an atypical event is usually unexpected. A  population can take only so much inequality, injustice and oppression. Under inhumane and unbearable pressures, societal time bombs do go off. Revolutions, successful or not, express a collective rage against a social order that has failed the vast fraction of a population. It is the fracture when talks and compromise become useless, a break point where violence and destruction appear to be the only options. This critical mass was reached for the brutalized and exploited French sans-culottes in 1789, Haitian slaves in 1791, Russian serfs in 1917, and Chinese workers and farmers in 1949. As an expression of the anger of a population with nothing left to lose, cornered by a delusional ruling class, revolutionary explosions are mighty and often unstoppable. Time will tell if the Gilets Jaunes movement has enough legs and bite to catalyze such an improbable revolutionary event.

Editor’s Notes: Gilbert Mercier is the author of The Orwellian Empire.

First Published by News Junkie Post.  Republished with the author’s permission.

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Vera GottliebOlivia Kroth Recent comment authors
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Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
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“Time will tell if the Gilets Jaunes movement has enough legs and bite to catalyze such an improbable revolutionary event.”
No, it probably won’t. CIA and French Army will jump in to cannon down the Gilets Jaunes. They will keep Macron on his post at all costs. The US Empire will not like to let go its bastion and stronghold in the overseas protectorate of Europe.

Vera Gottlieb
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Vera Gottlieb

In Europe, the French are the ones that have what it takes to go out on the street and protest until something starts moving. The French Canadian have the same DNA. And there will be a lot more ‘gilets jaunes’all over Europe until the elite finally gets it through it’s thick head, that time is long overdue to look after the vanishing middle class too. Will there be a Joan of Arc???

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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