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The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ Are Unstoppable: “Now, The Elites Are Afraid”

Authored by Christophe Guilluy via Spiked-Online.com:


The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has rattled the French establishment. For several months, crowds ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend across the whole of France. They have had enormous success, extracting major concessions from the government. They continue to march.

Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluy’s study of la France périphérique (peripheral France) caused a media sensation. It drew attention to the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities. It highlighted the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon. Guilluy has developed on these themes in his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of Francespiked caught up with Guilluy to get his view on the causes and consequences of the yellow-vest movement.

spiked: What exactly do you mean by ‘peripheral France’?

Christophe Guilluy: ‘Peripheral France’ is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities – far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York.

Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The gilets jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places.

They tend to be people in work, but who don’t earn very much, between 1000€ and 2000€ per month. Some of them are very poor if they are unemployed. Others were once middle-class. What they all have in common is that they live in areas where there is hardly any work left. They know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.

spiked: What is the role of culture in the yellow-vest movement?

Guilluy: Not only does peripheral France fare badly in the modern economy, it is also culturally misunderstood by the elite. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century movement in that it is cultural as well as political. Cultural validation is extremely important in our era.

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

The Brexit vote had a lot to do with culture, too, I think. It was more than just the question of leaving the EU. Many voters wanted to remind the political class that they exist. That’s what French people are using the gilets jaunes for – to say we exist. We are seeing the same phenomenon in populist revolts across the world.

spiked: How have the working-classes come to be excluded?

Guilluy: All the growth and dynamism is in the major cities, but people cannot just move there. The cities are inaccessible, particularly thanks to mounting housing costs. The big cities today are like medieval citadels. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, Paris is going to start charging people for entry, just like the excise duties you used to have to pay to enter a town in the Middle Ages.

The cities themselves have become very unequal, too. The Parisian economy needs executives and qualified professionals. It also needs workers, predominantly immigrants, for the construction industry and catering et cetera. Business relies on this very specific demographic mix. The problem is that ‘the people’ outside of this still exist. In fact, ‘Peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of French people.

spiked: What role has the liberal metropolitan elite played in this?

Guilluy: We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.

The middle-class reaction to the yellow vests has been telling. Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms. The gilets jaunes didn’t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no ‘off’ button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for a kind of soft totalitarianism.

A lot has been made of the fact that the yellow vests’ demands vary a great deal. But above all, it’s a demand for democracy. Fundamentally, they are democrats – they want to be taken seriously and they want to be integrated into the economic order.

spiked: How can we begin to address these demands?

Guilluy: First of all, the bourgeoisie needs a cultural revolution, particularly in universities and in the media. They need to stop insulting the working class, to stop thinking of all the gilets jaunes as imbeciles.

Cultural respect is fundamental: there will be no economic or political integration until there is cultural integration. Then, of course, we need to think differently about the economy. That means dispensing with neoliberal dogma. We need to think beyond Paris, London and New York.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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Cudwieser
Cudwieser
January 22, 2019

14/7/19 230th years the French showed a backbone against the elite.

Bill Warrick
Bill Warrick
January 22, 2019

Orwell called these people “the Proles” and he said “it is up to the Proles”. Well, the Proles have responded to Orwell’s call, they are revolting all over the World, except in Russia because Putin listens to them, but they aren’t listened to by Macron, or May or Merkel and that is why they are doomed and Putin is not. All thinking people need to thank the Proles because they are destroying the Globalist’s dream.

You can call me AL
You can call me AL
Reply to  Bill Warrick
January 22, 2019

No they did actually march in Russia, because of the higher prices for food and the likes, it was mainly against the Prime Minister.

Bill Warrick
Bill Warrick
Reply to  You can call me AL
January 22, 2019

Yes Al, I am aware of that but it hasn’t seemed to be on the scale of what the 3Ms are being swamped with. Medvedev, deserves it for his neo-liberal policies and I wish Putin had chosen someone else for PM. The Saker was stunned by it. I guess now we can call them the 4Ms.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Bill Warrick
January 23, 2019

I think that Prime Minister Medvedev is doing a good job in Russia, not like Prime Minister May in Great Britain who is simply a never-ending catastrophe.

GB was never bankrupt but the Soviet Union was bankrupt, in 1991. Its economy surged up like Phenix from the ashes under President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev. They are a fantastic duo.

There is nothing comparible in western states, nothing at all ….

Brigitte Meier
Brigitte Meier
January 22, 2019

Excellent analysis, thank you.

Steve
Steve
January 22, 2019

Funny how when he sought the Presidency Macron denied th3ere was something called French culture. Idiot. So the people wound up with a fake election and Macron a loser from stem to stern. Only when he is defeated and sent packing can France progress again with working people propelling change.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Steve
January 27, 2019

The Russian Ambassador to the UN Security Council in New York asked those present to have a look at the violence in the streets of France, the protests of the Yellow Vests – instead of harping on “protests in Venezuela”.

As usual, the US and EU governments turn a blind eye on their own problems. They are too busy playing “police for the world”.

https://www.lepoint.fr/monde/onu-un-ambassadeur-suggere-de-parler-des-gilets-jaunes-26-01-2019-2289100_24.php

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 28, 2019

Yellow Vest leader Jerome Rodriguez, who was shot in the eye by French police, says: I will keep on fighting the fascist government of Macron. We fight for a better France, we fight against Macron’s dictatorship. He says Macron should not approve of street fights in Caracas, Venezuela, while mistreating his own people in France who go on demonstrations against him. He says, Macron is a liar and crook, an impostor, a shame for France.

https://francais.rt.com/france/58519-blessure-jerome-rodrigues-deux-versions-opposent

Cap
Cap
January 22, 2019

Yet no cookies, buns, sanctions on the French regime, snipers and 5 billion dollar coup for our French. Where are the Yanks screaming injustice?Where are our Yanks at the UN in support of the French? Is it because the French regime is a good ally? I name the west Hypocrites!

fred
fred
Reply to  Cap
January 24, 2019

the protest in Kiev where pro capitalist pro globalist pro EU pro US pro NATO and NATO and the EU are US puppets
in france it is the complete opposite so it is oke for the cops to beat the crap out of the protesters

Olivia Kroth
January 22, 2019

I am very glad that the Yellow Vests in France do not give up. I hope that they will be able to drive Macron out, the US-installed puppet with rigged elections. In the next round, hopefully Marine Le Pen will win and lead France out of EU and Nato. Those two are a straightjacket for France. EU and Nato are awful damage to France.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 22, 2019

The Yellow Vests in France: “We are living under a dictatorship”. The man in the interview says: “The police forces have encircled us and are bombarding us with gas. Their brutality is getting worse and worse. The Government is threatening us verbally and physically.”

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 26, 2019

Today, on the 26th of January, the Yellow Vests continue their protests in France. PARIS (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators will again take to the streets across France this weekend in protest at French president Emmanuel Macron’s policies, while anti-yellow vest groups also plan to use street action, to condemn violence. More than two months after starting their revolt over fuel tax increases, yellow vest protesters remain mobilized and have called for an 11th straight weekend of protests. About 84,000 people protested last weekend, around the same number as the week before,and protesters are expected to turn out in large… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 26, 2019

Today, at the 11th round of protests in Paris, Jérome Rodriguez, one of the Yellow Vests, was hurt in the face and lost one of his eyes. The Yellow Vests will go to court against the French Government.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 26, 2019

Yellow Vests slam Macron’s “Big Debate” as lies!

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 27, 2019

Yellow Vests: “Everything goes peacefully when the police is not present”

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 27, 2019

Whoever gets close to Macron, should shoot him in the eye so that he loses an eye, just like Jérome Rodriguez! “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth …”

dennis morrisseau
January 23, 2019

we, OUT in the countryside, DO NOT HAVE TO FEED THESE URBANITES……I wonder if this has occurred to them? I mean…..WE HAVE the food weapon [ha ha] and they don’t.

penrose
penrose
January 23, 2019

Macron, May, and Merkel. How this crew has the nerve to show their miserable faces in public is beyond me. The “elites” should be embarrassed by their disgusting little puppets.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  penrose
January 23, 2019

A disgusting trio: Macron, May, Merkel! They should hide their faces in shame!

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