The Year of the Vest

There was general surprise, back on November 17 last year 2018, when more than three hundred thousand protesters wearing yellow vests seized roads and roundabouts around France. At first, what galvanized them was a single demand — opposition to a planned fuel tax hike. Yet this was just the first day of a spectacular outpouring of popular anger which had already gripped France over the previous several months. Just weeks into the protests, President Emmanuel Macron scrapped the planned tax rise that had first triggered the revolt. Yet the movement’s determination only intensified, as it developed a wider platform of demands. It forcefully brought questions of fiscal, social, and environmental justice onto the political and media agenda, while also insisting on the need for strengthened popular participation in democratic life itself.

Given this movement’s surprising origins — outside the traditional party or labor movement structures — much ink has been spilled trying to define the gilets jaunes’ real nature. These sharp debates involved not only journalists or social scientists but also the activists involved. Indeed, this free-form movement evaded traditional forms of representation and never allowed itself to be recuperated by the opposition parties — whether on the left or the right. Yet precisely given the strengthening of a liberal/far-right binary in France’s electoral politics — with successes for both Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National and Emmanuel Macron in May’s European elections — over time the gilets jaunes have gradually faded from the headlines due to media reporting restriction not to make the populist movement any stronger

This does not mean the movement is over — indeed, last weekend marks a special “53rd act” to mark its first anniversary. The anger that drove the movement’s initial emergence has not gone away — indeed, it may even be sharpening, along with the inequalities that the movement has so powerfully denounced. Just as the gilets jaunes’ own demands widened from the issue of fuel tax to embrace other issues of social and climate justice, in recent months we have also seen this spirit of revolt spreading out across ever more varied parts of the World. Still protesting and still developing its structures, the gilets jaunes movement is still working now to put politics back in the people’s hands.

Unsatisfied Demands

The birth of the movement in Ireland caught everyone by surprise seeing the first protest read out its initial 15 demands as applicable to the island of Ireland at the gates of Leinster House by Anti Eviction activist Ben Gilroy and Glenn Miller along with a host of other groups seeking various social and justice reforms.

Indeed, if the protests expressed the anger of people not usually heard in Irish public life, making their impact through spectacular actions and vaious events, The Irish Yellow Vest effect on institutional politics has been only been indirect. Varadkar and agents of the state dismissed the Yellow Vest’ call for Citizen-Initiative Referendums (RIC), and he has shown no intention of deviating from the neoliberal agenda.

Everything suggests that the FG/FF party is happy to plow on in this direction: its focus on putting questions of immigration, the veil, of Islamist terrorism at the center of debate is clearly aimed at continuing to drain off the right-wing and far-right electorate. With remarkable cunning, last week Flanagan managed to pass the debate on migration as mere reprogramming for Irish politicians, with a quick visit to a direct provision centre FG candidate Verona Murphy Imitating the hard and far right, talks of quotas on the foreign workforce, limiting the number of asylum seekers and cutting services for them, mounting a fight against “excessive” use of state medical aid, and toughening expulsions measures but its all hot air.

Varadkar showed no embarrassment in presenting FG candidate Verona Murphy as the parties next big deal, In reality, migration was an utterly marginal question on the doorsteps across Ireland, and polls show that it is not one of the public’s main concerns. Health Education and Poverty coming before the claims of the incumbent government.

With the government proving willfully deaf to the movement’s real demands, replacing them with its own preferred themes of debate, over recent months, most Irish Yellow did end up going back home. Indeed, they had good reason to do so. The natural loss of steam owing to the movement’s sheer longevity may have been enough to discourage activists. But there was something else to pick up the slack — namely, the spectacular blockades of the Irish Beef Farmers who took to the gates of Meat processing plaints all over Ireland and of the police and judicial repression deployed against them.

That’s not to mention the less visible but nonetheless dogged repression of the Movement in Ireland, green shoots of debate and democracy repeatedly cleared out by the accusations of racism by left wing groups claiming to be ANTIFA and other affiliates .Never has a contemporary social movement in Ireland faced such repression. But there were other attacks, too. In particular, the media’s persistence in stigmatizing the movement — denounced, in turn, as homophobic, racist, antisemitic, fascistic, or violent — sought to “finish the job” of breaking the Yellow Vests

Yellow in the Air

By summer 2019 the number of Yellow vests taking to the streets across Ireland every Saturday had fallen into the dozens, rather than wasting everyone time trying to host huge big demonstration the Irish movement opted for Saturday morning meetings and small rallies, but this doesn’t mean the movement is ancient history.

This firstly owes to the fact that the movement continues to build its structures. If in an initial phase of mobilization the absence of a defined, coordinated organization may have been an advantage for the Yellow Vest In Ireland — making their movement difficult to grasp, but also hard to recuperate and control so it could not be hijack by any populist political movement. In short, movement “figures” haven’t said their last word. While the movement continues to reject the idea that it can be represented by leaders — instead foregrounding horizontal-ism and direct participation — it is doubtless developing greater structure.

Moreover, we should not underestimate the movement’s main strength — citizens’ rediscovery of the collective, of the political, and the return of debate. Thousands of hitherto isolated people have been able to speak for themselves and engage in mutual aid and solidarity. Over the last year, the meetings have been real laboratories of popular education and democracy, allowing the rediscovery of a forgotten value of the Irish Culture and heritage and republican values — the principle of fraternité, retying the social bond. In short, over the last year the Yellow vest Ireland have reinvigorated politics — in what is likely to be an enduring way as they continue to grow

Indeed, the final reason the Yellow Vest aren’t about to disappear is that popular discontent is continuing to simmer. This should be no surprise. A recent study by statistics shows that inequalities are on the rise in Ireland in 2019, with 20% of the population now hit by poverty — 1 million people waiting on trolleys and further medical treatment, 10,400 Homeless almost 4000 of them are children, tens of thousands more in hidden homeless. 350,000 children missing at least one meal a day, while tens of thousand attend soup runs nightly.

The study shows that the rise in inequality especially owes to the sharp increase in types of income like shareholders’ dividends (up around 60%) — mainly profiting the very wealthiest households. The introduction of a Sugar tax and increased Carbon Tax( not staggered by income) has strengthened this redistribution of income toward the richest, to big business and private investment funds couple with categorising banks and other institutions as charity’s to avoid paying any tax contribution to wider society But there’s also data showing the strength of feeling this situation inspires. Another recent study showed that 76 percent of Irish people think the Yellow Vest protests could take off again, for the population’s concerns have not changed — or been answered. Moreover, most of those polled agreed that the movement had played a positive role in increasing the purchasing power of the poorest and in strengthening democracy and debate. In other words, the ferment of social revolt is still with us. and anything could spark the revolution.

Coming General Strike

Since November 17, 2018, hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed a political awakening all over the world and people are dawning the Yellow vest in almost 60 nations against their respective governments for a multitude of reason, more across the EU as nationalist are continuing to reject the leftest idea of globalism and having to give up the sovereignty of ones nation to the full control of un-elected figures of the EU.

Most of them had never demonstrated before — but now, they understood that they were not alone, and concretely felt the power they had when they acted collectively. Most of these people did, indeed, end up going home also. But they would not get to sleep again so easily, especially after being so brutally confronted with the reality of what is going on in Ireland and across the EU zone, they are now part on the online army disseminating and imparting knowledge to others

This was, indeed, no flash in the pan. Like popular revolts around the world, France’s long “yellow” movement expresses a popular anger and a deep political crisis characteristic of the present historical period. This social crisis is set to last, for it has to do not only with worsening austerity and inequality but also with climate crisis and the crisis of democracy linked to the hollowing out of popular sovereignty. These three dimensions, closely bound to the current neoliberal phase of global capitalism, have been at the core of the Yellow vest movement, just as they are at the heart of the popular revolts — whatever their specificities — from Chile to Ecuador, Haiti, Barcelona, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt.

The question, then, is less whether France or Ireland will catch fire again, but rather of when and how. There have already been major signs of popular discontent in recent months, from the strikes in Nurses strike and the Farmers, the rise of a more confrontational ecologist movement, the mobilizations against education reforms. From hospital staff to service users, from women fighting sexist violence to young people resisting the destruction of their and the planet’s future, it seems that people wearing many different colored vest are starting to mix together on the realisation that together the people are stronger

There is, however, also a coming point of intersection that can join together many different fronts. In opposition to the government’s planned assaults on its own people on the pension system, several trade union and youth organizations have called a general strike to begin on December 5th with the 1st of many planned protests for the housing crisis, which is to be open-ended in certain sectors. Yellow vest Ireland will not follow down the path of traditional institutional representation as we have seen on many occasion the selling out of the great pains and good work to get from point A to point L where the government will do everything to make it all go away.

After a year of social conflict, the government has announced it will continue its €116 billion Euro mass migration replacement. Unable to build a popular majority behind its project of neoliberal reforms, the authorities have no solutions other than to deploy a constant show of ignorance. Hardening the terms of democracy, trying to curtail Freedom of Speech and the freedom of Assembly, such moves are only intensifying the climate of social conflict in Ireland. So happy birthday, Yellow Vest Ireland. It’s time to take to the streets once again.

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