by Paul Cudenec
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the screening of a 90-minute documentary about the 2018-2019 Gilets Jaunes movement in France.
Shot in and around the city of Toulouse, La Vie de tempête (“life in the storm”) is a very moving account of this important popular uprising against the plutocracy.
It combines thoughtful interviews with a dozen GJ supporters with often-dramatic footage of events on the streets, as the state launched relentless military-style assaults against protesters, using tear gas, water cannon and grenades.
The courage of those who kept going, weekend after weekend, for more than a year – notably one determined woman in a wheelchair – is humbling to behold.
The film’s director, Marc Khanne, was present at the screening and I asked him afterwards whether he saw a certain continuity between the GJ movement and the current wave of protest against the Macron regime, which is also now being countered with draconian bans and ferocious police violence.
He said that he could certainly see the same élan behind the 2023 rebellion, but added that although some GJs were involved, many of the original rebels were not.
They had been drained of energy by their full-on revolt and the repression with which it was met.
Some were still in prison, or paying off massive fines, or in poor health because of injuries from police batons and grenades, or indeed weekly exposure to tear gas.
He mentioned one person who, as a result of the latter, was now intensely sensitive to any kind of chemical and could not even tolerate exposure to a whiff of car exhaust.
The original rebels have also long been identified and targeted by the state. I have spoken to GJs who have received automatic police fines just because their car registration number was recorded in the vicinity of a protest.
I think two fundamental insights shone through from the film.
The first is that the GJs were very ordinary French people, more often first-time protesters than long-term political activists, and their demands were simple ones for social justice and democracy.
It was perhaps this element that gave the movement such energy, such optimism and such outraged anger at the way it was treated by the state, in terms both of smears and police violence.
The second insight is that this violence was entirely disproportionate and very deliberately meted out in order to crush the people’s revolt.
Marc mentioned, when speaking after the film, a photo he had discovered of a massive protest in Toulouse in 2010, where a crowd of some 150,000 people was accompanied by one single police car, its occupants in caps and shirtsleeves.
What, he asked, had changed so dramatically in the intervening eight years?
The answer, for me, cannot be separated from the global coup we are currently undergoing under the heading of The Great Reset.
The transition from a society that pretends to be democratic to an overtly authoritarian model has been in the pipeline for a long time now.
In the same way that 9/11 brought to an end the huge anti-globalization protests that blossomed in the 1990s, so was Covid intended to crush the new wave of revolt that was swelling before 2020.
Emmanuel Macron, the former Rothschild banker elected French president in 2017, has always been part of that process.
I cited his regime as a case study in the essay Liberalism: the two-faced tyranny of wealth, which I published on the cusp of the Covid moment, on March 11, 2020.
And in WEF leader Klaus Schwab’s 2020 book Covid-19: The Great Reset he specifically named the Gilets Jaunes in his warning that “social unrest” and a “political and societal backlash against globalization” presented a “sombre scenario” for the interests he represents.
Watching Marc’s film of the GJs with a few years’ distance, and now witnessing the French state’s treatment of protest in 2023, it is very clear to me that we have passed into a new historical phase, albeit hopefully a very short-lived one.
The latest shocking revelation is that Macron’s police are now planning to use drones against protesters, not only to watch them and bark orders at them through loudspeakers, but also to spray them with chemicals that will allow them to later be identified under UV lighting.
This is not the behaviour of an old-fashioned pseudo-democratic government trying to maintain the “rule of law” without alienating the people.
This regime does not give a fig for the people or what it thinks of them.
It is prepared simply to use the full force of its power to crush all those who dare stand up to its rule.
What we are looking at is more akin to a government of foreign occupation, such as France experienced during the Second World War.
Having no affinity with ordinary French people and their wishes, the regime treats them in the way that the French state used to treat Algerians; that the British empire used to treat its subjects in India or Ireland; that the South African apartheid regime used to treat blacks or that the Israeli state continues to treat Palestinians.
It is not only France that is under occupation from the global empire of greed, of course.
But the level of resistance here has forced this truth into plain sight, has shattered the illusion of democracy for millions.
This does not, in itself, represent a victory. The brute force of the occupying force is not easy to overcome in a head-on struggle, as all those brave Gilets Jaunes who lost eyes or arms on the streets know full well.
However, forcing the system to reveal its brutality it is a necessary step in defeating it.
If we are to bring down this monstrous global criminal entity, we first have to demolish the lies, fronts and facades behind which it hides, so as to reveal the full nauseating horror of its existence and its agenda.
Like all vampires, it will shrivel and die in the cleansing sunlight of truth.
A selection of articles in English about the Gilets Jaunes struggle, including my own reporting, can be found here.