Scotland set for #YellowVests protests as Macron makes concessions and threats

Ben Wray

Radical movement for better living standards extracts increased wages from embattled President

SCOTS are preparing to start their own Yellow Vests movement after the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ in France won a significant victory, with President Emmanuel Macron conceding an increase to the minimum wage. 

Macron addressed the country last night, as it was still gripped by the protest movement that has evolved out of resistance to a new carbon fuel tax last month.

Although demonstrations, including extensive clashes with the police, have peaked in French cities at weekends, smaller protests and actions continue to spring up across the country. More mass demonstrations in Paris and around the country are planned for the coming weekend (15-16 December). He promised measures including a rise in the level of the minimum wage by 100 Euros per month, ending tax on overtime work and cancelling a planned tax hike on pensioners in addition to the suspension of the new fuel tax.

Mimicking the French movement’s demands for economic justice, a group calling itself the Scottish Yellow Vest Movement has called for demonstrations at the Scottish Parliament and George Square from this Saturday.

A statement on the group’s Facebook page reads: “On both Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th December 2018 we, the Scottish people will take to the streets outside the Scottish Parliament and to George Square in Glasgow to make our voices heard and our presence known to those who allowed our people to suffer in their droves. We will be a voice for the elderly who are freezing to death in their homes. We will be a voice for the children of Scotland who sit impoverished, homeless and hungry this Christmas.

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“We are calling on all members of the public, students, workers, grassroots campaigners and anyone who wants to see an end to the genocide of our people and stripping of our natural resources to join us this Sunday in solidarity with the countless other countries Yellow Vest protesters across the world demanding revolution.”

Speaking to CommonSpace about the demands of the forthcoming protests, an organiser said: “A change of the current system to one that suits the socialist principles of the Scottish people. A fairer society that works for us all not just a handful of globalist bankers and monarchies.”

The Scottish Yellow Vests Movement have listed 22 specific  demands: 1. Renationalise public services, 2. No ‘for profit’ organisations involved in service delivery, 3. Nationally owned pharmaceutical industry, 4. Living wage, 5. Living benefits, 6. End of corporate tax evasion, 7. End of austerity, 8. End of poverty, 9. End of homelessness. 10. Equal opportunities for all children in Scotland, 11. Adequate resources for the NHS, 12. Legalisation of both medicinal and recreational cannabis – investment in hemp industries, 13. End tax breaks for the rich, 14. End dawn raids and deportations.. 15. Allow refugees and asylum seekers right to work, 16. Close Dungavel, 17. Removal of Trident. 18. Investment in youth training programmes and education, 19. Investment in ecological production methods for cars, homes and products, 20. Asset stripping of all proven corrupt bodies, agencies and individuals to be redistributed equally among the communities, 21. Restructuring of legal systems – restoration of grand juries made up of the public – Free legal access for all – No more secret family courts/hearings/internment without trial. 22. Repeal anti trade union laws.

Writing in The National (11 December) newspaper, columnist and activist Cat Boyd warned that regardless of any ideological inconsistencies of the Yellow Vests, movements of its type were the only solution to the crisis facing working class people.

She wrote: “If we truly want an end to austerity, we should state unequivocally that we want the yellow vests to win.”

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Speaking to the French nation through a pre-recorded message last night (10 December), Macron – who has the worst poll ratings of any President in history – offered up his concessions which go directly against his plans for reforms. These included a new tax on elderly people and a fuel tax, which was supposed to replace a wealth tax, which was downgraded in January.

He said: “We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns.”

Macron also hit back, warning of a “malaise” in French working class communities, and said he would not “indulge” violence and rioting. He also announced that he would address immigration and defend secularism, statements some opponents on the left have said are intended to move the protests in a more nationalist direction.

On the same day students organised themselves into huge assemblies several thousand strong on campuses to add their demands to those of the Yellow Vests. Today, tens of thousands of students and young people have taken to the streets of French cities to demand that Macron’s government dissolve, an end to police violence against protesters and an end to Macron’s pro-business education reforms.

Macron has been in conflict with groups of workers and movements since he came to office promising to ‘reform’ French society by attacking workers’ rights, cutting jobs and subsidies and demanding a new mood of patriotism, including through the re-introduction of national service at age 16. He  has repeatedly claimed he would never back down in the face of pressure from street protests and unions.

He also claimed he would rule France as “Jupiter”, the Roman god of gods, a leader beyond traditional politics. His critics accused him of being arrogant and authoritarian. 

Picture courtesy of NightFlightToVenus