The Meaning of the Yellow Vest Uprising
In recent years, discontent with the neoliberal mainstream has often been expressed through movements of xenophobic populism. By contrast, the gilets jaunes (or “yellow vests”) protests in France, in demanding a fairer distribution between rich and poor, break this reactionary mode by reasserting a progressive working-class politics. The mass protests, which emerged spontaneously with no union or political party at the helm, have captivated the nation. Sparked by social media criticism of an increase in the gas tax by President Emanuel Macron, leaderless demonstrations have arisen around the country from the city centers to the rural fringes. Macron’s recent concessions on delaying the tax and raising the minimum wage have not quelled the upsurge, which, in fact, has, spread into neighboring countries. The problem was never just a gas tax: it was a decades-long process of corporate globalization that rigged the economy for the rich. Could the yellow vests be a precursor to a broader international movement for the 99%?