Interviews with anarchists on the Yellow Vests movement
October 4, 2019by actforfreedom
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The idea of this pamphlet comes from an initiative by the Brazilian anarchist magazine, Crônica Subversiva, in Porto Alegre, that wanted to interview some anarchists on the Yellow Vests movement in January 2019. Excerpts of these interviews were also published in Portuguese in issue 3 and will also appear in issue 4. The idea was to look at the points in common of this movement with that which characterized Brazil in 2013-2014, when social anger expressed itself through massive demonstrations without being monopolized or absorbed by political parties or unions. It was during these demonstrations that the black blocs were born in Brazil.
Workers, students, youths of the favelas and other angry people, politicized or not, took to the streets and attacked the symbols of capital and the State. These massive demonstrations allowed the birth of different self-organized and horizontal initiatives. In Porto Alegre, self-managed and politicized places appeared, occupations of public spaces, such as the City Hall, which lasted for weeks, as well as the start of the struggles of the youngest, who occupied the schools for months and took part in new demonstrations between 2015 and 2016. It is not easy to quantify the consequences of these social movements today. Five years on from the ‘the days of June 2013’, Jair Bolsonaro, fascist and servant of North-American imperialism, was democratically elected by the Brazilian ‘people’.
In a sense, his ascent to power appropriated part of the social movements and instrumentalised the hatred for the Workers’ Party that had already disappointed a good number of electors. At the end of 2014, a far right movement (anti native american, anti-black, anti-LGBT, etc.) was created, MBL (Movimento Brasile Libero), [Free Brazil Movement], which gathered many people who are lost in politics and was to consolidate itself as the base of the future president’s conquest of power. Even if the 2013-2014 social movement in Brazil is not responsible for Bolsonaro’s ascent to power, at least it wasn’t strong enough to avoid the growth of fascism in the country from 2015 onwards.
The legacy of the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 movements is alive in the hearts of all the insurgents and black blocs, who at a certain point tenaciously challenged the forces of order and all that oppressed them every day. It also lives in the possible future that insurrectional action made it possible to behold. These movements opened doors and gave body and soul to the action. The Yellow Vests movement also gives us a glimpse of a State and its representatives shaken by an insurrectional wave that is moving on the other side of the world.
As anarchists, it is important to ask ourselves questions, for example about our role within social movements. How do we take part in a social movement without abandoning our convictions? Without turning into a revolutionary “vanguard”? How do we spread our ideas and have them shared by persons who seem to have views of the world that are completely different, even contradictory, to ours? Is creating chaos our sole objective?
There has been a lot of talk about black blocs in France recently. The media, politicians and citizenists do so in order to create a false distinction between obedient law-abiding Yellow vests and minority ultra-violent extremists. What seems clear to us in this movement is that it is very complicated to distinguish the black K-ways typical of black bloc anarchist tactics from the numerous yellow vests that have come to this movement without already having had any experience of revolt. The insurrection of the Yellow Vests has (and continues to) put together a lot of different people of various social backgrounds and political cultures, a multitude of rebels against the establishment and a popular anger rarely displayed so intensely. After 16th March 2019 in Paris, even more than in December 2018, a joyful insurrectional mix of political identities was born, well summed up by the words on the cover of Gilets noirs, K-way jaunes (Black vests, yellow K-ways). We cannot forget that it was in the avenue Champs-Elysées, devastated by damage and looting, that millions of people chanted a simple but promising slogan: “revolution”.
Concerning the interviews, the idea is that they give some trails of reflection and show how anarchists participated in the Yellow Vests movement in various regions of the territory controlled by the French State. The interviews are provocatory because the positions and analyses presented are varied and sometimes in contradiction with each other. In any case, the interviews invite us to participate in insurrectional action; and they affirm that in the face of daily violence from a State that believes it is omnipotent, passivity and pacifism are not valid options.
The interviews don’t intend to create rigid stances towards the present movement, but are useful to stimulate reflection, strengthen struggles and demonstrate how anarchists can participate/intervene in an insurrectional and revolutionary dynamic, but one that is confused about the political perspectives.
Done via email between the beginning of February and the beginning of April 2019, the interviews are also action shots of a movement that goes in moments, that wins and loses with varying intensity according to the time, and seems more unpredictable than the movements/mobilizations known by Hexagon in the last decades.
We chose to publish them the way we received them. They were written, and we decided to leave the choice to feminise/render neutral/de-gender the words open. Moreover, we have a great number of digitalized documents on the Yellow Vests movement (leaflets, texts, photos, posters, videos…). These archives are being put together and can be shared. If you are interested, write to us! The same goes for the translation of the pamphlet. A Portuguese version is a work in progress, and perhaps also in Spanish. If you wish to translate the pamphlet into other languages, get in touch!