‘Gilets jaunes’: a rather unusual coalition

Honfleur, le 17 novembre 2018, mouvement des gilets jaunes bloquants le Pont de Normandie et ses accès. © Nicolas Cleuet / Hans Lucas

Lionel Venturini interviews Stefano Palombari over at the Verso Blog:

Lionel Venturini: The ‘gilets jaunes’ are a heterogeneous movement. How do you explain why this hasn’t broken up?

Stefano Palombari: The IFOP survey on the backing for the ‘gilets jaunes’ shows three categories that are most supportive of the movement: employees (63%), manual workers (59%) and self-employed (62%, including small businesspeople, shopkeepers and tradespeople). This social coalition is quite new in France. What is striking about the list of demands given to the media is that all are addressed to the government, not to employers. The only wage demand is for the minimum wage, which is set by the government, to be increased to 1,300 euros – 150 euros more than today, which is very reasonable. When it comes to purchasing power, the key demand is for taxes to be cut. It is precisely the absence of traditional wage demands that has permitted a unified movement, combining categories that would otherwise not agree among themselves.

LV: This recalls the beginnings of the Five Star Movement in Italy, which is now in power in coalition with the far right.

SP: The Five Star Movement had a base that included self-employed and employees: the price paid to build this social alliance was that the wage relationship was no longer questioned. In their demands, the ‘gilets jaunes’ also do not call for Macron’s labour laws and decrees to be repealed: is this a sign? It is too early to be certain, but there is a risk that the neoliberal nature of the wage relationship will no longer be challenged. In Italy, the League/Five Star Government has not challenged Matteo Renzi’s Jobs Act, which is very similar to the El Khomri law in France.

More here.