First published on opendemocracy.net.
By Pierre Bance
Commercy’s Yellow Vests offer a political solution to the movement: autonomous local committees, direct democracy, sovereign general assembly, delegates with precise mandate, revocable at any time, rotation of responsibilities. They call on the federation of local groups on these bases to avoid political recovery, self-proclaimed leaders, or delegates without an imperative mandate from the grassroots.
The spontaneity of the movement of yellow vests, its heterogeneity and disarray, can cause drifts of fear without anyone knowing where they hail from. But is this any reason for those who appeal to the people at every opportunity, left-wing activists, libertarians, trade unionists, to stand on the sidelines when these same people finally take their own affairs in hand? Who, in 1789, said that the revolt of the peasants would end in the Republic?
The socialist parties and labour unions that emerged to resist capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth century, industrial and bourgeois, petrified by too many institutional dealings, are no longer able to respond to the power of neo-liberalism of the twenty-first century, digital and financial. On the defensive, only accumulating failures, and without imagination, they kill their promise of a better life. This hope, still confused, of justice, freedom, equality and solidarity is not worn out today in those who reject the new world of Macron.
The sans-culottes of 2018 no longer support the morgue of a power touting individual success to justify inequality, despising those who do not fare well alone, protecting the rich and piling pressure on all others. Here is a President of the Republic who thinks that he is monarch, who, to feed his mad EU policy imperatives of structural adjustments to the needs of the bank and the market, resorts to tax as gleefully as in the good old days of the gabelle. But in front of gatherings of peaceful citizens demanding – only – a change of policy, arrogant power gets scared, and locks itself in its castles. For any answer, he seeks division, the gentiles against the troublemakers; he resorts to conspiracy theory and, the black blocks, the ultra-right – anyone who will do the trick to justify sending in the halberdiers charged with restoring the order of Jupiter. Isn’t it astonishing that the yellow vests once again find themselves addressing the Sun King in Louis XVI and asking for his resignation, if not yet his head? Phew! Order is restored, merchandising and pollution have resumed on the Champs-Elysees.
Tomorrow the military wil march to celebrate the Austerlitz Macronien! The little Marquises of Parliament, still frightened, are jubilant. The bureaucrats are going back to sleep. Overcome, will the yellow vests have to return to their ranks, keep quiet and continue to manage as best they can till the end of the month? Is their movement condemned to extinction by weariness and under the force of law? No, not if they decide to organize themselves. To organize differently. To reconnect with direct democracy and the federalism of the autonomous communes.
Different opinions, different social origins, professional status sometimes set to one side, they found it in themselves to defend their dignity. The precariousness of some echoes the exhaustion of others. They understood that, despite their differences, they could get along, were able to act collectively and put power at bay. They understood that, leaving aside what separates them, they agreed on their common interests, that their daily concerns were the same, and their cause too.
It is now necessary to perpetuate this impromptu meeting of the worries coming from the hallucinated campaigns and the sprawling cities. To find the balance of opposites. To constitute local committees organized according to the principles of direct democracy: a sovereign general assembly, an imperative mandate revocable at any time, and the rotation of responsibilities. These autonomous communes, parallel municipal councils, will carry our popular, egalitarian, social and ecological demands.
If thwarted, they will try to implement this without worrying about legal representation, even if it means confronting the mayor and the prefect. Day after day, emancipated society, society liberated from domination, of all dominations, will be peacefully planned out. As much as proves necessary, these free communes will federate to share their experience, their reflections, take charge of the management of common goods (schools, transport, health, environment …). Thus, the state will gradually be marginalized, its powers trimmed to the point of making it useless, until the day when it will be enough to push one last time the pyramid of the authoritarian order for it to collapse. It will be a long and difficult process, but it is possible.
I hear the objections and recriminations. “Utopian hot air” retort the organic intellectuals of the right, while leftist rhetoric will stifle their friends on the left. “To hell with the madness of the city”, say the Versaillese. “Beware of disorder” shout those who think, often wrongly, that they have everything to lose in any kind of change. “This is not feasible”, think the most benevolent, who would like to but simply do not believe in it. All of them cannot yet break away from the current ‘common sense’. To wait, always to wait, until the end of time when the elect, the leaders, the knowledgeable find the solution for what above all they do not seek: the emancipation of the people.
The programmes of politicians are no longer acceptable, the speeches of Macron, interior minister Castaner and their ilk engaged in a large consultation among the catacombs, even less so. Citizens must take their own affairs in hand. They are the only ones who can imagine and build the municipality without Caesar or the tribune. Let them follow the call of Commercy! May they turn that call into their divinity!