Yellow vest workers have published a video showing what must be thousands of pre-printed euro notes being burned in protest.
Workers at a minting factory in a French town called Jouy-sur-Morin show a pallet of what looks like blank paper, but when zoomed in you can see the incorporated anti-counterfeiting measures and the number 100 throughout.
French media says the minting factory, Arjowiggins Security, is to close after it was bought out by a Swiss investment fund, Blue Motion Technologies Holding.
“We have no hope of saving the site, but at least people would like people to leave with decent allowances,” says Patrice Schaafs, CGT union representative and secretary of the Central Works Council of Arjowiggins Security.
They have apparently already destroyed several pallets. Every twelve hours, one will go on fire says Schaafs.
Making this the latest form of protest in France after a communique was read out on November 20th by workers at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard. They called for an economic blockade, stating: “Our goal is to regain decision making power for the people.”
Since then, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the past three months. Including today where a protester lost his hand while video footage shows another protester kicking a riot policeman on the face.
The targeted violence by yellow vesters makes these protests stand out from others because they tend to use revolutionary language and symbols.
In particular, they tend to address their anger towards bank branches, with one of them ravaged today (featured image).
It remains unclear what intellectual foundation is driving them, but they mostly appear to be generally white French natives, although they do speak of an inclusive language as the movement doesn’t have any apparent identitarian connotations.
The communique might suggest they lean left, perhaps even far left, with the fuel to this uprising being a previously announced plan to remove wealth taxes while cutting 120,000 public service jobs in addition to increasing fuel taxes.
The overall theme therefore appears to be a sense of favoritism towards the rich at the expense of everyone else. Thus they demand citizens referendums and/or a citizens’ assembly.
Breaking the Deadlock
French president Emmanuel Macron has been taking part in a grand national debate where some 3,000 town hall meetings have been held with only mayors attending.
Some reports suggest that has helped to increase his popularity with it now apparently back to pre-protests levels.
The yellow vesters, however, continue taking to the streets in their tens of thousands, with it unclear at this stage how this well be resolved.
One group led by Eric Drouet, a truck-driver who some call a Yellow Vests spokesperson, has rejected the electoral system, claiming he has a plan to legally remove Macron from power.
Another group, led by an unemployed nurse’s aid Ingrid Levavasseur, is organizing for the European elections this May, planning to file 70 candidates.
While previous statements suggest she doesn’t like the EU very much, she has now come out to say France “needs Europe.”
“France alone can not do much, it is a small country facing China or the United States,” Levavasseur said.
The leader of the Five Stars movement and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio, met Levavasseur this week, promting France to recall their ambassador to Rome in a warning to not interfere in internal politics.
“The wind of change has crossed the Alps,” Di Maio said. A newly launched direct democracy platform by Levavasseur was “put in place by the Italian M5S,” she said.
Di Maio hopes to create a direct democracy block in the European Parliament, with his party initially offering a euro referendum, but then backtracked.
Membership of the euro and the EU remains popular in Italy, France and across the continent, with Levavasseur and Di Maio both calling for reforms, rather than an exit.
Macron on the other hand is driving greater integration of the European Union to make it function more like a state. That includes an EU army, as well as a fiscal and banking union.
Generally, the yellow vesters on the streets do not seem to be saying much about the EU. The communique didn’t say much about it either. Their focus instead appears to be more on criticizing favoritism towards the wealthy.
The Citizens Assembly that Turned Heads
A gridlock in Ireland over abortion policy was solved by 99 ordinary citizens who in youtubed meetings reached a decision within five weeks, leaving everyone satisfied.
“The jury of 99 citizens broke open taboos around sex and women’s reproductive health. Passionate speeches in favour of and against liberalising abortion laws were heard, including from medical, legal and ethical experts. They also witnessed audio testimonies by women who had faced crisis pregnancies,” the Guardian says.
The random selection of the citizens allowed more diverse views to be expressed. In addition, lacking the pressure of elections, they could speak more freely, thus reaching deeper collective understanding.
That led to a collective decision where everyone felt represented, with Ireland then passing an historic law on abortion.
It’s not clear whether yellow vesters have been influenced by these events, but some have called for a Citizens Assembly on the Brexit matter, with this idea seemingly spreading.
Prior to the national debate, Macron asked a number of questions in an editorial, including whether a Citizens’ Assembly would be desirable and whether there should be more referendums.
Some say referendums on their own can be used by charismatic leaders to effectively game democracy, with others wondering whether the random selection of a jury can really be random.
As the list of registered voters is public, it is possible to have a provably random selection through the use of cryptography with everyone then free to validate the randomness for themselves.
That thus might be less of an obstacle than the question of whether this innovation in democracy would be desirable. A question that France is in the midst of trying to answer.