Europe: Yellow Vests in France, Economic Stagnation in Germany (from Lexit’s Digest)

Lexit’s Digest No. 26
06 February 2019

In France, the protests of the yellow vests continue. Alan Kirman (of the London School of Economics) points at Macron’s discredited economic vision as the root of  the yellow vests uprising. Cole Stangler provides an update of recent events since December 2018, growing repression and Macron’s call for a great national debate: ‘Back on the offensive’.  Dimitris Konstantakopoulos informs about the first national assembly of the yellow vests, its appeal for further mobilisation and a general strike on 5 February 2019.

According to Konstantakopoulos, with the yellow vests ‘revolution returns to Europe’ – an interesting read. Vladimir Unkovski-Korica (LeftEast) points at similar mass protests across Europe and envisages a European ‘people’s spring’. Perhaps wishful thinking: apart from declarations of solidarity (on paper) and perhaps some visits of delegations of protesters to each other there is not that very much happening. The protest movements still act at national levels, not interlinking so much as a ‘European force’. Just as the 1848 revolutions (and what happens currently is definitely below that level) claimed a common ‘idea’ of a ‘people’s spring’ in Europe against the forces of the ‘Holy Alliance’, but failed to interconnect in pursuing such a common strategy.

Earlier on, Jacobin spoke to Olivier Besancenot on his assessment of the movements dynamics and the future of Macron’s Presidency. On the latter, Besancenot commented: “One section of the elite believes Macron has been weakened and may no longer represent a good option for them. After all, as long as Macronism works, it works, but when it fails, it threatens to create a vacuum of power.Nicolas Vinocur (of the mainstream Politico website) is of the opposite opinion: “The yellow jackets movement is a gift to Macron“. His main argument: If the yellow vests should create a list for the 2019 European Elections, according to recent polls Macron’s EnMarche would be unaffected by this. But the opposition of the hard right (Le Pen’s RN) and the left (Mélenchon’s LFI) would be weakened. Maybe this is a too narrow ‘electoralist’ perspective, against the background of the quite successful joint protests and strikes of French trade unions and the yellow vests on 5 February 2019. The spirit of social upheaval is still alive and kicking in France. We shall see whether new momentum for the convergence of struggles of trade unions, yellow vests, students and youth etc. will follow from this. But also, whether Macronism can withstand this – by combining even harsher repression, granting some further concessions, and regaining some ground with his initiatives on national dialogue.

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As the German economy is further slowing down, the German government – surprise, surprise – has a €25 billion budget problem. Economist Ashoka Mody predicts: “An inevitably slower Chinese economy and gradual obsolescence of Germany’s old industrial structure will weigh heavily on German growth, which will depress Europe’s already low long-term growth potential.” Germany’s ‘grand coalition’ governments (CDU/CSU & SPD) avoided harsh austerity policies during the last decade – but what will happen if the current slowdown evolves towards a fully fledged recession?

As Mody rightly points out, public support for Germany’s mainstream parties is eroding. On this and Angela Merkel’s foreseeable demise, Ingar Solty (of the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation) spelled out his analysis to Jacobin: “The death of the German dream“. In another interview, Solty tries to explain the difficulties of the German left to develop a strategy for taking power – also an interesting read. Óscar García Agustín and Martin Bak Jørgensen provide a very informative overview on the turn of Denmarks Social Democrats towards a tough anti-immigration stance: “Danes First, Welfare Last“. A further example of the EU’s core shifting to the right …

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