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Now into its FOURTH month, the Yellow Vest protest movement in France shows no signs of going away. Despite some financial concessions from Macron's government to French workers, the popular cry remains On ne lache rien! ("We're not letting go"). This weekend, French security forces were again directed by the government to violently suppress the protests in Paris and other major cities.

On this episode of NewsReal, French SOTT editor Pierre Lescaudron joins us to discuss the deeper historical, economic and cultural reasons behind the persistence of this movement, and why the French establishment is so vehemently opposed to it.

Running Time: 01:17:05

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Niall: Hi and welcome to NewsReal. Usually with Joe and Niall but this week I'm joined by Pierre.

Pierre: Hello.

Niall: Pierre is joining us this week because we're going to be discussing the yellow vest movement in France. Pierre is French, oui?

Pierre: Indeed.

Niall: Indeed. So he seems like the right person to be asking about what's going on in France. So we're going to be getting into the background. The key question I have is what can explain the persistency of this. It's now four months. It's been since mid-November so that's four months. We're into month four now. Yesterday just saw act XII.

Pierre: Twelve weeks.

Niall: So 12 weekends in a row of major protests. Again they took place right across France and not just in Paris. We've made a little video. I'm going to ask Scottie if he'll play this now. This is kind of a mash up of stuff that happened around France yesterday during the protests.

Video plays, Niall narrates. This is the main area in Paris where it took place. Do you know the name of that place?

Pierre: Between Bastille Nation.

Niall: Place de la République?

Pierre : Bastille Nation République between those three places. It's interesting because in those three places, it's not the power centre of Paris. It's far away from the houses of the banksters, the CEOs, the ministers. So the people, the plebeians are kept away from the centre of power.

Niall: I just want to point out here the burning the EU flag.

Pierre: Yeah, very good idea.

Niall: And there's a second incident of burning the EU flag. People who uploaded this video say it's protestors fighting among themselves because they were Antifa.

Pierre: No. It is not true. These are Antifas fighting against yellow vests which are two very different movements.

Niall: And as usual, the police just moved in and tried to break up the protests. This is still in Paris, the same as before. They just blanket the whole area with teargas and then start firing at head height at protestors, moving in and just picking off people, attacking them. These are all declared protests now.

Pierre: Yes.

Niall: The yellow vests have been told they have to and so they have; they announce where they're going to be. They have the right papers to be at that place for a certain period of time. Nevertheless the police show up and they instigate the violence essentially.

Pierre: The thing is, now they declare the demonstrations, they are more easily cornered. The police know where they're going to catch them.

Niall: Exactly, yeah.

Pierre: And you see declaring the demonstration doesn't reduce the police violence.

Niall: On the contrary maybe. They know where they're going to be. This is another person shot in the face, another hit in the eye. These are some of the other protests sweeping around the country, some big cities but also small towns.

Pierre: Strasbourg and I think it's in front of the Palace of Europe, a symbolic place.

Niall: Where is Morlaix?

Pierre: Morlaix? North.

Niall: In the north. This is also in the north. This is Lille. And finally this is Saint-Quentin where the protestors...

Pierre: Near Paris.

Niall: ...were joined, if you like, by firemen who were supporting the protestors obviously. So it's certainly by no means all officials of the state against the protestors.

Pierre: Absolutely because a lot of pictures are selected by the mainstream media, recorded by the mainstream media who purposefully choose images of violence in order to frighten the French people to not go into the streets and to make them believe that the police are against them. But in the vast majority of cases, the police show signs of solidarity with the demonstrators.

Niall: Right.

Pierre: Because ultimately they share the same place, they share the same social despair. They have low wages, they work hard, they see the unfair distribution of wealth and they see the destruction of the nation and culture.

Niall: So when I ask you then, who are the gilets jaune, can you explain to people?

Pierre: Yeah, that's quite clear. That's the general picture. There are always exceptions but one can say is that the vast majority of the yellow vests are French people who are working with salaries and who struggle to survive, despite being productive agents in the country. So that's the economical side of it. Now there is also an identity/cultural/nationalist side. Mostly you see white people, white French natives in the ranks of the yellow vests because in addition to the social and economic claims there is a claim relating to the nation, the identity...

Niall: Alright.

Pierre: ...and that is the typical profile of your yellow vest. There are also geographic or demographic specifics. Most yellow vests do not live in cities. Why? Because globalization led to the emergence of what we call the city worlds, like Paris, where wealth and power are concentrated.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: Now, as a yellow vest with your modest wage or your modest retirement pension you cannot afford living in big cities like Paris, Marseilles or Toulouse. Those places, as people say, have been gentrified. These are places exclusively reserved for the bourgeoisie. Alright? So the popular classes, the working classes that traditionally were working and living in cities because the factories were in cities, had to leave for the suburbs, to the peripheral France. But in turn, years later they had to leave the suburbs because the suburbs were given to migrant populations who became the workers for the factories in urban areas.

So today most of those white working poor French demonstrators live not in Paris where they demonstrate because of power there, because the media are there, but they live in what is called peripheral France, the France that is abandoned - abandoned by the media, abandoned by the public power that doesn't invest there, abandoned by the politicians that don't talk much about peripheral France. For a long time the official narrative that the problems, the social fracture, was between the elites and the suburbs. So those suburbs were flooded with plans, education plans and funding for infrastructure while the peripheral France was forgotten and dying.

Niall: Okay, so this would be a process over decades you're talking about.

Pierre: Oh yeah.

Niall: So this is coming to a head now. It's not like this is recent. Obviously, for example, the spark that set off the protest movement was specifically the raising of taxes on fuel for transport, people's cars. But also there were other factors as well but they were primarily economic.

Pierre: No, I don't think so. But let's go back to the first point-taxes on fuel. First it illustrates the previous point about demographics and geography. Most people from the peripheral France, most people from the working class basically, have to drive in order to go to their job. Why? Because they've been chased away from the cities by the gentrification. They've been chased from the suburbs by the mass migration waves. So they have to drive in and are the ones who have to pay to work. They're the ones who are affected deeply by those taxes. Plus those taxes are very unfair because everybody, whether your rich or poor, has to pay the same amount of tax, except when you're rich if you travel with a private jet, you fill the tank with kerosene and kerosene is free of tax.

When you're poor you fill your tank with diesel and diesel 80% of the price is taxes. In France, compared to the US for example, one litre of diesel is one-and-a-half Euros which is about $1.60 or $1.70. For a gallon it means about $6.00 a gallon or $7.00.

Niall: Yeah. And there's a lot more related. This week the government announced that there will be increases. I don't know if it's the government announced it. It's the newspapers announced it I suppose on behalf of the private companies that now run France's highways, that they would be increasing the toll fees on the motorways across France.

Pierre: Well it's part of a more systematic process where basically you privatize profits and you nationalize debts. The French highway system was the most efficient one in the world, built by the state, initiated by De Gaulle, part of the great program of national infrastructure to improve the efficiency of the country. So it's us, French taxpayers, French workers, that paid for this program and once the program was developed, once the investment phase was done, it was sold for cheap to big private companies to reap the profits. And now they're unilaterally increasing the fares and the yellow vests are totally aware of that. The media doesn't talk so much about that, that it totally burned to the ground two toll stations, one near Bandol, another one near Montpelier I think.

Niall: And in addition there were many that were occupied and still are being on some weekends. I should add that in this French media report I saw announcing increases in the tolls to travel, they had a side story right next to it, letting people know that the profits of the companies running the highways now have never been better. They're at record levels. So the financial health of the companies is superb, we are telling you, and you're going to pay more.

Pierre: Yeah! It's a good summary of the situation and the economic causes for the current yellow vest movement. Not only do you have a working class that is working more and is making less and less money and paying more and more taxes, but at the same time you have the fringe minority that benefits from globalization and there are some people who benefit from globalization that are mostly living in cities who keep seeing their revenues increase. So the wealth inequality keeps increasing.

Niall: Yeah, this is the basic point I'm getting from discussions we've had before now and now also. It strikes me that when it comes to looking at the basic indicators of how healthy or not an economy is, the figures are whatever - GDP growth per year or the unemployment rate or increases or not in salaries - they are an aggregated national figure.

Pierre: Yes.

Niall: But the key issue that's being overlooked is that there's differential.

Pierre: Of course.

Niall: Incredible difference within any given country. So there can be indeed low inflation on the whole, but look closer and it's not the same story at all.

Pierre: Of course. And psychology papers show that what is most important for people is not so much the absolute revenue. It's how much they make compared to others and this feeling of fairness. And now to go back to GDP per capita, it doesn't tell you much about the individual situations of people and that's what matters in the end. The revenue of a country doesn't mean anything on a human level. Say the French GDP of one thousand five hundred billion. Imagine I get all the money, I'm a kind of dictator, I get all the money and the rest of the population, 65 million, gets zero. Is France rich? Is France poor?

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: It doesn't mean anything. Even GDP per capita that is about €40K in France in 2018, doesn't mean anything. It's an average variance to see how the top tier and the bottom tier revenue is spread.

Niall: Even when you look at it in aggregate - I saw a figure recently, a graph, showing that OECD nations, which I think is largely western nations, even in aggregate, the real wages adjusted for price inflation and other things, has been decreasing for everyone since the 1970s, except for one percentile.

Pierre: Exactly.

Niall: A tiny one at the very top. This isn't even the one percent. This is the .05.

Pierre: It is true. Here you're saying your purchase power depends on two factors, how much money you make - your wage for example - and how much was the price of the goods you purchased. If your wage increases five percent a year meanwhile there's high inflation and the products you buy increase by 10%, your purchasing power drops by five percent a year. So indeed, for the popular classes and middle classes in OECD countries, what we call the PPP (purchasing power parity) inflation-adjusted purchase power is decreasing and that's one more manipulation, what some economists who are the bitch of the system try to make you believe that because your wage is increasing one percent a year, you're getting richer.

Niall: Right. Did you just say economist who are the bitch of the system?

Pierre: Yes.

Niall: Okay. They are indeed because they're selling an incredible story that has little bearing on reality for most people, what you call the popular classes in France.

Pierre: But they are right. I understand their behaviour. It should be a mistake to think that only 0.1 or one percent of the population in France benefits from globalization.

Niall: Okay.

Pierre: About 20% of the individuals who voted for Macron, in the majority benefited from globalization. Those people who live in cities who are lawyers, the service industry, bankers, they do benefit from globalization. Their income does increase. Their quality of life does increase. They're not stupid!

Niall: Right.

Pierre: So those journalists, those so-called experts, those so-called philosophers do defend their privileges and then their behaviour and lies from this perspective is understandable.

Niall: Right. Okay. Twenty percent is an interesting figure because that's roughly what even mainstream polls in France are saying is the division of support for or against the yellow vests - 80/20%. It's going up and down a little and it depends on the poll of course. But that's their own polls. We've seen in the past in other situations that the polls they would nearly always try to "scientifically adjust them" to obviously show a favourable result for the establishment. But even their own polls have this kind of 80/20 split.

Pierre: And that's the old mark of the neo-liberal driven globalization where you have about four out of five that lose in the game and one in five that wins. So there is a concentration. It's almost mechanical. It's structural, a concentration of wealth and privileges in the hands of the top 20% but within this top 20% indeed, you have 19-point-something lackeys - I call it the bitches of the system - and you have the ultimate winners which can see their wealth growing by three figure percentages each year. Billions and billions more.

Niall: Okay. Last week we saw the emergence of, really the first counter protests being called les foulard rouge which translate to the red scarves. They donned red scarves. Now officially they got onto the streets and they protested. They said that they were there to defend the republic, they were for democracy and they were against the violence, specifically directed at the police they said. But given what you've just said, this is probably a kind of rationale they've come up with where really what they're out there doing is defending their privileges.

Pierre: Yeah.

Niall: Because they don't see that other world. They don't experience it. They don't have any tangible connection with a world where there is suffering like most people.

Pierre: Those same people totally agree with violence against Trump, Putin, Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad. So violence is not what matters here. It's what does violence serve. If it serves a cause that seems fair to them, topping Bashar al Assad, the so-called evil dictator in Libya, bashing Trump or Putin, that's okay. That's justified. But violence against what they call the police, the republic - actually most of the violence is the republic against the people or whatever - they don't accept this violence because this violence does not serve their interests.

Niall: Right. What do you think of the idea put forward by a British journalist but resident in France observing and reporting on the protests, especially late in November and early December, the kind of act three and act four stage? This was the point where the craziest scenes from Paris were on the Place de L'Étoile with the Arc de Triomphe and just incredible pitched battles between the yellow vest protestors and the police. He reported that several thousand of the protestors were just out there smashing things up essentially. They were the most militant in pushing back against the police. His comment on it was that what we were looking at here was way beyond a protest against fuel and tax hikes but that it was an insurrection. He described what he saw as an insurrection. He's also said that he overheard or also spoke with a number of these people who said explicitly that they were up from the country going to Paris to do what they did.

Now I'm bringing it up because I think it supports the premise that this is essentially an urban versus peripheral France standoff. Obviously he would have had in his mind that he didn't like what he saw and that this was just violent and he would have therefore been against whatever reasons these people had for doing it.

Pierre: The violence is everywhere. First we have to emphasize that a lot of violence attributed to the yellow vests is actually initiated by the black blocks and the Antifa, the extreme left.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The actually useful idiots in the hands of Macron and the oligarchy because they destroy, they attack police forces and they give an excuse to the police forces to attack the demonstrators. So most violence should be attributed to where it belongs, the black blocks who never or rarely get arrested.

Now some yellow vest people get violent, yeah? Violence is part of human nature. Anger is part of human nature. When you work for years a lot and you have barely enough to feed your kids, to give decent housing to your kids, after a while you get angry and especially when you see where the fruit of your labour goes-other places in Paris.

Niall: Yeah. One of the slogans that they use a lot is "on lache rien". What does that mean?

Pierre: I think it literally means "We don't drop anything. We won't back down. '' I think it conveys something deeper, that the sentiment of despair and anger is so strong in some yellow vests that they're ready to go...

Niall: All the way.

Pierre: All the way. Why? Because they have nothing to lose. You have some of these people, they work, they are homeless. They work. On the 15th of the month they don't have money to buy food! What do they have to lose?

Niall: That reminds me of another early slogan in the initial acts of the movement where they said Macron's talking about the end of the world in reference to global warming and a disaster scenario and if we don't do something to save the planet now we're all doomed at some point in the distant future and they're point was 'You're talking about the end of the world. We can't get to the end of the month!'.

Pierre: Exactly.

Niall: Even employed people, even people who together with their salary do have some other support from the state. But there are all these hidden taxes - and by hidden I mean they're not actual taxes taken out of a paycheck but they're charges placed on compulsory things they must do, compulsory things they must buy, the clearest example of which is the yellow vest itself which is a remarkable symbol. The yellow vest of course was by law decreed under the Sarkozy government that every vehicle in France must have a yellow vest for emergencies.

So you would think, "Okay, everyone has to have their own. Maybe I'm going to be sent one from the local authority." No, everyone had to purchase one themselves. That's one small charge but there are a thousand charges and they increase all the time.

Pierre: Yes, and we finally reached the straw that broke the camel's back.

Niall: Right.

Pierre: This tax on fuel. Invoking global warming and the end of the world is a scam. It is a double scam on a socioeconomic level and on a societal level because in the narrative of the elites it's what justifies raising the taxes on these obviously. "These are the plebeians who pollute and destroy the planet with their evil diesel." That's what the elites say while traveling in private jets that are thousands of times more polluting! That's what those same oligarchs say while living in lavish villas that destroy way more of the planet and consume the resources. The yellow vest who lives on €700 a month and has a barbecue maybe on the weekend in his backyard if he has a backyard is not the one polluting. He's not rich enough to pollute.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: So there's a scam on an economic level, this global warming. But it's also on the societal demographics level because it justifies, allegedly, the massive inflow of migrants. And those two topics, identity, migration and economics are related. The cost of migrants in France every year is about €20 billion. Be aware that today in France if you're a migrant you have more rights, you have more support, you have more infrastructure, you have more help than if you are homeless, white, native Frenchie.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: So although it's connected in the name of equality, human rights, 'we're all equal', today the migrants have more rights than the natives. Where's the equality?

Niall: This is obviously not touched with a 10 foot barge pole in the French media normally but there was an interesting situation a few weeks ago where Macron as part of his grande débat, his national debate - what's your opinion on this great debate that he's launched, this program to consult the people?

Pierre: It's a masquerade. First he didn't consult the people. He selected mayors that were conciliatory, that were understanding, that were on his side and then he went for these endless monologues, but it's not binding. It's not a contract. It has no legal value. It's just wind, make believe, make believe that the yellow vests are being heard. Who was being heard?! They were not even there!

Niall: Yeah. There was one mayor though, who spoke out - of a mid-sized city - and she basically pointed out what you just said regarding the different treatment by the state between native French and migrants. Basically she was talking about the level of resources available to newly arrived, not even yet citizens, compared with people who are born French. She was of course roundly attacked in the media but why even bother if everybody knows it? What happened to this national debate you were going to have if, when she gets up to point out what everyone knows, she gets attacked and told to sit down and be quiet?

Pierre: And be careful when you hear so-called representatives of yellow vests invited on mainstream media. The mainstream media do select and sometimes they even create those so-called representatives that hold a very specific discourse; that is the extreme left discourse centered on the class struggle and Marxist vision of the world. There is some truth but that is not the whole picture. What is specific in the yellow vest movement is that it meshes together the best of the right and the best of the left. That is the best of the left, social justice, social equality, wealth distribution, and the best of the right, let's call it morality values. While Macron embodies the worst of the left and the worst of the right. The worst of the right is the economic right, neoliberalism, ruling inequalities and also the left, that's the LGBT minorities, craziness.

Niall: The multicultural equality.

Pierre: Yeah, yeah. The destruction of identity and values basically, a very nihilist postmodernist vision of the world and societies.

Niall: That compels them to make statements like "There's no such thing as French culture".

Pierre: Yes. There are no cultures in France. That's what he said. And it is a lie. It is false. France is one of the oldest countries, oldest nations in Europe, is centuries old, 1,000 years old. It has a very specific culture that is very much related to Christianity. That's history. That's reality, whether you are an atheist or a believer. I'm talking about culture and history here. I'm not talking about religion. And what the powers that be, the elites are very afraid of today is the convergence between the extreme left social wage equality and tax equality and the extreme right, identity, nationalism, control of the borders. They don't want this convergence to happen like it just happened in Italy.

Niall: Indeed.

Pierre: So they try to focus on the less harmful of these two discourses, that is the extreme left discourses - reduce our taxes, increase our wages and we shut up. We'll see if it works.

Niall: Speaking of Italy, I think it's interesting that in the space of just two or three days last week first the Italian leader of the left party that made it in, Luigi Di Mayo, criticized French foreign policy as being a causal factor in the migration waves coming from North Africa. He specifically called it colonization or neo-colonialism, the French government's engagement with North Africa. And he was saying this because this is at the root of these migration waves coming up from North Africa across the Mediterranean affecting obviously Italy as well as France.

Two days later the other guy who's the interior minister in Italy, the leader of the right party, the former government, Di Mayo, criticized Macron's government from the right. Obviously it's the multicultural embrace of the migrant waves that they're also causing. So one attacked the cause and one attacked this crazy solution to the issue that's destroying identity and economy.

Pierre: Of course it goes hand in hand at some level. At the financial level you have the same representatives of the elites that support wars in countries like Syria and Libya which trigger massive flows of migrants. Those same elites welcome and want those migrants which in turn manages to drive the wages down-more potential workers, more demand, same supply, wages go down.

Niall: Yeah. We're talking now about relatively recent migrant waves from the Syrian war, the Libyan war. But you made a reference earlier to immigration waves explaining over the last 40 or 50 years how the map of France has changed. Do you make a distinction between the two or can you link these two things together?

Pierre: France has a long history of successful integrated migration. It started in 1860 and since then you have had migrations non-stop. It changed a bit in 1945. France had to be rebuilt. A lot of people died so the French needed a work force and a lot of young, single males from the North African colonies came to France to work, to rebuild the country.

Niall: Set up as government policy to attract them.

Pierre: Yes. And it's called a labour migration. It's for labour the migration occurs. Those young males, what did they do? They worked in France, they married French native women, they got kids, they became French. They became more French than the French themselves because they know the price of becoming members of a nation, citizens of a nation. They know what it means because they had to earn it.

Now, in the 1970s the law changed and there was this family grouping that came into action that was applied and it was not single males that were migrating. These were whole families and the numbers started to increase. It means it's way more difficult to integrate a family that doesn't have to interact much with the rest of society than to integrate a single working individual.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: And then there was the increase of figures during the past years and the focused concentration of this population in the suburbs which was terrible for the native because history is clear that where the working class were living and they loved those places and it was terrible for integration because it's more difficult to integrate foreign populations when they are concentrated in the same place. There are not many interactions with the natives, the culture, the language and the history.

Niall: They will naturally move to areas and therefore be closely related through employment, through shared cultural backgrounds, etc. They will move to areas where there are 'people like me'.

Pierre: What do you mean?

Niall: Well the people arriving, if they're arriving in large numbers as a family unit are going to stick together.

Pierre: Yeah.

Niall: If there's a familiar family unit like them, they will of course stay together still and so on and it attracts more people. This has been shown in countless studies, that people, no matter who they are, even white people in New York in the classically liberal democrat voting parts of the city, they will have their reasons for why they moved. They will never want to be seen as racist of course, right? But they will move if there's a certain tipping point where there's not enough 'people like me in my area'.

So people, whether they're native or newly arrived or a couple of generations old in their new host country and now consider themselves a citizen of that country, will naturally start to divide themselves into places where they're with like people, whether it's of the same background racially, religiously, etc.

Pierre: Yeah, and I think we have necessarily to invoke racism to explain those behaviours. Those natives who left the suburbs liked the suburbs. That's where they were born. That's where their memories are. But when you hear testimonies from those people, they say it doesn't feel like France anymore. "It doesn't feel like I'm living in France anymore." So it's not a value judgment. It's not who is better, who is worse but it's just not who they are.

So they move to peripheral France, to the countryside, to the small towns, to the forgotten and neglected France.

Niall: Yeah. I'm afraid that the...

Pierre: Maybe one point - sorry to interrupt you - one point. There is a myth that in the suburbs there is no economic fracture. That is not true. It is less true than it is for peripheral France. In the suburbs you're close to the power, you're close to the money. There are jobs when you are in the suburbs because you're close to the cities. So to some extent there's a potential force, climbing up the social ladder. You don't have that in peripheral France.

So sure there are no-go zones in French suburbs around big cities. I've witnessed that directly. There are no-go zones. There are areas that are controlled by some kind of northern African mafia where most of the economy is based on illegal drug trafficking. But most of the suburbs is not that. Most of the suburbs are typically the northern Africa young guy who works for Vazon and does the delivery. Hard job, difficult job, working all day long.

Niall: Yeah. You were in Paris recently and you said you were struck by how well the city is doing, in the parts that you saw anyway.

Pierre: Paris is called the most beautiful city in the world. Is it only French people who say that? {laughter}

Niall: I think that's certainly what historically it's been associated with. We'll give you that.

Pierre: There may be some objectivisms for that and one objectivism is because indeed it is very beautiful. And to make a beautiful city it doesn't pop out of the ground spontaneously. It means there's been billions, generations, wealth, ideas, work, to create those marvels. France is a very centralized country and Paris does concentrate about one-third of the population. Most of the population is in the suburbs. You have one or two million people living in Paris. That's not much, eh?

Niall: Paris proper, yeah.

Pierre: The very privileged. The bou-bou, the bourgeois boheme. They drink smoothies, they eat vegetarian, they use electric vehicles and you see the result of them. They don't do much. They don't eat real meat. They don't do real activities so that they have small wrists and they're all round and a bit flabby you know. {laughter}

Niall: Yes.

Pierre: These are the Parisians. And around them there are the servers, the ones who bring the food home, the sushi and the smoothies. They live in the suburbs. So you have a small population there. Two million in Paris, 15 million in the suburbs. One-quarter to one-third of the population in urban Paris, the ones who make Paris work, who run Paris, the work force. But you have half the wealth generated and consumed in Paris.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: A very strong concentration of wealth.

Niall: And it includes a lot of social investment.

Pierre: Of course.

Niall: But it's target areas. So it's not just that it's certain cities but certain parts of the cities. The streets look fabulous, the people are doing well, everyone's happy. So there's a reality to it. It's not all a mirage, but it does become a mirage when it's looked at, at the national level.

Pierre: It's a reality. You have basically, in terms of globalization in a developed country, about 20% who get wealthier on the backs, at the expense of the 80%. This is very unfair but it leads to a beautiful result, i.e., the concentration of wealth and therefore beautiful architecture in cities. It is a reality.

Niall: Yeah. I think it's...

Pierre: Just one point. We have to emphasize that during gentrification there is this concentration of public funds in cities. Let's think about it. Now there's a budget for, I don't know, swimming pools. Will we get the swimming pool here? For the listeners or viewers, who live in the southwestern area. We wouldn't get anything. The only thing we got is a new car plant. So if they close, we die. That's how we are privileged. If there are budgets for swimming pools, who is going to decide? Senators? Congressmen? Where do they live? Do they live here?!

Niall: No.

Pierre: Do you know senators who live here or ministers? All the political power, economic power, financial power is media power. Everything is in Paris. That's why the yellow vests demonstrate in Paris, because the message is for those elite people. And when those elites meet with each other in those beautiful salons, they put money for the projects that serve their interests and the suburbs so they'll stop burning cars.

Niall: Right. Some time in December there were various yellow vest protests that took place in other countries. I'm thinking specifically of those in the Anglo-Saxon world. They were partly in sympathy with the French protestors but I notice a statement from the organizer of one that took place in Canada. In his interview with Canadian media he made a point of distancing himself and therefore the cause, for why they were protesting from the French, by saying "Our reasons for doing this are different. Over there they're too socialistic. Here our concern is the destruction of our industry." Most of these people were families of people who worked in Canada's oil industry, so in the heartland, the interior provinces of Canada. That was one issue - the destruction of our national industry, a key one.

And the other one was mass migration. Somehow in the translation of what was going on in France, to his mind what he was picking up, he had been told that the two core issues in France were not the same as in Canada but they essentially are.

Pierre: Yeah. We're talking about the same core problem. Let's call it globalization on a cultural level and on an economic level and the consequences in all the countries are similar, depending on the national context, national story, but you're going to have the destruction of public services, if there is any. Maybe it's already been destroyed. You're going to have a growing imbalance in wealth distribution and you're going to have the rise of the multicultural paradigm, mass migration and destruction of national tradition, national identity.

In Canada maybe there's not so much public service or maybe the de-industrialization is still going on in Canada as France has already done. They've destroyed all industries but de-industrialization is one of the hallmarks of globalization.

Niall: Right.

Pierre: Globalization opened the borders. No more borders, no more protection. Shareholders, cosmopolite individuals, 0.1 percent decide to relocate industries, factories where it's the cheapest because their tens of millions is obviously not enough and they want more and always more and more greed and more suffering for the people who see that industry is disappearing or see their social benefits disappearing, or see their identity disappearing, the district that they were leaving disappearing.

Niall: Yeah. That was actually one of the things on the various lists of demands that the yellow vests made. But one that was being shared around specifically said "The reintroduction of manufacturing in France". This was alluding to the fact that globalization has created a kind of major emphasis on servicing jobs across the west where in the extreme case, in the United States, 85% of all employment is in services industry.

Pierre: Well it's 85% of total labour. This 85% is relative and has to be explained in light of the collapse of industrial jobs. So both phenomena happen concomitantly, the destruction of industry, which is not really a destruction. It is a geographical transfer to countries where the workforce is cheaper, southeast Asia, Latin America basically. And at the same time an increase in services that is very much related to the rise of this bourgeoisie class in the cities that benefit from globalization, that benefit from moving the factories away...

Niall: To other countries.

Pierre: increase the resources and consume. And consume what? Those kind of services, in the morning yoga class, in the afternoon going to Pilates or getting a massage, Asian-style massage with hot stones and then going to a vegetarian restaurant. You see this kind of cultural leisure activities as entertainment, Netflix, the home food.

Niall: So they're working on the backs of most French people and in addition the people manufacturing things, extracting things in foreign countries. So there's yellow vests in France but the yellow vests are joined then, so to speak, by the people in the other parts of the world where the industry has been moved to. They're all working to essentially serve a few cities in France and then across the western world. The term you used before was world cities.

Pierre: Yeah.

Niall: I've heard this term used before in many places. It's been discussed up the wazoo in academia, that this is the outcome of globalization. It's been deliberately encouraged of course. There was one context in which I heard that in hindsight stands out to me. When Trump was elected there was a high profile British journalist, a columnist for the Guardian who went out of his way to say what the Trump election was not. He basically described what you've just said, that this is not a clash of people in the rural periphery against those in the cities, the cosmopolitan elite. It was strange because he introduced to me or reminded me of this very concept while telling me that 'this is not what you're seeing'. He was protesting too much. {laughter}

Pierre: Yeah, protesting too much. The ones who voted in support of Trump in the US are the yellow vests. It's very similar socially, in societal terms as well. Now a mistake is to use the Marxist analysis which tricked us many times by opposing artificially the small businessman, small business owners, independent workers against blue collar workers. What you see - and the bourgeoisie is very afraid of this alliance between the small business owners, the artisans, the independent workers and blue collars because together this is the true working class.

Today the yellow vests are embodying this alliance. The artisans, the plumber who lives in a small town in peripheral France, the blue collar who works in one of the few industries that are left. They are socially the same. They're socially facing the same conditions, the same oppression and injustice.

Niall: Yeah. It strikes me that the reason for the yellow vest movement at all is because this more or less unification of views, this recognition among people, has taken place.

Pierre: Yeah. Those yellow vests have transcended several artificially made separations. They transcended the horrific and so destructive illusion of right versus left by taking the best of the right values and the best of the left, distribution of wealth and they transcended another artificial duality, this boss versus worker and recognized the problem is not the boss. Eighty percent of the bosses in France are bosses of SMEs, they're independent workers. They don't make much money. They face a lot of incertitude, uncertainty. They pay a lot of taxes. The problem is the big bosses, the big banks, multinational companies. They're the ones who pay no taxes. The small independent workers pay so many taxes it's insane and that's why most of them go belly-up.

Niall: Right. And this is hence the duration and the persistency of both the state in its crackdown on the protests and the protestors in getting out week and week in fairly harsh and miserable winter, to protest. So would it be fair to say it has formed or revealed the real division, the real opposition?

Pierre: Yeah. First let's say that the republic is doing what it does very well - defending the privileges of whom it stands for.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The republic is very bad at developing a country or defending a nation, of protecting the people. They're very good at defending the privileges of the small clique that make the republic. So they're doing that now and they're very good at it because they're motivated.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The way they do it is usually with lies and violence; lies demonizing the movement, the yellow vests, stupid redneck racists and systematically lazy, violent - did I say that? Maybe. They're demonized through the media that are just one department of the oligarchy. They are in Paris, they are in cities. They have way above our range of revenues and the benefits of globalization. So lying and violence. Violence through the police.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The police that is really between two stools; the police that is paid by the elite and they know that and they want to keep their jobs. They don't make a lot of money to feed their kids and at the same time they hear the orders. They hear that they have to beat those people, those people who are their friends, who are the same as them - miserable wages, struggling to reach the end of the month, struggling to feed the kids. So that's really a dilemma.

Niall: So when Macron is saying "We must defend the institutions from the attacks by these militants" - that's more or less a direct quote - in a sense he is telling the truth.

Pierre: Yes.

Niall: The caveat being "We must defend the institutions which we have captured from the popular classes, from the people." That's it in a nutshell. He's hoping in saying that, people will rally to his side, but all he's going to rally are from among those 20% who recognize what he's saying because yes, whether they realize it or not, 'we must defend the institutions because we have captured them. They work in our favour'.

Pierre: Since the inception of the republic, since the French Revolution, the French Revolution depicted as a spontaneous revolution, is not. It's a transfer of privilege from one class, the nobility/clergy to another class, the rising bourgeoisie.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: That still holds these privileges, still holds this power today and they don't want to drop it and I understand that.

Niall: It's remarkable that the French Revolution, in essence - correct me if I'm wrong - was about overthrowing a corrupt bourgeoisie/aristocracy elite and making a more egalitarian form of society. And we have come all the way around to a situation where, by now the dogmas of the way France is set up, institution-wise, it's laws, is in the name of preventing exactly that situation. Nevertheless that situation has re-emerged in reality although not in words.

Pierre: I understand what you say and we could apply it to the current violence. The bourgeoisie that currently holds the power got this power from the Revolution. The revolution was a violent act and they praised this violence. So when the violence serves their interests, they're very much for this violence. When this violence threatens their privileges, they're very much against this violence.

But make no mistake, there's an official story for the French Revolution and there's reality. The reality is that it was engineered, it was manufactured. The price of wheat which was a trigger factor, was deliberately, consciously manipulated, speculated. High up they created shortages artificially. They blocked the boats bringing wheat to Paris. They created starvation and then the history says the starving crowds.

All that was orchestrated by a bourgeoisie that was very much in bed with Jansenism, an offshoot from the Protestantism that was very much in bed with some FreeMason lodges, mostly the one in Port Royal and it is this clique that engineered revolution and became the winner of the revolution.

Niall: That's mind bending. So you're saying that essentially France as it functions today was based on a lie.

Pierre: Yes, but...

Niall: But...

Pierre: ...pretty much you're right but nonetheless, in the mind of the plebeians, most of them do believe the official narrative.

Niall: The rights of man...

Pierre: They do believe that the plebeian can rise for liberté, egalité, fraternité and this is a symbol. You know nations, cultures are built upon lies, we call them myths.

Niall: Myths, yeah.

Pierre: And symbols and it is very powerful in the collective unconscious.

Niall: Right.

Pierre: So whether true or wrong on the symbolic level, it doesn't matter so much. Frenchies have been grown, infused with this idea of popular rising and today that is one of the fuels that help the yellow vest movement grow and maintain its space.

Niall: Okay. Among the many things I've seen in terms of articulating what they would like are banners at the head of marches and protests saying "We want a new republic." Probably the one I see the most is the initials RIC. What is the demand?

Pierre: The demands are quite heterogeneous, de facto because the yellow vest movement is a spontaneous movement. There's no leader. There's not a leader that raises troops and says, "Let's go there and let's do that." So it's heterogeneous. That's the strength and the weakness of the movement. It's a strength because a movement without a leader is way more difficult to infiltrate and subvert. There's no head. That's a weakness too because if one day we reach the end of the insurrection phase and the change in power, effective change, the question will be "Okay, now we got rid of the old power. Where do we go now?" The future will tell.

You mentioned the RIC. It means référendum d'initiative citoyenne (citizen initiated referendum).

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: Something like that. It's the idea that a representative democracy is a scam. Representative democracy is when the people don't exact power directly, democracy, representative democracy is not a democracy. Representative democracy today in France is you vote, whatever you want doesn't change anymore. It will be a candidate of the system who will be elected and we implement a policy for the oligarchy and you're going to pay for it, whatever you want. It doesn't work for the people. It works very well for the elite.

So people want to circumvent this issue by implementing a direct consultations referendum. These are people who directly vote for that law or this law or that change or this change.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: But, we could say that a referendum is a means. It's not an end. A referendum is a means to implement a vision, this idea of society of the future of the UN vision. But what's the point of voting for this or that? What's the point of turning right or left if you don't know ultimately where you want to go?

So if this movement wants to be really constructive it will have to structure itself.

Niall: Form a political party.

Pierre: Yeah. I'm not saying it's not structured at all because the individuals are structured and maybe one of the reasons why the yellow vest movement is so pregnant here in France and less developed in other countries I think is because the Frenchies - Descartes "I think therefore I am" - the Frenchies, despite all, they think for the best and for the worst. In this case it's rather for the best and here we have to give credit to or at least to be aware that in France the dissidents have had thinkers and opinion leaders, de Soral, Dieudonné and many others. It's a long list.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: People who for years - deep thinkers, philosophers, experts - who for years have been pointing at the reality of what some people call the republic or the democracy and those people are very popular, those opinion leaders. Those thinkers are very popular and have educated a whole generation.

Niall: Right.

Pierre: And what is turning, although the level of structuring of the yellow vests is almost zero, the level of education, of political awareness of those people is very impressive.

Niall: Yes.

Pierre: They see what is going on.

Niall: Yes, and that's despite the same kind of media saturation that misinforms people as anywhere else in the west all these years. That's what struck me when Macron declared, "Okay, now we will begin a great national debate", I was like, "I'm sorry but the horse has already bolted. You don't understand that the French people have spent the last - let's say the whole internet age - talking to each other, using the internet, educating themselves. They've already done their homework. That's why they're out on the streets. This is the culmination of the thinking, reflection and the paying attention to what's going on from before so you're not going to be able to come in now and debate now, a structured debate on anything. They won't agree with you."

Pierre: Why try just to try? You can try the threats. 'We'll put you in jail.' There was a yellow vest who was sentenced to four months in jail for throwing a soap box of pate on the policeman. The policemen kill and injury massively. So far, 12 people died, 12 French plebeians died during the demonstrations. Four hundred suffered severe injuries. Eighteen lost an eye, about 20 lost a hand and 4,000 were injured, not severely, more lightly.

So he's trying the threats, the violence. He's trying 'Okay, let's negotiate'. He's tried to give a bit as well, the 40 Euros? An insult actually but he was attempting to move in the right direction and give a bit, give a bone to chew to the people, 40€, this end of the year premium. And now the attempt at apparent discussion, 'I'm going to listen to you'. So he's trying to stop this movement.

Niall: Do you think it will work, the combination of threats - the carrot and the stick as we say in English - will that work? Or the only solution to this, basically the essential protestors' demand either in the form of the RIC or a new kind of assembly, that's one other idea that I heard floated, a people's assembly.

Pierre: Yeah.

Niall: Ironically that's exactly what kicked off international condemnation for Venezuela for establishing a new form of assembly in which there would be a lot more direct democracy rather than representative democracy. I think the two issues are related. I think the people in France are demanding what Venezuela's trying to implement in the face of incredible economic difficulties and siege mentality from abroad.

Pierre: Your first question was is it going to work? Where's it going?

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: I don't know. It depends what you mean by working or success. I would say...

Niall: A fundamental change in people's ability to address their grievances and to change either the constitution or laws.

Pierre: I would say at some level in terms of awareness, I think a major step in the right direction has been made. I think the French people have become aware of a lot of what is going on. They read over the past years a lot about this topic but now they're seeing the proof. Each time Macron's police beat someone, they get more proof that we are not in a democracy, that the republic is an illusion, that we live in a ruthless oligarchy that has only contempt for the plebeians.

So in terms of awareness, I think it's already a success, even if it stops today and it's an awareness that nothing can remove.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: Now in more material terms, where is it going to go? I think it's difficult to say. There are so many possibilities. I can give you the possible scenarios. One possibility is subversion of the moment, particularly by some extreme left leaders. Would that be a bad thing? I'm not sure that would be less bad than the Macron regime. You can have a sacred union between extreme right leaders and extreme left leaders. That would be difficult because today in France Marine Le Pen's extreme right is controlled by Israel and Mélenchon, the extreme left leader is a high level Freemason for decades, so he's controlled by the lodges. So those big powers will never allow them to make an alliance like in Italy.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The people can get tired as well and frightened and so much repression, so much time spent demonstrating that...

Niall: And seeing no change.

Pierre: Yeah, not change that it fizzles out. I think that's really open.

Niall: Yeah. You mentioned Italy. That's one realistic scenario. Macron's got three years left but there could be some kind of emergency election and then the emergence of a kind of coalition like in Italy. I'm thinking something has to yield, in the absence of - like you say, the whole thing petering out somehow.

Pierre: You're right. If it doesn't peter out, they're going to give a poor bone to the dog you know. In French we say "When the dog has seen the piece of meat you throw a bone in the other direction." The dog has seen the meat, that's true. Now, they're going to throw a bone if it doesn't peter out. Throwing a bone, the worst for them will be an alliance between extreme left and extreme right which is totally in opposition with the globalist ideology. It means a social nationalized regime. That's the world eh? I'm not talking about anti-Semitism, Hitler, not that. But it's that socialism concerning the labour and nationalism concerning the identity.

Niall: Yeah.

Pierre: The best of the left-social at work, the best of the right-nationalism, more for the modern societies, the societal factor. That's the total negation. It's the opposite of globalism. So that is what they want to avoid. I think they will attempt first an extreme left Mélenchon-like guy, a Marxist, only addressing the social and labour claims. In 1968 you increased the wage, you reduced the taxes and they shut up and went back to work. If it doesn't work they could promote a pro-Zionist extreme right leader - what they call extreme right. I'm not sure it's right, national Zionist like Marine Le Pen. She's not a big threat.

So there are many kinds of scenarios from zero compromise, we stick to the Macron ultra-liberal, ultra globalist agenda to an Italian-like...

Niall: Compromise.

Pierre: ...sacred union, sacred alliance between the best of the right and the best of the left.

Niall: Okay. Well, we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime it's just remarkable to me how persistent this has been given the history of globalization and its impact on France that you explained. On the other hand, it's not surprising that sooner or later things were going to come to a head like this. So we shall see and we'll hopefully discuss this again another time. Thank you Pierre for your insights.

Pierre: Thank you.

Niall: We'll leave it there for this week folks. If you like this show please like this video and don't forget to subscribe. In the meantime, see you next week.

Pierre: Au revoir.