Thursday, 13 December 2018

Vive les Gilets Jaunes!

In November 1887 William Morris wrote an article for Commonweal entitled ‘London in a State of Siege’, and what we saw last weekend, and will no doubt see again this coming weekend, is Paris in a state of siege, as Emmanuel Macron floods it with his security thugs to exercise extreme State violence against the economic protestors of the Gilets Jaunes movement.  When the BBC uses the language of ‘riots’ and ‘rampages’, as it mostly has about the Paris demonstrations, then you know that what is actually being talked about is what we on the Left would term an ‘uprising’, or at least, a form of protest which is getting well on towards being an uprising.  What are a few burnt-out cars compared to the destruction of hope, health services, economic prospects and actual lives which neo-liberal austerity has inflicted on European workers for the last thirty-odd years?  Finally, a stand is being taken on the Paris streets against that process of State-inflicted destruction; the 99% are once more challenging the 1% and, in France, its banker-President.

Just as Morris knew that his role was to be out on the streets with the Socialist League during London’s state of siege in 1887, when Charles Warren was licensed by the State to unleash any amount of violence on the unemployed and workers in Trafalgar Square, so our political responsibility today, as Morrisians, is to give what support we can from this country to the brave insurgents of the Paris streets and squares (while being simultaneously aware that there is a worrying far-right strand within the much broader Gilets Jaunes phenomenon).  We can’t expect any kind of lead or guidance from the official William Morris Society here; it will flinch as fastidiously away from rough actual politics as it usually does and go back to its cosy embroidery workshops.  But we have the courageous political example of Morris himself in his own time as a beacon of resistance and hope in ours.

1 comment:

Kotick said...

Good statement, Tony, but perhaps you're being a tad unfair to the official Morris Societies here. While there admittedly doesn't seem to be anything of a contemporary political nature on the web homepage of the UK Morris Society, the American WM Society has a link to an excellent article in which "American socialist Bill Crane provides a brief history of the Democratic Party from its inception to the present, and asks how revolutionaries might relate to the movement behind presidential nominee Bernie Sanders". So there might be a little hope for Morrisian intervention here after all!