Rue89 Strasbourg / Flickr
Rue89 Strasbourg / Flickr

Ideological divisions in the ‘yellow vest’ movement

Zakaria Bendali & Gala Kabbaj

The ongoing mobilisation of yellow vest adherents is arguably the most enduring and significant social movement in France since May 1968. It will have profound political consequences, though it is still too early to gauge their extent. Today, one of the most pressing questions for understanding what these long-term consequences might be is the political direction taken by the movement.

This article highlights the atypical, even paradoxical political profile of this movement, which is caught in a dilemma between unifying its demands, and the strength in numbers this gives it, and the deep ideological differences that continue to divide it. We will begin by reviewing the mainly material factors underpinning the yellow vests’ need for unity. Next, we will examine the ideological fault lines running through the movement, in particular its penetration by the far right. Finally, we will outline some thoughts on how this influence could be countered and challenged.

These thoughts will be based mainly on the results of a survey conducted by our research group Quantité Critique (Critical Mass) among groups of yellow vests organising actions via social media on Facebook. The survey was carried out in the first two weeks of December and involved six Facebook groups spanning the entire country. A digital copy of the questionnaire was distributed among these groups. Participation in the survey was voluntary. In all, 572 responses were collected, providing extensive information about the yellow vests, their life circumstances (family and economic situation, socio-demographic data, etc.) and political opinions (commitments to political parties, trade unions or associations, voting habits, political views and values). We will also refer to the findings of other surveys and national polls, by way of comparison.

Ideological divisions in the ‘yellow vest’ movementPDF file