Ideological divisions in the ‘yellow vest’ movement

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.

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