Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your very powerful manifesto book "Nous ne sommes pas en démocratie!” (We are not in a democracy!), you make a relevant observation. Is it not rather a plutocracy?
Étienne Chouard: Yes, absolutely. We have been in the plutocracy for two hundred years since the revolutions of England, America, France, since the advent of the representative government which designates the political players by the procedure of the election among candidates that one can help. This procedure, since one can help, gives all the power - because when one win the elections, one exercise all the power during the mandate - to those who have the most resources to help, that is, the richest.
What do you mean by "help"?
Helping by buying the newspapers that will show the candidates, very often and in a flattering light, helping by buying the TV channels and the media that will talk about them. It is interesting to note the exact concordance between the curves of the figures of television appearances and the elections figures. In fact, the curves are identical. The two parties where these curves are not quite identical, because they have many activists, are the parties of Melenchon and Le Pen, but for all the other parties, the election results depend strictly on the time spent on television. TV news feeds on newspapers: there are virtually no - or very little - field journalists on television; in fact, TV channels most often take up what's in the papers. Now, in France, the rich have bought all the newspapers, there are nine billionaires who have bought all the paper newspapers of the country. I do not talk about the internet where there are still free journalists. But the bulk of the population does not look at the internet; most people are not politicized and watch TV, which is the reflection of what is in the newspapers, which, them, reflect the thought of billionaires. This is very serious, because instead of being informed by journalists, the public opinion is distorted and uninformed. This is very problematic because a democracy demands that citizens be enlightened. True journalists are the sentinels of the people.
How do you analyze the Yellow Vests movement?
From my point of view, Yellow Vests are doing what the whole society should do. They are the ones who start because they are the exploited, they are the ones who earn the least, who have the most difficulty in living, and the others who earn just a little more, who know well that soon they will be in the same precariousness, in my opinion, if all goes well logically, the non-Yellow Vests will soon join the Yellow Vests because they know that they are also threatened with downgrading, and that these extreme difficulties in life throw Yellow Vests out of their homes and bring them outside.
These Yellow Vests are exemplary in many ways. First, they come out of their homes as we should get out of our homes and they meet in public places like we should meet in public places, and they stay there stubbornly as we should remain stubbornly, despite the cold, despite the wind, despite the rain. This is completely new. Usually, social movements happen in the spring. There, despite the turmoil, they leave their homes, they stay outside and they make society. They build cabins, they set up places where they prepare hot meals and hot drinks, they make gifts each others, and they remake a society. They leave home where they were ashamed to be poor. This shame disappears when they realize that they are very numerous, and the shame turns into anger. That's what we should do.
And that's not all, the most important is that they are disgusted by decades of lies from politicians, whether they are "left" or "right" or "center". Completely disgusted by the politicians, they arrive on the traffic circles with a detestation of the representation. They do not want representatives; they do not want to hear about politics. In my opinion, when they say that, they talk about politicians, and they do not realize that their actions are extremely political in the best sense of the word. What the Yellow Vests do is not politicking; they take care of what is necessary to do, what we should do in society. They know that there are people of the left and right among them and they are very careful that it is not told, that no one has a flag of left or right to brandish. This is decisive. This is what is historic, it is a unitary movement. What prevents the people from winning are the divisions, it is the discord on legislative subjects, on topics we are used to discussing when we have no power to decide. It is not us who decide, it is the elected. We are used to arguing for nothing because, in any case, we do not decide. From what I understood, the idea of the Yellow Vests, it is: no discord, we remain united.
In addition, very quickly, in just a week, they produced a list of grievances. Grievances are requests near a master, requests from a lower person to a higher person, because finally, there are the superior beings who are the elect and the lower beings who are the electors. This is not said to humiliate, it is the reality. Accustomed to this situation of submission, the electors with regard to the elect, like all the peoples of the world at the moment when they revolt, demand decisions at level legislative (which I distinguish from the constituent level) such as "we want better wages, we want less taxes, we want less waste, less privileges for elected officials, and so on." Their claims are well formulated and they are at level legislative, that is to say, to be satisfied, our masters must consent. It is obvious that the masters, the elect, will not give everything, they are the ones who have deprived us of all this, they will not give them to us at the first demonstration. They will give us one or two things out of forty, but certainly not the forty.
And, second major historical point, the Yellow Vests do not list only grievances: whenever there are revolts on earth, the exploited claiming new laws less cruel for them; this is ordinary. But what is extraordinary is that in the list of grievances, there is a sort of precious stone, like a star in the sky, called the Citizen Initiative Referendum (RIC). Why is this very precious? This is because it is not at all legislative, it is constituent. It is not a question of saying "here is a law we want", it is a question of saying "this is how we want to write the laws ourselves". It is extremely subversive. When I saw this, I realized that it was something very important and I told them: "This line, in your grievances, is completely different from all the rest. If we get that, we will have everything else. That is to say, we will have the means to vote ourselves the laws that we will find important." This point therefore deserves a priority because, if we ask forty things or sixty different things, even if we are very numerous, the force exerted on each grievance is weak, our strength being divided on each of these points. And it will be enough for elected officials to grant us two or three of these requests to get rid of us and make us go home. Instead, if we turn these forty or sixty requests into two requests, one on the Citizen Initiative Referendum that will give us access to everything else, and the second, on a well-targeted financial aspect (so that the poorest will immediately stop suffering so much); if we focus our efforts, then we will have more strength to win.
First, they asked for an increase of the minimum wage, but this would have the disadvantage of sinking SMEs because the very small companies can not support an increase of the SMIC (guaranteed minimum wage) to 1300 or 1500 Euros. So they transformed their request. You have to know that there are people who are in a very cruel situation and who are hungry today, so there is a social emergency, and for people to stop being hungry, we can increase incomes but we can also halve the price of all basic necessities, which compose 100% of their basket. The idea is that Yellow Vests establish a list of basic necessities: food products, clothing products, sanitary products, medicines, housing products, energy products, electricity, heat, and so on. So you have to list the basic necessities and ask only that, lowering their prices, to get it. We have to ask the state removes all taxes from these products and, as it is not enough to lower prices much, asking the state to subsidize prices in order to reduce them by half. Because, as these products constitute the entire basket of poor people, if we reduce the price by half, it is like if one doubled their salaries. And to quantify this, economists - not the "economists" bank employees who condemn us to austerity - but real economists, friends of the people, like the Appalled Economists, calculate the approximate overall cost of the state subsidy applicable to all basic necessities. Next, we must find ways to finance this measure, such as removing the CICE (tax credit for competitiveness and employment) to recover already 40 billion useless gifts made to the rich. It's easy to find the few billions that will be needed to allow the poor to suffer less.
And so, the idea of the Yellow Vests, it became not only to spot the RIC in their list of complaints, but in addition to making it a priority, and that all the Yellow Vests and, I hope, soon the non-Yellow Vests, will together push two decisive requests to stop the misery of the poor and for the popular power to finally come with the referendum to break through the system of domination. It is very spectacular that they have managed to do that. They are already focusing on the RIC, it's quite wonderful: Yellow Vests have understood this idea at full speed and it spreads very quickly. When I say to them: "If you do not have the RIC, it's because those who write the Constitutions have a personal interest in you not having it. Your masters, our masters, our elected officials, do not want we have the RIC. They want to decide everything and they will never give it." And so, the Yellow Vests are already doing the constituent workshops to write themselves the rules of the RIC:
Example of a constitution article of popular origin instituting a real RIC
(proposal by Etienne Chouard: source)
Write here your personal ideas, since you too, Human, are invited to constitute with the #GiletsJaunesConstituants
Proposed Article 3:
National sovereignty belongs to the people who exercise it through its representatives and through the citizen initiative referendum, in all matters including constitutional and ratification of treaties: this article can only be changed by referendum.
Article 11 deleted and replaced by:
Proposed Article 11: PRACTICAL RULES of RIC:
- The House of Referendums (drawn by lot) organizes the planning of the referendums and controls the contradictory debates (the staging of conflicts) before any referendum, on the Referendum website and on the referendum television, to enlighten the public for at least 6 months before the vote. Two Days of Referendum are held each year, on February 4 and August 4, recognized as public holidays and paid.
- Any collective initiative grouping the support of 1% of registered voters (400,000 voters) [or 0.5%] entails its automatic registration (without filter) on the calendar of referendums, at least 6 months later.
- Individual Initiative filtered by the House: a single citizen can present an initiative before the House of Referendums which owes him an hour of hearing (or more if the Chamber deems it necessary) to explain his idea. This House then decides either to reject the individual initiative or to include it in the calendar of referendums.
- Individual initiative by increasing circles: every citizen can, by his own means, consult his fellow citizens.
DEADLINES AND ORGANIZATION OF CONTRADICTORY DEBATES to inform the public opinion before the vote:
- Any referendum must be preceded by a period of at least 6 months of complete contradictory debates to enlighten public opinion. The House of Referendums is in charge of organizing and controlling the quality of these debates.
- The opinion of citizens must be honestly and completely enlightened in all circumstances. For this purpose, all media in the country (newspapers, radio, television, news agencies, polls and statistics institutes) must belong to their journalists and employees of the moment. No person, physical or moral, can buy any media whatsoever. The current owners of the media have to give them to their employees free of charge. The Media Chamber (drawn by lot) ensures the application of these rules.
AUTOMATIC RESTRICTING FORCE AND ABSENCE OF "CONTROLS BODIES" ("Supreme Court" or other "Constitutional Council" oligarchic and demophobic).
- Once the popular initiative voted by majority, the House of Referendums controls the honesty of the ballots and must declare the decision taken, without any body being able to oppose the popular will.
- A decision made by RIC is superior to any other norm: regulations, laws, constitution or treaties; in France, the people are sovereign, really.
It is absolutely historic. The #GiletsJaunesConstituants (#ConstituentYellowVests) spread the word between them, they know that the rich and the elect lie when they say they will give them a RIC but they will give them a fake RIC, and they are already writing the RIC they want, that is to say, a RIC in all matters, without safeguards, without limit, without prohibition and we will be able, by this RIC, impose a law in all matters, abrogate a law or a treaty in all matters, it will be possible to revoke a political player even the president of the Republic, any political player or any official, any public player could be removed by the Citizen Initiative Referendum, and then the Constitution itself could be modified. The Constitutional Council which is an oligarchic body composed of a band of old crooks corrupted (the C.C. receives the multinationals in secret - scandal of the "narrow doors" - and blocks now all the laws of general interest against cartels) must not be able to get in the way of popular sovereignty. It is out of question that a Constitutional Council composed of anyone - for now they are old oligarchs or old presidents of elected Chambers - hinders popular sovereignty. The Constitutional Council has no political legitimacy. It was imposed by an anti-constitution that was voted under the military threat of a coup d'etat. I remind you that when De Gaulle had held a vote for the Fifth Republic, it was under a threat of military coup which was brewing in Corsica by paratroopers. The institution of the Constitutional Council, by its very composition, is illegitimate. It can be debated, but I can tell you that these are the discussions that are circulating among the Yellow Vests.
So, it is a question of instituting popular sovereignty, the real one, without oligarchic chains, and it is quite revolutionary. It is even more than "revolutionary" because making a revolution, it is making a complete turn, so we return to the starting point and in fact, we only changed masters, most of the time. Most revolutions do not lead to emancipation. It is therefore more a question of evolution than of revolution, and of a true evolution, a major "evolutionary" process in the history of humanity. Humans, so the Constituent Yellow Vests and soon the others, those who look at them and see that it works, are finding a common cause and that's what has been lacking to mankind forever: a common cause, that is to say, which goes beyond the current left-right divides. The common cause of human beings is: "We want to institute our own power." It will change everything! On planet Earth, if humans become aware of this common cause, there is no more room for tyrants in a people who became constituent, vigilant. Humans know how to get rid of tyrants as long as they look after them. It is because we resign from this constituent process that tyrants take the place. They are only great because we are on our knees. Maybe that's what's changing, the Yellow Vests are getting up, I hope.
We notice that the Yellow Vests are inspired by your ideas: direct democracy, citizen initiative referendum, and so on. Etienne Chouard was he a visionary? Do you advise Yellow Vests?
I talk about it every day and it goes around a lot. I have been working on this for thirteen years, thirteen years that I say that "it is not to the men in power to write the rules of power". But the referendum of popular initiative, Condorcet already described it. So it was Condorcet who was a visionary when he defended, in the eighteenth century, during the French Revolution, the referendum of popular initiative. And it was Thomas Paine who, in the eighteenth century also (in "The Rights of Man", Chapter 4 "Constitutions") was a visionary in hammering that the constitution can in no way be a contract between representatives and those who are represented, but exclusively between represented! You can not put an evolution as deep as the RIC at the credit of a single person, it is collective. Ideas belong to those who seize them. What is happening is that there is, especially, it seems to me, a novelty in the history of ideas: the connection of humans through the internet makes every human active a neuron. This allows us to organize as if we were a collective brain, something that we could not do so far.
Previously, it was not possible to communicate so quickly between so many people. Finally, the emancipation movements that already existed, the anarchists, the democrats, the thinkers, remained very isolated and were massacred by the bourgeois as soon as they were detected. Once the vanguards, the people who had found solutions, were murdered, it was necessary to wait generations for new young people read their books and resume their ideas, which greatly slowed the movement. What is happening today is that our inter connectivity allows one or more ideas to spread like in a brain and the level goes up very quickly because we pass the word through our interconnection, which is quite exciting. This prevents the rich from killing the leaders, because if they kill some leaders, there are still many leaders everywhere... Currently, there are already a lot of people who are able to take over to defend the RIC and the idea of a popular constituent process.
The partisans' chant, in a way.
Ah, yes, it's a beautiful song. Yes that's it. As to whether I am a visionary, I would not say such a thing to myself, of course.
Do not you think that the Fifth Republic in France is out of breath?
Yes, surely, because, first of all, of the general awareness of the parliamentary swindle, but also because this text was written by people who are all dead for a long time. And those who voted for it are all, or almost all, dead. That is to say that the livings are ruled by the dead. And Condorcet, again, said that a generation can not subject future generations to its laws. A generation, that of 1958, which is sixty years old, cannot enslave the future generations to its ideas and principles. They are dead, that they leave us alone! It's to us to write a new social contract, ours, and we have nothing to say about what will happen in fifty years: our children will decide for themselves, sovereignly. We are legitimate to challenge the social contract written by our grandparents, and writing another. And in my opinion, we will not write a 6th Republic, we will write a 1st Democracy.
The Yellow Vest movement is spreading all over Europe. In your opinion, are we in the phase of the awakening of peoples?
The fact that it happens everywhere in the same way lights "Warning", alerts, in my head. I think that all this looks like a "color revolution". This kind of "revolution" funded by billionaires...
Like Soros, for example.
Yes, Soros, but it's not the only one in my opinion. So, billionaires who want to get rid of a regime or a government resistant to globalism and which does not remain passive, protecting its sovereignty. These governments are overthrown by people who have been irritated, excited, and helped, and the result is ever more chaos and/or tyranny than ever before.
As we saw in the "Arab Spring".
Exactly. As we saw in the Arab Spring or in Kiev, or in Syria. Each time, there is a fuel. The colorful revolutions are not completely fabricated; they feed on a fuel of misery that makes people ready to rise. And they are helped, from the outside and on the sly. And it is certainly not by philanthropy. I have a fear, and I'm not saying it's the case, I do not know, but I have "warnings" that come on, you have to put all this in the conditional, it's true that it's possible. But, in my opinion, if the globalists are executing a plan of this type, they did not expect we become constituents... It greatly complicates their manipulation, in my opinion. Because if we become constituents, so vigilant, we are much less manipulable, it seems to me. So, if we realized that this is a manipulation, it would not be a reason to give up fighting.
Some Yellow Vests want to participate in the European elections. Do not you think that making lists in European elections is dangerous for the movement?
Yes, absolutely. But in my opinion, we can not stop them. So we don't care, just let them do it, if anyone wants to do it, they do it. Anyway, from the beginning, whenever there are representatives who come up and speak on behalf of the movement, there are many Yellow Vests who are protesting everywhere to say that they do not know these people, that they have no representatives, and they continue to act as if nothing had happened. So, in fact, there is no need to worry about the European Parliament. Yes, there may be Yellow Vests that will present a list in the elections, we do not care, anyway, the European elections are used to elect a parliament that has no power and is useless. In addition, it is once again to appoint masters among candidates that can be helped ... this is not how we will emancipate ourselves.
What do the mainstream media want in stigmatizing the Yellow Vests by calling them violent, anti-Semites, and so on?
That's very important. I think the message that carry the Yellow Vests, who want to establish their own power with a Citizen Initiative Referendum in all matters written by them, is extraordinarily powerful and subversive. It will be very difficult for the thieves of power (the government and the elected officials) and the thieves of speech (the so-called journalists who are not journalists at all but propagandists, the voice of the billionaires), to argue about the message, because it will be seen right away that they are thieves of power and enemies of the people. Since they can not fight against the message that is too strong for them and they are cowards, they go after the messengers. They slander, they lie, trying to discredit people, to avoid talking about content. But if you look at the comments, below the publications of the thieves of speech, you see that the readers are not fooled. Mistrust with regard to the so-called "journalists" is huge.
We saw it with their demonstration in front of the media in Paris.
In my opinion, Yellow Vests should be careful, because violent actions too early can kill the movement. The extreme hostility of the media towards the Yellow Vests and the dishonesty of the elected officials and the government towards them, given the power of their idea, should lead the Yellow Vests to advance their idea without taking into account at all elected officials and journalists: "We do not care, they say, we do not even read them anymore, we do not need them to prepare the self-institution of society. We are going to re-institute ourselves and we do not need the help of journalists and parliamentarians." It's very powerful, actually. We just have to become numerous, that the non-Yellow Vests join the Yellow Vests. And the situation is favorable, because 80% of the citizens are, for decades, in favor of the Citizen Initiative Referendum. Every time they are polled, people say they want the RIC. So, the population is ready to follow the Yellow Vests: if they make the Citizen Initiative Referendum the main request, with the addition of the halving of the basic necessities price, which will help everyone, the population will more easily agree. The simplification of requests: 1) the referendum of popular initiative in all matters written by ourselves, 2) subsidized basic necessities whose price falls by half; it's so simple and strong that anyone can advocate it and convince its neighbors to make the movement grow, and there is no need to learn the argument for forty-point grievances. It is enough to focus on two essential things that are simple and strong, and it facilitates the expansion of these ideas throughout society.
When we see the media coverage of the various events of the Yellow Vests, can not we say that the mainstream media have lost all credibility?
Yes, we can say that, of course. But that does not prevent them from peroration. The problem for them is that we do not read them anymore. We know that they are liars; we know that they are crooks, money robbers and thieves of power. We do not care of them anymore; we are already instituting the world that will replace them. They no longer have credibility and they won’t be for long. The citizens became a constituent power will establish media independent of the powerful.
Alternative media and social media have spearheaded the Yellow Vests movement. Do not peoples need media that defend their interests against the oligarchic minorities that rule the world?
What is amazing is that Facebook serves us as a link in our collective brain. In fact, Facebook plays the role of a public service. This tool that merchandises our information facilitates our political connection at the same time. Moreover, it is very problematic that this tool is private because if, overnight, Facebook closes, we will not communicate as easily. It is very risky to be dependent on an object of ownership and it will surely be necessary that we write articles of Constitution, very quickly, to institute ourselves a public social network under citizen control. It will be necessary to create a tool like Facebook but without the risk of cutting, surveillance or fraud.
Can we say that the battle of information has been won by Yellow Vests?
Not yet, because we are not numerous enough, and it is an incipient movement. There are some battles that are won but winning a battle is not winning the war. The class war still takes place, the rich are still extremely powerful, they are liars, they are manipulators, and they become ultra-violent when their privileges are threatened... The class war is not won at all. And no, the battle of information is not yet won. Most of the voters, many retirees, many seniors, are planted in front of their television, so they are completely intoxicated by the television, and they only hear terrible things about the Yellow Vests, and by dint of repetition, they believe them. It's a lot of people.
In your opinion, what are the perspectives of this movement?
I can not predict the future, I do not know. Already, formerly, I knew that such a thing would happen but I did not think it would happen in my lifetime. I did not know when it would happen and it's happening, it's really a great birthday present. But the rich are devious, when they see that they will lose their power, they sow chaos, they shoot in the pile, they trigger wars, they trigger shortages, blockades, and they are able of everything to prevent us from emancipating ourselves. It is hard to say what the future will be like. Even if we lose, incredible things have already happened, I hope that it will go even further but I do not know what the future holds for us. What we can say about the future is that there are two big risks for Yellow Vests:
One of the greatest strengths is the unitary side of the movement, that's what makes it possible to win. And the major risk is therefore discord, that it comes from an extreme-left party that comes to "help" the movement and once it is in it, starts to denounce and hunt the far-right people inside, or on the contrary, people of extreme right who come "to help" the movement and then, once introduced, come to denounce and hunt the leftists inside and sow discord, the risk is that political movements - the extreme right and the extreme left are often identity, they hate the other parties, altogether - sow discord. The risk is that the Yellow Vests are infiltrated and manipulated to the point this movement is peaceful and therefore unassailable, all things considered. On the traffic circles, it's incredibly warm, fraternal, there is a lot of happiness and it's really nice. One of the weaknesses of the Yellow Vests movement is that it starts to slow down people too much, to block them, to annoy everyone, or even worse, to break. At that point, they are very annoying to people and, if they continue to block them, they will become unpopular. But this choice varies according to the Yellow Vests: there are many of them who think about actions that are not unpopular and yet very effective, such as freeing tolls, making the highway free, it's very popular and it's really annoying the right people, the dominant ones, and it's strengthening the movement.
Whenever the movement goes up in Paris, there is a risk of skidding. At first, it was very violent and there was a risk of seeing the movement degenerate, because if it become too violent, it is obvious that the movement will stop. The government will not be able to do otherwise, and it will even be legitimate to interrupt by force a very minority movement. While, when it is not in Paris, the movement is not concentrated, it is disseminated; it does not offer a grip. Traffic circles, tolls, there are absolutely everywhere in the country. The movement is completely elusive. When the police come to hunt the Yellow Vests, they come back the next day, there or elsewhere. And it's like that everywhere in the country. They are elusive; this movement has an incredible power. If, instead of slowing the highways, instead of blocking the roads, instead of going to stop the poor people from working, if they will spend time in the media to deliver their message, if Yellow Vests will release public services and highways to make them free of charge, if they invent actions that are useful to people and are not annoying, then the movement will become stronger and stronger and there will be more and more non-Yellow Vests that will become Yellow Vests.
So there are two big risks: violence and discord. But Yellow Vests are incredibly determined, they stopped a week for the holidays and they know very well that they will meet in January despite the wind or the rain, the day and the night. For me, Yellow Vests are heroes. They do what we should all do. They are heroic and exemplary.
Do you advise Yellow Vests, given your experience?
It's not my experience. I tell them about my work, my ideas, and then they take it. They do not seize all of them, and do not seize all my ideas. They make their choice. And I, I am inspired by them, I progress thanks to them. We grow up together, it's a collective brain. It's very exciting, I can tell you... Finally the common good in the line of sight...
Should the experience of Yellow Vests not serve as an example for other peoples to overcome the 1% who leads the world?
The Constituent Yellow Vests appeal to all humanity. The 99% must seize this idea everywhere on earth to get rid of the rich and oligarchs of the moment: "We want to institute our own political power." Yes, of course, it's a message for all humanity. The greatness of the idea of Constituent Yellow Vests is that it concerns all the exploited.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Etienne Chouard?
Professor of economics and law, Etienne Chouard is a French activist and political blogger. In the 2005 referendum, he was one of the leading figures in the No to the European Constitutional Treaty. He criticizes the system in place and advocates for a change of Constitution and the establishment of a direct democracy calling in particular for the formation of a Constituent Assembly drawn by lot and the establishment of the Citizen Initiative Referendum (RIC). He is particularly followed by the Yellow Vests movement for its defense of the RIC which has become one of the main demands of the movement.
Published in American Herald Tribune January 07, 2019: https://ahtribune.com/world/europe/gilets-jaunes/2769-etienne-chouard.html
In Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.090119.htm
In Etienne Chouard's blog: https://chouard.org/blog/2019/01/08/longue-itv-dans-the-american-herald-tribune-excursion-dans-le-grand-bain-de-langlais-la-langue-de-lempire-les-gilets-jaunes-constituants-interpellent-toute-lhumanite-the-c/