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France : capital oppresses, the State represses

Date Thu, 10 Nov 2005 11:13:15 +0200

France : capital oppresses, the State represses

On October 25th, The Minister of the Interior,Nicolas Sarkozy, presented a new series of measures on the television which gave more powers to the police  and reinforced controls and surveillance (Internet, cameras) in the name of the struggle against terrorism. The same day , Sarkozy declares (to get attention ?) that he wants to take on the ‘rabble’, how he describes the youth of the outlying neighbourhoods of Paris. On Thursday, October 27th, two young people, met accidental deaths at Clichy sous Bois in the Paris region, while they were trying to escape a police control. The following night, the young people of the neighbourhood where Ziad and Berbou lived , confronted the police. Ministers absolved the police who had chased the two young people,, even though witnesses contradicted the official versions. This so angered people that more nights of violence followed.

In the next few nights, the revolt spread to many French towns. Hundreds of cars, schools, police stations, businesses and public transport  vehicles were destroyed by fire. Confrontations took place with the police and many hundreds of arrests were made. The revolt  was to last several nights and reached all French regions. After the 11th night of riots on èth November, the French government decided that  a curfew could be declared throughout the French departments : enacting a law of 1955. This law was created by the State to deal with troubles linked to the Algerian war. And had not been used even for the May 1968 revolts ; Despite that, troubles continue, but less frequently ;

These events, unique in French history, originated in the poverty in the outlying neighbourhoods of the big towns. Built at the beginning to welcome the French who left independent Algeria (1963) but also the rural populations which wanted to work in the towns, these estates became places abandoned by the State ; The buildings became rundown because they were not maintained, the population changed : the poorest were sent there, notably immigrants and their families. Very quickly, these neighbourhoods, all built far from town centres, concentrated the most precarious people, foreign incomers (in majority African) unemployed, poor labourers….Other difficulties added to this,progressive withdrawal of public services from these neighbourhoods, appalling housing, lack of socio-cultural structures, social, racial and spatial discriminations… In the place of workers’ organisations leading the working class, religious networks attempted to structure social relations. During this time, State police repressed and watched the young people of these neighbourhoods, to dissuade them from coming out of there ; progressively the identifications of these young people with their neighbourhoods evolved into a sort of communitarianism, mixture of urban ghetto culture and often of religion, but also of competion with other neighbourhoods.Institutional violence, the escalation of politicians’ speeches, social violence, murders by the police, hostility and suspicion towards them, are the roots of the anger of all these young people for whom the future is desperate in the neighbourhoods where unemployment can reach 40ù among under 25s.

It is still too soon to know if this spontaneous movement will have effects on French society ; today, the government takes decisions which don’t have direct effects on the problems experienced : the curfew is a weapon of war, not of dialogue ; tax remittals to bosses of businesses who would set up there are no answer to massive unemployment ; proposals to work in apprenticeships from 14 years old, is the setting up of child labour.

The other question tragically put by these events, is the legitimacy of the Republican model : « Liberty, Equality, Fraternity ». Whilst the capitalist economic system keeps children of immigrants in poverty, the State reinforces surveillance and repression ; This situation legitimises the racist speeches of Le Pen and a fringe of the French population.

The great difficulty now is to anticipate a situation which is getting no better. How to formulate collective projects of social and political emancipation where youth of these abandoned neighbourhoods could create the instruments of their own autonomy and freedom ? How, concretely, to put forward an anticapitalist and libertarian method of analysis which could be taken into account and perhaps let these spontaneous revolts give birth one day to a revolution ? Finally, how to integrate from now  the demands of these young people into those of the social and libertarian movement, so that the convergences of struggles are no longer overlooked ?

Daniel (mimitant of the Anarchist Federation, France/Belgium)