Friday, November 11, 2005

The Fuse is Lit! (No Pasaran)

Police State = Murder State
Capitalism is suffering and war!

In Clichy sous Bois, Zyad and Bounna, 17 and 15 years old, died as a result of police harassment; of a police force that chases young people and caries out more and more ID checks for no reason. It does not matter whether or not they were actually being chased; that young people are so afraid of the police that they are willing to risk their lives to get away from them says all that needs to be said about the relationship between the people and the police in these neighbourhoods. Over the past years, the heavy police presence has led to many run-ins with locals. Most of the time, the young people are simply objecting to being treated like subhumans, and yet more and more they find themselves charged (and often convicted) with contempt and rebellion. These are not mistakes or “errors” that need to be condemned, but rather the results of a law and order policy that has been developed over the past twenty years. The stigmatization and contempt towards young people from the suburbs simply makes them hate this society – which lets 20% of the population rot in ghettos – all the more. This is not some random accident, but the result of political and economic choices.


And so the (supposed) availability of low-income housing for immigrants over the past thirty years has been based on a system of segregation whereby only some neighbourhoods were open to them, generally worst ones, which were badly located and/or most run-down.

It is still the case that those responsible for low-income housing consider the arrival of immigrants to be a sure sign that an area is going downhill: so this “disqualifying” demand is funneled into what are already the worst programmes. Worst still, the debate on social diversity has entrenched and legitimized this segregation, to the point that areas of social housing where these people were supposed to be able to live are closed off to them in the name of social diversity: a diverse population must be encouraged in the housing projects, and so immigrants are not allowed, especially if they are poor! The fact that people have no control over their own lives just exacerbates the tensions of people who are already trapped in a social category or in a neighbourhood. Isn’t it true that this anger is a result of keeping families stuck in areas which are experienced as economic, social and residential dumping grounds, without any way of getting out?

There is nothing new about social apartheid. For almost fifty years now entire populations of workers and immigrants who – let us not forget – built and rebuilt our roads and our buildings, have themselves been warehoused in these ghettos. The “riots” are the result of the neo-liberal policies that have been enacted by both the right and the left, which have been especially devastating for the suburbs over the past thirty years. Yet today this poverty is spreading throughout society.

We have not signed any social contract. We are not “citizens” of this society. Our interests have nothing in common with those of the capitalists, the bosses, the neo-liberal governments of the right and of the left. The referendum, the regional elections, the pensioners movement, the SNCM… none of this has changed anything. The riots have proven one thing: you have to be as violent as possible in this shit society if you want to break through the social apathy.

This violence is nothing compared to the violence of capitalism. Police violence that targets poor people, youth, immigrants; the violence of poverty and isolation, due in part to the disappearance of any real pubic services; from the garbage of the media to that of the government, we are constantly surrounded by an anti-social environment. The young people of the suburbs are united in screaming out that this society offers no hope. Even those playing the education game know that it won’t do them much good: knowledge is of very little use in a consumerist society; at best it will prepare them to be exploited by McDonalds or the BTP (alongside white French people!). And so the example of big brothers and sisters) doesn’t really encourage one to play the legal game!

The government has called on the April 3rd 1955 law to re-establish order, declaring a State of Emergency. Giving all power to local agents of the executive branch, the prefects and the police, it reinforces the law and order side of social apartheid: the popular classes, whether they work or not, are dangerous, and so they should get a special treatment. The same for supposed equality before the law: for those who rebel, billy clubs and rubber bullets reveal the absurdity and illusory nature of any dialog between classes.

Worst still, re-applying this law is part of a process of racializing social relationships. A process that has been playing out on a global level for many years now, and which in France is basing itself on colonial ideas that some wish to bring back. This decree has only been used twice before: in Algeria and New Caledonia. Using it now is a way of presenting the present situation as one of warfare, of cultural and ethnic minorities breaking up the country (like the “lost territories of the Republic” that all kinds of patriots moan about). This is a clear message: if not legally so, then the suburbs are at least de facto colonies, due to their “ethnic makeup” which supposedly makes them unable to be integrated into French society. The most obvious example of the different ways that neighbourhoods with different ethnic groups are managed is the attempt to create mechanisms of government social control via religion and the CFCM. The important thing is to keep control, even if to do so the younger generations must be handed over to religious authorities. If need be, the “Islamic danger” that they will have built from scratch will then serve as an excuse for more repression.

From the February 2005 law on the benefits of colonization to the anti-immigrant talk and actions by way of the stigmatization of young people from the neighbourhoods that must be cleaned with Karcher, the immigrants and their children have become public enemy number one for the de Villepin government. They are the enemy within that allows the de Villepin to unite the majority around the one thing they have in common: their [French] ethnicity. And the Socialist Party doesn’t object at all, which just goes to show that if they were in power they would do the same thing. In fact, wasn’t it the Socialist Party that, at its Villepinte Congress in 1997, agreed to make law and order a priority for the “left”, already playing for support on the National Front’s territory? Julien Dray, spokesman for the Socialist Party and a supporter of “zero tolerance,” voiced his support for Sarkozy during the debates on the Internal Security Law in March 2003. You had better not forget it. For all of the political parties that wish to manage capitalism, the racial struggle is supposed to replace the class struggle: divide and rule.

The curfews can only remind us of the worst chapters of our history. Is this why the National Front and other far-right groups are applauding these measures? Or is it simply because they know that people always prefer “the real thing” instead of some knock-off? The riots will certainly push a section of the population – encouraged by the government’s law and order policies, fed up of seeing the few fruits of their labour going up in smoke – into the arms of the far right. Riding on this wave of xenophobia, Sarkozy has announced that foreigners convicted of participating in the riots will be deported, never mind the legalities. Not wanting to lose ground to De Villiers, who intends to replace Le Pen as Mister “France Love It Or Leave It”, Sarkozy had brought back the double-penalty. The No Pasaran network will be there to protest this, as we have in the past. But we cannot stop there. Social issues must be placed in the forefront and this means doing away with this shit individualism that divides workers, the unemployed, poor people, private sector/public sector workers, the elderly and youth… all divided by identity politics that simply play into the hands of those in power by keeping the people divided by their ethnic origin, their culture, their sexuality, anything but their class!

Each and every one of us should abandon this single-issue approach: everyone out for themselves, or everyone out for their community, where social issues and common political perspectives disappear. Because young people have no future, they have nothing left but self-destruction. And so in a suicidal logic they attack that which surrounds them: other people, institutions (schools, etc.), material objects (cars, etc.)

Points of unity should be proposed and fought for in every struggle and at every meeting and we should do everything we can to combat individualistic and identity politics. Dividing our demands up into separate categories leaves us powerless. We would not be in this dire situation if more connections and unity had been created, instead of being destroyed. The social movement is in a bad way, it will only be possible to set things right if a maximum number of people wish to do so, and at the moment this is unfortunately not the case, as everyone is busy with their own issue, competing in their victimization and letting the State continue to play its Welfare role and so keep its legitimacy. Don’t wait for permission from your organizations, collectives or trade unions to build unity! Today unemployment insurance is being renegotiated and of course the rights of the unemployed will be whittled away a bit more; for better or for worst the conflicts in Marseille to protect public services for all are likely to continue; the workers who are being exploited and reduced to poverty in training programmes are fighting back; the undocumented immigrants are refusing to be the most oppressed… but the self-imposed isolation and ignorance of what others are experiencing prevent these separate movements – often infected with corporatism – from becoming a political movement.

But building unity also means including what others are doing into our actions and texts, going to support people on strike in your area, opening up and maintaining collectively run spaces.

We should not stay with our eyes glued on the riots, on what is spectacular, like a deer caught in headlights. Another reason why things have gotten so bad is that there is not enough activism which is open to others and centered around everyday issues. First and foremost, resistance comes out of everyday life, from regular activist work on the ground, resistance in the neighbourhoods, cultural and social innovation outside of the grip of the public “powers”, re-appropriating public space as well as our lives.

Only by carrying out this primary activity will we be able to give a common orientation to the different struggles, to the rebellions and strikes, and thus finally form a real social front.

We should be able to find a strong basis for unity in these demands, that we should share regardless of where we come from or what we are doing, which we should use to multiply our common actions and demonstrations:

  • repeal of the 1955 decree and of the security legislation, starting with the recent laws passed by Perben, Sarkozy and Chevénement

  • against all deportations (against the return of the double-penalty); all undocumented immigrants should have their situation regularized

  • suppression of all repressive forces, especially the BACs (so-called Anti-Criminality Brigades)

  • a guaranteed wage whether or not one is employed: to sever the tie between a salary and a job, the latter being more and more rare, and just as alienating as ever.

  • making those public services which are actually beneficial to the public (energy, health, transportation, education…) democratic and free of charge: we should all have equal access to all of the public services in their entirety. Politics should not be left in the hands of parties of distinguished gentlemen who shake their heads. We should put an end to this aristocratic system which does not listen to us. We should organize outside of it and create a direct democracy in all of the places where we live, from the level of the neighbourhood to that of the country, with control of the mandates and the power to make real decisions about society’s future.


No Pasaran, November 10th 2005

Réseau No Pasaran
21ter rue Voltaire
75011 Paris

Please note that the above text about the past two weeks of riots in France comes from the No Pasaran network in France and was translated by yours truly. I have a “fast and loose” translation philosophy, meaning that when there is a choice between readability and the original phraseology i tend to favour the former, provided that the meaning stays the same.I admit that this was a particularly difficult text to translate, buit i believe  got it all right! The original document can be seen in French.

Please also note that i am translating this as i have not been able to find any radical accounts of the riots or the police racism that provoked them in English… i do not necessarily agree with the author’s point of view, nor do they necessarily agree with mine. Si quelqu’un a un meilleur texte à suggérer, svp envoyez-moi le!

For background to the riots, including a timeline, check out the Wikipedia entry.

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  1. This is a good analysis which only falls short a bit IMO, because the Left's general understanding of the situation has not become clear enuff.

    The grasp of the problem of identity politix is bang on; but the writer's accusation of what amounts to nihilism on the part of the youth uprising doesn't get to the point of seeing that this is actually far more about widespread solidarity being expressed -- inappropriately, of course -- in spite of decades of official Left incompetence and collaboration, which has purposely avoided providing a proper political outlet for the working-class.

    However inchoate the rage, it is an objective expression of class solidarity across ALL lines, and should be clearly seen and acted upon as such.

    There is no need to wring hands here. ORGANIZE against these capitalist blighters! They are vulnerable!

  2. Ah yes, let there no be option for clear thinking brother, for the party must prevail.
    Set the left correctly so the opposite fails also, and we can loose never.