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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Media : Organizing : Politics : Race : Social Welfare : Technology
France: Racism, poverty fuel rebellion
10 Nov 2005
The working class leadership in France has been weak on this question and downright reactionary at times. Right now they need to stop retreating. They must not confine themselves to mere protests against reactionary measures of repression. They need to demand that all the cops be withdrawn, that the emergency decrees be revoked. They need to come out for the justified rebellion.

The rebellious youth must be embraced as part of the working class. They may be unemployed, underemployed and/or unorganized, but right now they are potentially the greatest allies of the organized workers. They have overwhelmed a part of the state. They are mobilized and if they were to be joined by a solidarity strike against racism, poverty and oppression, the entire working class could push the ruling class offensive back.

It would be a mirror, but on a grander scale, of when the French workers in 1968 followed the students with a general strike and shook the ground under French capitalism. It is the lack of understanding of the national question, of the colonial question, of the importance of coming out against national oppression, that now stands in the way of a united struggle against capitalist exploitation itself. This must be overcome.
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IN FRANCE
Racism, poverty fuel rebellion
By Fred Goldstein
Published Nov 10, 2005 12:51 AM

Nov. 9—The reactionary capitalist rulers of France have decreed a state of emergency in an attempt to suppress the wholly justified and righteous rebellion of African immigrants against decades of racism, poverty, unemployment and national oppression—imposed upon them under the hypocritical slogan of the “social republic” of “liberty, fraternity and equality.”

The rebellion, which has spread to 300 cities, is led by youth and is an expression of the anger and frustration of the millions of immigrants and their children who come from former colonies of France, mostly in North and sub-Saharan Africa.

This rebellion is basically against internal colonialism—as evidenced by official youth unemployment at close to 40 percent, run-down housing built in the 1950s and 1960s, a continual campaign of police harassment and brutality, and exclusion and racist discrimination in housing and employment.

France has 750 areas classified as Sensitive Urban Zones (ZUS) where unemployment hovers at 20 percent—twice the national average—and incomes are no more than 60 percent of the national average, according to government statistics. Official unemployment there in the age group 15 to 25 is 36 percent and reaches higher if only young Muslim men are counted.

The epicenter of the rebellion was in Saint-Denis, Department 93, 10 miles outside Paris. Paris rents have been going through the roof. Last year more than 100,000 people competed for 12,000 available substandard housing units in Paris. “Among the hardest hit without housing are immigrants.… The three back-to-back Paris fires over the spring and summer, which killed many children, occurred in such rundown buildings.” (ABC News)

The law under which the state of emergency was decreed is particularly hated because it was first imposed in 1955 as part of the bloody colonial war by the French imperialists to hold on to Algeria. It permits governors and mayors “to forbid the movement of people and vehicles,” to ban meetings, to “search homes at any time of night or day,” to control “press and publications of all kinds,” and to impose a two-month jail sentence for violation of the curfew, among other things. Over 1,500 people have already been detained and hundreds more arrests are expected.

Several years after imposing this law in Algeria, the government extended it to France itself, to suppress support for the Algerian liberation movement. It created such a climate of repression that, on Oct. 17, 1961, a demonstration in Paris in support of the Algerian war of liberation was attacked by police. Over 300 people were killed; their bodies were thrown into the Seine and some were hanged.

From external to internal colonialism

Just as the original law was meant to maintain colonialism in Algeria, so the present decree is meant to maintain internal colonialism.

The French ruling class has proclaimed that in the “social republic” everyone is equal and that the government pursues a policy of “integration.” But in interview after interview with people of all ages, reporters for the capitalist networks and print media get the same story. “We are told we are French, but we are not French.” “We have the papers that say ‘French’ but we are not the real French.’”

If your name sounds African or Middle Eastern, your application for a job or for decent housing goes to the bottom of the pile or gets tossed altogether. Unemployment among African college graduates is close to 50 percent. “Janitor is our profession” is a common view.

In keeping with the political fiction of “equality,” the French government does not keep statistics on discrimination. Affirmative action in France is forbidden; it clashes with the assertions of equality. The reactionary application of this concept was demonstrated when head scarves for female students were forbidden on the false ground of the secular separation of church and state.

But just as Katrina exposed the naked racism and national oppression that exists in the United States, the great rebellion in France has exploded all political fictions of equality and social justice. President Jac ques Chirac, Prime Minister Domini que de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy are now jockeying with each other in the crisis.

Sarkozy is hated by the oppressed and all progressives throughout France for his openly hard-line, “law and order” policy and his racist insults. The government has no one it can talk to with any influence among the youth. And the entire regime is now moving towards increased repression.

At the same time, de Villepin has resorted to the carrot along with the stick, talking about 20,000 state jobs, money for neighborhoods, and tax breaks for businesses and development.

It took a rebellion in 300 cities, that as of Nov. 9 has lasted almost two weeks and has virtually overwhelmed the police, to get the ruling class to even talk about reforms. This rebellion is earthshaking and the ruling class will soon find out that Band-aids will not fix the problem.

Bosses wanted immigrants after WWII

The crisis has its origins in the inexorable developing crisis of world capitalism. French imperialism has dealt with this crisis by launching a vicious, racist campaign of divide and conquer directed against the entire French working class. The key element in their strategy has been a slanderous campaign against immigrants. The rebellion is the fruit of this strategy.

After World War II French capitalism was in ruins from the Nazi occupation and the Allied invasion. The population and the working class had declined. The ruling class decided that to get back on its feet quickly it needed an influx of immigrants— wage slaves who could be exploited at the least cost to the bosses in order to
stren gthen French capitalism in the world struggle for markets.

The result was an opening up of immigration, especially from North Africa—Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This policy continued throughout the period of imperialist expansion up to the 1970s. French imperialism had been driven out of Vietnam, then out of Algeria, and suffered from economic contraction more severely than its rivals. But the organized working class was powerful. It rebelled in 1968 and forced drastic changes in the government and some progressive concessions.

As the 1970s developed, the ruling class reversed its attitude toward immigration. It began to impose restrictions and in the 1980s even threatened to deport hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants by revoking their status retroactively. This measure was defeated, but just raising it was a divisive measure.

The crisis of immigrants was aggravated by the scientific-technological revolution and the capitalist de-industrialization that hit the suburbs and left little rust belts and shuttered factories around all the cities.

In the 1990s, the fascist French National Front, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, picked up on the campaign started by the mainstream ruling class and took it even further. Le Pen made progress on his racist anti-immigrant campaign and in 2002 actually got into a run-off for the presidency with Jacques Chirac.

The working class leadership in France has been weak on this question and downright reactionary at times. Right now they need to stop retreating. They must not confine themselves to mere protests against reactionary measures of repression. They need to demand that all the cops be withdrawn, that the emergency decrees be revoked. They need to come out for the justified rebellion.

The rebellious youth must be embraced as part of the working class. They may be unemployed, underemployed and/or unorganized, but right now they are potentially the greatest allies of the organized workers. They have overwhelmed a part of the state. They are mobilized and if they were to be joined by a solidarity strike against racism, poverty and oppression, the entire working class could push the ruling class offensive back.

It would be a mirror, but on a grander scale, of when the French workers in 1968 followed the students with a general strike and shook the ground under French capitalism. It is the lack of understanding of the national question, of the colonial question, of the importance of coming out against national oppression, that now stands in the way of a united struggle against capitalist exploitation itself. This must be overcome.

The French working class has a glorious history of class struggle and uprisings, going back to the revolution of 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871, the mutinies after World War I, and the general strikes of 1934 and 1968. This is the moment for the leaders to grasp their historic role and their responsibility to turn the situation around and fight back.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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See also:
http://www.workers.org/
http://www.workers.org/2005/world/france-1109/

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Re: France: Racism, poverty fuel rebellion
10 Nov 2005
My my, how the standards of the Vanguard of the Proletariat have gone down, along with the average IQ of the proletariat themselves.

So drug dealing welfare slugs are now equal to "revolutionary workers?" I say, I'm insulted on behalf of my sweatshop laborers in Indochina! They have much better character than those dole living khat merchants in Paris! And they are grateful for the jobs I give them stitching your rags, bless their overworked little hearts!

Don't look now, but we Capitalist Pigs have found the secret to quelling the Great Proletarian Revolution. Put on a soccer game for the attention deficit suffering rabble! Think I'm joking? See here, my good "men" and womyn.

In Toulouse, one policeman ruefully noted that the streets were bare Wednesday night because the French national soccer team was playing a match against Ivory Coast. He noted that most of the rioters are teenagers -- many of them French-born descendants of Muslim North African immigrants -- and that their desire to watch football rather than riot was a demonstration of their lack of political sophistication."
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Bread and circuses is all they want. Excuse me, I have to write a check for 5 million francs to Jean-Marie LePen. Now there's a grateful worker!