By Olivier Delbeke, member of the editorial committee of La Lettre de Liaisons
Several days before the riots, quite deliberately, the minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, called the youth of the suburbs “rabble” and said this “rabble” needed “industrial cleaning”.
It is likely that the incident at Clichy was part of a deliberate plan to provoke clashes in order to justify a strong-arm response. What Sarkozy did not foresee was the ignition of a whole layer of youth, the most oppressed, the poorest, those to whom education promises the least. This ignition was largely spontaneous: the youths involved are the least organised social layers of the country.
There are no groups of anarchists, no “black blocks” to call for confrontation. The reactionary press plays with the phantoms of groups of clandestine Islamists or mafias wanting to prevent the police coming into certain areas. In fact the Islamists and the Muslim clergy, from the rector of the Paris mosque to the UOIF [Union of Islamic Organisations in France], are playing the card of law-abiding intermediaries. Sarkozy has said he wants to revisit the law of 1905, establishing the separation of church and state, to allow the public financing of certain religions – in fact, principally, Islam, with the strategic aim of developing a communitarian control of the populations through the offices of the clergy.
The riots are effects of 25 years of social crisis, growing despair, generation after generation. The raw energy of accumulated social hatred is expressing itself in the most uncontrolled fashion, often blind, wild, even criminal and anti-social. This explosion is the product of racism, unemployment, insecurity, poverty and of despair.
Yet things could change if the workers’ movement would take the initiative and organise a huge protest against the government, against their anti-social measures, against the curfew, to get away from the attacks by small, disorganised and sporadic bands and move towards the systematic organisation of social and political confrontation with the government and the bosses.
The responsibilities of the workers’ movement are immense. By conducting the affairs of the bourgeoisie on several occasions since 1981, by not changing things, by not organising the most exploited layers of the population for a collective, daily struggle, for immediate social defence, the leaderships of the left and of the trade union movement have created the framework for this despair. Immediately, by refusing seriously to fight the governments of Chirac since 5 May 2002, they have failed to offer a way out, a perspective to these layers of youth.
The government and the bosses are more unpopular than ever. The strategy of the trade union leaders is the soul source of the government’s success. The combativity of the workers is not in doubt. The objective of the government and bosses is to inflict — finally, and 20 years late — an historic defeat on the workers of France, comparable to that of Thatcher against the miners. It is highly likely that the aim of the current confrontation flows directly from that objective.
The only possible solution for the workers’ movement is to get rid not just of Sarkozy but of Chirac and the whole government, now, without waiting for 2007 (the presidential elections), in order to prevent a historic defeat for the workers of France. That is not the perspective of the Socialist Party or of the Communist Party – nor has it been for decades. Unfortunately it is not, either, the perspective of the far left (Lutte Ouvrière, Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, Parti des Travailleurs).
The workers must at one and the same time engage in the fight to defeat the government and its anti-social plans and construct a new political representation for the workers.