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"Dancing with the wolves" – About the November 2005 riots in France

mercredi 7 mai 2008

INTRO of Mute website : The riots of the past 2 weeks may be seen as a long overdue political response to the profound racism of French society, but, according to Yves Coleman, this uprising is more an index of desperation than the beginning of a new political movement.

In suburban dialect to ‘dance with the wolves’ is to provoke the cops, make them run and, obviously, to succeed in escaping without being arrested. Unfortunately, the reality is much less romantic :

– around 1,600 youth have already been arrested (50% of them under 18 years of age) during the last 14 days, and 180 have already been condemned to jail sentences (from 2 months up to one year of jail for an adult who provided gas to minors for their molotov cocktails) ;

– the government has decided to declare a 12-day ‘state of emergency’, using an old law adopted in 1955 during the war against Algeria, law which not only enables the ‘préfets’ (responsible for each of the 96 ‘départements’ of metropolitan France) to declare a curfew but to organise searches in private homes at night without any warrant, to close meeting rooms, bars, parties, etc., and also, although it has not been decided yet, potentially to restrict the freedom of the press and put people in prison camps, among other very dangerous measures.

– The government has decided to enable bosses to hire apprentices at the age of 14, instead of 16, a measure which is a big step backwards for working class youth, and will only be targeted at the kids of poor families. This measure is aimed at destroying the ‘unique college’ (a common school for all the pupils under 15). It will prevent them from gaining a better general knowledge and qualifications and, obviously, impede them from going to university. And it will enable the bosses to hire teenagers for much less than the minimum wage (50 or 75% less).

– Many cars (6,000), local shops, gymnasiums, schools, buses, youth centers, migrants’ homes (‘foyers’), etc, which are of common use for all the inhabitants of these suburbs have been burnt down. (I won’t cry over police stations or police garages which have been burnt because these attacks have a political meaning.)

The ‘spark which set the plain on fire’ ?

Everything started because of the death, on the 27 October, in Clichy-sous-Bois a poor northeastern suburb of Paris, of two French-African teenagers, Bouna and Zyed. They had just stopped playing football with other friends when they saw some policemen. Scared, they ran and escaped into an electrical power facility, where they were electrocuted and died. Spontaneously the local youth mobilized itself in the streets and protested, burning dustbins, cars, etc. But it could have stopped there, or lasted 2 or 3 days in the small town of Clichy-sous-Bois, if the Minister of the Interior (Sarkozy) had not accused the two dead youth of planning a theft and if, on the 30 October, a Muslim prayer room had not received a teargas cannister – it’s not clear whether the cannister fell just outside or inside the prayer room. But what is clear is that the Minister of the Interior lied a second time, accusing the ‘rioters’ of having thrown this cannister. He was then obliged to admit that it was a police weapon, but had the nerve to declare there was no element of proof that the cannister had been thrown by a cop ! That led a local ‘mediator’ from Clichy (employed by the municipality to help young people) to say during a TV program : ‘Well, I can admit that the stones and Molotov cocktails may belong to the rioters, but there is no proof that they are throwing them.’

The Minister of the Interior’s lies, the violent and racist words repeatedly used by him in reference to the youth in front of TV cameras, the initial unwillingness to open an inquiry about the death of Bouna and Zyed, and the open contempt for the Muslims who suffocated in their prayer room and did not receive any excuse from the highest authorities of the State, all these factors exasperated not only the youth of Clichy-sous-Bois but a significant part of the French youth who live in popular districts.

During the following days, the situation got worse in many Parisian suburbs and then on a national level. Obviously the arrogant attitude of Sarkozy did not help, nor the arrogant and racist attitudes of the young and inexperienced CRS (anti-riot policemen) sent into the suburbs. (The media suggested that there was an important difference between the nervous young, inexperienced CRS and the attitude of the older ones ; both were dangerous from the rioters’ and population’s point of view, but the young ones were more expected to commit a « bavure » which could have radically changed the political situation). In the streets, day and night, they systematically demanded to see the ID of any Black or North-African youth they come across, even if they knew them already, using always ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’, often insulting them to provoke a violent reaction, etc. (Nationally, the number of cops is permanently expanding in France. Between 1974 and 2003, it jumped from 99,144 cops to 143,836. These figures don’t include the permanently growing number of private municipal forces.) Young people wanted to express their solidarity with the two dead teenagers of Clichy, to protest against the attitudes of the cops, to protest against the teargas cannister thrown into a Muslim prayer room, and many of them remembered past examples of police ‘bavures’ (acts of cop violence which end in the death of local youths, whether delinquent or not). They remembered that most of the time cops are not condemned by courts, or only very lightly, when they kill a young inhabitant of these so-called ‘sensitive districts’. The media also played a certain role in the extension of the riots because minority groups in each suburb wanted their district to become ‘famous’. Burning cars or dustbins and attacking cops or firemen became a way to get on TV for one night and to show that they had as much ‘balls’ as the youth of other suburbs.

Another factor played its role : the fact that cops and firemen were massively mobilised pushed them to intervene ‘en masse’. This was the aim of the small groups of rioters : they would burn some dustbins, then 3 cars of cops and 3 cars of firemen would come, then the rioters would go to another area, attack the cops or firemen, more cops would come, etc. It took some days for the rioters to find new tactics to organise themselves (for example, in order not to be recognized some went to other districts, swapping their place of intervention), and it also took some days to the forces of repression to understand their tactics and to find the appropriate answer. For political reasons, the government prefered to fall into the rioters’ trap (i.e. by sending a disproportionate number of cops into the districts) both to show the population that they were mastering the situation but also to over-dramatize it.

A deeply rooted crisis

The reasons for the riots are much deeper than the few facts just mentioned, however. The experts estimate that there are in France 800 working class districts (or better ‘poor districts’) with a total population of 4.2 million inhabitants whose situation has just been getting worse and worse for years. What are the main problems ?

-  Unemployment can reach up to 40 or 50% in some districts for the sons and daughters of working class immigrants as opposed to a national average of 10% ;

-  Bad housing (old decaying tower blocks built in the ‘60s and ‘70s, geographically isolated, lacking in public transport, public services, shops, etc.) ;

-  Bad public education : young, inexperienced teachers (38% are less than 30 years old in the Ile-de-France region ; with a population of 10 million people it is the largest region in France) learn their jobs with the most difficult pupils ; in the schools, there is a high percentage of absenteeism, a high level of violence (10% of the schools concentrate half of the so-called ‘acts of violence’ : insults, physical aggression, thefts, rackets, etc.) and a high percentage of pupils with foreign-born parents (10% of the colleges – schools between 10 and 15 – have more than 40% of pupils with foreign-born parents).

-  Bad public health : there are twice as few hospitals in the poor areas as in the rest of France ; fewer private doctors and drugstores, more problems of obesity among children, less care for teeth, bad vision, etc.

-  A very difficult situation for women : it’s in the working class districts that you have the highest percentage of single mothers living below the poverty line. In the Seine-Saint-Denis department half of these mothers are defined as poor. The social scientists, social workers, ‘mediators’, community workers, and rap artists were expecting this kind of event, which has already happened before, either in Parisian suburbs or in other towns but never on such a large scale. If we take the statistics about so-called ‘urban violence’, they jumped from 3,462 acts of violence in 1993 to more than 100,000 in 2005. During the first 10 months of 2005, 28,041 cars and 17,489 dustbins were burnt and there were 6,004 incidents during which were thrown some sorts of ‘missiles’ (stones, molotov cocktails, etc.). This means that the cops, mayors, state administrators, politicians, MPs, etc. had all the information at hand but ignored it for obvious reasons : it would cost too much to restore all that has been slowly destroyed during the last 30 years : jobs, public housing, public services, cultural centers, shops, cinemas, etc – in short the whole economy and social life of these districts.

The first important riots in Les Minguettes (near Lyon) in summer 1981 had provoked a ‘March for equity’ in 1983 (a wonderful name which later became known as the ‘March of the Beurs’ – Beurs is an ethnic slang word for Arab and has no political content). 100,000 people gathered in Paris on the 3 December 1983, and many hopes in the French-immigrant youth arose at that time. But only 3 weeks after this march the Socialist Prime minister was already attacking the Muslims workers of Talbot-Poissy who were on strike against mass sackings in the automobile industry.

The Left in power, and especially the Socialist Party (SP), was only able to coopt a certain number of the local leaders for its local municipal teams (at a very low level of responsibility), to finance some local or national associations (SOS Racisme, founded in 1984, being the most famous one) which became heavily dependent on the SP, in a typical clientelist way. The Left did not launch a massive programm of investment in education, health, transport and culture, to mention only some basic needs. It prefered to talk and talk about racism and multiculturalism for years, instead of acting against the plague of racism and dealing with its deep economic roots. It preferred to select a minute elite of obedient leaders and to recruit underpaid social workers of North African origin, than to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. People living in working class suburbs had to experience the Left in power for many years to discover its total inefficiency and partly understand its role.

In October 1990, a second wave of revolt exploded at Vaulx-en-Velin and since then the Left and the Right have decided to launch various ‘politiques de la ville’ (town policies) conducted by a ‘ministère de la ville’ (Town ministry, created in May 1991) which led to the very slow restoration of some districts and the creation of ‘free zones’, areas where companies get important tax advantages if they agree to invest in these districts and to hire 25% of local staff. These ‘free zones’ have had a limited impact for the moment and created only 60,000 jobs. From the 1990s another important change occured : the Left started to adopt the same language as the Right and Far Right and talked all the time of ‘security’ instead of dealing with social insecurity.

The revolted youth of the ‘80s who had some hopes in reforms, or who had more or less radical views, have been progressively replaced by totally desparate kids and young adults who know they have no future, and in fact nothing to loose. To be beaten up, to be arrested by the cops and to go to jail, is not seen as a failure, but as an heroic act, as a necessary test. I remember a few years ago listening to two teenagers discussing the respective ‘qualities’ of different jails around Paris. That seemed to be a normal conversation between two young suburban males. And all my friends who live in working class suburbs have stories to tell about weapons circulating in schools, physical fights with baseball bats between rival youth gangs, permanent police harassment of the youth, etc.

Districts and suburbs

The situation in the suburbs has also worsened because of the development of an important ‘parallel economy ’ based on drug trafficking (mainly cannabis) and other ‘businesses’ involving all kinds of stolen goods. This has led criminal gangs to try to control some mini-districts and to prevent the cops from entering these areas. Today, when right-wing politicians say that criminals are manipulating the riots, most policemen say the opposite : the small districts which are most controlled by the criminal gangs have not known any ‘rioting’ – guess why !

But one must add one thing : French suburbs are not homogeneous : you have small houses (’pavillons’) next to huge old tower blocks falling to pieces or new renovated estates. The situation can change from one street to another, or one block to another. Therefore it’s difficult to talk of ‘the’ suburbs. The only thing which is sure is that the poorer the suburbs are, the more immigrants (or sons of immigrants with French ID) and unemployed you will find living there.

Who is involved in the riots ?

The violence involves all sorts of people from 10-year-old kids to delinquent adults of 22-25 years, but it has no political content , and certainly not an islamist one, contrary to the fairytales invented by some journalists. (Radical islamists – i.e. jihadist-terrorists – try to keep a low profile, one of the reasons being that French secret services infiltrate them regularly, which is why networks are regularly arrested.).

It seems that in a minority of districts, some inexperienced local criminal gangs wanted to protect their territory and favoured confrontations with the cops for a time, but they quickly changed their minds when they saw the final result (the permanent presence of the police) ; in others there was some emulation between youth from rival suburbs, whether organized in formal gangs or not ; in isolated small towns where they burnt 4 or 5 cars, it was just for fun and to be in the media, etc. All observers note that the big difference between these riots and those of the 1980s and ‘90s is that the rioters are much younger (10-16) and that today there is a very significant gap between the teenagers and their 20 to 30-year-old brothers and sisters. (One must also note the explosion of what is labelled ‘juvenile delinquency’ : the statistics jumped from 72,242 to 142,824 minors arrested, between 1973 and 1996, 18% being charged for a ‘crime’ or an ‘offence’. Obviously one must be very cautious about these statistics, which are permanenly manipulated by the different state institutions. But at least they show, on a long term perspective, that the State has a more and more repressive attitude towards the young, repression which obviously fuels the hate against cops and judges.)

Local spontaneous mobilization ?

To my knowledge there have not been many examples of ‘positive’ self-organization of the inhabitants. In Clichy-sous-Bois some groups of Muslim adults (‘moderate’ not right-wing Muslims or islamists) went around the town with some success, in the sense that they succeeded in ‘cooling down’ the youth. An association (Au-delà des mots, Beyond the words) was also created in the same town to help the families of the two dead youths and to push for a serious legal inquiry about what happened. In another suburb, around 20 parents and inhabitants gather every night in front of their district’s huge tower blocks to talk with the kids and try to convince them not to provoke the cops and burn cars. There may be other examples but these events are not interesting for the media, because they dont play with people’s fears and can’t be used by the government. As regards negative local organisation, the right-wing governmental party in two Parisian suburbs (including Asnières) has organized unarmed patrols by local citizens (‘Comités de veille citoyenne’) with mobile phones, cameras and fire extinguishers, and it seems that there are also some private local initiatives by people who want to protect their cars and property and who cooperate with the cops. But hopefully this right-wing (or worse fascist, if the National Front were to infiltrate them) militia phenomenon is quite microscopic for the moment.

Where does the information come from ?

The French media covered the events but from a very limited point of view. In the hottest districts they worked side by side with the cops, they were ‘embedded ’ like in Iraq. Journalists couldn’t seriously inquire about the ‘other side’ because they often had problems if they had a camera or a tape recorder in hand. At least, that’s what most of them said during the riots. Now that the ‘events’ are over, we discover that French TV did not show the same images as the foreign media, and that the most violent events were shown only on foreign TV. That may explain why in other countries some people had the impression that an insurrection was going on. Anyway there are other reasons why coverage of the riot was difficult for journalists : they don’t live in such districts, and very few of them ‘follow’ the same district for a long time. Journalists generally work with the help of social workers, mediators, sociologists or rap musicans which are of African or North African descent and know the local population well. So the information we get from the media is filtered by journalists who have no deep knowledge of what they are talking about.

What’s the attitude of the reformist Left and of the Right ?

The Left (SP and Communist Party(CP)) wants to ‘reestablish law and order’ and is not pushing for new elections or for Chirac’s departure. The CP opposes the reintroduction of the 1955 law while the SP has a neutral attitude towards it and is more interested in its congress and internal rivalries for the presidential election (8 socialist candidates are already concurring inside the SP !). The SP prefers to support a ‘good’ law-and-order policy than to support the youth, while the CP in some towns is trying to have a bit more of an empathic attitude towards the youth without having ‘anti-cop’ attitudes. The Right is divided, discredited and hated for its permanent attacks on living standards and basic social rights by a majority of the population. A fraction of the Right may be considering the future possibility of a new gaullist-centrist-socialist government, but so far that remains an abstract hypothesis. Chirac and Villepin are probably not going to make a U-turn towards a fully repressive policy with soldiers in the suburbs firing real bullets, even if cops are shot at right now. If the government was going to use the soldiers (as some SP and Right-wing mayors have demanded) or to use real bullets, it would in this case turn the official Left and trade unions against them and this is too dangerous a game to play. Chirac will probably let the situation rot and stop, or, in case this policy does not work, he will ask Sarkozy to leave the government, as a symbol, and announce some ‘social’ measures which will never be introduced. The Right-wing government has a short-term policy : to stay in power until 2007.

Even if the Prime Minister Villepin admitted that the government made a mistake in drastically diminishing the funding of local community associations, he keeps insisting that the cops made no mistakes, were very patient and moderate, and he even talked about the ‘social disequilibriums created by an unmastered flow of clandestine immigration’ (for years one of the National Front’s arguments) while he knows perfectly well that the rioters are not foreigners but French citizens (only 120 foreigners, illegal or with residence permits have been arrested, which represents only 7.5% of the people arrested, a normal figure, given the percentage of foreigners living in France).

‘Collective bargaining by riot’ ?

Journalists and politicians are torn between condemnation and interpretation of the youth rebellion. Should the government make concessions to the rioters now or not ? In a TV debate, a right-wing journalist said no, it will appear as a concession to a movement which has no demands and uses illegal means. A left-wing journalist replied that efficient politics was based on concessions, even not admitting it, to any important social movement, whether it was illegal or not.

Concretely the ‘suburbs’ have ‘won’ nothing for the moment (in a way, things have got much worse for their inhabitants, especially the youngest ones : everything will be more difficult for them after this movement), but the rebels succeeded temporarily on one point : things which were denied and considered as irrelevant are now plainly visible : the misery of some districts, the discriminations at work and at school, the despair of some significant layers of the French population. That’s basically what the rap singers, sociologists, and social workers who sympathize with the youth are saying. They act as the interpreters-spokesmen of the youth in the media and say : ‘When young people don’t have words to express their anger and frustration they act to be heard.’

The problem is that many people are ready to distort the message of that revolt :

– the left politicians agree to say ‘The best molotov cocktail is a ballot’ – and the majority of the Far Left and anti-globalisation movement has no other concrete perpective than the elections of 2007 ;

– the anti-racist Left and a part of the Far Left present ‘positive discrimination’ and an increased political role for Muslim religious leaders as solutions, as if the American and British models were not also based on racism and racial discrimination. Some people argue that in Britain and the States there is a bigger ‘non white’ petty-bourgeoisie and that there are larger ‘non white’ ‘middle classes’ than in France. That remains to be proved. But these anti-racists forget that social discrimination acts not only on the basis of colour but on the basis of class : in other words there are millions of young kids who have French parents, whose grand-parents were French, and have also very little future… Revolutionaries should try to unite all the elements of the working classes and poor classes for the same common goals and not to divide them along a colour line, favouring one category at the expense of the other, as if the so-called ‘white’ working class was collectively responsible of all the evils of colonialism, neocolonialism and racism.

‘Good ’ and ‘bad’ forms of violence ?

On the internet and in radical circles there has been some debates about what attitude revolutionaries should have to youth violence : what is obvious is that you can’t put the violence against persons on the same level as the violence againts objects, goods and buildings. In other words, when rioters have burnt several buses with the passengers inside, physically attacked the cashiers of a supermarket, set a housing center for immigrant workers on fire, or beaten to death an old man who tried to calm them down, there is no way such acts can be supported. They must be denounced as what they are : a symptom of the war between the poor, a symptom of capitalist barbarism. The question is different if we are talking about burning cars or dustbins, and even the inhabitants of the suburbs see these actions with different eyes… unless their own car is burning. When schools or post-offices are burning we should not be afraid of criticizing these acts, even if we can understand them as acts of revolt.

As regards the violence against cops, the fact that they are armed does not justify every act against them, even if they kill, beat up or torture innocent people. Our attitude is not only linked to the fact that this kind of violence leads nowhere because of a temporarily unfavourable relation of forces. In the present political situation, wounding or killing cops has no political result, it is not part of any revolutionary strategy, unless you support organized crime or local criminal gangs. If revolutionaries were in a position to do something, they would rather choose to politically influence the cops, propose to them that they leave the police force or refuse to obey orders. Romanticizing physical (or worse armed) fights with cops leads nowhere. The Italian Far Left has paid and is still paying a hard price for such illusions.

What about the Far Left ?

No Far Left or anarchist group has important roots in the poorest parts of the main working class districts (the CP lost its roots a long time ago, or where it retains them it’s not among the youth), and certainly not among the French of North African or African descent.

Exactly as in the US, as soon as a North African boy or girl succeeds at school and goes on to university, he or she changes district, moving to a slightly better, or much ‘better’, area. Those who are 18-25 and who stay in these districts are the ones who have stopped school at 16 (and sometimes stopped attending classes regularly at 13-14), or have not made any university studies, and have had only shitty, part-time jobs and unemployment benefits if they were ‘lucky’. Living with your parents when you are 18-25 in a small flat and a bad building, in a district with no cinemas and no places to hang around, play sports, dance, make music, etc., a district which is permanently criticized as a ‘rotten ’ place to live in, with no professional future, leads you more to illegal activity than to the labour market. And if your parents are African or North African and you apply for a job, you will in any case be a victim both of racism and a lack of qualifications.

Those who sympathize with the reformist Left or the revolutionary Left are usually those who have a regular job, a small qualification (blue or white collar), and are often state employees. There is a big gap between those who have a job and those who are unemployed. And no political group has been able to fill this gap in the last 40 years.

What’s the future ?

The future looks rather dark. Some groups like the LCR or other small trotskyist groups try to ‘politicize’ the issue and ask Sarkozy to quit the government and/or Chirac to leave. This kind of slogan shows that they are totally disconnected from the daily reality of the rioters. (And that is also what the article in the last issue of Solidarity showed when it suggested that the trade unions – which organize less than 8% of all wage-earners in France ! – should organize the youth.) Those who think that the rioters and, more generally, the desperate youth care about the dismissal of Sarkozy live on another planet.

They address themselves to the traditional trade union, CP or SP militants or sympathisers who have a more or less safe job, live in a safe suburb or a safe district of a suburb, and who still have illusions about the reformist Left. Most of these traditional targets of the revolutionary Left don’t have African or North African parents. But the revolutionary Left has nothing to say to the rioters and all the young people who, even if they do not approve of all their actions, more or less sympathise with them. This part of the youth has never experienced solidarity – neither on a local level, nor in high school strikes, nor in a temporary workplace. If they have had some brief taste of it, it certainly did not convince them to adopt the classic methods of struggle of the working class movement. This is where the problem lies, not in a change of minister, a change of President, a 6th Republic or a new Left government. Whether the revolutionary Left will be able to take the ‘bull by the horns’ remains to be seen…

Yves Coleman Ni patrie ni frontières 15/11/2005

This text draws heavily on testimony and analysis from several friends or contacts. They are obviously not responsible for my political conclusions but without them I would have been unable to write these lines.

1. Clichy-sous-Bois is a small town north of Paris, of 28,000 inhabitants with 25% unemployment. 30% of the houses are publics estates (HLM). Half of the population is under 25 years old ; executives and middle classes represent only 4.7% of the population and immigrants 33%.

2. Mr Sarkozy declared that he was going to clean the suburbs of its ‘racaille’ (scum) with a ‘Karcher’ (a high pressure water jet used to clean the dirt on cars.) On Thursday, 10 November, during a TV programme (A Vous De Juger) he went one step further in the direction of National Front-style racism saying that only the children of North-African and African people caused problems in France and that he was scandalised that the cousin of the Mauritanian killed in Clichy-sous-Bois was wearing a ‘boubou’ and not a ‘French suit’ when he met him ! And to top it all, Arlette Chabot, the journalist hosting this TV programme, tried first to prevent a community association member from intervening in the debate and, when obliged to let him talk, then contemptuously declared that she did not understand what he was saying, as if this man was unable to talk French properly !

3. But one can also see this movement as a very political one as opposed to the riots in Britain or the States which often lead to inter-ethnic conflicts such as recently took place in Birmingham. For those who defend this interpretation, the November riots expressed a very old French tendency to choose the State and all its institutions as a target. That would explain why suburban kids have spontaneously attacked symbols of State authority (police stations, firemen, cops, post-offices, schools, etc).

4. An American journalist explained that French riots were perceived as very dramatic in the States for four reasons : it reminded the Americans the riots in the ‘60s which led to the adoption of affirmative action which changed American society ; rioters in the States don’t traditionally burn cars but loot because cars are considered as ‘sacred’(?!) in American culture ; several French citizens have been caught in Afghanistan and 10 already died in Iraq, so that fuels the idea of an islamist plot in France ; Americans did not know that France had poor ethnic ghettoes with violent conflicts.

5. All sorts of Muslim groups or leaders, including Tariq Ramadan, have tried to intervene in this crisis, the most stupid intervention being the ‘fatwa’ of the UOIF, forbiding violence Muslim believers to use violence. The fact that the rioters did not listen to the leaders of their so-called ‘religious community’ demonstrates well that there was no Muslim or even islamist plot. More important, it shows that the youth were not basically motivated by religious reasons. A reason for optimism…

6. In France there are very few statistics about discrimination toward those of different national origins (it’s forbidden by law or requires special authorization to organize such enquiries) but the following numbers may give an idea of the situation of the ‘rioters’’ parents at least : Immigrants are mainly employed in the car industry, building industry, cleaning sector and hospitals in lowly-paid jobs. 20% of the non-qualified workers are foreigners. 46% of foreigners are workers (as opposed to 26% of French people). 80% of the Turks are workers, 50% of the Algerians and Tunisians belong to the working class. Part-time jobs and unemployment : 42% of migrant women have a part-time job as opposed to 31% of French women ; 20% of migrant men are unemployed as opposed to 10% of French men ; 23% of migrant women are unemployed as opposed to 14% of French women. Rate of unemployment (in the year 2000) according to nationality : born in France : 11% ; born abroad but naturalized : 14%. Algerians : 30.8% ; Moroccans : 35.8% ; Tunisians : 19.5% ; Other Africans : 25.6%.

7. Lionel Jospin, former Prime Minister, former secretary general of the Socialist Party, dedicated the first chapter of his last book to the importance of ‘values’. This so-called atheist thinks that ALL religious leaders, catholic, protestant, jew and muslim, should enter the political debate. This shows the enormous political regression that even the reformist Left has undergone in the last 20 years on such basic questions as atheism.

8. In 2004, the level of unemployment for those aged 15-59 was 20.7% in the ‘sensitive urban zones’, double the national rate of unemployment. In these poor areas the population has decreased 8.6% but the level of unemployment rose 6% between 1990 and 1999. 18.8% of those who are looking for a job have the ‘baccalauréat’ (final exam at the end of the high school) against 30.1% in other towns. 43.6% have no diploma at all. 15.7% get the RMI (an assistance revenue you get when your unemployment benefits are over) against 10.9% on the national scale. For those who are less than 25 years old, the unemployment reaches 36.2% and the situation got worse during the last few years. For example in the area of Clichy-Montfermeil the unemployment rate for those under 24 jumped from 27.1% in 1990 to 37.1% in 2004. In the area of the ‘Eastern Plateau of Dreux’ (11,042 inhabitants) the unemployment rate for those under 24 has reached 56.4%.

9. Lutte ouvrière has taken a very ambiguous position about the necessity of an efficient local police. When revolutionaries start to enter onto this slippy ground of law-and-order, they always forget their essential role : to locally organize people to resist to police violence as well as the presence of gangs, etc. It’s obviously absurd to talk of ‘workers militias ’ today in districts where there are up to 50% of unemployed people and very little factories, but one should not try to ‘swim in the stream ’ by having ambiguous positions about cops. Obviously it would be better if all cops were nice guys, not racist, always ready to help old ladies to cross the street and to solve neighborhood conflicts with a smile and patience. But that’s an illusion to think this is possible in a word of violence and fierceful competition like the capitalist world. Apart from local solidarity between people, a solidarity which has to be organized in all sorts of local associations and political organisations, and independently from the State, the local political power and the police, there is no way out.

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