On the Riots in France


Instead of thinking up ways to condemn and dismiss this phenomenon, as many (including some who claim to be revolutionaries) seem content to do, I prefer to try to understand the underlying motivation involved, a motivation that it is increasingly clear is not at all 'specific'. For now, I have read enough of the 'objective' reports on the riots. What I need, now, to read, to learn about, is the subjectivity of the rioters themselves.

By now, I am convinced that the underlying factor of these 'fire storms' is the general socio-economic conditions these young people face in the 'banliueses' (sp.?) of France; which is to say, that they are (in my view) a direct, unmediated response to the unbearable misery of their extreme proletarian existence. Of course, their existence is not simply proletarian, without qualification; it is the worst of the entire French proletariat. They are the most dispossessed, the most excluded, and the most repressed of French capitalist society. Some would call them the 'underclass' or the 'lumpenproletariat'. But that serves only to divide them from the rest of their class in order to more easily demonize them, to set them up as 'the other', thus, 'the enemy' -- as if the ruling class isn't doing that well enough on its own.

Their rage I can fully identify with and understand, even if I can't identify with their actions. The thing is, though, that their rage needs to be unleashed and expressed, to show everyone that they will not peacefully accept their dispossession and exclusion. And they need to start from where they are placed, their concrete conditions, what denies and destroys them piecemeal, day by day. They are showing to the whole world -- but first and foremost to French society -- that they exist, that they are forced to submit to intolerable social conditions, that, as far as they are concerned, French society is rotten to the core (not to say that any other society isn't!), and that they refuse to take it any more.

I find this phenomenon exhilarating, even if I know that their fight has no perspective as long as it remains what it currently is, as long, that is, as it remains simply a war of destruction, and, eventually, attrition, since nothing real can be won on that terrain. State control will be the only winner there. My sense of exhilaration comes from, I think, my understanding that my class is not 'down for the count' (something I otherwise find myself regularly wondering about); it still lives, and it is still able to stand up and refuse -- on its own, without mediation or representation -- to quietly accept the horrific misery of this decaying social system. This also provides me with hope for the future of humankind.

Wage Slave X

November 8, 2005




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