We Live in Times of War

When Sarkozy declares that young people from the suburbs are "scum" and that it is necessary to "cleanse" these suburbs, is this not a declaration of war against these young people, their parents, and the inhabitants of the suburbs? The minister knows the volcano, and (willfully or not) he is stoking its eruption. When young people set fire to buses, to hundreds of cars, to public places like day nurseries, to fire engines, when the suburbs of Paris, Strasbourg, Lille, Toulouse ignite in turn, to demonstrate their power for all too see, what are these incendiary nights if not a warlike response to the insulting remarks, the flow of lava, the source of which is very deep? CNN has evoked the risk of "civil war", as well as a possible introduction of a "curfew" and of "sending in troops". This war will have only one winner, the bourgeois government, the French State, because they have the forces of repression and the possibility of delaying, of "mediating" and they understood, after a few days, or rather a few nights of apocalypse, that their interest lay in playing both sides.

This war will be won by also controlling the thinking of all those who were shaken by the events. The bourgeoisie, as a collective body of which the left forms an integral part, can vilify Sarkozy for his racist remarks. The left has not failed to do so , even if similar riots occurred during the "Mitterand years". It can also point to the fact that the rioters are destroying the individual vehicles of workers , leaving workers unemployed by destroying their factories, attacking public services, in particular the firemen, who are ready to give their life to extinguish fires, and even day nurseries and schools. It can stoke the anger of those who lost tangible properties, those who are frightened , who feel insecure. And perhaps the National Front, or even Sarkozy will be the beneficiary in next elections. When the French government promises a policy which will improve the situation of the inhabitants of the suburbs, it lies. No policy can offer a solution to the situation of the young people in the suburbs. The problem of the suburbs is not only the accumulation of concrete, where there is no longer any green space, in cities which assume the form of landscapes of war in times of peace. It is not only the problem of the insufficient social grid, of the young people left on their own, without perspective, shops, cultural institutions, places to socialize. It is not only the problem of urban restoration and social cohesion. It is not only the problem of unemployment which reaches alarming figures (17% on average, 40 to 45 % for the young people below the age of 25). The suburbs of France crystalizes the very trajectory of capitalist decadence, its ejection of a growing mass of youth, at the very age when they would previously have been integrated, from the production process (and especially young people who are not of French stock), and the effect which this situation has on their sense of who they are.

Do the riots in the suburbs reveal the fundamentally bad, brutal, character of human nature? I don't think so. On the one hand, "what there is in the suburbs, is a fraternity, an incredible solidarity" (declaration of a young person to the Journal de la Deux , 5.11.05). Moreover, "... the softer emotions and an adaptive altruism pertain to groups. In the animal world, these groups can be bands of wolves and troops of monkeys. In the human ones, it is the family, the tribe, the city and the nation. For those who are outside the group, the history of evolution shows that they were anything but fraternal . The soft emotions can easily become bad and brutal when they are directed out of the circles which are their natural target. The result is anger, resentment and violence, all of which can constitute a possible embryo of tribal hatreds, racism and war (...) the history of our civilization, to a certain extent, is that of the effort to extend the best of these "moral feelings" to increasingly broad human circles, beyond the restriction to determinant groups, to the point of embracing the whole of humanity. That we are still far from that is easy to grasp by reading the newspaper headlines. "(A. Damasio, Spinoza was right, Joy and sadness, the brain of the emotions, ED Odile Jacob, 2003, pocket, p. 173). When the feelings of "solidarity", of "fraternity" cannot extend to "increasingly broad" groups, a result of geographical, economic, social exclusion from productive activity, they change to "hatred", "violence", and the "embryo of war". And this "war" is not even directed against precise targets, it is blind, and targets bus depots and other public services, as well as police stations. The violence of the young people of the suburbs shows that the seams of the old world are bursting , that the volcano is ready to erupt, but, in my opinion, it will not lead to class struggle, or generate worker's struggles in solidarity. It bears witness to the fact that "those at the bottom will not take it any more", but it does not indicate how the world can be transformed. One has to expect the generalization of such blazes in the months and years to come, in the whole world (let us think of the townships in South Africa) together with the reinforcement of the repressive forces of the State against any form of insubordination, whether it be that of the young people of the suburbs or the workers organized in struggle. The class war is ahead of us.


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