The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The choice is not only between sterile violence or resignation

Nov 21, 2005

The following is an editorial from the November 7 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle), published by the revolutionary workers group of that name in France, about the explosion of anger by young people in that country, especially in immigrant working class neighborhoods.

After Paris, the flames of violence hit workers' neighborhoods in other cities. Cynical comments by Chirac about "equality of opportunity" certainly didn't stop the revolt of young people! And each time Sarkozy (the Minister of the Interior) opened his mouth, he propelled new contingents of youth into the streets, even the very youngest.

Yes, this wave of violence is sterile. When youth burn their parents' or neighbors' cars, burn buses which serve workers' neighborhoods and wreck nursery schools, they demonstrate a lack of social awareness and solidarity. Making life still more unlivable for themselves, copying what others did, isn't the only way for them to express their anger and certainly not the best way.

But how could political leaders – those who are in power as well as those who dream of returning to power – convince these youth that, despite their present life, there is hope for the future?

The poverty that transforms these neighborhoods into ghettoes, the unemployment and complete lack of infrastructure may not explain the way the youth revolt, but it is the soil in which this revolt took root. How dare politicians pretend they are doing something for workers' neighborhoods! The youth who live there every day see that nothing changes, when it doesn't get worse. The police crack the heads of youth whose looks they don't like. The government is made up of officials scornful of everyone who is poor.

The right wing majority and the socialist opposition together make an appeal to "the republican ideal" – backed up by police clubs. So how could the youth of these neighborhoods take this republic as ideal, when it is made for the rich and powerful? How could they believe it is possible to pull themselves up by working when those who seek jobs can't find any?

How can the youth in workers' neighborhoods be pulled away from the influence of the little parasites who engage in trafficking of all sorts, when life smiles only on the big parasites who dominate society? How can youth be convinced that it is stupid to burn schools in the workers' neighborhoods when there are how many other schools which haven't been built because those who govern us won't spend the money to do it? While billions are spent in favor of the rich, the schools in workers' neighborhoods are overcrowded, with too few teachers and not enough resources. The schools don't have the material conditions that would allow teachers to transmit a minimum of education to everyone, even just how to read, write and speak correctly. The years spent in school lead to nothing, not even a job!

Workers may not rejoice about the form that this explosion has taken, and not only because they are the first to suffer from it. Youth is the future. But what future can youth who are tossed aside create?

Those who govern us can't give hope to the youth of the poor neighborhoods. The sole perspective which they offer is at best individual success for a few and resignation for everyone else.

So that the poor youth not be reduced to choosing between resignation to exploitation or sterile violence, the workers movement must find its capacity to struggle and especially its political will to fight for the transformation of the whole society.

What's happening in the poor neighborhoods doesn't mean only the bankruptcy of a government. It means still more the bankruptcy of the capitalist organization of society – rotten with inequalities and injustice – which can only lead society into decay.