Dec 12, 2005
The following article appeared in the November 25 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), published by the revolutionary group of that name active in France. It discusses the situation in the banlieues, or suburbs – those massive housing projects that lie on the outskirts of France's big cities – the areas that produced the outbursts of angry youth during November.
Government ministers and the right wing parties continually make immigrant families scapegoats for the explosion in the suburbs. And the politicians daily denounce the immigrants, proposing more measures against them.
Sarkozy (the Minister of the Interior) announced the deportation of non-citizens involved in suburban violence, even if their papers were in order. Bernard Accoyer, the head of the UMP (Union for the Presidential Majority – the right wing party in power), declared: "Integration and assimilation are called into question by a volume of immigration which goes beyond the country's capacity to absorb it."
In the same vein, politicians declared: "Among the minors involved in crimes, there is an over-representation from polygamous families," a way to say that "these people aren't like us." Following these declarations, the government announced measures limiting access to family benefits and making it harder to apply for French citizenship when an immigrant is married to a citizen.
By using this language which feeds racist prejudices, the government refuses to face facts. Youth whose parents or grandparents came from other counties may have made up a good portion of those involved in violent acts, but what's significant is that these families were pushed into ghettoes where the poorest people are concentrated.
This part of the working class has always been stuck in the most peripheral and badly equipped urban areas. In the 1960s, the bosses sent their recruiters seeking unskilled workers into North African or African villages, in order to fill positions on their assembly lines and in the mines. The bosses saw these workers as nothing more than production machines. They didn't care about their living conditions. They pushed them into single-person housing and then shanty towns. Later, with the arrival of the immigrants' families, they were packed into those giant buildings constructed on the cheap, whose names are expressed in numbers: the "3000" in Aulnay-sous-Blois, the "4000" in La Courneuve.... These figures express the number of apartments, but have nothing to do with the quality of the place.
A couple of decades later, their children and their grandchildren, who were born in France, still rarely manage to get out of such areas. And these neighborhoods have deteriorated over the years, while mass unemployment added to the problems. The bosses weren't concerned to teach the immigrant parents of today's youth to speak, read and write French, and today they aren't concerned about the conditions in which these youth grow up. On the contrary, the bosses' organizations have led a fight to reduce the number of government employees, which means fewer teachers in these ghettoes although many more are needed. It means fewer public services of all sorts to aid families who confront tragic situations.
Today, the state doesn't pay to provide what the suburbs need; instead it gives subsidies to the corporations. In areas where three out of four people are immigrants, with much higher unemployment than elsewhere, the bosses' attitude remains: "That doesn't concern us and we"re not going to pay for it."
Today, the government encourages racism by claiming that immigration is the principal reason for "suburban violence." This is a convenient way to make people forget what the government and the bosses caused.