Nov 13, 2006
The following is a translation of an editorial published in the November 3rd issue of the newspaper Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), put out by the revolutionary workers organization of that name in France.
A fire set in a bus in Marseille France on October 28th seriously burned a girl. This act is a crime perpetrated by young people who have no class consciousness.
Apparently the bus driver refused to pull over for some youths who demanded to be picked up between two stops. The fire was their revenge – with an unfortunate girl as their victim. The week before, there had been eight other buses set afire, mainly in the poor suburbs around Paris. It was sheer luck that no one else was burnt or even killed.
This is an inexcusable crime, even if the youth who did this come from poor neighborhoods and even if some of them believe that their arson expresses their hatred of society. Those they risk killing are also poor like they are. Their victims could be their family members or their friends, or people from their neighborhoods.
Poverty is no excuse for human irresponsibility and still less for striking out against their own people. It's true that the burning of buses in Grigny, Nanterre, Trappes and elsewhere didn't kill or wound anyone. But, when bus drivers don't dare serve these neighborhoods, the men and women who suffer from it are those who have to get to work, even if they must walk.
These youth who devote themselves to this type of activity make life still more difficult.
Unscrupulous criminals and imbeciles have always existed. But why are such events increasing?
In certain neighborhoods, unemployment is double or triple the already high national average, which is already intolerable. The youth there have no hope of finding work, since they were denied a decent education. They have no sense of belonging to the community. But few of them take such an irresponsible path as these youths did. But in such degraded social conditions, a lawless minority inevitably forms, a minority without respect for the people around them. The workers' movement in the past called these people the "lumpen proletariat" (rabble proletariat). The workers' movement at all times had to denounce and often fight this "lumpen proletariat." Not only do these marginalized elements poison workers' existence, but often the bosses and the far right recruit them as their thugs.
So even if they come from poor neighborhoods, they don't merit sympathy any more than terrorists who, in the name of either just or unjust causes, explode a car in the midst of a street full of people or in the middle of a market.
We can reject these people without forgetting the soil in which this "lumpen proletariat" grows. It's important not to forget who is responsible for this situation. Those who dominate the economy, those who demand that workers sacrifice everything for profit, these are the people responsible for unemployment and increasing misery with all the harm this brings. Also responsible are the political leaders of whatever stripe, who through servility or spinelessness in front of the bosses let misery increase, allow social life to break down and allow poor neighborhoods to be transformed into violence-ridden jungles.
If workers' neighborhoods are developing this way, it's because the entire society, the entire economy is a jungle where the only things that count are the relation of forces, power and money. The young criminals are the product of an infinitely more criminal system. That doesn't excuse them, but it's necessary not to forget it either.