A Week of Rebellion Against Social Injustice (Alternative Libertaire)
November 5th, 2005
Within a week the riots that started in Clichy-sous-Bois as a result of
the deaths of Ziad and Banou have spread to other suburbs around Paris, and
now throughout the country. This is the unavoidable result of five years of
Sarko-show [a reference to Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy], eight
years of security legislation, and thirty years of social decline.
Ziad and Banou died of electrical burns in a power sub-station, and a third
youth is in serious condition. They thought they were being chased by the
police. Will we ever know whether this was the case, whether the police
are guilty of non-assistance of persons in danger?
Whatever the exact details of how these two teenagers died, their death
was the spark. Young people in the suburbs already hated the State which for
years has only appeared as police, courts, and (increasingly) prisons.
People in working class neighbourhoods live in constant fear, both for
themselves and for their children. They are afraid of humiliating identity
checks, arbitrary arrests, unpunished police violence, and spurious convictions
for “outrage and rebellion,” all in order to meet some police quota. Even
recent official reports have called attention to this increasing lawlessness
on the part of the police.
And what can one say about provocations of the Minister of the Interior,
and even worst about the policy which sees the suburbs as territory that
needs to be reconquered, all of which increasingly resembles colonial and
And so yes, we are sorry that this violence – this answer to the illegitimate
violence of those in power – is so often paradoxically directed against
the very people who are forced to live in these neighbourhoods, who already
have to deal with State and ruling class violence. The logic of this spontaneous
rebellion is somewhat understood by the population, but its legitimacy is
hurt by the destruction of cars, schools and buses.
But at the same time, we must remember how the State responds when these
young people and their families do choose other methods, such as filing
complaints against the police which hardly ever result in convictions (remember
the work of the Bouge qui Bouge group in Dammarie-les-Lys*). Or the Arabs’
march in 1980, which was broken by the Socialists who were in power at the
time and recuperated by SOS Racism.
We support the rebellion against injustice, the sense of mass solidarity,
the elements of political awareness amongst most young people. As such,
we understand and are in solidarity with both the necessity and the reasons
behind the direct action now taking place throughout the working class areas.
This week of riots expresses the hopelessness of the most marginalized
section of a generation with no future. Yet it should also be seen as being
connected to the government’s strategy of tension and current repression
of the social movements (transportation, postal workers, students, anti-GMO
activists…) All of these struggles bear witness to the same social insecurity.
We are not going to demand a return to “community policing” or building
new sports centers so that young people can work out their frustrations in
silence. Does anyone seriously believe that this will solve the social tension
caused by the political and social violence of those in power?
We are not even going to demand that the Minister of the Interior resign,
as has a section of the left. This is a side-issue, a politician’s issue,
and it is scandalous when we remember that the Plural Left  also passed
security legislation and even today has not broken with the dominant liberal-security
There are certain to be more explosions of anger unless there is a redistribution
of work and wealth, all the more certainly so if social regression, inequality,
racism and marginalization continue unchecked.
“Prevention,” religious recuperation and repression will all be useless.
Only justice and social and economic equality can solve things.
Federal secretariat of Alternative libertaire,
November 5th 2005
(*) Alternative libertaire n°110, septembre 2002 : “Dammarie-les-Lys,
Cité en deuil, cité en résistance” (to view the article in French, click here) [translators
note: this 2002 article details an association against police abuse in the
suburb of Dammarie-les-Lys, a group which came about specifically following
the deaths of two men, one during a police chase and one shot in the head
by the police]
(**) For instance, in the National Assembly on July 16th 2002 the [Socialist]
deputy Julien Dray addressed the Minister of the Interior, who was at the
time implementing a whole series of repressive laws. Dray said: “Sociey
[…] has no solution other than repression […] For the good of our country,
I can only wish you success […] Your plan is in many ways in line with the
strategy prepared by the previous [“Plural Left”] government.”
 Translators note: The “Plural Left” (later renamed “United Left”) formed
the government in France between 1997 and 2002. It was a Socialist Party
government with ministers from four smaller left parties: the Communist Party,
the Greens, the MDC, and the Left Radicals.
Please note that the above text about the past
week’s riots in Clichy-Sous-Bois comes from the anarchist group Alternative
libertaire in France and translated by yours truly. I have a “fast and
loose” translation philosophy, meaning that when there is a choice between
readability and the original phraseology i tend to favour the former, provided
that the meaning stays the same. The original document can be seen in French.
This originally came from my blog - Sketchy Thoughts
- and is one of a number of pieces i wrote or translated regarding the
riots that rocked France in October and November 2005. To see the a complete
list of such posts, i suggest you check out the 2005 Riots In France page on the Kersplebedeb