27th, 2005, a group of young people fled a police check in the heavily
immigrant and working class Clichy-sous-Bois suburb of Paris.
An every day occurence, the kind of thing that has certainly happened countless times before - the police harassing young people who are just hanging out trying to have fun (in ths case, they were playing soccer). Racial profiling is of course not limited to the US of A...
But this time events took an unusually tragic turn, as three of the young people hopped a fence to hide in an electrical substation, hoping to avoid the humiating and often violent ordeal of having one's ID checked by the protectors of law and order.
Unfortuantely, electrical substations are not suited for providing sanctuary... all three suffered severe electrical burns. The oldest, Muhuttin Altun, would be hospitalized for weeks - he was the lucky one. His two friends Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna were dead by the time the ambulance arrived...
Such tragic events are - sadly, shamefully - not unique. The histories of all the "modern democracies" are littered with the corpses of people, most of them poor and most of them not white, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and paid the ultimate price.
What made the deaths of Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna so special was the reaction it elicited amongst their neighbours, and then amongst others who must have been thinking "that could have been me," and then amongst larger and larger numbers who no longer simply felt that there was something wrong in the world, but who now fel it possible to act on this feeling.
Insurrection. Rebellion. Uprising. The words vary, but what we saw was unmistakeable - we had seen it before - without leaders or superstars, hundreds and then thousands and then tens of thousands of people - the kind who "don't count" - took to the streets and attacked the various symbol of their oppression.
And we ain't talking no rhetorical attacks here, either...
The most intense and widespread rioting in decades only ended when the French government declared a State of Emergency. The whole world took notice. Some felt that through the smoke and the flames they could catch glimpse of a better tomorrow. Time will tell...
I translated a number of texts from French to English, both reports of what was happening and analyses of "why?" and "where to from here?" from a variety fo "far left" groups in France. I posted these translations to my blog Sketchy Thoughts where they seemed to interest large numbers of people - a good political sign if you ask me...
One can still search my blog for texts about the riots and such, but as more material gets added on more subjects completely unrelated, it becomes a dereaisngly efficient exercise. For that reason i have taken everything that i posted there, and put it up here, in chronological order from last to first.
Regarding the translations themselves i have a "fast and loose" translation style - my priority is on conveying the meaning of a text, and the feel for how the writer is expressing themselves. Given the choise between readability and exact phraseology i will always choose the former. It is my opinion that one reason "foreign texts" often seem so dense and difficult to read is that the translators pay great attention to wording at the expense of the actual writing if you get my meaning.
Now one quick and final note is in order, for those of you who aspire to the position of Chief Censor once the revolution comes...
All kinds of people had all kinds of things to say about the 2005 Rebellion. My focus was on the left because i believe that the left represents the explicit "capital P" political tradition from which a revolutionary perspective. Some of the best pieces i found were written by the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) - not to be confused with the Communist Party, the PCMLM is a tiny revolutionary group - while others were written by anarchists and a few even seem to have been written by social democrats...
If you choose to assume what my politics are based on what i translated that's fine, but be forewarned that uyou're unlikely to get me right!