Nov 17, 2005

The Context and Rebellion Behind The Headlines

more thoughts from Sketchy Thoughts on the French youth revolts:

... While some stupid hypocrites on the left (sorry, some might prefer words like “reformist” or “revisionist” which i think are too inexact) claimed that the rioting was “apolitical” or “irrational,” it was in fact selective (symbols of the State, businesses, and cars being the main things set on fire) and understood by everyone who cared to open their eyes to be a rebellion against the miserable living conditions in the suburbs.

This does not mean that every act that anybody committed during the first two weeks of November should automatically be granted a revolutionary seal of approval. There is nothing laudatory about the case of the disabled woman who was severely burnt when she could not escape a bus that rioters had set on fire, or the retired autoworker who was killed when he tried to put out fires rioters had set. Such attacks have no progressive content, but to condemn them without noting that horrible anti-social violence like that also occurs when nobody is rioting is to risk seriously distorting their meaning. That only a handful of violent attacks against bystanders have made the news during almost three weeks of violent rebellion involving tens if not hundreds of thousands of people is what is actually remarkable.

Yet even when it was sympathetic, the left was slow to respond to events. From what I have seen, the two main Trotskyist organizations (Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire and Lutte Ouvriere) were not only slow to respond, but also failed to appreciate that the riots might be something more than a random and dumb revolt.

Not that many anarchists or socialists seemed to know what to make of the largest rebellion in decades either. Notable exceptions were the CNT-AIT, CNT-F and Alternative Libertaire (amongst the anarchists) and the tiny Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). But even amongst these, only the CP(MLM) seemed to initially grasp the import of the events as they transpired. And apart from issuing communiqu├ęs, there is no news of practical solidarity being extended on anything but an ad hoc or personal basis. People who have shown up at courthouses to extend solidarity to the rioters have noted that most of the “regulars” at such solidarity appearances are nowhere to be seen.

Anarchist responses seem to run the gamut from “Long live riots!” (many individual postings on the Indymedia sites) to a circle-a echo of the social democrats, decrying the irrationality of the riots while acknowledging that they are the byproduct of real suffering.

With the exception of the CP(MLM), i have not read anything by an groups in France that actually consider the rioters to be the vanguard or the most important agent of revolutionary change in the current context. Most merely suggest that the rioters should ally with or join up with radical trade unionists or other established (and predominantly “French”!) left-wing sectors.

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