Thanks to Mark Whittaker for forwarding this article from Portland IndyMedia.
WHY FRANCE IS BURNING
author: doug ireland
Saturday night was the 10th day of the spreading youth riots that have much of France in flames — and it was the worst night ever since the first riot erupted in a suburban Paris ghetto of low-income housing, with 1295 vehicles — from private cars to public buses — burned last night, a huge jump from the 897 set afire the previous evening. [THIS night, the night from sunday to monday another 1500 cars burned, not to talk about shopping malls and so on…the rebellion spread out to almost all french cities, also at the french-german border]
And, for the first time, the violence born in the suburban ghettos last night invaded the center of Paris — some 40 vehicles were set alight in Le Marais (the pricey home to the most famous gay ghetto in Paris, around the Place de la Republique nearby, and in the bourgeois 17th arrondissement, only a stone’s throw from the dilapidated ghetto of the Goutte d’Or in the 18th arrondissement.
As someone who lived in France for nearly a decade, and who has visited those suburban ghettos, where the violence started, on reporting trips any number of times, I have not been surprised by this tsunami of inchoate youth rebellion that is engulfing France. It is the result of thirty years of government neglect: of the failure of the French political classes — of both right and left — to make any serious effort to integrate its Muslim and black populations into the larger French economy and culture; and of the deep-seated, searing, soul-destroying racism that the unemployed and profoundly alienated young of the ghettos face every day of their lives, both from the police, and when trying to find a job or decent housing.
To understand the origins of this profound crisis for France, it is important to step back and remember that the ghettos where festering resentment has now burst into flames were created as a matter of industrial policy by the French state.
If France’s population of immigrant origin — mostly Arab, some black — is today quite large (more than 10% of the total population), it is because there was a government and industrial policy during the post-World War II boom years of reconstruction and economic expansion which the French call “les trentes glorieuses” — the 30 glorious years — to recruit from France’s foreign colonies laborers and factory and menial workers for jobs which there were no Frenchmen to fill. These immigrant workers were desperately needed to allow the French economy to expand due to the shortage of male manpower caused by two World Wars, which killed many Frenchmen, and slashed the native French birth-rates too. Moreover, these immigrant workers were considered passive and unlikely to strike (unlike the highly political French working class and its Communist-led unions.) This government-and-industry-sponsored influx of Arab workers (many of whom saved up to bring their families to France from North Africa) was reinforced following Algerian independence by the Harkis.
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