The Guardian 16 November, 2005

Stop provocations and irresponsibility!

Statement by Communist Party of France
about events in suburbs of major cities

Very serious events are taking place in the working class quarters of several French towns, particularly in the Paris region: cars and public buildings set alight, acts of violence against the fire brigades, vandalism, clashes with the police forces, flash balls and tear gas grenades being fired … Even a mosque has been affected.

The immense majority of men, women and young people of these quarters, beginning with those in the greatest difficulty, are the first victims.

This explosion was detonated by the irresponsible policy of provocation of the Minister of the Interior, inspired by petty political motives and personal ambitions.

Ruining years of efforts by local councillors and voluntary organisations, Nicolas Sarkosy has not missed any opportunity, as a Minister of the Republic, to stigmatise the entire population of whole quarters. He has used their own sufferings — the death of a child a few months ago, that of two youths a few days ago — to fuel an odious lumping together of men, women and families confronted with the greatest difficulties with criminality — which he has shown himself incapable of tackling in any case.

Stigmatised, humiliated, discriminated against, certain young people — a small number of them — have become hostages of this process of confrontation, in which they hope to be able to express their anger, their revolt and their despair.

The government is showing itself incapable of guaranteeing public order. The Minister of the Interior’s policy, recycling the ideas of the extreme right, is more than a complete failure — it kindles all the tensions and produces results that are the strict opposite of those it claims to secure. Nicolas Sarkosy must be stripped of his office. The government that supports him must publicly admit its failure and decide on a radical change in its policy of public security.

The present situation, made explosive by these Ministerial provocations, is the outcome of long years of underestimation of the seriousness of problems raised by what has been called the "urban crisis", to which successive governments have refused to respond [instead adopting] neo-liberal processes that shatter rights and solidarity.

Public security cannot be built while a substantial and growing part of the population is abandoned in difficulty and without any solutions. It is no accident if the youth is the first victim. With families devastated by unemployment and insecurity, day by day experiencing the denial of fundamental rights that the Republic proclaims — starting with equality before the law and security — how can these families hand down traditional points of reference?

When young people only see comfort and wealth on television while daily experience, for themselves and their families, is unbearable discrimination — how can they feel an integral part of this social order that despises them and denies them their rights? How can educational failure, a lack of future prospects, unemployment and enforced idleness, the suspicion which they feel directed at them, not fail to cast many adrift into the nets laid out by delinquents and mafia elements.

It is extremely urgent to re-­establish order. This will not come about by accepting an escalation of violence. The Communist Party proposes to set to work a series of measures that would enable putting an end to an increasingly dangerous development.

1. Engaging in a genuine dialogue with the populations concerned, showing the determination of the public authorities to respect their dignity, to take into account with them their problems, and their sufferings, so as to find a solution to them.

This dialogue, which must be developed in a spirit of détente and not in a process of deploying repressive forces, pre-supposes the immediate setting up of measures of community policing, of a partnership between all the actors concerned — police, gendarmerie, courts, local councillors, voluntary associations, the National Education, the transport networks, the "social housing" organisations.

2. Granting the very substantial means required to the public services on which the populations concerned depend, and in particular the young, if they are to take their due place in society.

  • Assistance to families and to small children.

  • Increasing resources for lower level secondary schools in which, too often, hangs the future of a young person.

  • Substantial support for the voluntary associations which, in many cases, are the only means of effective action.

  • A considerable development of public transport to open up certain towns and certain quarters.

  • The decision to make social housing a priority by creating a public housing service that it set the objective of rapidly making "a roof for everyone" an absolute right.

    3. Making employment and training a priority line of action for all public policies by aiming at a real security of employment and training.

    4. Developing on a wide scale (precisely contrary to what has been done over the last few years) means for the protection of youth, in particular in the field of preventive measures.

    5. Restoring the dignity of the families of young people:

  • By respecting the young, in the State and in society, by giving them means of independence;

  • Launching a great programme for the eradication of poverty, which, in our country, affects millions of people, particularly children.

  • Suppressing all the laws that attack freedom, promote discrimination and fuel the cycle of violence-repression-violence;

  • Establish a citizenship of residence, giving the vote to every woman and man living in France.

    6. Placing the police at the service of the whole nation, which implies: democratisation, training, community policing and appropriate means to carry these out.

    7. Genuinely attacking the "parallel economy" and all kinds of trafficking by showing an unwavering determination, up to international organisations, to reach, even in tax havens, those who launder dirty money, exploit and set up local networks.

    8. Restoring real meaning to the law, which implies: that it should be the same for everyone, that it respects people’s rights so that their duties regain their meaning and legitimacy for all, that it be drawn up by all, which pre-supposes the development of citizenship and democracy in all areas of social life, including in the operation of public services.

    9. Giving the Courts the means of making the law respected and observed, equally and by everyone, which implies for the magistrates as for the penitentiary system, the new means needed so that the penalty for each offence be a means of making people’s lives better and stronger, the fundamental rules that enable us to live together, with due respect for each person.

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