The revolt that exploded with determination and persistence in the French banlieues (with flare-ups in Belgium, Berlin and Athens) is animated by the lively rage of young casseurs, human beings who, like so many around the world, suffer endless condemnation to a daily life that is nothing bu dissatisfaction, misery, humiliation and exploitation. The acts of these wild youths, which the “right-thinking”, priggish bourgeoisie simplistically write off with contempt as violence for its own sake, reveal a much more subtle meaning, laying bare the violence of an economic-social system that imposes increasingly dehumanizing obligations in its own interests and in the interest of the few who benefit from it: a useless and harmful job in exchange for a wage to pay back to the masters for homes, goods or “free” time. And just as this legalized violence is not blind, but sees quite clearly against whom it is acting, so also, the casseurs are quite aware when they vent their hatred against cops, cars, businesses, commercial centers and other symbols of isolation and power.

The riots that are going on attack two levels of state intervention at the same time: the police deployed to keep an eye on and punish the poor, and the car to be paid off in installments, symbol of individual “independence”, of consumption, of time on credit.

To drag in religious motives – as the right has done – is a pathetic attempt to stem the revolt. The excommunications of the Islamic authorities have not stopped these enraged people who do not recognize any mediators. So it is here that a more democratic politician or commentator from the left comes to concede, if not a justification, at least a motivation to the episodes that are overturning the horrifying normality of the banlieues: these invisible outskirts are an example of the degradation that bad administrations ignore, thus allowing their inhabitants, who are mostly immigrants that society does not want to integrate, to nourish a most uncontrollable rage. Thus, a plan for urban “requalification” is supposed to be necessary, perhaps entrusting the project to some architectural standards and following the principles of bio-architecture (or more simply those of a more effective social control). But from New York to Paris, from London to Ramallah, ghettoes are the very form of the market and of politics. The latest illusions of the integration of the poor are burned up together in the blazes of Clichy-sous-Bois. No one seems to ask what cities have become. Doesn’t anyone even notice that the “most rational” urban plans serve to obliterate the natural – and with it the human – environment, paving and building solely in order to give priority to the circulation of commodities and consumer-workers, to the detriment of human circulation and communication? Cities are containers of capital and human resources to invest and exploit. What then are a few hundred cars burned and other sad places damaged in comparison to the millions of people who are damaged and destroyed every day by those who impose the usual, senseless and boring life on them?

It seems unlikely that this revolt will become generalized. To achieve this, it would be necessary for each and every common mortal, pen-pushers mechanized by stereotypes and daily rhythms, to decide to become aware of the need to put an end to this system – the sole true cause of the misery which we suffer –, sabotaging it once and for all.

We joyfully greet these manifestations of the refusal and destruction of everything that represents and contributes to exploitation, brutalization and destruction of the human being.



Some friends of the “riffraff”

[November 2005]


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