France’s Urban Unrest and its aftermath

In Le Monde Diplomatique (English edition), a look at the recent riots in the banlieue and the response to them:

“You can drive out nature,” said Voltaire, “but it will return at the gallop.” This axiom was demonstrated by the decision to impose a curfew based upon emergency legislation from 1955 that contributed to the massacres of several dozen Algerians in the Paris area in October 1961, and of 19 Kanak activists in a cave in Ouvéa, in New Caledonia, in May 1988.

Sarkozy’s call for sink estates to be power-cleansed of their “rabble” was followed by two events in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where two teenage boys died in an electricity sub-station and a teargas grenade exploded outside a mosque. Certainly Sarkozy – who could have stopped things right there if he had gone to the area to apologise – bears a huge responsibility for ensuing events. But the attempt by Socialist leaders to pin sole blame on him reeks of hypocrisy, since a year earlier the Cour des Comptes, the state auditing body, had already pointed out that “the current crisis was not caused by immigration. It is the result of the way in which immigration has been handled . . . The situation that now confronts the authorities has developed over a number of decades”. The concentration within the banlieues of all the evils that afflict the working classes epitomises the failure over 30 years of a succession of governments from both the right and – with a few exceptions – the left.