Hope lies neither in resignation nor in destructive violence

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 3, 2023

The death of 17-year-old Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre is revolting. Was there no other way to stop the car than to shoot the driver in the chest point-blank? One policeman told the other “shoot him”: what should we make of that? If the scene hadn't been filmed, this fatal police shooting would have been disguised as a means of self-defense, which is probably what happens in most cases.

This time, the truth has been revealed: police officers show no restraint, they shoot to kill, re-establishing the death penalty for sometimes minor offenses. And you only have to listen to the reactions of certain police unions to understand that, in their eyes, the life of a teenager from a working-class neighborhood is worthless.

Young people living in social housing are well aware of this because they are subjected to racial profiling, racist remarks and discrimination in employment and housing every day.

They see themselves condemned to a life of hardship, juggling between temporary and low-paying odd jobs, whereas young people from the upper classes know all the right people to develop their careers. They also see how their own parents are worn down by low-paying jobs that leave them no respite – that is if they’re not simply thrown out of work.

Yes, many young people, many kids are angry. It's what drives a small number of them to not respect anything, to get involved in drug-trafficking and even to ruin the daily lives of the people in their neighborhoods. It was that rage that exploded into senseless violence following Nahel's death.

The destructive fury that struck certain social housing complexes has provoked consternation, dismay and even anger. With good reason! The privileged did not see their sports cars, their chic restaurants, their tennis courts or their golf courses go up in smoke. It's the men and women of the working classes who now find themselves destitute, without a community center, without a store to buy their groceries, without transportation to get to work.

Some youngsters spent several nights destroying everything around them, including the vacation center their little sisters were to attend , or the medical bus where their mothers go for treatment. Such actions show a severe lack of consciousness. Among them were petty thugs and drug dealers, who couldn't care less about endangering the lives of local residents.

This blind violence mustn’t take over! But who is there to give meaning to those youths’ revolt and offer them perspectives? Who is there to oppose the government's policies and make the police respect them? Who is there to fight the bourgeoisie, that class that has so much wealth but always wants more?

If the young people’s revolt has been so destructive, it is a result of the workers' lack of organization, combativeness and politicization. These young people will eventually become members of the working class, as laborers, deliverymen, warehousemen, forklift drivers, waiters or cooks – positions already held by their brothers, sisters and parents. So it's up to all of us workers to show them the way.

By organizing and fighting to be respected by big business, the police and the courts, we can set an example for young people. This perspective is inseparable from the fight to overthrow the capitalist social order altogether because there’s no point in hoping for a better police force or justice system.

Behind the police and justice system lie the laws of the bourgeoisie. They assign workers and their children to be exploited by the rich and to serve them. They legitimize inequality. They allow Macron and his government to to rob us of two years’ retirement. They give full power to a class of parasites, ready to kill their own parents if that’s what it takes to increase their profits!

When it comes to pillage and destruction, the young rioters will never be a match for the big bourgeoisie which imposes its brutal laws around the world on a daily basis, destroying the planet, exploiting humanity and fomenting war.

Violence is at the heart of this rotten, unfair society. We will only achieve peace and justice when we take the reins of society away from the big bourgeoisie. We will build a truly just society when the women and men who produce everything are themselves in power, and organize society to meet the needs of the entire population.

Nathalie Arthaud