France

France: One Year After the Riots

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In the autumn of 2005 the suburbs of Paris burned with anger at racism and poverty. Soon that rage spread across France and led to the most prolonged rioting the country had ever seen. Jim Wolfreys returned to Paris to find out if anything has changed.

On Saturday 28 October around 1,000 people gathered in Clichy-sous-Bois, an impoverished north eastern suburb (banlieue) of Paris. They met to remember the two teenagers, Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna, who were electrocuted last year as they hid from police after being chased as they made their way home from playing football. Their deaths, and the police's refusal to apologise, set in motion the most sustained period of rioting ever seen in France.

'I think they've identified the wrong war. They think it's between whites and Arabs. But above all, it's a war between rich and poor.'

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Faïza Guène grew up in Pantin, a banlieue north of Paris. Her first book, Just Like Tomorrow, sold over 200,000 copies in France. She spoke to Jim Wolfreys about being a French-Arab and the recent struggles that shook France.

In 2004, 20 year old Faïza Guène wrote Kiffe Kiffe Demain, the wry, sardonic story of Doria, a teenage girl growing up in the impoverished suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis north east of Paris with her Moroccan mother. The book, perkily translated and due to be published in Britain this month as Just Like Tomorrow, has become a publishing phenomenon in France, with over 200,000 copies sold. From September it will be a set text in French schools.

France: Roots of a Revolt

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Peter Fysh argues the French riots had both political and economic causes.

The recent urban unrest in France has exposed the way in which social and economic marginalisation is overlaid by both an ethnic and a geopolitical dimension. Unemployed immigrant-origin youths have been engaged in an unwinnable but constantly reigniting war with the police since at least the early 1980s. After 11 September 2001 their situation worsened as the state colluded with employers in flushing Muslim workers out of their jobs at key employment centres like Charles de Gaulle airport in the Paris suburb of Roissy.

Stubborn belief

France: What Part of 'No' Don't They Understand?

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Opposition to the EU has shocked the French right.

A joyful No.' This was how dissident Socialist Party deputy Jean-Luc Mélenchon summed up the remarkable campaign that has developed against the proposed constitutional treaty for the European Union, the subject of a referendum in France on 29 May.

Mélenchon was speaking at a 6,000-strong meeting organised by the French Communist Party in Paris last month. It brought together as broad a platform of speakers from the left as any meeting held in France over the past decade.

France: Protests Escalate Against Public Service Cuts

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Over 300,000 public sector workers demonstrated throughout France last month as part of a week of action against attacks on public services.

Thousands of postal workers facing a restructuring programme involving tens of thousands of redundancies stopped work. This was followed by railway workers who took action against falling wages and ongoing job cuts. Then it was the turn of teachers, hospital staff and civil servants.

Path of Greatest Resistance

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Bush and Blair's denunciation of Iraqi insurgents as 'criminals' and 'terrorists' recalls the experience of the French Resistance and the Algerian war of independence.

There is nothing new about the situation in Iraq. Ever since imperial powers have imposed their rule on other peoples, there has been resistance. And since the occupying powers have superior weapons, those fighting back use unconventional methods, breaking the rules that their oppressors would like to force on them. This meant guerrilla fighting of some sort. Already in the 1840s a British military commander in India moaned that rebels were 'cruel bloodthirsty cowards' who hid and ran rather than give the British 'a little honest fighting'.

The Rebel's Weapon

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In 1961 Frantz Fanon, a leader of the Algerian National Liberation Front, wrote the inspirational book The Wretched of the Earth. French socialist, philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an extended introduction to Fanon's important work. Here we reprint extracts from Sartre's essay calling on the French left to support the Algerian struggle and see it as their own.

Have the courage to read this book, for in the first place it will make you ashamed, and shame, as Marx said, is a revolutionary sentiment. As a European, I steal the enemy's book, and out of it I fashion a remedy for Europe. Make the most of it.

Obituary: The Infinite Search

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There is much to celebrate in the work of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, says Alex Callinicos.

The death last month of Jacques Derrida at the age of 74 removed the last of that succession of great French intellectuals whose writings decisively shaped avant-garde thinking in the west during the second half of the 20th century. Derrida first burst onto the philosophical scene in 1967, with the publication of no less than three books.

Anti-Fascism: Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner?

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French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen's visit to England was not the success hoped for by his BNP hosts.

The National Front's leader was chased away from Manchester, scared off from visiting Birmingham, and ended up in BNP Führer Nick Griffin's ample backyard. The reason was determined and organised resistance from Unite Against Fascism.

Leader of the Pack

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The war in Iraq has exposed splits between the imperial powers.

The spectacle of French president jacques Chirac trying to block George Bush's path to war was one few people would have predicted in May last year when he was reelected president. The French ruling class had happily taken part in the last three US-UK wars, against Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan. And France has its own very dirty record of imperialist violence in Africa. To see what motivated Chirac it is necessary first to be clear about the reasons for Bush's push to war.

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