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French youth raise barricades against racism

French youth call for the Interior Minister to resign

French youth call for the Interior Minister to resign

 

By KD Tait

In October, thousands of French school and college students blockaded schools and took to the streets to protest the deportation of 15-year-old student Léonarda Dibrani.

 

Dibrani, a young Roma woman, was dragged off her school bus and deported to Kosovo on 9 October. One week later, Armenian student Khatchik Kachatryan was also deported.

 

As part of the protests, called by the Socialist Party (PS) affiliated Independent Democratic Federation of High School Students (FIDL), barricades were erected outside dozens of schools in Paris. Students clashed with police in cities across France as protests continued for several days.

 

Students marched with banners calling for Interior Minister Manuel Valls’ resignation and others saying “Léonarda isn’t going to class and neither are we”.

 

The protests targeted the racist policies of the Francois Hollande’s PS government, in particular Valls, who in September sparked outrage by claiming that most of the 20,000 Roma in France had no intention of “integrating” and should be sent back to their country of origin.

 

Racism against Roma

The round-ups and police sweeps are a direct continuation of the attacks started by former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009. In just two years, Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP government deported nearly 20,000 Roma and bulldozed 51 campsites. Mainly of Bulgarian and Romanian origin, they are sent back to countries where they face even greater state persecution and social isolation.

 

Dibrani was deported after her family’s request for political asylum was refused on the grounds of “insufficient prospect of social and economic integration”. With much higher than average rates of unemployment and a surge in anti-immigrant racism promoted by the fascist Front National (FN) and backed by the government, it’s not surprising that many immigrants struggle to “integrate”.

The protests come at a time when the popularity of the government is at an all-time low. Hollande has scored the lowest approval rating of any French president.

 

Parti Socialiste

Although the head of the school directors’ union called the blockades “a detestable habit” that “represent the lowest level of political consciousness”, in fact they demonstrate that students have few illusions in a supposedly left-wing government – one which has carried out military adventures in Mali, persecuted Muslim women and failed to tackle spiralling youth unemployment.

 

With municipal elections due in 2014, the PS feels increasingly threatened by the surge in polls for the far-right FN. The FN, whose candidate Marine Le Pen took nearly 20 per cent in the 2012 presidential election, has put vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric at the heart of its attacks on the government.

 

The PS has responded by moving right – hoping that by focusing anger on a marginalised and defenceless section of the population they can deflect attention from their failed policies.

 

The economic programme of the PS has been a disaster for French workers and youth. Instead of talking about why “liberalisation of the labour market” – in reality attacks on hard-won job security and union rights – has not boosted employment, the government has teamed up with the fascists and the right wing to portray immigrants as the problem.

 

Bosses are the enemy

The reality is that the PS government is carrying out the economic programme of the French capitalist class. Although it has raised taxes on the rich (who can afford it), it has cut thousands of jobs and allowed bosses to close factories, devastating communities who cannot afford to lose a cent from their pay.

 

The common enemy of workers and youth in France is the international class of bankers, industrialists and speculators who insist workers must pay for the economic crisis with their jobs, pay and public services.

 

French youth have shown the way forward: a massive campaign in defence of immigrants against the police, the PS and the fascists, combined with a social movement in defence of jobs.

 

The PS government is the main enemy – it must be thrown out and replaced by a government of the working class and their organisations, which can challenge the economic dictatorship of the bosses.

 

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