Yet More On France
Diana Johnstone has an excellent article on the situation in France published in CounterPunch, Which echo's the root of my position on the matter:
Ironically, in this crucial case the deaths were the result of fear rather than of direct police brutality. This widespread fear of police reflects gratuitous and heavy handed police harassment, but there is also the undisputed fact that in areas with 40% unemployment and large numbers of school dropouts, there has been a proliferation of drug dealing and various forms of petty crime, often in the form of forcing school kids to surrender such items as cell phones. Police toughness has had no visible success in stemming such activities...
...They are a minority in their communities, and their destructive action is overwhelmingly condemned within those communities, whose members are the ones whose cars or schools or buses are being burned. Nevertheless, there is considerable sympathy in these communities for the anger and hopelessness underlying this explosion of violence. After several nights of such troubles, parents and other citizens are organizing in various neighborhoods to dissuade kids from violence...
...The apartment blocks of the banlieue of French cities are similar to those surrounding cities in most of Europe. They were part of the rapid urbanization that occurred during the economic prosperity of the 1960s. They were not built to be "ghettos" but to provide decent housing to the waves of immigrants, both from the countryside and from abroad, drawn by industrial employment. They replaced shanty towns and relieved the pressure on inner city neighborhoods, where working class families were crowded into unhealthy flats with no private toilet. For working people, the banlieue apartments are much more spacious and well equipped than those in affordable neighborhoods of Paris.
There are two things wrong with them. One is aesthetic: they lack the charm of the city, they are monotonous, and they are far away from the pleasures of urban life. But what has turned them into "ghettoes" is the deindustrialization of the past decades. The nearby factories have shut down, and the sons and grandsons of factory workers are jobless. It is easier for those with French names and French complexions ...
I come back to the economic factor. Dominique de Villepin, in competition with Sarkozy, has taken a more humanist line: restoration of social aids to the banlieue previously instituted by the Socialist government, plus yet another program for job-creation. But since such measures have been taken before without notable effect, one can doubt their efficacy now.
I would conclude by acknowledging that for ruling politicians, the situation is without immediate solution. Order may be restored, subsidies may be granted to neighborhood associations, but no short-term measure can solve the basic problem: the deep rupture between the "winners" and the "losers" in a cutthroat game of capitalist competition.[our emphasis]