Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Knitting Up the Ravel'd Lien Républicain

Manuel Valls regrets that France has become an apartheid society:


Les émeutes de 2005, qui aujourd'hui s'en rappelle ? Et pourtant... les stigmates sont toujours présents », a-t-il souligné avant d'insister sur « la relégation périurbaine, les ghettos ».
Well, I, for one, remember the riots of 2005, and I have frequently regretted, including on this blog, how little political response ensued. Valls is to be applauded for facing the facts squarely today, but it cannot be said that this problem was a priority for his or his predecessor's government prior to the events of January 7 and 8.

In the same issue of Le Monde, the historian Benjamin Stora notes one sign of this de facto apartheid in the absence of young people from the banlieues in the great republican mass held on the Sunday after the killings. By way of explanation, he too invokes the riots of 2005 along with many other things:

Cette faible présence nous dit plusieurs choses. D’abord, la crise du lien républicain, crise installée depuis plus de dix ans. Et dix ans très exactement après les émeutes de 2005, la fracture ne s’est pas résorbée. On en connaît l’origine : l’effondrement des idéologies collectives, le refuge dans le religieux comme idéologie de substitution aux engagements naguère menés par les gauches (politiques ou syndicales), les retards pris dans le regard porté sur le passé colonial, les crises des sociétés de culture musulmane prises entre des Etats autoritaires et des oppositions islamistes, la tragédie terrible des événements algériens des années 1990 juste après la chute du mur de Berlin, etc. Ajoutons la montée de l’antisémitisme et l’aggravation de la crise économique, avec près de 4 millions de chômeurs…
But what exactly is this "crisis of the republican bond"  and this de facto apartheid? Perhaps it's the "republican" ideology itself that needs to be re-examined. Can immigrants and children of immigrants and grandchildren of immigrants integrate themselves into the fabric of French life if they can't organize as a community to demand their rights? "Everything to the Maghrebis as individuals, nothing to the Maghrebis as a nation"--Clermont-Tonnerre's promise to the Jews, mutatis mutandis--won't work today. Arguably, it didn't work for the Jews either: it took World War II to get them fully integrated, in compensation, as it were. North African immigrants have a different hurdle to overcome: they were and in some respects still are seen as a colonial people, an internal colony. What they need, as Stora suggests, is a civil rights movement to counter the tendency to take "refuge in the religious as a substitute ideology for [political and trade-union] commitments formerly led by the left." But such a movement would be immediately denounced as "communitarian" by the more zealous defenders of "republican values." So be it, I say. The experiment must be attempted. France needs a Martin Luther King.