Friday, September 3, 2010


David Bell weighs in on the Roma expulsions (h/t Passerby). Meanwhile, however, things have become more complicated in France. In Lille, a camp of Roma was removed from a site it had occupied, apparently illegally, and apparently, according to the government, at the explicit request of Martine Aubry's city hall. And Aubry is not denying the fact but rather trying to differentiate "evacuation" from "expulsion." Meanwhile, François Rebsamen, the Socialist mayor of Dijon, urges the PS not to oppose expulsions as such but to insist on "dignity" and discretion (no spectacle).

These two incidents show, as I suggested the other day, that Sarkozy has found the perfect wedge issue. Not only are the expulsions popular with the masses, but they also put local officials in a difficult position--and most local officials are Socialists. Illegal occupation of land is--well--illegal, and illegality is not supposed to be tolerated. The debate will therefore not turn on the issues of principle cogently described by David Bell but rather on the false dichotomy of "laxism" vs. "complicity," which is precisely where Sarkozy wants it: either you're with him or you're with "them." The possibility of searching for a more humane way of dealing with "them" is taken off the table.

The creation of false dichotomies has been a hallmark of Sarkozy's politics throughout his career. There's no likelihood he will stop soon.


Louis said...

The perfect weapon, as you said.

On illegality, it is of course illegal for the few wandering Rom groups to occupy private or public terrains. It is also a legal obligation for towns of more than 5000 inhabitants to have terrains ready for these groups. An obligation that is ignored by roughly half of French municipalities:

Maitre Eolas started a series of texts on this issue here:

Once the category is constructed out of various realities, you can proceed to use it for political purposes. Sarkozy still sets the agenda: the PS withdrew to local politics but he went to get them there, like the confrontational, bullyish, yet calculating campaigner he remains.

Lincas said...

Another thing to note is that the existing "Gens du voyages" camps are situated in the absolut worst places municipalities can come up with ; in the Grenoble agglomération, for example, the main camp is well outside of town, in a floodplain, just beside the incinerator. Very charming - at least it is just besides the (quite smelly) river !

squiggle said...

But surely this can and should be turned to the advantage of the PS? Surely it shows that they are not 'with' illegality any more than they are 'with' Sarkozy's spectacle?