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by Sylvain Jean

The Real Problem

Translated Sunday 15 August 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

A sociological analysis of anti-foreigner racism in France.

By Sylvain Jean, secretary of the Castres section of the French Communist Party.

On July 30, in Grenoble, Nicolas Sarkozy cried out: “We need to be able to strip French citizenship from any foreign-born person who willfully endangers the life of a policeman or a gendarme.” Brice Hortefeux proposes to generalize this to cases of “serious delinquency,” which opens up a very wide field of application.

First off, let’s condemn a lie: This announcement has nothing to do with the struggle against delinquency. Otherwise, he would have said: “We need to be able to strip French citizenship from any person who willfully endangers the life of a policeman or a gendarme,” which itself would be a terrible enough statement. This explains why similar measures that have already been taken have failed with regard to delinquency. Nicolas Sarkozy is not fighting delinquency. He is isolating one section of the French population by pointing it out to another section. He needs scapegoats and a sacrifice. To what end? Let’s go on.

Why, outside of acts which “threaten the security of the state,” should delinquency, even serious cases, be punished by the culprit’s being stripped of French citizenship (and not just freedom), knowing moreover that the goal is not to fight delinquency? Because it is a matter of saying that French citizenship is incompatible with delinquency. This is stupid, but this is not the issue. It is an ongoing far-right-wing fiction. These words are being uttered to define the nation that Sarkozy serves. This nation, which is incompatible with delinquency, is the immortal nation, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, the nation of the Maid of Orleans (Joan of Arc). Delinquency becomes a deviation from the nation as personified in a symbol of purity, the nation as embodied in its own myth. Thus, delinquency is excluded from the social arena and inserted in a religious or mystical arena, where it is viewed as an attack on the body politic. In reality, violence is a social act which is inscribed in an established social arena, and it makes sense only in relationship to that social arena. The purpose of contrasting violence or delinquency with the nation is to make it impossible to understand violence or delinquency as a social act which has something to do with the characteristics of the nation and the society in which it occurs. It’s similar to what happens when people misuse the word “marginalization” in speaking of unemployment, as if to say that unemployment is abnormal, in a parallel realm, and hence exterior to the characteristics of our society, whereas it is functionally inherent in capitalist society.

This virtuous body politic is also there to attract a population to it. First, to throw people into a panic by seizing on serious but isolated acts, and then to reassure people by opening the door to a national fiction, which he considers to be the sole common element. But to make people want to join in this fiction, it is necessary to designate the Other, the person who is not part of it. And why does this draw people to Nicolas Sarkozy? Because he is the one who embodies the nation. To say “I am white as snow,” he invents the nation that is white as snow, and above all, he embodies it. The imaginary virtuous body politic is him, Nicolas Sarkozy. When the National Front speaks of an “official confirmation,” it plays on the symbolic power of the official discourse of the national myth that conflates the National Front with Nicolas Sarkozy.

Then, surfing on the pure body politic, Nicolas Sarkozy transfers the social reality to a corporal substance, and can thus proclaim a whopper: “the crime-generating character of certain immigrant groups.”

Indeed, the “naturalized” foreigner remains a foreign body incorporated in a healthy body (cf. Chirac, “the noise and the smell”). The foreign body howls and stinks. Therefore, it is susceptible to be rejected at any moment, as are also its offspring, since the theme of the body is the theme of blood, of blood rights. Hence the idea that “the acquisition of French citizenship by a delinquent minor upon attaining his majority shall no longer be automatic.”

Once again, it is not a question of threatening to strip all minor delinquents of their citizenship, which would be serious enough in itself. This probationary period is reserved to foreign bodies. It is a test by rejection: Foreigner, you are suspicious.

Hence Bruce Hortefeux’s declaration on July 28: “Sanctioning illegal behavior” and not “illegal deeds.” The word “behavior” encompasses people and their attitudes, and remains overly vague, unless the individuals are pre-designated. Whatever they may do, one will quickly suspect a gesture, a look inscribed on the body of a person who has been officially designated.” “He’s acting strangely.” (This brings to mind the idea of medical treatment for “violent children,” from the age of three on.)

It is because they do not stem from the mythical body politic that “some immigrant groups” are more violent. Thus, “France, love it or leave it,” as people are often told. By defining delinquency as an attack on the mythic body politic, which by definition is undefiled by delinquency, one creates a vicious circle which generates a need for ... foreign aggressors. Why the Gypsies, Roma, or other nomads? Out of sheer habit. They have been persecuted for centuries, they were exterminated during the Second World War, so, a little more or a little less persecution... A cloud of racism hovers over them, which a single spark can flare into the colors of the French flag. Efficient.

Why suspend government aid, or, as the National Front suggested in 2007, increase social security payments for foreigners (or naturalized citizens, since they are never naturalized in the minds of irresponsible politicians)? Because, for them, welfare benefits are care to which the body politic treats itself, and not social mechanisms (hence the loan back pension retirement system). Social security contributions bring us back to the body. The foreign body is sick, poor, and criminal; in short, it is dangerous.

The foreigner, whether naturalized or not, is defined entirely and solely as a body. The foreigner is a foreign body... Hence Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech in Dakar on African man, who has not entered history. He is only the body, whose mind is the white man.

Warning: the whole working class is the target of this conception of the world and humanity. From the paternalistic hygiene of the 19th century to the mental prison of the “culturally deprived” in which the proletariat of the housing projects is confined, not to forget the generalization of the enforced confinement of jobs, the wage-earners locked up in their functional role in a profit-making organism, a whole people is targeted. We are all foreigners in the view of the ruling class that feasts daily at Fouquet’s (a cafe-restaurant on the prestigious Champs-Elysées in Paris). Hence the lumping together (working class, sensitive, immigrant, delinquent) and the GIR1 (a category used in the French social system, which corresponds to people who are totally dependent, physically and mentally). In what way is the delinquency in the “sensitive neighborhoods” specific? Sarkozy answers: in that there is a high concentration of foreign bodies, in the broadest sense of the term. These are the breeding grounds of infection.

Hence the 1 of regional intervention group. Cleansing with a powerful stream of water. The foreign body invades, it is a virus. It must be surrounded by an anti-crime brigade 2, an anti-body barrier.

The defense against all this? Try to be lucid. To those who, among us, suffer, I say: Accuse those who have the power to employ, who lay off to increase their profits; accuse those who yield power to the powerful. Do not accuse those who, confronted with the power of capital, endure the same fate as us, and even worse.

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