France Protests War

No “freedom” fries here, Maurice

Here in Paris the response to the war was loud but tame in comparison to the response in the Bay Area and in other countries with more obvious military involvement in the war. Unfortunately, framing America as the “bad guy” has been very successful here and distracts people from a more fundamental understanding of the role of international capital in general in the pursuit of profits at the cost of human misery. The ignorance and short-sightedness of the U.S. public is most often seen as only a national phenomenon, and the trends toward media monopolization and spectacular consumption here are blamed on “cultural” domination of the United Snakes and not on the real culprit: the increasingly desperate needs of global capitalism.

Meanwhile, aside from the slogans of the ultra-left, the interests of the French state and the economic interests it seeks to protect in the Middle East are generally ignored. (Not to mention the overt support of the racist dictatorship in the Ivory Coast.) The national security state, under the leadership of interior minister Sarkozy, who is well-placed to make a run for the presidency in the next election, has grown tremendously since 9/11 and Giuliani-style repression has been on the rise in every aspect of daily life — from the targeting of fare-evaders on the Metro to the huge number of arrests of Roma people, the increasing eviction of squatters, the increase in the hours that people can be legally detained without charges (and a lowering of the age for which this is allowed), and the explosion of prison construction throughout the country.

But of course there is resistance, and I have noticed a passion for justice here among younger people (I’m talking high-schoolers) that is inspiring. At a 40,000 strong demonstration at the Place Concorde the first night of the war (the site of the U.S. embassy) the place was seriously rocking, and a radical, internationalist spirit prevailed over the small groups of national flag wavers and other assorted creeps. But beyond a few scuffles and a few broken windows during the spontaneous march, things stayed relatively tame. A few days into the war over 100,000 people hit the streets again, and one of the better shouts I heard was: “Ni Saddam, Ni Oncle Sam! Guerre mondiale, contre le Capital!,” (no to Saddam, no to Uncle Sam World War against capital). One especially appropriate sign read “One sole non-revolutionary week-end is infinitely more bloody than a month of permanent revolution,” a reprise of graffiti from May 1968.

Keep up the pressure in the Bay Area brothers and sisters!