[Marxism] Celia Hart: "Beautiful France... It's Never Too Late"
walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 25 04:40:24 MST 2005
(Fiery, passionate, eloquent new commentary from Cuban revolutionary
Celia Hart, looking at social earthquakes which have rocked France
and other European countries, seeing the relevance of the Marti of
the 19th Century for the world of the 21st Century. Thanks also to
Joseph Mutti for a translation bringing out its full eloquence!)
Beautiful France... Its Never Too Late
By Celia Hart, November 20, 2005
CubaNews translation by Joseph Mutti.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
It's never too late to love or rebel...
No need for concern. I'm not saying there's a wave of revolution
crossing Europe. I only mean that it's never too late to start, and
if the hum begins with beautiful France, it is not utopian to
It's not as if the young people of African and Arab descent are
seeking to retake the Bastille, although in passing it's likely that
Nicolás Sarkozy would end up on the guillotine for being such a
stupid, racist fascist all in one. Many "well-born" French are only
ever grateful for a racial mix on the soccer field, and support the
Nazi Minister of the Interior who has promised them he will clean the
streets of France of those "thieves and scum".
Neither is it as if these young people intend to form another
Commune, or even that they will be able to give us another May '68 in
winter. I only mean that the sound of burning cars is far more than
an ethnic disturbance, because a little more than a month ago French
workers carried out a wonderful strike that ground the city to a
halt. Something is wrong with the government. What? It turns out that
even in cultured France, capitalism also smells badly and that the
"South" is to be found there, as in every country. Perhaps this is
the recourse of today's capitalism: to sow the "South" within its own
territories. We might be on the point of reaching the saturation
point of a system that is not able to solve its own contradictions,
and that in turn the switched-off Left will not be able to react. The
result, of course, is that history will not wait until we've finished
reading our old notebooks.
Beautiful things have been written describing what began as an
incident in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, ending in the
tragic death of two French youths of immigrant African families. The
episode has become one of national importance forcing the government
to institute curfews for several months. The wave of fires that
embraced all of France demonstrates to us that nothing under the sun
is new, and that what takes place in the French suburbs is the same
(in its way) as that which took place in the streets of Buenos Aires
at the end of 2001.
Perhaps today Europe is less prepared to assimilate these rumblings,
but history is being shaken once again - a modern reflection of
social dissent which is the first phase of class struggle. It
contains the same social nuances which astounded us when Hurricane
Katrina flung itself upon our fellow beings in the Mississippi Basin.
Immigration problems present the serious social conflicts of the
world in yet another way.
The teenagers electrocuted in Clichy-sous-Bois are martyrs in this
class struggle. Yes! Of course, many will accuse me of idealistic
"pamphletism", but to be some kind of protagonist in this voiceless
fight that has gestated in Europe's belly doesn't necessarily mean
shouting out segments of the Communist Manifesto or identifying with
the Left. The vicissitudes of the 20th century that many think have
ended, demonstrate to us that to say, to be, and to do are verbs that
are abysmally distanced in politics.
A recent article in La Brèche by Orlando Núñez Grove points out:
"Migrants have become one of those subjects of injustice and
resistance, as much for the most productive segments of the new world
proletariat in the big metropolitan capitals, as for the relatives of
migrants from the hamlets located on the outskirts that await their
monthly family remittances."
This is not the first time that migrants have risen up in the cities,
exploding with fury.
For more than a century, the workers of the world have celebrated May
Day as International Workers Day. But with time our memories lapse.
After those pathetic Moscow May Day marches which were so perfectly
and precisely organized with their war tanks, their infantry, their
splendid artillery and their sad conceit of power - identical to the
Berlin marches in the 1930s - the true character of the 1886 Chicago
demonstrations has faded. There is not the least nostalgia for those
marches with tanks and airplanes, but these French youths - and
French they are - remind us with their burning cars of those days of
the Chicago anarchists who mobilized European migrant workers in the
José Martí wrote a chronicle of those days, and his first sympathies
for those socialist ideas summoning us now can be found in these
"The United States, which is made up of immigrants, is already
actively seeking a way to limit excessive or pernicious immigration:
watching from where evil enters the United States, it can get rid of
those countries that have not been over-run by its generosity - at
the risk of injecting poisoned blood into their veins - or its
limitless desire to expand."
But Martí died exactly when imperialism began to explicitly take hold
of the world. No imperialist power - including France - "could get
rid of their limitless longing to expand." And today to sow the
"South" in the North might be the only way out that those countries
have, in their need for an underemployed work force. Migration
towards rich countries sustains many underdeveloped countries through
remittances sent home.
We have in migration then, whether the books say it or not, a potent
subject of the current history of the world, because migrants are not
only the waste of consumer societies, they are also responsible for
the economic survival of many poor countries.
To avoid too much satisfaction, I try not to imagine forces of
organized migrant workers conscious of their historical role within
the societies of imperialist powers.
I read somewhere that the methods of these French youths are not
considered to be legitimate by the labor movement - that sabotaging
cars, day-care centers, etc. are unworthy of the proletariat.
Who has the right to speak of correct methods and civic attitudes to
those who live at the bottom of the world's barrel?
The La Brèche article argues forcefully that "the Third World has
come to the First World. The cities need slaves, but cannot
assimilate them as citizens. They are not unionized because they
don't have proper employment; they are not tradespeople because they
have no heritage; they are not legally organized because they don't
have permission. They are simple insurrectionists, marginalized,
testifying to the contradictions of globalization."
That is how it is. In a way, the Bible is right, when it says that
the last will be the first. It is rhetorical and absurd to force the
Earth to rotate in the other direction. Better for those of us on the
supposed "Left" to hurry and see with whom we will definitively throw
in our luck.
"What do they want?" Martí wonders in his chronicle of labor
immigrants from 19th century Chicago. He responds: "A day's wage,
another day of respect ... they want working hours to be no more than
eight, not so much for some light to enter their souls as they rest,
but so that the manufacturers are forced to employ those other
workers that today don't have a job."
"What do they want?" wonders Orlando Núñez Grove of the immigrants in
France a century and half later. The answer is that right now "they
don't know what they want. Racism, humiliation and scorn, not to
continue living the life they have had up to now, with heads held
low, awaiting compassion, sensibility, understanding, solidarity,
employment, health, education. In short, their rights."
They are full of hate. And who says that the hate is not legitimate
to face the world? This world is contaminated with hate, and if those
teenagers are full of it, it is because hate spouts like waste water
in the sewers of the French suburbs.
This doesn't come from me. Ernesto Che Guevara said that "a people
without hate cannot triumph over a brutal enemy." And Sarkozy and
company are brutal enemies.
For that reason we of the Left need to avoid getting bogged-down and
avoid looking from our organizational heights upon those who we don't
consider to be the proletariat because they are underemployed or the
wretched of the world. If they are not organized, if they cannot pull
together with more cohesion, the blame doesn't only belong to them,
but to us as "the organizers" who are not able to understand the
direction the world is taking.
Our resplendent May Day that takes place every year replete with red
flags was once pregnant with sabotage, bombs and fury.
The self-same José Martí, who as a first step in the struggle for
justice rejected violence, ended by declaring in 1893 that: "It is
legitimate and honorable to despise violence and to preach against it
while there is viable and rational way to nonviolently obtain the
justice indispensable to humankind's well-being. However, when it is
obvious that - for deeply unavoidable, irreconcilable and different
interests relating to diversity, political mindset and aspirations -
a peaceful path will not obtain the least minimum rights of the
people; when the people, experiencing a new fullness of being, find
their abilities suffocated, or when peaceful efforts in the face of
glaring truth are ignored and it becomes disloyal to the people not
to react; I am determined to proclaim my support [for such methods]."
We would have to question if - faced with racism, alienation and the
abandonment to which they are subjected by everyone - the nightmare
in which poverty-stricken migrants live throughout Europe leaves them
any peaceful alternative.
Paris will continue to be Paris for its revolutionaries. Victor Serge
said: "Paris calls us. The Paris of Zola, of the Commune, of the CGT,
of the small newspapers printed with burning fervor ... the Paris
where Lenin at times edited Iskra and spoke in meetings of small
cooperatives filled with immigrants
the Paris where the
headquarters of the Central Committee of the Russian
Socialist-Revolutionary Party could be found."
This revolutionary France that has several times opened a Pandora's
Box for capitalism in Europe.
This France, that has welcomed so many political refugees and so many
revolutionaries, now demands of them today important reflection and
an important contribution. It is never too late to begin - or even to
begin badly in this way - it just needs to continue.
Those "well-born" people say that the youths - the main characters of
the disturbances in France today - are not French, but immigrants. It
would be good to ask of these "well-born" people and the well
positioned bourgeoisie of France, who has the right to sing the
Marseillaise - they or the youths of the suburbs? How did the
Marseillaise come about? The hymn, one of the revolutionary symbols
of the nation, is a hymn that the immigrant youths have as much right
to sing as the corrupt French bourgeoisie. The Cuban Bayamesa is the
daughter of the Marseillaise. They are more than just nationalist
hymns, but revolutionary ones! The Cuban flag, as with so many others
of the world, displays its white stripe in honor of those French
It is true that none of the revolutions in France achieved their
goal, but one way or another they all shaped the souls of true
revolutionaries. It is never too late to begin again.
I have a 17 year-old son. Of course, what I seek for him is a full
life to which a true revolutionary should aspire - that he finds
happiness along the diverse road of revolution. But if this cannot
be, if we don't manage to build an international Left in a reasonable
period of time that will consume his energies and adolescent
hormones, I would prefer without any shadow of doubt - rather than
seeing him end like Cindy Sheehan's son murdered by the lies of the
Empire, killing and being left to die for selfish and merciless
interests; before seeing him jumping around in a disco, consuming
designer jeans, cars and drugs - without the slightest hesitation, I
would prefer to see him setting fire to cars on the streets of Paris.
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