KEES VAN DER PIJL
A LOCKEAN EUROPE?
As 2005 drew to an end, the suburbs of cities and towns across France were lit by the fires of a violent social revolt. The rioting and burning in the banlieues that began in the last days of October in Paris prompted President Chirac in a tv appearance on 14 November to address the young of the ‘difficult quarters’ as ‘daughters and sons of the Republic’ and to denounce the ‘poison of discrimination’—though curfews and emergency measures spoke a different language. The Right in power after all has only a limited repertoire. Initially it seemed as if the neoliberal Minister of the Interior and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy would be paying a political price for his mail-fisted ‘zero tolerance’ policies and insulting abuse of the ‘rabble’; with his rival for the French presidency, the Gaullist Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the beneficiary. Instead a right-wing backlash has developed, putting Sarkozy in a race with the neo-fascist Front National of Jean-Marie Le Pen (quoted on hastily put up fn posters as having predicted all this long ago) to cash in on the Great Fear that has taken hold of large sections of the French population. Including, one would assume, those millions excited over the opportunity to acquire shares in edf, the French electricity utility, the privatization of which coincided with the rioting.
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