French housing activists unite against the new right

Massimo.A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Fri Jun 15 02:48:56 BST 2007

Version francaise ici


22nd to 24th June, 2007, Paris

Over the past 30 years, the French banlieues have been calling for 
justice. Concrete demands have been expressed through demonstrations, 
marches, days of action, public meetings, hunger strikes, and mass 
revolts. The response from governments of all political hues that have 
all come and gone, since the Ministry for Urban and Social Development 
was set up 15 years ago to address social exclusion and ghettoisation in 
housing estates, has been an array of initiatives with their fair share 
of acronyms and so-called miracle cures: ZEP (Education Support & 
Development in Targeted Zones), DSQ, ZUP, ZAC & ANRU (Urban Development 

Our estates have become an easy target for media-hungry politicians and 
their sound-bite slurs: the 'lost territories of the Republic' are 
'no-go areas' populated by 'irresponsible parents' and people drifting 
into 'Mafia-like' or 'radical Islamic' activities. The most stigmatised 
are the youth. They have become scapegoats for society's ills. It costs 
little to mouth civic values while violently exposing the 'scum' and the 
'savages' to public condemnation.

The suburbs have been made into a special law and order issue, in the 
hands of the police and courts. And yet in all the revolts we have seen, 
from the Minguettes (1981) to Vaulx-en-Velin (1990), from 
Mantes-la-Jolie (1991) to Sartrouville (1991), from Dammarie-les-Lys 
(1997) to Toulouse (1998), from Lille (2000) to Clichy sous Bois (2005), 
the message has been clear :

We've had enough of unpunished police murders and brutality, of police 
checks based merely on skin colour, enough of 'sink' schools, of 
unsanitary housing, of systematic unemployment and underemployment, 
enough of prisons, of humiliation and oppression! We have become almost 
immune to the silence of millions of men and women suffering daily from 
acts of social violence, much more devastating than a burning car.

It is our right to revolt against the social order.

As we refuse to delegate power to those who no longer represent us, the 
Social Forum of the Banlieues will be a public space where we can assert 
our voices, and build a political, social, and cultural collective 
narrative drawn from the experiences, stories and memories of our 
neighbourhoods. The forum will be a place of reflection and a meeting 
place of different local struggles – offering them political visibility 
at a national level!

Our estates and their inhabitants hold a wealth of stories and 
traditions of political and social commitment: from slave revolts to the 
Paris Commune; from the Etoile Nord-Africaine (North-African liberation 
movement) to the Main d'Oeuvre Immigrée (Immigrant Labour); from the 
17th October 1961 demonstration (brutally crushed by French police), to 
the struggles for slum clearance and the closure of the 'cités de 
transit' (temporary, substandard, prefabricated housing projects for 
immigrant labour); from the Sonacotra hostel strikes to the March for 
Equality; from the occupation of the Talbot factory in Poissy to the 
movement of the unemployed; from the Sans-Papiers (illegal aliens) 
movement to the Committee Against the "Double Penalty" (deportation 
after serving a prison sentence). All these struggles are an undeniable 
part of the political, social, and trade union history of France. Let us 
free ourselves of the collective amnesia and political ignorance 
clouding these events to re-appropriate our memory and our history.

Popular educational movements and social centres have long been let down 
by those in power. We assert that we can no longer blame other people 
for all of our hardships. By not taking action ourselves, we become 
complicit in our problems – we can no longer afford to ignore our 
collective responsibility. It is now up to us to imagine new forms of 
solidarity to alleviate our social conditions.

There are many issues we have to urgently address: racism, police 
violence, social, racial and cultural discrimination, Islamophobia, 
colonialism and its legacy. But we are also looking more widely to 
confront issues on health, education, work, the media, sexism, 
liberalism, the environment, North-South global relations, forms of 
resistance and liberation, and the struggles for justice, for equality, 
for freedom…A visible movement in which we are effective political 
actors, producing our own discourses and developing our own autonomous 
practices is vital. The future of our estates depends on us, on you.

The banlieues hold a crucial place in our cities, and can no longer be 
treated as an isolated case. Our forum, taking place from the 22nd to 
24th June 2007 in the banlieues of Paris, will be a platform to 
collectively develop a strategy grounded on common references that we 
can clearly adopt. We call on all those who regard the issue of the 
banlieues as a priority to join the organising collectives. After a 
number of meetings and discussions, a national association has been 
established to organise the Social Forum of the Banlieues. You are now 
invited to join us in the regional organising collectives (Paris, Lyon, 
Montpellier, and Toulouse) to help set up this national event.

The Forum is an opportunity for all those who want to build a collective 
discourse and power emerging from disenfranchised neighbourhoods. It is 
absolutely essential that we look beyond our own identities drawing 
strength from the diversity of our stories born out of political and 
cultural demands, actions, and participation.

Calling all ID card/passport holders, Residence Permit holders, illegal 
aliens, wherever you are – in banlieue estates or elsewhere – you are 
invited to join the MIB (Movement of Immigration and the Banlieues), 
DIVERCITE (DiverCity) and the MOTIVE-E-S to turn this event into a 
moment of convergence – political, social, cultural, festive – and to 
establish a common and radical voice for all of France's estates. 
Whoever wins the elections, we need a National Movement of the Banlieues 
as the only real way of striving for equality.

For further information, please visit or contact the 
regional coordinators:

In Paris: Association " Forum Social des Quartiers Populaires"

45-47, rue d'Aubervilliers 75018 Paris

tel : +33 14036 2466

email : fsqp2007 at

In Lyons : Divercité

29 rue Léon Blum 69100 Villeurbane

tel : +33 62052 3452

email : divercite at

In Toulouse : Motivé-e-s

27, rue des Lois 31000 Toulouse

tel : +33 56227 6283

email : motive-e-s at

[1] The term 'banlieues' is used to describe rundown housing estates on 
the outskirts of Paris and many other large French cities, and mainly 
populated by French people of foreign descent or foreign immigrants In 
Britain they are sometimes called 'sink' estates, or just 'estates'.

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