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May 4, 2007

getting out the (French) youth vote

(traveling to New York City) The "Association Collectif Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Ensemble, Unis" is quite a mouthful, but its acronym means "enough of the fire" in French (ACLEFEU="assez le feu"). Its List of Grievances (a phrase borrowed from the French Revolution of 1789) could be translated thus:

Our organization, ACLEFEU ..., has seen the cold leftovers of the social revolts that shook the land during the month of November 2005 following the deaths of our children, Bouna and Zyad, at Clichy Sous Bois [where two alleged rioters, hiding from the police, were electrocuted in a power substation]. So that we can say they did not die for naught, we are committed to the mission of going to the people in all their diversity to get them to fill out 'Lists of Grievances.' ... It seemed to us essential to work to stop the fires [of the riots], considering that the best weapon for making oneself heard still remains civic participation in democracy, yet the debate that must precede the choice at the moment of voting is still closed to one part of society, that which merely copes. All citizens must truly have the power of a voice and the ability to express their needs, their proposals, their hopes.

ACLEFEU claims to have collected "20,000 reports, grievances, and even more proposals." It observes, "History seems to repeat itself; today as yesterday the central ideal of the Revolution is clearly evident in the Lists: equality." It goes on to describe the people who submitted grievances:

Far from being unconcerned about politics, many of these people, among whom a majority are between the ages of 18 and 25, express the need to see the parties and elected officials become closer to the people and their real lives. For several years, all the parties have multiplied their forums, general meetings, etc. ... But all this good will does not seem to have convinced the popular classes. The abstention in recent elections, as well as our List of Grievances, proves it. We hope that those who aspire to preside over the destiny of France will know how to take advantage of what we offer here, to build with the residents, with respect for their proposals, a just and courageous politics that attacks, above all, the causes of their insecurity and exclusion. For our part, we have faithfully synthesized the priorities, reports, and proposals from the Lists of Grievances. In the coming months, we will be vigilant regarding the use you make of these popular proposals. We expect to bring all our weight to bear so that the excluded register to vote and choose their [presidential] candidate as a function of his capacity to conduct politics in dialog with citizens.

The actual proposals, as far as I can see, appear rather retrograde. They include heavy regulations on the labor market that might worsen the exclusion of immigrant youth. However, the rhetoric of citizen voice and dialog is impressive, as is ACLEFEU's organizing muscle.

May 4, 2007 6:00 AM | category: none


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