The State is us: what does the fight against CIP teach us?

by Jean-Louis Rocca

Published in : “Nous sommes tous des casseurs” “We are all hooligans” Youth Revolt in France, March 1994

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The anti-CIP movement has brought out a certain number of new elements in the government/society relationship and in the behavior of the State. It has notably demonstrated aspects at once consensual and post-consensual of the present situation. Consensual because the demand concerned a specific measure and that the legitimacy of the political system was never really questioned, Once more there was an absence of the idea of a radical alternative. But, at the same time, and in contrast to the 1986 movement which stayed within the limits of the left-right debate and the political debate on the solutions to the crisis, consensus was superseded in an affirmation of the powerlessness of politicians, who appeared all cut from the same cloth. Even in one area – employment – which does distil the essential elements of social life, everyone seemed to think that the various politicians grip on the events was very weak.

In the framework of this accepting/refusing of the democratic rules, the only possible action is an action in the margins, initiated from a minoritarian point of view on specific points. No, the State was not openly criticized, since there existed no alternative, but it has become legitimate to oppose it, even violently, on the condition that the violence is defensive. The modes of action themselves demonstrate a clear novelty: the reoccupation of downtown areas normally devoted to the car and the commodity with a protest no longer limiting itself to the rules of the democratic game.4

People have become aware of the government’s impotence, which has been openly demonstrated in the CIP affair. Political decisions have a highly artificial air. They no longer seem to be taken as a result of reflection, analysis or long-term planning, but out of the simple necessity – which is becoming absolute – to “do something.” This “something” has limited room to maneuver. Limited by the consensual obligation to reaffirm the existence of economic laws, but limited also by the fact that even the ruling powers no longer believe that it is possible, within the framework of these laws, to solve the employment problem. Thus, everyone knows (including the corporations) that lowering wages will not create jobs, but since the laws of the market are ideological dogmas, everyone strives to believe it. Conversely, the highly ideological quality of these measures enables the government to withdraw them at the slightest opposition without giving the impression of changing their minds.

The fact that the State respects intrinsic laws which are powerless to satisfy the needs of social reproduction condemns it to a loss of authority over society. So state action rarefies itself in ideology (the defense of secularism, the myth of the market, etc.). This explains the series of proposals put forward and then retracted for the last ten years. The ruling powers largely dominate society, since nothing seems capable of resisting it, but it reveals itself incapable of guiding society, of reforming it, or even of controlling all its aspects. Society seems to respond to the artificiality of authority by taking on a certain autonomy. Through their actions, the young have marked off their territory, drawn up the limits beyond which the rulers henceforth cannot only cross with caution.

With the anti-CIP movement, one of the limits of consensus was reached: too much unanimity is harmful to the powerful, for it makes dialogue impossible. A generally calm and temperate political climate can give way, at any moment, to local but violent storms that the State can only contain with police repression and political retreat.



4 – Political debate is disappearing the same way. Politics’ are perceived as a business of special groups and of the confrontation or certain principles (i.e. secularism/right to religion) but not a meaningful confrontation. Politics is so meaningless that citizens almost systematically re-elect politicians whose corruption has been clearly revealed by “scandals.” All politics being generally discredited, it affects no one.