Monday Coming and Casseurs

ACORN Community Organizing Ideas and Issues International Labor Organizing

Amherst, Massachusetts       Monday, April 10th, is shaping up to be another big day in the struggle for immigrant rights in the United States.  Demonstrations, rallies, and all manner of activities have been announced for Monday in over 60 cities.  ACORN offices seem to be heavily in the mix from San Diego to Palm Beach and many places in between.  It has been a long time since any of us have been able to read about the Washington wallas in the Senate and House trying to figure out a compromise in the face of public protest and its rising tide.  This is what brings hope for many and joy to organizers everywhere.

French students continued to rock and rampage particularly in and around Paris early this week in the 5th nationwide protest since the government proposed a new law that would declare an open season on firing young workers for two years.  In this round 75% of the universities were closed by the student strikers.  Street fighting seems to have broken out led by something called casseurs  in French or “smashers” in English.  These are small, mobile bands of youth who have been at the edge of the rougher stuff — breaking sidewalks and hurling the results of their labor at the police.  The New York Times correspondents also indicated that in some cases the casseurs whipped up on protesters themselves as well as getting a little malicious mischief going with park benches, street signs, and what have you.  Casseurs seem to have cut up around Paris as well as Caen, Lille, Rennes, and Lorient.  Sorry, but I find this an interesting tactical development though it is largely out of control of anyone in charge of anything involved in these protests.  Meanwhile the government is hard-handling this, but reeling behind the weight of the storm.

Knowing of my interest in such things, Steve Bachmann, ACORN’s general counsel, mailed me a brief piece from The Wall Street Journal of 3 weeks ago, which identified Razzye Hammadi of the Sorbonne and head of the Movement of Young Socialists as one of the principal organizers of these protests over the last 2 months.  Credit where credit is due, Brother Hammadi seems to have started in motion before the outlines of the government’s plans were even made public, because of his certainty that tinkering with labor laws in France was a recipe for opening up a can of whoop-ass in the streets.  The article quotes him in mid-March saying, “The movement has taken off.  We don’t control it anymore.  We can’t stop it.”  Indicating if nothing else that besides being well prepared, Brother Hammadi also has a deep, intuitive understanding of the nature of movements — as do the casseurs truth be told.

Tonight I speak to a class of organizers at the University of Massachusetts.  Taking organizing in a class is a concept I need to understand.  Tomorrow and Friday I will also be talking to similar folks at Cornell.

I want to believe that all of this is catching.  I look forward to seeing for myself.

April 5, 2006

A steelworker holds a burning flare as thousands of marchers demonstrate in Marseille, France.