Les “Latinos” du 1er mai

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Les Latinos du 1er mai


2 mai 2006 — Partout des manifestations des latinos aux USA, pour le 1er mai. Cela a introduit des circonstances symboliques de la situation du pays, et de la situation des immigrants, essentiellement latinos, essentiellement les “illégaux” (10 à 12 millions), — puisque le 1er mai n’est pas un jour férié aux USA. Par tradition anti-socialiste, le 1er mai est perçu aux USA, terre du capitalisme, comme un jour de fête hostile aux conceptions américanistes.

Les immigrants et les organisations latinos ont fait de ce 1er mai un jour d’action symbolique puisque le problème qu’ils mettent officiellement en avant est celui du travail, — rémunérations, conditions, etc. Du même coup, les manifestants refusaient de travailler ce 1er mai, voulant ainsi marquer leur poids dans le monde économique américain. Les organisateurs avaient baptisé cette journée : “the Great American Boycott” et “A Day Without Immigrants”.

Cette journée de manifestation a été diversement décrite. Dans un article paru hier, avant les manifestations par conséquent (d’autant plus avec le décalage horaire), le Financial Times décrivait plutôt une atmosphère d’accommodement entre les employeurs américains et leurs employés latinos, montrant ainsi implicitement le poids de ceux-ci dans l’économie américaine et la crainte d'une partie des employeurs américains de se les aliéner. Quelques paragraphes de l’article repris sur CommonDreams.org :

« US companies are bracing for work stoppages on Monday during a series of demonstrations across the country to protest against efforts in Congress to crack down on illegal immigration. However, a marriage of convenience has emerged between undocumented workers who want to stay in the country and the companies that want them to remain.

» That marriage will be tested on Monday with plans by immigrant groups for a series of demonstrations across the US – dubbed “A Day Without an Immigrant” or “el boicot” – that could see tens of thousands of workers walking off the job for a day to join in protests.

» Restaurants, meat packing plants, small retail shops and others that rely heavily on immigrant labour have been preparing for possible shutdowns. In Los Angeles, a fruit and vegetable market in the city centre, employing 1,800 and serving 4,500 restaurants and 3,000 shops, will be closed today.

» “We’re on the same side as our workers on this one from a policy standpoint,” said John Gay, senior vice-president for the National Restaurant Association. “So it’s somewhat ironic that some restaurants look like they’re going to have to close, because our industry’s been so much in the forefront of trying to fix the problem.” »

Le ton est complètement différent dans le compte-rendu du “Day Without Immigrants” que donne le site WSWS.org, dont le militantisme est bien connu. L’article parle de “millions de manifestants” et présente cette journée, d’une façon générale, comme un succès :

« Masses of immigrant workers took to the streets of US cities from coast-to-coast again in support of a May boycott of work and stores to oppose reactionary legislation seeking to criminalize immigrants and to demand basic democratic and social rights.

» The nationwide protest movement—dubbed “a day without immigrants”—shut down stores, meatpacking plants, restaurants, construction sites and other businesses and halted work in the fields in many agricultural areas. Slogans such as “we are not terrorists or criminals, we are workers” were widespread on many of the marches.

» While in some areas, the turnout was reportedly lighter because of fears generated by recent factory raids conducted by immigration agents, in a number of major cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Denver—massive crowds, in some cases ranging in the hundreds of thousands, demonstrated. The protests were conducted in defiance of warnings by President George Bush and other politicians—as well as by some leaders of Hispanic lobbying groups—against the boycott. »

Ce qu’il faut retenir de ces manifestations très pacifiques de ce 1er mai latinos, c’est l’appréhension et les prises de position politiques hostiles qui les ont précédées. Ce qui paraît si naturel en Europe, — une manifestation du 1er mai pour de meilleures conditions de travail, — est perçu comme une anomalie grave aux USA, soit un symptôme d’une pathologie préoccupante, soit l’émergence d’une subversion mortelle ; cette fois s’y ajoute la dramatisation incontestable du débat sur l’immigration, non seulement depuis quelques mois mais, avec un nouveau stade de dramatisation ces quatre dernières semaines, depuis les manifestations de fin mars.

Le débat évolue vers un aspect passionnel qui sera exacerbé par les élections de novembre, voire les présidentielles de 2008 sur le plus long terme. La question de l’immigration latino est en train de devenir un problème explosif aux USA, dans l’atmosphère tendue qu’on connaît et avec la faiblesse des divers pouvoirs en place. Le seul moyen de détourner l’aspect social jugé menaçant pour l’actuel “turbo-capitalisme” qui ne cesse d’accroître les fortunes existantes, c’est d’accentuer démesurément l’aspect identitaire (immigration par rapport à l’identité nationale) du problème. Les deux questions sont fondées et permettent d’autant mieux aux démagogies diverses de s’exprimer. Le 1er mai latino confirme largement que cette question de l’immigration est en train de devenir une polémique de première dimension, peut-être le problème intérieur le plus explosif.

Parmi les actes de dramatisation de ces derniers jours, il y a eu l’intervention (le 28 avril) de GW Bush contre la diffusion de l’hymne américain avec paroles espagnoles. Bien sûr, pour Bush, c’est une façon de rattraper le soutien qu’il apporte à la légalisation conditionnelle de l’immigration illégale, de plus en plus mal perçue dans son électorat conservateur.

Ci-dessous, le commentaire de John Chuckman sur cet événement précis.


“Xenophobia in a Land of Immigrants?”

By John Chuckman


One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul,'' — George Bush

Was George Bush speaking of some truly shattering event in American affairs? Perhaps the imprisonment and torture of thousands of innocent people? Perhaps the lack of democratic legitimacy in his own coming to power?

No, what Bush was describing is a version of the American national anthem in Spanish — Nuestro Himno (Our Anthem) — which was played on American Hispanic radio and television stations recently.

Now, in many countries with multi-ethnic populations, most people would see this as charming and flattering. Canada's anthem has two official versions, French and English, and were a group of immigrants to offer it in Ukrainian or Mandarin, most Canadians would be tickled. It would undoubtedly be featured on CBC.

But in America, the broadcast of a Spanish version of The Star Spangled Banner has aroused a somewhat different response. Charles Key, great great grandson of Francis Scott, offered the immortal words, “I think it's despicable thing that someone is going into our society from another country and … changing our national anthem.”

“This is evoking spirited revulsion on the part of fair-minded Americans,” offered John Teeley, representative of one of innumerable private propaganda mills in Washington commonly dignified as think-tanks. Mr. Teeley continued, “You are talking about something sacred and iconic in the American culture. Just as we wouldn't expect people to change the colors of the national flag, we wouldn't expect people to fundamentally change the anthem and rewrite it in a foreign language.”

A foreign language? There are roughly thirty-million Spanish speakers in the United States. The analysis here is interesting: an immigrant singing an anthem in his own language resembles someone changing the national flag. This argument does, perhaps unintentionally, reveal the real concern: Hispanics are changing our country, and we don't like it.

So it is not surprising that the American low-life constituency's political and moral hero, George Bush, should declare: “I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.”

Never mind that the American Constitution says nothing about language. Never mind that waves of immigrants from Europe about a hundred years ago founded countless private schools and cultural institutions in the United States where German or Italian or Hebrew were the languages used and promoted. Never mind that after a generation or two, minority immigrants always end up adopting the language of the majority, something which is close to an economic necessity. And never mind that xenophobia in a land of immigrants should have no place.

An entertaining historical note here is that Francis Scott Key did not write the important part of The Star Spangled Banner, its music. Key wrote a breast-swelling amateurish poem whose words were fitted to an existing song. The existing song, as few Americans know, was an English song, To Anachreon in Heaven, a reference to a Greek poet whose works concern amour and wine. The Star Spangled Banner, in any version, only began playing a really prominent role in America during my lifetime, that is, with the onset of the Cold War. In Chicago public schools during the early 1950s, we sang My Country, 'Tis of Thee, another breast-sweller, written not many years after Key's, by another amateur poet, Samuel Smith, sung to the music of the British national anthem, God Save the King.

It shouldn't be necessary to remind anyone in an advanced country that things change, and they change at increasing rates. Even in the remote possibility, a century or two from now, Spanish or some blend of Spanish and English were to become the dominant language of the United States, what would it matter to today's angry and intolerant people? After all, the English language came from another land, and it grew out of centuries of change from Latin to early versions of German and French layered onto the language of Celtic people.

Throughout history, fascism is closely associated with xenophobia, but then we find many other unpleasant aspects of fascism — from illegal spying to recording what people read in libraries, from torture to illegal invasion — feature in George Bush's America.

[N.B. Le titre original de l’article a été réduit pour des raisons graphiques. Le titre original est :Oh, say, can you see xenophobia in a land of immigrants?”.]