Spartacist Canada No. 187
U.S., France, Canada Out of the Near East!
Down With Anti-Muslim Repression!
The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard No. 1079 (27 November), newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S.
NOVEMBER 23—The attacks in Paris on November 13, responsibility for which was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS), were a criminal act of indiscriminate mass terror, in which 130 innocent civilians were killed. The capitalist rulers use revulsion at such attacks to bolster national unity and jingoism, further binding the working masses to their exploiters and oppressors. Just as they did after the September 11 attacks, the imperialists have seized on this atrocity to beat the drums for war abroad and for more state repression at home.
The state repression is in the first instance targeting mainly Muslims, who are all deemed responsible for the crimes of reactionary fanatics. But the ultimate target of this repression will be the proletariat, the only class with both the social power and objective interest to do away with the barbaric capitalist system through socialist revolution. It is vital for working people throughout the world to oppose every attempt by the ruling capitalist powers to use such atrocities as took place in Paris to augment the repressive powers of the capitalist state at home and carry out more imperialist slaughter abroad. U.S.-led military aggression after 9/11 led to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the devastation of the region and rise of murderous outfits like ISIS. Increasing airstrikes in the Near East will only add to the ever-mounting death toll. Unlike those killed in the Paris attacks, the names, faces and stories of these victims of imperialist terror are almost never told.
In the U.S., the drive to expand the bombing war against ISIS has received virtually unanimous approval from both Republicans and Democrats. President Barack Obama has stepped up airstrikes, and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has urged even more, calling for a no-fly zone over Syria and the deployment of more special forces to the region. Her main rival, Bernie Sanders, a darling of much of the reformist left, has echoed Clinton’s call for a “broad coalition” centred on countries in the Near East as vital to “destroying ISIS.” Both agree on “regime change” in Syria—the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.
For its part, the new Liberal government in Ottawa says it will eventually withdraw the six CF-18 fighter jets that are operating in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, it is preparing to increase the number of Canadian military “advisers” and “trainers” embedded with the U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Iraq.
French Socialist Party president François Hollande declared that France is now “at war” with ISIS and intensified French airstrikes against the Syrian city of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. There, at least 200,000 civilians are caught between ISIS on the one hand and the far more powerful and deadly imperialist butchers on the other. According to the bourgeois media, the bombing of Raqqa is retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians in Paris. In reality, France has been bombing ISIS since late September.
The French imperialists are no strangers to the slaughter of Arab civilians. In October 1925, as part of crushing an anti-
colonial rebellion in Syria, the French army unleashed a massive bombardment of Damascus, slaughtering nearly 1,500 people, including more than 330 women and children. Contrary to assertions that the Paris attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II, on 17 October 1961 Paris police massacred over 150 Algerians who were protesting France’s savage colonial war against Algerian independence. The bodies of many of those killed were then dumped into the River Seine.
Now, the French government has used the November 13 attacks to suspend civil liberties, including by instituting a state of emergency. In a November 14 statement (see page 2), our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France declared: “We protest in advance the use of these crimes by Hollande’s capitalist government to justify increasingly repressive measures against Muslims and dark-skinned people as well as to strengthen sweeping surveillance measures against the entire population.”
Under the state of emergency, now extended for three months, public places can be closed with a simple administrative decision, and any association with a religious, social, national or political purpose can be arbitrarily shut down. Any person deemed by the police to be “a threat to safety and public order” can be put under house arrest or detained in a place specified by the cops. Now, Hollande wants to expand the right to strip dual citizens of their French citizenship if convicted of “harming the nation’s core interests,” a description so broad it could potentially be applied to any opponent of government policy. Even before the Paris attacks, six people had already been stripped of their citizenship under his regime.
Such repression poses a threat to all working people in France. After public demonstrations were banned, a planned November 19 union protest in defense of victimized Air France workers was called off. At the same time, a strike by Paris bus drivers did go ahead on November 18, an encouraging sign that the workers are not just going to accept a new round of attacks by the government and bosses.
Down With Anti-Muslim Reaction!
The state of emergency has hit hardest at France’s Muslim minority, already in the sights of the French state under its longstanding Vigipirate program, a police/military “anti-terrorism” mobilization. Muslim neighbourhoods are swarming with cops raiding people’s homes. Playing off the anti-Muslim hysteria, a leading right-wing politician has called for the creation of concentration camps for the 10,000 people whose government files are marked with an “S” (those the government considers suspicious, but who have not been arrested for any crime), while the fascists of the National Front (FN) call for their deportation. For his part, Hollande is considering putting such people under house arrest, a “soft” internment, and has adopted a number of the FN’s “anti-terror” demands in the wake of the Paris attacks. All polls indicate that the FN will score big wins in the December regional elections. As an FN leader bragged to Le Monde (18 November), “All this can only be positive for us. We have a socialist president of the republic who promotes solutions put forward by the National Front.”
The growth of the FN is a deadly danger not only to Muslims, but to all working people in France. This danger underscores the vital necessity for the French workers to oppose the anti-Muslim witchhunt and any moves to strengthen bourgeois repression. Such struggle is necessary for the unity and integrity of the French working class, of which North African-derived workers form a crucial component.
Predictably, the portrayal of Muslims as a fifth column has resulted in increasing attacks against Muslim people and mosques—as well as anti-Jewish reaction by some Muslims in France. Anti-Muslim attacks have also been reported in Canada. A mosque was set ablaze in Peterborough, Ontario the day after the Paris attacks. A Muslim woman was attacked outside a Toronto elementary school by two white men who called her a “terrorist.” A Muslim student at the University of Toronto was attacked near a campus library while a woman in Ottawa found a note in her mailbox telling her to “go back home” because “Canada is no place for terrorists or immigrants.” Police in a residential suburb of Toronto shot and wounded Hamza Abdi, an immigrant from Somalia, claiming he was wearing an explosive vest. “My brother is mentally ill. He has never harmed anyone,” Abdi’s sister told the Toronto Star (17 November).
Contrary to what the bourgeois media would have us believe, fundamentalist Islam holds no monopoly on terrorism. In the U.S., countless bombings, arson attacks and assaults against abortion clinics, including the assassination of eight people since the early 1990s, have been carried out in the name of biblical injunction. But in a country where Christian fundamentalists wield substantial political influence, this anti-woman violence is rarely labelled the terrorism that it is.
Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton have implemented some of the most aggressive mass surveillance of Americans ever, with untold millions in one or another government database. In the service of even more surveillance, government officials are again demanding that companies like Apple and Google remove encryption from their electronic devices. Meanwhile, CIA director John Brennan claimed that revelations of wholesale spying have made it “more challenging” to track potential terrorists, while former CIA director James Woolsey grotesquely declared that courageous whistle-
blower Edward Snowden “has blood on his hands” for the carnage in Paris and deserves to be “hanged by the neck.”
It is the U.S., French and other imperialists—including more junior powers like Canada—whose hands drip with the blood of countless tens of millions around the globe. The many gruesome crimes of outfits like ISIS, whether in a European city or far more often in the Near East and Africa, pale in comparison to the daily and historic devastation meted out by imperialist “Great Powers” upon the masses of the semicolonial world. Carnage like that in Paris is a daily occurrence on the streets of Iraq, Syria and elsewhere—
carried out by the imperialists, local capitalist rulers, Islamic fanatics and sundry other reactionary forces.
The creation of inherently unstable states in the Near East, such as Iraq and Syria, was the product of the carving up of the region, centrally under the 1916 Sykes-Picot treaty between Britain and France, following the collapse of the Turkish-dominated Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. When it suited their interests, the imperialists forced together mutually hostile populations or separated those who wanted to live together.
More recently, the existence of ISIS is a direct product of U.S. and other imperialist policies in the Near East. As journalist John Pilger noted: “ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity” (counterpunch.org, 17 November). The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq pulverized that society, killing nearly one million people and sparking a brutal civil war centrally between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. Since 2011, the U.S., France and their regional allies—such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates—have fed the fires of the Syrian civil war pitting the Sunni majority against the ruling Alawite minority represented by the Assad regime. This has included direct financing and arming of Sunni fundamentalist groups. It is in the context of such imperialist-created and -fomented devastation that ISIS has been able to grow, feeding off Sunni grievances.
Following the Paris attacks, four former U.S. Air Force drone operators and technicians wrote an open letter to Obama denouncing the drone program: “We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.” In coming forward, these men risk being targeted by an administration that has gone after whistle-
blowers to an unprecedented degree. Indeed, their letter concludes: “We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth-tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.”
Defeat Imperialism Through
The multiracial working class in the U.S. and Canada must be won to the understanding that its enemy is its “own” ruling class and that it needs to oppose imperialist aggression abroad. The handmaidens to such wars are always domestic repression and the further immiseration of the working class. It is not ISIS, Al Qaeda or some other Islamic reactionary force that has taken income inequality in North America to virtually unprecedented heights. It is the capitalist rulers who have squeezed the working people and devastated their livelihoods. Likewise, it is the French capitalist rulers who have ravaged the proletariat and oppressed of France. Muslim youth there have such little prospect for a future that some are driven into the arms of Islamic reaction.
Every victory the imperialists gain abroad means more misery for the working masses and oppressed at home. By the same token, every setback suffered by the imperialist military forces is in the interests of the international working class. We have no side in the Syrian civil war, which is reactionary on all sides. But we do have a side against the U.S., French, Canadian and other imperialists. As these powers step up their military campaign against ISIS in the Near East, we reiterate that we take a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and forces acting as their proxies—i.e., the Iraqi government, Shi’ite militias and the Kurdish nationalist forces in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, we are die-hard opponents of everything the reactionary cutthroats of ISIS stand for.
While our main opposition is to the imperialists, we also oppose the other capitalist powers involved in the Syrian civil war—including Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey—and call for them to leave. In recent days, Russia has intensified its airstrikes in Syria after ISIS claimed responsibility for the criminal downing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board.
The precursors of ISIS include those who cut their teeth as mujahedin in the CIA-backed war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. For all the talk by bourgeois politicians in the U.S., France, Canada and elsewhere on how to “defeat” ISIS, it was the imperialists who armed and financed these Islamists, praising them as “freedom fighters” while they butchered Soviet soldiers and those who were teaching Afghan girls to read and write. The Soviet Union intervened in 1979 in Afghanistan, at the behest of the modernizing nationalist regime there. This intervention posed the possibility of a radical social transformation for the benighted Afghan peoples. We Trotskyists uniquely declared, “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend social gains of October Revolution to Afghan peoples!”
The USSR could have defeated the Islamic reactionaries. Instead, the Stalinist misrulers scaled back and, in 1989, pulled out their forces in a futile effort to appease the imperialists. This betrayal opened the door for capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet degenerated workers state itself in 1991-92. Nurtured and financed by the U.S., Saudis and others, Islamic fundamentalist forces have since grown massively.
The cycle of imperialist wars and occupations is a glaring demonstration of the barbarity of the decaying capitalist world order in which the U.S. rulers predominate. The goal of Marxists in the U.S. and Canada is to instill in the proletariat the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within, through socialist revolution. To realize this task requires forging revolutionary workers parties, sections of a reforged Fourth International committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.