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Workers Hammer No. 233

Winter 2015-2016

Down with anti-Muslim repression!

US, Britain, France out of the Near East!

The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard no 1079, 27 November 2015, newspaper of the Spartacist League/US.

The attacks in Paris on 13 November, 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, 2001 attacks in the US, and the July 2005 London bombings, 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, not least in the US, Britain and France, to oppose every attempt by the ruling capitalist powers to use such atrocities as took place in Paris to augment the repressive power of the capitalist state at home and carry out more imperialist slaughter abroad. US military aggression after 9/11, supported by Britain under the Blair Labour government, 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 toll of the victims of imperialism. Unlike those killed in the Paris attacks, the names, faces and stories of these victims of imperialist terror are almost never told.

The drive to expand the US’ bombing war against ISIS has received virtually unanimous approval from both major parties of the US capitalists — Republicans and Democrats. In Britain, prime minister David Cameron has seized on the Paris attacks for a renewed push for a vote in Parliament to sanction Britain joining the US, France and their allies in bombing Syria. Britain joined the US-led bombing targeting ISIS in Iraq over a year ago, using its military base in Cyprus to launch its air assaults. Cameron is now offering the base to France for its use in the bombing of Syria. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Cyprus, and the closure of the British military bases on the island.

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. 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 1500 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 some 200 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.

For the British ruling class, massacring civilians was always part of building and maintaining its empire. Beginning in 1919, the British government responded to uprisings by Arabs and Kurds in Iraq by using mass terror as an official instrument of policy. The British Army used poison gas in the South and the Royal Air Force carried out aerial bombings in the North. Thousands were killed and whole villages burnt to the ground. British troops in colonial India in 1919 shot and killed between 400 and 1000 civilians gathered in a park in Amritsar, in the Punjab. Many were there celebrating a religious holiday; others came out in defiance of a British ban on political protest against colonial rule.

The French government has now used the 13 November attacks to suspend civil liberties and intensify state repression, including by instituting a state of emergency. In a 14 November statement condemning the attacks, 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 19 November trade union protest in defence of victimised Air France workers was called off. At the same time, a strike by Paris bus drivers did go ahead on 18 November, 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 through the longstanding Vigipirate, a police/military “anti-terrorism” mobilisation that sows terror against minorities. 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 fascist National Front (FN) calls 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 2015), “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 fascists 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 witch hunt 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 throughout France — as well as anti-Jewish reaction by some Muslims. In Britain there was a huge spike in anti-Muslim attacks — 115 reported in the first week following the Paris attacks. Muslim women wearing the hijab were the primary targets of racist abuse. Feeding such vile reaction are racist media such as the Sun, which on 17 November demanded British Muslims march through London to denounce the Paris attacks, and on 23 November ran a front page article that twisted results of a poll, falsely purporting to show that 20 per cent of British Muslims had “sympathy with jihadis”. The racist targeting of Muslims in Britain as collectively “responsible” for Islamist terrorism is directly promoted by the government, as when Cameron was widely quoted telling British Muslims at the start of Ramadan in June 2015 that they should take responsibility for “condoning” the ideology of ISIS.

Starting under the Blair Labour government, “war on terror” measures against the population in Britain have been ramped up year on year. Legislation passed in early 2015 allows the state to bar anyone suspected of harbouring terrorist intentions, including British citizens, from leaving or entering the country. Schools and universities are now required to spy on students to prevent Islamic “radicalisation”. Cameron & Co have been itching to push through a new law, dubbed the “snoopers charter”, to legalise the broader interception of the private communications of the British population. This would augment the mass collection and storage of electronic communication that British intelligence already carries out and shares with the US National Security Agency, as revealed by Edward Snowden.

It is the US, British, French and other imperialists 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 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” (, 17 November 2015). The 2003 US invasion of Iraq pulverised that society, killing nearly one million people and sparking a brutal civil war centrally between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. Since 2011, the US, France, Britain and their regional allies — such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other 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 was 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 US Air Force drone operators and technicians wrote an open letter to Obama denouncing the drone programme: “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 workers revolution!

It is precisely to imbue the working class with the understanding that its enemy is its “own” ruling class that we have always underlined the need 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 or al Qaeda or some other Islamic reactionary force that has taken income inequality in this country to virtually unprecedented heights. It is the British capitalist rulers who have squeezed the working people of Britain, devastating their livelihoods. Here just as in France, it is the capitalist rulers who have ravaged the proletariat and oppressed, offering not the slightest bit of future for Muslim (and other) youth. Along with racist demonisation of Muslims, such desperate conditions drive some 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 US, French and British imperialists. As the imperialists 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 — ie, 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 cut-throats 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. Recently, 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 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. When the Soviet Union intervened in 1979 in Afghanistan, at the behest of the modernising nationalist regime there, its 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 US, 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 US rulers predominate. The goal of Marxists in the imperialist centres is to instil in the proletariat of each country the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within, through socialist revolution. To realise this task requires forging revolutionary workers parties, sections of a reforged Fourth International committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.


Workers Hammer No. 233

WH 233

Winter 2015-2016


Class war in the Labour Party

Tories and Blairites turn the screw on Corbyn


Down with anti-Muslim repression!

US, Britain, France out of the Near East!


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Myriam (Fetneh) Benoît: 1949–2015


Polish judge denies extradition to US

Defend Roman Polanski!


"Tolerant" Ireland: hell for Travellers


China is not capitalist

China and the world economy: fact v fiction


No deportations! Down with the European Union!

Racist Fortress Europe and the refugee crisis