Workers Hammer No. 230

Spring 2015


"National unity" crusade after Paris massacres

France: down with "war on terror" repression!

We reprint below a translation of a 17 January statement issued by our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France, reprinted from Workers Vanguard no 1060, 23 January 2015. It refers to Vigipirate, a massive mobilisation of French police and military to sow terror in minority neighbourhoods and to patrol transport hubs hunting for supposed terror suspects.

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The criminal attacks in Paris carried out by Islamic fundamentalists against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and during a hostage situation in a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes — civilians selected and killed in a store because they were Jewish — are horrific acts that we categorically condemn. But this does not stop us from also vigorously opposing the cynical campaign of “national unity” fuelled by the capitalist government to promote its “war on terrorism” and reinforce the police and military apparatus of French imperialism. We oppose the Vigipirate security plan and the climate of war created by the bourgeois propaganda machine. We are also opposed to all measures that strengthen the arsenal of police repression as well as the new “anti-terrorist” military adventures that have already been announced or are being prepared. The calls for the “unity” of classes, supported by the misleaders of the trade union federations, serve only to bind the working class and the oppressed to their oppressors. Down with Vigipirate!

This “national unity” campaign will continue to fuel an anti-Muslim pogromist atmosphere throughout the country and strengthen the rise of the fascists of [the National Front’s Marine] Le Pen and her ilk. In the days following the attack against Charlie Hebdo, a series of attacks took place against the Muslim community in a dozen cities across France — gunshots, grenades, graffiti desecrations and pigs’ heads left at the doors of mosques. In this sense, the Paris terrorist attacks are also a blow against the Muslim population, which was already in the crosshairs of the capitalist state.

The 11 January demonstration in Paris, organised by the Socialist Party government, was an obscene expression of imperialist arrogance and hypocrisy. There one could see the heads of capitalist states who are among the most brutal and barbaric criminals in the world today, from [Germany’s Angela] Merkel and [David] Cameron to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. And taking centre stage was [François] Hollande, who pursues a savage domestic policy of austerity and attacks against the working class and expels Roma and other immigrants by the thousands. Hollande is the leader of French imperialism, which has a history of over 100 years of oppression and the massacre of millions of colonised subjects. Recently, it has conducted murderous interventions in Iraq, Libya, the Central African Republic and Mali.

The repeated military interventions by France and other imperialist powers, with their legacy of destruction and massacres, have played a direct role in the rise of Islamists in the Near East — and in France itself. From North Africa to the Levant, the French bourgeoisie and its successive governments carry on today, as do other imperialist powers including the US and Britain, a policy that dates back to colonial times. They plunder the natural resources and retard the economic development of their former colonies, and they have reduced entire regions to a pile of rubble while stoking deadly ethnic and religious divisions.

The National Assembly has just decided in an almost-unanimous vote to extend France’s military commitment in Iraq against ISIS. The imperialists have never had the slightest qualms about supporting such reactionary forces when they feel this can serve their sordid interests. For three years, the French in particular supported the “Syrian revolution”, even as the number of reactionary jihadists was steadily increasing. Now the French rulers have cynically turned against the monster they themselves helped to create.

It is the imperialists who are responsible for the bloody chaos into which this region has been plunged. They are the worst enemies of humanity, and any blow to the imperialist forces and their foot soldiers, even on the part of forces as repugnant as ISIS, would thus serve the interests of the international working class. Marxists place themselves militarily on the side of ISIS against imperialism, without giving the least political support to these reactionaries, who are our resolute enemies. Down with American and French imperialist intervention in Iraq! French troops out of the Near East and Africa!

The capitalist rulers have seized upon the Vincennes atrocity in order to posture as defenders of the Jews. What hypocrisy! The sordid history of the French bourgeoisie vis-à-vis the Jews includes the Dreyfus affair as well as the deportation of over 75,000 Jews — men, women, children and the elderly — to the Nazi death camps.

Since 2012, when Mohamed Merah killed three Jewish schoolchildren and their teacher, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Jews emigrating from France. The bourgeoisie has seized on that attack to pass off the entire population of the immigrant suburbs as repugnant anti-Semites, while supporting the terrorist actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinians. All of this is used by fundamentalist preachers and fascistic scum like Dieudonné/Soral, who seek to whip up reactionary anti-Jewish prejudices in the suburbs by identifying all Jews with the murderous Zionist rulers.

Of all the European countries, France has the largest population of Jews and Muslims. The French bourgeoisie uses the policy of “divide and rule” in order to benefit from the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Near East as well as to sow divisions within the working class here in France between its various components — those of so-called “French origin”, Jews, those of North African or Sub-Saharan African origin. The workers movement must defend Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, women and all the oppressed against attacks by reactionaries and fascists as well as against the offensive of the capitalist state.

The Paris demonstration was awash with “I Am Charlie” placards. The attack against Charlie Hebdo was a despicable criminal act. However, we are not “Charlie”. Since 11 September 2001, Charlie Hebdo has carved out a niche for itself in the Islamophobic bourgeois press. In a context of growing racist campaigns against the population of North African and African origin, and in the guise of the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, Charlie Hebdo has regularly published anti-Muslim cartoons and articles. The front page of the issue published on the day of the murders promoted the latest racist and Islamophobic rant of writer Michel Houellebecq. Charlie Hebdo also provocatively published the racist Danish cartoons in 2006, including the one in which the turban of the prophet Mohammed covered a bomb. We denounced these cartoons, which serve only to encourage attacks by the state and the fascists against the oppressed. [See “Racist Anti-Muslim Cartoons Spark Fundamentalist Frenzy”, Workers Vanguard no 864, 17 February 2006.]

While the French bourgeoisie and its government hail the right of free speech for Islamophobic provocations, this right is denied to anyone who expresses an opinion — even in a private conversation or on Facebook — that does not coincide with the government’s “republican values”. Indeed, under the Cazeneuve law that was passed in November, they can be thrown in jail. Two hundred state school students were identified for not observing the 8 January national minute of silence as well as for other acts; about 40 of them were reported to the police. More than 70 people have been arrested so far, including the anti-Jewish demagogue Dieudonné, for “apology for acts of terrorism”, simply for having expressed an opinion. In Lille, three civil service workers are threatened with being fired for not observing the minute of silence. Hearings and trials have been sped up and several people have already been convicted — one was sentenced to four years in prison. The accused can be hit with heavy fines and up to five years in prison for a verbal offence and up to seven years if an offending text is posted on the internet. We demand that these charges be dropped! Free those who have been jailed!

In the aftermath of the attacks, [Prime Minister Manuel] Valls is preparing to further beef up the already enormous police powers introduced over the past few years, allowing the state, among other things, to continue to siphon data from the internet (now in all legality). Already, 10,500 soldiers and over 100,000 gendarmes and police have been deployed. Countless demonstrators on Sunday [11 January] applauded the cops. But the cops are the guardians of capital; their role is to protect the racist capitalist order. They are enemies of the working class and the oppressed. They persecute dark-skinned youth, round up undocumented workers and help the bosses break strikes. They are at the core of the state, which defends the capitalist ruling class, as shown for example in the police assassination of several hundred Algerian workers in Paris on 17 October 1961.

Islam in France is a minority religion in a country in which the bourgeoisie and its culture remain fundamentally Catholic. As Marxists, we are resolutely for the separation of the reactionary Catholic church and the state. That is what secularism is, but today in France it has become a code word used to stigmatise Islam.

The appearance in French cities of murderous Islamic fundamentalists, from Merah to Nemmouche and today the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, is a direct product of the segregation and alienation of millions of people, French second-class citizens who are victims of unrelenting racist discrimination. The influence of Islamic fundamentalism developed in the ghettos following the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92 and the many betrayals committed for decades by the chauvinist leaders of the workers movement. Notably, the leaders of the organised workers movement refused to defend dark-skinned youth during the 2005 revolt in the suburbs, which was a desperate reaction to increasing daily racist terror and unemployment.

Against the “national unity” campaign, we Marxists say that only the organised working class, conscious of its historical role in liberating the oppressed masses, is able to put an end to the domination of the capitalist class and its state. The working class can advance the struggle against capitalist exploitation only through uncompromising defence of the oppressed and democratic rights, and in opposition to all imperialist atrocities committed by “its” capitalist ruling class, at home and abroad. Our task is to build a revolutionary proletarian party based on the Marxist understanding that the whole rotten capitalist system must be overthrown through workers revolution.