Workers Vanguard No. 1011

26 October 2012


France: Cop Crackdown on Muslim Demonstrators

Defend Minority Youth!

Defend the Right to Protest!

The following is a translation of a September 18 leaflet issued by the Ligue Trotskyste de France, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

The recent broadcast on YouTube of Innocence of Muslims, a repugnant, inflammatory attack on the prophet Muhammad, was a racist provocation consciously calculated to arouse the anger of Muslims around the world. Protests erupted everywhere, especially in the Arab world but also in Paris. On September 15, about 200 demonstrators, mostly unorganized youth from the minority neighborhoods supervised by a few Salafists, tried to stage a protest near the U.S. Embassy not far from Place de la Concorde and the Elysée [presidential palace], where all demonstrations are generally prohibited.

The cops, claiming that the demonstration was unauthorized, engaged in a real manhunt in Paris, detaining about 150 people, some 75 percent of the demonstrators. The new social-democratic minister of cops, Manuel Valls, said he would go further and also prosecute the alleged organizers of the event, who could get up to six months in jail and a fine of 7,500 euros [$9,764]. The police attack is a direct threat to the right to protest and a threat to the labor movement in particular.

By sending the cops against protesters on September 15, the new capitalist popular-front government of François Hollande and Manuel Valls is in line with its Sarkozyite predecessors. In his fury, Valls is perhaps even more grotesque than his predecessors, Brice Hortefeux and Claude Guéant. Valls went so far as to tell Agence France-Presse: “I will not allow…slogans hostile to allied countries, hostile to our values, to be heard in our streets.” Will this fanatic use this opportunity to prohibit not only demonstrations but even slogans against crimes committed by U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan, or by the Zionist state against the Palestinians, or by Athens and Brussels against the Greek workers?

President Hollande began his five-year term by exhibiting his “values” in a tribute to Jules Ferry, who during his lifetime was called “Ferry-Tonkin” because of his glorification of colonialism. Will Valls’ values lead him to outlaw demonstrations against crimes committed by French troops in Libya or the Ivory Coast, or against the detention camps in Mayotte [a French possession in the Indian Ocean], where babies are dying? His outrageous statements are a threat to the entire labor movement and beyond. Socialist Party/Green government, hands off the right to protest! Drop the charges against alleged participants and organizers of the September 15 pro-Muslim demonstration!

Valls even took the opportunity to enact a “terrorism” bill drawn up mainly under Sarkozy. This legislation would extend for three years the extraordinary right of the political police to spy on phone calls and the Internet and to sue “jihadists” for opinions expressed on the Web. In the Merah case [see “French Elections: No Choice for Workers,” WV No. 999, 3 March], Claude Guéant said, “We do not criminalize intent.” But Valls wants to criminalize travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan. We warned that Hollande’s program was Sarkozyism without the bling, and, unlike the French Communist Party, the New Anticapitalist Party and even Lutte Ouvrière, we called for no vote for Hollande’s popular front. Down with the government’s racist “anti-terrorism” measures! Their only purpose is to strengthen the repressive apparatus of the state against the working class. The police are the watchdogs of capital. As Bolshevik leader Lenin wrote [The State and Revolution, 1917]:

“Civilised society is split into antagonistic, and, moreover, irreconcilably antagonistic, classes, whose ‘self-acting’ arming would lead to an armed struggle between them. A state arises, a special power is created, special bodies of armed men, and every revolution, by destroying the state apparatus, shows us the naked class struggle, clearly shows us how the ruling class strives to restore the special bodies of armed men which serve it, and how the oppressed class strives to create a new organisation of this kind, capable of serving the exploited instead of the exploiters.”

This is why the capitalist state cannot be reformed to serve the interests of workers, ban layoffs or implement other reformist fantasies. It will have to be smashed by a workers revolution that will establish the power of workers councils, as was done in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The capitalist government’s offensive against the minority youth they arbitrarily label “Salafists” is in line with this summer’s attacks against youth in the working-class neighborhoods of Amiens and against the Roma (Gypsies). It specifically targets isolated and marginalized layers, who suffer from rampant unemployment, in order to pit workers against each other along religious or ethnic lines. Its aim is to both weaken the working class and strengthen the police arsenal against labor as a whole, as only labor has the social power and historic interest to put an end to the capitalist system.

Salafists are obscurantist, anti-women reactionaries. Our international organization has a long history of struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. For example, we hailed the Soviet Red Army in 1979 when it intervened, at the request of the Afghan government, to stop an uprising of reactionary mullahs who wanted to impose the burqa [head-to-toe veil] with weapons and money from the CIA and the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia. In all religions, the veil symbolizes women’s oppression, which itself is rooted in the private ownership of the means of production and in the family. But we have always opposed the bourgeois state’s ban on wearing the veil. In France, this is a racist measure against Muslim women and youth. Two years ago we warned that the law against the burqa would also be used against minority youth wearing a ski mask. We also oppose legal measures against blasphemy, which the Catholic church periodically demands in France. This kind of law represents a danger because the state would use it primarily to pursue and punish anyone who opposes religious reaction.

Religious backwardness in minority communities is the result of oppression, unemployment and racist cop terror, as well as the fact that the labor movement does not defend these youth against ubiquitous racist segregation. Religion provides an illusion of heavenly consolation for real misery on earth. This is why the fight against religious backwardness cannot be separated from the struggle to eradicate its cause, capitalist oppression. The bourgeoisie understands very well that religion is an asset in diverting the struggle of the oppressed for their social emancipation. The French imperialists, along with the United States and NATO, played a crucial role last year, under Sarkozy, in putting Muslim reactionaries in power in Libya, with the direct or veiled support of the French left. French troops out of Africa, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Abu Dhabi!

Not to defend these youth under the pretext that they were led by reactionary Salafists would give a blank check to the bourgeois state and its transparent divisive maneuvers: the working class must defend all the oppressed against repression. This raises the need for a multiethnic, multiracial Bolshevik proletarian vanguard party. Our model is a revolutionary

“who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

—Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902)

Defend the right to protest! Down with the racist cop witchhunt against Muslim fundamentalists! The labor movement must defend minority youth!