Excellent analysis - JR
Terror attacks in France are blow to working class
BY MAGGIE TROWE
The cold-blooded execution of cartoonists and others at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad by two men affiliated with al-Qaeda in Yemen, and the related anti-Semitic attack and murder of four Jewish shoppers in a kosher grocery in Paris dealt a blow to the working-class movement and the fight for political space. It also exposed the hypocrisy of the French ruling class and its bourgeois Socialist Party government, whose laws restrict freedom of speech and who used the attacks as a pretext to put thousands of soldiers on the streets, step up government surveillance and tighten border controls.
The French rulers combine covering up the real history of Jew-hatred and assaults on Jews fostered and reproduced by social relations in France for well over half a century with efforts to use the recent attacks to fan the flames of anti-Muslim prejudice.
Two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, French citizens of Algerian descent, cold-bloodedly shot down those at Charlie Hebdo, well-known for its vulgar cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, the Catholic Pope and other religious figures. The two self-proclaimed Islamists fled, taking refuge and a hostage at a printing plant near Charles de Gaulle Airport.
A Jan. 14 statement by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, said it organized the killings, as "revenge for the honor" of the Prophet Muhammad and called the assassins "two heroes of Islam."
Amedy Coulibaly, a French citizen of Senegalese descent, who knew the Kouachis, took 15 people hostage at the kosher grocery in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris Jan. 9. When a journalist he contacted asked why he attacked that supermarket, he said he wanted to target "some Jews." During the siege, Coulibaly made a video of himself before a poster of the Islamic State flag, pledging his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group's leader, and the caliphate he has declared in parts of Iraq and Syria.
Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are reactionary, anti-working-class groups that seek to establish theocracies and impose Islamic Sharia law on society. Falsely claiming to act in the interest of the Muslim religion, they rely on terrorist actions and brutality against those they consider enemies to instill fear, divisions and submissiveness among working people.
Islamic State has its origins in a split from al-Qaeda of Iraq. Its brutal forces, led by al-Baghdadi, have declared an Islamist caliphate and drawn recruits from the Mideast, North Africa, Europe and the U.S.
The only reason they have any influence today is because of the vacuum of working-class leadership in the Middle East, a result of decades of betrayals and defeats engendered by Stalinist forces and the exhaustion of bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalist currents there.
Police and French special forces stormed the hideouts, killing the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly, and wounding four of the hostages in the grocery.
Charlie Hebdo is a left-leaning weekly that features cartoons mocking political and religious figures with heavy-handed and lewd humor. Its readership had been in decline before the massacre.
Free speech, fight against Jew-hatred
Defense of political space and free speech and the fight against Jew-hatred are burning questions for working people everywhere.
The French government of President François Hollande organized a cross-class "unity" rally of more than 1 million in Paris Jan. 11, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other capitalist rulers.
While Hollande denounced the attack on free expression, France has some of the toughest "hate-speech" laws restricting free speech on the continent.
French law makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $38,000 to use speech that insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation. These laws have been used against a broad spectrum of targets, including Charlie Hebdo. In another act of repression and social-engineering, French authorities in 2011 banned women from wearing the Muslim veil in public, with a $217 penalty for the "offense."
European governments wasted no time using the attacks to justify new curbs on political rights. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced Jan. 12 that 10,000 soldiers would be deployed in the country. The day before European officials called for tighter controls of borders and greater surveillance of airline passengers. The bourgeois media focused on calls for greater surveillance in Muslim areas and restrictions on travel from countries in the Middle East.
Increased attacks on Jews
There has been an increase in attacks on Jews in France and elsewhere in Europe. France has the third largest Jewish population worldwide, after Israel and the United States. Fear of anti-Semitic violence has spurred increasing emigration from France to Israel and elsewhere in Europe.
Many on the left in Europe and the U.S. claim, as in the words of Liberation, the online paper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, that "vile cartoons deliberately intended to offend the Muslim community" exhibit "extreme racism" that fuels working-class prejudice against Muslim immigrants and aids the rise of "fascist demagogues." But they say nothing about the blatant Jew-hatred that marked the killings in Paris.
Liberal bourgeois politicians promoted hysteria over rising vote totals for right-wing French National Front party leader Marine Le Pen. In fact, she has shifted the party toward the bourgeois center, distanced herself from anti-Semitic comments by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and taken positions on immigration similar to those of the Hollande administration and his center-right challenger, former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
When the National Front was excluded by Hollande from participating in the Paris "unity" event, Le Pen organized a gathering in Beaucaire, where National Front supporters rallied under a banner reading "I am Charlie — Homage to the victims of terrorism."
Defend free speech, fight Jew-hatred!
The execution of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and the murder of Jewish shoppers at a kosher market in Paris by self-proclaimed Islamists are attacks on all working people. The working class needs to answer these reactionary acts, fighting to defend and expand political space and against Jew-hatred. The assassinations set back the fight against anti-Muslim prejudices used by the capitalists to divide working people and deal further blows to political rights.
Working people must vigorously reject the argument made by some on the left that the vulgar or provocative nature of the cartoonists' drawings in some way justifies the attacks.
Rejecting Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic violence is a life-or-death question for the working-class movement in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and everywhere. Those who remain silent in the face of anti-Semitic attacks, or say they "understand" them as defense against scapegoating Muslims or the Palestinian struggle, deal blows to the fight to end the dictatorship of capital. No revolutionary proletarian movement can be built if the fight against anti-Semitism is not blood and bone of its program and practice.
At the Jan. 11 Paris "unity" march in support of French imperialism, French President François Hollande and other leaders of imperialist powers in Europe hypocritically portrayed themselves as defenders of democratic rights.
But the French ruling class champions the use of "hate speech" laws to restrict freedom of expression and divide the working class. It fines and makes pariahs of women who wear the Islamic veil in public. Permitting the capitalist rulers and their government to silence "offensive" journalists or artists or to ban veils or other religious garb gives them a tool to divide and attack the working class, especially as resistance to the bosses' assaults increases.
Hollande's mobilization of 10,000 troops on the streets in the wake of the attacks is aimed at setting a precedent for military deployment against workers' struggles in the future.
The labor movement needs the widest political space possible to protest, strike, and debate the road forward and unite with others in common struggles on the way to ending forever the dictatorship of capital.