LCFI statement on Charlie Hebdo: Islamophobia is the racism de jour 10/1/15

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11/01/2015 by socialistfight

Charlie3

We defy anyone to say this is not a vile racist, Islamophobic, sexist piece of French imperialist propaganda. It has a double meaning which suggests that the young women are ‘finally’ angry because of their benefits being removed and did not mind being kidnapped and repeatedly raped.

The LCFI asserts that the roots cause of the deaths at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris on 7 January is imperialism’s wars on Muslim lands, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria, etc. Marxists never equate the violence of the oppressor with that of the oppressed, we make no moral judgements on the people who have carried out these attacks and recognise the deaths caused by imperialism in these lands run into the hundreds of thousands, if not the low millions.

Already by May 12, 1996, in response to the question from Lesley Stahl, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Madeleine Albright, then United States Ambassador to the United Nations replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

We do not have the right to dictate to the militant representatives of the oppressed how they conduct their struggles, not the IRA or the Palestinians or those fighting imperialism in the Middle East today. But as Marxists we oppose individual acts of terror like this on the political grounds that it cannot achieve its aims of defeating imperialism by these methods and in fact only ends up doing the opposite; strengthening the hands of the state against them and alienation their only true potential allies, the French and international working class, as we discuss below.

As Trotsky said:

“In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy.” [1]

BrandonDuncan

The state of California wants to affirm in law that freedom of speech is a privilege, not a right. If we are to compare the case of Brandon Duncan and Charlie Hebdo ‘gross hypocrisy’ is the only phrase that springs to mind.

Free Speech and Gross Hypocrisy

The great cry of imperialism today is “freedom of speech”. One is not permitted to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre because although this would appear to fall under the remit of freedom of expression; this freedom is curtailed due to social responsibilities. As such one should not cry ‘scrounger’ at a minority group who suffer disproportionately from unemployment, and it may cause a social stampede and get someone beaten up in the street.

The WSWS commented on 9 January:

“In its use of crude and vulgar caricatures that purvey a sinister and stereotyped image of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo recalls the cheap racist publications that played a significant role in fostering the anti-Semitic agitation that swept France during the famous Dreyfus Affair, which erupted in 1894 after a Jewish officer was accused and falsely convicted of espionage on behalf of Germany. In whipping up popular hatred of Jews, La Libre Parole [“Free Speech”], published by the infamous Edoard Adolfe Drumont, made highly effective use of cartoons that employed the familiar anti-Semitic devices. The caricatures served to inflame public opinion, inciting mobs against Dreyfus and his defenders, such as Emile Zola, the great novelist and author of J’Accuse.” [2]

Freedom of expression is not an abstract, free-floating right, but rather should be employed in conjunction with, and properly situated amongst, the social, historical and political context of the day. In that great bastion of “free speech”, California, by far the wealthiest and most ‘liberal’ state of the union, a rap artist, Brandon Duncan, also known as Tiny Doo, with no criminal record faces life in prison for album lyrics. And here is the convoluted ‘logic’ behind the charge:

“We’re not just talking about a CD of anything, of love songs. We’re talking about a CD (cover) … there is a revolver with bullets,” Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna said, justifying his unconstitutional prosecution of the musician. Duncan is charged with “gang conspiracy” because his “gang gained in status” from crimes, and this – prosecutors argue – allowed him to “sell more albums.” [3]

The state of California wants to affirm in law that freedom of speech is a privilege, not a right. Apparently, prosecutors believe that writing lyrics about crime is a crime itself – and one punishable by a life sentence in prison. If we are to compare the case of Brandon Duncan and Charlie Hebdo ‘gross hypocrisy’ is the only phrase that springs to mind.

Of course the ‘free speech’ of Charlie Hebdo attacks the ruling class Christians, Jews etc but that is not used to justify the mass murder of hundreds of thousands. So you could defend the racism against Irish people because it was only a little fun and not understand how it justified the British army murders in Ireland? And those 1920s and 1930s anti Semitic cartoons; just a little fun and not ideological preparation for the Holocaust?

JakTheIrish

Ken Livingstone stated: “The clear message of the cartoon is that the Irish, as a race and as a community, are murderous, mindless thugs . . . I do not believe in free speech for racists . . . We will not put another penny into the Standard while they continue to vilify the Irish.”

Freedom of Expression and Racism

Charlie Hebdo is a right-wing libertarian magazine which promotes racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. Whatever the origins of these journalists in the leftism 1968 and after since the 2001 9/11 attack they have become ever more the mouthpiece of French imperialism.

At the height of war in Ireland anti Irish jokes and racist cartoons were everywhere. The Evening Standard published one called, ‘The Irish’, by JAK, on 29 October 1982 and Ken Livingstone withdrew all GLC advertising from them.

The poster was featured with grotesque figures wielding a variety of gruesome weapons and was part of a wider series of images and writings that have appeared in the UK for over 100 years that have portrayed the Irish as apelike, stupid, violent etc.

The cartoon led to protests by the British Irish community and resulted in the GLC led by Ken Livingstone banning advertising (worth some £100,000 per year) in the Standard.

Ken Livingstone stated:

“The clear message of the cartoon is that the Irish, as a race and as a community, are murderous, mindless thugs . . . I do not believe in free speech for racists . . . We will not put another penny into the Standard while they continue to vilify the Irish.”

The purpose of the attacks was to portray the Irish as sub human savages and so make the British army killing of them acceptable. It is truly pathetic that those leftists who supported the stance taken by Livingstone then cannot do so now over Charlie Hebdo today.

NoNegros

In 1930s America when white people were burning black people on trees, whites could equally have used the argument that they, like Charlie Hebdo, attack all religions equally. After all, there were cartoons even about the American president! However, making insulting cartoons about white people who controlled the power structures was not the same as demonizing black people - a powerless underclass.

Imagery of black people being dumb, violent, lazy thieves who looked like monkeys - upheld a political reality, the very imagery re-enforced the prejudices of those in power and subjugated blacks. Until the 1950s, signs like no dogs, no Negros, no Mexicans were common markers of legally enforced laws of racial segregation in America. The Franck law against Muslim women wearing the veil/hijab is along those same lines.

The same with Jews in Nazi Germany — Imagine today’s spurious and conceited argument being used by the Nazi’s — could a German newspaper hide behind the claim it also made fun of white Germans? How unjustified that only the Jews complained so! After all, Germans didn’t complain when they were made fun of — those backward Jews and their greedy religion didn’t understand free speech!

This is the memory of a Jewish person of what it was like in Nazi Germany:

“My earliest personal encounter with anti-Semitism were the horrible cartoons of Jews in the official Nazi propaganda papers, “Das Schwarze Korps”, an SS paper, and “Der Vőlkische Beobachter”, displayed behind glass in showcases fixed at eye level to walls at street corners. They showed the most ugly Jews with the most enormous noses clad in either Russian-Bolshevik uniforms or with an “Uncle Sam” Stars and Stripes top hat and called Plutocrats, both apparently dominating the world, or trying to, profiting from exploiting good-looking innocent Germans. How unlike the truth!” [4]

NaziAntiSemitism

The Muslims of France and other European countries are suffering that same type of attacks today. As the Muslims of the Middle East and Afghanistan have been slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands by imperialist armies in the last few decades racism against Muslims justified this mass slaughter. We identify anti Muslim racism today as gelling with the imperialist slaughter in the Middle East and only superficially like the anti Christian and anti Semitic stuff, repulsive and reactionary as this is.

The French working class must defend the oppressed Muslims

The blogger Asghar Bukhari put it this way:

“White people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination. The Muslims today are a demonized underclass in France. A people vilified and attacked by the power structures. A poor people with little or no power and these vile cartoons made their lives worse and heightened the racist prejudice against them. Even white liberals have acted in the most prejudiced way. It was as if white people had a right to offend Muslims and Muslims had no right to be offended?” [5]

But we really do need a ‘health warning’ about this approach. “White people” are not the problem but Imperialism itself whose ideology does reach deep into the French working class, it is true. In line with this non-class approach Asghar Bukhari frequently confuses ‘Zionist’ with ‘Jew’ and therefore is open to the charge of anti-Semitism. And as an educated representative of the oppressed Muslims it really is not acceptable to confuse the two. The task of Marxists is to forge a programme of action to defend the Muslims of France and of Europe against the state and the far right by forging unity with the working class.

In this we concur entirely with the RCIT statement:

“A chief task for socialists in France and Europe now is to organize self-defense units in order to defend mosques and migrant districts against chauvinist attacks. It is equally urgent to build a broad united front against the anti-Muslim chauvinism. Finally, it is urgent to build a strong anti-war movement against the spreading imperialist war drive in the Middle East and in Africa.” [6]

Equally we concur with their condemnation of the French left like the French Communist party (PCF) whose national chauvinism has led them to support ‘national unity’ in effect that is their own ruling class attacks on Muslims. The NPA and Lutte Ouvrière, whilst couregeously defending the Muslims, were also wrong not to put the attack in its historical and political context:

“The RCIT severely condemns the French Communist Party (PCF) and many other so-called “leftist” groups for their support of Hollande’s pro-imperialist call for “national unity.” While the centrist forces – the NPA (whose leading forces are part of the Mandelite “Fourth International”) and Lutte Ouvrière – in their statements of January 7 have not joined Hollande’s reactionary “national unity,” they both condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo as an attack on “freedom of expression.” At the same time, they fail to mention even in a single word the connection between this event and France’s imperialist wars against Muslim peoples, or its oppression and super-exploitation of migrants. In their statements, both of these centrist groups refer to their close relations with the journalists of Charlie Hebdo and thereby reveal their affiliation with the bourgeois-liberal milieu.” [7]

This collaboration and silence of the left is all the more appalling considering the history of French Imperialism’s exploitation of North Africa and the massacres both Muslim North Africa and Paris itself.

We summarise and quote from the article by Mawuna Remarque Koutonin in Wiki:

Still to this day fourteen African countries are forced to pay colonial tax for the benefits of slavery and colonization. The crucial confrontations were by De Gaulle with Guinea, Togo and Senegal, the rest were forced to follow suit. In 1958 the French left Guinea and destroyed all infrastructure when they left, crushing cars and leveling buildings in an orgy of destruction. The next up was Togo, who were forced to agree to pay an annual debt to France for the so called benefits Togo got from French colonization. Senegal scared about the consequence of choosing independence from France, Leopold Sédar Senghor the first president of Senegal declared: “The choice of the Senegalese people is independence; they want it to take place only in friendship with France, not in dispute.”From then on France accepted only an “independence on paper” for his colonies, but signed binding “Cooperation Accords”, detailing the nature of their relations with France, in particular ties to France colonial currency (the Franc), France educational system, military and commercial preferences. [8]

We recall the Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians on 17 October 1961, during the Algerian War (1954–62). The Wiki article gives us a true picture of the nature of the French state and its police forces even today:

“Under orders from the head of the Parisian police, Maurice Papon, the French police attacked a forbidden demonstration of some 30,000 pro-FLN Algerians… Many demonstrators died when they were violently herded by police into the River Seine, with some thrown from bridges after being beaten unconscious. Other demonstrators were killed within the courtyard of the Paris police headquarters after being arrested and delivered there in police buses.

…Maurice Papon, who died in 2007, was the only Vichy France official to be convicted for his role in the deportation of Jews during World War Two. According to historian Jean-Luc Einaudi, a specialist in the 17 October 1961 massacre, some of the causes of the violent repression of the 17 October 1961 demonstration can best be understood in terms of the composition of the French police force itself, which still included many former members of the force in place during the World War II Vichy regime which had collaborated with the Gestapo to detain Jews, as for example in the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of 16–17 July 1942.

…Encouraged by far-right deputy Jean-Marie Le Pen, (in March 1958) 2,000 of them attempted to enter the Palais Bourbon, seat of the National Assembly, with shouts of “Sales Juifs! A la Seine! Mort aux fellaghas!” (Dirty Jews! Into the Seine (river)! Death to the (Algerian) rebels!). With the recommendation of Minister of Interior Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury, Maurice Papon was next day named prefect of the police.” [9]

Butchery by cowards

“Butchery by cowards” is what one Facebook post called the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But “Butchery by cowards” is dropping bombs from 20,000 feet on defenceless civilians because you never have to see their faces or look at what ‘doing your job’ does to built-up areas. The biggest cowards and butchers sit in the White House, Downing Street, the Élysée Palace and Tel Aviv. Their outraged victims’ relatives are often not very politically sussed on how to extract revolutionary justice from these mass murderers. They assassinate and target workers in imperialist countries who have no responsibility for what happened to them. And the imperialist spy agencies of the CIA, MI5, DGSE, Mossad etc. encourage and foster these methods by ‘false flag’ operations which are calculate to inflame sectarian tensions and strengthen the hand of the state against the oppressed.

The cause of the violence is imperialism not religious fundamentalism. Of course a revolutionary government would have to tackle this real problem sensitivity to separate the secondary oppressors from their victims, defend the peasants from the landlords, women from the imposition of the veil etc. But never, never as an ally of the ‘civilising mission’ of imperialism, never be taken in by that peace and democracy bullshit which only puts double chains on these oppressed people. That is unforgivable in Ukraine, in Palestine, in the whole of the Middle East and the whole semi-colonial world. The contrast between the bureaucratic/Stalinist/liberal imperialist approach to religion and the Marxist approach as practiced by the early Comintern is outline here in the 1997 document:

Afghanistan: Marxist Method vs. Bureaucratic method, By Gerry Downing 1997. The following quote indicates the tasks that a reforged Fourth International would face in these lands and how to tackle them:

“It took fifteen years of warfare to subdue the uprisings in the Soviet Central Asian republics caused in the main by Menshevik and Stalinist bureaucratic methods. Some conflict was and is inevitable if the power of the Mullahs, Khans and fundamentalists is again to be broken in the countries of Soviet Central Asia and in Afghanistan, Iran through to Algeria. What terrible price humanity must pay for the marginalisation of the transitional method of the Bolsheviks and the triumph of the counter-revolutionary bureaucratic methods of fighting reaction of Stalinism and petty-bourgeois nationalism in these states.” [10]

We defy anyone to say the cartoon of the kidnapped Nigerian women is not a vile racist, Islamophobic, sexist piece of French imperialist propaganda. It has a double meaning which suggests that the young women are ‘finally’ angry because of their benefits being removed and did not mind being kidnapped and repeatedly raped.

Islamophobia is the “racism du Jour” in the current political climate. And Charlie Hebdo lobbed in the anti Russian stuff on the Ukraine to make sure no one doubted where their true pro-Imperialist political loyalties lay.

Notes

[1] Trotsky, Leon. Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism, (November 1911), http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1911/11/tia09.htm

[2] WSWS, “Free Speech” hypocrisy in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/09/pers-j09.html

[3] Rap Artist With No Criminal Record Faces Life In Prison For Album Lyrics, November 19, 2014, http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/11/rap-artist-with-no-criminal-record-faces-life-in-prison-for-album-lyrics/

[4] The Family Brichta, http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/brichta1.html

[5] https://medium.com/@asgharbukhari/charlie-hebdo-this-attack-was-nothing-to-do-with-free-speech-it-was-about-war-26aff1c3e998.

[6] Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 9.1.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net

[7] Ibid.

[8] 14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax For the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization, By Mawuna Remarque Koutonin http://www.siliconafrica.com/france-colonial-tax/

[9] Paris massacre of 1961, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_massacre_of_1961

[10] Afghanistan: Marxist Method vs. Bureaucratic method, By Gerry Downing 1997, https://socialistfight.com/2014/08/15/afghanistan-marxist-method-vs-bureaucratic-method-by-gerry-downing-1997/

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