The Paris Massacre: Imperialism’s chickens coming home to roost


17/11/2015 by socialistfight

French and Global imperialism’s assault on Afghanistan the Middle East and North Africa bear the ultimate responsibility for the Paris Massacre

Socialist Fight statement on the Paris Massacre 17-11-2015

Socialist Fight condemns utterly the barbaric terrorist action carried out on Friday 13 November in Paris, which has left around 130 dead, and another 300 injured, 80 critically. These came only hours after other bloody actions targeting Shia Muslims in bombings in Beirut, where 41 died, and Baghdad, where 26 were killed.

We condemn these actions as bloody crimes against the French, Middle Eastern and international working class, and indeed the civilian populations more generally. We extend our profound condolence, sympathy and solidarity to the families and friends to the murdered victims and the wounded.

As Marxists we are totally opposed to methods of individual terrorism however ‘anti-imperialist’ the motivation of the perpetrators may be. The inevitable consequences of this is civilian casualties, intended or not. And the attack never weakens imperialism, it ALWAYS strengthens the repressive forces of the capitalist state against the working class and its aspiring revolutionary leadership. This attack in Paris is qualitatively worse than the Charlie Hebdo massacre because however misguided that was a least it was against targeted victims who they held to be in some manner, however distorted, responsible for the wars in the Middle East and North Africa. This attack was for openly reactionary motives specifically targeting defenceless civilians which can only result in increased Islamophobia and repression of the entire working class and further moves towards a police state.

The value of the lives of imperialist and third world citizens contrasted

It cannot go without note in the semi-colonial world how great a value imperialist powers like the USA, Britain and France places on the lives of their own mainly white citizens compared to their almost casual disregard for the mass killings of citizens of oppressed nations. The massive outrage and subsequent wars by the USA after 9/11, Britain after 7/7 and the French reaction to the Paris Massacre by mass bombing of Raqqa must be contrasted in the third world to the casual and patronisingly contemptuous mere note made of the hundreds of thousands dead in Muslim lands.

The Paris Massacre is just the latest in a series of horrific massacres in 2015 against ‘soft targets’ by Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Kenya, Libya and Nigeria.; civilians and ethnic minorities, including women and children randomly chosen to spread terror. These killings in 2015 alone include the following major massacres of ‘soft targets: Boko Haram sent suicide bombers and massacred with AK47s against random soft targets in Nigeria and neighbouring countries; in Nigeria on 3-7 January up to 2,000 were murdered in Baga, 91 murdered on 4-5 February in Fotokol, and 145 in Maiduguri. Al Shabbaab massacred 147 in Garissa, Kenya on 1 April. IS massacred ethnic minorities and leftist opponents randomly over the year; 137 in Sana’a, Yemen on 20 March, 233 in Kobanî on 25-28 June in a revenge attack after they had been driven out by the Kurdish YPG, 130 in a marketplace suicide bombing in Khan Bani Saad, Iraq, 102 in Ankara on 10 October and 224 in the downing of the Russian plane in Sinai on 31 October. There are scores of suicide bombings and massacres by IS and its affiliates that took more than 20 and less than 100 lives throughout this year.

Moreover it must be noted that those killed by Islamic State and its numerous declared affiliates in the Middle East and North Africa is but a very small fraction of those killed by imperialism itself in its invasions and mass bombings and drone assassinations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. Sanctions caused a million Iraqis deaths between the First Gulf War in 1991 (including those half a million dead Iraqi children for whom Madeline Albright had such contempt) and the 2003 invasion, another million dead following Shock and Awe. And add to this the related proxy wars by US imperialist clients like Saudi Arabia’s mass bombing of Yemen and the civil war in Somalia. These are all products of imperialist interventions and divide and rule tactics of supporting one ethnic or religious group against another to foster conflict the easier to assert their domination. This old tactic of the British Empire frequently results in failed states but at least from imperialism’s point of view it removes more powerful organised opponents like Gadhafi.

The nature of Islamic State

Responsibility for the Paris atrocities has been claimed by the self-styled caliphate of Islamic State. The actions in the Middle East are characteristic of IS; there is no reason to disbelieve the claim about Paris, despite their statement containing only perfunctory detail of the events, consistent with media accounts. This fits in with the secretive cell structures that are likely to be the way IS combatants organise abroad – the centre would not know the operative details.

The fanatical self-styled caliphate is in a category of its own even in terms of Islamist groups in the Middle East. A splinter from the Al Qaeda movement founded by Osama bin Laden, it has outgrown its parent and now controls a major chunk of territory both in Iraq and Syria, as well as the allegiance of forces even as far away as Nigeria. Its claim to the caliphate gives it a wider appeal to a layer of youth of immigrant background, often second or third generation, who are outraged by imperialist crimes in conflicts such as Iraq and Palestine, and looking for ways to take revenge.

Such bloody attacks do nothing to avenge the crimes committed by imperialism. On the contrary, they provide an excuse and an opportunity for new massive atrocities by the same imperialists. The leaders of IS are not so much purely religious fanatics as the propagators of counterrevolutionary despair. Their actions in imperialist countries such as France are designed to destroy the possibility of collaboration and merging of alienated Muslim youth with the left and the workers movement to fight imperialism, in favour of provoking anti-Muslim bigotry and even pogroms, the better to corral more Muslim people into their camp on the basis of despair at any progressive change. Thus from the point of view of anti-imperialists, the actions of IS are utterly reactionary.

That does not exhaust the question however. The left and the workers’ movements in Europe have to fight, as a matter of great urgency, against the further attacks on Muslims that are in the pipeline, and to defend democratic rights more generally, against intensified police state measures that right-wing forces will take the opportunity to push through. We must firmly oppose renewed attacks on refugees and other migrants, as the xenophobes and racists are already exploiting the Paris events. And we still have the duty to oppose renewed imperialist interventions in the Middle East, including against IS, defending the targets of imperialist attacks. In fact, this will be true especially against IS, as this is where the pressure to intervene will come from most of all.

Thus the response of France’s ‘socialist’ President Hollande has been to promise a renewed war against terrorism. Even in bourgeois strategic terms, this is incoherent, as IS is quite obviously the product of previous ‘wars against terrorism’. In fact, over the last couple of years, the imperialist bombing of IS has undoubtedly strengthened IS itself.

IS is the product of imperialist barbarism. It is a petty-bourgeois Islamic radical movement that became a mass, ultra-radicalised force precisely because of the horrendous destruction visited upon Sunni Arab Iraq by the US invasion forces from 2003. In particular, it is the product of Bush’s ‘surge’ in 2004-5 when the core of the Sunni resistance in Fallujah and Ramadi, often led by former Ba’athist soldiers, and acting as part of an anti-colonial rebellion across sectarian lines with Sunni rebels in Najaf and Karbala, were brutally pulverised, including with radioactive weapons, by US forces.

The germ of IS was created then out of the forces originally involved in the Iraqi Al Qaeda movement. It grew into a formidable force as a result of gaining space to grow in the vacuum created by Assad’s loss of control in Syria. Finally, in early 2014 it signalled its real power to the world by taking control of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, and building a proto-state that obliterated the Sykes-Picot line, the artificial border between Syria and Iraq created by British and French colonialism in the context of WWI.

IS is an unusual force, in that it originated through the extreme barbarism of its opponents, and it feeds off that. Thus if anything, the imperialist attacks on it since Sept 2014 have strengthened it. Its militants do not fear death, and their bloody-minded self-sacrifice is attractive to others enraged by imperialist crimes. It is a product of the imperialist policy, instrumental for Zionism, of demolishing all and every regime in the Arab\Muslim Middle East able to stand up to Israel.

But in IS they have inadvertently brought into being something far tougher and more dangerous to them, something that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Khymer Rouge, the ultra-radicalised excrescence of a previous barbaric imperialist obliteration of an entire subjugated country. IS has had the skill to manipulate the Sunni-Shia antagonism in the Middle East and has gained some funding and support from regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but it is independent of them and has its own base.

Even Russian intervention in Syria does not seem to have seriously damaged it; it has though succeeded in causing some real pain to Russia through recently bringing down a Russian airliner full of tourists, travelling home from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Shaikh. And such actions as the US drone strike apparently killing ‘Jihadi John’, its British spokesman and head-chopper, will not damage it significantly, as its militants welcome ‘martyrdom’.

Indeed, the only force in the region that has had any real success in combatting IS has been the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) of Turkish Kurdistan and its allies in Syria, the YPG. This is largely because the PKK/YPG do have some real, radical quasi-revolutionary elements in their politics. The appearance of women fighters and the prominent position given to women in general in the struggle by the YPG stands in sharp contrast to all the Islamacist forces in the region and is an inspiring feature of their politics. This does mean however that they are feared by some of the local regimes more than IS itself. The Turkish regime, for instance, fears Kurdish radicals more than IS, and though it is supposed to be as a NATO member, at war with IS, spends more effort bombing PKK/YPG supporters than IS. Moreover the PKK/YPS is fighting IS as allies of the USA, who provided the air cover for their defence of Kobane the taking of Sinjar on 13 November. Here the echoes of the Kurdish civil war reverberated with Barzani’s forces enter the town from the east and claiming for his Kurdistan and the PKK/YPG forces claiming they had done the majority of the fighting, according to the New York Times on 13 November:

“We have been fighting in this city for 15 months,” said a fighter who went by the nom de guerre Adil Haroon, explaining that the P.K.K. had come to the Yazidis’ aid immediately after the ISIS takeover in August 2014, as the pesh merga were leaving. “We fought. They don’t fight. Now they say that we should leave. They were with us when we took the city but didn’t bother to get out of their cars.”

It seems that imperialism’s manoeuvrings between Barzani, the YPG and the PKK may yet come unstuck once the fighters in the ranks of the YPG and PKK realise the price they will be expected to pay for US ‘cooperation’.


All this is what produces the extreme reaction that is Islamic State; these bombings are imperialist chickens coming home to roost; “your lives are as cheap to us as ours are to you” is the intended message from IS. The Paris massacre has had no effect on the global stock exchanges, it poses no threat to imperialism itself and its global domination and international finance capitalists are well aware of that.

This does point to the only way to defeat IS politically. Only an alternative revolutionary force, with a programme of overturning the imperialist order, and its puppets and clients throughout the region, can challenge IS politically. The PKK et al, with their radical nationalism for Kurds only (though their nationhood and aspirations for their own state is a just cause which we support), are too narrow for this. It will take the creation and growth of a real internationalist communist party to politically defeat IS and lead struggles in a genuinely progressive direction in the Middle East.

4 thoughts on “The Paris Massacre: Imperialism’s chickens coming home to roost

  1. No mention here of your position calling for defeat of imperialism when it attacks IS. “The partisans of Islamic State had every right and reason to defend themselves against imperialist attacks, and to expect solidarity from anti-imperialists in the West for doing so.” ( While there may not be a contradiction, surely the two positions must be explicitly inter-related and the obvious tensions addressed.


  2. Ian says:

    “And we still have the duty to oppose renewed imperialist interventions in the Middle East, including against IS, defending the targets of imperialist attacks. In fact, this will be true especially against IS, as this is where the pressure to intervene will come from most of all.”

    That is from the above article. As far as I can see, there has been no change, SF is for the defence against imperialism of all indigenous forces within the semi-colonial Middle East that are targetted by imperialism. That includes IS. It is not necessary to repeat every aspect of this at length in an article on the Paris Massacre, There have been and will be again other articles. But it is clear from the above that the principled position taken by SF previously has not changed.


  3. […] “As Marxists we are totally opposed to methods of individual terrorism however ‘anti-imperialist’ the motivation of the perpetrators may be. The inevitable consequences of this is civilian casualties, intended or not. And the attack never weakens imperialism, it ALWAYS strengthens the repressive forces of the capitalist state against the working class and its aspiring revolutionary leadership.” (😉 […]


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