Imperialists foster climate of fear after Paris attacks

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On the evening of Friday 13 November 2015 a series of co-ordinated bomb and machine-gun attacks ripped through Paris, resulting in 130 deaths; another 350 people were admitted to hospital, many with serious injuries. The main targets were a football match and a rock concert, with additional shootings in restaurants, cafes and the street. Seven perpetrators died at the scene, apparently by detonating suicide vests they were wearing. Others allegedly involved died or were arrested during a police raid in St Denis on 18 November. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed in a communiqué purportedly issued by Islamic State (IS). Nicki Jameson reports.

This was an overt act of terror against the people of Paris and there was an immediate outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from across the world. The day after the attack the General Command for the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), fighting against Islamic State in Rojava, Syria, sent condolences and solidarity to the ‘families of the victims and all French people’. On the same day, in northern France, migrants living in the Calais ‘jungle’ camp staged a solidarity vigil, holding a banner which read ‘The refugees are crying with the French people’.

Revenge and repression

As after every such atrocity in which the targets are European or north American, the horror and grief were swiftly followed by escalating repression, all enveloped in a massive propaganda offensive designed not only to highlight the barbarity of the attack but to deflect from it being viewed as a response to the actions of western nations. Of course this is complete nonsense. Not only have the major imperialist powers – the US, Britain and France – been waging a systematic war against the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, destroying one stable country after another, but in their quest to bring down these predominantly secular governments they have funded, supported and encouraged the very same Islamic fundamentalist forces that are now bringing the war back to them at home.

The morning after the attacks, French President Hollande declared a state of emergency and 1,500 soldiers took to the streets of Paris to bolster police patrols. The next day French military planes launched a massive airstrike on Raqqa in northern Syria. France has been bombing Iraq since September 2014 under Operation Chammal and had already extended this to IS territory in Syria in October 2015; retaliation against this offensive was cited in the IS communiqué as part of the reason for the Paris attack.

The state of emergency has so far been authorised by the French parliament for a period of three months. It puts in place a draconian regime in which homes can be searched without a warrant, people placed under house arrest without charge or trial, demonstrations banned and websites and other media outlets shut down.

Hypocrisy, lies and the imperialist agenda

Just as after the earlier attack in Paris in January 2015 – in which two gunmen shot dead 12 members of staff at the magazine Charlie Hebdo and another killed four shoppers at a kosher supermarket – the response at government level, both in France, the US and Britain, is both selective and opportunist. Incidents akin to the Paris killings occur regularly all over the world, many in the cities of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, which have been wrecked and left completely unstable by western invasion or air assault. In the very same week as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 2,000 people were slaughtered by Boko Haram in Baga in northern Nigeria; yet no world leaders flocked to Lagos to march in protest as they did to Paris and the international media was muted in its response.

This time again, while the western world loudly mourned and declared vengeance for Paris, as the French tricolour was projected onto national monuments and a million facebook pages, as English football fans sang La Marseillaise, and the xenophobic, traditionally French-hating Sun newspaper declared ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ on its front page, there had been no more than cursory attention to any of the other lethal attacks by similar forces before Paris on Ankara, Beirut – where two IS suicide bombers killed 40 people on 12 November – and elsewhere.

France’s history of imperialism and racism

Like Britain, France is an imperialist country with a long and invidious history of colonialism and racism. The brutal colonial occupation of Algeria lasted 132 years and over a million and a half people died in the liberation war of 1954-62. The media, which repeatedly claims that the attack on 13 November is the worst outrage committed on the streets of Paris in living memory, is not telling the truth. The last time Paris was subject to such a state of emergency was at the height of the war for Algerian independence. Indeed the legislation being used today was brought in during that conflict.

In October 1961 around 30,000 Algerian protesters defied the state of emergency ban on protest to stage an independence rally in Paris. They were violently attacked by French police units and up to 600 Algerians were beaten to death in police barracks or thrown into the River Seine. Almost 40 years later, Maurice Papon, the police chief who supervised security operations and who apparently directed the massacre, was convicted for crimes against humanity under Petain’s Vichy regime during the Nazi occupation of France.

France is one of the two leading powers in the EU, sits on the UN Security Council and continues to be a major belligerent on the world stage. Although it refused to join the US-British aggression against Iraq in 2003, this non-intervention stance was soon reversed, and since then France has sent troops to Afghanistan, bombed Iraq and Libya and is now bombing Syria; it has also led military interventions in its former colonies of Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic. There are 36,000 French troops stationed abroad, the majority in Africa, with 1,400 in Afghanistan and 2,000 on the Israel/ Lebanon border.

Migrant crisis…blaming refugees

Western European governments have rushed to fuse their repressive anti-terrorism agenda with their response to the ongoing ‘migrant crisis’, citing this and the open borders within the Schengen Area countries as partially responsible for the attack, despite the majority of the perpetrators identified so far being French citizens. For four days from Friday 20 November the Belgian capital, Brussels, was subject to a complete lockdown, with shops, colleges and the metro system closed and police raids focused on Molinbeek and other areas of the city with sizeable Muslim populations. All this is part of the creation of a climate of fear, in which the drive to increase war in the Middle East and racism in Europe becomes normalised as acceptable responses to this attack by the ‘Islamic enemy’.

Britain gears up for more bombing

In Britain, once again both the government and other vested interests have seized the opportunity to push their own agenda. Having failed in 2013 to get parliamentary backing for air attacks on Syria under the auspices of unseating the government of Bashar Al Assad, Prime Minister David Cameron is ramping up his campaign to join France, the US and Russia, now all bombing Syria. Although still holding back from calling for a vote on this as he still fears defeat, Cameron is edging closer to success, with the Labour Party divided on the subject and even the leader of decisively anti-intervention Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, saying she is ‘prepared to listen’ to the case for extending air strikes in Syria, as it would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider the arguments. The police also seized the moment to lobby against anticipated cuts in the Spending Review, claiming that they would leave Britain vulnerable to similar attack.

Racist backlash

On 20 November in an interview with Channel 4 news, London-based French artist Jean Jullien, the designer of the ubiquitous Eiffel Tower peace symbol said: ‘As a citizen, you can’t help thinking about what is next, you know. The people who are going to be blamed are Muslims who have nothing to do with that, so it feels a bit scary...’

This prediction was of course correct and Muslim communities across Europe and north America are now being subject both to state repression in the name of counter-terrorism and the inevitable attacks from freelance racists. The week following the Paris attacks saw 115 reported hate crimes against Muslims in Britain, the majority against women wearing hijabs. Mosques in the US and Canada have been attacked, while in Germany far right protesters have been staging anti-Muslim demonstrations, calling for all mosques to be closed down.

Building a movement

On Saturday 21 November, more than 10,000 people marched through the southern French city of Toulouse to pay their respects to the victims of the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Bamako, Suruc, Ankara etc; some carried a banner which read: ‘Their wars – our dead’. On the same day in Paris 1,000 people defied the state of emergency ban on demonstrations to march in solidarity with refugees; the police subsequently passed 58 names of participants to the state prosecutor with the aim of charging them with defying the ban.

This is vital protest: as communists in the heart of imperialism, we must resist the climate of fear and continue to stand up against the wars and repression of the British, French, US and other western governments. We must prioritise the building of a united, anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement which will unconditionally support migrants and refugees, fight against racist attacks and oppose all imperialist intervention.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 248 December 2015/January 2016