The bitter fruits of racism and imperialism

We comment on the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo.

charlie hebdo 2

The attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo is something no one can justify. But, if we don’t understand the roots of these events, we risk being pulled ever further into a spiral of increasing violence.

Let’s not forget, then, that within France, racism against Muslims has escalated to horrific levels. The fascist National Front leads in presidential polls, and are mobilising for a national demonstration next week to exploit the current situation. There are bans on women wearing the hijab in schools, and the niqab, which covers the face, anywhere in public. Such measures are supposed to protect the dignity of women, but have quite the opposite effect – as seen in the summer of 2013, when a young Muslim woman, four months pregnant, was attacked for wearing a niqab in a Paris suburb, kicked in the stomach and miscarried.

We should also remember the treatment of Muslims and Muslim-majority countries by the west in recent years. The invasion of Afghanistan killed 20,000 people according to the Guardian, and the invasion of Iraq over 600,000 according to the Lancet. Israel, armed by the west, killed over 2,000 people last summer in Gaza, including 500 children. Of course France sat out the invasion of Iraq, but this morning’s Guardian reports that “About 3,000 soldiers are deployed in a vast area from Mauritania to Niger and Chad, following an earlier French intervention in Mali in 2013 to counter an Islamist insurgency.”

In the context of such Islamophobia, internationally and within France, individuals will inevitably go over the edge. This is not to justify the attack on Charlie Hebdo, any more than we can justify the attacks of 9/11. But it is to say that, as after 9/11, we need to understand the reason for such events if we are to stop them in future. We need to avoid repeating the drive to further violence and oppression which followed that attack, and which, over twelve years on, is a key part of the context of the attack in Paris.

This means that we cannot agree with French president François Hollande that this is a matter of civilisation versus barbarity – there is all too much barbarity on the side of the French state, with its long track record of murderous racism in Algeria and elsewhere. And we cannot raise the slogan “Je Suis Charlie” when we look at that magazine’s track record of attacking Muslims. If the Financial Times can refer to Charlie Hebdo as a “Muslim-bating magazine” as they did yesterday, there is no reason for revolutionaries to fight shy of saying that satire against the powerful and mocking the oppressed are two very different things. Nor does it excuse Charlie Hebdo to say that it was associated to some extent with the left, or that it also attacked other groups, such as the Catholic church – caricatures of black people are still racist, even if printed in a publication that also makes fun of the pope.

Our main impulse of solidarity at this time is with Muslims, throughout the world and particularly in France, who will face a horrible backlash following this attack. The main thing that can be done to prevent such attacks in future is for the rulers of the west to end their repeated attacks on Muslim-majority countries so as to further their own power – the events in Paris yesterday are the bitter fruit of those imperialist adventures.


  1. When I came to the uk in 2000 I was really happy the way all the English people treated me as teacher and as a person it was not until 2010 that I started working for the first time with Afrocaribbeans and Asian that I experienced the most brutal racism i like different cultures but there is not always reciprocity
    LILLY from Argentina

  2. So you accept that the march was dominated by the French state including all their despotic mates around the world. What connection this has to Father Gapon or police unions is unclear. Are you claiming that the march was progressive? While I stand in solidarity with the much maligned “idiots” of this world I have no truck with the very duplicitous characters who cast the French state in such a light.

  3. RayB
    “On every news broadcast I saw Western leaders and their dictator friends were the spokes people for the march – not the left.” …..

    Well the reason for that is pretty obvious isn’t it – the ruling class controls the mass media, so it can it can always twist the story to suit its own interests.
    All the more reason *not* to isolate oneself from the 4 million ordinary people who were there. Only an idiot sectarian could possibly believe that all of them were supporting racism and imperialism!

    As to your accusations of “populism” –
    You ought to consult the history of the Bolsheviks.
    In particular their attitude to the police unions formed by Sergei Vasilyevich Zubatov and the mass marches led by Father Gapon.

  4. On the eve of a predicted Syriza victory the question of reform or revolution is all the more relevant and it’s not just a question that revolutionaries are discussing – the debate has already been happening on the left, even in Syriza.

    Criticism of Syriza, Podemos and, yes, even the SWP occurs in this context and that includes the debate around recruitment and growth. As the article I linked to expresses – many of us wants this movement to spread and to avoid potential disillusionment in the face of the very real threat from the international ruling class. There’s a lot at stake here, not just for the Greek working class but for the rest of us in Europe.

  5. A photo has just come up on twitter of the TUSC meeting on No to Austerity. Four speakers on a platform above the levels of everyone: everyone in the audience, apart from the front row, looking at the backs of each other’s heads. No people of colour visible. Platform made up of three blokes and one woman.

    With different clothes, this could be a photo of the equivalent meeting any time in the last 150 years. Imagine a meeting saying No to Austerity, which began with groups of people sharing their experience of ‘austerity’ and what they understood to be the effects, and what they and their work colleagues had or had not been able to do about it. Then imagine quick report-backs from those groups…

    And then a platform trying to draw something together out of that, perhaps….

  6. “” I note that in the latest blood-letting following the latest blood-letting in the Delta affair, are indeed people of colour….I wonder what they would say are the reasons for all this.”
    Have not a clue what this refers too!”

    Ah yes, I was incoherent there. I was making the simple point that no ‘radical left’ or marxist parties seem ever to have much success in the UK in recruiting people of colour. Why’s that? cf USA CP from circa 1930 – 1968 which it seems was relatively successful.

  7. Here’s a tweet that’s just come up:

    TUSC ‏@TUSCoalition 1m1 minute ago
    Charlie Kimber – we need to appeal outside of all left parties #TUSC #TUSC15

    Hands up anyone who can think of any reason why anyone might find any kind of problem with Charlie Kimber ‘appealing’ to the ‘outside’???? Hands up anyone who might think that any woman who heard how the SWP handled the sexual harassment case might possibly find it worrying that many of the same people who ‘dealt with’ the matter are still on the executive and might therefore have reservations about joining or being appealed to????

  8. Regardless of which organisation we belong to we shouldn’t be seduced by the populist argument that numbers equal legitimacy especially when it’s combined with vague notions about the virtue of so-called “horizontal” and “autonomous” forms of organisation. It’s part of a long tradition of criticism from reformists about the relevancy of the rev left that’s informed by a gradualist, ahistorical analysis.

  9. It was the point I was making..see above ! Now if you are claiming 300 members this is total bull and you know it. But onto more substantive issues..why no mention of the NHS strike? A session on the NHS and no call out to support the strikers..seems a bit odd to me. Here we have health workers taking industrial action and the rs21 do not think it warrants a mention. Now either that is a poor judgement and oversight by RS21 or it thinks it not important, either way it is a dreadful mistake don’t you agree Neil?. Maybe the anti public sector workers which many in Rs21 express has come to such a stage that it doesn’t seem to bothered about NHS workers taking strike action. Secondly, why no mention to build the anti racism demo being held in March, repeat of last years dreadful sectarian rant by leading members of RS21 on why the March is dreadful and it therefore only had about 20 members on the Neil’s reckoning less than 7% of the members! My conversation with the few rs21 members I remain in contact with is that the organisation has a few areas in which branches exist but overall it’s has been very difficult and much harder than they imagined and members are much less active than they were.


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