The Aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo Murders

First Editorial from Revolutionary Perspectives 05

As we go to press the dust following the terrorist outrages in Paris has still not settled. The ramifications are likely to be felt for a long time to come although we think we have identified in our statement (reproduced in this issue) the main political games the various capitalist factions will be playing out over the next few months.

First of course will be the gains for the “populist” right. In Germany for example the PEGIDA movement had managed to get at most 17,000 for its weekly marches in Dresden but attempts to spread it throughout the former Eastern German lands have largely failed. They are openly proclaiming their hope that now this will change and over 20,000 turned up on the Sunday after the murders. In Britain the Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP has done the UK proud in expressing an unbeatable level of ignorance. He has already proclaimed that accepting migrants as citizens is a mistake as “they hate us”. No point telling him that there was no Islamic terrorism before the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq in 2003.

In fact capitalism, imperialism and the economic crisis are all deeply inter-related in the condition of the world as it opens in 2015.

The end of the post-World War Two boom in the 1970s brought with it the collapse of the secular movement of Arab nationalism in countries whose boundaries had been drawn on maps by Europeans with no regard for local needs. The consequence of this was the increased domination of the Middle East by the forces of global imperialism. There is no secret about why they wanted to be there. Oil was by then the leading industrial commodity, and as we show in our article in this issue, energy security was to become a dominant concern of the leading industrial states. But this concern morphed into greater and greater interference as the crisis developed. The backlash was not long in coming. It led to the victory of the ayatollahs in Shia Iran in 1979. In the same year the invasion of Afghanistan by Russian (Soviet) imperialism paved the way for the West to support the military and ideological movements of Islamic jihadism. This eventually gave birth to the Taliban and to Al Qaeda. These movements based themselves on a version of Islam which had its roots in 18th century Saudi Arabia and is still the religion/ideology of that state today. For Wahhabism the decline of the Muslim Empire was due to the Islam’s abandonment of its earlier 7th century purity. Its followers today believe the same thing goes for the Arab world in the face of Western imperialism. And once the Cold War was over they turned their guns on their former paymasters. The Islamic State is only the latest manifestation of this obscurantist death cult which is opposed by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. It now makes the Saudi monarchy which originally inspired and financed these movements (15 of the 19 9/11 bombers were from Saudi Arabia) quiver over what the future holds for their authority not only in the Arab world but in the Saudi peninsula itself.

To take advantage of the horrific events in Paris though the racists will have to catch up with the capitalist state. In France Hollande was quick to define the meaning of the incident for the bourgeoisie. The idea that the terrorist attacks were an assault on free speech or amount to a full-scale “war against France” has allowed not only the French state but also all the “democracies” to stage monster demonstrations to re-affirm the loyalty of their citizenry. It is a useful diversion from the capitalist crisis which is making life more miserable for millions across the planet. And we have to ask ourselves where was this concern for democracy when similar numbers, and with no “official” mobilisation, took to the streets in cities across the world to oppose the imminent invasion of Iraq on February 15 2003? That invasion went ahead nonetheless because the war for oil was at its height. The British state has consistently refused to publish the results of its own inquiry (Chilcot) into why such a disastrous decision was taken by the Blair Government. Any jihadist terrorist threat in the UK is due entirely to that invasion. “Not in my name”, the slogan of many in 2003, could be the belong to both humanitarian workers from the US or Europe barbarically murdered by the Islamic State in Syria as well as those Muslims in Europe attacked and firebombed by the racist backlash against Islamic jihadist terrorism. Stereotyping and caricature are the dehumanising fundamentals of racism and on all sides this has fired the flames of senseless murder. But capitalism thrives on such divisions amongst its wage slaves world-wide. The more the wage workers are divided the more they will accept capitalist exploitation and … oppression.

While the capitalist class trumpet their undying love of free-speech, freedom of expression and political freedom, at the same time they use atrocities, such as Charlie Hebdo, precisely to stifle, undermine and trample these freedoms under foot. Such attacks are the pretext they use to increase interception and surveillance of all communications, to permanently monitor people’s movements, to confiscate passports of suspect citizens, to ban political organisations they disapprove of, to imprison without trial, to torture suspects to obtain information etc. The Snowdon disclosures and the recent US Senate report on CIA torture indicate how little our rulers really care about all the freedoms which they today proclaim from the rooftops. While today they use the arsenal of repressive measures mainly against the “Islamic enemy;” this is an enemy who, in the historical perspective, poses no real threat to the capitalist social system. Tomorrow when the system is under threat, the arsenal of repression they are accumulating will be used with a vengeance against its real enemy, the working class and its political organisations.

Nor should we forget that globally the main victims of this terrorism are still those in predominantly Muslim lands. 20 people (including the terrorists) have so far died in the three attacks in Paris in three days. That’s 20 too many. But this number pales into insignificance alongside the score who are daily murdered in Iraq by suicide bombers or the 2000 indiscriminately killed in Baga by Boko Haram [1] on the same day the Paris crisis ended, though no-one seems to have taken much notice. A further 300,000 have forced to flee North East Nigeria due to these Boko Haram atrocities. According to Al-Jazeera, Boko Haram may have killed 20,000 in the last decade. Like Al Qaeda, like the Islamic State these organisations are all the consequences of centuries of Western imperialism. The destruction of local economies by the imposition of monocultures in the name of development has reduced them to dependency on a world market run by financiers in faraway places. The consequences for many is that they have gone from being able to feed themselves to relying on the vagaries of the world capitalist system to scratch a livelihood. It is no accident that diseases like Ebola or Aids have emerged in West Africa where local populations, in desperate poverty, have resorted to eating wild animals which are normally shunned, with all the consequences for health that we now know. Pious words about the civilisation and democratic values of the West sit very uncomfortably with the reality of the world its imperialist actions have created.

[1] The figure is from Amnesty International. For more on Boko Haram See

The two articles here are editorials from Revolutionary Perspectives 05 which is just out (Jan 21). It contains further articles on the fall in the oil price and what it means for imperialist rivalries, a reply to Gilles Dauvé on the problems of the transition to communism, and an article by Onorato Damen on the failure of the Bologna Congress of 1919. The issue will eventually be posted online but for those wishing to read the articles now or wishing to support our work it can be purchased for £4 (postage included) by mailing us here for details of payment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Revolutionary Perspectives

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