Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski, among the twenty killed in the attacks in Paris on 7 and 9 January, these four were a kind of symbol. They were the priority targets. And why? Because they stood for intelligence against stupidity, reason against fanaticism, revolt against submission, courage against cowardice1, sympathy against hatred, and for that specifically human quality: humour and laughter against conformism and dull self-righteousness. We may reject and oppose some of their political positions, some of which were totally bourgeois2. But what was being hit was what was best about them. This barbaric rampage against people who were just cartoonists or shoppers at a kosher supermarket, gunned down just because they were Jews, has provoked a great deal of emotion, not only in France but all over the world, and this is quite understandable. The way this emotion is now being put to use by all the licensed representatives of bourgeois democracy must not hide the fact that the indignation, anger and profound sadness which gripped millions of men and women, and led them to come out spontaneously onto the streets on 7 January, was a basic and healthy reaction against this despicable act of barbarism.
A pure product of the decomposition of capitalism
Terrorism is not new3. What is new is the form that it has taken and which has developed since the mid 80s to become an unprecedented global phenomenon. The series of indiscriminate attacks that hit Paris in 1985-86, which, clearly, was not carried out by small isolated groups but bore the signature of a state, inaugurated a new era in the use of terrorism that has reached hitherto unknown levels and claimed a growing number of victims.
The terrorist attacks by Islamist fanatics are not new either. The history of this new century has regularly witnessed this, and on a much greater scale than the Paris attacks of early January 2015.
The kamikaze aeroplanes that crashed into the Twin Towers in New York September 11, 2001, opened a new era. For us it is clear that the US Secret Service let it happen and even facilitated these attacks, which allowed the American imperialist power to justify and unleash the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as the Japanese attack against the naval base of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, foreseen and wanted by Roosevelt, had served as a pretext for the entry of the US into World War II4. But it is also clear that those who had taken control of the aircraft were completely delusional fanatics who thought they could gain entry to paradise by killing on a vast scale and sacrificing their own lives.
Less than three years after New York, March 11, 2004, Madrid was the scene of a terrible massacre: "Islamist" bombs caused 200 deaths and over 1,500 injuries in the Atocha station; human bodies were so mangled that they could only be identified by their DNA. The following year, on 7 July 2005, it was London that was struck by four explosions, also on public transport, killing 56 people and leaving 700 wounded. Russia also has experienced several Islamist attacks in the 2000s, including that of 29 March 2010 that killed 39 and injured 102. And of course, the peripheral countries have not been spared, especially Iraq since the US invasion in 2003 and as we saw again just recently in Pakistan, in Peshawar, where last December 141 people, including 132 children, were killed in a school5.
This attack, in which children were a deliberate target, shows, in all its horror, the increasing barbarism of these followers of "Jihad". But the attack in Paris on 7 January, although much less deadly and horrific than the one in Pakistan, expresses a new dimension of this slide into barbarism.
In all previous cases, however revolting the massacre of civilians, including children, there was some "rationality": it was to retaliate or attempt to pressure the state and their armed forces. The Madrid massacre of 2004 was meant to "punish" Spain for its involvement in Iraq alongside the United States. The same goes for the London bombings in 2005. The attack in Peshawar was aimed at putting pressure on the Pakistani military by slaughtering their children. But in the case of the attacks in Paris on January 7, there was not the slightest "military objective", even an illusory one. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and their colleagues were murdered to "avenge the Prophet" since the newspaper had published caricatures of Mohammed. And this happened not in a country ravaged by war or ruled by religious obscurantism, but in France, "democratic, secular and republican" France.
Hatred and nihilism are always a key driver in the activities of terrorists, especially those who deliberately sacrifice their lives to kill as massively as possible. But this hatred that turns humans into cold killing machines, with no regard for the innocent they kill, has as its main target this other "killing machine" - the state. None of that on 7 January in Paris: here obscurantist hatred and the fanatical thirst for revenge could be seen in their purest form. Its target is the other, the one who does not think like me, and especially the one who thinks, because I've decided not to think, that is to say, to exercise this faculty proper to the human species.
It is for this reason that the killings of 7 January caused such an impact. In a way, we are faced with the unthinkable: how can human minds, educated in a "civilized" country, get drawn into such a barbaric and absurd project similar to that of the most fanatical Nazis with their burning of books and extermination of the Jews?
And that’s not the worst of it. The worst part is that the extreme act of the Kouachi brothers, of Amedy Coulibaly and their accomplices, is only the tip of an iceberg of a whole movement that thrives mainly in poor neighbourhoods, a movement that was expressed when a number of young people put forward the idea that "Charlie Hebdo had it coming for insulting the prophet", and that the killing of the cartoonists was something "normal".
This is also a manifestation of the advance of barbarism, the breakdown in our "civilized" societies. This descent of a part of the youth, and not only those who have been through the process of immigration, into hatred and religious obscurantism - this is one symptom among many of the putrefaction of capitalist society, but a particularly significant pointer to the gravity of the present crisis.
Today, all over the world (in Europe as well, and especially in France), many young people with no future, living chaotic daily lives, humiliated by successive failures, by cultural and social poverty, become easy prey to unscrupulous recruiters (often related to states or political expressions such as ISIS) that drain these misfits into their networks through conversions as sudden as they are unexpected, turning them into potential hit men or cannon fodder for the "jihad". Lacking their own perspective on the current crisis of capitalism, which is an economic crisis but also a social, moral and cultural one; faced with a society that is rotting on its feet and oozing destruction from every pore, for many of these young people life seems pointless and worthless. Their despair can often take on the religious colouring of a blind and fanatical submission, inspiring all sorts of irrational and extreme behaviour, fuelled by a suicidal nihilism. The horror of capitalist society in decay, which elsewhere creates huge numbers of child soldiers (for example in Uganda, Congo and Chad, especially since the early 1990s) is now giving birth, in the heart of Europe, to young psychopaths, professional cold blooded killers, completely desensitised and capable of the worst without expecting any reward for it. In short, this rotting capitalist society, left to its own morbid and barbaric dynamics, can only lead the whole of mankind towards bloody chaos, towards murderous insanity and death. As can be seen from the growth of terrorism, it is producing more and more totally desperate individuals, who have been ground down to the point of being capable of the worst atrocities. In short, it moulds these terrorists in its own image. If such "monsters" exist it is because capitalist society has become "monstrous." And if not all the young people affected by this obscurantist and nihilistic trend enrol directly in "jihad", the fact that many of them regard those who have taken this step as "heroes" or as agents of "justice” constitutes proof of the increasing weight of despair and barbarism invading society.
The odious "democratic" recuperation
But the barbarism of the capitalist world is not expressed only in these terrorist acts and the sympathy they meet in a part of the youth. It is also expressed in the vile way that the bourgeoisie is recuperating these dramas.
At the time of writing this article, the capitalist world, headed by the principal “democratic” leaders, is about to carry out one of its most sordid operations. In Paris, on Sunday, January 11, a huge street demonstration has been planned, around President Holland and all the political leaders of the country, together with world leaders such as Angela Merkel, David Cameron, the heads of government of Spain, Italy and many other European countries, but also the King of Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, and Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel6.
While hundreds of thousands of people spontaneously took to the streets on the evening of January 7, the politicians, starting with François Hollande, and the French media began their campaign: "It’s the freedom of the press and democracy which are under threat "," We must mobilise and unite to defend the values of our republic. " Increasingly, in the gatherings that followed those of 7 January, we heard the French national anthem, the "Marseillaise," whose chorus says "water our furrows with the blood of the impure!" …"National Unity", "defence of democracy", these are the messages that the ruling class wants to get into our heads, that is to say the slogans which justified the dragooning and massacre of millions of workers in the two world wars of the twentieth century. Hollande also said it in his first speech: by sending the army into Africa, especially Mali, France has already begun the fight against terrorism (just as Bush explained that the US military intervention in 2003 Iraq had the same purpose). The imperialist interests of the French bourgeoisie obviously have nothing to do with these interventions!
Poor Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski! Fanatical Islamists killed them the first time. They had to be killed a second time by these representatives and "fans" of bourgeois "democracy", all these heads of state and government of a decaying world system that is responsible for the barbarism invading human society: capitalism. And these political leaders do not hesitate to use terror, assassinations, and reprisals against civilians when it comes to defending the interests of this system and its ruling class, the bourgeoisie.
The end of the barbarity expressed by the killings in Paris in January 2015 will certainly not come from the actions of those who are the main supporters and guarantors of the economic system that generates this barbarity. It can only result from the overthrow of this system by the world proletariat, that is to say, by the class whose association produces most of the wealth of society, and its replacement by a truly universal human community no longer based on profit, competition and the exploitation of man by man but based on the abolition of these vestiges of human prehistory. A society which will be "an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" 7 , communist society.
Révolution Internationale (11/01/2014)
The cartoon is by Wolinski, from 1968: the workers call for revolution, the union official replies: “you’re crazy – the government and the bosses will never allow it!”
1 For years, these cartoonists had regularly been receiving death threats
2 Didn’t the ‘soixante-huitard’ Wolinski work for the Communist Party’s paper L’Humanité for several years? Didn’t he himself write “we made May 68 so as not to become what we did become?
3 In the nineteenth century, small minorities in revolt against the state, like the populists in Russia and some anarchists in France or Spain, resorted to terrorist acts. These sterile violent actions have always been used by bourgeois against the workers’ movement to justify and legalise repression
4 See the article on our website: ‘Pearl Harbor 1941, the 'Twin Towers' 2001: Machiavellianism of the US bourgeoisie’. https://en.internationalism.org/ir/108_machiavel.htm
5 And only a few days before the Paris attacks, the Islamist Boko Haram group in Nigeria carried out its worst ever atrocity, indiscriminately slaughtering up to 2000 residents of the town of Baga. This has received only minimal media coverage.
6 The call for the rally for "National Unity" was unanimous on the part of unions and political parties (only the National Front will not be present), but also the media. Even the sports newspaper L’Équipe called for the demonstration!
7 Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848