The attacks in Paris have aroused the revulsion and anger of millions of French workers and youth. The fear of new attacks is palpable. The French and international labour movement must respond by reviving the goal to end capitalism and its “horror without end.”
The attacks in Paris have aroused the revulsion and anger of millions of French workers and youth. Three days later, these feelings are still far from dying down. The fear of new attacks is palpable. It is fed by the obvious failure of the authorities to prevent Friday’s carnage, ten months after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This weekend the streets of France’s major cities were all but deserted, bearing witness to this collective anxiety.
[This article is written by the French section of the International Marxist Tendency, and was first published in French on their website, Révolution]
Gradually however, fear and indignation are coupled with pressing questions which lead to important discussions. Beyond the direct organizers and perpetrators of the massacre, who else bears responsibility? Where does the so-called Islamic State come from? What imperialist support has it received and does it still receive, directly or indirectly? Exactly what role has French imperialism played in the matter? What is the real attitude of the ruling class and the French government towards fundamentalist organizations today, in Syria and elsewhere? What are the real objectives of the French military intervention in Syria?
We have already published an article on these issues. The government and the bourgeois politicians make every effort to drown them in a sea of lies and hypocrisy. It is simply a war between the (Western) “defenders” of “peace” and “democracy” on one side – and fundamentalist barbarism on the other. However, even those who swallow such foolishness are torn by an increasingly keen doubt. After all, for the past few decades, as the imperialist powers – including France – intervened militarily in the Middle East, as they sowed death and destruction in the name of “peace” and “democracy”, the fundamentalist barbarism has hardly decreased! On the contrary, it has continued to grow. From there it is only a small step to understand that, far from being the enemy of fundamentalism, the Western imperialists have primary responsibility (and have often directly supported it).
This truth will make inroads in the minds of millions of people. The elementary duty of the workers’ movement is to contribute to it by cutting through the fog of propaganda which covers the foreign policy of France and all the big imperialist powers. War is always nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means. It is conducted by the ruling class in pursuit of its own aims – that is, at the end of the day, the race for profits. In France, the systematic destruction of our social conquests is carried out in the name of “preserving the French social model”. Imperialist wars are carried out in the name of “peace”.
With their usual limitless cynicism, the government, the ruling class, the right and the National Front exploit the emotion aroused by the attacks for their own reactionary purposes – to divide workers along national and religious lines, in order to adopt new undemocratic “security” laws to ban demonstrations, rallies, strikes, public meetings, etc. This has already begun. The primary duty of the labour movement is to denounce these reactionary maneuvers and firmly reject calls for “national unity” which serve as cover for them. We must reject any restrictions on our democratic rights in the name of “security,” starting of course with the state of emergency that Francois Hollande announced he wants to extend by three months. The state of emergency will weigh very heavily on our democratic rights, but it will be of dubious effectiveness in the face of terrorist actions which require few logistics.
The left parties and the trade union movement have even more need for democratic freedom now, as they need to mobilize massively to protect the Muslim community from the aggression to which it is and will be subject, on the part of fascist groups or individuals encouraged by the anti-Muslim discourse of reactionary politicians. We absolutely cannot rely on the state in the matter, because it is itself infiltrated at all levels by racist elements.
Finally, the general political conclusions must be drawn from this new tragedy. Ultimately, it is the consequence of a system mired in a deep crisis, a rotting system that refuses to die and which everywhere sows misery, war and chaos. Lenin said that capitalism is “horror without end.” This idea was illustrated in a terrible way in a great city, whose population could believe itself immune to such abominations. We must admit that it was not, not any more. The crisis of world capitalism and chaos of the imperialist wars push all borders of barbarism. The French and international labour movement must respond by reviving the goal to end capitalism and its “horror without end.”
Published on In Defence of Marxism
CGT structures break with national unity and reject state of emergency
By Jorge Martin
In the recent days a number of Departmental Unions of the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and at least one Federation have come out clearly against the idea of national unity promoted by French president Hollande and by the French ruling class and have rejected the state of emergency which has been declared.
The statement of the CGT Departmental Union 76 (Seine Maritime) explains in clear terms its opposition to the state of emergency and any curtailment of democratic rights under the pretence of the “war against terrorism”:
“This terrible November 13 should not serve to restrict public freedoms and for this reason we oppose the state of emergency, because of its impact on workers in terms of their basic and trade union freedoms. It would be paradoxical that trade union demonstrations planned for the following days would not be allowed to take place since their main themes are freedom, rights, and the struggle against the violence of the bosses, violence against migrants and violence against women.”
It goes on to point out how the law on “intelligence” has been used to massively extend surveillance against, amongst others, trade unionists and journalists. The statement also points out the responsibility of French imperialism: “We cannot remain silent about the responsibility of the French government and those of the main powers regarding the situation in the Middle East. In order to maintain economic imperialist domination, in order to find markets for the multinational arms manufacturers, the rich countries have always chosen to invest in armed conflicts rather than investing in the struggle for democracy and against inequality.”
[Read also: Paris terrorist attacks – how should the workers’ movement respond?]
A similar statement was issued by the powerful CGT Departmental Union 75 on November 14, the day after the Paris attacks. The Paris CGT uses exactly the same wording in its opposition to the state of emergency. It also points out that “in order to understand terrorism we cannot limit ourselves to a still picture. It is necessary to analyse the sequence opened 25 years ago. Geopolitical issues, imperialism, economic interests, particularly those linked to energy, the arms trade, carry a heavy responsibility in the conflicts of the Near and Middle East.”
[Read also: The Paris Massacre: Dynamite in the foundations]
The Paris CGT statement ends with a clear rejection of national unity. “We appeal to the workers of the capital to develop amongst themselves links of solidarity, not only to be together in this tragic moment, but also to be united in putting an end to the roots of this violent society in crisis. The time is therefore not one of social de-mobilisation in the name of a “national unity, quite the contrary.”
In an additional statement published in its Facebook page, the Paris CGT makes it clear that it will “not renounce the right to struggle, to rally and to demonstrate” and details its opposition to every single one of the new “security measures” announced by president Hollande. It warns again against the state of emergency “and the danger it represents for public freedom, particularly trade union freedom in a context already characterised by heavy anti-trade union repression”. It mocks the idea that “a suicide terrorist, ready to become a human bomb, will be dissuaded by the perspective of losing his French nationality”. It opposes the reform of the Constitution by urgent means. “For the CGT Paris, there can be no question of accepting that a cornerstone of our democracy, trade union freedom, can be weakened in the name of democracy …! It can also be no question of curbing protest againsy the anti-social policies which the government would continue to carry on as if nothing had happened, in the name of the fight against terrorism; the more so as the casualisation and social exclusion are the breeding ground for terrorism. We refuse to give up the right to defend the interests of the workers. We are able ourselves to appreciate the circumstances in which we can or not call a rally or a demonstration and we will continue to do so.”
Finally, the CGT Paper, Book and Media Federation (FILPAC) issued its own statement on November 15 along similar lines, but with particular stress on the idea of combatting “national unity”. It is worth quoting the statement at length:
“We see how those same proponents of national unity are those who are guilty of harassment against social rights, allowing the development of massive unemployment and widespread casualisation, supporting only the financiers and rentiers.
“Our dead and our injured, spur us in our social struggle on the side of the people, so that society is turned in the interest of all. We do not cannot understand the legitimacy of the executive in including Sarkozy and Le Pen, while it denies a growing number of workers basic access to the means of life, work, a decent income, elemental welfare.
“If the state of emergency begins by banning all social protests, as is the case, then we need to see that this means the continuation of the anti-social policy in new ways.
“We do not accept that the tragedy which hit our people should be manipulated into a sacred union to increase the social war and destruction in our own country. If national union has any meaning it should be that of stopping all mass lay offs currently being implemented, all measures of trade union repression and all cuts of social spending”
These reactions are very significant and go against the grain of the attitude of the national leadership of the CGT which has signed a joint statement with other unions that makes no mention of the role of French imperialism and even worse, contains no opposition nor criticism to the state of emergency introduced by Hollande and now extended for three months. A number of trade union demonstrations and strikes have already been cancelled or postponed, but this mood is not likely to last.
Also very significant is the fact that far right groups of “identitaires” were kicked out by the people from the mourning gatherings in Lille and Metz as can be seen in the following video: