Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je Suis Le Enragé

The Left and Islamic Literalism

The homicidal attack in France on the editorial offices of Charlie hebdo was an attack on the Left.  Albeit an odd, funny, anarchist version.  While nearly all Americans have never heard of it, reports indicate this magazine was anti-capitalist, anti-religion, anti-nationalist and an opponent of a long string of bureaucratic French governments.   They made fun of Christian Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam. Charlie hebdo did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a decision also made by the French government of the time.  This earned the latter the reactionary ire of the American Bushites – which included numerous insults like changing the name of French fries to ‘Freedom’ fries, as well as insults about the fighting capacity of ‘surrender monkeys.’  Nor did they support other invasions of the Middle East.

In 2004 the editor at the time, Val, was quoted as saying about Charlie hebdo: (hebdo meaning 'weekly.")
"It demands loyalty to laicite, the defence of ecology, democratic principles, the ideals of the Enlightenment, the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism, and the condemnation of cruelty to animals." In essence, it was what the French call, "la resistance joyeuse."
According to various news reports, one or more suspects visited Yemen and were probably trained by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.  One of the men claimed in a 2005 video shown on French TV that they were radicalized by the 2003 invasions of the Middle East, led by the Americans.  An inman later showed them Islamic texts that called for violent jihad against unbelievers and infidels. A recent recording of the 'IS' hostage taker at the kosher supermarche indicates he thought that all French taxpayers are guilty. There is clearly an element of ‘blowback’ here, as that invasion was an international crime.  However, here the ‘blowback’ is directed not at the military forces responsible for the decimation of so many Muslim societies but at civilians who made fun of Mohammed.  This is two different things.  The French government did not support the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, though they agreed to support the ‘NATO’ invasion of Afghanistan.  Death threats for any public figure 'insulting' Islam are common – remember Salman Rushdie.  This follows the assassination of Theo van Gogh by right-wing Dutch political Islamists for a film he did exposing the violent anti-female sentiments in the Qur’an and in Islamic-dominated societies.

Fascist and nationalist elements in France immediately seized on the incident and there are now reports of scattered attacks on mosques, Muslim-owned shops and Muslim civilians.   It seems that the best allies the National Front and Marie Le Pen have are the religious fascists of Al Qaeda.  And that is perhaps what both sides want.   The French government probably won’t be far behind.  Al Qaeda and IS will use this as a recruiting tool, and hope that the reaction will increase a false polarization in France & Europe.  This will only play into their hands of bourgeois governments to carry out repressive policies.

Some reformist leftists in the U.S. see only the ‘blowback’ side and do not see the reactionary, anti-working class side of Islamic reactionaries.  Back in 1979, several socialist groups in the U.S. uncritically supported Khomeini's leadership of that revolution because he was ‘anti-imperialist’ by opposing the U.S. – this while he smashed Iranian unions and jailed and killed Communists in the Tudeh party and others.  Any opposition to the U.S. from any source is not the same thing as ‘anti-imperialism.’ To call it so is to abandon any understanding of the class component of anti-imperialism.  It can be a form of reactionary nationalism – which the Khomeinite leadership of the revolution was.  Socialists have an international perspective and have to base their analysis on what class-conscious workers in each country would do, even one dominated by state-sanctioned Islam. 

The leader of Al Qaeda was a fundamentalist Saudi millionaire upset about U.S. bases in the ‘holy’ land.  The leadership of IS was formed in the vicious jails of Iraq during the second war.  Instead of being ‘anti-imperialist’ they decided to slaughter Shiites, Kurds, Yazidis, American reporters and Sunni tribalists who did not agree with their version of Islam.  Now this kind of Islam is after cartoonists.  Friday one of their compatriots seized hostages in a Kosher grocery and 4 were killed, so we can add Jews to the list. Who are their main targets though?  Actually not French cartoonists or Jews, but Muslim children in a Pakistani school or women and children in 5 villages in Nigeria - all horrifically murdered.  Muslims are the main targets of these 'rebel' Muslims.  Lots of civilian killing to be done.

Charlie bedbo is not the only leftist target, of course.  The lynchpin of conservative world Islamism is Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally.  Most of the attackers on 9/11 were from that country, and money for Al Qaeda came from Saudi millionaires and billionaires.  Saudi Arabia is a theocratic petroarchy dominated by a Royal Family that uses Salafist and Wahabbist Islamic ideology to justify their rule. They know religion is politics by other means.  The Saudi’s propagation of fundamentalist Sunni Islam is the ideological mainspring of their rule – and of terrorist jihadism.  Reza Aslan reported today that the Saudis have spent over $100 billion dollars promoting Wahabbism around the world.  The Iranian government does their best to spread Shiite Islam as well, as it strengthens their national goals.  The Saudis have funded various Islamist currents like the Muslim Brotherhoods, who have opposed Marxists and nationalists in the Middle East for years.  This has included opposing the PFLP and DFLP and even the PLO in Palestine.  They undermined Nasser in Egypt and continue an endless (and successful) opposition to the state-nationalism of the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq.  They also funded the war against the Barbak Karmal / CP governments in Afghanistan in 1978, which led to the killing of almost every secularist in that nation by U.S. and Saudi-backed jihadis and warlords. In essence, the U.S. and Saudi’s created ultra-rightist Islamic terror groups. 

Muslims who don’t support this kind of violent action say these people ‘are not Muslims.’  This facile statement doesn’t fly.  They cannot recognize that a wing of Islam based on texts and money is very much ‘Islamic.’  There are 164 jihadist verses in the Qur'an and fewer about peace, so it is similar to the Bible in that sense.  It is a 'pick and choose' religion in fact.  It is as if an American liberal Christian says that the killers of abortion doctors for religious reasons are ‘not Christians’ - instead of admitting that they are inspired by the conservative worldview of the Bible and various Christian churches.  Ideology can become a material force, given certain material preconditions.  It is politics by other means. 

Islamic literalists take the written words of the Qur'an and various hadiths as is, even though the texts reflect a tribalist understanding based on a material culture 1,500 years old.  This archaic religious ideology is dying in the face of capitalist modernism and the influence of the internet, though many of its proponents are not consciously aware of it. This I think is part of the reason that fundamentalist elements in every religion are getting aggressive and violent across the globe.  But it really reflects the dying material role of dominant theocracies, the bazaar economy and rural landlords, which are based on the extreme subjugation and exploitation of workers and women.  

Its 'soldiers' are mostly impoverished men who want to fight oppression in some way, but fall prey to a false opposition. 80% of the prison population in France is Muslims, so they are a great part of the underclass.  The left in Europe needs to recruit people of Middle-eastern origin to fight this counter-revolutionary force, forming Middle-Eastern sections.

‘Terror’ is not similar in all ways.  The ultra-left in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond used violence to terrorize individual capitalists, military figures, relevant installations and capitalist government bureaucrats.  Fascists and reactionaries on the other hand direct their terror against broad populations – bombing trains, public events, attacking national or ethnic groups or individuals.  This approach goes far back into the 1920s.  The reasons for these two approaches to ‘terror’ are political.  Leftists think the enemy is the army or the capitalists and their state, not the population.  Rightists are racist or nationalist and also authoritarian and against ‘rights’, and hence have no ideological problem with attacking national, religious or ethnic populations of workers or people, or ‘soft’ free-speech targets like satiric magazines or filmmakers.  Or taxpayers. 

It is, ultimately, a two-sided struggle. Nous Sommes Aussi Charlie!

History Note:   By the way, during the French Revolution ‘Les Enragés’ were a revolutionary group to the left of the centrist Jacobins.  Les Enragés attacked property rights and wanted the revolution to go beyond formal legal rights.  They represented the sans-culottes and the workers and were fore-runners of class-oriented anarchism and Marxism. 

Red Frog
January 10, 2015

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