The following is a statement from the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). For more information about the PSL, click here.
We will see in the coming days and weeks the broader political implications of the massacre of journalists at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris yesterday, January 7.
As of right now, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo. One of the suspected or alleged participants in the attack has purportedly turned himself in, and a massive search is underway to apprehend the others.
The information being presented in the media about who carried out the attack and their motives are based on the reports from the French government and U.S. intelligence agencies.
The basic narrative that is being presented in the media is that the attackers carried out the assault on the magazine because the magazine was running “satirical” cartoons about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
The magazine ran extremely vulgar, grotesque and incendiary caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and of Islam. This does not justify the killing of the cartoonists. It is important, however, that the media tell the truth about what was published. Some of the cartoons may have been called “satire,” but many can only be characterized as expressions of extreme racism calculated by the editors to be of the most provocative type.
Most of the media is choosing not to re-run the most provocative, racist and vulgar images and instead are showing more mild images or describing them merely as “satire.” The images, in fact, included vicious racist depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, naked and in caricatured, gross, sexualized poses.
Because the attackers carried out a military assault against unarmed journalists, it has created a wide-spread mobilization of public support and sympathy for the victims inside of France and elsewhere.
In the context of growing right-wing, xenophobic and outright fascist movements in Europe, this incident will also undoubtedly be used to mobilize additional support for these racist forces and political parties in Europe.
The French government is denouncing the attack as a barbaric act. They have omitted, in their public presentation, the French government’s own role in providing arms and weapons for right-wing groups, who have engaged in armed struggle to overthrow the governments in Libya and in Syria.
The French government, for the past several years, has joined with the United States, Britain and other NATO partners in providing AK-47’s (the same type of weapon used in the killings in Paris) and other weapons to armed sectarian death squads and individuals fighting to overthrow the Qaddafi government in Libya in 2011 and to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. Many of these weapons are now in the hands of organizations and individuals openly affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other organizations that follow a similar ideological orientation and agenda.
Also, we need to keep in mind that the United States government has been arming many of the same political/ideological forces for the past 35 years as part of a larger war against socialist and secular-nationalist governments. It was the United States that provided arms and funds to Osama Bin Laden and the so-called Mujahedeen military forces in their fight against the socialist government of Afghanistan, starting in 1979. Likewise, the United States and its NATO allies provided the military assistance and bombing without which the “rebels” in Libya could not have triumphed.
We also know that the French government has manipulated the secular legacy of the 1789 French Revolution to pursue policies which are perceived by many in the Muslim community of France as nothing more than a targeted form of racism against national minority peoples. Many of those in France’s Muslim community came to the country as laborers from Algeria, Tunisia and other countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Algeria, which was a French colony, won its independence after a long and bloody war for national liberation in 1962. The Algerian revolution was known as “The Revolution of One Million Martyrs,” indicative of the campaign of terror waged by the French imperialist establishment against the people fighting for independence and to evict the colonizer.
The incident is being used as an obvious pretext for an even wider assault and demonization of Muslims and immigrants in Europe. Right wing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political parties have been making substantial political gains in the last two years in France, Britain, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, and Greece. Fascist attacks against immigrants are on the increase all across the continent.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Almost all of continental Europe was under the control of fascism between 1940 and 1945. The unemployment, low wages, and increasing economic crisis caused by capitalism is being used again by fascist demagogues to scapegoat religious and ethnic minority peoples. It is all the more imperative to reject every manifestation of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and immigrant-bashing.