CPGB-ML » Posts for tag 'France'

Charlie Hebdo, the free press and racism

We reproduce this excellent article from Workers World with thanks.

Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.' Assad: &That's not what you say when you send them my way.'

Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.'
Assad: 'That's not what you say when you send them my way.'

By Sarah Flounders

How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on 7 January at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of black youth in the US? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?

The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive — even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.

Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.

Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the US. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the US confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops — even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.

Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on 11 January. French, other European, US and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.

Twice, on 27 December and 4 January, thousands of police in uniform from all over the US converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car on 20 December. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The US vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.

Not a free speech issue

The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012, the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.

French law allows for the prosecution of ‘public insults’ based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.

However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted muslims or the prophet Muhammed.

In 2012, as protests swept the muslim world in response to an anti-muslim film made in the US, French interior minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, 21 September 2012)

Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, 19 September 2012)

In the same week, Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.

Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza.

France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.

It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.

Role of Nazi caricature

Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.

Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago, when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right-wing and fascist in character.

In this period, when muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilisations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer, with its vehemently anti-semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.

The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.

Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.

Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilisation. It ran cartoons demonising Serbs during the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported Nato’s attack on Libya.

No free press

Although ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the US is not free, open or accessible.

The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime.

A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the internet have opened a few tiny cracks in this overwhelming corporate control [just as small-scale people's printing presses did formerly].

The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping which lives have value and which deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.

The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by US imperialism, and with the full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled ‘collateral damage’. The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a US drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.

The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under US occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of US helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling back to kill the family who stopped their van to try to help them.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites that are supposed to be safe for civilians”. Eight media centres were targeted and bombed.

US bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 US/Nato war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.

The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the US-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.

The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticised Nato’s 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and UN resolutions.

If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.

What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, Press TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the US.

Both Press TV and Al-Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.

National oppression

National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from muslim backgrounds [usually from former French colonies], although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.

Just as prisons in the US, overwhelmingly imprison black and brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are muslim, according to muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, 29 April 2008)

Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.

Who benefits?

Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.

There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies.

We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of US, France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.

This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.

In their frantic efforts to recolonise Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organised deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the US, France and Britain.

It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa — primarily in the majority-muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.

The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from its expanding wars and increasingly militarised society. The mobilisations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.

Support Libya’s green resistance fighters

This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress

This congress recognises that the imperialist beasts of the USA, Britain and France planned, financed and played the major role, assisted by their various middle-eastern puppets, in the overthrow of the popular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi.

This congress notes that they, through the trickery of a UN resolution to impose a ‘no-fly zone’, supposedly to ‘protect’ the Libyan people, used the combined air power of Nato member states to carpet-bomb and destroy Libyan airports, military bases, media stations, hospitals, schools, electricity and water supplies, general infrastructure and residential areas alike.

Congress further notes that, even with the great military advantage that this onslaught from outside gave the rats of the Transitional National Council (TNC), they were so numerically weak and lacking in any support within Libya that they could not make decisive use of this advantage. So it was that Libya was flooded with military ‘advisors’ from the imperialist regimes and elite troops from all the neighbouring states that were under the sway of imperialism.

This congress applauds the heroic struggle that the Libyan people and their army waged against Nato’s proxy forces on the ground, despite the horrendous effects of the imperialists’ all-out air war, noting that they held out for more than six months until the capture, torture and public murder of the leader of Libya’s green revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Congress also sends a red salute to the brave green fighters in Libya, who are continuing to put up resistance to imperialism and its puppets today.

Closer to home, this congress condemns the disgusting role played during the war on Libya by the ‘left’ supporters of imperialism – the social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists. In Britain, the worst of these enemies of the international proletariat once more proved themselves to be the Labour party, the SWP, Counterfire, the CPB, and the ‘anti-war’ umbrella group in which many of those parties’ spokespeople play a leading role: the Stop the War Coalition (StW). StW held a single nationally-organised demonstration over the issue of the overthrow of the sovereign state of Libya by imperialism – but they held it outside the Libyan embassy supporting the imperialist-backed TNC and opposing the anti-imperialist leadership of Colonel Gaddafi!

This congress affirms that imperialism is the main enemy of the international working class, and that US imperialism, as the biggest and most powerful imperialist state, is the biggest enemy to world peace.

Congress further affirms that in an imperialist war the duty of the working class in an imperialist country is to work for the defeat of its own government. And an essential part of that process must be exposing and leading workers away from the misleadership of social democracy and its revisionist and Trotskyist hand-maidens, who will try with all their guile to keep workers tied to the imperialist war machine through revolutionary-sounding phrases and lies.

This congress resolves to continue working to show our class that we do have the power to stop the imperialist war machine by starving it of all the necessary supplies for its wars of brigandage, whether those supplies be weapons, transport or soldiers!

Congress further resolves to use all means at the party’s disposal to disseminate information about the ongoing battle in Libya, in order that British workers should understand that there is a popular resistance movement fighting to rid the country of imperialist forces. Our party will continue to expose the vile and rapacious doings of the TNC rats who now hope to rule Libya (with imperialist troops stood at their shoulders). These villains have murdered, kidnapped, raped, looted and evicted from their homes those supporting or suspected of supporting the green resistance. From the earliest days, even before coming to power, it was well known that the TNC rats were lynching black Libyans, as well as other black Africans working in the country, and our party will continue to remind the world of this fact.

Finally, this congress resolves to continue pointing out that this bloody war was brought upon the Libyan people in order to grab the country’s oil, to remove its anti-imperialist leadership, and to kick open the door to the re-conquest of Africa. The freedom and protection of the Libyan people was never a real reason for waging the war – except, perhaps, in the minds of a few simple souls who simply cannot, or will not, see the jackboot an inch from their face, even when it is pointed out to them.

This congress remains confident that the Libyan masses will rise again to rid their land of the imperialist puppets and bring the imperialists’ dreams of world domination to nought.

Long live the memory of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, hero of the Libyan and African peoples!
Victory to the anti-imperialist peoples!
Death to imperialism!

Speed-up of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.

Following the French announcement last month that it is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan earlier than had previously been envisaged, the US has now also announced its early departure, ie, the ending of its ‘combat role’ by the middle of next year.

Of 90,000 US troops in Afghanistan, 22,000 are to be withdrawn by this autumn, although no schedule for the departure of the remaining 68,000 has been given. US imperialism is also proposing to scale down the Afghan puppet troops, which are costing the US and other Nato countries some $6bn a year.

Meanwhile, attempts are still continuing to find ‘reasonable’ elements of the Taliban with whom to reach a peace agreement. However, Afghanistan remains very much a country at war. Increasingly, imperialism is “privatising the ultimate sacrifice”. Last year, for the first time since the start of the Afghan campaign, more civilian contractors working for the US were killed than were US soldiers. (‘Risks of Afghan war shift from soldiers to contractors’ by Rod Nordland, New York Times, 12 February 2012)

France brings forward Afghanistan withdrawal

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February

France has announced that it will be withdrawing its 3,900 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, a year earlier than planned; and this year it will be pulling out 1,000 troops rather than the 600 originally planned.

The announcement to that effect was made by Sarkozy as part of his presidential re-election campaign, in response to the killing of four French soldiers and the severe wounding of eight others by a member of the Afghan puppet forces. These deaths aggravated public anger at a war in which most French people believe the country should never have become involved.

Euro on the verge of collapse

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December

There is a real threat that the euro is going to collapse as a currency. This is because everybody is trying to get rid of their euro holdings. The reason this is happening is that it has become clear that Greece is not going to avoid defaulting on its debt, with the general consensus being that its lenders are going to have to take a 50 percent ‘haircut’.

At the same time, Portugal’s debt has been reduced to junk status by credit rating agencies, and borrowing costs for Italy and Spain have soared above the affordability mark, with even German bonds suffering increased borrowing costs. Now France is under threat as it is likely to need to bail out its banks as a result of their losses on their Greek debts, etc.

Attempts to put together a firewall that will enable European countries to continue to borrow at affordable rates of interest are floundering, and the Germans are resisting attempts to have the European Central Bank step in to perform this service, because they make the largest contribution to this bank and don’t want to throw good money after bad and then find themselves in financial trouble.

There is some suggestion that Germany would be willing to be more accommodating if the European countries would agree to greater fiscal integration, which of course implies a surrender of sovereignty to the EU which in turn is very much dominated by Germany and France. They of course can be expected to use that control for their national benefit at the expense of other EU countries.

In the meantime, the elected leaders of Greece and Italy have both been forced to resign, to be replaced by unelected ‘technocrats’ with close links to Goldman Sachs (which in turn was intimately involved with the repackaging of subprime debts as high quality by camouflaging them in complex ‘derivatives’). The new head of the ECB is also a former Goldman Sachs man.

The UK and the US are said to be making contingency plans for the chaos that will certainly ensue if the euro does in fact collapse. More detail in this month’s issue of Proletarian.

Kenya provides latest proxy troops for imperialism in Somalia

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

There has been intense fighting along the Kenya-Somalia border. Kenya’s actions are intended to support Somalia’s US-backed puppet government to retain control of territory in southern Somalia, which is increasingly falling under the sway of al-Shabaab (Kenya’s security services get millions of dollars each year in training and support from the US and British governments).

On the pretext that al-Shabaab was threatening Kenya (!), hundreds of Kenyan soldiers and police officers, alongside forces from Uganda, have entered Somalia, with fighter planes and military helicopters overflying the Somali town of Dhobley and even bombing targets in the region. Essentially, they have invaded on behalf of imperialism to take the place of the Ethiopian troops who had previously been trying to subdue Somalia on imperialism’s behalf but who retired defeated. France is helping with ‘logistics’.

At the same time, western imperialism is using the drought that is is thought to be causing mass starvation in southern Somalia as an excuse to penetrate the area, supposedly to distribute aid, which it refuses to channel through the al-Shabaab authorities in control of the region. Al-Shabaab in the meantime has set up its own programme of support to people affected by the famine and is urging them to return to their homes to plant crops in readiness for the rainy season, which is expected soon.

Al-Shabaab has also warned Kenya that if its incursions continue, then reprisals would be taken. Nairobi was hit on 24 October by two grenade attacks in which one person was killed any some 23 injured, although it is claimed that these do not bear the hallmarks of an al-Shabaab attack, which would have been expected to be more sophisticated.