we are not charlie (2015)

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

– Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trial, 1946


2 leaflets translated from the French, followed by 2 comments on Islamofascism.

Capture d’écran 2015-01-13 à 01.05.54

 “I am Charlie” 
“Yeah, yeah – me too”

The leaflet below  is a translation of this pdf  in French: Untitled-1

It was distributed yesterday (11th January 2015) in Marseilles. Those who distributed it had it thrown back in their faces, were insulted and spat upon. In Paris, a friend – a radical – went round various groups of people chatting about the situation, amongst which included some from the French Communist Party. They angrily responded to what he said with “People like you should be prevented from expressing your ideas”. So much for “Freedom of expression”, the watchword of those who have nothing to say but repeat the clichés spewed out by the masters and ideologists of this society. In this society “freedom of speech” does not exist: speak out against your boss, or a cop, or your teacher if you’re a kid, and you’ll discover how far this “freedom” gets you. Even liberal-lefties like Robert Fisk are capable of seeing the hypocrisy of the West’s defence of “freedom of speech”: see this. Moreover, in France there’s a law against “outrage”, which means that you can be prosecuted for insulting anybody who’s a paid civil servant. I myself was once threatened by a colonel of the gendarmerie with this for insulting Sarkozy (though he didn’t carry through with the threat). Moreover, France has a law against holocaust denial – so even within state-directed notions of “free speech” lines are drawn – it’s never an absolute. This of course, is different from being killed for producing a cartoon of Mohammed fucking a goat (a cartoon that reminded a pied-noir French guy I know, a guy born in Algeria, of the fascist OAS’s depiction of sub-human Arabs). A sick cartoon, which, however, does not deserve being killed for (moreover, despite the fact that the international media focus almost exclusively on the journalists killed, in a society divided into the scene and the unseen, the male cleaner and proof reader who were killed have been – with a few exceptions – photochopped out of the picture).

On the News Of Opposition page on this site, I wrote the following about this on Wednesday 7th January:

France, Paris…: demonstrations (including many of those working for the Press) take place throughout Paris over the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the main one being in Place de la République. There were many Muslims (including many women, veiled and unveiled), disgusted by what had happened (the massacre also included at least one ordinary proletarian – a proof reader), and obviously fearful of Islamophobic reprisals. Journalists tended to be in favour of intensifying “security measures” (ie repressive laws), as if such things could or would have prevented such a massacre (it’s the typical unthinking knee-jerk response of those who can only see hierarchical “solutions” which merely make things worse). Those lower down in the hierarchy of the Press (eg copy editors and proof readers) were apparently more sceptical about the use by the state of such events as a pretext for intensified “security” measures. The Front National turned up with the French national tricolour flag, were met with immediate hostility from most of the crowd and were given 2 minutes to leave, which they did.  The local 11th arrondisement section of the governing Socialist Party turned up in an official capacity and were told to stay outside the demonstration (which they also did), the crowd telling them to leave because they were using the events to make political capital out of it.  The former minister under Sarkozy – Borloo – was there but made it clear that he was there as a “citizen”, and just milled around like anybody else. A clever move – he was not threatened, and was allowed to stay. In Montreuil, however, the Greens and the Front De Gauche (leftists, including the Communist Party) were allowed to display their party colours and though some were hostile to them, this had no practical consequence, unlike what had happened in the Place de la Republique. This, despite the fact that the Front de Gauche had voted for the intensification of anti-terrorist measures back in November (the Greens had abstained).

In the meantime, in Le Mans the predictable burning of a mosque has provoked a response from youths in the area – burning of cars, containers and smashing of bus stops

It’s obvious that the worst aspect of all this is the push to war (see – in French – the Islamophobic neoliberal site “Civil War In Europe”, which has been going for about 9 months now)  on both sides of the equation – from the Islamo-fascists to the neoliberal scum like Hollande and Sarkozy, with those at the sharp end of the hierarchy being manipulated into taking sides rather than making sides. But for those striving to develop some rational subversion of false choices, the choice between the frying pan or the fire is, as always, the masochistic choice to oppose our own self-interest, our class interest, the choice to submit to our masters or would-be masters.

Here’s the fairly free translation of the Marseilles leaflet:



Wednesday’s massacre is horrible and abject. Without a doubt, words are never sufficient to describe such carnage…

A logical target? Charlie Hebdo no longer makes us laugh these days. Like others over recent years, the journal cheerfully added fuel to the fire of ordinary racism, rampant Islamophobia and pro-western discourse. In its own way – filthy, obscene and sexist, but from the “left” – Charlie fed, perhaps without wanting to, these nauseating ideas. Brandishing the grand alibis of liberty of expression and secularism, Charlie Hebdo only helped to boost the necessary divisions for the rich to maintain their power.
This carnage is unbearable to us.
As much as the command from on high to declare “I am Charlie”.


The little priests of all forms of obedience – Christian, Jewish or Muslim – have only ever contained people by promising them Paradise in exchange for their docility on Earth. Which God must be cherished? Which heretics must be fought? Which moral order should be followed? How to behave? How to dress? How to fuck? Who to love? So many false questions, so many injunctions. And for each religion, their batch of fanatics. From Jihadists ready to blow themselves up to Catholic fundamentalists from the “Demonstration for everybody” [anti-gay marriage demonstrations organised around defence of the traditional family] who go hunting homosexuals.


The fanatics and fascists play the game of tension and fear. These fascists of all stripes have been on our backs for some time already, but from now on the dogs have been let off their leash. Day after day, anti-semites like Soral or Dieudonné, Islamophobes and anti-immigrants with all kinds of identities, from “France for the French”, and from skinheads à la Ayoub or Gabriac, they inculcate their putrid ideas in people’s heads: hatred for foreigners, fear of The Other, everyone back to where they came from and other deathly notions. They haven’t hesitated to react. The Front National demand the return of the death penalty. The more virulent of these brutalised frontists have already attacked a number of mosques and kebab joints and beaten up young Arabs (Villefranche-sur-Saône, Le Mans, Port-La-Nouvelle, Poitiers, etc…). And the organisation Riposte Laïque [sic] calls for a massive demonstration in Paris on the 18th January against the “Islamisation of France”.

The Islamophobia which is already well entrenched will become even more pervasive. Amalgamating this with people from immigrant backgrounds will advance at a rapid pace. And the Arabs and Muslims will unfortunately pay more of a price than others.


But we’ve seen, we see and we will see more and more cops in the streeets and in people’s heads, always provided with more guns (which will be used against us). Freedom of expression didn’t fall under the rain of bullets fired by some brainless shitheads, but under the process of the militarisation of life and of the society that is just beginning to discover a new significant moment of being shaken up.

If someone must cry, apart from the families and those who are close to the people who were killed, it is those who are going to pay for this pornography of emotion which has been imposed like a veil over all critical thought about the situation, those who will continue being exploited, even worse than before, and who will continue to be oppressed, even worse than before.
Terroirism has always been a weapon for domination. That’s still true today.
And Capital will gleefully rub its hands.


They flood us with appeals for “National Unity”, against the enemy within (immigrants, anarchists, Muslims, strikers, etc. – according to the needs of the moment) which will only succeed, once again, in dividing the poor amongst themselves. And the war of the poor against the poor only profits those who fill their own pockets, those who liberalise the conditions of work. So it’s class solidarity – with neither flag nor nation – that will have to develop in order for us to oppose them and their world.





Added 13/1/15:

 You’re mistaken – I’m not Charlie

Translated by me from  Claude Guillon’s blog

Sunday, 11th January 2015

I’ve no doubt that there are some “Charlies” who are friendly and full of good intentions. I’m inundated, like everybody, with their indignant emails. I am not him.

I’m not Charlie, because I know that the vast majority of these people have never been Charlie nor Mohammed nor Zouad, ie none of the hundreds of young people killed in the suburbs by “our” police officers (cops of all faiths!) paid with “our” taxes. In using the tools of sociologists, I understand why it is more immediately easy for white petit-bourgeoises to identify with a well-known intellectual and white artist, than with a child of immigrant workers in the Maghreb. But understanding is neither to excuse it nor to adhere to it.

I’m not Charlie, because I refuse to “assemble”, at the behest of the tenant of the Elysee, with politicos, cops and extreme right activists. I am not speaking up in the air: an acquaintance tells me that at his place of work, there were homophobic catholic activists from the “Demonstrations for all” who were involved in the organization of a minute’s silence for the Charlie Hebdo team.

I’m not Charlie, because I refuse to cry over the dead bodies of Charlie Hebdo with François Hollande who has just announced that the airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes will be built, ie that there will be others seriously injured by rubber bullets and probably other Rémi Fraisses.

I’m not Charlie, because I am viscerally – and culturally – hostile to any kind of “sacred union”. Even the stupid journalists from Le Monde have understood that it’s a question of this; they simply ask how long this “union” can last. To “assemble” behind François Hollande against “Islamist barbarism” is no less stupid than to make a sacred union against “German barbarism” in 1914. Some anarchists took up this union during that epoch ; it’s good like that, we were given!

I’m not Charlie, because the “gathering” is the name of neo-liberal class collaboration. Some of you might think that classes don’t exist any more and even less that they are still fighting each other. If you are a boss or leader of something (office, workshop …), it is normal that you claim that (and yet! – there are exceptions), or you could believe it. If you are a worker, working, forced to do tasks  or are unemployed , I advise you to inform yourself.

I’m not Charlie, because if I share the grief of friends and relatives of those killed, I do not recognize in any way what had become , and for the last few decades, of the newspaper “Charlie Hebdo”. Having started as an anarchist rant, this newspaper turned – notably under the direction of Philippe Val – against the audience it had at the beginning. It remained anticlerical. Does that count? Yes. Is that enough? Certainly not. I learnt that Houellebecq [cynical semi-fascist Islamophobe, immersed in a wretchedly arrogant  attitude of pathological contempt] and Bernard Maris [one of those killed, an economist-cum-journalist, regular contributor to Charlie Hebdo, who was part of the Directorate of the neo-liberal Banque de France – equivalent of the Bank of England – for some time, whilst also being part of ATTAC –  semi-Keynesian advocates of the Tobin tax] had become great friends, and that the former “suspended” the promotion of his book “Submission” (which will cost him nothing) in homage to the latter. This proves that even in the worst of situations, there are still opportunities to have a laugh.

I’m not Charlie, because I am a militant revolutionary who tries to keep abreast of the progress of the capitalist world in which he lives. Therefore, I am aware that the country I am a citizen of is at war, certainly in “theaters of war” distant and changing. In the worst possible way possible, since all over the world and even in my neighborhood, the enemies of France can consider me as their enemy. This is sometimes true, sometimes not. At least, knowing that France is at war, I did not experience the same astonishment as many Charlies did to learn that an act of war was committed in central Paris against humourists disrespectful towards religions.

I’m not Charlie, because, given the absence of details, and the very fact of the anonymization produced by the formula “I’m Charlie,” it necessarily implies some “anti-terrorist” unanimity coming from probably very different positions of this person or that. In other words, as a plebiscite of the so-called “anti-terrorist” legislative apparatus, which is an instrument for what I call democratic terrorisation.

I’m not Charlie. I am Claude. Revolutionary anarchist, anti-capitalist, supporter of the libertarian communist project, mortal enemy of all monotheistic religions – but I sacrifice to Aphrodite! – And not to any State. This is enough to make me a target for religious fanatics and cops (I’ve paid to find out).

I am willing, as a form of gregarious emotion, to debate with those for whom the killing of “Charlie Hebdo” is one of the horrors of this world, to which it is useless to add even more confusion.

[Reprinted from the blog of Claude Guillon.]

Added 19/1/15:

The following 2 comments about Islamofascism seem very pertinent:

The first is a response to this Non-fides article:

Okay article though it misses a deeper, necessary analysis that is demonstrated through the collection of texts and infos posted on the Antidev entry on the same issue, more importantly the How -and even a hint to the Why- this shit is happening… especially in direct conjuncture with the recent attacks in Australia and Canada.

In short, the jihadists who did this are a global CULT (the Wahhabi Takfiri Salafists), who are *allegedly* a product of British imperialism, conveniently used by other foreign powers to lead operations of destabilization/radicalization for shared or unique goals. Their stronghold in Syria is historically known to be Aleppo, that also evenly has been the hotbed of the jihadist faction(s) of the current Syrian rebellion. In “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” (or the famous film adaptation) Lawrence particularly describes the Aleppo mercenaries as a bunch of bloodthirsty trigger-happy psychopaths who murder and torture with joy. The Wahhabist are the offspring of the Saud family/regime, that is in bed with most Western powers, especially the “neocon” faction of their establishment. They basically have become Saudi Arabia’s MI6.

More importantly, the Salafi consider most other Muslims as “infidels” who must be forced by terror or murderous violence to join their ranks (wherever they don’t want to), or see it as the most viable option in a situation of increased oppression against Muslims, Which is in line with what ISIS has been doing lately… recruiting jobless, repressed young Muslim guys all over the planet to give them a new life as warriors for the Jihad. They don’t care killing other Shia or Sunni Muslims, even less non-Muslims, as long as it serves their authoritarian agenda.

Their purpose (how they are being used) in the West appears to be in force-fulfilling the “Clash of Civilizations” theory, in helping to provoke a polarization between Christians/Jews and Muslims, perhaps also between the current East-West blocs (the reemerging Eurasian Vs collapsing West European civilizations), where the White Euro reactionaries are playing on the other side of the stage for this same common goal. They are the continuity -or resurgence- of the Plan Bleu. But it’s all just assumptions on what’s happening, towards what’s coming…

Cayenne pepper popcorn aside, I believe that our best non-staged role to play as antagonists is among the audience of spectators, especially in breaking apart this huge shitshow of Terror.

The “IamNotCharlie” Twitter trend seems to have been successful to that regard. That’s just another Twitter online “riot”, though it drawn a clear line, so rarely seen, between the authoritarian world and all those who oppose it, no matter their background or usual political stances.

Given how it pissed off the Jpost zionists it’s quite revealing how successful it’s been as a spontaneous attack on the Spectacle.”

The second is from an email list:

“What is the social and economic ground of the existence of Political Islam and what else is it correlated to, according to your opinion?”
What means to build a State? Even if you can define a territory where you impose a domination because you have the weapons and  some kind of an ideology, people have to live in this territory and must  have some kind of economic and social relations. I did not see any kind of theory about that in this islamic state. On the contrary, the muslim brothers failed totally in Egypt and Tunisia because they have no “programme” of this kind and were only following the capitalist system. On the other hand we have to consider the global world problem in which the western capitalist failed totally to maintain his interests in Afghanistan , Irak and in Syria, this failure  opening the door for the “islamic” state. All this debate about what  happened in France ( a tiny part of the world islamic violence) missed these essential problems.

Added 20/1/15:

Guess which of these 2 have faced prosecution by the French state? The answer is here.




8 responses to “we are not charlie (2015)”

  1. […] texte a été aimablement traduit/adapté sur Dialectical delinquents. Merci à ces […]

  2. Philippe avatar

    After killing journalists working for Hamas media, the Israeli IDF wrote “Such terrorists, who hold cameras and notebooks in their hands, are no different from their colleagues who fire rockets aimed at Israeli cities and cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists.” When states do not only apply terrorism but also ideologically justify it, nobody seems to be shocked… why do not they deserve the same punishment as the Kouachi brothers?

    1. Sam FantoSamotnaf avatar

      One wonders how all those who currently display “Je suis Charlie” stickers would feel if, re. the above, people started displaying “Je suis Hamas” stickers. Quite honestly I don’t feel much for the Hamas journalists any more than I feel much for the Charlie Hebdo ones. But such relative indifference towards them doesn’t mean I support the IDF any more than it would mean I support Islamofascism because I feel relatively indifferent towards the deaths of CH journalists, at least as individuals and as what they represent (indifference to the whole insanity of the false choices reinforced by this terrorist attack is something else). People are being accused of being “heartless” in relation to the CH journos if they criticise the “Je suis Charlie” crap, but in fact, given the endless inundation of news of atrocities everywhere without everyone feeling the need to display their hearts on their sleeves (and the silence about the 22,000 kids who die each day because of capitalist “progress”), this spectacle of emotion is clearly being manipulated in a way that creates a hierarchy of pseudo-grief, discriminately applied.

      “All the drama of a spectacular death both distracts the man in the street from his misery and restates that misery. The sad only feel sorry for themselves. Modern conditions of life are so bad, so empty, so banal, that everyone jumps at the chance to react to a drama. Even if their sole contact with the event is as bloodless and shallow as the newspaper that brought home the tidings. Real grief is cathartic. Grief accorded to an image can only be unfulfilling….The spectacle is at the heart of a heartless world and in the soul of soulless conditions. … When the spectacle solicits an emotional response conformity becomes a social imperative. Since all we have in common is our desire to be together and our misery at failing to be together what seems to be a sharing of experience is actually the imposition of experience. Everything is said about the spectacle except what it fundamentally is: the manipulation of the emotions of the individual by those of the collectivity.” – from here: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/?page_id=1788

  3. Sam FantoSamotnaf avatar

    Good comment here: http://libcom.org/forums/news/charlie-hebdo-other-attacks-paris-08012015?page=7#comment-551134

    “I will try to put this simply:

    1. Charlie Hebdo was not “equally” irreverent, dismissive, offensive, disrespectful to “all.” Take a look at the covers “criticizing” Israel’s actions in Gaza. They are downright mild and inoffensive, drawn as if by a cartoonist for the Jerusalem Post. No flies buzzing about the heads of the IDF soldiers; no rabbis fucking dead Palestinian children in order to save “40 euros” on a 9 year old prostitute. No hook noses. No fangs. Nothing. zero. Cartoons pleading, basically, for Netanyahu (or whomever) to be more precise in their attacks and spare the schools– and that’s about as harsh as it gets. Seriously. No surprise to me then that Netanyahu shows up at the funeral. “Good dog, Charlie. Good dog. I’m going to miss you.”

    2. CH wanted to provoke, and provoke it did; its provocations were indeed based on “shared values”– shared republican values which are part and parcel and inseparable from, the colonial project, the colonial extension of the “mother” country . It isn’t the irreverence that attracted “defenders” of CH. It isn’t it’s iconoclasm, because in truth CH was not iconoclastic– as evidenced by its gentle treatment of Israel. Actual commitment to the “humanity” ? The”humanism” the so-called values that others attribute to CH? None of that is real. No, what attracts the Je suis Charlie-ers is the safety that CH provided, its affirmation of the underlying goodness to the colonial project.

    3. Now given the actual military assaults in and by advanced capitalist countries against people in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, Palestine; given the general disregard, and dismissal of Arabic people, and followers of Islam as ignorant, backward, subhuman; given the French state’s attack on the head scarf; given the real terrorism that occurs sporadically, and sometimes regularly, against people looking like “Arabs” or “Moslems,” — with all that, and with CH’s alleged “humanism” wouldn’t it have been more “humanist” for CH to avoid feeding the flames even though it had every right to do so? Didn’t that real danger to innocent people who “looked the part” kind of outweigh the need for CH to provoke? The answer of course for CH was “absolutely not.” And that, that categorical refusal to consider the repercussion of its exercise of its “right” is what I call “colonists’ entitlement.”

    The “others” don’t count. The others haven’t learned our ways yet; our “codes;” our idiosyncrasies/ So Charlie went ahead, believing that “republican values” were “protection.”

    4. CH as an embodiment of French humor? Sure thing, like Haiti is the embodiment of “republican values.” We’re not Charlie, or BHL, or any other of those house-broken, and house trained performing pooches. The murders at CH were a crime. The canonization of CH is a falsification.”

    And here, from the same person: http://libcom.org/forums/news/charlie-hebdo-other-attacks-paris-08012015?page=8#comment-551218

    I think those who regard CH’s selected and selective attacks as somehow expressing an emancipatory impulse are putting themselves, and us on.

    I think it gets one into that famous trick bag where the French state, in banning a head scarf or a veil, is viewed as defending secular, republican values, rather than targeting a section of the population for…..further targeting.

    Does anybody here remember Laura Bush, then first lady of the then US Bomber-In-Chief, defending the invasion of Afghanistan for the positive impact it has on women’s rights?

    Hell, there’s a whole school of wing-nut “Marxist” formalists, who thing the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the threatened attacks on Iran represent the emergence of another great wave of the bourgeois republican revolution; designed to break the middle east free of “feudal chains.”

    There’s a long and ignorant tradition of that– of ignorance, and prejudice riding in under the guise of “progress;” of secular-ism; of “republican values.”

    Why old Fred Engels himself praised the US’s attack on Mexico in 1846, convinced as he was that the Yankee capitalists would drag Mexico out of the swamp of the Spanish conquest, and into the republican value of bourgeois property.

    Of course the fact that the war was fought for the benefit of the South and slavery– that’s a mere technicality

    While CH may not have adapted everyone one of those positions, CH was most definitely in that tradition; that ignorant tradition that serves power under the pretense of emancipation.

    The point being what was being attacked by CH is not the oppressiveness of all religion as religion; what’s being attacked is not even a single religion on the basis of the oppressiveness it shares with all religion.

    What is being attacked is a sector of the population that has already been “kettled” so to speak, separated, subjected to discriminatory treatment (Q: What portion of the French population is three generations or less removed from North Africa/Africa? Next Q: What portion of the prison population traces itself to North Africa/Africa?) through the proxy of religion.

    So it’s Muslims in France. And in Greece and Spain it’s immigrant labor. But what’s hidden under the guise of attacking the oppressiveness of religion, or”preserving” the “national wage/living standard,” are the capitalist attacks on the ability of the working class, as a class, to represent the interests of all the poor and oppressed in, and as, itself. That’s precisely what CH did.”

  4. Sam FantoSamotnaf avatar

    Only just seen this – “No Mr. Charlies” -http://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.fr/2015/01/no-mr-charlies.html

    “The relations of power, and to power, are fundamental to racism.

    So…so that when the Danish newspaper publishes the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb for a turban, that is indeed “racist;” and the cartoon about the doctor informing an expectant Moslem father “Congratulations, it’s a bomb” is racist.

    The relations of power are such that the bombing that’s really going on, the “dominant” so to speak mode of destruction is the bombing of people who are in the main Moslem.

    Now you and I may agree that the bombing isn’t being done because they are practitioners of Islam, but that point might be lost on those having to endure daily bombings, and in particular lost when there is no class-conscious movement, on an international basis, opposing these bombings; engaging in the struggle against the system perpetrating these attacks.

    Hebdo’s cartoons fed, they reproduced, the dominant relations of power– the relations that include white phosphorus being used, and with impunity by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza; the one that has capitalist intelligence agencies arming militias, encouraging their “extra-judicial” actions in order to buttress the characterization of those practicing Islam, and/or of those speaking Arabic, as “savages,” “brutes;” the relations that has the US torturing “suspects” who are Moslem; the very same relations, back in the day, that had General John “Black Jack” Pershing executing rebels in the Philippines and burying them in pits with pigs.

    Say all you want about cartoons of the pope being naked and fucked in the ass. Doesn’t matter, and doesn’t count. Nobody’s launching cruise missiles against the Vatican; killing hundreds of thousands of Catholics just for being there.”

  5. Philippe avatar

    Capitalism has its roots in the deepest dialectical contradiction between form and content: the egalitarian form of the contract exchanging commodities of equel value becomes the slavery of wage labour under the employment contract. Freedom becomes the freedom to exploit. This is not only ideology: it’s the basic inner workings of Capital.
    We should therefore not be surprised by the contradiction between nn one hand a formal description of Charlie Hebdo as attacking all religions, satirizing similarly the IDF and Islamofascists and – on the other hand – the class content of CH (especially over the last 10 years) as faithful scribblers for the bourgeoisie – no different from Fox News or le Figaro in that respect. I think something should be written about how the May-68 movement, revolutionary in some of its aspects, was at the same time an expression of proletarian struggle and the coming-of-age and legitimization of a new fraction of the intellectual petite-bourgeoisie, from which scumbags like Daniel Cohn-Bendit but also the pseudo-anarchistic CH “subversion” were born.



  6. Sam FantoSamotnaf avatar

    Charles Reeve wrote the following shortly after the murders in Paris (here:
    http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/2/field-notes ):

      Some thoughts on the situation we are living through, right now, in Paris and in France.

      It’s a difficult moment.

      People are in shock, sad, very concerned. One can feel it in daily life. There is also a widespread need to talk and exchange ideas and feelings, among neighbors, work colleagues, and even strangers encountered in the transportation system or in the street. There is a feeling that the basis of social life is fragile and delicate. The desire for solidarity can be felt in the way people look at each other, in the words that pass between them. This is probably stronger in the popular milieu where, as in the area on the edge of Paris where I live, many people are of immigrant origin and many come specifically from what is called “Islamic culture.” They are afraid that they are going to pay a high price for the current situation. They also know that what is happening is, in part, the result of their distress, the social decomposition of sectors of the proletarian community, which is experiencing division, exclusion, and repression. Urban French society is extremely diverse, and there is a feeling that this mixture is something which should be defended and respected; otherwise the social situation will become even worse.

      For reactionary types, of course, this diversity is the big problem. As some politician from the right just said, speaking elliptically, “Immigration makes things more complicated.” Immigrants are already marginalized; now they are the number one suspects. As a young guy was saying the other day on the bus, “The police already loved us and they were on us all the time. Now, we also have the journalists coming up to us. That must be what they call terrorism!”

      The bloody massacre was a military-type action, carried out by people who identify with groups who are at war with the French state. They see themselves as soldiers. One of the commandos, after killing 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo office, refused to kill a hostage, saying, “We do not kill civilians.” Moved by ideological fanaticism, they executed journalists whom they saw as serving the war of the French state. The targeting of Jewish people in the kosher supermarket was also justified as part of the overall war going on, as a reply to the killing of children in Gaza.

      For more than 20 years, the French state has been engaged in several wars and military operations in Africa and the Middle East. Today, more than 8,000 French soldiers are engaged, from Iraq to the Sahel, with planes, warships, and so on. This engagement has been reinforced by the present Socialist government, which keeps talking about going to war everywhere where it’s needed. Since the beginning of the 20th century and the First World War, socialists have shown their love for war, and when they are in power one can be sure that they will do their best. It was obvious to anyone who thought about it that this permanent war, which is spreading all over around us, bringing destruction, death, and the massive displacement of populations, would have consequences. How could people think the war was only on television and would not come home? Now, everybody knows, and French society has been awakened to the problem in a brutal way. For the moment, and this is certainly one of the most striking aspects of the present situation, only rarely does a public voice express concern about the war in the media or in political discourse. Only some secret service officials dare to do so, softly. I think that this question is now agitating the spirits of many and that this debate will not be suppressed much longer. The fact is that a Socialist government has better ideological means of keeping the question of war out of public discussion. I’m sure that under a right-wing government the recent demonstrations would have taken on an anti-war character, as they did in Spain after the Madrid attacks in 2004.

      This brings us to a second important aspect of the present situation. The first demonstrations against the killings were spontaneous and very intense: hundreds of thousands, “political” and “apolitical” people, came together in public places, and their slogans were against the barbarous acts as such, without being nationalistic, racist, or patriotic. The Socialist government understood very quickly that they should take the lead and organize the protests before they could turn against the state’s military engagement and their own responsibility. They appealed for “National Unity.” The President met with the leader of the National Front—for the first time—along with the leader of the Left Socialist party. The message was clear: the “extremes” are close! The extreme right was “officially” recognized by the Socialists as a normal partner in the political game and their members invited to participate in the demos—which they did all over the country, singing the national anthem, waving national flags, cheering the police, giving a dominantly patriotic tone to the demos. An alliance with the traditional right for a “defense policy against terrorism” was also immediately accepted. This alliance, the climax of “National Unity,” makes it possible to ignore, among other things, questions about the conditions that give rise to such attacks and about the failures of the French secret services. Without falling for conspiracy theories, there are a number of strange facts to note: the commandos were well known but not followed a Charlie Hebdo was known to be a main target but not well protected; a terrorist involved in a previous attack against Jewish kids had probably been a double agent for the French services, etc. It’s quite possible that divisions and antagonisms exist inside the intelligence services and that some sectors are not unhappy about the consequences of these killings, which can reinforce the acceptance of right-wing forces and ideas in French society. But it’s also possible that the services are simply unable to keep track of all these young guys who are attracted to fanatic militancy. This in itself suggests the importance of the problem inside French society.

      Patriotic unity was also a form suited to neutralizing the leftist socialists, communists, greens, and union leaders, political forces that have been totally diluted in the mass demonstration and its patriotic dimension. Whatever the intentions of individuals who wished to demonstrate a critical attitude towards the government, they ended by being integrated into the mass rallies and counted as “people demanding a strong response from government.” In fact they were demonstrating in a mobilization organized by the state and their critical concern was never recognized. Today, the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), taken up by banks, companies, celebrities, and even religious leaders (!), more and more means: “I am on the side of the state.” It’s not surprising that you don’t see it so much in the working-class immigrant areas.

      The fact is that the recent massacres were a victory for both camps. For the state, the immediate result of the mass demos (about four million people in France)—led by a disgusting collection of war criminals (from Netanyahu to officials representing the Russian, Turkish, and Saudi Arabian governments) and political movers of ongoing wars—was to mobilize society to support current policies. To divide more deeply the proletarian class, a class collectively already undergoing decomposition as an effect of the economic and social crisis. To justify more repressive measures, a version of the American Patriot Act, which they will probably push in a different way in France, by adding measures to those already in place, without giving them a specific name.

      For the jihadist enemy of the French state, the victory is also a big one. The reactionary religious forces, which take credit for the attacks, present themselves as the “security,” the “protectors” of the abandoned sectors of the working class, which have an “Islamic culture.” There is a risk in this, since, as some good observers keep saying, there is today in France no such thing as an “Islamic community.” The mechanisms of French society are still able to create a living mixture from a diverse population. But the development of the crisis, the destruction of public services, especially education, and mass unemployment and social exclusion, will favor the fabrication of such a community, to the joy of the religious fanatics. In the areas where most of the French kids of immigrant origin live, the rate of youth unemployment is about 60 percent. When one reads about the itinerary of the three fanatics who committed the massacre, it’s clear that they were lost in society, and that they looked to religion to orient themselves. The marginalization of large sectors of working people has transformed their living areas into sorts of “reservations,” which are increasingly seen by the conservative sectors of society (and not only them) as reservations of “Islamic radicalism and barbarism.”

      Surely, the government hopes to take advantage of the present situation to proceed with measures of internal social war, taking additional time and space to deal administratively with the social consequences of the economic crisis. A few days after the massacre, while the president went to visit a naval base in the south of France, Air France announced the layoff of 5,000 workers, mostly holders of lower-paid jobs on which thousands of families in the Paris area depend. The external war will continue. Unemployment and poverty will continue to increase; social and educational services will continue to degrade. These are different wars, which are aspects of a global war. Only an opposition to the internal social war will be able to change the current trend. But if the patriotic “National Unity” takes the lead, things will only get worse.

  7. Neil F avatar
    Neil F

    Interesting stuff. More please! 🙂

    What was the effect of Michel Houellebecq’s book ‘Soumission’, published on the same day as the attack? From what I’ve heard, its message is clearly ‘Vote National Front to stop Islamicisation’.

    What is the perception among working class people of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala’s arrest for singing a different tune from the state in relation to “Je Suis…” and also the round-up of several others, including Muslims, for saying the wrong thing and thereby endangering ‘free speech’ (sic)?

    Is the National Front widening out to being something much more than a political party?

    What about the widespread feeling that the Fifth Republic is nearing its end? (In Britain hardly anyone perceives that there *is* a ‘regime’. Hence the widespread use of the term ‘UK’ to mean the country, and the blank looks on people’s faces if you try to draw a distinction between Britain and the UK as denoting different types of entity.)

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