|The following statement was issued by the CPGB-ML on 25 November 2015.
On the evening of Friday 13 November, a group of terrorists armed with kalashnikovs and wearing suicide belts launched coordinated assaults on six targets in Paris, killing 129 innocent people and injuring 350 others, 100 of them critically. According to eye-witness accounts, these attacks were professionally coordinated, meticulously planned and executed with cold-blooded disregard for human life. Eight of the terrorists were also killed.
The targets included the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 young people attending a performance by an American metal band were cut down in the prime of their lives; Stade de France, where a friendly football match between Germany and France was underway; Le Comptoir Voltaire restaurant and other bars and cafés.
The Islamic State (IS), also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh, has taken responsibility for the carnage in Paris, claiming: “This is only the beginning of the storm.”
Progressive people will resolutely condemn the Paris tragedy. It is clear that there is no reason for anyone, except the crazed jihadis, to gloat over such a senseless massacre, for the action of its perpetrators, far from being an expression of anti-imperialist defiance, merely serves to strengthen the imperialist agenda of repression at home and war abroad.
Our own government, for example, having failed to win approval for all-out war against Syria in 2013, is bent upon using the attacks in Paris as a justification for resuscitating the debate and trying once more to gain parliamentary approval for the full-scale bombing of Syria.
Meanwhile, preparations for the repression of all dissent and opposition to government policies are well advanced, and the latest bombings will certainly be used to further justify this assault on what remain of our civil liberties. For example, the Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the Snoopers’ Charter) is currently being piloted through parliament by the home secretary, Theresa May, under which even more powers will be bestowed on the police and on the intelligence and border agencies. (See Guardian, 4 November 2015)
There will doubtless be further demonisation of minorities and asylum seekers and yet more stoking of islamophobia by bourgeois politicians and media in the wake of the Paris attacks, with the inevitable increase in discord between muslim and non-muslim, foreign-born and local workers – all in an attempt to weaken the working-class movement by diverting our attention away from our real enemy (the imperialist ruling class) to imaginary enemies (workers from ethnic minorities and refugees).
The bourgeois media have expressed their outrage at the Paris bombings in hysterically hyperbolic terms. The Financial Times of 16 November described the attacks as “civilisation’s worst nightmare”, while another paper characterised Islamic State as “the most ruthless death cult”. The masses of workers across the imperialist world have been encouraged, to put it mildly, to wave the French flag in a show of sympathy – both with the victims as individuals and with France as the victim nation.
But this sympathy and fellow feeling are by no means applied consistently to the victims of terror attacks around the world. Recent events bring into stark relief just how our collective emotions are manipulated by media and politicians, who have become expert at either drawing out or suppressing the ‘human angle’ of an event to suit the British ruling class’s political agenda.
Just two weeks before the Paris attacks, on 31 October, a Russian holiday flight crashed 23 minutes after take-off from the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. At the time of the crash, it was not known what had brought the plane down, but, far from expressing their deep sympathies and fellow-feeling with the 224 innocent victims of that disaster, 25 of whom were children, the commentators of the bourgeois presstitute fraternity were practically rubbing their hands with glee – hoping against hope that the crash would turn out to have been caused by a terrorist bomb, and that such an attack would turn public opinion in Russia against the country’s continued involvement in the war in Syria.
The media’s only other concern was for the effects of disruption on the British tourist industry and the inconvenience to British holidaymakers stranded at the resort as routine flights were cancelled. (See live updates on Telegraph, 7 November 2015)
When it did, indeed, turn out that the plane had been brought down in a brutal terrorist attack by IS (an attack that claimed nearly a hundred more victims than the events in Paris), the bourgeois media did not feel the need to describe the tragedy as “civilisation’s worst nightmare”. Nobody condemned IS as “the most ruthless death cult” or rushed to tell the stories of the victims and describe the trauma of their families. There was no mass waving of the Russian flag, no chants of “We are all Russians” on the football terraces, no mass circulation of sympathy posts on Facebook or Twitter.
Instead, political analysts gave the impression that the tragedy was no more than what Russia deserved, and speculated enthusiastically about whether the Russian masses would blame their own government for the terrorist attack as blowback for the country’s air operations in Syria – clearly implying that they should and hoping that they would. (See Vladimir Putin’s showmanship has left him without a strategy by Edward Lucas, Telegraph, 7 November 2015)
Amidst this barely-suppressed frenzy of excitement that Russia’s ability to maintain its devastatingly effective role in Syria’s anti-terrorist struggle may have been seriously undermined, the fates of the crash victims were entirely sidelined. (See Putin’s crash test: Downed Russian jetliner could signal the president's next big strike by Owen Matthews, Newsweek, 10 November 2015)
This selective application of the concepts of shared humanity and fellow feeling are further highlighted by the reporting of another brutal IS bombing, this time in Lebanon. On 12 November, IS bombed a district in Beirut, killing 43 innocent people who were out shopping at the local marketplace and going about the business of their daily lives.
The imperialist media, instead of galvanising us to feel sympathy with the victims of yet another senseless and brutal massacre, gave no names of victims and no details of their deaths, merely stating the number of dead and describing the ordinary neighbourhood that had been targeted as a “Hizbollah stronghold”.
The clear implication in the reporting (what there was of it) was that by fighting side by side with the Syrian Arab Army in its struggle against imperialism’s jihadis, the Lebanese people had somehow asked for (and deserved) this savage assault. Needless to say, no waving of the Lebanese flag was in evidence on Britain’s streets, football terraces or social media pages. (See Just as innocent – comparing Beirut and Paris by Habib Battah, Al Jazeera, 15 November 2015)
In his message of condolence to the French, David Cameron said: “Your pain is our pain, your fight is our fight.” No such words were uttered and no such sentiments expressed in the aftermath of the Russian air crash tragedy or the Beirut bombing – as if the massacre of 224 innocent Russian holidaymakers and 43 innocent Lebanese civilians meant nothing at all.
But, as the saying goes: be careful what you wish for. The very organisation created by imperialism to terrorise the peoples of the Middle East and to serve as an instrument for regime change across the region went on from these atrocities to strike back and bite the hand that feeds it. It did so just one day after the Beirut massacre that had drawn so little outrage from corporate media hacks and career politicians.
But how could this happen? What accounts for such a turn of events?
Russian intervention: a game changer
The answer must be found in the Russian intervention in the war to save Syria – at the Syrian government’s invitation. The aerial support given by Russia to the Syrian ground forces has proved to be a game changer, and has levelled the playing field for the first time in more than four years of an imperialist-inspired war that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million Syrians, including close to 100,000 Syrian army personnel.
Closely coordinated Russian aerial bombardments of terrorist headquarters, hideouts, ammunition depots, infrastructure and strongholds, and the Syrian Arab Army’s advance into areas held by IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terror gangs, has inflicted more damage on the jihadis in six weeks than has been managed by the imperialist coalition’s phony ‘war on IS’ in more than a year.
The reason for the imperialists’ lack of success is becoming all-too embarrassingly obvious: while claiming to be waging war against terrorism, imperialism has in reality been pursuing its old policy of regime change, waging a vicious and destructive war against the Syrian people. Although they talk about ‘stopping IS’, the imperialist invaders of Syria have in fact continued to facilitate their terrorist proxies in Syria and beyond and have targeted their destructive power not at terrorist bases and supply lines but at Syria’s oil industry and civilian infrastructure. (See US airstrikes on Syria are not about IS – Syrians reject violation of sovereignty, Syriangirlpartisan on You Tube, 24 September 2014)
It is clear that the fight against terrorism and the fight for regime change cannot but be mutually exclusive objectives, for the only groups that are potentially capable of bringing down the popular government of Syria (and then only with the full backing of imperialism and its puppet Gulf medieval autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, not to speak of Turkey) are all terrorist outfits – whether they be IS, al-Nusra or the mythical ‘moderate’ opposition.
On the other hand, the only forces on the ground capable of defeating terrorism are those of the Syrian people – the army and national defence forces under the command of the legitimate government of Syria, headed by President Bashar al-Assad.
Recently, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond admitted as much, saying: “We all agree we want to target terrorists, but we do not agree what a terrorist is.” He added: “The Russians, in particular, have a rather broad-based definition of a terrorist as anyone who is fighting the [Syrian] regime.” (Friend or foe: Syria summit faces tough choices by Geoff Dyer and Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 12 November 2015)
Mr Hammond ‘forgot’ to add that, in the eyes of the imperialist powers, no one is a terrorist who is fighting to destroy Syria’s progressive government, however terroristic their methods and however anti-popular they may be.
Be that as it may, the successes of the Russian air force and the Syrian army have exposed imperialism’s alleged fight against terrorism for the sham it is, forcing the imperialist countries most reluctantly to attack a few IS targets themselves – if only to gain some credibility in the eyes of the world’s people and to secure a few bargaining chips in advance of the next round of negotiations.
Up until the start of the Russian intervention, imperialist forces routinely turned a blind eye to long convoys of trucks and tankers carrying huge shipments of oil to be sold illegally in Turkey and elsewhere. These sales were well known to be providing IS and their fellow jihadis with hundreds of millions of dollars with which to buy weapons and pay mercenaries. (See Russian bomb – video shows IS oil sector undamaged by Obama’s ‘air war’ by Neil Munro, Breitbart, 19 November 2015)
Somehow, the US air force, which boasts an ability to see any and every movement on the ground, failed in broad daylight to detect or hamper these convoys. Moreover, the jihadis must have had help in laundering the money from the sale of such large quantities of oil, for it is nigh-on impossible to sell oil and keep the resulting funds secret. (See UK, US turn blind eye to Islamic State oil sales by Nafeez Ahmed, Middle East Eye, 31 July 2015)
In recent weeks, however, belated actions against IS by the imperialists have put some pressure on Raqqa, the terrorists’ headquarters in northeast Syria. On 12 November, a US drone strike claimed to have killed a British jihadi, Mohammed Emwazi (‘Jihadi John’), above the city.
The increasing attacks on IS infrastructure have caused rage in the jihadi camp and driven them to launching the deadly attack on Paris – the capital of one of their imperialist masters. It could have been any other member of the imperialist coalition, but it turned out to be France – presumably for logistical reasons.
One purpose of this sudden burst of activity on the part of the imperialist powers after a year of their fake ‘battle against terrorism’ has been to boost their position in the high-profile diplomatic tussle over Syria, with the resumption of foreign ministers’ talks in Vienna and the convening of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey – both of which took place on the weekend of 14-15 November.
In his speech on 12 November, US secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged as much: “The chance for successful diplomacy depends, in part, on the ability to exert leverage, on control of territory, on perceptions about who is gaining or has the upper hand,” he said, adding: “That is why it matters that there is increasing evidence that Daesh can be defeated – even routed – when faced by the combination of coalition [he had in mind the imperialist coalition] air strikes and effective partners on the ground.” (US builds momentum in IS campaign by Geoff Dyer and Jane Arraf, Financial Times, 13 November 2015)
By ‘effective partners on the ground’, Mr Kerry could only have been referring to other sections of imperialism’s anti-Assad jihadis or to the various Kurdish forces. On the same day as the Paris events (13 November), a combination of US war planes and Kurdish fighters recaptured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar from IS. In the same week, Kurdish forces captured territory from IS around the town of al-Hawl in eastern Syria – as part of a plan to cut off supply routes between Raqqa and Mosul in Iraq.
Dramatic change in fortunes
The Russian intervention in Syria, and the successes that have accompanied it, have brought a dramatic change in the situation of the main players in the Middle East. While the star of the imperialist powers is waning, that of Mr Putin’s Russia is on the rise.
At last year’s G20 summit in Brisbane, imperialist leaders attempted to isolate Mr Putin and their media portrayed him as an outcast for Russia’s alleged intervention in Ukraine. “Twelve months on, an audience with the Russian president was one of the hottest tickets in the town [of Antalya], as western leaders were forced to recognise the road to peace in Syria inevitably runs through Moscow.
“Few at annual summits of world leaders have seen such transformation in their fortunes, nor appeared to enjoy it as much, as Mr Putin moved from a scolded outcast to a … problem solver the West cannot ignore ...
“Mr Putin felt he held all the cards as the West came to him for answers.”
At his closing press conference, President Putin observed stoically: “There were no problems at all, not then and not now,” adding: “Of course, though, relations were more tense than today. But life goes on, everything changes: there are new problems, new challenges, which would be difficult to solve for anyone alone. It is necessary to join forces.”
He went on to capture the distrust in the fight against terrorism thus: “It is difficult to criticise us when they [ie, the US and its allies] tell us: ‘You are not hitting [IS],’ and we say: ‘Tell us where, name the targets,’ but they don’t!” (Putin transformed from outcast to problem solver at G20 by Alex Barker, George Barker and Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 16 November 2015)
Split in the imperialist camp
The results of Russia’s successful intervention in Syria, compounded by the terrorist attacks in Paris, have brought about a deep split in the imperialist camp between those who still give primacy to regime change in Syria, and those who now regard IS as the greater danger.
Even after all that has happened, the incurably reactionary dimwit who wrote the The Times editorial of 16 November asserted: “Assad is the author [not even merely the approximate cause] of the mayhem and destruction [in Syria] that threatens to spread still further across the region.” (Nous sommes tous Français)
As opposed to such demented ramblings, John R Bradley, writing in the Daily Mail of the same day, brought to bear a decidedly sane observation, castigating “our leaders”, who “continue to insist, against all reason and logic, on the removal of … Bashar al-Assad, despite the fact that he is the last secular Arab leader left, who, whether we like it or not, enjoys huge popularity in the … country.”
Continued Mr Bradley: “And then consider the breath-taking hypocrisy of our continued support for that atrocious human rights abuser Saudi Arabia, which continues to funnel money and arms to preposterously called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria in the name of bringing about democracy.”
He ended his article with the following warning: “In the meantime, we should form an international coalition to fight Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria – a suggestion proposed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. A refusal to do this would suggest a belief among western governments that Putin poses a greater threat to Europe’s stability than Islamic State.
“That would be an utterly irresponsible and wrong-headed assessment that could risk countless more innocent people’s lives.” (The most ruthless death cult in history)
On the same day, an editorial in the Telegraph called for a political settlement in Syria, observing that such a settlement “is impossible to achieve while the West insists that it cannot involve Bashar al-Assad. Yet his enemy and that of his principal ally, Russia (another recent victim of terror), is the same as ours, namely IS.” (Europe must have stronger borders, 15 November 2015)
Likewise, the Daily Mail of 16 November called upon “Nato allies” to involve themselves in negotiations, no matter how unpalatable they may regard them, “with Iran, Russia and even the Assad regime in Damascus – which until recently Mr Cameron intended to bomb”, adding that in the interests of eliminating the deadly threat of IS, “old enmities must be set aside”. (A fight the civilised world must not lose)
This turn of circumstances forced both US president Barack Obama and David Cameron to hold meetings with the Russian president. An unscheduled meeting between Obama and President Putin at the G20 summit produced a noticeable change in tone on the part of the US. Previously, Washington had poured scorn and derision on the Russian bombing campaign in Syria. After meeting the Russian president, however, Obama “welcomed efforts by all nations to confront the terrorist group IS and noted the importance of Russia’s military efforts in Syria focusing on the group”. (Who’s in control: Obama or the generals?, RT, 16 November 2015)
Following Obama’s climb-down, Cameron, the would-be destroyer of the Syrian regime, was compelled to likewise recognise reality and wimpishly state: “We have our differences with the Russians ... The conversation I want to have with Vladimir Putin is to say: ‘Look, there is one thing we agree about, which is we’d be safer in Russia, we’d be safer in Britain, if we destroy Isil. That’s what we should be focusing on.’” (UK’s Cameron to urge Putin to focus fight in Syria on Islamic State by Kylie Maclellan, Reuters, 15 November 2015)
In France, senior politicians from the main opposition party have broken ranks with Hollande and called for a new approach to the Syrian conflict. Former French prime minister Alain Juppé has advocated the abandonment of the policy of removing Bashar al-Assad from power, even if such an abandonment were to be considered humiliating.
Nicolas Sarkozy, M Hollande’s predecessor, called for a “new policy” on Syria that put aside differences, saying: “There cannot be two coalitions [against IS] in Syria.” He went on: “The risk of such events [of the type that took place in Paris] happening is real. We need changes in our foreign policy. We must draw conclusions from the situation in Syria. We need everyone to help fight Islamic State, notably the Russians.” (Hollande pressed to amend foreign policy after Paris attacks, Channel News Asia, 16 November 2015)
In adopting their present stance, prominent leaders from the leading imperialist countries are doing no more than expressing agreement, however painful they may find having to do so, with the observation of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the Vienna talks: “It doesn’t matter if you are for Assad or against him ... IS is your enemy, so it is not about Assad.” (Who benefits most from Paris attacks? Assad, Bloomberg, 15 November 2015)
Seeing the way the wind was blowing, even M Hollande was forced to change his tune and say: “There must be a union of all those who truly want to fight against this terrorist army as part of one big coalition. It is with this goal in mind that I will meet in the coming days President Obama and President Putin to join forces and achieve a result that has been postponed [by whom?] for too long.”
This is precisely what Mr Putin has been calling for since September. He has now ordered Russia’s armed forces to coordinate with the French military as allies on a joint action plan in Syria. (Putin orders Russian forces to work with French ‘allies’ in Syria, Fiancial Times, 17 November 2015)
IS can be beaten, and beaten decisively. However, it can only be fully beaten on the ground, not from the air alone – as the Russian intervention’s careful coordination with Syrian ground forces has clearly demonstrated. Even Murdoch’s odious Sun has been obliged to admit this truth in its own loathsome manner.
In what passes for an editorial, the Sun wrote: “we believe noses must be held [yes, but whose noses?] and a deal struck with Russia for a multinational force of ground troops and aircraft to eradicate IS in Syria and Iraq. It is in all our countries’ interests and bombing alone won’t work.” (It is time for Britain to take the fight to IS, 16 November 2015)
No nation can be free if it oppresses others
Two more facts must be highlighted. First, we should understand that the tragedy suffered by the citizens of Paris is no different to the many massacres that have been visited by imperialism for years on the citizens of Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi, Fallujah, Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Raqqa, Kabul, Tripoli, Benghazi and many other places. Indeed, Paris has experienced for just one day what the people of Syria have been enduring daily for nearly five years.
Just as we react with anger to the outrage in Paris, workers in the centres of imperialism have an equal duty to express our outrage at the barbarous cruelties perpetrated by our rulers on the peoples of the oppressed countries that have become targets for regime change.
More than that: we have a duty to use our power to disrupt and sabotage the waging of these unjust wars for domination by refusing to cooperate in any way. We must organise ourselves en masse to refuse to fight, refuse to provide or transport supplies, and refuse to create or broadcast war propaganda – and we must actively obstruct those who do. (See Act together to stop war, CPGB-ML, 16 February 2013)
As long as we fail in this duty, what happened in Paris is sure to occur again in London or New York or in some other imperialist city, for no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.
Imperialist wars make imperialist cities unsafe
Second, the ruling classes in the imperialist countries, in an effort to deceive and hoodwink the masses at home, are forever asserting that their wars abroad – from Afghanistan, through Iraq to Libya and Syria – are necessary to make the streets of Washington, New York, London and Paris safe. The experience of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, and Paris in January and November 2015 proves quite the opposite.
The sooner imperialism is stopped from waging wars against other peoples, the sooner will the streets of the cities in imperialist countries be safe.
Further, as is shown by the latest attacks in Paris, the terrorists are not ‘foreign’. They are home-grown, and many of them have been nurtured and trained by imperialist agencies, which have facilitated their passage to countries like Syria to wage jihad against governments that imperialism wishes to overthrow.
From time to time, contradictions arise between imperialism and its mercenary stooges; the stooges go off message and commit the kind of heinous acts as have taken place in Paris. That being the case, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the imperialist ruling classes to put on such a show of outrage over the activities of the very terrorists that they themselves have conjured into being.
Fight to overthrow imperialism
Jihadi terrorism is the bastard child of the union between blind religious fanaticism and imperialist market fundamentalism.
In its quest for domination and maximisation of profit; in its drive for grabbing raw materials, markets and avenues for investment, imperialism brooks no obstacles, and there is no crime it will not commit in pursuit of these aims; no mean method it will not stoop to.
Present-day jihadi fundamentalism was spirited into existence by imperialism during the proxy war it waged to overthrow the progressive government of Afghanistan and to force that government’s Soviet allies out of the country. Since then, imperialism has used jihadi nutcases for the overthrow of the anti-imperialist Libyan government and as its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
These same forces are today being used in Syria, with nearly 100,000 foreign jihadis unleashed on the country to perpetrate the most dreadful atrocities on the civilian population. It is a credit to the Syrian people and their government that they have successfully resisted this assault – with a heroism and self-sacrifice that are entirely undocumented by western corporate media.
Now, with the Russian intervention and the events in Paris, this barbarous assault on the Syrian people has run aground and is on the verge of sinking altogether.
In the final analysis, all war, including that waged through fundamentalist proxies, will only be completely put an end to through the successful overthrow of imperialism – this bloody system that has tormented humankind for too long.
The fight against war and for peace is inextricably linked with the struggle to overthrow imperialism: there is no other way forward for humanity.