On 31 October, the Islamist group Daesh claimed the destruction of a Russian passenger aircraft flight 7K9268, over Sinai, Egypt, on 31 October, killing 224 people. On 12 November it claimed 43 civilians killed by bombings in Beirut. And now it has claimed 129 people killed in Paris on the evening of 13 November.
In Paris, gunmen opened fire in many crowded cafes, dance halls, and stadiums. The latest count is 352 injured, 99 critically. The suspected ringleader, a Belgian national, has been killed in a police raid.
Daesh conquered Iraq’s second city, Mosul, in June 2014, and since then has run a bloodthirsty “caliphate” in territory stretching across northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along the Euphrates valley, from almost the border of Iran to almost the border of Turkey.
It has massacred hundreds and thousands in that territory, just for differing with Daesh’s obscurantist doctrines, and taken women into slavery.
Pushed back slightly by Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and around Kobane, and restrained from further advance by Iraqi government forces in de facto alliance with the USA and Iran, Daesh has continued its bloody rule over most of its territory.
Now it has started another front of battle, against the ordinary people of Russia, Lebanon, and France. The military involvement of those states in Syria is only an excuse. The action is aimed not at easing oppression, but at provoking polarisation and repression which will drive new recruits towards the jihadi-terrorists.
The most effective fighters against Daesh in Syria and Iraq have been the relatively secular-Muslim Kurdish forces. The US and its allies have given them dribs and drabs of aid, but no more.
The US and its allies remain in league with the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has often turned a blind eye to Daesh activities because it hopes they may weaken the Kurds and the Assad regime. Whenever Erdoğan has felt compelled to take some action against Daesh, he has simultaneously attacked the Kurds.
The US and its allies also remain in league with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf states, which are responsibe for funding the Sunni-sectarian trend of the Syrian resistance, from which Daesh has nourished itself.
Their operational aim in Syria and Iraq now is just to keep the conflict continuing and contained, and ensure no side gains a decisive advantage, with the hope that after some duration of bloodshed all sides will be weakened enough for them to preside over a compromise deal acceptable to all the strong states in the area.
Solidarity with the victims of Daesh terror, and effective action to cut the roots of this gang, must therefore be through the independent and democratic struggles of the international working class, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, and other — and not through any sort of common front with big-power governments, let alone with their attacks on civil rights.
French president Francois Hollande has declared France is “at war”, stepped up bombing in Syria, and declared a state of emergency in France. British prime minister David Cameron has suggested that he will try again to get a parliamentary majority for Britain to bomb targets in Syria.
The US, French, or maybe British bombing in Syria is no more likely to bring progress than the US military action in Afghanistan, launched in a similar wave of retaliation after the Al Qaeda atrocity in New York on 11 September 2001.
After 14 years of US military action, the Taliban is stronger than it was when Afghan forces allied with the US drove it out of Kabul in November 2001. The US military action has driven people into the arms of the Taliban, rather than undermining it. Afghanistan remains plagued by war and Islamism.
In Syria, not even a first flash of progress, such as happened when the people of Kabul rejoiced at the fall of the Taliban in 2001, is likely. At most, increased bombing of Daesh might strengthen other Sunni-sectarian anti-Assad groups, or the Assad regime, that is, just shift the balance between the rival reactionary forces.
Only politics based on democratic and working-class mobilisation in the whole region, against US and French allies like the Turkish and Saudi government, and actively supporting the Kurds’ struggle for national rights, can create better alternatives.
Equally to be rejected is any apology for or whitewashing of Daesh. This is not the French people “reaping” what they have supposedly “sowed”. Civilians are not responsible for the actions of governments. And the Daesh leaders are conscious political actors motivated by a deeply reactionary Islamist ideology.
They are not stupid, nor are they automatons who simply react to whatever US and European imperialism does. They have their own conscious political strategy which we should take seriously.
Most people who oppose the US or Russian or French governments, and their international activities — most people who have fought imperialism all through history — do so without drawing the conclusion that the way forward is the establishment of a violent theocracy and the launching of indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
Daesh’s actions can no more be dismissed as just inevitable “blowback” from US and French government policy than Hitler’s atrocities could be dismissed as automatic “blowback” from the Treaty of Versailles.
We recall today what we wrote in September 2011, after Al Qaeda made the attack on New York which served the Paris and Sinai attackers as their model.
“Such people are enemies for the working class and the labour movement as much as the US government is [or the French government]. In fact, more so. Modern capitalism includes profiteering, exploitation, and imperialism, but it also includes the elements of civilisation, technology and culture which make it possible for us to build socialism out of it”.
We recalled the words of Lenin, the great Marxist advocate of revolutionary struggle against imperialism:
“Imperialism is as much our mortal enemy as is capitalism. That is so. No Marxist will forget, however, that capitalism is progressive compared with feudalism, and that imperialism is progressive compared with pre-monopoly capitalism. Hence, it is not every struggle against imperialism that we should support. We will not support a struggle of the reactionary classes against imperialism”.
We recalled, also: “Fascism recruits mass support from people who have been disappointed, ruined and oppressed, and often think they are combatting ‘finance capital’; that does not make it any the less vile. The same goes for Islamic fundamentalist militarism”.
We continued: “The US government will respond to the New York massacre with bombing raids abroad and a clampdown at home. Its aim will be to make a show of retaliation and retribution. It will not and cannot mend the conditions which gave rise to this atrocity, conditions which the US government itself, capitalist and imperialist, has helped to shape. Probably ordinary working people who live in [target areas] will be the victims...
“Civil rights will come under attack both in the US and in other countries... These blows at civil rights will do far more to hamper the labour movement, the only force which can remake the world so as to end such atrocities, than to stop the killers. Repression may well increase support for the most desperate and dehumanised groups.
“The first, and still the most-suffering, victims of Islamic fundamentalist militarism are the people, mostly Muslim, of the countries where the Islamists are powerful.
“Refugees seeking asylum in Britain do not in any way share blame for the New York massacre. In fact, many of them are refugees because they are fleeing Islamic-fundamentalist governments...
“We must remake the world. We must remake it on the basis of the solidarity, democracy and spirit of equality which are as much part of human nature as the rage and despair which must have motivated the attackers...
“That is the battle to which we must re-dedicate ourselves. That is the battle in the name of which we will oppose all moves by the governments of the big powers to make spectacular retaliation or to restrict civil rights”.