It is tossed by the waves but does not sink: Paris.
The City’s motto has become the statement of the City’s defiance.
These are more expressions of defiance.
Left Socialist Blog
Ni patrie ni frontières !
This is an important left-wing contribution to the critique of the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’.
Although the context is French and Dutch there are many implications for Britain and the wider anglophone world.
Antiracism and class struggle in France : dialogue around the PIR (Parti des Indigènes de la République).
Late 2014, early 2015, a debate took place in the Netherlands between various leftist organizations and Sandew Hira, a historian who has taken the initiative, together with others, to build the Decolonise The Mind (DTM) movement in the Netherlands. The debate began after rapper Insayno was rejected to speak at an anti-racist demonstration. In one of his raps he had asserted : “The treatment of the concentration camps is only a joke compared to our slave trade”. After some discussion about the scientific nonsense, the political destructiveness and the heartlessness of comparing the various massacres in this way, the debate quickly turned to how to organise against racism, the role of white people in the anti-racism struggle, and how the Left and the DTM movement could struggle side by side.
During the debate we asked Hira about the ideas and principles of DTM. He explained them quite clearly, but we did not really get to know much about the practice of the new movement. At the moment it seems mainly engaged in the training of activists, most of whom seem to have been active in the anti-racism and pro-Palestine movements. DTM is still a relatively small, mainly academic movement that does not organize actions or campaigns by itself.
In the debate and also in various meetings Hira often mentioned that he has two important international friends with whom he cooperates very closely : Ramon Grosfoguel of the Berkeley University of California and Houria Bouteldja of the movement “Les Indigènes de la République” in France. That organisation celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2015 and already had quite some time to build a movement, even outside the universities.
We asked two French comrades what they knew about those Indigènes. How does this movement operates, and how are their ties with the extra-parliamentary Left ? In this way we might be able to take a little look at the future of a part of the anti-racism movement in the Netherlands. That’s important, because as those who followed the debate may have noticed, we at Doorbraak are not too keen on how Hira and DTM try to insert some not so liberating ideas into the growing movement against racism.
Of course, the French situation is very different from the Dutch one. In both countries there is indeed a lot of racism, a legacy of the shared colonial past, but the Left and the anti-racism movement in France are really much bigger. Progressive intellectuals also play a much more important role, and there are constantly great nation wide debates, also on racism. However, the practical organizational activism seems to be relatively modest.
We asked our questions to Nad, with whom we organized two meetings in 2012 on the jobless movement RTO in which she is active, and Yves Coleman of the magazine “Ni patrie ni frontières” (“No country, no borders”) and our regular translator. Both live in Paris and are very involved in the anti-racism struggle. Nad answered the first three questions, and Coleman the rest. And because both, of course, did not always agree with each other, we offered them the opportunity afterwards to respond on each others answers with critiques and additions. So we started with Nad.
The present document is a record of questions put to Nad and Yves Colman.
It should not be necessary to say this but both are, by PIR terms, indigènes.
The initial section of the debate takes up the origins of the Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR) and their 2005 Manifesto L’appel des « Indigènes de la République . Many people, including this writer, were struck by the serious tone of the latter document. It was set out by a variety of individuals, mostly involved in minority immigrant associations. Its wider support included political activists of the mainstream left, various ‘other globalisation’ movements (Attac) active in those days, and some on the Trotskyist left.
The group was soon criticised by people for whom who I have respect. Claude Liauzu (1940 – 2007), author of the indispensable Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France, du XVIe siècle à nos jours (2007) accused them of ” reducing colonialisation to a crime, and reducing present-day problems to the reproduction of colonial racialism, and reducing the study of the past to a search for repentance. (Manipulations de l’histoire. Claude Liauzu. Le Monde Diplomatique April 2007).
As a ‘party’, created in 2008, the group continues to influence debate on race in France.
But it has been challenged on the left.
Last year this was translated: Toward a materialist approach to the racial question: A response to the Indigènes de la République. Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb, & Léa Nicolas-Teboul Vacarme (June 25, 2015).
The PIR’s spokesperson, Houria Bouteldja, has, over the years, made many ‘controversial’ comments, including the claim that homosexuality does not exist in low income “popular” French areas,
Mélenchon: With Spring, Flowers Bloom.
Left Front Rethinking.
The Communist Party spokesman Olivier Dartigolles stated on Monday that the Front de gauche (Left Front) had “got it wrong” and would “review everything from top to bottom”. L’Humanité.
“The Left Front was created precisely to avoid what has happened right in front of our eyes in these regional elections, so it’s a failure, we have to review everything from top to bottom,” warned the leading Communist. He said that they could not “start again as if nothing had happened” and talked about “complete overhaul of the Front de gauche”. As for working with the former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he announce that his party had not closed the door on the chief of the Parti de gauche, saying that “there will need everyone”. He preferred nevertheless the idea of “bringing millions of people into battle.”
“Olivier Dartigolles continued, that following statements of Parti Socialist General Secretary Christophe Cambadélis that they would finally have a debate on fundamental policies. He hoped that there would be an opening of this discussion “with those that the PS, and they are many, who do not want… (Note: that is existing government strategy)…) and everyone’s on their left. ” “I would also include the trade union left, associative and intellectual forces,” he added, but “certainly not” Emmanuel Macron. ” (Economics Minister).
There are long-standing tensions between Jean Luc Mélenchon and the other parties and groups in the Front de gauche – particularly over the PCF’s agreements with the Parti Socialiste in elections. More here: Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en voie de dislocation.
In the Regional election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon refused to give a recommendation on who to vote for in second round contests, that pitted the Front National against Sarkozy’s Les Républicains. (Régionales : Jean-Luc Mélenchon ne veut donner aucune consigne de vote pour les deuxièmes tours LR-FN).
Mélenchon has called for a “ véritable front populaire ”
In a lyrical Blog post after the Regional election results Mélenchon writes, “Que vienne l’heure du peuple !” – May the Time of the People Come!
Mais je le dis avec espoir : à proportion du danger que vous avez vécu, vous savez que vous êtes appelés dorénavant à prendre votre part à l’autre bataille démocratique qui dorénavant s’avance avec l’élection présidentielle. Il faut qu’elle soit l’heure du peuple contre l’oligarchie, l’heure du rassemblement pour une république qui ne se contente pas de débiter comme un moulin sa devise mais qui fasse vivre réellement l’aspiration à l’égalité et à la fraternité autant qu’a la liberté. Je sais, mes chers compatriotes, que nous avançons dans l’hiver. Mais je sais aussi que toujours le printemps revient. Toujours. Et avec lui, les fleurs et la promesse de leurs fruits. »
But I say this with hope: after the dangers that you have lived through, you know that as the presidential election gets nearer, you are called to take your part in a democratic battle. This contest must be the time of the people against the oligarchy, the time of joining together for a republic that does not reduce its motto to phrase-mongering, but brings into reality the aspirations to equality, to fraternity as well as liberty. I know, my beloved countrymen and women, that we are in the middle of winter. But I also know that spring always returns. Always. And with it, flowers bloom with the promise of fruit.
Mélenchon scored 11.05% in the 2012 Presidential election (first round) as the candidate of the Front de gauche (FdG). He is the founder of the Parti de gauche, (PdG) a split from the French Socialist party.
The original FdG bloc included the Parti communiste français (PCF) the Parti de gauche (PG) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. République et socialisme, the Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique (FASE), Convergences et alternative, Le Parti communiste des ouvriers de France the Gauche anticapitaliste (GA), Les Alternatifs.
At present the PCF, the Parti de gauche, and Ensemble (which regrouped a number of the above organisations together), are the FdG’ s main components.
The Parti de Gauche has been accused of having as its principal preoccupation preparing Mélenchon’s bid for the Presidential contest of 2017.
In January 2014 the PdG totaled 9,000 members, but only 1,700 activists participated in the voting for their annual conference platforms this year. They have serious internal differences on the Euro, with a strong minority calling for France to leave the Eurozone and relations with other sections of the Front de Gauche over electoral agreements with the Parti Socialiste (the party the organisation originated in).
In the Regional elections that just took place the Parti de Gauche obtained 7 councillors.
The PCF has around 130,000 members, and around 29 regional councillors.
While the FdG has its serious problems, it is doubtful if the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste’s response to these results (from a party unable to stand in these elections) will receive any echo whatsoever,
These elections have shown that there is no political representation for the exploited. For the world of labour, the most urgent task is to build the mobilizations, return to the path of struggle: for lifting the state of emergency, which has had the practical effect of silencing the social movement around COP21, Air France, against the NDDL airport, for the defence of migrants, etc. More than that, the building of an anti-capitalist political alternative, a new emancipatory project, remains more relevant than ever.
The BBC reports,
The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on 6 December as more people voted, according to the ministry of the interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73% to 27.36%. The Republicans increased their share from 26.65% to 40.63% and the Socialists from 23.12% to 29.14%. The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on 6 December to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures are based on a count of 98% of votes so far.
Despite leading in the first round of regional elections last week, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Front party (FN) failed to gain a single region in the second round of voting in France on Sunday.
The head of the FN, Marine Le Pen had hoped to make history on Sunday night by gaining control of a region for the first time. But after winning 28 percent of the nationwide vote in the first round of elections, the FN was pushed back in the second round as voters rallied behind the conservative Les Républicains party and President François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party (PS).
The FN had been riding high, exploiting an unprecedented wave of migration into Europe. The party came out on top in six of France’s 13 newly drawn regions in the first-round vote a week ago. But that initial success failed to translate into any second-round victories.
The FN was defeated in three key regions where it had come in first place last week: Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine. The Socialists had pulled their candidates out of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur races to defeat the FN and it appears that many of their voters cast ballots for conservative candidates.
Le Pen won around 42 percent of the vote in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, while rival conservative Xavier Bertrand took around 58 percent.
Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, won about 45 percent in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region against conservative Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who received around 54 percent.
In Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine, the Socialist candidate, Jean-Pierre Masseret, had refused to pull out of the race, even after trailing in the first round of elections. Despite that refusal to follow the Socialist Party’s orders, the FN candidate in the region, Florian Philippot, was defeated by Les Républicains candidate Philippe Richert, earning 36 percent of the vote against his 48 percent.
After her defeat Sunday night, Marine Le Pen insisted that the National Front was the first party of France. She said the election results would not discourage the “inexorable rise, election after election, of a national movement” behind her party.
Pause for breath – there is worse to come:
“Nothing can stop us now,” Le Pen said after polls closed. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”
Equally defiant, her 26-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who ran in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, urged supporters not to be disappointed. “We will redouble our efforts,” she said. “There are some victories that shame the winners.”
The National Front has racked up political victories in local elections in recent years, but winning the most seats in an entire regional council would have been a substantial success.
The election was seen as an important measure of support for Le Pen ahead of 2017 presidential elections.
Tactical voting boosts Sarkozy’s Les Républicains
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s party won seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, giving them the largest share. However, it’s almost certain Les Républicains would not have been as successful without the tactical support of the ruling PS.
Conservative candidate Xavier Bertrand acknowledged as much in a speech after his victory against Marine Le Pen in Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie.
“I thank the voters for protecting our beautiful region,” said Bertrand. “I also want to thank the voters of the left who clearly voted to create a rampart (against the FN).”
On the left there is not much relief.
Une nouvelle fois, le sursaut républicain a bloqué l’avancée du FN. Mais ignorer l’avertissement serait dévastateur pour les partis traditionnels. Comments Libération.
The Republican ‘surge’ has blocked the FN’s progress. But the traditional parties ignore the warning at their own peril.
L’Humanité notes, “La mobilisation d’une proportion assez importante des abstentionnistes a fait la différence.” But deep difficulties remain: the left has to mobilise amongst the people to fight the far-right’s ideas.
We also observe that the Corsican nationalists now control the regional council in Corsica (le Monde).
There is no argument that a fundamental reason for the FN’s rise in support lies in its encouragement and use of anti-Muslim feeling. This reached a crescendo after the slaughters of the 13th of November. (Le Front national se déchaîne sur l’islam. Le Monde. 4.12.15.)
President Hollande responded to the massacres with a state of emergency and airborne retaliation in Syria against Daesh.
His personal popularity leapt, but his party, the Socialists, did not benefit.
The FN have been able to take advantage of the popular mood because of a boarder package of polities. This can be seen in the social composition of their electorate. Unless one believes that young people, workers and the unemployed are particularly hostile to Muslims, and that this was the reason for their ballot box choice, we would look into what this demagogy in embedded within.
The theme of “security” against ‘Islam’ and, more widely, “foreigners” is tied to a deeper set of ideas, a national ideology, that animates the party of Marine Le Pen, nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ (the principle that the ‘nation’ should be the source of all political, economic and social decison0making and virtue). Their attraction for the young, the working class and all shades of “precarious” employed people lies in the call to protect the French nation from outside forces, foreigners, refugees, migrants and economic powers. That is, to give them jobs, and preserve living standards, and social security.
The FN claims not be primarily ‘anti’ other nations, religions or peoples: it is for France. It claims to be the best political force to protect French citizens from outside threats; not to seek out new areas in which to expand French power. The FN has been supportive of Russian interests (for which they have been rewarded), over the Crimea and Ukraine, which they see in terms of another nation standing up to foreign menaces.
In this sense the Front National is sometimes described as ‘national populist’ , not fascist; defensive rather than overtly imperialist.
Its policies centre on ‘national priority’ for French citizens in jobs, and welfare, stricter controls of immigration, ‘Laïcité’ (secularism) but recognition of France’s ‘Christian’ roots, strict laws on ‘security’ including reestablishing the death penalty, and a long list of measures designed to protect French industry and make French law supreme against EU legislation.
These reactionary ideas are by no means unusual in Europe today.
Many of the FN legislative plans – stricter immigration control and cutting migrants’ right to social benefits – are shared by the mainstream British right, and are policies of the present Cameron government.
The ‘sovereigntist’ approach to the European Union – blaming the EU for France’s poor economic performance and allowing migration are at the heart of the right-wing campaign in the UK to leave the Union.
Before British leftist indulge in their customary lecturing of the French Left there is another aspect of the FN that it’s important to note. Some of the FN’s views on Europe, which see migrant labour as a “tool” of the capitalists to undermine French workers’ living standards, are shared by the anti-EU ‘left’ in the UK. The idea that ‘national’ control of the economy is the way to confront the problems of globalisation is also popular amongst some ‘left-wingers’ here and in France. There is as yet no equivalent of the kind of overt cross-overs from left to right which is a feature of French political life amongst ” souverainistes” but this could easily develop.
Populism, as they say, is about being popular.
In this respect, with 27% of the vote, the prospect of Marine Le Pen emerging at the main challenger in the French Presidential elections on 2017 is strengthened, not weakened by this weekend’s results.
The Communist Party Leader and supporter of the Front de gauche, Pierce Laurent has called for a “new progressive project” to unite the left to stand up against the right and the extreme right, fighting austerity, and engaging in measures to tackle the problems of the world of work (Régionales : Déclaration de Pierre Laurent.).
Ensemble, also like the PCF, part of the Front de gauche, have equally called for a new approach, “Pour rassembler, il faut un projet commun de tous ceux qui à gauche et dans le mouvement social ne renoncent pas et aspirent à une alternative politique de rupture avec le libéralisme, un nouvel espoir.”
There is now the suggestion that the Front de gauche, the alliance of these two forces with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche and others, ism posed to dissolve. Après les régionales, le Front de gauche en sursis. This will leave Mélenchon more free time to campaign against German influence in Europe.
Press release from Pierre Laurent, national secretary of the French Communist Party after the Paris killings.
Our country has just experienced one of the worst events in its history. Last night’s simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis, for which Daesh [short for Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq wa al-Sham] claims responsibility, and which, at this moment, have resulted in 127 deaths and 200 casualties, were horrifying. France is in mourning.
The day after the carnage, our first thoughts go out to the victims, their families, to those close to them, to the witnesses and to all those whose lives were threatened. For all, the pain is immense. Each and every one of us in France feels deeply wounded.
We salute the work of law enforcement, the emergency services, the Accident and Emergency doctors, healthcare workers and public service personnel, whose response to the situation has been exemplary, as has the people’s solidarity, which was felt straight away.
Less than a year after the attacks in January [on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7], the Republic has been struck at its heart.
Even as a state of emergency has now been declared by the government, reinforcement of the police and of the justice system’s resources is an imperative. The state must find suitable ways to guarantee the people’s safety in the long term.
I ask our people not to give in to fear, and to stand together for freedom, equality, fraternity, and for peace. We must make careful distinctions between issues, and avoid stigmatization. Together, we must firmly reject hatred and racism.
France is affected by the war and the destabilization that is plaguing the Middle-East. The fight against terrorism calls for increased engagement and international solutions.
It can only be won by coming together to create a united society that places, at the heart of all its decisions, human emancipation, the values of the Republic and peace.
The French Communist Party, its representatives and its elected officials, will support all initiatives that, in the days to come, will allow our fellow citizens to take on together this challenge and to open up a path of hope for our people.
In this tragic time, the French Communist Party has put all election-campaign activities on hold.
Translated Sunday 15 November 2015, by Ciaran Edwards
Friday 20th November: for the French Communists the fight against the Islamic State, Daesh, must take place within democratic framework.
In a special issue of l’Humanité today they make this clear, above all calling for Parliamentary control of the state of emergency.
No democracy is not an obstacle in the fight against Daesh. The state of emergency has been extended to three months: the need for Parliamentary surveillance and control is more than ever indispensable.
Nos libertés contre la terreur Patrick Le Hyaric.
This follows the important interview with leading Communist Pierre Dharréville “National unity around the values of the Republic” on the PCF’s site:
The day after the speech of François Hollande before Congress, he warned,
A response in the spirit of revenge will only lead to further disasters. The President has declared war. But I have not heard any analysis on the results of the international policy of France and the effects of repeated interventions over the last fifteen years in the Middle East, and Africa, often outside the framework of international law. Since 2007, France has broken with the best traditions of its foreign policy. We must redefine our objectives and those of the international community whose eagerness to intervene militarily for neocolonial objectives has only been equaled by the weakness of its diplomatic efforts to build peace in the world.
Pierre Dharréville also stated,
We must find ways taking democratic control over tje emergency measures. I can hear in them the influence of forces that were already going in reactionary directions using this opportunity to drive home reactionary approaches that will sweep away elementary principles of laws. law.
He listed the proposal to remove French nationality from people convicted of terrorist offences, the stigmatising of groups, notably refugees, and Muslims as of great concern.
Notably Dharréville stated that Deash is a political not a religious enemy,
The Islamic State – Daesh – has a totalitarian project, grounded on the logic of purification, which has taken the flag of Islam like a Bullfighter takes his muleta.
Secularism is the guiding principle of our Republic, but I would warn against any attempt to divert into a way of stigmatising and dividing our people.
On National Unity he concluded,
For us, national unity can only take on the values of the Republic and around building a society of peace. It can not be done on the basis of obedience to the leader. We will approve what we think is good for the security and defence of our freedoms.
Translated Tuesday 17 November 2015, by
The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.
“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”
To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.
Pierre Bayle. Pensées sur la comète, 1682
To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.
These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.
That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.
The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)
State capitalism to neo-liberalism?
The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this. She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)
The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.
Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites. It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism, is also of interest.
A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.
If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)
One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.
The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)
Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above, is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)
Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political, within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)
This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.
Absolute Opposition to Islamism.
The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword. But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.
It is tossed by the waves but does not sink: Paris.
The City’s motto has become the statement of the City’s defiance.
These are more expressions of defiance.