llons enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé…
(“Let’s go, children of the fatherland, the day of glory has arrived…”)
The opening of the ‘Marseillaise, the French national anthem
The following text is a statement IP put out after the terrorist attacks in Paris last november. It was widely shared on social media and internet lists. We received some criticism, in particular of the claim that ISIS is a capitalist enterprise and “not a religious movement”. Indeed, it would be more correct to state that it is both. Both aspects coexist within ISIS and use each other. As a capitalist state ISIS uses religious fervor for the purpose of capital accumulation, and as a religious movement, ISIS uses the instruments of the state to advance its fanatical religious goals. Those two aspects fit together smoothly, united by the common goal of conquest, although lately tensions have been reported between factions focused on consolidating ISIS’s management of its territory and factions that want to expand the global ‘Jihad’, regardless the consequences. It remains to be seen how that plays out. The role that religion plays today in capturing the rage of some of the most marginalized proletarians is not something that we have foreseen. It begs for a deeper analysis.
The Marseillaise is popular again. The bloodthirsty song rises again from thousands of throats on French squares, before sport events and concerts, in the Sorbonne and in the parliament: “Amour sacré de la patrie, conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs!” (“Sacred love of the fatherland, lead, support our vengeful arms!”) On Facebook a campaign was started to exhort users all over the world to change their profile in the colors of the French national flag.
- Do not sing the Marseillaise.
- Do not change your FB profile into the colors of the French national flag.
- Do not fall in the trap of the war-mongering media.
The terrorist attacks in Paris were horrific and repulsive. But nationalism is not the answer; it spreads the poison further. It may be true that most people who now sing the Marseillaise, or change their FB-profile into the French colors, only want to express their solidarity with the victims. But at a moment like this, it is important to know what the symbols, around which we are asked to close ranks, represent. Under the French tricolor, millions were sent to their death, in wars for worse than nothing. Under this banner, atrocities were committed (in Algeria and elsewhere) that were even worse than those of ISIS, while singing the Marseillaise: “Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!” (“May their impure blood water our furrows!”)
We don’t want to single out France: other national flags and anthems are equally blood-drenched. ISIS itself is not a religious movement; it simply uses religion as a flag and anthem to recruit cannon-fodder for its real goal: to control territory, to gain power, to amass capital. It seizes opportunities arising in the context of war and economic crisis in the Middle East to establish its own state. A state at war, and in war, as the history of France, the US, Germany and just about any other country illustrates: all is permitted.
What did ISIS have to gain from the attacks in Paris? Continuous recruitment is essential for the so-called Islamic state, it needs it to wage war and to control its territory. The attacks favor its recruitment in two ways: first, as a demonstration of power, which increases its appeal for young people who feel angry and powerless. Secondly, the attacks fan the hatred of Muslims and thus the ill treatment of Muslims, pushing more of them into the tentacles of ISIS. Furthermore, ISIS needs to stop the exodus of refugees out of Syria. It cannot permit the emptying of the territory it controls or wants to conquer. Contrary to what’s often claimed, it does not get its main income from oil-exports or from Saudi subsidies but from the exploitation, in various ways, of the population in the areas it controls. So those who use the attacks to fan hatred for Islam and to keep the refugees out, do exactly what ISIS hoped they would do.
The problem is not Islam. The global system is in crisis and this crisis creates situations in which waging war becomes very profitable. The warring parties feed on each other. The civilian casualties of drones and missiles feed the Islamist propaganda; the Islamist atrocities feed the belligerent, nationalist, anti-other ideologies in the West which prepare the way for more war.
The first thing president Hollande did after the attacks was to send planes to bombard Raqqa, a large city that is said to be the capital of the IS. One wonders: had these planes “clean” military targets for what became the largest bombardment of Raqqa so far? If so, why weren’t they hit before? And if they were not, how many civilians were killed in Raqqa? Will the media tell us? Will there be a campaign on Facebook to put the flag of ISIS on our profile, in solidarity with the innocent victims that fell on its territory? Or will the mangled corpses only be seen on the Islamist social media?
Revenge. Reprisal. Retaliation: The deeper the crisis becomes, the more we risk to see of it. The wars, the terrorist attacks, the massive unemployment and uncertainty, the ecological catastrophes, the swelling stream of refugees, all show that the systemic, global crisis of capitalism brings with it ever more social disruption, violence and destruction. The real problem is in society’s foundations and as long as they remain intact –as long as capitalism survives- the spiral will only widen.
Changing the foundations, changing the purpose and means of human relations, ending capitalism, can only come as a result of massive collective struggle, which does not exist today. Nobody knows what the future will bring. But we do know it’s not written yet. What we do or don’t matters. It matters that we don’t passively accept the logic of capital. It matters that we refuse to sing the national anthem together with those who exploit and oppress us. It matters that we stand in solidarity with the victims of wars and terrorist attacks, whether they are French or Turk, Arab or Jew, black or white, without embracing any of the war-making parties. It matters that we raise our voices against the calls to close borders, erect walls, keep out refugees, and engage in more war. It matters that we say no! to more control, more police violence, more austerity in the name of national security. It matters that we refuse to help dig our own graves. It matters that we demonstrate that none of the problems facing society can be solved within capitalism. It matters that we speak, in the rivulets of revolt, of the power of the stream they could become.