The fascist “Islamic State” (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and injured 352. Three teams of heavily armed terrorists shot up restaurants, bars, and the historic Bataclan theater before committing suicide by explosive vests. We condemn these horrific massacres in Paris as we condemn the bombing on Nov. 12 that killed 43 people in Beirut, just as we have condemned all of ISIS’s outrages. In the interest of humanity and of all revolutionary perspectives, this nihilistic death cult must be destroyed.
This struggle against counter-revolution cannot be separated from revolutionary perspectives. We stand with the revolutionary high points in European life and thought, under attack from today’s many varieties of reaction; we stand with the Free Syrians, Kurds, and Palestinians who have fought both Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal tyranny and ISIS’s murderous, fascist oppression. We stand for a new human society over an endless repetition of capitalist austerity and war.
We draw our conclusions with this vision of freedom, which Marx called revolution in permanence, firmly in mind. These murders must not be allowed to become an excuse for attacks on all Muslims.
Nobody knows the malignancy of ISIS better than the Muslim communities that have been waging a continuing struggle against it for years, and who (called “apostates” by ISIS) have been subjected to some of the worst of its violence. The Free Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG/YPJ fighters have inflicted important defeats upon ISIS, and are moving to liberate its occupied Syrian “capital,” Raqqa. Kurdish peshmerga and YPG/YPJ have also evicted the ISIS occupiers from Sinjar in Iraq.
These fighters are motivated to destroy ISIS not by imperialist geopolitical aims, but in order to defend their lives and communities against a force that has devastated homes; raped, murdered and enslaved thousands of women; and attempted to destroy the human freedom and dignity that fires the heart of people’s revolution and self-determination. They fight under the flags of the revolution. The opposite to ISIS, and what they are hoping to destroy, is to be found in the last five years of revolutionary movements.
The Free Syrian Army has evicted ISIS from some of the villages that they occupied in Aleppo. Most significantly, civilian uprisings have recently challenged ISIS occupation in the city of Manbij, and also in the villages of al-Mayadeen, al-Bukamal and Mu Hassan. Their aura of invincibility is long gone. ISIS has beheaded scores of their own fighters in response to recent losses, for alleged desertion, and their inner circles are feeling some desperation.
Reaction’s depth and depravity
Whatever pretense ISIS might make to being “anti-imperialist” is just a cover for its counter-revolution. ISIS grew from the mingling of Iraq’s native counter-revolutionary forces and the reactionary U.S. invasion’s encouragement of sectarianism; it was aided in Syria by the global and regional powers either supporting Assad directly or claiming to oppose him but actually helping him by starving out secular opposition forces.
Like the attack on Charlie Hebdo and other Paris targets in January, the new onslaught follows ISIS’s reactionary pattern. It was a calculated attack on youth, on France’s Jewish community, on a multicultural society—many victims were children of immigrants, or foreign students—and was intended to drive a wedge between Muslims in Europe and other groups. The European Right will use it in attempts to further their rise, especially France’s own National Front with its rejection of multiculturalism and hatred of immigrants and refugees. In that, the Paris attack is a mirror image of Anders Breivik’s murder of 77, mostly youth, in Norway in 2011.
Like that atrocity, this one will feed the currents of hatred and reaction that warm themselves around the memory of Slobodan Milosevic’s Bosnian genocide. It will be used as well by Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal tyranny to support his war on the Syrian people. The immediate vote to exclude all Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the U.S., supported by almost all House Republicans and many Democrats, is a bone-chilling whiff of fascism that bodes ill for the future. It should be understood that this attack on innocent Syrians, victims of Assad and ISIS alike, is only one of the fascistic potentialities contained in the rancid racist politics dominating the Republican Party today—from which Democrats are clearly not immune. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has used neo-Nazi material in his public statements, and has called for the registration and tracking of Muslims. Not to be outdone, David Bowers, the Democratic Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, has called for internment camps like those used to dispossess Japanese Americans during World War II.
Such a stupid, criminal attitude could only flow from the hypocrisy that has marked the U.S.’s attitude toward the Syrian Revolution from the beginning. Here it came together with decades of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant propaganda, and classic U.S. racism and anti-Semitism—by avoiding the revolutionary truth, the Obama Administration empowered the most deadly prejudices.
It will be worse yet if the Paris attacks become the excuse to throw Assad yet another lifeline by making a deal with his Russian and Iranian patrons in the interest of “fighting terrorism.” Activist Raed Fares of Kafranbel described how this actually affects the Syrian people: “Russia is targeting moderate opposition forces, hospitals, schools and civil society organizations. And civilians, too. When Assad bombs, it’s a barrel bomb or two and they’ll bring down one or two buildings. But when Russia bombs, they’ll take out an entire neighborhood” (Syria Deeply, Nov. 18).
To destroy ISIS and all its like will require a battle of ideas, even more than a struggle of arms. Like other counter-revolutionary forces, ISIS has had some success in recruiting lost and confused young people broken by the nihilism and hypocrisy of bourgeois society—a society staggering recklessly toward fascism and economic and climatic ruin.
Reaction feeds upon reaction. All the global and regional state powers that have descended upon the struggles in Syria and the Arab world are only opposite sides of the same counter-revolutionary coin, no matter how deadly their battles with ISIS, or with each other. But their military might can’t cancel out their weakness in the battle for the minds of humanity. What gives them some breathing space is the unfinished nature of the revolutions of the last five years.
Revolutionary vision is needed
Serious theory can only develop when grounded in what the masses themselves do and think, and in the last five years they have made themselves heard across the earth. Unprecedented battles have been fought, and hard lessons learned. What we are aiming at now is an absolute opposite to the Sisis, the Assads, the Putins, and yes, the hypocritical friends—the expansion of the freedom struggles from the attainment of precarious halfway measures to full liberation that encompasses national liberation, liberation of oppressed ethnic/religious/sexual minorities, women’s liberation, and abolition of capitalism/imperialism/militarism.
It isn’t enough to oppose both ISIS and imperialism. It is imperative to end the philosophic void, to articulate a vision of what we are for that is no stopgap but full liberation. For that a philosophy of revolution in permanence is a necessity.
This is no abstraction. It is the ideas of the Revolution that demand articulation in order to become a material force. In the words of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement: “It is time for activists…to come together on Syrian soil to document and proclaim their shared vision for Syria’s future. This vision must transcend the current powers in Syria so that it sustains and guides the nonviolent movement with a way forward…The opportunity to create and implement this vision may never come again. The time is now.”
This is a struggle that defines itself around the question: What kind of society is fit for human beings to live in? It is a worldwide questioning, from revolutionary Free Syria to Paris, from U.S. streets to South African shantytowns. Nothing less than a new society built on truly human foundations can clear out the malignant roots from which counter-revolutionary forces like ISIS sprout.
–The Resident Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees, November 21, 2015