World In View: Paris massacre heralds more reaction

January 26, 2016

From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters

The fascist terrorist attacks in Paris Nov. 13 (130 killed, 350 injured) signaled a change in strategy for the nihilistic ISIS death cult. In the face of military losses in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is widening its field of operations to include territory from Indonesia to Pakistan to Kenya and Nigeria. Perhaps no act of theirs will be more terrifying than the successful recruiting of so many young people.

ISIS, like nihilist cults before it, has fastened itself to the pervasive nihilism of bourgeois society. Consider the response of all state powers to the Arab Spring freedom movements which represented the best in our humanity. The revolts were met with hypocrisy, pettiness, and a mythic “stability” imposed through state violence that has risen to genocide in Syria.

It’s little wonder that Syria and its tortured twin, Iraq, have become the umbilical cord connecting ISIS to the bourgeois imperialism that is its model.


The Paris attacks were the mirror image of Anders Behring Breivik’s anti-immigrant massacre of 77 mostly young people in Norway in 2011. They feed the currents of hatred and reaction that flow from Milosevic’s Bosnian genocide and poison world politics.

The anti-immigrant Right used the Paris attacks to make serious political gains; the French National Front was boosted in local elections, doubling their previous vote, and gaining hundreds of regional council seats. Denmark and Switzerland have now begun confiscating refugees’ possessions, behaving like pirates and human traffickers. Far Right parties have grown in Poland, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Denmark.

U.S. politics has never been immune to this. But hatred of Muslims and immigrants has come to vie with classic racism and antisemitism as Republican candidates Trump and Cruz work to associate each other with the “alien,” or with “New York values,” i.e. the alien within. It’s a level of open hatred not seen in mainstream politics in decades.


This growth of reaction confuses attitudes to ongoing freedom struggles. As piratical ISIS carries on its pretense of statehood, reactionary regional powers carry on a pretense of legitimacy, and the big imperialists (Russia, the U.S.) commit or condone every manner of crime. It should be noted that the Assad regime in Syria is responsible for 85% of civilian deaths there, ISIS for 5%.

Meanwhile, near open war has broken out between regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia with dire consequences in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and at home.

These two oppressive theocracies are mirror images of each other. Iran denounces Saudi crimes, such as the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, while it executes hundreds of its own citizens and its client Hezbollah starves Syrian cities like Madaya. Iran sentences poets Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi to flogging. The Saudis sentence Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death and blogger Raif Badawi to prison and flogging. All this for the exercise of free thought and free speech.

One worker in Saudi Arabia summed up the state’s motives: “I think this whole thing may be a way to defuse the growing youth population from turning their attention and focus on serious domestic problems.” The root of Arab Spring will clearly need more than bourgeois thought and reality to flourish.

—Gerry Emmett

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