GUEST BLOG: Comrade Dave Brownz – Marx on Parisian Terror

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Paris is once again in the news as the ‘victim’ of a terror attack. Paris, the city, is more than just a city. It embodies all that is good and bad about capitalism. It is the city of light but also has a dark side. It dishes out much more terror than it gets back. The ebb and flow of its history is a history of capitalism blow by blow.
As the site of the famous bourgeois revolution, the French Revolution, Paris threw up the most advanced revolutionaries, the Jacobins – based on the sansculottes (workers) who were enlisted as shock troops by the bourgeoisie to carry out the ‘terror’ on the resistant elements of the aristocracy. Having appeared on the stage of history in their vanguard role of doing the bosses dirty work, the Jacobins were soon paid off in their own blood as the bourgeois counter-revolution, now forced back into the arms of the aristocracy, ultimately entered into its Bonapartist period of ‘consolidating’ the first capitalist republic.
Liberty, Equality and Fraternity became increasingly scarce commodities. Like the American revolution these rights were the rights of the bourgeoisie to exploit workers only made possible because they lacked these rights. Napoleon even revoked the freedom of Haitian slaves to protect the profits and property rights of slave owners and merchants and set about ‘terrorising’ the slaves. To prove he was even handed Napoleon had to tax the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (profits) of the French bourgeoisie to pay for his expensive wars.
By 1848 the European bourgeoisies proved incapable of advancing their own revolution to include any class but their own and in France had to resort to another military Bonapartist pitting the peasantry against the proletariat. A period of instability came to a head in 1851 crowned by a farce. The republican president Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, staged a coup and appointed himself Emperor Napoleon III. This was the occasion of Marx’s famous statement about history repeating itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
The farce ended in July, 1870, when Bonaparte declared war on Prussia only to be defeated when his army surrendered. Two days later a Republic was declared in Paris with massive support across France. The return of the Jacobins marked once again an advance in the bourgeois revolution, but this time in the name of the proletariat. The French ruling class rallied and joining forces with the Prussian army put down the revolution massacring up to 10,000 workers and their families. It proved that for workers to gain liberty, equality and fraternity, Jacobin ‘terror’ that did not result in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie was not enough.
The Paris Commune proved that it was necessary to smash the bourgeois state  to win  Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all citizens. Yet this would require the overthrow of the very notion of bourgeois citizenship itself. The Commune was defeated when the French bourgeoisie enlisted the support of the Prussian army, plunging Paris back to the days before the French Revolution. Revolutionary Paris was surrounded by the Prussians while the French troops engaged in their own ‘terror’ against the Communards.
1871 marked a turning point in the history of Paris. It was now  the city of the victorious counter-revolutionary terror against the first proletarian revolution. It flourished as the head of the French Empire that soon spread terror across the world.The French Empire was somewhat unique to the extent that its settler colonies were incorporated into metropolitan France, usually by force. When the barricades came out again they would be in the colonies like Indo-China, Algeria, New Caledonia and Guadeloupe when protests escalated into independence movements, and in the banlieues of the cities when migrant workers and their children blocked off streets during protests.
France bombed and strafed civilians in Vietnam to terrorise the population. It used the same methods in Algeria, including torture and execution to defeat the FLN. The FLN in turn used the ‘terror’ of parcel bombs to kill French settlers. This is how France takes its ‘revolution’ to its colonies and to its own streets. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity delivered by bomb. It is no surprise that popular ‘terror’ always prevails over imperialist ‘terror’.
The French Empire still exists but it is rotting from its head in Paris. The latest ‘terror’ bombings of 13/11 reflect that fact. Perpetrated by Muslim youth born and raised in France, it is significant that the leaders were of Algerian and Moroccan extraction.  They are the product of France’s internal colonies, the banlieus, where migrant youth lack most of the benefits of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The IS suicide bombers are therefore essentially the same as those who have long fought for independence from France.
There is a close similarity to the Algerian revolution led by the FLN but which was heavily influenced by an Islamic radicalism. We can argue that the subsequent rule of political Islam in Algeria marked the degeneration of the colonial independence struggles for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity into Sharia law based on a reactionary interpretation of Islam. Yet the real degeneration does not originate in the Muslim populations oppressed by the French Empire, nor in the interpretation of the Koran. It is a necessary degeneration of that Empire itself and in particular the regression of the French Revolution.
We can see this in Hollande’s appeal for ‘national unity’ after 13/11 to win popular support for bombing no longer for peace but for vengeance. ‘National unity’ was first won by smashing the Commune. Then it was built on the expansion of Empire. The workers and peasants of the colonies created the wealth that was trickled down to the native French working class. That working class then had an interest in ‘national unity’ with the bourgeoisie in oppressing the colonies.
That is why in all of its imperialist wars, the majority of the French working class was united behind their bosses to defend their ‘Empire’. For example in the Algerian war the French Communist Party opposed independence. This meant that apart from Vietnam, the leadership of the national liberation movements fell to the national bourgeoisie, and in the Muslim countries, political Islam.
This brings us to the conclusion that political Islam is a reaction, in both senses of the world, to imperialist oppression in Muslim countries. It is a reaction to the imperialist bourgeoisies and their client dictators exploitation and oppression.  In the absence of a popular secular leadership, including that of communists, both in the heartlands and the neo-colonies, leadership of resistance to imperialist oppression defaults to the radical clerics who mobilise their armies to negotiate with imperialism a share of the oil. In creating the history of colonial oppression, or benefiting from it, the Empire unites bosses and workers in a common fight to defend the basis of Empire, the extraction of wealth from the resources and labour of their client states.
The Empire, therefore is the ‘head’ of reactionary ‘terror’, its own being infinitely worse than that of its colonial opposition. The double reaction that Empire produces, will not end until the workers and other oppressed peoples unite their forces in both the imperialist heartlands and the neo-colonies and fight for the basic demands of the French Revolution, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These demands will only be realised by the overthrow of the capitalist system and the creation of a socialist society in which the limited resources of nature can be utilised sustainably to meet the basic needs of all.

Comrade Dave Brownz is a NZ socialist blogger asking hard questions of global capitalism. 

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. It seems its always countries killing its own people to keep the them down,nowadays its riot police stopping the people from having their say, employed by the governments for that purpose.

    Wake up New Zealand shows that now false flag attacks killing people are happening with increasing regularity.
    Vladimir Putin shows that countries over the centuries employed the same tactics,in Paris it was the same ISIL and ISIS funded by many countries and used to carry out attacks,why? because France wanted to attack Syria.
    David Cameron is demanding parliament give approval for Britain to bomb Syria,parliament said not without UN approval which is not forthcoming. Maybe we can expect another false flag in Britain because the people then demand revenge,justifying an attack on Syria,
    Putin says 40 countries fund and supply arms to terror groups.Putin names countries ,the terror attacks and the reason for their false flags in the past.
    I have lots of relatives in the UK so I hope they don’t follow the trend, but history usually repeats itself .with devastating results usually to enhance the wealth of arms dealers and banksters,when will it end ?

    • The U.K will be providing logistics and increased air strikes against IS targets in Syria. I would not be surprised if RAF Akrotiri was not made available for French use. Still the TWATS wanted this so i hope they enjoy it.

      Cameron doesn’t have much wiggle room as Article 42 clearly says.

      (ex Article 17 TEU)

      1. The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States.

      If I’m reading that right, Hollande just created for the first time ever, an EU army. That I think should be called a reverse false flag attack.

  2. This brings us to the conclusion that political Islam is a reaction, in both senses of the world, to imperialist oppression in Muslim countries .

    To a large degree I agree but you cannot take this in isolation. There are other expressions of political Islam than that of ISIL. And they go back right to the source of the religion. For example the Sunni Shiite split has always reflected political power politics.

    The latest Islamic “fundamentalism” can be traced back to Wahab in the 1700s and the cult that grew up following his Puritanical beliefs. This predates Marx and any Marxian interpretation of the root cause of Islamic terror. The methodology of ISIL terror looks to me to be very similar to the Leninist revolutionary model, and contains an equal Utopian vision of how the world should be, proselytized to new adherents. And like Lenins revolution a vanguard of the enlightened are there to force apostates into submission to the will of the Prophet (or Party).

    I agree with you Dave that capitalism and imperialism are on balance undesirable exploitative and exploitative systems. But these systems have always existed. And whilst I can connect the dots to the ISIL terrorists social and economic conditions. I suspect that if the same Islamic disaffected youth was indoctrinated by Marxist cells instead of fundamentalist mullahs the same result would have occurred.

    If Marxist criticism of capitalism had never existed I think most people would have come to the same conclusion about reaction to exploitation and marginalization. How the political reaction is framed owes as much to Islamic tradition for Islamics as it does to any political ideologies from the West.

    • Nick, I agree that modern political Islam draws on the past. But its modern form has to serve the current interests of the elites that have revived it. As always religions serve to justify the political authority of a social class that is competing for scarce resources. The context in which this is understood today has to be the history of imperialism in MENA since WW1.

      For example, Zionism is an appeal to an ancient God to provide the authority for the modern Israeli armed occupation of Palestine. Wahhabi was revived to give authority to the Taliban fighting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Khomeini’s Islamic state rationalised Iran’s influence in the Middle East as anti-US and anti-Israel. ISIL’s caliphate attempts to authorise its control of oil in Syria and Iraq.

      Thus the historic context of the uses to which religion is put is determined by the development of capitalism and the exploitative relations between imperialist and neo-colonial states in which the ruling regimes act as agents to contain the rise of the masses.

      It’s true that secular ideas like socialism can and have become an ideology of an elite to justify domination over the masses. But such ‘socialism’ is a fraud when used to usurp workers democracy as was the case in the Soviet Union under the dictatorship of Stalin. To equate Lenin with say Khomeini is ridiculous. Lenin was motivated to overthrow the capitalist class and eliminate the use religion and secular ideologies to suppress the working class. Khomeini did the opposite.

      The Bolsheviks rejected all religious and secular claims to rationalise capitalism as progressive in Russia (and elsewhere) and led the working masses to the only successful revolution in history inspiring the ‘exploited and marginalised’ youth everywhere. Such was the ruling class terror of the spread of revolution that all the warring imperialist powers called a halt to their war and combined all of their reactionary forces to smash it. They finally succeeded in 1991.

      • Dave, Theres an old saying that nobody holds a monopoly on the truth. How you see the world depends very much on where you are standing. With that in mind I can accept that a Marxist analysis of Islamic terrorism is useful but being of a quasi rationalist construct it has its limits. For example I just read Keith Rankin on the Paris issue and he brings the nature of youths desires aspirations and needs to the party. I think he links that well with the appeal of alternative worldviews such as Islam. It could equally be Marxism.

        I often use Marxs model of relations to production for class analysis. Its pretty much on the money in an industrial world which in NZ is fast dissappearing. By contrast I dont think Marxs historic dialectic any more useful than religious apocalyptic visions from Christ or Mohammed. That said I need to consider many do and wo
        uld regardless of societal or economic position (contrary to Marx). We might consider that the 9/11 terrorists were not exactly a poor downtrodden bunch; most were wealthy. Maybe there is a parallel between them and most Marxist vanguard revolutionaries…Lenin, Trotsky, Guevara et al..mostly from well off bourgeois families. They could all have had alternate lives not available to most then proletarians…but no, they had alternative faith in apocalyptic visions of a future. Very religious.

        On the collapse of the Soviet Union I think you give capitalism too much credit. The greater issue I suspect was that the vision of a worldly workers paradise was too long in coming that faith was lost. The Emperor was seen naked with no prospect of clothing himself let alone the masses. That the capitalist world waxed victorious was more coincidental and lucky than by design.

        • Nick, thanks for your comments.

          You seem to be a post-modernist who believes that all truths are equal, or partial, so long as the only reference is the standpoint of the bourgeois individual.

          Yet the bourgeois individual is an historical construct of bourgeois privatisation of common property through centuries of ‘primitive accumulation – i.e. theft – and so is determined by the social relations. This is the famous Robinson Crusoe, the deluded individual who acts with ‘free will’ while living off the labor of Man Friday the non-bourgeois individual.

          So the standpoint of the bourgeois individual is already determined by capitalism unless one consciously breaks from it. This is difficult to do because capitalism is not transparent. If it were we would not need science to explain it. This probably accounts for the historic role of socialist leaders who come from the bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie and are educated in scientific method.

          One can rebel against capitalism like the youth of Syria or the banlieues or like militant trade unionists. But unless you are conscious of the ‘true’ nature of capitalism this becomes a futile utopia of reforming capitalism which ends in despair fuelling fascism. That is why Marxism as a science becomes synonymous with class consciousness.

          As a science Marxism must apply to capitalism in all of its aspects because it is a contradictory totality that envelops all who live in it. Marx method was not to describe all of these many aspects of capitalist reality in their empirical isolation, or even correlation, to find the truth, but to penetrate to the structure of the atom, or the cell, as he called it, of capitalism and then to work his way back to the surface showing the ‘many determinations’ that explain everyday life.

          Thus he starts with the ‘cell’, the commodity, and the contradiction it contains between use-value and exchange value, which explains how the class struggle between capital and labour drives the development of capitalism but also sets its limits, its decline, and the necessity for socialism.

          The test of this theory is what happens as a result of the class struggle (which I have defined as inclusive of all individuals class conscious or not). Marx predicts the consequences as laws of motion. Of course these are all mediated by the market, for example, the class struggle over income distribution which is already determined by the relations of production.

          The most important laws are the increasing rate of exploitation, or surplus-value (s/v), which also accounts for rising labor productivity and rising living standards, and yet also the rising gap between rich and poor. However this development has its inbuilt limits, as the share of labor relative to capital reduces absolutely as fixed capital drives out labor. Capital is inevitably riven by increasingly destructive crises, the symptoms of its breakdown including the widening gap between rich and poor.

          In the end, all theories that claim to reveal the truth must be subject to testing, and that is why given the current state of world capitalism; its stagnation, its worsening crises, its tendency to solved economic crises by war, and its destruction of the biosphere, etc, Marxism still provides the only coherent, parsimonious, and proven theory/practice of the truth of our predicament.

          The alternative explanations resort to false assumptions about ‘human nature’ or arrive at some conspiracy theory of the inevitable rise of elites. So either we are fatalists driven by our genes (the master race) or we legislate on behalf of the masses to take power from the elites (reforms).

          If we discount fatalism, Marxism has shown that attempts to ‘share the power’ (real democracy, social democracy etc) capitalism end up turning on the working class (e.g. the German SPD in 1919), the only class capable of replacing capitalism with a system that can utilise the huge productive potential of labour combined with a collective responsibility of producing what we need to survive without killing off the biosphere.

          • Dave, where to start? One liners I think as it would get to tiresome:
            post modernist bourgeois standpoint thats a first and entirely opposite but hey whatever it means does it mean that I must believe in a single truth?
            all truths are equal no, but they are also not always binary, for example multiple causes may result in an incident, ascribing it to one alone could be highly inaccurate.
            Marxism a science no no no! It is a social science at best, it does not stand up to rigorous scientific method, but there again neither does any other social or economic construct or theory.
            “Marx predicts the consequences as laws of motion’ ahah the dialectic again. There is an equally prescient parallel for classical economics, the law of supply and demand. Smith was honest enough to allow that this could be warped by several factors such as “cartel” behavior.
            Marxism wont be killing off the biosphere Chernobyl, Aral Sea. Industrial man seems to be very good at killing the biosphere regardless of ideology.

            All up Dave, it would seem to me that the religious visions of the world as espoused by followers of faiths such as Christianity, Islam, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Marx etc provides a portrait gallery of the foibles of humanity but no single truth.

            To bring us back to the beginning which is why the young men did the Paris event I have lots of parallel conclusions, and they include your Marxist class analysis of the event. If I was blunt you might ask as a result of your analysis why did these guys not do the evil in the name of Marxist revolution? The answer might be that there was something more significant to them in Islam, which could be down to culture, knowledge, faith etc etc.

            • Just take one example of Marxist science, the reasoning that leads to the prediction of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to fall.
              That is scientifically testable. All other explanations of falling profits fail to account for its dynamics. The attribute secondary causes such as rising wages as main causes.
              There is an excellent running commentary on this issue on Michael Roberts Blog. https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

              To compare the law of the TRPF to the law of supply and demand is a joke. It has so many anomalies that even as a description of the market its a joke.

              Keynes disproved Says law that claims supply creates demand when it was not the market but state monopoly capitalism that rescued capitalism by fighting a world war, twice.

              Marxism takes this further to explain why crises cannot be avoided or regulated and must lead to depressions and wars. The period since 2007 adds another wealth of evidence. So far trillions of QE have failed to restore profits as it postpones the inevitable depression required to devalue excessive capital and restore the rate of profit.

              Stalinism was never an argument for or against Marxism. You shouldn’t use it.

              Trying to build socialism in one backward country surrounded by a hostile capitalism was always going to take a toll on the environment. Sadly it is the restoration of capitalism in Russia and China that makes them much more dangerous to humans and all other species going extinct at the rate of 200 a day.

              Marxism is false unless we understand it as a science that explains the origins of ideology and religion as dead ends for humanity. Jihardis are going down that dead end today only because secular and socialist currents have been greatly weakened by Western imperialism and its client dictators and so cannot provide immediate answers for alienated youth.

              • Dave, you are displaying what I am sure an imam or a Catholic priest would display in terms of absolute faith In a specific theology. Much of it may be true but as I contend there are no absolutes.

                I willl call you on the Stalin issue. If Lenin made the revolution Stalin completed it. He was a Marxist in the way you appear. He did what he did for what he regarded as right and correct for the creation of a Marxian Utopia. He was of the faith, by the faith and his creatures followed the faith. And an individuals faith as Torquemada demonstrates rises above all humanity for its own purposes. To deny that Stalin’s excesses were related to Marxism is as ingenuine as a capitalist denying that ttheir system is equally culpable in the death of countless millions.

      • I think the Soviet Union managed to ‘smash’ itself by being spectacularly bad at providing what people wanted.

        • My thoughts exactly Gos. I don’t give capitalism any great credit in the fall of the USSR. More of a case of becoming spectacularly bad at basic decision making resulting in self inflicted wounds and a huge clusterfuck.

          • I hope you relies that machine gun politics didn’t go extinct because of any right wing idealism, fantasy, romanticism ect. It went extinct because bullets are expensive and air is cheap

  3. The trick is in any human institution is to find the right balance between collective good whilst not stifling those who have great ideas and initiatives.

    Social democracy incorporates this , whereby those individuals so inclined who have an idea and generate wealth from it are free to do so , but even then to prevent rorts and excesses there needs to be regulatory practice- just like in any other public endeavor to safeguard all.

    A good article and agree to a point on the last paragraph. As I firmly believe in the good of society but also ensuring those who can lead well and generate jobs and wealth through industry are not stunted by excessive state interference…NZ was an excellent example before the neo liberals gained a foothold in 1984.

    But again , an interesting article that expands the recent history of the state of France and the origins of many of its seeds of discontent in former colonies.

  4. […] “In the absence of a popular secular leadership, including that of communists, both in the heartlands and the neo-colonies, leadership of resistance to imperialist oppression defaults to the radical clerics who mobilise their armies to negotiate with imperialism a share of the oil. In creating the history of colonial oppression, or benefiting from it, the Empire unites bosses and workers in a common fight to defend the basis of Empire, the extraction of wealth from the resources and labour of their client states”, – Dave Brownz, “Marx on Parisian Terror” […]

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