In France in recent years the news has revolved greatly around terrorism, with a focus mainly on Islamist terrorism. Attacks on a Jewish school, against soldiers, against Charlie Hebdo, Hypercasher, Bataclan, Nice, on coffee shop patios, etc., have resulted in a very strong reaction in our society. The main aspect has been the strengthening of the logic of imperialist war, especially in our territory: the army patrols more in our streets, the searches are linked, the state of emergency has been prolonged again and again, the courts remain full. Refugees arrive by thousands to find life away from the bombs. The war in Africa and the Middle East existed mostly on our screens: now it is part of our lives.
Of course, both the government and the opposition used these facts to divide the people, to divide our class. They linked terrorism and immigration, putting torturers and victims on the same level, and denying their own responsibility in this situation. They justified their security practices, and targeted Muslims or designated them as collectively responsible. In the media the positions of the most reactionary fringes of society, the fascists, are becoming more and more dominant: they link the question of Islam to violence, insecurity, war, drugs, to immigration, unemployment. Everything is mixed up to prepare minds to accept mass violence, and these ideas gradually penetrate through to the people. Anti-terrorism as an ideology is mainly upheld by the middle class, that is to say, in scientific terms, the petty-bourgeois, including the labor aristocracy. It was this social class that was particularly affected by the attacks of the last few years. It is this class that makes demands on power: the big bourgeoisie knows that it is protected and is mainly interested in defending its economic interests abroad; as for the proletariat, it is simply excluded from political life, except during periods of election during which the ruling classes try to mobilize it at the ballot box. During the movement for “Charlie”, the main aspect was the support for the imperialist state, its police, and therefore, implicitly, a demand for more repression.
Against the aggressive discourse about Islam, many sincere democrats simply say that jihadists are bad Muslims who have a misunderstanding of the holy texts, or who thus would represent an anomaly. This argument is not enough to fight against Islamophobia, nor against jihadism. This is not a scientific analysis, and we think it is necessary to go further and study the root of these problems.
Islamism, Salafism, jihadism, Daesh … What is it?
Islamism is the political theory that says Islam, that is, the Muslim religion, must govern society, that the state and its law must follow the principles of the Qur’an. This position is a minority one among the Muslim people in our state.
Among Sunni Islamists, Salafism is a powerful current. The Salafists want to return to the purity of the early days of Islam, the salaf salih, from which they derive their name.They have a very reactionary view of Islam. However, the majority of the Salafists in France are called “quietists”, that is, they do not seek to confront the secular state: they consider that the latter will disappear by the will of God.
A minority of Salafists, mostly originating as quiestist Salafists, are jihadists. That is to say, for them, one must fight the disbelievers to restore the dignity of Muslims. The duty of believers would be to take up arms against the cult of idols, against the taghut, for example the democracy that replaces the power of God by that of the people (some Catholic fundamentalists think the same thing). The two currents of Salafism treat each other as khawaridj , that is, as deviators.The jihadists of today are often called takfirists, that is to say, people considering all their opponents as disbelievers who must be excommunicated (takfir).
Is one current right and the other wrong? Everything is about interpretation: even if most of Daesh’s recruits are very poorly educated, jihadists rely on dalil (a sura or verse of the Qur’a) to legitimize their action. Salafism is an aqida , a coherent religious belief that relies on texts, historical references, and political thought.It is useless to try to dismantle the beliefs of a takfirist by relying on another more pacifist aqida.
Daesh, officially called the Islamic State, is an organization originally created in Iraq in 2006, when important parts of the anti-American resistance turned to jihadism. Initially, Daesh was linked to Al Qaeda. Finally the pupil surpassed the master by first declaring the Caliphate. The development of Daesh can be explained through recourse to reasons similar to those which made Al Qaeda successful in the 80s and 90s:
- On the one hand, the imperialists (mainly Russian and then American) led to strong popular resistance in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere: this resistance took different forms, including Islamism. Today, the jihadists falsely present themselves as resisting imperialism in order to attract support.
- During the popular uprisings, whether in Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria or Libya, the imperialists and their allies have always allowed the Islamists to develop. They are better enemies than revolutionary and secular groups, who have been massacred by the Islamists and the imperialists both. Sometimes the imperialists even directly support jihadist groups when it serves their interests (against the Soviets, against the Kurds, against the Syrian regime, against the PFLP in Palestine …).
Today, Daesh is a powerful organization, established in multiple countries. So much so that NATO is now working with other Islamists from Al Qaeda against them, itself an act of sharp political failure. There are in fact two sides to Daesh: the state itself between Syria and Iraq, and its clandestine organization in other countries.
The Social Role of Daesh
In Iraq and Cham (the Levant, that is to say mainly Syria), Daesh is building a genuine state that will probably not disappear in the near future.This state is based on Islamic law, Shariah .It is extremely reactionary: massacres of disbelievers (including Yezidis), repression of all opposition, general sexual slavery, atrocious conditions for women, permanent war, torture, destitution, and public executions. In fact, support for Daesh in some areas is mainly due to its reputation for defending Sunni interests and fighting corruption. Thus, many Syrian and Iraqi officers and tribal leaders joined the organization. Daesh is not the dreamed-of country of the Ummah of the Muslim community: it is a hyper-reactionary state which lowers wages, terrorizes its population, and maintains violent inequalities.The reality is far from propaganda-fueled fiction, and the situation is degrading in step with the economic and social collapse of this region, devastated as it is through imperialist-led wars for domination.
Yet, abroad, the radical Islamist project attracts some individuals or small groups. Initially, some of those attracted view the jihadists are the true opponents of American or Russian imperialism. Other people are motivated by humanitarianism: the atrocious images of the war in Syria urge them to go and help a martyred people. There are sometimes very legitimate motivations, a desire to fight for justice and against war crimes and imperialism. But the jihadists have built a very effective propaganda machine to channel these feelings for their benefit and gradually attract the most motivated people into their networks. Once one arrives in Cham , it is too late, one must adhere to the organization or suffer the consequences.And people wanting with all their heart to help the Syrian people become their executioners.
What is the class base of Daesh? It is difficult to know precisely. We know that among the many foreign fighters who join Daesh are many who come from well educated families. It’s not just desperate folks. The organization relies on deserters, veterans of international Jihad (Pashtun, Chechens, Saudi and Tunisian in particular) and on some powerful Iraqi Sunni tribes. The petite bourgeoise seems particularly well represented. Beyond ideology, Daesh thus functions as a counterweight to Ba’athist regimes deemed too secular and too tolerant of Shi’ism. It is a capitalist state under construction, more openly brutal than others, and born of the inter-imperialist war in Syria and the disillusionment of a popular uprising drowned in blood.
Inter-imperialist wars have often fueled radical movements which transform the violence of war into political momentum: Daesh is no exception. It is a semi-feudal, idealistic and anti-people movement with a morbid fascination with violence, presenting a romantic vision of anti-capitalism which aligns with its social base. However, Daesh does not represent the interests of a particular imperialism: if it has been supported by different foreign powers, it claims an autonomous political project, driven by a dynamic of return to a feudal system – a return which cannot be achieved in a world entirely dominated by capital. The desire to return to gold dinar currency and to base its support on tribal networks corresponds to this semi-feudal project. To summarize, the state that Daesh is trying to construct represents a brutal form of total reaction.
Radical Islamism in France and Postcolonial Management of the Banlieus
What about Daesh in France? Clearly, takfirism is an ultra-minority opinion, with very limited support in the population. Its social role is non-existent and completely cut off from the political life of the country. Most jihadists choose to hide and practice taqiya, concealment, that is, they do not rigorously practice their religion on a daily basis in order not to arouse suspicion and are completely marginalized in the Muslim community.
Young converts or Muslim families who “radicalize” and respond to the call of the new caliph make their hijra, they emigrate to a promised and idealized land.But what drives the young spiritual saints, having grown up in France, to let it all go for a new life on the borders of Syria? How does one choose to die as a martyr at the other end of the world? Republican thinking is incapable of answering this question. Because answering means France confronting its own demons, this question conjures up a shit-show
The banlieues of France are areas of absolute gloom, depressing, gray and sad walls. The police behave as in the colonies, like an occupation force. The elected representatives only come to collect support and distribute kickbacks to neighborhood associations and the neighborhood’s “big brothers”. Defective client-ism, more or less effective social pacification. The people’s culture is still there, under the concrete, it comes through like a plant under the asphalt and the rage grows: a dreadful school system that teaches submission, a scornful administration never quite over the loss of colonies, a racist police force, no social outlets … And this nightmarish situation, built by French capitalism, will not be able to improve under this economic system.
Suburban neighborhoods around metropolises and small towns are also affected by this phenomenon. Islamophobia breaks already weak social ties in these places, and prospects for the future are also increasingly limited for large parts of the petite bourgeoisie. Concretely, access to the university no longer appears as a means of re-classing oneself, of finding a stable social position for oneself. These changes produce frustration and anger.
The state feels this anger, and relies on three allies to avoid revolt. First, by depoliticizing as much as possible the cities, a feat made easy by the collapse of the workers’ organizations. And then, through allowing the mafia networks to develop: there’s nothing better to divide and suffocate the people than the logic of the gang and of dope. Finally, by organizing a comprador pseudo-bourgeoisie .That is, a social class of people from these neighborhoods, but who eat from the palms of the colonial power and who serve its interests – such as those who supported colonialism in the Maghreb, Africa, Asia …
But sometimes the dreams of peaceful integration and the fantasies of Scarface are not enough. Some particularly desperate people, confronted with the absolute boredom, racist oppression, and the social misery that capitalism offers, seek the absolute. To those men and women, Daesh proposes a new departure to an ideal and exotic country. An plane ticket that would allow these galley slaves to become modern knights. Often, interest in jihadist theory comes later, in order to justify this choice through the word of God. Fleeing the dunya, materialistic earthly life, also makes it possible to appropriate the ghanima of the khufars, that is to say, the booty taken from infidels: Daesh gives a moral guaranty to a life of plunder in a country at war.It’s a crusade 2.0 in the age of Facebook and Skype when changing one’s life seems easy.
Thus, one finds in a recently published book by D. Thomson, a former French jihadist who came back from Syria: “We were bored, there was nothing to do, just routine, lacking a bit of spice. […] I did not look for reasons to live in communism because that was not in the education that I was given. I was taught religious values, so I turned to religion. ”
This nihilistic revolt which accepts death as a martyr as a possibility is caused by the postcolonial management of the working-class and suburban districts: this is the direct result of the policy of French imperialism in the working class neighborhoods. Without a political perspective, without the destruction of this state, its comprador supporters, its police and its networks, there will always be nihilistic rebels ready to follow any type of mystical delirium, including jihadism.
It is therefore up to the revolutionaries to build a political and cultural alternative capable of solving the real problems that poison the life of the masses in the banlieues as well as in the suburban districts and in the villages. This perspective requires the strengthening of mass and party organizations to allow the development of the theory of materialism and to give a constructive perspective to anger and frustration. Against the desert of capitalism and the jihadist nightmare: only the revolt of the people is a source of hope!