Socialist Worker

France is in political turmoil after the Paris massacre

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2436

A Je Suis Charlie protest in Cherbourg last week

A 'Je Suis Charlie' protest in Cherbourg last week (Pic: ©Photothèque Rouge/Franck Houlgatte)


A week of political turmoil has gripped France in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed 17 people in Paris last week. Troops have been deployed on to the streets. 

A TV journalists’ chat show on Wednesday night gave a taste of the atmosphere for Muslims.

One journalist reduced a fellow panellist to tears by demanding she and other Muslims show that they didn’t support the killings.

By Friday morning, 15 mosques and Muslim prayer sites around France had been targeted by racists. They left pigs heads, graffiti including swastikas or slogans such as “Arabs out”—or set off guns, training grenades and a home made bomb. 

One student of north African origin was beaten up by thugs shouting racist abuse on the edge of a vigil outside his college in Isere.

Sellouma, a member of the New Anti-capitalist Party in Paris, told Socialist Worker, “There’s a real sense of fear among Muslims, and anyone who might be taken for a Muslim.

“Muslims are being put on the spot to disassociate themselves from the attacks or be lumped in with the terrorists. And this stigmatisation is being fed by the state.”

More than 100,000 people took part in spontaneous demonstrations around France on Wednesday of last week, with others abroad including in London.

Most people took part because they were horrified at the killings, and had no racist agenda. Racists who publicly tore up a Quran were ejected from the largest rally, in Paris.

But the grief was quickly hijacked.

Beleaguered president Francois Hollande called a national day of mourning on Thursday of last week, and then a national unity demonstration on Sunday. Official figures say 3.7 million people took part.

After claiming to defend freedom of expression, Francois Hollande’s government used the attacks to justify a new clampdown on civil liberties.

“It’s been shocking how easily the forces of reaction have been able to capture people’s emotion after the attack,” said Sellouma. “That solidarity people felt has been diverted into a mobilisation of nationalism.

“There’s a polarised atmosphere that says you’re either with us or against us—and anyone who won’t say ‘I am Charlie’ is against.”

For France’s five million Muslims, many of them from its former colony Algeria, it has never been a country of free speech.

Cops in Paris banned Algerian protests demanding independence in 1961 then massacred more than 200 who turned up.

The state denied the massacre for decades, censoring every film and book that tried to reveal it.

The sight of armed troops on every street will only bring more fear.

Sellouma said, “This all happened at a time when racism in France was already getting worse. We’re very afraid of what will happen in the coming days.

“Racists are trying to organise a demonstration against Muslims this Sunday, and we are building a counter-protest.

“There are many people who hate seeing the rise of the far right, who can’t stand the racism of the state. But we need to bring them together into an anti-racist movement that’s clear in taking on Islamophobia.”


Exposing the Antisemites 

The killings at a kosher supermarket raised fears of further attacks on Jews. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quick to call on Jews to leave France and join his racist settler state.

Zionism has always denied the anti-racist idea that unity can overcome discrimination.

But unity was also undermined by prime minister Manuel Valls. Sellouma said, “By making a show of protecting Jewish schools, he is trying to make it seem that racism is coming from Muslims.

“The real Antisemitism comes from the state. Its ‘Republican’ laws are based on a Christian tradition, and discriminate against Jewish people for their diet, dress and sabbath day. And it comes from the far right, who attack Jewish cemeteries.”

Front National president Jean-Marie Le Pen joked last year about putting a Jewish comedian “in the oven” . 

The sections of the state that most viciously repressed Algerians during the war of independence collaborated with the Holocaust. 


More official powers to spy  

Francois Hollande promised an “exceptional response” to the attacks.

An anti-terrorist bill that was already going through parliament could bring in 500 extra spies and more powers to restrict “propaganda” on social media and the internet.

One man has already been arrested for a Facebook status about the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Another has been sentenced for six months in prison for miming machine gun fire to police officers.


Fascists invited to presidential palace  

The fascist Front National (FN) was the only party in parliament not formally invited to Sunday’s rally. 

But for the first time its leader Marine Le Pen was called in to meet Hollande in the presidential Elysee palace.

He assured her that FN members’ safety would be guaranteed if they decided to march. 

Tory opposition leaders blasted Hollande for not issuing an invite.


Police arrest innocent man

Police had shot dead all three attackers by the end of Friday of last week. But for 24 hours teenager Hamyd Mourad had his name dragged all over the media as a wanted suspect.

He went to the police station to protest his innocence, and was taken into custody. Cops had to let him go after his classmates came forward to say he had been at school that day.


London protest against Pegida

Anti-racists protested outside the German embassy in London on Monday in solidarity with German demonstrations against the Islamophobic Pegida movement.


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