Alex Mitchell’s WEEKLY NOTEBOOK – The road to Hebdo and why I won’t be Charlie

1. Classical English liberalism was destroyed and buried in the trenches of World War One when British Prime Minister David Lloyd George shrugged off his pacifism and became a Cabinet warmonger. The fledging British Labour Party split over support for the imperialist bloodbath with Arthur Henderson leading the majority faction into a wartime Coalition in which he served as a Cabinet minister.
A similar split occurred in the infant Australian Labor Party although two conscription referendums supported by renegade Labor leaders were defeated. Socialists across Europe divided between imperialist war supporters (Kautsky, Kerensky et al) and revolutionary socialists (Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht and Luxembourg). The French Socialist Party supported the war and joined the Paris war Cabinet.
There were more than 37 million casualties in World War One: 16 millions military deaths and 20 million wounded, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
2. Radicalism died on the streets of Paris, London, Berlin, Rome, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles in 1968. That is to say, student radicalism or post-war Sixties radicalism.
The forces of the state brutalised the protesters with batons, CS gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. The ringleaders were busted, jailed and blacklisted. The remainder cut their hair, shaved their beards, put their guitars in the garage, went back to university and became the faux intelligentsia of the rising middle class with well-paid jobs and unprecedented social mobility.
3. Leftism died in Paris two weeks ago when two indoctrinated soldiers of terror killed 11 cartoonists and editorial staff of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The shock waves were visceral, especially to those (like me) who worked for a lifetime in the print form journalism. While we were all still gathering our thoughts, the ruling class in Europe and North America quickly reduced the premeditated murders to one essential question: Freedom of speech v Islamic terror.
Two million Parisians massed on the avenues of the city centre last Sunday, 11 January, with additional public marches around the world. It was, they said, a worldwide stand against terror.
But “free speech” quickly became an empty slogan. The real content of the demonstrations – and of “Je suis Charlie” – became “We are all in the war against terror”.
In that sense, the post-Hebdo protest movement has been the biggest recruitment campaign in history: millions of “free speech” leftists from American Democrats to European and Australian “left” social democrats have found themselves lumped in imperialism’s Islamaphobic “war against terror”.
Inadvertently, they have been swept into the blood-stained camp of imperialist presidents, prime ministers and monarchs as cannon fodder for capitalist governments to increase police and intelligence powers to search computers and phones, arrest, detain and interrogate, and to increase the surveillance of civilians and travellers.
Intending to be “free speechers”, they have recruited as “imperial staters”. Without the political independence to stand against a handful of crazed terrorist criminals, right and left social democrats have chosen to back the “protection” offered by imperialism and capitalist state power.

Meet Charlie

4. The Hebdoistes are part of France’s chaotic political life. They’re a
nihilist, anarchist collective of former Stalinists, Maoists and Alain Krivine-led Trotskyists. Highly talented, irascible and resentfully frustrated, their weekly paper treats the world around them existentially as a huge joke: ridicule and satire rule, okay?
Maurice Sinet, aka Siné, is an 86-year-old Charlie Hebdo cartoonist famous for his anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-religious drawings.
In 2008 Siné pilloried the marriage of Jean Sarkozy, son of then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to Jessica Sabaoun-Darty, a Jewish heiress. He was accused of anti-Semitism and ordered by Charlie Hebdo editor, Claude Askolovitch, to write a letter of apology or face the sack.
He replied that he would rather “cut my own balls off” and was fired.
In a subsequent law suit, Siné won an award of 40,000 euros (about $60,000) for wrongful dismissal.
Siné reported several deaths threats posted on a site run by the Jewish Defence League. One said that “20 centimetres of stainless in the gut – that should teach the bastard to stop and think.”
The JDL staged a demonstration in Paris in October to support the Zionist state and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, thrice the butcher of Gaza, who was one of the world leaders on the “Je Suis Charlie” march through Paris last Sunday.

Humbugs at the Herald

5. Last August, the Sydney Morning Herald’s most popular columnist Mike Carlton was “suspended” for four to six weeks like an errant fourth former at a minor public school.
The insulting “punishment” was delivered by Fairfax business and metro publisher Sean Aylmer and supported by the Herald’s editor, Darren Goodsir. It was the last straw for Carlton who promptly left the paper after almost 20 years’ distinguished service.
He became Fairfax’s whipping boy after writing a column condemning the Israeli army’s savage assault on the civilian population of Gaza. It was accompanied by a cartoon drawn by Glen Le Lievre depicting a Jewish settler watching the blitzkrieg from his balcony.
Carlton’s column and the cartoon drew a highly organised response by Zionists and Rupert Murdoch’s Australian. The SMH was flooded with protests calling for their sacking and a public apology.
Fairfax obliged on both counts, publishing an unprecedented editorial, “We apologise: publishing cartoon in original form was wrong.” (SMH, 4 August 2014).
Which brings us to January 2015 when, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, editorial staff of the SMH adopted the slogan, “Je suis Charlie”, although they were never more than Charleses.
It was proof of the old saying that humbugs tend to be more militant the further they are away from the action.

Lenin’s final say

6. When in doubt, I find it invariably useful to check what Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin had to say on related topics:
“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under fire.
“We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring swamp, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation.
“And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go back into the swamp! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road!
“Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the swamp. In fact, we think that the swamp is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the swamp, but also against those who are turning towards the swamp!”
What Is To Be Done? Iskra 1902

One comment

  1. I think you are too pessimistic here Alex. My view is that I dont see the French response as a right left issue and I think we should avoid painting it that way. The French have a long history of people mobilisation in response to tyranny going back to the French Revolution and beyond. Many in France I believe truly see themselves as defending liberty equality and fraternity and we should all be defending the values of the enlightenment and the Renaissance against the horrors of terrorism. I do not make excuses for terrorists. Their politics are bankrupt as a strategy for taking humanity forward. Yes I understand why they are there and the complicated history of it all. And I understand that the Far Right are trying to exploit all of this for their own gain. They will be stopped if the middle and the left understand the movement and the mood of the people and provide alternative ways forward.

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