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Issue #1674      February 25, 2015

Freedom, Charlie Hebdo and class struggle

The “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) slogan sign initially appeared in Twitter with white fonts in a black background. It was created by French artist and journalist Joachim Roncin. The sign was quickly spread over the internet, and then it was adopted by protesters who marched on the streets, expressing their anger at the terrorist attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris that killed 12 people and wounded 11 including editor, cartoonist and policeman.

It is not a surprise that people in France organised protests against the brutality of the attack, as Paris is a pilgrimage that still inherits the proud of the 1789 “great capitalist revolution”.

Sympathy should be given for the loss of lives in the attack, and in fact, any violent attack targeting innocent people should be condemned. Violence by nature cannot solve problems fundamentally; using violence to contain another violence can only produce the presence of a greater violence that brings more misery to the working people. Therefore an emotional and hatred-oriented movement should be carefully examined: whether the movement would suit the interest of the working people.

Among all, three questions are essential to ask: 1) What is the magazine? 2) What is the nature and background of the movement? 3) Who are pushing the movement to where and for what purpose?

Chrlie Hebdo, the magazine, was founded in 1960s, it is a pioneer spreading French capitalist and anarchist versions of freedom; the magazine is known for its political and religious sarcasm. Since its foundation, it has been continually and visually attacking political opponents, including religions, in extremely offensive ways. As a consequence, the magazine’s development strategy and anarchist sarcasm undermined the solidarity of the working people around the globe.

The magazine itself advocates an absolute freedom: that its producers may express anything that they desire to, even if they are offensive or insulting to other on the other side of the planet. The magazine considers itself legitimate and just, protected by the right of freedom, and it instigates people to support its specific “right of freedom”. The 1669 issue editorial interprets this specific freedom as “the right to say and portray anything and anyone regardless of offence given”; this freedom enables people to be intolerant to the differences and diversity of people, and then uses it to attack this difference and diversity to instigate racial discrimination and conflict.

This freedom only benefits exploiters and sits best with capitalist individualism and anarchism. As the Guardian editorial issue 1669 states, “There are no absolute freedoms”, limitations are a necessity in the complexity of the society under this development stage.

Marx also pointed out that anarchism and the lack of necessary organising were reasons that led to the fall of the Paris Commune. Hence that is why anarchism has never led a successful revolution in history or has offered any practical solution in the development of society. While the magazine itself is a representation of anarchism and individualism by nature, it is opposite to the dialectical materialism principle.

Freedom is dialectical; even capitalist philosophers, such as Isaiah Berlin, admitted that there are two types of freedom: negative freedom (personal freedom) and positive freedom (opposite to personal freedom that benefits the society). Freedom does not always stand for the good of all, meaning a type of freedom is not always considered to be beneficial to everyone at any single moment.

The first component of the concept of freedom in the classical bourgeois outlook is to see freedom as an absence of restraint. Freedom is viewed negatively. I do not mean by this that freedom is demeaned. I mean only that freedom is viewed in terms of what government may not do.

Absence of restraint applies to the citizens of the government; it is they who are “free” to the extent that they enjoy an absence of restraint. Government is also needed to see that no one element or group among the propertied so far forget themselves as to seek to usurp all power for themselves in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others owning property.

With this arrangement a “just” government will prevail, holding even the balance wheels of a natural political economy, marked by reason and blessed by God.

Because the class conflict between the working people and the capitalists is irreconcilable, capitalism’s political and economic freedom is by necessity a restriction on the objective freedom of working people. Due to this reason, working people must by necessity pursue their true freedom firstly by restricting the capitalist’s economic and political freedom through class struggle.

With the willing aid of the mass media and exaggerating the danger and playing up people’s fears for their own political and economic gain, the French Prime Minister after the attack declared that “France was at war with terrorism.”

The first thing that capitalist politician did was to instigate media reports that their involvement in the Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) movement was in order to provide an illusion that they are leading it.

In fact, the movement started spontaneously; people marched on the streets to reduce the fear, because people gather together to eliminate fear that they face when they are alone. Spontaneity is viewed as important to freedom in the sense that when action is fortuitous it is devoid of compulsion, restraint and regulation.

By seeing the opportunity that could gain massive support and benefit their political goals, capitalist state leaders tried to make the movement into a larger scale in their political favour.

On January 11, a large number of media around the world covering state leaders mainly from European countries, including France, the UK, Israel, Italy, Germany, EU, Jordan and Mali, gathered in Paris, appeared that they marched with people in support of the Je suis Charlie movement.

Comparing the coverage of the movement to the global news coverage of the 2014 Yunnan terrorist attack in China in March 2014, makes the capitalists’ intension much clearer.

In the Yunnan attack, eight extreme Islamic terrorists ran into Kuming railway station, they stabbed to death 29 civilians and injured 143 more, with four terrorists shot dead on site by police, and others shot dead or arrested afterwards.

Magazines like Foreign Policy explained the lack of coverage of the Yunnan attack, saying that it was because the Chinese people did not report it and organised any kind of rallying action. In fact, that was not true. Chinese media did report the attack extensively, people organised more peaceful memorial activities such as lighting candles and offering flowers compared to the anger-fuelled march in Paris.

In terms of the dialectical-materialist central to the Marxist outlook, is the meaning of Frederick Engel’s “freedom is the appreciation of necessity”. Freedom “does not consist in the dream of independence of natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work toward definite ends. So “freedom of the will means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with real knowledge of the subject.”

As for revolution, its genesis is given expression in the following four lines from the poem “Revolution” by poet Joseph Bovshover:

I come because tyrants have put up theirthrones in place of the nations;I come because rulers are foddering peacewith their war preparations;I come because ties that bind peopletogether are now disconnected;I come because fools think that progresswill stay in bounds they erected.

Next article – Culture & Life – Why the hammer and sickle?

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