Many young people in Paris were innocent victims of the Nov. 13 attack, but that doesn’t mean that the French imperialist state is innocent. While the 1789 French Revolution raised the idealistic slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity, French imperialism, which developed from that bourgeois revolution, has a bloody history across the world. The actions of the French ruling class have created many enemies, but it is the ordinary people, not the elites, who pay the price.
When imperialist France had just emerged from German occupation after World War II, the Arab and Berber peoples began carrying out mass demonstrations and uprisings in Algeria against French colonial rule. To suppress that rebellion, for several days French troops and police, acting on orders from the French president issued on May 8, 1945, massacred as many as 45,000 Algerians who peacefully demonstrated in the cities of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata. (tinyurl.com/ncqzar5) The French occupiers killed as many as a million Algerians trying to hold onto that nation, until the people finally won their liberation in 1962.
In 1947, French colonial troops slaughtered 89,000 people to “pacify” a rebellion in Madagascar, an African island in the Indian Ocean. (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1997) During the long French war in Indochina, the French military killed many more Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and some Chinese until French imperialism was finally driven out in 1954.
Even in Paris itself, on Oct. 17, 1961, French police opened fire on a demonstration of 30,000 Algerians, killing between 70 and 300 people. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s because the French police and media conspired to keep it secret until it finally was verified in the 1990s. (“The Battle of Paris,”Jean-Luc Einaudi, 1991)
This history of imperialist military intervention continues. French jets are bombing today in Syria and Iraq, along with the U.S.-led “coalition.” French jets opened the air war against Libya in 2011, leading NATO’s barbaric destruction of that country.