Socialists condemn terrorist outrage

[This statement by the Democratic Socialist Party was issued on September 13, 2001. While it was collective document I was assigned to produce the first draft. Almost a decade later, I think it still reads very well.]

Socialists unequivocally condemn the September 11 terror bombings in the United States. The killing of thousands of ordinary working people is absolutely criminal and has nothing whatsoever to do with the struggle for a better world. Indeed, this atrocity will undoubtedly make this struggle more difficult and aid the forces of capitalist reaction.

Popular struggles throughout history have often involved the killing of oppressors, tyrants, police torturers and the like. Such actions may or may not be politically expedient. But the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon was of a fundamentally different kind. It was a deliberate act of mass murder. The perpetrators made no political demands, they had no goal except to kill indiscriminately and inflict pain, suffering and devastation. It showed an astonishing callousness and brutality. Our sympathy and solidarity are completely with the innocent victims of these terrorist acts, not with their perpetrators.

Hypocrisy

But our solidarity with the victims should not blind us to the absolutely breathtaking hypocrisy of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon and other imperialist spokespeople and their lackeys in the always-accommodating capitalist media. The outrage in the US may be described as the greatest act of terror of all time only with severe reservations. While it is certainly the greatest act of non-state terror, many acts of governmental terror have far surpassed it.

At the end of World War II, for example, the US leaders cold-bloodedly carried out the nuclear annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki solely to demonstrate their power and intimidate the Soviet Union; several hundred thousand men, women and children were killed to make this point.

During the long Cold War with the USSR, Washington propped up scores of blood-soaked Third World dictatorships, helped them torture and murder their opponents with impunity and helped cover up their crimes. In 1965, for instance, the US helped aspiring Indonesian dictator Suharto organise a pogrom against the left and progressive forces which massacred at least one million people. The long US intervention in Vietnam against the liberation forces there killed and maimed millions of people and inflicted massive material devastation on the country.

Saddam Hussein's murderous regime was another US client, being particularly favoured during the Iran-Iraq war of the early 1980s. Then the wheel turned and, for various reasons, he became a liability. Since the Gulf War, US- and British-backed sanctions against Iraq have led to the deaths of more than a million Iraqis through starvation and disease and politically strengthened Saddam's hold on power.

Afghanistan's brutal Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime is a product of the US-backed war of the reactionary mujaheddin "freedom fighters" against the Soviet-backed secular, leftist People's Democratic Party government. This was also the origin of the Saudi Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden, Washington's current world "public enemy number one" and suspected organiser of the US attacks.

Ever since the 1959 Cuban Revolution removed Cuba from the US sphere of influence, Washington has organised numerous — terrorist — attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Furthermore, the US has imposed a ruinous economic blockade on the island for over 40 years. And right now, the US authorities are resisting Cuban calls for them to extradite the CIA-linked counter-revolutionary terrorist responsible for the 1976 midair bomb-destruction of a Cuban airliner off Barbados in which 73 people died.

And then there is the misery and slow death to which the mass of the world's people have been condemned by Western capitalism's ruthless drive for profit, regardless of the costs to the planet and its people. Each year, for instance, millions of children in the Third World die of absolutely preventable diseases, victims of an implacable and merciless economic regime imposed on their countries by imperialism and its agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation.

Who are the major "enemies of civilisation"? If Osama bin Laden is a terrorist we would have to conclude that he is a relatively minor one. If there was any justice in this world, Western capitalist leaders like George Bush senior, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bush junior would be on trial for crimes against humanity. The Saddam Husseins, Suhartos and bin Ladens would feature simply as their junior accomplices.

Roots of terrorism

It is still not clear who organised the terrorist operation in the US. But where would any terror organisation recruit people who were so embittered and without hope of the future that they could contemplate such a pointless atrocity and be willing to sacrifice themselves to implement it? The answer is no great mystery.

The massive misery which Western capitalism — led by the United States, the world's only superpower — has imposed on the majority of the world's people has created the seedbed for the very terrorism which its leaders so piously condemn. Oppression breeds hatred, desperation and despair. In such a climate, when the enemy seems so powerful, carrying out suicide bombings against the population of the oppressor country can seem to some like the only option.

In occupied Palestine, for instance, there is apparently no shortage of young men willing to sacrifice themselves as human bombs against the Israeli population. However, apart from being morally repugnant, such indiscriminate acts are a complete political dead-end. Each suicide bomber who carries out his mission in an Israeli town is actually weakening the Palestinian struggle and helping strengthen the hand of the Israeli regime and its US backers. Each bomb blast against the civilian population drives the Israeli masses towards Sharon and inhibits the development of any internal oppositional forces.

Throughout the history of the modern socialist movement, Marxists have carried out a fierce polemic against the political strategy of "individual terrorism" — that is, the killing of hated figures of an oppressive regime. Our objection to this kind of terrorism is not based on morality but on the grounds that it simply does not work. The ruling class can always replace individuals.

Furthermore and most importantly, employed as a strategy, such terrorist acts actually demobilise the mass movement. Only the struggle of the masses can change society. The combat of a small band of terrorist-avengers relegates the masses to the sidelines and makes them mere spectators of a contest between the terrorists and the regime, rather than participants in their own liberation.

However, the US attacks represent a completely different kind of terrorism: the wanton and indiscriminate killing of civilians is part of the methodology of imperialism and its accomplices, not of the progressive forces fighting for liberation from this inhuman system.

Reactionary agenda

The terror bombings will be used by Bush and the US ruling class to create a more favourable political climate in which to implement their reactionary agenda. This tragedy is a heaven-sent opportunity for them and they will take it with both hands. They will push forward their arms buildup and sabre-rattling foreign policy.

Under the guise of "fighting terrorism", civil liberties will come under increased pressure at home, there will be a campaign for more cops and increased police powers, and the previously growing movement against the death penalty will operate in a much less favourable environment. The scandal of Bush's stolen election and the rotten US electoral system will fade away in the glare of the patriotic spotlight.

Xenophobia will be strengthened; anti-Arab racism will become stronger and it will be harder to build a movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Socialists oppose any "war on terrorism". Military attacks by the US and its imperialist allies on the alleged terrorists and/or states that allegedly harbour them will not end acts of terrorism. To the contrary, such a war will only result in more loss of innocent lives, and deepen the nationalist hatred of Americans that has provided a recruiting ground for the organisers of terrorist acts of the World Trade Center type.

Socialists are struggling for a world that is free of violence, oppression and exploitation. This means struggling against imperialism and capitalism which is raping our planet and condemning the mass of its people to an increasingly miserable and desperate existence and replacing it with a socialist society. The only force which can accomplish this tremendous historic task is the working class and oppressed masses of the world. Terrorism has no part in this struggle; we are fighting against the system which breeds terror and which freely uses it to defend itself.