Statement of the Spartacist League/Britain
Following criminal London terror bombings:
Down with US/British imperialist occupation of Iraq!
Defend Muslims against Labour's racist witch hunt!
Within hours of the horrific London bombings that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds, Tony Blair seized on this atrocity as a pretext to escalate the "war on terror". Let's be clear: these bombings were a criminal act of indefensible terror. Like the attack on the World Trade Center and the bombing of commuter trains in Madrid last year, the perpetrators share the same mindset as the imperialist rulers, identifying the working class and the whole population with the policies of the capitalist exploiters and oppressors. The bombs were aimed not at Bush or Blair, who were in Scotland for the G8 summit, but at the multiethnic working people of London: areas such as Edgware Road, which is overwhelmingly Arab; Aldgate, the heart of the Bangladeshi community; Kings Cross and Russell Square, through which hundreds of thousands of ordinary people of every race and ethnicity travel everyday.
Bush and Blair, whose savage occupation of Iraq has cost the lives of an estimated 100,000 people, self-righteously condemned the terrorists for taking innocent lives. Behind their crocodile tears for those killed and wounded in the London bombings they seek to deflect the justified outrage and sympathy of the population for the victims and their families in order to reinforce their rule at home and abroad. As Guardian journalist Seumas Milne noted, even to link the bombings to Britain's role in Iraq or Afghanistan, which is obvious to millions, can get you denounced as a "traitor"; to question Blair's assertion that the bombings were an attack "on our way of life" is to be branded "an apologist for terror".
For millions around the globe, British imperialism's "way of life" has meant untold terror. Kurds in what is now Iraq, a country manufactured by British imperialism, were bombed from the air while Arabs were shelled by the British colonial overlords in 1919-20. The 1917 Balfour Declaration set the scene for carving the state of Israel out of the homeland of the Palestinians. The bloody partition of India under the Labour government of Clement Attlee ushered in communalist slaughter on an unprecedented scale. This laid the basis for murderous religious and ethnic conflicts that persist to this day, as well as the poverty, destitution and desperation of countless people from the Indian subcontinent to the Near East to Africa.
Millions in this country took to the streets in protest against the impending imperialist slaughter of Iraq in 2003 and Britain's role in the brutal occupation of Iraq cost Blair in the last elections. In that context, London Mayor Ken Livingstone's prominence in the demonstrations protesting the war on Iraq made him an ideal candidate to lead a patriotic "unity" crusade against "terrorism". Addressing the crowd at a 14 July vigil for the victims, flanked by leaders of all the main religions, Livingstone intoned "you see the world gathered in one city, living in harmony, as an example to all". Livingstone's speech could have been written by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), who was in the vanguard of this "unity" chorus. Their 7 July statement on the bombings proclaimed: "London is a centre of peace, the most multiracial city in Europe and a global centre of opposition to the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan".
This is a shameless and grotesque denial of the reality of life for London's working class and poor, especially immigrants and minorities whose daily grind means long hours and pitiful pay while being routinely vilified by the racist press, the government and police. Since September 11, police dragnets have rounded up more than 600 foreign nationals under "anti- terrorism" legislation, the overwhelming majority of whom were later released. The handful detained, on no charges other than being "terrorist suspects", are confined in Britain's own Guantánamo — Belmarsh prison — or else electronically monitored under "house arrest".
To be Muslim is to be suspect. No sooner had bombs ripped through the Underground than a further wave of racist attacks was unleashed. Muslim organisations received 30,000 hate-filled e-mails; mosques had windows smashed and one was firebombed. In Nottingham a Muslim man, Kamal Raza Butt, was murdered by a gang who shouted "Taliban" before beating him to death. In London, the putative "city of peace", the fascist BNP put out a leaflet with a picture of the bombed bus, declaring that people should now "start listening to the BNP". Muslims fear an even more severe racist backlash now that the police say the bombings were supposedly carried out by British Muslims.
The government is planning more round-ups, more deportations and more sweeping police-state measures. A range of new offences will be created for what are essentially "thought crimes", such as "acts preparatory to terrorism", which might mean visiting "terrorist" websites; "indirect incitement", which includes "glorifying the acts of suicide bombers" as well as "attacking the values of the West"! While aimed most immediately at Muslims, the "war on terror" is designed to strengthen the capitalist state's machinery of repression, to be imposed with a vengeance against anyone the government perceives as an opponent as most recently demonstrated by the mass arrests outside the G8 summit. But the ultimate target is the multiethnic working class.
Today, Blair and Livingstone have the audacity to salute the heroism of the Tube workers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and others who put their bodies on the line to help the victims of the bombings. But, for years the government has savaged the living, working and safety conditions for these and other workers. And when the unions have fought back, like the firefighters did on the eve of the Iraq war, they were branded the "enemy within" and threatened with the full force of capitalist state repression. Last summer, Livingstone — the boss of transport workers in the capital — called on London Underground workers to scab on their own strike. And greed for profit and the policies of the government pose the biggest threat to the lives of passengers. The 1987 Kings Cross fire, the 1999 Paddington rail crash and other rail disasters have claimed far more lives than any terrorists. Now, the government is trying to scrap the legislation — introduced after the inferno in Kings Cross took 31 lives — which mandated stricter fire regulations!
For class unity of the multiethnic working class!
It is a sign of the times that we have to point out today that London is a class- divided city, not to mention the seat of power of the blood-soaked British ruling class. Despite Britain's industrial decline, the City is still a hub for international capital. Share prices tumbled the day of the bombs, which in its own way shows that the workforce in the Underground and buses has tremendous social power — the City banks and stock exchange are dependent on the transport system. It is this social power that must be brought to bear in a class-struggle fight in defence of immigrants, minorities and the unions themselves against the racist "war on terror". As revolutionary internationalists we took a side in the war, calling for defence of Iraq, without giving any political support to the Saddam Hussein regime. So too must the proletariat be mobilised in defence of the Iraqi peoples against the savage British and US occupation forces through class struggle against the British imperialist rulers at home! All US/British troops out of Iraq now! Down with the racist "war on terror"! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! No deportations! For trade union/minority mobilisations against fascist terror!
We vehemently oppose the appeals for the "unity" of all classes, which only serves to strengthen the hand of the imperialist rulers by binding the working class and oppressed to their very exploiters and oppressors. Not so the Socialist Party which blatantly appeals to mobilise the proletariat behind the so-called "war on terror", calling on the unions and the Stop the War Coalition to organise a mass protest on the slogan "no to terrorism, no to war". This dovetails with the politics of "anti-war" Labour MPs like Alice Mahon who opposes Blair's invasion of Iraq, from the standpoint that it is not in the best interests of British imperialism at present, while arguing that it's a diversion from the "war on terror" at home.
As Marxists we oppose terrorism as a strategy, even when it derives from real, if misguided, anti-imperialist impulses and targets genuine institutions of state repression — which the London bombing clearly did not. Substituting individual acts against the symbols of imperialist exploitation and oppression is directly counterposed to the task of mobilising the working class for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system. But the Socialist Party's declared opposition to "terrorism" is nothing more than an appeal to mobilise the proletariat behind the government's "war on terror". Placing an equals sign between the imperialist powers and the Islamic terrorists, the Socialist Party is in fact capitulating to British and US imperialism, who constitute the mightiest and most dangerous terrorist forces on this planet. This is not particularly surprising coming from an organisation which prides itself on not calling for British troops out of Northern Ireland now — a call which is the most elementary act of opposition to British imperialism.
Class independence of the working class is the precondition for any genuine socialist opposition to imperialism — both against imperialist war and attacks on the working class and minorities at home. But the whole premise of the SWP-built anti-war protests is based on peddling another version of "national unity" — between the working class and oppressed who oppose the occupation of Iraq, and a more "rational" wing of the ruling class that believes British imperialism's interests are being damaged by acting simply as a "pillion passenger" behind the Bush White House. For the reformist SWP, the solution lies not in the overthrow of capitalism but in persuading the British government to break with Bush. An SWP statement (13 July) argues: "There has to be a dramatic reverse in policy, at home and abroad. Pulling the troops out of Iraq will begin to drain the swamp of bitterness that nurtures terrorism", adding that "the majority of people in the US have turned against Bush's war — we must intensify the pressure on the British government to break from him as well."
It is ludicrous to suggest that Britain can somehow "opt out" of the world system of imperialism, short of workers revolution and the establishment of a workers state that expropriates the capitalist class. It is downright grotesque to blame the alliance with the US for British imperialism's brutality. Although today reduced to a decrepit junior partner of the US, when they did have the economic and military clout the British imperialists wrote the book on racist divide- and-rule and ruthless exploitation of their colonial "subjects". The "spirit of the Blitz" in World War II that has been invoked almost daily since the terrorist bombings in London is a persistent Labourite myth that all classes were united behind King and country in a common defence of British "democracy". Far from a war for "democracy", for the British imperialists this was a scramble to protect their imperialist "interests" — among which India was a prized possession. Thus they denied India its right to independence and even caused a famine in Bengal, while the Labour Party played a vital role in whipping up patriotic "unity" at home. And contrary to the main myth propagated about the "democratic" allies, it was the Soviet Red Army that smashed Hitler's fascism, at a cost of well over 20 million Soviet citizens' lives.
Moreover, the British imperialists hardly need any lessons from the Americans on police-state repression, having inflicted it for many years on the oppressed Catholics in Northern Ireland. Similar to today's anti-Muslim hysteria, "anti-terrorism" campaigns of the 1970s led to outrageous frame-ups of innocent people such as the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Seven and the Guildford Four, who were wrongly convicted in a wave of anti-Irish hysteria following civilian bombing atrocities in British city centres.
Imperialist hypocrisy and Islamic fundamentalism
The British press is in a lather about the fact that this "democratic" country could produce "home grown" Islamic terrorists. Ken Livingstone stated the obvious when he said: "I suspect the real problem was that we funded these people as long as they were killing Russians. We gave no thought to the fact that when they stopped killing Russians they might start killing us" (Daily Telegraph, 20 July). For "we", read the British imperialists who, together with the US and the Pakistan authorities, pulled off the largest covert operation in the CIA's history throughout the 1980s to boost the most extreme Islamic reactionaries, including Bin Laden, for a jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The SWP, the Socialist Party and most of the so-called socialist left were in the camp of the imperialists against the USSR. We hailed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, noting that this was a progressive act by the Stalinist bureaucracy that offered the possibility of extending the gains of the 1917 Russian Revolution to the Afghan peoples, particularly to the hideously oppressed women. Following counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, when imperialist funding to the Islamists dried up, the latter turned on their erstwhile backers, most dramatically in the criminal attack on the World Trade Center. Counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union gave an enormous boost to the forces of religious reaction around the globe, while also leading to a "one superpower world" in which US imperialism and its allies feel they have free rein to ravage the semi-colonial world.
The perpetrators of acts such as the London bombing, whoever they may be, demonstrate the mindset typical of religious zealots who believe they have a God-given right to exterminate all non-believers. Islam has no monopoly on this outlook: it parallels that of Christian fundamentalists who bomb abortion clinics in the US; the Protestant bigots who justify "ethnic cleansing" against Catholics in Northern Ireland; and the Zionists who seek to "cleanse" the Palestinians from what they deem to be the Jewish "holy land". Terrorist attacks in the name of nationalist or religious forces tend to be aimed at the indiscriminate slaughter of as many of the ordinary, multiethnic working-class people as possible. It is unlikely you would find the remotest representative of the upper classes of this country on the London Underground or buses. Moreover, two of the bombings were in heavily Muslim areas. So whoever perpetrated these attacks, the message can only be that Muslims should go back to their "own" countries.
In Britain Islamic fundamentalism has grown, nurtured by international factors as well as the prevalence of Islamophobia and economic decline. In 2001, Asian youth in Oldham, Bradford and Leeds had to fight pitched battles to defend their homes from fascists who, backed by the police, laid siege to neighbourhoods. In these former textile towns, the factories once provided a degree of racial integration, but economic decline and factory closures has increased the polarisation between rich and poor and led to a level of racial segregation which has been compared to the American South before the civil rights movement.
For the imperialist rulers "Islamic terrorism" has become the surrogate for the war against "Godless communism", the new enemy against which they seek to rally the population in support of imperialist terror abroad and increased state repression at home. Our purpose is to fight to infuse the working class with the consciousness that it has the class interests and the social power to eradicate the system of capitalist imperialism. The 1984-85 British miners strike, among whose most stalwart supporters were blacks and Asians, gave a palpable sense of how class struggle can unite all of the oppressed behind the power of the proletariat. We seek to forge a multiethnic revolutionary workers party which can take this power forward to victory through proletarian socialist revolution which alone can lay the material basis for ending racism, oppression, exploitation and war.
21 July 2005