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Background to terrorism

Jenny Tonge MP, of the Liberal Democrats, was sacked from her frontbench position for claiming she understood why militant Palestinians were carrying out suicide attacks against Israel, and for further suggesting she might have become a suicide bomber if she had been living for decades in a refugee camp. The Prime Minster’s wife, Cherie Blair, over a year ago, made a similar attempt to understand Palestinians, to equal outrage from the capitalist authorities and media here and in Israel. It was said Tonge’s comments were unacceptable and incompatible with liberal principles. Capitalists who support, or at the least are silent on, the terrorism of the CIA and the Israeli State were delighted she was disciplined. Tonge’s attempt to understand, we were told, amounted to tacit support for suicide bombers, which would also encourage them to continue or even step up their campaigns of terror. It seems therefore that people are not to understand the ugly side of our world or try to explain why humans behave as they do within the capitalist mode of production, for fear they might be seen as an apologist or even as encouraging the ugliness to continue. To explain and understand our world is a vital process to the progression of human society, a custom that socialists practice constantly and encourage fellow-workers to do too.

Right now the world is suffering from international acts of terrorism at a level unprecedented in recent times; hardly a day goes by without an act of terrorism - or certainly the threat that one might occur. Of course, there might well have been an overwhelming focus on terrorism by the media here since ‘9/11’ and in response to the campaign against terrorism feigned by both the US and Britain. One may observe, though, that threats of terrorism are more often reported than actual acts committed. We also observe, that the notorious three B's (Bush, Blair and Bin Laden) are on a tirade of death and destruction the world over in their pursuit of power and wealth.

Now, a one-sided view of terrorism would suggest that terrorism is perpetrated by small groups in the shadows of society who make strange and uncompromising political or religious demands of the world, demands which “we” - the civilised and satisfied members of society - could not possibly meet and continue our present lifestyles. A more complete view might reveal that as well as the above groups, the uncivilised, terrorism itself is carried out by other groups in society who might be considered civilised. There are in society non-violent as well as violent forms of terrorism. In a sectarian society such as capitalism we have a variety of groups with specific interests to defend and promote: capitalists, gangsters, governments - chiefly among the latter, the United States of America through its international agent the Criminal Intelligence Agency. In addition, workers on a “work-to-rule” or out on “strike” might be viewed by capitalists as conducting terrorism, as would anti-Globalisation anarchists who are good at wrecking the world and building nothing.

The workers can however hit back even harder in their criticism of the capitalists. Over and above the terrorism conducted at home and abroad by their various State agencies and proxies, we can point to the various acts of terrorism which are the everyday activities of capitalists and which they undertake with the same vigour and coldness as Osama bin Laden for his cause. The pitiless use of unemployment; the reckless trashing of means of production and finished products (commodities) in times of economic crises; the callous wrecking of the environment; and the dumping of chemicals onto land, into the sea and the air. Furthermore, we can see the destruction of the human frame with use by the capitalists of cheap and inferior quality (junk) foods which are also full of chemicals unnecessary for human nutrition. We are witness to the decimation of wild life for their skins, tusks and other body parts for erroneous medicines and freakish commodities to eat, to wear and to embellish our homes and workplaces with. Finally, we can further elucidate the stinting of human emotions and potentials for creativity, leisure and happiness among workers in general by the relations provoked by the capitalist mode of production and the deleterious affects that it has on all aspects of our lives. Indeed, here we get to the crux of the matter - the actual cause operating in given circumstances to produce all the terrorism in human society - an economic system of society based on perpetual war and competition between individuals, businesses and countries - capitalism.

The groups contemplating acts of terrorism of the violent kind generally take their cue from the tactics of their State enemy who have engaged in acts of terrorism against them or their people. In the case of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden his enemy trained and set him up in business.

Acts of terrorism by small groups like Al-Qaeda are in response to their warped rationale. This unfortunately suggests to these groups that the only way they can place their arguments for discussion onto the local or world agenda is to kill people and destroy property. Here the media, who love to shock and scare us, duly aid the rise of the political/religious thug. Can anyone, even among the keenest political minds, truthfully say that they had ever heard of Osama bin Laden and his demands before 9/11? Now thanks to his outrages and as a result, his western notoriety - indeed, his world fame - his views of the world are truly worldly in the sense that there is hardly anyone on the planet who has not heard of him - he has his public voice. 'Oh yes, I love it, when a plan comes together', says Osama.

To promote violence and war in bourgeois society, a society based on perpetual war, is not too difficult for it is a violent society by its nature. Governments, religious authorities, most political parties, businesses and media institutions, all accept the need for violence in society to settle or solve particular problems, which our chaotic capitalist world throws up as the various protagonists go about their daily business of making a killing. Here the resulting relations suggest to humans that fighting and violence is a legitimate way to settle disputes. In the United States, eleven thousand individuals are killed every year, and that is just with firearms; the country promotes the death penalty at home and funds generously organisations that promote violence worldwide and act as their proxies in particular battlefields too dangerous for American soldiers for particular causes and interests dear to them.

Not all minorities with strange or unusual demands who are denied what might ideally be considered fair treatment by the media resort to violence. We in the Socialist Party, ready to celebrate our 100 years as a party in relative obscurity, know all too well about media attention - or precisely, the lack of it. While socialists have no time for terrorism or violence, and maintain that there will always be violence in a society founded on violence, we can understand the frustrations of political groups who cannot get access to the mainstream debate. Those who live in the US or Europe are told they are lucky to live in a democracy and are able to speak out against the excess of governments and private enterprise. We remember, though, top American news anchor Dan Rather complaining that one could not speak out against American foreign policy in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, and we further remember a majority of people in Britain being against the war over Iraq and it still going ahead.

The aim of Al-Qaeda has nothing to do with a “clash of civilisations”, as some have suggested. Instead, it is merely a tactic to force members of the “host country” (the country they seek to influence by acts of terrorism) to listen to their demands and to pressurize their governments not to do what irks them and to leave them be to set their own standard of life, in the part of the world where they live. Others have also suggested that the West gets only what it has asked for by interfering in other countries: why, so the logic continues, can we not accept the fact that a nation or people are likely to defend “their” country when we are supposed to stand up and defend “ours”? Well, welcome to capitalism. The capitalists who have something to gain (oil and huge reconstruction contracts in Iraq) do not take the risk and are generally protected against acts of terrorism, and do not fight on the battlefield. Unhappily, on all occasions, we the proletariat are the class who fight and die for others’ profits.

As long as we have capitalism, that is, competition and contest between capitalists and capitalist states, buying and selling, land grabbing for profits and other gains, which leads to bulling, threatening, spying, open hostility, conflict, terrorism and open military war, we will never be free of violence and terrorism.

William Dunn