The VOAG is Watching - The VOAG is Everywhere!For Adebolajo and Oluwatobi,

Against Imperialist wars in Muslim lands:

LCFI statement on the Woolwich killing: 31 May 2013[1]


Gerald Downing, Socialist Fight. May 2013 (Reposted without permission)
The LCFI is a proudly anti-Imperialist Trotskyist internationalist grouping which never equates the violence of the oppressor with that of the oppressed. We stand with Lenin unequivocally on these questions: Lenin: We are defending… not the national interests, for we assert that the interests of socialism, of world socialism are higher than national interests, higher than the interests of the state.[2]
The killing of the British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, in Woolwich, South London, on 22 May, who was identified as a British soldier by the Help for Heroes t-shirt he was wearing, was a political act. One of the assailants, Michael Adebolajo, immediately made this clear in a statement: We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.
We sympathise with the family of the dead British soldier, it is terrible to lose a son, husband and father in any circumstances but the full blame lies with British Imperialism’s wars of aggression and drone strikes – the kill ratio is thousands to one and they all have families too and the so called “Islamacist terrorists” combatants are “guilty” only of heroically defending their own lands; Lee Rigby was a professional mercenary soldier paid to implement David Cameron’s predatory Imperialist foreign policy and he paid the price of this dangerous assignment. The seeds of violence were sown by British Imperialism; together with other European Imperialist powers they shipped upwards of fourteen million black Africans across the oceans in cages as slaves. How many countries have they invaded and destroyed to exploit and rob their wealth and natural recourses? When was the last time a Muslim group invaded a country for its resources and killed a million people?
We will not condemn Michael Olumide Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, 22.According to Paul Cahalan in an article in The Independent on Sunday on 26 May Michael Adebolajo was arrested with six others in Kenya under suspicion of being at the centre of an Al-Qaeda-inspired plot in 2010. He was tortured before being released without charge, it seems because MI5 agents thought they could recruit him as a spy. MI5 constantly harassed him and his family in an attempt to make him work for them after he returned home.[3] This was their answer.
However we do not agree with their methods of struggle. As with all so-called “acts of terror” or the shooting of British soldiers by Irish Republicans we say that for national liberations fighters the army of occupation is a legitimate target. But we do not endorse individual action like planting bombs against civilian populations (which this was not) or killing of individual soldiers in a public street not only because it cannot achieve its aim of defeating imperialism but because it has the exact opposite effect on the mass of their potential supporters, the organised working class. Our approach is the traditional Marxist one of “unconditional but critical support”. As Trotsky said (and we would not use the epithet “terrorism” today): In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy.[4]
However we cannot make our support for anti-Imperialist fighters conditional on them agreeing to our methods of struggle. This was not a “terrorist” act but a response to massive Imperialist terrorism against the Muslim lands with which the pair clearly identified. Under the cloak of religion there are very powerful anti-Imperialist sentiments in that statement above with which we solidarise, without in any way conceding to the religious prejudices of Fundamentalism. We must learn how to support the one and oppose the other without ever taking our eye off the main enemy, World Imperialism.
As Trotsky says: The struggle against war, properly understood and executed, presupposes the uncompromising hostility of the proletariat and its organizations, always and everywhere, toward its own and every other imperialist bourgeoisie…[5]
The war dead of Imperialism
Estimates of the war dead following the 2003 invasion of Iraq are as high as one million. Taken with the death toll from the previous sanctions campaign and the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm, 1990-91) combined with the invasions of Afghanistan, Libya and the sanctions campaign against Iran etc this pushes that figure to close to two million dead. Almost all these occupied lands[6] have seen the life expectancy of the general population decline dramatically, infant mortality rise sharply, previously free education and hospital services devastated by privatisation and delivery into the hands of US and other multi-nationals, now affordable only by the rich. Their infrastructure and services like transport, electricity, water sanitation and sewerage have been enormously degraded and their whole economies reduced to worse conditions than they endured half a century and more ago under colonialism. Radioactive fragments from depleted uranium shells in war zones from ex-Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali have caused and will cause countless deaths and birth deformities in these regions.  All to serve the global war aims of US-dominated Western Imperialism, to enhance the profits of the great banks and finance houses and their allied multi-national companies. A new fascism is looming, a Fourth Global Reich with the same social values as the Third. As State, Power & Bureaucracy put it: Over everything (in Nazi Germany) loomed the banks: as the banker Schroder put it at his Nuremburg trial: “They had a powerful influence on the party and on the government.” We cite a German couplet from the period: Who marches in with the first German tank? / Herr Director Rasche from the Dresden Bank.[7]
Before the Second Gulf War of 2003 Iraq suffered enormously from the sanctions against it imposed by the US. On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”
This is all caused by Imperialism’s drive for profits, to capture markets for their products, to eliminate rival semi-colonial regimes by installing their own puppets in these countries. Even pliant national rulers can become a barrier to the finance capital masters of Wall Street, the City of London and the Paris Bourse; Saddam Hussein was installed as Iraq’s ruler by the CIA, Assad was a steadfast ally of Imperialism until they found better ones and Gaddafi had made his peace with Imperialism but nonetheless it was not enough to established today’s needs of unrivalled global domination by the US and its allies.
It is the masses of the US, British, French etc. working class who have the power to end Imperialist oppression. To those the oppressed and relatives of the slaughtered in the semi-colonial world must appeal for justice. And revolutionaries in the metropolitan countries have a duty to respond to these appeals and to encourage them and to fight for the rights of the workers in Iraq, Libya, Syria etc always against Imperialist aggression whether by direct invasion of via their proxy armies from Benghazi or from the Free Syria Army.
How have the far left in Britain responded?
The SWP have taken quite a good position on the Woolwich killings: Guerrilla fighting in the Global South, and attacks in the West, won’t end as long as the West continues to wreak havoc across the world. We should respond to the anger that imperialism fuels by pointing to the role of imperialism and demanding solidarity with those who are oppressed.[8]
The Socialist Party have taken a dreadful Islamophobic pro-Imperialist position: The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich yesterday is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim’s family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim. The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter.[9]
Workers Power’s statement is weak at the beginning; it should not begin with the immediate horror and its effects on the family of the victim and onlookers (Iraq’s slaughtered have families too and their citizens have seen far worse) but with its cause, which it does tackle well later in the article. In that respect the SWP article is better that theirs: This is a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians, women and children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes. But London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that it has nothing to do with British foreign policy and the claim that British soldiers are bravely defending us in Britain and fighting for freedom in Afghanistan is a brazen lie.[10]
As might be expected the Alliance for Workers Liberty take a clear pro-Imperialist stance. Sacha Ismail tells us that “The young men” were “supporters of violently reactionary theocratic politics”. With their single victim there are not in the same “violently reactionary” league as those who are responsible for two million war dead, he might have mentioned. And what about: For the most part, the threat posed by Islamists – whether ultras like these ones, or softer varieties – is not directed against off-duty soldiers. It is directed against women, LGBT people, atheists and secularists, dissidents and critical-minded people in Muslim-majority countries and in some Muslim communities in countries like Britain. [11]
This is just a straightforward lie. The “threat posed” to whom? To the interests of British Imperialism or to British citizens or British soldiers or are all these things the same? The entire concern of British Imperialism is the opposition to their invasions and seizures of lands and they could not give a hoot what happens to women and LGBT people and others in “Muslim-majority countries”. To bring in that in this context is to give direct propagandistic support to the war cries of the Sun and Daily Mail. And finally the direct equation of “radical Islamism and nationalist racism” as twin evils. Note that “radical Islamism” comes first in the list of dangers to us all and fascism has been prettified as “nationalist racism” because, of course it is in fact better than “Islamo-fascism”, the favourite AWL term for Fundamentalism: This is, or should be, a wakeup call for the labour movement and socialists. If we cannot build a political force in working-class communities capable of appealing to the angry and dispossessed, then reactionary ideas like radical Islamism and nationalist racism will continue to spread.[12]  Naturally there is no mention of Imperialism and its wars on North Africa and the Middle East as a possible motivation for the attack, as we would expect from such an Islamophobic pro-Imperialist group.
CND General Secretary, Kate Hudson, leading light in Stop the War and in Ken Loach’s new Left Unity project has an unequivocal national chauvinist (the safety of our troops) position: “We deplore the brutal murder of an unarmed British soldier in Woolwich yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Acts of violent retribution against individuals can never be justified as a response to the crimes of states and governments. As we have repeatedly stated since 9/11 and the engagement of our troops in the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the best way to ensure the safety of our troops…”[13]
Lastly we will look at Lindsey German, ex-SWP leader, Stop the War and Counterfire. Her statement is all couched in what is best for British Imperialism. And she cannot even openly acknowledge that it is a normal and understandable response to the mass murders by US and British troops – just look at the italicised words below, say motivated, claimed and supposedly similarly motivated. Even US filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted: “I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other countries without them trying to kill us!”[14] Who could believe a “terrorists” when they say they are opposed to Imperialism slaughtering their co-religionists in Muslim lands – they are just “nutters”?
The attack in Woolwich yesterday was horrific. There can be no justification for a murderous attack on an individual soldier in the streets of London. It must have been awful too for the local people who witnessed it… So we know what these men say motivated them. They claimed that the killing of the soldier was in response to the killing of Muslims by British soldiers in other countries. One said that the government did not care for people and should get the troops out.
The Boston bombers last month were supposedly similarly motivated. The Woolwich attack, carried out by two men now shot and wounded and under arrest in hospital, appears to represent a phenomenon that was pointed out nearly a decade ago by the security services in Britain: that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would lead to a growing threat of terrorism in Britain. Those of us in Stop the War have long predicted that these sorts of attacks would happen because of the war on terror.[15]
The rise of fascism – EDL/BN
T
he English Defence League are taking full advantage of the situation; 2,000 marched in Newcastle on 25 May, Mosques have been attacked and people racially abused. We must mobilise all our forces in opposition to this. It is telling that the UKIP leader Nigel Farage has only met serious opposition from the left in Scotland because of the serious failure of the left to combat anti-immigrant hysteria from bourgeois politicians and the mass media.
The main anti-fascist organisation in Britain is the Unite Against Fascism, a front for the Socialist Workers Party. It is a purely Popular Front-type organisation, spreading illusions in the ‘neutrality’ of the capitalist state by having the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron as one of its supporters. It is funded by the TU bureaucracy and has developed a very cosy relation with the police on anti-fascists demonstrations. In Newcastle on Saturday 25 May the Revolutionary Communist Group reported the following:
On 25 May, as the racist English Defence League (EDL) marched through Newcastle, police arrested 14 anti-fascists, detained them for up to 10 hours, and raided their homes, seizing computers and mobile phones. Seven FRFI supporters were among the detainees. They were seized half-an-hour before the counter-demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites was due to assemble. In the weeks before the EDL march, Newcastle Unites, a coalition of Labour councillors, local trade union officials and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), was determined to exclude FRFI and other militant anti-fascists from its march. Its planning meetings were held in secret and its members physically assaulted FRFI supporters to exclude them. On the day of the march, Newcastle Unites stewards colluded openly with Northumbria police to identify our comrades for arrest.[16]
These methods are in many ways the opposite side of the coin methodically to individual acts of violence against the state forces, though we will not equate misguided but heroic anti-Imperialists with police collaboration. This Popular Frontism also displays its contempt for the organised working class and its potential to overthrow capitalism by denying that fascism is a class question.
We put forward the following points for anti-fascist work as against the SWP and others internationally:
1.            We stand by Trotsky’s classical definition of Fascism; “The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery”.
2.            Fascism has no fixed ideology of its own; it can be characterised globally as consistent reaction against the organised working class and those aspects of a state’s constitution which are publically perceived as assisting the progressive advancement of socialism or which they perceive as posing the threat of revolution including bourgeois democracy which allegedly allows socialist ideas to flourish.
3.            We defend unequivocally the traditional Marxist position of No Platform for Fascists. As Trotsky observed in Whither France, “The despairing petty bourgeois sees in fascism, above all, a fighting force against big capital, and believes that, unlike the working-class parties which deal only in words, fascism will use force to establish more ‘justice’. The peasant and the artisan are in their manner realists. They understand that one cannot forego the use of force”.
4.            Fascism depends vitally on mobilising the middles classes to crush the organised strength of the working class, Whither France again, “The petty bourgeoisie is economically dependent and politically atomized. That is why it cannot conduct an independent policy. It needs a ‘leader’ who inspires it with confidence. This individual or collective leadership, i.e., a personage or party, can be given to it by one or the other of the fundamental classes – either the big bourgeoisie or the proletariat”.
5.            The emergence of the BNP/EDL signifies that a section of the British middle class and some declassed workers have lost hope in the organised working to solve their problems and, via the medium of the fascists, are coming under the sway of the imperialist bourgeoisie, the fascists’ ultimate masters. Whither France again, “But the petty bourgeoisie can also find a leader in the proletariat. This was demonstrated in Russia and partially in Spain. In Italy, in Germany, and in Austria, the petty bourgeoisie gravitated in this direction. But the parties of the proletariat did not rise to their historic task. To bring the petty bourgeoisie to its side, the proletariat must win its confidence. And for that it must have confidence in its own strength”.
6.            The responsibility for the rise of fascism lies with the TU and Labour party leaders who have failed to fight the austerity policies of the ConDem government. By criticising “cuts too far, too fast!” they signal that they intend to make the working class bear the burden of the capitalist crisis if Labour wins office and make only a few cosmetic changes to the programme of the ConDems. They do this to defend their own privileged positions as administrators and defenders of that corrupt system.
7.            It is therefore vital to use the tactic of the United Front of the organised working class against the fascists and the reject the Popular Front as advocated by Searchlight (Use your vote, Hope not Hate) and the Socialist Workers Party (‘‘The strategy for anti-fascists is to unite the broadest possible forces against the Nazis”) which ties the working class to parliamentary democracy and even allows voting Tory, “as a last resort”, to keep the fascist out.
8.            Similarly we reject the political position of those like the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Student who oppose No Platform and advocate ‘free speech for Nazis’ as a libertarian excuse to avoid the class struggle necessary to defeat fascism and the capitalist system which breeds it in its decline.
Notes
[1] In line with Trotsky’s article; For Grynszpan, Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels, (1939) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/xx/grnszpan.htm
[2] Lenin was speaking of the first workers state then! Report on Foreign Policy, Joint Meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Moscow Soviet May 14, 1918 Collected Works, Vol. 27.
[4] Leon Trotsky, Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism, (November 1911),http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1911/11/tia09.htm
[5] Trotsky, Leon. Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau, (July 1936).
[6] Apart from Afghanistan, already devastated by the USSR war of 1979-89 against the Mujahideen who were supported by China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US via the CIA. Estimates of the dead here vary from 850,000 to 1, 500,000.
[7] Dragstedt, A and Slaughter C, State Power & Bureaucracy, New Park 1981 p. 95
[8] Socialist Worker, The wars that fuel the rage behind Woolwich attack,http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/33448/The+wars+that+fuel+the+rage+behind+Woolwich+attack
[9] Socialist Party, No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing, http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16739/23-05-2013/no-to-terrorism-no-to-racism-no-to-war
[10] Workers Power, Woolwich: the War on Terror on our doorstephttp://www.workerspower.co.uk/2013/05/british-soldier-killed-woolwich-london/
[11] Ismail, Sacha. Woolwich, Islamism and the racist, authoritarian backlash,http://www.workersliberty.org/woolwich
[12] Ibid.
[13] Hudson, Kate, the Woolwich attack, http://leftunity.org/the-woolwich-attack/
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