Monday, February 04, 2008

Terrorism is not Revolution!

The anniversary of the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (4th February 1969) and recent death (26th January 2008) of George Habash of the rival Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - described fatuously in this obituary as a 'Marxist nationalist group'', a contradiction of terms, - are sufficient reasons for republishing part of an essay from 1976 which shows the validity of the unique Socialist perspective on terrorism then and in 2008.

"..Terrorism is as old as capitalism itself, although most people believe it to be something to have arisen with the IRA. Unquestionably people are shocked at bombing and murder, but they would be shocked even more were they to look at the number of ex-terrorists who are now respectably installed as heads of government, or ministers of state, etc., within the areas of their previous activities. Who remembers the Stern Gang, the Jewish terrorists of the forties; the Mau-Mau of Jomo Kenyatta; the Algerian and Moroccan terrorists of a few years ago? Very soon we shall have Yassar Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose main talents consist in organizing the hi-jacking and destruction of airliners, the slaughter of airline passengers, and attacks on school-children with Russian arms, becoming a head of state somewhere in Palestine. The ex-terrorist, like the ex-prostitute who has become respectable, is more virtuous and dedicated to upholding the state authority on the one hand and while the other hand is firmly riveted to the state coffers. That's what terrorism is all about - who shall have the legal right of exploiting the working class within their borders, and who shall own and control the wealth of that community.

The fact that most terrorist organizations have high-sounding objectives like freeing the population from the tyranny of Imperialism, or restoring the rights of minorities, which incidentally is invariably coupled with territorial demands usually for mineral-bearing land or sea, does not alter the capitalist nature of their objectives, nor will it make any difference to the end result as far as the working class are concerned. A successful coup by a terrorist organization will only produce a change of masters, as capitalism will continue. The entire history of terrorist organizations from the 19th century onwards is proof of this.

No modern capitalist state will allow its authority to be undermined by a minority using violence. Only in a backward country under Colonial rule where the franchise is absent, and political representation stifled, can a nationalist terrorist organization have any chance of success. In any case, most nationalist movements are sponsored and supported by one or other of the big powers. In the world today the independence of little powers only exists on paper. Their rulers are errand-boys for the well-established world powers like America, Russia, Britain, France, and now China. There is always an antagonism between these major powers due to their conflicting interests, consequently they will support and encourage any action, violent or otherwise, which will weaken their opponents. The terrorist organizations of all countries receive aid in the form of arms, or financial aid, and ideological support in the form of propaganda from the erstwhile pillars of law and order. The present struggle in Angola between Russia and America is an example of what happens in fact.

Murder, assassination, kidnapping, are not just the preserve of the terrorist organizations. The Sunday Times of 23rd November 1975, carried a long account of a Senate Committee report on the activities of the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency of America. According to this report, the CIA made eight attempts to have the President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, assassinated at the behest of President Kennedy. The Mafia was even enlisted on some occasions to help out. Earlier, President Eisenhower directly ordered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo, and the assassins of Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator, received vital aid and arms from the American government. President Ngo Dinh Diem, the President of South Vietnam, was assassinated in 1962 with the connivance of the CIA. President Nixon is alleged to have been involved in the military coup in Chile which led to the death of Allende, and also the assassination of General Schneider, the Chilean army chief. This report makes very interesting reading, and shows the utter disregard for the alleged moral propriety where American capitalists' interests were threatened. All governments, like the Russians, are armed against dissidence either at home or in organizations abroad. The number of coups, purges and assassinations carried out by the Russian dictatorship will never be fully known, but the savagery and ruthlessness of those within our knowledge are almost beyond belief.

Violence is not something which is natural to men: on the contrary, the overwhelming mass of people are peace-loving. They may not love their neighbours, but they have a mutual respect, an understanding and affinity with each other. The capitalist plays upon this when it suits him. If violence has to be deprecated, as at present in this country, they will open the dustbins of parliament and release the hordes of resident neophytes, many of whom, given half the chance, would bring back the Rack. This unseemly bunch of tattered intellects then proceeds to denounce violence and talk about protecting civilized communities. There is, however, a distinction which they make (there could hardly be a difference) between official violence and unofficial violence. When the first atomic bomb fell on Japan in 1945, a number of Japanese schoolgirls were boiled alive in the swimming pool where they happened to be at the time. This was only one of the hideous results of official violence. Since then, millions of people have been killed or maimed in the multifarious official violent incidents known as modern war. Where is the condemnation from these opponents of violence? There is a difference in degree but no difference in principle. An official bomb will kill just as surely as an unofficial one, yet they are silent on this fundamental aspect of violence because the are ignorant, or hypocritical, or both, but above all because they are committed servants and spokesmen of the system of violence - capitalism.

War, violence and terrorism are not instruments which can be used in the establishment of Socialism. The modern state represents the ultimate development of the social power of coercion and destruction. The armed forces are under control of the political machinery. The control of the political machinery is based upon universal suffrage. This means that if the workers vote capitalist representatives to the seats of government, as they habitually do, they can, if they have a mind to, vote them out of office. It is not that the working class are enthusiastic supporters of capitalism - their experiences have taught them to expect little from any party. It is because at the moment they see no alternative to capitalism. This is the situation Socialists hope to remedy. The establishment of Socialism is not just based on the control of political machinery: this is the end of the process. Socialism is not a change of government, it is a fundamental change in the nature and purpose of society. It is a democratic body of social opinion which provides the mandate for the continuance of Socialism.

For this reason terrorist organizations can never be revolutionary or Marxist (a) because they are dictatorial (b) because they repudiate the class struggle, and (c) because their objectives are non-Socialist. By the same token, terrorist organizations, or any other form of minority insurrection, could never succeed in removing Socialism once established. Force cannot be successfully deployed against a body of ideas. Unless the working class are prepared to stand idly by and allow the capitalists of the world to wrangle over the division of society's wealth as if they, the workers, did not exist at all, they have to get control of the political machinery for Socialism. In the meantime, let the supporters of capitalism reflect on terrorism: their system caused it."

(Socialist Standard January 1976)


gray said...


you need to correct a typo. The bombs were dropped in 1945, not '46

Frank Partisan said...

Very good post. The definition of terror is being purposely changed, as calling Iran's army terrorist.