Terrorism – a definition
The word ‘terrorism’ is much used in our daily lives through the media of television, newspapers, the internet or conversation and yet in takes on different meaning depending on who is using the word and what it is in relation to.
The definition in the Oxford Reference Dictionary is “the systematic use of violence and intimidation to coerce a government or community, esp. into acceding to specific political demands”. By this definition there is not a revolution, insurrection, fight for national liberation or guerrilla war against an oppressive regime that cannot be declared terrorism. Of course, by the same definition, the destabilisation and bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO and its puppets, the continuing bombing and sanctions against Iraq by Britain and the USA, the blockade of Cuba by the USA, the massing of warships on the coasts of China and Libya (among others) for ‘training’ by the USA, the bombing of Afghanistan and the Sudan in 1998 by the USA and Britain, the relentless war on all its neighbours by Israel, the destabilisation and war by proxy on Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador and Peru by the USA and so on right back to the American imperialist wars against Vietnam and Korea must also count as terrorism.
This, however, leaves us with the bourgeois notion of ‘equal’ blame. That this suits the imperialists should be obvious as, if we agree to blame then we are not very likely to demand imperialism desist in its strangulation of the world without also demanding that the rest of the world stop struggling against that strangulation. Equal blame supports and upholds the status quo. It is equivalent to agnosticism in philosophy, saying ‘neither materialism nor idealism’, but in practice supporting, by its very refusal to fight against it, the ruling bourgeois theory, idealism.
We must understand that just as there is no democracy that applies equally to all classes, so any definition of terrorism must also have a class perspective.
The bourgeoisie, quite rightly from their point of view, would see any violence or intimidation which impinged on their ‘right’ of private property and their accumulation of wealth through exploitation as terrorism. For our part we must begin to see that any violence or intimidation which promotes, protects or advances the bourgeois right of private property and the accumulation of wealth from exploitation is terrorism.
Does this mean that any act of violence or intimidation that purports to be anti-imperialist should be viewed as non-terrorism by us? No! Of course not! This would be as silly as the idea among some ultra-lefts that terrorism does not exist at all. This results in letting imperialism off the hook as much as equal blame. We must analyse the effects of any violence and intimidation, see the support it receives among those it claims to represent and also, to the extent to which it progresses the cause of the proletariat internationally. It must be remembered that national liberation struggles against imperialism and its puppets advance the cause of the international proletariat even though those struggles are very often led by the petty bourgeoisie (middle classes).
If we now look at the events of 11 September 2001, the picture can be viewed from a different angle:
1. Was the violence supported among the oppressed and super-exploited section of the world? Yes, it was. No leader or state dare come out openly and say so for fear of being ‘linked’ to that violence and immediately bombed, but to the millions around the world living (existing) under the heel of American imperialism it was a breath of hope, a blow struck in their name even though no one dare take credit for striking the blow.
2. What was the effect of the attack? The plane that hit the Pentagon caused major damage to imperialism, apparently wiping out the CIA section. The American military have been hit many times in many countries, yes, but this was the heart of that machine. The total destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre will not easily be forgotten by imperialism. The fact that more people died in the two towers than at the Pentagon is a matter of no importance to imperialism in spite of the crocodile tears. What matters to imperialism was that the World Trade Centre was the economic hub of imperialism. Within minutes of the attack markets had to be closed down as prices plummeted (with the exceptions of the necessities for war, oil and arms), showing the world how fragile this supposedly superior political/economic system was. Ten times the number of Americans could have been killed in attacks somewhere else in America that day and the frenzy, fear and hysterical scream for vengeance of imperialism wuld still have been centred on those two towers. Remember, this was not just an attack on American imperialism: all the imperialist nations traded (robbed and oppressed) in the World Trade Centre. If the hijackers had merely wanted to kill Americans the planes would have been targeted at nuclear power stations.
3. Had the cause of the international proletariat been advanced? Yes, not only by the fact that the chief imperialist nation has been shown to be vulnerable on its own soil, but also owing to the fact that the whole imperialist system stood paralysed (even if only for a short time) and they have had to fall back on well-demonised, though highly improbable, victims to blame for the attack and on whom to vent their impotent wrath. The USA and Israel are at loggerheads as US imperialism sees less need for a Zionist puppet at the moment than for Arab assistance.
Has all this been lost on the movement in Britain? Every two-bit Trot organisation and party is howling with indignation about the loss of lives of American workers. But those who choose to work in the Pentagon and serve the armed wing of imperialism cannot cry foul when their victims fight back. Those who choose to work in the main economic wing of imperialism, which sucks the wealth out of poor nations and the lives out of the children of those nations, cannot cry foul when their victims hit back. What of the other workers, firemen, police, restaurant workers, flight crews and passengers? We must regret all needless loss of life but, just as the working class is split in each capitalist nation with those at the top serving imperialism, so that split takes place internationally, with the same upper stratum, which presently constitutes the leadership of the working class, supporting its own imperialist ruling imperialists against the working classes of poor nations, for the privileges of this upper stratum are closely tied to the fortunes of imperialism. Of course, as the contradictions between the classes sharpen and imperialism has less to bribe and blind the workers in imperialist countries with, the numbers of workers supporting imperialism will diminish as they see more and more that their real interests lie with their class, irrespective of race or nationality. The attack of 11 September will help sharpen those contradictions.
The screams of all the Trotskyist organisations are the manifestation of this support for imperialism. They try to outdo each other to condemn the attack on the grounds that American workers died (don’t workers die every day in America as a result of imperialist exploitation?) and no one should attack a sovereign state. Why is it that the people of oppressed nations who are prepared to stand up to their oppressors are only allowed to do it on their own soil, while imperialism is forever crossing national frontiers to attack weaker nations? Why is it that these ultra-left groups in the imperialist nations who wish to be called internationalists can support the struggles of the oppressed only so long as they fight their foreign oppressor in a way that doesn’t hurt that oppressor?
No doubt Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and even Trotsky will be wheeled in and taken out of context to condemn terrorism. It must be said that Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have all condemned terrorism of the type which does not progress the cause of the international proletariat, but equally they have spoken in favour of that which does, for is not the dictatorship of the proletariat a means of terrorising the overthrown ruling class and keeping them from counter-revolution?
Imperialism has suffered a blow from which it is still reeling and shaken. It is our job to keep it in that state, not give it support.