Terrorism and Class Politics - London bombings

We publish below the IBRP statement on the London bombings which was posted on our website soon after the atrocities took place. Since the statement was written, another attempt to bomb tubes and busses was made in which the bombs failed to explode. As in the case of the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, the amateur nature of the perpetrators has allowed the police to rapidly identify and arrest those responsible. At the time of writing no direct link to Al Qa'eda has been discovered and instead the attacks appear to have been planned and carried out by UK citizens on their own. This has, of course, precipitated the savage assault on basic freedoms which we predicted in the statement. In addition the Islamic minority, which numbers approximately 1.6 million people, has been subjected to a strident campaign of hatred waged by sections of the bourgeois press. In the period since the bombs exploded hate crimes against Muslims have gone up eightfold when compared with last year and there have been several murders. The indisputable result of the bombing has been that the capitalist class has been able to further repress and divide the working class.

As the statement makes clear we, as revolutionary communists, condemn the bombings and all who give such acts any support whatsoever. We repeat what we wrote at the time of the Madrid bombings:

No political tactic, not even the most ideologically corrupt, could give any credit, even critically, to such an act of barbarism. (1)

The struggle for the resources of the Middle East

Although the bombings of the 7th July cannot be justified, they must however be explained. It is clear that they were a response to the atrocities which the US with British help is committing in the Middle East. This has now been said by one of the bombers held in Rome but was obvious anyway. They are an indirect result of the British in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and were seen by the bombers as revenge for the murder and destruction which the UK and US, has carried out there. Although the link to the Iraq invasion has now been confirmed by one of the gang themselves, this is furiously denied by Blair and his henchmen. Such a denial is hardly surprising since to admit the link would be to admit that the invasion has, as was actually predicted by the UK intelligence services, made the threat of terrorism in this country worse. If this was admitted another of the lies used to justify the invasion would then collapse leaving the authors of the war even more exposed than they are at present. Instead Blair, Straw and Co. maintain that the bombings have a purely ideological cause, namely "hatred of freedom", "hatred of democracy" and similar inanities dreamed up by the Bush junta. According to this explanation these bombings could have occurred in any country enjoying bourgeois freedoms and bourgeois democracy and it is purely a matter of chance that the occurred in Madrid and London. As is made clear in the statement attached, such an absurd explanation is not even believed by our leaders who utter it. Not only have been warned, time and again, that we are about to be attacked, but the contingency plans for dealing with such bombings were so well prepared that our leaders must have been expecting it.

The truth is that the London bombings have a direct link to the struggle in the Middle East and have their material basis in the struggle to control the resources of the region. They are another incident in the barbaric struggle for the region's oil. This struggle is one between factions of the capitalist class and therefore cannot in any way benefit the working class. The barbaric way in which this struggle is conducted is an expression of the crisis into which the capitalist system is sinking and an expression of the real nature of the bourgeois class. The US ruling class, with Britain as its junior partner, wants to have control of the oil resources of the region from the Red Sea to the Caucasus, while elements of the Arab bourgeoisie, including Al Qa'eda, wish to control this oil themselves. The following statement, from Al Qa'eda's second in command, Ayman Al Zawahiri, puts their position clearly. When speaking of the London bombings he said.

To the people of the crusader coalition... our message to you is clear, strong and final: there will be no salvation until you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and resources and end support for infidel (Arab) rulers. (2)

This is the real struggle for which Blair is now demanding we make sacrifices such as accepting more state repression and renouncing bourgeois freedoms.

Increased repression

The British government is now preparing a mass of measures to increase state repression and restrict freedom. These include:

  • restricting so-called human rights by amending the human rights laws;
  • making it an offence to advocate violence to further your beliefs;
  • making it an offence to justify terrorism;
  • banning organisations;
  • banning or deporting preachers at mosques;
  • closing mosques;
  • giving police powers to hold suspects without charge for longer;
  • introduction of biometric identity cards;
  • introduction of secret courts, with secret evidence presided over by a judge.

On the one hand the Blair cabal tells us the bombers are motivated by "hatred of freedom and democracy" and hate our "way of life" while on the other hand it proposes to take away these very freedoms. They explain that the only way to protect the freedoms we love so much is to abolish them. Such contradictions show how little the capitalist class really care about "freedom and democracy" when the issue is advancing their imperialist interests. While our rulers invade countries, against all prescriptions of international law, and don't even bother to count the hundreds of thousands they slaughter in order to get their blood-soaked hands on oil resources, they express horror at those criminals who advocate violence to achieve their ends. Such hypocrisy is today the hallmark of the bourgeois class. Here we wish simply to note that many of these measures had been planned for years, notably biometric identity cards, the use of secret evidence and secret trials and the abolition of the right to jury trial. The bombings have proved a very useful pretext for our rulers to do what they wanted to do anyway. Terrorism provides the ruling class with the perfect excuse to increase repression. While today these measures will be used against Islamic groups and Islamic politics, tomorrow they will be used against the organisations and militants of the working class.

Terrorism and the capitalist class

Although the capitalist class claims to hate terrorism this is completely untrue. What the capitalist class demands is for its state a monopoly of violence within its borders. Any group which challenges this is, of course, branded "terrorist." However, outside the borders of their state, our rulers have never hesitated to use terrorism against their enemies. Since the Second World War the US has intervened all round the world using covert means (i.e. terrorism) to subvert its enemies. The history of Central and South America, in particular, are a record of such subversion. As we have previously pointed out the US is the only country to have been found guilty of supporting terrorism by the world court. This was in a judgement concerning US support for the Nicaraguan Contras in 1986 in which the US was ordered to stop supporting terrorism and pay Nicaragua a large sum in compensation. The US not only ignored the judgement but went on to veto a UN security council motion calling on all states to support international law. This is a fair indication of what the US really thinks about terrorism and international law.

It is, of course, well known that the US armed, trained and financed Osama Bin Laden and his Jihadis in order to send them to fight the Russian forces in Afghanistan. Only when these arms were turned against the US after the first Gulf War did the US brand this group as "terrorist." What is not so well known is that during the Bosnian conflict, when the US and UK wanted a contingent of Muslim fighters to oppose the Serbs, young British Muslims of Pakistani descent were sent to Pakistan for military training and subsequently sent to Serbia. This contingent was trained in Pakistan by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and sent by the then prime minister, Benazir Butto, to Bosnia. It is estimated that at least 200 British Muslims living in the UK were trained and sent to Bosnia in this operation. The official enquiry into the1995 Sebrenicia massacre found that the Pentagon had co-operated with Iran and Turkey and used Afghan Mujahidin and Hizbullah, groups the US considers as terrorist, to ferry arms and fighters into Bosnia in violation of the UN arms embargo (3). All this occurred with the full knowledge of the British government and, of course, contributed to the radicalisation of Muslim youth. At this time our rulers were not wringing their hands about training in Pakistan, indoctrination in Pakistani Madrassas (religious schools) and all the other things we hear so much about today. They were organising it because it suited their imperialist interests at the time to bring about the break up of Yugoslavia. These few examples illustrate how terrorism is an integral part of the arsenal of the capitalist class. It is, however, a weapon which cannot be used by the working class.

Terrorism and the working class

As we wrote at the time of the Madrid train bombings,

Communism can only be established by the mass movement of a self conscious working class. We reject utterly nineteenth century notions such as the Blanquist idea that a self-styled revolutionary elite are destined to "make the revolution" for the masses. For us this idea sits alongside anarchist notions that terrorist acts, so-called "propaganda by the deed" can stimulate a mass movement. As Marx noted in a letter to Engels, such terrorist acts are not only counter productive but actually anti-working class.
The last exploit of the Fenians in Clerkenwell was a very stupid thing... One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of the Fenian emissaries. (4)

The strength of the working class is collective and individual acts of terror are always signs of weakness. As has been shown above, they give the capitalist class political cover to repress and divide the working class. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians by today's terrorists is directly comparable to what Marx was writing about in 1867 and is similarly opposed to the interests of the working class. Communists aim to unite the working class in a common struggle to replace the capitalist system which is the root cause of all that is wrong in the world. The overthrow of the capitalist class will, of course, require violence as will the maintenance of working class power during the transitional period between capitalism and communism. Such violence is a necessary price which the creation of a higher form of society entails. Such violence will, however, be collective violence, i.e. class violence, directed at the enemies of the working class, the capitalist class and their retainers. This violence will be that of a majority directed against a minority.

Today's terrorists and the working class

As we have said above, the ultimate goal towards which the actions of the London bombers are directed is the exploitation of the resources of the Middle East, in particular its oil, by the local bourgeois class. However much the parties involved dress their programmes up in the clothes of Islam, and embellish them with fairy stories about the establishment of a new Caliphate under Sharia law, none of this challenges the fact that this new state will have a capitalist system of production. The proposed Caliphate is to be based on wage labour and so the exploitation of the working class. Their programmes are thus bourgeois programmes and if they were ever to succeed they would produce a new imperialist centre. Thus all the imperialist struggles and wars of today would be reproduced and would continue. It is therefore quite wrong to see today's terrorists as in any way anti-imperialist as elements of the Stalinist and Trotskyists do. Today the only true anti-imperialist struggle is an anti-capitalist one.

Today the Arab masses, who are exploited, insulted and humiliated by Western imperialism need to unite with their class brothers in capitalism's core countries. The belief that Al Qa'eda, which was itself a creation of US imperialism, can bring them freedom, or a new Caliphate could make their lives better, is profoundly mistaken. Arab workers need only to look at the condition of their class brothers in Iran to see that 25 years of life under Islamic rule has been 25 years of capitalist torture with living conditions steadily deteriorating. Fundamentalism is a tragic trap which is closing around the Arab working classes. This is happening as Arab nationalism collapses and no other political solutions appear possible. However, there are other political solutions which we need to work for. Revolutionary communists need to turn the rage of the Arab masses towards proletarian goals. This must start with the struggle of workers for their own class interests against their exploiters and lead to the international struggle for a communist world.

Workers have no country. They have a world to win.



(1) Revolutionary Perspectives 32, "USA and Islamic Terrorism".

(2) See Financial Times 5th August 2005.

(3) See The Guardian 22nd April 2002.

(4) See Revolutionary Perspectives 32, "Terrorism, Imperialism and the Working Class" and the letter from Marx to Engels, 4th December 1867.

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