The reactionary character of the London bombings
23rd July 2005
The bombing of public transport in London on 7th July was a barbaric act of reactionary terrorism that must be condemned by the socialist movement. It is often a task solely for socialists to examine such acts in a reasoned manner to determine their roots and their ultimate cause, a responsibility that always comers under attack from bourgeois politicians and mass media. The pervasive lies and hypocrisy that are popularly recognised as a particular feature of the Blair government makes this task all the more necessary. Before the blood had dried Blair was at his most repugnant best in a trademark speech. On these occasions a distant gaze, pregnant and too frequent pauses and jerks of the head are delivered as a performance. This is the substitute, now expected, for an act of political leadership that can actually promise an end to the terror.
Behind the contrivance and patent insincerity of the style lies a necessary lack of truth, and truth for the victims is the only thing that can give any sort of tolerable meaning to the violent death of loved ones. The claim by Blair that the terrorist attacks were unconnected to his decision to invade and occupy Iraq has been decisively rejected by a majority of the British people yet apparently surveys also show a large rise in Blair’s popularity. This is often a reflex reaction of identification with his solidarity with the victims and rejection of the terrorists. It will not last, but that will not particularly matter if no opposition is successful in affixing to Blair his own share of responsibility for the bombings.
Like Bush, he swiftly and firmly closed the door on even the tepid calls by the Tories for an enquiry into the attacks. The mass media are choked with speculation and conjecture as to how they were carried out and by whom; the electronic media greedily report the latest development into the police investigation as the population struggles to comprehend what has happened and how it should now act, whether the attacks can be stopped and whether they can look forward to a permanent threat. Yet Blair brushes away calls for an enquiry with not much more than the wave of the hand.
The police that was congratulating itself on its prowess on the very morning of the attacks, while the bombers were en route, whose manifest failure is now called ‘gaps,’ now recalls that it warned that such attacks were inevitable. How could you have forgotten?
Mass murder was thus inescapable say the forces of the State supposedly charged with protecting its citizens. What was unpreventable, however now requires draconian legislative measures that are typical New Labour, including making it a criminal offence to “glorify” or “condone” terrorism. These are either unworkable, and will be left on the statute book to rot or they will represent an enormous attack on civil liberties at a time when Blair declares the terrorists will not change our way of life. But, if we need them now, why not before? And why now when they could not possibly have prevented the attacks?
That such attacks on civil liberties can be put on the agenda and that ordinary citizens are thrown onto reliance on a State that many think brought the attacks on them, and has so obviously failed to protect them, is testament to the wholly reactionary nature of the terrorist attack.
What sort of target takes the number 30 bus to work in the morning and then witnesses it ripped apart like a sardine can? Look at the list of dead, read the mini-biographies that have been in newspapers. Remember the faces of the disoriented and distressed as they evacuated the underground. This bomb wasn’t aimed at the political leaders hundreds of miles away at Gleneagles, dining in luxury while waxing lyrical about how they would save the world’s poor, serenaded by two ageing Irish pop celebrities. This was a bomb against a population distinguished by the variety of its racial, religious and national backgrounds. It was distinguished by the fact that it didn’t include those who decided to invade Iraq. It was an attack on the city that hosted the biggest demonstration in the country’s history against the Iraq war. There can be little doubt that many of the dead were completely opposed to the invasion of Iraq.
It appears to have been carried out by young Muslims who have obviously become totally and utterly alienated not just from the political system and class that ruled over them but from the society they lived within. Such extreme alienation, an estrangement and separation from those around one, is not conducive to progressive change. This can only come from recognition that imperialist war and oppression are produced by capitalist society and a decision that it must be overthrown. It can come only from those who do not succumb to alienation but take steps to overcome it by attempting to progressively change the world they live in.
The shocking irrationality of the attacks, targeting those not responsible, has been used by Blair and the media to increase fear. On this foundation the media has inserted its own racist political perspective. Thus immediately after the attacks we listened to interviews with victims and relatives of the New York and Madrid terrorist attacks and were invited to view ourselves as a collective ‘we.’ There were no interviews with residents from Fallujah, they are excluded from the ‘we’, the better to make their suffering an unfortunate but necessary result of the war against ‘them.’
No doubt it would be claimed that the people of Fallujah were not the victims of terrorism but unfortunate casualties of war. Even were we to let such sophistry pass, why were there no interviews with the victims of the terrorist attacks in Casablanca? Are darker skinned people forever excluded from that part of humanity that counts? Even when Blair was attempting to ‘unite the nation’ he assumed it already excluded Muslims – ‘they’, he said, will join ‘us’ in opposing terrorism.
He has claimed that the attacks were an attack on our values and way of life. What values? Those of the Fox News executive whose first thought was that it was a good time to buy stocks, echoing the remark of New Labour spin-doctor Jo Moore who thought the 11th September 2001 was a ‘good day to bury bad news?’ Or of the US and British invaders of Iraq who so value life that they haven’t even bothered counting how many they have killed, though they are still able to deny the estimate of 100,000 excess deaths?
But if the terrorists have no connection to Iraq, Blair quickly decided their defeat was the particular responsibility of the Muslim community. They are to be held responsible for the reactionary fanaticism that he has nurtured. This disparate ‘community’, which as a single entity does not exist and therefore cannot have any corporate responsibility, has been given the first qualification for scapegoating by being given special responsibility for catching the terrorists and preventing the emergence of new ones. Already one man, Kamal Raza Butt from Nottingham in the East Midlands, has been murdered and the increase in racist attacks can be counted in the thousands.
But it is not true that the result of this attack is an assault solely on Muslims – everyone will suffer from the assault on civil liberties. The most immediate targets will be Muslim but the public execution of the young Brazilian Jean Charles De Menezes shows that anyone with slightly darker skin is now a suspect. The reaction to this killing and the previous revelation that there was a shoot to kill policy by the police, i.e. an open and unabashed suspension of every single legal safeguard to a fair trial and its replacement by summary execution, opens as frightening a vista as that created by suicide bombing. This is now officially described in the Orwellian phrase ‘shoot-to-protect,’ reminding one of the phrase used during the Vietnam War that it ‘was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.’
At first the police lied that his case was ‘directly linked’ to the terrorist attacks. Then they expressed regret but did not apologise. No justification has been offered by the State which has left this to its hired hacks in the media. Blair pronounced that everyone would have criticised the police for not executing Mr De Menezes if he had turned out to be a suicide bomber. But he wasn’t, this man was innocent! Blair’s mantra of ‘choice’ becomes state execution or suicide bombing. He was shot seven times in the head while being restrained on the ground. Blair is now saying there is no police policy for the innocent, suspicion implies guilt which justifies execution.
The reaction to the killing validates this new dimension to terror. The Guardian newspaper gathered five ‘experts’ who mostly declared their sympathy for… the police! The paper itself editorialised that the biggest mistake of the shooting was that the public had not been adequately prepared for the brutality that would be involved in tackling terrorism. The civil liberties group Liberty has suspended judgement! Once again the old maxim that liberals are always ready to defend civil liberties except when they are under attack has been confirmed.
In order to prosecute the ‘war on terror’ Blair’s appeals have been directed to ‘the Muslim community’ through its most respectable leaders but all Blair’s appeals will count for nothing. The young people from ethnic communities will not be influenced by calls on behalf of someone who lied so blatantly to go to war and then preposterously denies any link between the terrorist attacks and the war.
The answer does not lie in assertion of a mythically pure and peaceful Islam that every Muslim should unite around to isolate and defeat the terrorists. The answer lies in a secular campaign that unites those of all and no religion in a campaign against the real source of terrorism in the world – imperialism. This imperialism has a long history of working with reactionary fundamentalist Islamic groups around the world, culminating in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The expulsion of imperialism would weaken the reactionary regimes, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, that claim Islamic credentials. The people of these countries would then be free to deal with their ‘Islamic’ dictators as and when they get the opportunity, setting an example to the minority of British Muslims who look to radical Islam as some sort of alternative.
For everyone in Britain at this time it means demanding Blair out of Iraq and Blair out of government.