Editorial from the April 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard
The explosions in Madrid have brought home the truth about the so-called War on Terror
The victims, workers of eleven different nations, had their lives blinked out of existence by the simple deadly efficiency of modern chemical explosives carefully applied to devastate the complex systems upon which modern humans rely for survival. Their assassins had been able to move freely in their midst to unleash their chaos and carnage.
In his speech following the bombings, Tony Blair was forced to admit that such atrocities cannot be prevented. In modern industrialised society, too many people are moving and crowding together to control. Explosives are too small and concealable. He went on, that alone in history, the likely perpetrators ─ Al Qaeda, or their sympathisers ─ are immune to reason and rationale and that they cannot be defeated except by main force.
The likes of the trotskyist Paul Foot see terrorism as “the weapon of the weak”. To many leftists, weakness and being the underdog is ennobling. Indeed, John Pilger and Tariq Ali, whilst professing to be in favour of “Stopping the War” actually are fully in favour of it, only they favour the side that now uses bombs to kill crowds of Iraqi workers with the same sort of technology as murdered the Madrid workers. They support the “Resistance”. They support it because America is big and powerful, so it must use the vicious weapons of the weak, to defeat the great power that is immune to reason and cannot be defeated except by main force.
Of course, weakness is not of itself ennobling, still less does it make its possessor deserving of support. The perpetrators of many of the atrocities of modern terrorist war are not the starvelings from the slums, the children struggling beneath the occupying soldier's boot. Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian capitalist ─ waging war on his homeland's government and its American backers. His followers are college-educated professionals, usually from well-off families, the aspirant ruling classes of Middle Eastern states.
They would use the same weapons all ruling classes have historically used to climb to power ─ brute force, mayhem and murder. That the resources they possess to do this with are small does not change that underlying intent
They seek to use their weapons to maximum effect: imposing costs, in terms of chaos, fear, disruption and increased security, on their foes - chiefly the American government and its allies - to the point at which they will find the cost too great to continue with their current policies.
Those governments themselves, of course, have a tremendous abundance of the sort of means of destruction which the terrorists deployed in Madrid. They have themselves, with a year, used those resources for terrorist purposes - or for “Shock and Awe” as they termed it. They too have slaughtered workers in pursuit of their ends.
Of course, the politicians that run those governments try to make out that they are different to the terrorists, they have values. They did not target civilians deliberately though they did unleash destructive power in the full knowledge that “bystanders” would die.
The truth of Madrid is that there is no essential difference, that the victims of that bomb were as equally human as those dead Iraqis as the bombs that killed them were equally bombs. As human as the deluded workers who form the potential supporters that the terrorists are trying to win to their cause. They died amidst the pass and fell of warring powers, even if those powers are “asymmetric”.
While Blair would attempt to cover this truth with his call for everyone to take the side of the tiger against the fleas, socialists declare that the only way for the workers to defend themselves against the prospect of the permanent threat of obliteration is to wage war against the very causes of the conflict - the division of the world into property.
Our weapons though, are not those of destruction. The workers are the force of creation, and can build a better world. The truth and the message of Madrid is that the war on terror must be transformed into a battle between the free association of producers, versus the nihilistic battalions of destruction.