Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Capitalism — terrorism unlimited (2) (1986)

From the June 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The murder of workers in airports in Rome and Vienna, the killing of two men in a Berlin disco and the bullet which killed a British policewoman have nothing to do with freedom-fighting or liberation. Freedom does not arise from the barrel of a gun; liberation will never be the product of the killers who claim to be serving higher causes.

Capitalism is an inherently violent social system. It was founded by violence; it has expanded and prospered due to violence; its much-cherished law and order is institutionalised violence. Killing is not capitalism gone wrong, but the system running as normal. The history of capitalism is a long and bloody story of murdering and maiming and threatening and plundering so that a small minority of the world's population — the capitalist class — may own and control the major resources of the earth to the exclusion of the vast majority who produce all the wealth — the working class. In every country in the world, including the so-called socialist countries (which are state capitalist), the minority on top owe their position to violence.

To those defenders of capitalism who make noises of disgust about the violence of the unauthorised terrorist let us ask, where did the capitalists obtain their property from? They won it in the early days of capitalism by forming armies and terrorising the poor peasants and small landlords and stealing their land from them. The appropriation of capitalist property was a process of successful mugging expeditions: the European aristocracy of today are the inheritors of the muggers' plundered gains. The common lands, hitherto used by the poor, were enclosed and appropriated by capitalists who forced others to keep out. The law of trespass ensured that non-property-owners could be killed — and many were if they tried to enter the land of the capitalists. The early history of capitalism, going on well into the last century in Britain, saw thousands of workers being killed for stealing the necessaries of life. The state, which is the machine of class violence used by the bosses to keep the workers in line, has killed numerous workers who have offended against the sacred rights of property.

How was the British Empire built if not by such terror tactics? The ruling class of Britain, armed with the Bible and the bullet, plundered the earth in the quest for profits. Those who stood in their way were killed. In the sixteenth century, when Britain went to war with Spain — readers will remember the defeat of the Armada — it was nothing different from the battle of power between the gangs of Chicago and New York in the 1930s. Workers were sent to their deaths in these imperial wars in order to determine which national group of capitalist gangsters would own and control new resources, territories and exploitable populations.

In the late nineteenth century two new national gangs of European capitalists came on to the scene: Italy in 1860 and Germany in 1870. They made efforts to enter as rivals in the competition for world domination and so more workers — in their millions — were killed in wars. The workers who were slaughtered in world wars for economic interests which were not theirs were not regarded as the victims of terrorism. But that is precisely what they were.

In this century the British robber class has lost its Empire and must rest content with exploiting the workers at home. The British working class was poor when British capitalists had an Empire and we are poor today: one thing is certain, the Empire never belonged to us.

Today two new major empires — superpowers in modem times — dominate the world: America and Russia. The President of the USA now sermonises about the evil of terrorism. The status quo must not be disturbed. Does this man Reagan not know that without terrorism the American state would never have been established? The revolutionaries of 1776 who threw off British imperial rule were regarded by the British ruling class as terrorists. Had they been defeated the name of George Washington would have been listed in the history books together with Gerry Adams and the PLO leaders. The rulers of Israel echo their American masters in condemning terrorism. In the 1940s these same leaders who now have state power were themselves terrorists, killing British soldiers in order to gain state power. Once the American terrorists obtained power in 1776 they became legal terrorists and many thousands of native Americans (Red Indians) were murdered callously by the state because they were in its way. In 1986. while Reagan makes complaints about Libyan-backed terrorists damaging American capitalist interests. American-backed terrorists are being given huge amounts of money by his administration in order to dislodge the elected government of Nicaragua.

The class struggle is a messy, violent process. The capitalists will stop at nothing in their struggle for more power within the world market. The Libyan government is seen to represent a new form of Islamic, Arab nationalism which could endanger existing interests in Africa and the Middle East. As capitalism develops — if workers let it — more power blocs will emerge, all competing for supremacy, and one would be naive not to predict such rivalry leading to wars, both local and frighteningly global.

Workers have no interest at all in ever supporting the capitalists of the country where they live. In recent years the Arab ruling class has prospered greatly due to massive oil profits, but the Arab workers are still living in some of the most deprived conditions in the world. Arab workers have nothing to gain by the expansion of their masters' powers. In the USA. the alleged land of capitalist prosperity. it was reported in the newspaper of the Longshoremen's Union in March 1986 that government figures state that 22.2 million Americans are now living below the official poverty line and 9.1 million of them are in jobs but cannot afford to make ends meet. So much for the incentive for workers to fight to make their bosses rich.

Who are the real terrorists? Yes, the deluded workers with home-made bombs and the fanatics who fire at innocent crowds are killers, but let them not divert us from the killing which goes on with the blessing of the boss class. According to a report from the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, in 1984 10.4 million workers were injured and 28,500 were killed in accidents at work. (This is based on information from seventy countries). How many of these deaths and injuries were the direct result of capitalists making a profit out of unsafe working conditions for those they exploit? In a recent report from the Health and Safety Executive we are told that over the last three years 400 British building workers have been killed and 30,000 injured, many seriously. According to the report.
It is possible that economic pressures may have resulted in a general lowering in the degree of safety and supervision on site, and in the increase in the practice of undercutting at the expense of safety.
The recession has led capitalists in the construction industry — notoriously, some of the worst employers in Britain — to risk killing their employees for the sake of offering more competitive prices. We have read no report of Thatcher sending the anti-terrorist squad to the building bosses to ensure that justice is done for the 400 men who have died. On the contrary, it has been recent government policy to go in for what is called deregulation in the construction industry — they have cut the number of inspectors employed to check that building sites are conforming to legal safety standards. According to Richard Peto. Reader in Cancer Studies at Oxford University.
 . . . there will be a total of about 50,000 asbestos-induced deaths in Britain over the next thirty years . . . 50,000 deaths is a number so enormous that it is difficult to comprehend. For example, it greatly exceeds the number of murders during the same period . . .
Those who die from asbestos-caused cancer — and we have plenty of evidence to show that many workers already have — will die for profit: 50.000 sacrifices to the god of profit makes anything planned by the PLO or the IRA look like kids playing with a peashooter.

So workers must beware not to be conned into believing that the "baddies" are only those whose violence is not initiated by the capitalist rulers. While we must oppose the senseless killing of WPC Fletcher we remember the workers who have been murdered. injured and abused by the British police; we must oppose the bombers, but never forget the greater violence perpetrated in the name of profit. When 15 million children under five annually die while food is locked away or dumped in the sea the capitalists are in no position to lecture workers about what is evil. Those who have invested millions of pounds, dollars and roubles in the weaponry which could annihilate the entire planet have no right to tell workers that violence is to be deprecated. Those who allowed thousands to die and suffer at Bhopal in India because there was profit to be made for Union Carbide cannot preach about senseless killing. The numerous capitalists who have investments in bloody dictatorships, such as South Africa where over a thousand workers have been killed in the last year for protesting, are hypocrites when they take it on themselves to attack the Libyan regime. The capitalists are the people of violence and tyranny and any words of theirs against certain violence and some tyrannies are worthless and contemptible.

Only socialists can oppose terrorism because only socialists stand in opposition to the system which causes it. There is no other way to destroy the misery caused by organised violence than to abolish its cause.

Let us consider the other choices which have been proposed. There are those who say that we need new, more responsible leaders: Mondale instead of Reagan. Kinnock instead of Thatcher. Do they really believe that Mondale, faced with a perceived threat to US power, would not respond militarily? Does anyone seriously believe that Kinnock, tied to the terms of the military agreement with the USA which allows British bases to be used for American military attacks, would have acted differently from Thatcher? The fact is that these leaders have no option but to dance to the tune of capitalism, for its logic governs them, not they it. Others rather simple-mindedly argue that more faith should be placed in the United Nations, more appropriately known as the Disunited Thieves. The class struggle cannot be fought out around a conference table and the rivalry between capitalist and capitalist will turn violent quite regardless of resolutions passed by diplomats.

Some argue that Britain should turn from alliance with the American Empire to the Russian. The Russian ruling class could never be so callous as to bomb civilians, we are told. But they have killed over 100,000 workers in Afghanistan since they invaded it and one would be naive to imagine that Russian bombs would not carry out a similar raid to the US one if Russian imperial interests are threatened. It has even been suggested that workers in Britain should support Gadaffy because, in the words of the unfailingly foolish Revolutionary Communist Party, any enemy of the British bosses must be supported by the British workers. According to that logic workers in Britain should have supported Mussolini and Hitler — and. indeed, the RCP urged workers to support Galtieri's struggle for the Malvinas in 1982. This sort of pathetic nonsense is what passes as Marxist-Leninism. From other quarters we are urged to return to religious slumber — like born-again Christian Reagan whose interpretation of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" contains an addendum: "unless under instructions from the White House".

Gadaffy is a Muslim, a believer in the faith of Islam which is the Arabic word for submission. It is time for workers to reject the posture of submission for it has been the position of the wage-slave class for too long. There are no answers to violence within the system of violence and that is why peace and security depend entirely on the establishment of a worldwide socialist society now. Tomorrow might be one bomb blast too late.
Steve Coleman

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