Manchester bombing: terrorist madness and the sickness of capitalism

Yesterday, an inquiry into the May 2017 Manchester bombing began, more than three years after the attack. The inquiry's chairman stressed that he was “not looking for scapegoats”, but rather searching for the truth. In reality, the purpose of this inquiry is the exact opposite. We republish here an article by Alan Woods, written the day after the attack, which traces the criminal role played by British intelligence agencies, which facilitated the tragic event. 

Since the day of the attack, which killed 22, injured 264 and forever traumatised hundreds more innocent people, the British government and state apparatus have been conspiring to obscure the real background of the attacks. The present inquiry, which is set to continue until next spring, is mainly looking into the failures of the emergency response units and event security. According to the inquiry chairman, the treatment of each deceased victim will be examined in minute detail. Hundreds of witnesses, grieving relatives and traumatised victims will be brought in one after another, to give an account of the 'failures' of paramedic, security and other emergency response staff. The sole purpose of this will be to make an example of (and, yes, scapegoat) men and women who struggle daily to keep Britain's dilapidated healthcare and wider public sector afloat. 

And in the midst of the mass of grievances, the criminal role played by the British state and intelligence agencies will be intentionally drowned out. As you will read in the article below (and what is now a matter of public record), Salman Abedi, the Manchester assailant, and his family were well known by the intelligence agencies. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that Abedi was known to security services. The BBC also quoted a local community worker saying that several people had reported Abedi to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline. Several warnings, in fact, came only a few days before the bombing. These were, however, ignored by MI5, which was at the time involved in a cynical game, using Islamists such as Abedi as pawns to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya. Abedi himself was a known Islamic fundamentalist, but no alert was triggered when he travelled back to the UK from Libya just four days before the attack. 

In fact, at the time, Britain's policy was to accommodate the Lybian Islamists (as well as some in Syria and Iraq) to the utmost: supplying them with passports, lifting legal restrictions from them travelling, and even giving them the necessary training to fight Gaddafi’s forces. This support was the main factor in the Islamist takeover of the Lybian revolution, and the subsequent destruction of Libyan society.

Of course, none of this will see the light of day during the inquiry. Following the application of the Home Office and police, and on the grounds of "protecting national security", all of this will be dealt with behind closed doors. The only security these ladies and gentlemen are concerned with here is their own, by ensuring the public remains unaware of their cynical and callous conduct. The real purpose of the current inquiry is precisely to bury the truth, and blame the horrendous bombing on public sector workers and, most probably, also Muslims in general. That is, to blame this or that section of the working class, whereas in reality, this atrocity was a direct consequence of the policies of the ruling class.

Hamid Alizadeh, 8 Sept 2020

On a bright, sunny evening on May 22nd thousands, mainly young teenagers, gathered at a pop concert in the Manchester Arena. But what was intended as a joyous occasion was turned into a bloodbath when a lone suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device packed with shrapnel in a crowded foyer where parents were waiting for their children.

Most of the dead and injured were children and young people, one of them eight years old. Many more are still receiving treatment in the hospitals. Heartbreaking photos of the first young victims and missing concert-goers were posted online. The Manchester bombing was the worst terrorist attack in the city’s history.

Then on June 3rd a new terrorist attack in London left eight people dead and 48 injured. This was the third deadly terrorist incident in Britain in less than three months. At about 10pm a van was driven at speed into pedestrians on London Bridge. When the van stopped three men got out and rampaged through the crowded pubs and restaurants stabbing people indiscriminately in the area around Borough Market, just south of the Thames. The men, who had shouted “This is for Allah,” were shot dead by police.

The recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and London sent a wave of shock and revulsion through society. But they appear to have been of a different character. The obvious crudity of the latest assault was in contrast to the attack at Manchester, in which a relatively sophisticated bomb was used to kill the maximum number of people.

Who or what is behind these terrorist attacks? ISIS has claimed responsibility, although this has not been verified. In a statement published late on Sunday by the organisation’s Amaq news agency, it claimed that “a detachment of Islamic State fighters executed yesterday’s London attack”.

The selection of a pop concert as the target for the attack closely resembled the Bataclan massacre in Paris in November 2015. Jihadi terrorists inspired by ISIS and al-Qaeda deliberately select large venues hosting events, partly for their symbolic value as examples of “Western decadence”, but principally because they are vulnerable “soft” targets that may be attacked with minimum risk. The fact that many of the victims of this kind of attack were children and teenagers is seen, not as a negative factor. Quite the contrary, it suits their warped agenda very well because of the added dimension of horror.

The deliberate targeting of children and teenagers at a concert by a suicide bomber carrying a bomb packed with nails and bolts seemed to most people to be a crime of such enormity that it could only be the product of a sick and unhinged mind. Such a judgment is quite logical, but it does not provide any explanation. We can agree that this kind of indiscriminate terrorism is a form of madness. But it is surely necessary to say where this madness comes from.

The Manchester killer, Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British Muslim, was known to the British counter-terrorism forces. Born and raised in Manchester, Abedi’s family is of Libyan origin and has frequently travelled back and forth to Libya where his father is active in a terrorist Jihadi organisation. Someone who knew Abedi described him as a "hothead" with a reputation for involvement in petty crime. "Yesterday they're drug dealers, today they're Muslims," he said, adding that he believed Abedi had also been friends with Anil Khalil Raoufi, an IS recruiter from Didsbury who was killed in Syria in 2014.

Police investigations have found no hard evidence to confirm the theory of a terrorist cell and concluded that this murderous act was carried out by a single suicide-bomber. However, other factors suggest at the very least that the perpetrator of that attack may have undergone training in Libya. Abedi was in Libya recently. His brother and father were arrested in Tripoli on May 24th. The militia holding them says the brother is a member of ISIS and was planning an attack on Tripoli.

Theresa May: hypocrisy as a mask for impotence

Immediately after the Manchester atrocity Theresa May, her bird-like stare firmly fixed on the electoral front, raised the terrorist threat level from “severe” to “critical”. For the first time the army was ordered onto the streets of mainland Britain. A highly dramatic, not to say theatrical gesture! But what were the concrete effects of this? Nothing of any consequence. For a day or so the soldiers stood around awkwardly on street corners, not sure what they were supposed to do. Then they were sent back to barracks. The suspects who had been so speedily arrested were released one by one without charge.

Within a few days we had terrorists on the rampage on London Bridge. After the London Bridge attack Mrs. May informs us that: “Enough is enough”, that things must change, and so on and so forth. If, in order to defeat terrorism, all that was needed was speeches from the steps of number ten Downing Street, all the combined forces of ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban would have laid down their arms and taken up gardening long ago. But sadly no amount of rhetoric from Mrs. May will produce the slightest effect.Theresa May London Bridge Attack Photo Number 10Theresa May giving a statement about the terrorist attack in Westminster on 22 March 2017 - Photo: Number 10

Theresa May has been Prime Minister for quite a few months and before that she was Home Secretary ever since 2010. That means she was in charge of the police and security. One is tempted to ask: why was “enough” not “enough” seven years ago? Do the people of Britain have to wait for an election campaign before Mrs. May concludes that “things have to change”? We can be sure of one thing: no matter what measures the Tories may take, they will be powerless to stop further terrorist attacks, which are the direct result of Britain’s policy of interference in the Middle East together with American imperialism. Military action, far from saving the British public from terrorism, has had precisely the opposite effect.

As if to underline this self-evident fact, on May 31st an explosive device hidden in a tanker truck went off during rush hour in a crowded area in Kabul. The blast shattered windows mile away and sent clouds of black smoke swirling above the city. At least 90 people were killed and more than 460 wounded. This was one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in the 16-year civil war. This was supposed to be a “safe area” near several foreign embassies. The bomb that ripped through Kabul was clear evidence that the so-called war on terror has failed.

As for police measures, they too have a limited effect. MI5 has on its lists up to 3,000 people who it regards as religious extremists, but it only has the resources for the constant monitoring of about 40 of them; 24-hour surveillance of a single suspect requires up to 18 officers. And there are rules about how long such intensive surveillance of an individual can continue. And in any case the austerity cuts introduced by Mrs May have led to the loss of 20,000 police over the last seven years.

In order to defeat the terrorists what is required is the active support of the population, and in particular the Muslim population. But the people no longer have any confidence in the government or the political establishment. Most people are alienated from Westminster, and the degree of alienation increases in proportion to the growth of unemployment, poverty, bad housing, racism and discrimination. This is the soil upon which terrorist moods can flourish among a layer of alienated and disenchanted youth. The war against terrorism can only be won when these things are eradicated from our society.

Relaunching Labour’s election campaign following the three-day pause after the Manchester atrocity, Jeremy Corbyn had the guts to draw attention to the link between terror attacks such as the Manchester suicide bombing and Britain’s foreign wars. He established a causal connection between “wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.”

That statement naturally drew a furious response from the Tories who claimed that Corbyn was “blaming Britain for terrorist acts” and “providing an excuse for terrorism.” This was in spite of the fact that he had stressed that his assessment is shared by the intelligence and security services and “in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children”. “Those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions,” he said.

Vowing to “change what we do abroad”, Corbyn added: “An informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism. We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”

Despite the furious protests of the Tories, there can be absolutely no doubt that there is a causal link between Britain’s involvement in military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and terrorism. It is a simple fact that before the invasion of Iraq – that barbarous and criminal act organized by Tony Blair and George W Bush – there were no terrorist acts in Britain – not a single one. Before that al Qaeda had no base in Iraq or Syria and ISIS did not exist. These are facts, and facts are stubborn things.

The Libyan connection

It is no accident that the Manchester bomber Salman Abedi had strong Libyan connections. His father was an Islamic fundamentalist who escaped from Gaddafi and was welcomed to Britain on the well-known principle: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But diplomacy is a very treacherous swamp, and the enemy of today can swiftly become the friend and ally of tomorrow.

It is not generally known that the British authorities actively encouraged young Muslims to travel to Syria to help overthrow the Assad government. Many of these young people were radicalised in Syria where they were recruited to terrorist Jihadi outfits. Many have returned to Britain, where they present a serious potential for terrorist outrages like the ones we have recently seen in Manchester and London.

It is not only in Syria where the British government has actively promoted terrorist activities. The case of Libya is even clearer. On that occasion it was Britain and France that were beating the war drums in favour of intervening to overthrow Gaddafi (the Americans were not at all keen on the idea). And everybody remembers the spectacle of David Cameron addressing a cheering crowd in Benghazi following the so-called “liberation” of Libya. But what was achieved by it?

That “liberated” country is in a complete mess. It is awash with Jihadi terrorists, with an assortment of criminal gangs vying for control. We have the spectacle of people smugglers plundering desperate refugees who are daily being sent to their deaths in crowded and unseaworthy vessels. Murder, rape, pillage, chaos, misery and crime are what have replaced the rule of Gaddafi. That is the only result of Britain’s interference in Libya.

The LIFG Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was an anti-Gaddafi Islamist terrorist group formed in 1990 by Libyan Jihadis who had been used to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Following the rapprochement between the British and Libyan governments sealed by the so-called "Deal in the Desert" between then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gaddafi in 2004 many Libyan exiles in the UK with links to the LIFG were placed on control orders and subjected to surveillance and monitoring.

The cynicism of the British authorities was revealed by secret documents that were retrieved from the ransacked offices of the Libyan intelligence agency following Gaddafi's fall from power in 2011. These documents show that the British government under Tony Blair had entered into close cooperation with the Gaddafi regime, including cooperation between Libyan and British secret services. According to these documents British security services cracked down on Libyan dissidents in the UK as part of the deal, as well as assisting in the rendition of two senior LIFG leaders, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, to Tripoli where they were tortured.

In one of these incriminating documents there is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, addressed “Dear Mu’amma”, in which Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.Blair GaddafiTony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi

But later London’s attitude to Tripoli changed into its opposite. Once again Gaddafi became the enemy. His overthrow was hastened by NATO air strikes led by France and Britain. The British government now operated an "open door" policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders.

Control orders were introduced as part of counter-terrorism legislation drafted in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings. Ziad Hashem, an LIFG member granted asylum in the UK, said that he had been imprisoned for 18 months without charge and then restricted to his home for a further three years based on information he believed had been supplied by Libyan intelligence.

But he added: "When the revolution started, things changed in Britain. Their way of speaking to me and treating me was different. They offered to give me benefits, even indefinite leave to remain or citizenship."

'SAS training'

The collusion between British intelligence and the Jihadis was not confined to turning a blind eye to young people travelling to Libya to fight against Gaddafi. There is plenty of evidence showing that British Special Forces (SAS) actually armed and trained them. One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was "shocked" that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted: "I was allowed to go, no questions asked," he said. He met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying Special Forces soldiers in support of the rebels.

"They didn't have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across," he said. But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports.

"These were old school LIFG guys, they [the British authorities] knew what they were doing," he said. The British government listed the LIFG as a proscribed terrorist organisation in 2005, describing it as seeking to establish a "hard-line Islamic state" and "part of the wider Islamist extremist movement inspired by al-Qaeda".

Belal Younis, another British citizen who went to Libya, described how he was stopped under 'Schedule 7' counter-terrorism powers on his return to the UK after a visit to the country in early 2011. Schedule 7 allows police and immigration officials to detain and question any person passing through border controls at ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in terrorism.

He said he was subsequently asked by an intelligence officer from MI5, the UK's domestic security agency: "Are you willing to go into battle?"

"While I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi".

As he was travelling back to Libya in May 2011 he was approached by two counter-terrorism police officers in the departure lounge who told him that if he was going to fight he would be committing a crime. But after providing them with the name and phone number of the MI5 officer he had spoken to previously, and following a quick phone call to him, he was waved through. As he waited to board the plane, he said the same MI5 officer called him to tell him that he had "sorted it out".

"The government didn't put any obstacles in the way of people going to Libya. The vast majority of UK guys were in their late twenties. There were some 18 and 19. The majority who went from here were from Manchester."

One of the British-Libyans described how he had carried out "PR work" for the rebels in the months before Gaddafi was overthrown and eventually killed in October 2011. He said he was employed to edit videos showing Libyan rebels being trained by former British SAS and Irish Special Forces mercenaries in Benghazi, the eastern city from where the uprising against Gaddafi was launched:

"They weren't cheap videos with Arabic nasheeds [songs], they were slick, professional glossy films which we were showing Qataris and Emiratis to support troops who were getting elite SAS training." He was also charged by rebel commanders with training young Libyans to use cameras so that they could sell packages to international media.

On one assignment at a rebel base camp in a Misrata school, he came across a group of about eight young British-Libyans. After joking about their northern accents he found out that they had never been to Libya before. "They looked about 17 or 18, maybe one was 20 at most. They had proper Manchester accents," he said. "They were there living and fighting and doing the whole nine yards."

From optimism to chaos

The overthrow and killing of Gaddafi was followed by a period of heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed a huge crowd waving French and British flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.Cameron Sarkozy and Mustafa Abdul Jalil hoto Number 10David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Mustafa Abdul Jalil - Photo: Number 10

This euphoria did not last long and nobody today wishes to be reminded of David Cameron’s moment of “glory”. As in Iraq, the downfall of the old regime was followed by a complete breakdown, anarchy and chaos. A UN-backed peace deal, signed by some of the adversaries in 2015, failed to unite the country or create an effective state under the “government of national accord” (GNA). Numerous armed groups, loosely aligned with rival governments in the east and west, vie for power. ISIS has thrived on the chaos and added to it, lately by attacking water pipelines and pumping stations.

Into the vacuum stepped the Jihadi gunmen and the militias of rival warlords and gangsters. The helpless people of Libya had fallen from the frying pan into the fire. And their British and French “allies” promptly left them in the lurch. Libya has become a haven for terrorists and a magnet for would-be Jihadis from Europe – including Britain. Young people from Manchester and other cities were to travel back and forth without let or hindrance, including those who were under surveillance for suspected extremist connections. Among those who travelled freely back and fought to Libya and had known links to terrorist organisations was Abedi.

Was Abedi one of those youngsters from Manchester, “doing the whole nine yards", one of those who received training at the hands of the SAS? Probably he was too young at the time. But there appears to be little doubt that he was trained by people with considerable skills in the deadly art of bomb-making. And they very likely received the necessary training from British experts. In any case, Britain’s involvement in covert and open military action in Libya has now come back to haunt the people of Britain.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted that Abedi was known to security services. A local community worker told the BBC that several people had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline. Abedi's younger brother and father, who have resettled in Libya after the overthrow of Gaddafi, have also been arrested on suspicion of links to ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack.

Is Jihadism a form of fascism?

The petty bourgeoisie is the most impotent of all classes in society. Crushed between the big monopolies and the proletariat, it is historically doomed to extinction. Yet it desperately struggles against extinction. It hates the big banks and monopolies that are driving it out of business, but it fears and hates the proletariat into whose ranks it is increasingly being driven.

In the 1930s the German petty bourgeoisie – the ruined small businessmen and shopkeepers – was mobilised by Hitler on a false and demagogic programme that was supposed to be directed against the banks and big capital (especially finance capital). In reality, Hitler was only the agent of German big business. He skilfully directed the fury of the petty bourgeoisie against one section of Capital, which he identified with the Jews. The hatred of the ruined small shopkeeper was thus diverted away from capitalism and towards another object.

As an individual the petty bourgeois is insignificant. But mobilised into an army, given a powerful sense of common purpose and equipped with slogans of racial and national superiority, the petty bourgeoisie feels itself to be a power. Human dust becomes a force. The impotent rage of the petty bourgeois was dressed up in a uniform, the intense feelings of humiliation were provided with a false sense of satisfaction in the form of a feeling of national and racial superiority. The worm was turned (at least in its own mind) into a dragon. The resultant madness is called fascism. Directed against the working class, this became a most potent agency for reaction: a powerful battering ram to destroy the labour movement. A movement that was supposed to be directed against big business was in fact a most efficient agency for the maintenance of monopoly capital.

The petty bourgeoisie became fanatically devoted to Hitler because he promised a way out of the crisis of German capitalism. From a logical point of view, his ideas were irrational, mystical, confused and contradictory. But logic is not necessarily the most powerful tool for moving the masses. Emotion plays an even bigger role in decisive moments. And Hitler knew very well how to play on the emotions of the masses, especially the enraged petty bourgeois, of which he was one. National Socialism asserted the superiority of “race” over all else. The German petty bourgeois, personally impotent, felt part of an all-encompassing Whole – the Nation and the Race – which was all-powerful. In this case, the fraud of racial superiority served as a cover for the naked interests of German imperialism.

What relation does this phenomenon have to Islamist fanaticism? Some have referred to the latter as Islamo-fascism. The formula has a superficial attraction but is somewhat misleading. Fascism is a product of monopoly capitalism in a period of capitalist decay. It is an extreme expression of racism that is the distilled essence of imperialism. The idea of racial superiority over “inferior” peoples provides a useful cover for imperialist aggression and the enslavement of one nation by another. By contrast, Jihadist movements have arisen, not in the advanced imperialist nations, but in some of the most oppressed countries of the East – former colonies that achieved formal independence from direct imperialist rule but which, on the basis of capitalism, find themselves in a complete blind alley.

The modern day Jihadists differ from the National Socialists in that they are an expression of the crying social contradictions that exist in poor, ex-colonial nations, not those of powerful predatory imperialist states. Nevertheless, in their psychology and class composition they offer many points of comparison. As a class that is condemned to disappear, the petty bourgeoisie is particularly prone to illusions. This is very clear in the mystical and pseudo-historical garbage in which Hitler wrapped his reactionary message and disguised its real content. We see a similar phenomenon with the confused and mystical ideology of Jihadism, although its concrete content is not the same as fascism and has entirely different roots.

The class content and ideology of Jihadism

Islamism is in its own way an extreme manifestation of “identity politics”, offering a sense of identity to a particular social group that undoubtedly suffers from oppression, marginalisation and alienation in Western society. But like all other manifestations of “identity politics”, it offers no solution to the people to whom it addresses itself. Instead of linking the problems of unemployed young Muslims to the working class in common struggle against capitalism, it separates them off from other oppressed and exploited strata, and indeed turns them against them. By sowing division and hatred, it plays a completely reactionary and counterrevolutionary role.

The only kind of identity politics that can genuinely serve a progressive and revolutionary purpose is the politics of class against class. Any other kind of identity is at best an illusory and divisive substitute for genuine revolutionary struggle, and at worst a cover for the most reactionary aims.

The Jihadists play on the feelings of humiliation and oppression that exist in broad layers of the population in ex-colonial countries. The unemployed student in Cairo, the despairing slum dweller in Karachi, the ruined shopkeeper in Jakarta, provide a ready audience for well-funded reactionary movements that inform them that all their problems are due to decadent western culture, and that the only solution is to return to “pure” Islam.

We will deal with the real content of this “pure” Islam later. For the present it is sufficient to note that very frequently in history a movement of mass discontent contains an element of wanting to return to a golden past that never really existed, but which expresses a burning hatred for the existing order and a desire to escape from its contradictions. These dreams for a better world have often had a semi-mystical and religious character.

The Jihadist ideology is simple, and for that very reason, attractive: all our problems are due to the domination of western values and culture: we are oppressed and humiliated; our culture, values and religion are despised. We must take back our country, drive out the infidels, wipe out every trace of alien ideas, morality and religion, return to the old ways and establish the community of true believers. Then all will be well.

The vagueness of the idea is at once its strength and its weakness. In a society that is cruelly divided between rich and poor, it preaches a kind of identity that allegedly transcends class. This is powerful message. It gives people a sense of identity and community, a brotherhood of religion in place of the cruel atomisation and alienation of capitalism. But this “solution” is, in fact, illusory. Like all religions, it solves the problem not in reality but only in the mind, not in the here and now but in a life beyond the grave.

“In the mosque all Muslims are equal”. That may be true to some extent, but it overlooks the fact that, on leaving the mosque, the rich Muslim who owns land or a factory will exploit, rob and cheat the poor Muslim worker or peasant. The poor will remain poor and will have to await their reward in another life, while the rich will rule society as before and will receive their earthly reward without further delay.

It is, of course, futile to argue with religious faith, which by definition is not answerable to the laws of logic. The unbearable contradictions of capitalist society can drive people to seek desperate solutions. A drowning person will clutch at a straw and hold onto it, even though logic says that it is a futile exercise.

The Jihadists and imperialism

The only way out of this terrible impasse is by taking the road of socialist revolution. This was entirely possible. The working class of Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, India and many other countries, showed tremendous heroism and looked to Communism for a way out. But the Communist Parties of those countries, under the control of Moscow (or Beijing in the case of Indonesia) followed the criminal policy of “stages” that declared that the working class must hand power to the “national bourgeoisie”. That policy paralysed the proletariat, isolated its communist vanguard and handed them over to the executioner like sheep to the slaughterhouse.

The betrayal of the Stalinists and the destruction of the workers’ movement in one country after another is what has plunged these countries into the present abyss of misery in which they find themselves. The vacuum has been filled by Jihadist reaction. But this process was not accomplished without the active intervention of imperialism.

Some left groups have allowed themselves to be fooled by the “anti-imperialist” rhetoric of the Jihadis. But it must be borne in mind that it is possible to be “against imperialism” for many different reasons, not all of them of a progressive nature. In drafting the Theses on the national and colonial question at the Second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin was emphatic on the need to maintain an intransigent opposition to the reactionary, feudal and religious elements in colonial countries:

“11) With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:

first, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries, and that the duty of rendering the most active assistance rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on;

second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.” (Our emphasis)

These words are very clear and are completely relevant in determining our attitude to the reactionary Jihadist trends that purport to “fight imperialism” under the black flag of reaction. In the ideology of ISIS and the other Jihadi outfits there is not a single shred of progressive content. In fact they represent the most rabid form of reaction. Their claim to be “fighting imperialism” is also completely bogus, as anyone remotely acquainted with the facts will know very well.

Islamic fundamentalism was encouraged and financed by imperialism – especially US imperialism – as a means of combating communism in the Middle East in the years of the Cold War. Following the Afghan Revolution of 1979, the CIA backed, armed and funded the Jihadi gangs that later became the Taliban. Osama bin Laden – the son of a Saudi billionaire – was a CIA agent at that time. The US had no problem with al Qaeda as long as they were killing Russians. But when the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan and the Jihadists began to attack Americans, they ceased to be “freedom fighters” and became “terrorists”.

The role of Saudi Arabia

The “pure” Islam of which the Jihadis speak is naturally the one imported from Saudi Arabia, where a parasitic clique of pampered and degenerate princes and sheikhs live a lavish lifestyle of obscene wealth. These “defenders of the Holy places” inhabit vast palaces, own expensive limousines, and enjoy all the latest luxuries that the infidel West can provide. When they are not idling in their palaces, they spend their time in the brothels and casinos of London and Paris in a state of whiskey-sodden bliss.

These are the men who jealously guard the most sacred virtues of “pure” Islam in its most intransigent Wahhabi form. Anybody who dares to transgress the rigid moral code they have imposed, or anybody who dares to question their rule in any way can expect to be subjected to the most rigorous correction. Among the delightful customs of this Wahhabi paradise we find flogging, the cutting off of limbs, stoning to death, beheadings and crucifixion.

The reactionary gang in Riyadh, from where it exports, apart from oil, the poisonous Wahhabi fanaticism, has excellent relations with the western imperialists and Israel (they have just established a direct air link). Having at their disposal vast amounts of cash, they buy the services of agents who spread their ideology through a thousand front organizations: from madrassas in Pakistan and “charities” in North Africa to armed Jihadi movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

If we trace the threads that bind all the different Jihadi terrorist gangs to their ultimate source, we will find that most, if not all of them, lead back to Riyadh. The largest number of those who carried out the 9/11 terror attack on the Twin Towers were Saudis. There were also Jordanians, but not a single Iraqi. Yet it was Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Jordan, that was invaded. The day after 9/11 President Bush ordered all aircraft flying over the USA to be grounded, with only one exception: planes that carried Saudi citizens out of the USA – including relatives of Osama bin Laden.

It suits the imperialists to turn a blind eye to these activities of their friends in Riyadh who are not only their most faithful servants but also the source of lucrative arms deals, like the one recently signed by President Trump for around a hundred billion dollars. The fact that these arms are being used to slaughter the people of Yemen is no concern of theirs.

How the Saudis reward our “democrats”

It may seem surprising that the well-known fact that the Saudis and their Wahhabi agents constitute the principal moving force behind the Jihadi gangs that operate in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and are behind the terrorist attacks in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany is never mentioned by anyone. But there is nothing surprising about it. The Saudi regime pays a large army of journalists and advisers in many countries whose job it is to silence any criticism of their regime and its activities.

As part of the vast web of corruption paid for with Saudi oil money, Conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with gifts and money by the Saudi government. The kingdom’s financial ties to Tory parliamentarians are detailed in the register of financial interests published by the British Parliament. These show that Tory members of Parliament have pocketed £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and “consulting fees” from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began.

When Philip Hammond, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was Foreign Secretary, he was criticized for defending a mass execution in Saudi Arabia that included a non-violent government critic. The same Philip Hammond accepted a watch from the Saudi ambassador worth £1,950 ($2,514). Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, who has presided over parliamentary debate regarding foreign policy in the Middle East, received a food basket from the Saudi Embassy with an estimated value of £500 ($644), a lesser gift, perhaps, but most welcome all the same.

The Saudi Arabian government has also kindly covered the cost for four expense-paid visits to that fascinating kingdom made by Tory MPs since the Yemen war began. The costs for accommodation, travel, and meals for the lawmakers range from a modest £2,888 ($3,724) to a more acceptable £6,722 ($8,668). According to the register of financial interests at least 18 Conservative MPs have participated in such trips. Rehman Chishti, one of the Tory beneficiaries of this splendid Saudi hospitality last year, was, in addition, paid £2,000 ($2,579) per month as an adviser to the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, a state-backed “think-tank” in Saudi Arabia. The arrangement began in February 2016. It is not clear if they are still “thinking” – but they are definitely earning…

Now it requires a considerable stretch of the imagination to believe that such extremely generous gift-giving is not part of an effort to purchase influence on both sides of the Atlantic. The Intercept has reported that “the Saudi Arabian government has rapidly expanded its lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., hiring consultants and public relations experts with close ties to President Donald Trump. Since 2015, the number of registered agents working for the Saudi Kingdom grew from 25 to 145 individuals” To judge by Donald Trump’s recent visit, the effort has been well worthwhile.

The Tories’ ties to Saudi Arabia have further been rewarded by record weapons sales. Conservative governments have licensed £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the commencement of the slaughter in Yemen, about which those well-known humanitarians have nothing to say – just as the “champions of democracy” show a most remarkable reluctance to criticize human rights abuses when they are carried out by their Saudi friends.

Theresa (“enough is enough”) May visited Riyadh before her friend Donald Trump and came away very pleased with herself, since she had made yet another handsome arms deal with the Saudis. Back in London, she was very quick to deny all charges about the brutal Saudi aggression against Yemen, which Britain is actively backing. After all, money is money, and we all know that it does not smell, no matter what cesspit it has come from.

One might suppose that before Saint Theresa of Downing Street travelled to Riyadh, she was briefed by British Intelligence. One might further suppose that MI6 is well aware of the close links between the Saudi regime and Wahhabi terrorism. Yet Mrs. May, like Donald Trump, displayed the most humiliating servility towards these monsters who are continuing to support, arm and finance terrorist gangs in Syria, Iraq and Libya – including the gang that was linked to the Manchester atrocity. Now it has been made public that Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservative government intends to suppress a report on foreign funding for extremist groups, which is believed to document Saudi ties to Islamic fundamentalists.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf satellites (the UAE and Bahrain) have broken off relations with Qatar. The Saudis announced they were not only severing diplomatic relations, but closing their air, sea and land links, meaning that Qatar’s only land border is to be closed. Qataris must leave Saudi Arabia and will henceforth be denied entry. The Saudis have even expelled Qatar’s 1,000-strong force from its coalition against Yemen.

The Saudi news media say the measures are reprisals for Qatar’s “support for terrorism”, including al-Qaeda. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is true is that Qataris, who have big ambitions, have been backing terrorist groups in Syria and elsewhere – sometimes the same and sometimes different terrorists to the ones backed by Saudi Arabia. Qatar sponsors and provides sanctuary to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE calls a terrorist group. It also funds and hosts Al Jazeera, a television network that offers a platform to Arab dissidents - everywhere but in Qatar.

The main problem is that the Qataris have not been prepared to accept Saudi dominance in the region and have been getting in their hair. A particularly sore point with Riyadh is that Qatar still maintains relatively cordial relations with Iran (as do Kuwait and Oman). Its emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has expressed reservations about Saudi Arabia’s increasingly belligerent posture against Iran.

In the 1920s, as part of its strategy of divide and rule, the British defended Qatar from the Saudis, preventing them from extending their rule to its coastal protectorates. Nowadays Qatar has courted Israel, Iran, Turkey and America for support. Of late, though, its alliances are under threat. Qatar hosts the largest American base in the Middle East, al-Udeid located on the road to the Saudi border, which Qataris have long viewed as their best defence against invasion by land. But Donald Trump’s choice of Riyadh as the first foreign destination of his presidency and his regal welcome by the Saudis, followed by major arms contracts has sent shivers down their spine. This is yet another factor creating instability in an already unstable part of the world.

Terrorism – old and new

Terrorism has always existed in one form or another. It is in fact a symptom of the existence of unbearable contradictions in society. But the character of modern terrorism has undergone a change that reflects the sickness of capitalism in its epoch of senile decay. The madness of terrorism is the mirror image of a world that has gone mad. To quote the words of Hegel: Reason becomes Unreason.

Russian Marxism, in particular, was born out of an implacable struggle against individual terrorism. The modern brand of terrorism is very different to the old style terrorism of the Russian Narodnaya Volya (the People’s Will). The Russian terrorists were heroic young idealists who were engaged in single combat with the monstrous tsarist regime. At that time the Russian working class was as yet in an embryonic stage of development. The peasant masses were in a state of torpor. The revolutionary students attempted to awaken them by the “propaganda of the deed”, that is, by assassinating prominent figures of the regime.

Compared to the modern breed of terrorists the Russian terrorists were like saints, guided by high principles and strict moral standards. They never planted bombs to kill ordinary people. Their targets were police chiefs, notorious torturers and reactionary ministers. More often than not, after carrying out an assassination, they would hand themselves over to the police to be put on trial and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or exile in the frozen wastelands of Siberia.

Despite their undoubted heroism and revolutionary commitment, the terrorist methods of the People’s Will were wrong and counterproductive. In the end they even succeeded in assassinating the Tsar. But the very success of the terrorists in eliminating the figure at the apex of the hated autocracy simultaneously dealt the deathblow to the party which had organized it.

The idealism of the People’s Will stands in sharp contrast to the modern terrorists who deliberately set out to slaughter and maim innocent women and children. They are not guided by any high principles but by blind fanaticism and a reactionary ideology. The mentality of these people has nothing in common with the naïve utopian socialism of the Narodnaya Volya.

There have been attempts to compare the latest atrocity to the IRA’s bombing in 1996. The modern variant of Jihadist terrorism is different in kind to that practiced by the IRA. The Marxists were opposed to the so-called armed struggle of the IRA, which was responsible for many senseless deaths and led nowhere. But at least the IRA had a clear programme that everyone understood: the unification of Ireland. One could agree or disagree with it, but it was something tangible. The kind of terrorism practiced by the Jihadi fanatics has a different kind of goal, with correspondingly different methods.

This is what The Economist – a Conservative journal – has to say on that subject:

“Many have compared this bombing to another Manchester attack, in 1996, when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated the largest amount of explosives ever used in a terrorist attack in Britain on Corporation Street, near the Arndale shopping centre. A warning was given beforehand, and although hundreds were injured, no one was killed. The city recovered quickly on that occasion. Indeed, the government money that was spent to rebuild its centre encouraged the regeneration of the whole city. But the IRA’s attack was an assault on the city’s economy. The bombing this week was designed to kill and maim as many people as possible—most of them young girls. It was a deeply emotive attack, designed to divide communities, to tear apart Manchester’s sense of inclusiveness, a common aim of attacks by so-called Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility.” (The Economist, May 24th.)

Marxism has always been opposed to individual terrorism, which is a mode of struggle typical of the petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the lumpen proletariat – the declassed middle class intellectual, the criminal elements who have been “radicalised” in prison through contact with Jihadists and despairing elements of the youth.

Society in an impasse

Throughout history religion has been the enemy of progress and civilisation. The flourishing of so many religious sects, which are sprouting like poisonous mushrooms after a storm, is a sure indicator that under capitalism, human progress has reached an impasse.

To the serious student of history this is not a new phenomenon. On the contrary, we see it repeated in every society where a given socio-economic form has outlived its usefulness and become an obstacle to social development. In such periods people lose faith in the existing social order, its values, its morality and its religion. The decline of the Roman Empire was accompanied by a spread of all kinds of mystical ideas and superstitions from the East, while the old gods and temples remained empty because people no longer believed in them. We see a similar scenario being played out in the last period of feudalism, when people believed that the end of the world was approaching. In fact, what was approaching was not the end of the world, but merely the end of a given social system.

Nowadays it is common to refer to fundamentalism as if it were confined to Islam. But Christian fundamentalism (Donald Trump and the born-again Republican gang that surrounds him are an excellent example of this phenomenon), Jewish fundamentalism, Hindu fundamentalism also exist. These are all expressions of irrational tendencies in society, which in turn are reflection of the irrational nature of the society in which we live.

The Jihadist programme is simple: the conquest of the entire world by the most extreme variant of Islam. The means whereby this goal is to be achieved is equally simple: to kill as many kafirs (infidels) as possible, and in the process win a passport to heaven.

Just how these demands could be satisfactorily negotiated is not entirely clear. Experience shows that one cannot negotiate with a religious fanatic. Religious fanaticism denies all logical argument and replaces it with blind “faith” which takes precedence over all else. In individuals this is a form of madness that can be dismissed as a form of harmless eccentricity. But it is a kind of madness that under certain conditions can have a powerful appeal to definite social classes and strata. When it assumes the form of a mass movement it is very far from harmless.

Terrorist impotence

From recent events the public can easily draw the conclusion that the terrorists are everywhere, ready to strike without warning. Against this unseen and mysterious enemy the forces of the state appear powerless. The impression is thus created of an all-powerful, omnipresent force. As a matter of fact, terrorism is not an expression of strength but quite the opposite. Terrorism is always a weapon of the weak against the strong.

The latest wave of terrorist atrocities in Europe is not an expression of the triumphal march of Islamism but only the echoes of its death throes in Iraq and Syria. The Russian and Iranian intervention in Syria rapidly transformed the military situation. Up until that time the West had done practically nothing to combat the Jihadi menace. Concentrating all their efforts to overthrow Assad, they were in fact encouraging the terrorists who were armed and financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

The fall of Aleppo was the decisive turning-point. There was now no question of removing Assad, at least for the foreseeable future. The Jihadists had to abandon Aleppo and continue the war elsewhere. The Americans and their allies were forced to participate in the assault on Mosul, which is now on the point of collapse. The end is in sight for the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” of ISIS.

However, this does not mean an end to Islamist terrorism, which has now spread to other lands: Libya, Somalia, Nigeria, Indonesia, even the Philippines. And ISIS is taking its revenge for the defeats it has suffered in Syria and Iraq by encouraging its sympathisers in Europe to go on the rampage and wreak revenge on the “Crusaders”, by which they mean the people of Europe: men, women and children without distinction.

Unable to defeat the armed forces of the state, the terrorists resort to isolated attacks, usually on “soft” targets that do not require great forces but cause a considerable impact on the minds of the public. But apart from creating an atmosphere of fear, the actual effects on the state are minimal. The main effect is, in fact, the opposite to that which was intended. Terrorism always served to strengthen the state and its organs of repression. After every such attack there is a deafening cry to increase the powers of the state and to limit democratic rights. The most notorious terrorist act – the bombing of the Twin Towers – led to the Homeland Act and other reactionary and repressive legislation.

Far from combating imperialism and the state, terrorism serves to strengthen the forces of reaction, which feed greedily off terrorism, just as terrorism receives invaluable assistance from the repressive measures of the state that push new layers of discontented Muslim youth in the direction of extremism. The two monsters, apparently linked in mortal struggle, in reality depend upon each other for their very existence.

Fight racism! For class unity and solidarity!

Following the Manchester atrocity there were understandable fears of a backlash. Many Muslims live in fear of reprisals, that their community will be made a scapegoat for Abedi’s bloody crime. But so far there have been very few signs of that. The far-right English Defence League tried to stage a small demonstration in the Arndale shopping centre, close to the Manchester Arena where the bombing took place. But they were shouted down by angry shoppers and dispersed by police. At the vigil people carried handmade placards. One read: “Hate does not resolve Hate”. That is the view of the overwhelming majority of the people.

The ordinary working class people of Manchester and London have responded magnificently to this brutal provocation. So many people volunteered to give blood for the victims that after only a few hours they were turned away, the stocks full. In Manchester many had gone on social media to offer a bed to those who had fled the concert hall after the bombing, too late to return to their own homes in Liverpool, Stockport and elsewhere.

Nurses, doctors and paramedics spontaneously turned up for work after their shift had finished. Sikhs were handing out free drinks and water. Sikh taxi drivers had been prominent throughout the night in turning off their meters and ferrying distressed people to places of safety around the city. Representatives from Muslim Aid as well as the Ahmadiyya community were on hand to help. There was one group of women from a local mosque.

The only force that can defeat terrorism and conduct a serious struggle against imperialism and capitalism is the working class. Both the ruling class and the terrorists seek to divide the working class, but most workers understand that their only strength consists in their unity.

Socialism or barbarism

When they look at the state of the world we live in many people draw pessimistic conclusions. That is hardly surprising. The world of the 21st century presents a picture of almost unrelieved blackness: everywhere there is pain, death, destruction, endless wars and terrorism that has the aspect of an uncontrollable epidemic.

The productive forces stagnate or decline. Living standards fall constantly for the majority, while a tiny handful has at its disposal obscene wealth. Selfishness, greed and a callous disregard for human suffering are elevated as the highest moral principles. Society is sick, and nobody seems to offer any remedy for the sickness.

This evaluation is accurate but one-sided. The pains that we see are the pains of a socio-economic system that has long ago outlived its historic usefulness, but refuses to abandon the scene. Capitalism is sick unto death, but refuses to die. In its death agony, it threatens to drag the whole of society down with it. Centuries of human progress, art, science, culture and civilisation find themselves threatened by a decadent and doomed socio-economic system.

However, this is only one side of the picture. Within the womb of the old society, a new world is struggling to be born, a new world is struggling to be born. Objectively speaking, all the conditions exist for solving every one of the problems that face us. The human race holds in its hands all the necessary technological and scientific means for eradicating poverty, disease, unemployment, hunger, homelessness and all the other evils that cause endless misery, wars and conflict.

If this is not done, it is not because it cannot be done, but because we have run up against the limitations of an economic system based purely on profit. The needs of humanity do not enter into the serious calculations of the bankers and capitalists who rule the planet. This is the central question, the answer to which will determine the future of the human race.

If we take the Middle East and North Africa, which constitutes a large part of what is known as the Islamic world, we can say with certainty that in the vast expanse that extends from the Euphrates to the shores the Atlantic Ocean, all the conditions exist to create a beautiful garden, far more splendid than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the ancient world. But decades of capitalist rule and imperialist exploitation have turned what ought to be a beautiful garden into a living hell for millions of people.

Objectively speaking, the huge quantities of mineral wealth under the soil, the vast areas of potentially rich agricultural land, the rivers, the climate, and the millions of able-bodied men and women who live there constitute a colossal productive potential that could transform the lives of the people. But this colossal potential has been wasted.

Millions of young people, many of them students with qualifications to be doctors, teachers, engineers and agronomists are forced to eke out a miserable existence, deprived of jobs, the future and any hope of improvement. To make things worse, the constant interference and military interventions by imperialist powers have devastated Iraq, Syria and Libya and reduced their populations to a state bordering on barbarism. Anyone who seeks the objective causes of terrorism need look no further.

The terrorist barbarism is only a reflection of the barbarous conditions to which millions of people have been reduced. And this barbarism is now knocking on the doors of Europe, threatening the lives and security of its people. It is a serious problem and it requires a serious solution. The idea that one can “fight terror” with the weapons of terror itself is a delusion. It is like a doctor who attempts to cure a disease by cutting out the superficial symptoms with a knife. This method is not only painful but useless. It will never cure the disease but cause a permanent disfigurement to the patient.

The Spanish Socialist Largo Caballero said long ago: you cannot cure cancer with an aspirin. Drastic problems demand drastic solutions. What is required is a root and branch solution. The problem is capitalism itself. The rule of the banks and big monopolies must be brought to an end. The control of society must be placed firmly in the hands of the only class that creates all its wealth, and the only class that truly cares about the future of humanity: the working class.

A socialist planned economy, which is dedicated to the satisfaction of human needs, not the profits of a pampered few, will mobilise the vast resources of our planet for the benefit of the human race. We can create a paradise in this world that will render unnecessary all dreams of a paradise beyond the grave. That is the only hope for humanity and the only cause worth fighting for.

London, 7th June 2017

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