What is terrorism?
A war on terrorism or a terrorist war?
by Peter Symon So far the United Nations has not been able to come up with an agreed definition of terrorism because "terrorism", like one's attitude to many other matters, is determined by class position. It also comes into the question of independence and sovereignty and whether one is on the side of the colonialists and imperialists or on the side of those who are for national liberation and independence. During the recent Argentinean crisis when massive street demonstrations and strikes took place against the President and the government's policies, the demonstrators were called "terrorists". One of these so-called "terrorists" was a young girl who was shot dead by the police when she "stole" some food from a supermarket. Was she a terrorist or merely a starving child trying to get some food for herself and her family? The poverty stricken and unemployed are not terrorists but are legitimately using the only weapons they have to fight for a better life, for work and the means to get out of their grinding poverty. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israelis regularly brand the Palestinians as terrorists. Yet the Palestinians are responding to the military terror unleashed against the whole Palestinian people over many decades by the Israeli authorities. They are also responding to the refusal of the Israelis to accept their legitimate demand for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The actions of the Israeli Government are an example of modern state terrorism unleashed against any people who take up the struggle for their national liberation. When in South Africa the ANC established a military arm called the "Spear of the Nation", which undertook some military actions against the infrastructure of apartheid. They were branded as terrorists by the apartheid regime. Most people would now regard them as freedom fighters. During this period the ANC leadership, when undertaking military actions was particularly careful to avoid any casualties among innocent civilians. The class nature of "terrorism" is again illustrated by the "catch all" nature of legislation now being enacted by almost all the governments of Western countries, using the pretext of the alleged threat from terrorism. The legislation is so sweeping that it justifies the term "creeping fascism". It is capable of being used against anyone that the governments of the day wish to suppress — conservationists protecting forests, trade unions defending their jobs by pickets or sit-ins, those demonstrating against privatisation or aircraft noise and so on. Even refugees escaping from oppression are being branded as potential terrorists. The enactment of such "catch all" legislation is no accident. The ruling classes of these western countries are preparing for the day when, as a result of economic crisis, unemployment and gathering poverty, the people of many countries will be protesting as they have been doing in Argentina and many other countries in recent times. Terrorism can only be defined as meaning the deliberate targetting of civilians which has always been rejected by communist parties. First of all the casualties are innocent and not personally responsible for the circumstances that have given rise to the protest actions. Secondly, such actions invariably play into the hands of the conservative ruling class governments and the privately owned mass media. They use incidents to justify their repressive responses and the tirades of abuse from the media as they attempt to protect the exploitation, oppression and wars undertaken by the capitalist controllers. No better proof of this can be seen than in the response of the US Government to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre. The perpetrators of this undoubted terrorist act have not yet been revealed. No real proof has yet been produced to confirm that it was the work of Al Queda or bin Laden. However, leaving aside the controversial question as to who organised it and who carried it out, the event is being used to justify the war against Afghanistan and other countries. The US leadership is using the incident to justify what has been termed "infinite war" by no less than the Pentagon. War and military intervention are to be carried into many countries and each intervention and war will be accompanied by the establishment of governments which will do the bidding of the US masters together with the establishment of US military bases. This is exactly what has already happened in Afghanistan. It is part of the long-term plans of the US to establish its total world domination. The use of deliberate provocations by the US leaders is a long-standing policy. To justify the sending of American troops to Vietnam the Tonkin Gulf incident was staged. It was alleged that Vietnamese naval vessels had fired US warships in the Tonkin Gulf on. Legislation was rushed overnight through the US Congress and the alleged incident was used by the government of President Johnson to pour American forces into Vietnam. It was admitted many years later that the incident was a concoction and never took place. Much earlier, in 1898, as the US needed a justification to go to war against Spain and replace the Spanish colonisation of Cuba with its own domination, the US sank one of its own warships "The Maine" in Havana harbour. (260 personnel died on the ship although the ship's officers were conveniently on shore at the time). But this incident was used to justify the dispatch of US military forces to occupy Cuba and establish its domination of Cuba until they were thrown out by the Cuban independence struggle of the 1950s led by Fidel Castro. Castro today is branded as a terrorist by some in the US. The US is preparing the circumstances for what could be another provocation against Cuba by the imprisonment at the US held Guantanomo base on Cuba with alleged members of the Al Queda organisation from Afghanistan. Of all the many US bases around the world, why choose this particular one? It is not difficult to see how these prisoners might be used as time goes on to justify the bombing of Cuba because it has allegedly harboured "terrorists". On a somewhat smaller scale, it is known that police agents are smuggled into the ranks of demonstrators to provoke violence and the destruction of property to justify the repressive actions of police and military authorities. This happened during recent anti-globalisation demonstrations in Genoa, Italy. During the Vietnam War, soldiers dressed in the uniform of the Vietnam Liberation Army would enter villages, burn houses and shoot their occupants in an attempt to turn villagers against the Vietnamese liberation army. Rejecting terrorism as a legitimate weapon to be used by the communist and working class movement, Lenin in his book What Is To Be Done (1902) wrote: "The Economists and the present-day terrorists have one common root, namely, subservience to spontaneity. The Economists bow to the spontaneity of 'the labour movement pure and simple', while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of intellectuals, who lack the ability or opportunity to connect the revolutionary struggle and the working-class movement into an integral whole. "It is difficult for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed, that [it] is possible, to find some outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy other than terror... "Svoboda" advocates terror as a means of 'exciting' the working-class movement and of giving it a 'strong impetus'... Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life without special 'excitants' having to be invented? The fact is that the working masses are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the social evils in Russian life, but we are unable to gather and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular resentment ... into a single gigantic torrent. "... calls for terror and calls to lend the economic struggle itself a political character are merely two different forms of evading the most pressing duty now resting upon Russian revolutionaries namely, the organisation of comprehensive political agitation. "Svoboda" desires to substitute terror for agitation..." (LCW Vol 5 p 419-420. Emphasis in the original). When a crime has been committed one of the first questions to ask is: "Who is confronted by such difficulties and circumstances that a crime would be considered as a way out?" and "Who benefits from the crime?" When these questions are applied to the destruction of the World Trade Centre (WTC) the assertion that it was the work of a hate-filled Osama bin Laden (who, after all, was created and financed by the US in the first place and had worked with the CIA over many years) becomes a nonsense. The attack on the WTC took place against the background of a deep economic crisis creeping over the whole of the capitalist world that had commenced well before September 11. The most recent and vivid manifestation of this economic crisis is the bankruptcy of Argentina, one of the most industrialised countries in Latin America. The Argentinean people have held massive demonstrations against the policies of successive governments. The police have fired on them leading to about 30 deaths so far. A revolutionary government was elected in Venezuela in 1998 that threatens to spread some of the ideas of the Cuban revolution onto the continent of South America. The new leadership is pledged to overcome the poverty of the masses of the Venezuelan people and to introduce popular people's democratic principles. Venezuela is a major oil producing country and the idea that this wealth should go to the working people is indeed revolutionary. Will the example of Venezuela spread to Argentina? There is also a long-term decline in the overall economic position of the United States. The economic centre of the world is shifting slowly but decisively from the US and Europe to Asia with China's economic growth being central to this shift. Despite the Asian economic crisis of 1998 and the current recession affecting all the developed capitalist countries, socialist China has maintained an annual seven per cent or more growth rate. One of the real objectives of the war against Afghanistan is to surround China with US military bases. Every recent meeting of the heads of the Western powers, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO has been associated with massive popular demonstrations by tens of thousands of protestors. The demonstrations have become so massive that meetings are held behind high fences and barricades and protected by thousands of police and troops. Another event which would strike fear into the hearts of the imperialist powers was the Friendship Treaty entered into between the Russia Federation and the People's Republic of China, thereby ending many decades of animosity which had weakened the anti-imperialist front of major powers. The war against Afghanistan and the establishment of US bases in Central Asia is to drive a wedge between these two powers. Not unrelated to the building of warmer relations between Russia and China is the re-emergence of ideas calling for the reformation of a new union of at least some of the former republics that made up the Soviet Union. There is strong support for this idea among the people or Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and elsewhere in what are now "independent" republics. Furthermore, strong Communist Parties remain active in almost all of the former Soviet republics. It is on the background of these and many other events that the question of motive — who needed and who stands to benefit from the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon — has to be answered. I would urge all readers to think very seriously about these questions. The whole world is facing perhaps the most dangerous period in all history in which a cycle of endless and escalating war, waged with the most horrendous weapons, could lead to unparalleled and massive destruction and even to the end of human civilisation.