by Mansoor Hekmat
Two Reactionary Camps
The appalling September 11, 2001 terrorist crimes against humanity and the slaughter of thousands of innocent people in America has pushed the world to the brink of one of the darkest and bloodiest eras of contemporary history. What the American administration calls an international war on terrorists is in fact the world’s entry into a new and destructive phase in the international war of terrorists.
At opposing poles of this bloody conflict stand the two main international camps of terrorism, which have left their bloody mark on the lives of two generations. At one pole, there stands the most enormous machinery of state terrorism and international intimidation and blackmail. This camp includes the American government and ruling elite, the only force, which has used nuclear bombs against people, reducing hundreds of thousands of innocent and unsuspecting people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into ashes within seconds. A state that slaughtered millions in Vietnam and razed and ruined their country for many years by chemical bombardments. It includes NATO and coalitions of Western governments who from Iraq to Yugoslavia, have destroyed people’s homes, schools and hospitals and have taken ransom the bread and medicine of millions of children. It includes the Israeli bourgeoisie and state. They occupy, seize, slaughter and deprive. They bomb and shell refugee camps and shoot scared ten-year-old children taking shelter in their fathers’ arms and at school gates. From Hiroshima and Vietnam to Grenada and Iraq, from the killing fields in Indonesia and Chile to the slaughterhouses of Palestine, the track record of this international pole of state terrorism and imperialist intimidation is obvious and irrefutable for all the world to see.
At the opposing pole, there stands Islamic terrorism and the reactionary and vile political Islam. These forces that were once created and nurtured by America and the West themselves during the Cold War as a means of organising indigenous reaction against the Left in Middle Eastern societies, have now become an active pole of international terrorism and one contender in the bourgeois power struggle in the Middle East. The murderous history of political Islam, from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Algeria and Palestine includes a long list of genocide and appalling crimes. From state and state sponsored killings in Iran and Afghanistan to the daily crimes of Islamic terror squads in Israel, Algeria and the heart of Europe and America, from the bloody suppression of political and intellectual opponents to imposing reactionary and anti-human Islamic laws on people, particularly women, from Islamic beheadings and mutilations, to planting bombs and mass murder in buses, cafés and discothèques – these are the highlights in the track record of these reactionaries
Now, this conflict is going to take hundreds of thousands and probably millions of other victims in Afghanistan tomorrow and in any other corner of the world the day after. This must be resisted.
Along with this military alignment, we are witnessing the ideological and propaganda alignment of the two camps. Piercing and tearing down this propaganda wall and pulling the truth out from beneath the massive wave of hypocrisy and deceit, which will engulf the world is the first condition of organising an independent rank of freedom-loving humanity against the terrorists’ world war.
The ideological banner of extremists in both camps is clearly visible and recognisable from afar. Today’s complex world no longer has time for these coarse views. Western and American flag waving and jingoism, racism, the ‘clash of civilisations’ garbage and such like may only have an effect on the margins of Western society. Western governments and media know that these crude and primitive views and opinions cannot form the ideological and propaganda framework for the conflict they have entered into. In the opposing camp, too, the idea of Islamic Crusade (Jihad), indiscriminate bloodletting, whether for the grace of god and religion, for the ‘liberation of Qods (Jerusalem) and the land of Islam from the claws of bloodsucking international Zionism and imperialism,’ only succeeds within the ranks of political Islam’s extremists and activists. It does not mobilise the masses of people in contemporary Middle Eastern society. The propaganda war and ideological battle dominating the impending bloody military conflict cannot be based on these openly extremist, sectarian and crude outlines. What can eventually draw the vast masses of people in the West and in the Middle East to this war and align them with the two sides of this reactionary hostility are not these primitive ideas but much more sophisticated rationalisations and justifications that are already gaining popularity.
In the Westerners’ formula, despite Bush’s cowboy gunslinger gestures, ‘civilised humanity’ is faced with the plague of terrorism. USA is portrayed as the leader of this civilised rank. The objective is to neutralise terrorism and bring terrorists to justice. The issue seems much simpler than the attack on Iraq and the bombing of Belgrade. Who can blame the US government in its military policy when 6,000 of ‘its people’ have been killed with such brutality? What is more obvious than the American government’s military action to smash this terrorism and protect ‘its citizens,’ and even the people of the world, against subsequent imminent crimes? This time, to be a member of ‘civilised’ humanity’s club, applicants need not have any ethnic, racial or religious qualifications. Applicants – of whatever colour, appearance, religion or background – need only to declare their support for America. This time, the war propaganda is not going to be racial, ethnic, religious or even political. The issue is not maintaining the flow of oil, defending the burgeoning democracy in Saudi Arabia and returning Kuwait to its sheikhs. If American military, once again dons its armour to repeat what it has done innumerable times, it is seemingly for the right to life, the right to travel, the right of people not to be blown up in their homes or on their streets. The crimes of September 11 have given the most powerful ideological and propaganda framework to date for USA and NATO’s military intervention in the furthest corners of the globe. At this moment, separating the masses of people in the West from the military policy of the ruling elite of these countries requires Herculean enlightening efforts. This ideological equilibrium could, indeed, change rapidly with new developments, but at this moment, the idea of the ‘war of civilised world against terrorism’ has put western politicians and media in full control of western public opinion.
In the opposing pole too, a sophisticated and relatively effective ideological framework in defence of political Islam and Islamic terrorism is taking shape. Not many dare to openly defend the slaughter of thousands of people in America. Even the beasts ruling over Iran and Afghanistan have had to restrain their words. Openly defending political Islam and Islamic terrorism will not be the propaganda banner of this pole. The Islamic side in the war of terrorists will rely on an effective but old formula for justification of Islamic terrorism, a formula which has been one of the foundations of petit-bourgeois ‘anti-imperialism’ in the Third World, particularly in the Middle East. Seven years ago, in the wake of a wave of Islamic murders in Israel, Egypt and Algeria, we clearly exposed and condemned this reactionary defence of terrorism in an editorial column of the journal ‘The International.’ It is not inappropriate to quote that short article here:
‘It seems the new wave of Islamic murders, particularly in North Africa does no longer even require such political justifications. A turban and a gun are sufficient to begin this despicable Jihad against humanity. This is Islamic gangsterism and its source is the ruling regime in Iran. And it will be in Iran where it will be smashed. (Mansoor Hekmat, The International, November 1994)’
With the intensification of this conflict and particularly with the imminent US and NATO attack on Afghanistan, the ‘anti-imperialist’ defence of Islamic groups and rationalisation of their terrorist actions by reference to Israel and America’s crimes and oppressive acts, can once again gain foothold among the people and political parties of the Middle East and also among sections of the traditional radical and intellectual Left of western societies. The main ideological refuge of Islamic gangsterism and Islamic reaction in this power struggle will not be the worn-out and openly anti-human religious and Islamic slogans, but rather the so-called ‘anti-imperialism’ of the religious-nationalist and petit bourgeois apologists.
No popular movement can succeed against the war of terrorists without exposing and breaking the ideological framework of this hypocritical war propaganda on both sides of this reactionary conflict.
What is the Conflict Over?
For both sides, this is a power struggle. Terrorism is one reality of this conflict, but this conflict and the imminent war are not about terrorism. Everyone knows that US entry into Afghanistan and even Ben Laden’s arrest will not dampen the terrorist campaign by Islamic groups against the West, and will not bring more security to those who live in Europe and America. On the contrary, it will increase the danger. The Palestinian question is where America and the Islamic movement come directly face to face. But this conflict is also not really about the resolution of the Palestinian question. The declared policy of USA, that is a ‘massive, sustained and comprehensive’ military war will clearly exacerbate both issues – the Palestinian question and Islamic terrorism. Not only this, but also a possible civil war in Pakistan with serious regional and global consequences, and deep governmental crises in seemingly stable Middle Eastern countries could be the initial result of this military policy. They are well aware of this. Nonetheless, for USA, the main issue is the consolidation and expansion of its political and military hegemony and dominance over the world as the only superpower. The resolution of the Palestinian question or fighting Islamic terrorism is not the objective of this policy. Consolidation and expansion of America’s global position, within the context of pressures and opportunities created by the September 11 crimes is the main aim of this policy.
For the Islamists also, this is a power struggle. Neither the suffering of the people of Palestine nor the historical injustices of the West to the East are the source of this terrorism. The Islamic movement is striving to reverse its falling fortunes and ultimately to expand its position in the bourgeois power structure of the Middle East. Terrorism and blind enmity with anything that is Western or Westernised is their main political capital in a society and among a people who rightly see America and Israel as the main causes of their deprivation and rightlessness. Peace in the Middle East, the formation of an independent Palestine, the end of discrimination against the Palestinian people, will herald the demise of the Islamic movement in the Middle East. Terrorism is the Islamic movement’s main tool in further deepening the national, ethnic and religious splits in the Middle East and keeping alive this conflict as political capital and a source for its power. Despite the military pressure brought about by America, the Islamists will welcome this confrontation.
To form an independent popular movement against this unprecedented and deadly confrontation of international terrorist and military poles, the truth of these trends and events must be taken to the people. The war propaganda and rationalisations dished out by belligerent camps must be exposed. Events of September 11 and the policy being pursued by USA have important regional and global consequences. They will profoundly change the political and ideological complexion of the world. Politics in Iran will also be acutely influenced by these events. It is necessary to address the main issues in these developments and the fundamentals of a principled communist policy.
The English version is a reprint from WPI Briefing.
Translators: Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya