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The World After September 11

Part One: The War of Terrorists

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 discothčques – 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.

War Propaganda

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:

‘A wave of Islamic murders has engulfed the Middle East and North Africa. The victims of this wave are the most ordinary of ordinary people. In Egypt and Algeria, they shoot at and behead foreign nationals - be they workers, tourists or pensioners. They bomb and kill school children at school gates. They kill young girls who do not submit to forced marriages. In Tel Aviv, they murder unaware pedestrians - children, old and young - on streets and on buses. And heroically, from Israel to Algeria, they reassure a stunned humanity that this ‘armed struggle’ will continue.

‘There was a time when the traditional and ‘anti-imperialist’ Left would look upon the blind violence and unrestrained terrorism of Third World and anti-western currents if not with admiration then at least with toleration. In their opinion, the injustice suffered by deprived nations and oppressed people justified this terrorism as a legitimate reaction. The terrorism of Palestinian groups, Islamic organisations and the Irish Republican Army - whose victims were increasingly unprotected and unaware civilians – were prime examples of this ‘permissible’ terrorism in recent past. A terrorism, which seemingly responded to past and present injustices; a terrorism, which seemingly appeared as a reaction to the inhuman and brutal policies of oppressive powers and governments. Interestingly, throughout the years, the Israeli government has also used this exact abuse-excuse rationalization; that is by alluding to the indescribable genocide carried out by Nazis and anti-Semitic groups in various countries against the Jewish people, they have justified the brutal suppression of the deprived people of Palestine and the daily killings of Palestinian youth.

‘From a communist standpoint, this type of rationalisation and the blind terrorism erected on it in the Middle East - whether by Arab and Palestinian organisations or the state of Israel – is regarded as bankrupt and is condemned. There is not the slightest real and legitimate relationship between the appalling calamities that have befallen the Jewish people in this century and the suppression and crimes committed by the extremist right wing government in Israel against the Palestinians. There is not the slightest real and justified relationship between the sufferings of the deprived people of Palestine and the terrorism of Islamic or non-Islamic organisations attributed to these people. Bourgeois state and factions are exploiting and capitalising on the suffering of the deprived people. Condemning and eradicating this terrorism by the working class, particularly in countries of the region, is an essential condition for placing the workers in the leadership of the social struggle to end the age-old miseries of the people of the Middle East.

‘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, in Farsi, November 1994, http://www.wpiran.org)'

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. (To be continued)

The above is a translated summary from Persian. It was first published in International Weekly number 72, 21 September 2001.

The World after September 11

Part Two: Where is the ‘Civilised World?’

Mansoor Hekmat


Barbarity is not Inevitable

The war of terrorists can be the beginning of one of the bloodiest eras of contemporary history. Already, hundreds of millions of people are bracing themselves. But this prospect is not inevitable. The scene is not restricted to the two sides of this conflict. There is a third force, a sleeping giant who can turn the situation around. If this giant awakes, this era can be the beginning of positive changes and the realisation of ideals in the world which humanity had given up on during the final decades of the last century. Bush, Blair, Khamenei, USA, NATO and political Islam do not know that there really is a civilised humanity, a civilised world, which could rise up and defend itself against the war of terrorists. Despite the darkness and terror that they have placed before us people, the 21st century does not have to be the century of capitalist barbarity. These are decisive days.

The media does not reflect the real intellectual and ideological makeup of the world. They give their own version, the dominant version, the version of the ruling class. A version that suits them. Militarism, terrorism, racism, ethnicism, religious fanaticism and profit worship are headline news but do not have a firm place deep down in the minds of the majority of the people of our times. Even a cursory look at the world shows that the vast masses of the people are more to the left, more altruistic, more peace loving, more egalitarian, more free and more freedom-loving than governments and the media. The people on both sides of this appalling conflict have no desire to dance to the tune of the leaders of the bourgeoisie. The gunslinging American administration immediately realises that despite one of the most horrendous terrorist crimes, despite the live broadcast of the perishing of thousands of people in an instant, despite the sorrow and rage which takes hold of anyone who has not sold their conscience to some material interest, still this same horrified western society, these very people who are daily brainwashed, these very people who are from dawn to dusk ‘educated’ by the ruling ideology of racism and xenophobia , call for “caution, fairness, justice and a measured response”. The people of the Middle East who are conceived as zealous Moslems and members of the ‘Islamic civilization’ - be it in the sick minds of clerical rulers in Iran and Afghanistan and the assorted sheikhs of the Islamic movement or in the deluxe studios of the CNN and BBC - are mourning with the people of America and rising in the condemnation of the genocide of September 11. It does not take a genius to realise that the majority of the people of the Middle East despise political Islam, that huge segments of the people of Western Europe and America are fed up with Israel’s injustices and sympathise with the deprived people of Palestine, that the majority of western people want an end to the economic sanctions against Iraq and can put themselves in the shoes of heartbroken Iraqi parents who are losing their children to shortage of medicine, that the vast masses of the world's decent and honourable people are on neither side of the war between Bush and Bin Laden - old friends and present-day rivals. This civilised humanity has been silenced under the barrage of propaganda, brainwashing and intimidation in the West and East, but it has clearly not accepted the garbage. This is a massive force. It can come to the fore. For the future of humanity, it must come to the fore.

And here lies all the difficulty - to bring to the fore this massive force. In the war of terrorists the battle lines are drawn, camps are defined, resources and forces are mobilised; this is a vast military, political and diplomatic confrontation. Despite all the ambiguities, the intellectual and political framework of this war, for leaders of both camps, are clear. In our camp, however, in the camp of humanity, which must confront this terrifying prospect, all is ambiguous.

Undoubtedly, resistance against the war of terrorists is now growing in various countries. But as much as the Islamists and USA need a clear strategy and theory and a unitary and workable outlook, this popular movement also needs an intellectual and political banner and a series of practical strategic principals. Various political movements, particularly those on the Left will strive to guide and lead this resistance. The question is what outlook will lead this ‘Left’ itself.

In Part I of this article, I wrote that alongside the hawks in both poles - American militarism and Islamic fascists - there are indeed two more sophisticated, refined and ‘respectable’ set of arguments defending the two sides of the conflict. Alongside US militarism, and supporting it, there are those who promote the formula of the war of ‘the civilised world against terrorism’. Alongside the murderers in the Islamic movement, there are those who justify Islamic terrorism with the familiar 1970's religious-nationalist and Third World-ist ‘anti-imperialism.’ But none of these rationalisations will have any serious influence in the people's resistance movement. Centre-right parties and groups in the West on the one hand and the remains of the traditional left student-intellectuals of the previous decades in East and West on the other will be the main customers of these crafty formulations in the propaganda war on both sides. What could politically and conceptually derail the potentially powerful movement of the world's progressive people is, in my opinion, the pacifist and futile liberalist outlook and efforts to maintain the status quo (merely trying to prevent a US attack on Afghanistan) or status quo ante (returning to pre-September 11).

The September 11 incident was not an isolated act of psychotic individuals cut off from society; neither is the USA's impending military action. The world prior to September 11 was not in equilibrium, but rather was proceeding on a deteriorating path. There are important economic, social and political problem behind these events. These problems have pushed the world in this direction. These problems and issues must be addressed. September 11 is how political Islam is addressing these issues. The same way that bringing the Taliban to power, destroying Baghdad, starving the people of Iraq, suppressing the people of Palestine, bombing Belgrade and now the ‘long war with terrorism’ are how the leader of capitalism in the USA and Europe have dealt with these underlying contradictions. Today’s events are moments in an on-going and dynamic situation. The people’s movement against this developing reality cannot be a movement calling for calm and demanding ‘Hands Off Afghanistan!.’ Calling for peace and keeping the status quo is not only unrealistic, not only utopian, but also not just, not progressive and not useful. The popular resistance movement against the war of terrorists can only be organised around positive solutions to the critical political and economic problems of our times and around an active position - not for maintaining the status quo but rather for changing it. We have had our own independent agenda and solutions for all the problems that have been pushed to the fore, such as the North–South question, the Palestinian question, the question of Iraq, the question of political Islam, the question of Afghanistan and Iran, the question of militarism and USA and NATO’s hegemonism in the new world order, the question of racism and fortress Europe, etc. These must form the agenda and the banner of the popular resistance movement against the war of terrorists. This is the difference between us and the peace campaigners and pacifists, who do not see or are indifferent to the divisions, contradictions and instability of the world prior to September 11. If we had an agenda to change the world prior to this incident, then a principled position in the current situation means following the same agenda in the new situation. We do not intend to leave Afghanistan under the yoke of the murderous gang of Taliban, we do not intend to live under the rule of a trigger-happy USA, we do not intend to tolerate political Islam or Islamic governments in the Middle East, we do not intend to accept the statelessness of Palestinians and their everyday suppression. We did not want terrorism, be it Islamic and suicidal or military and uniformed and high-tech; we do not accept the poverty of half the world; we do not want fortresses and barracks around Europe, we will not succumb to racism and ethnicism. Neither the September 11 crime nor the imminent heroics of NATO in the Hindu Kush, should turn an active movement for changing the world into uncritical and aimless retiring lot calling for peace and quiet and a return to the day before.

The ‘humanitarian’ and ‘peace’ movement is not the right response to today’s situation. But the influence of this movement, particularly among ordinary people in western society - because of people’s belief in non-violence, humanism and their spontaneous sense of caution - is extremely widespread. This position condemns USA's intervention in Afghanistan, but shirks its responsibility to fight Taliban's rule. It condemns racism and incitement against Moslems but does not see any reason to put pressure on the USA and Israel in defence of the people of Palestine. This position wishes Jack Straw success in his trip to Iran so that hopefully this pole of Islamic terrorism can be tamed and pacified, despite the fact that this policy strengthens the rule of these wolves over the people in Iran. This position defends the civil rights of Moslems in European countries, but in order to prevent 'tension' rejects and opposes criticism of the Islamic veil and lack of rights of women in Islam and Islamic communities. This position appeals to all to back off and to leave the situation as it was before. If this movement goes to dominate the minds and actions of discontented people, then civilised humanity will leave the stage to Western and Eastern terrorists. If there is to be a future, it is in the formation of an active, progressive and freedom-loving policy at the forefront of the people's ranks. This is the duty of communists. New communists. Marx’s communists. This is our task.

In part III, I will deal with the fundamentals of an active policy against the war of terrorists. But it is necessary to briefly address the most pressing issue of the day, which is the USA's imminent attack on Afghanistan. 99 percent of the people of the world know and can clearly explain why USA's military attack on Afghanistan and even the arrest and or killing of Bin Laden which is the declared aim of this operation and seems technically very improbable, not only doesn't diminish the danger of Islamic terrorism against America and Britain but rather greatly increases it. It is very clear that the US and British governments are themselves aware of this fact. But they seem to regard a Hollywood or James Bond adventure easier to feed to the people. A mad lone millionaire or gangster in a remote part of the world - Saddam, Milosevic, Bin Laden etc. - intends to destroy the civilization and American heroes are sent off to save the world. But their own analyses shows that political Islam and Islamic terrorism does not have a central headquarters, unified command and an hierarchical organisation; it is an international movement made up of government agencies and circles, various organisations, networks and circles, which are weaved together in a series of official and unofficial relations, as an underground movement, with extensive degree of initiative at the local level. For the West, entering Afghanistan is the start of a wider military and political campaign. Capturing or killing Bin Laden and the accomplishment of some kind of US revenge would naturally reduce the urgency of further military operations for the US administration and calm the American domestic scene until and only until the next Islamic terrorist attack. But this is a small step in a wider, military and political move in the Middle East, whose eventual extent is not yet revealed. In the final analysis, this is a show down with political Islam, that is the reactionary movement that the West itself found in the peripherals of Middle Eastern society and brought to the fore to confront the emerging Left in the developing capitalisms of these countries as well as to pressurise the Eastern bloc. This power struggle could remain limited, but due to the un-centralised and extremist nature of political Islam and Islamic terrorism, it is more likely that it will lead to a more fundamental and total confrontation. However, political Islam cannot survive in the Middle East without Western support, let alone in a confrontation with the West. So far, the intensification of the battle between secularists and Islamists in Pakistan and the revival of Khatamites and the resumption and escalation of factional infighting within the Iran’s Islamic rulers is an indication that the battle between the West and political Islam could act as a detonator for serious changes in the balance of power within the bourgeois factions in Middle East to the disadvantage of Islamists.

What could be said about the America’s attack on Afghanistan? Is ‘Hands Off Afghanistan!’ a progressive and principled position? The people of Afghanistan and its opposition will tell you otherwise. The prospect of Taliban's downfall, a gang of murderers and drug dealers, has spurred political forces in Afghanistan. The demand for the overthrow of the Taliban is a humane and progressive demand. We must not allow the legitimate and just opposition to American militarism to be interpreted as leaving Afghanistan in the hands of Taliban. This is one living example of the incorrectness and insufficiency of the call for calm and the defence of the status quo. The people of Afghanistan have been waiting for a lifetime for Taliban's downfall. No doubt, the US will not enter Afghanistan for the liberation of that country. They brought the Taliban to power. This time they may weaken it but de facto accept its existence. They have promised (the Pakistan ruler) Gen. Musharraf that the next government of Afghanistan will be to Pakistan's liking. They are to remove these beasts and replace them with others from the same breed. The principled position is the participate in overthrowing the Taliban shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan and the progressive opposition, and fighting for the establishment of a government elected by the people of that country. This must be imposed on the West, USA and the United Nations. Any attack by the US forces and its allies against civilians in Afghanistan and the destruction of cities, villages, infrastructures and people's livelihood must be condemned. Any attempt to impose another gang on the people of Afghanistan through wheeling and dealings between USA, Pakistan, Iran and any other state is condemned. But the overthrow of Taliban by foreign armies is not in itself condemnable. Taliban is not a legitimate government in Afghanistan. It must be overthrown. The question is the government that is to replace it and the guarantee that the people of Afghanistan must have regarding their right and opportunity to decide the political system in their country.

The above is a translated summary from Farsi. It was first published in International Weekly number 73, 28 September 2001.

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