When the SWP Rationalised for the London Bombers (2005)

Submitted by AWL on 25 July, 2005 - 4:07

The response to 7/7 from the Respect/SWP axis has been smug, thoughtless, and irresponsible.

On the morning of the slaughter in London, the SWP put out a statement signed by Socialist Worker editor Chris Bambery and SWP national secretary Martin Smith. Denounce the bombings and condemn the bombers? No way!

The statement sorrowfully chided the bombers for targeting London. "London... is a global centre of opposition to the war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq... A majority of those killed and wounded will have opposed the war in Iraq; some will have joined the huge marches for peace".

What on earth were the bombers thinking about, killing their friends? Think what this statement says implicitly about the slaughter in New York in 2001, or last year in Madrid.

London should be spared because of the anti-war movement there. But there was no anti-war movement in New York in 2001. And think of all the places across the globe where there is no sizeable opposition to the occupation of Iraq! Think of the places in Iraq where the people welcomed the US and British troops!

Why pick on London, friends? Peaceful, anti-war, Ken-Livingstone-led London!

Bambery and Smith fell over themselves in their eagerness to rationalise and explain the motives of the bombers. The bombers issued no manifesto: so Bambery and Smith drafted one for them.

The indiscriminate slaughter in London, said Bambery and Smith, was "a consequence of its [Britain's] support for war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq".

In fact, the men who butchered Londoners on their way to work were part of a wide and many-stranded international political-Islamist movement which wreaks daily havoc and slaughter in Iraq. Their attitude to people who are not like themselves - whether Muslim, Christian, or, like most Londoners in their eyes, infidels - was that they deserve death.

Of course, British involvement in Iraq puts London and other British cities higher on al Qaeda's target list than they might otherwise be. But to present these religious maniacs as people motivated by rational, secular aims - people who would behave differently if Britain left Iraq - is to undertake the role of a public relations agency for them.

Al Qaeda's goal is not this or that secular measure. It is a world of Islamic dictatorship. In principle they are prepared to go on committing atrocities until they get the perfect "Islamic state".

Iraq and Afghanistan are for them mere details. Immediate British withdrawal from Iraq, as a response to the London bombing, might lessen London's prominence as a potential target, but it would vastly strengthen the belief of those who organised the slaughter in London that they can triumph. It would increase the likelihood that al Qaeda and its allies could conquer at least part of Iraq, and subject its peoples to their merciless savagery.

Socialists who give their voices to "rationalising" for these bombers, and to advocating an open-ended policy of appeasing them - beginning with the immediate abandonment of Iraq to people like them - are no longer, properly speaking, an "anti-war" movement. They are a pro-political-Islamist-terrorist, and for Iraq a pro-Sunni-supremacist, movement!

After 9/11 some leading SWPers boasted about the fact that the SWP had not condemned the attack on the World Trade Centre. Now the SWP is less gung-ho. After all, the dead are closer to home.

But the change is only in the pleading that London, as a special "centre of peace", should be spared. The SWP still spouts the line that Bush and Blair are "really" or "solely" to blame!

The people "ultimately" responsible for the bombings are those who carried them out, and those who encouraged and promoted their attack.

Those who in retrospect rationalise for them incur some small vicarious share of responsibility.

Of course, the Iraq war created a climate in which political Islam is prospering. But to blame what the political-Islamists do "ultimately" or exclusively on "Iraq" is a bit like saying that we should have responded to Nazi atrocities by blaming not the Nazis but the Treaty of Versailles pushed through by Britain and France after World War One.

That treaty created a Germany in economic and political chaos for 14 years, and created a fertile breeding ground for Nazism. But it was the Nazis who committed the Nazi atrocities.

So too with political Islam. It should be condemned and opposed, here, in Iraq, everywhere.

One SWP statement says that the bombings have nothing to do with religion. Nonsense! They have everything to do with religion - with the bombers' crazed, murderous religion, with a version of religion that takes religion's built-in valuing of an imaginary god and an imaginary infinite after-life above actual human life to the conclusion that infidels' lives (and those of Muslims who share trains and buses with them) are worthless.

Religion led the bombers to die believing that they would get a privileged place in heaven. How else can you explain them? One of them had human sensitivity enough to help teach young kids. Another of them was a loving parent. How else, if not because they see the world through a haze of religion-induced delusions, could such young men board trains and a bus, surrounded by hundreds of people, knowing that they would soon kill huge numbers of them?

What inspired the bombings was a madness of a sort - the madness of irrational religious belief to which all human life, including their own, was subordinated. But the movement they adhered to is a political movement - a fascistic movement that uses religious sectarianism and fanaticism much as Nazism used fanatical racial and national "sectarianism".

Not all that movement supports such atrocities as London. Some political-Islamists condemned the London bombing without any of the SWP's equivocation. But political Islam, is by its nature, a political movement that subordinates human life to religious constructions.

It is a powerful movement, different strands of which rule in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan. It is strong in Egypt. It killed thousands in Algeria in the 1990s. Today it is a daily threat to the people of Iraq.

To claim that condemning political Islam is "siding with Bush and Blair", or "Islamophobic", or both, can only push thinking people, in reaction, towards Blair - and a few of them towards political Islam.

Five years ago political-Islamist organisers complained that they could make no headway among Muslim youth in Britain. Now, after four years of excuses and apologies given to it by the left, different strands of political Islam have become very influential here. They are influential enough to make the London bombers believe that their suicide might attract more to their ideology; that it might shake some "soft" political-Islamists into seeing "martyrdom" as a better way to the shared aim of an Islamic state.

We need to ask why. And not hide behind simply "blaming Bush and Blair".

The "left" should reflect on its failures, and accept that part of the blame for the rise of political Islam lies with itself.

To argue, as the SWP did in its statement argue, that the bombings were just an automatic, inevitable response to Bush and Blair is patronising drivel. The bombers had choices. They chose to commit mass murder.

Socialists and democrats oppose conventional wars for human-centred reasons. Those wars are led by political establishments in the US/UK for whom democracy and the right to life are secondary to business interests. The armed forces are led by people who have a culture of callous disregard for human life and liberties. We have Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah as examples of that.

Let us for the sake of argument assume that opposition to the occupation of Iraq was the trigger for those who perpetrated the slaughter in London. But if they started with reasons similar to ours for opposing war, they lost that plot somewhere. They became obedient to an ideology that has interest neither in general human life and liberty nor in democracy. How else could they commit those bombings?

If once they were primarily motivated by human-centred opposition to war and racism, how did they lose it? Did the mainstream anti-war left fail?

Suppose some of the bombers went on the anti-war marches. They would have seen the slogans on placards, read the leaflets. They would have tried to work out why the war was happening, and how to respond.

They ended up with al Qaeda. They must have concluded that the war was caused by a fixed hostility of "the West" to "Islam", and that the answer was for "Islam" (as represented by themselves) to strike back against "the west".

It is not hard to see how they might have been pushed that way, or at least not stopped from moving that way, by aspects of the anti-war movement. The Islamic prayers. The joint sponsorship by the Muslim Association of Britain, British offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The banners demanding "Palestine, from the river to the sea" (that is, including Israel) for Arabs or Muslims. The SWPers shouting that Bush and Sharon were the "real" terrorists - any terrorism by Al Qaeda or Saddam being "unreal".

If the bombers had been on the marches, then the anti-war left would have failed them and the people who died at their hands. Failed to warn them that political Islam is a horror throughout the Middle East and north Africa even worse than US/UK imperialism. Failed to explain to them that the wars in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq were not wars "against Islam" but wars determined by capitalist greed. Wars that should have been opposed by championing democracy and working-class internationalism, and by opposing religious sectarianism here, in Iraq, everywhere.

The SWP denounced those who argued against political Islam. They accused us of being "Islamophobes", despite the fact that most of those who have died at the hands of political-Islamists have been Muslims.

Over the last two and a half years, the political-Islamist militias in Iraq have been cheered and celebrated by dominant elements of the anti-war left as a heroic "resistance".

Even while the SWP timidly distances itself from the London bombers, it continues to support the Islamist "resistance" in Iraq.

Murdered kids in Baghdad or Musayyib do not get the same sympathy as London commuters. Scratch a "leftist", and you find, behind their shameful (though calculating) patronising of the political-Islamists, a species of British chauvinism!

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