Socialists must not solidarize with Britain’s professional army but with the anti-imperialist resistance!
Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 24.5.2013, www.thecommunists.net
1. In protest against the imperialist notorious “war on terror”, a serving British soldier was attacked and killed by two Islamist black men near an army barrack in Woolwich (South London) on 22.5.2013. The professional soldier served between 2009 and 2011 as part of the British occupation forces in Afghanistan which leaves thousands and thousands of people dead. Since 2011 he was stationed in Britain. After the attack the two men spoke with passerby, and when the police came they were shot. Britain's ITV news channel broadcasted a video footage filmed by an onlooker, in which one of the two assailants, Michael Adebolajo, explained – with local accent – the political motive of this attack against the British soldier: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.”
2. Unsurprisingly the right wing government, the Labour Party and the bourgeois media are weeping some crocodile tears about the “tragedy” which poses such a danger for “soldiers risking their lives in the name of freedom” (London Mayor Boris Johnson). The fascist English Defence League mobilizes for racist rally against Muslims and two mosques were already attacked.
3. Most of the reformist and centrist left – i.e. those who claim to be Marxist but adapt to the corrupt and privileged bureaucracy in the labor movement – fails to take an internationalist and anti-imperialist stand in this important situation. While criticizing the government policy of waging wars abroad, they cowardly adapt to the bourgeois media chorus and deeply regret the killing of a British soldier. To give a few examples: The pacifist Kate Hudson – a leading figure of the newly founded “Left Unity” project – writes: “We deplore the brutal murder of an unarmed British soldier in Woolwich yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Acts of violent retribution against individuals can never be justified as a response to the crimes of states and governments.” (1) Similarly the right-wing centrist Socialist Party (CWI): “The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich yesterday is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim's family and friends. (…) The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter.” (2) The ex-revolutionary Workers Power leadership expresses too its sympathy for the British soldier’s family: “This is undoubtedly a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians, women and children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes.” (3) And Counterfire leader Lindsey German states: “There can be no justification for a murderous attack on an individual soldier in the streets of London.” (4)
4. The first task of Marxist, of revolutionaries, is to speak out the truth. The truth is that the Woolwich attack is the inevitable result of a barbarous imperialist war-drive led by the United States in which Britain’s ruling class is the most important ally. As a result the US, British and other imperialists have occupied Afghanistan, Iraq and wage countless terror acts with their drones in other countries in the Middle East and Africa. Just recently the British government sent hundreds of soldiers to help French imperialism occupying Mali and killing those they consider an obstacle to control the vast resources in Western Africa. As a result hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered by the hands of British soldiers and their US and other European allies on the behest of the imperialist ruling class. This imperialist war-drive is the result of the monopolies and Great Power’s drive to rule and exploit the semi-colonial countries – i.e. the vast majority of the world’s population. Another aspect of this imperialist domination is the national oppression and economic super-exploitation of a growing number of migrants and black minorities in the imperialist metropolises.
5. In response to this, the oppressed people in these countries are waging an anti-colonial, national liberation war against the imperialist occupiers since years. In addition there have been many anti-war mass mobilizations by sectors of the working class, migrants and youth in the imperialist metropolises themselves.
6. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) states that it is the primary duty of every anti-imperialist and internationalist to support the resistance – including in its armed forms – in order to drive the occupiers out. We welcome the heroic struggle of the resistance forces in Afghanistan, Palestine, Mali and other countries against the imperialist occupiers and their local allies. We look forward that they will succeed to drive them out as they did already successfully defeat the US and British troops in Iraq. At the same time we oppose the bourgeois ideologies and leaderships which pre-dominate in the resistance movement. The RCIT calls the working class to organize independently, to strive for leadership in the anti-imperialist movement and to connect the struggle against the imperialist monopolies and Great Powers with the international struggle to overthrow capitalism world-wide.
7. It is of course a blatant lie if arch-reactionary whips like Johnson claim that “"is wrong to draw a link between this (the Woolwich attack) and British foreign policy and soldiers risking their lives in the name of freedom.” It is exactly the British foreign policy that kills so many people, which makes British professional soldiers abhorrent in most parts of the world.
8. Authentic British socialists must condemn all the hypercritical outrage of the ruling class’s politicians, media and the agents in the workers movement about the “barbarian act” against the British profession soldier in Woolwich. True, the British and US soldiers usually don’t use knives and machetes when they slaughter hundreds of thousands of people but rather modern machine guns, bombs and drones. But since “terrorists” from oppressed people are usually poor, they are forced to use rather primitive, “barbaric” methods for their attacks. Surely, they would prefer to use the modern British means of killing. While cowardly Western leftists like the Socialist Party title “No to terrorism!”, even a left-liberal American columnist like Glenn Greenwald can recognize a simple truth in the British paper “Guardian”: “The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be "terrorism" because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that's not "terrorism", but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism?” (5)
9. Shamefully most of the British left fail to resist the pressure of the imperialist public opinion. They condemn the “horrific event” and promise to “pray” and to “sympathise with the family of the victim”. They – consciously or subconsciously – consider professional British soldiers who kill thousands of people in Afghanistan as “our boys”, with whom (respectively their families in case they are killed) they fully sympathize. In opposite to this reformist and centrist left, authentic British socialists do not consider Britain’s professional soldiers as “our boys” but as part of the imperialist killing machine. They would call British soldiers to refuse carrying out their duty as part of this oppression apparatus. They would call British soldiers to fraternize with the Afghan resistance and to aid brining down the British military machine. For authentic British internationalists, it is not the professional British army who are “our boys”, but rather those men and women who resist the imperialist occupation and fight to defeat the forces of the modern British Empire. However, the majority of the British left is not capable of such an internationalist, anti-imperialist stand. They adapt to the imperialist camp and act as social-imperialists or social-pacifists.
10. The RCIT stands in the tradition of authentic communism associated with classic Marxist leaders like Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky. We condemn the capitulationist “left” which fail to support the resistance struggle when a member of “their” professional army is killed. The following statement of the Communist International’s Manifesto – written by Trotsky in 1920 – has not lost its relevance: “The Socialist who aids directly or indirectly in perpetuating the privileged position of one nation at the expense of another, who accommodates himself to colonial slavery, who draws a line of distinction between races and colors in the matter of human rights, who helps the bourgeoisie of the metropolis to maintain its rule over the colonies instead of aiding the armed uprising of the colonies; the British Socialist who fails to support by all possible means the uprisings in Ireland, Egypt and India against the London plutocracy – such a Socialist deserves to be branded with infamy, if not with a bullet, but in no case merits either a mandate or the confidence of the proletariat.” (6) If we replace the words “Ireland, Egypt and India” with let us say “Afghanistan and Mali” this is a pretty contemporary statement to denounce most of the British left-reformist and centrist groups. Based on such an anti-imperialist program, British revolutionaries in the 1970s and 1980s defended military actions of the IRA on British soil as a legitimate part of the Irish national liberation struggle. (7)
11. As working class anti-imperialists, we differentiate between various tactics in the struggle against imperialist occupation. While the RCIT opposes terrorist actions which cause the death of ordinary working class people (like 9/11 in New York in 2001 or the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005), we consider armed actions directed against military targets of the imperialist occupation forces as legitimate. This does not mean that we promote actions like the Woolwich attack since they are used by the ruling class as a pretext to whip up racism and militarism. As Marxists we oppose petty-bourgeois strategies which don’t orientate on mass mobilizations but rather individual armed attacks. In countries like Britain where the level of anti-imperialist struggle is so low, it is tactically absolutely wrong to undertake armed actions against the imperialist state apparatus. Needless to say that socialists have nothing in common with jihadist ideologies. But we recognize that the imperialists have waged a global war “against terror”. In such a war, the oppressed have the legitimate right to attack the repression machine which is killing them. This is even recognized by a left liberal like the US filmmaker Michael Moore who commented the Woolwich attack sarcastically on Tweeter: “I am outraged that we can't kill people in other countries without them trying to kill us!” (8)
12. The task of authentic British internationalists is to call now for a broad united front in defense of the migrant and black community against the racist backlash. Defend the Mosques against the EDL thugs! Renew the anti-war movement in order to help driving out the British and other occupation forces from Afghanistan, Mali and other places and to stop the barbarous drone attacks! Such united front actions must be combined with an internationalist, anti-imperialist stand which supports the resistance struggle against the British occupation forces and calls for the military defeat of Britain. Such a perspective has to be combined with the program for socialist revolution in Britain. However, only a program which includes such a consistent anti-imperialist position, only an organization which succeeds in maintaining anti-imperialism against the massive pressure of the imperialist public opinion and their allies in the labor movement, only such an organization can be considered as truly internationalist and socialist.
13. Revolutionaries in Britain should break with the reformist and centrist swamp which capitulates to the imperialist public opinion. They should join forces to build an organization based on an authentic revolutionary program. Let us move forward to build a multi-national revolutionary party o white, black and Asian workers and youth as part of a new World Party of Socialist Revolution – the Fifth Workers International! The RCIT looks forward to work together with all those who are striving for such a goal.
(1) Kate Hudson: The Woolwich Attack, May 23, 2013, http://leftunity.org/the-woolwich-attack
(2) Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing: No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16739/23-05-2013/no-to-terrorism-no-to-racism-no-to-war
(3) Workers Power: Statement on the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, 23.5.2013, http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2013/05/british-soldier-killed-woolwich-london. Today the centrist leadership of Workers Power regrets the killing of an imperialist killer. When Workers Power was still a revolutionary organization, it took a very different and anti-imperialist position. When the IRA killed British paratroopers, it called this action “double defensible”. When it killed retired Commander Lord Mountbatten in 1979, it titled simply “Don’t mourn Mountbatten”. (see Workers Power No. 8, September 1979)
(4) Lindsey German: The lessons to learn from the Woolwich killing are obvious: but not to David Cameron, 23 May 2013, http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/analysis/16473--the-lessons-to-learn-from-the-woolwich-killing-are-obvious-but-not-to-david-cameron
(5) Glenn Greenwald: Was the London killing of a British soldier 'terrorism'? The Guardian, 23 May 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/23/woolwich-attack-terrorism-blowback
(6) Communist International: Manifesto of the Second World Congress (1920); in: Leon Trotsky: The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 1, New Park Publication 1973, p. 153, http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/ffyci-1/ch12.htm
(7) See Workers Power: The British Left and the Irish War (1983)