After the July bombings in London, Tony Blair explained everything by referring to an “evil ideology”, and his government tried to deny that there was any connection between the London attacks and the war in Iraq. Many people were not convinced. In an ICM opinion poll (Guardian 19/7/5) 64% thought that the government’s decision to go to war in Iraq bore some degree of responsibility for the London bombings. In a Daily Mirror poll 85% thought there was a connection between government foreign policy and the July 7 attacks. Politicians’ expressions of sympathy have been treated with caution.
The groups and individuals of the extreme left – calling themselves socialists, Trotskyists or just Respect – tapped into this suspicion and blamed Blair and the invasion and occupation of Iraq for events in London. “Bush, Blair and their allies are ultimately responsible for the deaths in London” (Workers Power). “If the British government continues on the course Tony Blair has set, these will not be the only innocent people to suffer” (Socialist Worker). “The blood of the victims of the London bombs stains [Blair’s] hands, and is mixed with the blood of Fallujah’s dead” (Socialist Resistance). In the simple words of John Pilger in the New Statesman “The bombs of 7 July were Blair’s bombs”.
Left-wing foreign policy: defend the national interest
This opposition to the Blair government’s foreign policy is based on its association with the US. As with substantial other groupings within the ruling class, the leftists think that the relationship with the US is too close. As Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop The War Coalition, said “All roads lead back to the government’s uncritical identification with the US neoconservative agenda” (Guardian 27/7/5). Socialist Worker (13/7/5) criticised “the disastrous consequences of hitching this country to George Bush’s wars in the Middle East” and thought that “By associating this country with the US puppet regime in Iraq … Blair increases the threat to everyone who lives here.”
While a Guardian editorial (20/7/5) politely suggests that “it could still be useful to draw up a timetable for ending the occupation”, the leftists’ demand for “Troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East now” only differs in terms of scale and timing. A major section of the British bourgeoisie is convinced that British imperialism should pursue an independent line, in particular, one not tied up with a US policy from which British capitalism gains little. ‘Troops Out’ can only be a measure proposed to capitalist governments, which they will adopt if it serves their interests and ignore if it doesn’t. Reform of foreign policy will never be in the interests of the working class. In all this the leftists show their commitment to the nationalist framework of capitalism.
Defence of Iraqi nationalism
Having made the link between the London bombings and the war in Iraq, the leftists show how they support massacres and indiscriminate murder.
The conflict in Iraq does not consist in isolated skirmishes but, as the leftists tell us, it’s like the London bombings every day. As an informed individual was reported saying in The Times (4/1/5) “I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people”. He thought that “People are fed up after two years without improvement” and that “People are fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something.” The individual in question was General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, a leading figure in the ‘US puppet regime’. For this eminent bourgeois figure it is logical for suffering humanity to turn to the nationalist cause, to an Iraqi capitalism free of foreign influence. You would not expect someone in his position to consider that workers have material interests, class interests that are not going to be met by a ‘foreigner-free’ regime any more than they are in occupied Iraq. The leaders of the Iraqi resistance have pretensions to becoming a future Iraqi government; the vast majority of the 200,000 are, as in any capitalist military force, disposable foot-soldiers, doomed to die in a nationalist campaign from which they have nothing to gain.
George Galloway (Socialist Worker 13/8/5) wrote that “The height of treason is to put the people of this country at risk of attack and to send young men and women, recruited from the dole queues, to kill and be killed on a lie”. Yet it is the same nationalist lies that leftists use against the ‘people who are fed up’ in Iraq - in order to kill and be killed. They agree with Iraq’s intelligence director that workers must forget their class interests and follow the nationalist path of their exploiters. Workers Power call for “Victory to the Iraqi resistance” where Galloway is more flowery: “These poor Iraqis - ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons - are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable.”
But, having made the connection between the war in Iraq and the bombs in London, at a critical moment there is denial. To take a typical example, Workers Power describes the situation in the Middle East over the last 15 years - the Gulf War, the sanctions against Iraq, the violence of Israel - and insists: “These actions give rise to heroic guerrilla wars of resistance and national liberation but also to desperate and self-defeating acts such as the London bombings.” To make sure you get the message they say “We do not for one minute confuse indiscriminate attacks against civilians, whether carried out in London or Iraq, with this justified Iraqi resistance to the occupation forces”.
Yet what could be more ‘desperate and self-defeating’ for workers than to line up in the cause of Iraqi nationalism behind a faction of the bourgeoisie? Whether it’s trading under the name of ‘government’ or ‘resistance’ the interests of Iraqi capitalism are in conflict with those it exploits, oppresses and wants to die in its name. And ‘indiscriminate attacks against civilians’ are one of the main weapons in any capitalist military campaign, as the Iraqi ‘insurgents’ have very amply shown.
When Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida deputy, said, after the London bombings, that “you spilled blood like rivers in our countries and we exploded the volcanoes of wrath in your countries” he was, like any other bourgeois propagandist, lumping all classes together. The video of suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan, recently broadcast, is in the same vein, with a naïve faith in democracy: “Your democratically elected governments perpetuate atrocities against my people and your support of them makes you responsible”. When Blair wants people to rally behind ‘British values’ he’s making a classic call for national unity. Everything put forward by the leftists shows that their activities are equally determined by the same nationalist framework, and are implacably opposed to the struggle of the working class.