The ‘9/11 Truth’ Movement and the Machiavellianism of the Bourgeoisie

Printer-friendly version

We are publishing here a contribution to the discussion within the ICC on the significance of the events of 9/11. The comrade has some concerns that the majority position of the ICC on 9/11 accepted rather uncritically that it was an ‘inside job’, thus leaving the organization open to being associated with the ‘Let it Happen on Purpose’ wing of the ‘Truthers’ movement. Instead he thinks that the incompetence of the Bush administration had a larger role to play before and during the events. Nevertheless, we think the following text is a valuable contribution to the discussion and we hope other comrades can join in with it via the forum on our website.        

Readers of Internationalism will undoubtedly be familiar with the “9/11 Truth movement,” a major sub-cultural phenomenon that has developed in response to the official explanation of the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks. For much of the last decade, it has not been possible to attend a major demonstration or protest march without encountering a contingent of so-called “9/11 Truthers.” Bumper stickers and posters declaring, “9/11 was inside a job” are a frequent site in Manhattan and elsewhere. Jesse Ventura, former Minnesota Governor, navy seal and professional wrestler and current TV host of the cable show “Conspiracy Theory,” has raised the possibility that the Twin Towers and the infamous Building 7 were destroyed not by the molten fire resulting from the collision with the jumbo jets, but by a “controlled demolition.”[1]

The “9/11 Truthers” are a diverse bunch, ranging from serious academics and researchers who do not accept the official version of 9/11 at face value to paranoid individuals and groups at the very fringes of bourgeois society who believe all kind of crazy nonsense and who never heard a conspiracy theory they didn’t believe. While most 9/11 Truthers would seem to hail from the left of the bourgeois political spectrum, there are right-wing versions of the phenomenon as well, such as that spewed by über conservative former judge and current Fox News host Andrew Napolitano. On the other end of the spectrum, Paul Zarembka—Professor of Economics at SUNY Buffalo and self-described Marxist, whose academic work included editing a book on Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy[2]—has recently emerged as a leading figure of the movement.

Over the last decade, 9/11 Truth has developed a considerable weight within the culture in the United States and beyond.  Left wing and liberal radio talk shows are often interrupted by callers defending 9/11 Truth, often to the dismay of the embarrassed host. Left/liberal comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s popular show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” has reported being stalked by 9/11 Truthers, several of whom managed to disrupt an episode of his live show in 2009.[3] Just as the spectre of association with “Birther” and other wild conspiracy theories surrounding the legitimacy of Obama’s Presidency haunts Republicans, the threat of being identified with 9/11 Truth is a constant danger for anyone who has the audacity to publicly question whether the US government always tells the truth to its citizenry.

As we all know, the official story on 9/11 offered up by the US government and parroted back by the mainstream bourgeois media is powerful in its simplicity: A group of Islamic extremists, almost all of them from Saudi Arabia, were sent on a daring suicide mission inside the United States by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network in order to pull off the “big spectacular,” an attack on the United States homeland so brazen and destructive that it would cower the world’s only remaining superpower into submission.

According to this narrative, the plan was hatched in a small apartment in Hamburg Germany, where ringleader Mohammed Atta and others devised an ingenious plan to exploit the US’s lax immigration laws to obtain jumbo jet flight training at American flight schools and then use that training to crash hijacked jets into important landmarks in New York and Washington, DC. In the official story, the 19 hijackers were able to live in the United States for months or years at a time, without harassment from law enforcement or the security services, due largely to the Byzantine nature of US immigration laws and the inability of multiple intelligence services to “connect the dots.” The 9/11 attacks were thus the result of a determined and ruthless enemy’s ability to exploit an open and democratic society to achieve their horrific ends. The lesson of 9/11 was that faced such a persistent foe without any scruples, Americans would have to learn to live with enhanced security measures, scaled back civil liberties and the fear of future attacks indefinitely.

It’s not surprising that this story is questioned by many who simply cannot accept that the world’s last superpower, with military and intelligence assets that dwarf almost all other world powers’ combined resources, could prove so blatantly incompetent as to not know these attacks were coming.[4] For many, it is a short leap to the conclusion that given the events that followed the attacks—the rapid launch of the war against Afghanistan, the quick transition to the invasion of Iraq (a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11) and the rush to curtail civil liberties—that the US government probably knew more about the attacks beforehand then admits. Not willing to fall for the myth that the US is always a benevolent democratic power, the 9/11 Truthers generally agree that the attacks were a pretense for the US to launch an imperial project in the Middle East, with many concluding the goal was to control the region’s massive oil supplies.

While most 9/11 Truthers share the belief that the attacks were foreseen by the state as an excuse to launch a war effort in the Middle East and militarize domestic society—a so-called “False Flag” operation by the US intelligence services—the movement has remained bitterly divided over whether the attacks were actually carried out by US agents themselves—such as planting explosives in the Twin Towers beforehand (a so-called “controlled demolition”)—or whether the attacks were an Al Qaeda operation that was allowed to go forward by the US state with the aim of exploiting the aftermath for military and domestic political purposes. The debate between “MIHOP” (Make it Happen on Purpose) and “LIHOP” (Let it Happen on Purpose) has consumed the bulk of the movement’s energy, resulting in a number of splits and the development of several competing factions that continue to characterize it today.

Bourgeois Machiavellianism and the Role of Revolutionary Organizations

Long-time readers of Internationalism will probably recall the series of articles that we published on the 9/11 attacks earlier in the decade. In fact, our most extensive article on the topic “Pearl Harbor 1941, Twin Towers 2001: The Machiavellianism of the US Bourgeoisie”[5] has been among the most read articles at over the years, most likely owing to the similarity of the title to 9/11 Truther David Ray Griffin’s book A New Pearl Harbor. [6]

Readers of those articles will likely conclude that there is much that is similar in the analysis we published and the “LIHOP” version of 9/11 Truth theory. Indeed in the above article it was argued: “We do not have the benefit of investigations after-the-fact by review boards that might reveal secret evidence on whether elements of the ruling class had some complicity in the attacks, or had advance knowledge but permitted the attacks to occur. But as ruling class history demonstrates, particularly the events at Pearl Harbor, such a possibility is far from unthinkable, and if we examine recent events, based solely on what has been reported in the media—a media that incidentally is completely enrolled in, and supportive of, the government’s current political and imperialist agenda—we certainly find circumstantial evidence for such an hypothesis.”[7]

Later in 2004, following the report by the 9/11 Commission put together by the Bush administration to supposedly conduct a thorough investigation into the events that led to the attacks, we published an article that went further: “Public Testimony in the 9/11 Commission’s investigation of the alleged ‘intelligence failings’ offer ample confirmation of the analysis of these events developed by the ICC in the fall of 2001, immediately after the attacks. While bourgeois politicians finger point and try to outdo each other in proposing a revamping of the intelligence apparatus and repressive legislation to strengthen the domestic spying and police powers of the state, the real lesson of the hearing is never mentioned: The American government knew that an attack was coming and consciously permitted it to happen for political and ideological purposes, much the same as the Roosevelt administration permitted the Japanese attack that it knew was coming at Pearl Harbor in 1941, to give it the pretext to mobilize a reluctant population for entry into World War II.”[8]

Still later in an article on the fourth anniversary of the attacks, we published an article with the firmest stance yet: “Our alleged conspiracy theories and paranoia notwithstanding, there is no longer any factual dispute that the American capitalist state was aware in advance that attacks were coming, knew who the specific leaders were, and was aware that they were in the US. For the bourgeoisie and their media, the debate is about how such terrible errors, poor judgment, lack of communications, incompetence, etc, could occur. For us, as revolutionary Marxists, the question has been to understand the political purpose behind the government’s policy to permit the attacks to occur.”[9]

Readers may be wondering at this point what relation the ICC might have with the 9/11 Truth Movement? Are we going to see ICC militants participating on panels at 9/11 Truth conventions? Will Internationalism be contributing to future 9/11 Truth publications? The answers to these questions are: none, no and no! First, the ICC does not have a litmus test for its militants regarding their position on the events surrounding 9/11. While some militants may be convinced—in a manner similar to the LIHOP theories advanced by the 9/11 Truthers—that elements in the US government allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur in order to exploit them for imperialist and domestic purposes; others may be ambivalent or more likely to believe the attacks were a result of the utter incompetence of the Bush administration and thus a function of the growing decomposition of US state capitalism. It is not uncommon that some views expressed in ICC articles—when they do not concern a fundamental class position—reflect the personal take of the author, rather than an official position of the organization.

However, what we all do agree upon is that lies, distortions, manipulations, ideological campaigns and Machiavellian maneuvers are fundamental weapons employed by the bourgeoisie in its struggle to control capitalist society—weapons whose use are only amplified in the period of capitalism’s sheer and utter decomposition. Therefore, what becomes of the utmost importance in the analysis of the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks is not whether or not the US state was involved in carrying them out or allowing them to happen, but to what use it was able to make of the attacks in the aftermath. For if the 9/11 attacks were a function of a completely incompetent Bush administration and the degradation of the intelligence services, they were certainly able to recover from this incapacity with enough rapidity to implement a grand strategic plan that saw the United States launch two new wars in two years. This simply would not have been possible without a massive imperialist offensive in which the US was able to use its victimhood on 9/11 as a club to bludgeon the other major powers into acquiescing to its war aims in Afghanistan accompanied by a major domestic ideological campaign to unite the working class behind its war drive in the Middle East. This latter ideological campaign was initially so successful that on the eve of its attack on Iraq in 2003 a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks!

Quite simply put, regardless of one’s personal opinion on what really happened in the lead up to the 9/11 attacks, what happened afterwards seems quite clear: The US bourgeoisie launched a major Machiavellian campaign to exploit the attacks for its imperialist and domestic advantage. Is the rapidity with which the US state was able to recover from the attack to launch these campaigns sufficient evidence to conclude it was involved in the attacks or allowed them to occur? Reasonable people can differ on this account, but for us it is not a class line issue. However, as we have argued in our previous articles, it is far from out of the question. History gives us many instances in which the bourgeoisie of a particular state has consciously allowed an attack on its soil to take place in order to manipulate the aftermath to its advantage. As we have pointed out—along with authors in the “LIHOP” camp of 9/11 Truth—there is some historical evidence that the Roosevelt administration was not taken by surprise by the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor and allowed them to proceed with the aim of enrolling a reluctant population in the Second World War. But we digress; we are now on the terrain of the Truthers and they know the details better than we do!

As a revolutionary organization we lack the capacity to carry out the kind of investigation that might ultimately get to the precise “truth” of what happened on 9/11; however, we need no such resources to understand the period following the attacks and to appreciate how the ruling class employed them to its full advantage. With or without malice aforethought of the actual attacks, the bourgeoisie is still a class of liars, thugs and murderers. Its rule is still historically obsolete, ready to be replaced by the power of the workers’ councils.

9/11 Truth and The Ideological Fracture of Society

What then of the 9/11 Truth movement itself? Of what significance is it that there has developed a somewhat considerable sub-cultural movement within decomposing capitalism that takes as its central precept the belief that the state is capable of and willing to murder thousands of its own citizens and then construct an elaborate lie to cover it up? Does this reflect a growing questioning within society of the nature of the state or is the 9/11 Truth movement more likely to trap those with serious questions about what happened that day in the dead-end of bourgeois legalism and a fruitless search to get the “truth” from the capitalist state?

From the Marxist standpoint, we think 9/11 Truth most likely performs the latter function. The notion that the “truth” about 9/11 can ever be won from the capitalist state is a sheer an utter illusion. The model of “9/11 Truth” ultimately presupposes an exercise in bourgeois legalism, the appointment of an impartial jury with access to all the relevant documents, witnesses and evidence (to use the legal parlance “full discovery”) that independently judges the evidence and arrives at the “truth” beyond a reasonable doubt. However, anyone familiar with the American criminal justice system knows that this model doesn’t work so well in practice. But even if it did, it is doubtful that in a world marked by ideological decomposition, competing “truth narratives” and magical thinking, society could ever arrive at a genuine consensus of what truly occurred in the lead up to events so historically momentous as the 9/11 attacks. Just as the right-wing conspiracy theorists refuse to accept Obama’s legitimacy regardless of what “evidence” they receive, it is unlikely that many of those who believe 9/11 was an inside job could ever be convinced otherwise. If official evidence were ever to emerge that supported a “LIHOP” interpretation of the attacks, would the proponents of “MIHOP” be convinced? Unlikely.

Moreover, there remains a significant percentage of the population who are simply unwilling to accept the idea that the government is capable of such an exercise in self-injurious barbarism. Is there any document that can be discovered that will change their minds? Let’s face it: The only way we will ever get the “truth” about 9/11 is if the bourgeoisie wants us to have it, and even then we can be assured we will only ever get half-truths and distortions, most likely in the context of a campaign that serves the interests of one part of the ruling class against another in its incessant factional disputes (i.e. Watergate).

Perhaps it is for this reason that the bourgeoisie is so uncomfortable with the 9/11 Truth movement and wastes no opportunity to slam it as just another wacko conspiracist phenomenon to be assimilated to grassy-knoll theories, moon landing skeptics and fluoridation critics.[10] Maybe it is the inability of the bourgeoisie today to forge a lasting social consensus that is proving so frustrating at the moment, so much so that phenomena like the 9/11 Truth movement are summarily dismissed as crazy talk in the bourgeois media and so heavily derided by capitalist society’s official intellectual spokespersons, despite the work it does in trapping critical minds in the dead end of bourgeois legalism. “The problem with 9/11 conspiracy theories is that they presuppose a state that is actually competent enough to pull something like that off,” is a refrain we have heard time and again when this topic has been discussed by pundits supposedly in the know.[11] In order to try to recreate the social consensus it had in the immediate aftermath of the attacks—a consensus that evaporated into nothing in the span of just a few years as a result of the Iraq quagmire and a developing economic catastrophe—the state has been forced to plead incompetence!

At the end of the day, the 9/11 Truth movement leads us nowhere, except back onto the terrain of bourgeois legalism and a fruitless search for a “truth” that is simply impossible to win from the bourgeois state. Perhaps someday, when human society is reconstructing itself in a communist direction, historians of the future will resolve this burning question and a consensus that represents the “truth” of what actually happened in the lead-up to that fateful day can be forged. But for now—in the absence of the ability to conduct the kind of investigation this would require, in the context of a society in which a consensus about the “truth” seems impossible—we must focus on the essential lessons of 9/11 that are detectable today. For whatever else, these attacks stand as prime evidence of the galloping decomposition of capitalist society and the willingness of the bourgeoisie to exploit tragedy for its own imperialist and domestic ends.




[1] Ventura devoted an episode of the first season of his show to examining the various 9/11 Truth claims. More a sensationalized farce than a serious journalistic effort, Ventura’s effort broke little new ground.

[2] See Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation and Rosa Luxemburg’s Legacy (Bradford, UK: Emerald Group Publishing) 2004.

[3] Maher, a hero to the liberal/left, shamefully encouraged violence against the Truthers, telling network security, “….don’t be gentle with them…an ass kicking is what is needed.” Watch at


[4] Interestingly, Richard Clarke—the Clinton era National Security advisor who was retained by the Bush administration and who is said to have tried in vain to warn the latter in its early months of the threat of an imminent attack—has come out as a strong proponent of the “incompetent Bush administration” thesis. As a result, he has become the go to guy for national security commentary in left/liberal media circles.

[6]David Ray Griffin. A New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11. (Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishers) 2004.

[7] Internationalism, ibid.

[8] “9/11 Commission Plays Games With the Truth,” Internationalism #130.

[9] “Fourth Anniversary of 9/11: The Machiavellianism of the Bourgeois and the Historic Course,” Internationalism #136.

[10] As this article goes to press, the bourgeois media is in the midst of a campaign surrounding the publication of journalist Jonathan Kay’s book, Among the Truthers: A Journey into the Growing Conspiracist Underground of 9/11 Truthers, Birthers, Aramgeddonites, Vaccine Hysterics, Hollywood Know-Nothings and Internet Addicts (New York: Harper Collins) 2011. As the title suggests, Kay—who has been making the talk show rounds—assimilates 9/11 Truth with all kinds of bizarre ideas. The attempt to equate 9/11 Truth with the right-wing Birther phenomenon is particularly disturbing to 9/11 Truthers (as it should be!).  The sense that this phenomenon is growing, as Kay suggests, must be of concern to the guardians of bourgeois culture.

[11] However, the Obama administration showed little concern for conspiracy theory in carrying out the brutal murder of Bin Laden earlier this year, executing him without a trial and summarily disposing of his remains at sea (Or so they told us!). Of course, the official story of what exactly happened in the course of the raid on the compound changed several times in the span of hours.

Historic events: