The justification declared by one of the Woolwich “jihadis”, David Adebolajo, was anger at what the British state is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Carnage on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul doesn’t make the headlines, even though its toll is far worse than what has just happened in London, or even what happened on 7/7/2005. And the USA and Britain have played a central role in all this. Their intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan has brought chaos and bloodshed on a huge scale. Both states are responsible for massacres and torture, like the decimation of Fallujah, or the atrocities in the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Camp Nama.
But the methods of al-Qaida and other jihadis are not in any way a barrier to the killing. On the contrary: with their indiscriminate suicide bombings in market places and Shia mosques, the majority of al-Qaida’s victims are Muslims, which makes a mockery of their claim to be defending Islam against the western invaders.
Adebolajo also wanted to tell passers -by that the British government “doesn’t care about you”, that we should “remove them”. The British government certainly doesn’t care about the majority of its citizens, nor does it care about the soldiers it sends to their graves in endless wars. But murdering individual soldiers, who are not the architects of these wars and are also its victims, does anything but inspire the population to overthrow their government. On the contrary, it drives people to look for the state to protect them and fuels the worst kind of nationalism. Already there has been a spate of attacks on mosques and Muslims and new life has been breathed into the ultra-patriots of the EDL and BNP.
Is this Islam?
The respectable Muslim institutions have condemned the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby and insist that Islam is a religion of peace. For the EDL and BNP, on the other hand, what happened in Woolwich is indeed Islam, a religion based on violence and hatred.
Both views are entirely misleading. Islam was born out of rebellion and war in the 6th century. But in those days, there was something revolutionary in Islam: it stood against the old pagan despotism of Mecca, it wanted an “umma” or community of believers that would cross racial boundaries, it significantly improved the status of women. Even when it became a state power and an empire, it had its epoch of progress, where science and philosophy were held in respect and which served as a bridge to the Renaissance in Europe. But that was a long time ago. Today, when the time has come for humanity to finally free itself from the old mythologies, all the world’s religions can only pull us backwards. In its moderate forms, Islam, like Christianity, teaches submission to the state and thus participation in the wars of the state. In its “radical” forms, like all the Christian end-of- the- world sects, it has become a true cult of death, an expression of the growing tide of nihilism and despair which has affected the younger generation in particular. This sense of hopelessness is the reflection of a social system which has reached a total dead-end. The Woolwich jihadis embodied this very clearly: after the murder, they waited for the police to arrive and when the armed units came, they rushed forward to embrace death.
Pretexts for war and repression
It’s pretty obvious that the Islamists and the EDL/BNP are mutually interdependent. They feed each other’s rage and their ideologies mirror each other perfectly. The EDL/BNP worship the sacred ground of Britain, as though it truly belonged to the people and not the tiny minority of exploiters who actually run the country. For them, this sacred land has been polluted by the invasion of foreigners, a position crudely disguised as opposition to militant Islam. But when the militant Islamists talk about the invasion of “Muslim lands” by the “Jews and crusaders” they reveal that their vision of the world is as racist and as nationalistic as that of the far right.
Those who defend the democratic centre ground, the main political parties and the dominant media, can’t find enough words to denounce the action of the Woolwich murderers, while distancing themselves from the likes of the EDL/BNP. They love to talk about the liberal, tolerant traditions that supposedly characterise the “British way of life”. But those who manufacture mainstream democratic opinion are by far the most adept at using the actions of the “extremists” to justify the nation’s imperialist wars and to strengthen state repression. The horror of 9/11 gave the US state the excuse it needed to invade Afghanistan and crack down on domestic dissent. The activity of the 7/7 bombers or the Woolwich duo enables the government to whip up support for the “mission” in Afghanistan or Iraq. At the same time it enables them to bring in draconian anti-terrorist laws and to send police and security agents into colleges and universities to sniff out signs of “radicalisation” among students. This kind of snooping can be used not only against potential Islamists, but against those who really do make a “radical” critique of society – one that goes to the root, which is the total obsolescence of capitalist social relations.
The political and social atmosphere created by the Woolwich killings is putrid through and through. We are asked to take sides for one form of nationalism against another, one justification for war and murder against another. Even acts of genuine humanity, like that of Ingrid Loyau-Kennet who approached the knife-wielding Adebolajo to try to help the victim and avert further violence, have been taken up by the politicians for their own ends.
The voice of the working class
In the cacophonous ranting of the dominant ideology, one voice is rarely heard: the voice of the working class, of its movement for emancipation.
Some of course claim that right wing groups like the EDL and the BNP are the voice of the “white working class”. But the working class has no colour and no country, because it is everywhere subject to the same system of wage slavery. Those who stand on the “left” of the political machinery, like the SWP or George Galloway, also pretend to speak for the working class, for socialism and internationalism. But their “socialism” means giving more power to the state, and their “internationalism” means supporting the smaller imperialist state or armed gang against the bigger: Saddam against Bush, Hezbollah against Israel (although now they have to choose between Hezbollah and the Syrian opposition), Russia or China against the US.....
The real tradition of the working class is internationalism, based on the simple premise of the Communist Manifesto: the workers have no country, because they own nothing but their labour power. The interests of the workers, whether employed or unemployed, “native” or immigrant, black, white, yellow or brown, are the same in all countries. They are directly opposed to the interests, and policies of all states, all governments, all bosses, all capitalist parties, all popes, bishops and ayatollahs. And against the methods of bourgeois violence and warfare – indiscriminate massacre, state terror, or the terrorism of small gangs – the working class has its own methods of struggle. And they are genuinely radical because they point towards a profound re-organisation of human society based on solidarity rather than division: such methods as wildcat strikes, general assemblies, mass pickets and demonstrations calling on other workers to join the movement. And at a higher stage: councils of delegates, fraternisation with the troops of “enemy” armies, mutiny against military commands, armed insurrection organised by the workers’ councils: in sum, the proletarian revolution.