The bombing of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena with a device packed with nuts and bolts was bound to kill or injure many young people. A statement by “Islamic state” said that “one of the soldiers of the caliphate was able to place an explosive device within a gathering of the crusaders”, as they claimed responsibility for the “endeavour to terrorise” infidels at a “shameless concert arena” as a response “to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”. These ‘crusaders’ were typically, teenagers of 14 or 16. One of the victims was a girl of 8. So far, the death toll is 22 (including ten under 20), with 116 injured.
Like the November 2015 mass shooting in Paris at the Bataclan theatre (where 89 were killed) it was deliberately aimed at young people, except even younger in Manchester. Today, it is increasingly clear that it is not just adults but also children who are caught up in the imperialist conflicts, not just in Syria, Libya, and Yemen but also in Manchester, Paris and Nice. Revolutionaries condemn unequivocally all acts of terror, whether by the biggest military forces in the world, or by a lone truck driver or suicide bomber.
Moreover, we can expect even more expressions of terrorism in Europe as military forces (such as ISIS), facing substantial military setbacks in Syria, unleash further attacks. This is part of the logic of imperialism today, as terror and terrorism are integral parts of all imperialisms’ weaponry.
While the Security Service of MI5 say they will examine their processes because the Manchester bomber had been ‘on their radar’, it was an opportunity for the state to up the security status and put armed troops on the streets alongside increased policing. Politicians, who had been in the middle of a general election campaign, united to declare their intentions to ‘protect’ the British people, to defend ‘democratic values’, and assert that they would never give in to terrorism. Tories have tried to make out that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, was suspect on the questions of security and terrorism. Corbyn retaliated by blaming the Tories for cuts of 37,000 personnel in the police and security services. He said he would spend millions of pounds expanding the security services and hiring more police and border guards, thereby showing himself in continuity with Labour leaders over more than a hundred years of militarism and state repression.
The hypocrisy of the international bourgeoisie
Across the world figures from Trump to Putin to the Pope have added their voice to the anti-terrorist avalanche. All have condemned the killing of children as an expression of barbarism. The hypocrisy of these imperialist gangsters knows no limits. How many children were killed in the invasion of Iraq in 2003? A campaign based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force killed an unknown number of people since the US and Britain had no interest in counting them. There the US and its Allies could terror bomb with devices much more sophisticated and deadly than that of a solitary suicide bomber.
Today, vast areas have been laid waste by imperialist warfare in places such as Syria where the protégées of imperialist powers, including the US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia among others, show no evidence of shame in the killing and maiming of thousands, either in support of Assad’s Syria or the multiplicity of militia in the many oppositions.
We should not forget the hypocrisy of the British state here, after its military intervention in Libya, alongside France, leaving the country in a state of civil war and chaos – this is the very country the family of the Manchester suicide bomber came from. It appears his father worked in Gaddafi's security apparatus, and later in an al Qaeda affiliate – the latter both used and abused by British intelligence.
To give one further example of our rulers’ hypocrisy, we need only look at the recent US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, ($110 billions worth immediately, $350 billion over 10 years). This was signed off by Trump as the Saudi bombing of Houthi rebels in Yemen continued and where it is particularly targeting hospitals, and using cluster bombs against civilians.
How to understand what's happening
As elsewhere in the face of attacks or disasters, the humanity of Manchester residents shone through. Hotels opened up their premises for victims, taxi drivers gave free lifts, hospitals pulled out all the stops, people opened opening their homes, cups of tea and coffee, people off the street just came to see what they could do. However, in conversations, in TV interviews, many people were completely confused as to where society is going. Is this going to last forever? Can some sort of solution be found? Saying ‘Manchester will not be defeated’ or ‘we’ll never be divided by terrorism’ are not answers to such questions.
We can see war and terrorism across the face of the globe. But the role of the big capitalist nations in this barbarism is often well hidden. The ‘peace’ after the Second World War was in reality a time of local and proxy wars as the Western and Russian imperialist blocs vied for position. Yet the rule of these blocs in the Cold War, with its doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, created a sort of, relative, stability in international relations. After the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 the world was turned upside down. The relative stability which was held in place by the two-bloc system disintegrated and we began to see crises and war multiply and become more chaotic. This period is the period of decomposition of the capitalist system.
The present day ‘war on terror’ and the proliferation of terrorist groups have their roots in the very bloody conflict between US and Russian imperialism that took place in Afghanistan. After the Russian invasion of December 1979 the USA and its allies supplied and supported the Mujahideen as their proxy fighters. The Taliban and al Qaeda developed out of this. So present day terrorist groups are not some bizarre anachronism from the past, even if they do claim to represent religious fundamentalism, but an intrinsic part of present day capitalism and its chaotic imperialist conflicts.
There was a new step in these imperialist conflicts after 11 September 2001 with the invasion of first Afghanistan and then Iraq destabilised whole areas of the globe in particular in the Middle East and giving rise to forces like the self styled Islamic State. Terrorist groups have proliferated, born out of war and kept going by the sordid alliances, and manipulation of the big powers.
All these wars have set in motion waves of refugees who risk their lives fleeing to the relative safety of Europe, the USA and other richer countries. Their numbers have been added to by those fleeing repression following the failure of the ‘Arab Spring’ and particularly the war in Syria, and also by economic necessity. These people, victims of capitalism, are used by politicians as scapegoats for terrorist outrages, as well as for falls in living standards over the last 10 years. The latter is due to the world economic crisis of 2007/8 which saw the enormous instability of the world economy with stock exchange crashes and bank failures. It ruined millions of savers and shattered confidence in money (which under capitalism holds the social links of society together). This created a huge fear and mistrust between people as well as uncertainty in the future.
“Facing this barbarism in a whole swathe of countries, from Mali to Afghanistan, passing through Somalia and up to the southern tip of Turkey, millions of human beings, month after month, have been forced to flee just to keep alive. They have become ‘refugees’ who are either stuck in camps or turned away at borders. They arrive at the same time as the economic crisis worsens and as terrorism is on the rise, all of which has greatly exacerbated xenophobia;
And above all, as capitalism advances into its decomposition and social ties disintegrate, the working class for the moment is unable to offer humanity another perspective. Incapable of developing its consciousness and its fighting spirit, its sense of international solidarity and fraternity, it is absent as a class from the world situation.” (‘Terrorist attacks in France, Germany, America: Capitalism carries terror within itself, like the cloud carries the storm’, ICC online, 15 August 2016)
The danger of this putrefaction should not be underestimated: if it is allowed to follow its logic to the end, it will push the whole of humanity towards destruction. The only answer is the development of the struggles of the working class, and with it the solidarity that is an important part of those struggles. This starts with the questioning of society as it now exists as well as struggling to defend ourselves against capitalism, and its state, and not calling on the state to defend us against the worst products of its decaying system.
MX, 29 May 2017