When the left refused to condemn 9/11 (2001)

Submitted by martin on 26 October, 2016 - 3:08 Author: Cathy Nugent

The last issue of Action for Solidarity went to press two days after the aircraft attack on the US. At the time We believed the British left had condemned the attacks. That was not quite right.

All of the British left have described the events as horrific, of course but most have not made an unequivocal condemnation. Rather they have condemned the “tactics” of the attackers(Socialist Party) or said they condemn the attack “because the actions will not take forward the struggle against US domination by a single step...” (Workers Power).

The Socialist Workers Party did not want to use the actual word “condemn” in the (very acceptable) statement of the Socialist Alliance.

Condemnation of the tactics has been a means by which the left has distanced itself from outright criticism of what was likely to have been, from the start, the work of an Islamic fundamentalist group. They wanted to see and describe the attack as an act of “anti-imperialism”.

These politics are to put it crudely, the politics of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. The SWP for instance, because they oppose US imperialism, describe this act against the US as “the bitter fruits of policies pursued by the US state” (Socialist Worker). To describe the attack on the US as an anti-imperialist act one has to take the “anti-imperialism” of Islamic fundamentalism as good coin — a terrible distortion of the truth and one which can only lead the left into backing or bolstering our bitter class enemies.

The fundamentalists use anti-imperialist rhetoric as part of their political armoury. In Islamist states such as Iran campaigns against “western threats” are used to ward off such western phenomena as free trade unions, women’s rights, rights for national minorities and so on. The fact that Iran has rejected the overtures of the west from [then foreign secretary] Jack Straw does not make their “anti-imperialism” any more progressive. The Islamist “anti-imperialism” is code for the most reactionary politics.

Obviously the thinking of the Islamists is nourished by hostility to US policies and is a reaction to the big-power influence of the US. But these political movements are much more the product of factors peculiar to the countries in which they develop. Essentially Islamism arises from the contradictions of modern capitalist development in societies with many archaic structures. Their programme is to reverse capitalist development.

Socialists have no truck with that programme. We oppose capital within its development. That is, we fight for the rights and the interests of the working class which is born out of, and develops a class consciousness inside capitalist society. Socialists who want to take a stand that is consistently in line with the interests of the working class have to spell out why we are against the Islamic fundamentalists, even while we oppose a war that will not stop that fundamentalism and will kill, maim, and disrupt the lives of many, many people.

We are against all religious fundamentalism, in fact, and vehemently opposed to the victimisation of Muslims. Still, we must be precise and upfront about why we oppose Islamic fundamentalism.

Workers Power have been most obviously identified with the anti-imperialism of the fundamentalists. They say the US is the “number one terrorist” and as long as it exists there will be “desperate militants” who want to fight back. The Islamists are not “militants” in any sense that we would not want to heavily qualify to the point of contradiction. They are not “good guys”, they are a profoundly reactionary, anti-working-class political force.

Action for Solidarity 48, 28 September 2001