World Trade Center Terror Bombing—

U.S. Imperialist Rule: An Endless Horror

The following is an IBT statement issued on 18 September 2001 after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The destruction of the World Trade Center on 11 September is a horrific act which the International Bolshevik Tendency unequivocally condemns. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers had friends or family members who lived, shopped or worked in the area. Unlike the personnel in the Pentagon (the command center of the U.S. military), the thousands of victims trapped in the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the hundreds of passengers and crew on board the four hijacked airliners were civilians whose deaths we mourn. As revolutionary socialists we abhor terrorist attacks that identify ordinary citizens with their imperialist rulers.

The record of the U.S. ruling class includes many instances of mass murder, including the firebombing of Dresden and Hamburg, the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the massacre of over a million Vietnamese civilians in the 1960s and 70s. The current U.S. embargo on Iraq has resulted in the death of at least a million Iraqi children. However, the destruction of the World Trade Center is being treated by the imperialist media as an "attack on civilization" because this time American lives were lost.

The patriotic bloodlust whipped up in the U.S. over the past week has already resulted in a couple of murders and hundreds of racist attacks on Muslims, Arab-Americans, Sikhs and others perceived as "foreigners." It has played into the hands of America’s pro-Israel lobby, and undercut popular sympathy for the Palestinian victims of the racist Zionist state.

In declaring "war" on as yet unspecified targets, America’s rulers hope to achieve several objectives. Firstly, they wish to demonstrate that in a one "superpower" world, other countries better do as they are told:

"The [anticipated] blow [against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime] would be intended not only to destroy terrorist bases in Afghanistan but also to demonstrate to other nations that there is a heavy cost to be paid for those who shelter enemies of the United States."
New York Times, 17 September

The Cheney/Bush administration is openly seeking to channel popular outrage into support for a major (and potentially open-ended) military intervention in the Middle East, which would tighten the U.S. grip on this strategic region. America’s most subservient imperialist allies—Britain, Australia and Canada—have given their unlimited support to whatever Washington decides. Support from Germany, France and other EU imperialists has been more qualified, while the Russians have opposed any U.S. military passage through the former Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan.

In the U.S., the "war" psychosis provides a useful pretext to expand police powers to run ID checks, control movements and interfere with private communications. Under the guise of combating terrorism, attempts will be made to limit free speech, free assembly and other civil rights. A sign of the new policy direction is the U.S. government’s public declaration that assassination will once more be considered a legitimate tool of foreign policy.

The Real Enemy is at Home

The real enemy of workers, blacks and other minorities in the U.S. is not some shadowy Islamic fanatic in Afghanistan, but their own ruling class. Though U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been supported passively (and sometimes actively) by a majority of the population, the objective interests of ordinary working people in the U.S. are counterposed to Bush & Co. This may come into focus more clearly as the implications of looting the Social Security and Medicare "lock box" to finance the upcoming military expedition (and bail out airline and insurance company shareholders) become apparent.

The workers’ movement in the U.S. should be setting up union-based defense guards to protect Muslim neighborhoods, mosques and shops from attacks by the racist, flag-waving bigots who are being egged on by the chauvinist ranting of the corporate media. But the current pro-capitalist leadership of the unions is jumping on the jingoist bandwagon. In a statement released the day after the attack, AFL-CIO president, John Sweeney, bragged:

"I have called President Bush to express the AFL-CIO’s full support for him in this time of crisis and offer any and all assistance from the labor movement."

A class-conscious union leadership would be making preparations to launch political strikes in response to military aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq or any other neo-colony. As a step in the struggle to break the grip of the pro-imperialist labor bureaucracy on the unions, revolutionaries must win the advanced elements of the American working class to the recognition that their interests lie in opposing the bloodthirsty military adventures of their rulers.

A revolutionary socialist perspective for the Middle East must combine implacable struggle against Zionist oppression with exposure of the "anti-imperialist" pretensions of the petty-bourgeois leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and flat opposition to the reactionary, misogynist Islamicist fanatics. If the oppressed Arab masses equate American workers with America’s rulers (or Jewish workers with their Zionist bosses), this only helps bind American and Hebrew workers more closely to their masters. Conversely, to the extent that Israeli and American workers identify with their "own" exploiters, they help cement the control of the sheiks, generals and mullahs over the Muslim masses.

Marxists oppose terrorism as a strategy for the liberation of the oppressed because, even in the best case, it substitutes the acts of a tiny handful for the conscious activity of the working class. But revolutionary Marxists differentiate between acts aimed at imperialist military targets and those aimed at innocent civilians. For example, we recognize that the demolition of the U.S. and French garrisons in Lebanon in 1983 by "Islamic Jihad" were defensible blows against imperialist attempts to establish a military beachhead in the Middle East. Some supposed Marxist organizations flinched, including the left-posturing Spartacist League/U.S., which issued a social-patriotic call for saving the surviving U.S. Marines.

Afghan Mujahedin: From ‘Freedom Fighters’ to ‘Terrorists’

Osama bin Laden, the elusive figure the U.S. is blaming for the 11 September attacks, was a long-time CIA asset during the 1980s, when the Islamic fundamentalist mujahedin carried out a jihad against the Soviet Army and its left-nationalist Afghan allies. The mujahedin rebellion began when the modernizing, pro-Soviet government encouraged girls to go to school. The Afghan "freedom fighters" were not only supported by the imperialists, but also by a wide spectrum of the fake-left, including the adherents of Tony Cliff’s International Socialist Tendency.

In August 1998, after the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, Bill Clinton ordered aerial strikes against bin Laden’s Afghan bases (which the U.S. had bought and paid for a decade earlier):

"The Afghan resistance was backed by the intelligence services of the United States and Saudi Arabia with nearly $6 billion worth of weapons. And the territory targeted last week, a set of six encampments around Khost, where the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has financed a kind of ‘terrorist university,’ in the words of a senior United States intelligence official, is well known to the Central Intelligence Agency.
"The C.I.A.’s military and financial support for the Afghan rebels indirectly helped build the camps that the United States attacked. And some of the same warriors who fought the Soviets with the C.I.A.’s help are now fighting under Mr. bin Laden’s banner."
New York Times, 24 August 1998

The fact that bin Laden and his mujahedin friends were trained by the CIA has not featured prominently in the capitalist media during the past week. But it is evidence that the attack on the World Trade Center is only one link in a long chain of events. A massive imperialist military attack on Afghanistan and/or Iraq would be a catastrophe that would produce many thousands of additional innocent victims and ultimately strengthen the forces of Islamic reaction in the region.

For World Socialism!

Revolutionaries must take a position of unconditional military defense of any neo-colony targeted for imperialist attack. It is the duty of class-conscious American workers to stand fast against the tidal wave of chauvinist filth and not lose sight of the historic interests of U.S. working people. The real threat to workers in the imperialist West does not come from bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or the Taliban, but rather from the cynical, racist imperialists whose global economic order created and nurtured them.

As Bolsheviks, we are committed to the struggle to create an internationalist world party capable of organizing the working class to overthrow the entire system of organized imperialist piracy. The only road to a future in which every member of humanity can enjoy a secure, peaceful and productive life lies through replacing the rapacious dog-eat-dog capitalist system with a planned socialist economy in which production is geared to human need.

Published: 1917 No.24 (Feb 2002)