Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Stop the War statement on 9/11 anniversary

The Stop the War Coalition have issued a statement regarding the tenth anniversary of the terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11 - which you just may have noticed is fast approaching.

I don't really have a lot more to add to that statement, but given pretty much anyone who is anyone has been asked or is giving a statement about what they were doing that fateful day - I may as well add my voice to the chorus. Not of course that I can be as eloquent as Laurie Penny for instance, who we learn 'was in double biology, cutting up potatoes for my GCSE coursework' when the twin towers were hit - nor as insightful as George Galloway, who also in the New Statesman recalls how within 30 minutes he had put pen to paper, writing this article for the Guardian. Incidentally, my favourite post 9/11 Guardian comment piece was 'Samson the Terrorist' by Paul Foot - which amidst the mass of liberalism on offer forcefully and provocatively injected Trotsky's Marxist critique of terrorism into the arguments then raging.

Personally - because, then, you know it is so important to state exactly what one was doing at the precise moment one learned something quite extraordinary was taking place in the US - embarrassingly enough I may as well admit I was doing something quite perfectly bourgeois - playing tennis of all things (perhaps I can cite Geoffrey de Ste Croix, Fred Perry and a few other tennis-playing socialists in my defence here, but it is a pretty weak defence). The muttered under her breath remark of the mother of the person I was playing tennis against while the Twin Towers were still falling was to give a small indication of the wave of latent Islamophobia that was to bubble up out into the open like a cesspit overflowing in the days, weeks, months and years to follow: 'It bet it was some bloody Arabs'.

In response I cited automatically such injustices and instances of Western state terrorism such as the oppression of the Palestinians, the UN slaughter of Iraqis in the Gulf War and then the million odd Iraqi children killed by UN sanctions in Iraq during the 1990s and indeed any number of reasons people in the Middle East might have to hate the West (the failure to understand such imperialist oppression before 9/11 and why young people might have been prepared to turn to terrorism and kill themselves in such a manner is the key thing 9/11 conspiracy theorists consistently fail to understand). However, while I understood that 9/11 did not come from a clear blue sky, given it was the World Trade Centre that had been hit, I have to admit that my initial feelings were to also raise an anti-capitalist argument by way of explanation for such an attack alongside an anti-imperialist one. Before 9/11 the anti-capitalist movement had been on a kind of rising crescendo - and I tended to also cite the massive gap between rich and poor on a global scale and other such obscenities to explain the kind of potential for such targetting of bastions of Western capital as the WTC.

The flood of Islamophobia - whipped up as ever by the capitalist press and racist warmongering politicians - was given respectability and legitimacy the moment it was clear that the threat of war by the US in Afghanistan, on one of the poorest people on the planet, was definitely on the cards. Probably the proudest Socialist Worker sales I ever did were agitating against war in the days following 9/11 - Socialist Worker that week had a defiant frontpage - see here and a lead article - 'Bitter Fruit of US Policy' and I vividly remember an Asian taxi-driver giving us a huge grin and thumbs up as he swung by our stall.

That almost ten years exactly on from 9/11 we have seen exactly where the hatred of Islamophobia leads in the Norwegian Nazi atrocities - will hopefully mean that the 9/11 anniversary will have a slightly more sophisticated and less racist discussion of what 'terrorism' is than it might otherwise have had. However, more critically - as both Mike Davis in his article 'The Embers of September' and Alex Callinicos in his article 'Power Failure' note, the real story of ten years since 9/11 is just how weak US Imperialism is after ten years of bloody war - and now also global economic crisis. As Callinicos notes,

'The “war on terrorism”, which was supposed to entrench US global hegemony, has merely accelerated decline. The global economic and financial crisis is widely seen as the breakdown of Anglo-American free-market capitalism, which the Bush administration had proclaimed the “single sustainable model of national success”. More important, the recent stagnation of the US economy has contrasted sharply with the rapid recovery of China—now the world’s second biggest economy. The crisis has speeded up a realignment of global geopolitical relationships to accommodate Chinese power...Meanwhile, democracy has come to the Middle East—not thanks to either the US or ­Al Qaida, but through revolutions that overthrew Western client regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. The Nato intervention in Libya is a desperate, almost certainly unsuccessful attempt by Washington to regain the initiative. Obama’s determination to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan reflects among other things a recognition that US global strategy must focus on countering China’s rise.'

As Mike Davis observes:

Someday—perhaps sooner than we think—a new Edward Gibbon in China or India will surely sit down to write “The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire”. (Hopefully it will be but one volume in a larger, more progressive oeuvre — “The Renaissance of Asia”, perhaps — and not an obituary for a human future sucked into America's sinking void.)

Lets indeed hope and organise so that the story of the 21st century is one where humanity does indeed forge a genuinely democratic future amidst the barbaric violence of imperial decline - but for that to happen we need to make sure that 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire' leads not simply to just 'the Renaissance of Asia' (with the potential for new empires to replace the ashes of the old) but the Renaissance of Socialism.

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