As soon as the 17 were arrested, the media went into overdrive. The police and the government paraded bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and cell-phone detonators “just like” those used by this “alleged” terrorist cell. Stephen Harper practically declared the arrested guilty before even the first charges were laid. Stories of bombing the CN Tower, nuclear power plants, and the CSIS Secret Service building in Toronto were leaked to the press. One story even detailed a plot to invade Parliament and behead the Prime Minister! Not surprisingly, 3 mosques were vandalized within days of the arrests. A climate of fear was being created with Muslims as the enemy.
While many working class Canadians no doubt felt relieved that what they saw as a terrorist plot was averted, the State has used these arrests to erode hard-won civil liberties. The right of presumption of innocence, of a fair trial by an impartial jury, of due process and access to legal council, and of the right to humane treatment have all been thrown out the window. Rocco Galati, a lawyer for one of the suspects, said that the accused have been kept isolated in a room with a light on 24 hours a day; they have been denied leaving this room for the first five days for even 30 seconds; they have been given only five minutes to eat their meals – otherwise their meals are taken away from them; they have not been allowed to speak to anyone, including the guards; and they have been forced to keep their eyes on the floor at all times. Additionally, the accused have been denied the right to discuss their case with a lawyer without security guards present. Right-wing pundits may claim that this is fair treatment for murderous terrorists. Statements like this are a clear abrogation of the presumption of innocence; we must remember that whatever dictatorial methods are used against one section of the population will be used against other sections (socialists, striking workers, etc.) in the future.
The Canadian population has been largely resistant to the culture of fear cultivated in George Bush’s USA after September 11th 2001. These alleged terrorists have reportedly been followed since 2004, so why bring them in now? One possible explanation is the erosion of support for the imperialist war in Afghanistan, where Canada has 2,300 troops. Opinion polls have seen a clear majority of Canadians opposed to the intervention. So-called “anti-terror” legislation is also due for its 5-year review – now it appears that instead of being scaled back, these laws will be enhanced to further erode civil liberties and the security forces will have increased funds to spy on Canadians. Security Certificates, allowing detention without trial, are also coming under review. People who are afraid are much more likely to acquiesce to the plans on the authorities. That is why it is so important that all socialists, trade unionists, and anti-war activists fight against any erosion of civil liberties.
Marxism and Terrorism
Leon Trotsky explained that a society in which terrorism is endemic is a society in crisis. We live in a world where the State terrorism of the Imperialist powers is a daily occurrence. Whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Palestine, the “War on Terror” has been used as a pretext for untold of crimes against working people. Marxists, the world over, are at the forefront of the fight against Imperialist terror. But we are not neutral when it comes to methods used to oppose imperialist war. Methods of individual terror, or urban guerrillaism, are not the method of the working class. Typically these plots, even when successful, merely serve to strengthen the State apparatus and are used as a pretext to clamp down harder. The State does not rest on individuals, so killing politicians or military leaders has little effect on the system. However, modern day terrorist groups have all but abandoned striking against the leaders of capitalism and instead hit against the general population. The working class of an Imperialist nation is in no way responsible for the crimes of their government. One has merely to look at September 11th to see the reactionary consequences of such attacks. Instead of relying on a small band of “heroes” to do the work for us, Marxists explain that the task of emancipation of the working class is that of the working class itself. Methods of mass action, demonstrations, strikes, occupations and if necessary, workers defence guards are the methods to fight Imperialism.
The crimes of Imperialism are pushing more and more youth to implacable opposition to the system. Of the 17 arrested all except two were under 30 years of age, including six teenagers. Almost all of the accused were born in Canada. Young workers, of all creeds, see the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Guantanomo Bay and in Palestine. They also see the effects of racism at home and mass unemployment affecting youth. Unfortunately, some of these youth fall into the arms of religious fundamentalists. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic fundamentalism have all played a reactionary role that must be opposed by all genuine socialists. In large part the CIA funded, supported, and helped set up the fundamentalists in the 1970s and 80s in an attempt to divert the people of the Middle East and Asia away from socialism. The CIA created bin Laden and Al Qaeda in order to destabilize the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan. The Wahabinite Saudi royal family is one of the main bulwarks of US Imperialism, which has no problem with their reactionary policies against women and the working class. Now, like Frankenstein’s monster, the creation has turned against its master. In reality, Imperialism and Fundamentalism are but two sides of the same coin and this is recognized by socialists in the region. The Iranian Revolutionary Socialist League and the Pakistani Trade Union Defence Campaign have united workers and fought off State and fundamentalist attacks under the slogan, “Only the class struggle can decisively defeat the madness of fundamentalist terrorism and imperialist barbarism.” The fundamentalist bigots have no place in the fight against Imperialism and we must not abandon our comrades in “Islamic” countries to fight them alone. The only reason why these reactionary ideas are able to get a foothold in the west is due to the inability of the labour and social democratic leaders to give a lead in the fight against Imperialism.
Recently, it has become popular amongst the left to label racism against the peoples of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as “Islamophobia”. It is vitally important for the Imperialists to create an enemy to justify their wars against the poor of the world and they do this by creating racism and fear at home. However, Fightback believes the term Islamophobia incorrectly characterizes the situation and can lead to reactionary conclusions. This title takes a slew of different peoples and defines them by the narrow characteristic of religion. It ignores secular peoples – the Palestinian tradition is secular and socialist, as is the Iraqi tradition. It can also lead one to fall into the trap of supporting the idea that the wars come from a so-called “clash of civilizations” between Islam and Christianity.
In an interview last year on Pakistani TV (http://www.marxist.com/woods-interview-pakistan-tv310305.htm), marxist.com editor Alan Woods gave the following reply:
A: To begin with I would question the word civilization when applied to US imperialism, which is conducting a barbarous and criminal occupation in Iraq! But to answer the question, no I do not accept the idea, so frequently expressed in countries like Pakistan, that this is a war between the Christian West and the world of Islam. I do not think it is a religious question at all. America’s designs on Iraq are not motivated by religion but by the greed for profits and oil, and also important strategic considerations… it is entirely wrong to pose the question in terms of Islam versus the West. This only divides and weakens the anti-war movement when what is necessary is to unite all the anti-imperialist forces in the world to fight this criminal occupation.
Marxists defend freedom of (and freedom from) religion. But the term Islamophobia blurs the lines between the classes and provides a veil for the fundamentalists to hide behind. The capitalists of the rich nations are waging a war against the working peoples of the world. Just as capitalists have class solidarity with the local rulers (Islamic or otherwise), we propose class unity between workers of all creeds to fight Imperialism worldwide and racism at home.
At the outbreak of the Iraq war over 50 million people, workers and youth, demonstrated across the world. There were 2 million on the streets of London, the largest protest in British history, and another 6 million in Spain. This shows that the main ally of the poor masses in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine are the workers of the West, fighting in the belly of the beast. US imperialism in Vietnam was not defeated in the jungles but by the mass movement in the USA. Similarly, Imperialism is being forced to retreat in Latin America due to the mass movement of workers, with Venezuela and Bolivia at the fore. The term Islamophobia ignores the unity of class interests between workers in the east and west. The slogan, “Class unity against racism and imperialist war” expresses both the problem and the solution in the clearest fashion.
NDP must give answers
The fundamentalists are attractive to youth because they give answers to the questions posed by decaying capitalism and propose action. The only reason they have been able to grow in support is due to the inability of the labour and NDP leaders to give categorical answers or propose any substantive action against Imperialist war, racist injustice and youth unemployment. The New Democratic Party leaders still hold an equivocal position on the war in Afghanistan. Rather than the vague, “We support the troops, but not on this mandate. We don’t want troops in Afghanistan, but sending troops to Darfur is ok,” youth will be attracted by a clear socialist demand of, “Bring the troops home now. No support for Imperialist wars.” In response to the racism at home that is used to create fear as a justification to war (and as a side effect helps to create an underclass forced to work for poverty wages), the labour leaders must propose class unity against racism. This is not something abstract. Equal pay for work of equal value is an issue upon which all workers, no matter what their race or religion, can unite behind on a picket line. To end the unemployment that affects youth, the NDP needs to adopt the policy of reduction of the working week at no loss of pay and free education and grants for all. Finally, instead of relying on imperialist troops from Canada or the UN, the labour movement must give support to all movements of working people against Imperialism. When the NDP and labour leaders adopt above program, youth radicalized by the system will come to socialism and class unity, and not the blind alley of Fundamentalism. We put full responsibility on the ruling class for fomenting racism and war, which both the arrested youth and the wider working class are victims of. However, we also put full responsibility on the leaders of working class organizations who have refused to put forward concrete socialist demands to unite youth and workers against capitalist war.
Please also see:
- Troops out of Afghanistan! Canadian imperialism comes of age by Alex Grant (4 May 2006)