The Attacks in the United States and on the War
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are expressions of the worldwide economic, social, and military politics of the past decades. They are to be understood as expressions of global barbarism, as much as reactions to the brutality and inhumanity which are bound up worldwide with the capitalist order. And they have been understood in this sense all over the world. For that very reason, it is, finally, unimportant who actually committed these attacks and for what motives (supposing we will ever find out). Through this understanding and the following reactions, the assaults have been made, objectively and from all sides, into an expression of the "North/South opposition" in the world, which has, materially, enormously intensified itself in the past twenty years.
The attack had the brutality of which humans are capable, no new level, nor even a new place: In the United States of America, the imposition of capitalism in this part of the world, has from the beginning meant war: the slaughter of the original "Indian" population, slavery, civil war, the war for Texas, etc.
Actually, the greater wonder is not the fact that World Power No. 1 has been caught off guard by box-cutter-armed determination, but rather that something did not happen much earlier - after all the damage and the terror with which the repression and exploitation of the world has been accomplished, organized, and defended by the American state and its troops: No Gun Ri, My Lai, Panama City, Mutla Ridge/Basra , the organization of mass murder in Indonesia, the support of the regimes of the Shah in Iran/Persia, of Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the continuing bombing of Iraq, and so on and so forth. And - above all - it has to do with the cold cynicism, the pretensions of absolute power, the mockery of the victim. This cynicism had found its expression in Madeleine Albright's answer to the question of the death of tens of thousands of children as a result of the economic sanctions against Iraq: "That's the price we have to pay." Now, a first bill has been delivered and collected.
The attacks have not hit capitalism in its heart. On the contrary - they serve uniquely and only to preserve and strengthen the worldwide order of exploitation and domination.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have brought forth a clammy, secret joy in some people. The New York skyline concealed in smoke, the WTC in flames, and finally erased fully from the landscape, the Pentagon burning, the symbols - economic as well as military - of capitalistic power destroyed, these were pictures that conjured up a smile on some people's face.
The world has not fundamentally changed with the collapse of the World Trade Center. It is, after as well as before, a global order of exploitation and oppression. Even more: The attacks serve both sides - the assailants and the would-be confronted state, or capitalism - to attempt an extension and reinforcement of their crumbling power.
Wars are never only the confrontation between the parties, but rather, in essence, the general struggle of the war-leading parties to insure their domination. For the suicide pilots as much as the Bush Administration, it is in this sense that they go to war.
With the attacks, the assailants know they have placed themselves on the level of war leaders like Madeleine Albright, and are following the logic of war, which was already directed openly against the proletariat in the Gulf War. On the surface, wars establish the impression of an opposition between the war-leading parties; in essence, however, they are for both sides the general means of preempting the proletarian revolt, the struggle for a better life, the revolution as the movement of emancipation of humanity.
In the worldwide struggle over the distribution of wealth, the assailants have the strong sympathy and support of the excluded, the oppressed, the exploited. To them, the assailants promise the reattainment of dignity and a larger piece of the pie, in the space of an authoritarian-hierarchical social order: a deeply fascistic fundamental perspective, which has its roots not only in the evermore-intense division of the world into "poor and rich." It is also and above all a reaction to the actual eclipse of inherited feudal structures, which were first partially installed by colonialism, but which, above all though, have passed over into capitalism, and which were modernized, extended and used by imperialism.
The attacks (or their use, which is the same thing) by radical-Islamic powers are not the expression of their political strength, but rather a reaction to their own crisis. They need the attacks, in order to put themselves back in the game.
At the end of the 1960s in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Islamic countries, strikes, the women's movement, and strong left class organizations had beaten back the influence of religious groups. This balance of power was recorrected by the systematic support of Islamist groups by the CIA and "imperialistic powers." With the revolution in Iran, the armed actions in Algeria, etc., the social question and militant Islamism appeared to bind themselves together.
In the last decade millions of people have been drawn into the cities, and have simply left the half-feudal, religious structures on the land. In the cities, religiously (in no way always Islamic) decorated fascism finds its mass basis with them, because proletarianization-urbanization means misery, plain and simple, because they have not (yet) become a working class.
The local elites and middle strata feel themselves to be passed over in their claim to leadership by the "West," to have lost their "dignity." Out of these strata, the cadres and leaders of this movement recruit themselves. Precisely because this movement can, on the one hand, represent itself as oppressed, and on the other hand, appropriate the "social question" as the international, indeed global advocate of the cheated, they are dangerous opponents of any sort of emancipation or revolution generally.
With that, the radical-Islamic reaction was actually already on the decline - not only in the historic sense, by the disappearance of its base through proletarianization, urbanization, and the migration of millions in Asia and parts of Africa, but rather also actually; the "Islamic Republic" in Iran had outlived itself, and sought - against modernization and workers' struggles - survival strategies; in Algeria it has been shown in the uprisings of this year that the FIS can pose no alternative for humanity; in Indonesia Islamic fundamentalists could indeed attack unionists, the left, and isolated strikes, and destablize the whole society with assassination and homicide - winning, however, in spite of restraining economic and political crises, only a narrow mass influence. As is so often the case, these attacks are also the manifestation of the eclipse of a movement. Through the (certainly calculated) reaction of the USA and the "Western world" to the attacks, they now experience the striven - for revalorization - just as bin Laden, above all through the cruise missiles with which the USA reacted to the embassy attacks in Africa, first became a hero in the Arab lands; or just like Saddam Hussein would not have politically survived the crisis in Iraq without the 1991 Gulf War.
Showing the USA to be a paper tiger has nothing to do with showing the worldwide masses a way out of their powerlessness. It has to do with their own ruling interests using and exploiting that powerlessness.
The "holy warriors" do not want to do away with oppression and exploitation. They want to come into the role of oppressors themselves, and if they cannot have this, then they want at least to have participated in power. For the impoverished, ignored, mocked, hungry, and lacking an emancipatory perspective of the world, the attack on a symbol of capitalism can present itself as an expression of their own cries for justice. In this sense, the attack was politically very well directed. The masses of the world ("mass support" was also important to the fascists) have taken note of the vulnerability of the world police with more or less healthy cheer. It will depend on the way the USA and worldwide capitalism take up this bid for world war, how strong the influence of the jihad-fighters and their chiefs in Africa and Asia, and perhaps elsewhere, will grow.
Actually, the attacks hit the whole breadth of the worldwide proletariat: not only the high-earning bankers, but equally the international service-sector proletariat working in the WTC: secretaries, cleaning staff, people from Bangladesh, "illegals" from Colombia. In spite of this, the attacks have succeeded in building up a confrontation inside the global proletariat, between the poor masses and the winners of capital development - the corresponding occupational groups, like media people, brokers, government staff, pilots ("information workers" in the broadest sense), have immediately taken up the war solution and see "their civilization" threatened by the "fanaticism of the excluded."
With this, two extreme poles of the world proletariat will be opposed to one another as enemy subjects. Behind this, the global structure of capitalist exploitation, capital and class relations - only existing globally and mediated by a world market since the beginning of capitalism - disappear.
The "antiglobalization" mobilizations in the past years have brought this global relation and the general unpleasantness of the capitalist order strongly to expression - but in a false manner. Instead of taking the worldwide unity of this only diffusely formulated unpleasantness to its origins, and bringing it to bear in all social struggles, they have set tricontinental mass poverty against international finance capital (and its personified bearers), and sought opponents there where finance capital shows itself to be a "neoliberal" monster. The "antiglobalization movement" has not yet recovered from the shock of consequently being immediately put into an intellectual coherence with the attacks. It appears decided, however, that they must change their terrain, if they want to retain their - till now only limited - moments of critique of capitalism.
Just as the Islamist reactionaries want to rebuttress their disappearing power position with the war, the capitalism of the "free West," which today has become the "civilized North," needs war and terror in order to be able to deal with the danger of a revolutionary upheaval in a time of a collapsing world economy.
As the airplanes flew into the towers of the WTC and the Pentagon, the world economy found itself in a beginning stage of one of its most thoroughly difficult crises in the history of capitalism. After the financial crises in Asia, Russia, and Brazil, the flight to the exchanges and the apparent boom of a "new economy" that flight spat up, and the debt-financed consumption boom in the USA, the world economy could still defend against the crash. But even before September 11 it had become clear that this must lead to an even more drastic break. The drama is in the fact that this time all three centers of the world economy - the USA, Japan, and Europe - simultaneously enter into crisis, and all the financial-policy fiscal instruments are long exhausted. We thus have a constellation, finally, like that in the middle of the 1960s - the phase in which the USA began to escalate the war in Vietnam.
In view of the attacks, one could almost detect relief among the economists and administrative bosses, that the attacks now presented an excuse for the capitalist crisis and thereby could ground all the unpopular measures, like layoffs, labor-intensification, or tax increases.
From the many cases of ethnically- or religiously-colored self-lacerations of the losers to the uprisings of urban masses in Africa and farmers in Latin America, to the numberless strikes in Indonesia, the workers struggles in Iran, the proletarian riots against austerity in Argentina, and, not least, the growing unrest in new WTO member China: Bush also knows that the USA has too few thumbs to stop the thousand leaks in the dam, which defends the new world order against the expression of the indefensible circumstances of the pyramid of world-exploitation.
With the attacks it is now possible for him to take the Europeans into the boat, and set NATO up for global containment. Important for this is the Bundesrepublik Deutschlan (BRD), which contains one of the largest armies in the world and now, finally, will be drawn into a world war. In spite of this, they work out of a situation of global weaknesses of the social system, which they must assiduously defend everywhere - on the three continents as in their own backyards.
On the lee-side of the external war-waging, that which it's really all about will develop: the worldwide waging of internal war. To this belongs also the overcoming of the persistent split between the external and the internal realms, as BRD Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer formulated it.
The deployment of military "special units," more "internal security," state stimulus-expenditures, tax hikes, reconstruction of the social state, and pressure on the unemployed, tightening of the migration regime - thus, all that which has already been declared should now be put in place without reservation. With the new "villains," these measures could be wholly completed according to the old model of external war, which conceals and justifies the internal measures. More weakly, this will also be the case in Europe. The war outside will represent itself differently here than in the past decade: The enemy is diffuse, unexplained, unrecognized, everywhere, under many masks. And it exploits poverty. The multiple-year war against international terrorism will thus develop into a more direct war against the worldwide working class(es) - by all means, on all planes, internal and external. For that, the Western community of values has already signed the check. The EU Commission is now ramming through a new, broadened and EU-wide definition of "terrorism." In this definition, just about everything connected with struggles which move outside of accepted methods like unions, parties, etc., is determined: from "urban violence" to "sit-ins" all the way to infrastructure and Internet disturbances.
But the opponent will also shrink from nothing. The difference between state and non- or semi-state terror will be obliterated more thoroughly than before - above all, there where religious fundis have a certain strength, as in the Middle East, Pakistan, or in Indonesia. And, completing that, what Fischer and others declared at the UN General Assembly in September 1999, shortly after the NATO war in ex-Yugoslavia, will quite quickly become reality: "General Secretary Kofi Annan has correctly called for developing a 'culture of prevention,' in order effectively to hinder the outbreak of future war and natural catastrophes. Noninterference in 'internal affairs' can no longer be permitted to be misused as a shield for dictators and murders. Everyone knows how difficult the transition from a 'culture of reaction' to a 'culture of prevention' will be. It demands great persuasive powers, in order to produce the political and economic will to prevent something that hopefully will never come to pass."
9. What to do?
The war-propaganda machine is running at high speed - its success is, however, not as effective as it would like to represent; in the USA itself, the invited storm of youth into the recruiting stations is absent. Perhaps the attack has really brought people to thought, or the devastations and the "collateral damage" of innocent deaths in the past war in the Gulf or in Kosovo have heightened the critical ability of the population against military insertions.
There will be various reactions: One part will be painfully resolved to put itself on the side of war, in order to defend that which they have here (during the Gulf War of 1991, the protests, as became clear, allowed that the bombs fall "only" in the Near East). On the other side a debate about capitalism and the possibility of the global emancipation of humanity could begin again. This debate must relate itself actually and anew to worldwide struggles, in that it must, first, perceive them, and grasp them as the true motor of history. Finally, on this foundation, it's important to mobilize struggles against the partner of the worldwide war game. If the "movement against globalization" develops a discussion in this direction and seizes this task, a wholly new perspective can develop.
We can become capable of action on three levels:
a. In a mobilization, not against this war, but against war - everywhere in the world. Peace movements as a cover for protecting their own wealthy biotopes have an unseemly tradition in Germany. Any international mobilization against war in the world must come to the point of marking, in its content and in its methods, a break with all that which defends global exploitation, and that which calls general class war "peace." To this break belongs support of the widely practiced refusal of war through flight and migration.
b. The attacks in the USA and the menacing long war lead, on the one side, to authoritarian reactions and a general rightward shift; they have created a climate, however, in which can be raised many more fundamental questions than before - in what type of world we live, and how we six billion people want to live together in the future. So far, the left in this situation is split between a call for the USA as the last military savior of "civilization," the fatal resurrection of a traditional antiimperialism, and new debate on the possibility, necessity, and actuality of world revolution. This debate today must not only be led, but also organized.
c. The function of war as a means of ruling insurance is always in repelling people in their powerlessness before the "great events" of world history, and in robbing them of any perspective of their own organization of their history. Against a debate, which now wants to mix it up with the states (i.e., degrade itself in appealing to the rulers), we must radically pose the self-activity of the exploited - even when they might appear small in the face of great world politics. Only in this do we take these struggles seriously, support them, and grasp them in their inherent emancipatory potential, only in this can we work against this general self-disempowerment, that is supposed to lead to war and fear of war. To this belongs revolutionary defeatism against the war, which puts all participating war parties to defeat.
Wildcat, September 26, 2001
 No Gun Ri: In the Korean War, in July 1950, American troops shot up to 400 civilian refugees at No Gun Ri in South Korea, because they thought that Communists had hidden themselves among them. My Lai: During the Vietnam War, in March 1968, over 100 villagers were shot by American troops. Panama City: In December 1989, American troops, ostensibly on a search for dictator Noriega, who they had earlier supported, now wanting to arrest him as a drug baron, marched into Panama and in a few days killed many thousands of people in the key cities of Panama City and Colon. Mutla Ridge: At Mutla Ridge in February 1991, troops of the allies blasted out of the air thousands of Iraqi soldiers fleeing out of Kuwait in the direction of Basra, who represented no military threat (see also Bilanz in Wildcat 57).