[Marxism] Re: Al Qaeda-Emerging New International Resistance to Imperialism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 20 15:37:20 MST 2004

Tony Abdo wrote:
>I am neither 'infatuated' with Al Qaeda nor with 'terrorism', as Lou 
>states. But I deliberately used the term 'dirty war' instead of the 
>bourgeois smear word, 'terrorist'. And that was for the simple reason, 
>that warfare today involves civilian casualties, or 'incidental 
>casualties', as people like Donald Rumsfield are inclined to say.

It is not a smear word. Trotsky wrote an attack on *terrorism* in 1909. The 
Islamic radicals have basically the same problems as the Narodniks. They 
think that bold acts can have a political effect. They really can't. The 
only thing that can make a difference is mass action. When revolutionary 
violence takes place in the context of a mass movement and is supported and 
understood by the masses, it is one thing. What al Qaeda is up to is 
another altogether. It is *counter-productive* to fly airplanes into office 
buildings or commuter trains filled with working people. It helps to get 
them to identify with their rulers as has been obvious in the USA. The main 
reason Spain voted out the rightists is that they lied.

>I also never suggested that the US ruling class will ever 'cede power 
>STICTLY as a result of terror', Lou.   But I do not think that terror is 
>the principle mode of attack of the Al Qaeda army. Notice that I use the 
>word 'army' here. Al Qaeda is a renegade brigade from an American formed 
>army. It's approach is a military approach to winning a war by economic 
>sabotage, not through just individual acts of terroristic 'justice' 
>started by some civilian 'Red Brigade' or another.  Al Qaeda thinks that 
>it can make the economic price too high for imperialism to continue to 
>occupy Muslim countries.

Is that so? I doubt that blowing up a nightclub in Bali, for example, will 
force the west out of Indonesia. All it has done is make Australians more 
susceptible to imperialist propaganda.

>'Dirty war' is a form of warfare usually pushed off onto colonial 
>reistance armies, because the occupation troops they fight against, begin 
>to use techniques to provoke mass fear against the rebel armiy's civilian 
>base. Al Qaeda is no different in this regard, and their struggle comes 
>from a point of origen that began 3 decades ago in colonial resistance 
>warfare in Afghanistan. Preaching Gandhi to them from a marxist 
>perspective is hardly persuasive to either Al Qaeda, or their civilian 
>base of support.

Colonial resistance warfare in Afghanistan? You mean that Afghanistan was a 
colony of the USSR? That's a new on one me.

>Gandhi was not the world's greatest general, and Al Qaeda is certainly 
>involved in combat at this point. They are not merely a civilian effort to 
>arouse a sleeping population to resistance, and cannot be that, even if 
>they were to try.  Al Qaeda has been involved in active combat for quite 
>some time now, and to merely consider Al Qaeda to be an organization based 
>on 'terrorism' is rather simplistic.

It is not simplistic at all. Al Qaeda is not in the tradition of the FLN in 
Algeria or any other national liberation movement that was accountable to 
the masses.

>It is precisely these martial origens of Al Qaeda that concerns the US so 
>much. If they were merely  a'terrorist' grouplet of any old sort, the 
>ruling elite would not be taking the current measures they are 
>employiing.  But Al Qaeda was a US funded army that has now gone astray 
>(from the US angle). And further, it is an army that has found its own 
>way, to a  form of self recruitment and funding via Islamic religion and 
>the mosques around the planet.

The US is not taking measures against Al Qaeda. It is taking measures 
against the people of Iraq.

>Further, the combat strategy of Al Qaeda is not conceptualized around 
>terror alone, but around economic sabotage.  So far, the main military and 
>economic center of US imperialism was attacked (WTC and Pentagon), and an 
>attack on the ability of the US to mobilize proxy troops into their 
>battlefields was launched.

The WTC is not the economic center of US imperialism by any stretch of the 
imagination. The big investment banks were not in the WTC. As a former 
employee of Goldman-Sachs and Salomon Brothers, I am very familiar with the 
territory downtown. The WTC was singled out because it was big, obvious and 
vulnerable. But, more importantly, Al Qaeda (assuming they were involved) 
has HELPED US imperialism by carrying out what appears to the average 
American as a senseless attack. It has helped to line up working people 
behind the bourgeoisie. Although with far less impact, the boneheaded SDS 
Weathermen did the same thing in the 1970s.

>The lines between military warfare and individual acts of terrorism are 
>sometimes cloudy.  "Terrorism' as classically thought of, was where some 
>group or individual, delivered 'justice' to a chosen person or group that 
>was considered guilty of some sort of crime by the assassin.    Now, the 
>word 'terroist' is just a word that the capitalist press uses for people 
>or groups it wants to label as being naughty.  It is never used in regard 
>to the actions of their own armies or henchmen.

We don't care what the bourgeois press says. We understand that blowing up 
railway cars filled with commuters is an act of terror. At least the 
Narodniks focused their fire on hated Czarist officials.

>I use the term 'dirty war' for the type of warfare that Al Qaeda is 
>waging. When civilians are hurt it ii incidental to the military engagement.

Oh, I see. The Spanish commuters were "incidentally" blown to smithereens 
because the intended target was really a NATO installation in Madrid. How 
silly of me not to see this.

>Al Qaeda, similarly has told the imperialist world that as a military 
>unit, that Al Qaeda must insist that populations elsewhere withdraw their 
>governments from having troops inside the Muslim dominant regions. It is a 
>simple enough edict to comply with. There is no real animosity there 
>against civilians in the imperial centers. Al Qaeda is simply saying, that 
>if your government is involved where our people live, then you too live in 
>a war zone.

Let's say that this is the way that Al Qaeda thinks. So what. They are 
wrong. Terrorism has been singularly unsuccessful in achieving national 
liberation. Even when the movement is relatively accountable to the masses, 
such as the PKK in Turkey or the Provos in Northern Ireland, these peoples 
have not benefited from a single bomb going off. If you study the example 
of Cuba, Nicaragua, China or Vietnam, you will discover very few incidents 
of terror strictly speaking. You do have assassinations of repressive 
mayors, military figures, etc., but this is entirely in accord with the 
norms of civil war as described in Trotsky's "Their Morals and Ours". Our 
goal here is political clarity. Why Tony Abdo would give even the slightest 
credit to counterproductive tactics is a mystery--perhaps.

>Once upon a time, The Red Army, most certainly took harsh measures that 
>were called 'terror' then, and would be called 'terrorism' today. It is 
>important to understand that there is a difference between warfare and 
>individual terrorism though.  No matter how much that difference might get 
>blurred over at times. Al Qaeda sees itself in a struggle similar to that 
>of the war to obtain the independence of the USSR, or the war to kick out 
>the invading fascist forces from Germany.

But they are wrong, even if they thought in such terms. Despite being a 
police state, the USSR had very broad participation and decision-making at 
the local level in the war against fascism. The defense of Stalingrad 
involved mass participation on a heroic level.

>Al Qaeda knows that difference between warfare and pure 'terrorism', and 
>it pertty much looks like almost all their activities will have some 
>direct military value to trying to restrain the US, or trying to strangle 
>the smooth function of the economies in the imperial centers, most 
>principally, the US.

This is false. Blowing up an embassy does *nothing* to impede US control 
over a nation. This kind of thinking is a result of not understanding the 
true mechanisms of capitalism and imperialism.

>   Al Qaeda is a religion based, anticolonial movement.  It is fighting an 
> internationalist crusade to stop the repression of people in Muslim 
> countries by Christian imperialists, as it sees the situation. Certainly 
> this is not the program that marxists support.  But in happening to wage 
> their war for regional independece from foreign religon, Al Qaeda is also 
> trying to defeat US imperialism, a goal that marxists do support.

We support the goals of Al Qaeda--at least many of them. That is not the 
issue. We oppose them acting in isolation from the masses and taking 
actions that make our jobs more difficult in the imperialist nations.

>Al Qaeda is a brigade that came out of an extemely vicious civil war, 
>where both super powers at the time alongside their proxy armies, fought 
>using their dirtiest techniques.  No amount of preaching about respect to 
>civilians has any meaning at this point.  But throwing the word 'terror' 
>around  is no more the explanation to Al Qaeda, than it is the explanation 
>of what the Chechen Resitance to Moscow might be about.

The Chechnean resistance is part of a mass movement. Although I would 
certainly question some of the tactics they have used, it arose as a 
*political* response to the denial of self-determination. See G 
Derluguian's "Che Guevaras in Turbans" in the 1999 New Left Review, number 
237, for more on this.

>Colonial repression has gotten incredibly brutal in the 21st century, and 
>the resistance to it is too.  And because some of the military strategy of 
>Al Qaeda is so effective, its continued success in the field represents a 
>real danger to Rome. Al Qaeda has power because it has produced change.
>Others might seek to copy such a strategy, and the US government is dead 
>serious about how much it fears what the results of not taking effective 
>action might be.

I think you are completely off-the-wall on this, but I suppose it serves 
some pedagogical value to answer you. I would strongly advise you, however, 
to refrain from seeing this forum as a place to promote Al Qaeda in the 
same fashion that Marvin Gandall promotes the Kerry campaign. We do need to 
keep up a certain minimum level of propriety.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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