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Woolwich: the War on Terror on our doorstep

This is a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians, women and children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes. But London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that it has nothing to do with British foreign policy and the claim that British soldiers are bravely defending us in Britain and fighting for freedom in Afghanistan is a brazen lie.

We should remember – faced with natural horror at the event as well as the media frenzy, that Britain is using its soldiers to kill Afghans every day. Afghan women and children are not only witnesses but victims of these atrocities. Such actions are on a vastly greater scale than all the “terrorist attacks” in Britain put together.

The drone attacks by “our” US allies blow up and dismember whole families and lay waste to entire villages. In this sense yesterday’s attack was the “war coming home”. This is true no matter how much we may disagree with the actions of those who carried out the Woolwich attack or the London tube bombings.

If Britain had not supported the US in its war in Afghanistan and Iraq such events would not occur – the solution is to get the troops out now.

We should understand – without approving – what motivates a tiny minority of young British Muslims to become jihadis and “terrorists.” This is not just their brainwashing by radical Islamist clerics, or websites. It is a response to wars and interventions by Britain, the US and France in Central Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa

The actions of imperialist forces naturally outrage far larger numbers of British people with origins in and family links to these areas of the world. So too does the media’s constant use of the word “Islamic” in front of terrorist – inflammatory when the huge majority of Muslims condemn such actions.

No doubt too the virtual disappearance of an antiwar movement on the streets of Britain leads some to despair and drives them to individual acts aimed at terrorising the population into not supporting the war.

Our criticism is that, quite simply this sort of action will not work. It is counterproductive. It will not make the population more opposed to the wars of our rulers. Quite the opposite – at least in the short run.

Such actions are far more likely to strengthen support for “our boys” and expose the Muslim people of Britain to acts of “revenge” or greater isolation and public hostility. Hence the reported attacks on mosques in London and Essex and the instant street mobilisations of the EDL. These may increase substantially in the days ahead as the fascists seize what they see as a great opportunity.

It is the number one duty of the left to defend Muslim communities against Islamophobia and more general anti-Nigerian, anti-Asian and anti-immigrant attacks. If the EDL attempts to carry out provocative marches and pogroms the labour and antiracist movement needs to mobilise the maximum forces to repel them.

In the next few days and weeks it will make life harder for consistent anti-imperialist and anti-war activists in the workplaces and in working class communities. We simply have to hold our ground as we did throughout the Irish war. The best elements amongst our workmates will respect us the more for it. Our key slogan remains:

All British and Nato troops out of Afghanistan and the Middle East NOW

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9 Responses to Woolwich: the War on Terror on our doorstep

  1. Geoff

    May 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for your posting, Tom.

    I signed the Left Unity appeal mainly out of personal respect for Ken Loach. I don’t know what he is saying and thinking right now about LU but, from what you have said, it seems its current leadership is in serious denial about the real world.

    Would I also be correct in thinking that, unless LU’s current leaders are challenged and replaced asap, this latest project for principled unity among socialists runs the very real danger of becoming yet another busted flush?

  2. Brian

    May 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    We need to make a statement where we make it clear that what we are saying is to further increase the protection of the general public from terrorism, but at the same time mention, that as part of increasing that protection we need to talk about the acts carried out by the US and the UK which have increased recruitment to terrorist groups, IE the illegal invasion of Iraq and the bombing of schools there, and we need to ask why questions are never raised about these things in the media and why they are never debated as a way of diminishing the threat of terror to ordinary citizens.We could also maybe ask, that as these questions aren’t brought up, p;perhaps the real rulers, the super rich , do not care about protecting ordinary citizens from terrorism, which would perhaps be taking it too far to get away without bigoted statements thrown back against anyone left wing.

  3. Tom

    May 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Hi Geoff. It’s even worse than you think. There is no Left Unity statement as such. All Kate Hudson did was regurgitate a statement she wrote for CND, one which would probably never have appeared at all on Left Unity’s website had I not inundated the website and their email box demanding that a statement was issued asap.
    Every reference to ‘we’ in Kate’s statement meant CND members, having nothing at all to do with Left Unity. The ten strong Left Unity leadership elected a few weeks previously have chosen to say absolutely nothing about Woolwich, the growth of online support for UKIP, EDL and the BNP. Left Unity have added a disclaimer to Kate’s statement to the effect that it does not represent Left Unity, which begs the question, might there be members of the leadership whose position is even worse than Kate’s, not that hers is not without problems of its own?
    Kate Hudson offers ‘our’ prayers to the dead soldier’s family. What about atheists? Have we been written out of the Left Unity project? For a day, despite half a dozen complaints from me, Kate’s article had a photograph of Kate with a massive smile on her face! Given the inevitable attacks on Muslims, this seems rediculous photograph, like laughing all the way through a funeral.
    Kate’s statement says killing is never the answer. What about the American Civil War? Or Spartacus’s army of liberation of the slaves? Or the Spanish Civil War? There is over a dozen articles on Left Unity’s website since Kate’s: on poetry, football, volunteer work, and the Woolwich events are effectively tippexed out. None of my criticisms of Kate and the rest of the Left Unity leadership gets past their censorship regime anymore. All of this is a very serious problem.

  4. Pingback: After the Woolwich attack in Britain: Stop imperialist war-drive and racism! | Communist Workers Group (CWG-USA)

  5. Geoff Smith

    May 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Sorry for typos in previous message.

    The 2nd part of the 2nd para should have read:

    “..a leading CNDer is left by others in LU to prepare a statement which sounds as though it has rather more plague-on-both-your-houses pacifism about it than anything else. What sort of people are leading LU?”


  6. Geoff Smith

    May 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    WP’s statement re what happened in Woolwich is fairly measured apart from one thing. That is, the absence of any mention of what the new Left Unity group should be doing or trying to do right now.

    If what Tom D has said is true, LU really has failed its first test. However, is that all that surprising when, according to Tom, a leading CNDer is left by others in LU to prepare and LU statement which sounds as though it has rather more than plague-on-both-your-houses pacifism about it than what WP said in its statement? What sort of people are leading LU?

  7. Pingback: Left Unity, direct democracy and Woolwich paralysis: | WORKERS UNITED

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  9. Tom

    May 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I agree with the thrust of this statement. I might word it slightly different. But what is important is getting something out there in public in the name of Left Unity, and asap. Do you agree? What is the point of Left Unity if it is united in paralysis the moment anything actually happens? This is the problem with many of the leading activists of Left Unity who have a fetish about ‘horizontalism’, with Mark Perryman wanting to stop Left Unity voting on anything substantial until all 8,000 supporters fill in an on-line questionnaire. The Marxist left in Left Unity need to make the case for a degree of centralism. A degree of professionalism. The sooner the better. The Woolwich events is a baptism of fire for Left Unity.

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