Jeremy Corbyn returned to campaigning for the general election last Friday with a speech that offered a response to the appalling Manchester terrorist atrocity and that sought to draw a clear line underneath the failed “war on terror”.
The Labour leader, inevitably, has been accused by his critics of trying to “politicise” the Manchester tragedy in a “crass” and “appallingly timed” manner, as the Tory Ben Wallace stated. “Defence” Secretary Michael Fallon has idiotically called Corbyn’s extremely mild speech “dangerous”, for suggesting we might do well not to invade other countries if we want to prevent Islamist radicalisation.
How can you politicise an act that in its very nature is directly and openly political? Is it less crass to offer the victims of terrorism - and its would be future victims - nothing but a continuation of the imperialist policies that have created this monster? Is it comforting to give no explanation and to propose doing nothing about this plague engulfing modern society?
Tories have responded to Corbyn’s speech with the stupid nonsense that “the terrorists don’t hate our foreign policy, but our way of life”. This is patently false, since ISIS and Al Qaeda constantly say they are taking revenge for the West’s invasions of muslim countries and the deaths of muslim people.
How have these groups managed to find an endless supply of people willing to kill themselves? Why is this happening now, and not 30 years ago? Moreover, why would hatred for our “way of life” be mutually exclusive from hatred of Britain’s imperialist foreign policy over the centuries? Surely these fundamentalist groups hate both.
Since Friday's speech, the Tories have taken to the airwaves to denounce Corbyn. They accuse him of "providing excuses" for the barbaric actions of terrorists by identifying successive governments' imperialist foreign policy as a factor in the rise of terrorism at home. This inane criticism of Corbyn is too stupid to be taken seriously and has already fallen flat.
Michael Fallon, for example, was humiliated live on Channel 4 News (see video above) after he attacked the assertion that, "the Iraq War did not create the problem of fundamentalists, though the war has sharpened the resentments felt by people in this country, and given them a new pretext" - before being told that these were not the words of the Labour leader, but of Tory Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.
The Tories are even trying to blame Corbyn himself, since he opposed the supposedly anti-terror legislation - legislation which everyone can see is doing nothing to halt the spread of terrorism throughout the world. The subsequent spread of terrorism is then just used to promote an ever more oppressive state in an endless vicious circle.
“Strong against terrorism, and strong against the causes of terrorism”
What did Corbyn actually say? He correctly pointed out that the last 15 years of imperialist intervention have done nothing but encourage the growth of terrorism, including within the UK.
To prove this point, Corbyn referred to British intelligence reports that have argued that this is the case. But one hardly needs their judgement - which after all is actually loyal to the interests of the imperialist British state - to know that this is the case. We all witnessed the utter collapse of Iraq under the occupation of the US, UK and others; we all know this has created a mass revulsion amongst muslims across the world - muslims who have also been constantly victimised in countries like Britain; and we can all now see that the collapse of Iraq has dragged the whole Middle East into a turmoil that feeds an extremely reactionary and violent form of terrorism.
That the Tories and British ruling class will not even countenance this as an explanation for the growth in terrorism is nothing but proof of their own fundamental dishonesty as a class.
Corbyn then wryly concluded that a Labour government will be “strong against terrorism, and strong against the causes of terrorism”.
Imperialism and fundamentalism
Corbyn was careful to explain that none of this excuses in any way the terrorists for perpetrating their crimes; it is merely a means of explaining it so that we may starve it of oxygen. On this point, however, Corbyn was vague and failed to explain a further cause for militant Islamism’s rise.
Not only has Britain a long history of invading and oppressing muslim countries, and oppressing muslims within Britain - it also has participated in the active fostering and promotion of Islamist terrorists, in conjunction with the USA. This was fostered as a tool with which to oppress and undermine the leftwing, anti-imperialist forces in the Middle East. It continues this policy up to the present day, and continues to sell vast amounts of weaponry to the world’s biggest promoter of reactionary fundamentalist ideology, the Saudi Arabian state.
It is true to say, therefore, that this terrorism is not merely caused by Western invasions of muslim countries; it also requires the ingredient of the conscious promotion and funding of these groups over decades. Corbyn should point this out and call for an immediate end to all such policies.
Fight terrorism with socialism!
Unfortunately after making his correct criticism of British foreign policy, something which totally distinguishes Corbyn from all the other party leaders, he made a number of naive and wrong statements regarding the fight against terrorism.
Corbyn argued that another major cause of Monday night’s atrocity was the cuts visited upon the police by Theresa May over the years. No amount of police will prevent terrorist acts - only putting an end to the chaos, alienation and oppression of capitalism can do this.
Moreover, his conclusion that we need more police and a beefed up security apparatus to ensure “there are more resources to track terrorists” is very naive. Socialists know that anything which strengthens the state - which is there to protect the rich and powerful - can only make the task of the working class to defend itself, fight against capitalism and transform society harder.
The increased powers of surveillance and the curtailments of democratic rights (which Corbyn correctly said he opposes) weakens the workers, the poor and the oppressed, and are things which are not only bad in themselves but are also fuel to the recruitment drive of Islamist terrorists.
The seemingly endless waves of terrorism are utterly reactionary. Socialists oppose the methods and the goals of such callous terrorists. But terrorism is also a disease of a dying capitalist system that offers only austerity, war and growing inequality. To fight against the causes of terrorism means to fight against capitalism.