The bombings in Istanbul - The reactionary face of terrorism

On November 20, two explosions devastated the offices of HSBC, a British-based bank, and the British consulate in a busy part of Istanbul. Marxists utterly condemn this brutal and barbarous act of terrorism. It cannot be justified on any political grounds. It does not help the people of Iraq. It does not strike a blow against world imperialism. It will not weaken the Turkish state. On the contrary. It plays directly into the hands of the state and imperialism.

On November 20, two explosions devastated the offices of HSBC, a British-based bank, and the British consulate in a busy part of Istanbul. At least 25 people were reported to have been killed, and 400 were wounded. The blasts came only a few days after suicide bombers had struck two of the city's oldest synagogues, Neve Shalom and Beth Israel. In those two attacks, perpetrated on the Jewish sabbath, some 25 people died, six of them Jews and the rest Turkish Muslim passers-by, while over 300 people were injured.

The November 20 attacks may have been the work of suicide bombers, either of al-Qaeda, or of Turkish groups liked with it. The attack was claimed both by a local Islamic group and by an Egyptian offshoot of al-Qaeda. These actions were well-planned and carried out with ruthless efficiency and total disregard for human life. Most of the victims were ordinary Turkish people going about their daily business. The scenes of carnage published in this morning’s press show men, women and children with horrific injuries and panic-stricken people trying to help the bleeding and traumatised survivors.

Marxists utterly condemn this brutal and barbarous act of terrorism. It cannot be justified on any political grounds. It does not help the people of Iraq. It does not strike a blow against world imperialism. It will not weaken the Turkish state. On the contrary. It plays directly into the hands of the state and imperialism and helps and encourages the most reactionary wing of the US and British ruling class, providing them with the kind of excuse and alibi they need to justify their aggressive policies.

The timing of the bombing was not accidental. Presumably it was meant to coincide with George Bush’s visit to London, since the targets were British. However, these actions did nothing to harm Blair and Bush. On a day when 200,000 people were protesting against Bush on the streets of London, the terrorists succeeded in removing coverage of the massive demonstration from the front pages of all the daily papers.

Instead of answering the protests of the demonstrators, Bush and Blair were provided with a marvellous opportunity to divert public opinion away from their criminal activities in Iraq and back to the question of the so-called "war on terror". Despite their public protestations of outrage, this really suited them very well.

The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, declared that these attacks had "all the hallmarks of international terrorism practised by al-Qaeda and associated organisations." Bush and Blair repeated all their old arguments about this being a global war of civilization and democracy against evil murderers.

But the arguments of the imperialists reek of hypocrisy. Yes, the bombing of innocent people in Istanbul was a monstrous crime. But what right do Bush, Bair and Frost have to criticise it, when they are responsible for far greater crimes? These are the men who ordered the bombing of Iraq that led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths and injuries. These are the men who are still carrying on a criminal occupation of Iraq that is causing more deaths and suffering every day. This is also terrorism - state terrorism on a vast scale directed against a whole people.

What the bombings did show was the complete hollowness of the claims of Bush and his British puppet that they are winning the war against terror. The world is now a far more dangerous place than what it was on September 11. The invasion of Iraq, far from being a blow against terrorism, has completely destabilised the Middle East - one of the main objectives of Bin Laden. Al Qaeda, which was not present in Iraq before the invasion, is now establishing a firm position there as a base for its operations. The Turkish atrocities may well be an expression of this fact. This morning’s Daily Mirror carried on its front page a photo of one of the victims of the Istanbul attack with the headline: "A safer world?"

Marxists will fight against imperialism and oppose the occupation of Iraq. But we will fight with the methods of the working class: with mass demonstrations, strikes and boycotts. We will explain to the working people of the world that their cause - the cause of socialism - requires them to fight against all manifestations of injustice and oppression, and that it is necessary to defend the rights of small oppressed peoples against the big bullies and robbers - in particular US imperialism, the most counterrevolutionary force on the planet.

We will support every step that helps to educate the masses in this sense. But we will oppose with all our strength every action that lowers the understanding of the working class and diverts it from its necessary course. Acts of individual terrorism invariably miseducate the workers and youth and lower their level of revolutionary consciousness. That is why Marxism has always rejected the tactic of individual terrorism, not for moralistic reasons but simply because it is useless and counterproductive.

In the present case, the counterrevolutionary nature of individual terrorism stands exposed in the starkest light. Whoever perpetrated these bloody acts - and their identity is still not clear - whatever their motives, they have helped the cause of reaction and imperialism both in Turkey and internationally.

Turkish police were quick to establish the identities of the two bombers. The two men, Mesut Cabuk and Gokhan Altuntas, were apparently Kurds from the south-eastern province of Bingol. The pair allegedly had links with Hizbullah, a Turkish faction that, like its Lebanese namesake, has been armed and trained in Iran.

Ironically, the group was tolerated by the authorities in the 1990s because Hizbullah militants killed hundreds of left-leaning Kurd nationalists. Here we have yet another example of the link between imperialism and Islamic terrorist organizations. Let us remind ourselves that it was the CIA that first encouraged, armed and financed al Qaeda to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. They, and nobody else, are responsible for Bin Laden and reactionary fanatics like him.

Now the Turkish state has another excuse for carrying on their repressive policy against the Kurdish people. They will also have another reason to justify their alliance with the United States and membership of NATO.

Turkey and Israel are the main allies of the USA in the region. Turkey has close military and intelligence ties to Israel. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise the state of Israel. In 1996 the two signed a military co-operation agreement that allowed Israeli air-force pilots to train in Turkey. Israel is among Turkey's top suppliers of military hardware.

Tel Aviv was worried that the electoral victory of Tayyip Erdogan, who used to be a fierce critic of Israel, would damage the relationship. They need not have worried.

The attacks on synagogues help Israeli imperialism, enabling Sharon to present the opposition to the occupation of Palestinian lands as "anti-Semitism". Turkey's prime minister, called on Yitzhak Haleva the day after the synagogue attacks to pay his respects. The Turkish and Israeli foreign ministers pledged jointly to work to fight terrorism, and thousands of Turks attended this week's funeral to bury the Jewish dead.

All this helps to bolster the position of imperialism in the Middle East. It brings Turkey closer to America and Israel. It pushes the people behind reaction. It discredits the national liberation struggle. It undermines and weakens the mass anti-war movement worldwide. The counterrevolutionary nature of terrorism is clear for all to see.

What is required is a worldwide anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist front. Imperialism can never be defeated by terrorist acts. Only a mass movement of the working class, poor peasants and youth can overthrow it and lead to the creation of a socialist world order in which monstrosities such as this will be only a bad dream of the past.