The First Casualty of War

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Alan Woods and Ted Grant look at how the "War on Terrorism" is unfolding, the repurcussions it is having around the world, especially in the Middle East, and the lies and distortions of the bourgeois media.

A long time ago, Leon Trotsky said that the British ruling class did not think in decades, but in centuries. That is, of course, no longer the case. With the loss of imperial power and their industrial monopoly, the British ruling class have also lost their old acumen and far-sightedness. Blair is the perfect expression of the senile decay of British capitalism. But things are no better with the world's greatest capitalist power. The US imperialists have no perspective. They are merely reacting to events. This is a fatal weakness. With all the colossal military power in their hands, they show themselves unable to sort out the mess which they have created on a global scale.

The reaction of the American ruling circles to the events of September 11 showed an incredible lack of proportion. They have swung from one extreme to another, without seriously weighing the consequences of their actions. Before the destruction of the World Trade Centre, they had adopted a carefree attitude towards the dangers of terrorism, bordering on light-mindedness. The total lack of airline security in internal flights is a case in point. But after the event, they have swung to the opposite extreme, exaggerating the terrorist danger in an absurd manner, blowing everything up and creating a state of unparalleled national paranoia which is hardly justified by the facts of the case.

The latest anthrax scare is sufficient proof of this. The number of confirmed cases - fifteen in all - represents only a tiny handful, especially when compared to the huge population of the United States. Admittedly, the nature of the disease is pretty horrible, and nearly all the victims are ordinary working people - mainly black postal workers. The people responsible for this must be particularly sick individuals. But it is necessary to put this in perspective. If this was supposed to be an effective weapon of mass terror, it has turned out to be a most pathetic failure.

The scale of the attacks is puny. But the response of the mass media has been to blow it up out of all proportion and encourage mass hysteria, reflected in the big increase in the sale of (useless) gas masks and the like. There have been attempts to pin the responsibility for the anthrax attacks on Iraq. But there is no evidence for this. It is, in fact, highly unlikely that Iraq would choose this moment to antagonise the USA and invite further air strikes and a tightening of the blockade on its battered economy. Once more, we do not know the real identity of the terrorists - who may well be members of bin Laden's group - or may be of a home-grown variety: American far-right lunatics, engaged in a deadly provocation for their own ends.

Whoever was the material author of the anthrax attacks, the beneficiaries are the President and the US military, who are taking full advantage of the anthrax scare to throw their weight around the world with full public backing. In and of itself, the so-called bio-terrorism amounts to no more than a series of pin-pricks. But as a source of mass paranoia it is highly effective. As a propaganda weapon in the hands of the White House and the Pentagon, it enables the right wing to rush through new repressive laws with no questions asked. Thus, yet again, terrorism and state terrorism feed off each other, They are not opposites but - twins.

If Bush really wished to prevent future attacks, he should have spent the huge sums currently wasted on a pointless exercise in Afghanistan on improving security in US airports. By contrast, the military adventure in Afghanistan will make the likelihood of all sorts of terrorist escapades more, not less, likely. However, it is necessary to maintain a sense of proportion. Despite the horrors of the recent events, the truth is that the terrorist organisations are small and are not a serious threat but rather an irritant to countries like the USA and Britain. Spectacular attacks are extremely rare, and something on the scale of the attack on the WTC unprecedented.

The destruction of the World Trade Centre was of course a profound shock to America. But it will prove to be a one-off event - at least on this scale. Before September 11, Americans simply did not believe that such a thing could occur and were too relaxed about it. But no more. The lessons will have been learned. Security will be tightened - especially at airports. It is highly unlikely that such an attack could be repeated in the same way. We saw the same thing in the 1970s, when there was a spate of aeroplane hijackings. But when airport security was tightened, such incidents became extremely rare.

The lie machine

 

The ruling class in Britain and America are deliberately and systematically exaggerating the threat of terrorism in an attempt to create a frenzy in the population which will enable them to carry out any actions they see fit nationally or internationally. By spreading panic in the population, they hope to get the people to acquiesce in their actions.

The massive propaganda campaign being orchestrated by the "free" press about bio-warfare is designed to whip up a frenzy of pro-war feeling in the West. The crimes of the terrorists are being stressed, while those of the mighty US military juggernaught in Afghanistan are being played down. The American propaganda machine is now working overtime, utilising the willing services of the "free" media. All is well. The military campaign is successful. All objectives are being accomplished with no noteworthy losses on our part. Civilian losses are being minimised. And so on and so forth.

The noisy propaganda emanating from Washington always conveys the self-same message: we are in complete control of the situation: we are achieving all our objectives: we are going to win. But the problems remain and will not go away. Even if the Americans succeed in overthrowing the Taliban and seizing control in Kabul, they will not be able to consolidate anything. Their problems will only begin at the point where they imagine they will be over.

If one looks behind the smoke screen of propaganda and hyperbole, and asks what they have actually achieved, the answer is: very little. From the outset, it was obvious that the Americans stumbled into this conflict without having thought anything out to the end. Even their war aims are confused. To this day it is not clear what they seek to achieve. At the end of the day, it is quite possible that they will come away with empty hands, while broadcasting victory to the four winds.

True, the US war aims do not include the occupation of Afghanistan. That much they have understood. But any puppet government they set up will soon be in deep trouble. It will be both unreliable and inherently unstable. Moreover, they are still some way away from achieving even this objective. Even the limited target of "eliminating" bin Laden is turning out to be rather trickier than anticipated.

The latest twist in the situation was the news of a night-time raid by US special services. For the first time we had concrete information about the use of US ground troops in Afghanistan. They are supposed to have realised their objectives in a five hour operation, and then withdrew without any losses. Resistance was said to be only "light". This is probably an understatement. In all likelihood they met with no resistance at all. Some of the Taliban leaders may be slightly unbalanced, but fools they are not. They understand perfectly well the futility of engaging the might of the US army on its own terms. Most likely, they will not attempt to defend the urban areas, or only put up token resistance. They will adopt other tactics, which will put the US forces at far more risk - that is, guerrilla tactics.

When they finally pluck up enough courage to go into Afghanistan, the Americans will find that the enemy has just melted away. But they will come back when it suits them. They have an abundance of hiding places, and can pick and chose when they strike. Herein lies the real danger, and all the technology in the world cannot prevent it. After twenty years of war, the Afghans know all the caves, gullies and tunnels. But the most important hiding place is none of these. It is the Afghan people themselves. Here is the biggest irony of all. Before the Americans started bombing, there can be little doubt that the Taliban had lost whatever support they may have had in the masses. The repressive policies of the religious police, the barbarous treatment of women, the narrow interpretation of Islam, which runs contrary to the traditions of Afghan society, the social and economic chaos - all this will have undermined their support.

But the bombing has changed all this. Despite all the usual propaganda, there is no doubt that the American tactic of bombing from a great height will have already caused numerous victims among the civilian population. This will give rise to a deep-seated hatred of the Americans, and paradoxically will have strengthened the Taliban. The traditional Afghan hatred of the foreign invader will cause many to rally around the government, despite all their dislike of the methods and policies of the Taliban. The mood of the population was expressed by one middle-aged Afghan man, whose words were reported on British television: "The infidels have attacked Afghanistan again. There are children crying for their mothers, and their mothers are dead."

Flat-footed diplomacy

 

If there is confusion in the military tactics of the USA, the situation on the diplomatic front is even worse. The conduct of American diplomacy is really quite extraordinary. They lack the finesse and subtlety of the old European diplomats, who only resorted to force as a very last resort, not as a first option. The reason for this was neither sentimentality nor pacifism, but simply the fact that wars are expensive in more ways than one. It is far better to trick the enemy into making concessions, rather than to spend a lot of good money on wars. By their flat-footed diplomacy - based on a clumsy mixture of bullying and bribery - the Americans are rapidly destabilising the situation on all fronts.

The situation in Asia is becoming more unstable by the hour as a result of the US offensive in Afghanistan. In the past few days the Indians have begun shelling Pakistani positions in the disputed region of Kashmir. This is New Delhi's way of warning both Pakistan and America that it will not pay the bill for closer collaborations between Washington and Islamabad. The Indians fear that the Americans are preparing to pay the Pakistanis for services rendered by making concessions over the Kashmir issue in Pakistan's favour. On the other hand they fear that many Islamic militants, trained in Pakistan, and previously active in Afghanistan, will now be diverted to the guerrilla struggle in Kashmir.

This flare-up of hostilities in Kashmir is a graphic illustration of the counter-productive nature of US policy. Last year, when Clinton visited the region, he spent four days in India and barely as many hours in Pakistan. This was a clear indication that Washington was leaning towards India and away from Pakistan, whose leader, General Musharraf was treated by Clinton to the kind of lecture a schoolmaster gives to a small boy. Now the Americans are tilting the other way, ignoring India and lionising the man whom yesterday they stigmatised as the dictator of Pakistan. By such methods they will only succeed in alienating everybody. In addition to this, the State Department appears to have a particular knack for always basing itself on the most unreliable allies. Yesterday it was the Taliban, now it is the shaky and inherently unstable regime of General Musharraf, which can change its mind at any time.

As the campaign drags on, the temperature in Pakistan is beginning to rise uncomfortably, causing nervousness in government circles in Islamabad. As the pictures of dead Afghan children appear in the Pakistan press, the wave of revulsion in the population is growing. General Musharraf has indicated to the Americans that he hopes that the hostilities will soon be over - say, in one month, before the Islamic festival of Ramadan. One month! The exasperation in the Pentagon can only be imagined. "How the hell can we get this thing over in one month! The man must be mad." But General Musharraf is not mad, just a little more in touch than the Americans with the realities on the ground in Pakistan and throughout the region.

Of the other main players in the region, China is maintaining a discrete silence, watching carefully to see which way the wind is blowing before moving in to seize some advantage for itself. Beijing, which not long ago was engaged in a furious conflict with the Americans over the spy plane issue, is now improving its relations with Washington. They need good relations with America for economic reasons. Moreover, they would not mind the American army liquidating the Taliban, which has been supporting Islamic insurgents in Xinjiang. In the longer term, the "friendship' of China with the USA is just as fictitious as that of Russia. The diplomatic froth may catch the headlines, but cannot eradicate the deep fault-lines that separate the interests of these three giants in Asia and on a world scale. While biding its time, China is busy building up its armed forces and gradually strengthening its hand in Asia, in preparation for the inevitable struggle for control that will pit the USA against the sleeping giant in the Pacific.

Assassination attempt

 

It is not the first time in history that terrorists have inflicted a severe blow against a major state - although the scale of the catastrophe was certainly without precedent. Yet never before has a powerful state responded to such an action by declaring a general mobilisation and a state of war - against an unknown enemy. The question remains whether such an action is appropriate to deal with such a situation. How can massive bombing in Afghanistan defeat small determined groups of fanatics, operating in the shadows within the USA itself?

Why did America have to stick its nose into such a hornets' nest? Were there no other options? The argument that they "had to do something" in the face of the terrorist attack of September 11 has no real basis. What if, by "doing something", they only succeed in making a bad situation a thousand times worse? The messages coming out of Washington continue to convey the same impression of confusion and lack of coherence. The Americans seem to be improvising their policy - making it up as they go along. Nothing good can come out of such an approach.

The latest piece of idiocy is the announcement of a grant of another one billion dollars to the CIA, and the express decision to assassinate bin Laden, although the use of assassination as state policy is supposed to be against international law - terrorism, in fact. In reality, everyone knows that the CIA has been assassinating people for a long time, without the need for any special decision by congress. As for money, the CIA has always had access to unlimited public funds with no questions asked, although after its abysmal failure to detect And prevent the attacks of September 11, the American public must be asking whether this represents value for money.

A top official in the Bush administration recently conceded that it might fail to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, said that tracking him down would be "a very difficult thing to do" and it would be a mistake to focus the war on terrorism on one man. He said in an interview with the USA Today newspaper: "It's a big world. There are lots of countries. He's got a lot of money; he's got a lot of people who support him. I just don't know whether we'll be successful."

Mr Rumsfeld had been asked whether he was sure of capturing or killing bin Laden and other al-Qa'eda leaders. He said they were "sure trying" and expected to get him, but that it was hard to be certain. "It's like looking for a needle in a haystack." Rumsfeld added that even if bin Laden were caught, it would not remove the problem of terrorism. Bin Laden had a "whole bunch of lieutenants" who had been trained and had bank accounts in 50 or 60 countries. He added: "Would you want to stop him? Sure. Do we want to stop the rest of his lieutenants? You bet. "But I don't get up in the morning and say that is the end, the goal and the end-point of this thing. I think that would be a big mistake. Furthermore, al-Qa'eda is just one of the networks."

Rumsfeld was speaking 24 hours after Tony Blair said that bin Laden was unlikely to be brought to trial, expressing the hope that would be killed during a bombing raid or attack by troops. The suggestion that bin Laden might never be caught was in marked contrast to the earlier claim by President Bush that the leader of the al-Qa'eda terrorist organisation would be taken "dead or alive". These comments also appeared to conflict with the official war objectives of Britain and America published 10 days ago. A paper presented to the British Parliament by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the immediate objective was "to bring bin Laden and other al-Qa'eda leaders to justice". Tony Blair said on Wednesday that bin Laden, the prime suspect for the September 11 attacks in America, was still believed to be in Afghanistan.

But there is growing concern in Washington and London that he might have slipped across the border to Pakistan, where the Taliban have many sympathisers. His escape would be highly embarrassing.

Having blundered into the present position, they now find it virtually impossible to extract themselves. We have not the slightest doubt that a majority in the Pentagon are opposed to a ground war. Yet America's declared objectives (such as they are) cannot be achieved without the employment of ground troops. Bush is a singularly stupid man, who thinks he can improve his political career by posing as a great war leader. There are clearly divisions within the ruling group, with Colin Powell urging moderation at every step. The result is an uneasy compromise. Most of the action is confined to bombing, but there are commando actions on the ground conducted by small special units. At the same time, they have bombed the Taliban positions around Bagram to the north of Kabul, which represents a shift towards supporting the Northern Alliance in its push towards the Afghan capital.

By committing themselves to the aim of defeating the Taliban, Washington has, in effect, committed itself to a ground war in a country where notoriously difficult conditions pertain. Such an action is in direct violation of the military doctrine adopted by the Pentagon after the Vietnam debacle. They have always avoided involvement in any ground war. Whenever they have departed from this doctrine - as in the Lebanon and Somalia - they have ended up in a mess.

As the moment of truth draws near, minds in Washington are being concentrated. The idea is beginning to gather strength that it might be better to let the Afghans fight it out among themselves, and that maybe it would be better to spend a lot of money buying people, as an alternative to a potentially long and bloody war. After all, this is what the British ended up doing, after failing to defeat the Afghans in three wars. But here too they find only problems and more problems. Firstly, one can bribe people, but that does not mean that you will get what you want - especially in Afghanistan! They will willingly take your money, but will not on that account do what you wish them to do. There is a growing fear that the Americans may get rid of the Taliban and create an even bigger mess than that which existed before.

What a sad world we live in, where neither bombs nor ready cash are a guarantee for success! The Americans find themselves caught on the horns of a dilemma. Fearing the consequences of heavy American losses on the ground, they are desperately looking round for reliable "allies" to fight alongside themselves - or, still better - instead of themselves. Originally Tony Blair - always anxious to please - had obliged them by offering a thousand British marines, which is welcome, but not nearly enough. But these troops were based in Oman and the regime, worried at the effects this would have among its own population, refused to give permission for its bases to be used to send forces to Afghanistan. So only 200 of these troops were able to move, and even these, according to one army chief, were not ready for combat because their targets were not clear.

So, at the end of the day, they are left with the Northern Alliance. But here the problems start. Pakistan - on which the Americans depend heavily in this conflict - has protested vehemently against any involvement of the Northern Alliance in government in Kabul. At the same time, Putin has warned against including ex-Taliban elements in such a government. Yet again, Washington has succeeded brilliantly in alienating everybody.

The Americans are therefore compelled to drag their feet in giving military assistance to the Northern Alliance - the only viable fighting force able to confront the Taliban on the ground in Afghanistan. They have started bombing the Taliban troops in the north, but these bombing efforts are half-hearted, involving a handful of fighter-bombers - not enough to deal a decisive blow against the Taliban. The Northern Alliance has protested that the US bombing is ineffective. In the words of John Simpson, the British television journalist: "The Americans here are neither pleasing their friends nor frightening their enemies."

The Middle East

 

The Middle East remains a ticking time-bomb that can yet blow up in the faces of the Americans. The situation in Palestine goes from bad to worse with no end in sight. The deadly spiral of provocation and counter-provocation continues without respite. After the assassination of a right wing politician, Israel has stuck the boot in, heedless of all the protests from Washington. Sharon retorts that he is dealing with terrorists and will withdraw his tanks from the Palestinian territories only when he is satisfied that sufficient damage has been inflicted in revenge. Washington has no choice but to agree, while attempting to limit the mayhem, in order to placate friendly Arab regimes and keep the "anti-terrorist coalition together".

So far, the Israeli army has killed at least forty people on the West Bank. In the given context, the hints from Washington and London about a "Palestinian state" - some time in the distant future - will sound to Palestinian ears exactly what they are: the purest cynicism. Having been systematically betrayed by imperialism for generations, they can put no trust in such utterances. Thus, the Israel-Palestine conflict will remain a running sore. Upheaval will follow upheaval, causing shock waves throughout the Middle East. This is what really alarms Washington and is the real reason for the sudden friendly interest in the plight of the Palestinians.

US imperialism does not want any more upheavals in the Middle East which could threaten such friendly regimes as Egypt, Jordan and - most seriously - Saudi Arabia. As we have explained, this is the most important element in the equation as far as Washington is concerned. The growing economic crisis is rapidly undermining the pro-American regime. Despite its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia is in trouble. According to some estimates, its external debt could be as much as 300 billion dollars. In order to prop itself up, the regime is compelled to buy arms from American companies to the tune of ten billion dollars, while it is unable to supply even big towns like Jeddah with adequate amounts of gas, electricity and clean water. Mass unemployment exists side by side with the most extravagant wealth.

The ambiguous attitude of the Saudi regime to America's actions in Afghanistan is a reflection of the growing instability in the country. The corrupt and degenerate monarchy is increasingly unpopular, and fears that to support the Americans openly could lead to its overthrow. They complain bitterly about America's ham-fistedness. These Saudi complaints, in turn, have caused deep resentment in Washington. Who do these Saudis think they are? Did we not save them from Saddam Hussein? Are we not their best customers? Yet they refuse to let us use their air bases to bomb Afghanistan. Such black ingratitude!

The conduct of the Americans in Saudi Arabia is a perfect expression of the imperialist arrogance which characterises their general attitude. It shows extreme short-sightedness. Given the extremely fragile position of the Saudi regime, the bullying pressure from Washington is calculated to provoke destabilisation - precisely what the Americans do not want. If Saudi Arabia falls, it will provoke a domino reaction in all the Gulf States. This is a nightmare scenario for the USA. In fact, it is entirely probable that the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia is not for the purpose of defence against Iraq, but in order to prop up the regime in case of serious disturbances. As we explained thirty years ago, in the event of a revolution in Saudi Arabia, the Americans would not attempt to occupy the whole country, but only seize the coastal area, where the oil wells are based. The US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia would doubtless be sufficient for such a task from a military point of view. But the political fallout would be tremendous.

The mood throughout the Middle East is explosive. London has announced that a thousand troops - two squadrons of the SAS, plus soldiers from the Parachute Regiment to provide force protection - will be sent for raids inside Afghanistan. The statement has immediately caused a crisis in relations between Britain and Oman. Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, had to fly to Oman to try to avert a row with the Sultan of Oman over the redeployment of Royal Marines from one Muslim country for operations in another. As a result, the British have had to drastically reduce the numbers of troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

It is therefore in the interests of the USA to avoid all unnecessary disturbances in the area which could upset the brittle situation in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Yet, incredibly, there are some in Washington (and - it goes without saying - in London), who are not satisfied with bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, and are talking about attacking Iraq as well. This is really the height of stupidity from any point of view. There is not the slightest evidence that Iraq was involved in any of the recent events. After ten years of bombing, humiliation and economic blockade, Iraq is in no state to wage war against America or anyone else. In fact, Iraq has been fairly quiet for some time. Why stir things up now?

The motive seems to be simple revenge, concentrated on the person of Saddam Hussein. This is quite astonishing. The old Realpolitik was not at all like this. The idea that the relations between states should be governed by personal antipathies and demonology is a most peculiar one. Hitherto, such considerations played an insignificant role in diplomacy. The rules were similar to that of the Mafia characters in films like the Godfather. Where the interests of a particular Mafia clan necessitated the physical elimination of a particular individual, the assassin would always assure his victim that: "There is nothing personal in this: just business." Here, on the contrary, the serious business of relations between states seems to be subordinated to the thirst for revenge against individuals: Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, bin Laden and so on.

This is an extremely shallow - not to say childish - view of world politics. That all these men are criminals, one can readily agree. But their real crime, from Washington's point of view, is not that they have killed innocent people, but only that they have acted against the interests of US imperialism: that they were not prepared to do as they were told by Washington. The conclusion? They must be eliminated - killed. Precisely in what way this policy differs from vulgar terrorism is not at all clear.

Quite apart from the moral questions (which play no role whatever in serious diplomacy or military affairs), the tactic of state-sponsored murder of individuals really solves nothing. If bin Laden is assassinated by the CIA, will the risk of terrorist acts against the USA be removed? Of course not. There is no shortage of fanatics and lunatics in the world - a great number of them residing in the USA. Eliminate one, and there will be dozens more lining up to take his place tomorrow. Indeed, the murder of bin Laden will act as a stimulus to the process of recruiting new fanatics. In the famous words of a French statesman: "It's worse than a crime - it's a mistake!"

However, they have not yet succeeded in assassinating bin Laden, for one very good reason: first they will have to catch him. In Afghan conditions this is easier to say than to do. Likewise with Saddam Hussein, who is still in power ten years after the Gulf War. This clearly annoys Washington, who would prefer him to disappear. And some would like to help him to do so. Why did we not finish the job ten years ago? they ask indignantly. Quite so. And if you failed to do this ten years ago, why do you imagine you can succeed now? Experience shows quite clearly that Saddam Hussein's base of support grows in direct proportion to US attacks and intimidation. US imperialism is Saddam Hussein's best friend.

Limitless greed

 

What determines the calculations of the imperialists is not the need to defend civilisation or democracy, but only their limitless greed for gain. The present conflict is no exception to this rule. Although the economic potential of Afghanistan itself is very limited, it is nevertheless a key piece on the chessboard of Central Asia, with its huge reserves of oil and gas. For some time, the Americans have had their eye on the possibility of a pipeline connecting the rich oil and gas fields of Turkmenistan with Pakistan and India via Afghanistan. Here are rich pickings indeed! But the prior condition for success is peace in Afghanistan, and a government in Kabul that is compliant and friendly to the West.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Bush and Blair do not care who is in power in Kabul, as long as the USA and Britain have a finger in the pie. But greed is short-sighted and frequently leads them to abandon the long-term in favour of immediate "fixing" that usually causes greater problems than it solves. The present actions of US imperialism will not solve the problem of terrorism but only make it worse. As a result of the bombing of Afghanistan, every lunatic and fanatic in the world will be stirred up and looking for ways and means of extracting revenge on Britain and America. They will not be deterred by high-flying bombers or night-time assaults by marines. This is an entirely different kind of "war", and cannot be stopped by orthodox means. The events of September 11 showed only too clearly the difficulty in halting the operations of a small and determined group - if they manage to get into the USA in the first place.

Terrorism, as we have explained many times, is both futile and counterproductive. The recent events show clearly how the terrorists and the state feed off each other, help and encourage each other. Marxism - especially Russian Marxism - was born in implacable struggle against individual terrorism. The real reason for the emergence of terrorism on a global scale is the weakness of the forces of genuine Marxism. As a result of the crimes of Stalinism - which, among other things, paralysed the movement of the Arab workers towards the conquest of power - the moral and political authority of Marxism has been undermined in the eyes of many workers and young people. Yet the terrible crisis of capitalism is creating explosive conditions everywhere. Given the lack of a proper vehicle through which to express their discontent, the youth looks for a way out to all kinds of peculiar organisations. For some, terrorism seems to offer a short cut. But it is a short cut over a cliff.

The crazy conduct of the terrorists is a reflection of the psychology of the petit bourgeois layers in the epoch of capitalist decay. The class basis of terrorism is not the working class but the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat. Sensing their world crumbling at the foundations, they desperately seek a stable point of reference in the eternal truths of religion. In their madness, they are capable of any barbarity. Such people are not open to reason; neither are they easily swayed by threats of violence. They are a product of the blind alley of capitalism on a world scale. Nevertheless, these elements are an insignificant minority of society. They cannot be compared with the power of the proletariat in countries like Egypt, Algeria, Iran or Pakistan. Once the working class of these countries begin to find a voice of their own: an independent banner, programme and policy, the fundamentalists will see the ground cut from under their feet. To the degree that the working class begins to move, they will be swept to one side like so much dry chaff at harvest time.

At bottom, the present convulsions reflect the deep crisis of capitalism on a world scale: the impossibility of finding a way out on the basis of the so-called market economy - that is, under the dictatorship of the big banks and monopolies. With all their wealth and firepower, the US imperialists cannot put out the fires, but only make them worse. All this wealth, all this military might - what does it all add up to, at the end of the day? They cannot achieve their objectives and everywhere, every day, they are faced with new crises and conflagrations.

The imperialists with all their military might cannot solve the deep-seated problems which have been created by the capitalist system itself. All attempts to root out terrorism by repression and war will only fuel the flames and achieve the opposite result to what was intended. Terrorism will disappear - as it did in tsarist Russia a hundred years ago - when it is displaced by a strong organisation of revolutionary Marxists, firmly anchored in scientific theory and rooted in the labour organisations and the proletariat. The insanity of capitalism, which constantly breeds poverty, unemployment and war, must be replaced by a rational and harmonious system on a world scale. The choice before us is clear: world socialism or barbarism.

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