Terrorist Atrocity in Madrid

Marxists condemn the terrible slaughter that took place today in Madrid. Ordinary men, women and children were mercilessly butchered. But the reason for our opposition has nothing to do with the hypocrisy of the bourgeois politicians who are not averse to violence and bloodshed when it suits them. We oppose individual terrorism because it is counterproductive and always produces results that are diametrically opposed to those intended. This act will strengthen the right.

At 7.45 am this morning, Thursday 12th March, three explosions in quick succession blasted a commuter train in the central Madrid railway station of Atocha. Apparently the bombs were concealed in hand luggage inside train compartments. Simultaneously there were other explosions in stations in Santa Eugenia, El Pozo and the working class suburb of Vallecas.

These attacks were timed to coincide with the rush hour, when thousands of people would be going to work in factories and offices in and around Madrid. There can be no doubt therefore that the intention of those responsible was to kill and maim the maximum number of people.

In all these places there were scenes of unspeakable chaos and terror as people came to terms with the scope of the disaster. Hospitals and clinics were flooded with the injured. To date, 190 people are dead and over 1000 wounded. The attack was indiscriminately aimed at defenceless men, women and children. No warning was given. This was a bloody massacre.

The carnage would have been still greater if the police had not deactivated an explosive device in a red Ford Fiesta. This was parked near the Atocha station in a petrol station. If it had exploded amidst all the petrol, the result would have been too horrible to contemplate.

Who is responsible?

The identity of the authors of this atrocity is unknown. But it may be the responsibility of the Basque terrorist organization ETA. This is denied by ETA supporters.

A spokeman for Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, blamed the outrage on the actions of "the Arab resistance". While the hypothesis of an Arab connection cannot be excluded, the most likely explanation is that it was an ETA attack. Otegi said that he found it "unthinkable" that ETA could have carried out the attack because in the past they always left a warning. This argument is not conclusive. Nor is the argument that ETA has not claimed responsibility. Also in the past they have delayed some time before claiming responsibility.

There is more circumstantial evidence for ETA's involvement. ETA declared a truce in Catalonia but not the rest of Spain. On Christmas Eve, two men were arrested carrying cases full of explosives. Two vans full of explosives were intercepted a week ago. According to El Pais, yesterday two unidentified individuals were distributing leaflets in the old district of San Sebastian, calling for attacks on Spanish interests and specifically for the "sabotage" of the Spanish railway company Renfe.

The absence of a warning can be explained in different ways. It may reflect the actions of the type of raw, inexperienced recruits who ETA now has to rely on. Or it may be that a section of the hardliners in ETA decided to resort to these methods out of desperation. Either way, the results are equally criminal.

If ETA is in fact responsible, it shows weakness not strength. ETA is isolated and desperate Last year 300 ETA suspects were arrested. The organization is finding it difficult to get new recruits. The ones arrested in the van incident were novices. There are serious differences within ETA and Batasuna. Many people are questioning the methods of individual terror that have been carried on for decades without bringing the desired results.

The questioning is justified. Members of Batasuna should ask themselves who gains from this? The answer is clear: only the extreme right wing, the police and the state. Spain is on the eve of a general election in which Batasuna for the first time will be barred. Maybe the authors of the bombing imagined they were striking a blow against the PP. In fact, the opposite is the case.

The secretary general of the separatist Catalan ERC, Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, calls for dialogue with ETA to finish with "this barbarism". This is just stupid. The only dialogue the actions of ETA will bring about is the dialogue of bullets, fists and truncheons. After the atrocity, the Spanish minister of the interior, Angel Acebes, warned that those responsible would "pay dearly for it". We have no reason to disbelieve him.

France has already backed the campaign against ETA, and this has caused the organization a lot of trouble. France immediately declared a further tightening of border controls after the Madrid atrocity. The French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has sent a telegram to his Spanish counterpart offering police help. The noose will be tightened.

And what will the consequences be for the Basque Country? By their actions the terrorists have united the people of Spain against them. Hearts will be hardened. The most reactionary wing of the Spanish bourgeoisie will be strengthened. There can be no talk of negotiations. The Basque prisoners will continue to languish in prison.

The right wing Popular Party immediately suspended the election campaign. The PP is now certain to win a sweeping victory at the polls. The PP has adopted a tough line with ETA and the Basque nationalists. They will now be encouraged to increase repression even more. Only this week the UN produced a report denouncing cases of torture and beatings of Basque suspects in Spanish prisons. The Spanish state will now be able to continue these methods and clamp down on democratic rights with complete impunity. This will create a climate in which violence, madness and murder can flourish. In what way this could help the cause of the Basque people nobody can say.

How the terrorists aid reaction

Terrorist atrocities play into the hands of reaction in Spain, the Basque Country and internationally. Terrorism does tremendous damage to the cause of the working class and the Basque people. On the other hand, it gives heart to the reactionaries and imperialists of the whole world. At a time when Spain's involvement in Iraq is increasingly unpopular, this atrocity provides a convenient excuse to Aznar to renew his commitment to Bush' so-called war on terror. Tony Blair immediately used this to justify the "war against terror". Soon George Bush will add his voice to the chorus.

All this permits the leaders of the PP to pose as "friends of the people". Aznar now appears as the Great Statesman, standing at the head of a grieving Nation. The government has called for demonstrations all over Spain on Friday with the slogan: "With the Victims, with the Constitution, for the defeat of terrorism." Millions of ordinary Spaniards will participate in these demonstrations, with Aznar and all the other PP leaders at the head.

Spain's foreign minister Ana Palacio was today demanding the application of "the full weight of the law". There is no doubt that this will follow without delay. We can expect further repressive acts, and the agents of the state will not be particularly worried if the mailed fist falls on innocent people. Individual terrorism gives the excuse for state terrorism and vice versa. And in this macabre dance of death it is ordinary working class people who pay the bill.

The PP general secretary and Presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy, announcing that his party was suspending its election campaign, crowed: "These are moments in which all differences should be set aside. We should unite the will of all Spaniards […] and to this end, the Popular Party has decided to suspend its election campaign", he said. "These are hours of horror and rage but also of serenity, firmness and determination. They are challenging all Spaniards and we Spaniards will not surrender. […] I can assure you that Spain will put an end to this murderous garbage of terrorism." This theme of national unity will be played repeatedly in the next few weeks.

Can one imagine a better present than this for these reactionary bourgeois politicians on the eve of a general election? In public they weep crocodile tears for the victims of terror, while in private they will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of another five years in power with a big majority. That is the marvellous present the terrorists have just handed them!

All this noise will not solve the problem of the Basque Country or liquidate terrorism. It will merely give another twist to the infernal cycle of terrorism and repression. The two things feed upon each other. The terrorists are the best allies of the bourgeois state, and the bourgeois state is the best recruiting sergeant for terrorist organizations.

An independent class policy is needed!

The government immediately characterised the attack as an attack on democracy and appealed to all Spaniards to rally to the state. They have set a trap for the workers' organizations and the Left, which has walked right into it. The PP is not capable of eradicating ETA. By its repressive measures, it helps to perpetuate an environment in which terrorism can flourish. When the PP banned the political wing of ETA, thus denying them all legal outlets, the result was predictable. Along this road no way out is possible.

What is needed is for the working class and its organizations to adopt an independent policy. Unfortunately, the reformist labour leaders are incapable of this. The Socialist Party has no independent policy, and has identified itself with the PP and the Spanish state. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the PSOE general secretary, called for the unity of all political forces against terrorism. Zapatero stated on television: "I hope that these bastards, these criminals, fall into the hands of the police as son as possible."

The co-ordinator of the United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, said that ETA "has shown its real face in attacking students and workers in Madrid, sowing death in the streets and train stations of Madrid." He referred to the "Nazi barbarism" of ETA. And he also identified himself with the slogan of national unity, advocating "an image of unity between all parties."

The same message came from the Madrid municipal spokesperson of the United Left, Inés Sabanés, who called for calm and "the unity of all democrats in the face of the fascist barbarism against the people of Madrid that has caused dozens of deaths and wounded today."

The leaders of the Left have thus abandoned any pretence at an independent policy and allied themselves with the PP. This is a lamentable situation. The actions of the terrorists are barbaric and must be condemned. But by uniting with the PP the leaders of the main left parties in Spain will not help to eradicate the problem of terrorism. On the contrary, the methods used by the PP are the best possible propaganda for ETA.

Marxism is opposed to individual terrorism. But the reason for our opposition has nothing to do with the hypocrisy of the bourgeois politicians who are not averse to violence and bloodshed when it suits them. We oppose individual terrorism because it is counterproductive and always produces results that are diametrically opposed to those intended.

Russian Marxism was born in struggle against individual terrorism. But compared to the modern breed of terrorist the old Russian terrorists were like saints. They only killed known torturers, police chiefs and tsars. Quite often they would hand themselves over to the police after a terrorist act. The modern form of terrorism that kills ordinary people indiscriminately is an abomination that contains not a single atom of progressive content.

The Spanish and Basque Marxists, El Militante in Madrid and Esker Marxista in the Basque Country, immediately issued communiqués condemning the atrocity. That is absolutely correct. What is needed now is to maintain a position of complete class independence in the face of the attempts of the bourgeois state to create a national unity bloc around their reactionary programme.

The leaders of the UGT and CCOO have called a 15-minute general strike in protest at the atrocity. That is a correct decision, as long as it means that the union leaders are protesting against the slaughter of working people, and not acting in solidarity with the PP. But the unions must beware of being dragged into a bloc with our class enemies.

The leaders of UGT and CCOO say that this strike shows their "firm commitment to the democratic system". It is the duty of the unions to defend all democratic rights. We hope the unions in Spain will therefore oppose with all their might any attempt to restrict democratic rights, whether in Euskadi, or any other part of the country, under the pretext of the fight against terrorism.

The unions should prepare a general strike against the PP government, which by its reactionary anti-working class policies, and by its intransigent position on the national question, contributes to the tensions in society and renders a just solution to the Basque problem impossible. In the last analysis, the evil of terrorism is the product of the unjust and rotten system under which we live. The only way to eliminate terrorism is by removing its root cause, which is the capitalist system itself.

No to individual terrorism! 
No to state terrorism!
Defend democratic rights! 
No bloc with the PP! 
For an independent class policy!