Twenty-two people have been killed and 59 injured in the most deadly terrorist attack on British soil since the London 7/7 bombings. The attack on a pop concert at the Manchester Arena, carried out by a lone suicide bomber, was deliberately timed to strike as thousands of people, including many children, began to leave the venue at 22:35. A number of children and teenagers are already known to be among the dead and missing.
There are no words sufficient to condemn this sickening and depraved act of mass murder. While the cowardly attacker contrived to escape the consequences of his crime by blowing himself up, the families of his victims will now face a lifetime of loss. We offer them our heartfelt condolences and give our best wishes to those injured and traumatised by the attack.
At the time of writing the identity of the bomber has not been released but ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Whether this claim is true or just a cynical PR exercise remains to be seen, but what is clear is that this was a planned terrorist attack, designed to take the maximum number of innocent lives. We stand in solidarity with Manchester and have nothing but contempt for the perpetrators and backers of these unforgivable acts.
Many “world leaders” have already come out with messages of support. Speaking from Bethlehem as part of his tour of the region, Donald Trump has also condemned the attack, speaking of an “evil ideology [which] must be completely obliterated”. Such words are hollow in the extreme from a man who only days ago signed a $110 billion deal to sell arms to the Saudi state, the centre and source of the Wahhabist ideology which forms the common creed of such groups as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
How can this evil be obliterated when our leaders gladly fuel and participate in its proliferation across the Middle East and the world? We would ask this question of Theresa May, whose government has taken part in the carnage in Yemen and Syria whilst signing her own multi-billion arms deal with the Saudi state. It is clear that for the likes of May and Trump, when it comes to making money, the interests of peace and stability come a poor second. The Tories’ vision for post-Brexit Britain is that of a global arms trader. Their vision for the world must therefore be one of further devastation abroad and attacks on innocent civilians at home.
When thousands are killed in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, or when countries such as Pakistan are wracked with suicide bombings on an almost daily basis, the leaders of the West have nothing to say, and even celebrate the carnage (as in the case of Mosul, for example). Clearly, in the minds of hypocrites like Trump and May, the lives of those killed by the imperialism and its allies are not at all equal to those killed by terrorists in their own countries.
In truth, the terrorists and the right-wing always play into each other's hands. As in the aftermath of the disgusting attacks in Paris and Nice, governments use such attacks as a pretext for increased snooping, discrimination and oppression against Muslim workers in particular, while rabid bigots feel entitled to spew their toxic bile out into the public domain. In turn, this ramping up of hateful rhetoric and oppressive measures against ordinary muslims only serves to fuel the rage and resentment upon which groups like ISIS depend.
Already the celebrity bigot, Katie Hopkins, who makes a good living out of spreading hate against muslims and the poor, has tweeted, “We need a final solution”. It is more than a coincidence that Hopkins’ terminology echoes exactly that of the Nazis. They, like her, depended on the fear of some alien “enemy within”. Those who advocate and organise terrorist atrocities must rub their hands with glee every time prominent right-wingers open their mouths.
In her statement this morning, May said that “our values will prevail”. We must be clear: Our values are those of the workers, of all religions and races, who transported, fed and cared for the injured and traumatised victims throughout the night. Ours are the democratic, socialist values of the international working class, not the hypocritical and reactionary values of Hopkins, May, Trump and their friends among the dictators of the world. It is on the basis of these values that we stand in complete solidarity with Manchester, and in opposition not only to terrorism, but to the system which produces it.
For this reason, we do not think that Corbyn and the Left should hesitate to explain the reasons for the scourge of terrorism and the means by which we may prevent any further attacks. That all parties have suspended campaigning today as a mark of respect for the victims and their grieving families is understandable, but in the coming days, the Tories and their paid propagandists in the media will do whatever they can to use this tragedy to prop up May and her “strong and stable Tory government”.
Even today, while all parties have formally suspended campaigning, the despicable Sun has sunk to even lower depths with a piece, published this morning, which begins, “For Labour it does not get more damning. Innocent people were murdered specifically because Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell sucked up to the IRA.” This blatant attempt to associate Labour with terrorist acts was swiftly followed by a piece defending May’s “team” against “howls from the Left at any attempt to cut costs or spend money more wisely”.
In reality the Tories never stopped campaigning at all and will inevitably seek to make further gains over the next few days as May attempts to play the “strong and stable” leader. For them there is too much at stake. The longer Corbyn holds back, the bigger the vacuum to be filled by hateful reactionaries, and the more the right-wing press will portray him as a weak, terrorist-sympathising, “dangerous” threat to the country.
Corbyn can and must show that there really is an alternative to the twin evils of Islamist terrorism and right-wing demagogy: one grounded on the unity of the workers of the world in struggle against capitalism. It is in the steadfast believe in this alternative that we offer our condolences and solidarity to the victims of the Manchester attack, and fight to end the horror of capitalism for good.