“No War But The Class War! Against capitalism, imperialism and fundamentalist terrorism” – BMC / ZAG Leaflet, 2001

This leaflet was issued by Bikisha Media Collective in Johannesburg, and the Zabalaza Action Group (ZAG, formerly the Anarchist Union) in Durban.  Both had historical links to the Workers Solidarity Federation, and would help form the subsequent Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (later Front; ZACF). Distributed at anti-war actions in Johannesburg central and at the University of the Witwatersrand. Responded to the September 11 2001 bombings in the United States, and the subsequent US war escalation. Issued 2001.

UPDATE: here is a PDF of the leaflet as first issued. This version  endorsed by Anarchist Union, not ZAG.

No War But The Class War!

Against capitalism – Against the US government –
Against state and fundamentalist terrorism

South African anarchist statement on the New York / Washington DC attacks – September 2001

The WTC attacks

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre (WTC) and the Pentagon by suicide bombers, leading to over 6,500 deaths have grabbed world attention.

We revolutionary anarchists condemn the attacks and extend our condolences to the families of those injured or killed. The death of thousands of ordinary civilians – including many ordinary workers – is not acceptable. The use of civilian aircraft for such an operation is authoritarian and coercive and shows the contempt of terrorists for human life. It also shows that the terrorists are anti-working class: attacking people just because they are “American” regardless of their class position is reactionary and xenophobic.

After all, US workers are also victims of US capitalism. Bill Gates personally has more wealth than the bottom 45% of US households. In 1999, top executives earned 419 times the wage of a blue-collar worker, up from a difference of 42 to 1 in 1980. This is directly due to the vicious implementation (and often racist) of neo-liberal / privatisation policies within the US itself.

Down with US terrorism

At the same time as we oppose the terrorism of the bombers, we oppose equally the terrorism of all states, especially the US government This capitalist military-industrial machine has been involved in more than 216 armed interventions against other countries and regions. These range from wars of extermination against the indigenous people of the US, to the installation of puppet regimes that repressed anarchists and socialists in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Chile, to the use of nuclear weapons against Japanese workers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which killed more than 192,500 people in a few seconds).

Bush’s agenda for war

The US government is thus the single biggest terrorist organisation in the world. This means that Bush’s threat to launch a “war against terrorism” conceals a hidden agenda. He is using the so-called “threat of terrorism” to radically INCREASE his ability to repress workers in the US and extend US power across the world by:

  • Extending police powers of arrest and surveillance
  • Increasing military spending
  • Increasing spending on intelligence services such as the CIA
  • Building a US-led global military force against “terrorism”

It is true to say that the governments and states are the biggest terrorist organisations in the world today, their monstrous social and military crimes against working class people (in the interests of capitalism) vastly overshadowing the suicide bombings of tiny groups of fanatics.

Did the attacks “weaken” or “punish” the US state?

Therefore it is not correct to say that the US has been “weakened” by the attacks. Instead, the terrorism has given Bush a golden opportunity to promote US imperialism, deepen racial divisions in the working class, and develop an apparatus to crush the anti-globalisation movement. The US state – the most powerful armed terrorist group in the world – cannot be militarily weakened by a few explosions.

Are the fundamentalists anti-capitalist?

Others have argued that the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon are a response to US imperialism. Others go further, seeing the attacks as part of the international anti-capitalist “anti-globalisation” movement. This is not accurate. There are millions of poor Muslim people around the world who are forced by local robber-baron capitalist ruling classes to work themselves to death for a pittance of the wealth they generate for these bosses. The local elites in these countries manipulate religion, replacing any sense of the solidarity of humanity with a violent, xenophobic and conservative nationalism that divides and suppresses the working class. Those who preach this anti-worker message are misnamed by the media “Muslim fundamentalists.”

The right-wing project of these local capitalist classes project is to establish repressive capitalist states that ban workers’ organisations, encourage racism, preach propaganda instead of teaching education, encourage leadership cults, repress women and gays, promote sectarianism and violence instead of solidarity and peace, all supposedly in the name of “Islam.” The aim of these “fundamentalists” is to generate higher profits for local ruling classes through, in particular, oil exports based on cheap labour.

To win credibility, they pose as opponents of US imperialism – guilty of ongoing crimes in the Middle East such as 1991 Gulf War, the ongoing starvation blockade of Iraqi, and support for the Israeli state’s war on the Palestinians- to win support for their own sinister project.

Thus, the right-wing capitalist regime under the Ayatollah Khomeini crushed the workers’ rising in Iran in 1979, including workers’ councils and communist guerrilla groups, and today, the Iranian regime is repressing the Worker-Communist Party of Iran, whilst in Indonesia, fundamentalists collaborated with the CIA and the Suharto regime in the mid-1960s to murder almost 1-million communists and ethnic Chinese. The Taliban in Afghanistan is a fascist organisation, forcing non-Muslims to wear yellow tags, just as the Nazis forced anarchist and communist political prisoners to wear red triangles, banning girls from attending school and women from earning a living, murdering people who choose their own sexual partners, and killing worker activists, left-revolutionaries and anti-capitalists.

The left must not ignore this history and bury itself in a nebulous anti-worker third world nationalism that serves to give the third world bourgeoisie a false appearance of having worker interests at heart. Time and again these regimes have shown their hostility to the working class and poor. In other words, these regimes also practice terrorism against their own people in order to make profits and defend capitalism. We do not support them and we stand with the ordinary people of these countries in the struggle for anarchism, otherwise known as libertarian communism.

Are the fundamentalists anti-imperialist?

The so-called “Muslim fundamentalists” are not, in fact, anti-imperialist. At present they have conflicts with America over Iraq and Palestine, but they have repeatedly shown themselves willing to collaborate with US and British imperialism in the past. Bin-Laden and the Jehadi groups received training and weapons from the US CIA to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan at the exact same time that the US funded Saddam Hussein against fundamentalist-ruled Iran. The Israeli secret police originally funded Hamas to undermine secular and socialist-influenced Palestinian movements such as the PLO. In earlier years British imperialism used the Muslim Brotherhoods against the independence movements in Egypt and India, leading in the second case to massive communal conflicts during Independence in 1949.

In other words, the issue raised by the WTC is not “war between East and West” but a growing confrontation between different groups of capitalists who are, however, UNITED against the working class and agreed on the need for capitalism to survive. That is why fundamentalists use the elitist method of terrorism rather than the methods of the working class: strikes, occupations, reconnections, demonstrations, land invasions etc. They are not anti-imperialist – they are anti-worker! Therefore we stand with the Arab, North African, Central Asian and Indonesian working class and peasantry against the capitalist regimes of the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Indonesia. AT THE SAME TIME stand with Western workers against their own ruling classes and against Bush’s war mania.

No to Bush’s war

We condemn any and all attempts by the Bush regime to use the attacks as an excuse for war against Afghanistan. The main victims of such a war will be ordinary people, workers and peasants; the ruling elite organised in the Taliban will be mostly unaffected because they have the money to hide and to protect themselves. Bush and the US elite were hardly affected by the WTC attacks; equally, the Jehadi and Taliban groups will also be unaffected. We are also totally opposed to any attempt by the US capitalist class to build a global “anti-terror” coalition or to increase their repressive powers. We know it will be the left’s turn next.

Our Aims

The main tasks of left-revolutionaries in this period are to stop the war drive and growing political repression, and to fight racism against ordinary Muslims, Arabs and others who are wrongly blamed for the attacks. We ALSO call for support for Middle Eastern, North African, Central Asian and Indonesian workers against the fundamentalists. These goals can only be accomplished through mass action by the working class itself.

Our Demands

  • We call on US soldiers – particularly those from the oppressed minorities in the US – to refuse to fight Bush’s imperialist and capitalist war
  • We call for a campaign of rolling mass action – in both East and West -against Bush’s war
  • We call for proletarian risings in the Muslim world against capitalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and the US attacks
  • Freedom and democracy for Palestine/ Israel and withdrawal of all US forces from the Middle East
  • We call on SA workers and revolutionaries to mobilise against the war For revolutionary working class action and working class autonomy! For peace and anarchism!

ENDORSED BY: Bikisha Media Collective & Zabalaza Action Group (formely [sic.] Anarchist Union)

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014).