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September 11- two years on

by Alan Woods Friday, Sep. 12, 2003 at 5:41 PM


In Defense of Marxism-

Workers International League-

September 11 - two years on

By Alan Woods

Two years ago today the world watched in disbelief as two planes were deliberately crashed into New York's twin towers. In a few minutes the dream of America's invulnerability came crashing down in a pile of twisted, scorched rubble. An eerie darkness settled over the city as people emerged from the chaos, covered in dust and resembling something from a distant and savage past.

Two years later, the ruling class in the USA is making cynical use of the anniversary to justify its warlike policies, while at the same time they are burying the site of a great human tragedy in order to construct new offices for the greater glory of profit and the market economy.

On this anniversary of the terrible events of September 11, it is necessary to draw a sober-minded balance sheet of the situation on a world scale. We must cut across the fog of official propaganda and hysteria in order to arrive at the truth. Our task, in the words of Spinoza, is neither to weep nor to laugh but to understand.

The barbaric scenes two years ago were not an accident. They were only a reflection of the barbarism that is engulfing the entire planet. This is where all the promises of a New World Order have ended up. The period of history into which we have entered is characterised by universal instability. It resembles the onset of chaos when a physical system experiences turbulence. All the efforts to control this turbulence, the war against terror, the vast and unprecedented military expenditure, the "homeland security", the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq - all have proved utterly impotent to restore some semblance of order.

The response of George W Bush to the attack on the twin towers was to declare a "war against terror". This was then interpreted as a blank cheque allowing the USA to declare war on any country that it perceived to represent a threat to its national security. First they attacked and occupied Afghanistan, then they did the same in Iraq. In fact, it has emerged that the right-wingers in the administration wanted to attack Iraq immediately, but had to postpone their plans because of opposition from London.

But what has all this achieved? Four months after declaring the war in Iraq over, President George Bush told the American people on Sunday, September 7 that their commitment in Iraq would be "difficult and costly". Continuing violence, he noted, had claimed the lives of American and British soldiers, aid-workers and Iraqi moderates. Mr Bush also said that he was asking Congress for billion in extra spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, most of it to pay military costs. This amounts to an admission from the White House that the situation in Iraq is out of control, a fact that was confirmed by Britain's announcement on Monday that it was sending 1,200 more troops there.

In his speech, he described Iraq as the "central front" in the war on terror that was launched following the September 11th attacks two years ago. This is a crude attempt to justify the rape of Iraq by establishing a connection with Baghdad and the events of September 11th. In fact, there is not a shred of evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda. The Baathist regime was hostile to Bin Laden, who in turn regarded it as atheistic.

True, there are increasing reports that foreign fighters are slipping into Iraq to do battle with America. Among them there may well be supporters of Bin Laden. But this is a direct result of the situation created by the American invasion of Iraq and the power vacuum opened up by the destruction of the old regime. The US imperialists, who imagine that everything can be solved by either brute force or bribery, understood nothing, foresaw nothing, prepared nothing. The result has been chaos - and not only in Iraq.

The news from Iraq (and Afghanistan) is bad, and will undoubtedly get worse. The Iraqis are fighting a war of national liberation, using guerrilla tactics. All the blood and gold that America is preparing to pour into Iraq will not help them to win this conflict. The billion that Mr Bush is demanding from congress is a vast sum ‑ about one-and-a-half times Iraq's estimated pre-war GDP. That comes on top of previous spending on Iraq of nearly billion. If it is accepted by congress, it would push America's already record budget deficit next year to well above 0 billion. And it will not be enough.

The financial drain will be enormous, and so will the strain on America's military resources. America has extended the time its National Guard and reservists must spend in Iraq. And though Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, has so far resisted calls from congressmen and others to send more American troops to the region, this will have to be done. The war in Iraq, far from ending, can continue for years, a running sore that will sap the energy and resources of the USA.

Has the strategy of US imperialism succeeded in bringing greater stability to the world or security to the United States? On the contrary, it has made the whole world more unstable and dangerous. New crises and conflicts are breaking out everywhere. The attempt to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine has collapsed in a welter of blood and chaos. The tension between Turkey and the Kurds is increasing, and the PKK has abandoned its ceasefire. The conflict with North Korea over its nuclear programme remains unresolved.

The events of September 11th were used by Bush and the right wing clique in the White House to justify a new and aggressive policy of imperialism on a world scale. But now the human and economic costs of this policy are becoming clear. The policy of "guns before butter" will meet growing resistance from the people of America and Europe. It implies deep cuts in social spending, attacks on workers' rights, wages and pensions, schools and hospitals. It means new assaults on civil rights and the erosion of those elements of democracy that have been won by the working class through decades of struggle.

The period that was ushered in b September 11th is the most turbulent, violent and unstable in human history. The whole world has been pulled into the vortex of crisis and wars. Not one country will escape. The idea that peace is possible under conditions of deep capitalist crisis is a foolish illusion. There will be one war after another, as the different groups of capitalists struggle for the possession of markets, sources of raw materials and spheres of interest. The present struggle between the USA, France and Germany over Iraq is only one example of this. In fact, there is a growing rift between Europe and America that reflects deep economic and strategic antagonisms. As long as the USSR existed, these contradictions were concealed. Now they are out in the open.

The anti-war movement that brought millions of people onto the streets is an indication that something is happening in society. These were not political activists but mainly ordinary men and women who were participating in demonstrations for the first time in their lives. When the masses begin to participate actively in politics, that is the first condition for a revolution.

Of course, the mass movement in the beginning shows many signs of inexperience and naivety. They believed that if the majority demonstrated its opposition to war, that would be enough to prevent war. But experience has shown them the limitations of demonstrations - important though they are. Something more is needed. What is needed is conscious political action to bring about a fundamental change. What is needed is the radical abolition of an unjust, corrupt and degenerate social system that breeds wars, exploitation, death and destruction. It is a system that has outlived its usefulness and has become an obstacle in the path of human progress. It is a system based on lies and deception. It cannot be reformed. It must be overthrown. Once the masses learn this lesson, no force on earth can stop them.

On a world scale, the old equilibrium has been destroyed, and there is no way the capitalists can restore it in the short and medium term. They are faced with an insoluble dilemma: in order to arrive at a new economic equilibrium, they must take steps that will destroy the social and political equilibrium. In order to restore the rate of profit they must sack workers, close factories and cut social spending. In order to capture new markets they must enter into conflict with other nations. In other words, all attempts to find a way out of the crisis within the framework of capitalism can only be at the expense of working people at home and abroad.

On the basis of capitalism the future for millions of people all over the world is a grim one. The general instability of capitalism on a world scale means that new shocks are inevitable. Under the hammer blows of events the working class of the USA, Britain, France, and the whole world will learn. Painfully, slowly, the masses will begin to draw revolutionary conclusions. Our task is to help them with patient explanation, proceeding step by step, not rushing too far ahead of the general movement, but keeping step with it, while pushing it forward.

The sudden shocks and crises can produce sudden and unexpected changes in consciousness. In the days and weeks that followed September 11, people changed. Millions who never read a newspaper except to examine the sports pages suddenly became interested in politics. They read the speeches of their leaders, they followed events on a world scale, they learned unfamiliar names and tried to get some understanding of the reasons for what had happened.

The immediate effects of September 11th were entirely reactionary in character. The paradox of individual terrorism is that it always achieves results that are diametrically opposed to those intended. Did this attack weaken US imperialism? It did not. It served only to strengthen the most reactionary and aggressive section of the American ruling class. It gave the excuse that Bush and Rumsfeld needed to increase military spending and launch on a series of foreign adventures with little or no opposition at home. It allowed them to strengthen the military and the apparatus of state repression and to curtail democratic rights. It created an atmosphere of xenophobia and chauvinism. It increased the support for Bush and the Republicans and strengthened the right wing in the administration.

Now, however, all these factors will begin to turn into their opposite. The military adventures launched by Bush will come home to haunt him. America will find that its power, though colossal, is limited. The enormous drain on its resources will aggravate the crisis at home. The doubts and questioning that already exist will become ever more insistent. Over a period, the opposition will grow and ideas that are now listened to by an insignificant minority will be eagerly accepted by millions.

Those inclined to pessimism will see September 11th as further proof of man's inhumanity to man. They will shake their heads and turn away. But such attitudes do not solve anything. Nor do they explain anything. It is futile to attribute the crisis of humanity in the first decade of the 21st century to our genes, human nature or the stars. A serious analysis will show that it is none of these things but only a particular manifestation of the impasse of a moribund socio-economic system. These convulsions are similar to those experienced by a mortally sick person. The difference is that when a system is sick it signifies death, torment and unhappiness for millions of people.

The system whereby the lives and destinies of the whole of the human race is subordinated to the interests of a handful of obscenely rich men and women who own and control the giant corporations that rule the world is responsible for the present chaos. It must be abolished and replaced by a rational system of planned economy on a world scale that will usher in a new period of human history where wars, unemployment, poverty and oppression will be only bad memories of a barbarous past.

September 11, 2003.

See our article, published in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack:

US Suicide Bombing - Terrorism Aids Reaction By Ted Grant and Alan Woods (September 11, 2001)

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