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The state feeds on terror and ignores serious threats to society

Events in Woolwich yesterday show that the state is totally geared up for emergency action when it wants to be – committees meet, officials are called in, politicians focus their attention and insist something must be done.

One is entitled to ask why they can respond so strongly to a lone terrorist event when they are so entirely unable to react to long-term, serious threats to society – poverty, climate change, banking and tax corruption and youth unemployment to name a few? No committees met when it was reported last week that the concentration of CO2 has risen above 400 parts per million!

Cameron says the "British people" will "never buckle in the face of terror" and promised "terrorists will never win". But those who carried out yesterday's horrific attack and others like the Boston Marathon attack, were not aiming to win – they were aiming to die, and to strike a blow against their enemy as they did so.

Yet such acts of terrorism can no more “win” than the NATO powers can win their so-called war on terror. Instead, the world is now locked into a continuous conflict and the state adopts the rhetoric of “crushing” the terrorists, a rhetoric that is easily transferable to crushing all opposition.

The reaction of the state media shows the extent to which even intelligent journalists adopt distorted thinking in order to support the kind of imperialist and colonialist rhetoric that still colours so much public discourse in the UK. In an astonishing article on the BBC website, home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani says:

For jihadists, it really comes down to the presence of soldiers - and an entire framework of belief that sees those personnel, whatever role they have been given under international law, as the enemy of Islam. That argument is often backed up with graphic images online of the suffering of ordinary women and children. It's all designed to whip up anger and a sense of burning injustice - the kind of injustice that leads people to be convinced that something must be done.

So women and children suffering in the Middle East and Afghanistan are just "images" and only serve to "whip up" a sense of burning injustice. They are not really burning injustices in themselves!  He goes on:

Now, most people who feel a sense of injustice obviously combat it in [sic] purely peaceful means. The point about terrorism is that the sense of injustice becomes a springboard for mental somersaults in the mind of someone who thinks that indiscriminate violence can create justice.

So "most people" obviously combat injustice by peaceful means? Would that include the troops sent to Mali by the French government? Or the first invasion of Iraq, after Saddam fell out with the West and invaded Kuwait? Or the second invasion, when, as Blair now admits, the goal was regime change? Or the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the attacks on the Twin Towers? Or illegal drone assassinations?

Of course not! These claim the sanction of “international law” and fighting to “preserve our way of life”, which, when it comes down to it, means sustaining corporate and financial power over ordinary people’s lives.

The last time the cabinet’s emergency unit Cobra was in almost continuous session was in 2011 when riots broke out in London and other cities – another outpouring of anger at burning injustice. On this occasion it was the injustice of police shooting a young black man and anger at the impact of the economic crisis being foisted on to the young and the poor.

The reaction was ruthless and the justice system was instructed by the government to repress those who were caught. First-time offenders were given long prison terms; young people got four years just for Facebook messages.  

Of course terrorism and rioting are not going to change the state of the world, or the state of the state. The state feeds on such acts and uses them to mobilise reactionary forces and reinforce repression against every community.

So the capitalist state is itself the problem, not the solution. It can never address the grievances that drive people to terrorism or to riot. Only when power is in the hands of ordinary people will the conditions exist for that to happen.

Penny Cole
23 May 2013

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