The following is a statement from the Workers International Network on the murder of a British soldier in Woolwich, Britain. (NOTE: Oaklandsocialist is affiliated with the Workers International Network.)
The savage murder of an off-duty soldier in Woolwich has shocked the whole of society. It has brought just a faint hint to the streets of London of the horrors of a war waged 4,000 miles away that has lasted now for twelve years and in which at least 15,000 innocent civilians have been killed.
This wanton brutality is criminal and senseless. It does nothing to end the bloodshed in Afghanistan or other current wars. But it is a crime dwarfed by those committed by the British and US military. At least 5,000 people have been killed just in unmanned drone attacks. Even by the Obama administration’s own figures, out of the 2,152 people killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone between 2009 and 2012, 290 were innocent civilians – 64 of them children. Reliable estimates put the proportion of civilians killed in drone attacks at 98%, leaving just one real combatant killed in every fifty dead.
It is not yet clear whether this murder was a random individual act of madness or the start of a sinister new internationally orchestrated campaign. But in either case, the motive was the same.
What is criminal about the Woolwich attack is not just the wanton violence perpetrated against this individual off-duty soldier – who may or may not have been involved in war crimes in Afghanistan, and who may well have had no option but to enlist in the army out of economic necessity. What is truly criminal is the explicitly stated motive of the attackers: to “start a war in London”. By their own admission, then, this was not some kind of primitive misguided revenge on “the West” for the unjust treatment of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere. It was a deliberate ploy to goad white racists into attacks on Muslim areas, mosques and individuals, and to provoke Western governments to tighten their police repression on the ethnic minorities, in the hope that the resulting cycle of communal violence would frighten the Muslim minority into supporting the twisted cause of a medieval brand of Islamic fundamentalism, and stampede them into their clutches.
It is the age-old game of communal divide-and-rule. All the conflicts in the world today started with the same trick by imperialist powers and their compliant warlords in various ethnic and religious communities. British imperialists were especially adept at this strategy: in Ireland, setting Protestants against Catholics; in India, Hindus and Muslims; in Palestine, Arabs and Jews; in Cyprus, Greeks and Turks. Gangster bigots from one community commit murderous assaults on defenceless men, women and children from the victim community. The most combative elements among the youth of the community under attack retaliate against innocent members of the rival community.
The original instigators of the violence stand back and gleefully watch society crumble in flames; and the rulers stay on top. Nowadays, the corporations and the profiteers and the warlords use racism and religious communalism in the same way.
If ever there was a need for the utmost solidarity and unity of the working class, it is today, when workers’ rights and living standards are under threat as never before. That above all is why we unreservedly condemn this provocative attack. It was a conscious and calculated bid to aggravate ethnic and communal tensions and drive a wedge into the unity of the working class. For socialists, there is no greater crime.
There is a growing danger that under conditions of austerity, welfare cuts, rising poverty and mass youth unemployment, racism and communal hatred could rapidly polarize society, which could erupt in assaults and murders; provocative marches through minority areas; the development of defence groups; police repression; segregation; no-go areas; internment camps, campaigns for mass repatriation; and a division into warring ghettoes. This would destroy any element of the solidarity, unity and combativity needed by the working class in its fight to resist the most brutal attack on its rights and living standards for a century.
We are not prepared to see such horrors unfolding here. Already the racist bigots of the EDL, the BNP and the fringes of UKIP are on the march. There has been a ten-fold increase in racist incidents reported since Wednesday – at least 150 so far. Mosques have been desecrated, firebombed and set alight. The number of EDL “followers” on the social media has risen from 30,000 to over 110,000 in three days. Inevitably, individual Muslims will be targeted for attack. If not this time, then following future provocations, once the racists begin to attack the Muslim ghettoes, sooner or later there will be a counter-backlash from among the boldest Muslim youth. One more atrocity like the Woolwich murder could rapidly lead to racist counter-attacks, tit-for-tat counter-reprisals, communal riots, the establishment of rival terrorist gangs, increased police repression, economic disinvestment… We could end up with a polarised communal society, a nightmare like Northern Ireland in the years of the troubles, over the entire mainland of Britain.
We must not let ourselves be stampeded into nationalism, racism, fundamentalism or blind terrorism. That is a dead end. We need to make a clear call to action. All ordinary working-class Londoners and youth – white and black, Muslim and Jew, Christian and Hindu – are looking for a way out of the impending hellish nightmare of attacks, reprisals and counter-attacks, racist polarisation and police repression.
We protest against the murder of workers of all races by communal bigots and fascists of whatever ethnic origin. There is no justification either for the murder of ordinary British workers or for the victimisation of innocent Muslims. We stand for the unity of people of all ethnic origins; for a unite front of local workers and youth to resist the fascist thugs of all communities.
We stand for all welfare cuts to be restored immediately, for proper youth facilities, free educationa and recreational opportunities, a decent minimum wage, and guaranteed jobs for all youth.
We call for immediate withdrawal of US and British armies from Afghanistan, an end to the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, and freedom for Palestine.
We call for the immediate establishment under the control of the trade unions and community organisations of united ethnically-mixed neighbourhood patrols, both to defend ordinary people against terrorist atrocities and to defend members from minority ethnic and religious communities against racist attacks.