Friday, 22 August 2014

Should The State Stop Jihadists Going To Iraq?

The growth of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq and Syria has led to the British government saying that it would try to prevent British jihadists going to Iraq or Syria. Now that it appears that a British jihadist was responsible for the murder of US journalist, James Foley, those sentiments have been strengthened. But, socialists should oppose any such action by the British state.

The reasons for opposing any such ban by the British state is the same as that we have for opposing bans on other fascists by that state. In other words, it is being proposed against fascists today, but tomorrow it will be used against workers and socialists. We cannot place any faith in the capitalist, nor sow any illusions in the minds of workers that this state is in any sense neutral between the interests of capital and labour. Our interests are not the same as those of capital and its state, and we have to rely on our own strength to pursue workers interests as against those of capital.

In fact, rather than supporting the British state in imposing such bans, the international labour movement should itself learn some lessons from the jihadists where they appear to be in advance of the workers movement.

For example, the jihadists take their ideology seriously enough that they not only present themselves as being united into a single whole by that ideology, wherever they live, but they act on that basis too. Where, for much of the labour movement, the slogan “Workers of the World Unite”, is nothing more than that, a slogan to be tagged on the the bottom of books and pamphlets, for the jihadists, the equivalent is repeatedly put into practice, as fighters go to wherever they see their brothers engaged in such a struggle.

Similarly, although socialists talk about the workers having no country, and profess their internationalism, their politics is continually delineated along national boundaries, as the current Scottish referendum indicates, and phrased in nationalistic terms such as the demand for “Nationalisation”. By contrast the jihadists by their actions make clear that for them these lines on a map really do have no significance, in a way that has not been true for the workers' movement since the time of the International Brigade.

Rather than allowing the state to place limits on such acts of solidarity, the workers movement should learn from them, and begin to build its own international solidarity, its own means of providing real physical support for workers in struggle, wherever in the world they are, irrespective of lines drawn on a map.

That does not in any means involve us supporting the politics or actions of the jihadists, any more than it means supporting the politics or actions of other fascists, when we oppose state bans against them. It means we do not allow the capitalist state to present itself as neutral, we do not allow it to introduce measures or gain powers that it will use effectively against us.

And both in the case of fascists and the jihadists it is clear why that is the case. In the past, when the workers movement has been very strong, and posed a threat to capital, the state has had no compunction against allowing these kinds of forces to be used against the workers, to break up its meetings, to attack strikes and so on. On the contrary, the state has frequently in the past provided assistance to the fascists in doing precisely that. It uses versions of that tactic all the time. In the North of Ireland during the 1970's and 80's, the state as well as carrying out its own murder of Republicans, also provided information and support for Protestant paramilitaries to carry out attacks against not only Republican fighters, but also against civilians such as solicitors acting to defend Republicans.

Most recently, the capitalist state as well as acting itself to bomb Libya, provided weapons and resources to the jihadists to fight Gaddafi, as it had done before in providing support for Bin laden in Afghanistan, or indeed, as it has been doing over the last three years in arming the jihadists in Syria.

It did the same thing in providing weapons and support for the fascists of the Kosovan Liberation Army, so that they could incite ethnic conflict with Kosovan Serbs. It has done the same thing in supporting fascists in Ukraine. The capitalist state does this all the time, using such forces as useful idiots to fight its immediate enemies, and then turning on those useful idiots themselves, using their existence as a means of justifying a further strengthening of the state itself.

A similar thing occurs in Israel and Gaza. On the one hand, the Israeli state uses the threat of Hamas, and other terrorists to strengthen its own position. On the other, organisations like Hamas use the massively excessive response of Israel to justify their own existence and methods. Israel's attacks on Gaza are wholly indefensible. At the same time the rocket attacks by Hamas as a response are wholly ineffective. Yet, for Hamas, they are effective, precisely because they provoke that over-reaction by Israel, and thereby feed the sentiment that Hamas needs to justify its existence and message. It acts to prevent any possibility of Palestinian workers uniting with Israeli workers, and thereby working towards a solution to meet their joint interests as workers as against the interests of capital, or the interests of their immediate oppressors. It does so by presenting the workers living on the other side of a line drawn on a map as being their real enemy, rather than that enemy being their own state.

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