deserve the enemies we have
was Sunday evening before I arrived back from Wollongong. I had been
hired by The Greens to monitor possible ALP abuses of procedure at the
polling booths in the Cunningham by-election. Most of the time, Id
hung around Fig Tree High School where nothing much happened. The ALP
campaign workers made fools of themselves with a last minute anti-Green
scare campaign and much mirth centred on the unoffical Liberal candidate
who greeted arriving voters with Im Mouldsie, your independent,
Im your local butcher, pronouncing butcher like the Greek
word for the male genitalia, which was not the brightest move in an
electorate awash with Greeks.
the time I limped back to the office, it was clear that The Greens had
pulled off a historic victory.
opened a cider and the Saturday Herald and scanned the news of the Bali
bombing. Well get the bastards the headline screamed.
Well, maybe well get them and maybe not. After all, theyre
still looking for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. And if we catch these
people, others will step forward.
you dont know your history youre in danger of getting sucked
in by people who want to stampede you for their own nasty purposes,
I reflected. Fact is, the world has been through something like this
before. A hundred years ago it was in the grip of terror and the threat
came from the assassins of the anarchist movement. At the time, we were
going through the first wave of globalisation -- it was called imperialism
then, and its proponents sold it as a Good Thing.
had a powerful appeal to all the powerless little folk dispossessed
by this relentless economic force. Europe was full of them and they
spilled over into the United States. Anarchism promised them a better
world, one free from pitifully low wages, slums, destitution and other
Anarchist assassins struck at icons of the ruling elite. Between 1894
and 1914 they bumped off six heads of state including presidents of
the United States and France, two premiers of Spain, and the king of
Italy. They also killed bourgeois at the opera, innocent passers-by,
aristocrats, politicians, provincial governors, policemen, judges, jailers.
called this the propaganda of the deed and it was supposed
to incite a general working class insurrection, but basically it was
a raw vengence and a form of protest.
al-Qaeda -- terrorism has since moved with the times -- the Anarchist
assassins were members of a loose fraternity of local associations inspired
by a few charismatic theorists with a romantic idea of the road freedom
and plenty. Their terror wasnt organised on an international basis
and the theoreticians were barely connected with the grassroots activists
they inspired or the deeds they carried out.
each captured assassin was executed, others with nothing to lose stepped
forward to avenge them. The knee-jerk response of the ruling elites:
repression, tightened laws, heightened vigilance, police infiltration,
failed to stop the attacks, but, over the early years of the 20th century,
they gradually subsided.
The crisis came to an end mostly because new beacons of hope emerged.
For a time, the rise of the trade union movement and the organisation
of the working class in an international alliance of Social-Democratic
parties forged a practical alternative to the Anarchists fruitless
acts of violent individual protest.
that in mind and cut to today. In a military sense terrorism has come
of age. Al-Qaeda picks targets with all the professionalism of
a US airforce target analyst: politico-military assets like
embassies and the Pentagon, high-value economic targets like the World
Trade Centre or the Kuta nightclubs. The Bali bombing was devastatingly
effective because the Balinese economy is alomost completely based on
tourism. The perpetrators have simultaneously hit out at the despised
Westerners, the hated Javanese ruling elites (who own just about everything
worth owning in Bali) and the airline industry. The economic impact
on Bali would have been of little concern to fanatical islamists because
most Balinese are Hindus.
some silly journalists are saying Kuta was the biggest act of terrorism
in Indonesian history. Give me a break. The CIA-backed 1965 coup that
overthrew Sukarno and brought our old ally, General Soeharto, to power,
saw Muslim fanatics and the army kill something like 650,000 leftists,
trade unionists and members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
On the political landscape there was then no authority left between
Soehartos pro-Western dynastic military looters and the village
move Chuck, take out those commies and the radical nationalists and
all youve got to deal with are high-class crims and priests.
the Yanks -- with our enthusiastic support -- consciously hamstrung
the development of a modern, secular, political culture in Indonesia.
It was the same grand political strategy which, over time, also gave
us regimes as apparently diverse as the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs,
the Saudi monarchy, Dr Mathahir and Saddam Hussein.
then, feign indignation, when, across much of the Third World, the hordes
of the poor and angry have only religious ideology to turn to? Where
else is their beacon of hope? In scores of troubled countries, if youre
a student burning with frustration at your countrys hopeless future,
a half-starved unemployed worker, a peasant squeezed beyond toleration,
you cant go down to the marketplace and find a bunch of young
socialists with a stall; you cant talk to a trade union activist
because theyre dead, or deep underground. The CIA has ganged
up with the military looters to wipe out the secular Left, so you talk
to some half-mad young mullah instead.
the overthrow of the planned economies of the Stalinist world, the market
fundamentalists promised that the Millenium of Plenty would arrive.
It just hasnt happened and much of the Third World is in worse
disorder than before.
people know. Deep down, the footsoldiers of the new terrorism
yearn for respect, progress, stability. They watch TV and they see us
rolling in wealth, ease and luxury. Why act horrified when people with
no political alternative find somewhere in their holy book an exhortation
to vengence? Hell, we can all find something nasty in our traditional
holy books. Until recently, Christians regularly justified their slaughter
of Mulims, Jews and each other by reference to the Bible.
the West deserves the enemies it now has. Stalinist they might have
been, but the PKI never called us infidels.