This article was originally published in German on July 26, 2016.
A series of violent attacks in southern Germany, in Würzburg, Munich, Ansbach and Reutlingen, say a lot more about German society, its politics and media than about Islam, Islamists or so-called internal security.
The acts of violence were terrible and sympathy should be afforded to the victims and those close to them. Particularly out of respect for these people, the events should be dealt with factually, and there should be serious discussion about whether there are means which could help to prevent such deeds in future. The suggestions coming from the conservative ‘strong state’ fetishists of the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the racists of the AfD (Alliance for Germany - a far right, anti-immigrant party) are all not fit for this purpose.
From what we know at the moment, all of these attacks were carried out by individual perpetrators, who were neither acting on the orders of any terrorist group nor as a consequence of membership or activity in an organisation. Despite this, the question of terrorism is discussed at length in the media coverage of these cases. In the case of the murder in Reutlingen, some media speak of a terrorist-style attack, despite the fact that it was a crime committed within a personal relationship. The fact that the killer is Syrian is sufficient to make his nationality and religion a topic of media coverage. When a Bavarian man murdered his two nieces in their sleep in the town of Krailing, in 2012, media reports did not mention whether he was a Christian or an atheist, a member of the CSU or anything else. His German nationality was not particularly emphasised either.
The attacker in Munich can be heard in a video described himself as “German” and insulting Turkish people. A witness reports hearing him shout a xenophobic slogan. He was born in Germany and had German citizenship. In his apartment, documents relating to the 2011 racist and extreme right mass murder of social democratic youth by Anders Breivik in Norway were found. The Munich attacker struck on the fifth anniversary of this heinous attack. It appears that all nine victims had an immigrant background. Despite this, he is consistently referred to as a “German-Iranian” by the media and even after that video emerged, an “Islamic motive” was not ruled out. The fact that a right wing extremist, racist motive is much more likely, was hardly mentioned anywhere.
Two years ago in Bavaria, a man on a shooting spree shot two people dead and was described as “psychologically unstable” by the media. The fact that he was a member of a shooting club was not taken as a reason to place this section of the population (who, after all, are in possession of weapons) under a general suspicion. Despite an intensive search on the internet, it is not possible to find out this killer’s religion.
In the cases of those responsible for the attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach, they do indeed seem to be men who sympathised with right-wing political Islam. Looking at the specific motivations and triggers for the attack, the media speak of the death in Afghanistan of a friend of the Würzburg attacker and the threatened deportation of the Ansbach attacker. While not defending the attackers would it not make more sense to conclude that an end to the war in Afghanistan and an end to the inhumane policy of deportation could have “prevented” these attacks?
Internationally, terrorist attacks by the so-called ‘Islamic State’ and others are increasing and causing insecurity for many people. This is the aim of the perpetrators. But they are also banking on the reactions of western states, politicians and media driving more young Muslims into their arms. Often, “Islam” or “the refugees” are portrayed as a threat, reinforcing anti-Muslim racism. In reality, “the Muslims” are no more responsible for the IS than “the Germans” are for the fascist NSU terrorists, or Christianity for the terror of the Ku-Klux-Klan in the US or the Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Against more power for the state
The insecurity of many people is being used by pro-capitalist governments to beef up organs of the state and attack democratic rights. They claim that it is necessary to reduce data protection, increase the number of police officers or even use the army on internal missions, to ‘protect’ the population from attacks. However, all experience shows that an expansion of state power will be increasingly used first and foremost against the labour movement and the left. It is sufficient to look to France, where the state of emergency, in place for the last nine months, was used against striking workers and their trade unions and there has been massive state repression against the mass protests of recent months.
This is one reason to oppose more power for the state and an expansion of the state’s capacity to carry out arbitrary measures. The other reason is that such measures do not and cannot prevent terrorism. Perpetrators acting alone cannot be stopped by the police - unless the state is transformed into a state full of informers, spying in every home and every workplace. At the same time, an organisation like the Islamic State will find ways and means of carrying out attacks for as long as there is a social basis for its existence. This basis lies chiefly in the exploitation of the neo-colonial world, the wars, the support for dictatorships in the Middle East and the institutional racism against Muslims and refugees in western countries. In order to deprive IS of its support, this base must be removed. Most of all, a strong left alternative must be built internationally, which meets the division sown by racists and right wing political Islam with the common struggle of workers, young people and the unemployed - irrespective of nationality, skin colour and religion - for fundamental social change, against war and imperialism.