The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) observes with great concern the sharp increase in religious and ethnic sentiments and tension in Nigeria in the aftermath of the 11th September terrorist attacks in the US and the retaliatory military action by the US and Britain against Afghanistan.
No to terrorism
No to ethnic and religious hatred
For working people’s unity and solidarity
This tension has already resulted in a bloody ethnic/religious riot in the city of Kano in which over 150 people were reportedly killed and numerous churches, mosques and residential homes destroyed. Hundreds of non-indigenes of Kano (mostly southerners) are reported to be moving their families and belongings out of the city. The riot was sparked of by mass protests organised by Muslim groups after the Friday prayers on 12th October, 2001 against the current US military reprisals against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Before the Kano riot, there was ethnic/religious mayhem in Jos between the Christian and Muslim in which over 200 people were reportedly killed. And only a few days ago, a riot on the same issue of the US war against Afghanistan was narrowly averted in Minna, the capital of Niger State.
These riots and the general atmosphere of ethnic and religious acrimony have confirmed the earlier warning of the DSM that both the 11th September terrorist attacks and the retaliatory US military action will aggravate racial, ethnic and religious conflicts across the world. A major cause for this is the failure of the leaders of the trade unions and workers’ organisations (e.g. the NLC) to provide an independent working class alternative to the terrorism and archaic ideas of the Islamic fundamentalist groups and the war-mongering of George Bush, US and other imperialist powers. Also the riots again confirms the necessity for the convocation of a democratically-elected Sovereign National Conference (SNC) comprising elected representatives of social groups such as workers, peasant farmers, traders, rank-and-file of the armed forces and police, professionals and ethnic nationalities according to their numerical strength to deliberate and decide on the way forward for the country and draw up a new constitution.
No to religious bigotry
For working people’s unity
Against this background, the DSM wishes to reiterate its earlier call on the working masses not to allow ourselves to be divided along religious and ethnic lines. On the contrary, workers, youth and the poor oppressed masses irrespective of religious belief or ethnic background should unite together against our common capitalist oppressors and collectively fight for improved living standards and decent working conditions. Instead of fighting and murdering ourselves, the working masses should unite and fight against the anti-poor capitalist policies of privatisation of public assets, commercialisation of social services like education, medical care and housing, retrenchment of workers, etc, which continue to impoverished the masses to the benefit of the minority, super-rich ruling elite.
No to terrorism, no to war!
The US president, George Bush has been quoted as saying that nations and peoples of the world should either support the US war against Osama bin Laden and the Talibans or else they would be considered as supporters of terrorism. We in the DSM outrightly reject this false, crude and arrogant classification and we call on the working people to do the same.
As labour activists and socialists, not only do we unreservedly condemn the 11th September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, we are opposed to the use of terrorism as a method of struggle. Not only is terrorism counter-productive, it is often ineffective.
First of all, most of the over 6000 victims of the 11th September attacks are innocent ordinary working class people who have no say in deciding the foreign and domestic policies of the US government. The killing of thousands of ordinary workers at the World Trade Center cannot be justified on any ground.
Even if the hijackers had hit the White House or succeeded in killing President George Bush, that would not have fundamentally undermine the position of US imperialism. The US ruling class would have quickly replaced him with another member of the capitalist class who will continue with more or less the same anti-poor capitalist/imperialist policies.
Secondly, terrorism tends to strengthen the ruling class rather than undermine them. In the US, President George Bush never enjoyed the support of majority of US citizens both during and after his controversial election in November, 2000. However, since the 11th September attacks, his approval rating has dramatically risen to almost 90% as his administration capitalises on the horror and fear provoked in ordinary Americans by the terrorist attacks. Not only in the US, but in Britain, France, Germany, Japan and many other countries, both in the advanced capitalist world and the "Third World", governments are using the so-called war against terrorism to divert the masses’ attention from their anti-poor policies, retrenchment of workers and growing economic crisis.
Most importantly, as socialists we are opposed to the undemocratic, repressive, reactionary and feudal policies of the Talibans and elements like Osama bin Laden such as prohibition of women from work and education, outlawing of political parties, the killing of political opponents, "non-believers" etc.
War will not erradicate terrorism
However, the above-stated reasons notwithstanding, the DSM calls on the working people not to give any support to the ongoing war by the US and her allies against Afghanistan. As we have been explaining since the 11th September attack, not only will the US military action not curb terrorism, it is poor and innocent Afghans who would mostly be the victims.
According to media reports, about 1000 Afghans have been killed since the US military campaign started on 7th October. Most of these are innocent civilians, not Taliban soldiers. Three days into the war, on the 19th October, four United Nations aid workers were killed in Kabul. But the most horrific so far was the bombing of the village of Kouram, in eastern Afghanistan, on 10th October in which nearly 200 villagers were reportedly killed.
Also, as expected, the US war has seriously aggravated the deplorable situation facing the Afghan masses where already millions suffer from starvation and drought. Millions are fleeing the country to become refugees in Pakistan and Iran who have now closed their borders against the Afghans. Even the UN had warned that a further 1.5 million Afghans would become refugees if the US military action continues. This in a country where already 25% of the population live in refugee camps as a result of two decades of civil war. Since the crisis began, not less than 50,000 Afghans have crossed into Pakistan which even before the US military action was home to 2.5 million Afghan refugees.
While the US drops bombs worth millions of dollars, millions of Afghans are starving to death. According to The Guardian of 16 October, the UN has warned of a catastrophe unless aid can get through for up to seven million Afghans. Even Lean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, was quoted as demanding an end to the military action: "the bombing has to stop right now. There is a humanitarian emergency".. The food rations being dropped from US helicopters are not only grossly inadequate, they are not meant to alleviate the suffering of poor Afghans. It is just a calculated ploy to get the support of the masses in the US and the advanced capitalist countries for the military campaign.
Root cause of terrorism
It is not ruled out that the US may succeed in overthrowing the Taliban regime and eliminate Osama bin Laden through the ongoing war. However, it is completely illusory to think that by such "success" terrorism will be eradicated or substantially reduced. This is because the root cause of terrorism and the growth of terrorist groups is the exploitative and oppressive economic, political and foreign policies of the imperialist capitalist countries like the US in many parts of the globe but especially in the "Third World."
The growth in Islamic fundamentalism and spread of extremist Islamic group for instance is a product of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East. As we explained in the special bulletin of Socialist Democracy in September, 2001: "For over five decades, the US and other advanced capitalist countries like Britain, France and Germany have, for their own selfish economic and strategic calculations, connived with the Israeli ruling class to block the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for an independent Palestinian state. Over a million Palestinian masses are compelled to live in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under virtual Israeli military occupation and economic blockade. The Palestinian and Arab masses are aware that the US is the strongest political and military ally of the Israeli ruling class, subsidising the Israeli state machine to the tune of billions of dollars annually."
"It is this barbaric and oppressive rule to which the Palestinians have been subjected for decades which has led to increase in mass support for Islamic fundamentalists and extremist Arab militant groups in the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world. The frustration caused by decades of unrelenting mass poverty, unemployment, political repression and military occupation has led to the emergence of a generation of Palestinian and Arab youth who are ready to lay down their lives through suicide terrorist missions in the wrong belief that this is the only way to strike at their oppressors in Israel, US and elsewhere."
"It is this situation that has unfortunately made innocent citizens of US, other western nations and Israel the primary targets of terrorist attacks. At the same time, it is what has turned Arab figures like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden into heroes in the eyes of most Palestinian and Arab masses. Therefore, any plan or programme allegedly aimed at combating terrorism which fails to address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian masses and the other national and social conflicts in the Middle East is irredeemably doomed to fail."
A vicious cycle of violence
In fact, rather than eradicate terrorism, the ongoing war will create greater instability in the Middle East, south Asia (India, Pakistan, etc) and in many parts of the world. Firstly, rather than reduce the influence and appeal of Islamic extremist groups, it will on the contrary increase the support they have among the Arab masses and in the Muslim world.
The anthrax scare in the US (in which three people have already been confirmed dead) and the fear that terrorist groups may already have chemical and biological weapons in their arsenal shows the serious limitation of fighting terrorism by merely a military campaign
It is against this background that we in the DSM call on the working people and youth to oppose the declaration of war by the US government and its allies against countries like Afghanistan and others alleged to be sponsors of terrorism or providers of havens for terrorists.
In this respect, it is instructive to note that a decade after the end of Gulf War – "the mother of all wars" – in which US and the allied forces defeated Iraq, Saddam Hussein is still in power in Iraq while thousands of Iraqi children continue to die from malnutrition and lack of medicines as a result of the US-led economic blockade of the country.
In Serbia, nine months of NATO bombing could not remove the dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. However, he was forced to flee when faced with just two days of mass uprising.
More than any thing, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington and the ongoing war against Afghanistan show once again the inherent inability of global capitalist system to guarantee stability and peace in the world. It shows that the hundreds of billions dollar annual defence of the US and other world powers is not enough guarantee for global security.
About a decade ago, following the collapse of the planned but bureaucratically mismanaged economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the world capitalist leaders proclaimed the victory of their system. The then US president, George Bush (senior) proclaimed the dawn of a "New World Order" in which the capitalist market, and the US as the sole superpower, will guarantee prosperity and peace for the world population.
But instead of the capitalist paradise promised by Bush and other capitalist leaders, the past one decade has witnessed increased poverty, homelessness, diseases, destitution and environmental pollution among the working people across the world. This is as a result of attacks by multinational corporations on workers jobs and wages, deregulation, liberalisation and the privatisation of public assets and commercialisation of social services by capitalist governments in the mad drive to increase the profit and wealth of the super rich minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority, the impoverished masses. The end result is the creation of an unprecedented and widening gap between the rich and the poor in nearly all countries.
Equally, because of the selfish interests of the different capitalist ruling classes, capitalism has failed to resolve national conflicts, deliver justice and satisfy the social aspirations of the masses in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and so many other troubled spots in the world. It is this gross inequality and injustice being perpetrated by capitalism and imperialism worldwide that has created fertile soil for the growth of terrorism.
Thus, rather than supporting the futile war being waged by the US and its capitalist allies against terrorism, what the working people should struggle for is the overthrow of the unjust and exploitative capitalist system which breeds terrorism, insecurity, and instability. In its place, the working masses would need to establish a democratic socialist system in which the real needs and aspirations of the larger society and not wealth for a few will form the basis of production, the economy and government. This means that in US, Nigeria and other countries, the working people should struggle to put in power socialist workers’ governments based on the public ownership of industry, banking, mining and other key sectors of the economy with the democratic control and management of the economy and society by the working people in order to avert the bureaucratisation which led to the failure of the planned economies of the defunct Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Therefore, the most important task for labour and youth activists in the US, Nigeria and other countries at the present period is the building of independent political parties of the working people to defend the working masses from capitalist attacks and to lead the struggle for socialist transformation of society.
It is through this arrangement that world’s resources which are being presently monopolised and pocketed by a rich minority can be made available to provide food, housing, education, health and other basic needs for all. This would provide a lasting basis for the eradication of the root causes of frustration, crimes, ethnic and religious conflicts and wars.
U.S.’s double standard
The DSM calls on the working people both in Nigeria and internationally that while the working people should not support
acts of terrorism, we should not at any time, rely on the US and other imperialist/capitalist countries to combat terrorism. This is because going by their past records, the avowed commitment of the US and others to combat terrorism is nothing but sheer hypocrisy. When it comes to defending the profits of the multinationals and their selfish economic, political and strategic interests anywhere in the world, the US and the western powers have never hesitated to use violence and terror, even to the extent of killing innocent civilians and violently overthrowing democratically-elected and popular governments.
Osama bin Laden, who is now being alleged by the US as the mastermind of the 11th September attacks, was actually armed and financed by the US who organised, armed and supported a coalition of Islamic based guerrilla groups – the Muhadijeens – to wage war against the then Soviet Union-backed regime in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988.
Also to protect its strategic interests in the Gulf region, the US actually armed and backed Saddam Hussein regime in its war against the Islamic regime which came to power in Iran in 1979. During this period, the US and the imperialist powers turned a blind eye to the massacres of ethnic minority Kurds and other heinous atrocities committed by the Saddam regime. It was only when the Saddam dictatorship threatened US oil interests in the Gulf through the invasion of Kuwait that the US fell out with him.
Nearer home in Latin America, the US sponsored the murderous right-wing contras rebels to overthrow the popular Sandinistas regime in Nicaragua. And in Chile in 1973, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) organised a military coup which overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and brought to power General Augusto Pinochet during whose regime thousands of Chilean workers and pro-democracy activists were murdered or simply "disappeared".. There is also the example of Angola, where successive US governments backed the murderous UNITA for years. So far, UNITA has not been mentioned as a terrorist organisation by US imperialism.
George Bush claims that the US stands for democracy and civilisation. This is nothing but sheer pretence. In the Middle East and the Gulf region, the US supports all the undemocratic, feudal and corrupt regimes: in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, etc. In all these countries, democratic rights are suppressed. Workers and activists fighting for the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted. But the US ruling class does not care about this so long as the supply of oil to American industry is guaranteed. In Afghanistan itself, the US is already working to replace the Talibans with a coalition comprising the former Afghan king who was overthrown in 1973 and elements of the Northern Alliance who ruled the country between 1992 and 1996. But this arrangement will bring neither democracy or stability to Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance, like the Talibans, were part of the Muhadijeens. During their three year rule over the country, they outlawed all opposition and looted the country such that their overthrow by the Talibans was initially welcomed by millions of ordinary Afghans.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) is a revolutionary socialist organisation. We are the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). We call on workers, students, the youth, peasant farmers, artisans, professionals, traders and other sections of the working people to join and become DSM members so that we can jointly struggle together to create a country and a world in which poverty, exploitation, oppression and war will have no place.
Write to Democratic Socialist Movement, P.O.Box 2225, Agege, Lagos or come to DSM secretariat at 162, Ipaja Road, Agbotikuyo Bus-Stop, Agege, Lagos. Tel: 4925671 E-mail: email@example.com