Indonesia: Bali bombings

The terrifying carnage which ripped through the Sari nightclub at Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, has shocked working people and youth internationally. Hundreds have been left maimed and injured as the death toll rose to nearly 200 (at the time of writing) during Saturday night and Sunday. Amongst the dead were young people from Britain, Canada, Germany, Indonesia and especially from Australia.

Bali is to Australian youth what the Spanish Costa del Sol is to some British workers and is accessible to them as a cheap holiday resort. The bombings took place during the beginning of the Australian summer period. Inevitably, therefore, the victims of these bombings were completely innocent young people largely from working class families who were simply trying to have a good time and enjoy the summer holiday.

The CWI and socialists condemn these bombings and the use of such terrorist methods. In the most brutal manner they illustrate how the barbarism, turmoil and conflict of modern capitalism encroach into the lives of people, even when they try to get some respite from the ravages of the capitalist world on a summer holiday. The consequences of the attacks on 11th of September had previously been seen as somewhat remote in Australia. These horrific bombing illustrate how the consequences of those events are now being felt in area of the world.

Oppose ‘terrorist’ attacks

Socialists support the mass mobilisation of working people to fight against exploitation, capitalism and imperialism. Marxists have never supported the use of terrorism by small groups or individuals to fight against the ruling class or the capitalist system. Such methods have always been counter productive and acted against the interests of the working class.

In the past, for example in the struggle against the Czarist regime in Russia in the 19th and early years of the 20th century, some groups used the methods of individual terrorism – shooting a general or other representative of the Czarist regime. Such methods did not advance the struggle of the workers and peasants against Czarism and landlordism or capitalism. They were used by the ruling class as an excuse,to introduce further state repression against the working class. They also hindered the development of a collective understanding that mass action was necessary to overthrow landlordism and capitalism.

However, at least such actions were directed against specific targets associated with the repressive regime which existed at the time.

The bombings in Bali, and other incidents, are indiscriminate attacks whose main victims are working people.

Two questions arise following the harrowing scenes which flashed onto the television screens around the world over the weekend: Who carried out the bombings and why?

The bombings were probably carried out by a right-wing Muslim fundamentalist group, possibly with links to the al-Qa’ida network. In the Muslim countries of the neo-colonial world such groups have been able to feed on the rising sentiment of anti-western and, in particular, anti-US sentiment.

This has grown along with the massive increase in poverty in these countries, increased exploitation by the western imperialist powers, the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the threat of an attack on Iraq.

This has resulted in a growing perception that the ‘Christian west’ is attempting to take control of the Muslim world for its strategic and economic interests. In reality the ‘Christian’ capitalist class of the west have been prepared to collaborate with Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish allies, and others, who defend landlordism and capitalism and the strategic and economic interests of the ruling class.

Almost simultaneously as two bombs were detonated at Kuta, a third exploded at the US consulate in nearby Denpasar.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. Right-wing fundamentalist groups such as Jamaah Islamiya (JI), which is reported to have links with al-Qa’ida, have built a certain influence because of the mass poverty, desperation and anti-western and anti-US imperialist sentiment which exists.

This is because of the failure of the Communist Party, PKI, historically. This was the most powerful ‘Communist Party’ outside of the former Soviet Union and China. Despite this mass influence of this party it failed to take power. As a consequence the working class and oppressed suffered brutal repression under the Suharto dictatorship which seized power in 1966. The failure to take power and subsequently to lead a sustained struggle in the underground opened the way for fundamentalist forces to intervene in the vacuum which has opened up.

A night-club, on an island with a Hindu majority, associated with western ‘immorality, sex and alcohol’, would be an ‘acceptable target’ for such groups as JI. Palestinian fundamentalist suicide bombers have also wrongly hit similar targets in Israel.

These attacks follow a series of recent incidents, including the shooting of a US soldier in Kuwait, the killing of 11 French submarine technicians in Karachi and the suicide bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen.

The attacks on French targets are in retaliation for the initial backing the French ruling class gave to Bush and his ‘war on terrorism’.

The attacks in Bali are likely to have been directed at Australia because of the tough ‘pro-Bush’ line adopted by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. After signing up to the ‘war on terrorism’ within 24 hours of the September 11th attacks, Australian special forces have been operating with American troops in Afghanistan.

These horrific bombings are an anticipation of further attacks in the future, particularly against ‘targets’ from countries whose ruling class is openly backing Bush. These are certain to increase if the Bush administration invades Iraq. British targets, because of Blair’s role internationally, must be high on the list of likely targets.

Capitalist turmoil

These bombings indicate the turmoil that capitalism is unleashing internationally. As the commentator Robert Fisk pointed out: "Bali only emphasises what the past year should have taught us: that individual innocence no longer protects us, that we are living – whether we know it or not – in a terrifying new age." (The Independent, 14 October 2002).

The carnage of the bombings in Bali poses the question of why such horrors are now taking place. They are a condemnation of capitalism and imperialism. The massive increase in poverty, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor that has accelerated with globalisation have created the social conditions that give rise to such attacks. As the British daily ‘The Independent’ puts it: ‘Unless there is more justice in the world, Bali will be repeated’.

However, what The Independent does not explain is that capitalism cannot eliminate injustice which is weaved into its fabric as a system. The developing international economic recession will result in greater poverty and attacks on the living standards of the mass of the population, in particular in neo-colonia countries such as Indonesia.

The leaders of the capitalist world weep crocodile tears at the fate of the youth who were killed and maimed in Bali. However, they remain silent about the slaughter and human misery they and their system are responsible for. More than 10,000 tonnes of bombs have been dropped on Afghanistan since September 11th. This is more than half of what fell on London during the Blitz of the Second World War. US air raids in Afghanistan have killed between 3,100 and 3,600 people according to ‘Global Exchange’ and Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire!

The promised aid to pay for reconstruction has not materialised. The World Bank estimated that US$16 billion was needed to rebuild the Afghan economy over the next decade. So far of the US$5billion pledged in aid only US$45 million has arrived. Of the $US 1.8 billion due to be spent on reconstruction in the first twelve months following the fall of the Taliban, most has gone on financing the UN and other aid agency’s bureaucracies. The average cost of maintaining a foreign UN worker in Afghanistan for a year is $US250,000!

The Christian fundamentalist dominated Bush administration, in alliance with Jewish fundamentalists in the US and Israel and the British Christian fundamentalist, Tony Blair, may try and use the Bali bombings as further justification to invade Iraq. They have provided no evidence, despite Rumsfeld’s claim to the contrary, that the Iraqi regime is linked to al-Qa’ida. A key element in the drive to launch an occupation of Iraq is oil and the need for US imperialism to secure new oil supplies and reserves, especially because of the unstable situation which exists in Saudia Arabia.

Should they go ahead with this invasion, it will unleash massive social and political turmoil in the Middle East. Anti-western, especially anti-US, sentiment would be enormously strengthened internationally. The recent attacks on US soldiers in Kuwait, one of the most pro-western of the Gulf States, is a warning of the explosive situation which will develop. The bombings in Bali may widen the division amongst the ruling class about launching an attack on Iraq.

Bush hardliners

The hardliners in the Bush administration are using the bombing to try and strengthen their campaign in favour of an attack on Iraq. The more far-sighted representatives of capitalism are increasingly doubtful that this strategy is in their best interests. As the British Financial Times commented in its editorial following the Bali bombings: "The threat of an attack on Iraq by the US and its allies is likely to fuel the growing support for extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere in southern Asia…This raises difficult questions for President George W. Bush as he considers the next steps in the war against terrorism."

Moreover, in the US itself, and internationally, if the US ruling class goes to war against Iraq, it will do so with growing mass opposition to the war – before it has even begun! Despite the bombing in Bali 35,000 marched in an anti-war rally in Melbourne Australia and observed one-minute silence to remember those killed in the bombings. This, according to some reports, is the largest anti-war rally in Melbourne since the Vietnam war. There is growing opposition to the war amongst the US population.

Bush, Blair and Howard and, ultimately, their system will be blamed for the carnage that a war on Iraq and any further terrorist attacks that will inevitably arise from it.

These events illustrate the need to build a mass socialist alternative to capitalism and imperialism amongst working people internationally. It is only the building of socialism internationally that will eliminate the social conditions that spore ‘terrorist’ groups and allow them to operate. It is only by building a mass socialist alternative that it will be possible to unite the working peoples of the world in a struggle to confront capitalism and imperialism.

*No to Terrorism and War!

*Fight Imperialist attempts to attack Iraq and unleash terror on the Iraqi and Palestinian People.

* Fight for a Mass Socialist Alternative to Capitalism and Imperialism.

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October 2002