The horrific bombings at the nightclubs in Bali have left up to 300 Australians dead, the biggest toll since the 500+ killed in the Vietnam War. The victims were overwhelmingly young people, mainly working class youth on end of season football tours or once-in-a-lifetime holidays. The victims also include the many hundreds physically injured some of whom will experience psychological trauma for the rest of their lives.
Australia is in collective shock. The world events that many ordinary people thought immune from have now caught up with them – it is a case where "you can ignore politics, but it won’t ignore you".
Other casualities include the Indonesian nightclub staff who died and were injured. The local tourist industry will be wrecked after these attacks. Tens of thousands of Indonesian workers will be left unemployed without any social security.
It is probable the attacks were organised to attack the West (especially Australians who are hated after its military intervened in East Timor in 1999) by the main local reactionary Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah, possibly with assistance from Al-Qaida – or the other way around. The sophistication and sheer size of the three bombs also suggest that pro-Islamic elements in the Indonesian armed forces might also have assisted, as they have backed JI in recent conflicts with Indonesian Christians.
It is unlikely the top levels of the army were involved, as they control much of the tourist industry in Bali.
In Australia the Howard Federal Government will try and use the attacks to bolster its support for Bush’s war on Iraq. Extremists on the Right will try and whip up racist feelings with attacks on local Muslims and even anti-war activists.
However the mood amongst ordinary people is not the same as it was in the US after the September 11th attacks last year.
No military solution
The news of the bombings reached most Australian on the Sunday morning, yet that afternoon – October 13th – 35,000 marched against a war on Iraq on the streets of Melbourne. The massive crowd honoured the dead with a minute silence, agreeing with speakers who explained that there was no military solution to the social problems that breed support for terrorism.
The Socialist Party in Australia argues that Howard’s blind support for Bush’s ’war on terrorism’ and upcoming war on Iraq, makes ordinary people targets for terrorist retaliation. We must support those workers, students and poor farmers in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Indonesia who are fighting against imperialist domination of their countries and for a democratic, secular and socialist future.
We reject the idea that the only option is either US domination or the ideas of Islamic fundamentalism. We stand for democratic socialism and the rights of all nations and peoples to self-determination, including the Palestinians.
The Greens in Australia, who are growing in support as Labor continues to be a pale imitation of the Liberals, argued that the bombings showed the need for Australia not to go to war in Iraq as its troops would be better served fighting terrorism in the region. This shows the left nationalism of the Greens and Howard responded quickly arguing that the source of the anger against the West was in the Middle East.
The Greens position was an echo of the argument that some right-wingers used to support the radical left in the anti-conscription referendums during World War One. They opposed Australian troops going to fight for Britain not for internationalist, anti-imperialist reasons, but because consription for a European war would leave the country open to invasion from "the Asiatic hordes".
Australian troops whether used in the region or in the Middle East will not stop the oppressed peoples fighting with everything they have against imperialism. We must counterpoise internationalist and socialist explanations to the Government and its allies, not head in the sand nationalism albeit with a left face.
The bombings are a disaster for the Indonesian government of Megawati. It will be a body blow for investor confidence in general and the tourist industry in particular. Her government will come under tremendous pressure from Washington and Canberra to clamp down on local Islamic extremist groups. She will be pushed to accept the presence of US and Australian special forces and agents in the country, the biggest in the Islamic world with 180 million people. She will have to balance between the demands of imperialism versus the need to keep onside the Islamic parties.
The bombings may create an atmosphere that make it more likely there will be an invasion of Iraq by the US (supported not only by the UK and Australia but also the Security Council).
The reactionary leaders of the Islamic groups know that such a war will kills tens of thousands of their Muslim brothers and sisters. They believe that this is worth the price if it creates a holy war that will push their reactionary and medieval ideas.
Workers throughout the Middle East and workers in the West have the same enemy – the system that keeps Palestinians in chains, destroys the futures of workers at Enron and similar disasters of capitalist greed worldwide, and carpet bombs Iraq for the benefit of US oil companies. We cannot go backwards to religious hatred and terrorist genoicide, but rather must go forward together against capitalism and build a decent democratic and socialist future for the next generation.