On Terrorism

An ocassional series on The Struggle, by J L Samboma

As a dialectical materialist, I am opposed to individual acts of terrorism, no matter how "revolutionary" or "romantic" they may appear at the subjective level. I believe that the liberation of the oppressed must be achieved by the oppressed themselves, through their self-activity in the training ground of class struggle.

Objectively, individual acts of terrorism, as carried out by the likes of Carlos the Jackal, the PFLP or Al-Qaeda, do not advance the class struggle; rather they represent an attempt by individuals and small groups to substitute themselves for the masses, removing the initiative from the people, denying them the chance to test their ideas in practice and learn from the dialectical interaction of their ideas with reality in the theatre of active struggle.

Self-activity of the masses

Furthermore, it cannot resolve the antagonism between the oppressor and the oppressed, for the minute the terrorist's "spectacular" sends a president or police chief to their maker, they are replaced the next minute, leaving the mechanism of oppression unscathed. Only the mass revolutionary activity of the people themselves has the potential to sweep away the old society and replace it with the new one which resides in embryo in the status quo.

Also, such acts of terror hand to the oppressor class a propaganda victory, as they never tire of pointing out that their opponents are violent and they have to meet such violence with violence of their own.

Terrorism is very far-removed from a situation in which the people take up arms to defend themselves against their oppressors, who use violence to subjugate them. This we support unreservedly. In the latter case it is the people themselves, armed and engaged in active struggle, putting their ideas into practice, learning lessons from their mistakes and setbacks, who take on their oppressors; it is self-activity of the mass - not the act of an isolated, self-appointed surrogate.

Only people who liberate themselves in active struggle can successfully defend their revolutionary gains against the inevitable counter-revolution. The October Revolution was not achieved by the terrorism of the Narodniks, Nihilists or Social Revolutionaries.  It was won through conscious, organised armed struggle led by the Bolsheviks – albeit armed uprisings came into play at decisive moments.

Organisation work among the masses

In “The Bankruptcy of Individual Terrorism,” Leon Trotsky (right), one of the leaders of the October Revolution, said:  “Of course, one can easily collect a dozen odd quotations from Social Revolutionary literature stating that they pose terror not instead of the mass struggle but together with it. But these quotations bear witness only to the struggle the ideologists of terror have had to conduct against the Marxists – the theoreticians of mass struggle.

“But this does not change matters. By its very essence terrorist work demands such concentrated energy for “the great moment,” such an overestimation of the significance of individual heroism, and finally, such a “hermetic” conspiracy, that – if not logically, then psychologically – it totally excludes agitational and organisational work among the masses.”

Also, Lenin was resolutely resistant to the ideas and practice of terrorism. We may oppose terrorism, but we do so not from the opportunistic and hypocritical standpoint of the oppressor class, who use state terrorism to achieve their goal of subjugating the people.  You only have to look at the state-sponsored massacres in both Iraq and Libya to see that this is true.

Pan-Africanists would take up arms against Nato

On the contrary, we oppose terrorism from the dialectical materialist position, which holds that it is the people who, in active struggle, create their own liberation, and hence, history. As revolutionary Pan-Africanists, we oppose the imperialist aggression against Libya because it is a blatant attempt to reverse the gains of Gadaffi's revolution in Libya which, although not socialist, ushered in a socio-political dispensation that was much better than what went before and, also, much better than what obtains in other countries in the region.

We also oppose all imperialist aggression. And, last but not least, Mr war-Bama and his fellow imperialist dogs (of war!) have no business invading Africa, of which Libya is an integral part. They must be resisted at all costs. If Pan-Africanists had the power, we would take up arms against this attack on the sovereign territory of Africa.  As Africans, we have our own problems with Brother-Leader  Gadaffi, but now is not the time to whip up discord in our house, when mass murderers are baying for our brother's blood.

As such, we will make common cause with other forces ranged against the dogs (of war!) – just as Gadaffi's Libya and Castro's Cuba, in the spirit of revolutionary internationalism, aided the revolution against violent, racist settler-colonialism and aggression in Southern Africa.

But, in the final analysis, we are Marxists, and we do not support any attempts to usurp the role of the people in their own liberation.