One of the reasons Marxists oppose acts of terrorism is that they inevitably lead to a reactionary backlash against civil liberties and the right to protest. This position has been vindicated, unfortunately, across the world as governments use September 11, 2001 as a useful excuse to resort to vicious legislative attacks on fundamental freedoms.
Targeting dissent. The so-called “war on terror” has quickly revealed itself to be a war of terror — and all of us now are potential targets of State abuses of our rights. Now, a person can be detained indefinitely, even though they are not suspected of committing an offence. This is clearly not aimed at “terrorists,” who can be dealt with more than adequately under existing criminal codes. Rather, Howard has, with the support of the ALP, created the conditions for a form of “legal” dictatorship almost identical to that of Malaysia’s Mahathir. The whole point is to stifle dissent in the face of global capitalism’s ever more unbearable pressures on Australian workers’ wages, working conditions and basic services.
A sign of weakness. Capitalism has often resorted to police-state bureaucratism in times of economic downturn. Marxists call this “Bonapartism,” because the Executive is held up as an independent defender of “civil society,” but in reality it defends only the interests of big business. The global economy is in danger of a prolonged recession, and to maintain profits, it is necessary to directly attack the working class in the capitalist heartlands. Hence we now witness the incredibly broad definition of “terrorism” adopted by capitalism’s tame politicians. Self-defence by the working class has been effectively outlawed.
No choice but struggle. Since big business has removed the gloves, there is no reason for working people to hold back from the fight. It’s a battle we’ve won before. The penal powers of Australia’s industrial courts were rendered toothless for decades by mass strikes in 1969. While the ASIO law has a sunset clause, the “war on terror” is meant to continue indefinitely. If we don’t resist, we can bet on a continuation of the repressive legal framework. Every unionist, every defender of civil liberties and activists in every movement must prepare now to fight a militant battle on the streets the minute these new laws are used against anybody. Politicians and corporations need to know that if they want to govern in this manner, we’ll make the country ungovernable. It’s a simple matter of self-defence.