Terrorism from a Marxist perspective

By Anton

Communists should not oppose terrorism on moral grounds, as communism has no place for bourgeois moralism- essentially, the ends justify the means, as long as there is something to justify the end. What matters is whether an action will advance the class interests of the proletariat; we should support strikes, walkouts, struggle in parliament for concessions, the passing of bills and acts that increase the living standards of proletarians, etcetera. So, what we communists must ask ourselves is whether individual terrorism will serve proletarian class interests. The killing of a capitalist, or the shooting of a policeman will not further proletarian class interest, it will do the opposite, in fact- it will be used as an excuse for repression.

Only an organised working class can send a representative into parliament to gain concessions from the bourgeoisie and strengthen the political power of the proletariat. However, in order to murder a prominent government member you do not require the backing of an organised working class- anyone can make explosives and acquire a Glock.

A strike, even of modest size, has social consequences: strengthening of the workers’ self-confidence, growth of the trade union, and not infrequently even an improvement in productive technology. The murder of a factory owner produces effects of a police nature only, or a change of proprietors devoid of any social significance. Whether a terrorist attempt, even a ‘successful’ one throws the ruling class into confusion depends on the concrete political circumstances. In any case the confusion can only be shortlived; the capitalist state does not base itself on government ministers and cannot be eliminated with them. The classes it serves will always find new people; the mechanism remains intact and continues to function.

But the disarray introduced into the ranks of the working masses themselves by a terrorist attempt is much deeper. If it is enough to arm oneself with a pistol in order to achieve one’s goal, why the efforts of the class struggle? If a thimbleful of gunpowder and a little chunk of lead is enough to shoot the enemy through the neck, what need is there for a class organisation? If it makes sense to terrify highly placed personages with the roar of explosions, where is the need for the party? Why meetings, mass agitation and elections if one can so easily take aim at the ministerial bench from the gallery of parliament?

Lev Trotski

I quoted Trotski because otherwise I would be simply rewording what he wrote and passing it off as my own.

In our eyes, individual terror should be opposed precisely because it belittles the role of the proletariat in its own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchists can argue all they want for their ‘propaganda of the deed’, but it is clear that this reduces class consciousness and only serves to stagnate the working class movement. The official or minister will be replaced and life will, once again, return to ‘normality’. The only thing that changes in the capitalist system is that police repression becomes more savage and brutal.

Terrorist cells can be crushed, the proletariat cannot- it is needed by the bourgeoise. As I said before: we shouldn’t morally oppose terrorism- we shouldn’t morally oppose anything when we are fighting against a class that is willing to plunge thousands into the hell of war for land or resources, against a system in which 10,000,000 die in each year. The account we have to settle with the capitalists is not one that can be solved through a few assassinations- it can only be solved by smashing their system and state, and oppressing them as they have done to us for such a long time. The difference is the bourgeoisie needs the proletariat, but the proletariat does not need the bourgeoisie- the proletariat would be better off without the bourgeoise.

The repression that the proletariat inflicts on the bourgeoise will not similar to what they have inflicted upon us. It will be swift, it will be brutal, and it will only serve to advance proletarian class interests and the abolition of classes.

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