Communist League: On Terrorism

REPRINT FROM COMBAT – Journal of the Communist League – March 1975.

TERRORISM OR REVOLUTION?

The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a number of terrorist groups in various countries, together with the adoption of terrorist tactics by a number of national liberation groups. Britain for example, has experienced the bombing campaigns of the “Angry Brigade,” purporting to be a protest against corporatist and racist legislation and of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, purporting to form part of the Irish struggle for national liberation. In some countries, such as India, even groups claiming to be “Marxist-Leninist” pursue terrorist tactics.

IT IS THEREFORE IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD BE CLEAR ON THE MARXIST-LENINIST ATTITUDE TOWARDS TERRORISM.

A “Punishment for Opportunism”

The victory of revisionism in the international communist movement has transformed the Communist Parties of most countries into parties which objectively serve the interests of monopoly capital by preaching the illusion of “peaceful, parliamentary transition to socialism.” These parties are seen ever more clearly by those who have become rebels against the evils of modern capitalist society to have become “left-wing” opportunist parties, drawn more and more into the political machinery of the capitalist state as instruments of deception of the working people.

In the absence of scientific parties of socialist revolution, it is inevitable that rebelliousness should manifest itself to a certain extent in the form of unscientific “leftist” activity such as terrorism.

In speaking of anarchism of which terrorism is one of the two fundamental concepts (the other being repudiation of the state in all its forms), Lenin made precisely this point when he described it as “a sort of punishment for opportunism” in the working class movement:

“Anarchism was often a sort of punishment for the opportunist sins of the working class movement. Both monstrosities mutually supplemented each other.”

(V. I. Lenin: “’Left-wing Communism’, An Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 71).

Petty-bourgeois Rebelliousness

The rebelliousness which manifests itself in the form of terrorism is essentially that of persons drawn from, or with the outlook of, the petty-bourgeoisie:

“Petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from anarchism . . in all essentials falls short of the conditions and requirements of sustained proletarian class struggle. . . The small proprietor, the small master, (a social type that is represented in many European countries on a wide mass scale) . . easily becomes extremely revolutionary, but is incapable of displaying perseverance, discipline and staunchness. The petty bourgeois in a ‘frenzy’ over the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristics of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionariness, its barrenness, its liability to become swiftly transformed into submission, apathy, something fantastic, and even into a ‘mad’ infatuation with one or another bourgeois ‘fad’ — all this is a matter of common knowledge.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 70-71).

The petty bourgeoisie is a class which is in process of rapid destruction by monopoly capital – so that, anarchism must be seen as a political reflection of the desperate and futile striving of the petty bourgeois to retain his individual freedom:

“The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striding with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small producer.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 73).

“The point is that Marxism and anarchism are built up on entirely different principles in spite of the fact that both come into the arena of struggle under the flag of socialism. The cornerstone of anarchism is the individual, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the masses, the collective body. According to the tenets of anarchism, the emancipation of the masses is impossible until the individual is emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: ‘Everything for the individual’. The cornerstone of Marxism, however, is the masses, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the individual. That is to say, according to the tenets of Marxism, the emancipation of the individual is impossible until the masses are emancipated. Accordingly, its slogan is: “Everything for the masses!”

(J. V. Stalin: “Anarchism or Socialism?”, in: “Works”,’ Volume 1; Moscow; 1952; p. 299).

Terrorism and economism (the theory that the working class can be expected to engage only in economic, and not political, struggles) have common, roots in the “theory of spontaneity” — which rejects the possibility of elevating the working class to socialist consciousness through the propaganda and day-to-day leadership of a vanguard party:

“The Economists and the modern terrorists spring from a common root, namely, subservience to spontaneity… At first sight, our assertion may appear paradoxical, for the difference between these two appears to be so enormous: one stresses the ‘drab everyday struggle’ and the other calls for the most self-sacrificing struggle of individuals. But this is not a paradox. The Economists and terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity: the Economists bow to the spontaneity of the ‘pure and simple’ labour movements while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of the intellectuals, who are either incapable of linking up the revolutionary struggle with the labour movement, or lack the opportunity to do so. It is very difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed that this is possible, to find some other outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy than terror.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What Is to be Done?”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2; London; 1944; p. 94).

“The present-day terrorists are really ‘economists’ turned inside out, going to the equally foolish but opposite extreme.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism in Collected Works”, Volume 6 Moscow; 1961; p. 192.

Thus terrorism — like economism — reflects the lack of faith of the petty bourgeoisie in the masses of the working people. Reviewing a leaflet issued by the Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1902, Lenin remarks:

“The April 3 leaflet follows the pattern of the terrorists’ latest arguments with remarkable accuracy. The first thing that strike’s the eye is the words: ‘we advocate terrorism, not in place of work among the masses, but precisely for and simultaneously with that work’. They strike the eye particularly because these words are printed in letters three times as large as the rest of the text. But just read the whole leaflet and you will see that the protestation in bold type takes the name of the masses in vain. The day “when the working people will emerge from the shadows’ and ‘the mighty popular wave will shatter the iron gates to smithereens’ ‘alas’ (literally, ‘alas!’) ‘is still a long way off, and it is frightful to think of the future toll of victims!’ Do not these words ‘alas, still a long way off’ – reflect an utter failure to understand the mass movement and a lack of faith in it?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p.190-91).

“Individual” Terrorism

In repudiating terrorism, Marxist-Leninists are speaking, of course, of what is generally termed “individual terrorism”, such acts as the assassination of a reactionary judge or the planting of a car-bomb outside the office of a government department.

In the sense of “attempting to strike terror into an enemy” Marxist-Leninists by no means reject the use of terrorism.

The socialist revolution can be brought about only against the armed men who form the core of the machinery of force of the capitalist state, and one of the aims of armed struggle is to strike terror into the enemy and so facilitate his defeat.

Again, one of the functions of a state is to strike terror into those who might attempt to overthrow it. Thus, the dictatorship of the working class which must be installed on the victory of the socialist revolution has as one of its aims to strike terror into the overthrown capitalist class, and its active supporters, so as to restrain their desire to overthrow the power of the working class.

Marxist-Leninists, therefore, repudiate individual terrorism not on the grounds that terrorism — in the sense of striking terror into the enemy – is unethical, but because acts of individual terrorism harm the cause they purport to serve:

“In principle we have never rejected, and cannot reject terror. Terror is one of the forms of military action that may ..be perfectly suitable and even essential at a definite juncture in the battle, given a definite state of the troops and the existence of definite conditions. But the important point is that terror, at the present time, is by no means suggested as an operation for the army in the field, an operation closely connected with and integrated into the entire system of struggle. Without a central body and with weakness of local revolutionary organsations, this in fact, is all that terror can be. We, therefore, declare emphatically that under the present conditions such a means of struggle is inopportune and unsuitable; that it diverts the most active fighters from their real task, the task which is most important from the standpoint of the interests of the. movement as a whole, it disorganises the forces not of the government, but of the revolution.”

(V. I.,Lenin: “Where to Begin”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 5;
Moscow; 1961; p. 19).

“Of course, we reject individual terrorism only out of considerations of expediency; upon those who ‘on principle’ were capable of condemning the terror of the Great French Revolution, or the terror in general employed by a victorious revolutionary party which is besieged by the bourgeoisie of the whole-world – upon such people even Plekhanov in 1900-0, when he was a Marxist, and a revolutionary, heaped ridicule and scorn.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946;.p.72).

While no one individual is generally capable of planning and carrying out a series of terrorist acts, such acts constitute “individual terrorism” in so far as the organisations involved in them are extremely small, composed of a few skilled persons (usually petty bourgeois intellectuals), and secret (to the working class if not to the police).

The Spurious Arguments for Terrorism

The advocates of terrorism argue that terrorist acts weaken the capitalist state machine and so assist the revolutionary process.

But if a judge is assassinated, there are a dozen reactionary barristers waiting to step into his shoes; if a courthouse is destroyed, it can be rebuilt at the cost of the working people. The strength of the state relative to that of a small terrorist group, and the protective measures which the state has the power to take when a threat of terrorist acts becomes apparent, causes terrorism to be directed increasingly against the less well defended — because less important — aspects of the state. Indeed, this process often results in the activity of terrorist groups, in an effort to evade the defences erected by the state degenerating into mere indiscriminate acts of destruction in which working people are killed and maimed.

Reviewing the leaflet of the Socialist-Revolutionaries already mentioned, Lenin poured scorn on the illusion that the state, could be significantly weakened by acts of terrorism:

“Just listen to what follows: ‘every terrorist blow, as it were, takes away part of the strength of the autocracy and transfers (!) all this strength (!) to the side of the fighters for freedom’ . ‘And if terrorism is practised systematically (!) it is obvious that the scales of the balance will finally weigh down on our side’. Yes, indeed, it is obvious to all that we have here in its grossest form one of the greatest prejudices of the terrorists: political assassination of itself ‘transfers strength.”

(V.I.Lenin “Revolutionary Adventurism”, In: “Collected Works”, Volume 6, Moscow; 1961; p. 191).

The advocates of terrorism also argue that terrorist acts “excite” the masses to greater revolutionary enthusiasm.

This theory too was discussed by Lenin:

“It would be interesting to note here the specific arguments that ‘Svoboda’ (a terrorist group– Ed.) advanced in defence of terrorism. It . . . stresses its excitative significance. . . . .It is difficult to imagine an argument that disproves itself more than this one does! Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life that a special ‘stimulant’ has to be invented? On the other hand, is it not obvious that those who are not, and cannot be aroused to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by ‘twiddling their thumbs’ –even while a handful of terrorists are engaged in a single combat with the government? The fact is, however, that that the masses of the workers are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the outrages committed in Russian life, but we are unable to collect, if one may put it that way, and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular excitement, which are called forth by the conditions of Russian life to a far larger extent than we imagine, but which it is precisely necessary to combine into a single gigantic-flood.. . Calls for terror . . are merely forms of evading the most pressing duty that now rests upon Russian revolutionaries, namely, to organise all-sided political agitation. ‘Svoboda’ desires to substitute terror for agitation, openly admitting that ‘as soon as intensified and strenuous agitation is commenced among the masses its excitative function will be finished”‘

(V I Lenin: “What Is. to be Done?.”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 2. London; 1944; p. 96-97).

“Nor does the leaflet eschew the theory of excitative terrorism. ‘Each time a hero engages in single combat, this arouses in us all a spirit of struggle and courage’, we are told. But . . . single combat has the immediate effect of simply creating a short-lived sensation, while indirectly it even leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout, We are further assured that ‘every flash of terrorism lights up the mind’ which unfortunately, we have not noticed to be the case with the terrorism preaching party of the Socialist-Revolutionaries.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism” in: “Collected Works”; Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 193).

A Pretext for Repression

The Marxist-Leninist case against terrorism is not merely that it amounts
to a repudiation of the need for the political mobilisation of the masses
of the working class — the force which alone is capable of smashing the
state machinery of force of monopoly capital:

‘Their tactics (i.e., of the anarchists — Ed.) . . . amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy, or another.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”; “Collected Works”; ‘Volume 10, Moscow; 1963; p. 73).

In fact, far from weakening the state, acts of terrorism provide the pretext for the strengthening of the state machinery of force and for the imposition of repressive measures against the genuine progressive movement — measures which, without that pretext, would arouse much more vigorous opposition from the working people. In this respect, terrorist groups, whatever their intentions, objectively assist monopoly capital.

Thus, the counter-productive hi-jacking of civilian airliners by Arab terrorists was, used by King Hussein of Jordan as the pretext for a war of extermination in September 1970 against the Palestine liberation forces in Jordan, an act necessary to the new policy of US imperialism in the Middle East.

And in Britain terrorist acts have provided the pretext for the strengthening of Special Branch., for police raids on the homes of-anti-fascists and the offices of anti-fascist organisations, for pressure to reduce the rights of defendants in political trials, for the repeated army/police manoeuvres at London Airport, and for the “draconic” powers given to the police by the Labour government.

Agents Provocateurs

An agent of the class enemy who succeeds in entering a revolutionary, or pseudo-revolutionary, organisation is generally an agent of the state intelligence service. His aim, in doing so may simply be to collect information about the members, leaders, strength, etc.; of the organisation for the benefit of the state (that is, to act as a spy), or it may also be to seek to incite the members of the Organisation to commit a terrorist act which would provide a pretext- — a pretext that would seem a reasonable one to wide sections of working people — for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state (that is, to act as an agent provocateur).

Where it is not possible to incite a terrorist group to commit a terrorist act desired by the state, this may be performed directly by the intelligence service itself. And where one or more terrorist groups exist, it is difficult or impossible for an outsider to know whether a particular act of terrorism has been carried out by such a group or by the intelligence service. In either case, however, the act may provide the pretext for some repressive measure or measures on the part of the state directed at the genuine progressive movement.

The most notorious example of such a terrorist act carried but by the state itself is, of course, the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 to provide the pretext for the repression of the Communist Party of Germany, even though that party was completely opposed to the carrying out of such acts of terrorism.

Within a genuine revolutionary organisation, it, is difficult to distinguish an agent provocateur from an honest, but misguided, exponent of “left” adventurism; indeed this distinction can be made, not on the basis of political analysis, but only by means of counter-intelligence activity which reveals the agent’s connection with the state.

But an agent provocateur is powerless to incite an act of terrorism on the part of a genuine revolutionary organisation unless there is support for such acts on the part of a majority of the members. The cardinal task, therefore, is to expose terrorism politically to its honest, but misguided, supporters, thus isolating the agent provocateur and opening the way to his exposure to the members and supporters of the organisation and his expulsion from it:

“We must get the workers to understand that while the killing of spies, agents provocateurs and traitors may sometimes of course, be absolutely unavoidable, it is highly undesirable and mistaken to make a system of it, and that we must strive to create an organisation which will be able to render spies innocuous by exposing them and tracking them down. It is impossible to do away with all spies, but to create an organisation which will ferret them out and educate the working class masses is both possible and necessary.

(V. I. Lenin. Footnote to: ‘ Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Tasks”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 245).

And, of course, given a partially clandestine organisation with adequate security measures and tight discipline, the harm which agents may do to a Marxist-Leninist Party may be limited, and they can even be compelled to do positive Party work – as Lenin pointed out in the case of the tsarist police agent Roman Malinovsky:

“In 1912 … an agent provacateur, Malinovsy got into the Central Committee, of the Bolsheviks. He betrayed scores and scores of the best and msot loyal comrades, caused them to be sent to penal servitude and hastened the death of many of them. If he did not cause even more harm than he did, it was because we had established proper coordination between our legal and illegal work. As a member of the Central Committee of the Party and a deputy in the Duma, Malinovsky was forced, in order to gain our confidence, to aid us in establishing legal daily paper. While with one hand Malinovsky sent scores and scores of the best Bolsheviks to penal servitude, and to death, with the other he was compelled to assist in the education of scores and scores of thousands of new Bolsheviks through the medium of the legal press.”

(V.I. Lenin: ‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 10; London; 1946; p. 85).

Guerrilla Warfare

Socialist revolution involves armed struggle — that is civil war – between, on the one hand, the machinery of force under the leadership of it’s Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, and on the other hand – the machinery of force of the capitalist state.

Guerrilla warfare is a form of armed struggle waged by relatively small
units of armed men against a considerably stronger armed force – in the
case of revolutionary guerrilla warfare against the armed force of a
reactionary state. The essence of guerrilla military tactics is to make
localised “hit-and-run” attacks on the weakest and most exposed sectors of the enemy’s forces, so nibbling away at his strength without the losses to one’s own forces that would result from a direct confrontation with his main forces.
Thus, revolutionary guerrilla warfare must be seen as a development of the struggle for socialist revolution — when this has reached the stage of armed struggle:

Firstly, before this armed struggle has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising, and

Secondly, when it has reached the stage of a country-wide armed uprising in the intervals between major engagements:

“The phenomenon in which we are interested (i.e., guerrilla warfare – Ed.) – is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups […] Guerrilla warfare is an inevitable form of` struggle at a time when the mass movement has actually reached the point of an uprising and when fairly large intervals occur between the ‘big engagements’ in the civil war [….] An uprising cannot assume the old form of individual acts restricted to a very short time and to a very small area. It is absolutely natural and inevitable that the uprising should assume the higher and more complex form of a prolonged civil war embracing the whole country […] Such a war cannot be conceived otherwise than as a series of a few big engagements at comparatively long intervals and a large number of small encounters during these intervals. That being so — and it is undoubtedly so – the Social-Democrats (i.e., Marxist Leninists – Ed.) must absolutely make it their duty to create organisations best adapted to lead, the masses in these big engagements and, as far as possible, in these small encounters as well.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216, 219, 222-23).

Revolutionary guerrilla warfare has three principal aims:

Firstlyto weaken the military and para-military armed forces of the capitalist state (and of fascist militia) by killing their officers and men:

“The Party must regard the fighting guerrilla operations of the squads affiliated or associated with it as being, in principle, permissible and advisable in the present period; [….] the paramount immediate object of these operations is to destroy the government, police and military machinery, and to wage a relentless struggle against the active Black Hundred Organisations (i.e. rural fascist-type organisations — Ed.) which are using violence against the population and intimidating it.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 154).

“In the first place, this (guerrilla – Ed.) struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs or subordinates, in the army and police.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”,- in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

Secondlyto give practical military training to working class leaders:

“The character of these fighting guerrilla operations must be adjusted to the task of training leaders of the masses of the workers at a time of insurrection, and of acquiring experience in conducting offensive and surprise military operations.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, 1906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

Thirdly, to confiscate funds in the possession of the capitalist
class for the use of the revolutionary movement:

“In the second place, it (i.e., guerrilla warfare — Ed.) aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of the persons engaged in the struggle we are describing.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Guerrilla Warfare”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216).

“Fighting operations are also permissible for the purpose of seizing funds belonging to the enemies, i.e., the autocratic government, to meet the needs of insurrection, particular care being taken so that the interests of the people are infringed as little as possible.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p.154).

(So deep was the respect for private property inculcated in the minds of a majority of the delegates to the 1906 Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, that the congress approved guerrilla warfare for the purpose of killing soldiers and police, but rejected Lenin’s clause approving it for the purpose of confiscating funds from the ruling class for the financing of the revolutionary movement).

At first glance, the distinction between terrorism (which Marxist-Leninists oppose), and revolutionary guerrilla warfare (which Marxist-Leninists support) seems blurred. In fact, however, the distinction is quite clear.

In the first place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic only when it has the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted ….. such a way as . .to ensure that the state of the working class movement and the mood of the broad masses of the given locality are taken into account.”

(V. I.. Lenin: Draft Resolution to Unity Congress of RSDLP 1906, In “Collected Works”; Volume l0; Moscow; 1961; p. 154).

In the second place, and following from the above, guerrilla war becomes a
revolutionary tactic only when the class struggle has been elevated, as a result of correct day-to-day leadership by the Marxist-Leninist Party, to the stage where the mass of the working people have come to see the armed-forces of the capitalist state and the fascist bands as their irreconcilable enemies who must be fought — for only then will this guerrilla warfare have the support of the mass of the working people in the locality in which it is carried out. Terrorist acts, on the other hand, are carried out before this stage has been reached and in isolation from the class struggle of the working people:

“This act (i.e., the assassination of Sipyagin –Ed) was in no way connected with the masses, and moreover could, not have been by reason of the very way in which it was carried out –that the persons who committed this terrorist act neither counted on nor hoped for any definitive action nor support on the part of the masses. In their naivete, the Socialist-Revolutionaries do not realise that their predilection for terrorism is most intimately linked with the fact that, from the very outset, they have always kept, and still keep, aloof from the working class movement, without even attempting to become a party of the revolutionary class which is waging the class struggle.”

(Lenin: “Revolutionary Adventurism”; In “Collected Works” Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 189).

In the third place, guerrilla warfare becomes a correct revolutionary tactic in the special circumstance that it is conducted under the control of the Marxist-Leninist Party:

“Fighting guerrilla organisations must be conducted under the control of the Party.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution for the Unity Congress of RSDLP, l906, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 10; Moscow, 1961; p. 154).

The principles of guerrilla warfare advocated by “Che” Guevara are,thus completely opposed to the principles of Marxism-Leninism:

“The revolutionary guerrilla force is clandestine. It is born and develops secretly […] The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population […] Eventually the future People’s Army will beget the party […] The people’s army will be the nucleus of the party, not vice versa. The guerrilla force is the political vanguard in nuce, and from its development a real party can arise […] That is why, at the present juncture, the principal stress must be laid on the development of guerrilla warfare and not on the strengthening of existing parties or the creation of new parties’,”

(R. Debray: “Revolution in the Revolution?”; London; 1968; p.41, 105, 115).

The castroite principles of guerrilla warfare form part of an anti-Marxist
Leninist revolutionary strategy which serves the interests of the national
bourgeoisie of a colonial-type country with a weak state machinery of
force. (This question is analysed in more detail in “The Theory of the
in: RED VANGUARD,. No. l; p.83f).

Contemporary Lessons

The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an armed force of the Irish national-liberation movement. It is, however, not led by a Marxist-Leninist Party of the working class, which does not at present exist in Ireland, but by representatives of the Irish national bourgeoisie, who wish for independence from Britain in order to develop the country as an independent capitalist state.

As long as the Provisional IRA was seen by the people of the Catholic areas of Northern Ireland as their defence against the armed forces and police of the colonial regime, and the fascist bands which had the “open support of the police, it had their enthusiastic support. To the extent however, that the IRA has turned to tactics of terrorism, often of an indiscriminate character in which working people have been killed and maimed, this support has been whittled away — and this has tended to make terrorism, increasingly the only form of activity which it is physically able to undertake.

In Britain, too, the effect of indiscriminate bombing by the Provisional IRA has been to alienate sympathy from the Irish national-liberation struggle among the British working class, which is, objectively, the ally of the Irish people in the struggle against their common enemy British imperialism.

The use that British imperialism can make of a movement whose activity is predominantly of a terrorist character was pointed out in a recent issue of CLASS AGAINST CLASS on the plan under consideration by the British imperialists for the creation of a united neo-colonial Ireland by creating the pretext for the military intervention in Northern Ireland of the army of the Republic of Ireland:

“The aim is, under the slogan of ‘allowing the people of Northern Ireland to settle their own problems’, to permit the restoration of a fascist-type of state machine in Northern Ireland dominated by the right-wing Protestant leaders. These leaders are already pledging themselves to the pogroms against the ‘Catholic population which will inevitably follow — that, is, they are pledging themselves not to carry out such pogroms unless the Provisional IRA renews its campaign.”

(“Ireland: New Tactics of British Imperialism”; in: CLASS AGAINST CLASS, No. 6; June 1974; p. 8).

The British imperialists calculate that the Provisional IRA, as a result of its turn to tactics of terrorism, has lost too much strength and support to be capable of defending the Catholic population, so that the call for the “protective” intervention of the armed forces of the Republic will come from the Catholic working people of Northern Ireland themselves.

Again, one of the most important tasks facing the British working class is the organisation of an anti-fascist united front, properly organised and with a correct tactical programme. Even at this early stage of the anti-fascist movement, certain maoist groups (such as the “Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) and trotskyite groups (such as the International Marxist Group) have begun to launch assaults upon the police during anti-National Front demonstrations. But an assault upon the armed forces of the state becomes a correct tactic of revolutionary guerrilla warfare in a developed capitalist country only when the class struggle has reached a much higher level of development and when it is directed by a Marxist-Leninist Party, which does not yet exist in Britain.

Such assaults on the police as that which took place in Red Lion Square
in 1974, being completely premature, constitute mere terrorism, which tends to disorganise the embryo anti-fascist movement and provide the pretext for police violence and repressive measures on the part of the state against genuine anti-fascists “Leftist” groups which carry out such actions at the present time are objectively assisting fascism.

Conclusion

Terrorism, whatever the motives of the terrorists, objectively serves the interests of the forces opposed to social and national liberation. It is necessary for Marxist-Leninists, therefore, to expose terrorism for what it is, and to wage a principled and consistent struggle against this ideology, in line with Lenin’s formula:

“Bolshevism grew, took shape and became hardened, in long years of struggle against petty-bourgeois revolutionariness, which smacks of, or borrows something from, anarchism, and which in all essentials falls short, of the conditions and, requirements of the sustained proletarian class struggle.”

(V. I. Lenin.: ‘”Left-wing’ Communism”, an Infantile Disorder”, in: “Selected Works Volume .10; London; 1946; p.70).

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