‘Terrorism and Communism’: a book by Leon Trotsky, 1920
Since the 9/11 attacks, fourteen years ago to this day, terrorism has become a major international concern.
This isn’t to say that it didn’t play a role prior to the fall of the Twin Towers; in the UK, many feared the Irish Republican Army; in Peru, it was the Shining Path; and of course, various Islamic attacks like the Lockerbie Bombing were carried out before 2001. But after the end of the Cold War, when the capitalist world’s greatest threat had been defeated, you could say that those who waged war with home-built bombs and illegally-bought Kalashnikovs were once again brought into focus. Now that this form of warfare has once again established itself as a serious threat, perhaps one of the greatest threats to society’s wellbeing, I’m looking at where communism fits in with all of this.
In fact, many of today’s terrorist organisations fight for a socialist future. These include the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, the Maoist terrorist organisations in India, and, as is mentioned above, the leftist militants in Peru. The actions attributed to them range from destroying buildings to kidnapping influential people (this was done famously by the Red Brigades’ kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro), all with Marxism in mind. But though these people may act in communism’s name, they don’t have a great history of success in that regard. Can you name a time when a country has been overthrown altogether by an act of terrorism, let alone communist terrorism?
By its very nature, terrorist practise involves individuals or organisations committing acts of aggression to advance their goals, and these actions have, throughout the history, always been shocking but often not particularly productive. The destruction of buildings in India, the kidnapping of a politician in Italy, or the burning of ballot boxes in Peru (all of which have been done in the past) may be cruel, murderous, or evil, but it’s not as though they solve a great deal. Often, it seems to me that these actions are no more than pointless violence.
However, there are obvious exceptions to this: if we consider terrorism in a general sense, it could be argued that the ANC would not have gained the attention of the South African public had it not been for their criminal actions, or that votes for women would not have been granted had the Suffragettes not vandalised streets. It’s thus possible that socialism’s revolutionary aims may be realised if through terrorism of some sort, and thus, whilst so often unsuccessful and relatively useless, I can’t dismiss the concept entirely; these success stories above prevent me from doing so.
This is why I’m left in the middle of the road, a political position I almost never find myself in. I don’t condone terrorism regardless, as it’s is often likely to do no more than cultivate hatred for you and your motive whilst damaging property or lives in the process, but nor do I condemn it – it can be used to produce brilliant outcomes (as we’ve seen in the examples of black liberation and women’s rights). As to whether such actions will work for this motive in particular, communist terrorists are unlucky in the sense that they fight for an unpopular goal. Its unpopularity is unfair, I believe, but does exist all the same, and thus, these actions may only confirm prior suspicions that communism is good for nothing but inducing suffering.
All I can say is that leftists out there must be careful. This manner of war can work, and can be justified, but only if it really does establish change. It may be difficult to tell when this is the case; the misdeeds of the IRA merely shocked the public and shamed the Republican struggle, whereas those of the Suffragettes proved crucial to theirs, but careful consideration of the circumstances is needed. Without it, it’s likely that a few groups and organisations will do nothing but harm our common cause.
The photo depicting the Red Brigades’ logo was provided by Tentontunic from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to its licence: