Thursday, 4 November 2010
TERRORISM & THE STATE (Jon Kofas - Greece)
Mass killings in the form of state-sanctioned warfare have always carried a sense of glory, virtue, and honor, although the end result is mass destruction. By contrast, individual acts of political violence, including political acts the state labels "terrorism", imbue the general public with extreme fear, categorical condemnation, and demands for severe punishment of the 'criminals' behind the random acts of political violence. In the first three days of November 2010, a number of low-tech, low level mail-bombs targeting various embassies and political offices in Athens, as well as French President Sarkozy, German Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Berlusconi caused concern in EU and US about a wave of terrorism that comes after mass strikes and demonstrations in Athens, Paris, and various other European cities. These developments come about a week after the package bombs from Yemen to the US. Greek police are working with EU and US anti-terrorism experts to uncover the organization behind the wave of mail bombings designed more for maximum publicity and stirring authorities into a state of panic. The random pattern of postal bombs discovered so far are 14, included countries as diverse as Bulgaria, Mexico, Chile, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium does not provide clear clues about the political and ideological purpose of the group behind the operations. The two young men under arrest, described as amateurs by police, and those on the list of suspects are allegedly anarchists (Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire). Living in well-to-do middle class suburbs of Athens and having connections to other anarchist groups, Cells of Fire appears to follow in the footsteps of older organizations that used violence against 'establishment targets' to send a political message and raise social awareness in an age of widespread political apathy. Greece has a history of such random bombings and political assassinations linked to the infamous November 17th organization that emerged out of resistance to the Junta in the early 1970s. The bombings taking place a few days before local elections that the PASOK regime has tried to make into a referendum on the current IMF-EU austerity measures, and after Germany proposed that any EU member (like Greece) failing to observe the Maastricht Treaty rules regarding budgetary deficits above 3% of GDP annually would suffer fines as well as lose EU voting rights. Considering that Germany accounts for 30% of Eurozone's GDP, and it has resolved to alter the original EU integration model from interdependent into a patron-client model that the US has been practicing with Latin America, there is a sense in Greece and other EU members that weaker European countries will not only be marginalized economically but they will also sacrifice their national sovereignty and be reduced into semi-colonies of northwest Europe. In short, Europe of the 21st century future will be more like Europe of the 19th century past. The striking realization on the part of people in the weaker economies of the EU (Southern and Eastern Europe) that they are in fact reduced into a lower status (peripheral or Third World-like) while theoretically they are equal with the Europeans of northwest Europe accounts for the extreme anger that manifests itself in political violence by a mere handful of people driven by disparate ideological, political, psychological factors to take justice into their own hands and send a message to the world. But is there a link between the immense financial, economic, and social problems of Greece and the recent bombings? That the young anarchists carrying out these acts are amateurs, acting independently of other organizations, as far as police are aware so far, trying to attract attention is beyond dispute. Ultimately, the question is who benefits from these mail bombings and who is harmed. Without engaging in a lengthy analysis of 'the ethics of terrorism', analysis that can be approached from different ideological perspectives, the bottom line is that terrorism in any form always benefits the political, economic, and social status quo. Moreover, terrorism is fundamentally an expression of desperation, fear, and fatalism but always with immediate massive publicity that captures public attention. Historically, terrorism has never accomplished the goal of social justice that it ostensibly intended by using 'unconventional warfare'. This is because the state and established institutions targeted by terrorist organizations is far more powerful instrument of violence on a sustained basis than any individual organization. The state mobilizes public support for itself and institutions it protects, while the majority of the population falls in line with the state that presents itself as 'protector' of public interest. Angela Merkel has already called for the US and EU to tighten 'security gaps', and Greece was forced to cancel all outgoing mail for at least 48 hours. The clear winners of the Greek mail-bombs are not the labor unions whose rank-and-file is suffering deep cuts so that welfare capitalism can continue to thrive; nor has the leftist political opposition anything to gain from political violence. Leftists are merely crying out against the IMF-EU austerity measures crippling the majority of the population and likely to keep it weak for the entire decade with lower living standards and loss of hope for the future of their children. Political violence (terrorism) as a form of protest against the establishment will be on the rise not just in Greece, but in many parts of Europe and the world for many years, and not just in the Middle East that the US has on its radar for its own geopolitical, ideological and political reasons. In the age of widespread apathy among the masses throughout the world, and against the background of a political economy serving a small percentage of the population concentrated in a few countries to the detriment of the vast majority of people and nations, in an age when the dynamics for social revolution are absent, terrorism - acts of political violence against the state, which represents a political, economic, and social system of injustice - is inevitable. As futile as terrorism may be in accomplishing the stated goals of social, economic, and political justice, the political economy as it is today not just in Greece but throughout the world feeds and promotes terrorism that actually strengthens the political and economic elites and helps to preserve the social order. Terrorism helps to keep the public living in fear, asking for more authoritarian-like measures, and willing to sacrifice human rights in return of the 'safety and security' that the state promises. Terrorism helps to keep people in conformity mode, it keeps labors unions and other social activists more docile, it prevents social mobilization against the status quo, and it elevates the 'benevolent' image and status of the political and financial elites.