“Superficial and reactionary measures, especially when pursued through law, will have no other outcome but to clear the way for future crises by intensifying existing polarizations… These behaviors are unjust and we all know that pursuing injustice has the unwanted characteristic of reversibility.” —Ayatollah Khamenei, in his second letter to the western youth following the Paris attacks in November, 2015.
Nearly a week since Manchester, and contrary to our traditional silence on such attacks, we at Anti-Imperialism feel there are some important insights that should not be neglected. The attack in Manchester that left more than 20 young victims in its wake carries within it the artifact of western terror throughout the world. It would be callous and wrong to demonize those attending a concert or suggest that they should have been killed. Of course, there is no cause to make this claim. However, we must bear in mind the many millions who have died in attacks of much greater magnitude, spread over generations, by the western imperialists which have clawed into recent history the contours along which attacks like these come full circle. For western people this is an immediate concern as it presents the only viable path to curing the violence that has now become predictably reciprocal, but always asymmetric. Manchester experienced a single moment of a reality that has been inflicted upon the lives of countless millions in Yemen, Malaysia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, India, Syria, Libya and countless other places, by their soldiers and on the orders of their leaders. Britain, unlike these countries, holds immense power to end these attacks at any time it chooses, provided that it does not continue the exploitation and ruthless murder of Third World people—the swamp, it has become fashionable to say, from which such vectors arise.
The victims of the attack in Manchester were not military goons or government functionaries. Like many similar attacks in the west in recent years, these are tragedies that often become the central altars for our sympathetic responses, while the genocidal attacks in the Third World are often too distant, geographically and emotionally, to provoke real action or change. This disinterest is a symptom of imperialist decadence. A call for solidarity with all people who experience such terror, whether by car bombs or MOABs, feels like an insult because the idea of solidarity in general is insulting to the masses of the imperialist countries. Reactionaries and fascists have predictably rallied around the dead in Manchester to spark a renewed anti-Muslim struggle (or should we say, another excitation of the greater war on all muslims) and energize the people’s empathy into rage with the idea that it is only British people who are dying, only Muslims who are the killers. That is not true in Britain, and that is not true in the world. It is not by god’s order that Muslims have been willing, historically, to strike out against the west either in the united $tates, in france, in britain or anywhere else, but by necessity that they strike back or be hopelessly destroyed. If it were not for these attacks, and the flood of refugees who are despised by the european populations, the west would scarcely know of the events plaguing the Third World. The impulse to “bring the war home” is understandable.
These are not events external to the west, they are not the “problems of Third World people”, but rather the outgrowth of conditions foisted upon them by the legacy of colonialism, the reality of imperialism, and the ongoing impoverishment and war to which they are constantly subjected. It is the waltz of core and periphery, rooted in past, present, and future mass-murder, exploitation of their countries and their labor. The west, and the consumer society it has built on the backs of the oppressed and shielded with fortified borders, has a deep material need for this violent relationship. The effort is constantly made to make separate “their” turmoil from “our” peace, but events like Manchester lay bare the causal relationship: The ease of the one is bought at the expense of the suffering of the other.
The far-right will call for blood, surely the liberals will do so too, but in their quieter, more obsequious manner, preferring to diffuse responsibilities to the “objective” institutions of law and order or by acting out their vengeance through countless third-party agents abroad in landmark arms deals and out-of-sight military actions. Those of us on the left must oppose all these actions, and attempt to bring about an understanding of the condition that produces such violence, knowing that it will only end when imperialism ends. We know that the chickens will come home to roost, and not always so modestly as in Manchester. Indeed, when one pays heed to the Shakespearian injunction—“The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”—one is tempted to thank God that the forces striking back at the west for its plunder and murder, whether bandits like the Islamic State or legitimate freedom fighters, do not and will never have the means to outdo the west in the proportion of brutality or misery they are capable of heaping onto a people.
So long as the western empathetic response is shielded by a wall of national chauvinism, that weighs a few dozen white lives against millions worldwide, we will never break free of this violence. There are no vigils held in the united $tates, france or britain for the starving children of Yemen, indeed hardly anyone knows or talks about them. Contrary to the general opinion that war is not a wise investment of time or resources, attacks like Manchester, which remind the sleepy west that they are, in fact, engaged in a war on humanity, never seems to produce any substantive denunciation of war. As long as the first-world left continues to ignore the cause of war (and its reflexive “terror”) namely imperialism, all peace efforts are moot. We must assume the responsibility, along with all progressive people of the world, to struggle for humanity and bring about its total liberation. This requires an end to western society as it is currently built, atop a the plinth of genocide and mass-theft.
Until then, this war will have casualties. The west has always been keen to accept these casualties in exchange for the standard of living it had brought them (as well as the battle-cry they afford), so long as they were distant and conveniently out of sight. Though we must acquaint ourselves with them, and acquaint the whole First World with the realities of this struggle, and bring it to its final conclusion. We must give up on the west and the idea of its continued centrality to the progress of humankind, and struggle from a new point of view. We cannot, for the sake of easing people’s minds and warming their hearts, glaze over the realities of the system that supports them. It must be torn down, and until it is any candles we light for the victims of attacks like that in Manchester will be drowned out by the glare of napalm and the keening of mothers.