A July 2016 editorial on contemporary Islamic terrorism, its origins as an ally of the West in the anti-Soviet war, and its effects on Western society, which, with its “frightened consumers” becoming “racist and xenophobic nationalists”, is “rapidly heading for fascism (a fascism without a führer, anonymous and bureaucratic, like our times)”, published in the Barcelona journal, Argelaga.
Neither Your War, Nor Your Peace – Argelaga
There has been a constant buildup of warning signs: polluted air, water and soil, disturbing concentrations of ambient radioactivity, a three-degree rise in global temperature over the last fifteen years, climate catastrophes, destruction of forests and croplands, accumulation of toxic waste, spread of cardiovascular disease, cancer, new syndromes and epidemics, financial crisis and real estate bubble, indebtedness, unemployment and precarious jobs, energy crisis and oil wars, etc., are sure signs of the deranged course taken by this particular marriage between the autonomous economy and the technology we call industrialism or simply developmentalism. The dictatorship of money, useless mega-projects, lousy jobs and motorized consumerism define a lethal way of life for the planet and for the human species, but few seem to care. Development at any price has become an article of faith and a destiny. Consumers are the true believers of a religion whose churches are shopping malls and whose episcopal seats are the banks and the legislatures, places where their priests, the political-corporate elite, perform the rites of their “faith” in the market. In fact, the word “faith” was originally used in the sense of commercial confidence or credit-worthiness (creditum). Now this priestly caste is at war. The free circulation of capital and ensuring energy supplies require a war that is being waged for the most part in the Middle East, a war that a gang of zealous believers in a rival religion (jihad means working towards self-improvement, as well as holy war, as our colleague Antonio Pérez has pointed out to us) is trying to bring home to the European metropolis. The jihadist attacks announce to the people of the West that now it is their turn to suffer, victims of a war unilaterally declared by their leaders. The murderous dedication of a handful of insane fiancés of death sacrifices random residents or tourists in the big cities, who pay with their lives for the irresponsibility of their masters and the destructive dynamic of growth. They comprise the collateral damage of a war that is considered to be a secular enterprise in our neck of the woods, but which a deadly fundamentalism has sanctified.
Saint-Just rightly said that the government was nothing but “a hierarchy of error and violence”. Violence, however, leaves no room for choices. Against “terrorism”, nothing is required of us except unconditional support and resignation; as the highest leaders of the state tell us, “our way of life”, “democracy” and “freedom” are in danger. What way of life, what democracy, and what freedom? These expressions are hardly capable of dissimulating a life lived under economic violence, the submission of the citizenry to political demagogy, social control and exclusion. These concepts represent nothing but the permanence of the juridical-parliamentary status quo, which is only of interest to the ruling sector that benefits from it. Is it really true that, in order to have happiness at our fingertips, we only need to live from day to day, adapt to the way things are, vote, conform to every fashion and buy all the products that advertising tells us are indispensable? Is it worth letting oneself get massacred for this? This is the crux of the matter that the corporations that control communication “work hard” to conceal, assisted by the fateful knowledge that no one is safe from being massacred. This is a war between barbarians (in the contemporary sense of the word, describing persons who act in a way that is foreign to both reason and instinct, human-animal hybrid creatures for whom the ends justify any kind of means); a war between those who are imposing “our way of life” by aerial bombings, on the one side, and those who shoot indiscriminately into crowds or blow up bombs among innocent civilians, on the other. Religion—the religion of the market, the religion of war, or the religion of paradise in heaven—is proof of barbarism. It matters little whether the promised paradise is “in the shadow of the sword”, as the Hadith of the Prophet tells us, or in the magnetic strip on a credit card. It demarcates an abstract and illusory community of the faithful, defined in contrast to an enemy, the “infidel sinner”; in this respect it is no different from politics. The figure of the “enemy” also plays an important role in the art of ruling, since it is itself justification for the constant growth of the police function of the State. We must nonetheless point out that, as was the case in the dirty war in Algeria, the identity of those who give the orders to kill is less important than the fact that an enemy is identified: the enemy is the diabolical threat that hangs over “civilization” and the institutions “that we have all democratically created”, a threat which “the citizenry”—the modern version of the old “Christianity”—must necessarily denounce. Social contradictions and conflicts are sublimated and externalized in an ideological operation that transforms arbitrary wars of aggression into legitimate defensive wars, and turns peaceful and frightened consumers into racist and xenophobic nationalists. The external enemy has proven to be a much more effective alibi for the authoritarian and fascist turn taken by the executioner States than the internal enemy, which was once embodied in anarchists, youth gangs, sit-ins at Zones to Defend, or even mere electoral abstentionism. The management of mass anxiety, insecurity and fear authorizes policies of control, measures of emergency law and the suspension of rights that are much more effectively imposed if they are accompanied by images of terrorist suicide bombers, a tactic that can be employed against any kind of dissent, as we saw during the protests against the Climate Summit in Paris, COP21.
What is most surprising about this phenomenon is the fact that the Islamic fundamentalism represented by Al Qaeda was up until the 1990s an ally of the West, which is to say an ally of the multinationals, an army fighting for multinational corporations and financial institutions. It was an ally of the West during the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet army and, with some qualms, it was still an ally of the West in the wars of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The West directly or indirectly trained, armed and financed the mujahedeen of the jihad through the efforts of friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates and Turkey, supposedly a “moderate” Islamic regime. The break took place more on account of the West’s support for Israel than on account of the “sinful” way of life of the Americans, as was preached by the fundamentalist Imams. The Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda took a qualitative step forward in the holy war by forming the Islamic State. Within a very short period of time it attained a notorious influence in the world that had never before been achieved by any revolutionary movement. What is particularly disturbing and frightening for a libertarian is the fact that something so brutal and fanatical could exercise such an irresistible force of attraction on sectors of the impoverished and marginalized youth, educated and hardly religious, living in dull conurbations, in other words, a sector that in the past would have been motivated by a desire for real freedom and would have had a proclivity for revolutionary adventures. The uprooted young men who are joining the ranks of the Islamic State go to their deaths and commit atrocities with a macabre enthusiasm. They are not just nihilists, ignorant or resentful. They are devout converts whom Wahhabi Islam has provided with an identity, no matter how bloody it may be, filled their moral vacuum and conferred a redemptive meaning upon their sacrifice, for which they will be rewarded in the afterlife. They are the protagonists in an eschatological drama whose authors go to paradise with their hands dripping with blood. Having said this, we should also point out that this disdain for life does not have the same meaning for the martyr for the cause, for the petty boss of a nascent state bureaucracy undergoing accelerated development, and for the alleged spiritual guide. As is true of every apocalyptic sect—the followers of Thomas Münzer or the Ranters of the English Revolution, for example—nothing that is done in this life has any meaning. Neither one’s own life, nor, for even better reasons, the lives of others, has any value at all. The jihadists are antinomians (they refuse to obey moral laws because they believe that they are in a state of grace) and repudiate generally observed moral conventions because, first of all, they scorn life. For a “holy” warrior, all his actions possess an intrinsic holiness. Here, however, is where all comparisons with the millenarians end; the millenarians were more inclined to live without restraints than to die for any god. They were the victims of the powers of their time, who feared their ideas, rather than the insensate executioners of innocent people. An amoral indifference of this kind was also seen among the murderers of Srebrenica and Rwanda, who were not exactly motivated by religion. Most likely, and this is the first time that it has ever happened, abstraction and virtuality have made such great progress that, right now, any kind of separation of body from mind or soul is possible. We are nonetheless shocked that death should provoke a more satisfactory moral sensation than life, and that the struggle for equality, freedom and justice has proven to be much less attractive under the current conditions of capitalism than death-worshipping religions and nationalist movements.
No matter how much the media may say otherwise, jihadism has not lost the war; in fact, it is winning battles. The problem will not be resolved at the military level but on the moral level, that is, it will not be resolved. Our mass society nourishes just the right conditions for the cult of death to thrive. The crisis has only given rise to the usual Western responses: nationalist retrenchment, identity-based parties, a psychotic hatred for the “other”—the stranger or oddball, the foreigner, women, non-white, immigrant, refugee—authoritarianism, etc. Europe has never been a land of asylum or of welcome, and because of its declining birthrate, its wage earning population has been forced to deal with the import of foreign labor power to compensate for its own reproductive shortfall. To a society of frightened consumers, the workers coming from other continents are always foreign bodies, and hard to accept. This society is rapidly heading for fascism (a fascism without a führer, anonymous and bureaucratic, like our times) and this is something that we will now have to deal with.
On September 27, 1938, the Surrealist Group published a bold manifesto whose first words were:
“The war heralded by a constant succession of mutual security treaties, the war that threatens to arise from the inextricable conflict of imperialist interests that afflicts Europe, will not be a war for democracy, or for justice, or for freedom. The States that, from the needs of the moment or for historical reasons, are trying to make use of these ideas as badges of identity, did not acquire their greatness nor did they consolidate their power except by employing tyrannical, arbitrary and bloody methods.”
Although these lines were aimed at the pseudo-democratic powers that had allowed the invasion of Ethiopia by Italian fascism and the surrender of China to Japanese imperialism, and favored the defeat of the Spanish Republic, they are perfectly applicable to our current situation. Although we are horrified by a regime like the Caliphate, we are not therefore on the side of the capitalist States. We have to fight both, but we will not be able to do so unless we can mobilize sufficient forces with a real will to fight and a really strong spirit. And how familiar that old anarchist slogan seems to us now: Neither God Nor Master! We must rethink its content in order to simultaneously fight against consumerist egolatry and the servility of mass produced identities enlisted in flocks, blind to themselves and to others.
NEITHER GOD NOR MASTER!
Editorial in issue no. 7 of Argelaga (Barcelona).
Translated in July 2016 from the Spanish text, “Ni de vuestra guerra, ni de vuestra paz”, Argelaga, July 2, 2016.
Source of the Spanish text: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2016/07/02/editorial-7-ni-de-vuestra-guerra-ni-de-vuestra-paz/