National Sections of the L5I:

Statement on the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London

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This is undoubtedly a horrific act, committed in front of ordinary civilians including children. We sympathise with the family of the victim and those traumatised by witnessing such appalling scenes. But London Mayor Boris Johnson’s claim that it has nothing to do with British foreign policy and the claim that British soldiers are bravely defending us in Britain and fighting for freedom in Afghanistan are brazen lies.

We have to remember, faced with natural horror at the event as well as the media frenzy, that Britain is using its soldiers to kill Afghans every day. In Afghanistan, men, women and children are not only witnesses but victims of these atrocities. Such actions are on a vastly greater scale than all the “terrorist attacks” in Britain put together.

The drone attacks by “our” US allies blow up and dismember whole families and lay waste to entire villages. In this sense yesterday’s attack was the “war coming home”. This is true no matter how much we may disagree with the actions of those who carried out the Woolwich attack or the London tube bombings.

If Britain had not supported the US in its war in Afghanistan and Iraq, such events would not occur – the solution is to get the troops out now.

We have to understand – without approving – what motivates a tiny minority of young British Muslims to become jihadis and “terrorists.” This is not just their brainwashing by radical Islamist clerics, or websites. It is a response to wars and interventions by Britain, the US and France in Central Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa

The actions of imperialist forces naturally outrage far larger numbers of British people with origins in, and family links to, these areas of the world. So, too, does the media’s constant use of the word “Islamic” in front of terrorist – monstrous when the huge majority of Muslims condemn such actions.

No doubt, too, the virtual disappearance of an antiwar movement on the streets of Britain leads some to despair and drives them to individual acts aimed at terrorising the population into not supporting the war.

Our criticism is that, quite simply, this sort of action will not work. Indeed, it is counterproductive as a method of struggle. It will not make the population more opposed to the wars of our rulers. Quite the opposite – at least in the short run.

Such actions are far more likely to strengthen support for “our boys” and expose the Muslim people of Britain to acts of “revenge” or greater isolation and public hostility. Hence the reported attacks on mosques in London and Essex and the instant street mobilisations of the English Defence League. These may increase substantially in the days ahead as the fascists seize what they see as a great opportunity.

It is the number one duty of the left to defend Muslim communities against Islamophobia and more general anti-Nigerian, anti-Asian and anti-immigrant attacks. If the EDL attempts to carry out provocative marches and pogroms, the labour and antiracist movement needs to mobilise the maximum forces to repel them.

Doubtless, in the next few days and weeks, it will make life harder for consistent anti-imperialist and anti-war activists in the workplaces and in working class communities. We simply have to hold our ground as we did throughout the Irish war. The best elements amongst our workmates will respect us the more for it. Our key slogan remains:

All British and Nato troops out of Afghanistan and the Middle East NOW !

A correction
The WPB statement immediately after the killing of an off-duty soldier in Woolwich, London, referred to “ordinary civilians, women and children...” having witnessed the killing and also to the fact that “Afghan women and children are not only witnesses but victims of such atrocities” at the hands of US and British forces.
This wording reflected not only that of the initial reports in the media but also the statement of one of the accused, Michael Adebolajo, who sought to justify his action and apologised that women and children had had to see such a thing by reference to women and children in Afghanistan having to witness such things ever day. Clearly, this terminology, on the part of both Adewelojo and the media, expresses the idea that women should be shielded from such brutality because of some supposed fragility or weakness. As such, it was an error for the WP statement to speak in the same terms and we apologise for any offence given.
However, we do not think the same point can be made with reference to children, whose whole future development could be blighted by witnessing the horrors of war. We have, therefore, corrected the statement to refer to “... civilians, including children...”.