A palpable sense of relief has been expressed in the mass media that the lone shooter of 8 plus people in Munich was not connected in any way with the Islamic fundamentalist movement, currently headed by ISIL. Within one day a provisional diagnosis of psychological problems was suggested by the German Police, the European political elite and the sycophantic press. I suggest the increasingly frequent reference to the possibility of mental disorders to explain such atrocities, is motivated by the relief that a confrontation with religious mysticism, extremism and reactionary ideology can once again be publicly avoided.
The recent events in Nice, Paris, the UK and elsewhere – instigated or recognised by the Islamic extremists of ISIL – has compounded the opinion held by many people that this particular religious form of belief has much to do with most of the current manifestation of targeted violence. I share the ‘obvious’ opinion that religion has much to do with many of the atrocities, but I also suggest a word of caution. By wanting a simple answer, it is too easy to miss another obvious connection. In actual fact, religion is not the only causal aspect of the modern manifestations of terrorist brutality. There is another.
Whilst the religious connection is obvious to all those not in denial, what is missing from the ‘official’ analysis is that this religious connection itself is yet another symptom stemming from the five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The extent of this compound crisis is causing high levels of dissatisfaction and anger among many of the millions effected negatively by one or more of the elements of what amounts to a large-scale global crisis. The economic part of the crisis is one of relative over-production, (exemplified by the symptoms of unemployment, precarious employment, low-paid employment and austerity) which mostly effects those among the working classes and poor. This economic part of the crisis also disproportionally effects the lives of young people – that much is obvious. The financial aspect of the crisis primarily effects those who live off, or depend upon, financial investments (shares, foreign currency dealing, futures trading, investment banking etc.) of one kind or another, but this also indirectly effects everyone.
The social dimension of the crisis, (housing, health, education, social services etc.) mostly effects the working classes and the poor, but again it disproportionally effects young people. That much should also be obvious. The ecological and moral elements of the crisis – themselves of substantial magnitude – also effect how disaffected some people feel with the world in which they live. In particular, illegal wars in which millions are killed unjustly by western armed aggression – can radicalise previously passive citizens. How much more will this fact alone radicalise many of those under 30 years old, who feel disgust at such barbaric injustice, particularly those who have so little to lose and want to hit back? What should also be obvious is that radicalisation and anger against the present neo-liberal capitalist system is unlikely to take the form of flowing through existing political channels. It is common knowledge that these channels have proved useless in the past and are choked with the detritus of existing ‘mature’ elites, who apart from rhetoric, are just out for themselves.
Disaffection with how capitalist societies are run, how the system divides up the wealth created, how its representatives bomb and invade countries and how productive activity for profit destroys the planets ecology, is now an almost universal if not co-ordinated reaction to the current multi-faceted crisis of this present mode of production. And deterioration and consequent dissatisfaction is bound to increase. To constantly ignore all this dissatisfaction, as most commentators do, is clearly to miss the obvious. For with this background in mind it is obvious that some sufficiently disaffected people will commit crimes against individuals, or property. Some may gather together and riot as they have done in the past!
Yet others will retreat into depression, drug addiction or commit an even quicker form of suicide. It is also obvious that some will even join a movement which is not only against the present system, but is in favour of another form. So despite a number of differences, what connects most of these 21st century outrageous acts, by small group and lone wolf perpetrators of mass killings, is the fact that they are predominantly the work of disaffected youth. Decades of history reveal that in a systemic crisis, young people (ie those above 15 and usually below 30 years of age) are invariably the first to become radicalised in one form or another.
During past crises of capitalism, radicalised young people (predominantly those between the ages of 17 and 30) also joined movements of violent pro-active action and resistance, such as the various fascist parties, socialist parties and communist parties. This same age group also became the main shock troops of the two world wars, (1914 -18 and 1939 – 45). They sat in the trenches, piloted the warplanes and manned the naval vessels of various types. Of course, young people are not the only ones disaffected by modernity, but they are often the most alienated, energetic and self-sacrificing, members of our communities.
For the above reasons it is obvious that if in a maturing crisis, they are not provided with a decent living, a positive direction and motivation to make sense of their lives, some of them will individually hit out in anger and frustration. In other words they can be expected to react in just the way some have already done in Norway, America and now Munich. It is also obvious, that others will be influenced by one aspect of the crisis or another, to join organisations such as ISIL which collectively hit out and idealistically promise better things. Both these results or outcomes of the current multi-faceted crisis are occurring almost simultaneously within the towns and cities of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America.
The bourgeois characteristic of ‘missing the obvious’ is for me yet another example of the old saying ’there are none so blind as those who won’t see’. The current elite-led focus on remedies aimed at surface symptoms, such as gun control, airport security, personality profiling and increased policing will not remove the growing dissatisfaction of communities with the failing mode of production or its violent expression in one form or another. The real challenge for adult humanity, is to recognise the validity of the current dissatisfaction of young people and others and create a means of overcoming it which becomes a more attractive, comprehensive, achievable alternative than the self-defeating alternatives of depression, drug culture and individual or collective terrorist violence. When the Mayor of Paris told Parisians that they must learn to live with terrorism, this indicated a typical one-sided bourgeois hypocrisy and bankruptcy.
We in Europe and the west have lived with terrorism – state orchestrated terrorism – for decades as was practiced in Vietnam and numerous other places since. It just never greatly effected us directly. However, in the wake of the Afghan and Iraq wars and Syrian and Libyan interventions – it now does – and that too should by now be obvious as the long awaited report on the war in Iraq, makes clear. In contrast to the Mayor of Paris and the elites who think like him, we should no longer be prepared to live with state organised terrorism nor the form orchestrated by the reactionary ideologues of religions – all religions. We should actively oppose both! Another world is possible, but not if it is based upon the capitalist mode of production – state run or corporate controlled. All this should be glaringly obvious and yet it is obviously missing in the bourgeois and petite-bourgeois media outlets. Once again we are witnessing those who support the capitalist mode of production, demonstrably and perhaps deliberately ‘missing the obvious‘.
Roy Ratcliffe (July 2016.)