Patriotism, Fear and Panic – What’s Next?

The events of the morning of September 11th have shaken the entire world. One single terrorist attack has not only shocked masses of people out of their daily lives, it has crippled the world economy. Already, the Mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, has stated that the dead will be counted in “the thousands.” Nearly 300 were killed onboard the jet-liners alone. The World Trade Center disaster has turned the world in the direction of a massive crisis.

At once the news agencies began whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments. C-SPAN was flooded with calls demanding retribution and many callers were spewing with hatred for the entire Middle East. By the time the major television news agencies began running a video of a small group of Palestinians celebrating the destruction, mosques, Arab-owned stores and people of Arab descent (as well as those only thought to be of Arab descent) began receiving threats. The Islamic Center in St. Louis, Mo. had already received hundreds of threats by the afternoon of the 11th. In the same city, many Bosnian school students, who although not Arabic or even dark-skinned, but are Muslim, were beaten up and harassed by their schoolmates. The same is undoubtedly happening around the country. The following weeks very possibly could contain many incidents of hate-crimes, maybe even lynching, of Americans of Arab descent, which is a large group of immigrants. Unfortunately, many Americans are not very knowledgeable about foreign countries and peoples, and some of the rising wave of hatred and retribution might be directed at non-Arab immigrants.

Already flags have gone up everywhere across the country, and everywhere at half-mast. There is an amount of patriotic fervor probably not seen in this country since the Gulf War or even WWII. Spontaneous patriotic demonstrations developed in Washington, DC on the night of the 12th. Again, the television news networks are playing upon these sentiments to the utmost. The same media is playing up support for the government and especially the President, who just days before was fairly unpopular. The media is getting the populace into a hyper-patriotic mood, and the Bush Administration has already stated it will declare war on whatever organization is responsible and whatever state that has financed the terrorists.

Congress has already passed a motion to automatically declare war on whoever is responsible for the attacks. War is definitely on the agenda, and the majority of the population and even the workers will unfortunately support it.

The coming weeks and months will be a scene of mass patriotism, war mobilization and economic panic. As has been explained in our previous articles, the markets are set (and are already) to collapse. As the news hit the country, people converged on gas stations, hearing a rumor that prices at the pump would sky-rocket by the evening of the 11th. In some areas, prices hit nearly $5/gallon. Police in some areas had to force gas station owners to hold prices steady, and police presence was needed at many locations in order to stop fights and to create lines for those waiting for gas. It should be said that those incidents happened in the author’s locality, and the author is not certain that similar events happened elsewhere. The major gas retailer QuikTrip issued an announcement stating that its prices would hold steady for the foreseeable future (around $1.47/gallon in the authors area.) It should be said that the price of gas is to the US what the price of bread was to Paris in the late 1700s – the commodity price that could create mass unrest if raised too high. As crude oil prices have already risen because the US will likely be declaring war on a Middle Eastern nation, prices at the pump will rise. This could create a very volatile situation.

As Marxists, we must understand that this new turn of events will lead to a new situation in which most workers will not be open to our ideas, they will be in a patriotic mood. But there will be many layers who will be looking for a real explanation as to why this happened, and what the way forward is. What we as Marxists have to do in this present situation is to calmly explain what this crisis means, i.e. that there could well be an imperialist war coupled with an economic recession. We must do all that we can to prevent anti-Arab actions and to explain the situation of Palestine; that those really responsible are the imperialist bourgeoisie, who created Osama bin-Laden and his ilk in the first place; that all patriotism does is to prepare the workers to be willingly slaughtered in an imperialist war; the role of the Zionist state in US imperialism’s plans; that this war, along with the coming recession will create the conditions which will be favorable for a revolutionary upswing; that only the mass movement of the working class in the fight for socialism can solve the problems inherent in capitalism. If we do this, we can strengthen our forces and even spread the ideas of Marxism more widely among the advanced layers of the working class and youth.

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