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(en) DA* #24 I. (1/2)- Warmakers http://www.directa.force9.co.uk/current%20issue/content.htm

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 3 Oct 2002 15:49:14 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Some are articles available in PDF format - download them
exactly as they appear in DA, graphics and all.


1)  Working for the Clampdown

The ABC of Patriotism is a shamelessly conspicuous example
of attempted brainwashing. Subtler cultural and political
forces are also at work in mainstream culture, all preparing
us for the next war.

2) Stench warfare

The government wants to be able to make a stink that
will drive away enemies or hostile crowds.

3) T.W.A.T: Not-so-hidden agendas
Longer term predictions for The War Against Terrorism.
Just who are the evil-doers?

4) Martyrs - Mythology, masochism and morality
Anarcho-syndicalist thoughts on the political concept of
martyrdom. Get PDF!

5) Rape in wartime
Rape is one of the ultimate tools of oppression, so wars
invariably produce rapists.

6) Who cares who dies?
Arms sales and New Labour's ethicless foreign policy.

7) A Century of War

A look back over the lessons of the 20th century. Every
day throughout its hundred years, there was some conflict
in some part of the globe.


Regular sections include;
Actions & comment (e.g.Incineration); blairedvision (e.g.
Getting away with murder); international news (e.g. on
South Africa, Russia, France, Ukraine and Canada);
globalfocus (e.g. Colombia: Warlords & Drug Barons);
justicepage (e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti: 75 Years
Remembered); reviews (e.g. A long way from Home -
Young refugees in Manchester write about their lives);
and lots more.

* DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine
   which is about getting real change with
   anarcho-syndicalism. What's that?

Working for the Clampdown

     In 1995, Lynne V. Cheney, wife of US Vice-President
Dick Cheney, founded the American Council of Trustees
and Alumni (ACTA). ACTA exists to oppose and
undermine what it sees as the hopelessly liberal tendency
of American higher education. Precisely two months after
9/11, Cheney went into attack mode. ACTA announced
the formation of the Defence of Civilisation Fund, and
declared: "It was not only America that was attacked on
September 11, but civilisation. We were attacked not for
our vices, but for our virtues." It issued a rabid tract
entitled: "Defending Civilisation: How our Universities are
Failing America and What Can Be Done About It".
    This amounted to a witch-hunt. ACTA calls for
American history and western civilisation to be taught at
all campuses and has published the names, colleges and
statements of more than 100 academics who had made
what were perceived to be part of a "blame America first"
tendency. Some of those listed have been rebuked by their
colleges. The chancellor of the City University of New
York publicly denounced staff who criticised US foreign
policy at a teach-in.
    As George W. Bush unashamedly prepares America for
war, Cheney has turned from the students and academics
of higher education to the very young. She has written the
lavishly illustrated America: A Patriotic Primer, aimed at
five-year-olds. It was published on May 21 and
immediately shot up the kids? best-seller list. The ACTA
denunciations and the Patriotic Primer form a
two-pronged attack aimed at quashing liberalism among
students, and indoctrinating their younger siblings before
the ?rot? sets in.
    Cheney?s ABC is a ?Dick and Jane? for the militant.
Much of it is devoted to the cult of presidential leadership.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Madison all get their
alphabetical full page. The book ends with Ronald
Reagan?s valediction to the nation: "I know that for
America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."
    The first page, unsurprisingly, begins with "A is for
America, the land that we love." Underneath the Statue
Of Liberty, with fireworks exploding all around the night
sky, is a piece of pure doggerel:
O beautiful patriotic dream that sees beyond
the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by
human tears!
    Presumably, this discounts the tears of foreigners who,
of course, don?t really count in this particular world
vision.  And so it goes on. The five-year-olds are told; "C
is for the Constitution that binds us together". As Cheney
herself has said, "the illustration around the letter C
shows three children playing jump rope. Why three,
careful readers might ask? And the answer, which they
could figure out from the material at the back of the book,
is that the Constitution established three branches of
Government. The three branches work together just as
the three children play together." ?F?, the child learns, "is
for Freedom, and the Flag we fly." When the American
flag passes by in a parade, "all persons should salute".
    There are over a hundred depictions of the stars and
stripes in the book. "H is for Heroes and Ideals" which,
for the American child, are the "US military" and our
"elected leaders". A personal favourite is "Q is for Quest;
America?s Quest for the new, the far, and the very best".
Also shockingly prominent is "R is the Right to Bear
Arms", featuring a child gazing reverently at the statue of
a musket-toting revolutionary combatant. Nowadays,
such fighters anywhere else in the world would earn a
flying visit from the US military. The "V is for Valor" page
highlights "Brave American Soldiers who fought in the
Jungles of Vietnam". So John Wayne was right all along
with his "Green Berets" movie!
    And "P" of course is for "Patriotism". As an aside,
Emma Goldman (strangely absent from the book) wrote
her essay "Patriotism, a Menace to Liberty" in 1911, and
she was to find out how true that was when she was
imprisoned in 1917 for setting up ?No Conscription?
leagues and organising rallies against the First World
War. In fact, one of the few women to be mentioned is
Molly Pitcher. Her claim to fame? She was one of the first
American women to fight in a war.
    Cheney is donating her "net proceeds" to the American
Red Cross and to "projects that foster appreciation of
American history" (the Defence of Civilisation Fund, no
doubt). The publisher, Simon and Schuster, declares that
it will donate a "portion" of its profits to "organisations
that promote childhood literacy in America". This
particular charity begins and ends at home; the wars for
which the young of America are being prepared are to be
fought abroad.
    Of course, this book is just another in the long line of
efforts by states throughout the world to prepare their
populations for a coming war by demonising their
supposed enemies. Before the First World War, young
Britons were regaled with images of the "Beastly Hun"
and ludicrous tales of daring by ?plucky? young heroes in
literature distributed by youth movements. Boy Scouts
were told to "Be prepared to die for one?s country" (the
origins of the new world famous motto), whilst Girl
Guides were informed that their bodies were the ?vessel
of racial purity?, and encouraged to have babies for the
    Propaganda has the ability to be remarkably
self-contradictory, however. Pre World War II, Europeans
were warned about the evil Bolsheviks in Russia, while
Hitler and his followers were preparing for power. Internal
enemies were also targeted with "red scares" in the USA,
which led to the crushing of militant unions like the
International Workers of the World. With the start of the
Second World War, and then the entry of the Soviet
Union into the conflict, these images did an abrupt
about-turn, as "Uncle" Joe Stalin and his brave soldiers
were suddenly transformed into the courageous defenders
of freedom. A further switch was already being mapped
out by 1945, paving the way for the ?cold war?. Once
again, the freedom-loving west, and any other regime that
was regarded as an ally, was pitted against the renewed
evildoers of communism.
    Now, George W. has raised the image of the "axis of
evil"; states that stand against the "American Way".
Anyone who dares challenge this idea is deemed
unpatriotic and subversive. Under this ideology, Israel can
attack Palestinian villages, and Pakistan has gone from
being a dictatorship to a trusted ally. Under the aegis of
the ?war against terror?, legislation is rushed through the
European Union to cast anti-capitalist protesters as
terrorists. In Britain, David Blunkett sees it as a way of
introducing the new identity cards, or ?Entitlement
Cards?, as they are euphemistically known.
    Although the ABC of Patriotism is a shamelessly
conspicuous example of attempted brainwashing, more
subtle cultural and political forces are constantly at work
in mainstream culture - all preparing us for the next war.
The more obvious machinations of the US government
are laughable and horrific in equal parts. Much of it would
not be out of place amongst the most rabid literature of
19th century European Imperialism.
    While our hilarity quite justifiably comes from the
rather Neanderthal approach of the Patriotic Primer,
horror emanates from the knowledge that the social and
political context in which such publications are possible
(and even popularly acceptable), makes for very
dangerous times indeed. However, such efforts are very
much ?front door? tactics on the part of States. We also
need to look out for the ?back door? route, where laws are
rushed through to crush internal dissent, internment
without trial becomes widespread, and daily messages are
dropped casually into popular culture, softening up as
many of us as possible for war.

Stench warfare

It smells like shit, but much, much stronger. It fills your
    The search for the ultimate stink bomb is a major
exercise within the Pentagon?s Non-lethal Weapons
Programme. The government wants to be able to make a
stink that will drive away enemies or hostile crowds.
    Apparently, stenches can be strong enough to alter
human behaviour, for example, causing fear and making
people panic and run away. And we are not talking farts,
stale vomit or blocked toilets. These non-lethal weapons
smells might actually spark a feeling of terror amongst
everyone present.
    When odour molecules dissolve in the mucus
membranes of the nose, signals are sent to the brain. One
path leads to the thalamus and cortex, where the signals
are converted into conscious awareness of the odour.
Another path leads to the limbic region, which is
unconscious and responsible for emotion generation. So,
smells cause emotional responses ? hence, the whole
perfumes and deodorants industry.
    Nasty smells activate a particular part of limbic system
- the amygdalae, a pair of almond-shaped pieces of tissue.
Some people have suggested that the left one is extremely
sensitive to any sights, sounds or smells which the brain
has down as potentially dangerous, and that it is
important in arousing fear. The sense of smell is older
than hearing or sight, and it probably originally had a role
in detecting danger, e.g. in detecting unfit food, or the
presence of predators.
    Two smell scientists, Pardo and Zald, have found they
could send the amygdalae into overdrive by wafting a
cocktail of sulphide gases past the noses of volunteers,
whose brains were being scanned at the time. Perhaps
unsurprisingly, the volunteers reported revulsion, disgust
and fear.
    Human smell memory banks are very effective. The
smell of jet fuel or burning flesh can produce terrible fear
and flash-backs amongst survivors of warfare many years
later. However, bad smells for the first time can also
evoke panic, and this is what the US military is after ? a
smell which needs no prior experience and will trigger
enough fear to set people running before the logical part
of their brains realises what is going on.
    Different cultures and situations may influence the
effectiveness of any particular smell, but of course, the
?ideal? weapon would be one which transcends such
parameters and causes universal panic. So, they have
tested a range of stenches on five different ethnic groups,
before coming up with two which seem to ?work? on
everyone. One is called US Government Standard
Bathroom Malodor, upon which one comment was; "it
smells like shit, but much, much stronger. It fills your
head". During the tests, some of the volunteers began
screaming and swearing after a few seconds. The trick,
apparently, is that it does not cause harm, but it gives the
impression that harm to health is imminent or is actually
    With a buoyant and rich arms industry intent on
developing more sophisticated psychological and
neurological weapons, it could be argued that stench
warfare is relatively welcome ? if the alternative is napalm
or nuclear attack. However, this does not alter the fact
that here is a new additional means of enforcing the status
quo, whether in open warfare or in social control ? on
demos, in intifadas, riots and indeed, anytime we, the
masses, get restless and show signs of being ready to kick
    Currently, the main problem, as with many weapons, is
getting the delivery method effective. This is no doubt a
temporary glitch, given the current cash mountains being
spent on insane bombs instead of sane alternatives.
Before long, the main arms trade exhibitions (which in
Europe coincide with the main exporters ? Britain and
France) will surely be sporting stench weapons and selling
them off to be used by the world?s most repressive
regimes. Makes you wonder what would happen if such
places became the subject of stinky odours themselves ?
would they panic and run? Just a thought.

T.W.A.T.: Not-so-hidden agendas

    Longer term predictions for The War Against
Just who are the evil-doers?
    Having got the first year after 9/11 over with, has the
world "changed for good", according to the Bush
prophecy? Rather depressingly, it seems to be much the
same as it was. It is a place where gross inequality and
desperate poverty currently results in some 13 million
children dying each year for want of basic needs. The
trend to ever-greater inhumanity has continued since
September 11th, 2001.
    Things are still getting worse. Sadly, the one real lesson
of 9/11 ? the fact that greed-driven, capitalist-induced
world oppression and poverty leads to hideous terrorist
attacks like that on the twin towers ? has not been heeded.
On this basis, another Bush prophecy may well have
more chance of success ? the one about there being a lot
more trouble to come.
    If the world had truly changed for good, some attempts
would have been made to eradicate the poverty that kills
thousands every day and drives people to commit
desperate acts. But, apparently, the world has not moved
on and sadly, the responses of world leaders to 9/11 have
been depressingly predictable. Instead of moves toward
greater equality, exploitation of the poor has actually
increased. Behind the fraudulent war on terrorism, the US
has been using it?s political and military muscle to
increase its dominance over world affairs, as a means of
increasing its share of world markets. The real aim of the
war against terrorism is to increase US market share by
means of brute force.
    For well over a decade now, with the Russian threat
diminished, international events have been dictated by US
military might. This is the norm under capitalism; a single
dominant superpower using military might to force open
markets for ever greater exploitation. This system is as old
as capitalism itself, and is commonly known as
    The US was pursuing its imperialist strategy well before
9/11 - the Gulf war was widely perceived in the south as a
needless show of force which evaded diplomatic options.
As commentator Abdul Hag put it, the US is "trying to
show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone to
death", or, as George Bush put it, show that "what we say
goes". Writing at the time of the Gulf War, Cardinal
Evaristo Arns of Sao Paulo summed up the fear across the
undeveloped world when he said, "the rich sided with the
US government while the millions of poor condemned
this military aggression? throughout the world? there is
hatred and fear: When will they decide to invade us and
on what pretext?"
    Likewise, in the bombing of Serbia, there was
considerable evidence that peaceful options might have
been pursued, avoiding much human misery. Throughout
the bombardment, it was repeatedly proclaimed that one
of the war aims was to establish US credibility. Later, the
claim emerged that the war was to stop ethnic cleansing.
However, the Commanding General stated at the time
that he "knew of no such war aim." He clearly had not
been updated on the latest spin. Now, there is rich
documentary evidence (from the state department itself,
amongst others sources) which shows that the war was
aimed at the pursuit of western interest and raising US
credibility, and had little to do with the prevention of
ethnic cleansing. Even normally pro-American writers at
the time condemned the bombing. Israeli military analyst
Amos Gilboa put it bluntly; "the bombing was a reversion
to traditional gunboat diplomacy cloaked in moralistic
    Following the years and trillions spent establishing US
prowess, and given the magnitude of the affront that 9/11
presented, someone had to pay. Not to have lashed out
would have challenged US authority and undermined its
ability to dictate world affairs. Sadly, it was the people of
Afghanistan who were to face the full force of US

the same, but more

    Along with the bombing of Afghanistan, the war
against terrorism was declared. The aim of this fraudulent
war was to take advantage of the attacks on the twin
towers as an excuse to spread "fear and respect" (as the
Washington Post put it). The message is clear; what US
capitalism demands, US capitalism gets. In other words,
the war against terrorism is merely an extension of
military action from the Gulf War onwards aimed at
furthering the aims of US capitalism and entrenching the
US position as the sole world superpower.
    Since the 9/11 atrocity, the US government has been
able to wrap itself in the flag and pursue its political and
economic agenda with a ferocity unthinkable prior to the
attack on the twin towers. Within the US, liberal
opposition has melted away, and the dogs of war have
been let off the leash. According to Vice President Dick
Cheney, "40 to 50" countries are already potential targets
for US military action. With Iraq topping the table, we
seemed to be faced with a future of ongoing military
attacks across the developing world, as the US pursues its
imperialist aims.
    The military and the economic are simply the two main
weapons of exploitation in the US kit bag. Not
surprisingly, they are used in tandem. When the
opportunity arises to step up military oppression, so
inevitably the screw is turned tighter on the international
economy. Post-9/11, the US has been quick to exploit the
situation to force the pace. To oppose the US economic
agenda is now enough to risk the wrath of the US. Look
no further than US trade representative Robert Zoelliek?s
remarks before the WTO conference at Doha in the Gulf.
Invoking the war against terrorism, he warned developing
nations that no threat to the American trade agenda would
be tolerated, stating boldly: "The United States is
committed to global leadership of openness and
understanding and the staying power of our new coalition
(against terrorism) depends on economic growth." In
other words, to stand in the way of US economic growth
puts at risk the war against terrorism, and that threatens
the US. This is tantamount to twisted logic of the "you are
either with us or against us" variety.
    The poor nations have bitterly complained at the
dictatorial attitude and fear and intimidation of the US. A
Jamaican delegate to Doha stated, "we feel that this
(WTO) meeting has no connection with the war on
terrorism, yet we are made to feel that we are holding up
the rescue of the global economy, if we do not agree to a
new round of (liberalisation measures)." Other delegates
to the WTO conference in Doha complained of being
threatened with removal of their few precious trade
preferences. An African delegate stated, "if I speak out too
strongly for the rights of my people, the US will phone my
minister. They will say that I am embarrassing the United
States. My government will not even ask what I did, they
will just send me a ticket home, so I do not speak out for
fear of offending the new master." The Ugandan
ambassador who was mildly critical of "liberalisation
measures" was withdrawn after one phone call to the
Ugandan government from a US official. Both the Haiti
and the Dominican Republic were told their special trade
preferences with the US would be withdrawn if they did
not withdraw their meagre objections to "procurement" -
jargon for government public spending being taken over
by the WTO. An Indian Minister put it simply; "The
whole process is a mere formality, and we are being
coerced against our will."
    Christian Aid?s head of policy Mark Curtis described
"an emerging pattern of threats and intimidation of poor
countries? it was utterly outrageous. Wealthy countries
exploited their power to spin the agenda of big business.
The issue of multinational corporations as a cause of
poverty was no longer even on the agenda. Attending
WTO conferences is now like attending a conference on
malaria control that does not even discuss the mosquito."
    This is a far cry from pre-9/11, when the
anti-globalisation movement was in full cry and the
nations of the Southern hemisphere were able to use the
massive demonstrations taking place to bring the power of
transnationals and G8 collusion onto the international
agenda. The spread of globalisation, which is itself a
euphemism for the progressive seizure of resources and
markets by the rich G8 countries, has accelerated since
9/11. It inevitably is leading to ever-greater inequality and
growing poverty.
    While we are on inevitabilities, as sure as night follows
a sunny Afghan day, more and harsher US-led inequality
and oppression will lead to resistance. Currently, the most
likely form of this will be radical nationalism, underpinned
with political religion. Eventually, a successful challenge
to the US ability to manage the global economy will
happen. The US government is fully aware of this and it is
fear of it which drives the open-ended war against

who are the evil-doers?

    Hardly anyone outside the US failed to notice that
when Bush declared war on "evil-doers" for "continuing
to try to harm America and Americans", he did not
mention who these evil-doers are or what their aims are.
They certainly are not Pakistan and the US itself, who
actually bankrolled and trained the "evil" Taliban and Al
Qaeda network. As the National Catholic Reporter noted,
"the Bush administration?s recent waiver of sanctions on
Pakistan opens the way for military trade with a volatile
regime, once considered off limits". Pakistan?s reward for
supporting the US includes a selection of the latest model
of the F-16 fighter aircraft, anti-ship and anti-aircraft
missiles, and the latest artillery and unmanned aerial
    Nor are the "evil-doers" the repressive regime of
Uzbekistan, which is one of several former Soviet
Countries now run by thugs. However, these are
important for US strategic interests, plus they just happen
to be in a region rich in oil. Since Uzbekistan has its own
ongoing internal conflicts, the thugs want basic
counterinsurgency equipment such as helicopters, light
weapons, armoured cars and communication equipment.
"Evil-doers" does not include totalitarian regimes using
US arms to murder their own people, as long as they
allow US military and corporates to operate with impunity.
    Many on the left have argued that by evil-doers, the US
means the Muslim world. This misses the main point.
The war against terrorism may appear paranoid and
largely indiscriminate, but it is aimed at any force which
may challenge US interest and dominance. At present,
that includes political Islam. As Daniel Pipes noted in the
US journal Commentary, "at the moment, when the
European-derived extremes of the Communist Left and
Fascist Right are tired and on the whole ineffectual,
militant Islam has proved itself to be the only truly vital
totalitarian movement in the world today. As one or
another of its leaders made clear, it regards itself as the
only rival, and the inevitable successor, to western
    For ?western civilisation? we should read ?US
dominance?, but Pipes is only telling half the story. As far
back as 1995, NATO Secretary General Willy Claes
declared that since the end of the cold war, "Islamic
militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat
to the NATO alliance and to western security." He went
on to argue that not only does Islam pose the same kind
of threat to the west as Communism before it, but the
scale of the danger is greater because the movement
encompasses "the exploitation of social and economic
injustice". Herein lies the crux; Islam only poses a threat
and so becomes a target for US military action when it
dares to challenge US capitalist dominance. Where the
Muslim world remains compliant and is willing to exploit
its population in the interests of western capitalism, it will
receive US support. After all, Pakistan is a large Muslim
country with a sizeable militant population and a
pro-militant faction in the armed forces. The US is quite
prepared to arm Pakistan, risking an intensified arms race
between Pakistan and India, who stand permanently
posed on the edge of nuclear war, simply in order to
maintain US capitalist interests within the Muslim world.
    Western governments were also quite happy to support
Saddam against political Islam in Iran, and then stand by
and watch him brutally massacre thousands of Kurds.
Only when he threatened US interests did he magically
take on the mantle of evil-doer. It is not the nature,
religion or colour of the regime that matters, it is the
threat it poses to US capitalism. Where Claes differs from
Pipes is that he perhaps inadvertently explains the true
meaning of Bush?s "evil-doers". They are any people or
movement capable of gathering support and organising
against capitalist inequality and injustice. The US
government fully realises that, as its exploitation
increases, so will inequality and poverty, and so will
reaction in the form of movements of resistance. These
movements may be drawn from communism, political
Islam, anarchism, radical Catholicism or whatever, but as
soon as they seek to challenge US capitalism, they will be
stigmatised as evil-doers and terrorists, and held up as a
threat to western society, to be mercilessly eliminated. Far
from the "world never being the same again" after 9/11, it
remains rooted in inequality, poverty and injustice. The
war against terrorism has little to do with seeking any
specific "evil-doers"; it is simply a war declared by the rich
on the poor in pursuit of US imperialism.


    This is not to say that all of us who oppose capitalism
are doomed, far from it. Indeed, increased violence by the
world superpower is a sign that chinks of frailty are
showing, or that they are more likely to be exposed. US
capitalist dominance will end, and collectively, we have
the power to influence when this happens and what
replaces it.
    Opposing the war on terrorism is the task of all those
who seek an end to poverty in all its forms. However,
hand in hand with this is the task of building a real
alternative to capitalism. Political parties offering
leadership always lead to totalitarian states. Whether
market capitalist or state capitalist, the result is
oppression. An alternative is direct community
self-organisation, without bosses, states, or capitalist
exploitation. This anarcho-syndicalist alternative is to
start building a society now, where each and every
individual has the right to live in peace, free from poverty,
and where each and every individual has the means to
develop to their full potential, enriching the society around
them in the process. This is a far cry from Muslim
fundamentalism. To state the obvious, creating such a
movement across the world which is capable of
withstanding the attacks of capitalism is not easy. It is
certainly in the "evil-doers" category, and so it is and will
increasingly be given a rough ride. But judging by
historical events, overthrowing morally corrupt empires
often proves easier than it looks from below and before.
    The only change that has taken place since 9/11, is that
US imperialism has changed up another gear. Sadly, it is
the world?s poor who have already paid the price in
numbers that dwarf the numbers murdered in September,
and the bodies continue to mount. There will be no
blanket media coverage and no sanctimonious Hollywood
memorials for the millions who face death through
poverty and starvation brought about by growing US-led
inequality. Their deaths will go unreported and ignored by
the media. Nothing fundamental has changed in the
world, except that opposing the war against terrorism and
the need to bring into reality a real alternative to
capitalism has got even more urgent.

Martyrs - Mythology, masochism and morality

Some anarchosyndicalist thoughts on the political concept
of ?martyrdom?
    Martyrdom is a concept common to Judaic, Christian
and Islamic religions ? (Want to find the quickest way to
paradise, and boost your odds of canonisation at the same
time? Get yourself slaughtered by the infidels!). However,
there are quite strict regulations for being a martyr, these
monotheistic religions not being keen on suicide. It is
important that the hierarchy makes sure it was a selfless
act of faith and not the throwing away of God?s precious
gift of life. Recently, though, the concept of martyrdom
has broadened, and a person doesn?t have to be seeking
everlasting glory to get tagged a martyr.
    Derived from the Latin word for ?witness?, a dictionary
definition of a martyr is; ?one who voluntarily suffers
death rather than deny his [sic] religion by words or
deeds; such action is afforded special?. For the purpose of
this article, then, let?s suppose that being a martyr
necessarily requires a degree of choice on the part of the
martyr and others involved, and involves the principle of
standing by one?s convictions in the face of death, rather
than actively courting destruction. According to this
definition, a person killed simply because they hold a
particular political or religious belief is not a martyr; they
are a victim. A person strapping a load of explosive to
themselves and then blowing up a lot of other people,
however driven, by whatever level of despair, and whether
for a cause or not, does not, therefore, qualify as a martyr,
as they have deliberately killed themselves in the process
of deliberately killing others. They are actually homicidal
    The big problem of martyrdom and martyrs is that it
glorifies suffering and death, and whilst this might be
expected of the old European Christian churches, which
did have a strong element of S&M running through much
of its iconography, it?s hardly the sort of thing a would-be
progressive ideology should be supporting. Martyrs are
people who are killed/made to suffer at the hands of
others through choices they make. As
anarchosyndicalism seeks to reduce the amount of
suffering in the world, and as one of the basic tenants is
that the ends and means must be linked, it cannot be
progressive to promote the idea of martyrdom.
Anarchosyndicalists want people to have better lives;
promoting the idea of some people laying down their lives,
or suffering, to achieve better lives is at best bizarre. It is
counter-productive, it fetishises suffering and implies that
those persecuting the ?martyrs? are somehow integral to
the struggle: promoting the myth of martyrdom places
those oppressing a particular group at the centre of that
group?s ideology. The emphasis on martyrdom in political
struggle actually places the state, corporations and other
persecutors, in a powerful ideological position, as their
actions come to dictate who to admire and support.
    As political role models go, martyrs are pretty lacking.
The promotion of what is positive about the lives of those
who attempt to alleviate suffering, including a person?s
own, is much more appropriate to anarchosyndicalist
aims and means. There can be a perception that a real
activist needs to have suffered a bit, been picked on
because of their politics. A bit of ?martyrdom? proves you
really mean it, that the politics are for real. This is crap.
There is more to being real than getting picked on by the
powers that be. Being a rebel is not the same as being an
anarchist; there is more to it than just kicking against the
shit - it?s about trying to live in such a way as to remove
the shit.
    Anarchosyndicalism is about not glorifying suffering;
it?s about condemning the behaviour of those who cause
it, and holding them to account, whilst celebrating the
lives of those who struggle to seek a better world, both in
the here and now and in the future. By evoking the
religious iconography of martyrdom for a secular activity,
an important part of the concept is missing - the reward -
and whilst this might mean the secular anarcho-martyr is
more noble and more sacrificing, noble and sacrificing are
not really the sort of things anarchosydicalism is about.
    Tabloids, and politicians looking for soft headlines in
them, frequently go on about too much emphasis of care,
support and rehabilitation being put on the perpetrators of
crime. What they want is more emphasis on the victims
and how noble they are, and for the ?criminals? to be
banged up and forgotten. When it comes to contemporary
mainstream politics, the strategy is the other way round;
the perpetrators of crimes, the big corporations, the states
are lauded for their nobility, benevolence, love of freedom
and justice - or at least their public faces are. In the
meantime, the poor, oppressed and marginalised are
swept under the carpet and ignored. When they fight
back, they then become the ?criminals? shuffled off out of
sight and out of mind again.
    An anarchosyndicalist approach to this problem is to
refuse to allow those who are running the world (into the
ground) to remain faceless and protected from the
consequences of their actions. When people suffer as a
result of the appalling system we live under, it must be
made clear that their suffering is a result of the actions of
those in power, to level responsibility where it belongs,
not bill the victims of dysfunctional systems as ?martyrs?.
It is important to acknowledge and support those who
fight back, those who start to build the new world, and
look to new and better ways of living. It is important to
celebrate their lives, not that they were made to suffer.

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