Saturday, September 25, 2010

How terrorists make local struggles global

Terrorist groups sometimes have difficulty in winning popular support for their campaigns. The narrow nationalist interests that concern them may not interest foreigners: why should anyone care about Basque or Northern Irish independence?

One way that these groups gain global support is by depicting their struggle as a local front of a global battle. For small nationalist groups, this struggle is often portrayed in populist anti-imperialist terms. In recent decades these terms were often associated with socialist movements, so they came to include anti-capitalist rhetoric too.

Earlier this month the Real IRA invoked this global anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist trend with the topical addition of some populist anger against the bankers:

The role of bankers and the institutions they serve in financing Britain's colonial and capitalist system has not gone unnoticed.

Let's not forget that the bankers are the next-door neighbours of the politicians. Most people can see the picture: the bankers grease the politicians' palms, the politicians bail out the bankers with public funds, the bankers pay themselves fat bonuses and loan the money back to the public with interest. It's essentially a crime spree that benefits a social elite at the expense of many millions of victims.

This simplistic anti-banker rhetoric must seem attractive to many people who have suffered during the economic collapse, not just in Ireland but also abroad.

Meanwhile Iranian President Ahmadinejad attacked the "discriminatory order of capitalism" in his UN speech. Both Islamist Ahmadinejad and nationalist Real IRA are seeking to widen their support with such talk, to find foreigners who also identify with anti-capitalist perspectives and render their own local causes global.

Were they to come into direct competition, these Islamists and secular nationalists, they would make bitter enemies, not allies. So it is worth being wary of solidarity that stretches across borders, when that solidarity is based only on vaguely common enemies rather than true common ground.

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