In June 2002, a comrade from Swedish Young Left and I made a number of deliberate and open donations – symbolic in kind – to an account used by the Palestinian organisation PFLP. The explicit purpose was to illuminate and test the rather arbitrary EU anti-terrorist laws. The action, which raised considerable attention in Swedish media, led to the opening of an investigation but no charges were eventually brought.
I will describe concretely how we could show the inherent absurdity of the legislation. It was also instructive to see how the US formulates the definitions of terrorism and constructs lists of “terrorist organisations”, how these instructions are taken over by the EU and how Swedish national legislation, which has followed much more overt procedures, is overrun by these EU laws.All reasonable judicial processes are put aside. The list of organisations, which are considered to be “terrorist organisations”, is decided upon through discussions and negotiations among EU foreign ministers.
The EU “common standpoint” on the definition of terrorist activities asserts that a “terrorist act shall mean … intentional acts, which, given its nature or its context” have the aim of “seriously intimidating a population” or “ causing extensive destruction to a Government or public facility … infrastructure” etc. Interestingly, this a quite accurate description of what the Israeli government has done for decades, and is systematically doing today. Yet the EU terrorist list effectively accepts these acts.
The EU listing of “terrorist organisations” and other measures taken to “combat terrorism” must be placed in a political context. Mounting repressive measures do not come haphazardly. They are driven by the development and crises of global capitalism. The parallels to the 1930’s should be quite evident. September 11 is not the basis for terror laws but merely a welcomed “window of opportunity”.
The terror laws raise several principal and important issues:
1) The left and the labour movement must fiercely defend democratic freedoms and liberties. It is important to build broad alliances in that enterprise. We must however realise that so called liberal forces often will be on the wrong side of the conflict. This course of events is structural. When political contradictions sharpen, bourgeois forces turn on their own declared ideals.
2) In the struggle for a more just society and for a reasonable legislation, it is crucial to defend national sovereignty. When legislation such as the terrorist laws is passed, it is convenient to let bureaucrats in the EU corridors do the work. It makes it easier to keep absurd and fascist legislation outside public debate, and it gives the leading imperialist superpower more influence.
3) When discussing terrorism, “violence” is really a side track. This has always been a political issue. The French occupation forces systematically labelled all Algerian resistance terrorism, and so did the Germans in Norway and Denmark. We must take a clear stand for international law, including the right of people’s to fight occupation.
Just as importantly, we must reject the romanticising of so called revolutionary violence which one can find in private middle class revolting.On the one hand, then, we must realise the structural connections between terror legislation and developments in the capitalist system.
On the other hand, we must pay attention to, value and concretely fight for the formal liberties and rights that we still have left. In the EU definition of terrorism, we can read that “seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic and social structures of a country or an international organisation”. In one sense, this is exactly what we want to do, and what we in fact must do, to save our democratic rights from severe repression that can come quicker than we ever expect.
Defend democratic freedoms and liberties
Realise the importance of national sovereignty in defending these liberties, and in the anti-imperialist struggle
Defend international law and popular right to fight against occupation
Reject the romanticising of political violence
A better understanding of the connections between capitalist crisis and fascist politics
Form broad alliances based on public debate and concrete activities which do not distance themselves from daily lives of ordinary people
Mass actions of “civic disobedience” against absurd legislation.