A Socialist Labor Party Statement—

The Bombing at Oklahoma City

The Socialist Labor Party unqualifiedly condemns the April 19 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City as the depraved act of depraved minds. It deplores the wanton massacre of innocent men, women and children, and denounces the individuals or group who perpetrated the despicable act and whatever perverted motive prompted them to commit it. There is and can be no justification for such a barbarous crime.

At the same time, the SLP condemns the reckless and inflammatory capitalist “news” media, which, in its usual sensationalist style, jumped from one conclusion to another about who the perpetrators of that crime might be, and then sought to excuse itself by attributing its jumped-to conclusions to “us”—the population at large—rather than to itself.

Furthermore, the SLP condemns the Democratic and Republican politicians who appear bent on using this depraved act of depraved or insane individuals to undermine or abrogate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the American people. It is as immoral and dangerous as it is imbecilic and naive to believe that society can be defended against madness and anarchy by repressive legislation. Legislation against anarchy and terrorism can no more root out the social causes of such violent crimes than a law against water could abolish thirst or a law against hunger could abolish starvation. Whatever the immediate motivations behind the Oklahoma City bombing, the root cause of all such insane antisocial acts is deeply imbedded in the fabric of capitalist society itself. Capitalism, as Daniel De Leon observed in his address on Socialism vs. Anarchism, “foments civilization, and yet it incites to barbarism.” And no matter what the political pretensions of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing may be, the act itself proves that, fundamentally, they are anarchists.

Repressive legislation, such as the antiterrorist bill now being pushed by the Clinton administration, is nothing new—and it has done nothing to prevent such vile acts as that perpetrated on April 19. As Newsweek noted in its May 1 edition:

“...Before the turn of the century (in labor strife), again in the teens and 1920s (during the mostly trumped-up Red Scare) and in the 1970s (against the radical Weather Underground), conservative governments routinely invoked national-security threats in order to infiltrate and suppress left-wing [sic] terrorists who were planting bombs in the United States. Now the tables have turned, and we’ll see how far a post-cold-war government will go toward infiltrating and suppressing right-wing terrorist groups....”

More than 25 years ago, in his Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, Carlos Marighella wrote:

“It is necessary for every urban guerrilla to keep in mind always that he can only maintain his existence if he is disposed to kill the police and those dedicated to repression, and if he is determined to expropriate the wealth of the big capitalists....”

Carlos Marighella was himself an assassin, and toward the end of the 1960s he, too, was assassinated. Like Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara before him, Marighella became a kind of martyr among the “urban guerrillas” of the United States in the 1970s. His Minimanual was viewed as something of a classic and was widely spread through the “underground” press in this country—the same as similar manuals are being distributed by the “right-wing underground press” today.

The quote is taken from Marighella’s Minimanual for three reasons: First, the similarities between it and the MOD Training Manuals exposed to publicity in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing are striking. Second, it reveals that the tactics of anarchism have remained what they always were—violence and terror. Third, because it hints at what the objective of the anarchist is. The objective (if it could really be considered an objective) for Marighella was“to expropriate the wealth of the big capitalists....” (Our italics.) The objective of the paramilitary and quasifascist groups of today is said to be the undoing of big government, which is perceived as being bought by “big money.”

Works such as Marighella’s Minimanual, and Guevara’s now notorious Journal, took their cue from the texts of Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) and his star pupil, the 19th-century nihilist and author of Catechism of a Revolutionist, Sergei Nechaiev (a fictionalized account of whose life and ideas form the basis of Dostoevski’s The Possessed). The spirit of these texts is capsulated in the phrase, reputedly authored by Bakunin, that “the urge to destroy is really a creative urge.”

There is no essential difference between the modern terrorist breed of anarchist and their 19th-century predecessors. What differences there are reduce themselves to an “updating” in tactics, a necessity enforced by the change in material conditions during the last 100 years. Terror is still the tool.

There are some, perhaps many, who have been confused by the new “right wing” label for anarchism, just as many were confused by the labels “old left” and “new left” a generation ago. In a Daily People editorial dated April 2, 1913, Daniel De Leon cautioned us not to “chew the rag” over labels. These labels are thin shells for ideas. What is necessary is an understanding of what the label represents. “The historical setting of a term is essential to its understanding,” De Leon wrote, “...‘direct action’—a modern term for pure and simple physical force, expressly repudiatory of all thought of political action, and embodying contempt for the same as wasteful of time and effort,” has, in turn, been succeeded by the term—“terrorist.”

Elsewhere, De Leon had pursued and clarified the point:

“You get assassination [or bombings] as a possible but by no means an inevitable, incident of anarchism. Anarchism is essentially a gubernatorial conception—a conception of government....

“A conception of government is a reflex of social conception; and that social conception in its turn is based upon, not what we would like, or what we would fancy to be the desirable thing, but upon what material conditions dictate. (Socialism vs. Anarchism.)

What, then, is the anarchist conception of modern society and government? De Leon went on to illustrate them:

“The mental kinship of all these instances [assassinations, bombings, etc.] is obvious. From them leaps to view the identical governmental conception together with the social concept of which it is a reflex. And what is it? It is obviously the social conception that the people do not count in society, except, at best, as food for cannon; that government, accordingly, is something outside of, separate and apart from, and superimposed upon the people from above.

“It is the chessboard conception of society. One may have all his men on the board, but if his king is checkmated, the game is lost....That conception is the essence of anarchism. All else in anarchism are but incidents and results that flow from the central principle.”

That all of this—the present historical setting, the “chessboard” conception of society and government, etc.—applies to the modern terrorists was verified 25 years ago by one of the nation’s most widely circulated periodicals. In addition, the periodical generally identified the neoanarchist, a point of interest and importance.

“Who are the urban guerrillas?...[They] can range from outright criminals to blue-collar workers, from romantic, fanatic children of the elite to men of considerable intellect and courage.

“What makes them tick? Undoubtedly, the dehumanizing conditions of the modern city contribute to the paranoia that often marks the urban terrorist. Those conditions also intensify his sense of alienation—and make it easier for him to depersonalize the ‘pigs’ [police] and other targets of his violence.” (Time, Nov. 2, 1970)

From the above it is clear that the modern terrorist has no special class identity. The conditions that spawn the breed are general conditions more or less affecting all people, frustrating the least resilient and motivating them to strike blindly at “those dedicated to repression” as they perceive it.

The anarchists, typified today by the terrorist, confuses the symbols of power and repression for power and repression itself. In a vague way, they recognize that “big money” (a euphemism for “big capitalists”) is close to the source of their frustrations. The anarchists do not recognize, however, that “big money” (the individual “big capitalist”) is powerful only because capitalism is the present social system, or that government is big government for the same reason. Ironically, then, the anarchist “revolutionary”—“left” or “right”—adopts the framework of capitalist philosophy, i.e., “rugged individualism.” If capitalists by their individual determination can erect and maintain a repressive system, if corrupt politicians can enact and enforce laws to uphold a repressive system, then the anarchists assume that their own individual determination can tear it apart. It is, returning to De Leon, a “chessboard conception of society.”

The April 30 issue of The New York Times made a similar observation about today’s private militias and similar quasifascist groups. “Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists,” it said, “capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.”

By attacking the symbols of power (police, “big capitalists,” “big government,” public buildings, etc.), the anarchist plans to achieve “revolution.” What their “attacks on the system” will result in does not concern them except insofar as they further “the cause.”

Modern, industrial capitalist society, however, is something quite different from what anarchism, in all its guises, visualizes it to be. The contrary and actual nature of modern capitalism was described by De Leon in his analysis of anarchism:

“Under the modern industrial order, the masses have grown into society. And not a few of the epileptic fits that capitalist society is being continually thrown into are the result of the efforts of the capitalist class [and of the anarchist] to ignore, while seeking to profit by, the change; they are the result of the efforts of that class to brace itself against the Niagara-like torrent of evolution that has removed government down and away from the skies and planted it on earth, and that marks it flesh of the people’s flesh, and bone of their bone, part and parcel of, inseparable from, society.”

Ignorant of social forces, today’s terrorists have no answers for today’s social problems. They see or feel the effects of something they have no understanding of, and they take refuge in conspiracy theories involving “big government,” “white devils, “black devils,” “Jewish devils,” and other mystifications. The sheer mass of genuine problems is too complex when approached from the “pragmatic” (really anarchistic) philosophy of capitalism. A solution to the manifold ills of a social system is to be found in a social act. That act can be performed only by a social class. And the sole class capable today of revolution to a better society is the working class.

This is no idle assertion. It follows from the fact that industrialized, urbanized America is a totally integrated nation—no part independent and all parts interdependent upon one another. Interdependence follows from the present productive organization of society. The cooperation needed on the assembly line, between all points of production, distribution and consumption, compels society to act harmoniously if it is to act successfully.

Today capitalism is a worn-out, regressive social system. It operates for the benefit of a tiny, owning class upon the labor and at the expense of a large laboring class. The social situation is one that demands revolution because all alterations and reforms for the better operation of capitalism continuously fail to benefit the majority of society. The cooperation that production demands is the material condition that prods the working class to take, hold and operate industry in its own behalf. In this way alone can society become a cooperative commonwealth free from the conditions now giving rise to anarchism and terrorism, and to all the other social evils capitalism breeds and which fester in the modern world.

De Leon cautioned us, however, not to neglect the fact that capitalism is a politically, as well as an economically, repressive system. Effective action for the erection of the cooperative commonwealth of socialism must be taken on both the political and economic fields. The twofold program of the Socialist Labor Party provides that the working class, united politically, challenge the determination of capitalism to continue its rulership at the ballot box. And to enforce this peaceful and orderly demand for socialism, a nonviolent force in the form of an all-embracing Socialist Industrial Union will nullify the ruling class’s ability to enforce repressive, counterrevolutionary acts by cutting off the source of the means of repression—the industries out of which come the arms for police and military alike. This is no anarchistic act born of impotent frustration. It is one of classconsciousness bent on achieving the next, logical and higher stage of society open to humanity—socialism.

(May 1995)

Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

Return to SLP Statements and Leaflets
Return to SLP's Home Page