Andrei Grachev’s “In the Grip of Terror” is a brilliant indictment of U.S.-led Western imperialism. It is the best of Michael Parenti’s “The Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond”, “ The Sword & The Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution & the Arms Race”, and “Against Empire”; William Blum’s “Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”; Michel Chossudovsky’s “America’s War on Terrorism” and “The Globalization of War: America’s Long War Against Humanity”; and Philip Bonosky’s “Afghanistan: Washington’s Secret War”, all in one short and easy to read pamphlet-sized book.
Grachev’s book can best be described as a scientific socio-economic and historical analysis of terrorism: “What kind of seeds sprout terrorism? How deep are its roots? What kind of soil feeds it? Who breeds it and for what purpose?” Grachev asks on the first page of the introduction.
Grachev begins by rejecting the subjective bourgeois explanations of the sources terrorism. “Trying to relieve the capitalist world of its responsibility for the emergence of this sinister phenomenon,” Grachev writes, “some bourgeois ideologists do their utmost to present political violence as a manifestation of ‘universal evil’, to pass it for a disease of the 20th century, which similarly affects capitalist, socialist and developing countries. Attempting to conceal its social origin, they proclaim it to be universal and emphasise that ‘terrorism…has now become the primary form of conflict for our time’” (p. 8). But “Terrorism is a manifestation of a moral and political crisis of capitalist society which, being founded on social oppression, exploitation and violation of human rights, is incessantly generating terrorism and violence, poisoning social life and damaging the international situation” (pp. 8-9).
One could be forgiven for thinking that Grachev was writing about the Bush Administration’s ‘War on Terror’ — but the book was published in 1981!
Grachev proceeds to dismantle the whole edifice of U.S.-led Western imperialism’s so-called war on terrorism (as it existed in the ‘80s, but equally applicable to the 21st century).
In Chapter 1, “The World in Reverse,” Grachev describes the hypocrisy of U.S.-led Western imperialism’s use of the word “terrorism”. He describes how the legitimate struggles of national liberation movements are condemned by the reactionary Reagan administration as “terrorism” but not the death squads supported by U.S.-led Western imperialism. “Thus, those who have fought for the independence of India and Indonesia, Algeria and Vietnam, Angola and Mozambique and many other countries with a combined population of about two billion people are also called terrorists,” even though the legality of these struggles have “been recognised by the international community and upheld by the United Nations” (pp. 18-19). But while these legitimate and internationally recognized liberation struggles are condemned as “terrorists,” Grachev writes, “The Pol Pot hangmen enjoy support and are called ‘democrats’ rather than terrorists. Bands of fascist thugs — supported and financed by the United States — responsible for murders, tortures and terror in Chile, Haiti, Uruguay, Paraguay, Namibia and Guatemala supposedly have nothing in common with terrorists. The US-backed junta which murdered 40 thousand Salvadoreans within two years and a half is not a terrorist regime, and assassins attempting to take the life of Fidel Castro are not terrorists at all” (pp. 13-14).
In Chapter 2, “The Roots of the Problem,” in true dialectical materialist fashion, Grachev traces the origins of terrorism in increased social tensions resulting from the general crisis of capitalism. “Bourgeois political scientists and the mass media which serve the interests of monopolies are using every means possible to camouflage the real cause behind the escalation of terrorism — the deepening crisis of the capitalist world. They deliberately play down the fact that it is capitalist society that, being inseparable from social oppression, constantly generates social violence within its bounds and proliferates it elsewhere” (p. 28). Capitalist economic crises increase social tension, causing an upsurge of political violence, i.e., terrorism. On the one hand, “The desocialization of youth and their failure to find a place in the job market turns a considerable number of young people into a reserve of right- and “left”-wing extremists. It causes them to break from the rest of society, and sets them against the whole political structure, democratic forces and working-class and trade union movements” (p. 30). On the other hand, “the bourgeoisie supplements traditional forms of economic and political coercion and ideological brainwashing of the masses with sheer violence, calling in the police or troops to crush strikes and break up political demonstrations (for example, in the summer of 1980 French warships were used against fishermen on strike)…In the United States, policemen are as quick to whip out a gun as professional criminals are. Within the past ten years, US law-enforcement officers killed 6,000 Americans between 10 and 80 years of age. Blacks account for 45 per cent of those victimized by the police” (pp. 33-34).
In Chapter 3, “Armies of Darkness”, and Chapter 4, “In the Throes of Two Crises,” Grachev examines both right-wing and “left”-wing terrorism, and how both objectively serve the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie. Much of this chapter focuses on terrorism in Italy, where political violence on both ends of the political spectrum was widespread.
The rest of the book — chapters 5, “The Exportation of Violence”; 6, “Terrorism as State Policy”; and 7, “Information Terrorism” — is primarily focused on terrorism as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Grachev examines U.S.-led Western imperialism using former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s definition of a terrorist government as “any government which instigates, perpetuates or is involved in terrorist acts” (p. 85). “The use of terror is not new to the history of US foreign policy,” writes Grachev. “The US has long been [sic] resorted to terror in order to attain its global foreign policy goals. ‘For the last 35 years, the US government has made regular use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy,’ said John Marks, an associate of the Center for National Security Studies” (p. 86). Grachev cites numerous examples of when terrorism was used as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy: “In 1946, it took an active part in suppressing the rebellion in the Philippines; in 1947, it crushed the popular uprising in Paraguay; in 1948, it staged an intervention by its mercenaries in Costa Rica; in 1950, it cruelly dealt with the liberation movement in Puerto Rico; and from 1950 to 1953, it waged a barbaric war in Korea” (p. 86). The U.S.-led 1953 coup d’état against Iran’s democratically elected leader Mossadegh in defense of the interests of oil monopolists is examined at length by Grachev. “Iran was followed by Guatemala, Thailand, Laos, the Congo, Panama, the Dominican Republic and many other countries where the CIA or its hirelings overthrew legitimate governments, exterminated the leaders unacceptable to the US and set up terrorists dictatorships” (p. 87). Grachev examines the whole spectrum of U.S.-led Western imperialism’s terrorist activities abroad: actual or attempted assassination of progressive world leaders such as Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, and Salvador Allende; support for terrorist dictatorships such as Pinochet in Chile, the Shah in Iran, Duvalier in Haiti, Park Chung-hee in South Korea, and the apartheid regimes in South Africa and Israel; support for counterrevolutionary terrorists such as the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua, and Cuban emigres in Florida; and America’s own terrorist activities such as the CIA’s Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, in which CIA agents competed with each other to kill more Vietnamese, an estimated 40,000 in total, with chopped-off ears serving as ‘proof’.
A brilliant book — and a must read for everyone interested in terrorism and the phony “War on Terror”.