The Crusade of Innocents

Two days before Christmas  package bombs were delivered to the Greek, Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome allegedly by "an anarchist group, the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire". Now a motorcycle-bomb has struck a courthouse in Greece in what police suspect is a protest against the trial of the Cells of Fire suspects. Because of a warning call, nobody was hurt.  According to USA Today, in an article full of irony, European anarchists are growing more organized as people suffer from declining levels of state welfare.  Even more fecklessly,  USA Today has described anarchy as a movement within the Left. Can it be?

Extreme left-wing and anarchist movements have existed for decades in Europe— waging deadly attacks across the continent in the 1960s and 1970s that trailed and became sporadic in recent decades. Officials, meanwhile, focused far more intensely on the threat of Islamist terrorism.

But the European Union's police agency, Europol, reported this year that attacks by far-left and anarchist militant groups jumped by 43% in 2009 compared to the previous year, and more than doubled over 2007, with most of the incidents in Italy, Spain and Greece. Spain and Greece have been hit particularly hard by government cutbacks and unemployment resulting from a continentwide debt crisis. Italy has also been growing tense in recent months in response to austerity measures and the government's increasing popularity.

Anarchy is back. The Guardian's list of the 20 most significant developments of 2010 citing Wikileaks and the "student" riots in Britain among them, along with the failure of "old politics" -- parliamentary leftism -- is consistent with the atmosphere of crisis. But since nothing is ever the fault of the Left, that of course means that a crisis is developing on the right and the Guardian article obligingly concludes that America's politics is on the verge of collapse because "reason is close to impossible with the Tea Party ... adherence to common values is disintegrating. The American centre is crumbling, and with it economic, social and political power." But this is misdirection.

It is the welfare state that is in crisis and the Left is divided on the question of how to fix it. Anarchists, who are the cannon fodder of the extreme left, are sending the message that the Old Leftist politics has failed and the time has come to double down. They do this by manifesting an "anger" and "outrage" which the parliamentarians cannot. The British Pakistani Leftist Tariq Ali recently wrote a book entitled The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad in which he claims that people like Obama are "incapable of dealing with the right".  His point is that Obama, like Nick Clegg in Britain, is regarded as the symbol of the leftist politics that has sold out. They aren't radical enough, and what the Left needs more than ever is men of principle, the purest and most uncompromising of which are the anarchists.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Gibbs, the White House press spokesperson, going after the so-called "professional left"? Your thoughts?

TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, it’s interesting that they are incapable of dealing with the right. With the right, it’s conciliation. That’s what they feel they have to appeal to. With critics from the left, they tend to be very harsh, as if they are saying to us, "You don’t know how lucky you are." But why are we lucky? I mean, you know, we judge people not by how they look or what they say, but by what they do. And what Obama has been doing is, you know, to put it mildly, extremely disappointing at home, and abroad it’s murderous. On Palestine, on Iran, no changes at all. So, one has to spell this out, because if they don’t realize that they’re doing this, they’re going to get more shocks. And Rahm Emanuel refers to people on the liberal left who are critical of Obama, and he uses a bad swear word and then says, "effing retards"—well, we’ll see who the retards are after the midterms, Amy. That’s all I can say.

That is at any rate, all he can think. Tariq Ali, who confused the liberal critics Rahm was calling "retards" with the Tea Party, demonstrates the cardinal principal that even when criticizing the Left, always blame it on the Right. No matter; it sounded good. Maybe the idea he was looking for is that the "netroots" are disappointed; having hoped to inherit the earth they are finding, to their chagrin, that they have not. But since such catastrophes cannot  be the consequences of their own ideology, the problems must be caused by a failure to apply that ideology ruthlessly and thoroughly. The anarchist activity on the extreme Left suggests some within are ready to move onto the next phase: internal rectification.