Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 24, No. 2, July 2010, pp. 139-163
ISSN 0885-4300 print/ISSN 1745-2635 online
DOI: 10.1080/08854301003746874 
©2010 The Research Group on Socialism and Democracy

Marxism, Conspiracy, and 9–11*


David MacGregor and Paul Zarembka


Back at the time of the initiation of the American Revolution against British colonialism, Adam Smith presciently commented:

The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour.

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen…

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of. Masters too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen; who sometimes too, without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to raise the price of their labour…

But whether their combinations be offensive or defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to bring the point to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the loudest clamour, and sometimes to the most shocking violence and outrage. They are desperate, and act with the folly and extravagance of desperate men, who must either starve, or frighten their masters into an immediate compliance with their demands. (Smith 1937 [1776]: 66f)

What can be noticed in Smith is the observation that owners and workers both combine, but owners do so in secret, while workers do not. Thus, workers do not “conspire” (act together in secret), whereas capitalists do. We see this disparate behavior in Smith’s discussion of the two classes in the struggle over wages. That discussion, at an early stage of capitalist development, also shows that capitalists seek to deny and cover up their conspiracies. A general denial of the possibility of such conspiracies serves capitalist class interests.

Like all major terrorist incidents, 9–11 sustained social redirection by instilling widespread fear in the public and inviting retaliation against an alleged enemy. Two hundred and twenty-five years after Smith remarked upon secret collusions by capitalists, the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were presented as motivation for retaliatory military adventures, and for an ideological campaign that transformed the social and political landscape. Besides dealing a severe setback to the anti-globalization movement (recall the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization), these attacks made possible a sequence of events that conformed to prior plans put forward by the Bush II White House and its affiliated right-wing think tanks (notably, the Project for the New American Century). The plans included encirclement and isolation of Russia and establishment of an American bulwark in Muslim-dominated areas of the globe, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. The project is an extension of US support for the mujaheddin, which, under Presidents Carter and Reagan, helped topple the Soviet Union and, during the Bush I and Clinton administrations, assisted in dismembering and ultimately destroying Yugoslavia. However, given the many anomalies in the official account of 9–11, evidence surrounding that day’s events has also buttressed the charge that the attacks constituted a “false flag” terrorist event that one of us has elsewhere called Machiavellian state terror (MacGregor 2008).

Distance from the version propagated by the US state is not a calling card of many “left” US publications. In a 2006 issue, the otherwise critical journal CounterPunch announced that it would not contemplate carrying articles that deny the official story of 9–11, and labeled those who questioned the official story “conspiracy nuts.”1 Thus, an important left periodical made belief in Washington’s account of the fall of the Twin Towers the gold standard for oppositional thought. Rolling Stone dismissed alternative versions of 9–11 as “clinically insane” Taibbi (2006).2 “Enough of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, already,” admonishes Matthew Rothschild (2006), editor of The Progressive. Terry Allen (2006), for In These Times, makes an astonishing comparison to HIV and AIDS: those “who deny that HIV is responsible for AIDS, for example, have contributed to unnecessary infections and deaths.”3 Responding to such presentations, Barrie Zwicker (2006: 190–224) considers the lamentable record of left icon Noam Chomsky, who denies any problems with the standard narrative of the events of 9–11. Chomsky’s resistance to alternative perspectives on 9–11 recalls his stubborn, decades-long battle against critics of the 1964 Warren Report on the assassination of President Kennedy – an event many compare in its world-historical significance to the 2001 aerial attack on New York and Washington.

Hostility on the left to research findings regarding 9–11 critically weakens the antiwar movement.4 US capitalism has removed a page of world history from much of left consciousness, replacing it with a contrived White House document.5 Lame “blow-back” explanations of 9–11 that much of the left favors (i.e., the US got its just deserts, courtesy of Osama bin Laden) offer shaky support for so-called “Islamic terrorism” while suspending critical judgment on the Official Story. With no worthwhile analysis, much of the left moralizes about the character of war in Afghanistan or Iraq, as in “well maybe the Afghan mission is a just war,” or “Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, after all.” That the decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was facilitated by the 9–11 attacks is obvious. But if 9-11 is in fact an instance of Machiavellian state terror (MacGregor 2008), or what Marx called “bourgeois terror” (see below), then any US pretence that these wars have to do with self-defense is totally unsustainable. This understanding would strengthen, rather than weaken, the position of left opposition to these wars.

Marxist theory, which informs the left, has always understood that the state operates in the interest of the dominant economic class, whether directly or indirectly (the latter view reflecting the structuralist approach of Nicos Poulantzas [1968, 1970]). However, it has not yet had an articulated conceptual distinction between those acts of the state that are public and open to direct investigation, and those that are concealed, secret, and indeed conspiratorial. While Marxist commentators typically agree as to the outcomes of 9–11 mentioned above, many are unwilling to grant that 9–11 occurred in a manner not officially validated by US authorities; that is, they dismiss the possibility of a conspiracy by the capitalists and their state. While the terrorism of 9–11 offered a reason for US military-state action, no thought is given to the possibility that the attacks might have been a product of the state apparatus itself. If Marx himself and Marxism in general had already distinguished conceptually between the public and the conspiratorial, then the study of the conspiratorial as well as the public dimension could have become a mandated research topic and a focus for political action. It might then have been easier for Marxists to include the analysis of bourgeois state conspiracy in their research and activist agendas.

Actually, Marx was sensitive to the conspiratorial. The most famous example, which we describe in our first section below, is Marx’s riveting yet under-appreciated account of the rise to power of Louis Bonaparte, in which there clearly emerges a profound distinction between the public and the conspiratorial. The second section of this article addresses Scott’s (1996) study of the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, a study which motivates his important concept of ‘deep politics’ and connects with Marx’s discussion of politics. In the third section, we turn to 9–11 and discuss some of the overwhelming evidence for state-sponsored terrorism. We conclude with implications for the current political environment.

Marx and conspiracy

Louis Bonaparte’s regime has been likened by some to the Nazi apparatus that appeared almost 80 years later. (Bramsted 2003: 35)

There is hardly space here to provide a fully detailed account of Marx’s recognition of a public/conspiratorial divide, although his work consistenly displays an awareness of conspiratorial behavior on the part of governments. Marx had plenty of reasons to suspect that within bourgeois society things might not always be as they seem. His Cologne Communist Trial, written in 1852, exposed the arrest and imprisonment of German communist leaders triumphantly achieved through the conspiratorial networks of the Prussian secret police. No mere superstructural phenomenon, the judicial beheading of the German workers’ movement destroyed proletarian resistance in that country for more than a decade. Prussian intelligence bought and paid for Marx and Engels’s satirical 1852 pamphlet The Great Men of Exile, which attacked rival e´migre´ groups in England. The two men were horrified to learn that their erstwhile collaborator on the pamphlet, a Hungarian named Bangya, was an agent of Prussia’s extensive secret apparatus (Fernbach 1973: 7f). Furthermore, the refugee community in England was a snakepit of intrigue and deception, and Marx would have been a pollyanna not to have noticed the signal place of state-led conspiracy in the sanctified corridors of the British Museum.

Perhaps most importantly, the fundamental Marxist notion that the capitalist state is a masked form of bourgeois rule, i.e. a covert meeting of minds among landed property owners, financiers and industrialists to monopolize the means of power, is itself an accusation of conspiracy on the grandest of historical scales. Indeed, this understanding is the primary message of Marx’s remarkable classic The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and its earlier companion volume The Class Struggles in France: 1848–1850,6 both of which discuss the means by which landed property, finance and industrial capital conspired (with the critical assistance of the military) to retain their stranglehold on French society during the bloody aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848.7 Rightly interpreted as an advance warning of the potential for bourgeois democracy to slide into fascist dictatorship, the The Eighteenth Brumaire is much more than this. It stands as a primer on the conspiratorial and secret devices regularly employed in times of crisis by the bourgeoisie to maintain its sway over civil society, even to the extent (in the French case) of foisting into power a former English police agent and Swiss parvenu named Louis Bonaparte (Marx 1973: 164).

Marx’s epochal essay on the Napoleonic pretender teaches that episodes of “bourgeois terrorism” must periodically remove the mask of benign legitimacy that in more “normal” times veils capitalist rule. Starting with Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety in 1793–94, “bourgeois terrorism” is an inevitable factor in periods of capitalist revolution and reaction. When the leaderless Parisian proletariat responded to incendiary capitalist provocations by mounting a “gigantic insurrection” against the French Provisional Government in June 1848 – “the first great battle… between the two great classes which divide modern society” – the veil shrouding the bourgeois republic was “torn asunder” (Marx 1973: 59). General Cavaignac, head of the republican Provisional Government, and fresh from savage Algerian campaigns that helped cement French colonialism in northern Africa, put down the workers’ insurrection with the usual bourgeois methods. After a five-day battle in the streets of Paris, more than 3000 captured proletarian insurgents were brutally murdered by Cavaignac’s troops. The Provisional Government “deported” from France “without trial” an additional 15,0000 workers (163). Writes Marx:

By making its burial place the birthplace of the bourgeois republic, the proletariat forced this republic to appear in its pure form, as the state whose avowed purpose is to perpetuate the rule of capital and the slavery of labour. Permanently aware of its scarred, irreconcilable and invincible enemy – invincible because its existence is a precondition of its own life – bourgeois rule, freed from all fetters, was inevitably transformed, all at once, into bourgeois terrorism. (61)

From a Marxist point of view, it would perhaps not be inconsistent to inquire whether the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, just like the unspeakable June 1848 massacre of 3000 trapped Parisian workers, forms yet another historical instance of “bourgeois terrorism”—the periodic transformation of capitalist rule from “republic… [of] illusions” (Marx 1973: 60) to “moral state of seige” (62) designed to enforce “the interests of the bourgeoisie, the material conditions of its class rule and class expoitation” (63f). But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s look more closely at Marx’s account of the coup d’e´tat of Louis Bonaparte, a story that offers the clearest example of Marx’s methodological approach to the public/conspiratorial divide.

Every page of The Eighteenth Brumaire concerns undercover machinations among various political contenders for power in France. “The account of revolution Marx gave in The Eighteenth Brumaire… contrasted with the conviction he had displayed from The German Ideology to The Class Struggles in France, that the nature of society and its relationship to politics were becoming increasingly visible on the surface of events in the nineteenth century” (Seigel 1978: 203). The most prominent motif from the start is the conscious intent of Bonaparte, along with his military allies and lumpenproletarian enforcers, to bring about, by whatever covert means, the replacement of democratic rule in France with a proto-fascist dictatorship dedicated above all to preserving bourgeois relations of production. Although we now take this conspiracy for granted, given the persuasiveness of Marx’s account, it was hardly the conventional view of the period. As Marx points out, one of the most influential voices of the time, the London Economist, portrayed Louis Bonaparte as a staunch defender of parliamentary governance who, against his better judgment, was forced by events beyond his control to seize the helm.8 Marx’s chronology of parliamentary seizure relies on a sophisticated and then-unrivaled appreciation of complex social class forces at work in France, but the dark, conspiratorial figure of Bonaparte is an overwhelming presence concomitant with the cowardice of various factions among the republican bourgeoisie.

Louis Bonaparte won election by universal male suffrage on December 10, 1848, almost six months after Cavaignac’s slaughter of the imprisoned Parisian insurgents, with most of his votes coming from the French peasantry. He predicted the coup d’e´tat from the moment he assumed the Presidency of the Republic (Marx 1973: 228). The presidential term was slated to end on the second Sunday in May of 1852, but after a series of manufactured crises, some of which are discussed below, the false Bonaparte overturned the Republic on December 2, 1851, and bombarded Paris with incendiary rockets two days later. Parliamentary supporters of the democratic republic divined early in 1851 that “a general conspiracy” (214) was afoot to abolish term limits for the French President. Rumors of a coup d’e´tat multiplied during that year. Then, “In the orgies at which Bonaparte celebrated every night in company with the men and women of the swell mob, when the hour of midnight approached and rich libations had loosened tongues and heated imaginations, the coup d’e´tat was fixed for the following morning” (228). Murder plots, parliamentary chaos, mass arrests, and suspected communist conspiracies turned the bourgeoisie against its own creation, the democratic republic, and pushed it into the welcoming arms of Bonaparte. “Rather an end with terror than terror without end!” (228, italics in original). Marx shows that the bourgeoisie is scared of its own shadow; even a fabricated hint of effective opposition sends the capitalists into a paroxysm of fright.

Behind the back of the National Assembly, Bonaparte’s Council of Ministers agreed on a punitive expedition to Rome with funds obtained from the Assembly on false pretenses. “It thus began with a fraud perpetrated on the National Assembly and a secret conspiracy with absolutist powers abroad against the revolutionary Roman republic” (Marx 1973: 166). On June 13, 1849, Bonaparte lured petty bourgeois parliamentary republicans (the Montagne) out of the National Assembly, where they had formed a powerful voting bloc, by instructing the French army to attack republican forces in Rome. “The bombardment of Rome . . . was the bait thrown to [the Montagne]. This violated paragraph V of the Constitution, which forbade the French republic to employ its armed forces against the liberties of another people.” Unarmed street processions led by the Montagne to protest French military intervention in favor of the Pope were easily smashed. Bonaparte’s troops arrested Montagne leaders or forced them into exile, and dispersed the “democratic part of its National Guard” (180f). As a result of Bonaparte’s plot against the Montagne (and with the proletariat suppressed by the butchery of June 1848), the only truly plausible contingent remaining in the French National Assembly was the so-called Party of Order, a loose and mutually suspicious union of royalist parliamentary representatives of the big bourgeoisie: landed property (Legitimists), and high finance and industry (Orleanists). Bonaparte would make short work of the Party of Order on December 2, 1851, a few months before the conclusion of his official term of office on the second Sunday in May 1852.

Seventy years before conservative German legal theorist Carl Schmitt coined the term “state of exception,”9 Marx had laid out the essential prerequisites for abrupt termination of bourgeois democracy by sovereign power. Using every cardsharp’s trick, Bonaparte deftly maneuvered France toward the brink. The ruthless takeover was sudden and bloody, surprising the royalists and republicans and burying democracy in France for a generation. Conspiracy theorist avant la lettre, Marx portrays the heinous outcome. Taking inspiration from “the annals of the criminal courts,” writes Marx, Louis Bonaparte

robbed the Bank of France of twenty-five million francs, he bought General Magnan [former deputy to the Legislative Assembly and chief organizer of the coup d’e´tat] with a million and the soldiers with 15 francs each and liquor, held a meeting with his accomplices in secret, like a thief in the night; he had the houses of the most dangerous parliamentary leaders broken into, and Cavaignac, Lamoricie`re, Le Floˆ , Changarnier, Charras, Thiers, Baze, etc. dragged from their beds; he had the main squares of Paris and the parliamentary buildings occupied by troops, and then early in the morning he had ostentatious placards put up on the walls, proclaiming the dissolution of the National Assembly and the Council of State, the restoration of universal suffrage and the imposition of a state of seige in the Seine department. Shortly afterwords he also inserted a false document in the Moniteur,10 purporting to show that some influential parliamentary names had grouped themselves around him and formed a consultative commission. (Marx 1973: 232f)

Bonaparte’s surprise night-time assault against bourgeois democracy was many times foretold. “If ever an event cast its shadow forward well in advance of its occurrence, it was Louis Bonaparte’s coup d’e´tat” (Marx 1973: 228). His rise to power was accompanied by scenes that would have made first-rate material for a Marx Brothers film: petty bourgeois parliamentarians impotently clashing with bourgeois royalist representatives, who themselves were waging “guerrilla warfare” against other bourgeois royalists (202); bourgois representatives inside parliament squabbling with their bourgeois constituents outside parliament (204f), all of this while the main enemy Bonaparte loitered in the wings: “a man who, rather than deciding by night and striking by day, decides by day and strikes by night” (203). As Marx points out, “the adventurer had to win because he treated the comedy simply as a comedy” (198).

The JFK assassination and deep politics

What I put forward here is not a new system, but only a method. And if I apply it to the Kennedy assassination, the goal is not so much to solve that beleaguered case as to better understand the society that engendered it. (Scott 1996: 18)

In Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, Peter Dale Scott (1996) contends that President Kennedy’s determination to curb abuses of American power resulted directly in his execution in Dallas on November 22, 1963. A turning point in US history, Kennedy’s death prepared the escalation of the Vietnam War and ensured the malignant growth of hidden networks inside the US political system. The US government, like the regimes of other Western countries, is shaped by what Scott calls “deep politics”:

those political practices and arrangements, deliberate or not, which are usually repressed rather than acknowledged… A deep political system or process is one which habitually resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those publicly sanctioned by law and society. In popular terms, collusive secrecy and law-breaking are part of how the deep political system works. What makes these supplementary procedures “deep” is the fact that they are covert or suppressed, outside general awareness as well as outside acknowledged political processes… A deep political analysis notes that in practice these efforts at control [by law enforcement] lead to the use of criminal informants; and this practice, continued over a long period of time, turns informants into double agents with status within the police as well as the mob… A deep political system is one where the processes openly acknowledged are not always securely in control, precisely because of their accommodation to unsanctioned sources of violence, through arrangements not openly acknowledged and reviewed. (xi–xiii)

In a comment of particular interest to a Marxist discussion, Scott immediately adds: “These indeterminacies multiply when we look at the deep political economy of multinational corporations in this century [the 20th]. Corporations, like mobsters, find it profitable to corrupt those who are supposed to keep their behavior within legal limits” (xiii).

Scott’s book delves “beneath public formulations of policy issues to the bureaucratic, economic, and ultimately covert and criminal activities that underlie them” (1996: 10). Deep political analysis presupposes “an open system with divergent power centers and goals” (xi). One telling example was the collapse of the Italian Republic in the mid-1990s due to large-scale criminal influence in government (Stille 1995). Modern government in Italy of course originated in 1945 as an American parapolitical operation to suborn the threat of communism.11 Prominent US Mafia leaders were flown into power in post-war Italy. Yet, says Scott (1996: xi), “by the 1980s this post-war stratagem had helped spawn a deep political system of corruption exceeding Tammany’s, and (as we know from the Andreotti trial of 1995) beyond the ability of anyone to call it off.” Deep politics explores the manifold and chaotic connections between US business and government leaders, and the murky world of drug smuggling, secret intelligence agencies, prostitution, organized crime, and murder.

Deep politics challenges the political science paradigm in which law enforcement and crime are in conflict, with the police struggling to contain the forces of evil. The deep politics perspective suggests a strange alliance between the mob and government, aimed at protecting the interests of corporations and the rich. The alliance depends on a peculiar form of psychological repression, under which many are reluctant to accept that irrational and contingent forces have an enormous field of play within the state.

A deep politics perspective thus provides a valuable supplement to the Marxist approach to politics. While accepting that the capitalist class governs the state, deep politics reveals a pattern of hidden allegiances between legitimate enterprise and organized crime, between democratic government and its secret agencies. Deep politics informs the complexity of interconnections of power, both legal and illegal, that constitute a modern political network.

What is at stake here is a competition between paradigms of how politics works. One is the establishment paradigm, codified in textbooks and taught in universities as “political science.” This sees politics as a system of overtly identified interactive forces, and offers an inclusive chart of political behavior in which, for example, there is little or no room for assassinations. (Scott, 1996: 16)

Contemporary resistance to theorizing about assassinations and other forms of “irrationality”12 arises from under-estimation of human agency. Dealey Plaza is hardly an exceptional case. Recent history is studded with high-profile Machiavellian political killings. The 1960s assassinations (Ben Barka, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy, Fred Hampton, et al.) offer a sensational blood epic. More recently, the strange death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri (allegedly by the Syrians) highlight the role played by political murder.

The study of deep politics is still in development, and not without flaws. But the deep-political analysis suggests possibilities for a Marxist analysis of 9–11. Where Scott emphasizes drug trafficking more that we would, still Marxism must adapt itself to new understandings of relations evolving outside the legal conditions of labor and property. These illicit activities (surely including drug-running and arms-smuggling) belong to a powerful network, subservient to, but also in partnership with, the ruling capitalist class and its government.


What is the state of US opinion about 9–11? A poll in the summer of 2006 by Scripps Howard/Ohio University has been reported and the results are directly stated in an article’s title “Third of Americans Suspect 9–11 Government Conspiracy” ( Similar polls, however, seem to have vanished afterwards. Could this be out of fear of what the results might show? In any case, we could anticipate that such a poll underestimates the level of suspicion, as some interviewees may be reluctant to affirm such concerns.

In the following paragraphs, we will introduce some of the most important debates around the events of 9–11 in order to show the usefulness of the public-vs-conspiratorial distinction that we have derived from analyzing The Eighteenth Brumaire. We will associate public with what is open, and thus known to be true. As an example, the fact that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces is public and open knowledge. It is taken as truthful because even those who contest some aspect of what happened do not dispute that the bombs came from Japanese planes. Rather, what has been contested is whether Roosevelt knew of the attack in advance and, further, whether he incited the attack in a conspiratorial manner.

Turning to 9–11, work by one of the present authors (Zarembka 2008: 49–56) confirms two aspects of the official story of 9–11, namely, against those claiming that the four planes did not even take off and that no planes were hijacked (This research does, nevertheless, note doubt about a hijacking for American Airlines flight 77). The hijacking of the planes can thus be taken as public. However, Zarembka could not confirm – nor fully disconfirm – assertions that hijackers (whatever their identities) were in control of the planes all the way to the final seconds, given that auto-control and/or beaconing is common (probably on every flight the reader has taken in the past quarter-century). This is an example of an open question.

As another example, Poteshman’s (2006) important article on insider trading in the Journal of Business examines put options in American Airlines and United Airlines. Poteshman offers evidence, with about 99% probability, that American Airlines options were subject to insider trading, and somewhat lower probability for United options. Other evidence of insider trading on financial instruments is summarized in Zarembka (2008: 64–71, 311).13 In this case, public information exposes the fact that the 9/11 Commission took at face value the reports it received denying that insider trading had occurred. Furthermore, it establishes the high probability of a lie being perpetrated. Still, we need to know who had the prior knowledge, since quite different conclusions would be drawn depending thereon. We only know that the Chicago Board of Option Exchange (CBOE) has this information (Zarembka 2008: 67) and is withholding it. This further illustrates that crucial information would be learned if subpeonaed by independent investigators.

More generally, we do know 9–11 had to be a conspiracy of some persons because whoever did plan this nefarious act worked jointly with others. What we are examining is the possibility of a domestic conspiracy as distinct from a foreign, bin Laden-instigated conspiracy. We now consider some of the evidence suggesting that there was a domestic conspiracy.

Controlled demolition

Three, not two, WTC towers came down on 9–11. Two were very widely televised and re-televised. But the third, WTC Building 7, collapsed at 5:20 pm, yet was widely ignored. All three skyscrapers came down, at close to free fall acceleration, symmetrically about their centers against what should be great resistance, and without toppling over. Indeed, the top of WTC 7 dropped 2.5 seconds at full free fall acceleration, meaning that there was no structural resistance whatsoever. This can be seen in David Chandler’s video “WTC 7 in Freefall: No Longer Controversial” ( Huge explosions of the twin towers were observed, sending out debris of pulverized concrete and building materials. Explosive squibs can also be seen ahead of the falling debris and the wave of destruction descending through the two towers.

During a television broadcast on September 11, Dan Rather famously described the three collapses as “reminiscent of those pictures we have all seen… [where] a building was deliberately destroyed by well placed dynamite to knock it down” ( A compilation of evidence sustains the accuracy of this initial understanding and is available in Griffin (2008). He notes that the buildings were designed to sustain a direct hit from a large plane and that no other high-rise steel building has completely collapsed due to fire, before or after 9–11. Griffin points to eleven factors – such as “sudden onset”, “straight down”, and “sliced steel” – which we would expect to experience only in controlled demolitions. Griffin argues that all eleven factors were present in the WTC event.

Griffin also turns to testimonies of WTC firefighters, many first made available only in August 2005. These eyewitnesses provide more evidence of controlled demolitions. Indeed, MacQueen (2006) has taken this portion of Griffin’s work a step further by identifying the number of those testimonies which count as explosion testimonies compared to those which are consistent with the government’s account. He found 118 testimonies that confirm explosions but only 10 that sustain the official account. Returning to Griffin, he goes on to note that there was a “power down” above the 50th floor of the South Tower for 36 hours on the weekend before. There was the mysterious, quick removal of the wrecked steel, before forensic evidence could be used to determine the cause of the collapses. Griffin also studies the collapse of WTC 7, which was neither hit by a plane nor suffered much of a fire, and finds it even more obviously a controlled demolition. He concludes the official story to be “outrageous.”

Although Griffin is not a scientist or engineer, such experts have been coming forward. For example, two Swiss engineering professors, Hugo Bachmann and Jo¨rg Schneider, both Professors Emeriti of structural analysis and construction at the Eidgeno¨ssische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, believe, with high probability, that Building 7 was intentionally demolished.14 Indeed, WTC 7 was not directly adjacent to WTC 1 and 2 yet it collapsed at close to free-fall speed, while WTC 3, 4, 5, and 6 which were directly adjacent showed the heavy damage that one would expect but did not suffer structural collapse. A listing of 1000 professionals questioning the official story in various aspects can be found at “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth” (, an organization founded by architect Richard Gage. Several hundred former government and military officials indicate their analyses at “Patriots Question 9/11” ( A video at mysteries-dvd shows the collapses of the buildings. A clear alternative to the Commission Report, it questions the “pancake” theory of the collapses in view of the fact that the 47 vertical core beams did not remain but rather fell into the debris.15 More recently, scientists have tested dust samples from the collapses of the WTC buildings and published evidence of military-grade explosive material within (see Sullivan 2009). For the collapse of the WTC South Tower specifically, MacQueen examined seismic evidence and concluded that the shaking of the earth began “before any visible sign of collapse” of that Tower (2009: 35). All these results seem to be conclusive that planned explosions occurred. And, who, other than domestic agents of a covert plan, would have been able to pull off those three extraordinary, unprecedented demolitions?

War games and stand-down of defense capabilities

Many people were astonished that US military air power could not stop the attacks on 9–11. The Commission’s report focused blame on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). More recently, Commision members criticized the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for misleading and disingenuous testimony. Commission members even called for investigation. Defenders of the official story still argue that incompetence happens in all military operations. But the fact that incompetence was not redressed by discipline or termination of the responsible parties is troubling. These same defenders of the official story have never addressed the large number of “war games” on exactly the day of 9–11. Indeed, defense capabilities were inoperative until past 10 am – one hour and a quarter past the first fireball at the WTC 1, and one hour and threequarters past the earlier first indication of the hijacking of American Airlines flight 11. Yet, we also know that CIA Director George Tenet’s urgent warnings in July and August 2001 were ignored (Woodward 2006). The person occupying the office of Commanderin- Chief was allowed to remain at his public event, listening to children read “My Pet Goat” at a school in Florida. The Secret Service did not show any concern for his safety. Back in D.C., the Pentagon’s own missile defense was not activated. Against expected competences for the individuals involved, none were fired from their positions.

If controlled demolitions of WTC buildings were set up beforehand, hijacked planes could have been used to dramatically affix blame on Arabs, even if Arabs had nothing to do with the terrorist acts. That is, the planes themselves, allegedly hijacked by certain Arabs, served as a misdirection of public attention away from the demolitions. Air traffic controllers and defensive procedures had to be obstructed from interfering; hence the need for the large number of war games that morning (one game, Amalgam Virgo, even simulated planes flying into buildings).16

Pentagon and Shanksville

There are many theories circulating among 9–11 researchers about the actual events of that day. Among these are claims that American Airlines flight 77 did not actually hit the Pentagon building,17 and that United Airlines 93 may have been shot down by US military forces over Shanksville (as opposed to having been brought down by a passenger uprising). In our view an understanding of the US state’s involvement in 9–11 does not hinge on confirmation of either of these two narratives. If, however, either part of the official story were erroneous, it would further weaken any case for external conspiracy by alleged Arabs.

Identifications of hijackers

While identifications of alleged hijackers need further investigation, Kolar (2008) has carefully examined the issue. By comparison, the Commission (2004) was much less meticulous. Four of the listed names were changed in the couple of days after 9–11, then the list of 19 stabilized and the Commission just published that list, which was provided by the FBI. No examination whatsoever was made regarding its accuracy. The Commission did not even demand to see the airlines’ actual flight manifests for the flights in order to review who was listed as being on board before departure.

Kolar summarizes evidence, usually from quite mainstream sources, that ten of the named hijackers were alive after 9–11–2001 and that one of them, Ziad Jarrah, had to have been liquidated. In other words, a majority of the names are false, with use of doubles and stolen/forged documents very obvious possibilities. (One could perhaps excuse one or two as oversights, but eleven?) Consider the case of Jarrah, the alleged pilot of UA 93. Kolar (2008: 11f, 22–26) demonstrates that Jarrah can be proven innocent, with a double having been used in his place. Abdul Aziz al-Omari is supposedly identified in a video at the Portland, Maine, airport security, allegedly for a flight connecting to American Airlines flight 11 out of Boston; nevertheless, he was reported by The Independent (UK) on September 17, 2001, as alive and well in Jeddah. The same article states that Abdul Rahman al-Omari is alive. Marwan al-Shehhi was the alleged pilot of United Airlines flight 175, yet he is reported alive in two Saudi publications. Salem al-Hazmi is reportedly shown in a video at Dulles airport, but he was reported alive in The Telegraph, September 23, 2001. The same article reports other alleged hijackers to be alive, i.e., Abdul Aziz al-Omari (already mentioned), Saeed al-Ghamdi, and Ahmed al-Nami. Khalid al-Mihdhar is reported alive in multiple sources, including BBC, CNN, and even in a document of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the US. Similarly, Wail al-Shehri is reported alive in the Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2001; and Waleed al-Shehri and Mohand al-Shehri are reported alive in American Free Press, October 12, 2001 (Kolar 2008: 12 and footnotes 7–14).

To give a taste of the news reports, we can provide the following example (additional to the report cited by Kolar for the same alleged hijacker) which is dated four days after pictures appeared in the Saudi press:

Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September. His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world. Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco. He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports. He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring. But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.18

A report for another alleged hijacker (dated after Kolar’s citation) states:

The FBI has said that the identities of some of its list of 19 hijackers behind last week’s devastating attacks are in doubt. It believes that some of the hijackers used false identities, possibly even names of people who are still alive, which could significantly complicate the manhunt… One of those named, Abdelaziz al-Omari, is believed to be a pilot who crashed a plane into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. But the Saudis say Mr al-Omari is alive and well and working as an electrical engineer. He says his passport was stolen in Denver, Colorado, in 1995.19

False identifications would obviously be very significant. Each and every one of these news reports should be tracked down.20 Suppose the result is seven instead of the eleven Kolar finds, with two unknown and two disconfirmed. Yet, the Commission did nothing to track down the numerous reports and there was obligation to do so. Further checking up on the named hijackers could be done today, by those with money, some connections, and either bodyguards/protection or lack of fear for the consequences.

FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted shortly after 9–11 that there was no proof of identities, and a security consultant with expertise in identity theft confirmed the problem.21 Still, the FBI backtracked to an original list (not the very first, however) without providing evidence, apparently under the subterfuge that associating a name with an actual identifiable person of known birthday, physical characteristics, and identity documentation is quite unimportant, that instead just a name will be enough.22 Even usually well-informed people are ignorant of what has happened and take the list as accurate.

In this section we have touched on just a few of the contested issues in the literature disputing the official version of events of 9–11: the question of whether the three World Trade towers were brought down by controlled demolitions; the extraordinary stand down of the US military defense system and the accompanying war games that took place on that day; and the contested identities of the alleged hijackers in the public record. There are numerous other areas that we could have addressed, including the alleged “confession” video of Osama bin Laden, the limited flying capabilities of the alleged hijack pilots, the “black boxes” for the planes hitting the Towers having been found intact but their content never disclosed, BBC reporting live that WTC 7 had collapsed even while it is still pictured standing in the background, and evidence presented by Pilots for 9/11 Truth that the cockpit door for flight 77 was never opened in flight, among many other glaring anomalies. But perhaps we have said enough to introduce the reader to the myriad unconvincing elements of the official version.


Drawing both on Marx’s own writings and on the notion of deep politics, we have argued that conspiracy by members of ruling elites is intrinsic to capitalism. Regarding 9–11, we urge an articulated distinction within Marxism between acts of the state that are public and open to direct investigation, and acts of the state that are concealed, secret, and indeed conspiratorial. We do not believe that this distinction has been previously incorporated into Marxist theory. Our paper then offers a view of 9–11, inspired by this perspective. That is, while 9–11 was clearly the result of a conspiracy, we put forward the consideration of a domestic conspiracy, still being hidden, at the expense of the exclusively foreign, bin Laden conspiracy that has been claimed officially.

To conclude, let us revisit briefly the parallels between Bonaparte’s Eighteenth Brumaire and George W. Bush’s September 11 and consider their meaning for 21st-century Marxism. Close on the heels of the December 2 coup d’e´tat, Louis Bonaparte set aflame the haut bourgeois quarters of Paris, even bombing the homes of his closest allies (Marx 1973: 232). The Pretender would make clear to all social classes who was in charge, and the lesson would be well learned: “the state of siege” is a necessary condition of bourgeois society:

The barracks and the bivouac were… periodically deposited on the head of French society in order to compress its brain and keep it quiet; the sabre and the musket were periodically made to judge and administer, to guard and to censor, to play the part of policeman and night watchman; the military moustache and the service uniform were periodically trumpeted forth as the highest wisdom and the spiritual guide of society. (163)

Much is unknown about the circumstances surrounding 9-11. Yet if we see the tragic events in New York, Washington, and Shanksville as an example of “bourgeois terror,” to use Marx’s phrase – a blood-soaked gesture, like Bonaparte’s bombardment of Paris – then the real message of 9-11, and the key groups for whom it was intended, let alone the actual messenger, are shrouded in an even deeper mystery. Clearly, 9-11 supplied justification for US imperialist assaults, already plotted and prepared. But could there be more than this? Did 9-11 and the accompanying anthrax attacks on liberal legislators in the Senate and on chief media outlets23 represent an internal struggle within the US ruling classes?

According to Marx, political interest compelled the French bourgeoisie

daily to increase the repression, and therefore increase the resources and the personnel of the state power; it had simultaneously to wage an incessant war against public opinion and mistrustfully mutilate and cripple society’s independent organs of movement where it did not succeed in entirely amputating them. The French bourgeoisie was thus compelled by its class position both to liquidate the conditions of existence of all parliamentary power, including its own, and to make its opponent, the executive, irresistible. (Marx 1973: 186)

The French ruling classes stepped willingly aside for Bonaparte and his repressive state apparatus. After 9–11, did the US bourgeoisie not itself bow down, out of necessity, to its own monstrous state machine and the prophet “of order, religion, family and property,” George W. Bush,24 who suborned two presidential elections and corrupted the highest courts in the land? Perhaps the comparison is too extreme, but there are definite parallels between Bonaparte and Bush.

[Bonaparte]’s desire to usurp power only seemed to be expressed aloud so that the malicious laughter of his opponents might never fall silent. He behaved like a misunderstood genius proclaimed by all the world to be a simpleton. He never enjoyed the hatred of all classes to a greater degree than in this period [before the coup d’e´tat]. The rule of the bourgeoisie was never more unconditional, and it never wore the insignia of domination more ostentatiously. (Marx 1973: 187)

Perhaps the growing tide of resistance to globalization in the 1990s, with its naı¨ve belief that modern states would never again risk their citizens’ lives and treasure to wage foreign wars, was too much for the US ruling classes. As Marx noted, capital reacts with ferocity to even the faintest whiff of socialistic opposition.

The bourgeoisie judges the meaning and tendency of socialism more correctly than so-called socialism itself can; this is why the latter cannot understand the bourgeoisie’s obdurate resistance to it, whether it snivels sentimentally about the sufferings of mankind, prophesies the millennium and universal brotherly love in the Christian manner, drivels about the mind, education, and freedom in the humanistic style, or, finally, in doctrinaire fashion, cooks up a system for the reconciliation and welfare of all classes. (Marx 1973: 189)

For Marx, as we have seen, the secret of bourgeois rule is the state of emergency.25 Its democratic fac¸ade can only temporarily hide capitalism’s vicious machine of class exploitation. Sooner or later the mask is dropped: prisons, torture chambers, muskets and sabers revealed again. But deadly secrecy and bloody conspiracy are required to effect the transformation, to quiet dissent, and to ensure, among other things, that “the press [is] systematically isolated from the barracks and the barracks from civil society” (Marx 1973: 82). Though belonging to vastly different periods, Bonaparte and Bush thus each reveal the “historical life of nations and their state proceedings as comedy in the most vulgar sense, as a masquerade in which the grand costumes, words and postures merely serve as a cover for the most petty trickery” (197). And both rely on mercenary armies raised from the lumpenproletariat to enforce their rule. What better description of Bush and Cheney’s private Blackwater armies of thugs and assassins than Marx’s account of Bonaparte’s Society of 10 December? Led by Bonapartist agents and consisting “alongside decayed roue´s of doubtful origin and uncertain means of subsistence, [and] alongside ruined and adventurous scions of the bourgeoisie,” the Society of December 10 (or September 11?) contains a whole mass of “vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged criminals, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, confidence tricksters, lazzaroni, pick-pockets, sleight-of hand experts, gamblers, maquereaux [pimps], brothel keepers, porters, pen-pushers, organ-grinders, rag-and-bone merchants, knife-grinders, tinkers, and beggars” (197). We would nowadays add, of course, drugs traffickers and arms traders, among others.

Like the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, September 11 unfurled a bleak era of capitalist reaction. And, like Bonaparte’s coup d’e´tat in France, the fiery events in New York and Washington initiated a harsh suppression of thought and opinion in the United States that quelled liberal and left opposition. Most especially, the official story of 9–11 became the holy-of-holies, unassailable truth, a new form of Biblical belief. Indeed, the official dog and pony show featuring the 19 alleged hijackers is still the lynch-pin for President Barack Obama’s pursuit of the conflict in Afghanistan and expansion of the war into Pakistan. Thus, from our perspective, the global anti-war movement needs seriously to question 9–11 if it wishes to be truly effective. Though it seems improbable now, there are reasons to believe that 9–11 may eventually force a new Marxist understanding of the capitalist state, more in line with Marx’s view of the fragility of bourgeois democracy, the dangers of bourgeois terrorism, and capital’s readiness to resort to states of siege.


*This article is based on presentations at the American Philosophical Association Eastern  Division Conference (Philadelphia), December 28–30, 2008; the International Conference  of Political Economy (Kocaeli University, Turkey), October 1–4, 2009; and the 7th  Rethinking Marxism Conference (University of Massachussetts, Amherst), November  5–8, 2009. We would like to thank Dogan Gocmen, Sander Hicks, Jim Lawler, and editors atSocialism and Democracy for many helpful suggestions.

1. Alexander Cockburn is a co-editor and explicitly writes to subscribers, regarding the possibility of 9–11 being an inside job: “We don’t believe this, and have always declined to make our newsletter or website a platform for those who do” (Newsletter, CounterPunch, Vol. 13, No. 15, September 1–15, 2006, p. 1). This statement makes reference to his online article published shortly beforehand, i.e., Cockburn (2006).

2. See also at

3. One of the present authors (Zarembka) submitted a reply, which was not published.

4. An example is a report in, dated February 8, 2010, on a New England antiwar conference held January 30 at MIT. The report asserts: “Conference organizers made a mistake by granting a panel slot to Peter Dale Scott, a ‘Truther’ guru.” It adds that “the presence of sixty ‘Truthers’ marred the conference, because this mostly “older, white and male” group “acted in a hostile fashion” and “exploited” its “inadvertent legitimization.” One of us (Zarembka) was present, however, and notes that he did not see any “Truthers” expressing hostility; he was pleased that the conference was inclusive.

5. Although bourgeois media and virtually all academic publications long failed to question 9–11, some establishment news sources have recently stepped up to the plate, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which aired on The Fifth Estate (CBC 2009), a critique of the official story, in November 2009. For a full account of the recent relaxation of the press embargo on critical analysis of 9–11, see Woodward (2010).

6. Marx (1973), the source for all Marx quotations in the present article, includes both The Eighteenth Brumaire (143–249) and The Class Struggles in France (35–142).

7. Marx’s Class Struggles in France: 1848 to 1850 was published in 1850 in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung; its sequel, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte was completed in early 1852 and was published late that year in Die Revolution, a New York magazine.

8. “The Eighteenth Brumaire, which proves that Marx was the only historian and politician of 1848 who understood and disclosed the real nature of the causes and results of the coup d’etat of December 2, 1851, was completely ignored. In spite of the actuality of the work not a single bourgeois newspaper even mentioned it.” (Lafargue 1972)

9. For a brilliant discussion of Schmitt’s Political Theology [1922], see Tunander (2009). An initiator of fascist jurisprudence, Schmitt was arguably the first bourgeois political theorist to recognize and to accept the central function of the secret state within modern capitalist democracy.

10. Le Moniteur universel was the official newspaper of the French government from 1799 to 1869 (47).

11. A good treatment of US intervention in Italy in this period is Blum (2003).

12. Scott employs the concept of irrationality to describe actions, such as assassination, that are beyond the scope of “rational” models of political behavior (including standard Marxist ones) that assume regularity and predictability. Carl Schmitt in his Theory of the Partisan offers a distinction between wicked deeds performed for political purposes (such as terrorist acts and assassinations) and those pursued merely for private enrichment or satisfaction. Although the musings of the former president of the Union of National-Socialist Jurists in Nazi Germany should surely be approached with caution, Schmitt ably betrays the coarse, even bloody reality lying beneath the veneer of bourgeois politics. “The intense political character of the partisan must be kept in mind, because he must be distinguished from the ordinary thief and violent criminal… The partisan fights at a political front, and precisely the political character of his acts restores the original meaning of the word partisan. The word derives from party, and refers to the tie to a fighting, belligerent, or politically active party or group”. (Schmitt 2007: 14f). We would add that Marx’s “bourgeois terror” emanating from the bourgeoisie’s own party structures and partisan groups (including criminal cartels), may be most common also in times of reaction.

13. Poteshman had access to confidential data from the Chicago Board of Option Exchange (CBOE), unavailable to the public, to undertake his analysis, which is far superior to that of the 9/11 Commission (2004) which only had one rather long footnote on the topic.

14. Tages Anzeiger, September 22, 2006,

15. The “pancake theory” of the collapses – put forward in support of the official account – alleges that each floor collapsed onto the next floor, placing high stress on that next floor which then collapsed onto the next floor down, etc.

16. Ruppert (2004) emphasizes the importance of the war games and considers this proof of US involvement, more important than physical evidence such as the collapsing WTC buildings. Four Arrows (2008) provides an overview of the issue of war games. He also points out the connection between Zacarias Moussaoui and the copilot, Michael Guess, of the plane in which Senator Paul Wellstone and members of his family were later killed.

17. For evidence on this point, see the statements of Pilots for 9/11 Truth in the Rock Creek Free Press (Casey 2010).

18. “Hijack ‘suspects’ alive and well,” BBC News, September 23, 2001,

19. “FBI probes hijackers’ identities,” BBC News, September 21, 2001, Note that, subsequently, Atta was purported to be the pilot of American Airlines flight 11.

20. On October 27, 2006, the BBC posted at an update to its original story. There is nothing of substance therein except its statement – five years after the initial story – justifying a new title to the original story’s photo of Waleed Al Shehri, a titling which now favors the FBI, without additional investigative research by the BBC. Der Spiegel, September 8, 2003, at,1518,265160-2,00.html, did have an article raising questions as to whether two alleged hijackers Waleed al-Shehri and Saeed al-Ghamdi (and implicitly others) were correctly reported as being alive after 9–11. That story at least seemed to reflect a little additional investigation. However, it was not addressed by that BBC update nor by the 9/11 Commission, although both should have been alerted to the need for further investigation. That is, the Commission should have explicitly addressed each and every story of hijackers being alive after 9–11. 338 Socialism and Democracy

Regarding the Der Spiegel article itself, the two sources used to “correct” the view that hijackers were actually alive after 9–11 were John Bradley, Managing Editor of Arab News and Mohammed Samman, the reporter for Asharq Al-Awsat, who had in turn interviewed Saeed al-Ghamdi and been used as one basis for the Arab News story which BBC used in turn. The key point raised by the story is that the reports of hijackers being alive “appeared at a time when the only public information about the attackers was a list of names that had been published by the FBI on September 14th. The FBI did not release photographs until four days after the cited reports, on September 27th.” Once the photos were available the stories supposedly collapsed, or so this article leads one to believe. But is this correct? Kolar (2008, pp. 293–299) carefully explores this possibility, tellingly showing, among other observations, that the photos were in the Saudi press on Septermber 19, 2001.

21. “Expert: Hijackers likely skilled with fake IDs,” CNN, September 21, 2001,

22. “FBI Denies Mix-Up of 9/11 Terrorists,” Insight on the News, June 11, 2003,

23. As Glenn Greenwald (2008) notes, it was really the anthrax letters – “sent directly into the heart of the country’s elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets – that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.”

24. Bush’s tranquil vision of order naturally had on its reverse side – like that of his venerable French counterpart Louis Bonaparte – “the society of disorder, prostitution and theft” (Marx 1973: 198). Along with Vice-President Cheney, Bush also shared Bonaparte’s view of the nation’s highest duty: “the imperial pretender in Bonaparte was so intermingled with the adventurer who has fallen on hard times that his one great idea, that it was his destiny to restore the empire, was also supplemented by the other, that it was the mission of the French people to pay his debts” (185).

25. Marx explicitly presages Schmitt’s “state of exception,” using the phrase “by way of exception” (1973: 198) to describe the lowering clouds of the coming coup d’e´tat: brutal attacks by Bonaparte’s lumpenproletarian palace guard on deputies of the Party of Order and threats of assassination against key bourgeois parliamentary and military leaders.


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