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Friday, August 11, 2006

Islam and the old Communism

UPDATE: Tanveer Ahmed, "Why Islam is the new Marx," The Australian (11 August 2006)

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Stephen's earlier post on this topic brings to mind two passages I read a year ago:

The first is from Bertrand Russell's The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism (London, 1921, pp 5, 114), quoted by "ibn Warraq" in Why I am Not A Muslim (NY, 1995, p 163):

Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam... Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism [sic] rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.

The second is from Dave Crouch's article "Bolsheviks and Islam: Socialists can learn from how the Bolsheviks approached the Muslims of the Russian empire", in 280 Socialist Review (December 2003):

... Marxism is a materialist worldview and so is thoroughly athiest. [Sic. Deweyism may be fairly athy, but Marxism is even athier still. - ed]. But because it understands religion to have roots in oppression and alienation, Marxist political parties don't demand that their members or supporters are [scil. be] atheists too. So atheism was never included in the Bolsheviks' programme. Indeed, they welcomed left-wing Muslims into the communist parties (CPs). The Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in 1923 that in some former colonies as many as 15 percent of CP members were believers in Islam. He called them the 'raw revolutionary recruits who come knocking on our door'. In parts of Central Asia, Muslim membership was as high as 70 percent.

The Bolsheviks took a very different approach to Orthodox Christianity, the religion of the brutal Russian colonists and missionaries. Party policy in Central Asia, endorsed by Moscow, stated that 'freedom from religious prejudice' was a requirement for Russians only. So in 1922 over 1,500 Russians were kicked out of the Turkestan CP because of their religious convictions, but not a single Turkestani.

This was part of Bolshevik policy to try to make amends for the crimes of Tsarism in the former colonies....

(Not sure whether I'm allowed to quote that much, since the article does have a big fat notice saying "Copyright © Socialist Review". But who gives a? La proprieté, c'est le vol.)

... And all that Muslim goodwill stood the Bolsheviks and their heirs in such good stead six decades later, didn't it.

Now that's an interesting policy: "affirmative action" with a vengeance. I'm sure devout, believing Muslims would be queuing in droves to join a Communist Party that told them "Of course, objective scientific thought proves your primitive faith in Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur'ân to be a ridiculous superstition. But since you have been oppressed by Russian Orthodox colonialism for centuries, that makes it a progressive superstition".

That's what it boils down to... That "superstition" (= supernatural belief) is tolerable among the Little Brown People, as part of their quaint primitive customs - although white Europeans whose societies are post- (rather than pre-) capitalist are held to higher standards of intellectual rigour.

I once got into a debate with some Australian neo-Trotskyites who ended up arguing that vilifying Catholicism would be "progressive" in Australia but "reactionary" in Northern Ireland. So: following the Russian Bolsheviks' logic, if the Communist Party of Iran ever were to win power, it should admit practising Jews, Christians, Bahá’ís and Zoroastrians, but not practising Muslims, as members. So what happens when the Communist International holds its World Congress and the Marxist Muslim delegates from Dagestan get to sit alongside the Marxist Christian delegates from Iran? "Fraternal greetings, comrade. If you lived just a few hundred miles northeast in my country, you would be expelled from the Party for your reactionary religious superstitions". "Indeed, comrade, and you for yours in my country". Workers of the world, unite!

Marxism in a nutshell: "People are basically good, and that's why the world is so f$%#$%#$ed up".


Adam said...

Marxisms conceit was always that it was 'rational' and 'scientific', but in practice it's a dogmatic meme-set that's as irrational and intolerant as its religious fore-bears. Colin Wilson's "Marxism Refuted" is quite a good look at the absurdities involved, which includes Karl Popper's reflections on his brush with Marx - absolutely priceless. Not a single observation has managed to falsify Marxist 'pseudo-predictions' because Marxists, like Freudians, have 'explanations' even for non-observations of their pseudo-predictions.

If it explains to much, leaving no room for learning something new, then it ain't science.

Adam said...

Forgive the egregious spelling mistakes and punctuation gaffes.

Interestingly Ayn Randism (Objectivism it ain't) is equally irrationalist and dogmatic as Marxism. It has always amazed me the sneering critique against collective action in Randian rantings. What are corporations but oppressive oligarchic collectives? And what of capitalists without this collective behaviourial shadow-play we call 'money'?

The whole lot is pseudo-intellectual fodder for hormonal teenagers to get all self-righteous about, akin to other 'isms' like 'environmentalism' or 'atheism'.

Personally I believe in capitalism as a social engine, but unfortunately it's an insufficient description of the world. There's no account of collective behaviour in strictly capitalist ideologies, yet clearly that's what makes the real world go. Or not go, if you're in the 3rd World. Hernando de Soto's study of 3rd World poverty and its causes makes it clear that self-protective collective behaviour chains most would-be capitalists in such countries to a fringe existence. A pelican around one's neck is no help when drowning.