Are muslims and non-proletarians excluded from the struggle against capitalism?

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baboon
Are muslims and non-proletarians excluded from the struggle against capitalism?
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I've suggested elsewhere that a discussion is posed on the question of "popular revolts" so with a concern to open a discussion on this issue here is an attempt at a position.

 

First of all, I want to insist on the centrality of the working class, the only revolutionary class, the only force capable of leading a revolution and bringing humanity closer to the perspective of communism. If my position, such as it is, contradicts or questions this assertion, then I hope it will be demonstrated without any equivocation.

 

The position of the ICC on recent revolts can be summed up in the first words on the front page of the latest Revolution Internationale, number 420: "What happened in Tunisia and Egypt these last weeks and what is happening in Libya today? A massive uprising against regimes of terror, or terrifying conditions of life, unemployment and an intolerable misery arising from the pressure of the world economic crisis."

A similar position was put forward in the statement of the ICC and the previous issue of WR and I've seen the phrase used with words to the effect that no matter what flags are flying this is an anti-capitalist revolt. These are general political statements that do not change from day to day.

 

Now again, if I make any concession to any faction of the bourgeoisie, I would like to be criticised because there are obvious dangers here that could lead one into support of any emerging or existing force of the ruling class. But whatever these dangers, I support the above ICC positions which should not be subject to the vicissitudes of day to day events (though there's nothing to prevent this in the longer term as evidence mounts) and see these as statements of principles, ie, that anti-capitalist struggles of non-proletarian strata can exist and that these are part of the present movement expressed in the Maghreb and the Middle East that also include the more or less stronger stamp of the proletariat.

 

As Marx demonstrated,it can be very useful for the purpose of a profound economic analysis, to have a model of the world where there exists only proletarians and bourgeois. But Marx knew very well that this wasn't the real world and marxism developed on this further with Luxemburg's economic analysis applying more clearly outside of the strict proletarian/bourgeois model. This analysis is also one that the ICC has developed in recognising the reality of the existence of the peasantry, non-proletarian exploited layers, the oppressed, and so on. These layers can be with the proletariat or against it but their existence can't be denied by a schema of the world entirely and only populated by proletarians and their bourgeois masters. These non-proletarian strata can, in my opinion, be an anti-capitalist expression, an expression which gains more longer term strength when it aligns itself firmly with or behind the proletariat. It is in the interests of the latter, it is in the interests of the communist perspective, that the former does just this.

 

From what I've seen of Devrim's position on Libcom it has been consistent, consistently dismissive of these struggles. When, possibly, many hundreds of thousands of all sorts, including many young and older women wearing hijabs,  were protesting, discussing, debating and taking positions against the state in Tahrir Square, Devrim didn't seem to think that much was afoot (he of course can clarify his position - I'm just giving my view of it). When workers in Egypt started to join the movement with economic demands and strikes, he totted up the numbers in a dismissive fashion - only 20, 50 thousand. This to me underestimates the whole movement. On Libya, he dismissed the movement in a short phrase: "tribal and Islamicist". Tribalism exists but is obviously a weak, secondary factor both in relation to the movement overall and the wider machinations of imperialism. "Islamicism" seems to me to be a pejorative dismissal encompassing any expression of the muslim faith - I don't know, there's not a great deal of explanation.

 

Ernie in the discussion on events in Libya, while pointing out the specifics of the country and the real dangers involved, very clearly contradicting the position of the ICT, saw this movement degenerate very quickly into a fight between gangsters, a sort of equivalance; either support for Gaddafi or support for the Libyan National Council. There's an inference in Ernie's position in that there's a gangster/Islamicist element. To me, this is a bit like saying that the Warsaw Ghetto was a fight between gangsters, a sort of "six of one, half-a-dozen of the other". I don't want to give any credibility to a defence behind the National Council (which hasn't actually put up much of a defence so far, but that's secondary), but to fight for your life against a regime that is going to kill you and your family (whether you took up arms or not if you live in the wrong town), is not something that should be denounced by communists as gangsterism. To me there are subtleties in the situation that, whatever the eventual dangers of being dragooned by one faction of the bourgeoisie or the other, demand to be taken into account.

As well as this, the fact that there is the existence of muslims and other beliefs over large swathes of the globe can't be denied by a politicised Dawkins-like schema that would wish them away with scientific rationality. This reality has to be taken into account by communists.

 

So, in my opinion, this has wider ramifications for revolutionaries. The positions that I've referred to, criticised, above, are positions clearly made from the proletarian camp, putting forward the interests of the working class first and foremost. I can't emphasise this enough.

But the bourgeoisie has a point of view, a sinister agenda here. It knows the weight of Islamiscism, it knows that there are millions and millions of workers across all the centres of capital that are also of the muslim faith. And this is a perfect opportunity for them to sow divisions amongst "their" workers. For two decades now - since the collapse of the eastern bloc, it's no coincidence - there has been a concerted campaign to demonise muslims in Britain, the USA, France and Germany as Islamicists. All the major imperialisms have used it as a potent weapon with the UK and US leading the campaign and the other two not far behind. In Britain it's been used by the left, with a division of labour within that: the Labour Government leading the campaign and virtually setting up the racist English Defence League on one hand, and the leftists complementing it with the other side of the coin position with the likes of "We are all Hamas", ie, Islamicist thugs.

 

So I hope that this rather scrappy effort is taken in the spirit of clarification that is intended:

1. Other strata than the proletariat can be part of the struggle against capitalism despite the centrality of the latter.

2. Revolutionaries have to denounce the demonisation of muslims and any other religiously held beliefs while putting forward the unity of the class struggle which can easily incorporate such beliefs (with the perspective of going beyond them).

 

 

 

Alf
important discussion

This is a very important discussion. I agree entirely with Baboon's reminder that there can be social revolts of the non-exploiting strata. I would add that workers form part of these strata, as well as having a distinct existence (this indeed is the whole basis of the ICC's position on the state in the period of transition). Also that the influence of the Muslim religion on workers in regions like the Middle East can't be wished away and doesn't necessarily coincide with a politicised kind of Islamism. 

The first question to clarify before deciding whether or not Libya began as a social revolt which has subsequently degenerated into a bourgeois faction fight, or was in fact a bourgeois faction fight from the start, is whether there are such things as social revolts against the state which are not necessarily proletarian. So rather than going into Baboon's views on the current situation, I would invite contributions on the general theoretical issue he poses.   

Devrim
Smears again

Alf wrote:
So rather than going into Baboon's views on the current situation, I would invite contributions on the general theoretical issue he poses.   

Personally, I find it virtually impossible to discuss with him. The impression that I get is not of somebody trying to have an open discussion but of somebody trying to smear other people and distort what they are saying.

If we just take a look at what he directly say about what we are saying here:

Babbon wrote:
From what I've seen of Devrim's position on Libcom it has been consistent, consistently dismissive of these struggles. When, possibly, many hundreds of thousands of all sorts, including many young and older women wearing hijabs,  were protesting, discussing, debating and taking positions against the state in Tahrir Square, Devrim didn't seem to think that much was afoot (he of course can clarify his position - I'm just giving my view of it).

The way in which he raises the fact that women were wearing hijab, and that I didn't think much of it, is consistent with the way through out the whole post he seems to imply that I, and others who disagree with him, are going along with the demonisation of Muslims promoted by the right.

The title of the thread is along those lines; 'Are Muslims and non-proletarians excluded from the struggle against capitalism?'. I am not sure what he is trying to imply here, but maybe it is that some people, i.e. myself, are suggesting that Muslims are excluded from the struggle against capitalism.

Of course it couldn't be further from the truth. I don't come from a Muslim background, but I live in a country which is 99% Muslim, and virtually everybody I know comes from this background. We have written extensively in English about the class struggle in Turkey. People can check any of the articles on TEKEL on the ICC site for examples. At no point do we suggest that the workers involved, the overwhelming majority of whom were obviously Muslims, weren't involved in the struggle against capitalism.

Babbon wrote:
For two decades now - since the collapse of the eastern bloc, it's no coincidence - there has been a concerted campaign to demonise muslims in Britain, the USA, France and Germany as Islamicists. 

Is he implying that that is what we are doing? Strangely if this were the case, the only recent article on the English ICC site, which is focused on Islamophobia is one taken from the Turkish sections paper. It can be found here

Babbon wrote:
Islamicism" seems to me to be a pejorative dismissal encompassing any expression of the muslim faith.

Because that is exactly what we are doing, making 'pejorative dismissals' of the Muslim faith. Of course to read that sort of think you would get the strange idea that the Turkish ICC is going along with this whole demonisation of Muslims. Any bother who bothers to read the article linked to above would realise that this absurd idea is not actually the case. Rather it is part of a method of argument which is based on amalgamation tactics.

To look at some of the other methods used in this post:

Babbon wrote:
a fight between gangsters,... there's a gangster/Islamicist element. To me, this is a bit like saying that the Warsaw Ghetto was a fight between gangsters,... is not something that should be denounced by communists as gangsterism.
 

Nobody has denounced anybody as 'gangsters'. In fact the only person to use this term in these discussions is in fact...Baboon.

Babbon wrote:
When workers in Egypt started to join the movement with economic demands and strikes, he totted up the numbers in a dismissive fashion - only 20, 50 thousand. This to me underestimates the whole movement.
 

Here is something taken completely out of context. The reason for counting up the numbers was because at the time people were talking about there being a mass strike. All I was doing was pointing out that this wasn't the mass strike or anything near it. In fact it was considerably smaller than struggle in Egypt to years ago. 

Babbon wrote:
On Libya, he dismissed the movement in a short phrase: "tribal and Islamicist". Tribalism exists but is obviously a weak, secondary factor both in relation to the movement overall and the wider machinations of imperialism. "Islamicism" seems to me to be a pejorative dismissal encompassing any expression of the muslim faith - I don't know, there's not a great deal of explanation.
 

We charecterised the manifestations of the movement in Libya as being 'Tribal and Islamicist', and likely to end up very quickly in a civil war with nothing to offer the working class. On the second point we wee, as has been shown, right.

Babbon wrote:
So, in my opinion, this has wider ramifications for revolutionaries. The positions that I've referred to, criticised, above, are positions clearly made from the proletarian camp, putting forward the interests of the working class first and foremost. I can't emphasise this enough.
 

Really, from everything else you say here, and have said before, apart from this sentence, I just presumed that you were trying to associate positions that opposed you with all sorts of reactionary ideas.

Devrim

jk1921
This is an important

This is an important discussion and I think the ICC needs to do much more to clarify what if means by things like "generalized social revolt," "popular revolt," etc. I think the movements in Tunisia and Egypt started as a struggle of the mass of unemployed and marginalized youth against the brutalization of the state and the continued degradation of their living conditions. In a sense it was a movememt against the idea of "no future for you" even if it was totally uncertain of how to proceed or what perspective to pose. But was this a "generalized social revolt" or an incipient, embryonic form of class struggle in a part of the world marked profoundly by poverty, marginalization, etc.?

Of couse the movements--more so in Egypt than Tunisia it seems--was very quickly co-opted by various bourgeois factions with their own axe to grind with the regiem, which succeded in posing the perspective of "democracy", etc. However, I think the movement of the unemployed youth was very much on the proletarian terrian, even if by itself it was severely limited without linking up with a broader struggle at the point of production. So I am not sure if there was a "generalized social revolt" here as much as an embryonic class movement co-opted by various bourgeois factions who either had their own axe to grind with the regime or who saw the necessity to drown the class movement in democracy, etc.?

I think we are seeing the same kind of thing in Wisconsin, U.S.A actually. Many leftist commentators have tried to draw a parallell with what happened in Egypt and I don't think the comparrison is totally wrong. There appears to have been a "popular social revolt" against a brutal (for U.S. standards) and crass regieme led intially by some considerible self-initiaitve by students and the young, but which was very quickly co-opted by the unions (who obviously do not want to have their ability to collect dues abolished) and left democrats (who do not want to have their union allies stripped of funds to support their campaigns) into a struggle for "democracy" against an illegitimamte Machiavellian regieme (that just happened to have won a "democratic" election in November). Commentators have actually started to call the Wisconsin movement a "people's movement," "a new kind of movement," etc.

Still, the events in Libya just felt different from very early on. In the early days, there appears to have been a revolt in Tripoli, but very quickly this was suppressed and the revolt was centered in Benghazi, posing the question of a civil war, regional split, very quickly. The bourgeoisie of the great powers saw this, with Clinton expressing fears of Libya turning into Somalia.

I don't know about the entire religion thing. I think what Baboon says about not falling into a Dawkins like rationalism is correct, but I don't think anyone on here has done that. As Marxists of course, we denounce religion as the "opiate of the masses," but it is also the "heart of a heartless world." We can't expect workers to abandon religious illusions before beleiveing they are ready for class struggle. but I also think that the growth of religious obscurantism--and obscurantism in general (very prominent in the U.S. these days) is not a positive factor in the development of class consciousness. It works against it. Can this be overcome in the heat of the class struggle? I hope so.

I do think the anti-islamicism in the metropoles, the fear of their own Islamic communites, is more than just an attempt to pit workers against one another, however. It is of course that, but it also reflects a general fear among parts of the bourgeoisie that they are losing control of society, they have failed to integrate their immigrants and that there is great potential for general social decay, which at some level threatens the competivness of the national captial. Of course, some parts of the bourgeoisie are just straight up crack-pots spreading anti-islamic hatred for the sake of spreading anti-islamic hatred: in the U.S., witness Republican representative Peter King's McCarthy like House committee investigating Muslim disloyalty--even though its generally agreed upon by analysts the bigger threat for domestic terrorism comes from rapidly proliferating right-wing nutters.

Alf
let's continue

 I agree that Baboon's wording was sometimes a bit provocative. But Devrim should not be so defensive either. This is a really vital discussion. We will shortly be posting a text which tries to frame the questions as clearly as possible.  

Alf
new discussion text now online
Red Hughs
Well, it is good to see a

Well, it is good to see a wide range of opinions existing in a single organization. Hopefully, they can continue to respectfully co-exist...

Given that we have both an economy in extreme crisis and a society where working class consciousness has been beaten down to very little, I think we will a lot of self-contradictory movements and deciding how to deal with them is going to be a challenge for communists.

 

Alf
how to go forward on this?

 Thanks for your post Red. As a matter of fact, Baboon is a close sympthasiser rather than a member, but we have written the new document recognising that a debate needs to take place both inside and outside the organisation. On reflection, and following discussion with other comrades, I do think Baboon's way of posing his disagreements with Devrim has been the main reason for there being a certain blockage in the discussion, since as Devrim points out, Baboon's polemical approach did actually distort Devrim's position on a number of points. In any case, I think that the best way to go forward on this is for comrades to take position on the new statement linked above, since it raises most of the relevant concerns and points of possible or actual disagreement

Marin Jensen
A historical approach, and some missing detail

It's always useful - and indeed it is a fundamental aspect of the marxist method - to take a historical approach to questions, it allows us to gain perspective. Moreover, it has always been the practice of marxists to go back and see how our predecessors posed things (think of how all the revolutionaries until 1917 and even beyond pored over the experience of the Paris Commune to see what lessons could be learned from it).

It seems to me there are two issues here: one is the historical and theoretical question of communists' attitude to the "non-exploiting strata" in society, and towards religion, the other is the more immediate analysis of events in the Middle East (which of course are also determined in part by the specific history of the area).

On the first, more general questions, can I draw comrades attention to some articles we have already published on these? The first is the Notes on the peasant question, published in 1981; this is certainly not the last word on the question but was one of the ICC's attempts to come to grips with the relationship between the proletariat and other "non-exploiting social strata", stimulated at the time by a discussion on the State in the period of transition (we actually published a pamphlet containing some of the internal texts from this debate: unfortunately we've not been able to put all of it on the site, but some of the texts are available online). The second is a series of two articles on "resurgent Islam" (very topical!), which are grouped together here.

On events in Libya, as Devrim says the current turn of events has proved us right in this respect. In Libya, we have on the one hand Khaddafi and his gang of hoodlums, and on the other the National Council, at least some of whose members were until very recently members of that same gang of hoodlums: according to the latest news, the only way out for the National Council is to call in support from the Western powers: the latter are considering military action, which is of course vigorously opposed by Russia and China (on the same side this time). In other words, we have a civil war being subsumed into the rivalries between the major powers. 

One thing that nobody seems to have mentioned, to my surprise (though I've not followed all the posts I confess so I may have missed something, and the point is made in our latest article), is the very different composition of the working class in Egypt and Libya. One figure says it all: the Libyan population is 6.1 million, of which 1.5 million are immigrant workers (figures from The Economist) - ie the Chinese, Vietnamese, Bangladeshis, Africans, Egyptians, Tunisians, etc. who are now trying desperately to get out of the country. For this working class to have any weight in the situation, would demand a far greater level of class consciousness than exists today, a consciousness on the part of all these workers who in many cases cannot even understand each other's language, that they are part of the same class with the same interests. The working class in Egypt is more "massive" and more homogeneous than in Libya, with greater experience - and IMHO this is in large part what accounts for the different outcomes. The working class in Egypt has a real weight and influence on the social situation, even if - of course - it has not been able to take the lead and impose its own agenda on the struggle there. In that sense, I think Ernie was right in an earlier post (before Mubarak was ousted) to pose the question of what working-class organisation was going on that we did not know about. Devrim of course is right to say that this is not the "mass strike or annything near it", on the other hand I'm inclined to think it's beside the point if the numbers involved were smaller than a few years ago: given the explosive overall social situation, I cannot believe that the Egyptian army officers who gave Mubarak the boot were unaware of the real "danger" that the working class struggle could take on a much broader basis and give a far greater solidity and radicality to the movement of much wider strata in society.

baboon
I agree with all the elements

I agree with all the elements of the new text and the nuances therein as far as I understand them. I agree on the question of a "popular revolt" of non-exploiting social strata and while I posed this in theeconomic terms of Marx/Luxemburg then the question of the period of transition is much more obvious and relevant.

 

My disagreement with some elements of the position in WR was that the movement in Libya was described as a war between gangsters from the beginning and that this was more a question of language than of substance because it very quickly turned into a war between gangsters as it looked to do if there wasn't at least some class response. But initially everything wasn't so black and white and I thought that the position should be more nuanced within the general analysis. There were some elements of self-organisation that wasn't directed by elements of the local state nor from Benghazi. I welcome the clarification that the movement here at the beginning was more general and social  than tribal and Islamic - though these latter elements were involved. It is also an important observation that Jihadi groups have been generally marginalised by the wave of protests so far.

 

The employment of cheaper foreign workers kept in isolation in compounds was a strategy of the Libyan state and the oil companies. Abandoned by the latter, just as the British workers were and attacked (in the main) by the former, I'm not surprised that they wanted to get out. Though the working class in Libya is relatively weak it is not non-existent and whether or not it was in a position to engage in strikes, it kept many essential services going in very difficult conditions; power, food production and water treatment for example.

 

The intention of the regime is clear in its example of bulldozing up a score of recently buried young men in Ras Lanuf. Many of these youths (and older men) were local to the towns in the west and were not sent by Benghazi. Even those that came from the east did not do so under Benghazi's orders but in some youthful and rather heady and foolhardy compulsion. I think that some of them shouting out "God is great" as they let off their weapons tells us that they were muslims, not necessarily Islamic fundamentalists. The National Council only sent some derisory numbers of professionals to help them because its first preoccupation was to defend its own interests in the east and those of wider imperialisms. In this sense, in no surprise from capitalist regimes, it is as responsible for the massacres as the regime itself.

 

The text is also interesting for what it says about the current "Gaddafi example". He's clearly not a mad dog and he has decided to go for broke with his strategy of terror and repression. This strategy has been supported long enough by the democracies for it not to still have some support among them. It's probably not only Britain that is maintaining direct links with the regime and, as the text further states, while defending their national interests here, the major players could also wish to see the crushing of what initially was a social revolt - it could be a good message to send around the region; witness the apparantly US-approved Saudi excursion into Bahrain in a move resonant of Kuwait in the 90s. Libya is not a tribal or Islamic war, nor a civil war,  but a war of imperialism with all the major powers defending their own interests played out by local capitalist gangsters over the initial revolt.

vstanrabotnikov
 Bahrain is very important,

 Bahrain is very important, some of the bloodiest suppression is going on live on tv with full support of the western media, how disgusting, how evil. There are a lot of distractions in the media urging restraint and cooperation between 'the people' and government in Bahrain.

 

 

baboon
Imperialism is now openly

Imperialism is now openly putting its stamp on events in Libya and, although there's a specific thread on the article in WR 342 on "popular uprising buried by bourgeoise faction fights", I am sufficiently concerned by some elements of this article to return to it in this general thread on social revolt and, I would add, the question of communists' attitude to religion.

 

Some general points: I think that the burying of social revolt in Libya has mainly be achieved by the British and French armed and backed regime of Gaddafi. The "rebel" National Council, or whatever name it's now going by, as weak as it's been, has also played a role in this, and also, of much less significance, tribalism and some expressions of religious fundamentalism. Whatever disagreements there are, I am assuming that there is agreement that this was initially a social revolt? As the repression of the regime has been more and more successful, as opposition elements have been played up, as there has been the lack of a clear class response (as the article says), then this has opened up even more weaknesses in the social movement, leaving it today even more open to militarism and imperialism.

 

The "fleeing" and treatment of foreign workers has been an issue with some unsubstantiated reports causing confusions. But what was clear from the testimonies of those directly involved was that they were abandoned in their compounds by the various oil company bosses, their wages went unpaid and they were left without food or sustenance. On the Tunisian border many direct testimonies were made by Bangla-deshis, Indians and others of how local people, involved in protests and others, helped them, fed them and transported them to safety at trouble and risk to themselves. I've seen enough bourgeois reports of how people turn into animals at times of crisis to doubt them all and instead I see here what usually happens; a positive aspect of a social movement. Particularly striking was the testimony of a group of British engineers, also abandoned, who were looked after by a group of self-organised, armed, Libyan oil workers, who secured them, fed them, fought off looting bandits and returned with enough transport to take them all away to safety. There were similar reports from other British workers in different areas, but these were largely played down or ignored in the British media because they didn't fit the "heroic SAS rescue" nonsense. So, initially at least, foreign workers abandoned by their bosses and ignored by their states were treated well. Racial abuse or the mistreatment of mercenaries can obviously occur. But the racial aspect looks incongrous given the racial mix of Libyans as pointed out by jk, I think.

 

Reality to me doesn't show that this was a war of gangsters at the beginning and for a while after, though the danger existed. Having thrown off their fear and rose up against repression and their misery, these masses were forced to take up arms to defend their very lives. This is why I likened the movement (with all the differences, I know) to the Warsaw Ghetto, i.e., a brutally repressive regime, a pathetic "opposition" keeping well away, going along with illusions in democracy and help from the outside that could only be another form of militarism. But fight these had to - there's not "opting out " from it, you just can't walk away from these situations, not here, not in Warsaw.

It is very significant that only two days ago, Wednesday March 16, did the National Council mobilise and deploy its own professional forces for the first time. There's been no national army nor anything like it and the reach of the NC has been largely confined to around the Benghazi region. Many of the local committees were that - local to the defence and running of their communities and towns - illusions in democracy certainly but as far as I understand the ICC's position that doesn't lessen the anti-capitalist nature of the social struggle.

I return to the example of Tahrir Square where there was no independent expression of the working class, strikes had hardly begun, yet this movement - for all its illusions - was predominantly a social struggle and not an expression of capitalist gangsterism nor religious fundamentalism. In a ideal world things would be ... well ideal. In an ideal proletarian struggle, the latter would independently take the lead, reject all illusions in everything and other oppressed classes would fall behind it. But we don't and won't live in an ideal world . Very quickly and extensively such complexities are going to abound around social revolts and I think that this question needs to be deepened.

 

I may be barking up the wrong tree, I may just be barking (yes, there are some that think so), but I found the article's approach to religion a bit worrying. As I understand the communist position on religion (just briefly) it's of toleration for religious belief. The article says of the movement in Libya "There is also appears to be a strong presence of Islamism with the chant of "Alluhu Akbar" being heard in many demonstrations". What is precisely meant by "Islamism" here? Is it the same as Islamicism, is that any different and what does that mean?. At any rate, the context in this article is clearly pejorative, possibly suggesting some sort of fundamentalism? Now Libya is a country full of muslims. An expression of muslims is "Alluhu Akbar", and one would expect that in situations of alarm, excitement, stress, fear and so on, that expressions of religion and religious belief would be frequently used. Not to tolerate expressions of religion gives a lie to the toleration of religion. I tried, unsuccessfully, to make the same point using the example of the hijab: it's an expression of a religion world-wide and extensive through this region. Like "God is great" it doesn't necessarily have to be presented, insinuated as sinister.

This is a discussion that needs to take place because even after a successful proletarian revolution, the influence, thoughts and expressions of the maintstream religions will not go away for many generations. And I don't want to get too far away from the point, but if you describe religion as a social force which has certainly existed for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years, then this will persist much longer with its positive points integrated in a greater consciousness and society. But in the meantime, religion, religious belief and religious expression is a daily reality for large swathes of humanity and it is not going to go away.

 

It is good to point to previous organisational texts on both social movements, religion and so on. But it is also important in a discussion forum that the ICC is prepared to discuss, defend or even criticise the analyses that it makes on current or wider events.

ernie
IS this a new warsaw

 I do not think one can compare this movement to the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto. Those left in the Ghetto faced total and utter destruction and like those who did the same in the camps they refused to die passively. However, this uprising was weakened by the divisions of parts of the population into the various fighting formations. In Libya the working class is not confined to a few blocks surround by walls. Yes it has to struggle against the brutal repression but it can only that effectively through maintaining its class autonomy, struggling against its enemies both behind it and in front of it. If it cannot do that it will get sucked up into a general uprising which is going to be prey to the weight of bourgeois ideology. There may well be groups of armed workers but the point is what are they struggling for? To kick out Gaddafi's thugs only to allow another set of want to be rulers take over, is not something communist can support. In the Ghetto, it was not a question of struggling to drive out their killers and then organising themselves but of simply refusing to die like animals. This is a false comparison.

A better comparison is Spain in 36. Here the working class was in a much stronger position but it still had to go beyond pushing back Franco initial uprising and challenge the state. Bilan and a few other left communists and internationalist anarchists understood this and refused to fall in behind supporting the 'revolution' and called on the working class to defend itself against both sides. This intransigent defense of the need for proletarian autonomy and warnings of the dangers of not being able to do this, was what enabled them to stand up against the stream.

As far as I can see no where in the ICC's articles on this question or in the discussion here has the ICC said the proletariat in Libya should simply 'walk away'. What we are saying is that it cannot line itself up behind either fraction. That after the initial driving out of the armed forces the proletariat has not been able to impose itself and thus the various opposition fractions of the Libyian bourgeoisie have had a free hand to impose themselves on this movement. There may be towns or area where the population do not support the National Council or the idea of a Free Libya but the overwhelming dynamic of the situation is for domination of this bourgeois gang and above all the nationalist ideology.
 

On the question of religion the ICC has not said that there should be no toleration of religion, rather it has pointed to the danger of this ideology. In a situation where the working class was in a far stronger position, Poland 81, we still talked about the danger of this ideology and the role of the Catholic church. Seeing thousand of workers praying and attending Mass in the shipyards was a concern but in the context of the mass strike it was a very secondary issue. In the context of Libya where the working class was not imposing itself this danger takes on a greater importance. In Eygpt thousands did their prayers each day during the demonstrations and many demonstrations took place after Friday prayers, but the underlying dynamic was one where the working class had to either defend itself or get sucked up further into falling in behind the bourgeois fractions, which in the end they did not do but instead went on strike to defend their own interests. The strikers probably did their prayers too, just as workers involved in strikes in Turkey probably did.  To hear "Allah Akbar" rather than" down with the regime" (which was the main slogan in Eygpt) on some videos from Libya surely should cause communists to worry and ask questions about what is going on: it is not a sign of strength at least. This is not an insinuation of something sinister but a justifiable concern for communists given difficulties the proletariat is faced with in Libya.

Finally, I am not at all clear what comrade Baboon thinks the ICC should be saying in this situation. It would certainly help to avoid unnecessary discussions if he could do this.

 

 

Devrim
Comparison with Spain

ernie wrote:
A better comparison is Spain in 36. Here the working class was in a much stronger position but it still had to go beyond pushing back Franco initial uprising and challenge the state.

I think that the comparison with Spain in 1936 is completely wrong. In Spain whatever happened there was a massive working class movement that believed in the establishment of communism. The revolt in July 1936 was a workers' revolt whatever happened afterwards. In Libya there was no massive working class movement, and the revolt had no working class basis whatsoever. The comparison just doesn't work.

Devrim

 

 

Devrim
God is Great

baboon wrote:
Now Libya is a country full of muslims. An expression of muslims is "Alluhu Akbar", and one would expect that in situations of alarm, excitement, stress, fear and so on, that expressions of religion and religious belief would be frequently used. Not to tolerate expressions of religion gives a lie to the toleration of religion. I tried, unsuccessfully, to make the same point using the example of the hijab: it's an expression of a religion world-wide and extensive through this region. Like "God is great" it doesn't necessarily have to be presented, insinuated as sinister.

I wouldn't expect 'Alluhu Akbar' to be used in situations of 'alarm, excitement, stress and fear and so on', but then I live in a Muslim country.

Devrim

d-man
history of bread riots

An article giving some interesting background:

www.muslimsocieties.org/Vol_4_No_1_Islam_Bread_Riots_and_Democratic_Reforms.html

The dynamics and the socio-political adverse effects of the austerity and subsidy options are illustrated by what Arab countries have experienced in the ‘nation-wide’ violent "bread" or "urban riots" in recent years: Egypt, January 1977, 1984, 1986, 1989 ; Morocco, 1981, January 1984; Sudan, March 1985; Algeria, October 1988;  Tunisia, 1984, 1986; Jordan, April 1989.  In addition to these major events, localized, small scale food riots have been occurring throughout 1990s and even in 2000s in all these countries. They were provoked by austerity measures linked to one form or another of structural adjustments, stabilization, liberalization and privatization programmes resulting in sudden rises in food and fuel prices.

 

 

kinglear
religion is here for ever

Baboon's conviction that religion is not only a reality for large swathes of humanity, but that 'it is not going to go away' horrifies me, somewhere deep inside. If he's right then we may as well give uo all ideas about a proletarian revolution here and now. So his other intuition that even after a successful proletarian revolution religion will not go away for many generations, leaves me gob-smacked and reeling. Are we left then with a vision of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as in some geographic locations being a sort of Theocracy? Maybe n some parts of the States there'll be a far right Christian Proletarian Dictatorship and in N.Africa a proletarian Caliphate? I speak as a fool, to quote St. Paul. But if the working class isn't capable of developing sufficient cosciouness to see through the baloney of religion - even if it has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, as Baboon says - but then so has class society, and that hasn't stopped us seeing through that - then the idea of any revolution is a non-starter. God help us all! When capitalism is swepped away, superstition ie religion, will go as well.

jk1921
I think Baboon is

I think Baboon is right. Capitalism does not go away even at the moment of the revolution. Society remains captialist and bourgeois even if the proletariat has broken the political rule of the bourgeoisie. Similarly, religion doesn't go away immediately with the revolution, even within the proletariat. Consciounsess remains to a certain extent heterogenous. It will take an entire period of transition in order to eliminate these vestiges of class society, simply because society itself still needs to be made classless.

That said, the increasing weight of religion within society today is not a positive sign for the development of class consiousness. If private religious belief remains inevitable for a time, the mobilization of the proletariat behind religious ideology is a completelhy different state of affairs. Of course, there is more than one way to interpret the trends when it comes to religious belief. If certain sectors of the U.S. bourgeoisie, and as a result certain sectors of society, have become increasingly infected with religious obscurantism; the young generations appear to be coming more and more secular.

This entire discussion probably requires broaching the issue of the period of transition.

kinglear
secular youth

jk1921 has cheered me up a bit by saying that 'young generations appear to be coming more and more secular'. Is this wishful thinking or is there any evidence? And now there's something else ie 'heterogenous consciousness'. What is this? And, more to the point, will heterogenous consciousness be enough for the working class to get where it wants to go? I realize I'm nit-picking but then I am a little pissed off by the paragraph above beginning 'capitalism does not go away even at the moment of revolution'. Yes, I understand that. And I agree that the period of transition is is going to be a shattering and problematic time to live through. But in the rush to defend Baboon I think maybe thei stick has been bent a bit far. So I'll stay with what I was trying to say. For years, the fact that history was driven by class struggle remained a mystery, which was solved by the first communists - who would have thought water consisted of two combustible gases, as Marx replied to a sceptic. Similarly, religion is a mystery, and, more to the point, a mystifier. Why would anyone wish to cling on to it. The bourgeoisie uses it for the purposes of mystification of those it exploits. Yet when they were in their ascendent phase they were perhaps more skeptical about it. All I'm saying in the end is that if we can see history for what it is, then why can't we see through religion as well and let it go?

Alf
 Consciousness is indeed

 Consciousness is indeed heterogeneous, even during a revolution when it takes huge leaps forward. That's why communist organisation are a necessity and there can be no question of dissolving them during the revolution, as some councilists have argued. Millions of workers will join the revolution in spite of their religious ideas and while religion is not a 'private' matter when it comes to joining communist organisations, it's different for bodies like strike committees or workers' councils. The first issue workers with religious ideas will confront, in all probability, is the actual political role played by the religious organisations and churches - that will push them into conflict with the religious authorities who will side with the status quo, but it still won't eliminate all religious ideas. Since the latter are a  response to and expresion of alienation, we are indeed talking about a long process of transformation of humanity once the working class has taken power.  

Red Hughs
"Consciousness is indeed

"Consciousness is indeed heterogeneous, even during a revolution when it takes huge leaps forward. That's why communist organisation are a necessity and there can be no question of dissolving them during the revolution, as some councilists have argued"

Indeed, I think councilist gestures concerning things like dissolving organizations are tacit statement of the weakness of councilist organization ideas.

Before or during a revolution, a communist organization shouldn't be a grouping to those who think of themselves as the most effective in practical actions or the "organizers" or the smart people. 

Rather, the "communist party" exists to put forward the practice of the working class acting on it's own and for itself

IE, within a certain movement, say the occupations and strikes in Egypt, certain organs and practices will arise that may let the working class act for itself. One doesn't have to be "at the center of the movement" to put forward the position that the working class should transform these organs and practices into a permanent means to organize society as a whole and one which suppresses other organs which allow the bourgeois to act.

The present-day left in contrast to this tends to be an informal clique of the most self-defined radical. The unstated, ill-formed or deceptively organized nature of the left is product of the left general having a dual quality - being a faction struggling for power within capitalist society while simultaneously talking about "revolution".

The "anti-organization" critique is a logical development of those who begin within leftist cliques and understand these will not lead to communist activity.

The point that the informal critique misses is that rigorous, formal communist activity is about what communist is and what it isn't. The point is that by being exact one's aims and methods, one avoids being merely a clique seeking to increase one's influence in whatever organs of activity arrise in whatever movement one can - ie, not be a "network of organizers".

 

 

ernie
Devrim The point about 36 I

Devrim

The point about 36 I was trying to make was that then revolutionaries had to stand intransigently against taking side once the initial movement had been pulled into a democracy v fascism. It is clear from my posts that I do not think there has been a massive working class movement in Libya. The very point I was trying to make was that even in a situation where there had been a massive proletarian movement, it was still the fundamental duty of communists to warn the working class about getting dragged into a intra-bourgeois civil war.  I thought that was clear in my post, ah well obviously not!

Devrim
Spain as an anaology?

ernie wrote:
The point about 36 I was trying to make was that then revolutionaries had to stand intransigently against taking side once the initial movement had been pulled into a democracy v fascism. It is clear from my posts that I do not think there has been a massive working class movement in Libya. The very point I was trying to make was that even in a situation where there had been a massive proletarian movement, it was still the fundamental duty of communists to warn the working class about getting dragged into a intra-bourgeois civil war.  I thought that was clear in my post, ah well obviously not!

It didn't come across to me. To be quite honest this comparison to Spain just seems absurd to me. Here in Turkey both our members and supporters are asking what are they on (about). I think that a more apt point of comparison, though not one that I am making, would be Somali. I can't quite make out how people have managed to bring Spain into it at all.

Devrim

Alf
 The reason why there are

 The reason why there are certain parallels with Spain in the 1930s is that the intervention in Libya is an imperialist intervention - determined primarily by strategic considerations and rivalries, it's true - which is having a profoundly negative impact on a situation of emerging social conflict, not just in Libya but across the whole region. One comrade, on another thread, has even suggested we should see the current intervention as a 'war against the working class', like the Falklands war.  I am not convinced by this, but I do think there is a social aspect to the imperialist intervention, certainly regarding its effects. It will make it much more difficult for the movements in the region to take on an independent, proletarian direction, now that the great powers themselves have taken up the flag of armed support to the 'revolution' in the Arab world.  

jk1921
General Social Revolt

Devrim wrote:

ernie wrote:
The point about 36 I was trying to make was that then revolutionaries had to stand intransigently against taking side once the initial movement had been pulled into a democracy v fascism. It is clear from my posts that I do not think there has been a massive working class movement in Libya. The very point I was trying to make was that even in a situation where there had been a massive proletarian movement, it was still the fundamental duty of communists to warn the working class about getting dragged into a intra-bourgeois civil war.  I thought that was clear in my post, ah well obviously not!

It didn't come across to me. To be quite honest this comparison to Spain just seems absurd to me. Here in Turkey both our members and supporters are asking what are they on (about). I think that a more apt point of comparison, though not one that I am making, would be Somali. I can't quite make out how people have managed to bring Spain into it at all.

Devrim

 

Devrim, what are you hearing from supporters about the idea of a "general social revolt."?

d-man
A "general social revolt" is

A "general social revolt" is simply not an idea. Let's face it, the international left hasen't been able to say anything meaningful about these events, worse, arguments started being borrowed used usually by the left of capital.

Devrim
general social revolt?

jk1921 wrote:
Devrim, what are you hearing from supporters about the idea of a "general social revolt."?

I haven't really had a chance to talk about it with people. With the thing about Spain it was just that a few people commented.

Devrim

 

baboon
A belated response to Ernie

A belated response to Ernie and some general points:

Ernie asks what I do I want the ICC to say? Carry on carrying on basically. This is a discussion forum opened up for that purpose and I have a point of view that is not definitive but a contribution to the discussion. That's surely the point of a discussion forum?

 

My main disagreement was that the events in Libya were tribal and Islamicist (I don't understand this term) from the beginning. My opinion was, in agreement with the "new" ICC position, that this revolt in Libya was part of a social movement against oppression in line with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, etc., that continues today with Yemen, Bahrain and Syria today - with all the weaknesses and complexities of the situation overall. Tribalism and questions of religion existed in Libya but, as the revolt gave way to a bourgeois faction fight then state oppression and imperialist considerations (already much stronger than tribalism or religious considerations in Libya) took centre stage, up to the point we can see today.

 

I agree, with all due qualifications, particularly the absence of a strong working class, about the similarities with Spain from an imperialist point of view and my analogy with Warsaw wasn't one about the town and its walls, but capitalist terror within an imperialist framework. The difference was that Gaddafi wasn't exterminating the Libyan people but his British, French and others backed regime used the threat of extermination much more cost effectively for capital overall. The real  difference between Libya and Warsaw is that the latter was a last despairing, suicidal cry in a situation of hopelessness, whereas, initially at least, Libya showed elements of a social revolt against the gangsters of capitalism even though it quickly became subsumed under imperialist interests. I don't know how to calculate its weight, but the turn of events in Libya is certainly a blow to the working class. Imperialism will not allow much of a vacuum.

 

I think that Ernie's reminder of the role of the Catholic church in Poland 1980 is a good one. I think that its role was far from secondary being an important factor of the western bloc into the heart of its eastern rival as the Cold War was hotting up in the latter part of the 1970s. And the Catholic church played a significant role in setting up the Polish "opposition" as well as the Solidarnosc trade union.

We've seen the role of religion in Ireland in dividing the working class and being a significant vector of rival imperialist interests and we've seen the active role of the Church of England in the defence of British interests in Sudan. Similar for homegrown religious groups that come in the wake of US imperialism in its various forays throughout the world, the former also showing sect-like irrationality that is a feature of religion in decomposition (many US christians were quite happy to be called "fundamentalist" prior to 9.11).

 

The question of religion is certainly a question for discussion as can be seen from above. Again, I don't think it a question of what should the ICC say but what has it said? In relation to the period of transition from capitalism to communism there's a good article in IR 110 some parts of which I'll underline:

Lenin's approach was to "tread carefully". The Bolsheviks advocated religious freedom and the "full and unrestricted rights to profess any religion". Lenin denounced the police persection of religion and was solid on this question. This didn't stop religion being described as "Spiritual booze"  and the centrality of proletarian struggle for a better life on earth and the overall struggle of Bolshevism against the "fog of religion" being a struggle for the whole proletariat based on primarily economic considerations. But this couldn't be overcome by abstract sloganeering. Only the class struggle drawing in the widest strata could overcome the economic slavery (oppression) that religious belief is largely based upon. "War on religion", according to Engels, was just "anarchist phrase-mongering" as such war can only reinforce religious belief. It is essential for the social roots of religion to be attacked before religion dies out. Richard Dawkins, for example, puts the persistance of religious thought down to ignorance, but, as Lenin said, this is a superficial explanation of the roots of religion, idealist rather than materialist. The crushing of the minds and bodies  of the masses by the weight of capitalism can't be eradicated simply by education about religion (though that has a part).

That  religious belief would persist after the proletarian revolution is shown in Lenin's warnings  about unecessarily "offending religious feelings" and the example he gives is of the religious marriage still predominant in the countryside. In 1921, he defended the RCP's Constitution that said "Freedom of conscience in respect of religion is fully guaranteed to every person".

As the article says, against the simplistic idea that religion = ignorance, "Marxists, in contrast, understand that the material roots of religion are very deep and real in modern capitalism (indeed they extend far deeper than capitalism itself, to the very origins of class society and even to the origins of humanity itself". Communist propaganda and education have a role, but the primary focus is on the unity and extension of the class struggle. Marxists cannot really belong to any church or religion, but banning, restricting or denouncing religious observation or beliefs, can only be counter-productive to the revolution. Religion can't be abolished or forbidden by decree, but "outgrown" as the article particularly refers to it in any stage of a period of transition.

A.Simpleton
Yes Alf

It IS important : and like all contributions to Revolutionary Theoretical Issues , one cannot necessarily or perhaps ever start from a 'position' that is per se correct because ( as perhaps some participants seem to have forgotten ) : '....communism is a movement ....not a 'state of affairs to be brought about and instituted ' ( 1844 Manuscripts )

I am glad you recognise the importance of the issues Baboon poses : he quite honestly admits his contributions are 'an attempt ' and - to his credit 'invites criticism'

Surely Marx throughout his thorough and uniquely cogent historical analysis from 'primitive communism' through 'slave and master' through ' feudal lord and serf ' to bourgeois and proletarian also described these 'specific 'historical oppositions/struggles as an expression of The Opressing Class versus The Oppressed Class ? The Ruling Class versus The Ruled Class ?

His implicit and explicit support and work for The Oppressed Class was surely not based on how 'urban' they were ( ! ) : HOWEVER he clearly distinguished that UNTIL the urban proletariat developed class consciousness and recognised itself as a 'Klasse FUR sich' not just a 'Klasse AN sich' revolutionary action by any 'masses' would be vulnerable , doomed to brief or partial success and premature : but that does not mean such mass uprisings were undesirable in some way .

I don't think I am wrong in maintaining that Rosa Luxemburg 'at the end of the day ' both privately and publicly reflected that The Russian Revolution was 'probably too soon ' - the forces and means of production being 'not quite developed enough' ....er....so it shouldn't have been fervently supported by the 'avant-garde intelligentsia'and theorists?

When I contemplate the exponential increase in 'uneven development ' in decadent capitalism today , the monumental task of 'policing 'the period of transition and withering away of the state ' in a world with twice or thrice as many people in it I have to fight defeatism with all my might .

In my opinion Baboon was right to enthuse about the mass dissent in Libya -even if it only had a 'wildcat truth ' for 72 hours

Equally Devrim was right that it would rapidly descend into the masses drawn into a bourgeois blood bath because it was never a 'proletarian' revolt in the first place .

Doea that mean it would have been 'better' for the oppressed class ( whether urban or not ) if nothing had happened at all ?

....er.....sorry is this too simple for you ?

A.S

 

 

 

Alf
To AS

 Hello and welcome...

I am not sure which post you are replying to here. Was it one of mine?

Red Hughs
  "In my opinion Baboon was

 

"In my opinion Baboon was right to enthuse about the mass dissent in Libya -even if it only had a 'wildcat truth ' for 72 hours

Equally Devrim was right that it would rapidly descend into the masses drawn into a bourgeois blood bath because it was never a 'proletarian' revolt in the first place ."

I like the formulation - we poised between contradictory tendencies today, along with the entire proletariat...

As to whether things would be better or worse, how is that our decision? As capitalist society decays, rebellion is, uh, inevitable. Obviously, we communists would love to have that rebellion be immediately clear on what it is about but that sad or not fact is that rebels must create their own understanding through acting and that usually means making mistakes.

 

 

 

A.Simpleton
Again :'Yes Alf'

It was a response initially stimulated by your 'This is an important discussion' post and inviting theoretical contributions : but also , of course , in the light of others - especially the Baboon / Devrim exchanges . Your 'moderating' post about the 'a bit provocative' or 'overly defensive' stances of both positions is of great value also : oltherwise ,surely , the importance of the discussion could easily be derailed by a domestic argument about : 'who said 'gangster first'

'I agree entirely with Baboon's reminder that there can be social revolts of the non-exploiting strata. I would add that workers form part of these strata, as well as having a distinct existence (this indeed is the whole basis of the ICC's position on the state in the period of transition). Also that the influence of the Muslim religion on workers in regions like the Middle East can't be wished away ..'

Just as JK1921 says in his 'I think Baboon is right' post :

'Capitalism does not just go away even at the moment of revolution ...'

*****

I probably should have just 'posted' not 'replied' : it was my first venture .

*****

Red Hughes has best picked out and presented two clear points from this Simpleton trying to answer too much at once...... 

We are poised between contradictary tendencies :  

And a formulation I in return like :

Whether things would  be better or worse ...how is that our decision ?

And :

Obviously we communists would love to have that rebellion be immediately clear as to what it is about ...but ......

That is exactly what I was trying to express , both by my rather clumsy opening better expressed perhaps thus : 'can we necessarily or ever rush to judgement and theoretical development with a perfectly clear 'positon' for the 'perfectly clear situation'

As you say : 'no '. And by my reference to Rosa Luxemburg's willingness to fervently support and enhance October '17 , mistakes and all .

In fact I often find myself asking 'outsiders' ( for want of a better word ) : ' how come they accept the thousands of bloody and barbarous bourgeois 'mistakes' ? Whereas the proletariat make even one and it's : 'ah! you see ? communism may be a nice idea but it doesn't work '.

As we believe it is of course not just a 'nice idea' but an historical necessity ( unless one prefers barbarism of course....)

I will attempt to start a new string beginning with some help from the end of Marx's German Ideology : it may be at least a starting point for discussions of both religion and the period of transition .

 

Internationalis...
Advancing in anti-immigrants and Internationalist Positions

Advancing in anti-immigrants and Internationalist Positions
• The rise of racial theories
• The problem of veil
• The role of the West in strengthening of the Islamic movements
• Which civilization?
• Role of "immigrant" workers who are building the society
• Reasons for growth of xenophobic
• Internationalism and the role of working class

This is even an introduction to the translation of texts from the Internationalist Communist Tendency, and International Communist Current.

The texts have been published by the Internationalist Voice; to read the texts, please visit the site of Internationalist Voice.

Web site: www.internationalist.tk

E-mail: [email protected]

Communist Revolution or the destruction of humanity!