The question of how to understand and to react to the phenomenon of religious belief has always been an important one for the workers' movement

Islamic State cannot destroy the real idols of our time!

By starting a new heading of ‘Readers’ Contributions’ on our website, and occasionally in our paper, we hope to encourage our readers and sympathisers to write texts and articles which can go into greater depth than is possible in our discussion forum, and so stimulate a longer term reflection. These articles, while being broadly based on proletarian politics, need not fully represent the positions of the ICC, or may deal with issues on which the ICC does not have a collective view. The following article is a good example of what we mean: as an attempt to explore the historical origins of Islam and to situate the actions of the current ‘Islamic State’ against this background, it raises questions which are of general concern to marxists but which can also give rise to a fruitful confrontation of ideas. 

Massacre in Paris: terrorism is an expression of rotting bourgeois society

Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski, among the twenty killed in the attacks in Paris on 7 and 9 January, these four were a kind of symbol. They were the priority targets. And why? Because they stood for intelligence against stupidity, reason against fanaticism, revolt against submission, courage against cowardice, sympathy against hatred, and for that specifically human quality: humour and laughter against conformism and dull self-righteousness.

How capitalism uses religion

It was once hoped that the more scientific explanations contributed to a rational understanding of the world, the less there would be a place for superstition and religion. This was a naive view that failed to take into account the origins of religion in humanity’s alienation, and the ability of the ruling class to make use of any ideology in the defence of its dominant position in society. The use of religious ideologies, not just Christian and Islamic, but all the other varieties, is a worldwide phenomenon.

The fundamental source of religious mystification is economic slavery

Unlike Marx, who thought that the fog of religion was being rapidly dispersed by capitalism itself, later marxists recognised that capitalism in its decadent phase has seen a resurgence of religion, which expresses the increasingly patent bankruptcy of bourgeois society. In the underdeveloped countries, especially, this has taken the form of a turn towards militant “fundamentalist” movements. In the developed countries, the picture is more complex; religious observance in the established denominations has more or less steadily declined over the past fifty or so years, while “New Age” and other alternative religious cults have been growing, side-by-side with a complete turn away from religion and belief in God by some sectors of the population on the one hand, and a resurgence in “fundamentalist” creeds on the other.

The Pope is dead, but religion still exerts its repressive power

The death of Pope John Paul II has given rise to a deafening barrage from the world’s media and politicians, asking us to listen respectfully to the many tributes and to take part in the mourning for ‘the Holy Father’. They are telling us that this is a true World Event, and there’s no doubt that the media campaign has already made it one.

For or against the veil in French schools

With the business of wearing the veil (hijab) in school, and all the debates, demonstrations and protests around whether pupils should be able to display visible signs of belonging to a religion, the French bourgeoisie has set in motion a campaign aimed at attacking the consciousness of the working class. From the right to the left and the extreme left, each of them has their own verse for or against, more or less for and more or less against, etc. The media, politicians, associations, organisations of Muslims, Jews or Christians, all participate in what they are calling a "great citizens' debate on secularity". In fact, contrary to the so-called cacophony that reigns in "French society" on this subject, all are going in the same direction: that of creating a maximum of confusion in the heads of the workers, the better to chain them to the bourgeois state and make them accept their lot.

Islamism: A symptom of the decomposition of capitalist social relations

Not for the first time, capitalism is justifying its march towards war by invoking the idea of a 'clash between civilisations'. In 1914 workers were marched off to war to defend modern 'civilisation' against the Russian knout or German kaiserism; in 1939 it was to defend democracy against the new dark age represented by Nazism; from 1945 to 1989 it was to fight for democracy against Communism, or for the socialist countries against the imperialist ones. Today the refrain is 'the Western way of life' against 'Islamic fanaticism', or 'Islam' against the 'crusaders and Jews'.

160 years on: Marx and the Jewish question

In the last issue of this Review we published an article on Polanski’s film The Pianist, whose subject was the uprising of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and the Nazi genocide against Europe’s Jews. Sixty years after the unspeakable horrors of this campaign of extermination, one might have expected to find that anti-Semitism was a thing of the past – the consequences of anti-Jewish racism being so clear that it would have been discredited once and for all. And yet this is not at all the case...

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