A rebellion against the modern state


Despite their apparent diversity radical or revolutionary Islamic movements have a number of features in common. It is a child of advanced capitalism, attracting all those social layers threatened by the modern state. It is virulently anti-secular, and intolerant of the non-self. It is against enlightenment, and unchangeably antagonistic to democracy and popular representation. Inherently multi-class, it cuts up society across class lines. It cannot be bound by national boundaries, nor is it bound by any man-made legislation - hence its recourse to extrajudicial means and frank terror.


The preliminary nature of this article comes from the fact that current debates are still in their infancy, and many of the trends and events in the Islamic world have a long way to go yet before reaching a critical mass; they are as yet too young to reveal their inner core in its entirety.

Thus any analysis must be considered as an attempt a discovering the inner logic of the subject and the methodology for a more wider study.


The Islamic movement as defined at its broadest level is not a cohesive integrated whole. Within this general term many different trends, policies, structures and spheres of influence operate. Serious organisational and politico-ideological line-ups have already taken shape. At one end it links up with Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence, at the other end it surfaces under the umbrella of Khomeinism.


Yet, the Iranian ambassador was not too far off the mark when he politely commented: the Saudi monarchy and the Islamic Republic of Iran are the two wings of Islam. If we recognise that the Islamic movement is not a religious or ethical movement but one that is intensely political, and if we consider that the general meaning of this movement is the intermingling of Islam and politics, or more correctly the amalgamation of Islam and political power, then it is obvious that despite all its variety, this movement rests on a single base.

Moreover, the abstracted inner core of this amalgamation of religion and state is also similar: In backward societies such as Saudi Arabia, the purpose is to maintain the decrepit and outdated structures holding up that society, in more advanced societies such as Iran it is aimed at breaking up and destroying modern structures. In short at the most abstracted level the two wings are united by the amalgamation of religion and state and the backward looking content of this amalgamation.

On concrete analysis where conflicting interests interplay, however, the abstract similarities become very diluted. From the point of view of world capitalism, the amalgamation of state and religion (even when backward looking) is in itself neither good nor bad. If in a concrete analysis this amalgamation gives greater political stability to the feeble superstructures of the Gulf States, and thereby help them along in the path to greater integration in the capitalist global market, then all is well and good. No moral or legal obstacle must prevent the protectors of oil deposits to continue to protect the holiest of all religious shrines: the Ka’aba.

Conditions are different in the more advanced (and in particular non-oil producing) countries. Here, where the process of the reproduction of capital, increasingly integrated into the world market, is becoming more complex, multidimensional and deeper, the least damage inflicted by a blind and backward looking force is instability, insecurity and disruption. A capitalism trying to rein in its crises at the global level may find this too high a price to pay.

For the worker and communist movement, too, this movement presents an important challenge. Those countries where the capitalist relations have spread, where modern classes have formed and where a large labour market had developed carry a far greater weight than a society still stuck in tribal relations.

The communist and labour movement will receive a major blow from muddying the class barriers and the spread of regressive and obscurantist trends amongst the millions of deprived and destitute in the more advanced countries of the region. These blows are independent of whether the socio-political structures in, say Saudi Arabia, will remain backward, is reformed or is overthrown.

These points make the Islamic movements in the more advanced Muslim countries of central importance for imperialism and progressives alike. Therefore the current article will deal with those movements which call themselves “pan-Islamist” revolutionary Islamic Movements” or “Islamic movement for Jihad”. The essential features of these are as follows:



1. A modern phenomenon

The “revolutionary Islamic movement” is a contemporary phenomenon. Regardless of any indirect or minor influences from past Islamic movements, its umbilical cord is essentially attached to the developments in world capitalism in the last two decades.

These movements grow in precisely those countries where capitalist structures (particularly in its peripheral form) are more advanced: It is in Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan (and least in the Arabian Peninsula) that  it has found mass following. What links Turkey and Egypt, is their economic similarities, rather than geographic, historic or even cultural ties.

Those political thinkers who see contemporary pan-Islamist movements as a continuation of the independence movements of early and mid 20th Century encapsulate the elephant in its trunk. Those that see its roots in the far distant Islamic era are vainly attempting to make the elephant fly!



2.  With roots in the uprooted

The social roots of the “revolutionary Islamic movements” are essentially the uprooted; those layers and classes who for a variety of reasons have been waylaid from the main and developing path of socio-economic progress; those for whom flourishing new structures brought nothing but bankruptcies and ruin. Despite variation in the social fabric of the movement in this or that country the pan-Islamist movement in all the more or less developed countries of the periphery (with a few exceptions) has recruited among the following layers:


The urban uprooted and deprived: That explosion of people with no stable relation with the expanding peripheral-capitalist system of production and distribution. These apparently “cursed” people have in common a peasant ancestry, taking “refuge” in the dirt and mud surrounding such cities as Cairo, Algiers, and Teheran, futureless, hopeless, degraded, and without identity or rights. In Islamic societies, the urban destitute form the social layer most ready to take up the Islamist’s banner.

  They make up the main social base for the “revolutionary Islamic movement” and also generate its explosive power.



Middle layers belonging to pre-capitalist structures: Those who were bankrupted or marginalised with the spread of capitalist structures and whose fate is to struggle harder only to sink into greater poverty. These layers have an important role in helping Islamic movements organise and in welding together its disparate supporting elements in society.


Sections of the merchant and industrial bourgeoisie left outside the circle of power: Those who are called to an unequal competition with a bourgeoisie privileged in being close to (and reliant on) a state whose task was to orchestrate capitalist development from above.

It is worth noting that in peripheral societies, where the bourgeois state, rather than being the product of capitalist relations, itself imposes capitalist growth from above, and where the relation between power and capital is turned upside down to the extent that it is easier to rely on power to make money than on wealth as a gateway to power, then those layers of the bourgeoisie who have been excluded from power can count on being permanent losers. It is this fate which places respectable manufacturers and merchants in the same camp as the “wretched of the earth”. This group not only fills the coffers of the Islamic movement, but also for a period plays on the justice seeking ideals of the poor by setting up charities, interest free loan accounts and similar means to increase the attraction of pan-Islamism among the poor.


Intellectuals who lost their standing: Those who lost out (or at best dropped a few steps) when the new political and civil structures are being formed. These intellectuals find their social standing, influence, and privileges vanishing and themselves increasingly isolated. Regardless of whether in priestly clothes or not, young or old, or whether their re-emergence answers a structural need or not, they will use the Islamic movement to step into the scene. Without the increasing power and influence of such a movement their chances of coming out of the closet into the limelight and to regain their identity and renew their social standing must be dim indeed.

They provide the leadership cadres of the movement, those who put together the ideological baggage and political strategy for the “revolutionary Islamic movement”.


3. Repels the secular

The “revolutionary Islamic movement” is as incapable of attracting some layers in society as it has ability to attract others. It is this feature which makes it imperative for the Islamic movements to create cracks in class line-ups and which turns the Islamists into a

permanent force for social tension. It is no secret that the “revolutionary Islamic movement” suppresses one section of society at the same time as it is mobilising and organising other sections. Even when not actively engaged in physical suppression, the Islamic movement is aware right from the start that it must ideologically suppress those social layers which, because they have grown out of the heart of new structures, breath secular air. Intolerance to other religions and pressures on their way of life follows the same logic.


4. Anti-enlightenment

The pan-Islamist movement is a resurrection against enlightenment. The movement is rebelling against a cruel and blind fate imposed by peripheral capitalism. Yet in this rebellion their only weapon is to close their eyes to tomorrow, to turn their back to obvious reality and to take refuge in myths. Ironically it this obscurantism which binds today’s uprooted poor with yesterday’s rich under the same umbrella.

This Islam has no choice but to resurrect those ideologies from among the vast heap of stories and myths which promise the end of the misery for all those on the scrap heap.

It is precisely for this reason that this Islam must lead a movement which is foreign to common sense and free thought in all its forms. Furthermore, this Islam must place those who favour scientific thought and question so called “certainties” (tashkik ) on the same level as its enemies. For this view any attempt at enlightenment, whether yesterday or today, is a devilish plots, to be fought at all cost.



5. Against class line-ups

The pan-Islamist movement is a furnace in which class line-ups must melt. The non-homogeneous (multi-class) mix in the Islamist’s camp dictates a policy of denying class war or at least marginalising it and removing it from the immediate agenda. Otherwise a non-class based social bloc made on religio-cultural line-ups cannot survive class antagonisms and the pact made between the hungry and those whose bellies are full is bound to crack.

If here and there the war between “poverty and wealth” becomes a weapon to browbeat its merchant fellow travellers should they get unruly, or to loosen their purse strings, “sharia’a” remains firmly on the side of “unity” and those that “split” (monafegh) are worse than those who do not “believe” (moshrek).

Here too lies the root reason for its blind enmity with communism or any other political creed which defines society by its class boundaries, and perceives class confrontations as inevitable. Furthermore, for the same reason, this enmity becomes a religious duty.



6. No national boundaries

At every level the “revolutionary Islamic movement” is the rising of those who not only see themselves as rejected and foreign within their own national boundaries, but also of those who have (in a sense) discovered the source of their destitution and bankruptcy outside these boundaries. For this reason at their most embryonic form these movements face outwards. The foreign enemy is the root cause of all evil, and in creating the mechanisms of depravity and misery all Muslims suffer injustice equally.

For such a movement to be bounded within a single national boundary is tantamount to suicide. Furthermore, to set up anything less than a world Islamic power and a world Islamic will is to succumb to ultimate defeat within and without national boundaries. Here lies the logic behind their rejection of the legality and legitimacy of all legal, civil and secular systems in the world and their non-adherence to all international treaties and agreements.

This context also explains the inherent contradiction in simultaneously opposing imperialism and world “arrogance” and nationalism and national movements. The Islamic movement may here and there support tendencies aiming at independence and even isolationism. Yet it is emphatic in its rejection of that nationalism which opposes the nation” against the “umma” (Islamic community).



7.  Anti-democratic

The pan-Islamism movement opposes democracy in all its forms. Every shade and interpretation of “revolutionary Islam” concludes by rejecting democracy. This movement cannot except popular sovereignty and the right of the people to determine their own destiny. It cannot accede to the majority vote.

Neither its beliefs, nor its class make-up, nor its historic direction can agree with such rules. This movement has no choice but to raise the right to sovereignty above the heads of ordinary people and above its internal and external contradiction. Divine rule, where all rights belong to god, is the only realm where there are no tensions and dissent. And it is only the divine that can give away this or that right on earth to his chosen people - whether dressed in clerical robes or Islamists in civvies.

Who takes hold of this divine gift is a quarrel which the “chosen” must settle amongst themselves. The right of people to vote can at best only be accepted on the basis of one person one vote once [for or against an Islamic Republic]. Thereafter, they have no other function than to express heir allegiance (beia’a) to the chosen.

Moreover, if democracy is an institution and government a legal institution, Islam does not recognise anything but a governor, vali or caliph, all of whom are real personages.

Islam does not recognise institutions of government, only governors. In practice, however, this movement must institutionalise the right to make decisions by a small coterie of “chosen” (nokhbegan) and religious authorities (mujtahed) i.e. those who have the ability and “knowledge” to interpret divine law for any given circumstance. The recognition of who has this ability is also in the hands of those who have proven their “knowledge” beforehand. Thus the question of who decides comes full circle.



Citizen rights

Even outside the question of political power and of government, the pan-Islamist movement cannot except any rights for its citizens.

Even ignoring the fact that Islamic sharia’a   considers women as half a man (a destiny entirely compatible with “justice”), women will do little better in the utopia that the Islamic movement is digging.

In this paradise lost, the sanctity of the family forms its basic brickwork, and the values binding the utopia together cannot be defended without a clear and unambiguous definition of a women which begins as a wife and ends as a mother.

Outside this framework lies the world of corruption. No matter how much revolutionary Islam shouts about human rights and the miracle of womanhood, it will never accede to enter this world “corruption”.

Finally, if there is anything left of citizen’s rights, the “revolutionary Islamic movement” cannot grant it without religious considerations.

Non-Muslims (or when this or that religion is favoured for political purposes, all those outside that religion) are second class citizens, provided of course they do not belong to proscribed religions such as the Baha'i who are directed to repent or die. If today religious apartheid is put on the shelf, tomorrow the conscience of a powerful and dominant Islam will not rest until the non-Muslims find their “rightful” position.

If non-Muslims are today not asked to pay the religious tax (jezzieh), they will only have this added to future debts.


To sum up, these restraints make the pan-Islamism movement  not only a movement alien to the sovereignty of the people, but more ominously a movement for the removal a for banning of this right.


The tragedy is that this task is to be done at the hand of the people. themselves



8. Jihad and terrorism

The pan-Islamism movement is a “Jihad". The uprooted who decide that a “wheel that does not turn for their needs should never turn”, and who do not see any reason to decry the ruination of today if it leads to the utopia of tomorrow can have no other recourse than to the sword.

Which open and free environment, which democratic system, which legal testament, will see them through right to the end of their goal?

Whether pan-Islamism can gain power through legal means or not, whether it is suppressed or allowed to grow, whether in the balance of power pan-Islamism has the upper hand or not, it has entered an arena of war where the pulling of the trigger is a daily duty.

The recourse to terrorism in all its forms, the semi-military organisation of that part of the social base which can be mobilised, the creation of professional military institutions, attempts to infiltrate and recruit in the armies of Islamic countries, are all acts which cannot be stopped or even delayed.

Jihad is a road which will take pan-Islamism to the promised land.





II How did it come into being and what makes it grow

Manifestation of centre-periphery crisis


Despite claims to the contrary revolutionary Islam is a child of late capitalism, growing where capitalist development is more advanced. There are three elements, the juxtaposition of which allows the “revolutionary Islamic movements” to appear on the scene as a government in waiting: (a) The center-periphery crisis in world capitalism which has uprooted millions into quasi-existence. (b) The political crisis in Islamic countries derived from the crisis of class hegemony. (c) The presence of elements within society which turn this  force into one on the threshold of power: Official religious structures (and religion) used both by ruling circles and imperialism to oppose the workers and democratic movement inside the country and against progressive and liberation movements globally. It was the irony of history that the scorpion so carefully nurtured in its sleeve to save capitalism from its own ravages should bite its maker.


In Part I we sketched out the main features which mark out and distinguish the revolutionary Islamist Movement. These characteristics, seen in the context of more general tends in the world today, provide a basis for discovering those objective and subjective conditions which allowed the genesis of these movements, as well as those which encourage their growth and spread. These can be grouped under three headings:

n The developing crisis between the centre and the periphery of global capitalism

n The crisis of hegemony in Islamic societies in the form of a political vacuum, an ideological vacuum and a vacuum in political leadership, resulting in a profound political crisis.

n Those elements within Islamic societies and imperialist policy which channelled the above two into encouraging revolutionary Islamism.



1. Centre-periphery crisis


This centre-periphery crisis (sometimes known as the North-South crisis) in global capitalism is undoubtedly at the core of the roots of the genesis of the pan-Islamist movement. It is probably correct to say that the pan-Islamist movement would never have become a broad mass movement without feeding on this crisis, particularly when the latter flares up.

It must not be forgotten that until the 1970’s the movement had remained purely an ideology, unable to break out of the cells in the religious seminaries or the back-rooms of the bazaars.

Pan-Islamism could not grow were it not for the seemingly unlimited mushrooming of shanty towns and tin alleys everywhere.

Discontent and rebellions with a potential of donning the cloak of radical Islam grew wherever, and to the degree in which the Islamic societies in the periphery were incorporated into the world market, to the rate in which capitalism grew rapidly, painfully, ruinously, and left its victims to their own fate.

Wherever and to the extent the process of reproduction of capital was incorporated in the world market, planting inequalities, imbalances and economic, social, political, and cultural divisions, precisely there and to the same extent the ranks of revolutionary Islam drew closer and its explosive and igniting potential became greatest.

Finally angry masses cry out under the flag of “liberationist” and “anti-imperialist” (estekbar, loosely translated as arrogance) Islam in ever greater numbers precisely where global capital, in transferring itself to the Islamic societies of the periphery, has sawn the most cruel social, economic, political... structures.


From the 1970’s onwards, as Islamic societies of the periphery were incorporated even deeper into the world market, the centre-periphery crisis in these societies entered a new and qualitatively different phase:


n Fluctuations, and an overall downward trend, in the price of raw materials including oil on which these societies depend.

n Speeding up of the rate and breadth of inequality in social, economic and cultural development; and wide swings in the pendulum for each one.

n Accumulation of foreign debt;

n Increasing incapacity by states to fulfil their prime function of controlling and restraining the crises as they went out of hand. From these years onwards the crisis never left the throat of these societies.


The growing crisis and the steady weakening of governments had the effect of increasing the intervention of global capital in the internal affairs of these societies. This process reached a state where the budget and economic ministries of many Islamic country was turned into impotent operatives for the centres of decision making of global capital. They simply bowed to major and crisis-provoking restructuring of the socio-political life of their countries.

They presided over policies causing massive unemployment without hope or prospects, chronic inflation ravaging meagre savings, acute shortage of housing leading to a constant running battle between the guardians of the city and the never ending wave of migrators, and non-existent health care facilities which translated itself into long queues into hospitals which in effect were morgues. 


The savage demands of the International Monetary Funds, and the credit limitations imposed by the World Bank threw peripheral governments on the throat of their own people. What little remained of state largesse in the form of subsidies dried up.

Millions upon millions were made destitute and were left naked to face misery, famine and disease.

These were the very same people who carried the Egyptian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian... pan-Islamism on their shoulder.


Those thinkers and scholars of Islam would do better, and save their institutions (official and unofficial) a lot of money, if instead of looking for the footprints of revolutionary Islam in history and bygone epochs, bend their route to the archives of the IMF and the financial network under its command. They will find there enough directives, orders and warnings to light their path.



2. Crisis of political hegemony


The centre-periphery crisis of capitalism without doubt forms the prerequisite for unrest and mass uprisings in Islamic societies. However, the crisis cannot directly and organically direct this mass revolt into, say pan-Islamism or for that matter to a progressive and socialist or democratic mass movement.

Without the intervention and juxtaposition of a particular set of circumstances in the political and ideological sphere and in the arena of class conflict and social relations, pan-Islamism would not have been able to grow into a broad mass movement.


The particular set of circumstances amounts to no less than a political crisis: its distinct feature is a crisis of political hegemony in the framework of a general crisis of ideology.


At its most basic this revolves round the particular, and unique, way politico-ideological structures in peripheral societies grow, which is outside the scope of this argument. A few reminders would, however, be useful:


n Although in the majority of societies under discussion the capitalist mode of production dominates, the bourgeoisie has not yet to reach its ultimate development as the dominant class in these social formations. The immaturity of the bourgeoisie in such societies shows itself best in its anaemic political and ideological personality. For this reason, the ideology dominating society, whose prime duty must be to gain the voluntary assent of the masses to the existing social order, at best contains only elements of bourgeois ideology.

The dominant ideology in these societies is made up of an amalgam of nationalism, some religious dogmas, elements of petit-bourgeoisie socialism, paternalistic and tribal values, and some aspects of liberalism.



n The acceleration of structural changes very quickly upsets the class-political line-ups and in unique ways creates novel divisions and line-ups. The ruling ideological amalgam discussed above, not only incapable of fulfilling its tasks of gaining the assent of the masses, but loses its effectiveness even among the ruling bloc.

Not surprisingly, therefore, any attempt to remodel and renew this doctrine has the effect of reducing even more its influence on one section of society just as it appears to increase its capacity to influence other sectors. In other words, the more it becomes aware of the need to update its ideology, it not only loses its ability to universalise, but in paradoxically provokes the confrontation of minor ideologies.


n The end result of such a process, especially if coincident with a major collapse of the government’s economic programs and the seeming emptiness of the promises made by political leaders, appears as multi-dimensional changes in the political sphere and its various structures:

q Inside the ruling bloc the crisis surfaces as a crisis of hegemony, which not only causes a series of changes in the balance of power, but often leads the purge or even a bloody suppression of some of the ruling factions. These in turn reduces more than ever the political influence and broad hegemony of the ruling bloc on the masses and shrinks its social base even further.

q On the opposite pole, the working class too is powerless, not only because of its relative youth and political immaturity, but also because of it lacks of an effective ideological base.

The Marxism-Leninism which was packaged in the various Science Academies of the “socialist bloc”, in conjunction with the various theories of the “non-capitalist road to socialism”, had one function: to split up a large section of the political and trade union movement of the working class into small groupings. A further section was pushed into passivity or frank surrender.

Even ignoring those countries where the communist and worker parties went as far as liquidating themselves and amalgamating with the ruling party (eg Egypt) in other countries too there was an unending process whereby the mass of workers distanced itself from worker parties and political organisations.

The picture is completed by adding the systematic police repression and explains why at a time when conditions for the growth of the class pole opposing the bourgeoisie was at its best the working class remained weaker and more helpless than at any time.

In this catastrophic balance between the two main class poles in society, rather than there being a paralysis in the political sphere, the latter is suffering from a vacuum: the vacuum of political representation and the vacuum of legitimacy.


It is in this vacuum that the voice coming from the minarets gains an ear. A multicoloured amalgam of social layers are attracted to the invitation to a jihad which is supposed to extract its ideology out of ancient tales and sayings and resurrect it on the ruins, chaos and wretchedness of today.  


3. Facilitators


It has been argued that the temporal juxtaposition of a particular political and economic crisis form the necessary pre-conditions for the formation of mass pan-Islamist movement in Islamic peripheral societies. Such a conclusion, however, would be incomplete if we are to explain the explosive growth of this phenomenon.

To understand how the pan-Islamism is a credible government-in-waiting in a number of counties, and indeed, has taken over power in some, we must consider a number of facilitating factors:


n The presence of an official religious establishment. with a network of mosques and schools, an abundance of paid cadres, roots which are firm and to some extent independent of state power, ability to be in direct daily contact with people, and finally certain legal and political immunity and numerous social and legal privileges. Whatever control is exerted on the official religious establishment, the latter remains the main ideological arsenal and the firm and durable political backing for pan-Islamism.


n The ruling political administration's conduct towards religion. In most Islamic countries, despite the gradual separation of state and religious structures, and despite all the ups and downs of the relations between these two, some form of alliance and compromise has always operated and been maintained between the two.

The prime purpose and goal of the alliance was to oppose the left and the worker’s movement. In every juncture where the workers and democratic movement made advances and threatened the despotic and authoritarian systems, the religious apparatus joined the army and police as an arm of repression.

Such a blessing meant that during certain periods the state undertook to spread the network of religious schools and mosques; help out with the setting up Islamic societies at work and neighbourhoods; assist the religious establishment to gain political influence by means of a variety of cultural, devotional, and charitable organisation; and finally in conditions of a single party state, tolerate the quasi-party activity of religious fractions inside the ruling party and government.

Without a real analysis of the role of the state in Islamic countries, and without considering the relations between religion and state in these societies on cannot understand how Islamic societies became so defenceless when faced by the onslaught of religious obscurantism and backward looking political movements.


n Imperialist policy and action during the cold war. There is little doubt that throughout the cold war one of the major weapons used by imperialist powers against liberation movements and movements for freedom and socialism in Islamic countries was to use religion both to stupefy and to denounce. In this imperialism did not deny itself any expense or effort.

They used the religious weapon (groups, parties or men of influence) to splits in the working class movement, sabotage progressive and nationalist movements, and finally destabilise anti-imperialist governments or those allied with Soviet Union.


A totally incomplete list might include:

q Hoisting the Ekhvane Muslemin  (Muslim Brotherhood) against Nasser’s regime in Egypt and the Ba’ath Party in Syria.

q Supporting the Islamic Amal in Lebanon as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organisation as well as Lebanese progressive persons and parties.

q Strengthening the Fadaiyan-e Islam and mullahs such as Ayatollah Kashani in opposition to Dr Mossadegh’s government and the Tudeh (communist) Party in Iran;

q The massacre of half a million communists in Indonesia.

q Mobilising and organising semi-military parties and organisations in Afghanistan and giving unlimited support for them to overthrow to the Marxist government of the country.


In this context it is immaterial whether the imperialist intelligence network use the religious weapon directly; rely on facilities provided by countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; or imperialist agents set out directly to create religious groupings or parties, or infiltrate existing organisations; or to what extent and in what forms the support has taken.

What is clear is their central role and importance in the cold war in spreading the Islamic influence in Islamic societies and with all its grave consequences.


n The effects of regional political crises on the overall growth of the pan-Islamist movement. Such deadlocked crises as the Arab Israeli question and the questions of Palestine, the occupation of Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian land and the persistence of military mobilisation and sporadic military confrontations have all aided the pan-Islamist movement.

Nothing could have damaged the standing of Arab nationalism than the humiliating defeat of Arab nationalist governments at the hands of Israel. Few events could have justified the blind “non-conciliatory” altitude of pan-Islamism when confronting “Jews” than the Camp David accord and other such humiliating retreats the latest of which creates minuscule bantustans  as a sop to Palestinian nationalism.


The chronic weakness of the left and progressive forces to find ways of untying the various knots in the region could only lead to the questioning of their legitimacy.

It is in such a bed that events such as the assassination of Sadat, the blowing up of US and French marine headquarters in Beirut,.. and perhaps most critically the intifada, become turning points.

While such crisis-laden processes remain insolvent the pan-Islamist movement will continue to fill the existing political vacuum.


n The Iranian revolution and the export of the revolution. The coming to power of the first Islamic government, which had placed pan-Islamism at the cornerstone of its political and ideological agenda was crucial for the spread of “revolutionary Islam”.

The direct and indirect effect of this incident on strengthening the roots of the pan-Islamist movement everywhere and, furthermore, making it more determined to aim for political power cannot be belittled.

The Islamic government in Iran, however, could not for one minute remain content with these indirect influences on the Islamist movements. From the first days it did whatever it was in its power to influence them directly and take over their leadership.

Without exception, all Islamic movements were supported financially, logistically and by military training. Many such groups and organisations were overhauled. On other occasions the Islamic regime called on more radical factions to split.

It involved itself in an extensive organisation of terrorist and “jihad-like” cells, and it embarked in an intensive drive to shape an Islamic international. Finally it pursued an eight year war with Iraq which above all must be viewed as an exercise in the “export of the revolution” employing what the regime at that time say as the most suitable form: military power.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is today not alone in “exporting the pan-Islamist movement”. Nowadays, the activities of Sudan and Afghanistan allow the Islamic regime in Iran to hide behind the scene of the export of the revolution.

Moreover, other states as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan are also actively making a bid to take over the leadership of the Islamist movement and to influence its policies, and spread religious illusions and superstitions.



n Bush’s New World Order and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The after effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and more particularly what has surfaced as the New World Order will for the foreseeable future feed the blind radicalism and the “anti-imperialist” (the Islamists prefer the term estekbar: loosely translated as arrogance).

In the conditions of today, outlined in this article, legitimacy for pan-Islamist and similar movements comes when the prevailing gunboat diplomacy and outright colonial policies by the USA and its allies, turns them into movements for gaining identity, prestige and pride.


The US and allied planes did not only plough the kindergartens and hospitals of Iraq, but lined up millions and millions of the wretched and downtrodden masses behind the Omar Abdel-Rahmans and Ali Belhajs of this world.

The spokesperson of global imperialism, in whatever outfit, cannot pretend innocence and denounce the dangers of “Islamic fundamentalism” and warn of “Islamic fanaticism” endangering the security and stability of the world or bemoan the dangers facing civilisation!

They know better than anyone that the global capitalist system has the honour of creating all the bed, reasons and agents of growth of Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism.


Observe history’s joke! The third industrial revolution places the most blind and backward-looking twin on the skirts of capitalism!





III How does it effect society

A “death” born and forced to "live" out of time


An illegitimate child of advanced capitalism, radical Islam has profound effects on the society that gives birth to it both before and after victory. A contemporary phenomenon, called to be reborn out of time and centuries after its life-springs have dried up, its destiny is that of a “death” forced to be born and to “live”. This is the secret of the life-burning, ruinous and totalitarian mark the movement leaves wherever it places its seal.

These can be summed up as a fundamental fracturing of civil society from top to bottom into believers and unbelievers, the merging of part of civil society into political society and the elimination of the rest, an almost total mobilisation and politicisation of society paradoxically wearing it down, depoliticising it and leading to creeping corruption, major disruption of capital accumulation, and finally to the  elimination of rational thought to be replaced by received wisdom.

The effect is to grind down the class potentials, the democratic potentials and the cultural potentials of an increasingly destituted and polarised society facing grave psycho-social crisis.


From economy to politics, science and culture, wherever Pan-Islamism has tread, it has left a trail of conflict, contradiction and crisis. While its ruinous effects on secular life varies in extent or breadth at different stages of its development, and may at times even be self-negating, there is a recognisably unified pattern and content unfolding.

We will review these effects first in conditions where the movement is in opposition and next when it gains political power.



A. In opposition


Revolutionary Islam splits civil society at every level while leaving state structures intact.

In the first instance every type of class organisation, institution, political party, trade union and guild is split in half along religious lines and confront each other. Islamic labour and peasant unions and guilds confront their non-Islamic equivalents. Nothing escapes this split, not even bourgeois class organisations and societies.

Reborn in their Islamic and non-Islamic varieties they glare across an ideological divide. This divide causes major transformation in the class line up in society. New class blocs are formed.

These new blocs are fundamentally non-clas s. Labour power lines up with either “Islamic” and “secular” capital under the umbrella of “Islam” and “secularism”. Meanwhile outside the state structure and in society, the embryos of Bonapartism as the alternative shape of the future state is forming.

Thus the class potential of these societies is systematically eroded.


Democratic erosion

Simultaneously democratic structures and institutions are similarly split: the ideological weapon creates Muslim societies of doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, students, or women in distinction from non-Muslim groupings. The Muslim doctor can no longer defend their professional needs by the side of non-Muslim doctor. Worse, their duty to combat atheism and blasphemy overtakes every other duty.


Civil society is fractured into the Islamic and non-Islamic: the divide rips apart everything from trade unions to professional organisations. This is the most profound and dangerous consequence of the pan-Islamic movement. 

One section of society is mobilised against another . This division even appears in some industries in capitalist core countries.

The inevitable and tragic effect is to create artificial line ups up and down society on the lines of sex, religion or ethnicity: women against women, teacher against teacher and worker against worker.

Where Muslim women organise separately from other women, not only do they enfeeble the women’s movement in its struggle for democratic rights, but under the paralysing pressure of ideology, they even lose the ability to hang on to their past achievements. We see the tragic sight of a woman who has lost all rights voluntarily saying yes to her slavery. This faces the democratic movement with its greatest dilemma.

Thus the second effect is to wear down the democratic potentials of society. It is in this chasm that has appeared that roots for the later religious despotism is planted.


Paradoxically, the more the masses occupy the stage the greater the power of the leadership. Indeed there is an inverse relationship between representation and mass mobilisation. The leadership of these movements feeds and grows on mass activity. Their power becomes more concentrated and unassailable in direct relation to their ability to bring the masses into the political scene.

It is in the very nature of these movements to relegate authority and power. The masses appear on the political scene not to exercise their will, but to politically disrobe.

Where the masses are reduced to the “umma” (family of believers) of the Imam, where in its ideal form they are the disciples of religious authorities (marja’a), then the more they make their presence felt in the political arena, the greater the authority if the leaders, imams and clergy.

The role of an individual with his/her democratic rights in society and therefore in the state is eroded and with it the democratic base of society is weakened and shattered.

In this process the roots of tomorrow’s religious despotism are implanted, and the structure of tomorrow’s ultra-centralised and leader-centred “political power” is laid today.



Cultural fatigue

In a society giving birth to a radical Islamic movement the cultural makeup is its first victim. The cultural sphere disintegrates and polarises into numerous minor, conflicting and growing poles which, despite any differences, are united on one premise: the belief in the absolute. This calamitous process effectively closes the route to any cultural advance.

Scientific thought, experimental sciences, philosophy, as well as values emanating from these are isolated and walled off by absolutist cultural structures. The quest for the absolute, to integrate, to annex, to dominate and monopolise, and the power struggle become the ethical norms governing society.

If we add to these a return to the most extreme paternalism, superstition, machismo ..., we will discover the deepening roots of what will ultimately create, and make durable, the ultra conservative, absolutist, and despotic structures of the future Islamic state.

In this process, not only is the value system of society overturned, but cultural, educational and ethical structures are also overhauled. Everywhere Muslim schools, Islamic social gatherings etc. reappear.


The intellectual potentials of society are also gradually eroded. Thought, in all its manifestations is enslaved to belief and ethics. Questioning, doubt, scepticism - essential elements of scientific and philosophical thought are rejected as tools of the devil. Combine these pressures on independent thought with the daily attacks on modernism and the new the elements of a sterile, and rigid intellectual life are there.

In place comes those elements where intellectual slavery, servitude, demagoguery, and obscurantism breed and in which religious despotism can so easily grow.


Social psychology

More insidiously the psychological potentials of society become poisoned with disastrous effects.

Violence and the cult of violence becomes the dominant mentality when the corrosive mixture of absolutism and a worship of power, is juxtaposed with the centrality of belief and is given free reign in a polarised society.

The process numbs the senses to violence and familiarises a militaristic and police mentality.

At its most obvious level the exhortation to violence in the form of jihad (holy war), amre be ma’aruf (duty to warn those who do not observe Islamic laws), the cult of martyrdom and the “blood” (witness the fountain spewing blood in the “Martyr’s Cemetery” Teheran), the self mutilation associated with the mourning of saints and martyrs... all create an atmosphere where the shedding of blood and of violent acts become the norm in society.

It is in this context that the deliberate burning of Rex Cinema in Abadan by Muslim revolutionaries which burnt to death over 600 persons should be seen. More recently we witnessed the immolation of over 30 Turkish secular intellectuals in Sivas, and the knifing to death of Croatian workers in Algeria.

A culture is created based on hatred of “other” human beings. A mentality of mistrust, fear, tension, and friction permeates society’s every cell.

Hand in hand goes the culture of spying and prying into the life of others at home, work, school, and college. One section of society spend an enormous amount of time and energy spying on and reporting the “misdeeds” of the other. The corruption of family, human, professional and other relations cannot be underestimated.

It is ironic that a religion dedicated to making the family the pillar of society tears apart family ties by getting one member to interfere and even spy on another! A culture is built on treachery.


n Among other negative products are:

     q Increase in the power of the male, the khan, and the mullah.

     q Unquestioning acceptance of received wisdom.

     q A populism which acceded to populism.

     q A reductionism, where concepts are reduced to a simple absurdity.

     q   A rise in religiosity and belief in the supernatural.


Ultimately what is left is social mistrust at every level. More destructively, the embryos of the ideological and police-military repressive institutions of the future Islamic government are laid in this atmosphere. These institutions in turn metamorphose into the central core of the repressive apparatus of the future religious despotism.





B. After gaining power


Once pan-Islamism creates a state where religion rules, its effects on the environment is immeasurably greater and longer lasting. Some of these effects will undoubtedly survive long after the Islamic regimes return to the grave from which they rose.


Political sphere

The roots of what is to become the Islamic state are already taking firm hold before revolutionary Islam comes to power. Fundamental changes in polarising society in the political and class arena, in the cultural and intellectual and psychology, and also in the system of values and ethics of society have already taken place.

Political structures have been overturned in multifaceted and fundamental ways. Elements, which for centuries have survived deeply and stubbornly in the ideological and political superstructure of society, are now co-opted into service.


n What takes place is the abolition of the modern state, to the extent that its main indicator - the separation of politics and ideology - is abolished. The secular superstructure comes under ideological siege:

Sharia’a law displaces secular law. A system of law based on the parliamentary vote, rationality, and current and living needs is replaced by one which is sacred and eternal.

A process is unleashed which overturns the general structures of political power, and in which ideological institutions occupy key positions and become the pivotal links in that power.

Such a development overturns the traditional role of the state. The state is transformed from the mechanism for the control of the socio-economic tensions of the country into the cause and perpetuator of tension and crisis in society.

The contradiction of a religious-ideological state with its secular, material and rational base transforms it into a state of permanent crisis .


n A religious despotism is established: The ruling Islamic power creates a new legal system where the right to govern at every level, whether legislative or judiciary, is a divine right, solely to be exercised on gods behalf by certain sections of the clergy.

In this system the modern capitalist state’s formal equality of citizens before the law is abolished and replaced by a legal system where the “government of the ruling Ayatollahs” is distinct from the governed masses.


n A Bonapartist  power bloc is formed. The ruling Islamic power brings together a power bloc made up of conflicting social classes [see Iran Bulletin no 3], which while trying to maintain its broad social base assures itself of the ability to remain relatively independent from class tendencies in society.

Two features gives this type of Bonapartist regime relative durability; the ability to resort to religious demagoguery, and the fact that it surfaced in conditions of an ideological and political vacuum [seePart I] where its political and class manoeuvrability is greatly eased.

The other face of such an uneven and tension-prone bloc is usually a charismatic and powerful leader who can control the tensions and prevent the bloc from disintegrating and imploding.


n A greatly enlarged and interventionist state structure.

Civil society is abolished; one section is absorbed in the state while the rest is destroyed. No civil society is allowed to survive outside the state.

Underlying this process is the denial of the independence of the private from the public spheres. Islamic government knows no bounds. No part of life is considered private and outside the control of divine rule and that of god’s representatives. It is this totalism which underlies the order for civil society to be abolished:

Every sector which has been reborn on the basis of accepting the ruling ideology is organically incorporated and integrated in the state. Those sectors, however, which persist on their secular existence are crushed and annulled.


As a consequence of this process those forces bearing the weight of government are organised in extensive and interlocking structures. Civilians are mobilised and organised in highly mobile gangs ready to attack bookshops or dissident groups, millions are recruited in the “mobilisation of the dispossessed” (basij mostaz’afin ), Islamic societies are set up and Islamic Shoras (committees) of workers, craftsmen, trades, commerce etc are created around mosques, Hosseiniehs, the institutions of Friday Prayer ... and allow the Islamic state to spread its tentacles into every home.

It is a rare trade organisation; cultural grouping or political gathering that can escape this fate. The paradox of complete absorption or total abolition is enacted with increasing determination and force the deeper the ruling Islamic regime digs its roots. The process ultimately abolishes even those relative and limited independence of party, trade union etc. institutions or at the very least transforms them into an unconditional appendages of the police-security apparatus or the office or enterprise management.

In short what remains of civil society does so in a militarised, or Vaticanised form which takes on the role of police or ideological control for the state.


Simultaneously the process encourages a ballooning of bureaucracy, reduced productivity, obstructionism, multiplicity of centres of power, parallel institutions, corruption, bribery and nepotism, and.... While state bureaucracy is greatly expended, its power is paradoxically eroded. The more the power of the state the more “private” becomes that state. Thus not only is the modern state abolished but the state, as the “general” state of capital, is reduced to the “specific” state of capital.


n Depoliticisation of the masses. Pan-Islamism in power politicises the whole of society and maintains it in a state of constant mobilisation. One section at its side imposes state control and the other, on the other side, opposes by whatever means at hand. Society is rift into two opposing camps: religious and secular. This state of permanent politicisation paradoxically wears down society and creates its opposite: a depoliticisation.

Once depoliticisation spreads to both camps in a society where class and political atomization has taken root, the longer term potentials of these countries for restructuring and change and for lifting themselves up and moving towards democracy are seriously weakened. The future horizon for these societies is truly dark.


n The inequality of citizens toward the law. The equality of citizens forms the legal basis of the modern state. This too is negated in Islamic societies where the element of ideology creates several legal layers in society (e.g. inheritance laws for men and women and for Muslims and non-Muslims).

In the society radical Islam creates, citizens are equal when it comes to affirming laws but not when it comes to negating them. Man cannot reject laws which have been divinely ordained (as interpreted by the mujtahed - the learned mullah).



The economy

The rise to power of the pan-Islamist movement brings it into conflict, perhaps more than in any other field, with its material infrastructure. If the main role of the state in all societies, and hence in Islamic peripheral countries, is to “recreate the external conditions for production” the “Pan-Islamist state” embroils the economy of the country under its control in a multi-dimensional and permanent crisis.

Principally the ideological Islamic state cannot use to the full the various levers usually employed by states to regulate the economy: namely the law, money and force.


n The law: Ideology weakens the use of this, one of the most important tools in the hands of the state to intervene in the economy. The rational and objective elements in law are overshadowed by ideological and political considerations. The result is that the economic sphere which is rational and secular is constantly in opposition with the law (in this case often irrational and ideological) and slips out of the latter’s control.

Ideology limits and obstructs the workings of the laws of capitalism, including the law of value (fundamental to the capitalist economy). The equality of a commodity in exchange is eclipsed by its inequality in ideology.

The law of value is undermined, constrained or made conditional. Hand in hand with this limitation goes a certain liberalism.

      q Ownership is valid so long as religious tax is paid and it has been obtained by “legitimate” (mashrou’ ) means. An ideological element enters both ownership and exchange of property. A property used for un-Islamic purposes (e.g. brewing) or for which religious tax has not been paid is illegitimate and cannot be exchanged.

     q Commerce is also bound by ideology (some commodities -alcohol, “immoral” literature or films, videos, many articles of clothing etc. - cannot be bought or sold).



n Money: This vital lever of state intervention in the economy too faces a similar fate. Money essentially loses its function to fulfil the needs of the production and circulation. Instead, the religious ideological state uses money to answer its political and ideological needs.

  The volume of money in circulation is allowed to expand at an uncontrolled rate dictated by political considerations. Consequently the money supply is no longer a stabilising but an anarchic element in the economy.

This process allows huge quantities of money to accumulate in few private hands. This equity then confronts the state, not only cancelling out state control, but in turn acting as a lever on the state.

As we saw in the case of law, money is roped in to suppress the contradictions between the ideological state and its material-economic base. It is turned to its antithesis: serving to destabilise rather than stabilise.


n Force. In a radical Islamic government, the function of force and violence as a purely repressive force is obvious in the economy more than in any other field.

Here force is not acting as in a “normal” capitalist state to suppress the conflicts and contradictions between the various sectors of the economy, and to paper over the cracks so that conditions for the reproduction of capital and the economy is optimised. Instead it is used to suppress the conflicts and contradictions between the economy as a whole and the ruling political power.

Force, whether material or ideological, that is whether taking the form of expropriation, legal suspension, fines, imprisonment...or by denouncing in the pulpit as diabolic and un-Islamic, has one consequence: it creates massive insecurity in the economic realm.


The net effect of this process is the erection of a truly complex web of non-economic structures within which a capital which is both parasitic and without identity is entwined with important state functionaries. A powerful defensive perimeter is then built around this alliance protecting it against both the ideological-material coercion of the state and against blind economic forces.

The huge mafia-like octopus with one end in the “bazaar” and mosques and the other in the armed forces and religious courts is an inevitable end for societies unfortunate enough to live under a pan-Islamist regime.


There are further effects of pan-Islamic rule on the economy which go beyond its enfeebling of the state in performing its key function of controlling the economy. The potentials of these societies for economic development are also ruined:


n Investment: Both internal and external capital fights shy of investment in any long-term projects:

q Domestic investment is dealt a particular blow by the fall in the rate of capital accumulation. One factor in this is the expansion of an interfering, totalitarian and highly expensive state. A huge burden is placed on the gross domestic product and value added which hinders the possibilities of capital accumulation in line with the development needs of the country. While effecting the private sector to a lesser degree, its impact on the state sector are decisive and disastrous.

The private sector essentially shuns investment in productive industries - effected as it is by the prevailing insecurity brought about by the ideological-political policies outlined above. Instead capital is drawn into the less insecure quick-return profitable transactions.

Moreover, capital tends to be drawn into hidden and out of sight areas where it is less likely to be traced. It is these elements that cause the private sector, moving independently from the negative process of accumulation, and prodded by non-economic consideration, to run away from productive investment into playing the stock market, hoarding, speculation, buying and selling, real estate and land speculation etc.

Meanwhile, under the influence of the general economic conditions, the ability of the state sector to invest in vital sectors of the economy is also progressively eroded. Thus those sectors of the economy, which because of low profitability or poor development depend on state investment are also starved. Increasing inequalities and imbalance is caused in an economy already unevenly developed as a peripheral capitalist economy.


q   Foreign sources of investment are even less likely to respond. The economic factors enumerated above are confounded by a series of political factors. An insecure legal-judicial atmosphere, negative non-economic factors, hand in hand with an adventurist foreign policy (itself an inevitable consequence of the appearance of radical Islam) is enough to cut foreign capital’s apetite for investment.

There is a further element: the deliberate use of the economic weapon and official sanction by core capitalist countries to control the crisis-provoking Islamic governments erects a formal barrier to the entry of international finance into these countries.

Where investment does take place, it is highly calculated and of a politico-economic nature. Thus Japan and Italy have tried to ensure their future supplies of oil in Iran by investing in petrochemicals, or other strategic goods. Even here, where they are securing their supplies against present and future rivals, advance payment has been extracted in the form of oil sales, itself fulfilling the need to secure oil stockpiles.


n Human resources: this vital resource for economic development is also exhausted under radical Islamic governments. The productivity of manpower under capitalism is intricately linked with its accumulated potentials and qualities - skill levels, education, research etc. These form essentially in a secular, scientific and experiential environment. The conditions for their survival is the recreation of such an environment.

The Islamic government crushes this through pressures it bears on the secular life (from schools to universities and scientific, research intellectual centres). This regime confronts science with belief (maktab).

Its ceaseless interference in secular life even forces large sections of existing skills to flee the country or to abandon productive economic activity.


The Islamic state not only fails to recreate a qualitatively advanced workforce, but changes the existing labour force into an unskilled, unstable force of poor quality which hampers the ability of the economy to truly expand. Foreign workers of sufficient calibre are even harder to attract for similar reasons, and also because of limited foreign exchange.


n Labour Code: In Islam it is not the function of the state to regulate or deliver labour power. Thus the usual legal framework ensuring that the labour force is not unduly worn out is absent. In Islamic societies the equal exchange of labour power is replaced by the law of “rental” of labour where the contract is between the individual and the owner without the intervention of any laws or regulations. This too contravenes the law of value. Where a labour code has been legislated, as in Iran in 1992, it has been under intense pressure from workers and after great procrastination.


n Science and technology: This essential ingredient of economic development succumbs to the blows of ideological control on educational establishments and especially at the university and technical college level.

The return to the amalgamation of religion and state puts a brake on the flowering of the scientific shoots in society. The potential for technological development at home is severely limited and at best is confined to selected areas.

Foreign technology is also largely inaccessible for reasons of politics and shortage of foreign exchange. Moreover, the absence of a sufficiently advanced domestic technical skill limits any advantage that could be taken from imported technology.

The result is to deny society one more key lever for economic development.


n In short : Pan-Islamism in power is ruinous for the economy. Though retaining capitalism as the dominant mode of production, capitalist development is slowed down in certain fields, without being able to resurrect some pre-capitalist forms of production.

Thus the multi-structured economy which they inherited (containing elements of pre-capitalist economy in the midst of a dominant capitalist economy) is faced, on the one hand with paralysing contradictions and internal anarchy. On the other hand the already existing unequal development is accentuated to break point.

To this one must add major disruption in the process where the peripheral economy (now under Islamic rule) is amalgamated in the economy of core countries, i.e. a disruption in the conditions for the external reproduction of capital, so vital for peripheral economies.

The net result is to push the economy into reverse; wear down the superstructure and infrastructure of the economy; dry up the economic resources and potentials; and finally mortgage not only the present but see the prospects for a recovery recede in time.

Pan-Islamism in power creates the conditions for the Islamic societies to sink in a sea of poverty and destitution.



Culture and social psychology

  All those elements which disrupted and changed the system of values, intellectual structures, and the cultural face of society before radical Islam achieved power reach their final genesis.

The two opposing cultural camps, each reacting to the other and rapidly moving towards the extreme in their positions, explain their existence essentially in terms of a negation of the other.

Each camp - pan-Islamist or against radical Islam, religious or irreligious and even anti-religious, create their own separate systems based on absolute values. In these systems everything is reduced to the two colours of black or white.

Anyone not a fervent believer in radical Islam is a heathen and a devil. Conversely, any Muslim is a murderer, oppressor, plotter etc.

If one camp looks on the exposure of a few strands of hair in a woman as prostitution, the other denounces any attempt at defining morals in private and sexual life as fanaticism and backwardness.

Translated into practice, this process manifests as a strange whirlpool of false pretensions to religiosity, institutionalised hypocrisy, nihilism and immorality sucking in both poles to an equal extent and with equal inevitability.


Social atomisation

There is also another face to this tragic transformation of cultural society: its resurfacing in a police-repressive guise. The culture of radical Islam has now become the official culture and transformed into the political superstructure of the state and, indeed, absorbed into the state.

Meanwhile non-Islamist culture is banned as an “anti-culture”, a “cultural enemy”, a “cultural danger” and “cultural corruption”. It is unceremoniously removed to the realm of the forbidden.

What this means is that both cultural processes - pan-Islamist and its counter-culture - are removed from the cultural world and absorbed in various ways in a polarised political sphere. They become totally ideologised in a process that follows an almost deterministic path ending in an atomised society:


q The faster the official culture takes shape and the more it is equipped with repressive tools.

q   The greater the absorption of ideological structures into the state and the greater their control of cultural life;

q The greater education is absorbed into the ruling religion, the faster the news media are turned into religious schools under monopoly control;

q In short the more secular life comes under ideological control and under greater pressure;


To the same extent social opposition, discontent, reactions and attacks take the shape of “cultural attack” and “cultural confrontation”. Culture is totally politicised.


In the absence of an opposition with political influence, wherever popular opposition does not take an explosive shape (which is the usual form it takes) protest manifests itself in an individual and atomised cultural form. This becomes both an open and an underground war in every arena of ordinary life.

This is a war where on a huge scale, and using primitive weapons, the ruling culture and system of values are mocked: from the dress code, to the battle in the streets on “pagan” national festivals, to the duality of home and public life and morality. Scratch the surface of a radical Islamic society and you will witness its antithesis deeply permeating every aspect of life.


It is ironical that radical Islam, which came out as a movement for cultural reform, and saw its mission as a “cultural revolution” finds itself surrounded by a “counter-cultural revolution”. It is also a mockery of history that the very imams who are the epitome of absolute power are brought to their knees in a running battle with rebellious “youth”. What an irony for the ruling mullahs to admit that the cultural assault by the enemy (read the young who have known nothing but the Islamic regime) is the greatest danger they and the “Islamic revolution” face!


Opposition atomised

The danger signal for progressive forces is also here. This backward turn in the social struggle from one which is conscious, organised and on class-political lines into a atomised, individual, absolutist, unorganised, cultural battle, without clear class aims, and lacking any true political consciousness simultaneously wears down the cultural potential of Islamic societies and drains the political health of that society.

The sad reality for these societies is that even when the religious-Islamist governments are overthrown, the future looks bleak. What progressive and stable socio-political system can take root in a society saturated with unevenness; polarised and depoliticised; where political discourse is populist or demagogic; where social and moral indifference, negativism and nihilism, hypocrisy and pretensions to religiosity rules; where paternalism is in command and the dominant relationship in society is that between the follower and the followed, the disciple and the mujtahid (religious authority).

A society sinking in lumpanism, the get rich mentality, commerce, the glorification of money...and also violence, aggression, cruelty, squashing the weak; and simultaneously humbleness, sycophancy, flattery, opportunism...


How can a society which has fallen victim to pan-Islamism throw off this massive dead weight of cultural psychological trauma?





IV  What can be done?

Anti neo-liberalism, deep democratic changes and a totally refurbished left



A child of our time and a product of the ruinous effects of advanced capitalism in Islamic societies of the periphery, radical Islam confronted the left with its most difficult challenge: how to respond to a radical grass roots movement born “out of time” and out of desperation, a movement which destroys the class, cultural and even psycho-social potential of those very societies; leaving a society disarmed in confronting those ruins in any real meaning of the term. The actual response of the left has not been edifying.

In previous chapters we have briefly analysed the roots of the movement, is main characteristics and its destructive effects on the society. We conclude these theses with a glance at the way the movement has been dealt with by both the left and the right and options open to the left both within and without these societies.

This as an invitation to the left for a dialogue over one of the most vexed questions of our time: what to do about a blind and reactionary revolt of the downtrodden.




The left both on the ground and on a global level has been stung to paralysis by a phenomenon which provokes its instincts in contradictory ways.

Here is a movement with claims to a mythical past, but born “out of time” and promising to lift those millions into a just future born out of that past. It is born into, and because of, a present marked by increasing polarisation of wealth and poverty, development and backwardness throwing out millions into the rubbish heap of advanced capitalism.

At one level it is the most down trodden in society which are crying for their rightful share, and on the other it tramples those very structures and lie-ups which could pull it out of this morass.

On the one hand it espouses the most anti-imperialist slogans and on the other it destroys the class which can truly organise to unroll imperialist domination.

On the one hand it saves the capitalist mode of production from the onslaught of those who want to tear down its ramparts, and on the other disrupts capitalist accumulation and provokes the wrath of global capital.

On the one hand it mobilises huge masses around the slogan of “equality of the Islamic umma” (community) and an end to hunger, and yet its policies drives society into ever greater unequal development, poverty and social polarisation.

Around the slogan of “independence” it sacrifices all political freedoms, and with the slogan of “freedom” it enslaves the female half the population, not to mention minorities and those who think differently.

In the name of the right to cultural independence it discards universal rights and justifies despotism and forcibly imposes a grey uniformity over millions.

In the name of participatory democracy it mobilises millions to give their assent to the increasing absolutist power over them - a seemingly voluntary yea to slavery.

A people are increasingly mobilised and politicised only to end up being pulverised into individual units expressing their opposition in a depoliticised cultural negativistic rejection.

Finally a movement to end all anti-corruption movements ends up by internalising corruption into the very fabric of society.




Join it or fight it

Shorn to its core there have been two basic reactions to radical Islam:

     q A policy of political alliance.

     q   One of confrontation and ultimate destruction.


With the end of the Cold War, the first response has faded somewhat. But at its height both left and right followed the hallowed doctrine of “uniting with the common enemy”. Radical Islam carried two simultaneous characteristics. It was anti-capitalist and it was anticommunist. This meant that at no stage was it short of allies. The Soviet bloc allied with its bind “anti-imperialism” and imperialist countries with its virulent anti-communism.

There were the inevitable variation as to the degree to which these alliances were made conditional on who held hegemony, or whether they were seen as strategic or tactical. Believers in the “non-capitalist road to socialism”, for example, saw this alliance as strategic and unconditional. Others made it conditional to the attainment of proletarian hegemony.

World capitalism also saw advantages in an alliance, and as we pointed out in an earlier article was itself instrumental (directly and through client states) in bringing anti-communist Islam into being and encouraging its growth as part of its policy to contain the working class movement.


The methodology of both left and right is identical: you identify a contradictory phenomenon by the dominant pole of its contradiction: anti-imperialism for some, anti-communism for others.

As far as the left is concerned, this had little to do with Marxism, and was a product of Stalinist distortions vulgarised further at the hands of a peasant movement in China.


Post Cold War

With one bloc out of the way, both right and left turned to a policy of confrontation. In general terms two main trends can be dissected in the way the remaining capitalist bloc, and its allies, faced radical Islam:

      q Liquidate it ideologically and physically

      q Combine pressure and appeasement to force it to conform and transform into a reformist movement.

Neither was new and both had, for example, been practised by the builders of the modern state in Islamic countries earlier in the century (Ataturk in Turkey, Reza Shah in Iran, Bourghiba in Tunis, in post war Syria, and even in Pakistan - ostensibly an “Islamic state” etc.). What is new is the vigour and breadth with which they are being pursued today.

Modernisation and the formation of the modern state in the countries listed above involved above all a process where social institutions and values had to be secularised; where rationalism replaced hadith (actions or sayings of the Prophet and the Imams) and where potentially changeable laws replace immutable divine law (sharia’a).

Those hoping to reform radical Islam argue that pan-Islamism is a cultural movement, and a reaction to the formation of the modern state. These states overturned social structures too rapidly provoking a blind and angry reaction. Since these people were unabsorbed in the modern state their reaction has taken a religious hue, and since it is directed against the state it is political. Furthermore, they remind the proponents of the policy of the whip, that belief cannot be suppressed through repression.

The answer, accordingly, is to put a brake on change, and introduce certain reforms favouring religion, while retaining the overall framework of the modern state. The ploy is to change the ruling bloc in such a way as to broaden the social base of the regimes. An alliance is sought with one section of religion against another. The resulting political stability is thought to weaken the appeal of radical Islam and marginalise them in the political equation.

A key policy, however, is to keep away the new Islamic allies way from the key centres of power (army and security apparatus etc.). Examples where such policies have been put into practice are Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, and earlier, Egypt.

A variant of the above policy is proposed for those countries where neither the prospects of a coalition government exist nor is the secular state viable: abandon the quest for modernisation and leave the task of amalgamating the national capital with global capital - that is the task of reconciling the capitalist infrastructure with aspects of religious culture - in the hands of reformist Islam. The aim is to stabilise the political structure of society while avoiding the dangers of outright modernisation.

Unlike the first proposition, which argued that the rigidity of sharia’a cannot cope with the changing needs of a modern state, this one believes that religion and capitalism can be reconciled. The argument between these two interpretations is currently hotting up in Algeria.


Both views share a common core: they rely on Islamic reformists to secure the interests of the West: for one as a junior partner to secularists, for the other on its own right.  The task of making the political and economic structures of capitalism, in a country of the periphery, compatible with indigenous culture is given over to reformist Islam.

It is understood that some outside pressure must be brought to bear on religious thought to force it to seek accommodation with secularism and take the road to transformation.

Needless to say neither policy operates in its pure form everywhere since specific conditions impose some degree compromise between the different roads, (In Algeria or Egypt or example) resulting in highly complex policies being followed. In others they may take repeated U-turns.



All these policies are likely to fail, not least because they do not address the root cause of what created radical Islam - this movement rather that being a reaction to the modern state is a product of the effects of the modern state in a peripheral capitalist country in late capitalism.

Those who argued that beliefs cannot be destroyed by force could point to the former socialist bloc as living proof.

Yet the reformers who see the pan-Islamist movement as a cultural phenomenon, and a reaction to the formation of the modern state and the over hasty destruction of traditional structures are similarly on slippery ground. They are indeed mistaking cause for effect and subsequently cannot explain why this reaction occurred in the 1980’s, which in some countries is over half a century after the modern state was established. Nor why it is exploding today when thirty years ago it was effortlessly crushed by Nasserism.


We have argued [Part I] that radical Islam is a reaction to the effects of modernisation and not to modernisation per se. This is not a trivial difference. Such an understanding would profoundly effect the strategies needed to overcome revolutionary Islam as we will discuss below.

Moreover, the concept of a reaction by society to secularisation fails to take into account the fact that virtually all these societies are multi-cultural formations, with advanced capitalism living precariously alongside pre-capitalist and even tribal structures. Thus, sizeable sections of society are not averse to modernisation. Those who base their theories on the backward and traditionalist culture in Islamic countries ignore the multi-layered cultural settings.

Examples of the failure of the policy of accommodation abound. Appeasement has not diminished the spectre of radical Islam in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia fed and helped create Hamas and FIS to counter radicalism only to find them radicalised to its horror. Even in today’s Iran it is not difficult to see that in the absence of a radical left, the alternative to the regime is as much radial Islam as it is a revamped monarchy.

The appeasement scenario can thus be shown to be mistaken both in theory and by living practice.



The Iranian left

The Iranian left, holding tight to a highly formalistic interpretation of a deeply rooted economism and crude statism, followed until recently the two policies of support or overthrow. Any group which increased state ownership at home and sided with the “socialist bloc” abroad was a natural ally of the world proletariat, regardless of the degree of participatory democracy or the relations of production. For some it was even a candidate for socialist transformation. The opposite view simply turned these arguments upside down, while keeping its basic tenets untouched. Even those like Rahe Kargar which correctly rejected the non-capitalist road to socialism based its critique on economism. There was no place in that analysis for culture and ideology.

The alternative view, more recently in vogue, rightly rejects that economism only to replace it by another exaggerated view totally immersed in a cultural interpretation. Culture and ideology are considered the essential elements of radical Islam, and also the route to its negation.

n One interpretation combs the past in search of anti-religious elements in national culture. A good source is Islamic mysticism, but also such pre-Islamic movements and Manichaeism and Mazdakism. Egalitarian and humanistic elements in mysticism are brought in to confront organised the religion, and to create an alternative to official religion.

n In contrast there are those who declare that there is nothing in national culture on which to build. Argued by many prominent thinkers of the new left, it claims that democracy will never take root in Iran and similar societies unless we can confront the cultural backwardness. Total secularism and modernism is their solution for a free and democratic society and economic growth.

Such concepts as mystical “love” and “self-sacrifice” are seen as a total negation of nature which cannot form the bricks for a socialist future. “Love” is inseparable from the love of god, they argue, and at its core lies a death worship. This group advocates a total rejection of national culture and a union with world culture.


Both are intellectual movements with the task of creating a new culture. Both share a similar viewpoint on the centrality of culture. While claiming to be followers of Heidegger they are not particularly faithful to him since they propose to build a new culture on a vacuum - an absolute rejection of existing culture.

The only effect of such a strategy is to separate the intellectual from society absolutely. Note also that despite their claims to articulate a radical left solution, they echo at their core the liberal cry that it is not possible to set up democracy, or take steps towards socialism, in societies on the periphery of world capitalism. Nor in countries where a tradition based on religion exists.


Left outside

Interestingly the positions taken by the left outside Iran have similar overtones.

n A few die-hards continue to cling to the economist view of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This was most clearly demonstrated in the position taken by some on the Mujahedin in Afghanistan and on the Second Gulf War. The folly of this philosophy was best illustrated by the way all but a tiny unrepentant few have had to eat their words on Iran.

n Others take a very pragmatist view and see their alliance with pan-Islamism as tactical and temporary. They argue that it is important to unite against imperialism at this juncture, and deal with the future rifts as and when they arise. Most of those who took this ostrich-like view in Iran are unfortunately not in this world to see the folly of their ways. It is for those, particularly in the Palestinian movement who think they might do better, to remember the innate enmity of radical Islam, itself a brittle coalition of class antagonisms, with any ideology which looks at the world through class spectacles.

n The third view is even more pernicious because it wraps its intensely racist theories in seemingly libertarian words: let each people follow their own cultural norms. By rejecting universal human rights this view is at best a form of vulgar populism and at worse perniciously racist, confining large tracts of humanity to permanent exclusion from rights enjoyed (as a right) by others. Not surprisingly they found themselves in the UN Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, sharing a platform with some of the most vicious regimes on this planet.



We say

We have argued that radical Islam is a child of our time, born out of a profound political economic and ideological crisis in relation to which the cultural crisis is not so much a cause as a blind reaction.

Radical Islam is not a response to the modern state, modern culture or the separation of the religion and state (Yousef...) but indeed to mass unemployment, destitution and hopelessness brought about by the modern state.

It is thus not so much a reaction to the essence of modernism but to the ravages of advanced capitalism in a part of capitalism’s periphery. Those thrown into the rubbish heap of history clawed at the nearest ideology at a time when liberalism, nationalism and socialism are all sinking in a quagmire.

Secondly, the past rules the present in those societies not because of its robustness, but more because of the feebleness of the alternatives.


It is therefore futile to imagine that any project that does not offer a fundamental solution to the political and economic crisis can forestall the genesis and growth of such blind and ultimately destructive movements. It is also clear that any political solution must be accompanied by a cultural renaissance congenial to human feeling, intellect and thought. This is nothing short of a full scale ideological spring cleaning for the left.

The three major pillars in which the left must confront the pan-Islamist movement is to formulate an independent and radical economic programme and political platform and a thorough overhaul of its own system of beliefs and organisation.



Radical economics


Where advanced capitalism, under the ideological control of neo-liberalism and through a series of economic and political measures, is polarising the world into poles of affluence and poverty which no longer obey geographical boundaries, one cannot talk of an independent economic programme which does not confront neo-liberalism at every level.

This means confronting the so-called structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank which are bringing about the destitution of millions in the North as well as the South. It is here, too, that the left needs to draw its borders with that other ideology wooing the masses breaking away from radical Islam: the liberals.


In the South this means:

n Key sections of the economy (not necessarily synonymous with large industry) need to be in public control. Public control is not necessarily the same as state control, but can be thought of as the most suitable form which empowers the labour force directly involved in production to have a major input to decision making.

The producers must be linked to the means of production not just in legal terms (such as an Article in the Constitution) but in real political and practical terms. Producers must clearly benefit from their own efforts.

n Create the right balance between central planning (without which it would be impossible to overcome the inequalities) and decentralised self-management. This can only be achieved through the right mixture of planning and the market (meaning market mechanisms) with the understanding that in the final analysis it is planning that has the definitive role.

n A vital component of growth is democracy. The process of planning has to be democratised in a way as to make it irreversible.

n A combination of co-operation and healthy rivalry should be encouraged, with the understanding that growth beyond a certain level is conditional to subordinating rivalry to co-operation in society.

n A serious population control policy and a scrupulous commitment to ecological balance are crucial to true growth.

n Genuine economic growth cannot be accomplished without the total liberation of the labour power of women.

n Major improvement in the quality of the labour force, without which these societies cannot integrate into the global market without submerging. This means a serious and practical commitment to education and training.

n A reappraisal of the role of the state in the economy. Many of the functions traditionally taken over by the state can be given over to semi-state or non-state, but also non-private, institutions which already exist within society. Competition between these sections can be encouraged.

n These societies cannot bear the heavy burden of a large state. In particular militarism must be reduced to the minimum which will meet defensive needs.

n The system of social security must improve the quality of life. This cannot be achieved without full control of the consumers on state expenditure, and in particular social welfare, subsidies, wages...

n Investment, even foreign investment, must be encouraged provided it functions within the national programme. Within this framework conditions for its security can be guaranteed. Profit can be created through planned increases in productivity. The economy must balance the needs of self-sufficiency with the broadening of exports. Within this overall balance those sections of manufacturing which are capable of competing in the world market should be encouraged.


These and similar economic changes are crucial if the left is to mobilise and unite with its main social base, namely the down trodden. Only a radical programme which can address the root cause of the mass destitution and which can confront the core-periphery contradictions, and which will overcome uneven development will be able to pull away the its natural class allies from the clutches of Islamic obscurantism.




In the formulation of its political platform the left must also mark out the lines that separate it from the political programme of liberalism. Even at their most democratic, liberals draw the line at parliamentary democracy. Their entire political platform is designed to remove the masses as far as possible from the political arena.

If the masses are to participate in politics it is at best at second or third hand. In peripheral countries even this is at best a transient phenomenon and only acceded to under duress.


Direct democracy

n In a society marked by multiple ethnic, national, religious, political, and cultural structures a system of political pluralism is a must. Any other solution is a recipe for one section of society to declare war on another.

In order to stop the alienation of the masses the new left must take its fascination with parliamentary democracy further by struggling to involve the people at every level in the democratic process: for genuine participatory democracy.

n The democratic platform of the left must include the right to organise totally independently - of the state as well as political parties. They should be able to assemble:

      q At every level: local, regional and national

     q At work in trade unions, and craft organisations: rural or urban.

     q Along lines of gender, religion, ethnic, and nationality etc.

      q Along their chosen political lines: Political parties, organisations, groupings, circles.

Most importantly the grass-root organisations should have the right to intervene in the economy both at the production and at the distribution level.

Only in this way can the alienation of the masses from politics and therefore their own destiny be overcome.


n The equality of sexes before the law and the total dismantling of all paternalistic structures is a fundamental prerequisite to guarantee the balance and stability of society.

n Policies to counter the uneven development, which is such a feature of peripheral capitalism and has been greatly accentuated by neo-liberal policies:

      q Decentralisation of decision making processes as well as implementation of policy.

      q Economic and cultural self-government and autonomy at every level.

      q Encouraging the masses and organisations to come together in a dialogue on an equal basis. This point is particularly difficult for the left to accept, used as it is to dominating the dialogue and to imposing its views - and denying those of “rival” groups - whenever it gets the chance. #

      q Grass root organisations should be independent of political parties not only as a precondition for democracy, but for them to take root and able to effect decision making.



Political structures capable of answering the above needs have to be created. The fundamental principle that must underline the relationships of these political structures is the elimination of ideology as an element of discourse between social forces.

Ideology, is an inherently divisive force when used to define the context and limits of membership of, and dialogue between social forces. The interface between social forces is defined by the interests common to those forces, whether it is class, trade union or social identity (women, nationalities, cultural).

The pan-Islamist movement showed the catastrophic consequences of introducing ideology as a necessary component defining the identity of social forces. However, the Islamists were not the first to introduce the splintering effects of ideology to social organisations. Let us consider the example of Iran:

Here the division, by Islamists, of labour organisations or social and democratic groupings (women groups, student organisations and Association of Lawyers to take a few examples) into Muslim and non-Muslim, was mirrored by the division of, for example, teachers unions and women’s organisations to that of supporter of this or that political grouping or this or that interpretation of Marxism.

These created the most damaging, and ultimately devastating, splits when these groups were faced with a shared agenda - such as for example confronting the ideological expulsion of 25,000 teachers by the Islamic regime, or the wave-like repression on women’s rights.


The left, and those battling for democracy and socialism in these countries, face a system which considers all that lies outside its exclusivist domain as “corruption” to be cast out, repressed and ultimately liquidated. The left must of necessity incorporate an absolute rejection of repression of any kind in its armoury. Pluralism: political, ethnic, cultural, and sexual must make up its main platform.

In confronting a system which uses the concept of a single Islamic umma to deny the existence of national and ethnic differences, the national question must take an important place. The left must counter the forced “Islamic internationalism” with its insistence on the right to self-determination of nations to the point of secession and insist on the voluntary union of peoples based on the right to diversity and pluralism.




The left must confront discrimination under whatever guise: religious, sexual, national, cultural, and political

Of course this should always have been on its agenda, but it gains added urgency when confronting radical Islam which grows and survives by its exclusion of “outsiders”.

All those features identified with Islamic culture: a depreciation of the individual and a loss of identity, paternalism, a culture of the “follower” and the “followed” which particularly in the realism of culture leads to polarisation, the distaste for laughter and happiness and an obsession with mourning, the hatred for colour and beauty: all these are terrible consequences of Islamic culture which reduce the potential of these societies to move ahead.

Remember that we are not talking of a vivaciously dancing Latin American culture but an oppressive one symbolised by the self flagellation rituals of Moharram (month of mourning for a martyred grandson of Mohammad).

This oppressive culture has been internalised in members of that society into one of absolutism, squashing the weak while genuflecting to power. This is a culture which is both demagogic and populist, one which we must escape if we are to create a society which can breathe in order to truly grow. This is a movement which not only destroys the present but also mortgaged the chances of future generations to escape this morass.


The left

The Islamic movement filled an ideological vacuum created by the ideological feebleness of the two main social classes: a weak native bourgeoisie and a young working class [see Part I]. The left, as it exists in these countries today, is singularly ill equipped to lead the implementation of the programme outlined above.

A major house cleaning is necessary if the left is to fill this ideological vacuum before bourgeois alternatives already sharpening their knives and pencils. Without this the left can entertain no hope to truly represent the class interest of the working people and working class, organise the struggles of that class, and grow to a genuinely mass force in those societies.


Two aspects need the most urgent reappraisal:

      q Those relating to alliances

      q those relating to the cultural inheritance of the left.



It is time we returned to a class-based analysis of historical development, which we have in practice more often than not ignored. The left must make all alliances with political forces and organisations conditional on the true class interest of the working class it claims to represent.

For too long the left everywhere has made the most incredible contortions to justify its support and alliance with a variety of unsavoury groups. A crude anti-imperialism, devoid of any class analysis, fed at times by the totally discredited theories of “non capitalist road to socialism” have underlined these.

The support given to the Islamic Republic, a regime which was systematically and brutally destroyed all working class and democratic organisations and structures that had grown out of an anti-capitalist revolution needs no reminder.

In places this was sheer pragmatism or even opportunism, in others from a genuine but misguided anti-imperialism.


The left has to wake up to the fact that in the interface between the ravages of advanced capitalism in the South (and also the North) and the weakness of the working class alternatives (organisationally and ideologically) a whole series of movements and insurrections will arise with “radical” and even “anti-capitalist” content.

The left of today and tomorrow is faced with movements, often from below, fuelled by the desperation of the hopeless, with a bewildering intermix of progressive and reactionary elements. To steer a course of solidarity and alliance in this morass requires a clear vision of where the future for the left lies, and therefore a clear understanding of where the class interests of the left lies today and tomorrow.

The experience of the Iranian revolution, as well as the revolutions of this century, clearly point to the fact that all alliances and solidarity must be subordinated to one consideration only: Does it serve the true interests of the working class in that country?

Alliances must be made and broken based on a concrete analysis (not wishful thinking) of that particular country. Thus the definition of “progressive Islam”, and any alliance or solidarity must await an affirmative answer to the following:

     q Does it fear the independent organisation of the working class?

     q Does it accept the right to assembly of people at grass-root level over whatever issue they wish to assemble, whether it be gender, religion, race, nationality, or culture?

      q Does it recognise the right to dissent, the right to be different, and the right to declare its difference openly?

Only if these criteria are fulfilled, and to the extent these criteria are fulfilled is an alliance policy of the left likely to strengthen the non-totalitarian alternatives to capitalism and imperialism.



Left culture

For the left to become a mass party, rather than the cosy but ineffectual small groups of intellectuals that it is in most countries today it needs to undertake a major shake-up of its intellectual and cultural heritage.

n Out should go a whole range of -isms: sectarianism, dogmatism, isolationalism, absolutism, populism, love of formalism...

n Stop looking for ready made formulas and formalistic solutions.

n Cease its fascination with form and attempt to go deeper into content.

n Stop its love of the absolute - the all-or-none phenomenon, and its sister: unprincipled pragmatism.

n Stop using principle as an excuse for inaction, and action as an excuse for trampling principles.

n Not fear questioning even the most sacred beliefs. Everything should be up for questioning except for questioning itself. Much of what we believed in will stand the test, some will need to be thrown on the rubbish heap of history.

n Renounce its tendency to follow and be mesmerised by the mass, learn to recognise its class interest, identify that class and the changes brought on it by changes in production and think through its class interest. It must then subordinate policy to that interest and not the other way round.



Without a thorough shake-up of its cultural and intellectual heritage the left is destined to remain marginalised in the huge battles ahead. The ideological vacuum will be filled here and there by various bourgeois alternatives: liberal here, totalitarian and fascistic there. The left North or South of the North/South divide has still a long way to go. Meanwhile the ravages of advanced capitalism are met by the ravages of the false utopias boiling up from the depth by the turbulent “wretched of the earth”.


Ardeshir Mehrdad, 1993

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