Religion, ideology ,class struggle

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Fri Jun 14 20:52:04 MDT 1996

Hi Neil,

What provoked me to reply was that I felt you accused the ISO/SWP of
underestimating the importance of ideological struggle, which I think
we don't - and your mail came right after I had read another article
in Socialist Review stressing this again. And when I came across
Hallas' article I also felt you misrepresented his views.

Leaving that aside - as I think we agree here - two points remain:

>Hallas states incorrectly that  ALL ideology is all part of false
>which i felt was kinda' undialectical.

I think Marx used the term "ideology" this way (I am not sure, maybe
someone can comment?). Communism on the other hand was not "ideology"
it was science (or "insight into necessity"). Using the terms this way
today would almost certainly lead into long hair-splitting debates as
Science is used almost exclusively about physics, chemics and so on.
But the point remains valid I think.

What Marx was up against was philosophers trying to find the essence
of all philosophy *within* the realm of philosophy itself only. Marx
counterposed this with a view which stressed the material source
behind ideas - in general and more concretely ideas of social classes.

In relation to our subject ("How our rulers keep their grip") Hallas
makes the point that -

  For a class society to exist, both rulers and ruled have to have
  fairly coherent world outlooks that justify the existing setup - or
  at least make it seem like the only possible arrangement.
  These world outlooks are what Karl Marx called ideologies.
  An ideology is not just a wrong belief.
  It is a system of ideas which takes into account a great many facts
   - but which shows the connection between those facts in a false light.
  That's why Marx described ideology as "false consciousness".

Hallas' point is that the ruling ideas - however wrong they might be -
has to be based on some sort of reality, on people's actual
experiences. If not, they do not have the desired effect. But still
they are false - showing false connections. (Examples are numerous:
>From the more "scientific" about Bell Curve and genes for delinquence,
criminality, sexuality (there is a new almost every month) - to how
nation states have always existed (and not created by capitalism),
that human nature is selfish by nature (and not because of class
society)  etc. etc.)

His point is *not* that these ideologies should not be countered by
other ideas - revolutionary socialist ideas - but rather that our
ideas also have to start with living reality, but making "true
connections". This way I think it still makes sense to talk about
Marxism being scientific.

(Note: I think Gramsci with his concept of "the ordinary men of the
masses" having a "dual consciousness" has thrown more light on this.
His point is that it is through human activity that man can throw off
the burden of the old ideas. Marx makes a similar point when he says
that "revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class cannot
be overthrown in any other way, but also because only in a revolution
can the class overthrowing it succeed in ridding itself of all the
muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew." (German Ideology))

So the point is: Yes, we have to fight on ideas, but the real move is
when workers start to act on their own. When - like at present - this
"move on their own" is not a general movement, but rather sectional,
temporary outbursts, then the ideological battle often takes a more
general form, partially detached from real struggle.

The second point is:

>Yes, I think religion can be as dangerous in fogging up/splitting the
>for capitals attacks as does nationalism,  just look at Ireland,
Palestine, Ex
>Yugo states,etc.

I think in most industrialized countries this is not true. Your
example of Yugoslavia is outright wrong. It was nationalism which
provided the ideological framework for the mass slaughter, not
religion. In Ireland the effect of religion is more of making links to
either the Irish or the British (nation) state, than being where the
world view of most Irish workers spring from.

The problem with religion is that it does not fit with the life of a
worker. Most religions fit much more the traditional, unchanging
through generations, life of a peasant. And because religion does not
have these close links with working class reality its explanatory
value diminishes.

That is not to say that we should forget about fighting against
religion, but I think various brands of nationalism is much more
dangerous *in industrialized countries*.

Maybe a more detailed analysis of the recent elections in India can
throw some light on this. From the little I know of Islamic
fundamentalism, I think that where it has the strongest support (among
workers) is among those who have recently left the countryside for an
even more insecure existence in the cities.

Enough for now.


Jorn Andersen

Internationale Socialister

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