Troops and religion (Jose)

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Mon Aug 18 19:21:12 MDT 2003

I accept the warning not to be a broken record on BTHHN,  but Jose has made
a valuable new contribution not specific to that. [Lou, if you think I'm
out of line, say the word and I'll shut up.:-) ]

He quotes Lenin:
>>Should members of the Social-Democratic Party be censured all alike under
all circumstances for declaring "socialism is my religion", and for
advocating views in keeping with this declaration? No! The deviation from
Marxism (and consequently from socialism) is here indisputable; but the
significance of the deviation, its relative importance, so to speak, may
vary with circumstances....For some the statement "socialism is a religion"
is a form of transition from religion to socialism; for others, it is a
form of transition from socialism to religion ...<<

I like this quote, which I wasn’t familiar with. It appeals strongly to my
own feelings about relating to Indonesian activists, who are usually
religious and sometimes tell me they "find socialism in the Quran". But we
need to look at exactly what Lenin says and doesn't say. Here’s how I read

He still calls using religious terms a "deviation". If a Bolshevik agitator
uses popular language and makes a slip we don't hang them for it; on the
contrary we value their attempt to establish dialogue in the language of
the people. But in the course of that effort, they have still made a
mistake that it would be better not to entrench.

While the phrase "Socialism is my religion" is a move towards socialism for
someone who's religious, it's also a concession to religion for a Marxist.
Don't moralise about it, but don't turn it into a virtue either.

I often say, "OK, there is socialism in the Quran, but it's not scientific
socialism". I think that's true, though not the whole truth. But I would
not go so far as to say "socialism is my religion", because actually,
that's not true.

Turning to Jose's remarks on the anti-war movement:
>>[This is why] your views on these matters, while they may be correct in
an ideological way, and would absolutely applicable if ...we were
talking about how a party program
should be worded, are misapplied [in] discussing tactics and agitation in
the antiwar movement<<

But in addition to tactics, there's strategy; and in addition to agitation
there’s propaganda. 

If Stan Goff goes out there and says "support our troops" among other
things, and hundreds of military families respond, that's fabulous -- but
not without dangers, because it has a nationalist flavour. If
revolutionaries set out to launch anti-war groups, I doubt if we should
argue for that demand to be included in the statement of aims. If others
want to include it, let's have a friendly debate -- and the most important
thing in the debate is to canvass the issues.

Whether we win or lose the vote is secondary, because even if we win -- if
the group grows, it will fill up with real people who want to "support our
troops". Just as any Indonesian revolutionary party of any size is going to
fill up with people who pray five times a day. If that were to happen, I'd
be over the moon. But I would also hope to face that situation with at
least a small network of activists I had educated in Marxist materialism;
and I doubt if the way to do that is for me to start out telling people
"Socialism is my religion". 

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