[Marxism] British Muslims (Jose & Mike)

mike pearn neprimerimye at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Jun 26 19:44:41 MDT 2004

A few points Jose. Yes I do mean that I agree with the
right of oppressed groups to organise themselves. In
certain situations I would even advocate that
communists initiate such organisations, work within
them and seek to win them to our cause. In fact,
athough the theoretical position was never properly
ironed out, the IS actually did some of this kind of
work in the past. For example in the early 1970's a
paper called Chingari was produced and later there was
another around which an organisation developed called
Flame, Black Workers Paper for Self Defence (this may
be a little inaccurate. However I'm opposed to simply
leaving such groups to their own devices and believe
communists should work within them to draw them to our

As for promoting such groupings in general I thiink it
foolish if one lives in a country in which the various
ethnic groups quite simply cannot be separated. I
talked of Cardiff Docks earlier, of which I have some
personal knowledge, and there you find the focus of
Yemeni and Somali communties. But almost every single
family that has lived here for more than a single
generation, which despite recent waves of refugees, is
most families is mixed. That guy I talked of brian
Ahmed really had no thought in his head that he might
be a British Muslim or a Somali or whatever. And he is
typical of many who, usually brighter than poor old
Brian, simply find no relevance to identifying as
such. But a class identification does make sense to
them depending on their generation but the decline in
class consciousness is less marked among such groups
as they tend to be less skiled and poorer.

Cardiff is atypical to some degree as we have some of
the oldest ethnic minority communities in Britain.
Discrimination exists but the idea that the problem is
one of immigrants simply doesn't wash with working
class cardiffians as a result of our history. And the
fact is that the various communities do mix in Britain
to a degree that may seem fantastical to American
comrades. An example of this back in the 1970's one
heard a lot of racist crap about black men and white
women. And the fact was that mixed relationships did
commonly take this form but by the 19+80's that
particular stupidity was falling away as more white
man and black women got together. With the result that
today large numbers of people simply refuse to
identify as white or black and insist on being taken
for who they are. So street gangs are mixed too and
never consist of only one ethinic group any longer.
These relationships i should point out are
predominantly between working class people. black
people in Britain almost always being found in the
working class and lack any significant petty bourgeois
layer. As for black capitalists...

British Muslims, almost all Asians although there are
small numbers of white converts particulalrly in the
official Muslim groups from the upper classes. have a
very different profile. For a start they consist of a
number of different ethnic groups divided by culture
in that unless thorugh the medium of English they
cannot communicate with each other. So Somalis and
Bangladeshis share a common religion but otherwise are
culturally distinct. And Kashmiris share little with
either group or with Yemenis. Such distinct groups
simply have no consciousness of forming a single
community whether it be Muslim or whatever. As they
are more recent arrivals and as their relgion, unlike
the Christianity of Afro-Caribs, separated them from
the host community mxing is less marked but growing
apace if my eyes do not deceive me. Interestingly a
young Muslim woman I recruited to the SWP, she dropped
out after I was expelled, once said to me that she
could never envisage a relationship with a Muslim man
as they were so sexist - note well that these
communities are very patriarchal. Another feature of
many of these commuities, the Somalis and Yemenis (who
are among the smaller communities) tend to be more
homogenously proletarian, is that they contain a
disproportionately large petty bourgeois layer, the
cliche of the small Asian shopkeeper in Britain has
much truth, as well as a layer of larger capitalists.
They are also to be found well represented in the
professions, well some professions, and among the so
called New Middle Classes. Many white workers
experience of Asians is when they see their GP or

The point her is that if we regard all Muslims or
Asians in Britain as oppressed then there are an awful
lot of workers who are employed by people who they are
priviliged than! And those workers are both white,
Black and Asian. So do we say that the oppressed here
should organise together? That boss and worker unite?
Or do we say that the workers should unite aganst the
exploiting boss? That is the Asian Muslim boss. This
is not abstract either I was watching a documentary on
the two Islamic Colas recently and the bosses were all
Asians as were most of the workers who sometimes came
in shot but not all were. It should also be noted that
like many capitalists that these bosses when employing
workers from their own community rarely tolerate
trades unions. One of the two companies being that of
the family of Salma Yaqoob the SWP's favorite Muslim I

So given the nature of the British Muslim community, a
community only in the loosest religious sense, I find
that the idea of it being any kind of a national
grouping to be absurd. Certainly the concept of
national liberation has a limited validity to the
individual Muslim communities but none at all to
Muslims considered as a group in Britain. Also given
the strength of the petty bourgeoisie in these
communities attempts to relate to them as Muslims, and
not as workers, is prone to collapsing into
communalism. Certainly if communists approch even the
more porogressive Mosques and seek to work through the
leaders or the local Iman then this must mean working
with the petty bourgeoisie. And it must mean acting
and working in a fashion acceptable to such socialy
conservative layers. Which is why Galloway has played
up his Catholicism and his opposition to abortion,
while saying he is for a womans right to choose, which
received a big up from the Muslim Association of
Britain. It also caused a Kashmiri party which exists
only in Birmingham to produce a leaflet calling for a
Respect vote while dissing the Liberal Democrats for
being pro-gay! That leaflet was withdrawn, and I have
seen copies so this is not gossip, but nonetheless the
truth was out and despirte this Respect endorsed the
council candidates for this overtly Kashmiri
communalist party.

So when Jose argues that i am being sectarian by
opposing the MAB I can only laugh as I think I have
more idea of what these people represent than he. All
the asssertions I have made above by the way can be
proven statistically with regard to mixing - I don't
like this term but can find no other - my oldest neice
would kill me!)) and so forth. No comrade it would be
sectarian if I put the interests of the Muslim petty
bourgeoisie whom MAB reresent and who are its
membership over and above the interests of the working
class. MAB is not an organisation of the oppressed but
an organisation of oppression and in the first place
they will opress women, children and then workers.
Muslim women, Muslim children and Muslim workers.

This is not because MAB as an organisation based on
Political Islam, and connected to the Muslim
Brotherhood, is fighting for power and therefore a
theocratic state in Britain. it is because the project
they are engaged in is the creation of a british
muslim community built out of the various pre-existing
communities and specifically of their youth. A youth
that is rapidly abandonoiing the Mosques just as
whites are abandoning the Churchs and Chapels. A youth
whose identity is in flux between the assumption of a
British identity with a religio-ethnic component, or
an identity that looks back to an idealised homeland
which usually involves a socially reactionary adoption
of traditional values and lastly the option of a
purely theoretical identity as a  member of the
British Muslim community.

i would suggest that it is youth who belong to the
first of these three groups who communists should be
seeking to win to our project as they share most with
us politically and culturally. The second group tends
to remain within the community and constitute a
conservative traditinalist layer and must therefore
fight a rearguard operation as the various communities
are ever more assimilated. lastly the modern forward
looking elements of the petty bourgeoisie tend to turn
to the project of Political Islam, although they will
work with the tradionalists, in the hope of walling
off the british Muslim Community from the wider
secular community. Hence the propaganda campaign to be
allowed to force children to wear the hijab and this
in the name o civil rights1 Where one might ask are
the civil rights of the children? No Jose the MAB is
not an organisation of the oppressed but an opponent
of our project. Working alongside them in a single
issue campaign, whether it be against the war on Iraq
or against racism - although they do not campaign
against racism - is only sensible but to unite in a
party with them is a self imposed defeat for the
socialist left.

But enough possibly i'll comment on Lenin another
time. But as a Marxist I prefer to rely upon my own
arguments and experience than on his. Although I have
to say some of his arguments were quite good too.

Jose G. Perez wrote:-

IF I THOUGHT Mike was a "white chauvinist," I wouldn't
be trying to convince him that his approach to this is
wrong. It is precisely *because* we both owe our
allegiance to the international working class and its
socialist cause that I am trying to convince him that
the position he holds on THIS question is not
consistent with out cause.

Further, Mike has now said he defends the right of
this layer or grouping in British society to organize
itself. I assume he doesn't mean this trivially, i.e.,
"it's a free country" and if people with freckles
or whose last name starts with "M" want to get
together, so be it. I assume --I think it is clear
from his post-- he means this politically, that
because these people face elements of a common
oppression or repression, he defends their *right* to
organize in this way were their efforts to do so to be
attacked, even though he doesn't *advocate* or
*promote* such a course of action. 

It isn't clear to me that his latest post if fully
consistent with how he formulated the question
earlier, but, hey, this is an email list, not
a collection of resolutions from a Comintern Congress.
And this distinction may not have been as finely drawn
in my earlier posts as I would like to imagine either.

And so it turns out that Adam (who I took a swipe at
in my last post on this) was right and I was wrong. I
STILL think Mike has a sectarian approach to this,
which is what Adam said, but, at least as I use the
term, he clearly doesn't have a position that is
chauvinist, i.e., that would refuse to defend the
right of this section or layer of the population to
organize. And I owe Mike an apology for having
misconstrued his narrower position to whether it is a
good idea to organize this way as a statement opposing
their right to do so.

With that very important point out of the way, I hope
to get back to a couple of very important things
Mike's posts raise: 

1) Should Marxists hold a *position* on the national
question  strictly LIMITED to very clear cases of
nations and nationalities/national minorities, or is
it more of an *approach* with applicability --taking
into account concrete circumstances-- even to
attenuated cases such as the one at issue. Mike's
insistence on rejecting terms like a "Muslim
community" --which goes in the direction of saying a
Muslin people, like we might say Black people in the
United States-- leads me to think he implicitly holds
the "strictly limited" position whereas I'm on the
other extreme of this.

2) Very much related to this, is the pre-WWI Lenin
approach correct or is the post-WWI approach the right
one. The latter grew out of the former, but I believe
there is a world of difference between them, and
that without an understanding that firmly grasps
Lenin's evolution, we're not going to root ourselves
in how imperialism transforms the national question,
and we are going to be completely lost.

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