[Marxism] The immigration thread

Barney Katz taxi4marx at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 6 21:55:17 MDT 2005

--- Ian Pace <ian at ianpace.com> wrote:

> I'd like to say something about one of Barney Katz's
> messages:
> From: "Barney Katz" <taxi4marx at yahoo.com>
> >
> > I certainly wouldn't be the first to use rhetoric
> > here, and I would appreciate if you didn't read
> into
> > my words what wasn't there. 'Islamist' and
> 'Islamism',
> > as you well know refers to the theory and practice
> of
> > political Islam. 'Islamic' refers to the religion.
> I
> > clearly wrote 'Islamist'. I was clearly referring
> to
> > Islamist militants and their methods of killing
> > workers on the job, etc.
> Robert Wood made the very reasonable point that
> terminology contains all 
> sorts of ideological and orientalist assumptions
> (and I'm guilty of using 
> some such language as well). I agree with you that
> the theocratic militants 
> who are killing workers in Iraq do not deserve our
> support at all, but even 
> a term such as 'Islamist' suggest imperialist
> overtones. After all, Islam is 
> a religion of over a billion people. A term which
> concentrates on this 
> (small and relatively unrepresentative) groups of
> theocratic fundamentalists 
> is better.

I agree. The unfortunate thing is that the 'fascism' I
spoke of is at its core based on a particular
interpretation of Islam and what its world role is
allegedly is, just as Nazism was centred on an
interpretation of 'Germanness' and the world role of
Germans vis-a-vis other peoples. It's difficult to
leave 'Islamist' out of any adequate descriptor
because of its centrality to the concept. 

I agree however that a careless association of Islam
in general with the "small and relatively
unrepresentative groups" carries the danger of
potentially driving a wedge between Muslims and
socialists. Point taken. 'Theocratic fundamentalism'
is perhaps an adequate descriptor.

> >
> > Perhaps I could have used less emotive terminology
> but
> > I equate Islamism with fascism (is that a crime on
> > this site, too?). Islamism rejects modernity,
> rejects
> > Marxism, rejects democracy, rejects equality for
> > women. It's backward-looking, expecting to find
> the
> > guide to the perfect life in the Koranic writings
> and
> > the glorious history of Islam.
> That sounds like you're equating 'Islamism' with
> 'Islam'. You may be an 
> avowed secularist (so am I, and so are most
> Marxists), but it hardly betides 
> those of us seeking solidarity with the working
> people of the world to 
> berate hundreds of millions of them for following a
> particular religion. 

I was mocking the fundamentalists' view of Islam as
opposed to mocking Islam itself. You don't make
headway in political associations or unions if you
start gratuitously mocking people's religious beliefs.

> What you describe does seem a reasonable description
> of theocratic 
> fundamentalism; nonetheless I don't think Marxists
> need be totally 
> dismissive of all the cultural and other history of
> a major world religion 
> (and I would say the same about Christianity as well
> - kneejerk 
> anti-Christianity on the left does few people any
> favours, considering the 
> number of radical Christians in the developing world
> with whom we should be 
> trying to make some common cause). 

I fully agree. The peace movement in Australia would
be much diminished were it not for the presence of the
various Christian socialists and other religious

>I'd make a
> parallel with the fact that 
> Marx spent so much time praising the achievements of
> the bourgeoisie. 
> Dogmatic anti-bourgeois attitudes or anti-religious
> attitudes, spanning over 
> all areas of culture and human achievement, are
> unproductive, and worse 
> could lead to the excesses of the Maoist Cultural
> Revolution. Attacking 
> economic power and wishing to overthrow it is one
> thing, to attack all else 
> that has been developed within the context of those
> power relationships, 
> rather than engaging more dialectically with it, is
> something else entirely.
> > Its financiers are
> > businessmen who figure they'd be better off allied
> > with the mullahs than with western imperialists.
> The two categories aren't always mutually exclusive.
> > There's nothing progressive about it, and the left
> in
> > Iraq hate them, too.
> Agreed.
> >
> > If I ever say fascist filth when describing the
> Nazi
> > filth, is this okay?
> >
> If you found a lot of racist and other reactionary
> attitudes amongst a group 
> of working class people (as alas can be found in
> some places in Britain - 
> the far right capitalise on this) would you really
> want to write them off as 
> 'filth', or rather try to engage with them
> productively instead?

I actually had in mind the real historical German
Nazis when I wrote this not the various neo-Nazi
groups or individuals that proliferate today.
Certainly, in the context of a workplace situation
today where a backward individual might be spouting
some racially divisive notions, union meetings would
constitute the right venue to try to open up the mind
of the worker in question to the class interests of
all workers, regardless of race, etc., etc. I have a
great belief in the power of workers' solidarity
against the bosses to melt away bigotry.

> Solidarity, and hoping through a bit of care over
> terminology this debate 
> can become less flame-like,
> Ian

My thanks for the constructive comments.


Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005 

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