[Marxism] Islamist, Socialist revolutions do not mix

Ralph Johansen mdriscoll at earthlink.net
Fri Oct 5 14:40:34 MDT 2007

As far as I have seen, there has been little discussion on this list or 
elsewhere that includes some of the reasons for the existence and spread 
of religious beliefs, historically and more recently. That might be a 
timely, clarifying discussion.

For example and for obvious causation, what think people about the 
current pervasiveness of religion as a source of solace, in the terms 
used by Marx as a "sigh of the oppressed", in a soulless world ?

When the promise of socialism has been eclipsed, however temporarily, 
and the lessons from failed attempts are fresh, and the claim of the 
left, that the agency of social change is and can only be the working 
class, has to put it tamely not been borne out, do we have any good 
reason to wonder that more and more have turned to religious movements 
all over the world, not only for solace and community in a world of 
systemic isolation, but also for solutions, orientation, and as a 
bulwark in a world of gathering chaos?

What brings it right home for me is that three of the children that I 
have sired have turned to religion, without any encouragement or example 
in their family background: one to Hebrew orthodoxy, one to Buddhism and 
one to the born-again Christian movement. My next-door neighbor is an 
enterprising pastor in a large fundamentalist church in a small town 
where his ministry seems to be reaching many people where they feel 
need. My wife hears him in the backyard on his cell phone, enjoining 
parishioners to "cast out their demons".

The religious movements, as exemplified by the Hezbollah in Lebanon and 
Islam elsewhere, as well as the right wing fundamentalist movements in 
the West and in the Southern hemisphere, inveigh against the "godless 
state" and communism for attempting to impose what they characterize as 
misguided, inadequate, monolithic-bureaucratic solutions to social problems.

They buttress this negative conception of the alternative by themselves 
providing social services of all kinds: acting locally to meet community 
needs through charitable agencies, finding employment, ministering to 
sickness, emotional stress and family disruption, providing child care 
and help for the aged,  maintaining schools, clinics, hospitals, and 
financing services through tithing that includes the genuinely concerned 
and opportunistic wealthy as well , and now in the US through growing 
"faith-based" government support - all in the service of a salvationist 
gospel and a solution that is supported by capital and its right wing 
governments and agencies as a bulwark against imposition of state 
responsibility in providing these essential social services. 
Furthermore, the offer of such assistance means that in order to avail 
themselves people must commit to and accept the whole enchilada. That 
involves numbers of the working class who exist only marginally, in 
increasingly financially insecure situations.

Bush can find popular support, against interest, through the spread of 
these views for his veto of the child health care legislation just 
passed, as well as for his announced justification - that it's a step 
toward socialism.

There was a time when the left, through ethnic, trade union and other 
organizations, acted in a similar way in local communities to provide 
needed social services and support to working class militancy, promising 
solutions through collective action. Whether that's feasible or useful 
now, what does at a minimum still seem practicable is for the enfeebled 
left to unite where appropriate with religious groups on issues where 
there is common cause, but never concede more.


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