- Category: Revolutionary Strategy
- Created on Friday, 27 August 2010 10:58
- Written by Mike Ely
“We must blame ourselves... for still being unable to organize sufficiently wide, striking, and rapid exposures of all the shameful outrages.
"When we do that...the most backward workers will understand, or will feel, that the students and religious sects, the peasants and the authors are being abused and outraged by those same dark forces that are oppressing and crushing them at every step of their lives."
By Mike Ely
What does it mean for communists (who are secular and opposed to the many values of traditional religions) to defend the right to build a massive mosque in the middle of New York City?
Gary asks in a commentary (that is worth reading in its entirety): "Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is affected — unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a [communist] point of view and no other. The consciousness of the working masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness, unless the workers learn, from concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata, and groups of the population. Those who concentrate the attention, observation, and consciousness of the working class exclusively, or even mainly, upon itself alone are not [communists]; for the self-knowledge of the working class is indissolubly bound up, not solely with a fully clear theoretical understanding — or rather, not so much with the theoretical, as with the practical, understanding — of the relationships between all the various classes of modern society, acquired through the experience of political life.
"For this reason the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into the political movement, which our Economists preach, is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance. In order to become a [communist], the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features of the landlord and the priest, the high state official and the peasant, the student and the vagabond; he must know their strong and weak points; he must grasp the meaning of all the catchwords and sophisms by which each class and each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real “inner workings”; he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this “clear picture” cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is being discussed, in whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such and such court sentences, etc., etc.
"These comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity." My sense of what this means is that first we need to see the importance of rising to the defense of persecuted Muslims in the U.S. -- not for reasons apart from our communist cause and conviction, but for reasons that rise from the very core of our strategic concept.
There are many examples where religious groups have faced oppression within the U.S. (and where that oppression is often tied to the oppression of people as nationalities). This includes the struggle of Native peoplet to practice their religions (including specific dmeands for sweat lodges in prison and for the legal right to use peyote in rituals), and the struggle of Muslim prisoners and students for religious facilities and halal diet.
(Personally I don't view the fundamentalist Mormon sects and their fight for poligamy/rape as a cause we should take up -- but that is perhaps something to be discussed.)
But (in a friendly contrast to Gary) I don't think that our approach should be "confining our solidarity to human rights defense." I don't think that assumptions of a liberal "human rights" universalism should be our approach.
What I share with Lenin's argument is the view our work has to proceed (sharply and deliberately) from class conscious (i.e. communist) politics -- not from liberalism, or some sense of legal rights (property rights, constitutional rights etc), and that it has to involve analysis of all the forces involved (including the Muslim forces), their views, their motives and their relationship to the revolutionary movement we are seeking to build.
I don't think that defending the building of a mosque needs to imply support for Islamic religious view or the liberal (and rather hegemonic) view of diversity and rights. But I do think it requires clarifying the kind of liberated world we are fighting for and how radically different that is from the goals of those who want defend the current capitalism order/empire and re-impose a white, Christian, property-oriented, traditionalist core culture.