Monday, 17 March 2014

The Madness of the SWP’s Love of Muslims

The Socialist Workers Party/UAF's position on supporting Islamists and Muslims generally is very simple. It is this:

If one does not support Islamists, or Muslims generally, one must be supporting the State instead.

That is because the state is against Muslims and Islamists. Full stop. This is something that Trots simply take for granted.

But why not this? –

A position against both Muslims/Islamists and the state.

The SWP has been specific about its support for Muslims and Islamists and the reasons why Leftists (and others) may be against them. The SWP often gives the example of ‘secular values’. Leftists may be in favour of secular values. Muslims and Islamists, almost by definition, are not. Thus it may follow, or does follow, that such Leftists must therefore be against Muslims and Islamists because they are against secular values. The SWP says that Leftists must not take this position against Islamists and Muslims because if they do, they are siding with the State. And one must always be ‘against the State’ if one is a Marxist revolutionary:

‘With the Islamists sometimes, with the state never.’


The SWP’s defence of Islamism and the Islamists is even deeper than that. The SWP does not want the Islamists to be against the Leftists, just as it doesn’t want Leftists to be against the Islamists. Thus if Leftists attack Islamists, or even simply champion secular values, then that will

‘merely make it easier for the Islamists to portray the left as part of an “infidel”, “secularist” conspiracy of the “oppressors” against the most impoverished sections of society.’

Thus the very defence of secular values is taken by the SWP to be some kind of attack on Muslims – ‘the most impoverished section of society’… Or does this mean that Leftists must not speak about secular values in front of potential Islamist or Muslim comrades or collaborators? However, you either support secular values or you don't, regardless of how others (in this case, Islamists) interpret or see your position. Surely one cannot deny one’s belief in secular values simply because it will alienate one’s potential Muslim comrades or collaborators? Again, is this just a case of Trotskyists keeping quiet when Muslims are around? Or is the SWP itself against secular values? Perhaps secular values are also ‘bourgeois inventions’. If you do not support secular values, mustn’t you support religious or theocratic values instead? Surely the SWP does not. Unless the SWP believes that this is not a simple choice between binary opposites – secular values versus theocratic/religious values. It may be the case that if secular values are seen as bourgeois or capitalist by the SWP, then there may well be other options. What about Marxist values? Or even a valueless system or ideology? After all, Marx himself said that moral philosophy, or morality/ethics itself, is a bourgeois/capitalist ‘invention’. He certainly believed such things to be class-based and class-determined. How could a Marxist not think that?

The SWP itself has given examples of Leftists supporting the state against Muslims or Islamists. The Left in Algerian and Egypt ‘praised regimes that were… [seen by them] as “progressive”’. (The punishment of these leftists, for this mistake, was to be murdered by the Islamists.) Presumably, although it is not made clear, this praise was in response to the Algerian and Egyptian regimes' attempts to secularise the state. However, the Left should never have done such a thing. They should be against ‘the state at all times’, even when it is secularising itself. According to the SWP, this secularising behaviour of Egypt and Algeria did ‘nothing for the mass of people’. Not only that: it ‘enabled the Islamists to grow’. 

So be careful about who or what you support. This is a position of complete rejection of the state. Even if the state is offering the working people higher wages and shorter hours, Marxists must still be against the state. If the State does anything against Islamism or Muslim militancy they should never be supported. Such is the absolutist position of the SWP. This helps explain some of the nasty causes, groups and individuals they have supported over the years - from the introduction of halal meat, the support of Muslim bigots, the support of (Muslim) single-sex schools, etc. You must never support the state even if it is against ritual slaughter. Contrawise, one must always support minorities or oppressed groups, no matter what they believe or what they do. 

That's Marxist theory for you folks. It makes you believe incredible things and do outrageous stuff because theory can easily rectify recalcitrant experience and fact - or at least Marxist theory can.

You wonder, then, about the nature of this far-leftist support of Islamists and Muslims generally. Specifically when one notes that the SWP says that socialists must ‘combine complete political independence from all forms of Islamism’. What form would this independence actually take (especially bearing in mind the care and attention Leftists must show when dealing with Islamists and Muslims)? For example, surely if Marxists stressed and even argued for atheism, and other positions at odds with Islam, this would be bound to alienate Muslims from Leftists. This is something that the SWP itself seems to argue. Again, what kind of independence is the SWP talking about? Is it a silent independence? An independence which does not speak its name – at least not in front of Islamists or Muslims generally?

Perhaps Marxists should catch the Islamists when they are off guard rather than pontificate about Marxism in front of them. The SWP seems to hint at this ambivalent and difficult independence. For example, despite Marxists keeping quiet about their beliefs in front of Islamists and Muslims, it is still the case that they should show a

‘willingness to seize opportunities to draw individual Islamists into genuinely radical forms of struggle alongside them’.

This must be a case of the SWP-ers keeping an eye out for Islamists or Muslims having doubts about Islam and then jumping in for the kill. But Marxists should only do so when a genuine opportunity to draw individual Islamists into the fold shows itself. All this is very ambivalent and cynical on the SWP’s part. Indeed it sounds like classic Trotskyism – the doing and saying of anything to further the cause of Trotskyism or Revolution. In this case it means collaborating with Islamists but at the same time being observant of the ‘opportunities to draw individual Islamists’ towards the true path of Trotskyism or Marxism. This is pure realpolitik.

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