[Marxism] "Political Islam" (was: Frei Betto:

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Sat Aug 19 21:33:14 MDT 2006

> Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2006 19:31:25 -0400
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> Subject: re: [Marxism] "Political Islam" (was: Frei Betto:
> Of course, there have
> been attempts to inject theology or philosophical idealism into
> Marxism but the results have been analogous to mixing Glenlivet with
> Coca Cola.

Well, whatever you think of the Miami gusanos, the Cuba Libre is a 
great drink.

But things are, methinks, rather more complex (dialectically 

I myself stumbled upon the Marxian school of Frankfurt for the first 
time when disdainously perusing a thick and dense theoretical 
magazine of the Argentinean Jesuits, that had been published during 
the early 70s.  Stromata, was the name.

It was (for me, and just for the sake of the issue) the Revelation of 
a(n Un)Holy Trinitary:

(a) I discovered a most interesting (though somehow of little 
immediate use) trend of Marxist thought, 

(b) I understood that, contrary to vulgar materialists who deny 
trascendence at all, good Marxists _do_ understand trascendence only 
that, like with Hegel, they bring it down to earth and put it "upside 
up":  the idea of God simply is the ghostlike representation of the 
whole complex of material human history, it does not come from 
nowhere, and

(c) I realized how important was that phrase by Marx, "A single step 
ahead is worth a hundred programmes".  Or, more coarsely, as an 
Argentinean good-humored radical bourgeois nationalist put it once, 
like the phrase of the owner of a Buenos Aires brothel in the 1920s 
who told the customers when they complained that the girls were not 
quite beautiful,  "Don't look at the faces, look at movements".

That is:  what really matters here is the _complex process_ by which 
people who, like normal people everywhere, step up from their 
received wisdom on the World, the Essences, the Values, etc. (which 
is normally the realm of diverse priesthoods) to a materialist 
understanding of things.  

In order to accomplish this easiest of dialectical leaps (I am 
kidding, humorless people please cool down) our task is not to 
pamphleteer people ad nauseam against religion but to  _practically_ -
actively, in everyday struggle and life- insist that they discover 
that the entity they call God is not a baseless fatamorgana (as 
vulgar materialism would have it) but the mental representation 
(upside down) of humankind in movement.  

In order to simply begin to do that, we must start from understanding 
that people have a normal hunger for trascendence.  That this simply 
stems from the tragic condition of human existence on this world (and 
I am positively _no_ Heideggerian, but a serious -not mechanistic- 
Marxist).  This tragic condition starts with the fearful recognition 
that we are all mortals.  No kind of individualistic atomism -which 
is the "normal" philosophical mood of the masses under the materially 
individualistic, atomistic, capitalist mode of production- can 
grapple with this most human of desires.  Then, the surrogates come 
to the rescue.

Those surrogates absolutize that will to trascend individual life, 
and put it into the children you can bear, some strange dietary 
decission, or any other inoffensive abstraction like the God of the 
Sunday School.  

The Kingdom of Heavens that the ruling classes thus kidnap from 
average people, however, _is still_ the mystified representation of 
the future of Humankind.  Thus, what we must do is to put that will 
for trascendence upside up again  We must turn the natural religious 
feeling towards the conscious activity of will in order to bring the 
Kingdom of God (that is, of humankind) to reality on THIS Earth, 
nowhere else.

In this sense, the road to a dialectical materialist understanding of 
human action will be achieved by the masses by a myriad different 
roads.  Religious socialism can be a midway house, just as Utopian 
Socialism (with which it has many links) was in its time.  The 
petrification of Marxism both in the hands of bureaucrats in the 
"really existing socialist countries" and in the hands of 
socialdemocrats in the West (BTW:  I have always had a gut feeling 
that Stalinism was, in fact, a Social Democracy with no bourgeoisie 
to rely on for the unsavory tasks) has brought about not only a 
generalized downgrading of socialist discourse and action but also 
too many defeats to be left unaccounted.

The masses in the Arab world have taken notice of this.  Let us not 
forget, by the way, that also the secularist national-bourgeois 
regimes such as Nasserism, etc., portrayed themselves as forms of 
socialism.  All these have failed, comrades.  The masses have begun 
their search for socialism again, in a most different and 
breathtakingly original way:  through a religion that -and I don't 
think this is a good point, but a bad one- hasn't even reached the 
degree of separation between the Godly and the Earthly that the 
Catholic religion in Western Europe had achieved with Thomas Achinas.

What will be of this, depends to some degree of ourselves.  It can be 
quite easily demonstrated that behind the failures of many radocal 
movements in the Argentina of the late 60s and early 70s, for 
example, there lay a gross responsibility on the unreformatted 
(though refurbished) Catholic philosophy espoused by some of the 
leaders.  Of course, this is not the single reason, but this is not a 
minor one, too.  Magazines like Stromata, for example, or 
Cristianismo y Revolución, were a double edged knife, and we were 
unable to turn it into a good war weapon.

It served, however, some purpose.  And maybe others -like Islamists- 
who will enter their road to socialism by quoting Mohammed in the 
same way the British entered capitalism quoting Habakkuk.

Grey is theory, and green the ever blooming tree of life.

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