We at Worker’s Spatula have always been very open about the Islamic faith which guides our Central Committee, elhamdulillah. Just as we love the liberation of all of humanity through the material overcoming of class society, we love Allah (SWT), who has created Marxism as all things in the dialectic of history so that we might know them. Given how long our Central Committee have been underground, perhaps we assumed that all of our co-religionists had embraced communism as we have, but tragically it would appear to not be so.
Tragically, our co-religionists at AboutIslam have done a great disservice to the Ümmet and to human liberation by publishing some truly second-rate anti-communist propaganda, and so we of the Central Committee have been pulled away from our busy schedule of organising to respond to this baseless nonsense. If we do not receive a published response from AboutIslam, we will be forced to assume that the AboutIslam staff were convinced by our arguments, and have become communists themselves.
The discussion begins as such:
Marx and his collaborator Engels in their “Communist Manifesto” wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” – i.e the struggles between those who have property and those who don’t have – “the haves and the have nots” – or between the capitalists and the workers.
Already we can see we are not dealing with writers well versed in explaining Marxist theory. The struggles are not necessarily between those who “don’t have” property, the question is the different relationship to property. At several stages in history, classes with different amounts of private property found themselves in conflict, such as in conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the feudal aristocracy. It is therefore inaccurate to say that Marx and Engels believed that “all hitherto existing society” was characterised as a conflict between “the capitalists and the workers”. Let us not, however, try to throw out our opponents before they have even made any points “against” communism. Let us be generous, and assume that our friends at AboutIslam mean that this history to which Marx and Engels referred culminates in the struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie under capitalism, today. Let us read on, knowing that this is where we stand today, and assuming that the other side do in fact know what they’re claiming to rebut:
Marx believed that the tension between the ruling class and the working class would eventually reach a boiling point, leading to a socialist revolution.
This, in turn, would cause the rise of a system of government in which the majority of the people, consisting of the workers, would dominate. Marx termed this the “dictatorship of the proletariat”.
From this situation, a classless utopia would emerge, causing the withering away of the state or government.
All of this assumes a highly deterministic and teleological reading of Marx. In fact, in the portion of the Communist Manifesto which AboutIslam quotes (which we assume they read, not merely stealing a quote from Google or Wikipedia without even checking the freely available versions of the short text available on the internet), Marx and Engels immediately say that class struggle: “carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”. So even in the Communist Manifesto, a very short and accessible text relative to the bulk of Marx’s rather dense theoretical work, we see that Marx and Engels believed that society could be reconstructed in radically new terms or end in disaster for all… much as appears to now be very likely the case as global capitalism threatens to make the planet uninhabitable for all of humanity if the ruling classes who are overseeing this unsustainable development are not brought low by the will of Allah (SWT) made manifest in the impoverished proletarian masses who are being tested by Allah through the sinful greed of their oppressors and exploiters.
Moving on to the slander:
The first problem we as Muslims come across in communism is the crass materialism on which it is founded. The communists reject God, the human soul, and the life hereafter. They ridicule the human need for Divine guidance and consider religion “the opium of the people”.
“The communists” reject God, do we? We reject “the human soul” and “the life hereafter”? As communists we would note that Marxist theory does not meaningfully weigh in on these subjects except as sociological theory, and we are believing Muslims (elhamdulillah). And as believing Muslims and communists, our existence––hateful though it may in your eyes––is proof that “you know not” of what you speak: “perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you“. Who knows if we are good or bad, but Allah? But here we are now, and if you are sincere and truthful Muslims, you must reckon with this truth.
Let us be generous and assume that in this slanderous paragraph about what “the communists” believe about subjects which have nothing to do with Marxism at all, that the point is that Marx personally was subscribing to a “crass materialism” (indeed this too shows a lack of understanding of how Marx and Marxists viewed the world, as the phrase “vulgar materialism” is a frequent insult by theoretically informed Marxists, who, like Marx, are inspired by the logical insights of the German Christian philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel applied to a materialist reading of history) when he referred to “the opium of the people”. Let us turn to the context in which Marx wrote these infamous words, often misunderstood by irreligious Marxists and religious non-Marxists alike:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
If Marx were an atheist, where is the “ridicule” in this to which AboutIslam refers? If all atheists had such sympathy for believers, they would not have such false prophets as Richard Dawkins, who preach war against the Ümmet by the imperialist powers. If all atheists should “reject God [religion and] the human soul” by speaking of religion as “the soul of soulless conditions”, inşallah they will be easy to bring to a sincere belief in Islam.
It is true that communists not only see it as a necessity to engage in revolutionary politics across religious boundaries, but also to transcend religious division altogether. But this is not because we are, or Marx was, an atheist: Marx was not an atheist, as can plainly be seen from “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, the text from which the quote above was taken. He was a pious Sufi criticising the kâfir religions for having drawn the proletarian masses away from a sincere belief in Allah. Marx sought to transcend their false religion with genuine nearness to the Creator. In full communism, there will be a universal state of absolute knowing by which the revealed religion of Islam and a true knowledge of and closeness to God will be achieved by all. İnşallah maşallah.
So when AboutIslam asks:
If we adopt just the economic program of communism, rejecting their foundational philosophy, how can it affect our religious beliefs and practices?
Can we really take them seriously as critics of Marx, our brother in faith?
Defence of Marx’s religiosity aside, however, what is the meaning of this statement:
The answer is that their economic system cannot be separated from their world view or their outlook upon the life of a people. Their economics is a kind of militant atheism; and the Marxian ideology of dialectical materialism is presented as the only driving force behind all human progress that humankind has achieved so far, or humans can achieve in future.
Rejecting all concepts of God, His apostles, and their messages; communists assert communism to be the winner of the ongoing ideological battle. They assert that by changing the economic circumstances, we can create a good social system.
This is tautology at best, dishonesty at worst. The former is not befitting an intellectual debate, the latter not befitting a believing Muslim. How is Marxist “economics […] a kind of militant atheism”? Which economic principle in any volume of Capital requires atheistic assumptions? We are not even treated to a hint of an answer to this crucial question. Instead our (hopefully sincere) co-religionists at AboutIslam simply repeat that communists do not believe in God, that Marxism is atheistic, and therefore, this alleged atheism permeates the economic theory, because it was written by atheists. Compelling stuff.
Should Muslims reject everything which atheists have created on the grounds that the material creations of atheists “cannot be separated from their world view”? A fair amount of information technology today might fall into this category, and therefore we may be forced to assume another possible reason why this polemic might not receive a response: upon reading it, those behind AboutIslam abandon the use of much of communication technology to keep with the “logic” they employ in the above paragraph (which anyway we feel is ill-founded and incorrect in its assumptions about what Marx and Marxism stand for in the realm of the spiritual).
Nowhere do they demonstrate the incorrectness of Marx’s economic theory, or reference Capital in any way. They simply state, incorrectly, that it is “militant atheism”. We could just as easily, state without evidence that the creators of AboutIslam were a collection of atheistic Trotskyite wreckers out to keep communism out of the hands of the Muslim youth, and that the site should not be visited because of its “militant atheism”. This is the level of argumentation which this section of this anti-communist polemic dips to.
Then our friends at AboutIslam pull an amazing sleight of hand by claiming that Islam itself is proof of the untruth of the materialist conception of history (which they refer to as “dialectical materialism”, though they surely mean “historical materialism”) and class struggle:
Completely disproving the Marxian principle of dialectical materialism, the Prophet effected a complete change of the existing socio-political system prevailing in Arabia, bringing about a revolution in the whole of human existence as it were.
But nowhere does Marx claim that all historical change happens only as a result of fully conscious economic subjects speaking in purely economic terms. This would be frightfully undialectical to begin with, since ascribing this level of consciousness to humanity as a whole would imply that there was a more or less already existing state of universal and absolute knowledge. The point is that humanity is still not conscious of itself, etc. But turning from the Hegel back to the more specifically Marxist claims: most of the rest of the piece repeats in various ways the above “argument”, that Marxism is simply economic determinism, which of course would be news to Karl Marx:
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
But going a bit more deeply, there are three chief problems with this erroneous assumption:
–Firstly, that it implies Marxists cannot explain the advent of Islam… when one of France’s most famous Marxists, Maxime Rodinson, made a career doing just that. If the authors at AboutIslam are unwilling to address this key Marxist theoretician of the rise of Islam, who has been translated into Turkish and English and is discussed by Marxists of various relationships with belief at least in these two languages, we cannot say that they really have any right to speak about Islam and communism.
–Secondly, and relatedly, their own deeply flawed argumentation about what communists consider important and what Islam preaches seem not to be in such sharp contradiction as the rhetoric they use to tie them together implies: communists are charged with viewing social change in terms of “changing the economic circumstances”, which purportedly can’t explain the rise of Islam, by which “the Prophet effected a complete change of the existing socio-political system prevailing in Arabia”. Ah, but this didn’t involve a change to the economic circumstances? According to AboutIslam again: “Certainly Islam acknowledges and understands the importance of a good economic basis for any improvement in the social life of a community. ”
–Thirdly, and following chronologically from the last quote:
But it firmly rejects the idea that man is simply “an economic animal”, which is the basis not only of Communism, but also of Capitalism. Islam does not teach that if economic conditions of a people are improved, all the ills of the society are cured.
Surely, Marxism does not either? Just a bit more from AboutIslam before we return with a final Marx quote to show how little our friends have engaged with Marx and Marxism:
Economics, with all its significance, is still only one aspect of human life. There are other important areas of human life such as the spiritual and cultural spheres, where too there are issues to be addressed. Mere economic solutions can do little in these areas.
Marx was in no way blind to spiritual or cultural ills, and wrote on them rather extensively. Indeed, there can be no excuse but ignorance to claim that in addition to being a pure “economic determinist”, Marx was unconcerned with anything except for the explicit economic system on which a society ran. Numerous sections of Marx’s writings on diverse subjects can be found, again, for free on the internet with only the smallest amount of Googling.
But we do not deny that Marxism claims an essentially “economic” character to human social life, one which we feel is crucial to understanding the world as we actually live it. While AboutIslam are free to deny the importance of this, we think the majority of our Ümmet, impoverished, exploited, and oppressed as they are as proletarians, must hear Marx when he says:
In labour all the natural, spiritual, and social variety of individual activity is manifested and is variously rewarded, whilst dead capital always keeps the same pace and is indifferent to real individual activity.
In general we should observe that in those cases where worker and capitalist equally suffer, the worker suffers in his very existence, the capitalist in the profit on his dead mammon.
The worker has to struggle not only for his physical means of subsistence; he has to struggle to get work, i.e., the possibility, the means, to perform his activity.
Where is the atheism in this? In conclusion:
It must surely be mere ignorance that causes the authors at AboutIslam to slander and misrepresent all communists and Marx himself with unfounded and ignorant statements of the sort found in their shoddy anti-communist screed. We would not want to imply that they are being willfully dishonest, themselves motivated by some economic incentive, perhaps payment from someone who wishes to erase the above simple material fact about the world we live in… perhaps so that they may continue to amass the wealth that Allah has created––objectified in the forms of the means of production and its distribution––for themselves, rather than sharing it as our common inheritance. We pray no Muslim would sell their honesty so cheaply.
Since there is no chance that is the case, and the writers are motivated purely by piety and an accordant desire to protect Islam from kufr, we are certain that they will consider our arguments and respond. We look forward to having a more fruitful and complete discussion following clarification, self-criticism, and counter-arguments to the points raised in the modest piece above.
AboutIslam: please respond.
To the rest of you: if you are a Muslim and are interested in communist ideology, we encourage you to be in touch with the page to discuss philosophy, politics, economics, war, peace, Marx, Lenin, etc. İnşallah, we will hear from you soon.
If you are a non-Muslim communist and you are interested in our blessed dîn, please also be in touch so we can find you a local mosque in which to learn about Islam.
Now comrades who know that Islam is the light:
workers and oppressed of the world, unite!
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