Left-wing sloganeering by the Right

“This conflict is about class” — strange as it may sound, this quotation is neither taken from any writing of Karl Marx nor from the works of any subsequent Marxist. On the other hand, these words came from the most arduous foes of Marxists. The message of class-conflict, this time around, was highlighted by Umm Kusloom, the principal of the controversy-centered Jamia Hafsa, to Dr. Fauzia Afzal Khan, while the latter was visiting Lal Masjid to interview Ghazi Abdul Rashid at the beginning of the eventful week that concluded with the military operation. What led the former principal of Jamia Hafsa, the austere and militant teacher of Islam, to repeat good old Marx? This is not an oversight on the part of Umm Kulsoom, as the rest of the interview present at CounterPunch.org informs, but let’s look at another incident.

Few weeks ago, a writer through an eminent weekly magazine pointed towards the hypocrisy of the comments made by a religious maderassah student in the midst of the students’ convention while facing General Pervez Musharraf. The students became well-known as the video of his remarks was widely distributed on the internet. During his short speech, the seminary student primarily focused on the class inequality prevalent in the present-day Pakistani society, repeating what the leftist parties and groups have been saying for well over a century. What separated the seminary student from the Left was his proposed solution of returning back to the Islamic system. Karl Marx must be rolling around in his grave.

These fragments of events point towards something very important. To begin, the observations of Karl Marx about the economic and social structure of the society can’t be thrown away in the dustbin, as has been common in many liberal academic circles for quite a while. People, no matter what religion they follow, still associate themselves with their class. They still – to the utter disappointment of Samuel P. Huntington and his political thesis of “clash of civilizations” – tend to recognize class conflict as the primary contradiction in the modern capitalist society. At many occasions, they opt to organize on the basis of class rather than on the grounds of their religious identity. Had that not been the case, the religious preachers would not have been such a zealous enemy of the left-wing through out history; the former were becoming more or less irrelevant due to latter’s political and social program. After all, one is led to think, this word ‘class’ must have something to it. And, therefore, those who want to gain support from the people are bound to bring class-issues in their political equation. For these very reasons, the religious parties from the far-right come to take up the left-wing vocabulary.

Nevertheless, what do the religious parties and groups find more attracting in the left-wing slogans than the promises of the final abode in the heavens, with milk, honey, and, the most magnetic aspect of it, the virgins? The reasons are the same as those cited above. The evils of the capitalist system are glaringly clear to any normal person, and they are becoming more and more blatant with the passage of time. The common man can’t help but notice the vicious circle that he, along with his other fellows, has to go through in order to ensure mere survival. No ideas of eventual comfort can take his eyes away from the humiliation that defines his life.

Recognizing the sense of suffering faced by the common man, the religious parties try to rationalize it. They preach that it is divergence from “the true Islamic path” that is primarily responsible for horrible state of the current world. Satisfactory as the religious answer usually is for the innocent poor men in the absence of any alternative explanation, their movement towards Islam is not just to seek eternal solace, but is also embedded with the wish to better this world. Nevertheless, there are always others, usually from the middle class or tribal background, who usually realize religion only as an appropriate tool to reinforce familial patriarchal notions.

Magnanimous as the wish of the poor is, the right-wing alternative of the present day world capitalism is lacking in countless aspects. At the fundamental level, this analysis is not based on the material realities of the world we live, but on the notion of a priori ideal world. In other words, their solution to the worldly woes does not emerge from an understanding of this very world. How the implementation of some theocratic principles can cure the afflictions of poverty, gender oppression, and education can only be elucidated by the religious politicians through the notion of divine help. The Marxist interpretation of world capitalism as a specific stage in the historical development of mankind and its relationship with private property remain absent from the sermons of the religious men. While we can term the desires of the poor to be pious, how should the intent of the preachers be defined? Isn’t it intellectual sophistry of political and social reactionaries?

Due to the dilution of the Left – primarily because of the domination of the right-wing forces at the state level, generous foreign funding and subsequent suppression of progressive elements – religious politicians and preachers, while sensing the pulse of the people, found it convenient to take up progressive slogans. However, in the wake of a genuine pro-democracy movement, the historical gulf between the progressive and retrogressive trends is bound to reappear and reassert. The right-wing challenge to the Left can only be met through proper description of the actual material causes behind the vicious cycle in which the large majority of mankind is bound today. Once the Left returns to the scene equipped with their traditional slogans, the religious Right will not loose a moment to take up their trademark anti-communist and anti-progressive propaganda.

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2 Responses to “Left-wing sloganeering by the Right”

  1. Even if a “proper description of the actual material causes” is exposed, do you think it will make a difference? I’ve been wondering about this: would understanding the world via “Marxist ideology” sway the masses from turning to religion or religious extremism?

    I look at the case of educated Pakistanis living in the West, who understand and oppose concepts like “imperialism”, “socialism of fools” etc, and have at their disposal numerous outlets through which they can vent this opposition. Yet many turn to religious extremism. So it is possible that the problem cannot just be explained by limited political outlets, or Left Right imbalances, etc. The frustration and desperation being felt, in the face of inequality, seems to have reached a very high degree, where ‘extreme’ appear to be the only mitigator.

  2. I have noticed that it is not enough merely to provide a Marxist alternative to the masses in the form of words only, but more important is to push these principles through practice. Masses learn through experience, and it needs to be shown to them through practical work that Marxism-Leninism provides the correct solution to the problems of the masses.

    As for the educated Pakistanis living abroad, the members of the intellectual community, if we choose to call them, it is all the more understandable that they will also be influenced by the currents present in the society. Their turn towards religious extremism is also related with the discrediting of the Left in their eyes (the media slander campaign launched against the Left contributes to that).

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