Archive for Asiatic Mode of Production

Class Basis of Taliban

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

It is my contention that the Taliban represent a reactionary and a restorationist movement. A simple definition of the term “reactionary” is as follow:

Reactionary (also reactionist) refers to any movement or ideology that opposes change or progress in society, and which seeks a return to a previous state (the status quo ante). The term originated in the French Revolution, to denote the counter-revolutionaries who wanted to restore the real or imagined conditions of the monarchical Ancien Régime. In the nineteenth century, the term reactionism denoted those who wished to preserve feudalism and aristocratic privilege against industrialism, republicanism, liberalism and socialism.

It is also a restorationist movement. An easy definition of “restorationist” is as follows:

Restorationism, sometimes called Christian primitivism, refers to the belief held by various religious movements that pristine or original Christianity should be restored, which usually claiming to be the source of that restoration. Such groups teach that this is necessary because Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians introduced defects into Christian faith and practice, or have lost a vital element of genuine Christianity. Specifically, restorationism applies to the Restoration Movement and numerous other movements that originated in the eastern United States and Canada and grew rapidly in the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The term restoration is also employed by the Latter Day Saint movement. The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Marxism does not preach a unilinear evolutionism (one sided historical development towards progress). It is premised upon the dialectics of class struggle that includes both forces of progress and forces of reaction.

Naturally, the Taliban do not want to restore “original Christian” they want to restore “original Islam”. Hence, in ideological terms there can be little if any doubt that the Taliban are both reactionary (opposed to progress) as well as restorationist (want to restore original Islam). What is the class basis of reactionary and restorationist movements?

It is only logical that pre-capitalist ruling classes destroyed by the spread of capitalism will from time and time attempt to restore the way of life in which they dominated. What we see in the shape of the Taliban is similarly an attempt to take society back to medieval times through blood and violence. Let us take a few examples:

  1. The burning of modern educational institutions are undertaken to substitute the medieval system of madrassah education.
  2. The veiling of women is a throw back to the medieval period when the 20th century women’s movement had not managed to win basic democratic rights.
  3. The discriminatory attitude towards religious minorities is characteristic of the medieval period.
  4. The public punishments including gruesome torture and amputations are a throw back to medieval practices (when such punishments were fairly common).

I could go on but I think these four examples suffice for now.

These examples should not be misconstrued to mean that capitalist modernity has achieved women’s emancipation, secular education, non-discrimination, or done away with human rights abuses. That is certainly not the case. However, in the modern world ethical sensibilities have so changed that such things are considered “ideals” that we should strive towards. Conversely, the inability under capitalism to achieve these “ideals” is considered “a failure”.

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Patriarchy and Caste System

Posted in Marxism, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

As I have elaborated before, the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) in India is based on the caste system. The caste system in turn is based on the confinement of a particular people to a particular occupation. This requires the intense control of women’s sexuality because if castes are allowed to intermarry, it will destroy the entire caste division of labour of that society. Thus, the fundamental basis for the maintenance of the caste system is through ensuring endogamy, that is, marrying within your own caste/biraderi.

Hence, the very logic of the entire caste system is opposed to love. And those who dare to love are automatically and inevitably propelled against the very grain of the system.

However, the fact that the caste system prevailed for 3000 years can only indicate that love did not conquer. It was the caste system that conquered the lovers. The Asiatic system saw a series of revolts none of which were successful. It was/is the most terrible vise in which the people of Asia were gripped in an unending cycle of subjugation and slavery to the village community. The fact that life outside the community (owing to climatic conditions) was simply not possible meant that the greatest punishment was ostracism from the caste and community. Wasn’t that also the punishment to Muhammed and his followers as well as to the lovers of every period?

No greater violence can be done to the psychology of a people than to disallow the most natural desire of love. Is it not inevitable then that the caste system will be met with a continuous revolt in the name of the freedom to love. Is not inevitable that love poetry would touch the deepest and most sensitive core of the people in a society that violently opposed love?

The caste system relegated love to the lowest and most contemptible position. Was it then not inevitable that rebellions against the case system would raise it to the level of divinity. This explains why Sufi poetry (and later progressive poetry) unites rebellion/love with divinity.

In the opening line of Heer, Waris Shah says:

Awal hamad khuda da vird karye

Ishq kita su jag da mool mian
Pehlan aap hi rabb ne ishq kita
Te mashooq he nabi rasool mian

Translation: “First of all let us acknowledge God (who is self-evident), who has made love the worth of the world Sir, It was God Himself that first loved, and the prophet (Muhammad (SW)) is His beloved Sir”

To put it crudely, if God is the first lover, if God is nothing but love, mortal man commits a sin the greatest sin against God by denying love.

This is the essence of Sufi poetry. And progressive poetry borrows from this tradition.

There is always a material basis for the power of certain cultural ideas. The fact that our culture is dominated by themes of the love story, especially in the rebellious sufi tradition, is indicative of the fact that the caste system so violently denied this very natural and inextinguishable human impulse.

And in contemporary society? What is the basis for arranged marriages? Nothing other than the caste system. It is to ensure that marriages occur within the biraderi or at the worst close to one’s biraderi. It is not for private property (as was the case in the West) but for the patriarchal patronage provided by the beradari. That patronage and fear of ostracism from that patronage is the central binding force for the patriarchal practice of arranged marriages. Thus, arranged marriages directly link back to the caste system (no matter how much of a gloss modern society has put on this practice). At the most, bourgeois families have allowed the liberty to the boy (and in rare cases the girl) the right of choosing a partner from within a related biraderi (it does not even extend to the whole of the bourgeois class).

Thus, the caste system is the most disgusting pile of putrid shit. Rebellion against this system is truly the beginning of a humane existence for the people of South Asia.

The author of the note is a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and pursuing his doctral degree at SOAS.