The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Expand ULK. Send us $50 concealed cash with an address and we'll send you a stack of each issue for the next year. help out
[Idealism/Religion] [ULK Issue 65]
expand

Liberation Theology as Organizing Tool

The purpose of this article is to explain that Christianity is not intrinsically counter-revolutionary, and to give my comrades some advice on how to teach revolutionary ideas to Christian prisoners.

While I am an atheist, I recognize that many Christians can deservedly be called Comrades. Indeed, Jesus emself often spoke and acted in favor of the proletariat. However, there is a dangerous strain of imperialist pseudo-Christianity prevalent in the United $tates. The leaders of this cult, who have historically and predominately been rich white men, cherry-pick passages from the Bible in an attempt to justify their selfish agenda. This tactic of distorting Christianity has been used by oppressors from the conquistadors to Amerikan politicians and televangelists such as Pat Buchanan. It's been used to justify the conquests of indigenous people, manifest destiny, slavery, retributive punishment, and the persecution of [email protected], wimmin, New Afrikans, queers, transgendered people, and poor people.

Unfortunately, this cultural brainwashing has infected the minds of many prisoners. To reverse this trend, we must show potential Christian comrades the following two points:

1. That certain lessons they learned do not actually represent the teachings of Jesus Christ. Rather, they reflect the imperialist demagogues who have opportunistically co-opted the Bible to suit their own capitalist and white-supremacist agenda.

2. That the real teachings of the New Testament are not only compatible with, but actually suggest, a revolutionary outlook.

For example, when you hear a Christian prisoner trying to rationalize homophobia, point out that many reputable Bible scholars claim that the New Testament does not actually condemn homosexuality. For example, in Introducing Christian Ethics by Roger Crook, we find an alternative interpretation of Paul's verses in Romans 1:16-32. The point of Paul's passage is not that homosexuality is wrong, but that God does not send people to heaven according to their adherence to traditional morality. Neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals get to heaven because of their sexual preference, but only by accepting God's gift of grace.

However, a more detailed approach eventually becomes necessary. For this, we should introduce our potential Christian comrades to Liberation Theology. The priests and theologians of this movement have actively struggled against U.$.-backed, capitalist puppet governments in the Third World in order to establish socialist governments managed by and for the people. In the book Liberation Theology, Robert Brown identifies four key themes of the movement:

  1. Commitment — taking a stand that unites thought and action
  2. Hope — the anticipation of a better future
  3. God's presence — the realization that we are not alone but that God is in our midst, in another persona and supremely in Jesus Christ
  4. A preferential option for the poor — the guideline for the kind of changes which will bring greater justice into the world (pp. 25-33)

In addition, many of these theologians have synthesized their theology with insights from indigenous spirituality, Marxism, feminism, womanism, New Afrikan studies, queer studies. The books A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone and Feminist Theological Ethics, edited by Lois Daly, are prime examples.

Remember, Comrades. "Christianity does not have to be reactionary!" Jesus was basically a socialist who preached love and tolerance for all people. Ey surrounded emself with poor people and outcasts, not bourgeois demagogues.

!Viva la Revolucion!


MIM(Prisons) responds: There have been some revolutionary liberation theology movements throughout history which provide examples of what this comrade describes. These organizations take their dedication to religion as a dedication to serving the oppressed. In Latin America there are examples of Christian groups explicitely working under the liberation theology banner to support revolutionary struggles. We have also written about the potential of Islam as a liberation theology, and Malcolm X provides a solid example of promoting revolutionary politics in this way. We have much respect for and unity with these movements. And we definitely agree that pointing religious folks in this direction is a good idea.

Quoting bible passages to religious folks to refute their reactionary beliefs or actions may indeed help reach some people. But we also shouldn't pretend that religion is all about revolution or serving the oppressed. Organized religion has a long reactionary history of its own oppression. And the bible has plenty of fuel for reactionary ideas and actions. While pointing religious folks to a more progressive interpretation, we should be careful not to mislead them into thinking that we endorse their mysticism. The very belief in a higher power discourages people from believing that they can control the development of their own and all of humanity's future.

In the end, we try to approach people where they are at. And so this comrade is offering some good tips for approaching religious folks. We just caution against leaveing the materialism out of the discussion altogether.

chain
[United Front] [Idealism/Religion] [Michigan]
expand

Response to ULK 48 on Islam and United Front Organizing

I received ULK 48, thank you. From 1998 to right after the towers fell in New York, I received MIM Notes, which were instrumental in my politicalization and capacity to be critical with information. Hopefully re-connecting with MIM will aid me in similar if not greater ways.

As far as the ULK 48, dedicated to the discussion of religious organizations in prison, I would like to add a few observations, critiques and opinions that may aid in better understanding what I consider, the functional limits of prison religious organizations.

I preface the following by stating that like many young, impressionable Black males who entered the Michigan penal system in the mid-1990s, I was heavily recruited by a non-orthodox Islamic sect. It was part religious, part Black nationalist, part civic, radical in the sense that it gave it to the grey and black as well as it took it, but the religious organization was mostly philosophically and ideologically backwards. No clearly defined political lines, no effort toward developing social change theory, and no revolutionary practices or principles cognizable to a revolutionary novice, let alone a seasoned agent for change.

However, the group did introduce me to books, which I fell in love with after spending four years in solitary confinement where there was little else to do besides read to escape the attendant activities characteristic of that environment. In the beginning, narrow nationalism and Islamic related literature is all I read. Far more lasting than any specific set of facts or pieces of knowledge obtained, reading provided me with the understanding of how to acquire knowledge on my own. I learned how to read an essay closely, search for new sources, find data to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and detect an author's prejudice, among other skills, that were not promoted during my K-12 educational experience.

Considering the inescapable oppression of long term solitary confinement, it was inevitable that my attention would be turned to ideas and actions I could take to prevent future experiences of isolation, for myself as well as others. Trying to pray or wish my problems away proved extremely ineffective. I abandoned closing my eyes and hoping for a different reality when I opened them, rather quickly. But I do feel indebted to the group for leading me to books - prior to prison I had never read a book from cover to cover, or for more than entertainment.

After reading ULK 48, the first question that comes to mind is, do religious groups in Michigan prisons possess any power - real or latent - to stimulate and direct constructive social change? Or are they, too, victims of the overall U.S. capitalist structure?

While I'm aware that many people would answer these questions in many different ways, I observe that religion plays chiefly a cathartic role for the imprisoned. It provides an opportunity for followers to "let off steam," to seek release for emotions which cannot be expressed to administrators and guards without consequences. Prison religious organizations are social and recreational and a haven for comfort, no matter how illusory or temporary. Within these groups imprisoned people can assume responsibilities and authority not available elsewhere in the prison. For example, s/he can be the head of security, treasurer or public relations director. Only within the religious organization can imprisoned people engage in political intrigue and participate in decisions open to non-imprisoned people.

The potential power of religious organizations in prison is the ability to attract large numbers of imprisoned people. Although their ability to recruit is severely being challenged here in Michigan by the rise of street organizations i.e., gangs, whose numbers have skyrocketed in the last ten years. Among their more flagrant weaknesses is the fact that their potential strengths can all too easily be dissipated by preoccupation with trivial matters (e.g., did Moses part the Red Sea; did Jesus walk on water; what did Muhammad say about facial hair, eating pork, or what activities should be performed with the left hand?), and the desperate struggle for the empty status, bombast, and show of the prison world.

It is not inevitable, and virtually impossible to politicalize and transform members of these groups into social change agents when religious doctrines emphasize the idea of someone other than you/me/us possessing the power to change present reality: the instruments of escape, weapons of protest, the protective fortress behind which adherents seek to withstand the assaults of a hostile environment and within which s/he plans strategies of defiance, is prayer.

It is no wonder then why imprisoned people who have been politicalized tend to reject religious organizations as a multiple symbol of fantasy; and tend to regard prison religious organizations as basically irrelevant to challenging the hard and difficult realities of capitalism, white supremacy, police powers that can reach all the way into one's bedroom or a woman's womb, and so on.

That this is not more widely recognized by members of these groups may be in part because religious organizations are not an effective model of critical thinking. The fact that religious organizations are the most pervasive groups in Michigan prisons, and the fact that they do not play any measurable role dissenting or resisting the frustrating, oppressive, degrading experience of incarceration, are cruelly related.

If religious organizations are a powerful social force, either the facility, Central Office, or the State would severely restrict/eliminate them. The facade of power which these groups now present would be removed. Think about it, most religious meetings in prison go unsupervised.

Members of these groups hold on to the idea that an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present being will save them at some appointed time and date, while this being had neglected their other needs as human beings. The punishment of "crime" is a political act. It represents the use of force by the State to control the lives of people the State has defined as criminal. No concerted political efforts have been made by these groups to deal with the politics, i.e., the underlying causes of incarceration.

My objective is not to argue that religious belief and political consciousness are incompatible. Speculation on that level is pointless and irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. However, the simple truth is that the trouble imprisoned people find themselves in, the sham and corruption, the class and race biases of criminal law enforcement, cannot be solved unless imprisoned people feel obligated to learn about systems of power, privilege and oppression, and also feel obligated to do something about them.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct to point out that there are significant limitations to religious organizations, whether behind bars or on the streets. And ultimately only by targeting the underlying systems of oppression will we put an end to criminal injustice and imperialism. However, what this letter does not address is the distinction of some of the more anti-imperialist religious movements like Islam. As we argued in ULK 48 "Just as religion is today an outlet for many radical youth in the Third World, religion has been influenced by revolutionary politics in the context of New Afrika. In the 20th century we see a turn towards Islam by a number of New Afrikans who are searching for identity and liberation from oppression by Amerika." We do not push people towards religion, but at the same time we look to unite with those whose religion is compatible with or promoting national liberation. We have a good historical example of this united front in the Christian liberation theologists in Latin America who were a part of revolutionary national liberation struggles in that part of the world starting in the 1950s.

Uniting with organizations that do not share our political line entirely is part of united front organizing. We focus on the principal contradiction, and unite with others who agree with this goal, while retaining independence to make clear where we disagree politically. In a united front led by communists religious groups can be important allies. But we should always be clear that true equality for all people will not be achieved through belief in a higher power or any other unscientific mysticism.

chain
[U.S. Imperialism] [Idealism/Religion] [ULK Issue 52]
expand

Guantanamo Diary Book Review

GuantanamoDiary
Guantánamo Diary
by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
2015

Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been held in secret detention centers by order of the Amerikan government since 2001, first in Mauritania (the country where ey was born), then in Jordan, and finally in 2002 in Guantánamo Bay where ey is still imprisoned. Slahi voluntarily turned emself in to the Mauritanian police on 29 September 2001; sure that ey would quickly be cleared since ey was innocent of any crimes. Instead ey faced years of torture, through which ey initially maintained eir innocence, until it became clear that ey would never be released and ey could no longer stand the suffering. After that point Slahi began to confess to anything eir captors wanted em to say. Slahi still occasionally told them the truth when they asked directly, but for the most part their stories were not possibly consistent or confirmable since the "confessions" were entirely fabricated. But after ey began to make false confessions and falsely implicate others Slahi was allowed to sleep and eat, and the extreme physical abuse stopped. The details of eir torture will make readers wonder how Slahi held out for so long.

Slahi started writing down eir experiences in 2005 (after ey was finally given paper and pen) and after many years of legal battles eir heavily censored manuscript was finally released by the Amerikan government. This book is an edited version of Slahi's story, complete with the original redactions. The editor, Larry Seims, includes some speculation about what is behind the redactions and documents other declassified information that corroborates what Slahi wrote. In spite of heavy censorship, the released manuscript includes surprising detail about Slahi's experience including years of torture, the clear evidence that ey is innocent, and the Amerikan government's desire for a false confession.

The book is written in English, Slahi's fourth language, one that ey learned in prison in order to better communicate with eir captors and understand what was going on around em. For six and a half years Slahi's was allowed no contact with the outside world and was even hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which has a mandate under the Geneva Convention to visit prisoners of war and others detained in situations like Slahi's to ensure humane treatment. For the first year of incarceration Slahi's family didn't even know where ey was, they found out when one of eir brothers saw an article in a German newspaper. In 2008 Slahi was finally granted the "privilege" of twice-yearly calls with family. In 2010 Slahi's petition of habeas corpus was granted by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, ordering eir release. But the Obama administration filed an appeal and Slahi remains in custody.

Amerikan Imperialist Global Domination

The many people who were arrested and kidnapped from their home countries to be sent to Guantánamo Bay underscore the neo-colonial status of those countries. As Slahi explains "November 28th is Mauritanian Independence Day; it marks the event when the Islamic Republic of Mauritania supposedly received its independence from the French colonists in 1960. The irony is that on this very same day in 2001, the independent and sovereign Republic of Mauritania turned over one of its own citizens on a premise. To its everlasting shame, the Mauritanian government not only broke the constitution, which forbids the extradition of Mauritanian criminals to other countries, but also extradited an innocent citizen and exposed him to the random American Justice."(p. 132)

When the ICRC finally got in to see Slahi, the last detainee they were allowed to visit, they tried to get em to talk about abuse ey experienced. "But I always hid the ill-treatment when the ICRC asked me about it because I was afraid of retaliation. That and the fact that the ICRC has no real pressure on the U.S. government: the ICRC tried, but the U.S. government didn't change its path, even an inch. If they let the Red Cross see a detainee, it meant that the operation against that detainee was over."(p. 348)

This book underscores the power of Amerikan imperialism to do whatever it likes in the world. There is no government or organization able to stand up to this power. This is something that many Amerikans take pride in, but this is the power of a people who seek to dominate the world for economic gain. When the oppressed fight back, that power is deployed to squash the resistance by any means necessary. Of course there is a contradiction inherent in this power: Amerikan imperialist domination breeds resistance from the oppressed around the world. So-called terrorist attacks on Amerikan targets are responses to Amerikan terrorism across the globe.

As Slahi noted when ey was watching the movie Black Hawk Down with a few of eir guards: "The guards went crazy emotionally because they saw many Americans getting shot to death. But they missed that the number of U.S. casualties is negligible compared to the Somalis who were attacked in their own homes. I was just wondering at how narrow-minded human beings can be. When people look at one thing from one perspective, they certainly fail to get the whole picture, and that is the main reason for the majority of misunderstandings that sometimes lead to bloody confrontations."(p. 320)

We would not agree that it is just misunderstandings that lead to these bloody confrontations. Rather it is the blood thirst of imperialist aggression constantly seeking new sources of exploited and stolen wealth that inevitably leads to bloody confrontations.

While Slahi is far from politically radical, eir experience educated em in the reality of injustice and the definition of crime by those in power. Writing about eir arrest and initial imprisonment in Mauritania: "So why was I so scared? Because crime is something relative; it's something the government defines and re-defines whenever it pleases."(p. 92)

War on Islam

The target of Amerikan aggression changes depending on where there is the most resistance to imperialism. Back in the mid 1900s it was focused on the communist countries, this shifted to the "War on Drugs" and attacks on Latin America in the late 1900s, and then to the Arab world in the early 2000s. Slahi is acutely aware of this latest wave of aggression by the Amerikan imperialists targeting Islam and the hypocrisy of this attack:

"...Americans tend to widen the circle of involvement to catch the largest possible number of Muslims. They always speak about the Big Conspiracy against the U.S. I personally had been interrogated about people who just practiced the basics of the religion and sympathized with Islamic movements; I was asked to provide every detail about Islamic movements, no matter how moderate. That's amazing in a country like the U.S., where Christian terrorist organizations such as Nazis and White Supremacists have the freedom to express themselves and recruit people openly and nobody can bother them. But as a Muslim, if you sympathize with the political views of an Islamic organization you're in big trouble. Even attending the same mosque as a suspect is big trouble. I mean this fact is clear for everybody who understands the ABCs of American policy toward so-called Islamic Terrorism."(p. 260-61)

Slahi also documents the denial of religious practice in detention camps:

"But in the secret camps, the war against the Islamic religion was more than obvious. Not only was there no sign to Mecca, but the ritual prayers were also forbidden. Reciting the Koran was forbidden. Possessing the Koran was forbidden. Fasting was forbidden. Practically any Islamic-related ritual was strictly forbidden. I am not talking here about hearsay; I am talking about something I experienced myself. I don't believe that the average American is paying taxes to wage war against Islam, but I do believe that there are people in government who have a big problem with the Islamic religion."(p. 265)

Slahi misses that this chauvinism is not at root a problem Amerikans have with the Islamic religion. Rather it is a problem they have with oppressed people who rise up to oppose Amerikan imperialism. Islam is just one of many targets because it is a religion of the oppressed. The Amerikan government (and its people) had no problem with Islam when al-Qaeda was an ally in the fight against communism. In fact Slahi himself trained with al-Qaeda for six months in Afghanistan, but this was during the time when that group was supported by the Amerikan government and fighting against the Soviet-backed government in that country. This action was legal for Mauritanian citizens, and in fact encouraged by the Amerikan government. Nonetheless this fact became one of the cornerstones of the Amerikan insistence that Slahi was behind the World Trade Center attacks, among other things.

Will Amerikans Oppose Torture?

After years of torture and unjust imprisonment at the hands of the Amerikan government Slahi remains relatively moderate in eir views about the country and its people. Ey sees fundamental good in all people, a view that communists share, but one that has blinded Slahi to the economic interests of the vast majority of Amerikans which leads them to support the torture in Guantanamo even after reports like this one are released.

"What would the dead average American think if he or she could see what his or her government is doing to someone who has done no crimes against anybody? As much as I was ashamed for the Arabic fellows, I knew they definitely didn't represent the average Arab. Arabic people are among the greatest on the planet, sensitive, emotional, loving, generous, sacrificial, religious, charitable, and light-hearted.... If people in the Arab world knew what was happening in this place, the hatred against the U.S. would be heavily watered, and the accusation that the U.S. is helping and working together with dictators in our countries would be cemented."(p. 257)

The reality is that most people in the Arab world do know about Amerikan injustice. In fact, in Mauritania the police told Slahi "America is a country that is based on and living with injustice"(p. 134) when Slahi asked why they were extraditing em when they believed ey had already proven eir innocence. And it is this knowledge that leads to many taking up the fight against Amerikan imperialism. At the same time most Amerikans now know about the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and still public sentiment is far from outraged at these actions. Large portions of the population rally around political figures like Donald Trump when ey calls for more torture.

From all of this we see further evidence for the potential of Islam as a liberation theology for those fighting against Amerikan imperialism. Just as the masses in Latin America were drawn to Catholic liberation theology as a reaction to oppression and injustice in that region, segments of any religion are likely to adapt to popular sentiments. Liberation theology was a valuable ally for the revolutionaries in Latin America.

Regardless of the format this liberation struggle takes, we know that the oppressed people of the world can not wait around for Amerikans to wake up and stop the torture themselves. Now more than a year after Slahi's book was released (which even spent some time on the best seller's list), still nothing has been done about eir situation. The masses must liberate themselves; their captors will never willingly give up power. And the Amerikan people are enjoying the spoils of the captors, so most Amerikans are happily going along with imperialist torture worldwide.

chain
[Idealism/Religion]
expand

Five Percenter Responds to Islam as Liberation Theology

Peace from the Gods! We salute the world with universal greetings of peace. We recognize the need for unity-criticism-unity. We only want to build upon the "actual facts" Wiawimawo built upon concerning Islam and New Afrikans. We have found that concerning so-called revolutionaries scientific approach towards New Afrikans and Islam one must first define, then science out the rest for the sake of peace and the absence of confusion. A New Afrikan is a young, poorly educated, superstitious, disillusioned Black person fed up with the slow legal process, who takes up a militant stance against the lack of equality of opportunity and treatment in the United States according to E. David Cronon, a Marcus Garvey biographer who wrote Black Moses. Islam is and always will be peace. There is no "I" in Arabic, so Islam is As-Slaam, root word slm, which is peace. A deaf dumb and blind would use the so-called translation of submission to the will of Allah as the defining of Islam. These are the Facts! Peace is one of the reasons we salute Under Lock & Key.

Wiawimawo has taken a few fragments of information and stretched them to fit a particular line. In the article when he [sic] uses citation 10 from Knight's book, he leaves out the part that states "in turn some[emphasis ours - Legion] Five Percenters replace 'understand' with York's 'overstand' (itself grafted from Rastafari) in regular conversation..." We feel as if to make a point the comrade can't defend a poorly constructed argument, so a blanket statement is made. That's like us saying the Maoist let the Black Panther Party get massacred and laid it down during the COINTELPRO stings.

In citation 11 about the Gods, Black Muslims and Rastafarians in cahoots to kill suspected dope dealers was a cover-up the NYPD manifested to cover up the fact they had ten unsolved murders on the books along with the assassinations of various so-called Black messiahs. On pages 248-252 of In the Name of Allah Vol. 1 you'll find the full history of the situation. The NYCPD, NYPD and FBI tried to cause yet another "civil war" between the Gods and Black Muslims. The NOI was cleared and NYC Mayor Lindsay put Barry Gottehrer to the task of clearing up the confusion.

Five Percenters are doing what no other LO or nation has the ability to do with regard to citation 13, and have been since before 1970. ["In the later 1970s the Five Percenters recruited whole street gangs into their fold whose members accounted for a significant portion of the arrests in Brooklyn during those years.(13)" - Wiawimawo] We are nation builders. It's what we do.

This line about civic duty and spirituality is another stretch. The Five Percenters main brain function is pulling people out of the mud with proper knowledge of self. Spirit as defined in Funk and Wagnalls dictionary is the part of the human being characterized by intelligence, personality, self-consciousness, and will; the mind. We live on actual facts every day in every way. No spook in the sky is ever going to feed us or you. It's in the lessons.

We must point out that Allah (the Father) was never close friends with Malcolm X. The Father stayed away from the beef between X and Elijah. The people come first. The strength of a nation before money is the youth. Malcolm X let the lime light get himself killed. We respect the intent, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. People also seem to forget Malcolm X was a UNIA Mason before Elijah, before his brother told him about Islam. So his ability to do for self was in his political make up anyways.

The difference between allegory and myth are exponential. A myth is used to explain a natural phenomenon, while allegory is used to represent characters and events as ideals and princples. To discount the Yacub theory is to discredit any and all efforts made by Maoists, whom use dialectical materialism to present solutions to problems faced by the masses. We are tasked with learning the science of everything in life. So we tend to look listen and observe through an independent lense. If one is a scientist then you are a religionist. If you are not then you really aren't living the life of a scientist (i.e. devoted).


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Thanks to Legion for eir feedback and corrections. Legion pointed me in the right direction for research on this topic, but is much more knowledgeable on the history than i. There is an interesting problem that we face as we attempt to lay out the history of most LOs when there is little documentation, and primary sources are mostly stories and the (subjective) memories of certain individuals. Much of the research in Knight's book is admittedly unverified and presented in a very loose form.

My citation 10, on Rastafari's influence on the NGE was flimsy on it's own. But i do believe the influence is greater than the use of one word, for example in terms of diet and dress (of some Five Percenters, not all). And the bigger point i was making still stands, that the NGE is a uniquely New Afrikan organization that reflects the history of the nation via movements including Rastafari, UNIA, MSTA, NOI, hip hop and lumpen street organizations.

We agree with Legion that the allegory of the white man as the devil is useful. However, it seems clear that it was taught as historical scripture by many. As a white researcher of the history of these organizations, perhaps Michael Knight gave it special attention. But it is at least one of the major issues that caused Malcolm X and Wallace Muhammad to split with Elijah Muhammad. So its unscientific aspect has made it divisive among New Afrikans at times, and the story of Yacub has never been the mythology of the majority of the nation.

As discussed in the original article, idealist philosophies usually differentiate between the material world and the spiritual one. Such philosophies are "dualist." Communists are monists, as we do not believe there is a mind or spirit that is separate from our material bodies. By working to transform society we address both the material and the so-called spiritual needs of the people. Above Legion seems to see the NGE similarly. Even the NOI has in its founding ideology a "do-for-self in this world" line, yet the NOI philosophy is clearly religious. As i argue in the original article, the NGE represents a move towards materialism (and therefore monism), but certainly in its founding ideas there are many parallels to the NOI. Finally, we do not agree that a scientist is a practitioner of religion; as we define in my original article, religion "is idealism with organized rituals." Legion's insistence on merging science and religion seem to demonstrate that there is still some level of disagreement between us there.

chain
[Idealism/Religion] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 48]
expand

Islam as Liberation Theology

In the 20th century New Afrikans reached out to Islam in an attempt to find identity outside of Amerikkkan culture. In Islam they found history, identity, independence, integrity and a connection to the larger world, in particular the Third World. Today, revolutionary Islam is reaching out to New Afrikans and the First World lumpen. Just this month, an Al Shabaab-affiliated video was released featuring the stories of young men recruited from Minnesota who were martyred in Somalia fighting the African Union troops who serve their U.$. imperialist master. The first five minutes of this video is a pointed critique of the history of national oppression in the United $tates and the idea of race. It features footage from Rodney King to Michael Brown and uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri, prisoners from Georgia to California, and sound bites from Malcolm X to Anwar al Awlaki. It is an agitational piece that clearly promotes the national interests of New Afrika.(1)

In the video, Islam is presented as the answer to the racism and social hierarchy based on pseudo-biology that is inherent to Amerika. The conception of Islam as a liberation theology is not difficult to make given the prominence of the concepts of jihad, or Holy Struggle, and shahada, translated as witness or martyrdom. The Holy Struggle is to be one with Allah and to represent righteousness, truth and goodness as determined by Allah's divine wisdom. While jihad and shahada do not require armed struggle, martyrdom in battle for Allah's will is one way that Muslims can reach shahada according to the Qur'an.(2)

Throughout the stories of the Minnesota martyrs there is a theme of not fearing death, but rather running towards it. In regions where revolutionary struggle and political dissent of any form has been brutally crushed, Islam might fulfill a need in providing this basis for courage in the face of imminent death. There are many examples in history of the oppressed finding courage in a belief in their own immortality, but they generally did not end well for the oppressed. Ultimately, the myth of immortality may be good at recruiting cannon fodder, but it leads to recklessness and a lack of a scientific approach that is required for victory. We see the brazen unscientific approach to battle playing out in the Islamic State, which is now losing ground after a couple years of impressing the world with their successes.

"You can kill the revolutionary, but you can't kill the revolution." - Fred Hampton, National Deputy Chairpersyn of the Black Panther Party

Like the Muslim in jihad, the communist struggles to discover truth and goodness. But the communist serves the people, not Allah, so that goodness is relative to the real lives of humyn beings, and truth is that which changes the conditions of that reality. Whether we can serve the people better in life or in giving our lives will depend on the situation. But as most Muslims will agree, serving truth and goodness does not come in seeking death. Rather than finding our strength and resolve in myths, we look to this world to find strategic confidence in our victory. The vast majority of the world's people suffer under the current imperialist system. Yet that system depends on those same people to derive the profits that keep the system moving. So there is an inherent contradiction that will continue to play out in the form of class and national conflict until the exploitative system is destroyed and replaced with one that serves humynkind.

Islam is Growing

If there were to be a religion of the Third World proletariat, it would be Islam, just by the numbers. As of 2010, only 3% of Muslims lived in the imperialist countries, yet Muslims made up 23.4% of the world's population.(3) The Muslim-majority countries are dominated by young people, with over 60% of their citizens being under 30 years old today.(3) Thus the Muslim population is projected to increase, as Muslims will have birth rates twice the rest of the population for the next couple decades. The contradiction between youth and adults has always been an important one, with youthful populations being more open to change.

Muslim Age Demographics

Of course, Islam has almost no influence in Central and South America and significant chunks of Africa and Asia. So Islam does not represent the Third World as a whole. But First Worldist chauvinism is just as likely to come in anti-Muslim rhetoric as it is to come in the form of racism these days. And it is interesting how its role among the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates has also emerged from the oppressor nation vs. oppressed contradiction, as we will examine in more depth.

islam percent population by country
source: M Tracy Hunter, wikimedia.org, data from Pew Research Center, Washington DC, Religious Composition by Country (December 2012)

It is of note that France, Belgium and Russia are the only imperialist countries that are predicted to have more than 10% of their populations Muslim by 2030.(3) In November 2015, France and Belgium were put under the equivalent of Martial Law in a search for radical Muslims in their countries. Paris remains under this oppressive police state months later. Following the attacks in Paris, there have been attacks in Russia and the downing of a Russian plane. Anti-Muslim nationalism is also rife in Russia, which has recently joined the war against the Islamic State in full force.

In the United $tates, Muslims make up a mere 0.9% of the population.(4) For this reason there is great ignorance of Islam, but Amerikkkans still share the anti-Muslim sentiments of other imperialist countries. 2015 saw the greatest number of attacks on Mosques in the United $tates on record, with a surge following the attacks by Muslims in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California.(5)

The imperialists have succeeded in creating a new race, that is Muslims, for the oppressor nation peoples to focus their hate on. Without this racism, there could be no bombings or occupations in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Yet the white nationalists, in their own twisted logic, can claim Islamophobia is not racism because its based in religion and not "biology." Academia and the media have jumped on this opportunity, presenting Islamophobic papers as legitimate research and reporting, in a form of modern-day phrenology. There have even been discussions online, no doubt dominated by Euro-Amerikans, about how being anti-Jewish is racist but anti-Muslim is not. It is amazing that in 2016, politricks still trumps science, and most people still believe in race. Racist has become such a powerful word due to a combination of the righteous struggles of the oppressed and the promotion of identity politics, that First Worldists are now convinced that Islamophobic chauvinism is not as bad as racist chauvinism.

Islam as Philosophy

When you study philosophy you will inevitably study many religious thinkers. To this day, you will find those who are very deeply involved in religions to be thinkers and philosophers who are trying to understand and use that understanding to interact with the world. As communists, we do the same. So it is no surprise that we often find ourselves in deep dialogue with those of different religious leanings. As we'll get into below, the underlying class makeup of different religions has more to do with how those religions engage with communism than anything else.

So what are we talking about then when we talk about religion? Religion is idealism with organized rituals. The organized rituals part is pretty straight forward. It implies that there is a group of people who adhere to the religion in order to participate in the rituals. And the rituals include all sorts of things from regular meetings, prayer, fasting, philanthropy, dressing up, studying texts, marriage, etc.

Idealism is a broader category of philosophy that includes religions. And there are different versions of idealism, as we might expect. What is common between the different versions is that idealism puts the mind as primary and matter as secondary or non-existent in terms of understanding the "real world." Prior to Hegel, who introduced the radical method of dialectics, idealism was generally metaphysical. Metaphysical idealism is the belief in predefined, static things-in-themselves. For example, for those who believe in one god as the creator, everything that exists is defined by an ideal image from that god. For idealists, there is a barrier between what we perceive through our five senses, and this pre-defined ideal. Philosophers like Kant, who Engels called an agnostic, falling between idealism and materialism, believed that the real ideal was unknowable, or knowable only through faith. For many religions, it is the task of the individual to attempt to know that ideal or absolute truth by following the rituals of their religion. In Islam, this is called jihad. The passing from the material world to the world of ideas is also called transcendence. Transcendence is a major theme of many religions.

For materialists there is no such thing as transcendence. We see that truth is obtained through our five senses in a constant process of gaining knowledge and understanding as a species through practice and the scientific method. There is no ancient scroll or secret key that will open our third eye allowing us to suddenly see and understand all the secrets of the world that are hidden from us by our senses. Or, as Engels puts it in describing why Hegel marked the end of philosophy:

"As soon as we have once realised — and in the long run no one has helped us to realize it more than Hegel himself — that the task of philosophy thus stated means nothing but the task that a single philosopher should accomplish that which can only be accomplished by the entire human race in its progressive development — as soon as we realise that, there is an end to all philosophy in the hitherto accepted sense of the word. One leaves alone 'absolute truth', which is unattainable along this path or by any single individual; instead, one pursues attainable relative truths along the path of the positive sciences, and the summation of their results by means of dialectical thinking."(6)

Why Do We Still Have Religion?

The United $tates is exceptional in the First World in often defining itself through religion (Christianity). One recent book describes this as a fairly recent development, starting from a campaign by industrial capitalists with libertarian interests opposed to the New Deal.(7) The author points out, however, that Franklin D. Roosevelt used a lot of Christian language in his promotion of the New Deal and criticism of the evils of the capitalist class. Roosevelt used that language to capture the populist interests of the majority in the United $tates who were suffering from the Great Depression. The Christian language was an alternative to the communist language in the Soviet Union, which FDR was trying to save the United $tates from. Since the Bolshevik revolution, religious language has been openly used to combat the materialist language of communists.

The capitalist class took up the religious lingo as a marketing scheme after they realized that campaigning honestly for their own interests against the New Deal was not going to get popular support.(7) They backed the election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1954 who brought "In God We Trust" to our currency and put "One Nation Under God" into the pledge of allegience. While Eisenhower did not undo the New Deal as they'd hoped, this trajectory continued with it's pinnacle in 1980 with Ronald Reagon backed by groups like the Moral Majority. It was Reagan who introduced the tradition of U.$. presidents ending speeches with "God Bless America." To this day these evangelical Christian groups have played a strong roll in U.$. politics.

This is just one example of how religion can be used to mobilize people behind a political cause. It also demonstrates how religion can be a very deceptive tool in politics because the politicians avoid talking about the real issues. While in the realm of philosophy we can talk about religion as idealism, in the realm of sociology we see it as culture. And culture is part of the superstructure in that it reflects the economic substructure; in our world that would be (imperialist) capitalism. And within capitalism the fundamental contradiction that defines that system is that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. So, we will see how as the proletarian forces become stronger religion will reflect the proletarian world view, such as in Central America when socialism/communism had captured the interests of the masses in those Catholic countries. Religion must adopt a proletarian worldview to stay relevant as the scientific method begins to provide the masses with answers that the religions had failed to. In the status quo under capitalism religion most often reflects the interests of the bourgeoisie.

It has been popular in recent decades to talk about the clash of civilizations between the Muslim and Christian worlds. Some even look to history to show a long pattern of these clashes along religious lines. But these lazy historians cherry pick instances in history when religion is used to further the economic interests of different groups, as it often is. Yet a study of the causes of the most brutal wars in in our modern industrial society demonstrate that it was all about trade, markets and national interests. The two world wars were inter-imperialist rivalries over these things.(8) Then as communism threatened to remove vast segments of the world from the capitalist market economy, the imperialists took aim at countries building socialism. The focus on religion in the the last couple decades is a direct result of the victory of the imperialists in crushing socialist aspirations around the world. This repression, combined with some of the negative experiences countries in regions like the Middle East had interacting with revisionists and social-imperialists claiming to be communists, has led to a significant turning away from the socialist path in many parts of the Third World.

Islam and New Afrikans

Just as religion is today an outlet for many radical youth in the Third World, religion has been influenced by revolutionary politics in the context of New Afrika. In the 20th century we see a turn towards Islam by a number of New Afrikans who are searching for identity and liberation from oppression by Amerika. The great migration from the Black Belt to the industrial centers of the north was a time of great change for the nation, that left many searching for identity and culture. In fact, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammed and Father Allah all came from the south to face unmet promises of freedom and the American Dream.(9)

New Afrikan Islam Timeline
New Afrikan Islam timeline

The appeal of Islam for people like Noble Drew Ali seemed to be in that it was exotic and unknown in North America, yet well-established elsewhere in the world. New Afrikans have spent much time trying to create a new identity by linking their history to lost histories of other peoples, and this was the tradition that Ali worked in. At this time, it seems that many would-be leaders presented themselves as actually being from more exotic places in order to inspire awe and respect from their would-be followers. But it wasn't just novelty that New Afrikans were looking for, it was something that spoke to their national aspirations, and not the same old Christian doctrines that had been used to keep their progenitors down.

There is a direct lineage from Ali's Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) to Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam (NOI) to Father Allah's Five Percenters, later the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE). Even today people move from one organization to the other, building on the common mythologies between them. And all three organizations have had important relationships with various lumpen street organizations.

While loosely based on Islam with their founders basing their studies on religious texts, these groups represent a unique New Afrikan theology and culture. The NGE is the most eclectic of the groups because of its open nature. It had a more direct relationship to street life in New York City, and had influences from practices such as Rastafari, making it again a unique New Afrikan culture.(10)

While the NGE has generally shunned being called a religion, its primary purpose was in the realm of thought and philosophy. Father Allah focused on teaching, not on organizing people for any political goals aside from building opportunity for New Afrikan youth. Elsewhere we discuss the Almighty Latin King Queen Nation and its openness to representing religious ideas, while primarily being a lumpen mass organization. In contrast, the NGE, while rejecting religion ideologically, functioned primarily as a religious or spiritual organization, at least at first. It did evolve to take on more characteristics of a lumpen organization after The Father was killed leaving the youth to organize themselves.

In 1966, a couple years after the Five Percenters began, the New York City Police Department reported that they saw the decline of 200 street gangs, and the rise of one — the Five Percenters.(11) While they often found themselves in violent conflict with the armed wings of other New Afrikan religious sects, in 1971 the NYPD believed the Five Percenters worked with Muslims and Rastafarians in a vigilante killing of ten suspected drug dealers. Around that same time, in the 1970s, the Five Percenters played a leadership role in inspiring gangs to come together to obtain anti-poverty funds, parallel to what groups like the Vice Lords and Black P. Stone Nation were doing in Chicago.(12) In the later 1970s the Five Percenters recruited whole street gangs into their fold whose members accounted for a significant portion of the arrests in Brooklyn during those years.(13)

In another article on the MSTA, a comrade explains the dual roles of the organization, which began as a civic organization and later became a religion. This duality is another thing that MSTA has in common with the NOI, NGE and other New Afrikan organizations that are just as concerned with the nation as with spirituality. This role is also seen in leaders of Christian-based churches, as well as lumpen organizations in the New Afrikan community. While this is a manifestation of the continued national interests of New Afrikans separate from Amerika, it has unfortunately been used against their national interests as well. Some revolutionary theorists have pointed out that it is the most scientific revolutionary leadership that has been targeted for complete annihilation by the state, leaving those with idealist and profit-motivated views to fill the leadership vacuum.

Back in 1996, MIM Notes criticized the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan for stating that an earthquake would strike California in response to federal agents' harassment of NOI officials. MIM wrote, "While Farrakhan's statement appears on the surface to be an extreme example of religious metaphysics, Farrakhan was in fact skillfully using metaphysics as a cover for a crypto-pacifist line directed at his followers."(14) Farrakhan followed in Elijah Muhammad's footsteps, who predicted many major events that never materialized. The mythology of Fard (who is considered a prophet by the NOI) and Elijah Muhammad promoted the idea that the Black man was god and created the white man over 600 years of grafting by the scientist Yacub. Muhammad, and his follower Clarence 13X (later Father Allah), believed that after 6000 years the Black man would return to power, which happened to be in 1966. Muhammad predicted the "Fall of America" to occur that year. The early years of the Five Percenters focused on preparation for this event.

While Father Allah was close to Malcolm X even after both had left/been forced out of the NOI, ey did not join up with Malcolm because Malcolm had rejected the story of Yacub after eir trip to Mecca.(15) Later, Father Allah would take up the line that devilishment was a state of mind and not a genetically distinct white man that was bred by Yacub.(16)

It was Malcolm X who had developed the most scientific theory of liberation coming out of the NOI, which ey seemed to be separating from eir religious beliefs before ey was assassinated, by setting up two separate organizations. Malcolm X inspired many, but it was the Black Panther Party, a Maoist, and therefore atheist, organization that best claims to be the direct descendents of Malcolm's ideas.

The religious side of Malcolm's evolution was carried on by Elijah Muhammad's son, Wallace, who took leadership of the NOI after Elijah's death. Wallace had been shunned for siding with Malcolm in the past, so it was not too surprising when ey took the NOI and transformed it into a group based in traditional Sunni Islam, rejecting the mythology of Yacub and the focus on race. But once again, the appeal of that mythology had not died, and many traditional NOI members left. After originally following (and praising) Wallace's leadership, Louis Farrakhan restarted the Nation of Islam a few years later under the original teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Ey courted the Five Percenters as part of eir efforts to rebuild the NOI.(17)

It is MIM(Prisons)'s line that the principal contradiction within the internal semi-colonies is that between integration with Amerika and independence from Amerika. The continued interest in the mythology of Yacub indicates an unscientific rejection of integration by many New Afrikans. The organizations discussed here all have a significant base in the New Afrikan lumpen, and have ideologies that reflect a kernel of the drive for national independence. While some people from MSTA and NGE have recently distanced themselves from Third World Islam, we shall see whether this becomes the dominant tendency, indicating a further move towards integration with Amerikkka for New Afrikans.

"You know back in the day, some of y'all
Would shout out Allah's name like he was hostin yo' mixtape
Then after 9/11 you got scared and shut the fuck up
Didn't talk about the demonization of a culture, immigrants, nothin
Now you show up, talk about we takin it too far
Die slow! MOTHERFUCKER!"
—Immortal Technique, Watchout (3rd World Remix) from the album The 3rd World (2008)

Addendum: Islam Still Small in the U.$.

Islam in U.S. and Blacks percentages

After publishing this article, we thought it instructive to add some data we came across on the numbers of people, in particular New Afrikans, who represent some strand of Islam within U.$. borders. That number is quite small, representing less than 1% of the people in the country.(1) Even within the New Afrikan nation the percentage is about the same. Yet, that hides the fact that New Afrikans are disproportionately represented in the U.$. Muslim because virtually all other Muslims are recent immigrants (63%) or descendents of recent immigrants from major Muslim countries.(1) In other words, 0.9% of New Afrikans is much greater than the almost negligible number of Muslim Euro-Amerikans. This leads us to the third pie chart above, showing 59% of Muslims born in the United $tates being New Afrikan. Again, this is why we stress the connection to the national question in the article above.

Finally, it should be noted that even among the small percentage of New Afrikans that do identify as Muslim, most practice a more traditional form of Islam than the groups discussed in the last section above.(2) While we didn't find good numbers on Nation of Islam membership, estimates put it at in the neighborhood of 10% of New Afrikan Muslims. The various sects of the Moorish Science Temple of America represent a much smaller group, though we know that among imprisoned New Afrikans the percentage is higher and we have gotten many letters of interest from prisoners in response to this issue of Under Lock & Key. We do not have numbers on the Five Percenters.

Notes to Addendum:
  1. Pew Research Center, 30 August 2011, Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism.

    A 2011 survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, estimated that there were 1.8 million Muslim adults (and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages) in the country. That survey also found that a majority of U.S. Muslims (63%) are immigrants.

    Among the roughly one-in-five Muslim Americans whose parents also were born in the U.S., 59% are African Americans, including a sizable majority who have converted to Islam (69%). Overall, 13% of U.S. Muslims are African Americans whose parents were born in the United States.

  2. Chris Wilson, 25 June 2008, Are Black Muslims Sunni or Shiite? Many say, "None of the above.", Slate.
    1.8 million Muslims
    20% = 360,000 New Afrikans
    50% of that = 180,000 Sunnis
    Estimates for NOI membership range from 10,000-200,000, but one source puts them at 30,000 during Malcolm X's lifetime. So we assume lower end of the range, maybe 10% of New Afrikan Muslims, which is 2% of U.S. Muslims.
chain
[Idealism/Religion] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 48]
expand

On the Moorish Science Temple of America and Sovereign Citizens

Recently, there has been a lot of confusion and/or misunderstanding with regard to the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) and its relation to the Sovereign Citizen Movement. This is partially because some people who may or may not be a part of the MSTA have taken up certain aspects of the Sovereign Citizen Movement.

There are over five different splinter groups who operate under the MSTA that i am aware of, each with its own self-proclaimed leader of the "Movement" established by Prophet Noble Drew Ali. This is why we have this confusion as to what the Moorish National and Divine Movement is about.

Brief Historical Background

The MSTA was founded by Prophet Noble Drew Ali in 1913 and was first organized as a civic organization. In 1928, it was re-incorporated in the State of Illinois as a religious corporation. The stated objective of the MSTA is "to uplift fallen humanity." Humynity meaning all of the people of the world, with the understanding that charity starts at home before it spreads abroad.

The MSTA is decidedly "nationalist." It proclaims Marcus Garvey as the forerunner of Noble Drew Ali. It should be of interest to note that Prophet Noble Drew Ali was pushing the line that New Afrikans (Moors), were a separate and distinct nation here in the United $tates.

While the MSTA is recognized as a "religious" organization, it also functions on a social, economic and political level, as all of these functions are necessary in building and/or re-building a nation. Herein lies the confusion and/or misunderstanding with regard to the Moorish Movement. The political line and direction varies depending on which "Sheik" you are following.

On Nationality

I am a Moor. I am a also a New Afrikan. I am a member of the MSTA and the 1st Crown Prince of the Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), a New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist organization. For the most part, the MSTA is a cultural nationalist organization.

The line of the MSTA is that we are descendants of Morrocans and born in America. This is based upon the fact that the Moors ruled the Northwestern and Southwestern shores of Afrika, and that this location was the center of the Afrikan Holocaust (aka Atlantic Slave Trade).

We all should recognize that through an imposition of war, Afrikans were brought to these shores from many lands, tribes and cultures with different languages, traditions, etc. But through our collective oppression and hystoric collective resistance, we developed into a social and cultural unit (nation), separate and distinct from any other people on the planet. WE became a New, Afrikan people. Thus, the term New Afrikan. The same can be said for the term Moorish American.

Religion and Communism

BORO demonstrates from a secular form of organization because hystorically and scientifically, secular movements are better political vehicles than religious movements. This is because one's religious orientation does not necessarily determine one's political positions, and it is one's politics that need to form the basis of unity and disunity if a movement is to maintain a clear political focus.

While most religions and religious groups deal in idealism and metaphysics, Moors are taught to be scientists. For Moors, we are taught that the Islamic path to submission to God (Allah) is simplified as a "Creed." Moorish scientists are taught to maintain the principles of Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom and Justice. In fact, Temple members are encouraged to engage the world in the same way as the "spiritual" principles given, Love being the first and Justice being the last. Moors should primarily be concerned with spiritual principles rather than some sort of religious orthodoxy. But again, this is all predicated upon which "Sheik" you are following.

Moorish Science doesn't teach that God (Allah) is some great, mysterious spirit, but that all people have within them the seed of perfect development. Your "devil" or "God" is within you and it is manifested through your thinking and words, actions and deeds; which result from our material conditions.

There are a lot of issues around which the anti-imperialist movement can unite with the MSTA. The struggle against religious thinking is secondary to smashing imperialism, militarism, environmental pollution and other antagonistic contradictions which are manifested in our struggle, mainly national oppression and gender oppression.

Our task should be to try to find common ground in which we can unite with those who have religious thinking as their base. We should unite with them in secular political movement such as BORO, MIM(Prisons), USW, or RAIL.

"Our principle ideological task in organizing such religious progressives — as well as the people who take the bourgeoisie's idealist talk of 'eternal truths' like fraternity, equality and liberty at face value — is to explain our slogan that 'there are no rights, only power struggles.' That is, these rights are denied the oppressed masses through economic exploitation and outright violent suppression. The only way to realize these rights is to overthrow the material systems of imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy — and the only way to combat these material forces is to scientifically analyze the contradictions in society and build a secular revolutionary movement, a movement without religious bias which can unite all the oppressed."(1)

Conclusion

While i don't have the time or space to go into all of the contradictions within the MSTA, it is safe to say that it has no ties to the Sovereign Citizen Movement. It is inherently more progressive than most organized religious groups operating in the New Afrikan community, but there is a leadership vacuum. A scientific leadership, that knows how to balance the spiritual aspects of life, with materialism.

At the same time, "some people talk about a 'nation' but really don't wanna be one (independent), as evidenced by their efforts to crawl back on the plantation. How can we tell? You can identify those trying to crawl back on the plantation by the way they identify themselves, i.e. 'black', 'African-American', 'ethnic group', 'minority nationality', 'underclass', anything and everything except New Afrikans, an oppressed nation. Amerikkka is the plantation, and continuing to identify yourself within the Amerikkkan context is evidence of the colonial (slave) mentality. Ain't no two ways about it."(2)

It is the people who make hystory and it is our responsibility to create the type of society that we want to live in. Otherwise, you ain't got no right to complain about the oppression you face.

  1. MIM, Religion and the Anti-Imperialist Movement, MIM Theory 13: Revolutionary Culture, 1997, pg 49.
  2. James Yaki Sayles, Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings, 2010, Spear and Shield Publications.

MIM(Prisons) has received a number of other responses to discussion around the MSTA, following the article "Talks about Sovereignty: A Scientific Approach" printed in Under Lock & Key 44.

One Illinois prisoner wrote: [The article] described these groups aforesaid as Sovereign Citizen movements which, in many instances, can obliquely misrepresent the actual objective these organizations have struggled to attain. The author's paralogism can be easily made by relating the agenda's of New Afrikan groups like the Moorish Nation and the Washitaw Nation of Moors to that of the white nationalist groups, though indeed there are many concrete similarities between the two movements, yet to the contrary, there are also conceptual differences, which in respect to the Moorish Divine National Movement and the Washitaw Nation of Moors theoretical systems warrants elucidation.

...what the author fails to clarify is the Moorish Divine National Movement in fact has a much different historical perspective on such matters. Moorish partisans do not acknowledge the feudal British empire (feudal at the time) nor their posterity, imperialist USA as legitimate authorities of the land. They recognize that all Moorish people here in the colonial USA are colonized and have the right for self-determination and national sovereign independence.

And I thought it would be also critical for comrades to note, that the Moorish nationality is not a pseudo-scientific theory, it actually has a historical foundation to support its concept.

A comrade from Michigan wrote: Comrades, I truly appreciate you and all the things that you have taught me and put me in tune with as far as the revolutionary movement. Comrades, you have opened my mind and changed my point of view because I had got caught up under religion but not the political, social, economic and cultural perspectives. Islam isn't a religion at all, it's a way of life, and this is why Islam is the fastest growing way of life in the world today.

The letter you sent me asks the question is the Moorish Science Temple of America a sovereign movement? The answer was No! This is correct because the MSTA is a religious organization that was founded by Prophet Noble Drew Ali in 1928... But in the late 1920s the Moors started fighting over positions and for power. The Moorish movement split up into many different organizations.

I'm a product of the new generation of Moors. Prophet Noble Drew Ali said, "there are going to be new Moors coming into the Temple with their eyes wide open, seeing and knowing they are going to set you old Moors in the back, and they are going to enforce my laws."

I see myself as a new generation Moor and I see and understand the weak and ineffective leadership that's in the Moorish movement. ...I have decided to bring about a serious change in the Moorish movement and its ideology and to become politically, socially, economically and culturally in the struggle to remove oppression and exploitation of the New Afrikans, poor people and Third World countries. This is the reason why I founded the Moorish Islamic Liberation Movement as its Chief Executive Ruler.

...There are more MSTA Temples in the prison system than society now, this is a damn shame. But Moors in society have forgotten where they came from.... And yes, I support the Sovereign Freedom Movement, and I recognize the U.$. Empire government but I'm not a 14th Amendment Federal Citizen, I'm a state citizen under the 11th Amendment of the U.$. constitution. ...

The Moors are indigenous to the Americas because the old Moorish Empire extended from the northeast and southwest Afrika across the great Atlantis even unto the present day North, South and Central America... This Moorish Islamic Liberation Movement has many different associates and alliances because to destroy and overthrow imperialism is going to require a great many alliances. I'm against no other Moorish organization but I disagree with the methods and ideology of teachings because it's too many secrets and not enough action.

I stand with the oppressed, exploited and the poor people of the world because of the cruel abusive and foul treatment by the imperialist and the powerful of the proletariat and lumpen. We stand together in solidarity as Souljas in the revolutionary cause to establish freedom, justice and equality for all people wherever they may be. Our principles are Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom and Justice. And when these principles are violated, justice then must take its course!

A comrade in Illinois wrote: I am writing to you about your recent article that talks about sovereignty. The Moorish Americans are not on a sovereign citizen movement, get it right. We are not some new organization, the Moors are the true indigenous people and nations of the land as you know that the Moors was denationalized during slavery and given slave names and Black state of mind, they were made negroes, colored folks, black people and in 2015, African Americans. Now take a look at the Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 2. You know where it says three fifths of all other persons. Do you know what they are talking about? They are talking about Willie Lynch syndrome man breaking and slave making!...


MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank this latter comrade for sending many pages of materials on the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA). Much of our response here is based on the information in those documents.

The MSTA denounces the terms "Negro", "Colored", "Black" and "African American" to describe a people, primarily because it denies the nationality of said people. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to a nation and to change their nation, and is cited by the MSTA as part of their claim. We agree with this foundational aspect of the MSTA that recognizes the independent nationality of what we call the New Afrikan nation, which was formed by the importing of slaves of various African nations by European settlers. MSTA looks at the history of Amerika, and the 14th and 15th Amendments, and states that it "could never seriously include people of color, women or commoners." Again, we agree here that there is an antagonistic contradiction between the Amerikan oppressor nation and the oppressed.

As the comrade from BORO describes, MSTA's idea of a Moorish American Nation seems to parallel what we call the New Afrikan nation. They explain their use of the term Moor in that it is an ancient civilization, with a glorious history, that is found in the bible. They imply that a nation not found in the bible does not exist. This is a metaphysical view that nations cannot change, form, or disappear with time. Their need to define their nation as timeless seems to lead them to declare the Moorish American Nation to be the indigenous people of and "Heirs Apparent" to the lands of "North America, South America, Central America, and the Atlantis Islands, referred to as the Caribbean Islands." This is echoed by our comrade from Michigan above. Elsewhere the MSTA seems to contradict this when writing, "the Moorish, were a new nation of people, brought forth on this continent by the European forefathers." It is not clear from what we've read how the MSTA reconciles their identity as an indigenous nation to America with the historical fact of the African slave trade and the many First Nations that existed in America prior to that trade that brought masses of Africans to this land.

Now to this question of MSTA and sovereignty. While none of our correspondents above see the MSTA as a Sovereign Citizen movement, at least one of them was quite well-versed in and supported the Sovereign Citizen ideas. As established above, there are different sects of the MSTA. At least a couple of them publicly denounce the Sovereign Citizens Movement.

Yet, the language in many of the documents sent to us are quite similar to that of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, so it is easy to see how the two have merged in some places in recent years. They speak of "legal trickery" and go on and on about archaic legal language to explain the situation they are in and how to get out of it. But in reality it was brute force and oppression that put New Afrikans where they are as a semi-colony of Amerika. The law is merely a smokescreen to cover that up. So that is where we disagree with the MSTA and those who look to Sovereign Citizen ideology for liberation. They treat the legal concepts they talk about as concepts that define our reality. In contrast, we believe it is people, and ultimately the masses, who define humyn destiny. The MSTA's and Sovereign Citizens Movement's approach is a sort of idealism, where the ideas are these legal concepts that they hold up as the ultimate cause of their predicament and solution to it.

Some of the materials sent to us were from the Moorish Order of the Roundtable, founded in 1982 (rvbeypublications.com). This group happens to be the target of an article "Debunking sovereignty myths" on moorishsciencetemple.org. So we see there is disagreement and even confusion among those calling themselves Moors on this question. We support those who are working towards greater clarity. The piece by the BORO comrade above puts the issue plainly, and the work of BORO speaks to their efforts to put a scientific political agenda into practice. We will continue to work with the comrade trying to start the Moorish Islamic Liberation Movement to move in a similar direction.

chain
[Idealism/Religion] [ULK Issue 48]
expand

Odinism/Asatru: Disproving Wyte Supremacist Myths

As a former wyte supremacist, a revolutionary, and an Odinist I am equipped to expose the invalidity of the wyte supremacist myths associated with Odinism. Odinism (also known as Asatru) is a polytheistic religion; meaning there are multiple Gods and Goddesses. The religious text of Odinism is the Poetic Edda. The Edda is made up of different books similar to the Bible called Lays.

Several wyte supremacist organizations point to the God Heimdall as being the father of the wyte race in light of Voluspa, St. 1; Lokasenna, St. 20; and Thrymskvitha, St. 15. However, closer examination will shatter such claims.

First, although Heimdall is cited as being the father of the three classes of men (freeman, noble, and slave) (1) nowhere within the Edda is he cited as being the father of men. Lee M. Hollander notes in his translation of Voluspa, St. 1 that the description of Heimdall being the father of all "hallowed beings" most likely refers to the Gods rather than man. Furthermore, in Voluspa, St. 17-18 we are told that Odin, Hoenir, and Lothur came across the lifeless corpses of the first man and womyn (Ask and Embla). Odin granted them Soul, Hoenir gave them sense, and Lothur granted them being and blooming hue.

Therefore, Heimdall is clearly not the father or man - let alone the wyte race. Anyone who claims he is is distorting the Edda to fit their own subjective agenda.

Secondly, the description of Heimdall as being fair-haired and "whitest of the Gods" is not completely accurate. He may very well have blond hair and be wyte. Yet he is most definitely not the "whitest of the Gods."(2) Baldr, the son of Odin and brother of Thor, would have to be considered wytest of the Gods because his name literally translates as "white."(3)

Finally, the mentioning of three classes of man does not support claims of wyte supremacy within Odinism. It is true that one of the classes listed is that of slave. However, nowhere throughout Rigsthula does it specify a certain race as belonging to any particular class. The ancient Germanic peoples - along with the Vikings - were known to have possessed wyte slaves as well as non-wyte slaves. In ancient times slaves were customary in many cultures.

However, the class system described is one of feudalism and is therefore not practical in modern capitalist society. Furthermore, as communists, we recognize that the concept of classes is oppressive and an integral aspect of imperialism. Therefore, the mentioning of classes is irrelevant in modern times except in the historical role that it plays within Odinism.

In the Lay Havamal Odin commands his followers to be kind and hospitable strangers (St. 2); not mock others (St. 30); look out for the well being of others (St. 40,48); not argue with fools (St. 122); and that no one is so good as to be beyond corruption, nor is anyone so bad as to be beyond redemption (St. 133). These commandments - along with the Nine Noble Virtues (Strength, Honor, Courage, Joy, Independence, Loyalty, Realism, Perseverance, and Heritage) actually oppose racism. Odinism/Asatru is, in reality, a communal religion. Thus it is compatible with communism.

Notes:
1. The Poetic Edda; Trans. By, Lee M. Hollander; Rigsthula; ppg. 120-138
2. ibid St. 15.
3. Dictionary of Northern Mythology; by Rudolf Simek; p 26-30.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This correspondent is defending Odinism as a religion compatible with communism, and condemning those who use it as a platform for white supremacy. Communists have long been saying that for people truly practicing what their religion teaches, often those ideals are compatible with, and best achieved, through developing communism. It is good to point out to religious people when their actions run counter to their ideology, as we may be able to unite around those who hold the equality of all humyns as an important principle, or those striving for peace, as this comrade is.

That those religions have not even come close to ending oppression on the scale that dialectical materialism has, is evidence of the ineffectiveness of these religions to reach their own purported ideals. That various religions all across the world (from Odinism to Christianity to Islam to Buddhism) are construed as platforms of domination, shows how these ideologies play out in the real world. Rather than looking for truth by choosing which ideology makes the most sense to us, we compare practices with practices to figure out how to reach our goal of a world without oppression. Odinism's ideals may be compatible with communism. But Odinism is not a route to communism.

This comrade attempts to dispute white supremacy by making arguments about who was the whitest of the gods and the "father of the wyte race." As scientists we prefer to point out that humyns evolved into being on this planet. We were not put here by gods. And so there is no higher source of truth or basis for considering some humyns superior to others.

It is good that this comrade recognizes that classes are oppressive, but our struggle against class oppression is not just against "the concept of classes" as ey writes. Rather our struggle is against the reality of class systems that are oppressive and integral to imperialism, and to historical class society. Slavery was not simply customary, but rather the system of slavery required a class of people, slaves, who were used to do much of the most difficult work. It was not out of tradition that people held slaves, just like it is not just tradition that leads to the oppression of the proletariat under capitalism. So the mentioning of classes is not irrelevant in modern times, it is critical that we analyze the class system and fight against it. We can not eliminate it by not mentioning it.

chain
[Nation of Gods and Earths] [Idealism/Religion] [ULK Issue 48]
expand

Five Percenter Responds to Religion Study Pack

[The motivation for the focus of this issue of Under Lock & Key was to better address the many interested readers who write us coming from a religious background. We also thought that our study pack on the topic could use some updating. And that is the planned outcome of putting this issue together. Therefore it was timely that we recently received an in-depth response to this study pack to spur discussion. One of the readings in the religion study pack is on the struggle of the Tibetan lamas who rose up against the oppressive rule of the Dalai Lama after socialism was established in China. This article begins with a response to that from Legion.]

In the excerpt from Chapter 10: Reform in a Major Monastery(1), I recognize the principal contradiction to be rebellion vs. religious thought (I define religions as a doctrine of ethics derived from "spookism"). When the lamas took the time to work out problem #13 (master their circumference/cipher, 360 degrees/120x3) they came to see the very nature of the Buddhist teachings and began active rebellion against the 10% ruling class. The elimination of classism liberated the poor righteous teachers from the bondage of captivity. When people use religion to secure position, all they do is promote imperialism/colonialism and economic oppression, which is very devastating to the humyn condition. With autonomy you have freedom to see the reality of your power. The feelings of the lamas is in line with the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) student enrollment #1, when you master your condition you become owner ruler sustainer, God of your universe.

The lamas also came to the reality that the only way they would find any peace or equality was to unify, arm themselves and defend their position in the face of the oppressor. And when the goal of peace was obtained they went about their lives, with the power of self-determination in the form of religious freedom.

The issue with the blind, deaf and dumb religious belief lies with the fact that traditions and institutional doctrine lead people towards the path of faith instead of scientific discovery. Dialectical materialism is based on history but whose history? The fact is that when technology is stolen and corrupted holes and cracks appear and when one discovers for self the answers become liberating in themselves. For example, ancient Egyptians perfected communism thousands of years before Marxism existed. Yet, through racism and colonialism the history was nearly erased from record books. But with the science beginning to catch up with the absolute truth we can begin to understand why the religious institutions gravitate towards oppression because with knowledge comes power and responsibility.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This analysis is a good example of how the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) evolved from indigenous New Afrikan liberation theology by rejecting religion and moving towards materialism. The rejection of faith in favor of scientific discovery puts the NGE ideology close to our own. However, as an amalgamation of ideas from different New Afrikan movements, we do find NGE literature to often refer to things that are not actually based in scientific discovery. An example is in the citing of Egypt as developing communism before Marxism existed. While primitive societies existed in communalist social structures, Egypt in the period mentioned had a highly developed society. And like all complex societies known to date, it had a hierarchical social structure. There is a tendency to rewrite history to paint the past of oppressed nations to be more noble. But this does a disservice to our understanding of how to actually build communism today.

Another feature of the existing religion study pack is a debate among a few members of the NGE, one of whom (Infidel) was in the process of leaving the organization for its promotion of imperialist views and idealism. One piece that particularly triggered Infidel to move away from the NGE was an article from The Five Percenter newspaper (2006) by the God Born King Allah on the relationship between those in prison and those on the outside. Below is a relevant excerpt from that article highlighted by Infidel.

"The fact that the father[sic] respected the American government is very important and he raised our Nation to do the same. The reality that the Father fought for this country in the Korean War showed that he was a true patriot... It showed that his love for the country of his birth outweighed any disappointment he may have had with the treatment his people suffered in the Jim Crow era that he came up in. ... Gods and Earths in the Armed services... are fighting to insure[sic] that people all over the planet can enjoy the Freedoms that their own Nation is still denied in America... the Father...must have seen how the religion of Islam and Muslims would become synonymous to terrorists posing a danger to America way back in 1964. His personal separation from religious Islam and Muslims as well the Nations[sic] separation from them as well in the past and present excludes us from being linked to any terrorist, Muslims or radical Islam, period."

Ey goes on to say the country of Afghanistan is responsible for 9/11. This same newspaper printed a statement calling on members to join the military in October 2001 because "we" were attacked.(2)

One NGE comrade in the study group counters that the article represented a few misguided members, taking a similar position to Legion below. However, we must note that the NGE is a mass organization and it does not have a defined political line. While not the focus of what Father Allah taught the Five Percenters, eir political views were in fact quite reactionary and pro-Amerikkkan in relation to international politics.(3) So as we work and build with the many Five Percenters who do take up an anti-imperialist stance, we think it would be a mistake to see the NGE as an organization made up of anti-imperialists at this time.


Legion responds to NGE debate: NGE have, according to the 8th degree of the 1-14, socialist political views. So, anyone claiming anything else should do the basic knowledge on anything before firing shots into a crowd. I have done the knowledge on United Struggle from Within (USW) principles and built with a few Gods along the way and point after point has a parallel with NGE science. Let's not forget NGE don't practice Islam as religion but as science; a science of everything in life. Religion tends to feed into the imperialistic trend of getting everything funneled to the top while everyone else works hard for nothing.

With regards to Infidel's commentary, I see no reason that one would be confused with comments made, unless it was made to agitate and stir up debate. NGE metaphysics is a philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of being (life) and reality (dialectical materialism). To call the allegorical nature of lessons sham science is false evidence appearing real based on, time after time "Western" science has proven that 1. the Blackman is God, and 2. that the nature of the oppressor is exactly how it's described in the lessons.

...If we take a look at the "Arab" movement vs. the NGE movement, you find mostly similarities. Let's be logical about it. Keep in mind, I make no apology for another man's statements. Just facts. NGE has been at the forefront of the Third World in America (prisons). MIM's focus is on prison. "Arabs" get labeled terrorists by the same people that lock up young Gods for borning knowledge. Plus, most overlook the fact that the father served before not after he came into the NOI.

...Infidel also states, "You claim to have 7.5 ounces of superior brain power (compared to the white man's 6 ounces. Please tell me you don't actually believe this, brother)..." Man is God, so God is Man, period. The 7 reps Man-God/God-Man, 5 reps Justice/Power. Therefore NGE does have manpower and the "white man" whom prior to 1492 did not exist (people were referred to as Irishman, Englishman, Dutchman, etc), created as an oppression tool this version of equality that only applied to the genocidal pilgrims who trekked across the Atlantic. The white man is only available on paper and as a mindstate. I know plenty of so-called Black men who are white as snow and vice versa. Black is dominant consciousness, white is weak consciousness.

...The focus would be very different if MIM(Prisons) and NGE knew each other in depth from inception. But, like many others before and to the present, most humyns get stuck on doctrine instead of looking at the bigger picture. Supreme Power Allah told me in civilization class people get so wrapped up in the designs of one tree, that they fail to recognize the forest. When you debate over small things, big things never become material. HC [the coordinator of the MIM-led study group] says, "such a persyn will not be able to be as effective fighting imperialism if they don't learn and apply the science of dialectical materialism." Once again I emphatically state, we focus on manifesting using metaphysics, or in layman's terms we make apparent to the senses reality and reality is the answer to the equation. Numbers and letters, formulas and theories are what? Science.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Legion is one of those comrades who have taken up anti-imperialism. By the time we heard from em, ey had already gained a good understanding of USW and the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). Not only that, but ey had put the UFPP into practice(4) applying the scientific method to the laboratory of the U.$. prison environment. This leads us to put more weight in eir words above, which we have a lot of unity with. In the last paragraph ey talks about finding common ground rather than dogmatically debating minutia to divide us. MIM(Prisons) hopes this issue of ULK in particular works at that common goal.

Legion uses metaphysics as a term analogous to science. Metaphysics can be used to mean different things, and we are not sure what its meaning is here for Legion. However, we typically use metaphysics to define a type of materialism that is antithetical to dialectical materialism. Where dialectics recognizes things as always changing, based on contradictions found within the thing, metaphysical materialism sees things as static, or even eternal. For example, a metaphysical position would be that humyns are greedy, while a dialectician might say that humyns in a certain time and place (ie. 20th century United $tates) have developed greedy tendencies on average.

Where we see metaphysical tendencies in the NGE lessons is in the meaning put into numbers and letters. As if the number 7 or 360 has eternal meaning and power and aren't just concepts created by the humyn brain.

Legion critiques Infidel for making literal readings of the NGE ideological foundations. We cannot speak to how they are more often interpreted. We like Legion's interpretation of them as metaphors that might fit in with Loco1's ideas on how religion is an important tool for the imprisoned lumpen.(5) However, we also know that things like the story of Yacub have been and continue to be interpreted as literal truths by many in different New Afrikan organizations. So we would not be so quick to dismiss Infidel's critique. The creeping of religious idealism into NGE ideology is also reflected in the following quote from Tupac Shakur when asked, 20 years ago, what religion ey follows:

"I talked to every god there was, in jail. I think that if you take one of the 'o's out of good, it's god, if you add a 'd' to evil it's the devil. I think some cool motherfuckers sat down a long time ago and said let's figure out a way that we can control motherfuckers, and that's what they came up with, is the Bible, woo woo. Because if God wrote the Bible, I'm sure there would have been a revised copy by now. You know what I mean? Because a lot of shit has changed.

"...I think heaven is just, when you sleep you sleep with a good conscience, you don't have nightmares. And hell is when you sleep, the last thing you see is all the fucked up things you did in your life. ...it's hell on earth because bullets burn. There's people that got burnt in fires... All that's here... Heaven is now, look, we sittin up here, big screen, this is heaven, for the moment. Know what I mean? Hell is jail, I seen that one. Trust me. This is what's real, and all that other shit is to control you.

"...I believe in God... It makes sense that if you good in your heart, then you're closer to God. But if you evil then you're close to the devil. That makes sense. I see that every day. All that other spooky shit don't make sense. And I don't even believe, I'm not dissin' it, but I don't even believe in the brothers, I was in jail with 'em and having conversations with brothers; 'I'm God, I'm God.' You God? open the gate for me. You know how far the sun is and how far the moon is, how the hell do I pop this fuckin' gate? And get me free up outta here. Then I'll be a Five Percenter for life! But, never seen it." (6)

Like Legion, Tupac calls for a materialist approach that works here in this world. His critiques of religion parallel those of the NGE in rejecting spookism but not the concept of God altogether. Yet, Pac also had criticism for the Five Percenters he encountered while in prison. Another way to put what he said is that combating idealism is more than just rejecting the God in the sky. Most of the idealist European philosophers that Lenin and Engels spent so much time critiquing did not believe in a God above.

Legion provides an interpretation of the 7.5 ounce brain that is not based in ideas of race or biology, but rather an analogy for the history of white nation oppression. This is an example of an interpretation that is friendly to our own. In fact, we'd point out that Irishmen existed as separate from the "Native" white nation in North America into the early 1900s. This interpretation of oppressors as evil, while rejecting racial categorizations, was put forth by Father Allah and even further back by other New Afrikan liberation theologists who strove to empower Black people, while rejecting a biological basis for race.(7)

Notes:
  1. Anna Louise Strong, 1959, When Serfs Stood Up in Tibet, New World Press:Peking.
  2. Michael Muhammed Knight, 2008, The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop and the Gods of New York, Oneworld Publications, p. 175.
  3. Knight, 2008, pp. 6, 113-114, and 266.
  4. Legion, June 2015, God Body Builds UFPP Using Science, .
  5. Loco1, January 2016, The Lumpen's Religion, Under Lock & Key 48.
  6. 2Pac, interview with Vibe magazine, May 1996.
  7. Knight, 2008, pp. 14 and 105.
chain
[Idealism/Religion] [Theory] [Middle East] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 48]
expand

Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism (part 1 of 2)

Marxism Orientalism Cosmopolitanism


Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism
Gilbert Achcar
Haymarket Books 2013

"Thus, as in all idealist interpretations of history, historical phenomena are fundamentally explained as cultural outcomes, as the results of the ideology upheld by their actors, in full disregard of the vast array of social, economic and political circumstances that led to the emergence and prevalence of this or that version of an ideology among particular social groups." (p. 77)

Not too long ago the author of this book appeared on the political news show Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. During this appearance Achcar made the statement that the people who are joining groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in 2015 share the same socio-economic background and social alienation from the prevailing system as the people who joined the various Marxist-led movements in North Africa and the Middle East during that region's de-colonization process. The author went on to state that it was the oppressed classes' material existence under colonialism that pushed them towards the communist movement then, and that it is this new generation's similar oppression that has them taking up arms once again, and not some mistaken sense of cultural-religious doom at the hands of the Christian West, no matter what some within the revolutionary Islamist movement might subjectively think.(1) In other words, what we have been seeing happening today within the majority Muslim countries is not Muslim resistance to what some have erroneously labeled a "Holy War" or cultural imperialism as seen thru the rubric of globalization. Rather, what the author says we are seeing is nothing more than the continuation of the class struggle in its religious form. And while at first glance this might seem like a breath of fresh air within an atmosphere dominated by the imperialist media, upon closer inspection what the author puts forward in this book is in fact just a more detailed and eloquent version of Bob Avakian's proposition of the "theory of the two outmodeds"(2); a dogmatic and disingenuous, First Worldist, chauvinist re-phrasing of Engels' negation of the negation.(3)

This book is a collection of four essays which the author describes as a comparative Marxist assessment of the role of religion today, as well as of the continuing development of religious ideology within the class struggle. The author also attempts to provide the reader with a Marxist materialist assessment of Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism not only in regards to each other but with respect to bourgeois cosmopolitanism and "revolutionary internationalism." The focus of this review however will be on the first and last essays. Where the former offers an incisive look into the topics discussed above, the latter is an in depth and baseless attack of Stalin, in need of its own analysis which I will deal with in part 2 of this review. The following is part 1.

Religion and Politics Today from a Marxian Perspective

In this first essay Achcar introduces us to the general theme of the book: The chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world has brought not only progress to the Third World, but created a better overall society compared to what "Orientalism" had to offer. Orientalism is just old terminology used to describe everything east of Europe. It is also used to describe Middle Eastern and Asian societies prior to the rise of Western European colonialism, and liberation thereof. Lastly, the term and concept of Orientalism was also used to describe the re-emergence of Muslim dominance in politics and culture immediately preceding liberation in what we today call the Middle East.

Definitions aside, this book is very much inconsistent on a Marxian level as Achcar does a good job of advocating ideas long since refuted and proven incorrect by Marxist scientists, not only in the realm of theory, but in the social laboratory as well. Paradoxically however, this book has a strong dialectical thrust to it as the author uses dialectical analysis to both inform eir position and present eir thesis; yet ey fails to balance out this dialectical analysis with Marxist materialism, thus presenting us with subjective findings. Therefore, while the author takes a correct dialectical approach to the development of religion vis-a-vis the class struggle, Achcar simultaneously negates the reality of world politics in the "Orient" which of course leads em to the wrong conclusions.

This criticism of Achcar is also applicable to eir failure to locate and define the principal contradiction in the world once imperialism developed. Part and parcel to Achcar's biased position with respect to the progress of the West is eir comparison of Christian liberation theology to Islamic fundamentalism as a philosophy of praxis categorizing both as "combative ideologies arising out of the class struggle" but thru the dominant humyn ideology (religion). However, the author incorrectly posits that the former is inherently progressive due to its origins with the oppressed and poverty stricken followers of Jesus, while the latter is inherently backward and reactionary because of its early beginnings with the Arab merchant classes of proto-feudalism. By comparing these two religions Achcar tries to have us draw parallels between the "communistic tendencies" of early Christianity and the propertied character of early Islam, thereby attempting to produce a divergence in the reader's mind as to what is inherently progressive and what is not.

While an argument can be made to support the thesis of revolutionary Islam as the path forward for those Muslims oppressed by imperialism, less can be said of the social democratic turn that the proponents of Christian liberation theology have taken. Achcar attempts to frame the issue by hypothesizing that the world of today is the inevitable outcome of Christian liberation struggles in Medieval Europe which served as early models for bourgeois democracy through the equalization of power through armed struggle. To prove this the author finds it useful to point to various revolts and peasant struggles in the Middle Ages in which the class struggle began to take on religious overtones with the Protestant Reformation. Prior to this however, Achcar praises liberation theology as the embodiment of what ey refers to as the "elective affinity" in Christianity that can lead the world to communism. In other words, what Achcar is trying to say is that liberation theology is the positive aspect in Christianity which can also play the principal role in bridging together religion with the cause of communism. Furthermore, the author says that this elective affinity draws together the "legacy of original Christianity — a legacy that faded away, allowing Christianity to turn into the institutionalized ideology of social domination — and communistic utopianism."(p. 17)

When pointing out examples of more contemporary struggles the author states:

"It is this same elective affinity between original Christianity and communistic utopianism that explains why the worldwide wave of left-wing political radicalisation that started in the 1960s (not exactly religious times) could partly take on a Christian dimension - especially in Christian majority areas in 'peripheral' countries where the bulk of the people were poor and downtrodden..."(p. 23)

When speaking of Islam's "inherently" reactionary character today Achcar attributes it primarily to what ey describes as

"the tenacity of various survivals of pre-capitalist social formations in large areas of the regions concerned; the fact that Islam was from its inception very much a political and judicial system; the fact that Western colonial-capitalist powers did not want to upset the area's historical survivals and religious ideology, for they made use of them and were also keen on avoiding anything that would make it easier to stir up popular revolts against their domination; the fact that, nevertheless, the obvious contrast between the religion of the foreign colonial power and the locally prevailing religion made the latter a handy instrument for anti-colonial rebellion; the fact that the nationalist bourgeois and petit bourgeois rebellions against Western domination (and against the indigenous ruling classes upon which this domination relied) did not confront the religion of Islam, for the reason just given as well as out of sheer opportunism..."(p. 24)

The author then goes on to say that Islamic fundamentalism grew on the decomposing body of Arab nationalism, citing it as "a tremendously regressive historic turn"(p.25). In reality any ideology that is based on mysticism and idealism will never be enough to defeat imperialism once and for all whether that be Christian liberation theology or Islamic fundamentalism. That said, as materialists we must still make the assessment of what movement is currently doing the most to challenge imperialism today. Is it the Islamic fighters who are engaged in a series of anti-imperialist struggles? I am reminded of something the Maoist Internationalist Movement once said in an article on pan ideologies:

"The measure of any ethnic ideology is whether it focuses its fire on imperialism as the enemy. If the pan serves to fry imperialism then it is progressive. If the pan fries non-imperialist nations, then it is reactionary and should be thrown out."(4)

But things aren't always so clear cut as we might want them to be, which is probably why later in that same article MIM said:

"It is only the struggle against imperialism as defined by Lenin that can really bring global peace. Other wars can bring no net gains to the international proletariat, just more or less dead exploited people. The plunder of the imperialists is much greater than that conducted by any oppressed nation's neighbors."(4)
These statements are liberating because they free us from all the imperialist clap-trap about the evils of Islam. We are hence reminded that there is no evil above that of imperialism and so long as these movements keep their sights trained on the imperialists then they will remain "inherently" progressive.

On that same note, not everything in the book is bad, and we should at least give Achcar some credit for pointing out that even Islamic fundamentalism can be divided into separate entities, instead of simply painting all Islamic fighters with a single brush as most Western intellectuals tend to do:

"Thus two main brands of Islamic fundamentalism came to co-exist across the vast geographical spread of Muslim majority countries: one that is collaborationist with Western interests, and one that is hostile to Western interests. The stronghold of the former is the Saudi Kingdom, the most fundamental, obscurantist of all Islamic states. The stronghold of the anti-Western camp within Shi'ism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, while its present spearhead among the Sunnis is al-Qa'ida."(p. 25)

Conclusions

As student-practitioners of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism we would be wise to keep in mind that Marxist philosophy and methodology is based on the most radical rejections of philosophical idealism with emphasis on revolutionary practice. Therefore our criticisms of religion and religious ideology should remain within the scope of critiquing certain ideological props as used by the imperialists to justify and support capitalism-imperialism along with all of its oppressive structures which made up the world today, for the explicit purposes of changing the world today and certainly not to critique religious believers or religion per se. In addition, organizations like those coming out of Islamic fundamentalism should be viewed by revolutionaries as developing out of the principal contradiction filling the voids left by the Marxists and revolutionary nationalists when those movements were either smashed or capitulated. Rather than denigrating these combative ideologies the way that Achcar does, bemoaning the day that revolutionary Islam stepped in to fill Marxism's shoes, we should instead champion their victories against imperialism while simultaneously criticizing where they fail to represent the true interests of the Muslim people.

As Achcar correctly states, the hystory of Islam in combating Western interference in the Orient is but the natural dialectical progression of the anti-imperialist struggle absent a strong communist movement. However, it is Western nihilist politics in command which fails to appreciate the positive role that Islamic fundamentalism plays in the anti-imperialist fight. Much in the same way that Christian liberation theology did in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. While the author raises a lot of good points in this book ey still fails to arrive at the correct conclusions. Real internationalists will not hesitate to celebrate every blow struck against the imperialists when it comes from the oppressed, whereas First World chauvinists hiding under the cloak of communism will continuously cringe at the barbarity of the oppressed for fighting back the only way they can. Achcar admittedly criticizes Islam's inherently "reactionary" character while simultaneously putting forth the concept of "cosmopolitanism" under the guise of anti-Stalin vitriol and so-called "internationalism" reducing revolutionary nationalism as inherently reactionary much in the same way ey does Islam. These final topics will be dealt with at length upon the second half of this review.

Notes:
1. Throughout this review I have decided to use the terminology of revolutionary Islam or any variation thereof not only to denote the anti-imperialist character of various Islamic fundamentalist organizations, but to put forth a viable alternative to the negative connotations of the anti-imperialist Islamist movement that have been popularized by the western media.
2.The theory of the two outmodeds by the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party USA (rcp=U$A) is a Trotskyist conception conjured up in order to divert the masses of the world's oppressed people from the path of national revolutionary war against Western imperialism. While the theory of the two outmodeds correctly states that U.$. imperialism and the Islamic fundamentalist movement are two opposing forces in contradiction to each other, it simultaneously and erroneously states that the conflict that has developed out of this contradiction cannot be resolved in favor of the people of the Muslim majority countries absent the participation of a strong socialist movement that is exclusive of revolutionary Islam. Instead, what is needed, the revisionists say, is a socialistically pure revolutionary organizing on the part of the Muslim nation's communist party. Furthermore, according to this "theory," Islamic fundamentalism as an anti-imperialist force has only been able to develop in an Amerikan created vacuum as a negation to Amerikan imperialism, while Amerikan imperialism has likewise only been able to act as a negation to revolutionary Islam in the region. Therefore, the contradiction between U.$. imperialism and revolutionary Islam can only serve to negate each other in a purely mechanical way, with one backward and reactionary system stepping in to replace the other, along with the possible defeat of the other. Hence, the theory of "the two outmodeds."

In contrast, the dialectical materialist view recognizes important qualitative differences between the two forces. The pushing of neo-colonial forces out by revolutionary Islamic forces are victories for anti-colonialism, with meaningful implications for the future of the oppressed.

The backward and reactionary political line enjoins the oppressed Muslim masses and other people of the oppressed nations to work for and attempt to create a socialistically pure road to emancipation. It rejects Joseph Stalin's and Mao Zedong's concept of a national United Front between the various anti-imperialist forces of the oppressed nations. This is also a disagreement with MIM(Prisons)'s third cardinal principal supporting a united front with all who oppose imperialism. Not only do we see the opposing line as setting back our ability to succeed, but we see that it often leads to allying with imperialism as the rcp=U$A did in calling for the overthrow of the Iranian government, or more recently with the broad support among Amerikans for U.$. bombing of the Islamic State.

In addition, the theory of the two outmodeds is anti-dialectical because it ignores and runs counter to the current stage of the International Communist Movement (ICM), which is the anti-imperialist stage; the stage in which nations are liberated from the yoke and oppression of imperialism which then allows for them to tend towards socialist development and construction, as well as the Third World's struggle for New Democracy. Moreover, the theory of the two outmodeds represents just the latest manifestation of idealism and anti-Marxism in the ICM in general and the First World "communist" movement in particular, as it portrays the world revolutionary movement as developing in leaps and bounds and not in stages as Marxism correctly teaches. Above all, however, the theory of the two outmodeds if put into practice will actually promote metaphysics because it steers the masses away from the correct methods of organization as a national United Front between every viable member and organization of the nation, as the most effective way to defeat the imperialists and their running dogs.

As such, the rcp=U$A line on revolutionary Islam is the same as that of their line on revolutionary nationalism; it is backward and reactionary and it must be opposed. The struggle that revolutionary Islam is now waging against the West is objectively revolutionary in nature as their principal aim is to eject Western imperialism from sites they consider holy, ie. the Middle East, and to force the imperialists to overstretch themselves militarily. Therefore, to be against Islamic fundamentalism at this point in the anti-imperialist struggle, as the theory of the two outmodeds most certainly does, is to be against the world's oppressed people.

Stalin and Mao correctly taught us that there are only two sides in a battle and it is naive to think that we can defeat the imperialists without forming "un-holy" alliances with other anti-imperialist forces no matter what their strategical aims may be. Indeed, there is a reason why Maoists believe that a communist's stance on the principal contradiction is a dividing line question. Imperialist nations vs the oppressed nations: What side are you on?

3. Mao Zedong criticized this concept stating that "the negation of the negation does not exist at all" and that such a conceptual construct was really just a re-statement of the law of contradiction itself, and therefore not a useful tool in the science of dialectical materialism. Furthermore, within the context of the "two outmodeds" the negation of the negation is not only mechanical but promotes metaphysics.
4. Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, Pan-Slavic and Turananian nationalism: Progressive or reactionary pans? Maoist Internationalist Movement, September 2003

chain
[Idealism/Religion]
expand

No Way As The Way

[Hook]
My way might not be your way
But it’s okay
It’s alright, your way might not be my way
But it’s okay
It’s alright


[Stic.man]
Yea, I used to go to church
But the church didn’t quench my thirst
Mama taught me to put god first
But she never tried to block my search
I was curious, young but serious
Why's religion so mysterious
Why is black life so hard?
They say you’re not supposed to question God
Well is it okay to question the pastor?
Was it passed down from the slave-master?
It was only the truth I was after
But I never could get a straight answer
So I couldn’t relate to the sermon
Put down the bible, then I start learning
About life, didn’t know where the path would lead
But I had to get off my knees


[Hook]


[Stic.man]
I build with the Five Percenters
On the God within us, it’s no limits
Study the Metu Neter from Kemet
All saw, I remembered
Smoke herb with the Rastafarians
Grew my locks became a vegetarian
Following the Tao, building with the Baba Laos
Jewels being handed to a innocent child
My mind is a Buddhist temple, the truth is simple
I try to be principled
Walking with a warrior spirit
Ain’t nothing like learning from first hand life experience
I’m a realist, that’s all I deal with
Respect the truth, that’s all I build with
A child of the universe
My religion is life and it’s just as valid
I strive for balance


[Hook]


[M-1]
I gotta admit, I don’t know
In the end which way it’s gonna go
Why we sit by the project window,
Instead of living off the land with my kin folk?
Is there even a master plan?
An unseen hand? Is God a man?
Some say that’s sacrilegious
Same folks selling us lies about Christmas
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny
Just so the capitalists can make money
They say God will take care of it
But you a terrorist if you say the same thing in Arabic
It’s so hypocritical
It’s a miracle, listen to the message in the spirituals
Wade in the water, I’m following Ms. Tubman and Nat Turner
I'm praying for my freedom
and heading for the border


[Hook: x3]
chain
Go to Page 1 [2] [3]
Index of Articles