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The new Islamo-Marxism: Where Trotsky meets bin Laden

By Bill King
web posted December 20, 2004

Karl Marx once infamously referred to religion as "the opium of the people", and argued that it served to dampen the revolutionary fervor of the masses. Yet if Marx were alive to witness the acts of ferocity being committed by zealots in the name of Islam, one suspects that even he would readily admit he got that one wrong.

Just such a reconsideration of religion is taking place today among the remnants of the Marxist left in Europe and North America -- only their reassessment is taking them in an even more dangerous direction. Since the morning of September 11th, 2001, Western Marxists have been steadily discarding Marx's old materialist dictum in favor of a new found admiration for one religion in particular: radical Islam.

This is not to say, of course, that we will soon see those on the far left swapping their belief in History and Progress for a belief in Allah and the Koran as interpreted by radical Wahhabi or Shia clerics. But given their all-consuming hatred of America and the West, Marxists are increasingly throwing their political lot in with those they feel are leading the struggle against "imperialism" -- namely, the forces of world wide jihad.

So far, this new phenomenon has been taken up in a comprehensive manner only by David Horowitz in his new book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, which as the title indicates focuses on the American far left. Yet the reality of a new "Islamo-Marxism" is immediately apparent to any objective observer of the Marxist left in Europe and Canada as well. And while the idea that secular Western Marxists would seek to ally with militant Islamists may seem incongruous at first, if one looks at the history of organized Marxism in the industrialized West, it is not really so surprising.

In the decades after the Second World War, the far left in Europe and North America turned to a whole series of forces -- from "student vanguards" to "national liberation movements" -- to find a substitute for a working class that refused to play the revolutionary role assigned to it by radical intellectuals. Throughout the 1970's and 80's, as Marxism became progressively more ensconced in the world of university seminars and academic journals, and as once radical social movements joined the mainstream, the left found itself increasingly bereft of a social force that could serve as the "subject" of its revolution.

Towards the end of the last century, with the collapse of the Communist project around the world and the rise of the United States to the status of sole superpower, the long held goal of a socialist revolution in the West finally gave way in practice to the far more realizable, and hence all the more furious, end goal of anti-Americanism. The stage was now set for an embrace of those not afraid to strike at what Che Guevara once called the "belly of the beast". In the rubble of the World Trade Centre and the death of 3000 innocents on 9/11, political convergence between the radical left and radical Islam was born.

There were, of course, precursors to the new post-9/11 Islamo-Marxism, the most notable being the tacit approval that was given by the far left after 1967 to Palestinian terrorists whose specialty was targeting the most defenseless: children in Israel, elderly Americans on cruise ships, tourists in airports in Europe. Today, however, the face of the new Islamo-Marxism is seen most clearly not in its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian question, but in its cheerleading (PDF format) for the murderous "resistance" in Iraq -- a "resistance" whose tactics, such as the summary execution of cooks and cleaners from Nepal (a country that had not even sent troops to Iraq!) with a shot to the back of the head as they lay with their hands bound behind them, are reminiscent of those used by the right-wing death squads of El Salvador in the 1980's.

George Galloway

As Joshua Kurlantzick points out in the December 2004 issue of Commentary, in his review of Horowitz's Unholy Alliance, it is in Europe that the political convergence between Marxists and Islamists is most advanced. But even Kurlantizick's article has been outpaced by the speed at which the alliance is growing. In England, for example, left wing Labourites, Trotskyists, and the Islamists in the Muslim Association of Britain have now formed an actual political party called "Respect" that has run in British and European elections. Its leader is none other than George Galloway, the former Labour MP with reported ties to Saddam Hussein's former regime and other Middle Eastern dictatorships.

Here in Canada, the tiny and splintered -- but often surprisingly influential -- Marxist movement has come down firmly on the side of radical Islam and jihad. One of the most sycophantic in its praise of all things Islamist is the Trotskyist Socialist Voice. This group of far leftists is so ingratiating towards those who would just as soon behead them, that they actually made a point of celebrating on their web site the fact that the Imam Ali Shrine was not damaged during last fall's fighting in the Iraqi city of Najaf. According to them, the fact that the mosque was spared was something that, "…working people around the world should join our Islamic brothers and sisters in greeting".

The largest Marxist group in Canada, the quasi-Trotskyist International Socialists (IS), has also chosen to cast its lot with the Islamists against the West. In fact, as far back as 1994, the IS's parent group in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), published a pamphlet entitled "The Prophet and the Proletariat", in which they called for "defending Islamists against the state", and for "occasionally" siding with radical Islamists while maintaining an ideological distance. Today, in the pages of the IS publication Socialist Worker, in which the Islamist torturers in Fallujah, serial murderers of women in Mosul, and holders of sharia courts in Najaf and Sadr City, are all labeled "heroic", that "distance" has all but disappeared.

As would be expected, there are more than a few ironies in Western Marxism's current suicidal death-clinch with militant Islam. By far the most glaring is that a political movement so profoundly Western (one that, despite its protestations, is itself a historical product of capitalism and liberal democracy, and even more, has its roots in the West's supposedly most enlightened, rational, and progressive thinking) would choose, because of its obsessive anti-Americanism, to side with the most retrograde, nihilistic, indeed fascistic, politico-religious movement of our era, one which abhors every "progressive" value the left claims to uphold.

Leon Trotsky's ice-picked body must be rolling over in its grave
Leon Trotsky's ice-picked body must be rolling over in its grave

Yet another irony is that, within Marxism, it is the Trotskyists that are spearheading the turn to radical Islam. While in recent years Trotskyism has been most infamously (and most mistakenly) linked to neoconservatism, the actual Trotskyites are in fact the most zealous among the Marxists in seeking to unite with the jihadists. It is a massive and ignoble irony -- one that points to the complete moral-ideological collapse of international Trotskyism, even by its own standards -- that a movement founded by the scientific-minded atheist and arch secularist Leon Trotsky, who in the words of Norman Geras, "embodied in his person at once the traces of his Jewish origin and a powerful attachment to the universalist dream of the radical", would today be knowingly aiding and supporting those who murder, torture, and behead to the cry of "Allahu Akbar!"

But if those are some of the most immediately apparent ironies, they are not the cruelest. The cruelest is that in championing the Islamist insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, today's Western Islamo-Marxists are supporting the very forces that are terrorizing and murdering politically active women, trade unionists, foreign aid workers, and left-wing activists in those countries -- and yet they continue to support those forces in the name of defending… the oppressed! Such "anti-imperialism" by comfortable Western Marxists in Europe and North America would almost be laughable were its consequences not so grisly and nefarious for those in far less safe places.

In another of his famous phrases, Marx once wrote that history repeats itself "the first time as tragedy, the second as farce". But it would seem that Marx got that one wrong too. For if the murder of millions by Stalinist Communism in the 20th century was tragedy, Islamo-Marxism's collusion with radical Islam in the first years of the 21st is more than just farce. It is farce, betrayal, and tragedy all at once -- and the collusion is just beginning. There can be little doubt that winning the global war against radical Islam will entail winning the ideological battle against its Islamo-Marxist allies right here at home in the West.

Bill King is a Vancouver based writer focusing on international politics, terrorism, and the radical left.


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