The fundamentals

March 7, 2008 at 8:48 pm (Jim D, Marxism, workers)

I find it very disturbing that elementary principles of socialism (and, indeed, of modern civilised thought), now seem up for grabs on the so-called “left”; eg:

1/ SWP’ers and others actually defending the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent statement on sharia law;

2/ Newman (over at “Socialist Unity”) defending the teaching of creationism to innocent children!.;

3/ An SWP-associated blog not supporting (ie scabbing upon) the international day of action with Iranian trade unionists…and HOPI (of which one might have expected slightly better), doing the same (“why we cannot politically support”…blah, blah, blah…etc)…

Have fundamental principles of human enlightenment and working class solidarity been forgotten..or lost…or never been understood in the first place?

Perhaps it’s time for some very, very basic courses in elementary Marxism.


  1. Claims said,

    And creeping holocaust denial on both sites.

  2. voltairespriest said,

    Point me towards HOPI’s statement on Holocaust denial? Oh wait, you can’t.

  3. Shuggy said,

    I lost count of the straw men in the SWP piece – and the Socialist Unity article is absolutely bizarre.

    But the current situation in schools seems to be that GCSE students are introduced to Lamarkism, Darwinism and in some schools Creationism, and then told that Darwinism is correct, and that is the answer they have to give to get credit.

    Next they’ll be defending alchemy lessons, provided pupils are told at some stage that ‘chemistry is correct’.

  4. johng said,

    “The logic of Blunkett’s position is chilling. If Islam is an “external” religion then Britain’s Muslims – who are overwhelmingly from ethnic minority backgrounds – do not properly belong in Britain”

    This lay at the core of Bambery’s article and its an entirely sound point. Its why this issue is such a hot potato. Anyone who imagines that the gutter press are up in arms because of the principles of 1789 needs their head examining.

    The SWP is quite clear on issues of solidarity with trades unionists in Iran. we are simply not in favour of counterposing trades unionism to the struggle against imperialism. The whole purpose of the right wing US union bureacracy and it seems of Jim Denham.

  5. (Sloop) johnb said,

    “Anyone who imagines that the gutter press are up in arms because of the principles of 1789 needs their head examining.”

    Yes that’s true, but what I don’t ever get with your comments is why therefore you, I or anyone else should be unconcerned with the ‘principles of 1789’ and defend Rowan Williams’s reactionary position that it is right and proper that organised religion has a place in secular law, be that Christian, Muslim or anything else.

    Why can’t you oppose the press’s racism and Williams’s theocratic bent?

  6. anon said,

    Blunketts position was that Sharia Law is external.
    Not Islam or Muslims
    Bambery distorted it deliberately.
    As have you..

  7. John A said,

    You missed the post on Harry’s Place condemning class politics as well (!)

  8. johng said,

    The origins of Secularism in Europe lie in the Renaissence and the subordination of the church to the emerging national states of the period. This process was also closely connected to the nationalisation of religion (hence the appearence of vernacular bibles replacing the Latin versions) and indeed the wider dissemination of religious ideas to the masses. Persecution of heresy came to be replaced by persecution of alien non-national religions (hence the intertwining of religious and national conflict right across the continent during the same period). The subordination of the church to the state was initially a social process that powered the rise of the absolutist state. The principle of the seperation of church and state then becomes the slogan of the third estate in the battle against these absolutist regimes, for whom the church had become a prop. The associated traditions of secularism therefore have their historical origins firstly in the establishment of national states as key units in the international order, and secondly in attempts to transform these states into vehicles of capital accumulation. Much of the modern secular tradition moves uneasily between these different legacies (its one reason why there is little agreement on the precise content of secularism, although there are many who will confidently tell you that they know what it REALLY means). Its also why whenever the subject of religion comes up questions of national and minority oppressions are rarely far behind. It was, as well, the factor that gave the peculiar flavour to modern anti-semitism (as well as of course, the ideological reaction to it: Zionism) and today gives a very similar feel to Islamophobia, which always invokes the spectre of threats to the nation.

    As Marx was to note, by the middle of the 19th century, other kinds of question of minority religions within national states begin to be raised, in particular around what was then called ‘the Jewish question’ (in Britain the forms taken by discrimination against Catholics was actually part of the historical legacy of the battle against the old order and not a remenant of it). These questions are quite different from questions raised by institutions which backed up the old order through absolutist regimes. Progressives have always treated the position of religous minorities as different from the question of dominant religous majorities.

    There is absolutely nothing novel in Chris Bambery’s article in terms of the Marxist tradition or the left. But there is a consistant refusal to read or take seriously what Marx had to say about secularism and its limitations as a basis for socialist argument, which he spelt out in some detail, in his seminal text on the jewish question, a reply to Otto Baur, whose politics greatly resemble those contemporary liberals who got so terribly excited by the archbishops speech. Religion is not special, and the questions regarding equality raised by the current discussion are no different to any other question. That is the secret of Marx’s demystification of the question, and his fixed prejudice that if the criticism of religion leads to deeper critique of society, then criticism of religion is no substitute for criticism of society (and is indeed deeply misleading if not combined with such a critique) was wholly correct.

    It is remarkable how still today, when the word ‘religion’ is mentioned, people simply stop thinking.

  9. johng said,

    I’ve just written a long post. I posted it. It did not appear immediately. If it does not appear I will be organising large scale protests for the next five years.

  10. resistor said,

    Jim Denham needs to attend some courses in elementary literacy as none of the articles he cites say what he thinks… but Denham never lets the facts get in the way of his prejudices.

  11. a very public sociologist said,

    Shuggy, I don’t see the problem in touching on the history of science in science lessons. Provided the theory of evolution is taught and its superiority demonstrated over its competitors, surely the outcome will be students more disposed toward critical thinking, something I would have though all socialists would welcome.

  12. Shuggy said,

    Creationism isn’t science so it has no place in a lesson about the history of science either. It might be appropriate in an RE lesson, but that’s another matter. I really don’t think trying to get students ‘more disposed toward critical thinking’ necessitates the introduction into the curriculum of every crack-pot theory that happens to be around.

  13. modernityblog said,

    the reality is that the move to legitimise creationism in Britain by elements of the Left as “part of an educational discussion, etc” has more to do with their temporary alliances and sucking up to their allies than any thoughtful consideration of educational needs

    a lot of the arguments are covered here:

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