Fundamentalist Resurgence: Causes and Prospects

The collapse of the Soviet Union has resulted in one of the most turbulent and disturbed periods in human history. Instead of being the precursor of “The end of history,” capitalism is enmeshed in a crisis yet unforeseen. There is not a single region of the planet which is not engulfed in social, economic or political crisis. Capitalism on a world scale has proved to be incapable of resolving this crisis, and develop society further.

As a reaction to these crises new, and some not so new, phenomenon have emerged on the political horizons of most countries. In most of the “Third world,” “Islamic” countries there is the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism. This new fundamentalist resurgence and Islamic revivalism has attained unprecedented proportions in the recent period. From the possibility of fundamentalists (FIS) taking power in Algeria, to the fundamentalists whipping up terror to assassinate Taslima Nasreen in Bangladesh, it has captured world attention. There is hardly an Islamic country where this revivalism has not become a mainstream political tendency. Its reverberations are being felt in China and it has become a spectre even in the United States where the Muslims are in a small minority. The response of Western capitalism is both hypocritical and deceptive. In some ways the Western media is blowing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism out of proportion. Firstly because their fear of a fundamentalist accession to power especially in Algeria sends a shiver down the spines of imperialist rulers. The experience in Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere in the recent past gave them a bloody nose. In most of the poor Islamic countries the imperialist sponsored bourgeois (capitalist) democracies and quasi-democracies are failing to deliver the goods. The economies are in a mess and further deteriorating mainly because of the super exploitation of imperialism. In a vacuum created by the collapse of the Stalinist left and the failure of reformism, fundamentalists have a fertile breeding ground. Secondly the coming to power of the Mullahs gives the Western imperialists much lesser leverage in controlling these countries due to the fanaticism and unpredictability of these fundamentalists.

Secondly after the collapse of the Soviet Union the “external fear” which was used to paralyse the oppressed working classes in advanced capitalist countries was also obliterated. Hence the bogey of fundamentalism in the current media blitz is also meant for domestic purposes by the Western ruling classes. Given these motives, the whole image of fundamentalism is not only exaggerated but also distorted and misinterpreted by US and world imperialism.

Origin of Modern Fundamentalism and Role of Western Imperialism

Modern Islamic fundamentalism was actually the brainchild of US secretary of state John Foster Dulles. In the wake of the defeat of the British and French imperialists in the Suez Canal dispute in 1956, imperialism was alarmed. The rise of Nasser in Egypt and other left populist leaders in the Middle East and other Islamic countries posed a direct threat to imperialist interests in regard to the flow of oil. For almost three to four decades Islamic fundamentalism was nurtured, sponsored and promoted by US imperialism. Although there are exceptions like the Shias in Iran. In most countries these fundamentalist organisations served as offshoots of American sponsored dictatorships and other repressive regimes in these countries. In Indonesia Sarakat-a-Islam played the role of informers and state agents in the brutal execution of about a million communists by the Suharto dictatorship in 1965.

In Egypt, Syria and a number of other countries; the Islamic fundamentalist organisations like Akhwan-ul-Muslimeen were used to destabilise the left-wing regimes. In Afghanistan they played the most vicious role. For fourteen years the Jihad (Holy War) in Afghanistan was fought as a proxy war of US imperialism and the reactionary Arab regimes. In Pakistan the main fundamentalist party Jamaat-a-Islami was the main tool of imperialism and the state to curb left-wing forces. During the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, it acted as a B-team of the state in carrying out the persecution of activists struggling against the dictatorship. They organised neo-fascist armed gangs with the sponsorship of the state to disrupt and breakup anti-Zia demonstrations rallies and public gatherings. Similar examples could be cited in most Islamic countries with US backed regimes, throughout the post Second World War period.

At the same time it would be a gross mistake to define Islamic fundamentalism as a homogeneous force. Both from the point of view of their theological foundations to their practice in politics and society, there are various strands of Islamic fundamentalism. The various sects have basic differences of a historical, regional and nationalistic nature. The sectarian conflict and dissension of Islamic theology had started from the very early days of Islam. The main sects have been the Shias and the Sunnis. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. Islam was one of the main revolutionary movements against slavery in the last millennium. But with the accession of state power, most of the nomadic tribes turned into new ruling elites. It was this struggle for power which gave rise to various theological tendencies, which later took the form of the present day sects. In the initial days of the advent of Islam, great advances were made in the field of sciences, art, architecture and other fields. The deep penetration of Islamic rule into Europe and consequential social intercourse, played a major role in the renaissance in Europe in later centuries. At the same time, the ruling elites, to retain their power and privileges, resorted to repression and conservatism. Thus retarding the development of science and technique unleashed by the Islamic revolution. Hence it turned the whole process into its opposite.

Socioeconomic Basis

In the last fifty years the peculiar mode of capitalist development has been mainly responsible for the socioeconomic basis which became the breeding ground for fundamentalist psychology and culture. The domination of finance capital in most of these societies failed to develop the social and physical infrastructural basis of modern industry and society. This uneven and combined development of capitalism under the yoke of world imperialism created society very different from those in the West. While there was an enormous industrialisation in these poor countries in the ’50s and ’60s, there was not a corresponding development of the basic facilities of clean drinking water, sewerage, electricity, proper housing, education, health facilities and other utilities. For example between 1982 and 1992, the population in Pakistan grew by 33%, while the basic facilities grew by 6.9%. On the other hand, the influx of capital had a devastating effect in the agrarian sector. As a result of this a mass exodus of population started from the countryside to the cities. But instead of the proper absorption into industry and urban society, the lack of social development created the phenomenon of a widespread expansion of shanty towns with horrific living conditions. In the initial period this rapid influx created a virgin proletariat.

The stark contradictions created by the brutal and harsh conditions as a result of the unevenness of capitalist development led to massive explosions. In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, in relatively favourable international conditions there were massive movements of the newly emerging proletariat. But mainly due to the betrayal of the “Left” trade unions and political leadership (the leadership in most of these poor Islamic countries was Stalinist based and accepted the reactionary theory of two stages; first the capitalist democratic revolution and much later the socialist revolution and socialism in one country), the inevitable failure of these movements to transform society on a socialist basis led to disastrous consequences. The religious, national, ethnic, communal, linguistic, caste and other reactionary prejudices came to the forefront. On the other hand, a continual capitalist crisis and subsequent exploitation further intensified the misery. Most of these shanty towns became cesspools of dirt, disease, poverty, drudgery and prostitution. Lumpenisation, crime and gangsterism became social epidemics. Life in these urban shanty towns was worse than that of the villages. Similarly the crisis of the system and failure of the left movement had a drastic impact on the urban middle class.

The infestation of mass crime and lumpenisation created a feeling of insecurity and alienation. In the absence of a clear revolutionary alternative, this led to distress and demoralisation in certain sections of this newly urbanised population and the petty bourgeoisie. The fear, resulting from social alienation and insecurity led to piety and further reliance on religion, which further resulted in the diminution of creative labour, turning those sections of destitute and frenzied petty bourgeoisie into a subjugated mass. With the decline of creative labour, they turned into sort of robots, and tools of slave labour. A wide section of youth from rural areas which came to study in the cities was also infected by this crisis. With society giving little room to develop and move forward, the suffocation led them to move back – into the nostalgia of a fabricated history of Islamic glory, etc., taught in the syllabus of the theocratic states. The social crisis, crime, and rampant corruption developed a reaction of further crimes, lumpenisation, violence, neo-fascism and murder. The lust for power perks and privilege are an integral part of the petty bourgeois mentality. In Pakistan, the fundamentalists, led by Jamaat-a-Islami, provided all these prerequisites. Hence initially they started from students of semi-peasant/feudal psychology, which was a fertile ground for the development of fundamentalist organisations. In the mid seventies, when the PPP Government of that period failed to deliver the goods, the Jamaat-a-Islami further expanded its tentacles in the trade unions and peasantry. Since then, Islamic fundamentalism has had an impact on a minor but vital section of the urban population. Hence they became a motive force which was backed up by imperialism to repress revolution.

Ideology and Economics

The ideology, of these fundamentalist is mainly, to install an Islamic state on the basis of theology. The main stream of this ideology is based more on nostalgic examples of a nomadic society, where the highest form of economy was mercantile capitalism. Various Islamic scholars (Ulema) have tried to interpret the basic Koranic theology into the prevalent societies and economies throughout the last 1400 years. Although there are sharp differences of approach and interpretations of Ulema belonging to various sects, but there is not any clear-cut alternative to the capitalist system. A theology of more than a millennium ago can be interpreted in any direction. The capitalists and landlords have used the reactionary Mullahs to utilise Islamic theology for their class benefits, some clerics, who were radicalised during the anti-imperialist struggle in the Indian subcontinent presented a leftist interpretation of Islam. The impact of the Bolshevik revolution, even in the Indian subcontinent was enormous. During the early years of revolution Maulana Obaid-u-llah Sindhi travelled to the Soviet Union to see Lenin. In 1924, another cleric Maulana Hasrat Mohane became the general secretary of the Communist Party of India. Similarly the right-wing Islamic/Nationalist poet Iqbal wrote long poems praising Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In one of his Persian verses, he called Marx a prophet, who had a book but no prophethood. But any Islamic interpretation of modern economy and politics remains incomplete because of the materialistic nature of social, economic and political relations of present day society. On the one hand, the right of private ownership, individual enterprise and right of profit are accepted in the basic tenets of Islam. Paradoxically it also calls for equalitarianism, equality and brotherhood. In present-day economic and production distribution relations, these are insoluble contradictions.

The method to create this is Zakat, which in its final analysis is charity. Any economy based on charity cannot envisage an equalitarian and classless society. Similarly Interest and Usury is prohibited. But the existence of profit makes it irrelevant. Most banks in Pakistan and other Islamic theocratic states, name interest as profit. As far as Zakat is concerned, in Pakistan where it was pursued most enthusiastically by the Zia dictatorship and subsequent regimes, it constitutes 0.5% of the GDP. This is cosmetic in a capitalist dominated economy.

In Iran where the Islamic state was formed after a forceful bloody “Islamic” revolution, the situation has not been very different. After 15 years of the Islamic (Shias) revolution, the economy is in a mess. The oil exports of $18 billion in 1992, which constituted 90% of hard currency exports, now dropped to 12%. Despite continuous subsidies of basic foods, such as wheat and rice, inflation is running at some 60% a year. The burden of foreign debt is heavy. It is estimated something between 15-30 billion dollars. It is not clear whether the Iranian government has enough resources to pay the re-scheduled debt of $8 billion to European and Japanese banks later this year. Rafsanjani and his clique are trying to abide by the IMF conditions of privatisation, deregulation, opening-up to foreign investment and trade liberalisation. However the cutting of subsidies has faced a tough resistance from the hard-line Mullahs led by Khamenai. This would mean stringent measures to cut imports, which have halved during the last year. This has meant shortages of imported raw materials for Iranian factories, and items like toothpaste and antibiotics have become a luxury. The Iranian society as a consequence is in turmoil. After a prolonged “external” war with Iraq and other external diversions, now the chickens have come home to roost. In the recent uprising in Qazvin, a city in Northern Iran, the armed forces were ordered to bomb the city mercilessly by air and land. This action has provoked dissension within the armed forces, which can explode in the next period. A higher repetition of the rebellion against the brutalities of the Shah is possible in the not so distant future. But above all this reflects the growing resentment and the disillusionment in society because of its socioeconomic impasse.

The experiment of fundamentalisation in Iran shows the glaring contradiction of modern economy and theological metaphysical myths. Above all the fundamental contradiction is of the crushing domination of imperialism through the forces of the world market. Khomeini once said that “we would live on goat’s milk to maintain our independence.” This is easier said than done. This rhetoric is quashed by the realities of present-day life. Even in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Islamic countries, “electricity, toothpaste, antibiotics, running tap water, etc. have become an integral part of the lives of a vast majority of the population. Most of the products are produced by modern industry dominated by imperialism. About 500 imperialist corporations dominate 85% of world production directly or indirectly. A vast majority of these multinationals are owned by the big imperialist powers. The conditions imposed by the IMF, World Bank and other imperialist institutions are mainly aimed to further squeeze the economies of these poor countries to benefit world imperialism. The pain of this super exploitation is being felt by the poorer sections of these societies. There is today a much greater awareness of the atrocious role of imperialism, starting with the Shia fundamentalists. In Iran now most factions of the Islamic sects are using anti-imperialistic rhetoric to whip-up support and fundamentalist terror amongst wider sections of the population in most Islamic countries. But with an economic structure/policy/doctrine based on private ownership and the rights of private enterprise, in modern economic cycles and structure, it inevitably merges with the imperialist economy.

Hence without an irreconcilable scientific ideology of a social transformation of the relations of ownership – every economic doctrine will end-up in propping up productive and ownership relations on which capitalist – and its highest form-imperialism – are based. Under the Islamic law being advocated by the fundamentalists, the only “safeguard” against hoarding, blackmarketing, exploitation of human labour and drudgery is based on moralistic values and fear of doomsday. However the basic instincts and necessities of the foundation of an economic system based on profits makes all these “safeguards” irrelevant. In a crisis wracked society, the lust for profit undermines all these moralistic values. In Pakistan and most of the other Islamic countries this mad-rush for profits has eroded the social, moral and human fabric of society. Hence the practice of life of most small businessmen and traders becomes a double standard, deceptive and hypocritical. The domination of the financial oligarchy has crushed these moral values.

The objective realities of present-day life and dynamics of crisis ridden capitalism, makes it impossible to abide by piety and other such notions. Because the basic character of all the transactions under this system is based on cheating, deception and looting by any means. This situation cannot be salvaged by drastic state measures, repression or any measures of draconian laws. Paradoxically repression and totalitarianism breed corruption. Hence, as experience has shown that the doctrine of “Islamic economies” is neither an alternative economic system to capitalism nor can it curb the corruption and exploitation of finance capital. Most Islamic scholars advocate that the organisation of an economy should be left to market forces. The problems of the market economy are further compounded by tax evasion and the parallel black economy of a variety of shades. The drug trade being sponsored by the Mullahs and most fundamentalist organisations is a glaring example of the double standards and the hypocritical nature of Islam as a theology and its practice as an economy. In Pakistan with the Zakat system in practice, the Shias are exempted from its payment. Hence the number of Sunnis (the majority of the population) operating their bank accounts as Shias, would be very embarrassing for those, who advocate the introduction of an “Islamic Economy” in Pakistan. The large entrepreneurs who go to all extremes – from bribery to the assumption of state power to evade taxation, how could they voluntarily pay Zakat and other taxation to run the state and society. In the final analysis, if the truth is to be told “Islamic economy” is more of a utopian dream or a theological dogma rather than an alternate concrete economic system which can replace capitalism and remove its ills.

Strategy and Tactics

The fundamentalist organisations of today are far from having remote and orthodox apparatuses and organisational structures. They use advanced computers and other technologically developed gadgets to organise and monitor their political, agitational and even terrorist activities. From modern printing facilities, to the use of audio, video techniques are now composite parts of the fundamentalist party machines in operation. Their party structures are based to a large extent on the Leninist methods of party building. They operate through conferences, congresses, central committees, executive committees, etc.; although with Islamic names. Their methods of recruitment are also similar. But their ideological foundations and operational network is mainly based on fascist and neo-fascist lines. Strong fascist tendencies also dominate their politics and agitation. This has a profound impact on their tactics evolved in their youth, students, workers, women and peasant organisations. In the last few decades they have carried out enormous intimidation, gangster and murderous tactics, especially amongst the students and the youth. To justify this violence and brutalities, they have tried to use religious prejudices combined with fear.

However in the last few years the fundamentalists in order to gain a more expanded mass base, have tried to use the stick and the carrot methods. They have tried to combine neo-fascist methods with populist demagogy in their strategy. For example, in the past, they used to prohibit musical functions and other entertainment activities. In recent times, they have themselves, used music and entertainment with an Islamic tinge in their own functions and mass meetings to give a more sort of liberal and populist image. In Pakistan, they have created front youth organisations to enhance this populist image. Although this tactical drift varies with different streams of Islamic fundamentalists, but a generalised shift to various degrees is very evident. This emanates mainly from their desperation as waiting too long, and also to fill the vacuum in society prevailing in the temporary objective situation. Their youth and other front organisations have adopted a strategy to build agitation around the day-to-day issue faced by the mass of the population. One of these main issues is the rampant crime in Pakistan. They would, for example resort to murder, dacoity, rape or any other major crime. Publicise the consolation act with the bereaved family members or friends and then launch a major agitation around the funeral or other religious customs, which are traditionally and culturally bound to the prevalent social relations. They do get an instant response when they agitate against the police and other agencies of state repression. Similarly on a wider-scale they use the rhetoric of anti-capitalist, anti-landlord slogans. To this they have now added anti-imperialist rhetoric. At the same time they use the issues of social deprivation, like water, electricity, health, education, transport, housing and sewerage.

In the 1993 elections in Pakistan: the electoral front of Jamaat-a-Islami, the PIF (Pakistan Islamic Front, formed in relation to the FIS in Algeria), used this semi-socialist rhetoric to boost up their election campaign. This ideological crusade was more in tune with National Socialism of the fascists of Italy and Germany rather than with Marxist methodology. But with the presence of the PPP in opposition and the ideological contrast between their populist tactic, socioeconomic rhetoric and theological foundations, most fundamentalist parties including the Jamat-a-Islami were trounced in these elections. However a large number of fundamentalist’s votes went to Sharif’s Muslim League. These tactical changes have caused splits and breaches in the Jamaat-a-Islami itself and an aggravation of the sectarian strife between different fundamentalist tendencies. However because of the deep intrusion of drug money and corruption in society, the fundamentalists could hardly remain aloof from its impact. Hence most of these groupings have become sectarian mafias. The leadership and hard core using the mosques as indoctrination centres instil religious and sectarian prejudices into the minds of very young children. That sort of teaching which is in contradistinction to the objective world, creates deranged minds and consciousness. These are reflected in psychological disorders of inferiority/superiority complexes, certain types of social and cultural deprivation and the economic woes add insult to injury. During the Zia dictatorship in ’80s, the influx of heroin money gave a substantial financial backing to this practise of the Mullahs. The entry of these sectarian organisations into the Afghan Jihad (Holy War) gave them unprecedented access to weapons and armoury. One of the most resurgent groups is, the Sipah-a-Sihabah Pakistan, representing Sunni fundamentalism. Its “cadres” are mainly the product of the Madraisah (mosque school) and the aftermath of the Afghan war. With the intensification of socioeconomic crisis and a lull in the class movement, the terrorists in these organisations have become more and more fanatical. This has led to splits of about 20 splinter group in Punjab from their parent organisations. Their tactics became more vicious and indulgence in crime more deeper.

According to a report by the Punjab Home Department, the weaponry possessed by these groups, was more than that contained in the arsenals of the Punjab Police. The Sipah-a-Sihabah spends about Rupees 2.5 million on literature inciting religious hatred every month. The expenditure on arms is much more. On this background, the transformation of these organisations into criminal mafias became inevitable. The soaring unemployment and social distress gave these sectarian mafias access to a wide layer of the youth for recruitment. The emergence of Sipah-a-Muhammad represented the same process amongst the Shia fundamentalists. The rise in sectarian clashes also represents the conflict in crime, as these mafias are now involved in murder and kidnapping for ransom. In reality, religion is being used as a cover for the justification of the criminal activities of these groupings. However the primitiveness of society and the reactionary objective situation gives them a certain level of social credulity. This also reflects a generalised frustration, from which society is suffering.

Secularism/Liberalism Versus Fundamentalism

In the recent period, the bourgeois media is giving more and more attention to the “menace” of fundamentalism. Large sections of the ruling classes in most third world countries are raising a hue and cry against the rising threat of fundamentalism. But in reality, the fundamentalist resurgence is the by-product of the failure of the capitalist class to carry-out its historical tasks. If we take the case of India, after almost 50 years of having one of the largest capitalist market in the world, the capitalist class was not able to carry-out a single task of the national democratic revolution to its completion. This class was termed progressive nationalist etc. by the Stalinist left for decades. Yet after all that period, the secular liberal nationalist democratic and progressive Indian capitalist class has plunged India into a cesspool of religious violence and fundamentalist resurgence. Not only that , this historically atheist class has resorted to using fundamentalism for its own vested interests. Large sections of the Indian ruling class now subscribe to fundamentalism and are supporting and sponsoring BJP (Bhartia Janata Party – the main Hindu revivalist party) for political, financial and economic gains. But this is nothing new.

The ruling capitalist class in most colonial/semi-colonial/neo-colonial countries have a history of using fundamentalists and other reactionary forces to undermine the class struggle and preserve their system of exploitation. In most ex-colonial countries, after so-called independence the ruling classes tried to ape the rulers of the West to carry through the national democratic revolution. Given the delay in their emergence in the historical arena, the peculiar distorted shape of the development of these economies and the crushing domination of imperialist exploitation prevented this course. In the post Second World War, in spite of a certain lull in the advanced capitalist countries a revolutionary wave raged throughout the colonial world. In some countries, like China, Vietnam, Cuba, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, etc. these movements resulted in the over-throw of landlordism and capitalism. These developments in fact cut-across the Menshevik/Stalinist theory of two stages. This theory called for the support of the so-called national, liberal, secular bourgeoisie to carry out the national democratic revolution and then at a later stage a proletarian revolution could be envisaged. But with the absence of a genuine Marxist Leninist leadership, these revolutions took a distorted shape. They based themselves on the model of Moscow but not that of Lenin but that of Stalin. In spite of unprecedented development in these societies on a national basis a total socioeconomic transformation was not possible. However big steps were taken by the proletarian bonapartist regimes in these countries. These included rapid land reforms and other steps to break the shackles of the past and the crushing domination of imperialism. This provoked a sharp reaction from imperialism, landlords and the Mullahs (in Islamic countries). The most striking example is that of Afghanistan.

In the spring of 1978 the left-wing officers, organised in the Khalq Party, took power through a bloody coup against the reactionary regime of Daud. They carried through this coup without the consent, information and approval of the Russian bureaucracy. It was forced to accept the new left-wing proletarian bonapartist regime as an established fact. The new left-wing regime under the leadership of Tarakai abolished the trade in women, landed estates and other reactionary traits prevalent in society. The so-called “democratic” American imperialism formed an unholy alliance with the Mullahs, landlords and other reactionary elements to start an insurgency against the left-wing regime in Afghanistan. Military and financial aid worth billions of dollars was pumped into Afghanistan to organise the fundamentalist counter-revolution. After fourteen years the regime collapsed more so from its internal contradictions rather than the Jihad (Holy War) by the Mullahs. In a spin off effect of the collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet Union most of the other proletarian bonapartist regimes collapsed in a more or less similar fashion. However Afghanistan developed into a bastion of Islamic fundamentalism in this process. The accumulation of arms, money and drug trafficking gave the fundamentalist their strong financial basis.

However, the present situation in Afghanistan shows the reactionary potential of fundamentalism. More people have been killed in the last 4 years in sectarian clashes between various fundamentalist groups than the deaths which took place in the war between the Mullahs and the ex-Stalinist regime in Kabul. These fundamentalist have turned back Afghanistan into the mediaeval ages, on the verge of the twenty first century. More than 80% of the buildings of Kabul – once a beautiful city, have been destroyed. A vast majority of Afghanistan’s population lives in caves and a mediaeval existence. Now this “bastion” of the Mullahs is exporting fundamentalist mercenaries to other countries of the region. This ranges from Southern China and Kashmir to the countries of the Magreb (North Africa). A large number of religious fanatics had come from various Arab and Muslim countries to Afghanistan to participate in the Jihad (Holy War) against the infidels (communists). Now they are being sent back especially from Pakistan. But the situation in the North-Western areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan is far from any real control by the Pakistani state.

In the post Second World War period there were also movements, which did not culminate in the formation of proletarian bonapartist states. However they took the form of populist movements led by demagogic leaders, using socialist rhetoric to coincide with the sentiments of the mass movement, they came to power. In Indonesia and Pakistan the regimes of Sukarno and Z.A. Bhutto who failed to deliver the goods and fulfil mass aspirations also gave rise to the fundamentalist regeneration.

All recent history has shown that, the secular and liberal forces in spite of their hatred and abhorrence of fundamentalism have failed to curb the rising tide of religious fanaticism. Paradoxically in the wake of a revolutionary class struggle they have used these fanatics to crush these movements. Secularism and liberalism in a crisis ridden socioeconomic situation and in the sea of misery in which the mass populations are immersed are seen as vulgar absurd and obscene by the people in general. In the periods of stagnation, the fundamentalists exploit the class differences and gain support amongst wide layers of the backward masses.

The only force which can deter the threat of fundamentalism is the revolutionary movement of the working class. In Pakistan at every turning point in history, whenever the class struggle emerged, the fundamentalists were cornered both in the political and social arena. During the 1970 elections in Pakistan, which were held in the aftermath of a mass revolutionary movement, the fundamentalist were trounced. This happened in spite of the fact that all the right-wing parties were in a united alliance; and the context was made into a match between infidelity and Islam. All the leading Ulema from the Imam;leading clerics of Kaaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia ) to the leading cleric of the oldest Islamic University Al-Azar in Cairo gave their official blessing to the “anti-socialist” Islamic alliance, but still the masses voted for the PPP which was contesting the election on a revolutionary programme.

In the present situation the fundamentalists are harping on their new found anti-American and anti-imperialist rhetoric. The masses are aware of the severe exploitation being carried out by the imperialist states under the auspices of the IMF, and the World Bank. At the same time, most of the “secular,” “liberal” and nationalist forces are subscribing to the democratic (bourgeois) system being pursued by US imperialism on a world scale. If fundamentalism is a menace for the masses, US imperialism is not a lesser evil either. Hence to pose “democratic,” “liberal” and secularist policies with the existing socioeconomic foundations as an antidote against Islamic fundamentalism is meaningless. Not only that, it can’t gain a mass support to combat fundamentalism but also with the ever-increasing exploitation of imperialism, even reforms in these societies, is utopian. The oppressed masses have to face the brunt of this imperialist exploitation and not the pundits of “Democracy,” “Secularism” and “Liberalism” who themselves belong to the exploiting classes, hence in the final analysis, become stooges of imperialism.

A fundamentalist accession of power for example, in Algeria, will give it the status of a serious option for certain sections of the state and the ruling class. In Pakistan the increasing pressure of the US to cut down the size of the military establishment is already creating a tension between certain sections of the top brass of the army and US imperialism, with the further increase in mass deprivation and misery in the absence of a class movement. The Benazir government can lose its popularity and mass support quite rapidly. The Right and the fundamentalists can build a mass movement at a certain stage, which could be quite reactionary in character. Although the possibilities of fundamentalists coming to power as a cohesive force through a popular election victory are remote, still they will continue to stir violence and work to destabilise the Benazir government.

On a capitalist road, the Benazir led PPP coalition government can not do much about fundamentalism. Their social weight is mainly due to the under-development and the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, which Benazir can’t retrieve with her present policies. It is this weakness of Benazir’s democratic liberalism, which forces her to appease the Mullahs. Her desperate attempts at Islamic gestures in fact shows the weakness of her policies against the forces of black reaction. The further increase in turbulence and the increased size of the army developed by the PPP government, to control the situation can make things worse for it. In a conflagratory situation, if the army is used for greater repression, it can result in greater cracks in the military establishment. This can ultimately back-fire and the sections opting for a military dictatorship can gain greater support within the officer caste of the army. On the other hand, with a further enhancement of conflict between US imperialism and the army, more officers of the reactionary officer caste can move in the direction of fundamentalism. This can precipitate a bloody anti-imperialist, pro-fundamentalist coup. Such a development can also lead to a civil war – with sections of the army fighting each other. On the other hand some army generals can ape Saddam and Zia to base their dictatorship regimes on primitive sections of society using Islamic rhetoric. But the example of Afghanistan shows that such a development would be catastrophic for the whole region. Such a prospect also depends on a number of factors, and the direction of events in the next period. Hence in order to combat fundamentalism, it is necessary to attack and destroy those socioeconomic conditions in which it breeds. In a capitalist landlord set-up, it is impossible to develop economic and social foundations which can eliminate poverty, misery crime and disease. The present system can in no way provide such an economic basis which can provide water, electricity, health care, education, transport, housing and other facilities needed to transform the lives of ordinary people.

Similarly a political programme – attacking imperialist exploitation – and the drudgery of landlordism and capitalism, is necessary to seriously combat fundamentalism. Without such a thoroughly worked-out programme and a perspective for the over-throw of capitalism, a movement against such horrors, as fundamentalism, can’t be built. At the same time such a movement can only be built on a class basis under the leadership of the proletariat. As it is the only class, which can unite all nationalities, religious groups, and other stratum of society into a unified movement. Only such a movement of class struggle can cut-across the diversities of race, colour, creed, caste, religion, nationality and other prejudices of the past to take society forward. But the ultimate destination of such a movement has to be a social transformation of society. Otherwise it would mean nothing. Hence in the final analysis, humanity can only be salvaged from the menace of fundamentalism through a socialist revolution. Such movements have emerged in the past, they will re-emerge in the not too distant future. What we have learned from recent history is that, the divergence of such movements, in a rotten system, on the lines of bourgeois “liberalism,” bourgeois “democracy” and bourgeois “secularism” in the explosive times ahead would spell disaster. Learning the lessons of the past and the present, the historical task of today is to transform society on the lines of democratic socialism, which is the only way forward for mankind today.


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