Friday, March 23, 2007






I have recently read a news article coming out of England where the Ministry of Education there is recommending that schools prohibit the wearing of the Islamic veil, obviously directed at Moslem women, if it distracts from the educational objective. This is the British version of the actions taken in France and elsewhere in order to prohibit the wearing of the veil in public places and governmental buildings. Of course it is no accident that this new policy has been effected at what is the height of the anti-Moslem backlash by the average non-Moslem British citizen and goes all the way up to the heights of the British Labor Party’s leadership, particularly Jack Straw. He has argued that the old class war of his youth has been replaced by the 'war of civilizations' and thus prohibition is a critical part of that fight. Naturally this is all argued in the name of better acculturation into the norms of British culture, a serious problem among second generation Moslem immigrants, especially the young, who rightly see no future in such a process as defined by the pro-capitalist British Labor Party.

The question of the Islamic veil is, however, one of those frequent two-edged swords that socialist militants run up against in daily political life. Let us be clear; militants do not support giving the capitalist state, in this case the British imperial state, the power to determine who wears what and where. However, once that issue is addressed and settled there is still the pressing issue of what the veil means in the fight for women’s liberation. No one, I hope, needs to be reminded that Islamic fundamentalists see the veil as an important physical symbol for the subjugation of women. One need only remember, for example, that the Taliban in Afghanistan had (and has)among its 'charms' the beating (and worse) of unveiled women.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of the kind of world the Islamic fundamentalists want their women to live in. And it is not pretty. Seclusion in the home, the veil and other torturous dress in public, the bride price, no education for young women and the occasional 'honor' killing, to name a few. To draw a sharp contrast one need only look at pictures from the 1950’s in Iran, for example, with unveiled women defending the Mossadegh secular government and a recent 2006 picture of heavily veiled and bundled women demonstrating in front of a nuclear facility in defense of Iran’s nuclear power policy(a surreal sight to be sure, given that in their social and political program for Iran except, apparently, nuclear technology those fundamentalists have not seen any need to progress pass the 8th century).

It is hardly news that all types of religious fundamentalism, including Islamic fundamentalism, have grown exponentially over the last few decades. While the causes for such increases are varied they point, disturbingly, away from the general historically progressive trend of secularization that has occurred over the past few centuries. Thus the fight against religious obscurantism plays a more central role in the fight for the socialist program in the West and elsewhere than it has had to in the last 100 years or so. Marx once, correctly , remarked that religion was the ‘opium of the people’. That is the part of the quote (sound bite, if you will) that everyone, friend and foe, seems to have remembered. However, a look at the full content of the paragraph the quote derives from points out that Marx also recognized that religion was solace for those beaten down by the arbitrariness and unfairness of the world.

The task of socialism for him, and for us, was thus not to close the churches on day one after taking power (although that is not a bad idea) and be done with it but to eliminate the conditions that have led masses of people to need the solace of religion. Obviously, that is a long term process that would probably take a few generations to complete under conditions of socialist cooperation after millennia of religious indoctrination. Nonetheless, the fight against the prohibition of the veil by the state and the imposed veil by religious obscurantists is part of our fight today. It is too important an issue in the fight for women's liberation to be left to the whims of capitalist governments or their agents.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:28 PM

    A few questions about Iran that I've had as of late...


    a) Can the Mossadegh government be accurately assessed as an attempted bourgeois revolution that was aborted by Western imperialism? Why or why not?

    b) If yes, was Operation Ajax as much about trying to prevent the rise of a political, economic, and social structure that would eventually facilitate a geunine proletarian revolution in Iran and the Middle East as it was about trying to ensure that Churchill and the UK could plunder Iran's resources so as to allow access to cheap oil?

    c) If yes, did the West's imperialist powers have a long-term goal of inciting a popular revolution without a liberal/bourgeois revolution so as to ensure that this revolution would have a strong reactionary current (i.e. Islamic theocracy...Keep in mind that my hostility towards Islam as the basis for a system of government rests in my belief that Hebrew mythology is reactionary bullshit thast ought to be discareded by all of humanity.) and result in a tyrannical failed state, thus allowing Western imperialists to use social liberalism as a pretense for setting up a more sustainable puppet state in Iran?


    a) Were there any dealings between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company that may have caused the Kremlin to insist that the Tudeh Party oppose Mossadegh's government and the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company?

    b) Regardless of whether the answer to 2a is yes or no, were Moscow and its satellite parties justified in opposing Mossadegh? Why or why not?