Interview with Hamid Taqvaee, Leader of Worker-communist Party of Iran
July and August 2016
Islamic terrorism, how it emerged and how it can be defeated is the title of an interview by International, journal of the Worker-communist Party of Iran, with Hamid Taqvaee, WPI Leader. This interview was published in three issues of the journal in July and August 2016
International: Despite the fact that over the last few years the term “political Islam” appears frequently in many international publications or the literature of political parties and organizations, many government representatives or the mass media try to avoid this phrase and instead use expressions such as Islamic extremism. Why? What is the difference?
Hamid Taqvaee: The use of terminology such as Islamic extremism or fundamentalism is a political choice. Such terms separate the supposedly non-fundamentalist forces from Islamic states such as Turkey, Afghanistan, and generally pro West or not- hostile- towards- the West forces from Islamic terrorism. The purpose of this exoneration of parts of the political Islam movement is to use them in the regional policies of the U.S. and Western governments, particularly in the disjointed Middle East. The other use value of this reference to extremism is that it defines Islamic forces according to their system of belief and their interpretation of Islam rather than in terms of their political role and agenda. Another advantage of this persuasion-based or doctrinaire description by the media and Western governments is that it conceals the role and position of Islamism as the direct outcome of the hegemonic policies of Western bourgeoisie and specifically the American ruling class, implemented, in the beginning, to counter Soviet influence, and, later, to establish its hegemony in the post cold war world. It attributes Islamic terrorism to the articles of faith of the Islamic forces and the level of the density or diluteness of their conviction and their different interpretations of the Koran and Sharia. Thus it makes it possible to discard the interpretations of the extremists as false and grant support and space to “moderate” Islam. Obama and the authorities in his government refrain even from using Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism; they call forces such as Daesh and Al Qaida and Bokoharam simply for terrorists, believing that they are not Islamic, but have rather confiscated or hijacked the religion of Islam. It appears that the American government also has its own interpretation of Islam—an interpretation that does not rub up the Islamic allies of the West the wrong way!
Islamic terrorism is not an intellectual or doctrinaire phenomenon. Islam as a system of thought and belief has always been ultra reactionary, misogynist, anti hedonist, anti homosexual, anti civilization and modernity, but it has never enjoyed the weight and role in world politics as it has had over the last four decades. Sayyed Ghotb and Islamic Brotherhood raised the banner of Islam in mid 20th century in protest to the Westernization of the Egyptian government and that of other governments in Islam-infected countries, but even within the confines of their own countries they had a marginal and ineffectual standing. Khomeini in Iran is a good example. His name was heard in 1963 in opposition to the land reform, but he lacked a significant stature even among the religious opposition to the Shah. Islamic forces were pushed to prominence by the U.S. and its allies towards the end of the Cold War period in competition with the Soviet Union, in Afghanistan that was under Soviet domination and in Iran that, from the point of view of Western governments, could join the Soviet camp in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Taliban and Al Qaida were the direct upshot of the anti-communist policies of the Western bloc; they were the creatures of the Pentagon. This is a fact to which American power holders such as Hillary Clinton in her book “Hard Choices” confess. The rise of Islamic forces and governments over the last few decades should therefore be regarded as a political prerogative of the world bourgeoisie. The present day status of political Islam is the product of the anti-communist strategy of the U.S. government and the Western camp in the 1980s and 1990s and of Bushism and the hegemony-seeking militarism of the American government and the Western bloc over the last two decades.
Moreover, from the point of view of Arab bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie of Islam-infected countries as a whole, political Islam is an instrument for claiming larger proportions of world economy and political power. Specifically, with the defeat and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War and, subsequently, the creation of the state of Israel by the Western bourgeoisie and displacement of millions of Palestinians after World War two, Arab and Islam-infected countries were increasingly pushed to the margins of world economy and politics. In the cold war period this share-claiming and polarization manifested itself in the Palestinian question and was generally represented by Arab nationalism, Ba’thism and Nasserism, and, generally speaking, by Middle Eastern forces and governments belonging to, or leaning towards, the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the same Islamic forces that were implemented by the West to confront the Soviet Union turned into the instrument, and the main force, for the “litigation” of the Palestinians in relation to Western governments and the force behind the claimant bourgeoisie of Islam-infected countries. The present day movement of political Islam is the extension and outcome of the assault of the Islamists supported by the U.S. and its allies on the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. The movement, supported by the Pentagon and the CIA and NATO that was supposed to overpower the Soviet Union did not go home after the Soviet defeat. Instead, in the fragmented post cold war world it raised its head as a candidate for power and faced up to Western powers. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, as predicted by Mansoor Hekmat in “The Bloody Dawn of the New World Order” in 1991, the Western bloc also lost its raison d’être and hegemonic position. This further prepared the ground for the traditional Arab bourgeoisie to claim its share in the region, this time through Islamic forces. Contributing to the rise of the Islamists was also the fact that, with the collapse of the Soviet pole, the left Arab nationalism—Al Fatah, the George Habash movement, Nasserism and Ba’thism—had also lost its footing.
The movement of political Islam has, at the moment, after September 11, the attack on Iraq, the bankruptcy of Bushism and the hegemonic Western militarism, sprouted up many branches and trends. Politically the common denominator of all these forces is their demand for their share from the world bourgeoisie through the claim of establishing the Islamic state and society.
International: What changes in the movement of political Islam has the emergence of Daesh brought about—both from the outside and from within this movement?
Hamid Taqvaee: In my view the rise of Daesh is the beginning of a new phase in the movement of political Islam. As a state phenomenon this movement made its presence felt with the ascension to power of Khomeini in Iran and of Taliban in Afghanistan. But after September 11, and, in the wake of that, the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamic forces such as Al Qaida and Shiite and Sunni gangs in Iraq were pushed to the forefront. At this point political Islam raised its head as an anti-American terrorist force and not as a state and political system in a specific geography. To establish its hegemony in the post cold war world the Western camp needed a new enemy, an Islamic “axis of evil” to take the place of the previous Russian “evil Empire.” Islamic forces were an excellent candidate to play this role. In this capacity political Islam was depicted not as a governmental force but as a savage enemy that had no other objective than to target the Western camp and Western interests. A force such as Al Qaida with operations such as September 11 and attacks on American embassies in various countries and planting bombs in European capitals and so on was a perfect match for this image. The propaganda and strategic base of Al Qaida was antagonism against the U.S., not the establishment of an Islamic state. Al Qaida made no claims to power and Osama Bin Laden did not have even a small village in his name to the day he was killed.
This situation changed dramatically with the running aground of the American war machine in Iraq and Afghanistan, the hopelessness of Bushism and the strategy of militaristic hegemony—itself the reaction to the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the impasse and invalidation of Friedmanism and neo-conservatism. The falling through of Bushism and American hegemonic policies, particularly in a disrupted Middle East as a consequence of Western military attacks and interference, led to a lack of political alternative and a power vacuum in the region. This created some sort of political “open space” for the regional bourgeoisie, so that parties and political forces and movements and governments—even those traditionally aligned to the West—detected a ready ground for their supremacist claims in the region. New blocs and partnerships were formed between these forces and governments. American and the Western bloc hegemonic efforts were replaced by rivalry between new regional blocs over maintaining their regional hegemony, the most conspicuous being the Turkey-Saudi Arabia-the Emirates vs. Russia-Islamic Republic Syria-Hizbullah.
Daesh is a product of these circumstances. In other words, within the framework of the policies of Western bourgeoisie, Al Qaida is the outcome of the U.S. hegemonic militarism and Daesh is the product of the failure of this policy. From the point of view of the interests and policies of the regional bourgeoisie, Daesh is a force that has come to the forefront in the rivalries between regional blocs. In Daesh strategy, as distinct from Al Qaida, the political geography and the establishment of Islamic state is the core, and opposition to the U.S. is the side issue. So far the highest proportion of Daesh terrorist operations has been carried out inside Islam-infected countries and against the population and governments of these countries. The most recent examples came as the result of the Daesh call to punish infidels in the month of Ramadan: the terrorist attacks in Istanbul, three suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia including the attack on the shrine of the prophet Mohammad in Medina, planting a bomb in a shopping centre in Baghdad, two attacks in Bangladesh including the attack on the prayer ceremony to celebrate the end of the month of fasting(Fetr). It appears that these operations stem from the extremist ideology of Daesh against apostates (Muslims who divert from the Daesh brand of Islam) and Daesh itself emphasizes the killing of apostates and heretics in its propaganda. But this Daesh policy and behaviour is entirely political. The declared goal of Daesh is the Establishment of the Islamic caliphate, and this involves confronting local governments to occupy territory and to establish its power in the political geography of the region. In this strategy the immediate enemy is governments and political forces in the Islam-infected countries in the region. Western governments come into the picture to the extent that they are supportive and aligned to this local enemy. Thus the need for the ideology and theory that declares the apostates, i.e. the other Islamic regional governments and forces, the main enemy.
The emergence of Daesh created a new alignment between Islamic forces in the framework of the political Islam movement. Once more it appears—and most media and political observers explain it as such—that the core of the matter is a clash between the Shiite vs. Sunni faith and ideology, or between the excommunicatory Islam of Daesh and that of other branches of Islam. But this is not an ideological grouping; it is entirely political indicative of the different goals of Islamic governments and forces in the region. The reason for the clash between the Islamic Republic or the Hizbullah with Daesh is the expansion of the areas under the influence of Daesh forces in Iraq and Syria and, as a result, the waning of the influence of the Islamic Republic and its allies in these two countries and in the region as a whole. Faith- based differences and different interpretations of Islam between these two branches of political Islam stem from these political rivalries and differences, not vice versa. Over the last few months Daesh, having lost some cities and territories under its influence in Iraq and Syria, has stepped up terrorist activities in various countries. The Orlando killings and terrorist operations in Islam-infected countries that I mentioned before were directly or indirectly the offshoot of this Daesh declared policy. But the purpose of even these operations is maintaining its power and the area under its rule in the region not striking against the interests of the U.S. or Western governments as was the goal of Islamic forces such as Al Qaida.
It should also be pointed out that for all their differences and new alliances between the forces of political Islam these forces are in collusion and side by side when it comes to their hostility to modernity and to civilization as it exists now in the West; they are identical, particularly in demanding their share of world economy and politics. They should therefore be considered as different tendencies within the same movement, I. e. the movement of political Islam. Daesh did not materialize out of hostility to the Islamic Republic and Hizbullah and Al Qaida. It was, rather, formed and pushed forth as an upshot of their presence and activity and in the context of the deadlock of the hegemonic militarism of the U.S. in the region. In my view Daesh represents the advance of the movement of political Islam from the phase of being a pressure force on the U.S. government and Western bourgeoisie as a whole, to the phase of the formation of an Islamic state. Taliban and the Islamic Republic were also two instances of Islamic states, but they did not emerge out of the Islamic movement. They were both the outcome of the policies of the American government and the reaction of the entire Western bourgeoisie to the Soviet influence in Afghanistan and to the 1979 revolution in Iran. Daesh is the representative of a return to political power, this time against the background and as a result of, the confrontation of Islamic forces with the American government and its allies in post September 11 conditions and the attack on Iraq and Afghanistan. The reign of Daesh, in contrast to the case of Iran and Afghanistan, is the indirect product of the policies of Western countries – and the direct outcome of the rampage of ethnic-Islamic forces in the Middle East and North Africa. The banner and the claim of “Islamic Caliphate” raised by Daesh is the clear and explicit vision, orientation, and the crude identity of political Islam movement, i.e. the demand for a share in a world dominated by the Western bourgeoisie. This goal and horizon was once put in a nutshell by Yasser Arafat in: “We want to be partners with the West, not its servants.”
As far as masses of the people in the West and the East are concerned the outcome of this upgrading of Al Qaida type terrorism to Daesh type terrorism has brought nothing but an increase in crime and barbarity and the most gruesome killings and massacres in contemporary history. From this point of view as well there is not much difference between the internal groupings of political Islam.
International: As you pointed out the American government and Western governments as a whole have been crucial to the creation of this movement-from contributing to the Islamic Republic coming to power to the rising to power of Taliban in Afghanistan and then the emergence of Daesh. Can man regard the confrontation of Western governments with Daesh as yet another manifestation of the war between terrorists?
Hamid Taqvaee: Mansoor Hekmat and our party called the confrontation between the U.S. and the Western camp after September 11 the war between terrorists: the militaristic terrorism of the Western governments on one side and Islamic terrorism on the other. But we are facing a different situation today.
Every war is the continuation of politics, and the war of the terrorists as well was waged as an extension of the policies and objectives that I have explained before, namely the continuation of Western hegemonic policies headed by the U.S. bourgeoisie and government in the post cold war atmosphere on one side of the conflict and the share seeking bourgeoisie of the region through Islamic forces that had been unleashed after the collapse of the Soviet bloc on the other.
Present day conditions and the confrontation between Western governments and Daesh is the continuation of the war between terrorists, but it is carried out in an entirely different context. At the juncture of the emergence of Daesh, one decade after September 11, both poles of the conflict found themselves in entirely new circumstances. In the West militarism and neo-conservatism had reached the end of their tether and Bushism and the policy of “you are with us or with the terrorists” was replaced with Obamaism and the policy of “open your fist so we can shake hands.” In this environment Daesh raised its head and was driven forward, not in response to the already failed and abandoned Bushism and the policy of U.S. military assault on Islamic countries, but to fill the power vacuum that this failure had created in the region and specifically in Iraq and Syria. From the U.S. and Western governments point of view the purpose of their assault against Daesh is not to maintain hegemony in the post cold war world; it has a defensive character aimed at maintaining control over the Middle East, as well as taming and enlisting Islamic and ethnic governments and forces within the framework of its their interests and policies in the region. Let us not forget that in the last decade Russia, having sorted out its internal hassles, with the supremacist Russian nationalism superseding all other tendencies with Putin at the helm, has been a major player in the Middle East. One of the objectives of the West under the present circumstances has been to prevent Russia and the bloc supporting it from expanding their power and influence in the region. In this respect as well the objectives of the clash of the West with Daesh are different from the political goal of the earlier war between the terrorists. For Daesh this is a war directed at gaining areas of influence, founding the Islamic state in a political geography, and establishing the Islamic caliphate in the region.
These differences have also influenced the composition of forces engaged in this conflict. Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran had no role or place in the military assault of the U.S. and its allies on Iraq and Afghanistan. In the current war against Daesh all these governments are involved and play important roles. This is no longer a war over Western hegemony in the guise of punishing the perpetrators of September 11 tragedy. It is a war over establishing the power of different governments and blocs in the power vacuum created in the Middle East: the U.S and its Western allies, Russia, the Islamic state of Daesh, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic, Turkey, the Emirates, and the other ethic-religious forces in Iraq and Syria. On both sides, once more, this war is reactionary and inhuman and in no way represented by civilized humanity—but it is different from the previous war between the terrorists. This is a war over establishing one’s own hegemony between the Western bourgeoisie, Russia, and ethnic-Islamic forces in the region. That is why I believe the war for power describes it better than the war between terrorists.
International: What is the position of the Islamic Republic in the movement of political Islam? Many years ago Mansoor Hekmat had said that with the downfall of the Islamic Republic begins the demise of political Islam. Considering the range of changes within this movement during the last few years including the rise of Daesh, does this analysis still hold? Does the Islamic Republic still enjoy this position in this movement?
Hamid Taqvaee: In my opinion the Islamic Republic is still a crucial force within the movement of political Islam. No doubt the position of the Islamic Republic in the region and within the movement of political Islam has decreased, but its position as the first Islamic state in an important regional country has not diminished.
Bear in mind that unlike the reign of Taliban or today’s Islamic caliphate of Daesh the Islamic Republic came to power in the wake of a popular revolution by distorting and defeating it. We speak of a regime that has managed to smother a colossal revolution under the banner of Islam and Islamic revolution and re-established the sway of capitalism in Iran that was seriously threatened by the 1979 revolution. The Islamic Republic was the only alternative of the Iranian and world bourgeoisie in confronting the 1979 revolution–so much so that up until now Western governments and the Iranian ruling class have failed to come up with a governmental alternative. Other Islamic forces, in position or opposition – Daesh, Boko Haram, Taliban, Al Qaida, Hizbullah, Hamas, Jabhat al-Nusra, etc. – lack such background and credentials.
At present new configurations have taken shape in the movement of political Islam. Specifically Daesh and the Islamic Republic belong to two rival and hostile blocs in this movement, but this difference, as I argued before, is tactical and the outcome of competition for power and the attempt to get the upper hand in the disjointed present day situation in the Middle East. As far as the scope and the strategy of the movement of political Islam is concerned, i.e. claiming a share in the world economy and politics and gaining recognition as the representative and government of the bourgeoisie in Islam-infected countries, Daesh and the Islamic Republic are cut from the same cloth. Neither are they essentially different in imposing ultra reactionary Islamic laws on the population, albeit each according to their own interpretation or in their hostility towards civilized behaviour and civilization and modernity. The Islamic Republic represents a model of government that in its nature and disposition is the pattern and inspiration for Islamic forces of the various branches of the ultra reactionary movement of political Islam.
This particular position of the Islamic Republic means also that the downfall of this government would have dire consequences for the fate of the movement of political Islam as a whole. The overthrow of an Islamic government through a popular revolution would turn the table in favour of liberation from the sway of religion to the benefit of secularism and the left. Let us remember that more than three decades of the reign of the Islamic Republic has given rise to a perseverant, broad based, humane, and secular movement that has the potential for becoming a model and inspiration for the masses in other Islam-infected countries—exactly as the 2009 revolutionary uprising in Iran was a source of inspiration for revolutions in the region. In my opinion the overthrow of the Islamic Republic by the power of the people’s revolution means curtains for the movement of political Islam. It would deplete and sap even the states and organizations that oppose and compete with the Islamic Republic.
International: You talked about the role of political Islam in Middle Eastern and African countries and the role of Western governments in relation to them. This is understandable from the point of view of the ruling class in the West. However different branches of political Islam are active in Western countries as well. Many concessions are made to Islamic trends, such as allowing Sharia law and Islamic courts in some European countries. This has sowed the seeds of terrorist activities in Europe and the U.S. What interests have Western governments in this? To what extent were they aware of the risks?
Hamid Taqvaee: The concessions and compromises of Western governments to Islamic trends in these countries can be explained on the two politic-tactical and strategic levels. Tactically this policy aims at strengthening Islamic forces that are not hostile to the West—therefore labelled “moderate”—against anti-Western Islamic forces. According to Western governments terrorism is the product of extreme or fundamentalist Islam. These governments therefore promote and give recognition to Islamic governments and forces that are not directly involved in terrorist operations on the assumption that by so doing they will neutralize and weaken Islamic terrorism. In this attitude only planting bombs and suicide operations or military confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East count as terrorism. This approach turns a blind eye to terrorism at its birth place and daily crimes committed by Islamic governments and forces against the population in Islam-infected countries, such as glaring discrimination against women, implementation of the law of retribution (an eye for an eye), the execution of homosexuals and other atrocities committed by reference to Islamic laws in Iran and other Islam-infected countries do not count as Islamic terrorism. Only if the perpetrators of these crimes are politically against the U.S. and its allies, I. e. if they are extremists, are they noticed and, at best, mentioned as a footnote to condemn extremist Islam. Otherwise the criminal policies of the Islamists who are friendly or non-hostile to the West are not only disregarded as instances of terrorism, they are justified and ignored in the name of the Islamic culture of the population and part and parcel of their own faith. The reduction and trivialization and even disregard for honour killings in European countries or recognition of Sharia law and courts for immigrants from Islam-infected countries, and the acceptance and boosting up of Imams and Muftis and Sheikhs and Ayatollahs as representatives of “Muslim community” in Western countries all spring from the policy of restricting Islamic terrorism to opposition to Western countries and tolerating and even promoting other Islamic forces.
Strategically the compromise and relationship of Western governments, I.e. the relationship of world bourgeoisie with “moderate” Islamic forces, their visibility and activism in Western societies, is the reflection of the status granted to the theories of cultural relativism and the division of societies into an amalgam or mosaic of religions, ethnicities, and nationalities. The 18th century bourgeoisie supported the separation of church and state and equal rights and laws for all citizens independent of creed, ethnicity or race. Even nationality, according to the French bourgeoisie after the Great Revolution, was defined in terms of citizenship and not according to place of birth. But before long, I. e. during the last decade of the 18th century, this process was reversed because the interests of the newly empowered bourgeoisie required that it should quickly retreat from it s radical ideas against feudalism and, increasingly, make more room in its attitude and policies for religion and ethnicity and race. Ideologically and from the point of view of political philosophy the concept of postmodernism and cultural relativism which was mooted in the middle of the twentieth century and has now turned into a pervasive and dominant idea can be seen as a retreat from civil society (societies consisting of legally equal citizens irrespective of their creed, race, ethnicity and birth place) to religious-ethnic-tribal societies of the middle ages. In this concept human identity and universal human values are denied in the name of differences between cultures and people’s beliefs, traditions, and the relativity of these values. Society is thus reduced to a patchwork consisting of these different cultures and values. This concept turned into a dominant view and the political philosophy of free market economy, particularly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of religious and ethnic/tribal forces in the former Soviet Union republics, in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is on the basis of this backlash and retrograde development in political and social philosophy that religion, ethnicity and race are pushed to the forefront and enjoy such significant status in the practical policies of bourgeois governments and parties. On a basic level the proliferation of hijab, honour killings, Islamic schools, mosques, Imams, Muftis, etc. in Western societies is the product of this bourgeois regress to the Middle Ages. Here the issue is no longer only that of adopting the right tactic in dealing with political Islam; we are facing an overall intellectual and strategic abdication by the world bourgeoisie from civil society and civilization as a universal achievement. Compromise and forbearance towards Islamic forces in the West is a tactic made possible in the context and within the framework of the concept of cultural relativism and the negation of the principle of equal rights for all citizens.
This concept has both prepared the ground for the activities of “moderate” Islamists in Western societies and is hand in glove with the ideology and outlook of the movement of political Islam as a whole. The self vindication and unjustifiable speciousness of governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran by arguing that Iranian society is Islamic and the majority of the people are Muslims, or even the justification for the Islamic caliphate claimed by Daesh in “Islamic” countries could only occur within the framework of cultural relativism and the regression of the philosophical-governmental of the world bourgeoisie in the whole world. If immigrants from Islam-infected countries in a society like Britain, that is, the “Islamic” sector of a postmodern patchwork society are allowed to live according to Sharia, then, surely, a force such as Daesh or Islamic Republic are entitled to enforce such laws on an Islam-infected society as a whole. It does not take long to go from the recognition of the Imam of a Frankfurt mosque as the representative of the Muslims living in the city to the recognition of Daesh as the representative of the Muslims of Iraq and Syria. Western governments try to pose the two “extremist” and “moderate” branches of Islam against each other. In reality, however, “moderate” Islam is borne out of the same bourgeois perception and policy that has formed and promulgated extreme Islam. Postmodernism and the negation of civil society and universal human values is the political doctrine that welds together different sectors of the bourgeoisie in today’s world, from bourgeois governments and intellectuals in the West to extremist and moderate Islamic governments and forces. Not only politically and tactically but also on the strategic level and from the point of view of socio political doctrine and philosophy political Islam, with all its branches and internal blocs is the product of the retreat and regress of the world bourgeoisie.
In practice as well, “moderate Islam” is the complement and the other side of the coin of “extremist Islam” in Islam-infected countries. At the moment the activities of moderate Islamic forces in Europe have provided a convenient recruiting pool for Daesh among the “Islamic community” living in these countries. Meanwhile the rise of “moderate Islam” in the West and the proliferation of hijab and mosque building and Islamic schools and honour killings and the conspicuousness of the Islamic culture and identity of immigrants associated with Islam in European countries is entirely the reflection and product of pushing forward and unleashing Islamic forces in the Middle East, North Africa, and other Islam-infected countries. This relationship and mutual backing up of Islamists in the East and the West is yet another manifestation and reflection of the conceptual and ideological sameness and postmodernist confluence of the entire movement of political Islam.
International: Nowadays facing up to Islamic terrorism has become an important ingredient in the propaganda of extreme right forces and parties in Europe and North America. These forces have expanded the issue to include enmity towards Muslims and immigrants and refugees from Islam-infected countries. Can the rise of these forces be regarded as a reaction to rampage of Islamic trends and governments in the Middle East and North Africa and the flow of immigrants from these countries?
Hamid Taqvaee: As a rule in conditions of capitalist crisis when conventional and centrist bourgeois forces prove themselves to be incapable of controlling society extreme rights forces enter the scene and try to manipulate nationalist and racist prejudices to provide an alternative to weather the crisis and re-establish the domain of the capitalist class. Under such conditions of crisis communist and revolutionary forces can also, by putting forth the working class alternative, i.e. by politically and economically ousting the bourgeoisie, gain popularity and influence among the people.
This is exactly the situation we are in now. The appearance and surge of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and of Jeremy Corbin and the racist UKIP party in Britain are notable examples that reflect people’s mistrust of conventional governmental parties. In the rest of Europe as well a similar pattern has developed.
In the midst of all of this, political Islam has provided the extreme right with a convenient excuse and justification for the racist policies and propaganda of the extreme right. The Western bourgeoisie of the Bush and Blair period used the September 11 killings to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, while today the likes of Trump in the U.S. and the neo Nazis in Germany use the excuse of Daesh crimes to attack refugees and immigrants from Islam-infected countries. In both periods the confrontation of the bourgeoisie with the Islamists has been a method and a tactic to achieve other goals. The goal of the Western bourgeoisie in attacking Afghanistan and Iraq was to establish its hegemony over the post cold war world and now the aim of racist attacks on immigrants is to point towards them as the cause of the crisis and the unemployment and the adversities that the post cold war triumphant capitalism is offering the people. From this point of view the emergence and growth of racist parties and forces can be regarded as the logical extension and the “upgrading” of Bushism and Blairism into the present political situation. Moreover the anti-Islamism of racists such as Trump has provided a new justification and alibi for the anti Western sentiments of Islamist forces. Here, as with the period of the war of the terrorists, Islamic fascism and Western fascism prepare the ground for each other and feed off each other.
Bourgeois centre governments and ruling parties are incapable of standing up to these fascist forces. They are themselves part of the problem and not the solution. The real response to these conditions is dealing with fascism and racism from a left and communist position.
International: How should the left respond to the present situation? How can this situation be challenged? In his “The World after September 11” Mansoor Hekmat emphasized the necessity of the engagement of the civilized world to confront the two terrorist poles in the post September 11 world. What specifically does this orientation and position mean at the present?
Hamid Taqvaee: I hope I have managed so far to make it clear that the two terrorist poles, either in the sense of the Bushist militarism of Western governments against Islamic terrorism or as Western fascism against Islamic fascism both belong to the one and the same camp, I.e. the camp of the world bourgeoisie in the disjointed post cold War world. That is why a communist criticism of this situation is inseparable from the criticism of present day capitalism and its overall politico-economic crisis.
After the collapse of the Berlin wall bourgeois thinkers declared the end of history. But as Mansoor Hekmat had foreseen, what happened in reality was the deepening of the crisis, confusion in the Western camp, and the emergence of the most reactionary and savage nationalist-religious-ethnic-racist forces in the West and the East and in all corners of the world. Mansoor Hekmat in “The World after September 11” writes: “The war of the terrorists can be the beginning of the bloodiest period in contemporary history…but this prospect is not inevitable…a third force, a sleeping giant exists that can transform it all.”
Since then this giant has flexed its muscles in the form of the revolutionary uprising in Iran, the revolutions called the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement in the West, the Charlie Hebdo movement in France and the rest of Europe, mass protests in Greece and other European countries against economic austerity, and the movement in support of refugees and welcoming reception of refugees from Islam-infected countries by people in Europe. These are instances of the rise of the civilized world against terrorism and the entire barbarism that prevails at the moment.
Against this civilized world stands the entire camp of the world bourgeoisie, with all its parties and governments in the West, and, in the East, with political Islam and fascism and neo liberalism and the postmodern doctrine and the abrogation of civilization and universal human identity and values. The communist critique of these conditions should start from this basic reality.
Today, not only liberation from the yoke of capital, but the defence of civil society and civilization and humanism and secularism, and even guarding the achievements of the French revolution is on the shoulders of the communist movement. If present day capitalism, caught up in the tangle of overwhelming political and economic crisis and ideological confusion and strategic lack of perspective has reverted to religion and fascism and racism and postmodernism and the policy of economic austerity and cuts in social services and retracting the achievements of the working class and Communism in the previous century, then communists should, in all these areas, confront the bourgeoisie under the banner of socialism and secularism and civilization and the humanism that only socialism can offer. Challenging the dominance and political might of the bourgeoisie in all countries passes through a profound class oriented communist criticism of religion and racism and postmodernism. In this struggle the masses of the people, the 99% are with the communists and have the same aspirations.
The civilized world referred to by Mansoor Hekmat has nowadays assumed a specific identity and concreteness: the ranks of the 99% against the ruling 1%. This slogan was first used by the Occupy movement and has now turned into the icon and symbol of struggle and protest against the class abyss that separates poverty and wealth, and the challenge to economic austerity in the West and the East and in confronting racism and Islamism in all countries. The sway of capitalism in the world is not only threatening civilization and civility and the life and livelihood of 99% of the world population, but the very existence and survival of our planet. The banner for freedom from this situation is borne by communists such as our party. Humanity is standing at the crossroad between socialism and barbarism. To survive, the civilized world has no alternative other than socialism.
International: Last year different countries in Europe and North America such as France, Denmark, Germany, the U.S. and Belgium have been the scene of heinous crimes by Daesh and some other Islamic trends and these crimes have accelerated during recent months. The exhilarating atmosphere in support of refugees in several countries has been replaced by people’s anxiety for Islamic terrorism and occasionally by racism. The first question that comes to mind is how effective is the policy of Western governments in dealing with Islamic terrorism in the West itself?
Hamid Taqvaee: Before confronting and eventually defeating Islamic terrorism one should be able to understand it properly. Despite what bourgeois governments, intellectuals and mass media claim, Islamic terrorism is NOT a conceptual-religious movement, it has NOT sprung out of Islam being “hijacked” by fundamentalist terrorists, it is NOT related to the culture, prejudices and life style of “Muslims”—that is, people attributed to Islam– and it is NOT based on the hostility of the people from Islam-infected countries towards the Western way of life. Such views common to the governments, institutions, and media belonging to the world bourgeoisie are themselves part of the problem rather than its solution. What these assumptions ignore is the basic fact that Islamic terrorism is a political movement rooted in the exigencies of the crisis ridden, futureless bourgeoisie, both in the West and the Middle East, in the post cold war world.
In response to previous questions I tried to explain this political disposition of Islamic terrorism. Here it suffices to emphasize that combating Islamic terrorism is impossible without a political criticism and understanding of it. The reaction of Bourgeois parties and media can only contribute to its growth and reinforcement, as has been the case so far. Up until now all bourgeois approaches and assessments of Islamic terrorism, the militarism and the onslaught of Bush the father and the son, the coalitional diplomacy of Obama, the racist attacks on “Muslims” and immigrants from Islam-infected countries, concessions made to moderate Islam and the postmodernist tolerance of “Islamic culture” and lifestyle of the “Islamic community” in Europe, have only contributed to the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa and inside Western countries themselves. The U.S. government and the entire free market camp not only founded political Islam by promoting Khomeini to counter the “threat” of the 1979 Iranian revolution and by creating the Taliban against the influence of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, but have had an active role, directly or indirectly, in enhancing and expanding it through the last three decades. This trend should be resisted and reversed.
In the light of what I said the level of “effectiveness” of the policies of Western governments in relation to Islamic terrorism should by now be obvious. To begin with, these governments themselves are the cause and initiators of the terrorism that now in the U.S., France, Germany, and Belgium they are hounded by. This is not a matter of the past and of the period of the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes the present day policies of these governments. When Daesh started its offensive in Iraq in 2014 the U.S. and its allies initially just passively looked on. The U.S. in particular was not happy with the Maleki government in Iraq and even regarded his downfall to be in its own interest. It imagined that the influence of Daesh would diminish the standing of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iraq, Syria, and in the region as a whole, and considered the advance of Daesh as a positive development also from this point of view. The Daesh engagement with the Assad government matched the strategic objectives of the U.S., therefore the reaction of the U.S. and other Western countries fell short of the horrors of Daesh that had shocked the world. In the beginning there were even reports and air pictures on the social media showing that Daesh forces were advancing under the protection of the American air force. Today Daesh terrorism has extended to Western countries and the U.S. has formed a coalition bloc consisting of Western governments and “benign” Islamic states in the region. But even this coalition with “moderate” Islamic governments can only further reinforce the movement of political Islam. Obviously the movement of political Islam is a widespread movement that is not limited to Daesh type terrorism or to Al Qaida or to Western countries at that. The Islamic Republic, ethnic-religious governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Islamic government in Turkey, Islamic forces in Syria and North Africa, as well as the “moderate” Islam of Western societies are all components of Political Islam. Without the Islamic Republic Al Qaida and Daesh would not have come into existence, and without Islamic terrorists mosque building and honour killing and hijab and burqa and Islamic schools would not have had such a heyday in Western countries, and implementing Sharia laws and courts in Britain and Canada would not have been on the political agenda.
The other important point to bear in mind is that bourgeois governments and media in the West limit terrorism to explosive blasts and suicide operations. In the standpoint and propaganda of Western governments and media the ongoing terrorism implemented daily by Islamic governments and forces within Islam-infected countries is neither noted nor condemned. The terrorist policies of the Islamic Republic and Al Saud governments, and the ethnic-Islamic governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even the crimes of Daesh in its areas of influence, are either ignored or, at best, used as a diplomatic pressure lever in cases where the policies of these governments and forces disturb Western interests and policies.
This limiting the movement of political Islam to terrorist forces and limiting terrorism to operations directed at the population in Western societies is yet another manifestation of the sterility and ineffectiveness of the policies of Western governments in confronting political Islam. As I said before, these policies do more to enforce and expand the influence of political Islam than to weaken and defeat it. It is possible to use air attacks to drive Daesh out of its areas of influence, but it would just as much strengthen the Islamic governments and forces that are in coalition with the West. The movement of political Islam can only be defeated in its entirety and not only in a piecemeal manner and depending on one faction against the other. Taliban and Khomeini were hoisted against the Soviet Union and the left, and Al Qaida became the excuse and justification for their hegemonic militarism and the armed onslaught on Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to the rise and unleashing of a range of Islamic forces such as Al Shabab and Bokoharam and Jabhat al-Nusra and Huthis and various branches of Al Qaida and Salafists in the Middle East and North Africa and ethnic-religious governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and the spread of the influence of the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Turkey in the region. Daesh emerged in the context of these conditions, but it is not the last germination of this barbarism and backlash. This vicious circle of savagery and criminality shall continue as long as the movement of political Islam is not criticized and discarded, in its entirety with all its branches, from a left, secular, and humanitarian stand point. This criticism should recognize, make known, and expose political Islam in its real context, i.e. the crisis, recess and regress of the world bourgeoisie. The criticism of political Islam should meanwhile be a critique of the regression of the world bourgeoisie from the tenets of modernity and civilization and secularism and civil society. Political Islam is a concoction prepared by the crisis-borne capitalism of our time and therefore the socialist criticism of capitalism is a sine qua non and prerequisite of a humane and radical criticism of political Islam.
International: The last question is about the other side, the civilized and freedom-loving pole. What should this pole do? What does an outline of a decisive and effective platform with a social and practical base capable of draining the various branches of Islamic terrorism of their lifeblood look like?
Hamid Taqvaee: In his “The World after September 11” Mansoor Hekmat speaks of the necessity of a third pole, that of the civilized world, to enter the arena to confront the state terrorism of the West and Islamic terrorism. So far our party line and policy in the face of Islamic terrorism and the terrorism of Western governments has been to promote the achievements of civilization and civility and reliance on the power of the masses of people who are not represented in the confrontation between the two poles of Islamists and Western governments. The Bush-Dick Cheney version of militarism has been baffled and pushed to the margin and replaced by the policy of compromise and coalition of Western governments with some Islamists against the others. Meanwhile racist forces have lifted their heads in Western countries that use Islamic terrorism as an excuse and subterfuge to spread xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments. Within the movement of political Islam as well, with the emergence of Daesh and the recapture of some of its territories terrorist and suicide operations have extended to Islam-infected countries and within the movement of political Islam new bloc affiliations have formed and various branches have stood up to each other. This development makes it even more imperative that the masses of the civilized citizens should engage themselves and come to the fore against all these reactionary forces and governments in the East and the West.
I believe that the starting point of a communist platform to counter political Islam is the criticism of the crisis-borne and futureless bourgeoisie that has imposed this barbarity on the world. Not only from the politico-tactical point of view but also strategically and philosophically and as a socio-political world view political Islam is the outcome of the regression of the world bourgeoisie from civilization and civility. I believe that postmodernism by shaping a discourse and a conceptual and intellectual atmosphere and a paradigm based on the negation of equal and universal values in relation to civilization and culture has prepared the ideological and conceptual ground for political Islam. The ultra reactionary Islamic edicts and laws have been around for centuries but only during the last few decades have they succeeded in presenting themselves as “Islamic civilization,” “Islamic society,” and “Islamic state,” and turn into a political entity. Not only the Islamic Republic and Daesh and Taliban and Al Qaida and Hizbullah, but the ascension to power of Erdögan in Turkey and the present role and position of Saudi Arabia and even among the “Islamic communities” in Western countries, the proliferation of hijab and halal meat and Sharia laws and “one’s own culture and civilization” have, in the final analysis, become possible within the framework and paradigm of postmodernism and cultural relativism. The regression of Islamic forces to the Koran and the ultra reactionary Sharia law and the state model of the dawn of Islam is, in reality, part and parcel of the regression of the bourgeoisie to the pre modern, middle ages system of thought. Without the bourgeoisie having abdicated from secularism and equal and universal human values, and, particularly, without abandoning civil society and the denial of citizenship rights independent of creed, ethnicity and race, and replacing it with the theory of mosaic societies and states, the movement of political Islam would not have materialized and pushed into mainstream politics.
Considering these facts it is obvious that our emphasis on the “civilized world” in facing up to political Islam and Western governments is not a mere tactical propagandistic matter. With civilization we mean secularism, modernity and civil society. Bourgeoisie has turned its back on civilization and political Islam is the product and embodiment of this backtracking.
Based on this assessment of the political character and identity of Islamic terrorism we can define the contours of a communist platform for confronting political Islam:
– Critique and exposure of Islamic terrorism as a political movement that is rooted in the crisis, desperation, and hopelessness of the world bourgeoisie in the East and the West.
– Critique of “moderate” and “extremist” Islam as no other than branches of the movement of political Islam. Exposure of the compromising policies of Western governments towards “moderate” Islamic governments and forces in the West as well as the Middle East.
– Exposure of Islamic terrorism against the population of Islam-infected countries. Criticism of the attitude and policy of bourgeois governments and media that limit terrorism to terrorist operations against people in Western countries.
– Criticism of postmodernism and cultural relativism as a theory and philosophy that denies universal identity and culture, and substitutes homogenous societies consisting of citizens with equal rights with societies divided into sub-components and religious-national-ethnic-racial mosaics. Criticizing and confronting cultural relativism as a theory that sanctifies hijab, burqa, honour killing and inhuman Sharia law as part of the culture and life style of Muslims.
– Boost and reinforce an anti-religious secular movement in Islam-infected countries. For years this movement has been active in Iran and emerged more recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syrian Kurdistan with promising results.
– Defy Islamic laws and courts in Western countries and the compromise with honour killing and mosque building and Islamic schools. One successful instance of this movement was the active struggle with the policy of the Canadian government to recognize Sharia courts in the state of Ontario 2003-2005. This policy was defeated following the successful campaign of the member of our party Homa Arjomand and the party organization in Canada. The Ontario state government was forced to officially abandon it. Another example is the movement formed through the efforts of our member Maryam Namazie, with remarkable achievement against the implementation of Sharia law in Britain. The Ex Muslim movement in European and some regional countries is yet another successful example of the activities of our activists abroad. Such efforts should expand and one should aim at engaging many more left, secular, and atheist activists in this project.
– Facing up to racism and xenophobia and opposition to immigrants in Western countries. Criticism and exposure of the viewpoint that uses opposition to terrorism to target “Muslim” immigrants and people who have fled from Islam-infected countries.
– Attracting international support for the struggle of the masses of the people in Islam-infected countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Syrian Kurdistan and other countries against Islamic governments and forces.
– Defending secularism and secular laws and governments in Islam-infected countries and in Western countries and recognition of the equal rights of citizens in all countries irrespective of their creed, nationality, ethnicity, and race.
– Theoretical and perceptual criticism of Islam and other religions in defence of science and atheism, against religion and semi religious views that are being propagated, not only by Islamic forces, but also by all bourgeois governments and media in the West and the East.
– Putting pressure on Western governments and international institutions to cut political relationship with Islamic governments and in particular with the Islamic Republic that is the backbone of Islamic terrorism and the movement of political Islam in the region and the world.
– Exposure and criticism of the use value of Islamic forces and governments for the Western and regional bourgeoisie, and the socialist criticism of the crisis-borne capitalism of our time.
This is a platform for effective and practical confrontation with the movement of political Islam. The criticism and confrontation referred to above does not consist only of agitation and propaganda; its role is also to make room for a left, secular, anti-religious discourse and intellectual atmosphere, a movement and social mobilization aimed at breaking the religious, postmodern paradigm that dominates present day societies.
Forming a broad social movement, in the East and the West, that would engage in the above platform would be the effective way of challenging political Islam. The grounds and the seeds of this social mobilization—the Charlie Hebdo movement, the movement against the one per cent, support for refugees in the West, secularist protests against Islamic governments and forces in Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Syrian Kurdistan—already exist. Based on this ripe social conditions we can and we must create and push forth a social movement, a paradigm and political discourse and a secular, left, anti-religious, anti-postmodernist movement which is, most important of all, opposed to the crisis-borne capitalism, or, as the Occupy movement has put it, against the rule of the one per cent, that is the cause and the sponsor of Islamic terrorism. This depends primarily on the active engagement of organized communists and in particular the social left forces in the West and in the region. Secularism and defence of civilization and modernity and atheism is not enough in itself. The bourgeoisie has backtracked from civilization and modernity, but the answer is not a return to the civil society of the Great French Revolution; it is, as Marx put it, “going beyond civil society to a human society.” Only a socialist society can be a human society in the real meaning of the word. Considering the prevailing objective politico-economic conditions, the defence of human civilization is only possible from a socialist and left position. Our party, as I mentioned earlier, has so far had noticeable progress in challenging political Islam. It will continue this policy on the basis of the above platform.
At the end I should add that what would deliver the final blow to political Islam is the overthrow of the Islamic Republic through a revolution. The Islamic Republic is the backbone of political Islam and its downfall would break the back of the Islamic movement. This is yet another emphasis on the necessity of mobilizing and setting in motion, against the Islamic Republic and in support of the struggle of the people of Iran, all left and progressive forces and the people who have had enough of the barbarity and the crimes of Islamists the world over.