Saturday, July 6, 2013

Marxism-Leninism and Islamism

I see many parallels among the three destructive ideologies that have plagued humanity in the past one hundred years—National Socialism, Communism, and Islamism.  I found this book written in 1974 in German by a Polish Dominican philosopher who taught philosophy for many years at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.  The book is entitled Marxism-Leninism: Science or Faith and contains incredible insights into the Soviet ideology.  What strikes me as I read his book, however, is the commonality between the Marxist-Leninist ideology and the Islamist ideology.

Although, to be sure, one is atheistic and the other fanatically monotheistic, they both share totalitarian impulses and produce enthusiastic and dogmatic foot-soldiers quite readily.

The book does not exist in English, so I have endeavored to practice German by translating it.  Here I have translated an extended passage about Marxism-Leninism, which can, in large measure, be applied to Islamists.

One thing that people got wrong with the communists, and they get wrong with the Islamists, is that they think that people can’t really believe this stuff.  They think these people think that they are acting from these ideas, but they are really reacting to oppressive conditions, and these crazy ideological ideas are only an indirect way of expressing their frustration with their conditions.

What Bochenski argues for communism, I also argue for Islamism:  Yes, they really do believe this stuff, and we insult not only reality but those very people themselves by suggesting that we know more than they do about their own motivations.  Yes, an Islamist does, in fact, believe that Allah will reward him for his violent martyrdom.  He believes it in the marrow of his bones.  Not only that—he will believe it even if he is no longer oppressed, lives in a big house, has a great job, has a university education, and the rest of it.  Throwing money at Islamists does not kill ideology.  Ideology is more powerful than wealth.  Just as with communist terrorists, the Islamist terrorists are quite frequently well-educated and, by the standards of history, not particularly oppressed.  They are ideologues.

We all seek a transcendental meaning to our lives, except for those few of us who live as animals.  National Socialism, Communism, and Islamism give people that meaning, and having such a meaning is, for many people, far more important than material comforts and wealth.  I think this is fine, as long as one’s transcendental purpose isn’t murderously evil, of course.

Bochenski was right about communism.  Too many are still in denial or ignorance of the destructive and evil nature of communism (as were so many of my professors), just as too many are hopelessly naïve about the power of Islamist ideology (as are so many “intellectuals”).

Bochenski's three numbered points are completely applicable to Islamists in every way--only the examples are different.  For example, the first point is effort to spread the ideology.  The Soviets printed books in massive numbers, while the Islamists slam the Internet relentlessly.  The second point is that one can only explain their behavior by assuming they believe in their ideology for real.  Good examples with Islamists would be gruesome, public executions along with behaviors guaranteed to lead to their deaths.  The third point is that it nearly impossible to reason them out of their position, which is obviously true in the case of the religious fanaticism of Islamists.

My translation:

"In closing, we would still like briefly to lay out the meaning of the ideology—Marxism-Leninism—for communism and for the communist countries.

[. . .]

This is evident from the following:
  1.  The communists everywhere are currently making colossal efforts to develop and spread it.
  2.  They act in such a way that one can explain their behavior in no other way than in terms of commitment to Marxism-Leninism.
  3.  The matter is directly visible to anyone who has come into contact with significant communists: They are faithful communists, they believe in Marxism-Leninism as an absolute truth.
     First: The communists are making great material and mental efforts to develop and spread their philosophy.  A few numbers:  The Bibliography of Soviet Philosophy, which is published by the Fribourg Eastern Europe Institute, includes more than two thousand names of active philosophers.  In Moscow alone there are perhaps one hundred chairs in philosophy at the high schools.  The circulation numbers of the ideological writings are absolutely colossal.  301,015,000 copies of Lenin’s works were published by 1959.  A similar situation obtains in the other communist countries.  So for example Yugoslavia, which had not yet offered any philosophy worth mentioning before the last world war, has a significant philosophical school.
     That is the first:  The communists are making great effort to spread their Marxism-Leninism.  Secondly, moreover, they behave in such a way that is explicable in no other way than in terms of their ideology.  Two examples are typical here:  On the one hand the communists everywhere take care to carry out the collectivization of the farmers with correspondingly catastrophic consequences for the economy.  The political sense of these efforts is more than questionable.  It alienates the Party from the farmers and economically is downright absurd.  Why do they behave this way?  Because it is so mandated by Marxism-Leninism.
     On the other hand there is in communist countries a war against religion, which is just as politically senseless.  In many countries like Hungary and Poland, for example, it would be relatively easy to win over the masses were they to refrain from it.  No, they continue recklessly to wage the war, and certainly only because this is prescribed by Marxism-Leninism.
     And finally, those who know leading communists know that the doctrine of “de-ideologization”, as one often calls it, is completely unfounded.  Many of these men have fought and suffered for this ideology.  It has brought them greatness.  They believe in it.
     Marxism-Leninism is, of course, not the sole factor that determines the course of history in these countries.  It is never the case in history that we can explain everything in terms of one force.  So, for example, local Russian or Chinese nationalism also plays a role.  But communism is still, among other things and above all things, determined by the ideology.
     The Communist Party is, in other words, still that which it has always, continuously been: An ideology in action.
      It was founded, exists, and acts above all in order to force its ideology, together with its resultant consequences, upon all of humanity.
     Perhaps this will change.  Some signs are pointing to this.  But still today anyone who would like to write off Marxism-Leninism as unimportant is entertaining a dangerous illusion.  He is, in many cases, a victim of his wishful thinking.  From this we must seriously be warned:  It does not correspond to the known facts.

[. . .]

     Accordingly, Marxism-Leninism, as a utopian gift of happiness to mankind, is ultimately condemned to failure.  The 'when' and 'how' does not hang on the lip service of those who possess incomparably better intellectual armament, but entirely on their will unfailingly to stand up to the challenge of Marxism-Leninism and consequently to adapt their thinking and actions for a permanent conflict with it.  That is a matter of conscience."

The original:

"Abschlieβend möchten wir noch die Bedeutung der Ideologie—d.h. des Marxismus-Leninismus—für den Kommunismus and für die kommunistischen Länder kurz erörtern.

[. . .]

Das kann man aus folgendem ersehen:
  1. Machen die Kommunisten überall gerade kolossale Anstrengungen, um ihn zu entwickeln und zu verbreiten.
  2. Handeln sie öfters so, daβ man ihr Verhalten nicht anders als durch die Treue dem Marxismus-Leninismus gegenüber erklären kann.
  3. Ist die Sache jedem, der mit bedeutenden Kommunisten in Berührung gekommen ist, direct sichtbar:  Sie sind gläubige Kommunisten, sie glauben an den Marxismus-Leninismus als an eine absolute Wahrheit.

Also erstens:  Die Kommunisten machen groβe materielle und geistige Anstrengungen, um ihre Philosophie zu entwickeln und zu verbreiten.  Ein paar Ziffern:  Die Bibliographie der sowjetischen Philosophie, die vom Freiburger Osteurope-Institut veröffentlicht worden ist, umfaβt mehr als zweitausend Namen von aktiven Philosophen.  Heute dürften es in der Sowjetunion wohl um die Zwölftausend sein.  In Moskau allein gibt es etwa einhundert Ordinarii für Philosophie an den Hochschulen.  Die Auflagen der ideologischen Schriften sind geradezu kolossal.  So wurden von Lenins Werken bis 1959 301 015 000 Exemplare veröffentlicht.  Ähnliches gilt von den anderen kommunistischen Ländern.  So hat Jugoslawien, das vor dem letzten Weltkrieg noch keine nennenswerte Philosophie aufzuweisen hatte, eine bedeutende philosophische Schule.

Das ist das eine:  Die Kommunisten machen groβe Anstrengungen, um ihren Marxismus-Leninismus zu verbreiten.  Auβerdem handeln sie zweitens oft so, daβ dies durch nichts anderes als durch ihre Ideologie erklärbar ist.  Zwei Beispiele sind hier bezeichnend:  Einerseits pflegen die Kommunisten überall die Vergesellschaftung der Bauern mit geradezu katastrophalen Folgen für die Wirtschaft durchzuführen.  Der politische Sinn dieser Bemühung ist mehr als fragwürdig.  Sie entfremdet der Partei die Bauern und wirtschaftlich ist sie geradezu widersinnig.  Warum handelt man so?  Weil es vom Marxismus-Leninismus so gefordert wird.

Andererseits gibt es regelmäβig in den kommunistischen Ländern einen ebenso politisch sinnlosen Kampf gegen die Religion.  In manchen Ländern, so z. B. in Ungarn und Polen, wäre es relativ leicht, die Massen zu gewinnen, sähe man davon ab.  Nein, man führt den Kampf rücksichtslos weiter.  Und zwar nur deshalb, weil dies im Marxismus-Leninismus vorgeschrieben wird.

Und endlich, jene, die führende Kommunisten kennen, wissen, daβ die Lehren von der Entideologisierung, wie man sie oft nennt, jeder Grundlage entbehren.  Viele unter diesen Männern haben für diese Ideologie gekämpft und gelitten.  Sie hat ihnen Groβes gebracht.  Sie glauben an sie.

Natürlich ist der Marxismus-Leninismus nicht der alleinige Faktor, der den Lauf der Geschichte in diesen Ländern bestimmt.  In der Geschichte ist es nie so, daβ wir alles durch eine Kraft erklären könnten.  So spielt z. B. der locale, russische oder chinesische Nationalismus auch seine Rolle.  Aber unter anderem und vor allem ist der Kommunismus immer noch durch die Ideologie bestimmt.

Die Kommunistische Partei ist, in anderen Worten, immer noch das, was sie stets gewesen ist:  Eine Ideologie in Aktion.

Sie wurde begründet, besteht und handelt vor allem, um der gesamten Menschheit ihre Ideologie samt ihren Konsequenzen aufzuzwingen.

Vielleicht wird sich dies ändern.  Einige Anzeichen deuten darauf hin.  Aber noch heute gibt sich jeder, der den Marxismus-Leninismus als unwichtig abschreiben möchte, einer gefährlichen Illusion hin.  Er ist in vielen Fällen ein Opfer seines Wunschdenkens.  Davor muss ernstlich gewarnt werden:  Es entspricht den uns bekannten Tatsachen nicht.


Demnach ist der Marxismus-Leninismus als utopische Menschheitsbeglückung letztlich zum Scheitern verurteilt.  Das “Wann” und “Wie” hängt nicht von den Lippenbekenntnissen derjenigen ab, die unvergleichlich bessere geistige Waffen besitzen, sondern das hängt ganz von ihrem Willen ab, sich der Herausforderung des Marxismus-Leninismus ständig zu stellen und ihr Denken und Handeln konsequent auf eine permanente Auseinandersetzung mit ihm einzurichten.  Das ist eine Gewissensfrage."