Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

“Jihadism” is it a form of fascism? Debate on French Left.

with 13 comments

“These remarks follow the text of Laurent Lévy on this site entitled “Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism”. This is not an answer but a few notes which aim to stimulate debate.

1 The term “jihadism” is probably the most suitable, it is in any case much better that “Islamo-fascist”, which does not in itself  exclude discussion on these two terms.

2 Has Jihadism nothing to do with Islam? Lawrence said we do not have to take the self-definitions of those principally involved. Some caution is indeed required. Not so long ago there were countries that defined themselves  as People’s Democracies – a term which was very questionable  in the least. Which leave us with the question – one that I do not find it so easy to solve – who is the judge in these matters?

The attacks in Paris were condemned by currents unlikely to be held to represent a “moderate Islam” – the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which called the murderers the worst enemies of the Prophet. It is not up to non-Muslims to contradict them, says Lawrence. The end of the sentence seems common sense: non-Muslims are not the best position to judge what is  Islam or what is not. The beginning of the same sentence is rather more questionable. We are not obliged, or to take as given, what Hamas or Hezbollah say,  on the grounds that they are not representatives of “moderate Islam.” After all, there are within Sunni Islam many currents that deny that the  Alevis or the Shias even  belong to Islam. Why should we believe them? On the grounds that we are not Muslims (which is true) and that they are not moderate (also true)? In a climate of hysteria and a climate of heightened national security we clearly have an interest in avoiding putting all Muslims in the same category. But, to return to the “people’s democracies”, could it be said so easily that they  had nothing to do with the communist movement?

3- On the question of fascism, I am to be relatively cautious, without being satisfied with the approach developed by Lawrence. For words to make sense we should not use them indiscriminately.  A military dictatorship, for example, does not need to be a fascist to be abominable and to be fought (and calling the French riot police, the  CRS the SS is probably not the acme of political analysis). We must therefore be wary of using ready-made categories that can easily become stale and fixed.

There is no doubt that the emergence of fascism in the interwar period in Europe was a way to break the working class. That class, influenced by the creation and the breath of the October Revolution had become a legitimate player in the conquest of political power. But if we limited fascism to this, the issue would not be restricted to  a debate for historians about the 1920s and the 1930s. Today the impact of  October (or the Chinese Revolution in Asia) is minimal, and instead of a rising working class, the labour movement, which we witness, is  in a poor state. Can we say that the issue of fascism no longer exists. The counter-revolutionary AND totalitarian dimensions of the  “jihadist” groups  is such that we cannot dismiss the term ‘fascism’ so easily. When Pierre Rousset speaks of “religious fascism” because these organisations occupy the same niches as fascism, there is no lack of argument. An article by Farooq Tariq, leader of the LPP (Pakistan) states: “The fanatical religious groups are being constituted as forms of fascism. ” ( ttp://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article33933 ).

These views can of course be criticised I do not think these can be dismissed out of hand.

In short this is an ongoing debate.”

A reply to  Islamo-fascism” or “jihadism” Laurent Lévy. 

Lévy  notes that the ‘syntagma’ (syntactic arrangement) Islamic-fascism has been used by the nominally ‘socialist’ Prime Minister, Manuel Valls (that is, be wary of the words!!!).

He asserts that is not up to the non-Muslims to decide on what is Islamic or not, and that most consider that the Islamic state is not Islamic.  Lévy  argues that in terms of class analysis one cannot talk of Islamic-Fascism. “..sectarian, violent and totalitarian movements claiming Islam does not fall within this analysis ” That they cannot be compared with movements helped by the “bourgeoisie to break the labour movement and to take over certain sectors of the capital to help solve its internal contradictions.” in the 1920s and 1930s.

But that, Jihadism, is the word that designates, “these currents that claim Islam in the attempt to impose by mass violence a totalitarian society.”


It is interesting that the relation between Islamist ‘counter-revolution’ and classical European fascism is raised.

What would seem a better way to approach this is to look at one form of actually existing Islamism: the Islamic State, Daesh (1). Not just its international actions, but the structure of the state they have created in Syria and Iraq: a  racist, repressive, genocidal regime, based on slavery and the oppression of women, with a highly developed system of ‘law’ (the Sharia, as they see it).

Whether we call this Jihadism or fascism it is clear that it is a ‘totalitarian’ political entity.

A murderous one to boot.

(1) ‘Actually existing’ – an expression I take from the pro-Soviet left in the 1970s which talked of ‘actually existing socialism’.


13 Responses

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  1. …Look, we’ve got this leader, who is one of those rare visionary thinkers and leaders who comes to represent and usher in a whole new phase of things in their given field of expertise. In this case he is ushering in a whole new phase of the communist revolution and a whole new conception of the kind of society and world we need to be building for the benefit of humanity. Think of the role played by a Marx, or a Lenin, or a Mao at earlier stages of history. This is the kind of visionary leader we are talking about.


    the above refers to Bob Avakian, the leader of the RCP USA. read him and get on the right track.


    February 24, 2015 at 1:02 am

  2. Is jihadism a variant of an interwar, European, violently nationalist, antisocialist current? Probably not. Jihadism is jihadism.


    February 24, 2015 at 8:28 am

  3. If it’s not fascism, then that can only be on a technicality that is of little or no practical relevance.

    Jim Denham

    February 24, 2015 at 9:29 am

  4. The practical relevance is all too obvious. It is attracting a quite different set of people, who are seduced by its message in quite different ways. Its adherents are interested in different things, and fight in different ways against different enemies, when compared with European fascism. It is simply not the same thing at all. It should therefore be evident that it will need to be resisted differently. Try to find any model of inter- or post-war anti-fascist struggle that would be likely to work against jihadists. If you can think of one, I’d be very interested.


    February 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

  5. “Try to find any model of inter- or post-war anti-fascist struggle that would be likely to work against jihadists. If you can think of one, I’d be very interested”:

    Eh…how about fighting them?

    Jim Denham

    February 24, 2015 at 4:38 pm

  6. There are some comparisons to be made under the general term ‘totalitarian’.

    But I fear that with Daesh the only fight against them is directly military.

    Andrew Coates

    February 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm

  7. “Try and find any model of inter- or post-war anti-fascist struggle that would be likely to work against jihadists. If you can think of one, I’d be very interested.”

    The Kurds in Kobane showed one way of beating back Isis, albeit it was necessary for them to get military support (rightly, imo) from the Americans. They still won though which, I’m sure, has given some genuine cause for celebration among democratic, secular forces in the Middle East and beyond.

    As for the Britsh Far Left, they seem to be more interested in debating in what circumstances the Jihadists should be supported (eg Taliban and the Iraqi “resistance” which included Al Qaeda) and in forming alliances with their sympathisers in the UK rather than opposing them.

    John R

    February 24, 2015 at 6:51 pm

  8. “Eh…how about fighting them?”

    Yes – how, specifically? A carnival? Leafletting? AFA-style hit squads? Here in Britain, in Western Europe, jihadism is an ideology which has won a few adherents. How do you think it can be defeated or marginalised? Perhaps you have some practical experience of successful anti-jihadism you can share? It’s not a big problem here in the wilds of Norfolk, so I wouldn’t know what has been successfully tried elsewhere.


    February 24, 2015 at 7:30 pm

  9. All this straining about ISIS being “Islamic” or not is really not worth the effort for Westerners. In about five minutes you could learn how “Christian” the Ku Klux Klan is as you know the “language” of the religion. Islam is a foreign tongue that you have to learn labouriously from the outside and even then you won’t have the instinct for it that an ordinary, uneducated native has.

    So you can only turn to who seems the most knowledgeable of the native speakers.

    Here’s an interesting account of reading ISIS’s videos.

    “As with earlier videos, the propagandists begin with a salutation that we know well: “In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.” This phrase starts every chapter of the Quran but one chapter, the use of it by the Islamic State propagandists positioning themselves squarely within the realm of the accepted rhetoric of Islam. The media company name that produced the video flashes “Al-Hayat Media Center,” on screen, invoking an oft-repeated Quranic principle of hay at, or “life.” The Jordanian pilot burn video carried the brand “Al Furqan” media company. Furqan, a Quranic chapter title, represents “the standard” between good and “evil.” “



    February 24, 2015 at 10:35 pm

  10. Francis: the left has to (a) denounce the jihardists/Islamists in exactly the same way we do conventional fascists; (b) when their victims (eg gays, jews, women) are under physical attack, mobilise to physically defend them; (c) educate all our contacts (especially the young) in the reactionary nature of jihardism/Islamism and the need for constant vigilance against it and to constantly oppose it and fight it by all means necessary.

    Grace Dent in the Independent gets it right: “In Isis we are observing a level of atrocity towards mankind that, post-Nazism, we hoped we would never again witness. But with Isis there’s no excuse for not knowing what “they” are up to. There will no big post-war reveal where we can wring our hands saying, “Well, this is awful, but we had no idea”. “

    Jim Denham

    February 25, 2015 at 3:27 am

  11. Rosie exactly: which is why I use the term “actually existing Islamism”.

    We are not going to satisfy any ‘learned’ Muslim on on what is a “timeless” of “un-created” or indeed “created” document that is apparently the fountain of all human knowledge and existence – particularity as it is written in what is, apparently, the privileged and unique language of god, Arabic.

    As Jim says though, there are more violent psychopaths attracted to and involved in these movements than many are prepared to admit.

    Grace Dent was a breath of fresh air on this point.

    Andrew Coates

    February 25, 2015 at 1:09 pm

  12. What happened to my comment that Islam(ism) seeks the EXTINCTION of the working class, unlike classical fascism which merely seeks to control it?

    Sue R

    February 25, 2015 at 3:55 pm

  13. Reblogged this on A Clearer Future and commented:
    Islam discussion


    February 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm

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