Tendance Coatesy

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

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“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.”

Comment.

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’.

New Atheism Behind ‘War on Muslims’ – Morning Star

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Hate-Filled Philosophy Inspired Killer Craig Hicks.

The Morning Star today (Hat-tip Jim D).

The War on Muslims Reaches US Soil.

Somebody called Ramzay Baroud writes,

The murder of three US Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium last week was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug.

The Daily explains,

Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism — what (sic)  religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.”

It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, its malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.

New Atheists are of course different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group.

The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and US author Sam Harris, who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”

So,

Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous logic.

But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and napalm” (a funny, sad line from the US comedy, M*A*S*H).

(Note: very funny, ha, ha.)

It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanisation needed to wage war.

The ‘author’ then splurges in another direction,

Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, a gun-toting, unreasonably and immeasurably angry white US citizen. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little (sic).

So Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution-style” because of a dispute over parking spaces.

The same way that Chris Kyle — “the American Sniper” — made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.

(Note ‘in the same way’….)

He concludes, spluttering,

It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement but call the US government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.

And why not call the ‘New Atheists’ to account?

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins beware: be afraid, be very afraid..

******

Further notes on Baroud’s politics (from here, January 8th 2015)

He thinks this: “Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world. ” (no Arab slave trade…..), “gender equality in Islam has been enshrined in the language of the Koran and the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.”

I can’t be bothered with most of this history-as-fairy-story but I notice this in the same article

Baroud rails at the “the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed…” and then remarks of those condemning the attack:

Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe? 

Charlie had it coming to them…

As no doubt did the Jewish customers at the Porte de Vincennes Hyper Cacher.

Charlie: We Publish ‘Provocative’ Bolshevik anti-Religious Caricatures.

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Very British Bolsheviks Shocked by Soviet Islamophobia!

We defend our beloved Charlie to the hilt.

But there are those who do not – apparently from the very British Bolsheviks.

As Seymour writes ” How dare you call this horseshit ‘satire’?”

Some more ‘horseshit’, from the early Soviet Union.

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From the always to the point The Charnel-House.

And to those above,  these below (from Early Soviet (anti)-Islamic propaganda here) though in fact they are from the late, rather than the early twenties.

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Our oh so-British Bolsheviks should surely protest to Lenin!

And also: Le combat des Lumières est devant nous Par Jean-Claude Monod.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Serious Concerns about the PCS Union.

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Martin Boyd, a supporter of Socialist Resistance who is active in the PCS union, shares his concerns about what’s happening in it.

I re-post this because it of great importance.

Socialist Resistance.

For quite some time rumours and queries about the state of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) finances have been in the public domain. It appeared that the financial crisis within the union might be the reason for the desire to merge with Unite.

However, despite the fact that in early December after the usual National Executive Committee (NEC), that we were told took bold financial measures including agreeing the sale of the union HQ, would provide financial stability in the short and medium term.

An emergency NEC meeting was called within a matter of days after the NEC and how did we find out about this emergency meeting

  • By “rumour”.
  • Being a trusted mate of someone on the NEC.
  • Better still, being a trusted mate of the “inner core” of full time and lay officers that make the key decisions.

However, most of us don’t have mates on the NEC and even fewer of us have mates amongst the senior full time officers. As part of the bold financial decisions taken it was agreed that the annual national and group elections be suspended.

So from a situation where it was reported that the unions finances were now in a stable situation within a matter of days the situation has become so grave that in order to save money elections will not be held

Behind the financial crisis is a falling membership due to staff redundancies and the end of check off, the stopping of taking subs from pay and forcing the Union to ask people to pay by Direct Debit. This attack on check off began in 2013 when it was announced it would end in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). This attempt was successfully stopped by a legal challenge in September 2013, with the legal judgement supporting the union that check off was a contractual right. Despite this victory it was obvious to al that this was merely a temporary setback to the Government and there would be a concerted effort to end check off. Despite these warnings the union leadership did nothing to campaign amongst members to switch to direct debit until the summer of 2014.

Alongside the tardiness of the leadership in realising that check off was ending, has being a complete failure of the union leadership to offer any real strategy in opposing job losses and office closures. We have a series of unrelated one day strikes that only serve to demoralise the membership, last year’s NEC election turnout was at an all time low. It seemed very likely that the turn out for the next set of NEC elections would be even lower.

The effect of these derisory turn outs is of course to undermine the legitimacy of the union leadership, a leadership that attempted to get the 2014 union conference to agree a merger with Unite and whilst a merger was not ruled out. Conference felt there needed to be more discussion about how the new union would operate with the inclusion of ex PCS members.

Apart from the very real financial crisis facing the union (and does it really mean we need to merge with another union?) or is it part of a grand scheme by the Socialist Party to imagine that it can act as a lever in breaking Unite from the Labour Party and within which union the Socialist Party becomes a left wing pole of attraction. And if this sounds familiar, that is because it is, when the forerunner of the Socialist Party, the Militant Tendency was in the Labour Party, they fondly imagined that if the Bennites took over the Labour Party, they would automatically become the left wing of this realigned party.

The reality is that the SP leadership of the union has provided no coherent strategy in defending jobs and service, has presided over a complete financial meltdown of the union. It is now proposing cancelling election and merging with Unite.

Cancelling elections will mean that the opponents of the current leadership will be prevented from standing and putting forward their arguments in elections and leave the existing leadership in place.

Comment: I am a supporter of UNITE for Labour Unite4Labour: I would not appreciate a small group of cranks trying to split our efforts to get Labour into power.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Robert Kurz: a Theorist Now Making his Mark in the English-Speaking World?

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Reading Marx in the 21st century-Robert Kurz

‘Wertkritik’

In the latest Historical Materialism there are two articles on Robert Kurz (24 December 1943 – 18 July 2012) was a German Marxist philosopher, social criticism publicist, journalist and editor of the journal Exit!. He was one of Germany’s most prominent theorists of value criticism.  His works have yet to be translated into, and published in, English.

They are worth signaling.

The late Robert Kurz was one of the principal theorists of ‘the critique of value’ in Germany. This paper uses the recent release of a collection of his essays in French translation and his posthumously published Geld ohne Wert [Money without Value] (2012) as a starting point for a discussion of the critical project that Kurz undertook over a period of 25 years. Kurz was exemplary in returning to the most radical insights of Marx, even when these went against some of the other ideas of the master. He was an ardent proponent of a crisis theory of capitalism: that the categories of the capitalist mode of production have reached their ‘historical limit’ as society no longer produces enough value. On this basis Kurz argued that none of the proposals for dealing with this crisis within the framework of capitalism are feasible. Kurz demonstrated that the basic categories of the capitalist mode of production, such as money, are not universal but that they developed at the same time, towards the end of the Middle Ages, with the invention of firearms and the states’ need for money that this fuelled. In Geld ohne Wert, Kurz asserts that money in pre-capitalist societies was not a bearer of value but a representation of social ties. He wonders whether, with the current crisis, we are seeing a return to a form of money without value, but now within the framework of a social sacrifice to the fetishistic form of mediation. The paper concludes by suggesting that Kurz has not yet reached a wider public outside Germany because for many his ideas still prove too radical to face.

And

Satanic Mills: On Robert Kurz  Author: Esther Leslie

A critical overview of the contribution of German Marxist Robert Kurz (1943–2012), focussing in particular on The Black Book of Capitalism: A Farewell to the Market Economy (first ed. 1999) and War for World Order: The End of Sovereignty and the Transformations of Imperialism in the Age of Globalisation (2003). This review explores the genesis and the main tenets of Kurz’s theory – especially his concept of value, the automatic subject, crisis and anti-Semitism – and tracks how they are mobilised in his writings over time. It also touches on the legacy of these ideas in political groups such as the Anti-Germans.

Both articles are of great interest and importance.

Kurz seems, to put it mildly, a tosser.

He seemed to think that anybody that didn’t hold to his idea that the critique of the ‘value form’ revealed  an incipient crisis was wrong.

But then I am an Althusserian who has always loathed ‘Wertkritik’.

Mind you Esther, an ex-SWP loyalist, seems to think he was also wrong because he was opposed to Islamism.

So he couldn’t have been all bad.

There is one minor point.

Can I be, no doubt not the first, to mention that apart from what Esther thinks is his unique contribution to the topic, there is another Black Book of Capitalism: the title of a French book, Le Livre Noir du Capitalisme (The Black Book of Capitalism) a French (collectively edited) book published in 1998 which has an entry in the English language Wikipedia. It was a major media event with an impact in the Hispanic speaking world.

Kurz’s Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus: ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft (The Black Book of Capitalism: A farewell to the market economy) published in 1999 passed almost unnoticed outside of the German speaking sphere.

One can read one of his articles here:  Reading Marx in the 21st century-Robert Kurz

Written by Andrew Coates

December 31, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Socialisme ou Barbarie: Complete Run Now onLine.

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Socialisme ou Barbarie (“Socialism or Barbarism”) was a French-based radical libertarian socialist group of the post-World War II period whose name comes from a phrase Friedrich Engels used, which was cited by Rosa Luxemburg in the 1916 essay The Junius Pamphlet. It existed from 1948 until 1965. The animating personality was Cornelius Castoriadis, also known as Pierre Chaulieu or Paul Cardan.  Writes Wikipedia (English Entry).

To those familiar with the French left, intellectual radicals, and postmodernism, it’s worth also pointing to the names  Claude Lefort (as Claude Montal) (1924-2010). SouB until 1958.  and Jean-François Lyotard (1924–1998). SouB: 1950- 1963 (PO). Edgar Morin, b. 1921 (some sources have him as a member in the early 1950s). Henri Simon, b. 1922. SouB: 1952- 1958. And the ‘situationist’  Guy Debord (1931–1994). SouB: One year from 1960 to 1961. Programatic statement, with Daniel Blanchard.#

The Holocaust denier and leading figure in the Vieille Taupe Pierre Guillaume, b. 1941 (or 1940 ?). SouB: 1960- 1963 (PO) was also a member

The British group, Solidarity, published many of ‘Paul Cardan’s’ texts. I bought them – in my (very) early teens – from the Collet’s Bomb Shop in Charing Cross Road.

They played a key part in my early political development.

Solidarity’s best-known figure was Chris Pallis, some of whose pamphlets (written under the name Maurice Brinton) continue to be worth reading, notably The Irrational in Politics.

The first biography of Castoriadas, Castoriadis, une vie  Francois DOSSE (2014) is winging my way.

Now La Battaile Socialiste signals that you read online, and download, the complete run of the review Socialisme ou Barbarie.

Un projet de numérisation complète est sur http://soubscan.org (let’s hope the link is working…)

 

 

Enjoy!

Culture and the Death of God. Terry Eagleton. An Atheist and Secular Critique.

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Review Article. Culture and the Death of God. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2014.

Xll

And who or what shall fill his place?

Whither will wanderers turn distracted eyes

For some fixed star to simulate their pace

Towards the goal of their enterprise?…

Xlll

Some in the background then I saw

Sweet women, men, youths, all incredulous

Who chimed, ‘This is a counterfeit of straw

This requiem mockery! Still he lives to us!

XlV

I could not buoy their faith: and yet

Many I had known: with all I sympathised;

And though struck speechless I did not forget

That what was mourned for, I, too, long had prized.

God’s Funeral. Thomas Hardy. (1)

Terry Eagleton introduces Culture and the Death of God by announcing, “This book is less about God than about the crisis occasioned by his apparent disappearance.” He continues, “I start by showing how God survived the rationalism of the eighteenth century, and conclude with his dramatic reappearance in our own supposedly faithless age.” (Page iix) Determined, it appears, to wrong foot one of his most cutting critics, Gregor McLennan, that his ‘theological turn’ simply sets one “static slogan, (God is back) against another (God is dead)” Eagleton turns to cultural and intellectual history (2). That is, a would-be dynamic account, “The history of the modern age is among other things the search for a viceroy for God, reason, nature, Geist, culture, art, the sublime, the nation, the state, science, humanity, Being, Society, the Other, desire, the life force and personal relations: all of these have acted form time to time as forms of displaced divinity.”(Page 44)

Culture and the Death of God is not, then an account of the wider social and individual fortunes of atheism or secularism. The “lived experience” explored by Charles Taylor, the web of changing attitudes in the “move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed unproblematic, to one in which it is understood as one option among others…” is dismissed (like – initially – Taylor himself) to a footnote. (3) Yet Eagleton is not shy of referring to the loss of “fundamental value” “moral rationales” (some of the deepest parts of feeling) – once offered by religion – in “underlying political power”.

Eagleton’s latest work is not a “sociological” history of faith and secularism at all. It is the story of the, long in coming, installation of “authentic atheism”, resting on the faithless ‘marketplace’ where the Economy is “rank atheist.” Eagleton tries to associate the ‘New Atheism’ with the ‘War on Terror’. The “alarmed liberal intelligentsia” clutching at “Reason, truth, science, progress and objectivity…” in the shape of Sam Harris, might suggest a very literal End of Faith to halt religious violence. That is by a pre-emptive nuclear strike against terrorism. (Page 202)

The Enlightenment.

Culture and the Death of God offers a rapid overview of the Enlightenment. It is informed by a number of secondary works, such as Peter Gay’s classic account of the battles for “freedom”, and its synthesis of the Christian and Pagan heritage, and by Jonathan I. Israel’s more recent studies. The latter distinguished a ‘Radical Enlightenment,” of figures like Spinoza, Bayle. Diderot, based on “toleration, personal freedom, democracy, equality racial and sexual, freedom of expression, sexual emancipation and the universal right to knowledge and a ‘Moderate’ version – Locke, Newton, Hume, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Turgot and Kant, to throw in a few names. Israel commented, “the difference between reason alone and reason combined with faith and tradition..”

Israel traced modern ideas of “personal liberty, comprehensive toleration, equality, sexual and racial and a secular morality of equity” back to this radical strain (5). Eagleton is more interested in its stand on religion. Many, the majority, classed as Auflkärer (the German word he frequently employs) were deists, who had no beef with God, only with Revealed and, institutional religion. “It was religion in this institutional sense that most of the philosphes took as their target.”(Page 7) Indeed, even the most radical sceptics and atheists were frightened of a godless, and ‘thus’ potentially immoral, populace. “The Enlightenment’s assault on religion, then, at root a political rather than theological affair.”(Page 12)

In fact Enlightenment thinkers were not really capable of killing off God even if they had wanted to. The claims of Reason – even, one assumes, Hume’s extreme scepticism ‘Pyrrhonism’ – were curbed, and their overweening ambitions, bootless. “When human reasoning becomes autonomous, it approaches divine status; but a rationalised world is also one in which its presence gradually dwindles, so that he grows remote from rationality and becomes accessible only through faith and feeling. In this sense the other face of rationalism is fideism.”(Page 34)

The French Revolution’s brief radical Dechristianisation, never struck a popular chord. The idea that “patriotism should be the new faith, the Declaration of the Rights of Man its Apostles” did not last long. The Culte de l’Être suprême that followed struck no roots, although the Constitutional Church had some support.  Eagleton does appear close to one of Robespierre thoughts that, “Atheism is aristocratic. The conception of a great being who watches over oppressed innocence and punishes successful crime, is democratic through and through.” Nevertheless, he observes, the  ‘bloodless Supreme Being” could not, nevertheless take the place of the real, and bloodied, thing. (6)

Culture and the Death of God then takes us through a whole series of thinkers – remote from popular culture. The German Idealists tried to repair any split between reason and nature, the romantics went further and reinvented God as nature of culture, incarnate in Nationalism, and by the 20th century (modernist) Culture itself (post-Matthew Arnold) had risen to the empty throne, as the new vice-regent of God. As (falsely) in Eagleton’s eyes, as a source of social cohesion, the “corporate sense of culture” of ultimate value, and transcendence, all have stumbled along, ‘surrogates’ for the divine.

It is hard to take seriously Eagleton’s claim that “None of (these) divine deputies are “graven images of the godhead.” They are “phenomena in their own right, not simply a locum tenas or camouflaged version of something else.” But nearly every page of Culture and the Death of God traces religion in “textual styles of thought, which then unwittingly help to keep divinity alive in a more clandestine way.”(Page 45) So if many ideas do not simply stand in for God, if we look beneath the disguise – from the appearance to the ‘essence’ – we will find some divine contraband.

To cite just two cases. Nietzsche’s views on the ‘death of Man’, to pair with the ‘death of God’ are the condition for the birth of New Humanity. For Eagleton this is “orthodox Christian doctrine” – regardless of his notorious loathing on Christianity. (Page 159) Eagleton also asserts that Marx was “deeply informed by Judeo-Christian thought. It is not here, then, that an authentic atheism is to be found.”(Page 161) And “humanity for Marx is not a self-determining absolute, and so cannot scramble on to the empty throne of its Creator. If Marx is more religious than Nietzsche in some ways, he is less so in others.” (Ibid). In this – shabby – way at least one of the two most notorious atheists in history comes close to a posthumous conversion.

A Theology?

A commonplace – irritating – of some of the faithful is that people cannot really disbelieve in god. To try to do so is to end up with ersatz religion. Culture and the Death of God is not short in finding proof that we cannot do without ‘something’ to fill what Ferdinand Mount has called “an enormous empty space in people’s lives” created by the “the eclipse of a single God-centred explanation.” (7) Perhaps one of the most scathing criticisms of these “substitutes” is of George Elliot’s devotion to Duty. A.N. Wilson has cited F.W.H. Myers’ that most beautiful and humane of Ethical novelists, “I seemed to be gazing, like Titus at Jerusalem, on vacant seats and empty halls – on a sanctuary with no presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God.” (8)

In these, and countless ways, Eagleton tries to demonstrate that  ‘God’ never really died in Western culture – his shadow loomed too large.

Before looking at what Eagleton considers authentic atheism – which does not mourn these sanctuaries – what exactly is his God centred explanation? In a sense only one part of the Godhead plays a role: Christ. Christian faith, he wrote in Reason, Faith and Revolution (2009) is not primarily about whether “there exists a Supreme Being” but “the kind of commitment made manifest by a human being at the end of his tether foundering in darkness, pain, and bewilderment, who nevertheless remains faithful to the promise of a transformative love.” (9)

This is what is presented to us, “The crucifixion proclaims that the truth of human history is a tortured political criminal. It is a message profoundly unacceptable to those sunk in dewy-eyed delusion (idealists, progressives, liberals, reformers, Yea-Sayers, modernisers, socialist humanists though one which as perfectly understood by a Jew like Walter Benjamin. Only if you can gaze on this frightful image without being turned to stone, accepting it was absolutely the last word is there a slim chance that it might not be. This chance is known to the Christian faith as resurrection. To acknowledge this thing of darkness as one’s own discerning in this monstrous image a reflection of oneself and one’s historical condition, is the revolutionary act which the Gospels know as metanoia, of conversion.”(10) Repentance, acceptance of this Revealed Truth, is a commitment to the future, not a submission to the past.

This, then, is the root of a “tragic sense” of religion, “Those who hold suffering and hope most finely in balance – the true tragic protagonists, so to speak – are those who rise up because they have little enough to lose, yet for that reason have the power to transform their condition.” One might call this Faith, a leap into the world itself, through divine grace. (11)

In Culture and the Death of God we learn of the social message contained within. The New Testament “shows no enthusiasm for social consensus. Since it holds that such values are imminently to pass away, it is not greatly taken with standards of civic excellence or codes of good conduct. What it adds to common-or-garden morality is not some supernatural support, but the grossly inconvenient news that out forms of life must undergo radical dissolution if they are to be reborn as just and compassionate communities. The sign of that dissolution is solidarity with the poor and powerless. It is here that a new configuration of faith, culture and politics might be born.” (Page 208)

These images of suffering, of the crucifixion, the Passion of the Christ, or the Mel Gibson portrait of the Stations of the Cross, faced with the imminence of the passing of the world, are unlikely to appeal to many a Doubting Thomas. Creating something from what we do not see, on the basis of one writer’s Christology, beyond the range of possible experience (and with little sign of the gentle warmth and kindness of the Redeemer), and putting this at the heart of faith itself, is the purest and most virulent irrationalism. How this will end in “compassionate communities “is a mystery too deep to grasp. One suspects that not many theologians, who have their own rooted human rationality, would follow Eagleton, for all of those twentieth century writers who have made the “scandal” of the crucifixion at the centre of their thought.

Capitalism, Secularism and Fundamentalism.

“Whenever the Almighty seems safely dispatched, he is always liable to stage a reappearance in one disguise or another.”(Page 119)

The economy, for Eagleton, we have noted, is “atheist”. Culture and the Death of God explains, “The faithlessness of advanced capitalism is built into its routine practices. It is not primarily a question of the piety of scepticism of its citizens. The marketplace would continue to behave atheistically even if every one of its actors was a born-again Evangelical.”(Page 196) The coming of Postmodernism – a self no longer coherent enough to need to project itself as God onto the world, has bolstered its faithless character. There is “no Big Other, no grand totality or transcendental signifier.”(Page 190)  It is only now that the whole of Western society is undergoing the real harrowing of atheism.

Yet, “No sooner has a thoroughly atheistic culture arrived on the scene, one which was no longer anxiously in pursuit of that place-holder for God, than the deity himself was suddenly back on the agenda with a vengeance.”(Page 197) A vast list of causes, from the West’s international interventions, globalised capitalism, to social anxiety, anomie and powerlessness, has created a new surge in religion. “Western capitalism, in short, has managed to help spawn not only secularism, but also fundamentalism”. The latter, in its multiple forms, has appeared “as a refuge an a strength for those who feel crushed by its own predatory politics.”(Page 198) “The Almighty, it appears, was not safely nailed down in its coffin after all, He had simply changed address, migrating to the US Bible Belt, the Evangelical churches of Latin America and the slums of the Arab world. And his fan club is steadily increasing.”(Page 199) As a result we have a new ‘grand narrative, “the so-called war on terror.”

Is ‘secularism’ the “spawn” of capitalism? In Inventing the Individual. The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014) Larry Siedentop has argued that its liberal roots, the ‘privatisation’ of individual judgement, lie in Christianity and the importance it places on the individual, not the group, the family, the tribe or the nation. From the grace of faith, to freedom of choice to believe or not, the journey Charles Taylor describes, was not smooth. Secular states – that is not dominated by religious authorities with freedom of belief for all – are the result of a long European ‘civil war’, to establish these freedoms. The left, in the broadest sense of the term, has shouldered much of this struggle. Many believers, particularly from religious minorities, have joined. The fight was not borne forward by those uniquely dedicated to Truth of the Event of the Crucifixion but by those with more modest horizons, the love of their fellows, those dedicated to tolerance and liberty.

That there are those opposed to this ideal, ‘fundamentalists’ is all too clear. The problems they cause, above all from political Islam, are with us now. Eagleton wrote in On Evil “Had the West acted differently in its treatment of certain Muslim nations, it might have escaped at least some of the aggression that is now seeing visited upon it.”(12) But is less than obvious that extremist Islamism would have been killed in the egg, if ‘justice’ to their calls – that is, their demands for a theocracy – a Caliphate – had ever been met. The killers in Pakistan are those whose “radical innovation consist of bringing chaos into being, thus putting creation into reverse. By blowing a black hole in what God has fashioned, he tries to catapult himself into equal terms with him.” (13) What possible ‘justice’ could slake their murderous “death drive”?

Culture and the Death of God is stitched together from a patchwork of intellectual texts. It folds up when it’s placed over the real, the mundane real not the Lacanian Real. It is Eurocentric. The ‘war on terror’ is a thin enough doctrine, but it covers something much deeper. As Fred Halliday pointed out (in 2002), there is an “enormous, long and very violent clash within the Muslim world between those who want to reform and secularise and those who power is threatened or who want to take power in the name of fundamentalism.” (14) Comments about the decentred self of Western capitalism and a “new form of Western cultural supremacism” are, frankly, trivial in comparison with the depth of these clashes. (Page 202)

A Marxist stand, a democratic socialist position, would be to side with the secular intelligentsia, defending religious pluralism, and the working class against the pious Islamist bourgeoisie and the genociders of the Caliphate and Al-Qaeda. But I leave that, vast, issue, hanging.

Eagleton never bothers to distinguish between agnosticism – hard (it is impossible to know that god exists or not), or soft (there is no reason to believe or not to believe in god) – and atheism – god does not exist. Many people who hold to these views simply do not feel the need for religion, have no “religious experience” and have no more divine gaps in their lives than they have a Third Eye. Believers are right to smart at ‘New Atheist’ charges that they are “are thick and/or uneducated “(Ferdinand Mount). There is a great deal of kindness carried out by religious people and we should glory in these acts. To be told that our ideas are either ‘really’ religious and/or Western examples of Western ‘supremicism’ is equally condescending. And we observe that Eagleton’s particular New Left Church stands, on the evidence, with few followers and empty of newly converted sceptics

References.

(1) Cited in God’s Funeral. A.N. Wilson. John Murray. 1999. This is a much more humane and intelligible account of the loss of faith, and the ‘bereavement ’ felt by Victorians at this, than Eagleton’s lofty pamphlet.

(2) Mr Love and Justice. Gregor McLennan. New Left Review Second Series. 64. 2010.

(3) Page 3. A Secular Age. Charles Taylor. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2007.

(4). The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. Vol. 1. The Rise of Modern Paganism. Vol. 2. The Science of Freedom. Peter Gay. W.W.Norton. 1977 (1966). Page 4 Enlightenment Contested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670 – 1752. Jonathan I. Israel. Oxford University Press. 2006

(5) Page 869. Jonathan I. Israel op cit.

(6) Page 266. Fatal Purity. Robespierre and the French Revolution. Ruth Scurr.Chatto and Windus. 2006. See also Religion and Revolution in France. 1780 – 1804. Nigel Aston. Macmillan. 2000. For Aston Robespierre and the Jacobins’ Supreme Being did have supporters but for the majority, worshiping this deity was “like taking an ice-maiden for bedfellow…”(Page 274)

(7) Page 215. Full Circle. How the Classical World Came Back to us. Ferdinand Mount. Simon & Shuster. 2010.

(8) Pages 151 to 152. A.N. Wilson. Op cit.

(9) Page 37. Reason, Faith and Revolution. Reflections on the God Debate. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2009.

(10) Pages xxvii – xxviii. Terry Eagleton Presents Jesus Christ. The Gospels. Verso 2007.

(11) Page 272. The Trouble with Strangers. Terry Eagleton. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009.

(12) Pages 157 – 8 On Evil. Terry Eagleton. Yale University Press. 2010.

(13) Page 97 Holy Terror. Terry Eagleton. Oxford 2005.

(14). Page 46. Two Hours that Shook the World. Fred Halliday, Saqi Books. 2002

See also: Eagleton, Terry (19 October 2006). “Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching. London Review of Books.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm