On Being Religious Revolutionary during the Pandemic: Insights from an American Socialist


Baca Juga:

May all of my Islamic comrades be blessed in your righteous struggle against oppression. Let us be reminded of Imam Hussein who fought against tyranny and corruption becoming a revolutionary martyr and laying the true foundation for Islamic Socialism. We are all the inheritors of this amazing legacy and we shall stand in full solidarity with the struggles. We live in a world that is, by a vast majority, deeply spiritual and the time has come for socialists to embrace that. This way, we can fix the errors of some of our revolutionary ancestors in persecuting or ignoring religion and unlock a revolutionary potential that blesses the greatest struggle that humanity has ever known to liberate the mind, body, and soul forever. It is through this struggle that we can even begin to create a world that is worthy of the heavens in our holy texts.

I have been actively engaged in revolutionary efforts from a young age fighting against all kinds of oppression whether it be racial, gender, economic, sexual, and other forms of oppression while maintaining the importance that a class struggle is paramount above all. We have more in common, after all, with the Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Christian poor than the Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Christian capitalists and we cannot ignore this. I am a proud Religious Socialist and fully support a revival of this side of socialism internationally. As such, I’ve traveled around the world to speak and engage with local revolutionaries to educate each other and help aid their efforts. I stand fully by what Marx labeled as the purpose of socialism in the “Wages of Labour” section of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844:

To develop in greater spiritual freedom, a people must break their bondage to their bodily needs—they must cease to be the slaves of the body. They must, above all, have time at their disposal for spiritual creative activity and spiritual enjoyment.”

Only socialism combined with our spiritual and mystical knowledge along with the blessings of the Divine can accomplish this in solidarity.

Black Lives Matter from the socialist lens

I am currently involved in coordination efforts to aid in the recent social uprisings relating to racial and economic justice in the United States. Despite the lack of coverage from the media and the lack of support from the capitalist liberal establishment, these actions continued albeit on a smaller scale. These mostly involve keeping track of police and federal movements during protests, educational efforts and lectures about the issues at hand through a socialist lens, shaming our politicians for not taking any actions, and, of course, engaging in direct action with the people. I am a proud supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement through my resources, solidarity, and activism. I am also actively involved in actions to end the incarceration of immigrants in our concentration camps and Rojava solidarity efforts as our comrades in Northern Syria have had to deal with imperialist ventures from all sides including the USA while they attempt to build a truly free and socialist society in a Muslim heartland.

On the BLM movement, it must be made clear that the American proletariat has an ongoing issue with having these constant explosions where they become aware of the matters that oppress them. These moments have revolutionary potential but they are quickly neutralized into weak capitalist liberalism through the two biggest enemies of the struggle in the United States: Attrition and Compromise. The spirit of our struggle within Black Lives Matter is one of liberation and justice but it sadly lacks the theoretical foundation of socialism to create an imperative drive and utopian desire, which I feel are necessary in order to achieve these goals. Even though it is not explicitly socialist, the involvement of socialists in such a vast grassroots movement of the people is essential in order to make sure its idea and energy are not co-opted by the shameful electoral establishment. Currently, the struggle is a quarter of the size it was during the summer and still shrinking, but it still is powerful enough to instill fear into the hearts of the establishment with politicians openly working to curb the work of the far-right and their police allies for fear of future militancy. The intensity is mostly gone, but the spirit remains, and I do think it is a continual spirit of my generation, a zeitgeist to put it in Hegelian terms, as it has now become the “specter that haunts America” to paraphrase the Manifesto. We cannot achieve victory with every movement but we can cause them to become the conscience of a nation. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a great religious socialist, understood this and though we still have much to do regarding racial liberation and equality in the USA, his efforts made sure that the movement would never fade away. In this way, it continues through the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of other figures of the religious left here such as Reverend William Barber and his Poor People’s Campaign and the recent election of a religious socialist to the Senate, Reverend Raphael Warnock.

To understand the landscape of radical politics and movements in the United States, you must first break down your perceptions of what it means to be a leftist in this country. There is a global assumption which implies that there is a united American left to refer to when, sadly, such a thing currently does not exist. The American Left, as the media here has quoted me in saying before, is quite impotent, absolutely embarrassing, and yet the most important in the global struggle because we reside within the heart of the hegemonic empire. What causes it to be impotent and embarrassing? Well, it is heavily tied to the conceptions of American identity so common and indoctrinated into us from our early schooling which rely on exceptionalist fantasies that tend to forget the settler and colonialist ancestry of most of the non-Native and non-African population that resides in these lands. The proper socialist conception of an American should be anyone inside of our borders no matter their “legality” and the like because we must embrace the struggles of all workers within the false jurisdiction of our capitalist police state. However, from an internationalist standpoint, we must look at the nation-states of the world as myths, dreams of an elite class turned into tools of mass oppression in which they can use the working class as pawns in their wargames to increase profits and for bragging rights. We do not exist in countries; we exist within the invisible fences of the vast estates of the capitalist class. If you were to ask the average American, however, the answers will always differ as to the conception of what is an American and what America is as such resides in a schizophrenic thought-space that would make Freud blush. The arguments that happen serve only to divide us as the definitions narrow further and further as seen even by former President Trump’s exclusion of so many “regular” Americans and how President Biden will continue most of these policies under the guise of capitalist tolerance.

The politics of religion: the legacy of Malcolm X, Black Panthers, and Martin Luther King

The American populace is generally exhausted by the political possibilities of religion and yet finds it all entrancing and inescapable as an encompassing spectacle. We do see major movements revolving around ending economic injustice and poverty such as the Poor People’s Campaign of Reverend William Barber, but they are considered unique and not a terribly potent force. This is due to the inability of socialists and religious folks to unite in their struggles especially when it comes to socialists embracing the revolutionary possibility of religion due still to the atheistic Soviet influence on modern socialist thinking. This is, of course, changing slowly but hopefully for an acceleration towards this unity in the United States. However, for the rest of the world, this is more of a possibility as seen not just with the wonderful work being done with Islam Bergerak but also with the Kurdish liberation movements, Catholic liberation theologians in Latin America, Dalit Buddhist movements of India, and more. We are on the cusp of a full international revival of Religious Socialism and we must work towards it aligned with interfaith solidarity if we are to see any of our struggles succeed in our deeply religious world.

The powerful revolutionary figures of Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Martin Luther King have their legacies very much alive in current American struggles but we have lost accurate memory of them in the popular imagination due to the concerted efforts to erase the truth of their struggles in our public sphere of education.

The Black Panthers are popularly considered “too violent” or “racial terrorists”, Malcolm X is view as a “fanatic” and also “too violent” especially in comparison with Dr. King (whose socialist legacy has been outright erased and neutered into the support of nonviolence against state forces), and Elijah Mohammad is referred to as a “madman” and “hate-monger”. It must be noted that despite these figures having similar struggles, only the Christian one (Dr. King) is honored by the Federal forces in an attempt to neuter Christian resistance by making it part of the civic celebrations and official narrative of history. A Muslim or any other religious minority here speaking truth to power would not be so beloved in all honesty and this continues to be the case. There are many critiques to have of all these figures, but their revolutionary histories and struggles are important to study nonetheless as they show not just the revolutionary potential in racial struggles in the United States but also show especially in the latter cases what is possible through the unity of religious and revolutionary thought. I do believe my generation is far more inspired by these figures than previous generations but they do not come into the focus as they should. Also, there are no major attempts to revive or re-establish their important legacies.

We should return as well to how Christian hegemony is weaponized by the American Capitalists to where even Christian Socialists have their legacies and work weaponized against socialists from other faith traditions. The narrative in our nation has been since the 1960s “the well-spoken black Christian preachers vs. the angry screaming foreign-seeming Muslim” which has its basis in the forceful conversion of Muslim slaves to Christianity due to their prayers times and other ritual adherence viewed by their cruel masters as being “unproductive and unprofitable”.  However, Islamic Socialism in this country has not taken one step back as for example the elections of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both proudly Muslim and Socialist, have shown and Muslim comrades are found at the forefront of protests and organizing all throughout the country including in the Black Lives Matter movement and others. The paradox, as always, is whether or not one can actually create socialism within the electoral structure of what has been the most destructive and dangerous capitalist empire in history. Is it still revolutionary to sit in the halls of power compromising with the slave-masters of society? Only time will tell, but I believe in a “united front” in where I would prefer to see religious socialists in power and on the streets where the latter holds the former accountable in revolutionary action towards the pushing of our truly life-changing radical agenda of international prosperity, unity, liberation, and peace.

Regarding strategy in this country, our unions have all become tools of the capitalist class and have abandoned labor struggles completely and therefore are generally useless in our struggle. The idea of a general strike is a useless one in the advanced post-industrial economy we’ve developed here as shown by truly strange and more-successful strategies such as the attack on the hedge funds of Wall Street through reckless and coordinated internet investment purposefully done to destroy the profits of the billionaire class. These strategies, which would be impossible without the internet, could in no way have existed in the times of Marx and Engels and as such we must adapt to the new strategies towards the redistribution of wealth to the working class. The labor situation in the United States is depressing and dismal to put it lightly as automation without protection progresses but there are some revolutionary unions that remain with the largest and most active being the old and beloved Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) which has been around for 100+ years never abandoning its socialist core and revolutionary foundation. The other established unions actually lobby against the inclusion of minorities and informal workers in the labor struggle and this needs to be a lesson to our comrades internationally on how powerful unions can just as easily turn against the working class for the sake of the comfort that capitalism provides. Instead, I encourage my comrades to find new and innovative ways to attack the hoarding of wealth and power so that the system and its horrors may be unmasked more and more and the general proletariat may be awakened from its dreamless sleepwalking. The more the veneer of the capitalist spectacle is shattered, the more likely it is that the revolutionary potential of the people is awakened.

Global pandemic and revolutionary struggles

I have been to Chiapas which was a fantastic experience to see revolutionary indigenous socialism in action. However, my travels to Rojava had to be postponed due to the global pandemic, but I hope to be able to visit within the next year or two. Both of these struggles are in my opinion the most successful socialist revolutions in modern times and offer many lessons especially regarding the intersection of religion and socialism and how they relate to our interactions with the capitalist state. Both have taken the theory of dual power seriously in refusing to play the games of power that the state seductively offers and instead have created communities, developed resources, and established defensive measures that allow them to rival even some of the recognized nation-states of the world without engaging in the terrible oppression that belies the nature of the capitalist state. We must learn from our mistakes in regarding other revolutions (the Spanish Civil War serves as an example) and become united despite the laws of our lands, despite the demands and illusions of the capitalist class, and engage in a grand international scale of mutual aid with each other.

The pandemic has shown the weakness of the currently global system of capital and gives us fertile ground to develop a new International, one that truly fights for a socialist world and maintains the spiritual core of our peoples and our struggles. Already the Zapatistas and the Rojavans have begun to develop this but there is so much work to be done. The global pandemic has forced the states to shut down all transportation and even methods of communication and attempt to concentrate power on themselves.

This shows us that we must work now not just to deal with current issues in our united global struggle but also prepare so that we are at our greatest possibility when the next big global catastrophe comes. We must be ready because capitalism is rotting away and exposing us to more and more horrors.

I would like to end with a warning and a blessing. I warn my comrades in Indonesia that the situation can always get worse and we can never sadly rest when surrounded by so many reactionaries hungry for power. The recent coup attempt in the United States is such an example and while it was ineffectual it is still being used as successful propaganda in the far right in this country. Remain vigilant, militant, and ready for whatever could come your way and do not lessen the intensity of your struggle. The future is at risk! However, we are blessed because we have a Hold on them, believe in the divine, and keep fighting for we are ever so close to victory with the rise of all these beasts of institutional terror. As Gramsci stated: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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