Indonesian communist Tan Malaka, about whom I wrote more than once (see my translation of Girard’s article about him, also “Forgotten names of Comintern…”), wrote in his work “Philosophy of Life” (1948) (see Tan Malaka Archive, chapter The Appearance of the State's Collapse) about the initial stage of social development - “primitive communism”: |
“The condition of a society of this kind was apparently characterized by Engels as the self-acting armed organization of the population [in English in original]. Such an armed society acting on its own initiative is found in societies based upon ancient communism (“primitive communism”)”
“In passing I only wish to suggest here that, according to the evidence I have come across, Arab society in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the three subsequent khalifas [caliphs], Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, also existed at the stage whose basis was the “self-acting armed organization of the population”. Only after the subjugation of several very rich states like Syria and others by the Muslims did Muslim society split into two classes, those with property and the propertyless. The contradiction between the propertied and the propertyless sharpened all the more every day and could not be tranquillized. Along with the ever-continuing exacerbation of this contradiction the more power became concentrated in the hands of the khalifa and his family and assistants. The “self-acting armed organization of the population” based on collective deliberation in the time of the Prophet and the three following khalifas finally changed in the long run to become one state, one monarchy [in English in original]. The Islamic monarchies often enjoyed public prosperity and justice, such as in Muslim Spain under the government of Abd-ar-Rahman, the Baghdad monarchy under the Khalifa Harun al Rashid and the monarchy of Muslim Hindustan under Sultan Akbar. But often also the Islamic states (monarchies) suffered misery and oppression when the Khalifa, the army, the police, the judges and the executioners acted arbitrarily”
So, initial, early Islam – Islam of three earliest “righteous” (as Islamists call them) caliphs – was the “self-acting armed organization of the population”, was classless society, “primitive communism”. Moreover, this “primitive communism” of early Islam society would be incorrectly to confuse with primitive (in the sense “primeval”) communism properly, because the level of social and economic development under early Islam was relatively high - in the case of early Islam society it would be more precisely to say “rudimentary communism”, rather than “primitive communism”; also one should not forget that early Islam society was forewent by social revolution under the leadership of Mohammed. Incidentally, the translator of that work wrote at Translator's Introduction:
“Our current knowledge of pre-Islamic society in Arabia suggests that class differentiation was already quite far advanced in Muhammad's lifetime and was, in fact, a prime factor which impelled his ministry”
I.e. before Mohammed’s revolution the society was class one, but after that revolution the society became classless one, and it continued during three earliest caliphs. So, what the “self-acting armed organization of the population” under three earliest caliphs was? Generally speaking, what is the “self-acting armed organization of the population”, if the matter concerns not primitive communal stage? It is the proletarian dictatorship. So, early Islam, which revival at modern level is advocated by revolutionaries-Islamists (talibs, revolutionaries of North Caucasus, post-Soviet Central Asia and the like), was not feudal-theocratic state, not monarchy (it became such later), as imperialist yes-men under the masks of “Marxists” lie, but just proletarian dictatorship at primitive, rudimentary (comparatively to the present time, but not to its time) level. Reading Tan Malaka’s words about “the “self-acting armed organization of the population” based on collective deliberation [emphasized by me – A. G.] in the time of the Prophet and the three following khalifas” one should recall Lenin’s words:
“It is time to discard all bourgeois hypocrisy in discourses on the people’s strength. By bourgeois definition, the strength is when masses go to the slaughter blindly, obeying the order of imperialist governments. Bourgeoisie recognize a state as strong only when the state can throw masses by the whole power of its government machinery in the direction, where bourgeois rulers want. Our notion of the strength is different. Our notion is that the state is strong by the consciousness of masses. It is strong when masses know everything, can judge everything and do everything consciously, deliberately” [Lenin, Complete works (Russian-language edition), 5th edition, 35th volume, p. 21] How markedly it differs from modern official “Islam” (“KGB-Islam”) – from “Islam” of Gaynutdin (one of official Islam clergy’s leader) and Ramzan Kadyrov (President of Chechnya), who demand the blind obedience the authorities, President and so on for the reason that Islam, as they said, demand the obedience elders, father and so on. How closer to initial Islam’s spirit (and to Leninism’s spirit) was the founder of Jamaat-e-Islam – party, which was labeled as “terrorist” by Federal Security Service – Pakistani Mawlan Mawdudi, who wrote in the appeal to women that Muslim woman (girl) can and must disobey father, elder brother, husband, if he takes the side of imperialists. Few words about Tan Malaka. It is written in the introduction to his other work (“Gerpolek”), which was published in Europe by Trotskyites: “…the booklet of Tan Malakka is limited to the problems of the anti-colonialist struggle in Indonesia. The international problems are only touched on, and only directly concerning the questions of the Indonesian revolution. That is why Tan Malakka does not deal with the question of Stalinism and just limits himself to some general observations. But when he deals with concrete positions, he each time differentiates himself in a very clearly from Stalinist positions”
Indeed, there are some mistakes in Tan Malaka’s writings – for instance, he considered USSR as socialist state. But those mistakes were excusable for him, as it was excusable for Lenin, that he almost didn’t criticize Kautsky before 1914, although Rosa Luxemburg and others already criticized Kautsky fully at that time. Lenin concerned himself mainly with Russia (like Tan Malaka with Indonesia), but when Kautsky’s opportunist deviations had concrete consequences for Russian revolutionary movement, Lenin “differentiated himself in a very clearly from Kautskyist positions” long before 1914, as early as at the time of splitting between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Last, let’s consider one more matter. In his work “Philosophy of Life” Tan Malaka mentioned Mu'tazilites – medieval reformers in Islam, who have came to atheism (according to Malaka, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), who was mentioned by M. N. Roy in his work “Historical role of Islam” (see my work “Forgotten names of Comintern…”), also was Mu'tazilite – but other authors asserts that he wasn’t). Nabhani also mentioned them (he called them Al-Mu’tazilah) in his work “Thought” (see my review of that work). But Nabhani spoke negatively of them – he said that they littered Islamic philosophy with mistakes of Greek philosophers. What Mu'tazilites were in fact? What was their role? (This matter have practical significance today too, it is discussed among different Islamist trends). Apparently, their role was similar to the role of “democrats” in Russia at “Perestroika”. Just as “democrats” overthrew old CPSU regime, but “threw out the child along with the bath”, i.e. discarded Marxism-Leninism along with CPSU regime, and adopted Western liberal ideas uncritically, Mu'tazilites apparently opposed old Islam, which transformed from revolutionary ideology into reactionary one during several centuries (like official “Marxism-Leninism” in USSR), but they adopted Greek philosophy uncritically, along with its shortcomings (disregard of experience and of experiment). Thus, Tan Malaka, not Nabhani was right in that matter: Mu'tazilites were progressive current in general, in spite of their shortcomings. Incidentally, Nabhani made similar mistake about the collapse of Ottoman Empire at 1924. He didn’t understand progressiveness of that collapse and naively considered Ottoman Empire of early XX century as remainder of the early Caliphate (like Russian “communists” weep for USSR, naively considering it as the child of Marxism-Leninism).
December 19th, 2010 A. G.
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Proletarian dictatorship, early Islam, Tan Malaka, Engels, Lenin,