Friday, 8 May 2015

The Question of Marxism versus Mysticism

Kashmir has a mystical heritage and identity. And it has politically been transformed by socialistic vision of Marxists and Sheikh Abdullah. However, Marxism and mysticism have been mutually suspicious and that has hampered tackling the questions of both politics and religion. So we ask today why is religion perceived as an enemy of a socialist or communist state? It is replied that because it is “the opium of the peoples.” It lulls workers to sleep. It is thus anti-revolutionary. It is complicit with capitalism. It too exploits in the name of God when it extracts wealth from gullible masses. It creates false substitutes like the goods of the otherworld so that people don’t take the problems of this world very seriously. It encourages detachment that conflicts with the spirit of active involvement needed for changing the order of the world. It reconciles people to present ills by attributing them to fate or karma. It says resist not evil and believes that change of heart in the capitalist will do the needful. It is false consciousness or inverted view of the world. It merely provides consolation and not real help. It is not against private property per se. A few remarks in response to this mistaken view that is widely shared among scholars. Brief comments on all these points are in order:
1. History refutes the assertion that religion lulls people to sleep. Perhaps all great revolutions in history could be traced to the influence of religion. Prophets have been, generally speaking, social rebels, politically dangerous and that is why mostly mocked if not executed. They have challenged the establishment and existing socio-political-economic set up while standing for the oppressed, the sinners, the masses. Same is the case with mystics. They have been persecuted by both the paid officials of exoteric religion and the state. They have denounced riches and in many cases taken arms against the state. They have preached if not fought against the haves, the ruling class.  Of course religion degenerates soon as does any nobly conceived idea. In a generation only one or two live it in its true spirit as Simone Weil observed. In the degenerated populist form of Marxism, Marx would not have counted as a Marxist as Christ is imprisoned rather than welcome when he arrives on earth in Dostoevsky’s novel. It is in the name of religion that people have dethroned many regimes. Jihad is an instrument to forcefully implement revolutionary spirit of religion. By definition, it is directed against oppressors regardless of creed or colour or region. Any struggle carried for the sake of justice and freedom from oppression without any selfish motive can qualify as Jihad.
2. Religions have tolerated limited private property as Marxism has practically done though ideally both are against the possessive, hoarding, grabbing mentality. It is impossible to outlaw all personal possessions. In practice even Communist countries couldn’t do away with limited number of personal possessions. The world would be terribly dull and boring where man’s sense of individuality and nature’s love for diversity is loathed. There will be little progress if the instinct to excel is suppressed in the name of collectivism. Healthy progressive society is an organism rather than a collection of individuals mechanically and uniformly made one.
3. Mysticism has actively struggled against the self that seeks private property. Mystics have been reported to sell everything for society even when society in turn made no commitment to share its wealth with him. Jesus rejected private property, as did his Russian disciple Tolstoy. Prophet’s (SAW) companions shared everything with their brothers. Augustine identified charity as the essence of scripture. Buddhism prefers begging to hoarding.
4. Priestly class has often been complicit with exploiting ruling class. That is why prophets like Jesus denounced them. Both mystics and Marxists have common enemy to fight and Marxist mode of fighting is more effective.
5. Of course mystics have been pacifists and have not advocated violence in meeting enemies. Marxism is effective in meeting an enemy, which understands no language other than violence. But mysticism can act as a counterforce against indiscriminate use of violence. If Lenin and Stalin were mystics as well they would not have allowed so much violence to be unleashed. Mystics do well to make us remember that it is after all life which should count above everything. We must wage war against capitalism with full force but we must work for transformation of the culprit self that ultimately makes capitalist a capitalist. That people could be transformed on large scale and make the world a better place is evidenced in history. This is what the Prophet (SAW) achieved though Marxist reading would see only immoral calculative business mentality everywhere even in the self denying martyrs and mystics and prophets.

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