My Surkha Friends and Their Uncle Marx

It is a cliché to say that we live in strange times. The Muslim cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar has called this present age of incessant flux and confusion as “Post-normal times” or PNT. He describes it as, “in an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense.” This is an age of uncertainty in which the confluence of info-tech and biotech seem to be presenting us with both utopian and especially dystopian scenarios. PNT, Sardar tells us, is defined by the three Cs: chaos, complexity, and contradictions.
The main characteristic of this chaotic and mind-bogglingly contradictory age is extremism, as can be seen in its different incarnations: extreme violence, extreme sports, extreme entertainment, extreme food, extreme love and hate, extreme politics and so on. Last time I talked about one type of these extremisms: that of the head-chopping and self-and other-obliterating religious fanatics. This time we shall have a brief look at another type of the species: the sloganeering-activist and armchair revolutionary, the secular-leftist–atheist extremist. In other words, the social justice warrior often in his or her most visibly radical garb: the socialist-Marxist! Yes, religions don’t have a monopoly on extremism and violence.
In contrast to popular views, especially in countries like ours, atheistic-Marxism (in its authentic form Marxism is always atheistic) is not just a rational-scientific alternative to “backward-looking” and superstitious religion, organized or otherwise. Marxism itself is a belief system, a rival religion or, more appropriately, a pseudo-religion or even a cult with all its attendant doctrines and elaborate rituals. It has its own prophet, priests and saints, its own sacred texts and their hallowed and esoteric interpreters. There are its sacred sites, shrines and so on. But what really appeals to and attracts many who call themselves Marxists or socialists of the Marxist variety, is Marxism’s concern for social justice and its call for solidarity with the exploited and the oppressed. Marx is often portrayed as an uncompromising internationalist and humanist by his followers.
For many years now I have been debating these contentions with some of my “progressive” Marxist friends (the reds or “surkha” as they are known) especially those from Balochistan where I am originally from. Almost all of them think of Karl Marx as one of their old, bearded enlightened uncles, who had nothing but contempt for religion, was the symbol of humanist values with deep compassion for the oppressed and victimized of the world, the proletariat, including its yellow, brown and black members in Asia, Africa and other places. They never tire of quoting lines and slogans from Chacha (uncle) Marx, from his The Communist Manifesto and his magnum opus Das Kapital in particular, to make those and other similar points. Sadly, many have never read Marx or have read him in poor and often misleading translations and because of which they carry this Santa Claus like an image of him in their heads.
Marx was, first and foremost, a European bourgeoisie, a German to be precise, who thought of all non-Europeans, those without blonde hair and blue eyes (Nietzsche’s “blond beast”), as inferior beings, lesser humans. His works, especially his private correspondence with his colleague Engels and his journalistic articles are full of derogatory and racist terms describing and at times chastising non-Westerners and the non-white people of the world, Asians and Africans in particular. For example, when he and his colleague Engels talk of the poor working classes, they have the oppressed of Europe, especially of England, Germany, and France in mind, and not agonizing about the darker nations of Africa and Asia. Following his master, the German Hegel for whom History (yes with capital H) ends with the ideal German State in his head, and which is nothing less than  a God-like “Absolute”, Marx thought of Africans in strictly Eurocentric and racist terms, even using the “N” word for the black people of that continent.  Moreover, The Communist Manifesto which many naïve leftist-activist types praise and quote often to make some superficial and reactionary anti-religious argument, is mostly about the virtues of capitalism as a dynamic tool for change that would eventually make the uncivilized non-Westerners (non-whites, that is) “civilized” or enable them to enter “civilization” as exclusively defined by Europeans like Marx and Engels.
In his tome, Marx condemns the Indians with their “lazy” ways and actually thinks of brutal British colonialism in India as a good and moral thing, as an “unconscious tool of [Hegelian] history” that will wake up the sleepy Indian!  The great Palestinian scholar Edward Said contended that Marx’s earliest writings on the British role in India represent a racist view of the colonized, despite Marx’s sympathy for the subjects of the British Empire. Edward Said wrote that “in article after article, [Marx] returned with increasing conviction to the idea that even in destroying Asia, Britain was making possible there a real social revolution.”
Likewise, Marx’s collaborator, Engels, initially welcomed the 1847 U.S. invasion of Mexico because it would introduce an uncivilized rural society to the most dynamic economic and democratic political system in existence around the time. Marx didn’t think much of Mexicans, either; for him, they were always “lazy Mexicans”. When the United States annexed California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico after the Mexican Wars, Marx sarcastically asked, “Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?” This imperialistic adventure they, Marx and Engels, judged would be “in the interest of civilization” in general and in the interest of the conquered Mexicans themselves. Marx’s earliest writings on India and China suggest that the Chinese were “timid” in the face of British imperialism and that Indians succumbed to imperialism because India “has no history at all, at least no known history…[it is] an unresisting and unchanging society.” Both supported the colonization of Algeria by the French and were in a celebratory mood when the Sufi warrior, Amir Abdul Qadir, who led the resistance against colonization of his country, was arrested by the colonizing French. This is what Engels said then: “Upon the whole, it is, in our opinion, very fortunate that the Arabian chief [Amir Abdul Qadir] has been taken…the conquest of Algeria is an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilization”
It is now a known fact that revolutions in general and Marxist revolutions, in particular, eat up their own children first. Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people in the twentieth century. But Marx and Engels must be read, especially by people of faith like Muslims, in order to understand the capitalist system and its catastrophic social, economic and environmental effects better and, more importantly, in order to understand them as they really were in their own words rather than as they are presented to us by their often uncritical, genuflecting followers, those so-called atheists and progressives in our part of the world. After all, there is the other cliché that if Marx were alive today, he would be the first to declare: “I am not a Marxist!”
Note: For the interested reader, please see the following from which the above-cited material have been taken (among other authoritative works):
1) Moore, Carlos, “Were Marx and Engels white racists? The prolet – Aryan outlook of Marxism”, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Vol. 19 (1974-75), pp. 125-156
2) Weyl, Nathaniel, Karl Marx, racist, Arlington House Press (USA), 1979.
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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