Egypt, Syria, Libya and violence in the Muslim World
In my original blog on Peace (see header below) I set out my broad approach to the subject commencing with a look at the impact o Marxism in the West and its implicit encouragement for violent solutions to social problems. In this blog I am asking the question what hope is there for the Muslim world and its Christian minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan The basic problem as I see it is the lack of toleration for difference and the hostility that Islam philosophically has towards pluralism together with its demonisation of the non-Islamic world as basically ‘unclean’. Whilst it is true that these tendencies may not always be to the foreground and are hardly unique to Islam the basic authoritarianism in its structure with its legalistic underpinning is operating in conditions were democracy has never or rarely had a secure footing and with few exception social polarisation and poverty remain the real experience. People look to God in prayer and consider everything to be His will producing an deterministic acceptance of authoritarianism and a general fatalism.Violence can be the easy outlet for repressed frustration at the perceived helplessness and the ‘unclean other’ a safe, even legitimate, target.
The answer lies in developing co-operative economic and social solutions which go beyond the narrow communitarianism of our village with its often ethnic and religious uniformity to our country and its diversity. A secular co-operative led civil society will lead to a secular democracy rather than the secular fascism which has sought to repress the islamic fundamentalists and ‘modernise’ the country that have been imported as Baathist regimes the last of which is currently under attack in Syria at enormous human cost. In Egypt the depressing choice of either military dictatorship or the Muslim Brotherhood has forced moderate Muslim intellectuals to support the former. What is needed however is for the Christian Minorities even as thy are being attacked to reach out and insist that their co-operatives are not Christian but national bodies open to all who are committed to the principles and values of the co-operative. Of course the beleaguered Christian minorities need to prioritise their own survival and defend their specific organisations and communities. But they need to recognise their duty towards the poor whoever they are and in their economic struggles to encourage Muslim participation as a matter of implementation of Christian Social Doctrine which has been most clearly defined within the Roman Catholic Tradition of Christianity as a secular approach which other Orthodox and Coptic traditions may need to embrace as well as the Roman Catholics themselves whose religious leaderships in parishes do not always emphasize sufficiently. Peaceful communities are communities that co-operate for justice -which is seen to include distributive justice.
Peter Davis First Blog on Peace
Why start a blog on Peace with a discussion of Marxism? Well because Mark despite all his reforming zeal saw violence as inevitable and even as an important tool of progress. A lot of what Marx wrote about the cyclical nature of capitalism and its tendency towards deeper and longer recessions and greater and greater concentration was correct. Also although we prefer Adam Smith’s more sensible formulation of the Labour Theory of Value to that of Marx who was more of a Ricardian in his economics. As a result he had a deterministic view of economics and society. The economic machine would inevitably bring about change and violent revolution was the inevitable result. He disliked the Anarchists because the terrorism of their day he saw as futile. Today Marxism has been discredited because violent revolution only led to more oppression. We have seen the regimes of Stalin and Mao and today the last great ‘Communist’ state China is the one with the worst human rights abuse and also is engaged in a transition to capitalism. Marx recognised how authoritarian regimes could facilitate capitalism in his book about the re-establishment of the Monarchy in post-revolutionary 19th Century France. England too in the 19th Century had a parliament largely under the control of the Aristocracy and where even the middle classes were largely with- out a vote. England did not have one person one vote before 1921.
What’s all this to do with peace. Simply this France had a violent revolution so did Russia and both countries deteriorated into more bloodshed and more oppression in fact Russia is still trying hard to reach the state of a social democracy. England on the other hand did not have a revolution but gradually evolved democratic institutions. How because the mass movements in England were led by moderate people who saw that through association the workers could create wealth of their own without the need to expropriate others wealth. The key to the establishment of a social democracy in England was the development of democratic associations like trade unions and co-operatives who disfavoured violence for self-help. It took a century but the return of the post-war labour Government the first democratic socialist government Britain ever had but its achievements even today sixty years later have not been eradicated despite the best attempts of a rapacious and unprincipled Tory right or their New Labour running mates in the Blairite camp to undermine and destroy.
Today much of the world suffers under authoritarian and corrupt regimes or live in countries like the UK and USA were democracy has been devalued by a lack real choice in the latter the Americans have to choose between two right wind parties both funded by big business in the UK we have three opportunistic centre right parties and new labour continues to weaken the role and influence of its real popular base in the trade unions. Under these conditions all over the world particularly in the Islamic world some are tempted again to revert to violent solutions. Some others are also attracted to authoritarian solutions rather like those taken in by Fascism in Europe in the 1930s.
Without Peace Justice will remain a dream. With Peace we are not assured Justice but we can find ways to struggle to bring it about. The way to secure world peace is to secure world co-operation. The way we do this is by building strong civil societies based on autonomous and free democratically controlled associations of labour. With the rise of such associations like the co-operative and trade union movements and the credit unions justice or at least a greater degree of both natural and distributive justice can be established peacefully. Terrorism is the excuse governments like to take away freedom and increase surveillance but co-operatives and trades unions operate peacefully and promote democracy.
But you may challenge what about the reality of oppression – of torture and arrests? What about the starvation caused by speculators in food, child labour, corporate manslaughter due to inhuman working conditions. Not to mention the hypocrisy and cynicism of an establishment that ignore climate change in favour of profit. Don’t these people deserve retribution deserve to die even? What about the biblical saying ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Well first I want to say that to advocate peace is not to be a pacifist necessarily. Pragmatically my case above is that violence does not work. But Philosophically I do not deny that there is a case for violence in self-defence and there can be under certain conditions such a thing as a just war. But we are often too quick to excuse our violence as justified. My response is ultimately that of a Christian. Jesus called for forgiveness and not to respond to personal attacks. We must be different from to those whose power and exploitative behaviours we are challenging. The Roman Empire was converted to Christianity by non-violent example and courageous preaching not by military means or other forms of violence and intimidation.
To maintain resistance against oppression with dignity and determination needs solidarity and fraternity and also spirituality. This requires we work to establish Peace not violence. But this is not a peace that is silent, this is not a peace that acquiesces to injustice. Rather it is a prophetic peace, a peace in struggle an inner peace that in seeking the good finds its source both within itself and in sharing that peace with others as we seek to share better more fairly the world resources that belong to us all. For more visit Fraternity also Co-operative Values . The following websites also offer further ideas on this critically important question of Peace and the connection between peace in social and political terms and peace in personal spiritual terms.
Roman Catholic Church justice and Peace
Pax Christi International
Peace One Day Movement