Thoughts on the White “Left” Imagination: A Response to the Kasama Project on Religion
I normally do not write articles just to vent, but there has been something particularly stupid irritating me for the last few days. As the level of irritation it has caused is higher than the background level I feel I need to say something about it.
Anyway, over at a particularly well known White “leftist” site there was a stink raised last week about pop singer Cee Lo Green’s alterations to the lyrics to John Lennon’s song Imagine. The ‘incident’ occured during Cee Lo’s performance at Time Square’s New Year’s Eve party. What did he do? He changed Lennon’s lyric ““and no religion, too” with “and all religion is true,” which the group in question called a “backwards absurdity.”
But what is the real absurdity? That Cee Lo (who was already performing what these crackers had the gall to call a beloved communist anthem at one of he biggest displays of imperialist wealth and consumerism) changed a supposedly secular/atheist lyric to one that (regardless of Cee Lo’s intentions) challenges the divisive claims of exclusive knowledge about ultimate reality by various institutionalized religions by saying that they are all true? Or, that a White “left” group out there, confident in its own knowledge about ultimate reality, feels that there is nothing more pressing happening in the world at this moment and in need of comment by communists than Cee Lo’s lyrical alterations?
I think the answer should be obvious.
But what is the real issue that this drags out? For myself, based on my past experiences, this stinks of the idea that one must be an atheist to be a revolutionary, or at the very least that to be an atheist is to be a superior revolutionary. If this kind of thing is not openly stated by many so-called revolutionaries (not just those in the group I am picking on at the moment) it is broadcast loud and clear between the lines.
Must You Reject the Spiritual to be Revolutionary?
Maybe it’s my training in the social sciences, but I’ve always found this odd. Many Marxist organizations proudly proclaim their atheism/secularism. The new revolutionary society will do away with religious belief they say. Religion is a “backwards absurdity” they say. All the while they also proclaim an unspoken membership criteria for their grouplets: adherence to atheism/secularism. The message is loud and clear: “if you are religious or spiritual, don’t come around here!”
What these White “leftists” fail to grasp is that religion is not the principal contradiction among the people. To them you can’t be religious/spiritual and also be a revolutionary (or least not a very good one). It’s all the more funny because they criticize Bob Avakian of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and his ridiculous anti-religion campaign for critiquing religion without understanding it, while they at the same time continue on the exact same practice, though with perhaps much less bravado.
What really matters is that actual revolutionary practice has proved both of them wrong time and time again. Camilo Torres, whose powerful words I used to open this piece up, was a radical Catholic liberation theologian and priest from Colombia who put his belief in a revolutionary Christ who came as a social savior directly into practice by joining the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second most powerful leftist guerilla army. Later on he was martyred during the protracted arm struggle in that country and his sacrifice inspired many others with similar views to take up actual revolutionary practice as well.
Comrade Torres, a devoted follower of Jesus, was far braver than any of those so-called “leftists” in North America who sit back, proclaiming religion to be a “backwards absurdity” while people starve and die in the ghettos, barrios and reservations.
Comrade Torres was not alone. Throughout Latin America and the Philippines liberation theology lit a beacon of hope and revolution for the most oppressed masses of people. In fact, communistic liberation theology presented such a threat, especially to the imperialist Catholic hierarchy, that the current Pope lead an internal campaign to have it purged. Despite this, today liberation theology continues to inform and inspire groups as diverse as the Zapatista Liberation Army of Mexico, the National Liberation Army in Colombia and various member organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Beyond Latin America and the Philippines, in the so-called Islamic World, some of the most potent anti-imperialist forces are inspired to action and revolution by their Islamic faith. One has to look no further than Hezbollah, the Party of God in Lebannon. Hezbollah, whose ideology is what one might call left Islamism (as opposed to the right Islamism of Al Qaeda), is one of the most successful resistance organizations in the Arab and Islamic Worlds, and is also one of the most well respected, even by non-Shia and non-Muslims.
In North America we also see people inspired to fight imperialism and capitalism by their spiritual traditions within the indigenous nations. The indigenous traditionalist vision is in fact at its core a liberatory and communist one. That is why capitalist society has always needed to eliminate our societies. We present a dangerous socio-cultural, political and economic counter-examples to their world order, and we often do it on a spiritual basis.
But what does the white “left” have to say about those myriad of courageous anti-imperialist forces? Little, if anything, I imagine, beyond perhaps considering them to be abberations.
Anyway, rant over.