Islam in the USSR

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Followers of Islam Rise-Up Against Your Oppressors!

Comrades You Fought Under the Green Banner of the Prophet,

Defend Your Land and Free It From Your Enemies!

Join the Communist Struggle North, South, East and West,

Mount Your Horses and Ride Toward Enlightenment!

Following the Russian Communist Revolution of 1917, the bourgeois forces of the West (together with Imperial Japan), launched an invasion of the fledgling Communist State that became known as the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). The USA and Europe wanted to return Russia to a backward feudal system that they could easily control, but the newly formed Red Army countered this threat and eventually drove the capitalists out of Russia and the Soviet Union. This poster (printed in Russian and Turkic Tartar) is calling upon Islamic horsemen to join the Red Cavalry and defend the Communist Revolution by driving the capitalists out from their homelands.

During the build-up to the 1917 October Revolution in Russian, many Muslim ethnic groups supported Lenin and his Bolsheviks.  Indeed, so widespread was this Islamic support for the Communist State, that the Soviet System published numerous information posters throughout the land, informing the general populace of this support, and explaining that there was much agreement about justice, fairness and equality within society, between Islam and Marxist-Leninism.  A similar situation existed with Buddhism in Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church often associated itself with world Christianity rather than the Soviet State (with various individual priests either supporting, opposing or remaining neutral).  To understand the Soviet response to religion, it is vitally important to understand how Karl Marx critiqued religion.  This is an area often misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented on the Communist left, reaching a peak of absurdity through the dictates of Leon Trotsky and his followers. Trotskyism (and its off-shoots) has served as a fertile breeding ground for the importation into the left of rightwing racism (and Islamophobia), which is often presented disguised by a thin veneer of pseudo-Marxist analysis.  The error in this interpretation of the ‘Marxist’ critique of religion is as follows:

1) Karl Marx never ‘opposed’ religious systems due to the religious content of each religion.  As he possessed a PhD, it is obvious that he fully understood the machinations  of the Judeo-Christian belief system, an understanding which extended into Indian Brahmanism and Buddhism.  In fact, both Marx and Engels thought highly of Buddhist dialectics, with Marx even admitting in one letter that he once practised Buddhist meditation whilst holidaying by the sea!

2) The oft quoted ‘religion is the opium of the masses’, was used by Marx to explain how the established Christian Church colluded with the capitalist system in the West, and continued the bourgeois oppression of the workers even when they sat in church worshipping a god they had never seen, to abide in a heaven never proven to exist after death.  This is Marx exposing how the modern Christian Church distorted its own theology in its support of the capitalist system.  This is ‘false’ religion that ordinary people turned to in their suffering, to gain somekind of solace from the brutal indifference of the outer world, only to find the brutality intensified whilst sat on the pew.

3) The essential point of the Marxist critique of the Judeo-Christian tradition lies not in the theological content of its teachings, but rather in a revealed psychological reality, or approach to problem solving in the real world, that Marx assessed to be ‘inverted’ in nature.  This means that the root assumption of theistic thinking – namely that ‘spirit’ creates ‘matter’ – is, as Marx observed, contrary to how the modern scientific mind functions.  The modern scientific mind understands that physical causes generate physical effects in an ongoing process, with the ‘new’ effects becoming the latest ’causes’, and so on.  At no place in this analysis of how the material world functions, is there the reality that ‘spirit’ (or a god-construct) can create (or alter) physical matter in a disembodied manner.  Theology, therefore, is a belief system devised for an earlier epoch of human existence and understanding.

4) However, Marx is of the opinion that it is purely a ‘personal’ matter as to whether an individual chooses to follow a religious teaching.  The problem of religion is not necessarily its unscientific premise, but rather lies in the habit of the modern Christian Church using its theology as a means not to ‘free’ adherents, but rather to gain and maintain political power in the secular world.  It is the use of theology as a political force in the real world that Marx objects to (because it does not possess the ‘scientific’ power to progress society).  For Marx, a modern and advanced society should be guided by the use of science and the scientific method.  Therefore, both Marx and Lenin agreed that individuals can choose to follow religious teachings in their private lives, but that religious institutions should not hold any State power, or participate in the political system.  The Soviet Union was an ‘atheistic’ State not because it abolished or outlawed religion, on the contrary, the Constitution of the USSR guaranteed freedom of religion, but because the State did not recognise religious systems as be in scientifically relevant to the progression of human society and human evolution in the material sense.  When the African-American Muslim (and famous boxer) -Muhammed Ali – travelled to the USSR in 1977, he visited a number of Soviet mosques and various Islamic groups, and stated on his return to the USA that there was true religious ‘freedom’ in Soviet Russia:

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