Alt Left: Yes, There is Little Classism in Muslim Countries (Because It’s Against Islam)

James Schipper: Was it really very different (highly classist) in Islam?

Yes, Islamic countries are just not like that.

I can’t think of any Arab country that is like that.

No North African country is like that.

Neither Malaysia nor Afghanistan nor the Caucasus nor Xinjiang nor the Stans is not like that. However, Afghanistan was feudal or semi-feudal until recently. That’s why Communism was fairly popular there. An outsider went there in the 1950’s, and he saw groups of young men chanting with their fists in the air, “Kill the rich!” I suppose the Communist revolution did a land reform and got rid of this feudal land tenure system.

Communism was an easy sell in Bosnia and Albania, but Islam is weak there.

Corruption is a bad problem in the Arab World and a rich elite bled Lebanon dry for decades, but they are widely hated, and there is little to no class hatred in Lebanon.

I can’t see any class hatred in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or even in UAE.

I’ve never heard of any real classism in the Sahel, but no one there has any money anyway.

The only African countries with a history of classism were the apartheid states of Rhodesia and South Africa, but there it was racialized, and the classism was imported from Christian Europe. Classism among the Whites of these states themselves was not a problem.

Angola has become very unequal due to oil wealth, but the system is not popular, and most people are ending up poor. They had a successful Communist revolution that remained in power for a long time. The anti-Communist rebels didn’t even have much ideology. Jonas Savimbi of UNITA started out as a Maoist and switched to rightwing capitalist to get money from the West for his revolution.

Africa just doesn’t have a history of European classism. It was always a relatively egalitarian village society. Sure, the chiefs were rich, but they were supposed to provide for everyone.

All of the Gulf Arab states have such extensive social democracies that in a lot of cases, you hardly even have to work. Education and health care is free and housing may be subsidized. UAE is a very rich country and capitalism roars right along, but I don’t see a lot of class hatred. For one thing, everyone in the Gulf is well-off.

As I said, it was different before. Read Ghassan Khanafani (one of the founders of the PFLP) on the lives of fellahin or peasants in debt bondage in semi-feudal Palestine in the 1930’s. Nasser did a land reform in Egypt in the 50’s and he was a hero all over the Arab World. People said they went to Yemen in the 1960’s, and there were Nasser portraits everywhere in the homes of working class people. Nasser’s land reform set off a wave of land reforms in the Arab World. In Syria and Iraq, they were done by the socialist Baath Party. There was never much resistance to the Baath’s socialism. There were large state sectors and good social democracies. Even Saddam was basically a socialist.

Bangladesh is a problem. Pakistan has been discussed but it is Indianized and Hinduized. The same problem may be going on in Bangladesh. The class hatred is vicious in India, but it’s coded as caste hatred instead. So Pakistan and Bangladesh have a sort of Hinduized Islam. But the poverty and class hatred is not nearly as bad in those two states as it is in India and Nepal.

Bahrain and Indonesia are problems for whatever reasons but in Indonesia they had to kill 1 million Communists to get their crappy rightwing capitalist dictatorship. And in the last several years they have been led by a social democrat.

Turkey does have problems with its capitalist class in terms of exploitation of workers. After World War 2, there was a Communist revolution and the Commies almost won. However, there is a huge underground Leftist and Communist movement that regularly sets the factories and yachts of the rich on fire! They’re quite popular. The Kurdish PKK was also Left. Islam is rather weak in Turkey though, and Turkey is Europeanized. Erdogan is actually quite socialist. He’s more socialist than Biden. His brand is Islamism is heavy on the social justice end.


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3 thoughts on “Alt Left: Yes, There is Little Classism in Muslim Countries (Because It’s Against Islam)”

  1. In Christianity, Judaism and Islam, charity is a virtue, but there is a difference. In Christianity, charity is more a humanitarian sentiment, while in Judaism and Islam it is more tribal solidarity, which is much more effective. If you tell people: “Be charitable to less fortunate human beings”, then you are less likely to get results than if you tell them: “Be charitable to less fortunate fellow Jews (Muslims).”

    There were times in the Netherlands in the 19th century when half of the Dutch Jews were supported by the other half. The Jews had their own little welfare state without even having a state. That is tribal solidarity in action.

    Tribal solidarity is of course the antithesis of classism, which should not be confused with class snobbery. A snob can feel solidarity with lower classes.

  2. Communism (Marxism) in the Arab world took hold in Yemen, Algeria (under Ben Bella), where Ben Bella began executing his military officers as “counter revolutionaries, prompting Boumedienne and other military officers to overthrow Ben Bella before they became his next victims. Just trying to think of other Arab Marxist-Leninist governments. PLO was Marxist, but not a government.

    1. PLO is not really Marxist anymore. There haven’t really been any Arab Communists. Communists tend to be atheists and Arabs are very religious, mostly Muslims. Communism has always been a hard sell in the Muslim World due to it’s incompatibility with deeply religious Muslims. The PFLP and DFLP are Marxist. The PLO is basically socialist. And most of the smaller parties and components of the PLO are pretty much socialist. The Arab Israelis are pretty socialist too.

      Socialism is an easy sell in the Arab World due to Islam, as Islam is practically a socialist religion, and socialism need not say much about religion, except that it does tend to be secular. That’s how you got all of these secular socialists in the Arab World in Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. Jordan is also secular but not so socialist.

      Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have extensive welfare states, but they don’t like to call themselves socialists as it has connotations with secularism.

      Recently Tunisia elected an “Islamist Leftist,” which is an odd thing. Though Iran has been ruled by “Islamist Leftists” since the Revolution.

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