A few Notes on Religion

It has been the tendency of modern society, however socially-liberal we think we are, to leave religion out of the circle of debate.

I remember one lecture I attended in the autumn, given by Professor Richard Dawkins, where it was pointed out that whilst one’s job, favourite song, or political views or may be apt for discussion, people often seem to regard their religious beliefs as a uniquely private matter.

And this presents a series of problems…

Refusing to discuss religion comes from a deep-rooted respect for religious ideologies, leaving government, populace and civil society to let religious institutions ‘do their thing’. But to ignore an institution’s beliefs is to ignore its prejudices, meaning that we not only tolerate their outdated, repressive views and their often harmfully-ridiculous interpretation of the world, but we allow it to flourish. We view religion as respectable, and ignore its darker sides.

Often, such darker sides can be ignored when you look at, say, the Anglican Church, yet this is only because in this context, religion was been watered down to the extent that it is almost devoid of any prejudice. Contemporary examples where this isn’t the case include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthadox Church, alongside large-scale religions such as Islam or Judaism.

I recently saw it reported on multiple news sources that, in a documentary, the BBC once deliberately mistranslated ‘Jews’ as ‘Israelis’, hiding Islamic anti-semitism, the context being a Muslim Palestinian speaker talking of ‘killing the Jews’. This is only one example, and may only be intended to drum up sympathy for Palestine, but demonstrates the attitude of society to gloss over the negatives religion carries.

Now it may be sensible to assume that, whilst perhaps morally wrong, this attitude is not a damaging one, but this isn’t true. Religiously-rooted prejudices and reactionary opinions on issues such as feminism, homosexuality or even atheism, are still present because, whilst we don’t share them, we allow them to be. In other words, we have not taken action against their root cause.

Ultimately, it seems that western society is too far embedded in reactionary culture and customs to make a difference. Hundreds of people are leaving to fight for a bloodthirsty caliphate with religion as their justification, and we don’t seem to understand the cause of the problem. Perhaps this justification only appeals to a tiny minority, but enough damage is done by the fact that it’s remotely appealing in the first place. What’s more, Daesh or similar organisations are certainly not the only examples; if you look at all the religiously-motivated killings, wars, and dictatorships throughout history, you’ll see the full extent of the problem. It seems we’re just too keen to look to look the other way.

‘Odd one out’: the Politics and Philosophy of North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most mysterious countries in the world. This is partly because most of the world knows very little about it, and partly because what we do know, or at least think we know, most don’t seem to like. Yet it’s also because so much about this country and its political system just seems bizarre, such as the fact that Kim Jong-il’s birth allegedly caused winter to turn into spring. In an article featured in the Huffington Post capturing the last two, Tim Urban writes:

If you merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern day North Korea.

The realities of day-to-day life in this country are even stranger; this is a nation in which the populate venerate their leaders as if they had mystical powers, where adults must wear lapel pins of Kim Il-sung, and where a cloth is given to each household for one purpose: to clean the portrait of their Great Leader. The regime impacts upon every aspect of both public and private life, and instigates all sorts of beliefs among ordinary people, many of them lies. The question is, why is this country so odd?

The DPRK (it’s actually illegal for North Koreans to call it North Korea) was founded much like the states of the Eastern Bloc; it was created by the Soviet Union after the Second World War, but it seems to have evolved in an entirely different way to other countries in its position, which is likely a result of several factors…

First of all, the philosophical foundation of the North Korean State differs from that of the Soviet Union and many Soviet-aligned nations; the Juche idea, a concept devised by Kim Il-sung, is centred around the emancipation of the individual. This tenant, which is essentially an ultra-humanistic interpretation of Marxism, seems to clash with the structuralist interpretations of the philosophy and the community-centric, macroscopic lens through which Marxists often make sense of the world. It has also led to cultural perversions in the DPRK, such as the hardline nationalist and isolationist current that is strong in the country. In short, when looking at why North Korea has taken a steep trajectory in its own, bizarre direction, Juche may be able to explain a lot.

However, it is important to take into account the attitudes of the leaders themselves, and especially those of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from its birth right up until the 1990s. Perhaps the reason his country is structured this way today is less a result of his theories, and more of his pragmatic actions and contributions whilst in power. Following in his wake, his son and grandson will likely perform/have performed in a similar fashion, keeping the structure of the country intact.

Though to what extent a nation can be shaped purely by who is in charge is debatable. The ideas and theories of individuals certainly play a large role in how political systems are crafted, especially in countries where such a large degree of responsibility rests on the shoulders of individuals, but this certainly does not mean that the significance material conditions inside that country should be overlooked in favour of individual ideas and actions. In the USSR, for example, Leninist theory provided the theoretical basis for the political system, yet I do not believe that the attitudes of individual Soviet citizens can be attributed to his personal views than the reality of Soviet life.

Kim Il-sung, the ‘Great Leader’

Additionally, an important factor that must also be considered is cultural heritage, and we must examine the people in the region, their culture and their tendencies. Much of what we see in the DPRK can also be seen across the region, and throughout different periods of history. The complete veneration of an individual and a strong, patriotic desire to serve one’s country, for example, can both be exemplified in the former Japanese Empire. Thus, it would also be sensible to argue that the reason why North Korea is so starkly different from many of the other communist states is due to the cultural tendencies of those living there.

This would perhaps be able to explain why many of these traditions and ideas held by many North Koreans are not only very strange, but also incredibly reactionary, un-progressive and counter-revolutionary as well. Considering North Korea proclaims itself to be a modern example of revolutionary socialism, and is heralded as such by many self-proclaimed revolutionaries, it clings strongly to ideas and tendencies you may expect such a country to reject, but perhaps cultural baggage plays a greater role than a commitment to the international socialist cause.


At the end of the day, it is obviously futile to try and pinpoint any individual factor as to why this is such a bizarre nation, and it’s likely a combination of all of the above, alongside others. Take this post as a suggestion, however; a brief insight into the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ why it’s driven by such an unusual ideological dialogue, and why it differs so significantly from the other socialist states of the twentieth century.

Thank you for reading,



The poster of Kim Il-sung was provided by yeowatzup from Wikimedia Commons and is a derivative work of http://www.flickr.com/photos/yeowatzup/2921982778/

Here is a link to its license:

The Anonymous Revolutionary, 2015

This blog, which began last January, is now almost a year old. To mark the end of 2015, WordPress prepared a review of The Anonymous Revolutionary’s activities over the past year, and I thought I’d make it public for anyone who’s interested.

You may be glad to know a surprising number of people seem to at least sympathise with this website’s ideas – a feat I couldn’t have foreseen living in the western world!


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Should we Support Independent Businesses in the Fight Against Monopoly Capitalism?

The evils of capitalism are often portrayed through huge, transnational corporations, exploiting resources and enslaving workers. Apple, Gap, Samsung and various other brands that have become commonplace in western society are all examples; when people think of the problems capitalism causes, these seem to be the ones that get the blame.
There’s good reason for this, as it is these companies that perpetuate injustices so profound that they disgust many across the political spectrum. Largely based in developing countries, they employ labourers to work in appalling conditions for very low salaries, driving the economies of developed nations. Yet, if we’re trying to undermine these companies and the economic monopolies they create, is it sensible to turn to small, local businesses instead?

Businessmen of this kind actually occupy a class of their own; the petite bourgeois. It comprises people like shopkeepers and local entrepreneurs, and lie sandwiched between the bourgeois and proletariat. At first, it might seem sensible to turn to them for the essentials, even if it only means going to an independent cinema, or buying your eggs from local sources now and then. But what if I told you that, by avoiding the corporate giants, by trying to starve them of their consumers, you’re only resisting the inevitable.

It is a theory rooted in Marxism that the petite bourgeois will eventually vanish, swept up by the bourgeois and the proletariat respectively as monopoly capitalism dawns, meaning small businesses will eventually give way to larger ones. We’re already seeing this trend occur today, as increasing globalisation allows companies to expand across the globe, and we can sensibly conclude that it shall continue to occur until the death of small-scale capitalism. I’m not saying that it’s pointless to buy from local sources – it’s definitely the morally better option – yet if you’re doing it to undermine larger corporations, you’re trying to dam a torrent with stones.

Christmas Under Communism

Today being December 25th, it feels very inappropriate to write about anything non-Christmas related, and the ideas I’ve had leading up to this post all seem somewhat out-of-place at this time of the year. Yet nonetheless, I believe I’ve found a way to link the occasion back to the subject of this blog; today I’m asking if Christmas was celebrated in the communist world.

In the Soviet Union, celebration of the holiday was greatly restricted, and it was suppressed as a manifestation of religion. The League of Militant Atheists, an ideological organisation in the country, fuelled the suppression by promoting an anti-religious and anti-Christmas sentiment , and it is perhaps partly due to their efforts that Christmas is still not widely celebrated in Russia today.

The situation is similar in the People’s Republic of China, as the holiday is still not celebrated by many, yet this is less a result of political action as it is of religion; the Chinese Christian population equates to about one percent of the country’s 1.4 billion inhabitants, meaning that few recognise the festival’s religious significance. This is ever more true in the more remote, western regions, where it is likely seen by many as an alien tradition.

Yet despite this, Christmas has increased in popularity throughout China, and whilst suppressed in the Soviet Union, a separate, secular festival on December 31st was celebrated under the socialist regime. This suggests that, irrespective of whatever religious beliefs they may have, humans want to celebrate something this season. In fact, even the modern holiday we call Christmas wasn’t always very Christian; first a week-long Pagan festival concluding on Dec 25, it was adopted by Christians to ‘draw in’ Pagan believers, proving that you don’t need God as an excuse to celebrate..

With this in mind, I wish everyone a merry, secular Christmas Day.

My decoration-of-choice for the tree


How Language Legitimizes Terrorism

Following the war in Syria and the rise of Daesh, western society is more determined than ever to curb the number of men, women and children turning to these organisations. Tactics already employed will undoubtedly have some effect; internet censorship will certainly prove useful in the goal of trying to prevent online recruitment, for example. Yet nonetheless, I believe there’s one area where we fall short: the language we use when describing such people.

Surely, if we’re trying to lower the number of ‘homegrown terrorists’ we churn out each year, the last thing we’d want to do is make terrorism sound appealing. Yet synonymous with ‘terrorist’ are words like ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’, which seem to put an exciting spin on the act of systematic murder. After all, when would the ‘extreme’ ever sound less appealing? When has the ‘radical’ option never been more attractive, at least superficially? Given that many of the potential recruits we’re talking about are children, this likely presents even more of a problem. If it’s considered a radical move to join a terrorist organisation, this may help influence such a decision, even if only subconsciously.

Another danger presented by this kind of terminology is the fact that, in the context of Islam, words like ‘radicalism’, ‘extremism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ all imply a sense of untainted purity. They legitimise the doctrine practised by Daesh or al-Qaeda as a somehow purer interpretation of Islam than that of most normal, law-abiding Muslims, which could present a further danger to the aforementioned crowd. If you cherished and respected your faith, you could easily conclude that an extreme form of that religion – a purer form of that religion – would be favourable. The problem also lies in the fact that this kind of interpretation is wholly untrue; look at most of these organisations and you’ll see that they’re not really fighting for the caliphate. They’re just angry and bloodthirsty people looking for an excuse to kill others.

Now, I’m not suggesting there’s a black-and-white separation between Muslims and terrorists, and, as someone very critical of all religion, I’ll happily make the point that much of the violence carried out by these so-called fundamentalists is rooted in traditional Islamic principles, yet it seems like they’re currently portrayed as more legitimate followers of the same creed. We need to call a spade a spade and accept that sloppy language of this kind only conceals terrorism’s ugly reality.

What do we Mean by ‘Imperialism’

The world ‘imperialism’ holds a special place in Marxist rhetoric.

Alongside ‘revisionist’, ‘Trotskyist’ and various terms denoting bourgeois status, it is a favourite insult of many (particularly Maoists), and has been such ever since it was first theorised by Lenin as the ‘Highest Stage of Capitalism’. Yet, whilst popular, it seems that its meaning is not always clear. For example, many socialists would criticise the practices of both Julius Caesar and George W. Bush as ‘imperialist’, yet their actions were very different, and it’s as though this difference is often glossed over.

This can be seen in Mao’s Theory of Three Worlds, which groups the USA and the USSR as imperialist countries, Europe, Japan and Canada as ‘smaller’ imperialist nations, and Asia, Africa and Latin America as the victims of imperialism. Yet the way in which the USA exerts dominance over these parts of the world isn’t explained, for, the days of empire now gone, it’s clear that such exploitation is predominantly economic only, and perhaps neo-colonialism would be a more accurate description. This is something that I feel is often ignored; when Lenin wrote about imperialism’s role in the development of capitalism, he spoke of the British, German and Portuguese empires, yet here, Mao refers largely to the corporate exploitation of the developing world.

Something else left unexplained here is the distinction between western imperialism and that of the Soviet Union, which, unlike the west, did not profit through neo-colonialism. Here, the term refers to the Soviet domination over Eastern Europe or Afghanistan through military and diplomatic, as opposed to economic control. Thus, though these two forms of domination differ starkly, they are grouped under the same banner.

To clarify the distinction, I believe these two different varieties of imperialism need stating; economic, and military/political imperialism. Often there is overlap, such as the forceful domination Britain exerted over India for its own economic interests, or perhaps the Second Iraq War, arguably driven by similar interests, yet the differences are clear, despite how often they’re ignored.

Who do we Side With? – Assessing Relations in a Revolutionary Struggle 

The issues regarding the practicalities of revolution have, for a long time, divided opinions within communist circles. Karl Marx provided a theoretical basis for almost all things Marxist, from the alienation of the worker in capitalist society to the scientific progression of history, but this was one area which seems to have been glossed over, allowing the theorists and activists in his wake to devise individual interpretations. From this fresh wave of contributions to Marxist philosophy there arose Lenin’s model of a Vanguard Party, Luxembourg’s critique of Bolshevism in favour of revolutionary democracy, and Pannekoek’s concept of council communism, an idea which surfaced some years later in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

One issue in particular, which spurred significant international debate in the years following the Russian Revolution, was that of association. Many communists were prepared to work with other parties and organisations to advance their goal of revolution, whilst others insisted on a somewhat Puritan approach, refusing to affiliate themselves with any counter-revolutionary or bourgeois movements. This rift in opinion helped to alienate the Bolsheviks from a number of former allies, which, taking the ‘Puritan’ stance, became known loosely as the communist left or the ‘ultra-leftists’, a faction which still plays a role in the contemporary socialist movement.

So, if, in the context of revolution, the debate is still open as to who Marxist organisations should be prepared to side with, how should one go about answering this question? Who should be regarded as allies, and who should be renounced in the struggle for communism?

One occasion on which this question was brought to light was in 1921, during a period of unrest that occurred in the Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I) following the Comintern’s policy of adopting a ‘united front’, bringing together many worker’s movements and associations to strengthen the fight against capitalism. Prominent ultra-leftists in the party, such as Amadeo Bordiga, were greatly opposed to the idea and refused to work with the reactionary Italian Socialist Party, from which the communists had recently broken away.

Whilst this stance may seem an admirable and dogmatic one, it is important to remember that it is not as though the Bolsheviks (the leading forces in the Comintern) were an opportunist party; they had previously opposed any kind of alliance with reactionary organisations, yet the decision to foster unity between all socialist movements came following a lull in the revolutionary optimism which had swept through Europe following 1917, and a reinstatement of capitalist authority, forcing them to find alternative strategies to weaken capitalism and promote working-class organisation.

The logic of Bordiga and the likes, who eventually lost control of the party to a pro-Moscow group in the PCd’I, prevents this kind of thinking. It asserts that we must form no alliances with counter-revolutionaries no matter what, even if such an alliance would advance the revolution’s goals, and thus, through its rejection of such tactical and pragmatic actions, comes into conflict with the essentially Marxist logic of prioritising revolution over any other political goals. This is the reason why it needs stating that ‘left communism’ or ‘ultra-leftism’ does not deserve its leftist connotations; all that divides Lenin and Bordiga is a practical realisation of the revolution’s immediate tasks on the part of one, and a pompous, counter-productive ignorance of such on the part of the other. It is no coincidence that Russian Bolshevism, not Italian ultra-leftism, proved victorious in the defeat of the bourgeois and the creation of a proletarian dictatorship.

Today, there is an important lesson to be learned from this: one should respect general principals, such as the necessity of distancing oneself from counter-revolutionary people and organisations, but should be ready to break with that principal if it coincides with communist interests. Obviously, it’s unlikely that anyone would cling onto such ideas knowing that they clash with the revolutionary goals; for example, Bordiga undoubtedly rejected Comintern policy with the interests of the proletariat at heart, yet this is due to a failure to see or acknowledge that the Leninist approach (a pragmatic, logical, and ultimately productive manner of thinking) is far superior, and that tactical unity with organisations that may have opposing interests, alongside other sacrifices, may be necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that, at the time the Comintern introduced this policy, there were only two countries in Europe (Russia and Hungary) to have undertaken a successful and independent communist revolution, and in both cases, examples can be found where such sacrifices were necessarily made. To focus on Hungary in particular, it’s fact that the Communist Party took power by merging with the Social Democrats, after which point they established the Hungarian Soviet Republic, set about a program of radical social reforms, and reorganised the economy in a revolutionary manner. If they didn’t partake in this merger, sacrificing leftist principles for a socialist reality, such change would never have occurred.



Perpetuating the Cycle of Violence 

The recent terror attacks in Paris have spurred much debate on terrorism, with many taking the view that action needs to be taken if we’re to prevent anything like this from happening again. French President Hollande himself declared war on Islamic State, announcing plans to intensify airstrikes in the region, and he’s not alone; British Prime Minister David Cameron also proposed British intervention in the area, and talk is now underway of an international coalition to fight ISIS militants. Yet how effective are these measures actually going to be?

It’s worth remembering that Islamic State, whilst taking responsibility for these atrocities, announced that they were carried out in retaliation for France’s recent actions in the Middle East. Thus, it seems bizarre that the country is choosing to respond to a disasterby committing more of the same actions that inspired this disaster in the first place, especially since, as we are surely beginning to realise by now, they don’t work.

The western powers have organised countless attacks in this part of the world, destroying many innocent lives and communities in the name of stamping out terrorism, and, through the continuation of western social imperialism, have achieved nothing, for Islamic fundamentalism is just as pressing an issue as ever. In fact, I think we can say that imperialism shares a large portion of the blame for the existence of these organisations in the first place; according to Pelp and Feldman’s research*, 95% of suicide attacks are the result of foreign occupation. Given this unsurprising trend, showing that aggressive military action in ones country will likely turn its citizens against yours, we can see that an increase in French airstrikes will only contribute to the already existing cycle of violence.

Yet whilst I’m surprised at their inability to see sense, I’m not surprised at the eagerness of France to resort to such violence, for this was the country that only recently helped to destroy the state of Libya, contributed to the violence in Mali, and, prior to the Paris attacks, backed US intervention in Syria and Lebanon. During these campaigns, alongside the many others carried out by the American-aligned nations, many atrocities occurred and many found themselves alienated from the western world, fuelling the bloodshed that took place last week in the French capital.

To wade deeper into the Syrian conflict, as Hollande has promised to do, shall only add fuel to the fire.

* http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226645606?ie=UTF8&tag=fopo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0226645606

The Evils of Inaction: Capitalism and the Migrant Crisis

With thousands of refugees hoping to be granted asylum in Europe, the continent has responded to the crisis with much resentment. Only recently did anti-migration demonstrators bearing neofascist slogans take to the streets of Warsaw, completely dwarfing the pro-migration rally that had taken place the same day. Their opinions are undoubtedly shared by many across Europe, as we have seen, it’s not only ordinary citizens who are to blame; the use of tear gas and water cannons upon migrants at the Hungarian border shows outright hostility between governments and migrants, and the fact that Swedish opinion polls reveal a far-right, anti-immigration party to be the country’s most popular choice show that mob mentality isn’t just present on the streets.

In an attempt to at least respond to the event, the United Kingdom has agreed to accept a quota of 20,000 refugees. Even a relatively small contribution such as this one was met with disdain, with many fearing for the stability of the nation after such an influx. It’s evident that none of those talking of stability have ever lived in Syria.

One thing is clear: thousands are pouring to our wealthy, stable nations to escape war, poverty and discrimination, and it’s as if we’re doing everything we can to shut off the flow of people and put up our national boundaries. The refusal to accept quotas or the angst about allowing more citizens to one’s country may be justified by a belief that Europe can’t cope with the influx, or that we won’t be able to provide for these people, yet these ideas are almost laughable if you compare the provisional capabilities of France, Britain or Poland with those of the dishevelled states these migrants are flocking from. When we finally realised that we can’t ignore the issue, it’s as though we reluctantly did as little as possible to get around it. Take the UK, for example. I firmly believe it could provide for many more than 20,000.  Perhaps not without harming the grossly unequal hierarchy of wealth that dominates in Britain, but some sacrifice of wealth and resources is obviously needed. Unsurprisingly, the wealthy nations of the west are yet again unwilling to sacrifice theirs.

In this respect, the recent migrant crisis is part of a far larger problem, for it is well known, for example, that there is enough food in the world to feed everybody, yet some live in luxury while others starve. This reflects the economic disparity between nations of the first and third world, which remains a necessity for either’s existence, and will always be preserved by wealthy countries simply by their refusal to change it, and jeopardise their affluence. Thus, their refusal to act, to utilise the economy for purposes that contradict their interests, is an inherent evil of the international bourgeois.  Europe’s refusal to take more responsibility is only a new manifestation of the same old problem; the unwillingness of the wealthy to change the status quo. We can only hope that, when such change doesn’t come, there are enough voices out there to insist upon it.