Anyone who is uneasy with my classification of the DSP political leadership as unprincipled political adventurers should sit back and review the events since the DSP organised the extended exercise in religious bigotry and backwardness known as the NoToPope Coalition, and attempted to pass it off as Marxism.
The discussion of this nasty adventure on Leftwrites, the Green Left site and Ozleft has been revealing in every way. The first thing that has to be said is that this NoToPope adventure flies in the face of the basic attitude to religion when it is expressed in the religious practices of the masses, going back through Trotsky and Lenin to Marx and Engels.
Interested people should read the collection, Lenin On Religion, the Marx and Engels collection on religion, Kautsky’s Origins of Christianity, Engels’s The Peasent War in Germany, Rosa Luxembourg’s Socialism and the Churches, Fidel Castro on religion, Maxim Rodinson’s On Islam, Abram Leon’s On the Jewish Question, the article by Terry Eagleton to which we have a pointer on Ozleft, and James Connolly’s Labour, Nationality and Religion.
There are differences of emphasis in these books but what unites them all is their serious attitude towards the persistent grip of religion on the masses in many countries and their insistence that Marxists should not make it any kind of principle that believers give up their beliefs to join a socialist party.
I also put it to Fred Fuentes, who seems to be a supporter of the DSP majority but whose serious attempts to explain events in Latin America I respect (and who lives in Venuzuela now), that when the Pope went to Cuba the Cuban government treated him with great care and respect. There was not a trace of the nonsense and bigotry peddled by the DSP leadership.
The obvious reason for this, and for the careful attitude of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to religious affairs, is the practical political consideration that the Latin American masses would lynch them if they adopted any other approach, and it also appears to me that they are unlikely to want to adopt a bigoted stance towards the Catholic masses for cultural reasons.
It’s worth noting also that in the whole of Latin America there is a complex skein of circumstances pertaining to the Catholic Church. Many Latin American leftist started out as Terry Eagleton and I did actually when very young, as leftists in the Catholic Church. A Colombian pilgrim was telling me the night before last that throughout universities in Colombia there are two ubiquitious posters, Che Guevara, and Camillo Torres, the courageous priest and guerilla military leader against the oligarchy who was killed over 20 years ago.
The proud, ignorant and stupid religious bigotry of the DSP leadership. How they lie about events even when their own photographs demonstrate their lies
As Kerry Vernon pointed out on the Green Left list, the Potemkin Village megalomania of the DSP leadership led it to continue increasing the size of the demonstration, eventually claiming 1500. I have learnt through a lot of experience with the DSP leadership that it is wise when looking at the numbers that they claim for demonstrations that they initiate to take the lowest estimate that they give and halve it if you want something like the true figure.
I have consulted some people who I trust who went along to have a look, and they agree that the figure was actually 200-300. The rather demented DSP leadership could only find 300 bigots and crazies prepared to go along and hurl insults and abuse at 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.
I submit that if you look closely at the odd crowd that the DSP proudly put on their assorted websites, all you can see by way of demonstrators is 200-300 people. When lying in politics it is wise not to peddle lies and then put up pictures that show you’re lying.
The DSP leadership tries to have a bob each way, claiming that their demonstration was not an exercise in religious bigotry, yet they put up pictures, with slogans like “Debaptise yourself” (a Raelian slogan, I gather); “God does not exist”; “Stop believing, ease your mind”; and a pile of other exotic insults directed at the pilgrims.
The DSP pictures on their websites give very considerable prominence to the exotic Raelians in their ceremonial garb with a series of slogans and images that this wordly pedestrian Marxist, and ex-Catholic couldn’t comprehend at all, but their slogans there were unmistakeably attacking Catholics as believers, and the Catholic Church as a social institution.
The DSP leadership also leans heavily on the proposition that they were in a united front with certain secularists and atheist groups and it is certainly true that they show placards purporting to be from such groups, and the placards all insist in one way or another that the believers immediately stop believing.
I have a certain historical respect for the robust, often-proletarian 19th century rationalism. It was often an expression of the revolt of the working class, and particularly working class intellectuals, against the whole corpus of ruling class ideology and religious hypocrisy. Many of the 19th century rationalists were themselves people who made the transition from evangelical Christianity to rationalism and socialism, although of course there were still many Christian socialists in the 19th century.
In my experience in the 20th century, the rump of organised rationalism has degenerated into middle-class people with a bee in their bonnet about religion, and in my experience if you scratch those people what spurts out of them is hostility to Muslims and Buddhists, and also a Anglo-Australian hostility to migration.
A study of the DSP’s photographs of the event are both amusing, many of the photographs being so bizarre and instructive politically about the gutter politics involved, masquerading as a protest.
I have more sympathy for the gay people involved in the protest. The gay people have a legitimate and clear reason and right to protest against the Catholic Church, but I’d say even to them, that if you actually want to influence attitudes and behavior, it’s wise to consider how you conduct your agitation in relation to religious believers and institutions.
A bit like Jonathan Swift I’d like to make a modest proposal to the DSP leadership. Why don’t you join the Raelians up to the Socialist Alliance, or even fuse with them, as you seem to have agreement on so many questions? Then you could all together go up and join the spaceship lurking behind the moon and go off into outer space to get away from the grubby planet earth where a large slice of the population is still religious and a politically significant minority consider themselves Marxists.
That would be good for everone. You could avoid contamination and the rest of us would get you out of our hair!
On a more serious note, I wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a large number of the bigoted organisers of that anti-working-class demonstration aggressively insulting the significant of the section of the working class and the middle class from many countries who adhereto the Catholic Church.
A PS to Ratbag Riley about BA Santamaria etc. when Bob Santamaria was your mentor in the early 1970s, before you went off to join the Stalinists, I had been fighting the Industrial Groups for 15 years in the broad labour movement. A feature of that very important struggle, which you don’t comment on, was that it was a united front in the workers movement between secular Marxists like myself and other socialists, but it included quite a large number of still practicing Catholics such as Jim Ormonde. One tactic of Bob Santamaria and his associates was to attack the practicing Catholics who opposed The Movement as insufficiently Catholic. When you and your fellow bigots attempt to organise a tiny pogrom against 400,000 pilgrims (a rather unwise enterprise strategically) you are pissing on all the practicing Catholics on the left currently, and the memory of past practicing Catholics who saw no contradiction between their religious allegiance and socialism, people like James Connolly, Constance Markievicz, Camillo Torres and many, many others. Apart from the aspect of religious bigotry, I find it deeply offensive as a broadly Marxian socialist for 50 years for the DSP leadership to bustle around in the public arena in their perpetual quest for publicity to make themselves seem relevant, proclaiming that this reactionary bigotry has something to do with socialism or Marxism. This stuff actually doesn’t harm the Catholic Church at all, but it contributes to making socialists look like cranks and bigots. In these objective conditions socialists need that like a hole in the head.