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<nettime> The Idea of Muslim National Communism: On Mirsaid Sultan-Galie
Orsan on Mon, 13 Apr 2015 21:12:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Idea of Muslim National Communism: On Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev

   Alex Foti's last post reminded me of Sultan-Galiev, for some he is the
   father of Muslim national Communism, and for others of the third
   wordlist revolutionaries, like Fanon, Che, Maritegui and others. In
   last decade Galiev become increasingly popular, referred by
   Neo-Maoists, nationalist socialism, as well as groups that are
   developing an anti-capitalist Muslims posture. The below is an
   interesting new article below about the guy.

   I have been reading his stuff coming out of Soviet archives, since
   1995-96, and trying to trace the ideas influencing him. Finally very
   recently found out that the methodology Galiev claims to be using for
   developing his strategy 'energetic materialism' -which he claimed to be
   a more radical version of historical materialism- was actually
   originated in work of another forgotten name Bogdanov. This makes both
   names more relevant to Nettimers, since Bogdanov's major work Tektology
   is seen as the original source of the cybernetics and General Systems
   Theory which probably influenced all of us in one way or another.

   Have been looking forward MacKenzie's Molecular Red and the English
   translation of Bogdanov's Empiriomonizm, believing and hoping there
   lies here an historical link, that was waiting to be made and that
   could help us to develop a vision that can bring together all forces
   defines themselves as anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-sexist,
   anti-exploitationist, anti-authoritarian and those working on building
   pro post-capitalist, eco-friendly, peaceful, solider, free, equal


   In The Wretched of the Earth, from 1961, Frantz Fanon argued that

     Marxist analyses should always be slightly stretched every time we
     have to confront the colonial problem.[1]1

   This notion is an excellent starting point for reexamining the
   postcolonial problematic of what Dipesh Chakrabarty calls the
   "provincializing" of Europe. Within subaltern, postcolonial, and
   decolonial studies, there are two heterogeneous and competing
   conceptions of this provincialization of Europe, whose entanglement
   remains a source of ambiguities. There is, on the one hand, a
   conception that holds provincialization to be synonymous with the
   particularization, and thus relativization, of "Eurocentric-European
   thought," and Marxist thought in particular. There is, on the other
   hand, an understanding of provincialization as a stretching that
   underlines the need for an extension and displacement of the borders of
   theory beyond Europe, as a condition of possibility of an authentic
   universalization. The opponents of postcolonial critique have until now
   almost exclusively seemed to resist the first of these two forms of
   provincialization, relativization, in that they really perceived it to
   be a break with anti-colonial thought and struggles for
   emancipation. But they seemed to be a bit less attentive to the second
   form-stretching or extension-where they would have seen that this
   indeed draws on deep roots in anti-colonial thought, and anti-colonial
   Marxism in particular.

   There are many ways to retrace this genealogy, that is, to elucidate
   the continuities as well as the ruptures that are foundational to the
   historical-epistemological transition and division from
   anti-colonialism to postcolonial critique. I look to consider here the
   problem of the nationalization of Marxism. Usually, this is understood
   as a simple question of the "adaptation of Marxism to singular
   conditions"; this does not account for the complexity of the way in
   which, as Gramsci and C.L.R. James have shown, such a nationalization
   engages in a process of theoretical and practical translations. The
   most famous example remains the "sinification" of Marxism led by Mao
   Zedong. As Arif Dirlik writes, in what is otherwise an unrelenting
   critique of postcolonial studies: "One of Mao's greatest strengths as a
   leader was his ability to translate Marxist concepts into a Chinese
   idiom"; in other words, he articulated a "vernacularization of
   Marxism."[2]2 Here, one can already see that the process of the
   nationalization of Marxism is not reducible to Stalin's formula of
   "national in form, socialist in content."[3]3

   I am interested in an experience that is less well-known, that of
   "Muslim national communism" as it was developed in Soviet Russia, then
   in the USSR, from 1917 to the end of the 1920s. It seems important to
   shed light on this experience for at least three reasons:
    1. First, as the name indicates, Muslim communism raises the question
       - more relevant than ever - of the relations between, on the one
       hand, emancipatory movements with "white origins" (as in the Soviet
       example) and, on the other hand, Islam and the groups that
       integrate it in multiple ways into their own political claims.
    2. Second, one is confronted with an anti-imperialist emancipatory
       movement that developed in concert with a revolutionary process in
       the very heart of the (Russian) empire, a historical situation
       whose most famous precedent is the connection between the French
       and Haitian Revolutions at the transition of the 18th to the 19th
    3. The third reason concerns a "colonial revolution" that unfolds from
       within the territorial borders of the "metropole," its confines.
       But it is not a matter of an exception so much as a limit-situation
       that discloses the fact that, in a global imperialist context,
       extra-European nationalism never forms an "outside" to empire;
       rather, it is its permanent limit. To think the nationalization of
       Marxism, and more specifically, of Bolshevism, as the
       provincialization of Europe, means to therefore not to imagine an
       radical alterity opposed to Marxist-Leninism, and could not alter
       or relativize the latter; it is to conceptualize the theoretical
       and practical margins of Bolshevism-itself the the product of a
       prior translation of Marxism into Russia-or in other words, to
       stretch it. This entails as well the elucidation of the modes
       through which Bolshevism was rethought from the margins of the

   Not having any pretensions of giving an overview of all of Muslim
   national communism, I am interested here in someone who remains its
   major figure, the Tartar Bolshevik intellectual and militant Mirsaid
   Sultan-Galiev, whose first arrest was remarked upon by Trotsky in 1923,
   when he cited Kamenev's words:

     Do you remember the arrest of Sultan-Galiev? [...] This was the
     first arrest of a prominent Party member made upon the initiative of
     Stalin [...] That was Stalin's first taste of blood.[4]4

   But let's take things up from the beginning.[5]5


   1. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/#fn1-4183
   2. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/#fn2-4183
   3. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/#fn3-4183
   4. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/#fn4-4183
   5. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/#fn5-4183
   6. https://viewpointmag.com/2015/03/23/the-idea-of-muslim-national-communism-on-mirsaid-sultan-galiev/

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