The British far left and its turn to…

As told by Tariq Ali in 1999 in his novel Redemption.

Spoiler follows.

It’s 1990. Foremost theoretician of the World Movement Ezra Einstein (modelled on Ernest Mandel) has called an Extraordinary Congress to discuss what is to be done about the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc and its workers’ spontaneous and eager lunge at capitalism. Delegations from across the world attend his every word. The octogenerian, who only minutes previously lactated to feed his first newborn child, begins by asking delegates which countries have witnessed the largest mobilisations of urban and rural masses over the last decade. He then elaborate on the implications.

“What then is to be done? The answer is obvious. We must move into the churches, the mosques, the synagogues, the temples and provide leadership. Our training is impeccable. In this regard I would say that the comrades of PISPAW, of the Burrowers, of Comrade Pelletier’s organisatio, as well as many smaller groups here, are better suited to this than the French PSR or the Mexican PPRRS. Their style, and I say this as a compliment… their style of education, their recruitment practices, their apprenticeships are so close to some of the Christian orders that I am confident we could make gains very rapidly. Within ten years I can predict that we would have at least three or four cardinals, two ayatollahs, dozens or rabbis, and some of the smaller Churches like the Methodists in parts of Brtain could be totally under control.”

And after hypothesising about the origins of the RESPECT coalition with such prescience, he continues his dialectic:

“I realise that this means changing everything. Everything. But at the end we might come out stronger. I ask you not to reject what I have said out of hand. I know it seems shocking. We, the vanguard of the vanguard, moving into religion? It sounds appalling, COmrades, but it’s the only way. I warn you if we don’t do this together you can forget about being the vanguard of anything. The only van we’ll ever see is the guards van of these new revolutions as they pass us by.

“I can see that many of you are shocked, but Comrades, there is one more fact we have to grasp. One of the weaknesses of Marxism and all the other isms descended from it has been a lack of understanding of ethics, morality and, dare I say it, spirituality. We propound what we know is false because our intellects persuade us that it ought to be true. Our dogmas liquidate our intuitions. That’s where the religions have always been able to trump us. All this will change. We have planted the seed. Long live the World Republic of Self-Management based on Workers’ Councils. I notice some of you laughing (Shouts from hall of “We remain true to Marxism-Trotskyism.”) You do, do you? Every great movement has had to contend with people like you. The Donatist heresy split the Christians two hundred years after the death of its founder. The Donatists, like you my dear comrades of the Satanist League, claimed that they were the only true believers. That they and they alone had a direct relationship to the divine law. To God! They dismissed any effort to relate to the problems of life on Earth. Just like you, my dear comrades. I will end with paraphrasing St Augustine’s rebuke to the Donatists: “The clouds roll with thunder,” he shouted at them, “the clouds roll with thunder, that the House of the Lord shall be built throughout Earth: and these frogs sit in their marsh and croke ‘We are the only Christians.'” The similarities would, in other circumstances, be amusing. Today I find them extremely disturbing. Thank you comrades.”

And so Ezra Einstein hops off secularism as lightly as a grasshopper. Most of the delegates have difficulties swallowing this. One wonders “If tactics and strategy could be so elastic as to lose all connection with the goals, then what was the point of anything”. A veteran from the bench of honour, old enough to have been expelled by Trotsky for raising money from an innocent – in fact model – cooperative agreement between his taxi service and the Parisian Prostitutes Collective, intervenes with a report of hitherto secret correspondence between Trotsky and the Pope including a codicil “addressed to the movement on the possibility of religion outlasting science and our attitude” and departs for Mexico City to retrieve (fabricate) it.

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