The glorification of violence, hunger, god and the anti-imperialist liberation struggle
When the self-appointed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, these days Caliph Ibrahimi, exclaimed the Caliphate on the 4th of June 2014 (during the first day of the Ramadan) in the Great (al-Nuri) Mosque in Mosul, he placed himself in the tradition of the Prophet and his three successors.
The choice for the Great Mosque in Mosul for the exclamation of the Caliphate was not a random choice: in 1171 this mosque was built as commissioned by Nur ad-Din. This mujahedeen was the preceptor of the renowned Salad al-Din, who conquered Jerusalem back from the crusaders in 1192. The mosque still has calligraphy of Koranic verses on the wall, which indicate Jerusalem (in contradiction to Mecca) as the first direction of prayer. So one of the main objectives of IS becomes quite clear: at some point Jerusalem (al-Quds) will have to become the centre of the Caliphate once again.
Another goal of IS is clearing their territory from in their eyes 'disbelieving' tribes. Although Assyrians, Samaritans, Yazidis and other religious minorities directly need to leave the territory of the Caliphate, because according to IS they are "devil worshippers", Christian and Jewish tribes, the people of the book, have to choose between four options: 1) Take as many possessions as you can carry and leave the Caliphate. (In an early stadium minorities were even dropped off at the Syrian-Iraqi border). 2) Convert to (Sunni) Islam. Always a possibility and in their eyes even desirable. 3) Pay a firm tax (1/3 of your possessions) and retain your faith. Or option 4) If the former choices yield nothing, the 'sword' will follow: a certain death.
However, for IS the apostates in their own ranks are even worse than 'people without book', the Shia Muslims. According to IS these apostates of the Prophets path need to be fought first on their own territory, before the Caliphate can fight against all the enemies that threaten the Muslim community (read: 'the crusaders' of the west, aka US imperialism, reactionary Islamic regimes, gulf monarchies, etc.). Therefore the al-Nuri mosque was chosen with a clear reason: in his age Nur ad-Din also fought the Shia. And although Nur ad-Din from time to time also allied himself with the Shia for strategic reasons, IS consequently refuses to reach out to this 'apostate' Shia tendency.
The age-old hatred between Sunni’s and Shia is deeply rooted. The installation by the US troops, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, of the Iraqi president al-Maliki, led to an unknown repressive and oppressive reign towards the Sunni population. This sectarian struggle between the two biggest tendencies within Islam and which has been waged for more than 1400 years long has polarized to extreme levels since the US invasion in Iraq in 2003.
The propaganda from Teheran, the conspiracy theories of conspiracy theorists, the suggestions from the far right (and sometimes the far left), that IS would be a destabilizations-project of the US, cannot be proven in any way. Any serious evidence for this assumption is missing. Recently it became known that the State-construction of IS is based on the old secret service of the Saddam-loyalists, mainly by the former colonel of intelligence Haji Bakr. This combination of military- and intelligence knowledge of old Baáth members on the background and religious fanatics of combative (mostly foreign) jihadists on the frontlines, is what makes IS so successful military.
Al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda ideologue since 2004, was the first to preach this sectarian Islamism (=political Islam). This to great annoyance of the al-Qaeda leadership, who stated that "Sinful Muslims should not be confused with apostate Muslims" (about the Shia) and that "these certainly should not be executed". For them the primary concern was the struggle against the US and their allied troops (the far enemy). IS however, aims its arrows primarily at the enemy up close: the apostate and sinful Muslims in their own ranks.
Although Iran (as the most important Shia country) was a bulwark against imperialism for many years, it now seems the country has started an intense collaboration with US imperialism. Since the beginning Iran welcomed the US invasion in Iraq. There was a certain cooperation between the US and Iran in their struggle against IS to recapture the town of Tikrit, which was coordinated between the US air force, Iraqi government troops (who are an extension of Teheran) and Shia militias (mostly mercenaries from Iran). Despite its fierce anti-American rhetoric, the regime of al-Assad (= Alavite sect, a Shia tendency) also does not offer any notable resistance to the (illegal) bombing in Syria against IS and al-Nusra.
Next to these regimes IS also recognizes Sunni Islamic regimes as apostate. Besides the many agreements these regimes have with the west at the expense of their own Islamic population, there is no single place for monarchies or parliamentary-States in the world of IS. Both a monarchy based on succession as well as a bourgeois-democracy is rejected by the new Caliphate. Only a Caliphate based on the glorification of Allah, on the basis of the Umma (the Muslim community), is the right regime for them. This is the main reason why both reactionary Shia and Sunni governments fight IS with such conviction.
To get a clear insight in the ideological worldview of IS we must look at the manifesto of the Al-Khanssa Brigade, a female group in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The well-known references to the scientific achievements of the old Muslim world are clearly rejected by them: "In the days of the Prophet people did know nothing about physics, engineering or astronomy. They had hunger and they lived in cabins. Therefore Allah stood at the centre of their lives." Followed by stating that "those who try to make this world into a paradise, don't believe in the real paradise. They forget that worshipping Allah is their sole reason to exist."
This worship of the "Divine", so putting a higher ideal in the centre of life, is an ever returning phenomenon in different political ideologies. The only thing which differentiates is the myth itself. From China under Mao Zedong to Cambodia under Pol Pot, to the romance of the proletarian revolt of Georges Sorel and Ernst Niekisch, all were spirited by a great myth.
In his national bolshevism, Ernst Niekisch sought "the total State, the plan economy, the Russian alliance, the anti-Romanic effect, the unconditional war-State, the poverty and the widespread hunger."
Georges Sorel introduced the myth back into Marxism. According to him Marxism was surrendered to the petit-bourgeoisie and needed to return to its origin: "a war machine against the bourgeois democracy", an ideology for the proletariat that had to pursue "the violent mass-strike". So the proletariat had to find the myth back in itself, it had to be found in the violence, the bloodshed and the poverty. In a certain way it can be said that the militants of IS search the myth of god in the Islam and use the violence, bloodshed and poverty to reach their goals. (Without having ever heard about Sorel of course). In petit-bourgeois circles Sorel is usually seen as the forefather of Fascism, mainly due to his urge for violence and his spiritual search for a revolutionary syndicalism. And this makes sense of course. But to label IS also as "Fascists", or even "Nazi’s" (as the left so easy does) does not make sense of course. In many ways IS has more in common with the Khmer Rouge than with "Fascism".
IS shares great similarities with these socialists, who in the past still were strongly defined by the post-war KPD (German Communist Party) and the Yugoslav communist States. Great parallels can be found between the US troops invading Cambodia in 1969 and the same occupation forces who invaded in Iraq in 2003. Also the mobilization of the rebellious peasants and workers masses as the armed branch of the Communist Party of Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge) and the insurgent Sunni tribes united under the IS flag, against the collaborating and collapsing governments of Cambodia and Iraq are quite similar. Both movements were acquainted with the "humanitarian" bombardments of the Americans. The longer these continued, the bigger the support for these kinds of militias became. Both countries knew a civil war in which these ideological militants could consolidate their power.
However, not only the political climate of Cambodia resembles that of Syria and Iraq. Also the Khmer Rouge ideology knows great similarities with that of IS. After the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, Mao's Cultural Revolution was seen as a great example. "You have gained a brilliant victory. Another single blow and no more classes will exist", Pol Pot wrote to Mao Zedong. The Khmer Rouge got the urge to exceed Mao's revolution. From 1970 until '75 the Khmer Rouge executed their ideology in practice (by reactionaries mockingly branded "stone age communism") where they controlled the land (in '73 the Red Khmer took over almost 90% of the country on the government). Individualism, family, religion, education, free time and fashion were deemed as relics of the old feudal State and had to be destroyed. In the revolutionary territories private property was completely abolished. Everything was collectivized and divided into different columns workers, cooperatives, who had a collective duty. If the cooperative failed, collective punishment was the consequence.
In the Khmer Rouge ideology, the complete takeover of power became 'the year zero': that of the 'Perfect Revolution'. This revolution had to make "the classes disappear" and "persuade landlords, brokers and loan sharks to stop their unproductive proceedings and to move them towards participation in the production" (the forced mass evacuations of the urban masses to the countryside). This was the product of the rural guerrilla Khmer Rouge. In the liberated territories they did have 'the political and military power, but not the economic power, which was still in the hands of the landlords and capitalists." Therefore the liberated territories needed to incorporate the "agricultural production and its control, redistribution, supply and barter between the cooperations and between the cooperations and the State" (interview with pot Pol, ROTE FAHNE 18/78). This way the Khmer Rouge introduced the idea of a cashless society. The economy was no longer about money. The national bank of Phnom Penh was directly destroyed after it was taken over; millions of banknotes covered the streets. Until '79 currency would remain abolished.
To permanently break with the old feudal and capitalist society, the symbolic demolition of pre-revolutionary Cambodia was seen as a necessity. Especially in regard to the destruction of the symbols of the colonial era. In the same month Phnom Penh was conquered the Notre Dame cathedral was destroyed. Phnom Penh was regarded as the 'Paris of the East' and was a rallying for intellectuals and outsiders, which made it a symbolic target for the Khmer Rouge. Also Buddhist and Islamic sanctuaries became a target. Just like the Khmer Rouge, IS installs a similar regime. First the most important infrastructures are mended and the population is provided with (free) bread and social needs. A strict interpretation of the sharia is implemented as a legal system. Theft, booze and smoking are strictly prohibited. On the economic level the Caliphate also wants to abolish the money circulation and usury.
Just like the Khmer Rouge, IS wages a symbolic struggle against all which remembers of the old pre-Islamic age (in much the same way the Calvinist Protestants did in Europe during the 16th century). IS demolished on a symbolic manner the border between Iraq and Syria, one of the last relics of the British and French imperialism in the regional; namely the geographic distribution of the Arab world after WW 1 by the Sykes-Picot Treaty. Also the destruction of the old Assyrian monuments and remains (and those of other civilizations that proceeded the age of the Prophet and which are seen as idolatry) must be seen in this context. Also Boko Haram ("western education is a sin") participates in this symbolic iconoclasm. This militant Islamism which saw the daylight in 2009 sees the politics of Nigeria as the symbol for the degeneration of the Muslim population in the country: they denounce the western educations of Nigerian elites, their friendships with the old colonial rulers, the corruption in parliament and secular thought.
Also within the senior national-socialist cadres of before 1933, like Walther Darré, Gottfried Feder, Heinrich Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg, the agrarian society was the ideal which stood opposite to the 'Jewish and nomadic' city life. According to them this city life was the root of the alienation of the German people. In this national-socialist rural ideology the city represented "decadence, a herd of unrooted masses". It was a breeding ground for Marxism, while in the rural areas the people were still in contact with their "blood and soil". According to Gottfried Feder “the abolishment of interest slavery, would mean the return to the life of the countryside and small towns."
From an ethical viewpoint we can engage in endless debates in how far the monopolies on violence and executions of the Khmer Rouge and IS are a justification to put an ideal into practice. This is not what this is about. However, the ideological c.q. religious struggle of IS can certainly be defended from a revolutionary point of view:
As long as IS is bombarded with bullets and bombs from the barrels of Western imperialism and their allies, and as long as IS aims their guns on these imperialists, they deserve the support of each true revolutionary!
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