Is Christianity a leftist magazine today?

| Political religion as the new avant-garde?

In recent years, religion has regained importance in socio-political terms. Take the Tea Party movement in the United States, for example: it appeared to be in decline for a while in the face of a determined counterattack by the Republican establishment close to Wall Street. With the surprising defeat of the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, against Dave Brat, a candidate from the tea party spectrum, she has proven her ability to act again. This underscores the fact that shortly afterwards the reform of the immigration laws, supported by important capital factions, was overturned. In Latin America, evangelical Christianity is an increasingly influential social movement: In Brazil, Marina Silva, an evangelical politician running for the Greens (whose relative electoral success was therefore often wrongly attributed to a 'greening' of political discourse) unexpectedly succeeded in 2010 in winning President Dilma Rousseff in to force a runoff election. According to current forecasts, this constellation could repeat itself in the upcoming presidential elections - with Silva even being given a majority in some cases. In different parts of Africa, evangelical Christian forces are associated with the brutal persecution of people from the LGBT community (e.g. in Uganda) or with so-called corrective rape (e.g. in South Africa). In France, right-wing groups mobilize hundreds of thousands, mainly from the culturally conservative, Catholic milieus, for demonstrations against gay marriage. And in parts of Eastern Europe a new bloc in power seems to be emerging, consisting of set pieces from post-communist state apparatus, nationalist-fascist movements and the church structures (whether Orthodox or Catholic) that have remained relatively stable through communism. And last but not least, there is political Islam, the spearhead of which - the ›global jihad‹ - has developed into a strong transnational movement. In a wide arc from Mali to Malaysia he organizes mass movements, coups, bomb attacks, civil wars and uprisings that challenge governments.

"I am firmly convinced that,
that September 11th the first break
with this planetary system means.
And that is [...] a real paradox.
Who or what is responsible for it?
Maoism, Marxism,
the revolutionary proletariat,
the revolutionary peasants?
No it was the goddamn religion -
that we had simply forgotten. "
Stuart Hall, LuXemburg 2/2014

»Where the Syrian-Iraqi Islamist group ISIS rules,
mercilessly judges and slays their enemies.
But it also has a social side, vaccinates children,
fills potholes, installs new power lines and
takes care of the quality of the kebab. "
Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 17, 2014

While the tea party in the USA or the homophobic demonstrations in France can be explained from their respective national contexts, global jihad is a transnational phenomenon. Beyond such differences, however, it can be stated that we are dealing with an upswing in political-religious movements, ie with "movements [...] whose aim is to establish religious norms and laws in society, either through parliamentary or extra-parliamentary means." (Moghadam 2012, 104). The reactionary factions are by no means the only religious movements that are gaining strength in the crisis. Examples are the close connection between progressive forces and religious groups in the USA (from the civil rights and environmental justice movement to the current campaign for a minimum wage), the discussions about Pope Francis, his criticism of capitalism and his (possibly) progressive agenda, or even the one in this country unbroken dynamism and size of religious events such as the Kirchentag (in contrast to the languid May Day activities).

If one frees oneself from the idea of ​​a necessary front position between religion and the left, the question can be formulated differently: What is actually the relationship between the left and political-religious movements? And how could or should it develop in the future? Religious movements are not necessarily antagonistic to the left; they themselves express social contradictions. They are therefore part of the contradicting terrain on which hegemony is being fought for. Certainly the constellation in this country differs from that in the Arab region, in Latin America or in Eastern Europe. What Jan Rehmann (2014) formulated for the USA - "there is actually no chance of building a sustainable left counter-hegemonic movement in the USA that has no strong religious component" - cannot be transferred directly to other regions of the world. But since "the movements of poor and marginalized people are often also religious movements" (ibid.), It is not about the abstract relationship of a left to religion in the sense of Feuerbach's criticism of religion, but rather about the concrete relationship to those social groups that traditionally form the basis of the left: the "damned of this earth".

On the return of the religious in the organic crisis

“Religious misery is one expression of real misery and one is a protest against real misery. [...] The critique of religion is in the germ the critique of the valley of woe, of which religion is the halo. «(Marx, MEW 1, 378) Deep in the organic crisis, without realistic prospects for transformation, we find ourselves in such a valley of woe - one Interregnum, in which old orientations were unsettled (cf. Candeias 2010) - in a situation in which religious invocations have a good chance of meeting with everyday social understanding. If an analysis of this worldly balance of power reveals a less than hopeful picture, the optimism of the will can often only be drawn from transcendence, from the reference to something beyond the given. This is the materialistic core of the thesis of the return of the religious. Gramsci also knew that "the religious bond, loosened in normal times, becomes stronger and more receptive in times of great moral-political crises, when the future appears full of storm clouds" (Gef. 1, H1, §48: 124). In this situation, analogous to Marx's criticism of the Young Hegelians, the weapons of traditional criticism of religion must fail, because they are precisely a criticism of the halo and not of real conditions.
The organic crisis thus forms the framework within which the uneven (simultaneous) developments in the Arab region, in southern Africa, in Europe and in the USA are linked. At the same time, they are related to the weakness of left forces that have little to offer: "With the defeat of secular alternatives, religion became the focal point of resistance in some of the less developed regions [...] of the› planetary system ‹" (Hall in this issue) . In short: the increasing strength of religious forces reflects the growing weakness of the left.1 This is especially true with regard to their basis in the everyday life of the subaltern. This shift can be demonstrated in three areas.

Reproduction, organization, revolution

Reproduction: It has become commonplace that the strength of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is based on the fact that it has introduced forms of social welfare there. During the Egyptian Revolution, criticism was raised that the Muslim Brotherhood repainted the walls of elementary schools, while the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square merely sprayed the walls with graffiti. The same applies to Koran schools in Afghanistan or Pakistan. No convincing left response could be formulated to the destruction of welfare state structures in the so-called developing countries of the global south (from which urban workers in particular had benefited). There are political and structural reasons for this. Whether in Indonesia or Iraq, whether in Egypt or Algeria: the neoliberal offensive was often preceded by massive attacks on left or communist structures. The development of Islamist movements and organizations was often actively promoted 'from above' in order to weaken left forces. As a result, the left was cut off from its mass base in many places and its organizations were smashed. This is one of the tragedies (literally innocent guilt) of left politics.
Some of the movements in the global south with which the left of the north have shown solidarity are based in less disadvantaged backgrounds than those organized by the religious movements. Take Turkey as an example: while the basis of the moderate Islamist AKP also lies in the culturally and economically long marginalized strata of the population from Anatolia, the protesters in Gezi Park came primarily from the educated, urban middle class: the “graduates with no future” (Mason 2011). For the declassed and new middle classes the left and for the subordinate ›lower classes‹ the political religion? Of course there are counterexamples like the Brazilian landless movement MST or the slum dwellers in South Africa. But they are rare.
Organization: The reliable provision of social services requires the creation of institutions, which in turn require and facilitate organization. In North Africa the question of the relationship between left and religious actors arises most sharply. Since the 1980s, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has founded all kinds of professional organizations, mosques, charitable structures and financial institutions, »which offer concrete help for everyday problems in urban slums and in rural areas. This last aspect in particular ensured that, in the long term, when the revolution began in January 2011, the Muslim Brothers were the only opposition organization to fall back on nationwide structures, while left-wing organizations, for example, were limited in their political reach to the big cities and the few industrial conurbations ”(Daniljuk 2013). Here echoes of social democratic choral societies, funeral homes and cooperative banks can be heard.
The weakness of left-wing organizations, the inability of the networked graduates to perpetuate their political successes, is not the result of the so-called network form, as some traditional leftists argue. Rather, it follows from the absence of left-wing structures that support the everyday reproduction of the subaltern. The current protest movements in Brazil, supported by the middle classes, for example, make their demands on a state which in the moral economy of the postal welfare and postal developing states is still assigned the role of ensuring the increased reproduction of labor and guaranteeing certain social rights. In other words, the left-wing movements, which are increasingly recruiting from the middle class, are fighting for access to state support for their reproduction, while poorer and more powerless social groups have to look elsewhere. Middle-bottom alliances are difficult here.
Revolution: The historical role of the radical left has always been to open up and keep open the possibility of a fundamental system change, a turning point (in the sense of eschatology). However: »In the West the ability to think eschatologically seems to have largely been lost. It is hardly immanent in the western way of life. Regardless of the crises and corruption of today's liberalism, it is still extremely difficult to imagine a life without and beyond liberalism. «(Mezzadra et al. 2013, 9) The understandable inability to adopt a convincing,› immanent ‹revolutionary or transformative perspective in the Developing organic crisis tends to drive people who are looking for fundamental change into the arms of forces that can draw their perspective of change from transcendence (regardless of how realistic it may be).
This also accounts for the success of global left theory rock stars such as Negri, Žižek, Badiou and other neocomm (unist) s, who use numerous religious figures of argument: from St. Paul and the messianic act, to Lenin as Jesus of the end times, to the riders the apocalypse. In this way they are trying to restore or use the utopian surplus, Bloch's famous heat flow, which the transformation left has largely lost. Despite the strategic vagueness of their concepts, these narratives meet with resonance with many and make the flow of heat tangible. You seem to be proceeding according to a simple recipe: If the world-historical situation is structurally becoming more and more religious, why not the left too?

Two questions for the left

For leftists, two questions arise, which in turn derive from the dual function of religion (cf. Steckner 2013): as an authoritarian-paternalistic force that passivates the subaltern, organizes and stabilizes rule, and at the same time as a prophetic force that questions the existing that activates subalterns and can therefore be part of a left, transformative mosaic and its struggles for social hegemony. The first, more long-term question is: How can left forces regain ground in the three areas of reproduction, organization and revolution? The developments in Spain and Greece make a promising promise here (cf. Candeias / Völpel 2014). The other question, to be answered more quickly, relates to the relationship of the left to political-religious forces: How can the emancipatory elements be strengthened within the field of religious movements and productive alliances developed with them?
Some answers to the first question - along the aforementioned dimensions of reproduction, organization and revolution: We are currently experiencing a new connection between feminist and Marxist discourses and movements that could perhaps be described as 'reproductive Marxism'. The field of reproduction (work) has thus regained an important meaning for social struggles and the left movement. The question of organization is also being discussed again and often productively in (almost) all areas of the left mosaic, i.e. in the direction of convergence and inclusion. What remains is the moment of the revolutionary utopian heat flow, a problem area for the secular transformation left. Our narrative about the world and the strategic options for action left by left forces in it is more convincing in terms of content than the perspective of the neocomms on the one hand and religious revival movements on the other. However, in the right and yet desperate attempt to relate what is feasible to what is necessary, a narrative is generated that is correct in an analytical sense - but not in Badiou’s sense. It is not a truth that has a significant truth effect. It leaves the field of affective political ties, the “non-cognitive, reason-based components” (Steckner 2013) of left-wing politics to other projects, often not only to religion, but also to right-wing forces. In this sense, the left can cling to the odor of the elitist, because in times of crisis it is often difficult to establish a link between subaltern struggles and 'mediating intellectuals' that is comparable to that of religion (cf. Porcaro 2011, 31f; Candeias / Völpel 2014, 209).
At least in the short and medium term, the upswing of political-religious movements is a fact that left politics can hardly ignore, which brings us to the second question. In a situation in which the 'destruction' of religion was initially neither possible nor desirable - after all, it fulfills an important function - Gramsci formulated the classic strategic demand: 'One must therefore create the type of' Catholic radical ', that is to say the' Popolare ‹, one must […] organize the peasant masses by making the priest not only the spiritual leader […] but also the social leader […]." (Gef. 7, H.13, §37: 1617) For us this means that religious movements and alliances between them are also indispensable for the subaltern to be able to act in an emancipatory sense. Of course, they must not be arbitrary, and leftists must not get in a boat with reactionary religious forces just for the sake of an alliance. Precisely because the politico-religious field seems to be predominantly dominated today by movements that do not lend themselves to emancipatory alliances, it is worth taking a look at the past, in which there were many forms of successful cooperation, and many unresolved options for the future.In the fight for climate justice, for example, a strong socio-ecological transformation movement can hardly be imagined without taking up the religious forces that are committed to the preservation of creation (and can no longer find a place with the Greens) (see Kern in this issue). Numerous ›crossover projects‹ can be found, such as the anti-capitalist Muslims that became visible during the Gezi protests (cf. Eliaçik in this issue), the many remnants of liberation theological contexts in Latin America (cf. Barros in LuXemburg Online) or the openness of huge events such as the German church days to left-wing concerns and issues (see Ramminger in this issue). A final example is the current special issue of the progressive Christian magazine Publik Forum on the TTIP free trade agreement with the title The Foray. The dossier is supported by: Attac, Workers 'Pastoral Care Freiburg, Campact, Christian Initiative Romero, INKOTA, Catholic Workers' Movement, Catholic Rural Youth Movement, PowerShift and Social Services for Catholic Men and Women Erkrath. Is this what a new part of the left mosaic looks like?


Candeias, Mario, 2010: Interregnum - Molecular Compression and Organic Crisis, in: Demirović, Alex et al. (Ed.), Vielfachkrise, Hamburg, 45–62
Ders. And Eva Völpel: 2014, secure your place! Reorganization of the Left in Crisis, Hamburg
Daniljuk, Malte: 2013, crisis, uprising and conservative renaissance, in: telegraph 127/128,
Gramsci, Antonio, 1991ff .: prison notebooks, 10 volumes, ed. Klaus Bochmann and W. F. Haug, Hamburg
Marx, Karl, 1844, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, MEW 1, Berlin / GDR 1976, 378–91
Mason, Paul, 2011: Twenty reasons why it's kicking off everywhere, BBC-blog,
Ders., 2013: Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, London
Mezzadra, Sandro et al. (Ed.), 2013: The Biopolitics of Development: Reading Foucault in the Postcolonial Present, Heidelberg
Moghadam, Valentine, 2012: Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement, Lanham et al.
Porcaro, Mimmo, 2011: Left parties in a fragmented society. A new type of party - the "unifying party", in: Luxembourg 4/2011, 28–35
Rehmann, Jan, 2014: Some Remarks about the Left and the Problem of Religion. Lecture at the Left Forum in New York.
Steckner, Anne, 2013: Antonio Gramsci's examination of religion in the field of tension between submission and resistance, in: Grundrisse 44, 11–20,

1 An expression of the non-simultaneity is also the beginning of a transnational movement cycle since the ›Arabellion‹ (cf. LuXemburg, 3,4 / 2013).