Monday, December 05, 2005

The Old Refrain?

In Sign and Sight , Hans Magnus Enzensberger (tr. Nicholas Grindell) has an essay on Islamism:
A further promise of success lies in the movement's organizational model. Turning its back on the strict centralism of earlier groupings,it has replaced the omniscient and omnipotent central committee with a flexible network: a highly original innovation that is entirely of its time.

Besides this, however, the Islamists are perfectly happy to plunder the arsenal of their predecessors. It is often overlooked that modern terrorism is a European invention of the nineteenth century. Its most important ancestors came from Czarist Russia, but it can also look back on a long history in Western Europe. In recent times, the left-wing terrorism of the 1970s has proved a source of inspiration, with Islamists borrowing many of its symbols and techniques. The style of their announcements, the use of video recordings, the emblematic significance of the Kalashnikov, even the gestures, body language and dress, all this shows how much they have learned from these western role models.

There is also no mistaking other similarities, such as the fixation with written authorities. The place of Marx and Lenin is taken by the Koran, references are made not to Gramsci but to Sayyid Qutb. Instead of the international proletariat, it takes as its revolutionary subject the Umma, and as its avant-garde and self-appointed representative of the masses it takes not The Party but the widely branching conspiratorial network of Islamist fighters. Although the movement can draw on older rhetorical forms which to outsiders may sound high-flown or big-mouthed, it owes many of its idées fixes to its Communist enemy: history obeys rigid laws, victory is inevitable, deviationists and traitors are to be exposed and then, in fine Leninist tradition, bombarded with ritual insults.
(via Normblog)
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