The Believer and the Class Struggle

The following is an excerpt from The PDG Speaks written by Sekou Toure in 1978.

Within society on one hand and between society and nature on the other, a fierce struggle is raging, a constant and complex battle between good and evil.

Ever since the beginning of the world, this struggle has guided and shall continue guiding the behavior of man and classes. It is appropriate at this juncture to consider as violating religious principles false believers and fanatics who practice religious fetishism and think that revolution is something other than what the best religious people, the purest men who base their activities on the welfare of the masses, think and express. 

For example, let us consider a fact in Moslem Religion, a single fact, which any Muslim must know; that of starting each one of the five daily prayers with the opening first call (Fathia) which consist of seven parts. What is the essence of such a verse? It is important to know it. This is all the more important because People using the Muslim religion as a reference dare, in the name of the same religion, think and say, ”Down with socialism, down with class struggle.” By so doing, they are deliberately setting themselves in “opposition to Religion. (Fathia) in fact proclaims the class struggle. 

Every day, the faithful Muslim, as he recites this verse several times says to God,

  • Lead us on the right path,
  • The path of those to whom you have been generous,
  • Not the path of those who incurred your anger, not the path of those who have gone astray.

Is it not true that through such profession of faith, the Muslim implies that he must avoid bad social behavior, avoid the way to perdition, avoid the road to evil? Does it not imply that he must choose the path to truth, justice, and progress, the path to good as opposed to the path to evil? However, in order to abandon one path and follow another, there must be at least two paths. There are indeed two paths. The good path leads to heaven, the bad to hell. They are represented by the two antagonistic classes. It is in reaction against this “antagonism, against this fundamental contradiction that Islam assigns to itself a basically social mission: ensure justice, equality, and solidarity within the society.

The verse (Fathia) does not contain such words as I and me. The verbs are in the first person and plural. “Show us the right path.” Individualism is nowhere to be found. The Muslim who wishes to respect and correctly interpret the Fathia must denounce all those who exploit and oppress the people and commit himself to the progress of the people and serve society and honesty. This is what the (Fathia) assigns to human behavior. The Muslim who condemns the practice of class struggle does not act in conformity with Islam but acts either because of his ignorance of Religion or for selfish interests he does not want to admit. In either case, he is liable to blame. 

We are therefore committed to resolutely conduct the struggle, a struggle between justice and injustice, progress, and reaction, in short, a struggle of good against evil. What is under consideration here is not concrete evil, evil actually experienced and concretely practiced well in socio-human relations. It involves the forces of exploitation and oppression on one hand and the forces exploited, oppressed, and humiliated on the other. This merciless and endless struggle is indeed the real motive force of life on earth. Within the society, the struggle between the various walks of life or the various classes is known as class struggle, a struggle which has left its impact and shall continue to make an impact on the historical development of the modes of production of the various social groups.

At the dawn of humanity, the time and productivity of human labor was just enough to cover expenses in labor force; and when indeed there was hardly any surplus for a social entity to own, the so-called“ primitive society did not probably experience a division into exploiting and exploited classes. This is why it is admitted that the division of society into antagonistic classes dates from the era of slave labor.

Indeed the slave labor society experienced a life-and-death struggle between masters and slaves. However, through conscious and resolute struggle, the exploited classes changed the situation.

Victory, in this case, belongs to the masses who had been drained to the last drop of their blood. Slavery was abolished. The slaves disappeared, and with them, their historic role came to an end. And this end is the outcome of both the resolute struggle of slaves and the evolution of material forces of production. At the same time as radical resistance of the slave sometimes took the form of armed rebellion against his condition as a slave, someone else’s property, a mere object, the mode of production based on slave labor became a drag on production due to the very improvement of the material means of production in the factories. This brought about a division within the very exploiting class into a slave-exploiting subclass and a non-slave-exploiting subclass, though both were basically exploited classes.

Exploitation changed its method in keeping with the new social formation: feudalism. Although with regard to the old system, the new one appears to be a Revolution, it still entailed exploitation to an extreme degree. If the slave masters dispossessed the slaves of all they had acquired through sweat and toil, the feudal lords on the other hand, less by humanism than by calculation consistent with the techniques of exploitation required by the new historical situation, left only crumbs to the serf ((‘talliable and liable to forced labor at will.))

There is also the resolute, conscious struggle conducted by the exploited forces mobilized around “the ideals of justice, equality, and democracy who brought victory to the oppressed over their oppressors, and with it, the historic role of feudalism also came to an end.

The capitalist, the bourgeoisie, in turn used the most appropriate slogans in mobilizing the active forces within the People with the aim of coming to power, power which they did not hesitate to confiscate at the expense of the People, the very People who should have been and remains to be the legitimate beneficiaries of the victory they had won where thus deprived of the fruit of their labor.

Here again, history has proved that there is no victory without the exploited working masses and also that victory is always jeopardized unless the working masses present a tight united front in the defense of their interest. History also attest to the fact that the victory of truth over falsehood is inevitable. Capitalist society, which like the others was born in the same conditions of abusing the people, was also to wither away.

History therefore confirms that when a given class completes its historic role, it becomes an obstacle to the development of society. The new productive forces of the emerging class which this class manages or controls and the resulting mode of production conform better to the general evolution of society. It follows that such emerging class topples the preceding one and replaces it.

Moreover, when the interests of the emerging class merge with the prime interest of the People, the conquest of power by that class generates a Revolutionary democratic process. The process thus set off is basically different from what humanity has so far experienced. The difference is not of degree but rather of essence.

Class struggle is a reality which expresses itself in the attitude of men of the social strata; its intensity is directly related to the level of the ideological awareness of those men of their social strata in their daily struggle to solve various problems of their existence.

The awareness of injustice, exploitation, arbitrariness makes them unbearable to their victims. The struggle of the exploited against exploiters is an expression of the unjust nature of intra-social relations, a concrete manifestation of the antagonism affecting conflicting interest pursued by the various social classes.

Class struggle is such a universal and constant phenomena that at all times, men act in relation to the necessities of life in relation to their modes of production and in relation to their present and future interests.

After all, hasn’t Religion chosen and taught this form of struggle by setting good against evil, truth against falsehood, justice against injustice, solidarity against selfishness?

Class struggle makes the same distinction between what is socially positive and what is socially negative and between progress and regression in the evolution of people.

Talking about social classes thus amounts to ascertaining the exclusively social nature of the qualities and defects of men. Indeed, the permanent property of each human quality or defect is its embodiment in men for whom only the notions of good and evil, of justice and injustice, exist. Qualities and defects therefore manifest themselves only through the thinking and behavior of men in their mutual relations.

Religions define the reality of intra-social dualism in terms of the concepts of good and evil, whereas the same intra-social dualism is identified through its social consequences, that is, the division of society on the basis of the conflicting interest among social strata or among social classes.

The issue then boils down to the same language urging conscientious men to resolutely commit themselves to the struggle for the elimination of the differences between them with a view to ensuring a democratic, harmonious, and solitary evolution of society.

The finality of Revolutionary action being democratic and social progress, class struggle, the struggle against evil, remains everywhere the essential means for ensuring the evolution of People toward such finality.

If we speak of Religion therefore, it is to enlighten the attitudes of all men on the program of the Party and not to officially proclaim anything whatsoever, since freedom of thought is one of the fundamental rights of man.

Those who believe that God does not exist because their mind tells him so, have no right to impose their ideas on others. Democracy in this field starts with tolerance. A militant may freely affirm that God exists and practice his religion under the protection of the State. What the Party prohibits is mystification, charlatanism. What it prohibits and represses is the cultural alienation of the citizenry because once again, the program the Party has assigned itself is the construction of a new type of society and not the preaching of a new Religion. This Party will build cathedrals and mosques for all believers in Guinea as it remains the instrument of balance, democratic order, and progress on the Guinean territory at all times.

The Atheists say that God does not exist, that for him it is only the struggle that counts. Can he honestly affirm that Religion excludes struggle? Can “he legitimately affirm, justify, and convince that Religion refuses order, balance, constant progress, the happiness of the people, and human rights? He also says that it is science which counts, but does Religion exclude science? Muslim followers know that in the holy Koran, men are told to go to the end of the earth to seek science and culture wherever they can conquer them. Has belief in God prevented a physicist from working in his laboratory? Socialism is incompatible with Islam, they say, which is false, because not only are pious Moslem devoting themselves to the struggle for the advent of a world of peace and justice, but also the same phraseology conceals the most shady desires of exploitation of man by man. Common sense, a fortiori, Revolution rejects such statements. One can keep them to oneself. 

More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth