What is fundamentalism?

Issue 

By Chawki Salhi

ALGIERS — Arising first among the petty bourgeoisie, intellectuals of lower class origin and small traders, with the support of the traditionalist sectors of the middle bourgeoisie, fundamentalism has become a mass phenomenon.

It has become a refuge for the marginalised and disinherited masses of the cities, who, in the absence of a mass workers' party, believe that they have found a party willing to wage a radical fight on social issues and against an oppressive regime.

The banal idea that the fundamentalists are rooted in Islam is contradicted by the history of the Islamic Salvation Front FIS), which first gained the youth politically before winning them over to religious practices. When people attribute an Islamic essence to Algerian society, they do not explain why it took until the 1980s for this essence to manifest itself on the political level.

Fundamentalism is the party of despair, drawing its strength from the apparent failure of rational solutions to the problems of humanity and the absence of any other source of hope.

Fundamentalism can introduce the qualitative change in the relation of class forces which has eluded the Algerian regime since the 1970s. It can violently reduce the average wage, abolish social benefits, close and sell of public enterprises and change the rhythms of work — all basic conditions for Algeria to be integrated into the world market.

Fundamentalism is accepted with a sinking feeling by a bourgeoisie which hesitates between the coup d'etat and cohabitation. However, imperialism has not yet made up its mind whether to allow a regime that threatens regional stability to be crushed by the weight of the foreign debt, or to collaborate with a regime of mass terror that can rapidly carry out the International Monetary Fund's adjustment plans.

Like fascism, fundamentalism appeals to nationalism. But in the latter case it is the nationalism of a dominated and oppressed nation that finds itself too close to the European Community to develop freely. The latter will not intervene because of massacres or prohibitions; it will be the threat of the collapse of vassal regimes that will concern it.

Fundamentalism intends to suppress socialist parties. It is hostile to trade unionism, since its own union, the SIT, promotes collaboration and rejects the opposition between bosses and workers. However, it has not developed alongside the workers' movement, but rather in its absence as a sort of monstrous substitute. It has not forged its militia in the struggle against social protests.

It is of course a mass petty bourgeois movement and draws its support from the growing mass of declassé and rejected in a capitalist society in crisis.

Islam is not the religion of an old order confronting a democratic revolution; on the contrary it is a substitute for a national identity in the face of a colonialist and imperialist west.
[From International Viewpoint.]

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