An unholy alliance against the common enemy: a history of communists’ relations with Muslims by Ben Fowkes and Bülent Gökay

An unholy alliance against the common enemy:

a history of communists’ relations with Muslims*



Ben Fowkes and Bülent Gökay


‘The East is a revolutionary cauldron capable of putting a revolutionary torch to all of Western Europe’. (Sultan-Galiev)[1]

 When the Muslim communist revolutionary leader of the early 1920s, Mir Said Sultan-Galiev, spoke of the ‘East’ he meant above all the Muslim world, which stretched all the way from Morocco in the West to the Dutch colony which later became Indonesia in the Far East. What the peoples of that portion of the globe had in common above all was, first,  their Islamic heritage and, second, their current subjection to European rule, either direct or indirect. For the newly emerging force of communism this presented opportunities but also problems. While there was much, both in ideology and situation, that brought Muslims and Communists closer together, there were also many points of disagreement. The communist world view, taken over from Karl Marx, was opposed in principle to all kinds of religious belief, and this applied to Islam as well. Conversely, Muslims with strong religious beliefs found themselves unable to support a set of ideas that was fundamentally atheist. 

These philosophical differences did not, however, always find expression in practical politics, and there were often tactical reasons for downplaying them.[2] Moreover, different Muslims stressed varying aspects of their faith, and it was possible for both groups to avert their gaze from the deeper philosophical and theological dividing lines between the two belief systems. Indeed, both sides were able to engage in what has been described by one author as a ‘reinterpretation of Muslim ideas and conceptions so as to make them appear equivalent to communist ideas’.[3] For example, a prominent early figure of Muslim history, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, was often seen as a precursor of socialism because he maintained that the Qur’an condemned wealthy priests of all religions[4]. Muslim reformers also endeavoured to re-interpret the rules about polygamy (or perhaps more accurately polygyny): it was claimed that although one passage of the Qur’an appeared to authorise Muslims to take several wives (sura 4:3) another passage actually opposed polygamy because it stated that it was impossible to treat several wives equally (sura 4: 128/9.

Yet the division between a fundamentally non-religious approach and a religious creed remained in existence, beneath the surface, at least in intellectual terms. There were other points of friction too, particularly in the case of traditional Islam, which was tied to local political and social systems which the communists wanted to overturn in the long run, however much both sides might agree in the short term on a joint fight against Western imperialism.

Since the communists first seized power in Russia, it is appropriate to start  our discussion there. The Russian Revolution of February 1917, which overthrew the Tsar, took place in an empire which was home to 16 million Muslims – some 10 percent of the population. Like other minorities, they had suffered very badly at the hands of the Tsarist imperial system.  The collapse of Tsarism radicalized millions of Muslims, who demanded religious freedom and national rights denied them by the empire.  The February Revolution was greeted with enthusiasm by many of the non-Russian minorities. Muslim congresses were held in Moscow and Kazan in 1917.  After the October Revolution the Bolsheviks (who renamed themselves the Russian Communist Party[5] in March 1918) inherited the vast multi-national, multi-faith tsarist Empire By agitating in favour of self-determination for oppressed nations and land to the peasantry, the Bolsheviks won sufficient support to carry the revolution into the non-Russian lands.  Religious freedom was an important aspect of the national freedom promoted by the Bolsheviks for the oppressed peoples of the former Russian Empire. Bolshevism became an attractive alternative to many Muslims, who ‘joined the communist party in large numbers as soon as it was possible.’[6]  One of Lenin’s first decrees was directed ‘to the Toiling Muslims of Russia and the East,’ whose grievances the Bolsheviks sought to co-opt. A little later,  at the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Communist Organisations of  the Peoples of the East (in November 1919), Lenin stated: ‘The socialist revolution will not be solely or chiefly a struggle of the revolutionary proletarians in each country against its bourgeoisie – no, it will be a struggle of all colonies and countries oppressed by imperialism, of all dependent countries, against international imperialism … In the East the masses will rise as builders of a new life, because hundreds of millions of people belong to dependent, underprivileged nations, which until now have been objects of international imperialist policy’.[7] 

The Bolsheviks welcomed left-wing Muslims into their ranks, and as a result by 1922 there were over 15,000 Muslims in the party. By 1927 this number had increased considerably, and in most of Central Asia between 40 and 50 per cent of party members were Muslims[8]. In Uzbekistan, the proportion of Muslims in the party was as high as 52 percent[9].  Immediately after coming to power, the Bolshevik leaders issued a call for a ‘holy war’ against Western imperialism. In Lenin’s opinion it was necessary to support Islamist movements under conditions in which they contested control by local ruling classes and/or colonial authorities. He defended this ‘astonishing alliance’ with great vigour against those who believed that communists should have no dealings with a religious activism.  He argued that it was vital to persuade movements of this kind in the ‘colonial’ world that their future lay in a joint struggle with the workers of Europe against the imperial powers and that a dual approach was required.

1 Jadidism and Bolshevism

The Muslim reform movement in the Russian Empire emerged during the 19th century as the usul-i jadid  (‘new method’), a program of educational reform that gradually developed into a political movement.  The most famous Jadid leader was Ismail Bey Gaspirali (Gasprinskii), a Crimean Tatar who had had a European education and worked as a journalist in Istanbul and Paris.   In 1883 he started to publish the journal Tercüman (‘the Interpreter’) which became the chief manifestation of the Jadid campaign for the modernisation of Muslim practices, addressing a range of issues from the economy to religious institutions. He believed that the rapidly changing political and cultural relationships between Muslims and Western states and peoples created the right conditions for an immediate and rapid Islamic renewal. He also aimed to create a unified literary language for the various Turkic groups which were scattered over Central Asia and the Caucasus, which would ultimately lead to political unification, an idea later described as Pan-Turkism. Ismail Bey visited Central Asia and under his influence Jadid schools were opened in Andijan in 1897, in Samarqand and Tokmak in 1898.[10]  

After the 1917 revolution some parts of the Jadid movement turned towards a kind of ‘Islamic socialism’.  But as Adeeb Khalid has remarked recently, Jadidism should not be ‘viewed as a unified movement, as is often done in the existing literature. The Jadids of Central Asia use the same symbols, tropes and metaphors as the Jadids of European Russia in their discourse but they do not mean the same thing by them – meanings are grounded in local realities.’[11] We should think rather in terms of Muslim reform endeavours of various kinds, which varied in objectives and outcomes according to their location in the Russian Empire. There was a clear division between the Tatar Jadids of the central regions of the Russian Empire (Kazan and the Crimea) the Jadids of Central Asia (Turkestan and Bukhara) and the traditionalists of the North Caucasus.  Among the Kazan Tatars, for instance, the reform movement took a radical form as early as 1904. It adopted nationalist, socialist and anti-Russian positions and could be described as the seedbed of Tatar communism, as exemplified by such people as Mulla-Nur Vahitov and Sultan Galiev.[12] The Tatar Jadids criticised traditional Muslim practices such as visits to the shrines of Sufi masters. They also wanted to improve the position of women. Some felt that the practice of veiling was an aspect of women’s oppression (though it also had its defenders). Many Tatar women had abandoned their veils by the beginning of the twentieth century.[13]

In Daghestan, by contrast, the Muslim reformers were much more moderate. They had to be, because traditional Islam was still completely dominant there until the 1917 revolutions. The reformers’ main concern, at least according to a later account by the local communist leader A.Takho-Godi, was to defend themselves against accusations that their proposals for land reform were contrary to the principles of Islamic law (shari‘a ), and to prove that they were truer Muslims than their traditionalist opponents: ‘At the Peasant Congress of August 1917 the shari‘a was treated as the supreme authority, as specific quotations from it were presented stating that the land belongs to those who cultivate it. The shariatists were beaten with the shari‘a of the socialist groups and the land-hungry peasants.’[14] Clearly, Shari‘a  could mean different things to different people. The Jadids of Turkestan, for instance, who set up the autonomous state of  Kokand in December 1917 in opposition to the Bolsheviks, called for a ‘return to shari‘a’.[15]

In Bukhara the situation for the ‘Young Bukharans’, as the Jadids called themselves there, was even more difficult than in Daghestan. This state, wrote one of them, was ‘a living anachronism, with an illiterate population … under the despotism of an Emir propped up by Russian bayonets’.[16] Even after the October Revolution they were unable to make any headway against the theocratic rule of the Emir, who successfully fought off the first Soviet invasion (February to March 1918), backed as he probably was by the majority of the population.[17] The ‘Young Bukharans’ were also sharply divided between the religious faction of the mullahs Mahmud Behbudi and Qadi Sharfijan and the non-religious group around Faizulla Khojaev, A-K.Mukhetdinov, Abdurauf Fitrat and Akmal Ikromov. The factions could agree on the need to improve education and overthrow the Emir but on little else. Their policies after they finally came to power, in September 1920, with the victory of the second Soviet invasion, were distinctly moderate. According to Article 26 of the 1921 constitution of the People’s Republic of Bukhara, ‘no law’ could be ‘in contradiction with the fundamental principles of Islam’.[18]

            Despite these reservations, the term ‘Jadid’ does retain its value as a form of shorthand, because all these movements did have certain fundamental features in common, namely a rejection of what they saw as superstitious accretions to Islam, not justified by either the Qur’an or genuine Hadith, combined with a drive to modernize Muslim education. What lay behind these reforming ideas was the desire to overthrow European domination and achieve genuine independence. The Jadids of the Russian Empire were influenced by the general movement of Islamic Modernism associated with thinkers like Mohammed Abduh in Egypt and Rashid Rida in Syria, but they differed from them in their readiness to accept socialist ideas. The Islamic Modernists of the Middle East were opposed not just to Western domination but to Western intellectual influences, and this included socialism.[19]   In the Russian context, however, rejection of the West meant the overthrow of Tsarist absolutism. The latter objective was shared by non-Muslim revolutionaries, hence there was an opening for cooperation with the Social Democrats of the Russian Empire.This phase lasted until 1917. But it should be noted that only some parts of the Social Democratic (later Bolshevik) message were non-controversial for Muslims: the overthrow of Tsarism and their liberation from the domination of the Russians and the Orthodox Church. The other objective of Social Democracy, namely the transformation of society, was more divisive as it implied intervening in aspects of Islam which were hallowed by tradition, such as the position of women, the role of spiritual leaders, the judicial system and property relations.

After the success of the October Revolution the Jadids had to choose sides. The year 1917 was, as Adeeb Khalid has put it, ‘The Moment of Truth’.[20] The Bolsheviks did not come to power as advocates of Russian domination over Central Asia, rather the reverse, at least in theory. So there were some grounds for Jadids to favour them. The choice was not made immediately. The overthrow of the Provisional Government was not greeted with enthusiasm among the Jadids, as far as one can judge from the evidence. The prevailing mood was one of neutrality.  The Young Bukharan ‘Abd al-ra’uf Fitrat wrote at this time: ‘It would be reckless and stupid to go over either to the Bolsheviks or their opponents. We shall not oppose either of them unless they decide to do away with our national rights.’[21] The reaction of the Muslims of the former Russian Empire to the October Revolution was not uniform[22]. The attempts made during 1917 to secure a unified approach came to nothing, and each region went its own way. When the regions were re-unified it was under the aegis of the Soviet state, after the end of the Civil War.

            It is difficult to estimate how many Jadids decided to support the Bolshevik government after October 1917. In June 1918 the Tatar Union of Tashkent transformed itself into the Communist Party of Turkestan. As a delegate to the Fourth Conference of the Central Committee commented in 1923: ‘Before the October Revolution the number of Bashkirs, Tatars and Kyrgyz in the party could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Then people who had previously been supporters of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism entered the party.’[23]  The Jadid newspaper Hurriyat (Liberty), founded by Fitrat in 1917,became the organ of the educational section of Samarqand Soviet[24]. By summer 1918 the Tashkent Soviet, which started off as a Russian organization, had a number of Jadid members. It ordered the arrest of ‘counter-revolutionary ulama’, thereby showing that Muslim society was split down the middle.[25] Fitrat, who had been rather ambivalent in October 1917, now threw himself wholeheartedly into the Bolshevik cause. His particular concern now was to denounce European imperialism. In 1919 he wrote that ‘European imperialists have given the East nothing except immorality and destruction. Even though they came to the East saying “We will open schools of civilization and colleges of humanity” they have opened nothing but brothels and winehouses.’[26] In addition to this literary activity, Fitrat occupied the posts of Education Minister in the Bukhara People’s Soviet Republic in 1921 and Foreign Minister the year afterwards. As Education Minister he continued his pre-war efforts to modernise the Uzbek language by removing words of Arabic and Persian origin.[27]

 One former Jadid who decided to join the Bolshevik movement was the Tatar revolutionary Mir Said Sultan-Galiev. Born in Ufa province in 1892, he was a journalist with no particular political involvement until 1917, when he greeted the revolutionary events which destroyed the Russian Empire as a great opportunity. He turned out to be an able organizer and public speaker.  He served the Soviet state during the civil war as chairman of the Central Muslim Military Collegium, chairman of the Central Bureau of Communist Organizations of Peoples of the East, and member of the collegium of the People’s Commissariat of Nationality Affairs. This last position made him the highest-ranking party member of Muslim origin in the Soviet Union. Along with Mulla Nur Vahitov[28] he developed a theory of Muslim national communism, according to which Marxism would be modified to accord with the particular characteristics of an Islamic society. Muslim national communism lasted historically from 1918 until 1928.  It was a synthesis of various ideologies, sometimes contradictory with each other, including nationalism, communism and anarchism as well as religion of course.  Muslim national communists generally believed that the Islamic way of life and Marxism were not by definition incompatible, but indeed they could coexist and even complement one another.  Their immediate aim was the establishment of an autonomous state in Central Asia that would be ruled not by the Russians but by an independent Muslim communist party and defended by Muslim military units.[29] Although the party would be communist, it would not introduce socialism, and the social revolution against the exploiting classes, including the ‘backward Muslim clergy’ would be postponed for some time. This was because Muslim society was still homogeneous: ‘The Muslim peoples are not divided into rival social classes and don’t yet possess an industrial proletariat, hence a proletarian revolution is impossible in their case.’[30]  As a communist,  Sultan Galiev wrote in 1921, he was certainly in favour of anti-religious propaganda ‘not only among the Muslims of Russia but also outside our frontiers’. For us, he said, ‘all religions are the same’. But this question had to be handled carefully. ‘Different methods’ needed to be adopted for ‘different Muslim peoples’. Even among the most advanced Muslim nations of Soviet Russia – the Tatars, the Bashkirs and the Kazakhs – the approach would have to be ‘very careful and flexible’. The best way would be ‘for every Muslim to become acquainted with a geninue communist – an atheist – and form a good opinion of him.’  In Turkestan, Khiva and Bukhara ‘the anti-religious struggle is more difficult and more complex than in Tatarstan or among the Kazakhs, since ‘religious fanaticism is still very strong there’ and ‘these peoples have not yet reached the stage of development the Tatars have already passed through.’[31]

These views of Sultan-Galiev’s met with considerable opposition from some of his Russian comrades. Georgii Safarov, special commissioner for Turkestan,  told the 1921 Party Congress that the Soviet government had to face a double threat : from the Muslim conservatives and from the ‘Muslim nationalists’. This Muslim nationalism was ‘also penetrating into the ranks of the communist party.’ Its key characteristic was that its ‘bourgeois-democratic slogans welded and linked together the mass of the toilers with the local exploiting strata.’ It was supported by ‘parts of the national intelligentsia’, whose views ‘reflected the interests of the local exploiting upper classes’[32]. Until then, Sultan-Galiev had enjoyed the support of Stalin, who was the Commissar for Nationalities. During the Civil War he and Stalin had been in agreement in rejecting the ‘leftism’ of communists who wanted to develop the class struggle within Muslim society.[33] But from 1921 onwards they differed over nationality policy and he was not prepared to knuckle under.[34] Sultan Galiev was particularly concerned about Stalin’s plans for the new federal government (USSR), which, he considered, would disadvantage Tatars and other Muslim groups that were not granted union republic status in the new constitution. Throughout 1922 they quarreled. It is said that they ceased to be on speaking terms. Eventually, in May 1923, Sultan-Galiev was arrested, and stripped of his party membership and all positions in the Bolshevik administration.  He was accused of conspiracy and treason at the Fourth Conference of the Party Central Committee, which was held in June of that year, and attended by most of the major figures in the Bolshevik Party. Nine out of the eleven members of the Politbureau were present.[35] The conference expelled Sultan-Galiev from the party and condemned what it described as ‘the deviation of Sultan-Galievism’(Sultangalievshchina). Having confessed his alleged crimes[36] he was, astonishingly enough, released and allowed to work as a journalist until his second arrest in 1928.  After he was rearrested, he was put on trial in 1930 with seventy-six others as part of a ‘Sultan-Galievist counterrevolutionary organization’. He was sentenced to death, but the death penalty was commuted, and he was released in 1934 and permitted to live in Saratov province. However, his third arrest in 1937 was followed by execution in January 1940.

            Sultan-Galiev’s sudden fall from grace and subsequent vilification at the time of the purges have provided several generations with a metaphor for the promise and frustrations of early Soviet nationality policy. What happened in 1923 certainly has great symbolic significance. It meant the ending of any official Soviet support for the idea of national communism. But there is no evidence of an immediate shift towards an anti-Muslim policy. Stalin himself denied this at the above-mentioned Fourth Conference, attacking ‘leftists who think that one can transplant models developed in the central districts into the borderlands in a mechanical fashion, brushing aside the nationalistically inclined petit bourgeois instead of involving them in the general work of society.’[37] The final resolutions of the Fourth Conference were of a ‘constructive character’[38]. They stressed the way the ‘character of the population of the national republics diverges from that in the industrial heartland of Soviet Russia’ which meant that ‘different methods of work would often have to be employed’.[39] Moreover, the formula used by the 13th.Party Congress in 1924 in discussing policy towards the East was more cautious than that used a year earlier. Whereas in April 1923 the 12th.Party Congress had declared that ‘the thirty million Muslims of the Soviet Union have preserved to this day numerous medieval prejudices linked with religion and used for counter-revolutionary purposes .. and we need to work out forms and methods of liquidating these prejudices’ the 13th.Congress warned that ‘a careful attitude is necessary in the Eastern republics’[40]

So at this stage it was still possible for Jadids to work within the Soviet system without completely abandoning their convictions. Certainly, some prominent Jadids did choose to join the Basmachi rebels[41]. But, in Bukhara at least, the majority (including Fitrat[42]) opted for legality because they thought they could continue their activities there. In any case, the former emirate of Bukhara had a somewhat different status from Turkestan, as it was a People’s Republic rather than a Socialist Republic until 1924.[43] The same applies to next-door Khorezm, also a People’s Republic until 1924[44]. In Turkestan itself, the radical anti-religious legislation of 1918 (such as the confiscation of the waqf[45]  properties) was reversed in 1922[46]. It had never applied in Bukhara or Khorezm. The policy adopted in the North Caucasus was also very moderate. The two republics into which the region was divided in 1921, Dagestan and the Mountain Soviet Socialist Republic, had a constitution based on the shari‘a (Islamic law), in accordance with an agreement made by Stalin with the local leaders.[47] He was very explicit about the reason for this: ‘If the Dagestan masses follow the communists on the basis of the shari‘a it is obvious that the direct way of combating religious prejudices must be replaced by more cautious ways.’[48] Moreover, in 1921 the newly formed Mountain Republic resolved to expel Cossack settlers beyond  its borders. 15,000 were deported during that year.[49] At the same time, large numbers of Russian settlers were being deported from Turkestan. The land they had occupied was handed over to the local Muslim inhabitants, under the land reform policy implemented by Georgii Safarov and the Turkestan Commission[50]. This was the start of the era of korenizatsiia  (indigenization). Indigenous Muslim communists obtained control of the party apparatus in their localities all over Central Asia during the 1920s, pursuing policies of reform and reorganization in line with the directives issued from Moscow.[51] Hans Bräker has summarised the period up to 1927 as one of ‘relatively soft treatment’ of Islam on the part of the Soviet state.[52] This relative mildness was of course conditional on acceptance of Soviet power. Armed rebellions, such as those of the Basmachi in Central Asia, were ruthlessly put down.

2 The Alliance with Islam against Colonialism

The 1920s were the heyday of anti-imperialist revolution for the Bolsheviks. An alliance with Islam could be made on the basis of a joint effort both to overthrow the power of the West in the Muslim world and to transform Muslim society. This was possible because Islam could be interpreted in such a way as to stress its socially revolutionary aspect. On 7 December 1917, almost immediately after coming to power, the Bolsheviks issued their Appeal to the Toiling Muslims of the East, which assured the Muslims of Russia that ‘your beliefs and customs, your national and cultural institutions, are free and inviolable’ and called on the Muslims of the east to‘overthrow the imperialist robbers and enslavers’ of their countries.[53]

The relationship between anti-imperialist Muslim radicalism and communism was articulated and generally supported by the founding principles and general direction of the Third (Communist) International.  The Communist International or Comintern was established in Moscow in 1919 to coordinate the activities of the foreign communist parties according to the direction of the Russian Communist Party. At that time, Lenin believed that the revolutionary environment produced by the post-World War One chaos called for an entirely new international communist organisation that would foster working class solidarity and world revolution against the capitalist rulers of the West. The centre of the Comintern was to be in Moscow because it seemed only natural that it would be located in the only socialist country then in existence.

The structure of the Comintern was modelled on that of the Russian Communist Party, not because of any sinister design to ensure Russian domination, but simply because the Russian party was the only one to have carried out a successful revolution. However, in 1920 it subordinated all foreign communist parties to Moscow by imposing 21 conditions of admission. Communists were called upon to make propaganda within their own countries’ armed forces, make special efforts to win peasant support, and achieve the emancipation of oppressed nationalities and colonial peoples. They were urged to remove reformists and centrists from all positions in the working class movement, and to replace them with communists, denounce pacifism, accept all decisions of the Comintern as binding, take the name ‘Communist Party’, and expel all members who voted against accepting the 21 conditions at a congress called for the purpose of implementing them. Communist parties were also required to structure their organisations on the principle of ‘democratic centralism’, and to unreservedly support the interests of ‘every Soviet republic’.

For better or worse, communist parties emerged in foreign countries as the ideological allies and foreign policy instruments of the Soviet Union.  The Comintern, in a radical departure from the precedents set by both the First and Second Internationals, was no longer to be a series of national parties, but to act more as a single communist party with branches in different countries. Between congresses, the highest authority was to be the Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI), which would have powers parallel to and superseding the powers of the Central Committees of the individual parties, which would allow it to be directive centre of the world revolution.

At first, the Comintern was predominantly a westward-looking organisation. A considerable number of recruits came from Western countries and strengthened the belief that world revolution in western industrialised countries was quickly approaching. The Bolsheviks were convinced that the proletarian revolution was afoot all over Europe and sweeping everything before it. But by the autumn of 1920, the Soviet leaders began to fear that revolution in the West might not be imminent after all. Failures in Germany and Hungary, and the establishment of a solid belt of anticommunist regimes between the Soviet Union and the defeated Central Powers, caused them to reconsider their analysis, and while it did not lead them to abandon the idea of the coming world revolution in the West it refocused their attention towards considering the revolutionary potential that the East might offer. 

Lenin was very concerned with Asia, and as hopes of revolution in the West faded after the Polish War in October 1920 he turned his attention to the colonies of the Western powers. In them he saw a way of using bourgeois nationalist revolutions to deprive imperialist powers of the raw materials and markets that he believed to be necessary for their survival. In almost all his communications and reports in 1920, he pointedly referred to Asia, observing that ‘one of the chief causes hampering the revolutionary working-class movement in the developed capitalist countries is the fact that because of their colonial possessions and the super-profits gained by finance capital’.[54] If Europe had failed them, Asia could revive their flagging spirits.

The Bolshevik leadership decided that the capitalist world would have to be undermined by the loss of its colonies before communism could succeed in the West, reasoning that revolution in the East and the destruction of the system of imperial control might have to precede revolution in the West. This was the key element in the revolutionary struggle because ‘about 70 percent of the world population belong to the oppressed nations, which are either in a state of direct colonial dependence or are semi-colonies, as, for example, Persia, Turkey and China, …’[55]

At the Comintern’s Second Congress, in 1920, Lenin officially introduced the new eastern orientation, the so-called ‘Soviet Eastern Policy’. Lenin went so far as to suggest that, with ‘the aid of the proletariat of the advanced countries’, it might be possible for Asia to skip the capitalist stage and ‘go over to the Soviet system, and, through certain stages of development, to communism’[56]. ‘It must be remembered’, he told a Japanese journalist at this time, ‘that the West lives at the expense of the East; the imperialist powers of Europe grow rich chiefly at the expense of the eastern colonies, but at the same time they are arming their colonies and teaching them to fight and by so doing the West is digging its own grave in the East’.[57]

Soviet foreign affairs never took a wholly eastern orientation, nor did the Communist International. Some Eastern revolutionaries would have liked this to happen. At the Second Comintern Congress the prominent Bengali communist M.N.Roy ‘maintained that the revolution in Europe depends on the course of the revolution in the East. Unless revolution triumphs in the East, the communist movement in the West may fall apart.’[58] Lenin rejected this view, and the Congress supported him in this. Even so, after 1920 there was increasing interest in eastern revolutionary prospects and a clear and mostly consistent tilt towards the east. There were in particular two countries where prospects were encouraging: Turkey and Persia (later renamed Iran). In the latter country, which directly adjoined Azerbaijan, it was possible to combine military action by the Red Army with political revolution from within. In this case there was a revolutionary nationalist movement already in existence, the Jangali Movement, which had been fighting for two years to drive the British out of Persia and to force the Shah’s government to make democratic reforms. The advance of Soviet forces into Gilan in May 1920 made it possible for a Soviet Republic of Gilan to be proclaimed (20 May 1920) headed by Kuchuk Khan. Kuchuk Khan’s government was a coalition between the Jangali Movement  and the Iranian Communist Party. This party, founded in June 1920, was split ‘into two irreconcilable factions’[59], one, more moderate, advocating the limited objectives of expulsion of the British and establishment of a republic, the other calling for the immediate introduction of a proletarian dictatorship. The moderates, under Haidar Khan, had the support of Ordzhonikidze and the Caucasian Bureau of the Bolshevik Party. Despite this,  the more extreme faction, led by Avetis Sultan Zade, temporarily gained control of the party and, in conjunction with the more radically-inclined members of the Jangali Movement, mounted a coup on 31 July 1920 which overthrew Kuchuk Khan and established a revolutionary government under Ehsanollah Khan. They proceeded to confiscate private firms, prohibit private trade, and attack the Muslim clergy and Muslim social customs by raising taxes on the waqf  lands.[60]

Kuchuk Khan then appealed to the Bolsheviks against ‘the treacherous policy of the Persian leftists’, and the issue was discussed in September at the Council of Action and Propaganda elected by the Baku Congress. The Council sided with the moderate Iranian communists, resolving that ‘our position in Persia has been compromised by the premature implementation of certain ostensibly communist measures which amount to outright looting and have antagonized the Persian population.’[61] A special emissary named Khanukaev, described as ‘leader of the Muslim party organisation’ in Bukhara, sent a report to Stalin on these matters. ‘The peasants met us with love and trust’ he wrote ‘and welcomed our departure with curses and hatred’. He was particularly severe on the measures against the Muslim clergy: ‘In a country like Persia, where property is sacred and marriage is sacrosanct, where half the masses await death with impatience so as to enter paradise, and where people are under the influence of the clergy’ communist policy should ‘fit local realities’. Moreover, the Comintern’s personnel policy was wrong too: ‘The Muslim world would more readily accept poison from the hand of a brother Muslim than honey from the hand of an infidel.’[62]  Stalin moved quickly to reorganize the Central Committee of the Persian Communist Party, remove the main firebrands from office, and lay down a party line of extreme moderation: ‘In Persia’ he wrote ‘only a bourgeois revolution is possible, relying on the middle classes, with these slogans: drive the English out of Persia, form a united Persian republic; call a National Assembly; form a national army and improve the position of the peasants. Instructions to this effect have been given to the Iranian communists’[63] The party’s leader, Sultan Zade, quickly fell into line, and in October 1920, at a joint meeting of the CC of the Communist Party of Iran and the Caucasian Bureau of the RCP (b) he admitted that ‘socialist measures had been ill timed’ and that ‘in view of the almost total absence of the class-conscious proletarian element and the ignorance and humility of the exploited peasant masses’ it was necessary to ‘lean on the petty-bourgeois strata.’ He was removed from office anyway, and a new Central Committee under his rival Haidar Khan  (praised by Stalin in his instructions to the party) disavowed the previous ‘ill-timed measures’ and endeavoured to secure a reconciliation with Kuchuk Khan[64]. Eventually, in March 1921, it proved possible to organize a new government with Kuchuk Khan as president and a number of moderate communist ministers. The reconstructed revolutionary government then tried to march on the capital, Teheran, but its army was defeated and driven back. The Bolsheviks now decided that it was preferable to rely on their treaty of friendship with the Persian Shah (signed in February). They withdrew their forces from Persia (September 1921). This led to the collapse of the Soviet Republic of Gilan. The end of the forward policy in Persia was justified by Karl Radek in 1923 as being in line with Soviet interests: ‘For the Soviet government it is completely unnecessary to create artificial Soviet republics in Persia. Its real interests there are … that Persia should not become a base for an attack on Baku … The form of government in Persia, the solution in Persia of the agrarian question (the labour problem barely exists there) is exclusively the business of the Persian people … The responsible leaders of the Persian Communist Party understand very well that the revolutionary movement in Persia will for a long time be possible only in the form of a peasant movement.’[65]

As part of Comintern strategy, pro-Soviet communists offered solidarity with the anti-imperialist national liberation movements in the East. For the Bolsheviks, the October Revolution had built a bridge between the ‘enlightened’ West and the ‘enslaved’ East, which provided the basis for an appeal by the Soviet leadership to the colonial peoples at the Comintern-sponsored Congress of Peoples of the East in Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 1920. After that, the Comintern set up a Council of Propaganda and Action of the Peoples of the East with its location in Baku. As a consequence, numerous links were established by the Bolsheviks with the Muslim peoples of the East, and the Communist University of Toilers of the East (KUTV) was set up, at which many Asian revolutionaries were trained. All of this had profound consequences for the West.[66] 

The Baku Congress of Peoples of the East

Between 1 and 7 September, 1920, the First Congress of the Peoples of the East met in Baku, capital of Soviet Azerbaijan. Some two thousand delegates from more than twenty Asian peoples were invited, to discuss and define with the Bolshevik leaders and delegates of the Western proletariat a common strategy against imperialism and for world revolution. The Baku Congress was a highlight of the revolutionary period opened up by the October Revolution. Once more, it stressed, for the national and anti-colonial revolutions, the necessity of a ‘double-revolution’ strategy (involving the reaffirmation of the working class’s leading role), as the keystone which would really unite the struggles of the peoples of the East to those of the proletarians of the West. 

The Congress of the Peoples of the East gave much concern to the British government.  The summons to the congress came from the Comintern and was first published in Izvestiia on 3 July.   It was addressed exclusively to the ‘enslaved peoples of Persia, Armenia, and Turkey’.  Turkish people were called upon to resist the Allied powers who were controlling Constantinople and Western Anatolia.

Peasants of Anatolia!  The English, Italian and French governments have kept Constantinople under the fire of their guns; they have imprisoned the Sultan, have forced him to agree to the dismemberment of purely Turkish territory, and have handed over Turkish finances to foreign financiers, in order to facilitate the plundering of the Turkish people impoverished by six years of war.

Peasants of Anatolia!  You are urgently called to the colours under Kemal‑Pasha, in order to fight the foreign invasion, but at the same time we know that you are trying to form your own national party, your own peasants’ party, which would be able to continue the fight in the event that the Pashas should continue peace with the rapacious Entente.[67]  

            Ordzhonikidze and Zinoviev were chosen by Lenin as the main organisers of the Congress.  For the organisation of the Congress, those Bolsheviks who had some experience with the Eastern affairs were selected.  Thus Anastas Mikoyan, Nariman Narimanov, and Mir Said Sultan Galiev made up the ‘Orgburo’.  The ‘Orgburo’ fixed the rules of participation for the delegates.[68]

Not all communists were in favour of convening a Muslim congress with the aim of increasing the prestige of the Bolshevism among the peoples of the East.  M.N. Roy, in memoirs published in India after his death, made it clear that he had opposed the idea of the Baku Congress.  Roy argued with the Bolshevik leaders that it could only serve as a means of agitation which was not enough by itself to bring about a revolution in the East.  He recalls in his memoirs:

            ‘Lenin smiled indulgently on my cussedness; Zinoviev was angry at the audacity of the upstart crossing his will; Radek ridiculed my precocious seriousness.  It might not yield any lasting results, but why forgo the fun of a picturesque show which was sure to give the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, some sleepless nights?’[69]

The high command of the Bolshevik leadership must have shared Radek’s humorous view and official consent was given to the congress, which opened on 1 September 1920.[70]  1,891 delegates attended.[71]  Of these 1,273 were said to be communists, 226 non‑party, and only 55 were women.  The Turks were the largest national group with 235 delegates. They were joined by 192 Persians, 157 Armenians, and 100 Georgians specifically summoned by the Comintern ‑ there were also 8 Chinese, 8 Kurds, and 3 Arabs.[72] 

            The essential aim of the congress, it was proclaimed, was to initiate an anti‑imperialist platform among the Eastern nationalities.[73]  The importance of support to national liberation movements like Mustafa Kemal’s was reiterated many times from the platform.  It is interesting that the spirit of a united front against ‘the foreign imperialist yoke’ was further strengthened by a declaration from the isolated figure of Enver Pasha, and an enthusiastic speech was given by the official representative of the Ankara government.[74]

            The Baku Congress approved in principle the issuing of an ‘Appeal to the Peoples of the East’.  This was a document obviously drafted for use as an instrument of propaganda throughout the Muslim world.  It was directed entirely against Britain, the power regarded by the Comintern as the one great empire which had emerged from World War I with the strength and intention to dominate the ‘oppressed’ peoples of the East.[75] Anti‑British agitation rose to its highest level with the final session of the Baku congress of the Eastern Peoples when the twenty‑six Baku commissars killed two years previously were praised as the victims of British imperialism.  A funeral ceremony was organised that day with the participation of all the delegates together with the families of the twenty‑six murdered commissars.[76]  Party and state figures from Azerbaijan, delegates to the congress and representatives of the Comintern delivered anti‑British speeches in their memory.[77]

At the Baku Congress, several speakers emphasised that there was no contradiction between Islam and communism. The Ukrainian Bolshevik Mikhail Skachko, for instance, stated that ‘the Muslim religion is rooted in principles of religious communism, by which no man may be a slave to another, and not a single piece of land may be privately owned’.[78] Zinoviev made a fiery appeal to ‘the peoples of the East’ to conduct ‘a holy war primarily against British imperialism’.[79] Radek called on the delegates to summon up ‘the fighting instincts which animated the peoples of the East in the past, when they marched against Europe under their great conquering  leaders’ such as Genghis Khan.[80]

A communist decision to seek a Muslim alliance was only a first step. Success or failure depended partly on the communist attitude to existing Muslim institutions. Some hindrances to cooperation were created, perhaps unnecessarily, by the Bolsheviks themselves. Lenin’s ‘Theses on the National and Colonial Questions’, adopted  at the 2nd.Comintern Congress in 1920, contained passages which were likely to deter religious Muslims from giving their support: ‘It is necessary to struggle against Pan-Islamism and similar trends which attempt to combine the liberation struggle with the reinforcement of the positions of the khans, of the landowners, of the mullahs etc.’[81] At the Baku Congress Skachko made a fierce attack on the Muslim clergy, ‘who have seized enormous areas of land and declare that these lands belong to God, and therefore they are inviolable … The clergy are not the defenders of the Muslim religion but its distorters. They are as much parasites and oppressors as the feudal landowners, but they are also hypocrites, who hide behind a white turban and the Holy Qur’ān the fact that they are parasites and oppressors. Comrades, this holy mask must be torn off and the lands belonging to the clergy must be ruthlessly confiscated and given to the toiling peasantry.’ He also called for the tithe provided for under shari‘a  to be abolished.[82] Similarly, Zinoviev, despite his call at the Baku Congress for a ‘holy war’, pointed out ‘frankly’ that ‘pan-Islamism and Mohammedanism and all such tendencies are not in our line. We have quite a different policy.’ This was correct but undiplomatic. The Indonesian communist Tan Malaka maintained in 1922 at the Fourth Comintern Congress that a great deal of damage had been done to the revolutionary cause by Comintern attacks on Pan-Islamism. Moreover, these attacks were in his view ill-informed,since ‘Pan-Islamism no longer means that Islam should conquer the whole world sward in hand. Pan-Islamism at present corresponds to the struggle for national liberation. Pan-Islamism means a liberation struggle directed not only against Dutch capitalism but against the capitalism of the whole world. Our task is to support the war of liberation of two hundred and fifty million active and combative Muslims’. [83] The Comintern responded to these criticisms by considerably softening its condemnation of Pan-Islamism. In Muslim countries, according to the resolution adopted by the Fourth Congress on the Eastern Question, ‘the national movement at first finds its ideology in the religious-political watchwords of Pan-Islamism’ but ‘as the national liberation movement extends these watchwords are replaced by concrete political demands.’[84]

            Another obstacle to the alliance between Communists and Muslims noted at the Baku Congress was the perception that Muslims were oppressed within Soviet Russia itself. One non-party delegate, Narbutabekov, made a fiery speech to that effect. ‘The local Europeans’ he said ‘have tendencies towards narrow nationalism. They trample upon our beliefs, do not allow us to pray or even to bury our dead in accordance with our customs and traditions.’[85] It was common knowledge that the Russian minority in Turkestan had conducted their own kind of revolution in 1917-1918, a ‘revolution in reverse’, seeking to preserve the privileged status they had enjoyed under Tsarism and behaving in fact as colonial settlers.[86] The Bolsheviks took this complaint very seriously. This is what Zinoviev said in his closing speech at Baku: ‘In Turkestan, certain elements who have attached themselves to the Communist Party act in a way that brings shame on the title of Communist … Certain scions of the old bourgeois Russia who have settled there and have wormed their way into our ranks … continue to look upon the local population as an inferior race … Our party, and the Communist International, are doing everything in our power to clear the weeds out of our garden, to purge our ranks, and to ensure that everyone … understands that this is a holy place.’[87] Action followed. Georgii Safarov was sent to Turkestan to dispossess the Russian settlers and expel them from the country, instructions he carried out so vigorously that he was accused of deviating towards ‘local nationalism’ and ordered to desist.[88]      

As we noted earlier, official attitudes towards Islam and Muslims were generally flexible and conciliatory during much of the 1920s.  With the bitter struggle of 1920-21 with the Basmachi still alive in their memory, the Bolsheviks decided that they could not afford to antagonize the many Muslim inhabitants of the Soviet Union.  The socio-economic environment also favoured the continuation of a moderate approach.  The early 1920s was the time of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was based on compromise and did not give rise to any serious national or political disruption in the country.  Because the bulk of the Muslims of the Soviet Union were peasants, the pro-peasant NEP effectively worked in their favour.  

In the years following 1920, the Bolsheviks tried to build on the success of the Baku Congress by advocating a united front between communists and eastern nationalists against western imperialism. In doing this, the Soviet government applied a multi-faceted strategy of concurrent alternative policies, which simultaneously combined ‘peaceful co-existence’ and ‘fraternal aid’ to communist parties and movements with collaboration and assistance to reactionary nationalist governments who were suppressing those same parties and movements. This flexible strategy made it possible for the Soviet Union to infiltrate target countries to further its ’cause’ and its influence.  It also permitted the use of all available means — communist parties, international organizations, and even occasionally reactionary parties. Wherever a ruler or a movement was fighting against Western imperialism he or it could count on Soviet support.

Mainly due to the initial promising atmosphere  of friendship between the Bolsheviks and anti-imperialist Muslims, a number of left-leaning Muslim groups had gained momentum in Anatolia in the 1920s.  Among these the Green Army Association (Yesil Ordu Cemiyeti) was the most prominent radical organization.  The association was founded in Anatolia in the spring of 1920 ‘to liberate Asia from the penetration and occupation of European imperialism’.[89]  The political wing of the Green Army Association set up a group among the deputies of the Turkish Grand National Assembly called the People’s Group (Halk Zumresi).[90]

The Soviet policy of friendship with Mustafa Kemal’s Turkey was unaffected by that government’s murder of the leader of the Turkish Communist Party, Mustafa Subhi, and fifteen  of his comrades by drowning them in the Black Sea.[91] This applied to the Communist International too: at the Third Comintern Congress, Suleyman Nuri declared that though he condemned the Black Sea incident he thought Mustafa Kemal should still be supported ‘to the extent that he fought against imperialism’.[92] In April 1924 Stalin declared, along the same lines, that ‘the struggle of the Afghan Emir for Afghan independence is objectively a revolutionary struggle despite the Emir’s monarchist ideas because it weakens imperialism’[93]. In 1925 and 1926 the armed uprisings of Abd el-Krim in Spanish and French Morocco and Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Syria were supported by the Comintern and the French Communist Party. Pierre Semard, leader of the PCF, explained why: ‘Many people fear the victory of Abd el-Krim because they accuse him of being a reactionary leader and a violent dictator. They don’t understand that the first stage towards the liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial nations is a movement of a national character.’[94] In the end, the decisive factor for the Soviet Union was not necessarily the success of a particular communist party, but rather whether the foreign policy goals of the Soviet Union were advanced. World communism remained the publicly stated, long-range maximum goal, but always secondary to the immediate goal of promoting Soviet state interests.

The success of the anti-colonialist alliance depended on the readiness of Muslim resistance movements (or Muslim governments, where appropriate) to accept the proffered hand of friendship. The call for ‘Holy War’ at the Baku Congress was issued in the knowledge that there was a long history of resistance by Muslims on a religious basis to European colonialism, stretching back to the early nineteenth century. This was particularly true in South East Asia, where the belief in a future ratu adil ( ‘just king’) or a mahdi  (‘rightly guided one’)was a powerful inducement to revolt.[95]  Some leading Muslim thinkers also approved communist aims in principle. In Indonesia, for instance, Hadji Mohammad Misbach was very active in the mid 1920s in developing and publicising this idea of the alliance between Communism and Islam. In his view, the way to be a true Muslim was to overthrow capitalism and imperialism: In 1922 he wrote: ‘Can the Muslims in these Indies carry out the true will of Islam if our freedom is still shackled in the grip of capital and if they do not assemble their strength to free themselves? Guess, hey, you readers!’ His 1925 articles on ‘Islamism and Communism’ display an absolute certainty that the two are identical: ‘All our friends who profess themselves communists but still like to express opinions aimed at abolishing the religion of Islam are not true communists, or they do not yet understand the communist position. In turn, those who profess Islam but reject Communism, I am not afraid to say that they are not true Muslims, or they do not yet properly understand the position of the religion of Islam.’ The basic reason for this, he said, was that capitalism was yet another attempt by Satan to tempt the faithful away from God. ‘Those who have gone astray are those who want only to get food or profit, without considering what is wrong and what is right.’[96] Nor was Misbach alone in this view. Similar ideas were put forward in central Sumatra by Hadji Datoek Batoeah, who preached that ‘the ideas of communism were in line with the principles of Islam’.[97] The communist revolts of 1926 in Java and Sumatra were led by  ‘ulama’  who preached revolution against two evils: ‘Capitalism, which promotes greed and distance from God, and imperialism, which threatens the world of Islam’.[98]

Indonesia is the most striking example of  support by  ‘ulāma’  for communism. But this happened in other countries too.In Turkey, in 1920, T.Rüstü, a friend of  Mustapha Kemal, who later became the ruler of the country, declared that communism was a ‘moral and religious obligation’ and that the religion of Islam was in itself communist.[99] In Egypt, too, the leader of Muslim modernism, Sheikh Muhammed Rashid Rida, occasionally gave voice to pro-Bolshevik sentiments: ‘Bolshevism is only another name for socialism. Muslims must hope for its success, since they too are workers and suffer from the same oppression.’ He did however add the reservation that ‘communism is not in conformity with Islamic law’.[100] Another Muslim modernist, the great Urdu poet Muhammed Iqbal, wrote a poem about Lenin in heaven: Lenin complains after his death to Allah that the old, unjust order still prevails in the world; Allah replies by ordering the angels to stir up the poor, destroy the palaces of the rich, and introduce a utopian system in which the workers will receive the full reward for their labour.[101] Within Soviet Russia the Tatar intellectual and communist Hanafi Muzaffar wrote optimistically in 1922 ‘everything predisposes the Muslim peoples to join communism. Like communism, Islam is against narrow nationalism. Islam is international and only recognises the brotherhood and unity of all nations under the flag of Islam’[102]. The Jadid theologian Musa Jarullah Bigi came forward with similar ideas: ‘A great revolution has triumphed in Russia, giving birth to a just and equitable regime. Muslims enjoy equality, security and peace’ he wrote in 1925.[103]

 Things were not quite as simple as might appear from this, however. Approval for communist (or socialist) social objectives often went hand in hand (as in Rashid Rida’s case) with rejection of socialism or communism as secular ideologies put forward by unbelievers in their own interest, and, apart from that, certain measures which communists thought desirable – such as the expropriation of waqf properties or changes in the dress, the situation, and the opportunities of women – could be construed as attacks on Islam.

The Indonesian story is instructive in this respect. Here there was cooperation in the beginning between communists and modernist Muslims in Sarekat Islam (SI), the mass movement founded in 1912 to defend Indonesians against the commercial domination of the Chinese and the religious encroachments of the Christian missions and to overthrow the political rule of the Dutch.[104] By 1917 a revolutionary current was already visible in SI’s Semarang branch, led by the later communists Semaoen and Darsono.[105] In fact the forerunner of the communist party, the Indies Social-Democratic Association (ISDV), set up in 1914 by Hendricus Sneevliet, which adopted the name Communist Association of the Indies (PKI) in 1920, formed a part of Sarekat Islam (which was highly decentralized at this stage), and pushed it in a more radical direction. This episode of Communist-Muslim cooperation lasted until October 1921, when the Jogjakarta group of the SI, led by Agus Salim and Abdul Muis,  gained control of the party, and in effect expelled the PKI[106]   from its ranks, by ruling that dual membership of the two organizations was not permitted. The PKI-dominated branches of SI (representing according to Tan Malaka 30,000 out of 100,000 members)[107] now set themselves up as ‘Red SI’ or People’s Associations (Sarekat Rakjat) and came out more openly as communists[108]. From then onwards they were in conflict with modernist Islam. As Leslie Palmier writes: ‘The fight against the PKI in Sarekat Islam was led by religious Modernists centred on Jogjakarta’.[109]  It was on the face of it a paradox that the more traditionalist, rural Muslims of the interior of Java were able to cooperate with the communists, whereas the modernist Muslim movements of the cities saw the PKI as a rival force. In Central Asia, as we have seen,  it was the traditionalist Muslims who opposed Communism, while at least a section of the Modernists (the jadid movement) joined the Bolsheviks, and continued to cooperate with them until the end of the 1920s.

There were two reasons for these differing approaches. In Java, the traditionalism of the abangan Muslims was not rooted in the Qur’an but in local rituals. In fact their orthodox opponents denied that they could be called Muslims. Moreover, many of the towns of Java were centres of economic development inspired by Western imperialism, and the urban santri Muslims tended to be better off than their rural counterparts. So in this case ‘traditionalism’ did not signify inherited power and wealth, rather the reverse. In the Central Asian case, in contrast, the opponents of Jadidism were the traditional rulers, both spiritual and secular, of the less developed and still semi-feudal states, and the clan-based societies of the North Caucasus, while Jadidism itself was the work of intellectuals who had an audience in the more modern, partly Westernized urban centres of European Russia.

3 Fighting Imperialism without Allies

Within a few years after Lenin’s death the Bolshevik Party and the Stalinised Comintern had abandoned the Muslim-friendly approach of the early years of the revolution. The alliance with Islam became impossible both for internal and foreign policy reasons. In foreign and Comintern policy this change was not clearly apparent until 1927. But in internal policy there were already various warning signs in the mid-1920s of a hardening of the Bolshevik position towards Islam. In 1924 criminal jurisdiction was removed from the shari‘a courts, and in 1925 the government of the newly-formed Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic resolved on their complete abolition by the end of 1927[110]. A similar trend was apparent in the cultural sphere. The movement in favour of abolishing the Arabic script, which was used in a modified form for writing all the Turkic Muslim languages of the Soviet Union in the mid-1920s, and replacing it with the Latin alphabet, was at least implicitly directed against Islamic culture and traditions. This point was recognised by A.K.Abolin, a Soviet official who resisted the proposal in 1926: ‘We must not proclaim this goal (of Latinization) at the (forthcoming) Baku Turkological Congress, nor must we allow it to be promoted.’ Religious Muslims would view it with hostility, and ‘we must not give people cause to accuse the central authorities of forcibly imposing a new script on the eastern peoples.’[111] There was ‘almost unanimous and irreconcilable opposition to the introduction of the Latin alphabet from most of the representatives of the Turkic peoples’ in 1926 according to Ingeborg Baldauf. Support was limited to the Turkmen, Azerbaijanis and Bashkirs.[112] Some of those who favoured Latinization did not admit that they were undermining Islamic culture. Agamali-Oglu, the party leader in Azerbaijan, who was the driving force behind Latinization at the Baku Turkological Congress, preferred to argue that the Arabic script ‘blunted children’s analytic capacities’ by making it more difficult for them to became literate. But the anti-religious element in the argument was apparent as early as 1921 when Georgii Safarov, reporting on the situation in Turkestan, said to the Tenth Party Congress: ‘There is a struggle between the old caste of the clergy who want the people of the East to learn in the old orthography … and the new bourgeois-national intelligentsia’ who reject a script in which, he alleged,  ‘it takes ten to twelve years to become literate.’[113]

 Despite local opposition, Latinization went ahead from 1927 onwards. That year was a turning-point for Soviet Muslims in many respects. In 1926 the League of Militant Godless, a powerful pressure group headed by Emilian Iaroslavsky, who was close to Stalin, demanded the strengthening of anti-religious propaganda over the whole Soviet Union. Simultaneously the Women’s Section of the communist party (Zhenotdel) proposed a campaign to unveil the women of Central Asia as the first step in ending women’s oppression[114]. This decision to concentrate on the symbol rather than the reality was odd, but it seems that female militants in Uzbekistan regarded it at the time as a vital aspect of women’s liberation, and had already been taking off their veils in closed assemblies for some years.[115]

Moscow accepted the proposal, and issued the appropriate directive in 1927. Local party leaders in Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan) expressed great uneasiness about this, complaining that they couldn’t even persuade their own wives to go unveiled in public. Still, they had to go ahead with the campaign, which was conducted under the slogan of hujum (attack).[116] The veil (parandja) and face covering (chachvon ) were seen, at least in Uzbekistan, as religious obligations and a symbol of loyalty to the community. Hence the attempt by female party activists to carry out their instructions ‘touched off a firestorm of violence against women’, to use  Shoshana Keller’s evocative expression.[117] Many women left the communist party rather than undertake this dangerous, indeed possibly fatal, assignment.[118]  It should be noted that this attempt to change women’s way of dressing was in line with policies pursued by modernizing rulers in other parts of the Muslim world at the time. Mustafa Kemal was successful (so far!) in Turkey, Amanullah failed in Afghanistan, and Reza Shah succeeded in Iran but only for a few years.[119] In all these cases the veil was seen as a symbol of an outmoded set of social rules which prevented modernization. It was mistakenly assumed, as Lindisfarne-Tapper and Ingham comment ‘that changes in sartorial rules naturally and inevitably transform social identities’.[120]

In the Soviet Union, the campaign for unveiling only lasted for a short time. It was broken off in 1930 and never repeated. The veil itself was never made illegal.  But the episode was followed by a more general attack on Islam. This was associated with the ‘cultural revolution’ of the early 1930s, described by Terry Martin as ‘a mass campaign against “feudal “ practices’[121]. In Central Asia and the North Caucasus it involved the removal and exile of Muslim party officials and the suppression of religious institutions, such as Muslim schools, Islamic courts,  and  awqāf, all of which were scheduled to be eliminated eventually.[122] Shoshana Keller has estimated that in Uzbekistan roughly 70% of the Muslim clergy (a total of 14,000 out of 20,000) were arrested, killed or driven out of their functions between 1927 and 1939.[123] Many mosques were closed. It was not intended, however, that believers should have no place to worship. The Law of 8 April 1929 on Religious Associations in the RSFSR did not abolish religious groups but rather placed them under strict government control. By Article 36 a mosque could only be closed ‘if closure would not deprive believers of the ability to perform their religious rites.’ This was a recognition by the party that Islam had tremendous powers of resistance. Even Iaroslavsky had to admit in 1931 that ‘the Muslim priesthood still plays a large role in the Soviet East and is an irreconcilable opponent of Soviet power’.[124]  At this stage the collectivization of agriculture was a more important priority in the East for the Soviet government. This process went hand in hand with the attack on Muslim traditions, but the party sometimes showed an awareness, even in the 1930s, of the need to proceed carefully. In December 1933, for instance, the Central Committee dismissed various functionaries in Tajikistan for ‘distortions’ in carrying out collectivization and anti-religious propaganda: ‘Anti-religious propaganda should carefully avoid insulting the feelings of believers because this will only lead to the strengthening of religious fanaticism.’[125] It must also be remembered that, side by side with this,  the process of indigenization (korenizatsiia ) continued in the East as part of the ‘socialist offensive’ of the early 1930s. More and more Central Asians became proletarians, many more than previously entered higher education, and the use of local languages was promoted at the expense of Russian.[126]. The long-term result of these two processes was to transform the Soviet East. This is how Adeeb Khalid sums up the results: ‘… Religious observance continued in the 1930s but in mosques attached to collective farms, with tractor drivers serving as imams. .. the veil eventually disappeared; public discourse was radically de-Islamized and local customs were gradually sovietized’ [127].  Islam survived, in other words, but in a different form.

The unveiling campaign was just one  component of the overall ‘Great Change’ which took place under Stalin. Once he had emerged  as the undisputed leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a severe offensive started against his real and imaginary adversaries within the Party and in the wider Soviet hierarchy and society as a whole.  Thousands of people were tried and liquidated, others simply disappeared.  During this period, the Soviet government began the Russification of the Communist Party apparatus in the Muslim territories.  Many local Muslim leaders were arrested for ‘nationalist deviations’.  Sultan-Galiev’s second arrest and trial in 1928 signalled the start of a campaign in all the Muslim areas of the Soviet Union. There was a massive purge of cultural, scientific, artistic, and literary institutions.[128] Many Muslim communists were thoroughly vilified as ‘deviationists’, ‘traitors’, ‘agents provocateurs’, ‘deserters’, ‘bourgeois nationalists’, ‘enemies of the people’, and members of the ‘Bukharinist-Trotskyist clique’.  The purges eliminated almost all the original Muslim cadres of the communist party.[129] 

This coincided with changes in foreign policy. The Soviet Union turned increasingly towards isolationism at this time, both in diplomacy and in Comintern policy. The Comintern’s 1928 turn towards the ‘class against class’ line, as announced at the Sixth Congress, signified an end to cooperation with bourgeois (in other words, non-communist) anti-imperialist movements everywhere. As the 1928 ‘Theses on the Revolutionary Movement in the Colonies and Semi-Colonies’ noted: ‘Communist parties in these countries should from the very beginning demarcate themselves in the most clear-cut fashion, both politically and organizationally, from all the petty-bourgeois groups and parties.’ Nevertheless, ‘temporary cooperation is permissible with a national revolutionary movement, provided it is a genuine revolutionary movement and its representatives do not put obstacles in the way of the communists.’[130] Stalin made it clear, however, that this did not include the Indian national movement: ‘The proposed appeal to the Indian people is full of errors’ he wrote in March 1928 to Piatnitsky. ‘It fails to underline  the need to concentrate our fire on the compromisers.’[131] Moreover, when Otto Kuusinen presented his report on the colonies to the Sixth Congress he ruled out ‘the formation of any kind of bloc between the communist party and the national-reformist opposition.’[132] In other words, communists were to stay away from parties of both the national bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie. Only the proletariat could lead the peasantry in the struggle for the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and since (in the Comintern’s view) the proletariat barely existed in most of the colonial countries (outside India) this task would have to be taken on by the communist party itself whatever its social composition. This policy of isolation was strengthened in July 1929 by the Tenth ECCI Plenum, which expressed complete hostility to the Indian National Congress: ‘The undisguised betrayal of the cause of national independence by the Indian bourgeoisie, and their active support of the bloody suppression of  the workers on strike expose the counter-revolutionary character of the Indian bourgeoisie. The independence of India … can be achieved only by means of the revolutionary struggle of the workers and peasants led by the proletariat against British imperialism, the Indian feudal rulers and Indian national capital.’[133] The rejection of the bourgeois alliance went hand in hand with a determination to confront both feudal and bourgeois ideology. Hence in Iraq the newly-formed communist party mounted an anti-religious campaign in 1929 involving a call to ‘liberate the Arab woman from the fetters of degradation and ignorance’.[134]  They were particularly hostile to the veil, considering it a symbol of the subjection of women. The communist poet Jamil Sidqī  al-Zahāwi wrote: ‘They have claimed that in the veil there is protection; they lie, for it is in truth a disgrace. They have claimed that unveiling is a breach of modesty; they lie, for unveiling is perfect purity.’[135]

            It is generally accepted that in Europe the consequences of the ‘class against class’ policy pursued by the Comintern between 1928 and 1935 were catastrophic. It was different in the East. The Comintern considered that the new line required the communist parties of the Middle East to start a process of ‘Arabization’. Up until then, communist parties in Palestine and Egypt were very small and contained few Muslims. In Palestine most members were Jewish, in Egypt they were Jews or Coptic Christians.[136]  Small, but solid, communist nuclei were formed in the Arab world, for the first time, during this period. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic movements were profoundly influenced by Marxism. Moreover, the ‘class against class’ policy was not disadvantageous outside Europe. The rejection of alliances with the national bourgeoisie did not mean the abandonment of the task of struggling for national independence against Western imperialism. Instead, the nationalist parties could be accused of betraying that struggle, and since they were nowhere particularly militant, and certainly not inclined to rise in insurrection at that time, the accusation sounded plausible. Thus the Egyptian Communist Party turned on the Egyptian nationalists, the Wafd, a party it had been allied with in the mid-1920s, accusing it in 1931 of ‘bargaining with Egypt’s oppressors and betraying the national revolution in return for monetary gain’ and of ‘opposing any real struggle for the independence of Egypt, the overthrow of the monarchy, the confiscation of landed property, and the Eight Hour day’.[137] The overall line to be taken was indicated by a conference of the communist parties of Palestine and Syria in 1931: ‘A revolutionary anti-imperialist pan-Arab front of the working masses, the peasants and the urban petty bourgeoisie needs to be set up to oppose capitulationist and counter-revolutionary national reformism’[138]. The reference to a ‘pan-Arab front’ needs to be noted here: from 1928 onwards the Comintern advocated the unity of the Arab nation, as opposed to a narrow nationalism based on the division into separate states introduced by the colonialist powers: ‘The Arab popular masses feel that in order to get rid of the yoke of imperialism they must unite their forces on the basis of a common language, common historical conditions and a common enemy.’[139]   

4 The Popular Front Changes the Picture

Changes in the world situation (in particular the 1933 victory of the Nazis in Germany) imposed a change in communist policy. As always with the Comintern, this change was applied across the board. The Popular Front came into being in 1935, as a result of the Seventh Comintern Congress held in that year. The Seventh Congress transformed communist strategy. Instead of acting alone, communist parties were called upon to ‘create an anti-imperialist people’s front’, and also to ‘take an active part in the mass anti-imperialist movements headed by the national-reformists and strive to bring about joint action with the national-revolutionary and national-reformist organizations on the basis of a definite anti-imperialist platform’.[140] Moreover, this was also made mandatory for the communist parties in European countries: ‘In the interests of its own struggle for emancipation, the proletariat of the imperialist countries must give its unstinted support to the liberation struggle of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples against the imperialist pirates.’[141]  Once again an alliance with Muslim and other anti-imperialist forces was possible. The formation of the Popular Front government in France in 1936, including representatives of the French Communist Party, had a direct impact on the situation in Syria and Lebanon, for instance. The local communist party was now legalized, and could issue newspapers and create mass, open organizations including trade unions. The Syrian and Lebanese communists applied the Popular Front policy by joining up with the parties of the nationalist bourgeoisie in support of national demands. The communist party was the only political party in Lebanon not tied to a particular religious community. This enabled it to transcend the ethnic and religious conflicts which were constantly threatening to tear that country apart.[142]

But in the Popular Front period national and anti-imperialist demands were always subordinated to the need to fight against Fascism, and since a number of imperialist powers (such as Britain, France and the Netherlands) were allies in this fight, anti-imperialism could not be taken to extremes. The contrast between the Popular Front period and the earlier party line was clearly marked in the French case. In 1925 the French Communist Party (PCF) had supported the rising of Abd el-Krim in Morocco, and a year later it supported the Syrian rising against French rule. In 1931 Maurice Thorez, the party’s leader, didn’t think the PCF’s current policy was sufficiently anti-colonialist: he described its anti-colonialist activity as ‘scandalously inadequate in comparison with 1925’[143]. After 1935 his attitude changed completely. The right of the colonial peoples to self-determination remains valid, he noted, but they should not now demand independence, because in the struggle against fascism, ‘the interest of the colonial peoples lies in their union with the French people, and not in an attitude which could favour the undertakings of fascism’ in such areas as North Africa or Indochina.[144] In 1937 the Popular Front government of Leon Blum suppressed the Étoile Nord-Africaine,  the pro-independence group which had been run since 1926 by Messali Hadj, himself a communist. But the leader of the newly founded Algerian Communist Party, Robert Deloche, writing in the newspaper l’Humanité, failed to condemn this. Messali Hadj reacted by breaking his ties with the communists and setting up his own political party, the Party of the Algerian People.[145] The communist party replied with a series of newspaper commentaries asserting that Messali Hadj  was advocating a Trotskyist line, which was the worst possible insult in their vocabulary.[146]  In the Netherlands, too, the Dutch Communist Party abandoned its previous support for Indonesian independence in 1938, using a very similar argument: ‘An independent Indonesia would be too weak to resist Japanese imperialism’ they claimed.[147]

5 Wartime and Post-War Transformations

The Popular Front lasted until August 1939, when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed, and the Comintern line changed again. The word ‘fascism’ temporarily dropped out of the Third International’s vocabulary. In the Middle East this period between 1939 and 1941 was not long enough or significant enough to make a difference. In general, for the communist parties of the East the change from anti-Fascism to neutrality in what was now described as the ‘Second Imperialist War’ was far less traumatic than in the West. Anti-imperialism had always been the main plank in their programme, and the events of 1939 required no change in this.[148] In fact in India the communist party took advantage of the new line by abandoning its previous Popular Front position of calling on Muslims to join the Indian National Congress. Instead it ‘demoted the Congress to a position of parity with the Muslim League’ calling on the former to agree to the Muslim’s League’s demand for the partition of the country into two sovereign states.[149]

Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 quickly opened the way to a restoration of the alliance with bourgeois democracy, under the new name of the ‘National Front’, and the communist parties of the world naturally adopted the new line. There were considerable tactical problems in this area, however, because the alliance with the West could only be maintained by walking a fine line between giving support to movements of national liberation (which were anti-Western and therefore implicitly pro-Axis) and helping the Allied war effort (which was Stalin’s primary objective). Generally speaking, the communist parties of the East succeeded in this act of tightrope-walking. Khalid Bakdash’s 1943 presentation of the National Charter of the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon is a good example: ‘We are not in the first place a party of social reform. This allegation has been pinned on us by people who are bent on relegating us to the margin of national life, so as to have the national movement all to themselves.’[150]

            The dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 helped communist parties in the East because they no longer had to follow every twist and turn of a party line decided in Moscow. The ideological justification Stalin gave for putting an end to the Communist International was that ‘now national tasks are in the forefront for each country, and the membership of communist parties in the Comintern hinders their independent development and stops them carrying out their tasks as national parties.’[151] The Comintern apparatus was not simply dissolved, however. It was transformed into the Foreign Section of the Russian[152] communist party, and it continued to intervene in the affairs of the other communist parties. It is true, though, that there was not the same degree of micro-management after 1943 as before, except where what Stalin considered to be vital Soviet interests were at stake, as in Eastern Europe. When the Cominform, or Information Bureau, was set up in 1947 to keep a tighter rein on communist parties outside the Soviet Union it was significant that it did not include representatives of any non-European communist party.

            In the euphoria that followed the end of the Second World War, and the apparent continuation of the Grand Alliance between Stalin and the West, the way seemed open for continued broad alliances between communist parties and other groups in the Muslim world dedicated to getting rid of colonial rule. After the Second World War, many Third World leaders – from Latin America to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia — were drawn to Marxism-Leninism as a natural channel for translating nationalist sentiments into a plan of action for economic growth, political equality, and social progress.  A good number of these leaders were from Muslim communities in Asia and Africa. Even in Iran, where victory in the Second World War and the occupation of the west of the country by Soviet forces meant that there seemed to be opportunities to pursue a more radical line, communist policy was exceedingly moderate. In Iranian Azerbaijan a Democratic Party[153] was formed in September 1945 under the veteran communist Ja’far Pishevari and it immediately took power there. The rule of the Azerbaijan Democrats lasted until December 1946, but their main programme was ‘national and cultural autonomy within Iran and the introduction of Azerbaijani as official language’, rather than separating from Iran or joining Soviet Azerbaijan. Any aspirations that Pishevari may have had in that direction were firmly stamped on by Stalin, in a letter of 8 May 1946 which gives a clear indication of his policy at that stage: ‘You want to achieve all of Azerbaijan’s revolutionary demands immediately. But the present situation excludes this possibility. You want to copy Lenin. That is very good and praiseworthy. But the situation in Iran is completely different from that in Russia in 1905 and 1917. In Iran there is no deep revolutionary crisis. There are very few workers in Iran and they are badly organized. The Iranian peasantry are so far inactive. Iran is not engaged in a war with an external enemy, which might weaken reactionary circles if it led to defeat. You could, of course, could on success in the struggle for the revolutionary demands of the Azerbaijani people if the Soviet army continued its stay in Iran. But we cannot stay in Iran, mainly because the presence of the Red Army would undermine our policy of liberation in Europe and Asia. The present policy should be: don’t break with Prime Minister Ghavam, because he is fighting against reactionary anglophil elements.Use this situation to put pressure on him to democratise.’[154]  Soviet troops withdrew from western Iran the next day. In line with Stalin’s advice, the Tudeh Party (the Iranian communist party) joined Ghavam’s coalition cabinet in August 1946. It had no programme at all except to prevent the suppression of the regime of the Azerbaijani Democratic Party which was ruling the West of the country under the protection of Soviet bayonets. This episode only lasted a few months. It came to an end in October with the removal of the Tudeh party from office and the arrest of a number of trade union and party members, followed rapidly by the reconquest of Iranian Azerbaijan and Kurdistan by the central government’s troops.[155] 

            In India the communists had pursued a rather independent line during the war. Their programme was to divide the country into sixteen separate regions, on the basis of the principle of national self-determination. Muslims were to have ‘the right to form autonomous states and even to separate if they so wished, in places where they were in the overwhelming majority’.[156] After 1945, however, they were instructed to return to the alliance with the Indian National Congress. They were not very willing to do so. The veteran British communist Palme Dutt, himself of Indian origin, travelled to India in 1946 in order to persuade the Indian communists to abandon (temporarily as it turned out) what he called ‘the myth of communist support for Pakistan’.[157]

6 The Cold War and Renewed Communist Isolation

A new situation was created for Muslims in Eastern Europe in the years after 1945 by the establishment of communist regimes in Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria.[158] In the short term, the Stalin model of suppressing independent religious organizations and placing those that were allowed to survive under strict state control was followed. Religious courts and religious schools were abolished; the awqāf  were taken over by the state; the Sufi orders were prohibited; the veil was outlawed. In the long run considerable differences emerged between the policies of the three states. Tito’s Yugoslavia reversed most of its anti-religious policies. After 1948 the building of mosques was allowed again; all restrictions on performing the ḥajj  were removed; children again received religious instruction; new madrāssas  were opened for training the Muslim clergy; Sufism was quietly permitted to revive; and in general the position of Yugoslavia within the ‘non-aligned’ movement was a good reason for Tito to use the favourable position of Muslims as an advertisement.[159] Moreover, Yugoslavia was the only place in the world where Muslims were defined as an ethnic group and therefore the evolution of state policy  towards national minorities was an important factor in improving their position. The increasing degree of autonomy allowed to the republics within the federal system in the late 1960s and 1970s worked to the advantage of the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina, who were recognised as a separate nation in 1967. In Kosovo the Albanians, also largely Muslim, but not defined as such, gained from improvements in the status of their republic, which had almost as much autonomy as other republics after 1968.

 In Albania the opposite process took place. For the first two decades the Stalin model was followed, combining suppression of independent institutions and strict control of religion. The party leader, Enver Hodzha, asked the Soviet envoy to Tirane in 1949 for advice and financial support in dealing with Islam. He was told that in principle a translation of the Qur’an into Albanian was approved but a shortage of paper made this a project for the future (!); but that it was correct to exempt Muslim theological students from military service.[160] Islam was tolerated in these early years, but strictly controlled, as in the Soviet Union. Official heads of both the Sunni community and the Bektashi Sufis were appointed. They had the job of pretending to the outside world that Muslims were both well treated and entirely supportive of the government. From 1964 onwards, however, policy towards Muslims got much tougher, perhaps as a result of Albania’s decision to take the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet conflict. In 1967 Albania was declared an atheist state, all places of worship were closed and all religious communities were dissolved.[161]  Finally, the policy adopted towards Muslims in Bulgaria continued to be in line with Soviet practice. The repressive measures of the 1940s remained in force, but about 1,000 mosques survived, there were five madrasas and possibly 500 imams.[162]

The end of the Second World War was followed, after an interval, by the collapse of the wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western powers and the coming of the Cold War. For the communist parties this involved a turn to the left. In Europe direct instructions to this effect were issued by Zhdanov in his speech to the first meeting of the Cominform (Information Bureau) in September 1947. Communist parties, he said, should ‘lead national resistance to plans of imperialist expansion and aggression’. Outside Europe trends already existed within the communist parties towards breaking the alliance with the national bourgeoisie, so Stalin and his associates simply needed to provide encouragement. The new policy was more subtle than that of 1928-1934, because the communist parties of the Muslim world were not instructed to engage in anti-religious propaganda. Awkward questions about the status of women and family law were not raised. Stress was laid more on the need for immediate insurrection to overthrow both colonialist regimes and independent bourgeois nationalist states, such as India and Pakistan, which under Zhdanov’s ‘two camps’ theory fell into the enemy camp insofar as they were not allied with the Soviet Union. E.Zhukov put the official position succinctly in 1949: ‘The reactionary and nationalist bourgeoisie in its various forms – Kemalism, Gandhiism, Zionism or Pan-Arabism – has passed over definitively into the camp of imperialist reaction.’[163] He was ably seconded by Khaled Bakdash, who proclaimed in 1950 that the main objective was to ‘unmask groups and parties claiming to be socialist such as the Arab Socialist Party and the Baathists, who are a danger to the democratic national movement against war and imperialism.’[164]

 The Madiun rising of 1948 in Indonesia was one of the first fruits of the new policy.  In this case, a leading communist, Musso, returned from exile in the Soviet Union in August 1948 with the intention of carrying out what he himself called his ‘Gottwald plan’. He intended to seize power in the way that the communists had just done in Czechoslovakia, in other words by a peaceful takeover of the government backed by force if necessary.[165] Existing non-communist organizations like the Socialist Party and the Labour Party were induced to merge with the PKI and criticise themselves for their ‘basic error in compromising with the imperialists’ by making the Renville Agreement.[166] The Prime Minister himself, Amir Sjarifuddin, declared that he was a communist, in fact he claimed to have been one since 1935. The prospects looked favourable for a ‘Gottwald-style’ takeover. But the process of merging the other parties into the PKI had barely started when some local communist leaders jumped the gun by mounting the Madiun coup. Musso was not responsible for this decision, but, in line with the practice of  communist solidarity, associated the PKI with it after the event. He also hoped to secure Muslim support by giving an Islamic slant to his action: ‘If we really want to save Islam from being destroyed by the unbelievers, the time has now come for a  Holy War. They say we want to destroy religion, but we want to destroy the Dutch, not religion.’[167] Sukiman, the leader of Masjumi[168], the party founded in 1945 to unite all Muslims who wanted to establish Indonesia on an Islamic basis, was not impressed by this argument, and he called upon his followers to oppose the PKI, ‘because in a communist Indonesia Islam would have no chance of survival.’[169]  The result was a brutal conflict with both Masjumi and the Nationalist Party, and eventual defeat at the hands of the army, followed by severe repression.[170]

            In India there was at first considerable hesitation, because of factional divisions within the party. The Soviet Eastern specialist E.Zhukov wrote in July 1947 that Nehru was a ‘rich reactionary’ and the Congress leadership were bourgeois who had capitulated to imperialism. But the Indian Communist Party, led by P.C.Joshi, continued to support Nehru until December 1947, when the party declared that Nehru’s policy was one of  ‘subservience to the Ango-American imperialist camp’.[171] Finally in February 1948, at the 2nd (Calcutta) Congress of the party, Joshi was replaced as General Secretary by B.T.Ranadive and the ‘Ranadive line’ of violent revolution to achieve a ‘people’s democratic state’ was adopted. This phase of communist policy lasted until 1951. The Communist Party of Pakistan, which was founded at the 1948 Calcutta Congress, organized a number of strikes and peasant revolts in the next three years.[172] In Iraq the communists in 1948 led the unsuccessful popular uprising known as al-Wathbah which was directed as much against the ‘national bourgeoisie’ as it was against the feudalist regime of Nuri al-Sa‘id.[173] This ‘combination of the struggle for social change’ with ‘the fight for national independence’ was the key to the Iraqi Communist Party’s mass appeal.[174]  

In Egypt there was a revolt the 1951-2 led by one faction of the communists[175] in alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood against the monarchy and its British backers. ‘The communists and the Muslim Brothers’, wrote M.S.Agwani,  ‘appeared to be the natural heirs to political power in Egypt’[176].

But it was a military group which snatched power in 1952: the Free Officers, under Muhammad Nagib and Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir. It soon became clear that the Free Officers had no intention of sharing power with either the communists or the Muslim Brotherhood. In January 1953 they abolished all political parties. The communist reaction was to break with them, and in 1954 they called on the Muslim Brotherhood to join in ‘the common struggle against the Fascist dictatorship of Nasir’. Obstacles to cooperation came not from the communist side but from the Brothers, who found an alliance ‘ideologically impossible’ since communism meant ‘atheism, political tyranny and international dictatorship’, in the words of their most prominent thinker, Sayyid Qutb.[177]

7 National Liberation and its Dilemmas

            With the death of Stalin and the end of the Korean War in 1953 the conflict between East and West began to take a different form, and a milder one. Khrushchev launched the slogan of ‘peaceful coexistence’ in foreign policy. For the Muslim world this meant that the attempt would be made to spread Soviet influence by peaceful, non-violent means. In April 1955 the Soviet government stated that it would ‘develop peaceful cooperation with all states in the Middle East interested in strengthening their national independence’.[178] Khrushchev now criticised Stalin for having failed to recognise that the rulers of the newly independent countries of the Middle East were not just stooges of Western imperialism; they were just as likely to clash with the West. This recognition opened the way to closer relations at state level and renewed alliance strategies for local communist parties. Alliances could be achieved both with anti-imperialist Muslim movements striving to achieve power and with successful nationalist revolutionaries who were already in power, such as, in the Arab world, Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir, and in Indonesia, Sukarno. In 1954, upon the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian agreement on British troop withdrawal from the Suez Canal area, Communist and Muslim protesters took to the streets of Cairo to celebrate.  In 1955, in Syria, Communist and Muslim students demonstrated together against the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was accused of being a “Cold War Warrior”,  and his proposal for a Middle East Treaty Organization METO, which was later renamed as CENTO was criticised as an American plan.[179]  The ‘national bourgeoisie’ was no longer criticised, but rather praised as ‘a new historical type, progressive in a world where capitalism is approaching its death agony’. ‘The national bourgeoisie has learned by experience’ said Khaled, the Secretary-General of the (now reunited) Egyptian CP in 1957, ‘that it cannot advance without the support of the socialist camp from outside and the popular masses from within.’[180] ‘The Egyptian bourgeoisie is progressive’ he added ‘because it is imbued with socialist thought and linked to world socialism.’[181]

 There were, as always, difficulties, since the nationalists, though happy to accept Soviet aid, regarded communists within their countries as a threat to be neutralized, co-opted or suppressed, while the communists naturally had the ultimate objective of gaining power for themselves. Khrushchev put the Soviet position on this very frankly in 1959, in connection with Nasir’s campaign of repression against the Communist Party of Syria: ‘The USSR has no intention of intervening in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and in spite of what has happened the USSR will continue its policy of aid and assistance to the United Arab Republic’. The present situation in the Arab countries, he calmly added, ‘does not favour the establishment of a communist system.’[182] The Communist Party of Iraq, which was in a very strong position after its participation in the July Revolution of 1958, and in fact regarded itself as ‘the basic political force in the country’[183], was compelled to make a self-criticism in August 1959 of its ‘leftist error’ in attempting to secure a share in the new government, and it never repeated the attempt.[184]

At the easternmost end of the Muslim world, in Indonesia, the policy of the communist party (PKI) was not essentially different. Here there was a government of the national bourgeoisie, headed by a nationalist president, Sukarno, supported by an Indonesian nationalist party (PNI), and opposed by a coalition of Muslims (Masjumi) and Social Democrats (PSI). The PKI had already anticipated the abandonment of Stalin’s hard line policy towards the national bourgeoisie before his death. In 1951 it retrospectively repudiated the Madiun uprising. This was an independent decision arrived at by the strong team of four – Aidit, Lukman, Njoto and Sudisman – which had just taken over the leadership.[185]  In 1952 the party leader, D.N.Aidit, proposed a ‘united national front’ which would include the ‘national bourgeoisie’ (represented by Sukarno and the PNI) but exclude the ‘comprador bourgeoisie’ (represented by Masjumi). Then in 1954  the Fifth Party Congress decided to support the PNI cabinet of Ali Sastroamidjojo even though the party ‘did not regard it as a truly progressive government’[186]. This was because Sastroamidjojo was pursuing the nationalist objectives of removing Dutch influence and acquiring West New Guinea (West Irian) for Indonesia, which the communists shared. They also eventually decided (in 1960) to adopt Sukarno’s ‘Five Principles’, or pancasila , the first of which was ‘belief in one God’, a central tenet of Islam. On this basis it was hoped it would be possible to appeal to Muslims, or at least not be rejected out of hand as a party of atheists.[187]

The period between 1953 and the late 1960s is therefore marked by a double process in the Muslim world, namely, firstly, the rise and victory of secular nationalists (Ben Bella in Algeria, Nasir in Egypt, the Ba‘th in Syria and Iraq, Sukarno in Indonesia), whose regimes were after 1955 regarded by the USSR as ‘essentially progressive, moving towards socialism’, and, secondly, the growth of a strong communist movement, in alliance with the nationalists, but hoping to move beyond nationalism to socialism. The growing strength of the movement was recognised indirectly by US President Eisenhower in January 1957 when he named ‘international communism’ as the ‘greatest threat’ facing the Middle East.[188] In many non-communist countries, ‘Islamic socialism’ became quite popular in the 1960s, the aim of which was to balance religious principles with socialism, which in essence was secular. In Pakistan, the idea of “Islamic socialism” was exemplified by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). He was president of Pakistan after Bangladesh’s war of secession from Pakistan until 1973, and then Prime Minister until 1977.  After years of military dictatorship and a civil war, Bhutto’s Islamic socialism was popular among many strands of society.[189]

            After the 1960s a number of factors worked together to weaken communism in Muslim countries. First, some communist parties were undermined by Soviet policies. In the mid-1960s the Soviet viewpoint on national democratic states underwent an alteration: one-party states, it was decided, were now acceptable partners if they pursued ‘progressive’ policies. This idea was thought to imply that communist parties were not needed in those states. They could be dissolved, and  could then join the ruling party and work from within to secure their objectives. Communist parties, however, were no longer as obedient as they had been in the 1930s. The Egyptian party was asked to disband and did so in April 1964. Former members were told to join Nasir’s government party, the Arab Socialist Union.[190]  The Algerian communist party continued to operate illegally, giving rise to an embarrassing incident at the 23rd.Congress of the CPSU in 1966 when the French communist party included some Algerian communists in its delegation. A delegation from the National Liberation Front (FLN), the governing party in Algeria, walked out rather than see Algerian CP members seated.[191] The Sudanese party also refused to disband, and managed to stay in being until 1971 when it allegedly mounted a short-lived coup against General Numeiri. After three days he returned to power with Egyptian help and suppressed the party with much bloodshed.[192] This catastrophe led to a certain re-orientation of policy on the part of the Soviet Union. Instead of calling upon communist parties to dissolve and enter one-party regimes as individuals Soviet commentators advised them to retain their separate existence. But they still had to recognise their inevitable subordination to nationalist governments: ‘The alliance of communists with national democrats is not a passing development but a long-range perspective. In a number of countries national democratic parties are ruling parties playing the leading role in the national liberation movement and non-capitalist development.’ Communists had to accept this as a fact and not get upset about it. ‘Proletarian parties do not yield to emotion, but proceed from objective class analysis’ according to a 1970 article in the authoritative Soviet international periodical, World Marxist Review[193].  

            The second reason for communist weakness was that they were decimated by state repression. The list of parties that suffered in this way is long, but the explanation is always roughly the same. They were too successful. With mass support and allies within the military they looked likely to seize power. Their former nationalist allies stepped in to prevent this, sometimes encouraged by United States government agencies, sometimes assisted by traditionally-inclined forces within the nation itself. In Indonesia the PKI staked everything on its alliance with Sukarno in the ‘anti-imperialist struggle’ and gained the lasting enmity of  wealthy santri Muslims by its campaign of 1963-5 to enforce the dispossession of the big  landowners of Java.[194] The PKI’s 1964 campaign for land reform also tended to alienate Muslims on religious grounds, because under the waqf system the ‘ulama’  were in the position of landowners. Robert Hefner has written of a ‘linkage between wealth and religion’ in this context.[195] Even before the massacres of 1965 there were clashes between Muslims and Communists near Kediri in late 1964 and January 1965.[196]  President Sukarno increased the tension by giving the impression that he was in favour of a communist takeover: in January 1965 he said he would have no objection if Indonesia evolved into  a communist state, and in September 1965 he declared that Indonesia was about to enter the second stage of the revolution, namely socialism. On 30 September there took place what appeared to be an attempted coup by dissident elements in the army, with some communist support.[197] It failed. After suppressing the coup, the top army leaders, Suharto and Nasution, declared that the PKI was responsible for it, despite its denials. The main Muslim organizations called for the ‘annihilation of the PKI’. The Muhammadiyah issued a fatwa declaring that ‘the extermination of communists is an obligatory religious act of holy war’ (7 October 1965).[198]  Estimates of the resulting slaughter vary, but 500,000 is the usual figure put forward.[199] Indonesia was unusual in that the repression was a mass phenomenon: many ordinary Muslims took part in it. Elsewhere, it was generally military élites who suppressed the party and executed its leaders, if they could catch them. This happened in Syria in 1959; in Iraq in 1963 ,  when the communist leader Husain al-Radi was killed; in Algeria in 1965 when Colonel Boumedienne expelled the communists from government and the FLN; in  Sudan in 1971 when General Numeiri executed the Secretary-General of the communist party Abdul Khalid Mahgoub. Apart from suffering severe repression, most of the communist parties of the Muslim world also split into rival factions under the strain of continuing Soviet support for the regimes that were repressing them.[200] The persuasive arguments of the Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung also played a part in encouraging this process of fragmentation. In many cases pro-Chinese communist parties emerged as rivals to the Moscow-liners.

The third change of the 1960s was that nationalist regimes in the Arab world and beyond suffered a certain amount of discredit after 1967 by defeat in the Six Day War, which seemed to show that they were unable to achieve the most popular aim of Arab nationalism, and perhaps of Muslims in general, which was the liberation of the Palestinians from Israeli rule. The fourth and final reason for change was  socio-economic in nature: the increasing oil wealth of some urban élite elements of Muslim societies brought greater integration into the worldwide economy and, despite the efforts of some traditionalist rulers, exposure to the culture of the West. In reaction to these trends, a powerful and ruthless Islamic resistance grew up, directed not only against Western and communist influence but also against existing secular nationalist rulers, sometimes using extreme methods of struggle. This new development was seen in the Soviet Union as highly disturbing, both internally (because of its possible impact on the Muslims of Central Asia) and externally (because it threatened the stability of secular nationalist allies). Political Islam was a new phenomenon in most of the region. The period between 1924, when Mustafa Kemal abolished the caliphate, and the 1960s was a time during which consciously Islamic political activity was, as L.Carl Brown has put it, ‘muted’.[201] During those years, as we have seen, the communists were certainly often obliged to take up a position on matters related to the culture and traditions of Islam, but they were not confronted with a serious rival in the shape of political Islam.[202] The four major political factors they had had to consider were the secular nationalists, the colonial or postcolonial power, the Soviet Union and the popular masses. Now for the first time Islam starts to enter the picture as a political force.

8 The Rise of Political Islam and the Decline of the Soviet Union

 The victory of the Iranian Revolution and the achievement of sole power by Saddam Hussein in Iraq make the year 1979 a turning point. But it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, more than anything else, which suddenly ended the comfortable harmony of the Brezhnev era between the Soviet government and the Muslims of the Soviet lands.  A period of isolation then began for the communist parties. Islamic groups were now of greater political significance than ever before (the revolution in Iran inspired movements in both Lebanon and Palestine, and the Muslim Brotherhood rose in revolt in Syria in February 1982). But alliances with these groups were practically ruled out by communist support for Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union made desperate attempts to stay on  good terms with its Muslim allies, despite the Afghanistan issue. Articles in Soviet journals stressed the progressive nature of Islam. Thus Leonid Medvenko wrote in 1980: ‘The national liberation movement, which often raises the banner of Islam, is spearheaded not only against imperialism, but gradually turns against the very foundations of capitalism.’[203] The Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, added the weight of his authority in 1981: ‘The liberation struggle may unfold under the banner of Islam. The experience of history bears witness to that.’[204] The new Iranian government was not convinced. Ayatollah Khomeini fulminated against both West and East. He denounced the invasion of Afghanistan. ‘I strongly condemn’ he said ‘the dastardly occupation of Afghanistan by the plunderers and occupiers of the aggressive East’. He repudiated the idea of a connection between Marxism and Islam: ‘Some people have mixed Islamic ideas with Marxist ideas and created a concoction which is in no way in accordance with the progressive teachings of Islam.’[205]

            Soviet-Iranian relations became very frosty, and it was increasingly difficult for communists to operate within the country. The Tudeh Party’s offices in Teheran were sacked in July 1980 by Islamic militants. The Soviet government did not react, except to criticise those who ‘incite religious fanatics to act against democratic and other leftist forces, particularly the Tudeh Party, which backs Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-imperialist line.’[206] But things went from bad to worse for the party, until finally in 1983 it was dissolved. Forty-five communists were executed for alleged espionage.[207]  Moreover, alliances with secular nationalist partners were also made more difficult at this time by the increased repression carried out by Saddam in Iraq, Assad in Syria and Sadat and Mubarak in Egypt. The Soviet reply to this development was to urge the Arab communists to ‘bide their time and realize that the evolution of the revolutionary democratic regimes to socialism is a very long process.’[208] Many Arab communists, however, doubted whether this evolution would ever come to pass, and some of them drew the conclusion that the official Moscow-line parties had reached a dead end. Hence the fragmentation of communism which had already started in the 1960s in Iraq, Syria and Iran continued and worsened now all the parties were in exile.

9 Communists Afloat on Uncharted Waters

 The era of perestroika and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the official communist parties of the guide they had looked to for many decades, but these events also opened the way to new situations and new thinking. In Lebanon, the communist party’s deputy leader, Karim Mroué, suggested in 1986 that they should examine their relationship to religion and, as he put it, to ‘the Arab heritage’, and this began a two-year debate which culminated in a change in the party programme. This new programme stressed solidarity with the Palestinian factions, dialogue with religious movements, alliance with all social forces in the Arab nation, and the struggle for the liberation of the occupied territories, including southern Lebanon.[209] The ground was thus laid for the Lebanese Communist Party’s alliance with Hezbollah fifteen years later.[210] 

Similarly, in Israel and Palestine, the communist parties agreed to join with Fatah and the PFLP in the United National Council set up to coordinate the first Intifada.[211] In Algeria, on the other hand, the situation was more complex.  The rise of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and its banning in 1992  placed the communists before a dilemma. Should they join the government and the military and support the repression of the movement? Or should they try to establish a dialogue? One faction, Ettahaddi (Challenge) which enjoyed the support of the French communist party[212], favoured all-out repression; another group, the Trotskyist PT (Workers’ Party) led by Louisa Hanoune, favoured conciliation and the relegalisation of the FIS.[213]

In  the post-Cold War era, Muslims and various left-wing and Marxist groups have come together again, because they face the same enemies – imperialism, colonialism, militarism, racism and Zionism.   In Palestine, after the Oslo Agreement of October1993, those leading figures who were opposed to the policies of Fatah, gathered in an Alliance of Palestinian Forces led by a leftist movement, the Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine  (PFLP), and an Islamic movement, Hamas.  Alliances between the PFLP and Hamas secured winning seats in 2004 municipal elections in Bnei Zayyaid and Bethlehem, and in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the West Bank.[214]   

The global anti-war movements naturally forged alliances between leftists and Islamists.  In December 2002, before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, a meeting was convened in Egypt which brought international leftists and Islamists to the same platform. The meeting resulted in the first Cairo declaration ‘Against U.S. Hegemony and War on Iraq and In Solidarity with Palestine’.  In December 2003, a second Cairo declaration was announced, whose aims included the ‘continued pursuance of the struggle to support the unified international front against imperialism and capitalist globalisation.’[215]

            In Lebanon the communist party had already made the necessary ideological preparation to allow it to form an alliance with Hezbollah, the Party of God, as it is translated into English. In 2007 the two groups joined together to set up a national resistance front. They also formed militias, which opposed the entry of Israeli commandos into several villages.  When Israel’s invasion started, Hezbollah  led the national resistance. The Lebanese CP declared a full mobilization of its party to aid Hezbollah in the political movement, in the defence of the south and in internal operations to aid the million refugees who fled Israeli bombing.  At a Damascus rally, protesters carry pictures of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.  Currently, Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party are jointly discussing the need to develop ‘a counter-project to the neo-liberal model,’ the free-market policies backed by Washington.[216]

Cuban leader Fidel Castro met with Iranian Health Minister Mohammad Farhadi Castro in 2007. He issued a statement praising the vision of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and suggesting that the Koranic model of government could be considered as a substitute for Western-style systems. Fidel added: ‘We also have a common enemy that always threatens us — an enemy that has invaded all the countries of the world.’[217]


The political history of Marxists and Muslims has shown that cooperation between these two forces of opposition occurred many times during the 20th century.  Essentially it was a common enemy that fomented provisional collaboration between the two.

The relationship between Communism and Islam was, however, not entirely unproblematic. While there was much, both in ideology and situation, that brought Muslims and Communists closer together, there were also many points of disagreement that divided them. The communist worldview was opposed to religion of any kind, including Islam. This fundamental ideological division did not inevitably find expression in practical politics, and there were often tactical reasons for downplaying it. Yet it remained there, beneath the surface. There were other points of friction too, particularly in the case of traditional Islam, which was tied to a local status quo, which the communists wanted to overturn, however much both sides might agree to oppose Western imperialism. Where communists advocated land reform, for instance, this could well involve an attack on charitable religious foundations (as in Indonesia in 1964 for example). Campaigns for the emancipation of women would include agitation against the veil, and this was bound to bring fierce resistance from traditionally minded Muslims (as in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s).  In this context, the hostility of Islamism to Marxist movements, and the use of Islamic groups to fight Soviet communism and the wider left during the Cold war, is worthy of some serious analysis.   

So there were at least two tendencies, towards cooperation and towards hostility. Which one prevailed depended on the epoch and also the social and political conditions of the region. In this special issue we shall examine the varied responses of communists to Islam. Moreover, since it takes two to make an alliance, we shall also examine the evolving attitudes of political Islam towards communism.

* (Published in Muslims and Communists in Post-Transition States, Ben Fowkes and Bulent Gokay(Editors),  Routledge, Nov 2011, ISBN-10:0415688787(Hardcover), 184 pages)

[1]                      Quoted in B. Lazitch and M.M. Drachkovich, Lenin and the Comintern, Vol. I, Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1972., p.379.

[2]               In this sense, Adeeb Khalid is right, in an important recent article, to attack what he calls ‘the flawed, essentialist view … that Islam and communism are mutually inimical’ associated with such writers as Alexandre Bennigsen and Hélène Carrère d’Encausse (A.Khalid, ‘A Secular Islam’, in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies ,(IJMES) 35, 2003, p.574). Hans Bräker provides a good example of this essentialism in his study of communism and world religions: ‘To abandon the fight against Islam would have been to abandon Marxist-Leninist ideology. This was unthinkable. Hence the struggle against Islam was unavoidable and consequently Islam was forced to confront communism.’ (Kommunismus und Weltreligionen Asiens. Zur Religions- und Asienpolitik der Sowjetunion  Tübingen: J.C.B.Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1969, Vol.1.Part 1., p.49)

[3]               M.Rodinson, Marxisme et Monde Musulman, Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1972, p.168.

[4]               Rodinson, op.cit., pp. 89, 171.

[5]               The official name of the party changed three times while it was in power. It started off as the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (bolsheviks). Between 1918 and 1925 it was the Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks). In 1925 it became the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks), and finally in 1952 it received the name Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

[6]              A. Khalid, ‘Nationalizing the Revolution in Central Asia: The Transformation of Jadidism, 1917-1920’, in R. G. Suny and T. Martin (eds), A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, p.154.

[7]              V.I.Lenin, Selected Works vol.3, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967), p.290. Also available in Gerry Byrne, ‘Bolsheviks and Islam Part 3: Islamic communism’, Workers’ Liberty, 17 March 2004,

[8]               The statistics refer to ‘members of the titular nationality’, in this case native-born Uzbeks, but they would be overwhelmingly Muslim in origin and culture.

[9]               A.Bennigsen and Ch.Lemercier-Quelquejay, Islam in the Soviet Union (London: Pall Mall Press, 1967)  p.136; the 1927 figures are from  N.A.Barsukov, A.R.Shaidullin and N.N.Iudin, ‘KPSS: Partiia Internatsional’naia’, Voprosy istorii KPSS  No.7, July 1966, p.12.

[10]             Bertold Spuler, ‘Djadid,’ Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E. I. Brill, 1965), vol.2, E-G, p. 366.

[11]             A.Khalid, The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform. Jadidism in Central Asia (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1998), p.8.

[12]             A.Bennigsen and Ch.Lemercier-Quelquejay, Les Mouvements Nationaux chez les Musulmanes de Russie (Paris: Mouton, 1960), pp.52-6.

[13]             Khalid, op.cit., pp.142-7.

[14]             R.G.Landa, Islam v Istorii Rossii (Moscow: Vostochnaia Literatura, 1995) p.182, quoting A.Takho-Godi’s 1927 book, Revoliutsiia i Kontr-revoliutsiia v Dagestane .

[15]             S.A.Dudoignon, ‘Djadidisme, mirasisme, islamisme’, Cahiers du Monde Russe (CMR), 37, (1-2), Jan.-June 1996, p.23.

[16]             Faizulla Khojaev ‘O Mlado-Bukhartsakh’, Istori-Marksist, I, 1926, p.123.

[17]             R.Eisener, ‘Bukhara v 1917g.’ Vostok, 1994, no.5, pp.75-81.

[18]             H.Carrère d’Encausse, Islam and the Russian Empire. Reform and Revolution in Central Asia (London: I.B.Tauris, 1988), p.168. Hence the waqf  properties were not confiscated there, unlike in neighbouring Turkestan.

[19]             There were some exceptions: the radical Egyptian Islamic Modernist Qasim Amin, who died in 1908, opposed polygyny and the veil, and so did the poet Taha Hussein in 1911 (P.Cachia, ‘Introduction’, in Taha Hussein, The Days, American University in Cairo Press: Cairo, 1997, p.4), but they were isolated figures.

[20]             Khalid, op.cit., p.245.

[21]             S.M.Iskhakov, Rossiiskie Musul’mane i Revoliutsiia  (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Sotsial’no-politicheskaia Mysl’, 2003), p.362.

[22]             It is a curious paradox that the only organized Muslim group which actually took part in the October Revolution was the extremely conservative religious brotherhood known as the ‘Regiment of God’, or the Vaisites, followers of  Bahautdin Vaisov, a Sufi sheikh of the mid-nineteenth century, who preferred the Bolsheviks, ‘the enemy without’ to the lukewarm Muslim liberals, ‘the enemies within’  (A.Bennigsen and Ch.Lemercier-Quelquejay, Sultan Galiev. Le père de la révolution tiers-mondiste, Paris: Fayard, 1983, p.77).

[23]             This was Sh.N.Ibragimov, an advocate of ‘leftist’ policies of differentiating between rich and poor among the Muslim peasantry, and expelling Right Communists, not the national communist Veli Ibragimov. His remarks are printed in the minutes of the Fourth Conference, page 32, full reference below, note 34.

[24]             A.Khalid, ‘Nationalizing the Revolution in Central Asia’, p.155. 

[25]             Khalid, Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform., pp.288-9.

[26]             Khalid, Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform., p.294, quoting Fitrat’s 1919 tract, Sharq siyasati (Politics of the East).

[27]             B.Qosimov, ‘Principaux traits du Djadidisme Turkestanais’, CMR , Vol. 37 (1-2), Jan.-June 1996, p.127, n.11.

[28]             Vahitov’s work alongside Sultan Galiev came to an abrupt end in August 1918 when he was captured and executed by White Russian forces (Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, Mouvements, p.125).

[29]             Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, Sultan Galiev, p.116.

[30]             Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, Mouvements, pp.101,104.

[31]             These passages are taken from Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay’s translation of  the whole of Sultan Galiev’s article on ‘Methods of  Anti-religious Propaganda among Muslims’, originally published in Zhizn’ Natsional’nostei , 14/12/1921 and 23/12/1921 which is  printed  in op.cit.,  Appendix 6, pp.226-238. There is no complete English translation, although some documentary collections contain extracts.

[32]             Desiatyi S’’ezd RKP (b). Mart 1921 Goda. Stenograficheskii Otchet  (Gosizpolitdat: Moscow, 1963), pp.198-99. Bräker (op.cit., vol.1, p.64) gives a somewhat inaccurate version of Safarov’s speech.

[33]             Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, Sultan Galiev, p.131.

[34]             .Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay, Sultan Galiev, pp.186-7.

[35]             Although the final resolutions and Stalin’s speeches were published, the minutes of this party conference were kept secret. They only came to light 67 years later, to be published with an introduction by B.F.Sultanbekov as  Tainy natsional’noi politiki TsK RKP: chetvertoe Soveshchanie TsK RKP s Otvetstvennymi Rabotnikami Natsional’nykh Respublik i Oblastei v g.Moskve, 9-12 Iiunia 1923 g Stenograficheskii Otchet Moscow: INSAN, 1992. (Henceforth: Tainy )

[36]             He was alleged to have sent a letter to a communist in Iran outlining plans for Muslim communists in Russia to join together with both communists and non-communists in Iran and Turkey in an organization, and to have sent a coded letter to a Bashkir communist leader. According to  B.F.Sultanbekov the head of operations of  the GPU, Menzhinsky, was aware that these documents had been fabricated (Sultanbekov, ed., Tainy., pp..9, 15).

[37]             Sultanbekov (ed.), Tainy., pp.85.

[38]             Sultanbekov, (ed.), Tainy., p.9.

[39]             Sultanbekov, (ed.), Tainy., Appendix 4, p.282.

[40]             Kommunisticheskaia Partiia Sovetskogo Soiuza  v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh 7th.edn., Moscow: Gosizdat, 1953, vol. I: 744; vol. II: 53.

[41]             H.Carrère d’Encausse, Réforme et révolution chez les Musulmans de l’Empire Russe. Bukhara 1867-1924  Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1966., p.262.

[42]             He was in fact sacked from his position as Deputy Prime Minister of Bukhara in 1923 and sent to work at the Leningrad Oriental Institute. (See S.A.Dudoignon, ‘La Question Scolaire en Boukhara et au Turkestan russe’, CMR, 37 (1-2), Jan.-June 1996, p.186)

[43]             S.A.Dudoignon, ‘La Question scolaire’, p.186.

[44]             Bukhara and Khorezm were both incorporated into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbekistan), set up in 1924.

[45]             Waqf  (plural awqāf ): Muslim charitable institution, which held land donated by an earlier benefactor. The revenues of land held under this system were received either by a religious order or by the descendants of the benefactor himself. They were often used for educational purposes.

[46]             The text of the decrees of 20 June 1922 returning these properties ‘to the schools and mosques’ in Turkestan and 28 December 1922 handing over their administration to locally elected guardians (mutawali ) is available in P.V.Gidulianov, Otdelenie Tserkvi ot Gosudarstva v SSSR . Polnyy Sbornik Dekretov (Moscow, Iuridicheskoe Izdatel’stvo NKIU RSFSR , 1926), pp.278-281,

[47]             Abdurrahman Avtorkhanov, ‘The Chechens and Ingush during the Soviet Period and its Antecedents’, in Marie Bennigsen Broxup, ed., The North Caucasus Barrier (New York, NY: St.Martin’s Press, 1992), p.184.

[48]             J.V.Stalin, Works , Vol.4, p.375. (On Dagestan, November 1920)

[49]             Terry Martin The Affirmative Action Empire. Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), p.61

[50]             B.L.Genis, ‘Deportatsiia russkikh iz Turkestana (Delo Safarova)’, Voprosy Istorii 1998, 1, p.46.

[51]             A.G.Park demonstrated this in his careful examination of the published literature (The Bolsheviks in Turkestan 1917-27 , New York: Columbia University Press, 1957) and the picture has not been substantially modified for the 1920s by subsequent writers with access to the documentary sources such as Shoshana Keller or Terry Martin.

[52]             H.Bräker ‘Soviet Policy toward Islam’, in A.Kappeler et al. (eds.), Muslim Communities Reemerge (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,1994), pp.166-7. Bräker may be putting it too strongly here, firstly because Soviet policy towards Islam in the 1920s was characterised by an ambiguous mixture of toleration and repression and secondly because policy was not always consistent between the different regions of the Soviet Union. In Chechnia, for instance, attacks on Muslim institutions started in 1924, earlier than elsewhere, after the removal of the local party leader, Tashtemir El’darkhanov, on grounds of ‘clericalism’ by the South-East Bureau of the Bolshevik Party, under Anastas Mikoyan.

[53]             Printed in John Riddell (ed.), To See the Dawn. Baku, 1920. First Congress of the Peoples of the East  (London: Pathfinder Press, 1993), Appendix 2, p.259.

[54]             ‘Theses on the Fundamental Tasks of the Second Congress of the Communist International’, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol.31, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977, p.193.

[55]             ‘Report of the Commission on the National and the Colonial Question’, ibid., pp.240-241.

[56]             “Report of the Commission on the National and Colonial Question” Lenin, Selected Works Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, vol.3, p.459

[57]             V.I.Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 42, p.196 (interview given on  4 June 1920).

[58]             Lazitch and Drachkovitch, op.cit., pp.386-9.

[59]             C.Chaqueri, The Soviet Socialist Republic of Iran, 1920-1921. Birth of the Trauma (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), p.158

[60]             V.Osetov (‘Dustdar’), ‘Voprosy Gilianskoi Revoliutsii’, Istorik Marksist , 5 (1927), pp.140-141.

[61]             S.L.Agaev and V.N.Plastun, ‘Voprosy Kommunisticheskogo i Natsional’no-osvoboditel’nogo Dvizhenia v Irane v 20-kh Godakh ‘, in Komintern i Vostok. Kritika Kritiki ed. R.A.Ul’ianovskii, Moscow, 1978,  p.289.

[62]             Khanukaev’s report of November 1920 to Stalin, quoted by Chaqueri, op.cit., pp.428-9.

[63]             Telegram of 16 November 1920 from Stalin to the CC of the RCP (b) on the Situation in Persia (printed in Komintern i Idea Mirovoi Revoliutsii. Dokumenty, Moscow: Nauka, 1998, pp. 215-6).

[64]             C.Chaqueri, op.cit., pp.264-275.

[65]             I.Spector, The Soviet Union and the Muslim World 1917-1958 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1959), pp.95-6 quoting K.Radek, Vneshnaia Politika Sovetskoi Rossii (Moscow 1923), p.74.

[66]             Stephen White, “Communism and the East: The Baku Congress, 1920”, Slavic Review, XXXIII, 3(1974): 492-514.

[67]             The English translation of the invitation was given in the Weekly Summary of Intelligence Reports Issued by S.I.S.(Constantinople Branch), for week ending 2.9.1920; London, PRO; FO 371/ 5177, pp.29–30.

[68]             G.Z.Sorkin, Pervyi S”ezd Narodov Vostoka, Moscow: IVL, 1961, pp.16–17.

[69]             Manabendra N.Roy, Memoirs, Bombay: Allied Publishers, 1964, p.392.

[70]             The Baku congress is discussed in Sorkin, Pervyi S”ezd Narodov Vostoka; Birinci Dogu Halklari Kurultayi ‑ Baku 1–8 Eylül 1920.  Stenoyla tutulmus tutanak; White, ‘Communism and the East: The Baku Congress, 1920’,   Mete Tunçay, Türkiye’de Sol Akimlar: 1908-1925 Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi – Siyasat Bilgiler Fakültesi Yayınlari, 1967, pp.209–17; and S.S.Aydemir, Suyu Arayan Adam, Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1971,  pp.187–98.

[71]             Izvestiia, 21 September 1920; Pravda, 8 and 16 September 1920; Kommunisticheskii Internatsional, 14(1920), col.2941.

[72]             Tunçay, Türkiye’de Sol Akimlar, pp.209–11.

[73]             Sorkin, Pervyi S’ezd Narodov Vostoka, p.31.

[74]             Anastas I. Mikoian, Mysli i Vospominaniia o Lenine, Moscow: Politizdat, 1970,  pp.49–50; Tunçay, Türkiye’de Sol Akimlar, pp.215–17.

[75]             Published in Kommunisticheskii Internatsional, II(20 December 1920), cols.3141–50.

[76]             Shaumian and 25 other leading Bolsheviks from Baku were arrested and murdered on 20 September 1918.  When the news of the massacre reached Moscow, the Bolshevik government accused British officers of being responsible for the death of 26 leading Bolsheviks in Baku. (B. Gokay, A Clash of Empires, I. B. Tauris, 1997, pp.30-35.)   

[77]             Mikoyan, Memoirs of Anastas Mikoyan, I, pp.201–2.

[78]             Riddell (ed.), To See the Dawn,, p.183

[79]             Speech at the Baku Congress, quoted in H.Carrère d’Encausse and S.R.Schram, Marxism and Asia. An Introduction with Readings (London: Allen Lane, 1969), p.173

[80]             Speech at the Baku Congress, p.72 of the Russian text, Pervyi s’’ezd narodov vostoka Baku, 1920,quoted by E.Sarkisyanz, Russland und der Messianismus des Orients (J.C.B.Mohr, Tübingen, 1955), p.200.

[81]             Carrère d’Encausse and Schram, op.cit., p.153. The references to ‘khans’ and ‘mullahs’ were replaced by ‘clergy’ in the Theses as finally issued.

[82]             Riddell (ed.), To See the Dawn, pp.188-9. Ivar Spector comments on this , perhaps too strongly, that ‘the achievements of the Baku Congress were virtually annulled’ thereby (Spector, op.cit., p.57). 

[83]             Carrère d’Encausse and Schram, op.cit., pp.188-90.

[84]             E.H.Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, vol.3,  (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1966), p.476

[85]             Riddell, (ed.), To See the Dawn, p.108.

[86]             These matters have been examined recently in great detail by Marco Buttino, in Revoliutsiia Naoborot (Moscow: Zven’ia, 2007).

[87]             Riddell, (ed.), To See the Dawn , pp.215-7.

[88]             B.L.Genis, ‘Deportatsiia’, pp.44-58.

[89]             Y. Nadi, Cerkez Ethejm Kuvvetleri’nin Ihaneti, Istanbul, 1955, p.11.

[90]             B. Gokay, A Clash of Empires: Turkey Between Russian Bolshevism and British Imperialism, 1918-1923, London: I. B. Tauris, 1997, pp.104-106.

[91]             B.Gökay, ‘The Turkish Communist Party: the Fate of the Founders’ Middle Eastern Studies 29 (1993), no.2, pp.232-3.

[92]             Protokoll des dritten Kongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale (Moskau 22 Juni bis 12 Juli, 1921, Hamburg, 1921, pp.998-9.

[93]             Rodinson, op.cit., p.476.

[94]             Rodinson, op.cit., p.477.

[95]             See R.Ileto, ‘Religion and Anti-colonial Movements’, in N.Tarling (ed.), The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Volume Two (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), chapter 4,  pp.197-244

[96]             T.Shiraishi, An Age in Motion. Popular Radicalism in Java 1912-1926 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1990), pp.258, 285, 296.

[97]             J.Th.Petrus Blumberger, Le Communisme aux Indes néerlandaises (Paris: Éditions du Monde Nouveau, 1929), pp.49-50.

[98]             R.Ileto, ‘Religion and Anti-Colonial Movements’,  pp.242-3.

[99]             Sarkisyanz, Russland, p.281.

[100]            A.H.Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), p.304.

[101]            Sarkisyanz, Russland, pp.267-8. This book contains many other examples of what the author calls ‘a connection between Bolshevik and Islamic chiliasm’ .

[102]            Bennigsen and Quelquejay, Mouvements, p.97.

[103]           Bennigsen and Quelquejay, Mouvements, p.98.

[104]            The ideology of Sarekat Islam (SI) and the evolution of its relations with socialism and communism have been analysed in detail by Hans Bräker in Kommunismus und Weltreligionen Asiens. Band I.2., pp.202-34. One the early leaders of the SI, Tjokroaminoto, remarked significantly ‘Sarekat Islam uses religion as a means of cohesion and it will not allow the progress it wants to achieve to be hampered by this religion.’ (P.H.Fromberg, ‘De Inlandsche Beweging op Java’, in P.H.Fromberg, Verspreide Geschriften, Leiden: Leidsche Uitgeversmaatschappij, 1976,  p.545).

[105]            B.H.M.Vlekke, Nusantara: A History of  Indonesia  The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1976, p.339.

[106]           The party renamed itself the Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia ) in 1924. The initials remained the same (PKI).

[107]            Tan Malaka, ‘Der Kommunismus auf Java’, Internationale Presse-Korrespondenz ,no.29, 21 July 1923, p.700.

[108]            The Sarekat Rakjat was dissolved in December 1924 on the instructions of the Comintern, which resolved at its Fifth Congress that the PKI should concentrate on the urban trade unions rather than the peasant-based Sarekat Rakjat and should call for a Soviet Republic of Indonesia (see Semaoen, in Inprekorr VIII, no.69, October 4, 1928, p.1246). This decision was later condemned by Stalin as a ‘leftist deviation’ leading to the loss of peasant support (May 1925).

[109]            L.Palmier, Communists in Indonesia (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973), p.99.

[110]            Vishnevsky, in Nauka i religiia, no.2, 1990, p.51-3, quoted in L.Polonskaya and A.Malashenko, Islam in Central Asia, Reading: Ithaca Press, 1994, p.90. The shari‘a courts were in effect abolished by a decree covering the whole USSR in September 1927 (Park, op.cit., p.237).

[111]           T.Martin, op.cit., p.188.

[112]           I.Baldauf, Schriftreform und Schriftwechsel bein den muslimischen Russland- und Sowjettürken (1850-1937) (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1993).  p.416.

[113]            Desiatyi S’’ezd RKP (b). Mart 1921 Goda. Stenograficheskii Otchet (Moscow: Gosizpolitdat, 1965), p.199.

[114]            There had been a certain amount of public unveiling in previous years by a handful of women activists, but there was no communist party campaign. The whole issue has now been examined in detail on the basis of both Russian and Uzbek sources by Marianne Kamp, in The New Woman in Uzbekistan. Islam, Modernity and Unveiling under Communism , Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2006.

[115]            Unveiling before 1927 is discussed by Marianne Kamp, in op.cit., ch.6, pp.123-149.

[116]           G.J.Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat. Moslem Women and Revolutionary Strategies in Soviet Central Asia: 1919-1929 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), p.238.

[117]           S.Keller, To Moscow not Mecca. The Soviet campaign Against Islam in Central Asia, 1917-1941 (Westport,CONN: Praeger, 2001), p.116.

[118]            D.Northrop, ‘Subaltern Dialogue: Subversion or Resistance in Uzbek Family Law’, Slavic Review , 2001, vol.60 no.1, p.138.

[119]            See Patricia L.Baker,’ Politics of Dress: the Dress Reform Laws of 1920s/1930s Iran’, in Nancy Lindisfarne-Tapper and Bruce Ingham, eds., Languages of Dress in the Middle East, (Richmond:Curzon Press: 1997),  p.182 of pp.178-192.

[120]            Nancy Lindisfarne-Tapper and Bruce  Ingham, ‘Approaches to the Study of  Dress in the Middle East’,  in Lindisfarne-Tapper and Ingham, op.cit., p.15 of  pp.1-39.

[121]            T.Martin, op.cit., p. 155.

[122]           Keller, op.cit., p.153.

[123]           Keller, op.cit., p.241.

[124]            B.Wilhelm, ‘Moslems in the Soviet Union 1948-54’, in Richard H.Marshall Jr., ed., Aspects of Religion in the Soviet Union 1917-1967 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971)  p.162.

[125]            R.Eisener, ‘Konterrevolution auf dem Lande’. Zu inneren Sicherheitslage in Mittelasien 1929/30 aus der Sicht der OGPU (Berlin: Das Arabische Buch , 1999), pp.162-3.

[126]            Martin, op.cit., pp.154-177.

[127]            A.Khalid, ‘A Secular Islam’, IJMES , 35, 2003, pp.576-8.

[128]           Sh. F. Mukhamedyarov and B. F. Sultanbekov, ‘Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev: His Character and Fate’, Central Asian Survey, IX, 2, 1990, pp. 109-117.

[129]           The memoirs of Aymergen, a Daghestani Muslim who fought in the Red Army, shed some light on the situation of the North Caucasian Muslims in this period. (Sefer Aymergen, Son Köprü, Istanbul: Gülan Grafik, 1992.)

[130]           Theses adopted by the Sixth Comintern Congress in September 1928, quoted in Carrère d’Encausse and Schram, op.cit., p.239.

[131]            Politbiuro TsK RKP (b) – VKP (b) i Komintern 1919-1943. Dokumenty (Moscow: Rosspen, 2004), , no.304, p.514, Stalin to Piatnitsky, 19 March 1928.

[132]           Quoted from the extracts in J.Degras (ed.), The Communist International1919-43:Documents ,Vol.2 (London: Cass, 1971), p.541.

[133]            J.Degras (ed.), The Communist International 1919-43: Documents. Vol.3, (London: Cass, 1965), p.45.

[134]           H.Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978),  p.407. This was denounced in 1935, hence during the Popular Front period, as a serious tactical error.

[135]            Poem entitled ‘Unveil’, quoted by Thabit Abdullah, A Short History of Iraq: from 636 to the Present  Harlow: Pearson, 2003, p.93, taken from G.Widmer, Uebertragungen aus der neuarabischen Literatur, vol.2, Berlin: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Islamkunde, 1935 p.38.

[136]            Rodinson, op.cit., p.479.

[137]            Programmnye Dokumenty kommunisticheskikh partii Vostoka, ed. L.Mad’iar et al., Moscow, 1934, p.173.

[138]            Programmnye Dokumenty , p.165. Italics in the original.

[139]            Programmnye Dokumenty, p.167.

[140]           Extract from the resolutions of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, quoted in Carrère d’Encausse and Schram, op.cit., p.248.

[141]            J.Degras (ed.), op.cit., Vol.3, p.367.

[142]            J.Couland, le Mouvement syndical au Liban 1919-1946 (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1970), p.206.

[143]            M.Thorez, Oeuvres vol.2.1 (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1950), p.200 (Report to the Eleventh ECCI Plenum).

[144]           Carrère d’Encausse and Schram, op.cit., p.249.

[145]            D. and M.Ottaway, Algeria, the Politics of a Socialist Revolution , Berkeley, Cal.: University of  California Press 1970, p.89.

[146]            Rodinson, op.cit., pp.492-3

[147]            Simon Krause, ‘Trotskyism in Indonesia’, International Press Correspondence, XVIII,No.32, June 25, 1938, p.770.

[148]           A.G. Samarbaksh claims (in Socialisme en Irak et en Syrie , Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1978, p.111) that the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL) continued  its anti-Fascist struggle from 1939 to 1941, although  Batatu, op.cit., p. 453, n.53, tells us that the Syrian communist statement of 1940 on the war, like the Iraqi statement, called for neutrality between the two sides in the war. The difference may have been simply that there was an explicitly Fascist political party in Syria at the time, but not in Iraq, hence an ‘anti-Fascist struggle’ of the European type was more meaningful in Syria..

[149]           G.D.Overstreet and Windmiller, M., Communism in India (Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 1959), p.200.

[150]           T.Y. and J.S.Ismael, The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1998),  p.33

[151]            Dimitrov’s record of a conversation with Stalin on 20 April 1941 (Politbiuro TsK RKP (b). Dokumenty, no.505, pp.794-5).

[152]            Or, to give it its official title until 1952, the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks).

[153]            According to Ervan Abrahamian, the Azerbaijan Democratic Party was an independent communist party, and it continued to exist side by side with the Tudah party until 1960 (E.Abrahamian, ‘Communism and Communalism in Iran: the Tudah and the Firqat-i Dimukrat’, IJMES, Vol.1, 1970, pp.291-316.

[154]            Stalin to Pishevari, 8 May 1946, quoted by N.I.Yegorova, ‘Iranskii Krizis 1945-1946 gg. Po rassekrechennym arkhivnym dokumentam’, Novaia i noveishaia Istoriia no.3, May-June 1994, pp.40-42..

[155]           S.Zabih, The Communist Movement in Iran (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1966), pp.115-6.

[156]           Overstreet and Windmiller, op.cit., p.215.

[157]           Overstreet and Windmiller, op.cit., p.240.

[158]            It would take us too far afield to examine the changing policies of the Comintern and its constituent parties towards Muslim populations in the Balkans. A number of the contributions in this collection touch on the subject, however.

[159]            A.Popovic, L’Islam  balkanique (Berlin: Otto Harrassowitz, 1986), pp.347-54.

[160]            See the Soviet documentary collection, volume 2.

[161]            Popovic, op.cit., p.42-54.

[162]            Popovic, op.cit, p.103. The author points out that the data on this subject are very fragmentary.

[163]           V.Segesvary, Le Réalisme Khrouchtchévien (Neuchâtel: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1968), p.140. It would be wrong to overstress the role of instructions from Moscow in the various communist revolts of 1947-1951. As C.M.Turnbull has commented, ‘The various revolts and wars in Southeast Asia were no part of a grand pre-planned Soviet strategy.’ They reflected rather ‘the confused ambitions of the communists’. (N.Tarling (ed.), The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, vol.2, p.600.)

[164]            Walter  Laqueur, Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East (London: Routledge, 1961), p.160.

[165]            G. McT. Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952),  p.275.

[166]           This was the truce made in January 1948 between Amir Sjarifuddin, Indonesian Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, and the Dutch authorities, by which the Netherlands retained sovereignty over Indonesia temporarily until a plebiscite decided the country’s fate.

[167]           Bräker, op.cit., vol.2, p.357.

[168]           Masjumi is an acronym made up of the initial letters of Madjelis Sjuro Muslimin Indonesia (Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims).

[169]           Bräker, op.cit., vol.2, p.358.

[170]           Kahin, op.cit., pp.258-300, provides a detailed account of these events.

[171]           Overstreet and Windmiller, op.cit., pp.261-73.

[172]           T.Maniruzzaman, ‘Radical Politics and the Emergence of Bangladesh’, in P.R.Brass and M.F.Franda (eds.), Radical Politics in South Asia (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1973), pp.226-7.

[173]           Batatu, op.cit., p.562.

[174]            Marion Farouk-Sluglett and Peter Sluglett, Iraq since 1958. From Revolution to Dictatorship (London: I.B.Tauris, 1990), p.18.

[175]            This was the DMNL, or Democratic Movement for National Liberation, led by Ahmad Fuad. There was a large degree of factionalism in the Egyptian communist movement, and the rival ‘Egyptian Communist Party’ led by ‘Khalid’ (Fuad Mursi) opposed the Free Officers in 1952, describing them as a ‘military dictatorship with Fascist colouring’ (Selma Botman, ‘Egyptian Communists and the Free Officers 1950-1954’, Middle Eastern Studies ,22 (1986), 3, p.354).

[176]            M.S.Agwani, Communism in the Arab East (New Delhi: Asia Publishing House, 1969), p.48.

[177]            R.P.Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers  (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), p.141.  Qutb had attended the Communist International as the principal liaison person for the Muslim Brotherhood.

[178]           O.M.Smolansky, The Soviet Union and the Arab East under Khrushchev (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1974), p.28.

[179] The Journal of Turkish Weekly, June 2011, [accessed in June 2011]

[180]           Segesvary, op.cit., p.148.

[181]            Rodinson

                , op.cit., pp.445-6.

[182]           Segesvary, op.cit., p.182.

[183]           Batatu, op.cit., p.909, quoting a statement in Ittihad al-Sha‘b (The People’s Unity ),10 July 1959.

[184]           Segesvary, op.cit., p.183. It should be added that Batatu (op.cit., p.929) sees this as a reflection of the victory of the Right in an internal factional struggle within the ICP rather than a response to Soviet criticism.

[185]            See the thumbnail sketch of all four given by Rex Mortimer in Indonesian Communism under Sukarno. Ideology and Politics,1959-1965  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974), pp.29-40.

[186]           Mortimer,op.cit., p.48.

[187]           Mortimer, op.cit., p.67.

[188]            P.Mansfield, A History of the Middle East 2nd.edn. (London: Penguin, 2003), pp.260-1.

[189]           Adrian Morgan, ‘Europe’s Islamist-Leftist Alliance’, Part II, Global Politician, 28 April 2007,


[190]            Dilip Hiro, Inside the Middle East  (London: Routledge, 1982), p.188.

[191]           D. Ottaway and Ottaway, M., Algeria: Politics of a Socialist Revolution  (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1970), p.234.

[192]           R.E.Kanet, ‘Soviet Attitudes since Stalin’, in R.E.Kanet (ed.), The Soviet Union and the Developing Nations (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p.41.

[193]           R.Ulianovsky, ‘Marxist and Non-Marxist Socialism’, World Marxist Review, vol.14, no.9 (September 1970), pp.125-7.

[194]           J.Walker, ‘Muslim-Communist confrontation in East Java 1964-65’, Orbis.A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs,  13:3 (Fall 1969), pp.829-30.

[195]           R.W.Hefner, Civil Islam. Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), p.54.

[196]           Young, ‘Local and National Influences in the Violence of 1965’, in R.Cribb (ed.), The Indonesian Killings (Monash Papers no.21, 1990) (Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Press, 1990), p.77.

[197]           The degree of the PKI’s direct involvement in the 30 September coup is a matter of dispute. Rex Mortimer argues that the party’s involvement was ‘peripheral’ (op.cit., p.392-3). J.M.Van der Kroef, in contrast, while admitting that many details remained ‘obscure’ concluded that ‘the coup was the conspiracy of a few PKI leaders and several hundred followers acting in concert with dissident Army and Airforce officers.’ Even so, ‘only a fraction of the PKI was involved in the coup.’ (J.M.Van der Kroef, ‘Origins of the 1965 coup: Probabilities and Alternatives’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol.3, No.2, September 1972, p.298.

[198]           B.J.Boland, The Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia  (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), p.146.

[199]            ‘There were estimates of half a million to a million killed’ according to Y.M.Cheong, ‘The Political Structures of the Independent States’, chapter 7 of The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, vol.2 , ed. N.Tarling (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) p.434.

[200]           Sudan is an exception. Here the Soviet government protested strongly in 1971 and in fact broke its ties with that country.

[201]           L.C.Brown, Religion and State. The Muslim Approach to Politics (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2000), p.111.

[202]           Except in Indonesia, where the whole history of the PKI is marked by the interplay between communism and Islamic political movements.

[203]           L.Medvenko, ‘Islam: Two Trends’, New Times, no.13, 1980, pp.23-5.

[204]            Atkin, ‘Soviet attitudes’, in J.R.I. Cole and Nikki R.Keddie, eds., Shiism and Social Protest , (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986),  p.42.

[205]           Declaration made in  March 1980, quoted in  R.O.Freedman, Soviet Policy toward the Middle East since 1970  Third Edition (New York, NY: Praeger, 1982), p.384.

[206]           Freedman, op.cit., p.389.

[207]           G.Golan, Soviet Policies in the Middle East from World War Two to Gorbachev (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp.189-90.

[208]           Freedman, op.cit., p.442.

[209]            Ismael and Ismael, op.cit., p.148.

[210]           The Iraqi Communist Party moved in the opposite direction, taking part in the Governing Council created by the United States led coalition in Iraq in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein. (T.Y. Ismael, The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Iraq ,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.302).

[211]            Obstacles to inter-Palestinian cooperation came not from the communists but from the nationalists, who disliked the communist programme of the recognition of Israel within its pre-1967 borders and the establishment of an independent  Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alone, rather than a state covering the whole of  Palestine. (Z.Schiff and E.Ya’an. Intifada. The Palestinian Uprising – Israel’s Third Front (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990), pp.200-202.

[212]            Hugh Roberts, The Battlefield. Algeria 1988-2002  (London: Verso, 2003), p.239.

[213]            Roberts, op.cit., p.165.

[215]           Second Cairo Declaration, 14 December 2003,; Eric Walberg, ‘Anti-globalists reach out to Islamists’, Al-Ahram Weekly, 5- 11 April 2007,

[216]           Marie Nassif-Debs, ‘Hezbollah and Resistance. The viewpoint of the Lebanese Communist Party’, International Viewpoint Online Magazin, November 2006,

[217]           World NetDaily, 18 June 2007,

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One Response to An unholy alliance against the common enemy: a history of communists’ relations with Muslims by Ben Fowkes and Bülent Gökay

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