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With god on their side

William Hague has called in the religious advisers - we explain how leaders use religious ideas to oil the wheels of exploitation

In spite of the fact that, unlike Tony Blair, William Hague is not a regular church-goer, he is fully aware of the benefits of religion. He has called in Marvin Orlaski, religious adviser to George Bush Jnr., to guide him in the special religion-based "welfare" programme he proposes to put forward at the General Election (Times, 21 June). Hague and several members of his Shadow Cabinet are convinced that, by so doing, they will win votes from the apolitical "religiously inclined", whatever their actual denomination.

In an article in the Times the same day, Hague speaks highly of the pioneering social work of churches and other faith communities. Marvin Orlaski is the spiritual guide for the Bush campaign. He has been accused of being a religious zealot who, in spite of his Jewish roots, has managed to offend both Jews and feminists. In his column in the Texas Observer, he has declared that welfare is bad, abortion evil, and the Bible is the final moral authority. In a journal called Biblical Manhood and Womanhood he has stated:

"God does not forbid women to be leaders in society, generally speaking; but when that occurs, it's usually because of the abdication of men . . . I would vote for a woman for the presidency in some situations, but, again, there is a certain shame attached. Why don't you have a man who's able to step forward?"

How well that goes down with Hague's mentor, Margaret Thatcher or, for that matter, Ann Widdecombe, is not known!


God's on their side

It is possible for the strategy to misfire as, in spite of having an "official" Church, most people are suspicious when politicians bring in religion to further their ends. An exception to this is, of course, when opposing workers going out to kill and be killed by other workers, are blessed by their religious leaders and told "we have God on our side".

The Socialist Party has been castigated for insisting that socialism and religion are incompatible. To us it is obvious that "render to God what is God's and Caesar what is Caesar's"; "servants be subject to your masters", together with focus on the "better life hereafter" are totally at odds with the emancipation of the exploited.

Religion has always been used as an excuse for leaders' excesses. Everyone knows about the Inquisition and the selling of "Indulgences" and, after all these hundreds of years, it is admitted that the Crusades were not about the freeing of the Holy City of Jerusalem but rather the pillage, subjugation and rape not only of the Infidel but also Christians who stood in the way. The religious intolerance in Northern Ireland is given as the reason for the conflict there and for the pig-headed marchers celebrating victories of hundreds of years ago. So much easier than looking for the deprivation and unemployment caused by the real culprit, the capitalist system, they blame fellow workers who appear to have marginal advantages. Religious beliefs are, at least, a hindrance to the acceptance of socialist ideas; at worst, they actually oil the wheels of exploitation. That is why, when it suits them, politicians like Bush Jnr. and Hague will actively embrace them while socialists oppose them.

E.G.