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    I was not sure i was going to be off-topic by returning to an earlier exchange on the Hunter-gatherer thread that discussed war and ISIS so i started another. 

    I think the point being discussed is that there existed a war over material conditions such as control over resources either as the objective in itself or to faciitate other war aims. 

    This RT  article i think was relevant

    The Islamic State must expand “in order to maintain its financial management and expenditures in areas where it operates,” international investigators with the Financial Action Task Force said, explaining the group’s projected strategy. Without doing so, the terrorists could not be certain how long they could keep up their current levels of spending, the Paris-based investigation revealed. The FATF is comprised of government officials from across the world and is tasked with investigating money laundering.

    The group supported the assertion that ISIS (Islamic State) has been branching out into all sorts of activity, including the seizure of resources like oil fields, extortion, theft and other criminal ventures.The investigators came to the conclusion that ISIS is a special breed of terrorist organization where funding “is central and critical to its activities,” with proceeds from occupied territories being their primary source of revenue. 


    Not ISIS but from the same stable and just as bad: they can't even use the pretext that he was an apostate since he never was a muslim.


    Thanks AJJ for starting this thread which follows from a response I made to Robbo (on the Hunter gatherer violence thread) who said that socialists, as "self-respecting hardline materialists", argue that war in the modern world is all about "commercial rivalries in capitalism", in relation to which religious and political beliefs are "ethereal" and "merely ideological smokescreens" hiding these "real" motives. I said it would be hard to explain the present war between ISIS and its opponents as a war arising from commercial rivalries in capitalism and that what drives ISIS et al is not material interest but religious faith. I also put the view that one of the reasons why Marxists in particular might find it hard to accept this (the primacy of religious faith) is that in Marxist terms religion is part of the "superstructure" and so is explained by reference to the "base" (economic activity). It seemed to me that Robbo's position is quite consistent with this – what I called the "conventional historical-materialist analysis of war". Robbo later (#147) restated his claim that the real motives for war are economic whereas religion and ideology serve as a smokescreen by specifically citing the example of ISIS and Boko Haram as cases which reinforce his claim, though he added the caveat that while these religious beliefs help to explain their actions, they don't really explain how or why ISIS et al have come to such prominence. Hence, an argument that wars are fought over religious beliefs, says Robbo, "stops short of a fully rounded explanation". OK, I can agree with that – who wouldn't, regarding anything as complex as war? But it's a long way from seeing religion as "merely an ideological smokescreen" which hides the "real" (economic) motives for war.  Robbo says that ISIS et al "appeal to a constituency whose economic interests have been thwarted …and that the story of these organisations cannot be fully grasped outside of the context of conflicting capitalist interests…" I think there is some truth in the first part of this. I 'm not so sure about the second part. It's easy to see why ISIS would appeal to people who are jobless, have low educational attainment, and have difficulty finding social acceptance, like many Muslims in Western European countries. But many Jihadists don't fit this picture. eg; the Londoner who allegedly decapitated hostages is a university graduate trained in computer programming, or the French middle class teenagers and medical students from atheist families who joined Jabhat-al-Nusra. The attraction of Jihadist groups cuts across classes. And their motives are not material or economic motives, but messianic religious ones which draw on apocalyptic currents in Islamic culture. Of course, it could still be the case that these motives are an ideological "smokescreen" for the "real" motives – but what exactly are these conflicting capitalist rivalries which will presumably lead me to discover what these "real" motives are? Hud (#145) says "there are reasons to believe that religion is not the principal factor driving ISIS to kill, nor, from what we know, does religion even seem to be providing an ideological framework for the killing." Well, I'd like to know what these reasons are. And I'd sure like to know what "ideological framework for the killing" drives ISIS if not religion. What I know may well be limited, but I am relying on writers like Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk, the two pre-eminent Independent correspondents on the Middle East; Fawaz Gerge, Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Malise Ruthven, Lure of the Caliphate, and Sarah Burke How ISIS Rule, both in New York Review of Books; and others. This is Cockburn writing in The Jihadis Return: "The ideology of al-Qaida and ISIS draws a great deal from Wahabbism…..the fundamentalist 18th century version of Islam that imposes sharia law, relegates women to second-class citizens and regards Shia and Sufi Moslems as heretics and apostates to be persecuted along with Christians and Jews ." What else should we call this but a religious ideology? You say, Hud, that even if religion is identified as the primary cause driving individuals to join ISIS, that in itself would not demonstrate that religion is the determining cause of ISIS' actions. It’s possible, but I don’t see that there is much of a difference between the reasons why people join ISIS, and the purposes for which ISIS exists. Everything I have read says that the purpose or motives of ISIS is the establishment of a theocratic state, a so-called New Caliphate. Since the creation of a new state must involve politics, then it would be fair to say that ISIS' motives are not only religious, they are also political. But that's only because ISIS has to act politically to secure a theocratic state (or any state). What I don't see is that their real motives are "material" in the way most socialists use that term, ie. as an expression of material class interests. I think ISIS' religious ideological ambitions leave little room for material interests. You hold a different view. When you elucidate the meaning of "material" you say: "to achieve anything, we first have to provide for our immediate and longer term material necessities", and "all the religious enthusiasm in the world will not maintain a war unless that war is materially provisioned". Are you saying that unless ISIS fighters can get enough provisions (material) to eat, they will soon cease to be fighters for ISIS? Or unless they get guns and ammunition (war materiel) they won’t be able to fight? Do you think that this is part of the materialist argument (eg as put by the SPGB) on war? If so, I think you are seriously mistaken. However, you also say that “Warfare is an expensive business and has to be funded. It is much more easily explained by following the money". When I read this I thought this is more like it, because it might reveal that behind ISIS are the material class interests of capitalists, who would stand to benefit from ISIS success. This would then go a long way to proving that the conflict between ISIS and its opponents is really a conflict between the material interests of different capitalists, to which religion is indeed the "smokescreen" or the ideological frame in which the conflict is fought out in the minds of the participants. But no such luck. When I read the RT article posted here by AJJ, I learnt that the source of funding for ISIS comes from (a) proceeds from captured resources in ISIS occupied territories (chiefly oil); (ii) kidnapping for ransom; (iii) theft and cash smuggling. No capitalist interests there.                


    PGB,it's also suggested that wealthy Qataris and Saudis are funding ISIS (so, not necessarily capitalist interests, but definitely reactionary rent seekers).  Reactionary rent seeking in the material class interest behind ISIS, in the poliical form of returning the profits of the wealth under the desert sands to the followers of the prophet.

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