Sufic Notes on Proudhon, Rothbard and Anarchism

(Thanks, Sean!) 

[These are my musings from correspondence with a like-minded proprietor of a homepage, which I thought some here would find interesting. -SJ]:
Sufic Notes on Proudhon, Rothbard and Anarchism
I concur with your disavowal from the false dialectic of Left and Right: We have transcended beyond that limited spectrum and have arrived at a Third Position, one which seeks a comprehensive solution outside the dominant framework. We should not remain conditioned to this evolutionist dialectic which views everything based upon an ill-defined spectrum of “right” and “left”. Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi has written on this matter under his Scottish birth-name:
“The false dialectic of capital and communism, right and left, has for decades veiled from thinking people the possibility of grasping that what happened after 1945 was not only the collapse of the final phase of christian culture but the rise of a syncretic pseudo-culture, grafted onto the ruins of the old. A juden-kultur disguised as the previous model, but replacing it with a set of new values and expression whose unique driving force was the thrust of the market economy in its moments of expansion” (Ian Dallas, Oedipus and Dionysus, Freibourg Books, 1992).
I would also agree with your admiration for anarchism, purely in its classical sense and not the modern (mis)understanding. True anarchism is the anarchism of the Syndicalists and not the Cultural Marxists who have hijacked the movement to promote “alternative lifestyles” and the Cult of Political Correctness. It is a harmless nuisance which the elite tolerates since it does nothing to disrupt their power-structures.
Economics the Enemy of Anarchists
Proudhon’s maxim that “Anarchy is Order” brings to the surface a deep metaphysical reality latent until then. For he recognized that economics was a new religion and that economic ideas would become deified on an altar of ritualistic servitude. The masses are conditioned to believe that usury and taxation are two necessities of life (i.e., the old adage that nothing is certain except for death and taxes, and the fact that the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of interest rates is accepted as a gospel truth by those in awe of the economists).
Umar Ibrahim Vadillo has pointed out that the deification of economics has an esoteric underpinning. The rise of the State cannot be divorced from the rise of the modern bank. The two have a symbiotic relation, as both derive from esoteric origins. The State serves to perpetuate Finance, and vice versa. To increase their hold upon the society, they have reduced the temporal power of religions so that the latter serve to provide theological justification for the State. To quote Proudhon:
“The economic idea of capitalism, the politics of government or of authority, and the theological idea of the Church are three identical ideas, linked in various ways. To attack one of them is equivalent to attacking all of them….What capital does to labor, and the State to liberty, the Church does to the spirit. This trinity of absolutism is as baneful in practice as it is in philosophy. The most effective means for oppressing the people would be simultaneously to enslave its body, its will and its reason” (Les confessions d’un revolutionnaire, Paris: Garnier, 1851, p. 271). 
Nihilism and Violence for its own Sake
Proudhon shunned nihilism, warning in no uncertain terms about the need for political movements to adopt a political agenda. He was reluctant to support the revolutionaries of 1848 at first, due to their violence. He came to oppose the new revolutionary regime, since it sacrificed socio-economic reforms for political reform. History demonstrates that revolutions have always succeeded when they had a clear program outlined and failed when they worshipped violence. Proudhon understood this danger of political movements:
“He saw that their intellectual paralysis was the cause of helpless nihilist terrorism. Political idealism, once put in place, enforces an increasing separation between the outside world and the membership. In order to create a sense of progress among the membership, the critique of the outside world, seen as part of education, has to aggressively increase in magnitude week after week. This tendency, once adopted, leads inevitably to an absurd dualism consisting of an utterly demonised outside world and an undeserved assumption of pure goodness on their own part. This is what Carl Schmitt (d. 1985) defined as political theology. One side of this nihilistic philosophy produces helpless terrorism and suicidal strategies” (Vadillo, The Esoteric Deviation in Islam, CapeTown: Madinah Press, 2003, pp. 534-535).
Proudhon understood clearly that the socio-economic reforms were more pertinent than the political reform, as reforms at this realm would naturally lead to those at the political realm. In this regard, it is quite interesting that all those screaming for “change” in this country likewise talk merely in political terms, ignoring any consideration for monetary reform or changing the economic structures at a fundamental level. Rather, they all serve to perpetuate the State just like their alleged opposite.
His opposition to nihilism also has relevance to our own opposition to the neo-Takfiri heresy. They scream at the top of their lungs about “Jihad” and declaring takfir of the governments, but they offer no program once they (hypothetically) come to power. In this sense the program of the Jihadi movements is nihilistic: an endless cycle of violence seemingly for the sake of violence, hence their focus on martyrdom. So rather than providing real solutions to remedy the situation, it is actually an escape from realities.
Usury and Wage-Labor
Proudhon opposed anyone who earned their income from rent, interest, and wage labor. He recognized that the workers create a productive capacity greater than their individual sum, but they don’t come to benefit from their own labor. Here the materialist device of “freedom” comes to play: Exercise your “freedom” to enter into a subservient work position or your “freedom” to not work, at which case the conditions of the society will ensure that you lose the basic human freedoms.
This is why successive opponents of the State have called for a return to the Guild-System, which they now understood was the only structure which could transform the society and eliminate the State. The workers of the Guilds were far more “free” (to use the modern rhetoric) than the workers in this age of “rights”, where employment is the new framework of relations and wages become the only fruits of labor. This fact has been expressed by Vadillo:
“The slave is now called the employee. This employee belongs to a class of employees. Freedom, as understood by medieval guilds which upheld a social ethos in which the master/apprentice relationship dominated the degrading employer/employee relationship of today, was already superior to what was being aimed at under the banner of rights. But guilds became viewed as centres of resistance to the
centralisation of the power of the state and therefore in their view an impediment to progress. The words liberty, equality, fraternity meant very little more than the paper they were written on. In their name the guilds that dominated the Middle Ages were abolished giving way to the capitalist wage system. We have accepted the idea that employment is a decent goal for the unemployed, without confronting the fact that employment is the lowest form of economic activity: that is, a man reduced to mechanical functions,
deprived of the capacity to fully enjoy the fruits of his work. This fact is today ignored, neither understood nor realised by the modern analysts within the new economic ethos. And yet this man, who is a slave by most standards of the past, is considered free because it says so in the constitution” (Vadillo, op. cit., pp. 142-143).
Private Property
I would finally concur with your point about an individual’s right to hold property. The “property” that was condemned by Proudhon was solely the type that was used and abused according to the whims of the one holding it, while true private ownership of land possesses it so as to maintain economic independence. He championed the rights of the small landowners against the State, for which he was criticized by Marx (who actually sought to increase the power of the State against the workers). Proudhon recognized “property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State” (Theory of Property).
The right of private ownership of property was already recognized before even the creation of human beings as was noted by the Qur’an: “Wa iz’ qaala Rabbuka lil-Malaa’ikati, ‘Inni jaa’ilunfil-ardi Khalifah'” (Sura al-Baqara, verse 30). “Behold, they Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.'”
This verse speaks about successive generations upon the earth, but more importantly it mentions that we have been entrusted with the land as an awqaf. This was also exemplified in the Guilds, which ensured a social network of welfare for the members and through which they could find their livelihood. We recognize that any elimination of the State means the evolution (excuse the word) of decentralized Guilds and communities as the new structure of our societies.
Rothbard as a Complement to Proudhon
The importance of private property as a protection of individual rights at the expense of the State was studied by Murray Rothbard. He was in many senses a complement to Proudhon, providing further intellectual framework for anarchism in a mass-industrialized society. This is the importance of Anarcho-Capitalists or Anarcho-Libertarians, who covered up the faults of the Anarcho-Syndicalists in monetary issues and closed these gaps within anarchism.
Rothbard defined property as that which is acquired and transferred without any interference from the State. It should only be acquired through voluntary trade, gift, or labor-based original appropriation, rather than through aggression or fraud. He defined the self-ownership principle:
“The basic axiom of libertarian political theory holds that every man is a self-owner, having absolute jurisdiction over his own body. In effect, this means that no one else may justly invade, or aggress against, another’s person. It follows then that each person justly owns whatever previously unowned resources he appropriates or ‘mixes his labor with’. From these twin axioms – self ownership and ‘homesteading’ – stem the justification for the entire system of property rights titles in a free-market society. This system establishes the right of every man to his own person, the right of donation, of bequest (and, concomitantly, the right to receive the bequest or inheritance), and the right of contractual exchange of property titles” (Rothbard, “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution,” Cato Journal, Spring 1982, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 55-99). 
This matter of property represents the fundamental difference between the modern Cultural Marxist, PC form of “anarchism” and the pure anti-Statism of the individualist anarchists. The former propose the abolition of private property, which would certainly increase the authority of the State and make people vulnerable to its inherent excesses. On the other hand, Anarchism by its very nature is voluntarist. In true nihilist fashion, the anarcho-communists advocated the abolition of money (see Rothbard, “The Death Wish of the Anarcho-Communists,” The Libertarian Forum, January 1, 1970), but this is another matter entirely. What is the meaning behind anarchism?
“I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual. Anarchists oppose the State because it has its very being in such aggression, namely, the expropriation of private property through taxation, the coercive exclusion of other providers of defense service from its territory, and all of the other depredations and coercions that are built upon these twin foci of invasions of individual rights” (Rothbard, Society and State). 
Sufism and the End of Metaphysics
These individual rights mentioned by Rothbard were already protected by Islam. We have transcended these other forms of thinking about the world, including the heresies of fundamentalists and modernists alike. Our belief is an-archic, in the sense that it reflects the culmination of the Heideggerian understanding that metaphysical foundations of thinking have been eliminated.
We understand that with the end of philosophy, Islam is the only force which can take over the gauntlet to roll back the power of the State. The other religions have already been subverted by the Global Capitalist world-view which have relegated them to mere theologies without any relevance on the social, economic and political realms. Hence, all have acknowledged the superiority of Economics – except for Islam.
Islam stands as a distinct alternative to the process of deconstruction which has reduced other religions to a position that will not disrupt the Capitalist order. Jean Baudrillard condemned this trend towards a relativism which defines itself in terms of political correctness and the cult of victimology, confiding to the Catholic conservative Rene Girard that “the whole world, including China and Japan, is implicated in the postmodern fragmentation and uprootedness that leaves values behind. There is one exception: Islam. It stands as a challenge to the radical indifference sweeping the world” (Global Viewpoint, 11 May 2005).
The potential role of Islam, in its purest Sufi understanding, to reverse these trends has been recognized by a number of truth-seekers who have submitted to the truly “anarchist” understanding that there is no Might nor Power except Allah – La Hawla wa la Quwata illa-billah. There is no Force except the Lord, hence our submission is only to Him because we find in this Tawhid the key to realizing our liberation from both our own soul (nafs) and the coercive pressures of others.
Sufi masters have always challenged the powers that be, whether they be tyrants or invaders. The ranks of liberation struggles have always been illuminated with their example. There is a lengthy story where Harun al-Rashid sought out a true teacher who was not a sycophant. He found such a teacher in Fuzail, who told him when the former asked if he could enter: “There is no such thing as authority. If you enter by force, you know what you are doing.”
There is much behind the aphorism “Anarchy is Order”. The Islamic conception of order is structuring one’s life according to the transcendent Divine Will, not according to the concepts of authority and control now dominant in this world. This understanding of Islam attracted such anarchists as Isabelle Eberhardt, Ivan Agueli, and Gustave-Henri Jossot, each of whom found its fullest expression in the Sufi tariqas. I have found that this structure is manifested in the Shadhili-Darqawi movement Murabitun, whose communities are quite de-centralized and have forged an alternative at all levels to the dominant Capitalist order.

Categories: Uncategorized

5 replies »

  1. I am the original author of it and would like to clarify two problems with it. First, it did not adequately define the vague term of “property”. Proudhon differentiated between property and possession. Within the anarchist context, possession is personal but property is the term used for what the capitalist system perpetrates. I should have defined the term further.

    Second, I have since found many inconsistencies within the writings of Rothbard and his support for usury and interest receives nothing but my opposition. Likewise, I reject firmly the very concept of “Anarcho”-Capitalism. The free-market which I have nothing but the fullest support for is not the same thing as capitalism which has from its inception been State intervention in the markets to benefit certain financial and corporate interests.

    I have since studied the writings of Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. And my discovery of Kevin Carson’s Studies in Mutualist Political Economy has refined my understanding in this regard. I still think the Austrian economists made many valid points, but I have far more affinity with the Left-Libertarian movement, with the Market Anarchist and Mutualist trends than with the “mainstream” libertarian movement.

    As I study Sufism in much greater detail, its close parallel with anarchist ideals has only become more apparent to me. I only skirted the issue whereas I could have been drowning in a living testament to libertarian/anarchist ideals within a spiritual framework. The wisdom of the Sufi teachers and their practices is very close to the ideas cherished by anarchists.

  2. My understanding is that anarchism is a political theory pertinent to the Western context, but that it finds expressions in the broader sense of the world within other cultures and traditions. So when I talk about anarchism and Islam, what I am really referring to is a method of viewing the public role of the faith, to meet the challenge – within the modern discourse – of puritanical, statist trends and those which reduce Islam to a political ideology rather than a faith.

    The following represents a modest effort to explain an anarchist/libertarian view of the Islamic faith as opposed to these modern puritanical/statist expressions which have unfortunately come to dominate the discourse. But I am not equating the two, as the basis of Islam is ruhani and that of anarchism/libertarianism is ideological. My effort is solely to be viewed within the context of method and not belief….

    I find that Islam is the natural culmination of anarchist/libertarian socialist ideas. There is no concept called “Islamic” State, despite the claims of modern puritans who promote this aberation. Our belief is a personal matter between ourselves and Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). There is no compulsion in Islam, but rather every act or belief must come from the free-will of the individual.

    Islam promotes an authentic free market, without any monopolies or intervention. One hadith condemns the State Socialist/Capitalist concept of price-fixing or other forms of State intervention. Everyone is free to produce, trade or sell their goods in a free market. Proudhon described the two-faceted nature of private property, a potential problem remedied by the Islamic concept of the Awqaf. We are stewards of the earth and cannot take possession of that which belongs to all, except as the product of our labor.

    “Governance without State, Trade without Usury”

    I am a convert (or revert) to Islam, from a Catholic background. One of the things which drew me to Islam is the fact that it has no religious hierarchies. Everyone is free in the sight of Islam, with no special privileges. These unnatural and coercive hierarchies have no place in an Islam which realizes this perfect balance of individual liberty and social equality within a higher spiritual realm.

    All social interactions under Islam derive from the free-will of the individual. The only “hiearchies” that are recognized are the natural ones such as family and that which is based on knowledge and abilities. One hadith describes the believers as one body, each supporting and complementing the other. This is the society of free individuals, the jamaat whose strength is derived from cooperation and whose members are connected to each other by their hearts, rather than unnatural coercive authorities such as those founded on legislation, force or wealth.

    Zakat is synonymous with the mutual aid of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the charity envisioned by early anarchist William Godwin. It is not collected by the State (a concept foreign to Islam) but rather by a larger system of amirs which is not monopolistic. The Qur’an emphasizes the charity which is given freely by the individual, who sees it as his or her natural duty to help the less fortunate in society.

    Islam has much to say about the current Capitalist State which derives its authority from the twin pillars of taxation and usury, and perpetuates the interests of Corporate and banking interests and a professional class of charlatans known as “politicians”.

    Tasawwuf emphasizes the struggle against the self as paramount. This is a natural complement to the anarchist doctrine of non-violent means to achieve objectives. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) always chose the option that would minimize bloodshed. Da’wa means peaceful arguments and setting an example.

    There are many misconceptions about Shari’a, but certainly the coercive enforcement of Shari’a is not in keeping with Islamic ideals. This is where social cooperation and mutual aid comes into play, not some type of “Islamic state” as the puritans assert. The early Islamic society at Madina used social pressures to regulate behavior rather than coercion. Exile was often a punishment, which is in keeping with anarchist concepts of separate free communities.

    There is a remarkable distinction of sins committed in public and private, and the respect to privacy was paramount inside one’s home. It is also true that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) only instituted hadd punishments whenever people came to him and confessed of their free-will, since they wanted to be released of the burden of their own sins and lessen its effects in Akhira.

    “In the unanimous view of our Fuqaha, what has been declared Haram is Haram and what is Halal is Halal. Now the Deen of Islam is not actually based on that set of judgments which could result in a decision of either punishment or pardon, or equally a reward of financial payment. While this is rarely understood by the kuffar, it must be understood by the Muslims – the Shari’at and its judgments are sustained by an underlying social nexus of what is agreed among us embodying what is praiseworthy behaviour and unworthy behaviour. The primary inhibition to wrong action is not the threatening law of punishment but the disapproval and social rejection of our peers. This whole web of social disapproval and social approval results in a pattern of social behaviour that is harmonious, fair and courteous. This is what we call Sunna. The Sunnan are pegged in place by the Fara’id, or the obligatory.” – Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi

    The fact that Islam is based on the four madhahib and distinct practices of the various Tariqas, but that each are considered valid no matter which one the individual Muslim chooses to accept. This is very different from the notion that religion is about embracing one doctrine and ensuring conformity with its practices.


  3. This is Umar Vadillo quoted above in the article. I loved Proudhon for two reasons he lighted the fire of anti-capitalism that belongs to all thinking men; second, he did not produced a solution and that led me to Islam. That Islam could be the final frontier of Anarchism would appear like a pure contradiction, but let me offer you some arguments that could perhaps make you think twice.
    “No god, no master” this is how I was first introduced to Anarchism by my friends in the politically hot Basque Country still at the time of Generalisimo Franco. In their mouths sounded like liberation itself, so much so, that killed my last sentiments of Catholic faith which Franco so much liked. That was god out of my life for ever, I thought. Then I met Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi with something even more extraordinary: “La ilaha ila Allah”. This sounded to me like, ‘no god, no master, except Allah’. Allah gives true meaning to the ‘no god, no master’ I firmly believed in.
    Forget theology as crap. My Shaykh taught me to repeat three words: “Allah, Allah, Allah”. No theories. I dived into it and came out broken, the meaning of which is, every time I mentioned His Name ever since my heart shines in certainty and presence. I have no faith, I have certainty.
    That was that. But how about the revolution? What has Islam to say about capitalism? Shaykh Abdalqadir’s answer took me like a tornado, catapulted me to the frontline of the Islamic Opening (in Arabic fath, literally opening but also victory). Islam offers the answer to was missing with Proudhon. But no the Islam of Saudi Arabia, the real Islam of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. His Sunnah or Practice is known as ‘amal. The complete model of his social practice is known as muamalat. Muamalat is the answer.
    Here are some clues: 1.- Freedom to choose the medium of exchange. This implies the end of Legal Tender Laws, thus constitutions and thus the State as institution (I will add something about the definition of State later). 2.- Public Markets as a right to trade of every individual. No more supermarkets, malls. No to the privatization of market places. Real Free Trade figures here as a true force of revolution (read Proudhon’s “A General Idea….”). 3.- Caravans or public infrastructure for long distance trading. A critical extension of the public nature of trading infrastructure, that is, the sharing of means of trading. 4.- Guilds as the end of the employer/employee relationship in favor of master/apprentice. End of the working class. Sharing of the means of production within the guild. Each guild being open ended (unlike cooperatives) represents society in its true factual manifestation, that is, for what it does. End of political parties (read here the vertical representation of society in line with the guild-socialism of Cole). 5.- Existential contracts, meaning, representing facts not essentialist ideals. End of usury: every transaction must be ‘equal for equal” and “hand to hand”. That is, end of banking (including the stupid idea of islamic banking), end of futures and end of an economy of debt (debt represents only 1% of the activity in an Islamic economy, not the 99% of the present capitalist economy). End of majority shareholding: you are an owner only if you can act as an [existential] owner. We recall Heidegger: “an act is not an idea, only is in its execution”.
    Now we read again Wagner’s statement: “Government without State, and commerce without usury”. What is State without government? What is the State? This is my definition: State is Government+Banking (Central Bank). That new institution at the heart of the capitalist religion that exists without name. I contend that the event of the creation of the Bank of England as the first (well, the first was the Banco de Spiritus Sanctus founded by Pope Paul V on December 13, 1605. The Bank was the first national bank in Europe in the Papal States) central bank endorsed by government signals the true empowerment of capitalism and the creation of a new institution in the history of the world: governments which throughout history had persecuted usury on religious grounds, now start to be associated (married) to the banks. This institution I call the State. And thus the expression “government without state” becomes meaningful.
    Because of all these, which is not an argument but my own journey, I believe Islam is at the end of the trail of Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Durruti, Cole and then Heidegger and then there is a gap, …and then Islam. The gap cannot be crossed with reason, so those who worship reason will have to stay on the other side. But those with the adventurous heart and revolutionary spirit will dive into Islam and some will return to the surface, but some will drown… only to live again. The ones that drowned, those are the ones I belong to.
    Umar Vadillo

Leave a Reply to Sean Jobst Cancel reply