Author: Jairus Banaji

Jairus Banaji is a well-known historian and Marxist intellectual

May 4, 2018 /

Gillo Pontecorvo (1919–2006), whose masterpiece “The Battle of Algiers” (1966) remains the most perfect example of a ‘reconstructed realism’, the purest cinematic equivalent of Marx’s famous metaphor of the ‘life of the subject-matter’ being ‘ideally reflected as in a mirror’. What Pontecorvo set out to do was, in his words, ‘represent the irreversibility of a revolutionary process when a colonized people acquire consciousness of its identity as a nation’. And he did this so well that the film was boycotted by the French delegation at the Venice Film Festival in 1966 and banned for over three years in both France and England (till 1971).”

April 7, 2018 /

But of course it cannot be said that the fascists of any single nationality have a monopoly over the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of libraries. In 1943 the Nazis had ‘soaked each room of the Royal Society Library in Naples with gasoline and ignited them by throwing in hand grenades’, destroying about 200,000 books and manuscripts, ostensibly in retaliation for the shooting of a German soldier (Knuth, Libricide, p.53). More recently, in 2013, Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu in Mali ‘set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts’, according to the mayor of the town. The vast majority of those were in Arabic, others in Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara, showing just how much the self-styled protagonists of Islam (in this case, AQIM, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) care for the heritage of Islam itself.

September 22, 2017 /

Ali Shariati was throughout his life a deeply committed Muslim but his Shi‘ism was of a radical, revolutionary type, thoroughly anti-clerical in its opposition to what he called ‘Safavid Shi‘ism’ (as opposed to his own ‘Red Shi‘ism’), the kind of Islam that disarmed the masses through its passive complicity with the ruling classes. Given that in modern Iran the clergy depended on the financial support of the richer merchants (bazaaris), Shariati’s ‘visceral contempt for the bourgeoisie’ extended to the ulama as well. His lectures and writings enraged the clerics, especially the influential group that saw in Khomeini the true face of the ‘revolutionary’ movement against Muhammad Reza Shah, and led to repeated fatwas condemning him after the revolution.