24 janvier 2013

The legacy of Roger Garaudy,by Maria Poumier

The legacy of Roger Garaudy,
in the context of the fall of usurpers
and of Islamic Awakening

by Maria Poumier (Paris, France)
original in french: http://www.plumenclume.net/articles.php?pg=art1397

Translated by Jean Marc Jacot

Roger Garaudy, who died on June 13, 2012, is now revealing himself to us in all of the greatness of his efforts. One of his friends, Don Helder Camara, a Brazilian bishop, described him thus: "A man who is extremely clear-sighted, but who allowed himself to be blinded by the heart." This blindness is the chosen source of his clairvoyance, a classic paradox, that will not surprise mystics. It is the specific nature of his clairvoyance that we would like to emphasize here, because, now that he has been ushered into eternity, Garaudy has left us the heritage of a method that can, and must, continue to exercise its effectiveness.

What strikes us first and foremost, was the blindness of his countrymen, the French, in their opposition against him. From a modest, but not particularly revolutionary background, he turned out to be a brilliant student of philosophy, and chose to identify with the French Communist Party, as one would join a monastic order: this was his vital and final choice, a way to marry God, the oppressed, those who suffer from the social curse, always and everywhere. Methodologically speaking, this is the only possible foundation for a pyramid, the building of a human mountain: the only way to raise a building is to glorify its base, the masses of humanity who suffer the most, those in which humanity is more refined, tense in an extreme action aimed at survival. It is from this position of a constructive combat, that he attacked on several fronts, successively. Unlike other Communist intellectuals, his commitment was not short-lived, or conditional. This is indeed the logic of charity in Christian terms, of brothehood in secular terms, of compassion in Semitic terms: this is what was at work in him. He did not try to use the Party for personal ends, he served it loyally, even beyond his strength, because he was a man of faith. This last expression is almost never used anymore nowadays in the West, by intellectuals, or if it is, it is usually in a sarcastic way. And yet, this was truly what Garaudy was. As a fervent believer, Garaudy believed in the embodiment of spirit into matter and into humanity, and noted that the Church is deficient or insufficient in its choices with regards to social justice. He wanted to base his philosophy on action and not on being. This extraordinary sense of timing, of power-based relationships, of what is particularly fruitful at any given moment, was the axis around which he organized the way he took his stands on various successive issues, which baffled his comrads, his fellow believers, his admirers. He supported the Carmaux strikers, he joined the Resistance, he experienced deportation, he became a member of the French Parliament, as a Representative and then a Senator. On each front, he had a greater depth of vision than most, he knew how to conclude alliances with the most honest members of the opposite camp, based on the fundamental choices, of what sounds right.

Garaudy's works started to be read well beyond Communist circles , when, with the support of the poet Louis Aragon, he joined the battle for artistic freedom, at a time when the Communists were getting mired in a pointless stiffening. He defended freedom in art and realism as a fundamental concept, which cares little about repressive and fearful police-style views. In Garaudy's method, the aesthetic foundation is very important. The aesthetic criterium is a tuning fork, reflecting the degree of accuracy of any proposal, beyond its innovative or repetitive aspects, whether massively applauded or misunderstood. This was the first degree of Garaudy's ulterior fondness for Islam, a civilization that cannot conceive any separation between philosophy and poetry, nor between art and the quest for the divine. European civilization, and all of humanity, once knew this dense fabric where they become entwined, and which are radiant through Plato and Thomas Aquinas. But as Europe gained material strength, it lost sight of the virtue of humility. Believing itself able to replace God, it split God up into erratic rantings, science forgetful of purpose, water-tight philosophical chapters, religions with narrow scopes of action. Garaudy was very resentful of Descartes, already so far removed from nature that he perceived animals as mere machines, probably because the only ones he knew were drowsy, totally mechanized horses, who transported him. Descartes is a contradictory philosopher, (like most), constantly denying the axioms he himself had set forth, but he still remains, with his exacerbated rationalist subjectivism, the forerunner of existentialism, the height of Western XXth century reductionism in many ways. Garaudy fought against him through his most emblematic contemporary representative, Jean-Paul Sartre.

In fact, at every step along the way, Garaudy attacked the dominant currents of thought, tending to configure the space for reflection of each era. One of the last things he reflected upon, was the "computerthrope", human beings as they allow themselves to be shaped by the invasion of a prodigious technology, beyond and above any other perspective. We are currently experiencing the undisputed triumph of IT, and it is difficult to imagine a future without computers, a future not entirely determined by them. However, on this topic, as well as on others, Garaudy's insight was entirely correct, and we may perfectly perceive a perversion induced by the cybernetic empire: binary logic, which now rules over the least of our writings, resulting in a drastic impoverishment our thinking, but which we cannot escape from through its root, because the tool is our ruler. Our universe works in similar ways to our computers, in a binary, bipolar fashion, leaving no room anywhere for the excluded third term or third party, for the unlikely flowering, the only one that is truly fruitful. None of this really emerges yet in our consciousness, despite the warnings given by stock market aberrations generating serious crises, produced in great part by runaway machines to which we are enslaved.

Garaudy's method always consists in counterbalancing, balancing the boat, so to speak, an expression to which he was particularly sensitive, coming from a Marseille-based family which included sailors. A sailor's goal is not to change the winds, but rather to avoid them causing his boat to capsize, negotiating with them, in order for them to propel him in the right direction. Garaudy had the nose and intuition to identify the dominant winds, and changes in their directions, and he knew how to bear his weight, before others, better than others, to prevent the winds from drowning us.

It is this ability that his enthusiastic readers have avidly sought in Roger Garaudy's publications: an ability to think outside the existing patterns, to make bold choices, against the grain, even shocking ones; but he knew how to show that they expressed fidelity to humanity's most ancient, most fundamental values. Garaudy wrote poetry and he was an extraordinary, an irresistible speaker. But we must also recognize his power as an artist, to produce performances, as we say now, to invade the field of the visible, to change the very nature of the field of communication. He broke the rules of the political game, with the safety of the creator who slices through the material, without regret, to extract the jewel from it.

Building upon the art and philosophy of Gaston Bachelard connecting art to science, Garaudy tried to impose on his fellow Communists a reconciliation with the Church, while the most wealthy Catholics attacked communism head because of its overt atheism. From the outset, he explained that communism was a quest for a rapprochement with the values of perfection, justice and sacrifice. He did not only see the redistribution of wealth as an economic reform, but a spiritual one as well. Since 1989, communism seems to have disappeared from political life. But we now suddenly find it back today as a relevant doctrine, with the crisis nnow affecting each and every country, people, each class, not "disadvantaged" as the privileged like to put it, but stripped, starved, reduced to its most legitimate anger. The homeland of communism, which gave it all its energy for nearly a century, Russia, is now seeing the of the notion of "red Christianity." This is an aspect of "liberation theology", a beautiful social revolutionary slogan of Christianity in Latin America, which Garaudy had defended, extolled, promoted and allowed to grow. There is no doubt that red Christianity is the inner power also at work, underground, in all of our countries still shaped by Christianity, even though both the Church and the Communist parties there are much weaker now than they used to be.

Misunderstood by his peers, expelled from the Communist Party, Garaudy was looking for another horizon to embody the purity of his research. He encountered Islam, and devoted himself passionately to Islamic studies. We have not sufficiently emphasized that he was in that sense the successor of the Frenchmen Louis Massignon and Henry Corbin, who explained to the West the splendor of the Arabic language and of Oriental holistic thinking, and who offered Muslims a mirror of the greatness of their legacy. As such, we owe to Garaudy the Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, in Cordoba, Spain, which is housed in a magnificent pedagogical museum located in the Calahorra dungeon, the name of which means "Free Fortress", and a library which is particularly rich in digitized ancient Arabic manuscripts, located in the old medieval quarter of Cordoba, on the other side of the bridge over the Guadalquivir river, dating back to Roman times. By choosing to establish his Foundation in Cordoba, Garaudy can be seen as someone who has resurrected Al Andalus, the Moorish kingdom where four cultural legacies — Greco-Roman, Christian, Muslim and Jewish — coexisted and mutually fertilized each other. The West, almost sterilized by the vanity which it has derived from its success in the technological applications of a few scientific advances, has the greatest need to be revitalized by the depth and subtlety of Islamic thought. Now Garaudy's Foundation is called " the Cordoba Paradigm ", and it is putting in place a "Concordia" project, which includes a common secular pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims jointly from Saint Jacques de Compostela to Cordoba, through Toledo. Doubtlessly, the saint to whom we will pay homage, implicitly, with syncretic fervor, is Garaudy himself, one of those who are triggering the great revolution of our time.

Muslims love Garaudy, as one who gave them back their visibility and dignity from a Western perspective. They respect him as a humble Muslim, willing to submit himself to the precepts of Islam, but what they — and Christian readers alike — love in him, is an openness of mind which completely eludes the bureaucratic imperatives emanating from their respective authorities. On the occasion of his physical disappearance in the Paris area, Muslims are the only ones who have manifested their respect, their recognition, and who have solemnly prayed, as a community, for his soul.

But the Muslims were shocked by the choice he made for his funeral, to join the Spirit through fire, wind and water, and not earth, in a part of the cemetery reserved for Muslims. Indeed, in death as in life, he wanted both the blaze that sublimates the soul, the dissemination throughout the space of thought and dialogue, and dissolution, as a drop of water dissolves in the ocean of contributions to humanity, to the realization of the divine on earth. His ashes will be scattered in the Bay of Marseille, where he had to chance to swim in his youth, just like Edmond Dantes, Alexandre Dumas' most universal hero, from the Château d'If all the way to Marseille.

Not leaving any localizable trace after his disappearance, this last choice by Garaudy can be interpreted as a final gesture of extreme humility, when compared to the quite natural desire for a mausoleum among all those who are aware of their own greatness. And this is a gesture, whose poetic and mystical dimension will be clear to everyone, but which deserves a political interpretation as well. Pope Benedict XVI has recently announced the Church's official position on the up and coming practice of cremation. From now on, it is authorized, provided the ashes are burried in cemeteries, where everyone can meet, all generations, social classes, or personalities joined together, finally fraternizing to make up the cement of humanity, faithful to the worshipping of the dead, which is, at the origin of humanity, the first, on which others grew and developed. Garaudy thus disobeyed to both religions, through his choice, as if to express that he cannot be considered as the expression, the embodiment of either one of them. He placed himself in another location, the interpretation and exploration of which is not finished.

Garaudy has always acted as he used to say in French, à contre-nuit — against the night, and with night as a background, not in back-light, but in back-night, against the natural tendencies of those who supported him, who were his live, indispensable allies. For him, Islam was largely going through a growth crisis, as he wrote in his book The Rise and Fall of Islam, in 1999. He did not think that the legislative precepts of Islam could be upheld in our modern society. Whether concerning the wearing of the Islamic scarf, or the duration of daily fasting in Ramadan, it was for him "fiqh" and not "shari'a" , it could adapt to circumstances. The real shari'a, for him, was a return to the spiritual sources, and thus the quest for an alliance between Islam and living Christianity, and he was particularly fond of Shi'ism, which, from the standpoint of dogma, comes closest to the passion for action which characterizes Western spirituality.(1)

In this sense, Garaudy certainly founded a Marian Islam, based on the common worship to Mary, the Virgin, that both Christians and Muslims recognize as the mother of Jesus, and of the best in all of us, the embodiment of God in nature, who gives life unconditionally, without being dependent on any impregnation by man. This implies an Islam which is compatible with Christianity, as is the case in the areas where they have lived together for a long time. Nothing seemed to Garaudy more appalling that this neo-colonial Western islamophobia, but he also criticized its counterpart, sterile resentment against Christian Europe. This luminous position in the darkness of our time, is far from being accepted at this time of extreme hardening and inflexibility, of one against the other. His posture was strictly speaking revolutionary, and can only gain ground as such, by gaining support from the most oppressed, the most miserable people, united by their common suffering, and by the faith in being able to overcome them, through other means than war and anger.(2)

Garaudy very naturally sided with the Iranian revolution, which brought exactly what he wished for the entire Muslim world: an Islamic anti-imperialism and liberation theology at the service of the dispossessed. And he acted with all his might to spread this revolution. Carried on by the antizionist momentum of Imam Khomeini's revolution, he chose to defend the Palestinians, by getting involved radically in a domain which is taboo in the West, that of historical research, which Zionists imagine they can divert to their own advantage through repression. Relinquishing any copyrights, he published in 1995 The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, a book which he knew would be the cause of scandal, and which all the publishers had refused as a matter of fact, until he met Pierre Guillaume, a fearless French revolutionary. Transported by a scandal, fueled by the fury of the Zionists, the book was immediately reprinted and translated into twenty languages, and has transformed the nature of the battlefield in which Palestinians were struggling, in a position of shameful weakness. Then the French Zionist lobby was unleashed: Garaudy had to face and lose four lawsuits, the last at the level of the European Court of Justice, because of this book, which only confirms the sacrificial greatness of his writer's gesture.

In turn, an echo, Ahmadinejad took over Garaudy's reflection on these lies which are inseparable from the Zionist power, and highlighted in its wake the extent of the repression exerted in the West on any reflection on the role of Jews and since the Second World War. Placing the theoretical wickedness of Zionism in the spotlight of global awareness is Garaudy's last masterpiece, Garaudy who was a creator, a poet and a man of faith. As one great Tunisian intellectual, Professor Ali Menjour, expressed it, he made "the autopsy of Zionism." At a time when the Israeli government has calmly announced that it wishes to wipe out Iran, it is good to conclude this tribute to Garaudy with a bigloud laughter, because we are happy, yes, just like the Africans who suffered so much because of slaveholders claiming allegiance to Judaism, that practiced on generation after generation of Africans, their project of enslaving all of humanity, we are happy to shout to face the world: thanks to this work of criticism by Garaudy and by other revisionists of Christian origin who reach the same conclusions as him, Zionism is now dead, it cannot simulate or usurp the least spiritual inspiration.

I would like to conclude this tribute to Garaudy's method through a rapprochement that has not been sufficiently emphasized. Garaudy liked to see himself as a Don Quixote. Don Quixote is an archetype, the patron saint of revolutionaries, who, excessively in love with books, often miss their targets and experience severe losses, and, as if that were not enough, know that they are seen by everyone as crazy. But he recognized himself precisely in a hallucinated painting by Daumier on the theme of Don Quixote, a painter who has repeatedly returned to the subject. And yet Daumier is a caricaturist, and from Marseilles, just like Garaudy. Daumier gave his full potential in representing the poor, in oil paintings filled with realism, solidarity and romanticism, and by representing the world of courts through ruthless drawings. Garaudy, as a true native of Marseilles, also knew how to laugh, and not only about others. He said about himself, smiling each time he took a decision against the current fashion, like a flash of light in the midst of his contemporaries' darkness: "I went a bit far there perhaps, but I was heading in the right direction. " Let's remember his lesson: always push the envelope a bit too far for your action to be effective. Thanks to the Organizers of the First Independent Film Festival of Tehran for giving us this opportunity to proclaim here what we have been forbidden to do, in our Western countries, and to draw here the force to go further in our work to dismantle the empire of lies.

1 The word which, in the Qur'an, refers to God's law (sha'ria) is significant: it is shir'a, which means "the path to the source." In this path, it is the responsibility of all Muslims to create, like the pioneers of Islam, a XXth century "fiqh", as a response to today's problems based on our eternal principles, in order to solve them more positively than would those who refuse God's guidance. Because the law is a continuous creation, when Islam is alive.

Returning to the source is not going into the future backwards, eyes fixed on the past. Rather it is to find the live thrill from the source beyond centuries of commentaries, which have built a wall between us and the message.
The divine law, shari'a, is not the source of water captured and frozen in a stagnant pond. Shari'a is a beautiful sparkling river, pouring in through the ages, and fertilizing its banks, constantly renewed.

It is by going towards the sea that a river is faithful to its source.

Let us remember, wrote a man who also had to fight against the sclerosis of his own tradition, that to be faithful to the ancestors' home, is not to keep their ashes, but to pass on their flame. (Roger Garaudy, in The Rise and Fall of Islam)

2 There is already, at this time, a wonderful positive effect of Garaudy's work, in helping France to better understand Islam: inspired, stimulated by the example of Muslim rigor, Christian fervor is awakening, the dictatorship of so-called secularism, a coercive framework of thought which expels any form of transcendence in favor of blind submission to the dogmas of the dominant caste in Europe, the Jews, is declining. The younger generation understands that the attacks against the Church are attacks against the only solid historical structure that protects them from robotisation and total submission to propaganda in a world dominated by media and what is immediate. Thanks to the strength of Islam, among us, young people are discovering the dimension of terrorist propaganda in the official encouragement by the West of everything that abolishes the tradition of morals, everything that breaks, at a very deep, anatomical level, the ancestral vitality of our species: homosexuality, industrial rationalization of euthanasia, the legalization of everything that contributes to sterilize or neuter populations, in a huge project of domestication, to that the so-called elitist Western science can have total control over the reproduction of the species, and absolute power over the next generations.