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AviceDDa and the Resurrection of the Body

Tariq Jaffer

Institute of Islamie Stuclies

McGill University

February 1918

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Stuclies and

Research iD partial fulfDment of the requirements for the
depee of M..ter of Arts

<e1rariq Jaffer

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1 would like ta express my gratitude ta Professor Hermann Landolt for

supervising this study. Professor Landolt bas fumished me with a
model of what a professor should be, and bas established a standard of
scholarship to which 1 an only aspire. My deepest appredation goes to
Professor Todd Lawson, for continually prodding me along the path of
Islamic Studies. 1 would like to express my warmest thanks to a
number of other 8cholars, including Profes8ors Michael Marmura,
Peter Heath, and Stephen Menn. Finally, 1 wish to thank the Institute
of Islamic Slodies and the University of Chicago for the fellowships 1

"- Abstract

The intention of this project s to explicate several arguments

advaneed in the esoteric treatise Al-Risiilah al...At/,1J,awiyya fi amT al-
Macd, Avieenna's treatise par excellence on the subject of
resurrection. This study of Af/-1J,awiyya is primarily exegetical and
limits itself to ideas whieh grant At/,1J,awiyya a character of its own.
Consequently, the scholastic demoDstrations ArJ,1J,awiyya shares in
common with Avicenna's other writings are left aside.
Af!.1J,awiyya contains a number of arguments for example those

directed aganst the mutakallimn, whieh cannot he found elsewhere in

Avicenna's writings. It also presents two purely psychologiesl
demoDstratioDs for the immateriality - and hence immortality - of the
rational soule Finally, Af!.1J,awiyya explicitly describes the states of the
souls in the hereafter, and reveals the principle upon which Avicenna
rounds bis doctrine of al-macid


L'objectif de cette rechereche est d'clairer plusiers propositions

avances dans Al-Risalah al-AfI,1}awiyya fi amr al-Maciid qui est le
trait soterique par excellence d'Avicenne sur la rsurrection. Notre
tude est une exgse qui sera circonacrite par les caractres
spcifiques cet ouvrage. Les propositions rencontres dans les autres
travaux: d'Avicenne ne seront donc pas abordes.
En effet, al-At/,1),awiyya contient des propositions qui lui sont
uniques, comme celles rfutant al-Mutakallimn. Par ailleurs il
comporte deux interprtations de l'immatrialit - et par consquent
de l'immortalit - qui sont purement d'ordre psychologique. Enfin, al-
Af/,1],awiyya dcrit de manire explicite et indite les tats de l'me
dans l'au-del, et rvle le principe sur lequel Avicenne fonde sa
doctrine du al-Macad.

Table of Contenta

In.t;r()(lUctClIl 1


1. The Arguments against the Kalm and the ahlal-Taniisukh.....l3

n. From Self-Reflection i;() ImmortaIity...........................................29

m. The Strllcture orResurrec::tion 45




"Nur eine Warre taugt, Die Wuncle

schliesst der Speer nur, der sie schlug"

(Onlyone weapon avails: only the

spear that made the wound shaH close it)

- Richard Wagner, Parsifal, m in me.

That Al-Risalah al-Ar/,1J,awiyya fi Amr al-MaCjjd reveals Avicenna's

tnle teaching on the subject of al-ma'ad might weil have been disputed
by Averros, who, on account of the apparent inconsistencies in the
treatise, suggests that Avicenna's writing was shackled by the
philosopher's fear of persecution; according to Averros, Avicenna
offered a solution to the problem of inclividual immortality~ in which
he did not actually believe, in order to appease the public. 1 The spirit
of the treatise, however - including Avicenna's criticisms of bis
opponents and his uncompromising doctrine regarding the end of the
soul - indicates that Avicenna is wrtng neither to defend himself
(politically) agamat the mutakallimiin, nor to appease the general
public. In fact, A~1}(Jwiyya supports the doctrine of individual
immortality with a vehemence that precludes aoy kind of equivocation
on the part of Avieenna. A theory which understands A1)1}Gwi" as a
defense mechanism remains tenuous. 2 In anyevent, it is unlikely that

1Marmura. M. Avinn-a fllId the 1+o61ma of the Infinite Number 0( Soul p. 238.

2See AJ!.1J.awiyya. p. 126: "If it is ralae that al-macad belon,. tD the body only and it
is Calse that it belonp ta the body and 80ul tocether. and it ia false tbat it is for the


Avicenna's espousal of individual immortality would have ingratiated
him to the general public or literal-minded. A more tenable
argument would be that A41}awi"a is intended for the perspicacious,
whereas the doctrine of bodily resurrection and physical retribution,
advocated at Metaphysics IX, 7 oC the Shif4~, is cont:aminateci by the
necessity of currying favour with the more orthodox. 3 That the
argument in favour of bodily resurrectioD and physical retribution is
not representative of Avicenna's ultra-rational philosophical system is
also established by the fact that the system or emanation - which
appears in the same work - precludes the possibility of bodily
AI-Risiilah al-AcJ1)awiyya asserts in the clearest possible terms
that al-macid belongs exclusively to the sou1. The resurrection of the
body, Avicenna maintains, bas been established by the revealed law, and
a literaI interpretation of bodily resurrection is necessary for political
reasons. The religious law maDests itselC in a way understandable 10
the less philosophicaUy-minded, and thus arrives in the Corm of

soul by way of metempsyc:hosis, then almacad therefore belongs to the soul

alone..." ~iyya. p. 126).
3por the argument in support of the ellOterie nature of AtJl.aawiyya. see M. ADawati.
Un cas typique de l'esoterisme Avicennien, pp. 263-289. As for the date of the
composition. At/J)Gwiyya probably dates, as Miehot coneludes. rrom the time oC
Avicenna's sojoum in Rayy (J. Miehot, Le tstinle de l'homme selon Avicenne, p. 6).
It is the second treatise on al-mtJcad whieh AvieeDDa's c:ompmion al-JOzjAnI mentions
in bis biography; the f"U'Bt is the Kitab alMa6dtz~ wcl M4 c iid. whim was c:omposed in
JurjAn and dedieated to the &mir Abtl al-ShIrAzL Al-JilzjAnf mentions
another treatise on the issue of almac4d whieh Avieenna eompoaed in Rayy and
dedicated. to itB mler M'ajd al-Dawla; this is probably At/."awiyya. For AviceDDa's

autobiography, whieh was eompleted by bis eompanion al-JuzjAnI, see W. E .

Gohlman, The Lire of lb" Sfna.


metaphors and symbols.4 Although both spiritual and physical
resurrections are afCirmed by prophethood, only spiritual

4Avicenna gues 90 far as to iDsist that only a message that arrives in the wayof
metaphors and symbols is 10 be considered of divine origin. Hence a message in
which a pmphet were to speak the litenl truth 10 the public would he coDsidered
ineffective: "As Cor religious 1aw, one general principle is to be admitted, VZ. that
religions and religious laWB~ plOIDulgated through a pl'Opbet, aim at addressing the
masses as a whole. Now, it is obvious tbat the deeper truths concerning the real
Unity (of God)~ viz. that there is ODe Malter (oC the Universel who is aaltecl above
quantity, quality, place, time, JM)Sition and ehange, wmch lead to the belief that God
is one without anYODe to sbare His sPeCes~ Dor is He made of parts - quantitative or
conceptual - that neither is He transcendent nor immanent, nor ean He he pointed 10
as beiDg anywhere - it is obrious tbat these deeper truths cannat he eommunicated to
the multitude. For if this had been communicated in its true form to the bedouin
Arabs or the crude Hebrews they would have refused straightway to believe and

would have unanimously proclaimed that the belleC to which they were being invited
was belieCin an absolllte nonentity..." (translation F. Rahman, Propheey in Islam, p.
The idea that the prophetie Cunction involves conveying rational trutbs ta the
community in terms of symbols and similitudes is found elsewhere in Avicenna's
writings. In speeking about the ruler in the Mettlphysics, Avicenna acknowledges
the political danger of supplying rational truths to the COlDJDunity: "But he ought
not to involve them with dodrines ta the lmowledge or God~ the Esalted p

beyond the fact that He is one" the truth, and bas none like HimselC. To go beyond
this and demand tbat they believe in His emtenee as being not referred tG in place~
as being not subject to verbal classifications, as being neither inside nor outside the
world or anytbing of tbis kind is to ok too much. This will simply confue the
p p

religion (clin) they have and involve them in sometbing from which deliverance is
only possible for the one who receives guidance and is fortanate wbose emtence is

most rare. For it is only with great strain that they can comprebend the true states
of such mattel's; it ia only the very few among them tbat can undentand the truth of
divine "unicity" and divine "remoteDess." The rest wouId inevitably come ta deny

the tnIth oC such an emten~ fall into dissensions, and induIge in c1isputatioDS and
anological arguments that stand in the way of their politica1 duties. This might even


resurrection can be estabHshed through reason.5 Avicenna's tbeory of
al-maciid, then, does not refer to resurrection in the theological sense
of the term, but to the subsistence of the 80ul aCter death, and its
reception of non-physical retributioD. ms vision of a purely spiritual
resurrection, although not in accordance with the views of the Kalim,
is founded on the Quranic declaration at 89:27 (0 80ul at peace, return
lento thy Lord... ). Thue, for Avicenna, it is Dot as though the Quran
indicates a literai or physical understanding of resurreetion while
philosophy points toward a spiritual resurrection; rather, the
philosophie or spiritual understanding of resurrection itself is
founded on the revealed text. The philosophie point of al-macid 8 not

lead them to adopt views contnuy to the city's welfare~ opposed ta the imperativeB of
truth. Their complaints and doubts will multiply~ making it difficult for a man to
control them. For divine wisdom is not easily acquired by everyone" (Avicenna~

Met4physicB X, translation M. Marmura in Medieval Political Philosophy. p. lool.

Avicenna's theory echoes the FAriblaD notion tbat philoeophy - or more specifically
the knowledge of the philoeopher-prophet - is in vain if not in act; the philosopher's
position culminates when bis knowledge of the intelligible world is revealed ta the
community in terms of symbols and similitudes. 8ee Al-FlrAbl, The Attainment of
HappinesB, Mahdi translation in Medieval Political PhUOIIOpby. p. SO).
5S ee J. Michot, Lez destine de l'homme selon Avicenne: "De ce point de vue,
Avicenne l'explique dans diverses oeuvres, il convient effectivement de distinguer
deux retours. Le premier, b'atitude intellectuelle sans fin, est 'saisi par
l'intelligence et par le ayllopsme d6mon8tratif', connu ~par le biais de 1.
spculation et du raisonnement' ind'pendamment de la nv'lation dans les images
de laquelle il 8e trouve symbolis. Du second retour, la risurrection des corps,

"intelligence n'aniverait pas Il tablir l'ezistenC8 ou la n4cessi~t sans

de la prophtie" (J. Michot, La de.inle de l'homme selon. Auicell1U!, p. 208).

les lumi\tres

opposed to the revealed text as such, but only to a literai
understanding or interpretation of it.6
Although AJ!,1},awiyya dermes al-macl' with fair lucidity, the
attitude it takes toward the issue is not altogether clear.8 Af/,1J,awiyya
purports to espouse Avicenna's true views on the subject of
resurrection, but contains a doctrine which May Dot he entirely
consistent with Avicenna's psychology. This issue is one which
Avicenna faced on account of an already existing tension between
philosophical and religious teacbings in Islam, and more specifically,
on account of bis refusaI to understand the Quranic events and
occurences in literaI terms. The two inevitable problems Avicenna
raced were that of how the immaterial soul remains individual after
the corruption of the body, and bow it obtains reward and punishment
based on its previous, temporary existence in the corporeal world..
AtJ.1).awiyya understands the former problem through a unique

relatioDship the separate rational soul shares with the Active

Intelligence. The latter problem is understood through the possibility
of an "imaginal" eschatology.. While Avicenna's other writings allude
to an eschatology that may or May not he consistent with bis general

6Por this reuon, it is diffieult to hold that AviD.Da adheres to a double truth
theory whereby philosophy and revelation advocate true but opposing doctrines
regarding the resurrec:tion oC the body~
7"Al-Mac iid is deflned. in the flrst chapter of At/.I}.awiyya: " .ifs rea! meaDDg is the
pla or situation _mm a tbiDg was in, then sepantes (1Om, then retums tG; thell, [it
means] transportation ta the rl!'St .tate or place, or ta the pla which is man's
bec:oming aCter death" ~iYJIG, p. 89).
8Averros, Cully aware of the plOblems inherent in Avicenna's theory, criticizes him

on two related issues, Damety individuation and the lmity of soula. See M.
Mannura, Avicmna and the Pr06lem of the Infinite Nurt&ber of SOul8, p. 239.


psychology, A(l1J.awiyya attempts to establish an eschatology wthin
the framework of Avicenna's metaphysics and psychology. The
possibility of an "imaginai" eschatology is founded on account of a
spiritual attachment the rational soul shares with the celestial
spheres, and by virtue oC a unity the imaginative Caculty (al-quwwa al-
wahmiyya) shares with the rational faculty. No less cryptic than the
above statements is the expression that (imperf'ect) souls live as though
(ka an1UJhii) they were still attached to bodies. That Avicenna s
somewhat hesitant about tbis issue is suggested by the raet that he
attributes the theory to bo,c4 al-c ulamii?9
Avicenna's views on the subject of resurrection are further
complicated by a philological problem. In demonstrating that the
human soul is in possession of a Cixed and permanent haecceity,
Avicenna uses the term anniyya. Anniyya is obscure on account of its
uncertain origin and cryptic meaning. Although the Courth chapter
of A4/:tawiyya is intended, at least in part, to elucidate the meaning of
al-anniyya. al-thabita min al-insn, Avicenna's explanation is Dot easily
discemed, for precisely what he understands by the term anniyya is

9That Avicenna agrees with such an escbatologieal doctrine is corroborated by bis

allusions to it in a number of texts (ncluding AtJ.1J,4wiyya, Al-Ishiiriit, Al-Shifa~,

Kitab al-Mtlbda~ wtl-l MaCjjd, and the Commentary on the Theology of Aristotle),
and also by the fact that a number oC thinkers, ncluding al-GhazzaIr, Mulla Sadd
and F. D al-RAzI, attribute the theory ID bim (See J. Michot, La destine de IOhomme
selon Avicenne, p. 29n). It is UDclear, however, whetber Avicenna's philosophical
system can aceomodate the idea of the human souI attaching itBell to a celestial
sphere, for integral to Avicenna's system is the doetrine that souls come ioto heing
and attac:h themselves to sublunar matter _ben such matter is prepared to receive a

sou! from the Active Intellect; celestial spheres are not fit to receive human BOuls,
and thus al80 unlikely to enable them ID CunctiOD.

unclear.. Anni"o, foreign. to the Quran but found in philosophical

and mystical circles, seems to denote, at least in A41J.awiyya, the

existential ego of the human being. It refers neither to essence or
existence as such, but to an amalgamation of the two notions. Thus, as
it appears in A41}awiyya, the term anniyyo denotes the individual
reality of a tbing, that is to say, the thatness or quoddity of a thing..
Unfortunately, the etymology of the term a7lniyya sheds little
light on its meaning. The editor who initially encountered the term
probably added the hamza on the alif and the tashclid on the ";;1L 10

The orthography of the term, in other words, is uncertain; although

the particle aRna is a possible etymologcal root of the term, and
anniyya suggests itself as a possible vocalization, aniyya and inniyya
are al80 suitable vocalization candidates. A further possibility is that
Avicenna derived the term from the first person singular pronoun
ana, and Bot the particle Because of the above difficulties in
determining the etymology of the term, which May not he identical in
the Theology of Aristotle and A41}awiyya, 1 suggest that the meaning of
the term in At/,1),awiyya be determined by its use in context.
Avicenna devotes a considerable portion of A41}awiyya to a
refutation of theological arguments in favour of physical
resurrection. These doctrines belong to the mutakallimn and support

10The editor of the apocryphal 77aeology of Aristolle, F. Dieterid, bas vocal.izecl the
tenu as anniy;ya. Most scholars, including Goichon in ber Le%ique, have followed
Dieterici's orthograpby, placiDg a fatl}.a over the al;f and a tashtlfd over the 11I111..
llM. Marmora seems to he the only scholar to aque in favour of the rU'8t penon
singular pronoun as the source of the teraL See bis article AuicennCl and tlle

Problem of the InfinU Num6er of Sauls, pp. 2389. In the second chapter of this
thesis, 1 argue tbat the term derives from the particle tJnllG.


typically Mu9azilite and Ashcarite notions of resurrecton. Avicenna
refutes three main arguments on the subject. namely the resurrection
of the body, the resurrection of the body and soul together, and the
transmigration of souls. The first two views belong to the
mutakallimiln. The brunt of Avicenna's argument is that these
doctrines are not only internally inconsistent, but also exclude the
realization of the essence of the human being as a spiritual entity.
This is ta say that the two arguments which support a resurrection
other than that of the spirit are false on account of their
inconceivability, and absurd by virtue of their opposition to and
exclusion of the essence of the human being. While the third chapter
of Acf,1J,awiyya demonstrates the internaI inconsistencies in the
various arguments of the muta1zllimn, the fourth chapter of
Acf,1J,awiyya illustrates. by way of an argument from introspection, that
the human being, in bis truest form, is bis permanent and fixed
haecceity, that ie, bis existential ego. Consequently, almacid can only
belong to the soul.
Avicenna's argument in support of a purely spiritual
resurrection contains two parts, namely the demonstration that the
human being is essentially identical with his soul, and the
demonstration that the soul is not imprinted on the body, but an
immaterial entity which subsista in its own right. The former appears
in the fourth chapter of A41),awiyya, and the latter in the fth. The
arguments for the immateriality - and hence immortality - of the
human soul which also appear in Avicenna's other writings indicate
that the soul is bath substance and fonn. As fonn, the human souI bas

a function of animating the body. As substance. it has a nature or


essence which is to be a spiritual reality in ils own right. The nature
or essence of the soul is its perfection - its raison d~tre - and the
retribution it receives, or its spiritual situation in the hereaCter,
depends on the extent to which it has perfected its essence.
The rmal ebapter of A<l1}awiy:ya reveals a fair amount about
Avicenna's attitude toward the issue of resurrection. The
eschatological doctrine Avicenna sooms to agree with is one he
attributes, on more than one occasion, to "some scholars" (ba C 4 al-
culamii. Although this doctrine May run counter to a number of
points contained in Avicenna's psychology, the esoteric nature of the
treatise suggests Avicenna is Dot supporting a doctrine in which he
does not actually believe, and which he abhors as a philosopher, simply
to please bis opponents or the public. This indicates that Avicenna
solved, at least ta ms own satisfaction, the problems related to and
inherent in an "imaginai" escbatology. Contrary to Averros'
assertion, Avicenna's discussion of resurrection in A4bawiyya is not
in any way intended for the public. 12 For this reason, there is little
reason to believe that Avicenna's equivocation can be attributed to a
fear of persecution, in any sense of the terme
The final chapter of Af/,1}awiyya deseribes two types of
resurrection, namely a purely spiritual retum for philosophiesl souls,
and an "imagina!" return for simple or religious souls. The
reservation of a particular return for "those perfect in knowledge"
indicates the anthropologieal duaHsm inherent in Avicenna's

12For the opposing view, 8ee H. Davidson. Alfiiriibl. AuiIIIICI. tllld AuerroB. on

Intellect, pp. 114-5. where it is argued tbat Avic:enna rationalized the events of the
hereafter in arder to Pl'Oteet bim8elf.


understanding of al-maciL Avicenna's rmal remarks in At/.1}awiy:ya
aiso reveai the principle upon which he founds bis eschatological
doctrine,. specifically the state in which the soul imds itself after the
corruption of the body. The extent to which a soul has perfeeted itself
during its stay in the temporal world determines its situation post
mortem. White philosophic souls (those perfect in knowledge)
experience an intellectual return which invoives the complete absence
of a body in the hereafter,. imperCect souls - on account of a failure to
realize their perfection and hence also to fully emancipate themselves
from their body in the temporal world - have recourse ta the celestial
bodies as organs tbrough which they can experience their appropriate
reward and punishment.
The structure of this study loosely follows tbat of Atjl)awiyyo. 1
begin by studying the contradictions Avicenna illustrates in the
arguments of bis opponents. The r1l'8t chapter of this study discusses
in detail the arguments against the resurrection of the body alone, the
resurrection of the body and soul together, and the transmigration of
souls. Two demonstratians, both from self-knowledge or self-
reflection to the immateriality (and bence immortality) of the human
soul are examined in the second chapter of tms study. Although
AtJ1)awiyya offen a number of arguments in favour of the separability
of the human 80ul, 1 have chosen to gloss over th08e which appear in
Avicenna's psychological works. The two arguments in support of
immortality studied here are those that establish the separability of
the soul from self-reOection. One of these arguments is the
Suspended Man argument, which appears in an elaborate fonn in the

fourth chapter of Atjl)awiyya.

1 intend to explicate Avicenna's

introspective-empirieism, whieh remains abstruse by virtue of the
philologieal problem mentioned above, with the intention of
discovering the precise meaning of the term anniyya. Because the
etymology of the term sheds little light on its meaning, 1 Cocus on the
context of its use.13 In the mal section of this study, 1 describe two
aspects of Avicenna's doctrine of resurrection. The first is an
argument which demonstrates that the pleasure proper to the rational
sou! is orthe bighest possible order and consummates upon al-macOd.
The second is an eschatological doctrine Avicenna attributes to "some
scholars." Lastly, but no less important than the scholastic
demonstratioDs for immortality, is A4l.aawiyya's classification of the
souls in the hereafter. Avicenna dwells at length upon this issue, and
in describing the states of the souls in the hereafter, revea1s the
gnostic prineiple upon which he founds his eschatology. The
importance of tbis description is Dot merely the faet that it reveals
that for Avicenna the philosophical "return" is of the highest kind;
rather, the description of the state of the souls in the hereafter
indicates a point fundamental ta Avicenna's doctrine of resurrection,
namely that the state in which the sou1 mds itself post mortem depends
on the extent ta which the soul has perfected itself - that is - on the
extent to which that subject has been aware of bis essence as a spiritual
entity, and whether or Dot he desired tbis perfection. The fact of tbis
cODsciousness determines whether a subject receives an intellectual
resurrection, or whether he falls short of such a resurrection

13In a detailed study of the tenD.R. Fra.nk concludes that good arguments can he

made in Cavour of two vocalizations, namely, ann.iyya and inn.iyya (Frank, K., The
Origin of the Arabie Philosoplaical

T~rm Anni)'YG).

intended for those who have peneeted themselves. If a subjeet was
preoccupied with bis body during bis stay in the temporal world, he
falls short of acbieving a purely intellectual state in the hereafter; bis
souI attaches itself to a celestial body, and bis appropriate reward and
punishment is experienced through the faculty of imagination_ This
principle reveals the proround harmony between Avicenna's
emanative scheme and bis view or man's place within the cosmos. As
the Active Intelligence or the angel of revelation ie responsible for the
coming into existence or the human soul, the image of the Active
Intelligence, namely the angelic nature of the individual - granted by
none other than the Active Intelligence - is held responsible for the
salvation of the individual.14

14The sou!. once individuated by matter. becomes an individual esHIlce and as such

retains ils individuality after separation from matter <Marmara. M. Auicenna and
the Problem of the Infinite Number 0( Soul p. 238).


The Arp_rat. agairut Ille Kala. and lite Ahl alTana.u~A

Avicenna's arguments against bis opponents begin in the third

chapter of A41)awiyya. Although Avicenna does Dot mention the
mutakallimn by name but by "Ahl al-jadal min al-carab", the theories
themselves indicate that the views in question are tbose oC the KaJam
scbools. Moreover, al-GbazzaIrs Tahiifutal-faliisifa conums tbat the
doctrines of the resurrection of the body alone, and the resurrection
of the body and soul together are Kaliim doctrines.15 The Cirst
doctrine which Avicenna attacks belongs to a group among the
mutakallimn who hold that liCe is an accident created in the body.
Avicenna begins by explicating their doctrine:

Those who uphold that macad is for the body only are a sect oC
dialecticians who believe that the body alone is animal and
human through a life and a humanity created in it. These
[latter] are two accidents, death being their non-existence in
them or that [i.e. an accident] which is contrary to them. In the
second life there is created in that body life and humanity after
it had decayed and disintegrated, and that very same human
retums 10 life.16

Avicenna uses an argument from personal identity in order 10

reCute the above doctrine. The individual, he claims, ie what he ie by

15Note that al-GhazzAlrs arguments oC Al-Ttlhiifut can he coDsidered. iD part. a

response to Avicenna's eriticisms oC the tnUttJluUlimft (M. Marmura., Avicenne and

the Kaliim, p. 206).

16Mannura, M., AvicennG and the KtJliim. p. 197. A41J.tnI1iyya. p. 91.


virtue of bis soul~ and not bis body or anything bodily. In opposition
to the mutaktJllimn~ Avieenna insista that a human is human not
through the body or an accident which inheres in the body, but by
virtue of a fonn that exists in bis matter. Thus, at the heart of tbis
disagreement conceming personal identity is an issue regarding the
nature of the self. While a majority of the mutakallimnadhere to a
materialistic notion of the self, Avicenna insists vehemently
throughout ms writings that the self is an immaterial substance. The
essence of the human being, he claims, is neither a body nor anything
bodily. The self was thought by the mutakalliman to be either a subtle
material substance that is diffused throughout the body, or an
individual material atom to which the transient accident, life,
attaches. Some oC the mutakallimn also held that the accident life
that attaches ta the organic body and the soul are identical.17
Avicenna's argument in AtJ~awi:y:ya - at least at tbis point - is less
concemed with demonstrating the immateriality of the self than it is
with illustrating that the individual is what he is by virtue of bis fonn
which exists in matter:

The human is not a human by reason of bis matter, but

through the fonn that exists in bis matter. Human acts proceed
from him, only because of the existence of bis form in bis
matter. If bis fonn ceases to exist in bis matter and bis matter
retun1s to ea.rth or to some otber elements, then that h llman in
himself ceases to existe
H' then in that same matter a new human fonn is created,
what comes into existence as a Nsult is another human, not that
[Conner] human. For that wbich exist8 of the rU'8t human is bis

17Ma.nnura~ M. Auicenna and the Ktlldm. pp. 1~7.


matter~ DOtforme Moreover, he is what he is, praised or blamed,
deserving of reward and punishment, not by reason of bis
matter, but by reason of bis form, and by reason of bis being a
human, not earth.18

Thu8, if the human were human by reason of bis matter, then

the new human rewarded or punished would not be the one who did
good or evi), but another. As a result, praise and blame would be
ascribed to the wrong persan.
The above argument is closely related to a more rigorous
argument in which Avicenna insista that an individual is what he is by
virtue of his soul. This argument appears in Al-Rsala fi Macrifat 01-
N afs al-Nii#qa wa A1}walihi, and demonstrates the immateriality of
theselfbywayofan argument from personal identity.19 The point of
the argument is that because the parts of the body are continually
being replaced, while the soul knows itself or the permanence of itself,
as continually existing throughout its existence, an individual is what
he is by virtue of bis soul. Thus, a subject remains the same person by
virtue of bis soul.20 The Risaloh uses tbis argument to conclude that
the self s an immaterial entty. At/1),awiyya, however, as illustrated
below, uses the argument from personal identity 10 refute the position
that aIl the parts of the human that existed throughout bis life are

18Marmura, M., Auinna and the Kalam, p. 198. AfJ1}awiyya, pp. 1034.
19J. Michot doubts the authenticity of this treatise but insista on its Avic:ennan
spirit. See bis article L'lpftn IIU" la connaissance de l'ame f'iOllnelie et de . .
tats' attribuie 4 Avicenne.

2OMarmura, M. GhGZziill and tlae Proof for ClI1 Immaterial Self, p. 197. Also
Avicenna, Al-RU4l4 fE MaC"rifat al-Na,. al-Na,iqa wa A1J.waliha, pp. 183-4.


Avicenna's refutation oC the doctrine that resurrection belongs
exclusively to the body is stated more clearly by al-Ghazzali in Al-
Tahafut than it is by Avicenna in Af/.1).awiyya. The argument can be
paraphrased as follows: Because man is man by virtue of form and not
matter, a resurreetion of the body alone would at best involve a
production of something similar to the original man, for ail his
physical parts, or at least most of them, are replaced by food; he is the
same man by virtue of bis soul, so if bis soul perishes, the "return"
cannot he of the same man. Even ie liCe is an accident (which
according to Avicenna it is not), it is impossible for that thing, namely
life, to pass from existence 10 non-existence, then retum 10 existence.
This is Dot a "return" in the proper sense of the term, for a retum
involves the supposition of the continuity of one thing as weil as the
emergence of another. In the case of a purely bodily resurrecton, the
return cannot involve the resurrection of the same man, for the
continuum - that is - life, has perished.21
Thus, for Avicenna, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body
alone is false because it does not aHow for the continuum of persona!
identity through time. The parts of the body are continually being
replaced by one another, and cannot account for the identity of the
same person over time. Moreover, if an individual is what he is ~

virtue of an accident, that accident cannot return, for what has

existed in the paat cannot come into being again. In both cases,
resurrection is impossible on account of the absence of a continuum.
In the former scenario, the continuum of self-identity is absent, and in
the latter scenario, the continuum of an accident through the states

21Al-Gbazzi lJ, Tahafut alfaliisifa, Kamali translation, pp. 236-8.


of existence to non-existence and then to existence is absent. The
latter argument deserves more attention.
Avicenna's criticism of the doctrine that commes resurrection
ta the body alone is related to a deeper disagreement which concems
the resurrection of paat existents. That al-Ghazzal treats the issue as
integral to the issue of bodily resurrection indicates that the
disagreement conceming the resurrection of past eDstents is related
to Avicenna"s criticism of the mutCJ1uJllimn. Although Aq,.1)awiyya
does not mention the impossibility of the return of past existents, the
argument is not irrelevant to the eriticism of the argument in favour
of the resurrection of the body alone.
For Avicenna, it is impossible for the non-existent to he brought
back into existence, for this would permit the po8sibility of the special
properties of a thing, including time and temporal states, retuming to
existence.!! To put it another way, because time is a property of a
thing which existed in the past, a return of that thing would involve
the absurdity of a return of tbat particular property time, that is ta
say, a return of time and temporal states.!3 Yet the theologians hold

22MarmUl'a, M.~ Al1inna and the Kalam~ p. 202.

23This argument has been traDslated as Collows: '"Moreover, if the non-esistent
were ta he brought back into existence, then tbis would require that ail oC its special
properties in terms or whicb it wu. ahould also be blOught back into esstence. But
these properties include tbe tilDe in which it eDsted. But if this time is brought
back, then the thing would Dot have been brought bac:k into eDatence, becaue tbat
which is brought back into es:istence is that which would he esisting in another tme.
Now, if it ia allowed that the non-astent muid retarD to existence with ail
the non-existing properties existing with it, time bemg considered either as having

real existence that bu ceaaed to he or. ac:rdiDi ta wbat ia mown or their doctrine,
as one of the accidenta having correspondence with an existent, then we would he


that what is resurrected, that is to say, retumed to existence, after not
existing, is the very s8JDe thing, and not a replica. Thus, if time is an
accident or property, the theological doctrine involves the
impossibility of the supposition of two times - past and present - of the
same thing. 24

Avicenna directs his next attack against the idea that

resurrection belongs to the body and soul together. He uses a
quantitative argument to demonstrate the imp08sibility tbat the body
is resurrected to rejoin an already separated soul; the existing matter
in the world is Dot sufficient to reproduce enough bodies for the
purpose.25 A further objection to tbis doctrine is that bodily pleasure
is Dot true pleasure, and that happiness does not concern the existence
of the soul in the body. The idea that true happiness belonga to the
soui reappears in the chapter on anniyyCJ, and again in the final
chapter of
The doctrine that resurrection is not commed 10 the body, but
cODsists in the return of the sout to the body, is the argument against

allowing that time and rtemporall states could retum inm existence. But then there
would not be rone periodl of me and another and bence no retum of the Don-eDst.ent
to existence.
The mind, however, rejects the notion tbat there are no dif'ferent periods or
time in a manner tbat renders exposition unnessary; ail that is said c:onceming
this is deviation rrom peripatetic teacbing (Marmura, M., Avicenlla on PrimtU'y
Concepts in. the Metaphysics of hi8 al-Blaira?, pp. 236-7).
241n explicating Avicenna". argument ap.inst the Muctazilte doctrine, al.chaglJJ
does Dot indicate that Avicenna is aware or the difTerences in opinion between the
Sunnl and SJnCite Muczilites. Nor in A.t/J}tzwiy;ya does Avicenna indicate that he is

aware tbat the Shfite Mu~itesdeny the retum or the DOD-aistent.

2SIbid, p. 233. AJJIJ.tniy;ya, p. 104.


which Avicenna directs bis nen criticism. This argument runs as
follows: If the world is pre-etemal (as Avicenna maintains) and
humans have always existed in the past, and if the souls alter
separation from their bodies retain their individuality, then the
number of sucb souls is inmite. Spaee, however, is rmite and the
amount of matter in the sublunar world is likewise rmite. The matter
avaitable would thus he insuffieient 10 accommodate the souls. Benee
there can he no resurrectioD that involves the return of souls to
bodies. 26 Although the refutation of taniisukh proper appears a little
later in the treatise, Avicenna seems 10 suggest that any doctrine
which subscribes to the belief that the soul returns to matter, is
tantamount to tandsukh, in one form or another. 27 The point here is
that Avicenna uses an anti-tansukh argument aganst the standard
view of bodily resurrection. One might question whether or not al-
Ghazzali accepted some form of tansukh, for he claims, while
refuting Avicenna's arguments against the resurrection of the body,
that resurrection cannot he rejected, whether or not it is the same
thing as metempsychosis; by agreeing with Avicenna's definitions of
metempsych08is, and not insisting on their opposition 10 the contents
of revelation, al-GhazzAl tacitly admits (in an argument intended 10
illustrate Avicenna's infidelity) that he is not hostile 10 the possibility
of tanasukh. 28

26Marmura, M., Aucenn4 and the Kaliim, pp. 198--9.

enA"'1J.awyya, p. 109.
28Here Avicenna demoastrates that the most orthodox UDdentanding~that oC the

return oC the sou! to the body, is in tact a very hetelodoK view oC 1I14cifd, for it
involves the reutm oC the 80ul to matter, an idea tantamount to metempsyehis.


At/,1}awiyya offers a number of reasons as to why the
resurrection or the soul and body together is false. The ust of these
arguments, as mentioned above, is tbat the existing matter in the
world is inaufficient to produce enough bodies for a resurrection. For
Avicenna, tbere are an inmite number of souls and a mite amount of
matter existing in the world. Because the corporeal infinite is
impossible, the existing matter is insufficient to accompany the
infinite number of souls. The second argument Avicenna offers
concerna a point he claims to bave proved in Al-cnm al-Raki wa (Jl-
Tabo, namely that the divine will, as immutable and unchanging,
precludes the possibility of a resurrection. Third, absolute felicity
opposes the existence of the soul in the body; true pleasures belong ta
the activity of the soul itself, and do Dot concem the body. The imal
argument against the possibility of the resurrection of the body and
soul together, is that the matters mentioned about resurrection iD the
revealed law, if taken in their literaI sense, would have ugly and
impossible coDsequences.29
The above arguments are a prelude to a more rigorous and
convincing argument directed aganst the claim that the soul can

Avicenna has illustrated that the must orthodox SunnI theologian (who should
represent the moet formai vie.. on the matter), bas UDknowiDgly committed himself
what he would consider a heretical undentanding of mlJ,cid, namely that of
29These arguments are a prelude to a more conVDCDg llJ'8UIIlent, in whim Avicenna

demonstrates the impossibility oC the BOUrS retuming either ta the body to which it
was attached in the temporal world, or to uy matter what8oever.


return to matter.30 Avieenna takes issue with the notion tbat the soul
can return either to the body to which it was attached, or to anything
bodily. Bence there are two arguments which Avicenna refutes. The
IrSt of these is that it is possible for the soul - an existent which
survives the death of the body - to retum to the original bxly when all
the parts of that body have been collected. The second is that it is
possible for the soul to retum to any body, whether it is composed of
the same parts as the original body or note The latter theory holds that
it is a retum to the same man, as man is not man by virtue of matter
but by virtue of soul.
Avicenna's objection to the first doctrine is that such a
resurrection - that is - one in whieh only those parts present at the
time of death are recombined, would lead to the resurrection of people
whose limbs had been amputated, or whose ears and nose were cut ofC,
or whose limbs were defective, in exactly the same form as they had in
the world. 31 If the supposition of return is confined to the
recombination of the parts present at the time of death, resurrection
would he an ugly and disgraceful event. Further, if it were true that
a11 the parts which belonged to the subject during his lifetime are
resurrected, then it would be necessary that the same part he
resurrected as liver and heart and hand and leg at once, for some
organic parts derive nourishment from the residuary nourishment of

30Although Avic:enna does Dot mention the mutaiallimll by Dame, alGhazzllt, iD

the Taftiifut alFallifa, identifies the theory as one which bel0Dgs ta the

31Al-GbaZdJ[ , Tahii'"t al-Falasifa, K'ama Ji traDslatioD. p. 239. Also At/.1)tIU1iyya, p.



others.3 2 Thus, if it is supposed that there are specifie parts whieh had
been the matter for ail organs, then it is unclear to which organ these
parts will return.
The rmal argument Avicenna refutes belonga to the ahl al-
taniisukh. Here again Avicenna does not mention exactly who bis
opponents are, although a number of candidates are possible.
Avicenna's refutation of metempsychosis is founded on the claim that
the soul cannot pre-exist the body in any way whatsoever. To be sure,
although Avicenna and the ahl al-tanasukh disagree over the issue of
whether or not separate souls are rmite or inrmite, Avicenna reCutes
his opponents' argument by demonstrating tbat the soul cannot pre-
exist the body. Thus, the two parties disagree over the quantityof
separate souls, but Avicenna disregards this issue and instead, refutes a
claim inherent in the argument for taniisukh, namely that the soul
pre-exsts the body. The point at issue regarding the quantity of
separate souls is as follows: While both insist that the existing matter
in the world is (potentially) inmite, the two disagree over the quantity
of separate souls;33 for Avicenna, there are an iJmite or unlimited
number of separate souls, whereas for the ahl altanasukh, the number
of separate souls is limited or imite. Avicenna begins bis argument
against metempsychosis by offering an account of metempsychosis.
The doctrine of taniisukh nIDS as follows:
Those who afium the transmigration of souls assert that souls
are substances separate from matter, that they separate from bodies

32Al-GbazzJ1 1, Talla/llt alFalasi/a. Kamali translation. p. 239. Alao AtJ1J.awina.

pp. 106-7.

33por Avic:enna and the ahl al.tanGsultll. the rational sou! is considend a separate
substance which separates from the bodyafter death.


after death, and that material bodies are (potentially) inrmite. Souls
are either [mite or inmite. If the souls existing now (those separate
from material bodies) are lmite, then an aclual iJmite would met,
and this is impossible. The quantity of separate souls is thus finite.
Snce souls are rmite and bodies are inimite, the rotation of souls over
bodies is nessary.34
The soul must exist before the body. It cannot come into
existence with the coming into existence of the body, for what comes
into existence simultaneously with the body is a material forme The
material form is inseparable. The soul, on the other band, is separable.
Hence it cannot be a material fonn and must necessarily precede the
body in existence. It follows, then, that the finite souls must rotate
over the inflnite bodies, and this in essence, is transmigration.35
In objecting to the above argument, Avicenna takes issue with
the claim that the soul pre-exists the body. The disagreement over the
quantity of separate souls does not enter into the argument. Thus,
Avicenna's refutation of metempsychosis, in fact, bas little to do with
the problem of the quantity of separate souls. The argument he
directs against the ohloltanisukh is as Collows: It is impossible for the
soui ta pre-exist the body, for it did, then there would either be a
plurality of souls, or one sout. On account of the impossibility of these
two scenarios, the soul must come into existence with the body. A
plurality of souls is impossible, for in their prior existence these souls
are immaterial and sinee matter is the individuating principle these
souls cannat be many.36 Nor can souls in their prior existence be one,

34A4~awi.Y.)YI, p. 114.
35Marmura, M., Auicelllla and the Pr061em of the Infinite Humber of Souls, pp.

36Ibid, p. 234.


for if all souls were one. then the soul of Zayd and CAmr wouId be one,
and this is absurd.37 Consequently, the soul cannot pre-exist the body
in any way whatsoever.
The birth of the souI is deeply rooted in Avicenna's emanative
scheme; the agent intellect, the rmal of the separate substances of the
supralunar realm, imposes soul upon a body when that body possesses
the appropriate prepa.rednes8. The agent intellect functions according
to a natural law in whereby a soul inevitably comes into being when
matter allows it to.
The soul comes into being with the coming into existence of the
body. Bodily mixture is a cause for the coming into existence of the
soul, for the body becomes receptive of the sou!. It is the purpose of
the separate substances to emanate the existence of the soul; whenever
a mixture becomes prepared, that body becomes connected to that soul.
Since the reality of the soul and the origination of the mixture are
established together, the reality of the soul must come into existence
with the origination of the mixture. Because the soul cannot pre-
exist the body, but comes into existence with the coming into
existence of the body, taniisukh cannot hold true, for then two souls
could inhabit one body, the soul which originates with the coming
into being of the body, and the transmigrating soul. However, because
each person experiences himself to he one person, not two, it is
impossible for two souls to inhabit one body.l8 Metempsychosis is thus
impossible on two counts; it admits the po8sibiHty of more than one
soul inhabiting a particular body, and refuses ta concede that the

37A41J.awiyya. p. 123.


rational soul comes into existence with the coming into existence of
the body as a separate substance.
The fourth chapter of A41}awiyya presents an argument in
favour of a purely spiritual macGd. In tbis section, Avicenna departs
from criticizing the Kalam 8chools, and begins to ofler bis own
solution to the problem of resurrection. The main point of his
argument is that because the buman being is essentially identical with
his sou1 or his existential ego, al-maciid belongs exelusively to the
rational 80U1. The mutakallimn bave excluded from their doctrines
the subject's realization of wbat he is in his truest forme The
argument from introspection which appears in the fourth chapter of
Af/,1).awiyya as an elaborate form of the Suspended Man argument39

establishes the rlXed and permanent haecceity of the self through

"alerting" or "awakening.".o That the soul is the true reality of the
human being is demonstrated by an argument from introspection, in
which the subject arrives at the rlXednes8 or haecity of bis BOul. The

39The Suspended Man argument, which appears three times within Avicenna's
writings, is usually construed as a demoJl8tl'ation Cor the individual immortality or
the human soul. Avicenna, however, is more concemed with illustratiDg the BOOr.
intimate and direct acquiantance with itself tban he is with proving that the 80uI is
an immateria1 and hence immortal substance. That the argument does Dot
reappear as a demonstration Cor the immateriality oC the 80uI sugesta that Avicenna
himself did Dot regard the scenario as a prooC in the strict sense of the tenu for
the sours status as an iDc:orruptible entity. For a detailed study oC the Soapended
Man arguments, Me M. Marm1U'8, Auinna-_ -Flyng Man'" in. Context.
40In AlIsh4riit, the Suspended Man 8J'1U1Dent appears under the headiDg Tan6rh.
indicating that the soul can alert itaelC ta what it already mows. The implication
bere is that knowledge of the aistenee of the setc is a primaIy concept; the soul does

Dot requin the &id of sense-pereeption or syllogism ta alm itselC fA) the Cset that it


fact that the argument is one of introspection or self-renection
indicates that its purpose is more psychological than metaphysical.
Avicenna's primary concern in tbis chapter is psychology; only tater is
he to argue that this rlXedness (anniyyo al-thiibita,) is a separate and
immaterial - and hence immortal - substance.
To reiterate, the purpose of the fourth chapter of Atf,l),awiyya is
to prove tbrough a psychologica1 experience the existence of the soul
in so far as it is an entity Dot subject to ordinary metaphysical
categories. The argument _here is not to prove the metaphysical point
that the soul is a separate substance which does not depend on the
body for its existence; rather, it is to prove that the soul, by reOecting
upon itself, can realize its existential "1", a category of being which
cannot he reduced to an ordinary metaphysical notion. A subject
arrives at bis true essence by introspection; on account of realizing bis

lXOO (tlibit).
That Avicenna is making a psychological and not a metaphysical
point regarding the nature of the aoul is also indicated by
AtJ,1),awiyya's definition of the soul; in the fourth chapter of
AtJ,1J,awiyya, Avicenna abandons bis traditional demition of the soul
in Cavour of a more psychological demition, that is, a dermition from
introspection.41 The demition oC the soul A41J.awiyya employa is
similar ta that found in the Risiila fi Macrifat al-Nafs al-NiiPfla wa-

41Avicenna's Ff'IIJudild dermes the soul as the rust eDtelechy oC a Datura! body
possessing organs that potentially has liCe. The rational soul is dermed as an
incorporeal substance, the entelechyor the body, IDOving it through choice aetually

or potentially, on the buis of a rational- tbat u, an intellectual- principle (GoichoD,

A-M., Le%ique th la langue plUloophique d16n. Sina, p.399).


A1}.wiilihii.42 Although the intention of Fi MaCrifat al-Na's is to
demonstrate that the substance of the soul differs from that of the
body, its dermition of the soul, 10 reiterate, is purely psychological.
A41J,awiyya employa a similar demition of the soul,43 but establishes
tbrough a psychological or self-refiective experience that the soul
possesses a nature wbich is other than the body. This nature, as the
true rea1ity of the humaD being is identified as the soul.44 The soul or
fixed quoddity (al-anniyya al-thabita) is proved to be a separate~

immaterial and henee immortal substance. The fixedness or

permanence is the haecceity of a person, and moreover, is an etemal
substance incapable of corruption. As the haecceity of the buman
being, anniyya is the very thing which receives retribution in the
hereafter.45 The previously discussed doctrines oC resurrection, then,
are faIse for another reason, namely that they preclude the subject's
realization oC bis essence as a spiritual entity.
At this point it is evident that for Avicenna, an intellectual or
purely spiritual macad cannot involve bodily pleasure. He bas in mind
a specifie macad, for the philosophica11y virtuous, namelya "retum"
which involves the absence of a body and the "secondary" pleasures
with which it is associated. Needless to say, it will he only a very few

4?Jrhe Risiila fi Macrifat al-Naf. al-Niiliqa wa Al)wiilihii dermes the sou} as 'Rhat
each penon refera to by the term "1" (Avieenna, Risala fi MaCrifat al-Nafs al-
Niiliqa wa AJ.!,wiililUi, p. 183).
43The rourth chapter oC A41J.awiyya dermes the souI as the thiDg by virtue of 'Rhich
the subject is called "he" and he says or himselC "1" fAt!J!,4wi~, p. 127). In the
same chapter, it ia dermed as the thiDC wbieh the subject Imows rrom it tbat he B he
(Aq.1J,mviyya. p. 128).

44A4~awina, p. 128
45A41}.awiyya., p. 129.

who partake of such a "return", for Avicenna e to demonstrate that
the multitude remain attached ta bodily pleasures.


From Self-Knoa1led6e 10 '",morfalU,

The fourth chapter of At/,1J,.awiyya presents the scenario of the

S~uspended Man without making the image explicit. That the term
anniyya is introduced by an argument from self-Imowledge suggests
that the notion of anniyya and selfawareness are closely related. The
essence of a subject is realized through a psychological experiment in
which the subject refiects upon himself, and in the process, strips
himself of everything but bis true nature. It follows that because a
person cannot imagine himself without this thing, it must he bis
proper self. Underlying the argument from introspection is the
Platonic idea that the body is clothing for the soul; the body is
something the human sheds upon al-macOd. Although this idea is
mentioned in the Psycholo6Y, it is clarified in the fourth chapter of
A(j1)a wiyya.46 By selC-refiectioD, one realizes that physical organs,

46In the PsycholoD. the analogy of physic:al organs as elothing for the soul.
probably Dspired by P1ato's Pluudo, occurs shortly aCter an appearanee of the
Suspended Man argument. It explains in a manner similar to AtJ/Jowiyya why ODe

might think that physieal organs belong to the selt: "These organs belong to us in
realily only as garmenta whim due to constant adherence to us bave beeome as parts
of our selves. When we imagine our selves. we do not imagine ourselves unclothed.
but imagine them possessing c:overing garmenta. The reUOD Cor this is constant
adheren, with the diff'eren that with [real] clothes we bave become austomed to
taking them orr and laying them &Side - 801IlethiDg 1re have not been ac:eustomed to
with bodily organs. Thus our belier tbat the orpns are parts oC us is more emphatic

than our belieC tbat gannenta ue part oC us- (Marm1ll'll. M AuinnG. -Flying
Man in Contut, p. 390).


including the heart and brain, are not part of the self. When a person
reflects upon himselC, that is to say, upon the thing by virtue of which
he is called "he" and he caUs himselC 'T, he May believe that bis body is
part of bis self. Upon Curther consideration, however, he May find
that things such as bodily parts, including the brain and heart, do Bot
enter into the meaning oC the this thing, Cor he can eonceive of
mmself eXsting without these things. That which cannot he
"canceled out" is bis anni:y:ya~ that is to say~ bis propre moi. 41 When all
is stripped away, only the true nature of the subject remains. This
nature, Avicenna states, is the soul and what a subject is in bis purest
fonn. And because al-macid must involve the continuum of the same
persan through both worlds, there is no possibility oC transformation
in the next world; a penon is simply stripped oC what he wore (bis
bodily attachments) in the temporal world.
Now although the purpose of the fourth chapter of A41}awiyya
is to indicate that the reality oC the human being is bis soul, the
explication provided is not free of ambiguity. Avicenna uses the
cryptic term anniyya in order to describe the true reality oC the
human being. This term, foreign to the Quran but found in
philosophical and mystical circles, occurs frequently in the apocryphal
Theology ofAristotle and the Liber de Cousis. 48 These are the earliest
known occurrences. Although Dieterici, the editor of the Theology,
suggests the vocalization anniyya, the precise origin of the term is
unknown. The meaning of the term is obscure, at least in part, on

471 have adopted this term from S. Pnl!s. See bis article La conception de la

Conscience de Soi CMZ Auieenne et CMZ Ab" I-Bt:u-ai4t al-Baglul&ll

48Frank. R. The Origin of the Arabie Philo~phicalTerm AnnytJh. p. 182.


account oC an orthograpbical uncertainty. The term anniyya may
have originated either Crom the particle anna, or from the personal
singular pronoun ana. That the tashdd over the nn and the hamza
under the alifwere added by the editor indicates that the term might
be vocalized a number of ways, including aniyya and anniyya, and
inniyya. It has been pointed out that the term has been vocalized as
inniyya in a number of pbilosophical texte, including FAriib's FI'ff
al-IJikam and Averros' Commentary on the Metaphysics. 49 Depending
on conten, the term cao denote existence (esse, WUjll) as such, or an
existing thing (ens, ma wjd), or individual existence (haecceity).
Because the origin of the term can only he surmised, the meaDing of
the term is oost determined by its use in context.
ln the apocryphal Theology of Aristotle, the plural anniyyat is
used to denote sensible beings or particulars, and also the Platonic
ideas, while the singular anniyya is used in reference to God. 5o
Neither the singular nor the plural seems to reCer to the haecceityor
quoddity of a thing; anniyya signies an existing thing (ens, mawjd)
and carries no connotation of an existential "r or I-ness. In $fi
crcles, the term emphasizes the notion of the presence oC an "1", that
is to say, an existing "r.S1 In a similar vein, A41,awiyya accents the
meaning oC an existential "1" or a haecceity. Sucb a meaning
transcends Avicenna's common notions of essence and existence. It
introduces a category of being which cannot be further reduced.

49Jbi~ p. IMn.
5OD'Alvemy, M.T., Anni,a-AnitClB, p. &l. In this pa8II8Ie, Plsto is reported to bave
spoken of God as the First True Anni.Y.)'G, who is the cause of the tJnniyyiit of bodiless

and bodily thinp.

51See M.T. n'A1vemy pp. 64-5 where the Diwan d-AllJall4i 8 cited.

Although vocalized inniyya in the Fu,a" the term seems to carry the

sense of an individual and persona! being, that s to say, an individuelle

Dasein. S2 ACew passages in which Avicenna descnDes the essence and
existence of the Nessary Existent, however, sugest that the term
amalgamates the notions or essence and existence, and as 8\lch denotes
the thatness of a thing. For example, when Avicenna states that the
Nessary Existent does not have a quiddity (mdhiyya) other than bis
being the Necessary Existent, and this is bis anni;yya,53 anniyya refera
to the being of the Necessary Existent which is bis essence and
existence at once. Yet when Avicenna states that the First does not
have a quiddity (miihi;yya) other than anniyya,S4 he uses anniyya in
direct opposition ta quiddity (m,ij,hiyya). For tms reason, the terms
anniyya and miihiyya are Dot interchangeable, for unlike miihiyya,

anniyya carries the connotation of existence. Sinee this is the case,

the term probably originates from the partiele anna, and its proper
vocalization s anniyya. The term, then, denotes the individual reality
or the haecceity of a thing. That Avieenna uses anniyya not only in
the context of psychology, but also in deseribing the First Existent
indicates that the proper etymology of the term is the particle anna,
which has become adjectival by the suffix -iyya. Thus, although the
fourth chapter of AfI,1)awi;yya suggests that the term denotes the
individual being of a penon, the root anna seems to he a better
candidate than the penonal pronoun ana.

52prank. R.. The Origin of the Arabie PhiloBOphical Term Anniyah. p. 184D.

53Goichon. A-M. Lexique tk la lal&llUe philosophique d-16n Sn4. p. Il.

54Ibid. p. Il.


The argument from introspection suggesta that human souls
differ not only by virtue of the bodies to which they are attached, but
also by their individual haecceities or essences as separate substances.
To reiterate the point expressed abave, this haecceity is the state in
which the soul rmds itself when completely stripped of its bodily
attachments.S5 The th chapter of Af/,1J,awiyya demonstrates - not
through introspective empirieism but through a number of schatastic
demonstratioDs - that the rational soul is Dot imprinted on the body
but is an immaterial and hence immortal substance in its own right; it
needs neither a body nor anytbing bodily to subsist, and has a reality
other than its relation to the body. In order to demonstrate that the
rational soul is not simply the form of the body in the Aristotelian
sense of the word, Avicenna ofrers a number of arguments that appear
elsewhere in his psychological writings.S6 The Most important of
these is the argument from self-knowledge, which appears in a number
of Avicenna's psychological writings, including the psychologieal part
of bis Kitab al-Shi/4', Al-Najt, and Al-Ishariit. DeCore explicating the
argument, it May he useful to say something about the general
doctrine on which Avicenna bases the argument from self-lmowledge.
The psychological part of Avicenna's Kitiib al-Shifi'
demonstrates that the rational sou! is Dot simply the fonn of the body
in the Aristotelian sense of the terme Avicenna inclines toward a
more Neoplatonic conception of the soul inspired by one of the
numerO\lS commentaries on Aristotle's De Anima. Simplicius in

55Atf.1J.awiyya.. p. 128.

56For a tnmslation oC Avic:enna's n1llDelOua aJ'IUIIlent& in support oC the separability

of the rational80ul, see F. Rahman, Avi,,"a'. PsyelaololJY.


particular is a good candidate, for in bis work one rmds the idea that
the soul is a double enteleehy, a notion with which Avieenna, to a
certain extent. seems to agree. Both Simplicius and Avicenna argue
that soul and body do not fonn a single entity. The soul is not the
inseparable fonn (eidos) of the body but a separate entelechy.57 The
psychological part of the Kitab al-Shif4' makes it clear that for
Avicenna, the concept of entelechy is wider than that of Conn; aIl
forma are enteleehies (kamal) but not all entelechies are forms. 58 One
thing can be a perfection of another Dot only by inhering in it as a
form, but also by being a substance separate from it. For example, a
king is the perfection of a state and the captain the perfection of a

57The idea that the souI is a double entelechy seems to belin with Simplicius. In
Aristotle's def"mition oC the sou! (the Corm and C'lJ8t aetuality of a Datura! body tbat
has lire potentially and has OrgaDs)p Simplicius C'mds two separate componentsp
namelyp having le potentially and being equippecl with organs. Although the two
come together in so far as what potentially possesses le is an instrument of the
soult and the instrument of the sou! potentially possesses liCe p tbey are Dot the
same. One reCers only to the lawest Coma of le by which the body is wormed and
made a living body, the other to that whic:h uses it and moves it. For Simplic:ius p

bath are needed for the eomplete dermition of the sou!. 'nle sout thus has two
entelechies as the user ot an instrument dit'fers Crom the instrument itselt; a ship

bas an entelechy by whic:h it is a ship, and another by wbieh it is moved - namely - a

pilot <H. Blumenthal, Neoplatonic elements in the de Anima commenta,.s, p. 321).
PhiloponU8 makes a similar case regudiDg the separability of the human
souI. In responding to Aristotles question oC whether or not the sou! has any
activity peellliar to itaelf by virtue oC whim it will he separable Crom the body (De
Anima, i, 1 403a 10 where Aristotle suggests that the soul has no activity
inde pendent of the body)~ Philoponus argues that the &oui - as regards ibJ entire
substance - is completely separable Cor in order Cor a substance to he separate, it is

Dot necessary tbat ail of its aetivities he apart from the body.
58Avicenna.. Psychology, p. 7..

ship not simplyas forms; their perfections are also separate essences
not requiring the state or ship respectively Cor existence. The state
and ship are necessary conditions for the king and the captain
respectively only in so far as the king and captain have Cunctions
related to the city and ship respectively. The king and captain bave
functions and hence essences of their own which do not involve the
city or the ship. In short, they do not exist only in the way as forms
inhere in matter (imprinted on matter subsisting through it), but as
things in their own right. As for the rational soul, it does not subsist
through matter but as separate Crom it, and is thus defined by
Avicenna as not simply as the form or the body, but as its entelechy.
As mentioned above, the arguments which appear in the fifth
chapter of AtJ1)awiyya intend to demonstrate that the rational soul
does not depend on a physieal organ either for its existence or for its
proper intellective function. As a substance essentially separate from
matter, the rational soul subsists by virtue of itselC. The Most
important of the demonstrations provided in At}.1),awiy;ya, because
through itselC it proves that the soul has an individual and separate
reality, is an argument which bas its basis in Proclus' Elements of
Theology. The implication of the argument is that separate souls at"e
individuated numerically by their realities as intellectual substances.59

59That the rational soul s separate in ita essence and bas a fonction particular to it.
namely intellection~ gives rise to a priDciple oC individuation other than tbat oC the
body. That the body is a principle oC inclividuation~ that s, an iDdividuatiDg factor
Cor souls witbin the same species~ is espressed at V, 3 oC the P8yehology. This
argument inustrates a point central to Avicenna's emantive scheme and the

Psychology. and more speeifically, the link between the two; when a corporeal
receptacle bas the appropriate preparedness~ the Active Intelligenc:e supplies it witb


The rth chapter of A(J1}awiyya demonstrates that the rational soul
bas an individuel reality independent and separable from matter, and
an intellective activity which does Dot depend on anything boclily for
its funetion. This point makes it abundantly clear that for Avicenna,
the soul is more than simply the fonn of the body, and consequently
owes its individuality not only to the body, but to its own reality as an
immaterial separate substance. To put it another way, the
substantiality of the soul as an immaterial separate entity gives rise to
a principle of individuation other than that of the body.

Avicenna thus distinguishes between two norms of

individuation. When soul and body are a unity, matter functions as a
prin.ciple of individuation. The rational soul as a separate soul, that is
to say, as pure fonn, is necessarily unique in its species. It is an
individual not through any material attaehment, but by virtue of it.'J
reality as an intelleeting substance. AB a separate soul, it emancipates
itself from the duty of goveming the body; intellection DOW serves as a
principle by which separate souls retain their essences. To he more
specifie - and 1 believe this point is Dot made explicit in A41)awiyya but
in Avicenna's "recitals" - the unique relationship a separate souI
shares with the Active Intelligence constitutes the individuality of the
soul.60 The state of isolation in which the soul rmds itself postulates a
norm of individuation other than one which attributes the
individuation of forms to matter.61 Post mortem, individuality s

a rational soul. 'nie human &oui thus reeeives ils individuality tIuough the Cact or
its union with the body, and this individuation is the service that the body renders
the 90ul <De Anima, pp. 2245).

60see H. Corbin, Al1inne et le rkit l1i.ionlltJire

61Corbin, H., Al1illlle et le rcit ui.ioIlIlOire, p. 95.


attributed to the unique relationship any given human soui shares
with the Active Intelligence. Altbough such a dyad exists while the
soul is attached to the body, it comes to fruition only at the time of
bodiIy corruption. With the development of the soui as an intellectuai
and spiritual substance, the body as an inclividuating principle
deereases in importance, and with the corruption of the body is
replaced by a purely spiritual individuating factor, namely the
intel1ectual disposition of the rational soul. Thus, the perfection or
end of the rational soul - which is to be an intellectual substance in its
own right - in no way depends on the body.62 And it is for tbis reason
that al-macil - the retum to the Intelligible world - does not entail
the annihilation of what a subject is in the truest sense - that is, bis
rational 8Oul.63 To he sure, the principle of individual differentiation
of separate souls is Dot simply the faet that a rational soul post morte""
is unique in its speCes; the degree to which the rational RouI MS
invoked the Active Intelligence makes it further necessary that
separate souls differ from one another. Thus, the Active Intelligence
is responsible for both the birth of the human 80Ut and its state in the
hereafter; the Active Intelligence infuses 8 cnrplTP.II1 Teptacle with a
thinking soul when that corporeai receptacle has been made fit under
the action of the lestial spheres,64 and it is only by tuming toward or
invoking the Active Intelligence that the human soul can imd itself at

62Michot, J., La destine de "homme selon Au;cenne, p. 118D. Note tbat the souI as
the fonn of the body, unlike the perfection or end of the souI, does in fact depend on
the body for its eDstenc:e.
63Gardet, L., La pensie religieu. d'Auinne, p. 92- This point is thus reiteratecl

from the introspective empiricism of chapter four in ~UJiyya.

64Corbin, H., Auinne et le rcit ui.ioftllcire, p. 95.


rest - and a8 pure spirit experiencing absolute felcity - in the
hereafter. What becomes cleu in the lmal chapter oC At/./Jawiyya, is
that the degree of Imowledge attained on earth determines the &tate of
the soul in the hereafter.
As previously mentioned, the purpose of the firth chapter of
AC!1}awiyya is to establish that the human rational soul, as the essence
or the human being, ie a separate substance which subsists by virtue of
itself (bi-nafsihi). Here Avicenna oCren a number of arguments wbich
demonstrate that the rational soul is neither imprinbd in mRttew- nnw-
an entity dependent on a body for its subsistence.65 That the rational
soul is essentially separate from matter and as such (or by implication)
possesses an activity apart from bodily govemance, is demonstrated by
an argument which supports the essential separability of the human
sou1. This argument establishes the independent ontologieal
subsistence of the soul from the psychologieal experience of self-
knowledge or self-reflection. The intellectual activity of the soul, or
more speeifically its ability to revert upon itself, guarantees its
independence from anything bodily and thus its StatU8 as a separate
entity.66 The conclusion of the argument is that the soui is not simply

65In refutDg this argument. Avieenna probably has in mind Alexander oC

Aphrodisias, who insista that the souI is simply the form (eido8) of the body. See,1}.lIwiyya p. 154, when Alesander is noted to bave strayed from Aristotle's true
view on the separability of the rational 80'11.
66GilSOD, E., Les sources gri~ara6a de ,.tlll6uBtinisme auicennimnt, p. 46. This
is a standard NeoplatoDie argument, whieh has its basis in the Aristotelian notion
that the Dature oC a substance ean he iDCerred froID its activities, for aetivities are
logically posterior ta the faculties. AvicenDa. by the way, explieitly aeknowledges

the truth of tbis statement in 8J'I'I.DC in favour of the separability of the rational
soul, stating tbat aetivity is poeterior to esseo ~."... p. 137). For Aristotle.


the fonn of the body in the Aristotelian sense of the term, but an
entity in its own right. The demonstration as it appears in A41}awiyya
is as Collows:

The human soul in knowing its object. must either do it

with the intermediary of its instrument and its matter, or by
itself Ota essence). We say that is Dot by intermediary of ita
instnunent or its matter at ail. because the rational soul knows
its instrument and ils essence and knows that it lmowe. And
there is no matter or instnunent between it and the instnunent
and matter and neither ie there between itself and its
intellection of itself another instrument. Therefore. the
rational soullmows by itself. Its activity is through itself alone.
And this activity of hers is Dot of its 8ubstance. The rational
soul is therefore separate in essence from an instrument and

because ail of the soul's activities are bound to the body, the souI ean never enst
Cree from the body. 'lbe soul, in other words, has DO activity exclusive to itself, that
is, without the body being necessary. Avic:enna, as the argument in question is to
illustrate, inclines toWaM the Neoplatonic: priDciple that because the sou! has an
ac:tivity independent of the body, the rational BOui in its essence must also he
fnAtJ!J.awiyya. p. 139. This typica1Jy Neoplatonic demonstratiOD Cor the separability
of the l'Btional soul appears elsewhere in Avic:enna's writings, although most clearly
in the Psychology: 'We say that if the inteUective faculty were to mow by a bodily
intermediary sucb that its aetivity particu1ar to it were completed by the use of tbat
bodily inst:rumen~ then it would he necessuy that it Dot DOW itself and that it Dot
DOW [ita] instrument, and Dot bow that it mows. It does not have an intermediary
between it and itself. And it does Dot bave an intermediuy between itself and its
instrument. And it does not have an int.ermediary between it and [the tactl that it
mows. However, it knows iwlr and itB instrument that is specUtc to it and that it
mows. TbereCore it DOWS tbrough. itaelf and not through an intennediary. Indeed

this is wbat we have demonstrated" (Avicenaa. De Anima. pp. 21~1). See allIO M-
Ishiirdt: "Ce qui produit son acte par un instrument sans avoir d'acte porpre, n'agit

In the above demoDstration, the separability of the soul is
established by the nature of its ac:tivities. Essence being logically prior
to activity, the ontological Dature of the soul is inferred by the Dature
of its activities. Avicenna describes the above as a proof of the
substantiality of the rational soul through the activity of intellectual
states.68 The argument illustrates a point central to Avicenna's
PSJ'chology, namely that self-refiection is an act reserved for the
intellective faculty; the intellective faculty is the only faculty which is
self-reflective or can revert upon itself. The proof of this is that the
intellective faculty Dot only knows, but knows that it Imows; if the
intellective faculty were to use a bodily organ it would not know itself.
But the intellective faculty does know itself and thus does not employ
a organ for its activity. Other faculties, such a8 the imaginative,

pas dans l'instrument. Et c'est pourquoi les Caculta seDsibles~ d"une certaine
manire ne peroivent pas leun organes et d'une certaine manire ne saisissent pas
leurs perceptions, parce qu'elles n'ont pas d'organes pour saisir leurs organes et
leurs perceptions; et elles n'ont d'action que par leurs organes. Mais les facults
intellectuelles ne sont pas ainsi; en efCet. elles connaissent toute chose- aivre des
directives et remarques, p. 439).
68Avicenna, De Anima~ p. 216. 'Ibis demonatratioD is glaringly Neoplatonic and I
expressed neatly in Proclus' Elements, specifically proposition 186 which nms as
follows: Every soul is an incorporeal Bubstance and ."arable (rom body. For if it
DOW itself~ and whatever mows itselC reverts UpoD itaelf (plOp. 83), and wbat
reverts upon it8elf is neither body (sinee no body is capable of this ac:tivity [plOp.
15]) nor inseparable from body (sinee, again wbat is inseparable from body is
incapable of revenion upon itself, whim would involve separation [pl'Op. 16D~ it will
follow that l!IOm is neither a corporeal substance Dor inseparable Crom body. But
that it mows itself is apparent: Cor it bas knowledp oC prindples superior to itself.

it is capable a fortiori oC bowing itaelf, deriviDg seIC-tnowledp from itB mowledge

os the causes prior to it <Proelus. The Element. of TMolOflY, p. 163).


perceive tbrough an intennediary, for they do not perceive themselves
or their essence or their perception of their organs.69 The knowledge
the rational 80u1 bas of itself, on the otber hand, is direct, and
independent of any corporeal organ.
A further point, which is clear from the demonstration 8S it
appears in the Psychology, is that self-reneetion (the ntelleetive
faculty-s1mowledge of itself) ie accomplished in one act; there is no
intermediary between its lmowing and the ract that it knows. To put it
another way, in the act of intellec:ting itself, or refiecting upon itself,
the 8ubject and object or apperception are one. Nothing intervenes
between the intellective soul's lmowledge of itself and the Cact that it
1cnOWR_ Self.1mowledge is direct or immediate in two senses; it is an ad
accomplished without the use of a bodily organ, and without an
intermediary between it and the ract that it mowe.
The important point here, however, ie that Cor Avicenna, as for
bis Neoplatonic predecessors, the aet of selfreversion or a tuming
toward the soul guarantees the status of the soul as an immaterial

69Avieenna. De An;mG~ p. 219. It is because sum POWeJ'8 are tied to the body tbat
their ac:tivities wane with the weakening or the instrument or their aetivity IDe
Anima" p. 219). Although the issue or self-aWBreneBS" and more specifieally the
question or bow and by virtue or wbat one is self-eonscious does not explieitly arise
in Aristotle's writings on the soul. Avicenna's Neoplatonic argument is a departure
from what would be the Aristotelan view. namely that self-awareness is an ac:tivity
attendant upon another ad; l'hen the senses perive. they al80 perive that they
perceive. For Ariatotle, the question or how a penon is aware of bis sensing is
equated with the question or how a subjec:t is aware or the applOpriate sense-organj it
is through awareness of the organ that a penon is aware that he senses. Avicenna,
in denyiDg that the senses have perception oC themselves, makes it clear in both the

psycholOlic:al part of bis KitlJb Gl-Shifa' and Al!J!,GwintZ tbat he disagrees with this
traditional Aristotelian vie-.


separate entity. Because the intellective facully is capable of self-
reflection, that is, capable of Imowing itself and its organ, it does not
subsist through a bodily entity. Now Avicenna argues that because the
rational sou! has an activity independent of the body, its essence must
also have a separate and individual reality. This argument has its basis
in Proclus' Elements, where it is argued, in a manner similar to
Avicenna's Psycholo6Y, that the separability of the ntellective faculty
follows from the raet that it is capable of self-reversion, for activity is
posterior (logically) ta essen.70 The argument from introverted
activity 10 independent existence, for both Avicenna and Proclus, is
the essentialstep in the proof for immortality.
Avicenna is to argue, on the basis of the psychological
experience mentioned above, that the soul, because it baR an activity
independent of matter, possesses a separate reality or individual
essence (dhat ml"nfaridG). The underlying notion here - as Avicenna
himself states - is that essence is prior (logically) to activity. The
argument appears in the firth chapter of At/,1;tawiyya and implies tbat
Avicenna regards the separate and individual reality of the rational
soul as a corollary ta the demonstration that the rational soul does not

70The argument as it appean iD. PIoelus Elements is as follows: Ali thaf is capable
of self/tnowllge 8 capable of t!Very form of .lfreverrion. For that it is self
reversive in its ac:tivity ie evident, since it mows it8elf: bower and DOwn are hue
one, and its cognition bas itselt as object; as the &et of a Jmower this cognition is an
activity, and it ia selfrevenive siDce iD it the subject DOwa it8elf. But if iD activit7,
then also in existenee, as bas been shown: for evel)'thing whose activity reverts upm

itselC bas a180 an esstenee whieh is self-eoncentrated and selC-eontained (Proelus,

The Elementa of 77aeology, pp. 77-9).


depend on matter for its particular functiOD. The passage runs as

If tbis activity of it (the soul) is by virtue of (the soul)

itself, then it has a separate 8ubsistence and reality through
itself (6i-dlaatih4). Beeause if it clid not have an individual
essence, then it would not have an activity issuing forth (rom
the separate essence, for activity is poeterior to essence. Now
essence were separate by demition (only without being so in
reality), then it would be possible that its activity is by dermition
separate without reality. If activity is through reality separate
then essence will have realized 1J'8tly through separate reality.
But it is not possible that essence is separate in deimition only,
without being so in reality, while activity would he separate in.
both detlnition and reality.71

Avicenna concludes that the essence of the human being is a

separate entity subsisting by virtue of itself and not matter. The
human being, moreover. possesses an individual essence, a sepante
reality, which allows for numeric individuation of separate souls.
Here it is necessary to proceed with caution, for the nonn of
individuation is equvocal;'2 Avicenna has not yet said how separate
souls are identified, but only that separate souls are numerically
distinct. In other words, tbat separate BOuls differ characteristically-

71A4~ulwiyya. p. 137.
'2Hence the warniDg of i. Gilson: -n'abord, il est bon de remarquer que si
rexistence individuelle de l'Ame avant son corps est chose inconcevable, il n'est pas
ncessairement de mme de son estenC8 aprs le corpe. Bien des principes de
diffrenciation individuelle des Imesspares BOnt eoueevables, et il se peut mme
que nous ignorions quel est alors leur v6ritable principe de di.tT&enciation, sans que

nous puissoDS arrumer pour autaDt que c:e principe n'uiste pas" (Gilson, . Le
sources grleo-a,.abes de ,.augustinisme IJuillftiaGnt. p. 50).


by intellectual disposition - is Dot yet established.. What ie
demonstrated in the above passage is that the rational soul has a
separate and individual reality and is numerically difCerent from
others within the same speces. While the sUth cbapter oC ArJ,l}.awiyya,
in which Avicenna argues Cor the nece88ity oC a purely spiritual
resurrection hints at a solution to the problem. the flfth chapter aets
as a bridge between the demonstration oC the separability oC the soul
and the state of the soul in the hereafter. Avicenna argues that
because the rational soul and the intellect are Dot subject to
corruption (ghayr qabil li-l fasiid), they are fixed and permanent
(th.abit) despite the destruction of the body..


The Stnu:ture of Raarreetioa

Although the existence of the human rational soul before the body is
ineonceivable, it is necessary that the soul survive the corruption of
the body. Because the essence of the buman being ie an immaterial
substance, and Dot simply the form of the body in the Aristotelian
sense of the term, the human being cannot but survive the destruction
of the body.73 ln a word, the intrinsie immateriality of the rational
soul guarantees its immortality. As the rational soul is a separate
fonn and a substance subsisting by virtue of itself and Dot matter, it is
a180 eternal, incorruptible, and IlXed or permanent post mortem. 74
Although Ar/,1}awiyya sets the principle that the fact of whether or
not a subject is conscious of bis essence and desired bis perfection
d~t~nnines bis ontologieal status post mortem, such a principle in no
way violates the previously established rule, namely that the soul -
whether imperfect or perfect - subsista despite the corruption of the

73Avicenna is c:onvinced Dot ODly that Aluander was inc:orrect in tbinking that the
sou! was simply the form (eidos) of the body, but al80 that bis own doctrine of the
soul does Dot mn c:oonter to AristDtle"s statementa regardiDg immortality. See
At!JJ,tJwiyya, p. 154.
74Mter the rth ehapter of AJ/.1)awiyyg demoastrates tbat the l'8tioJUl1 soul ia a
54:parate fonD not contingent on matter for its eDstenee or proper funetion, the stb.
chapter of AtJ1}awiyya (On the Nesaity of al-Maciftl) c:oncludes that because the
rational 80Ul is a separate Corm, it is etemal and Dot subject tG corruption. It is

thererore rlXed or permanent (,habit) af'ter the destruction of the bocI7 f.Al/J}awiyya,
p. 143-4).


body. That the rational soul comes into existence as a separate fonn
that does not depend on matter for its existence precludes the
possibility of some souls surviving and others perishing with the
corruption of the body. The underlying prineiple here ie that all that
is receptive of corruption is of a material nature or attached to
matter. 75
The intention of the rmal chapter of Af/,1),awiyya ... at least in
part ... is to illustrate that the pleasure that is most proper or particular
to the human being, that is, bis soul, occurs upon al-macGd. This
argument appears ta .be a more rigorous and convincing explication of
earlier ideas round in A(l1}awiyya, namely that intellectual pleaeure tR
superior to aensible pleasure, and that the pleasure of the loftiest
order is experieneed aCter tbe destruction of the body. The point of
Avicenna'g argument is that the rational soul, when or it is
unattached to the body, partakes of a pleasure 8uperior to tbat while
attached to the body. Altbough this argument appears in Al-Ishiirlit
and in the fourth chapter of At/,1),awiyya, the final chapter of
ArJ,lJ,awiyya. presents it in a more systematic and syllogistic - and bence
also more convincing ... manner.16

75At!1}awiyytt. p. 144.
76Recall the rourth chapter of AtJlJawiyya. in whieh Avicenna points out tbat l'bat
the human beiDg is is bis sou!, then true pleasuJ'e and pain occur to the sou! and
only secondarily or by a88OCiation to the body. For thia reuon, true pleasure and
pain occur mt properly in the hereafter: "Lorsque l'homme coDl5id~re que son
anniyya est djll dpouill de 8es concomitants corporel8, et qu'il quitte les
caUgories du plaisir et de la. douleur qu'il poeRdait par suite de 80D ueoeiation avec
le corps. c'est comme B'il tait priv des plaisin et des douleurs qui ezstent chez

ses proches et 8es amis. Et lonqu'U lui arrive une douleur ou un plaisir qui lui
appartiennent en propre; alors c'est bien lui-mme qui eoaff're et qui jouit en ralit.

ln a preamble to the above argument, Avicenna oCfera a

deimition of pleasure: Pleasure is the apprehension of the proper

object; the proper object is that which entera in perfecting the
substance of a thing and in completing its activity.77 The nature oC
perf'ection determines the resulting type or pleasure. To each
perceptive power there are abjects which perfect it. The suitable
sensible object is what perfects a substance of sense or its activity. But
what is good for one sense is not nessarily good for another. This is
to say that each Caculty has objects which are most .ppropriate or best

suited for it, and perfeet it. These abjects, however, would Dot
necessarily perfect another faculty. For example, me and subtle
voices are the proper good or perfection of the ear, but not the eye. To

C'est ce qui lui arrive dans le Mahad <L'Autre Vie)..." (d'Alverny, Anniyya - Anit4s,
p. 81). See also Al-Ishiiriit, _here Avicenna admonishes he who believes tbat there
can he no happiness if unattachecl to the body: l ne nous convient pas d'~uter

ceux qui demandent: -Si nous arrivions li faire partie d'un groupe dans lequel nous
ne mangerions ni ne boirions, ni n'aurions de rapports sexuels, quel bonheur
auriODS-DOUSr. Celui qui parle ainsi, il faut l'klairer et lui dire: 0 malheureux!
Peut-tre l'tat qui est celui des anges et des tres suprieUJ'S li eux est-il plus
agriable, plus beau, plus bienfaisant que celui du bStail? Ou plut6t comment serait-
il possible que l'unait avec r.utre un rapport que l'on pdt compter pour quelque
chose?'" <Livre dn diredives et remtITques, p. 469).
77A!/.1)awiyya, p. 145. A !Jliahtly different deflnition of ,leasure .ppean in Al-
lshariit: -I,e plaisir est une perption due l'arrivt1e de ce qui est une perfection et
un bien chez lui qui peroit, en tant qu'il est tel" <Livre de. directives et remarque.,
p.469). Later the dermition is mole specifie: "Certes, le plaisir est telle perception
en tant qu'elle est aiDai et que celui qui peroit n'a rien pour le distraire ni pour s'y
opposer" (Livre tUs directives d remarqun, p. 471). The point here is similar to
that round in the Etlaiea. Nieo11UJCMa, namely that pleasure will he the result of an

activity so long 88 both the sensible object and the apprebender are 88 they should
he (See Aristotle, EtAica NicomacMa, Book X. 4 1175 a).


put this idea another way, every perceptive power bas a natural
perfection, and the perfection of a thing is not just any good but that
which is goocl in relation 10 that thing. 78 Because the rational 80ul

has the highest perfections, it partakes of the loftiest pleasure.

Pleasure is thu8 a natural consequence of the subject's apprehension
of what perfects the appropriate perceptive power.79
Because perfeetions differ in kind, the plea8U1'e8 associated with
them difCer in kind.80 Each perceptive power bas a perfection specifie
to it, and tbu8 also a ple.sure particular to it. Further, Rome
perfections lire more noble (aff)al) than others, and hence their
resulting pleasure is 81so more noble. The bigbest perfections are
those unattached ta matter, and because these are the Most
appropriate to the rational soul, the rational sou1's spprehension or
those perfections e bound up with the highest pleasure. This is clear

7&rhis notion is &180 round in Al-l.hiiriit: "Tout bien est tel par rapport l une
certaine chose dont il est la perfection propre et qui s'oriente vers lui par sa
disposition premire. Tout plaisir d'pend de deux choses, d'une perfection et de Ba

perception en tant que telle" (Livre de. directives et remarques, p. 470). Tasl's
explication makes Avicenna's point clear: '"Le bien relatif la une chose est 1.
perfection propre k laquelle il tend dans sa priparation premiltre" (Livre th.
directives et remarques. p. 4:7On).
'9Irthe greatness oC pleasure is contingent upon the nature oC the perfection, then
the First Cause holds the highest Celieity and pleasure. See Al-failliraI when tbis ia
stated explicitly: "Un [ttre] qui se rjouit trs grandement de quelque chose, c'est
le Premier se njou888Dt de soi-mme. par qu'il est de tous les tres celui qui
saisit le plus proCondment la chose la plus paJfaite, exempte de toute nature de
possibilit et de n6ant - ce sont les deux sours du mal - et rien ne le vient diatrae
de son objet" (Livre da directives remtUtpUs, p. 4:79).
80The idea that ple880ft is bound with the activity it completes bas ita buis in the

Ethica Nico11l4ChetJ, as doe8 the notion that pleasures ditCer in kind beeauae
activities do CAriatotle. E'hiea Nicomachea, Book X. 5 1175a 25).


from the folloWDg: It is evident that the rational soul perceives. lb
substance is more noble than the substances of other powers because it
is absolutely simple and separate from matter. lb perception is more
virtuous than that or the senses because the perception of the soul is
of universals while the perception of the senses is of particulars. Its
appropriate perceptions are .Iso more virtuous because its perceptions
are of things unchanging, including spiritual forms, the First Cause,
the divine augels, and the reality of the lestial spheres and element&
and their essences. The perfections of the rational soul are thU8 of
the highest kind - higher thaD th08e of the senses - for its perfectionfl
are tbat worlds become stripped of change and multiplicity. In these
worlds are the forms of all existing tbings stripped o( matter.SI
The rmal argument of AtJ1)aloiyya can be summarized a8 follows:
Pleasure is the perception of the suitable object, and the suitable object
is what enters in perfecting the substance of a thing and in completing
it.~ activity. Since pleasures differ according ta perfections, the
rational soul has the highest perfections, (or they are unattached to

81M~atoiyya, p. 148. AJIshiiriit states the perf'ection oC the rational soul in the
following manner: "La perfection de la substance intelligente consiste avoir
reprsente en elle-mme la clart de la v6rit preanre selon ce qu'elle en peut
recevoir d'apm sa beaut propre. Ensuite l'univers est reprisent en elle d'apm
ce qui est au-dessus d'elle II 1'6tat d'abstraction tifte du m6lange, et commenant,
apr~ la V6rit premiltre, par les substances intellectuelles 61ev6es, puis les
[substances1 spirituelles dlestes et les corps c61estes, puis ce qui rient apm eu,
sans que cette repr&entation se s'pare de l'esBence (Livre de. directioes et
remarques, p.72). Like AtJl)awiYYfl, Al-ShifiJ~ mak_ the point that the perf'ection
of the rational souI is tbat it become an inaeribed intelligible world. In this world

are the rorma oC the intelligible order in ita entiftty meaniDg Crom the Fint Cause
to the dispositions or preparations or ail eDstence <See Al-Shi(a:t, pp. 425-6).


matter. 'ftle pleasure of the rational soul is thus of the loftiest order,
and comsummates upon al-macGd. As pure fonn unmixed with matter
- an angelic fonn in itself82 - the rational soul partakes of the loftiest
pleasure post mortem.
To turn to the issue of eschatology, Avieenna insiste that only
philosophie souls partake of the pleasure deseribed above. Simple or
religious souls have recourse to an inferior retum, and experience a
lessthan optimum degree of pleasure in the herealter. The situation
of the 80ul post mortem is founded upon Avicennas principle implicit
in the description of the states of the souls in the hereafter. This
principle is as fol1ows: The fset of whether or not a subjeet s
conscious of his essence or proper perfection determines the
ontological and hence state of felicity of bis soul in the hereafter.
Now the essence or true reality of the human being is bis rational soul,
and it is only this that subsista after the corruption of the body.83 If
there is conscousness or an awareness of this essence, tbat is to say,
a subjeet has consciousness of himsell as a spiritual entityr tben tbe

82M~awi.Y.)'U. p. 149.
83That the rational sou! iB ifs true nature or reality (allniyya) only post mortem or
upon al-mccad is stated in the Coarth chapter oC AlPJ,Gwiyya: "Lorsque nous sommes
convaincus que 1&OU$ sommes 110$ mes. et que nous avoDS acquis la certitude que
nos Ames survivent k D08 corps. alors il appandt que dans l'Autre vie~ nous ne noua
transformeroDs pas en autre chose qu, nous sommes, mais DOUS nous dpouillerons
des concomitants extftieun (de ce qui est adventice).
Dans les deux tats, nous BOmmes D08 essences individuelles, et Don pu
transforms en des ehoees autres que nous ne sommes maintenant, et ce n'est pas

une partie seulement de ce que nous BOmmes actuellement qui survivra (dA!vemy
M. T. Anniyya - Anitas, p. 88).


is a desire for it.84 Avicenna's classification of souls post mortem
il1ustrates that provided the soul was perfect in Imowledge <but not
necessarily action), abeolute felicity in the hereafter ie an inevitable
In the hereaCter, the souI falls into one of four categories.85 A
soul that is aware of its proper end and achieves its perfection ie
considered penect in lmowledge and blameless in action. This soul
arrives in the intelligible world and experiens absolute felicity. If a
soul has an awareness of its proper end but fails to acbieve its
perfection, or in other WOMS, a sout is perfect in knowledge but Bot

84Although the sours desire Cor ita perfection is a natural fact, this desire needs to
he acquired. The desire for the perfection is a consequen of alertness; alertness is
a product of acquisition. Bence the pu.rpose oC the Courth cbapter of A41}awiyyu (and
the other venions oC the Flying Man ecenario) - to alert the human being to bis tnle
essence. See al80 Al-Ishiirat: -Ce dsir - celui de rime pour sa perfection - faite
suite un rveil provenant d'un acquis" (J. Michot7 Al1icelllae et la cUstine
humaine, p. 4790). Also Al-Ta!)lqiit, p. 107: "L'Ame n'intel1ige pas son essence tant
qu'elle est lie mati~re ...Cest par un acquis (iletis4b) et parce qu'on l'veille
(tanbh calayhi) k son essenee spirituelle que l'Ame intellige cette dernire- (J.
Michot, Avieenne et J destine 1uImaw7 p. 4790).
85For the description oC the Cour categories, Bee At/J.atlwiyya, pp. 152-4. See abo P.
Heath, Allegory and Philosophy in Al1cmll4 (16n Sfna), pp. 68-9. Avieenna's
CourCold classulCIltion oC the souls seems to he a philosophical version oC tbat found
in the writinp oC Shaykh Mufld. Avieenna's category of tbose tlperfect but Dot
blameless" corresponds to Shaykb Muffd's category of the -people oC mowledge
and prayer who may he saved after a long purification process in the wztJ/eh.
Avicenna's third cl. . oC tbose -imperCect but blameless- corresponds to Mond's
class of those who, Dot haviDg reached the rigbt kind of knowledge without being
sinnen, remain dead until ResurreetioD Day. 'l1le remaiDiDg two categories of bath
Avicenna and Mufrd are for thoee who are dermitely given a new le, one of either

forment or eue (t:.ndolt, H., SlafV/eh Jlufid on TrtuUmigralion

Problem of the Barzdh, pp. 2-5.

of the Sord and the

action, it dwells in an intermediary and temporary realm between the
sensible and intelligible world. It does Dot immediately experience
absolute felicity, but ie happy to the extent tbat it bas achieved its end
and miserable in 80 far as it failed to acbieve its proper perfection. By
perfecting itself in the intermediary realm (barzokh), this soul
eventually experiences ab801ute felicity. A soul that is aware of its
perfection but willingly refuses to acbieve it endures etemal pain and
never at'tains absolute bUss. Finally, the soul unaware of its proper
perfection but blameless for such an unawarenes886 feels neither
happiness for having attained sorne portion of perfection nor sadness
for failing to attain it at all. If it has a marginal degree or awareness,
for instance a consciousness of logical flnt principles, it might enjoy a
slight degree of felicity in the he1"e8fter. However, if it is completely
unaware of its proper perfection, it suffers eternal misery in the
hereafter, as corporeal sensation is needed to satsfy its desires.
To experience the pleasure associated with the Most divine
beings, a soul must have Cully emancipated itself from the sensible
world. Simple or imperf'ect (religious) souls do not completely leave
the sensible world despite the corruption of the body, and as a result,
experience a less than optimum degree of pleasure post mortem. Sucb
pleasure is at best partially intellectual and primarily sensible, for tbe
perfections hound up with sucb pleasure are particulars, not
universals. The pleasure experienced. by these BOuls after death is
inferior to that experienced by souls that after arriving in the

86Unconsciousness oC perfection ia either the ftSult oC mental deficieney, an

exceptionally youag dea~ or the abeeDce of a philoeopher or propbet to apprise a

subject of bis proper perfection f.AIJI!.awiyya, p. 153).


intelligible world achieve the status of pure forms unique in their
species. If a 80ul is prevented from achieving its perfection, it can
neither completey leave the body to which it attaches nor depart from
the sensible world which it inhabits. Its "return" is of a sensible rather
than intellectual nature. In a word, a leu than optimum degree of
pleasure is an inevitable consequence for the 80ul that in refusing its
proper perfection, is prevented from completely releasing itself from
the sensible world.
To reiterate the principle underlying Avicenna's escbatology,
whether or not a soul attains the ontological status of pure form
depends on whether or not it was conscious of - or had an awareness of
- ib~ pt'OpeT perfection. A preoccupation with the body can cause the

sout to Corget its true essence and proper perfection.87 Ir the soul was
preoccupicd with its body in the temporal world and did not realize its
true nature, it subsists in the next world as though it were still
attached to a body. The bodily conditions, such as greed, anger and
desire, if they are rIXed in wbat s undesirable of transient or earthly
matters, and become established or permeate, and these things are
tIXed in it when the 80ul separates, then the rational soul s prevented
from its true perfection and thu! also absolute happiness. 88 On
account of an attachment to their bodies, tbese souls do Dot fully
separate from the sensible world, but live post mortem as if still attached
to their bodies.89 Such souls, that is, those unconscious oC their

lnAtJ.IJ.awiyya, p. 149. See also Al-SAi/i': .....ucept if ita preoccupation with the body
as we said had cauaed it to Corget ita eeeence and ita love..." W-Shi(4'3, p. 427).
88AtJ.IJ.awi,)')'U, p. 151.

89AtJ.IJ.awiyya, p. 151. That a preoec:UpatOb with the body ean lead to a leas tban
pure1y spiritual or philosophie J'e8UI'I'eCtioD ia alao upresaed in A/,-lilhar/Jt: "Sache


proper perfections, CalI short of a purely spiritual resurrection or a
full realization of their essences. As we shall see in a moment, these
souls partake of a "spiritual taniJsukh" in ortler to receive their proper
The anthropological dualism illustrated above is founded on the
principle of intellection or self-awareness. Tbere are simple or
religious souls, who remain unconscious of their true perf'ections, and
hence lack a deaire for their true perfections, and there are
philosophical souls, that is, those who were aware of their essences 88

spiritual substances, and thus desired their proper perfections. Now

the extent to which a soul attains its proper perfection determines the
state of the soul in the hereafter. A truly spiritual macid, in which a
subject is awakened to its proper perfection, which is its natural love,
is reserved for he who s aware of and desired bis proper perfection.
Post mortem, sucb a soul is completely stripped of the body to whicb it
was attaehed, and experienees the pleasure of subsisting in the
intelligible world. A truly spiritual resurrection is the eorollary for
the subject that has an awareness of bis perf'ection and actively attains

que ces proccupations, du fait que ce sont des passions et des dispositions,
s'adjoignent li l'Ame 11 cause du voisinage du corps. Si elles contiDuent aprH la
sparation [de l'Ame et du corps], tu es apna celle-ci comme avant. Cependant, elles
sont comme des douleurs persiataDtes dont on tUait d'tourn par les affaires puis,
les loisirs venant, elles sont saisies comme insupportables. Et cette douleur est
celle qui correspond li cette joUJIIaDce que l'on vient de; c'est la douleur du
feu spirituel qui aurpasae la douleur du feu corporel" (Livre des directiva .t
remarques, p. 474).

90Avinna's deseription oC the purely apirituall'UUl'ft!CtiOD indicates tbat coll8Cous

souls, that is, lOuis tbat were awan of their esaences and hence desired their proper

It is tempting to concede that Avicenna establishes bis
eschatological doctrine on a point tbat runs counter to a point
fundamental to bis psychological wrtings; it is not simply the fact
that Avicenna attributes the eschatological theory to "sorne scholars"
that urges one to doubt Avicenna's sincerity of the doctrine oC "sorne
scholars." Initially, it appears as though Avicenna's system cannot
accommodate the possibility oC the human soul attaching itself to a
celestial body. For integra1 to Avicenna's system is the idea that the
human soul attaches itseIC to sublunar matter wben that matter bas
the appropriate preparedness; bence only 8ublunar matter is fit to
receive a human 80ul and only sueh matter can enable it to function.
Furiher, in A41)awiyya and his other psychologieal writings,
Avinna dismisses as absurd the idea of more than one soul inhering
in a particular body.91 Each lestial body already bas a soul associated
with it whieh would seem to make impossible further 80uls using that
sphere in place of a physical organ. These two notions, integral and
fundamental to Avicenna's psyebology, seem to preclude the
possibility of the human soul utilizing a lestial body as a "surrogate

perfection8, have little to do with Quranie eachatalogy: "The happiness of the

hereafter is with the liberation of the 80W from the body and the physieal remn8Dta~

and ifs separation is the COJl8Umma OD of pleasures, speculating intellectually ta an

essence that has for-it the greatest power, and ta the spirits that wol'8hp it, and ta
the highest world, and to the arrivai oC ita perfection to it, and the majestie pleasure
is with tbat, and the m8ery or the hereafter is with the opposite of tbat- (AI/l}Gwiyya~
pp. 150-1).
91See the third chapter or AtJ1J.awiy;yG= "It appean that two soula cannot eD8t

together in a body because the second is Dot perceived by it and other than that
which ita actiona..." (hJl.uJwiyya. p. 125).


brain."92 To be sure, although Avieenna insisu vehemently on the
impossibility of two souls inhering in one particular body, this seems
to he a necessary consequence of the "sensible retum" the state of
simple or imperfect souls postmortem. 93
Yet there a1so seems to he some attempt on AtJ1)awiyya'B part to
play down this difficulty and establish the eschatology within the
context of Avicenna's psychological and metaphysical schemes.
Although the eschatology Avicenna attributes to "some scholars"
appears in a number of bis writings (not only At}1),awiyya), only
Atf,1J,awiyya insista on harmonizing the eschatology philosophically

921 have adopted this apresaion Crom H. Davidaon. See bis wom Alfiiriilii, Avinna,
and Averros, on Intellect, p. 113.
93That Avicenna inclines toward such a view is corroborated by a number of
attributioD8 of the theory to mm by later tbiokers suc:h as AlGhazzAlI, MullA Sadr&,
and F. D. al-Rl. See F. D. al-Razf. 81uJrJ.a. al-Isluiriit: "n y a des sages qui ont
prtendu que ces imes s'attachent une certaine sorte de c:orps clestes, les
prennent comme instruments de leurs saisies, de leurs aetes d'imagination, et qu'
cause de cela, une certaine esp. de bonheur leur advient. Ces dires sont de ce
vers quoi le Shaykh penche (yamllu i14yhi). ny a aWJ8 des gens qui ont pritendu
qu'elles s'attachent Il d'autres corps par voie de transmigration. Le Shaykh s'oc:cupe
ici d'exposer la nfutation de cette transmigration..." (J. Michot, LtJ Mstinie de
l'homme selon. AviAIUI, p. 290). See also N. D. a1-Taa~ SIuuJ,.. al41shdriU: "U ne se
peut pas que les Ames des innocenta soieDt priv6es de la saisie dans l'au-della, or
elles sont de ce qui ne saisit que par des instrumenta corporels. Certains ont donc
eu pour doctriDe qu'elles s'attachent la d'autres c:orpe. Alon, de deux c:hoees l'une:
soit elles ne devieDDeJlt pas des principes. une Corme. pour ces c:orps - c'est de cela
que le Sbaykh a pari' et c'est ven cela qu'il penchait Cmala ilGylai} - , soit elles le
deviennent et BOot par conMquent, pour eux. des Ames - cela, c'est la th40rie de la
transmigration, que le Shaykh va rifuter -. Pour ce qui est de la premi~re doetrine,

le Shaykh l'a voqu'e dans le Livre de I

destine de '1&omme .lon Auilll&e, p. 290).

GeA"'" du. rour..." (J. Michot. UJ

within Avicenna's system.94 Afl,1J,awiyyo is the only text in which
Avicenna espouses an escbatology for imperfect or simple BOuls by way

94Avicenna mentions the poeaibility oC the human sou! attaching iteelC to the
celestial spheres in a number oC bis writinp. The Kitab al-MtJ1xl4' wc-' MeCGd
insists that the substance to wbich the soul attaches is not a body as such. but smoke
01' vapour. Perha. . Cor AviceDD8, such celestial or supralunar matter enables the
imaginative raculty to funetion without a phyaical organ: '"Quelqu'un parmi les gens
de science (6a.ct/M t al-tilm>, de ceux qui De parlent pu il la llUe, a dit quelque
chose de possible, savoir ceci. Quand ces hommes se sparent de leur corps en
tant corporels et 88D8 avoir, avec ce qui est suprieur aus: corps. une attache teUe
que l'attention suivie qu'ils lui porteraient et leur attachment Il lui les distrairaient
des choses corporelles, quand leun Ames ont CODUDe seul mrite d'avoir t
l'ornement de leurs corps. c'est tout, sana eonnaltre non plus rien d'autre que les
corps et les choses corporelles, il est possible qu'une certaine espce de dsir que
ces hommes ont de leur corpe les rasse s'attacher d'autres corps, de la nature
desquels il serait que ces mes s'attachent Il eux. Elles recherchent en efret et ces
corps y seraient dispos. Ces corpe seraient dif'f'6rent8 des corps humains et
animaux dont nous avons parl. En efCet. si ces Ames s'attachaient ceux-ci, elles ne
seraient rien qu'une Ame pour eux. n se pourrait que ce soit un corps cleste; non
pas que ces mes deviennent des mes pour ces corps ou les rgissent - ce n'est pas
possible - main en ce sens qu'elles utiliseraient ce corps pour rendre possible leur
activit d'imagination. Cet homme imqinerait alors 1. Cormes qui CDlUltituaieDt sa
croyance et se trouvaient dans soo estimative. Si, eo elle-mme et dans ses actes.
cette croyance tait le bien et impliquait ntk:essairement le bonheur, il verrait
quelque chose de beau et l'imaginerait. n s'imaginerait ainsi tre mort et entem.
en tre le reste de ce qui rlgUft dans sa croyance pour les bons.
D se peut aU88i, a dit ce savant, que ce corpe soit engendr de l'air. des
fum&s et des vapeurs. n Ile peut qu'il lOit d'une complaion proche de cette
substance qu'on nomme plleMma, 8ubstance laquelle l'Ame s'attache, les
physiciens n'en doutent pas. Ce n'est pas, en efCet, au corps qu'elle s'attac:he. SoU
se pouvait que ce pneuma, en tant tlpan du corps et des humeurs, ne se diaeolve
pas mais subsiste, l'Ame y aclhrerait d'une Ca9Qn pe,chique.

Pour ceux qui, dit, BODt le contraire de ces Kens, savoir les mchante
il y a une IlliMre de caratlu'e estimatif auaei. Ds imagiaent subir l'eoMmble de ce


of a spiritual taniisukh, in which the imagination is carried witb the
rational faculty to the supralunar realm. The description of such a
return is unique to Af/,1)awiyya. The "return" is for simple or
imperfect souls, that is, non-philo80phical 80uls which, because they
were preoccupied with their bodies, failed to re.lize their proper
perfections and hence a truly spiritual resurrection. Simple or
imperfect souls, because they were preoccupied with their bodies in
the temporal world, live in the hereafter as though <ka an1U&4) they
were still attached to their bodies.95 On account of their attachments

qui leur a ,t dit dans leur loi Il propos du chitiment des m~hanta. Le besoin que
les uns et les autres ont du corps dans ee bonheur et dans cette lIli.Mre a pour seule
raison qu'imaginer et estimer se Cont sealement par un instrument corporel" (J.
Michot, La. dntille de l"homme son., p. 18n).
95"IC bodily dispositions sach as greed and &Dpi' and desire become rmed on wbat is
other tban desired oC them among eartbly matters in the sou! and permeate, when
the sou! separates they are rIXed in it, then the BOu! is prevented Crom real
perfection and abeolute happiness, and it is as it is afterwards in the body"
(Atj1J,4wiyya, p. 151).
The idea tbat a preoccupation with the body leadB to a le. than parely
spiritual resurrection is also found in AllsJa4rlJl: "Sache que ces pnoupatiOlll, du
fait que ce sont des passions et des dispositions, s'adjoignent rime cause du
voisinage du corps. Si elles continuent aprits la _paraDon [de l'Ame et du corps], tu
es aprs cell~i comme avant. Cependant. elles sont comme des douleurs
persistantes dont on tait d'tourD par les affaires puis, les loisirs venant, elles sont
saisies comme insupportables. Et cette douleur est celle qui correspond cette
jouissance que l'on vient dKrire; c'est la douleur du feu spirituel qui s~ le
douleur du feu corporel" (Livre des diret:liva et remtll'tlua, p. 474). The important
point here is that the ontologieal and moral state of the soul post mortem 8 a
renection of the way it conducted it8e1f intellectually and moral1y iD the temporal
world. Philoaophical BOula are completely strippeel of matter and acbieve abeolute

happiness, whereu simple or impeJfect IOula traDamip'ate to pneamatie substance

and CalI short oC aolute bappin. . .

to their bodies, these souls are not completely stripped of matter upon

separating from their bodies. Because they are still imprisoned in the
sensible world after the corruption of their bodies, such souls do not
arrive at. the purely intellectuel wQrld and are t\.Qt iufQnned of purely
intellectual thillp_ Rather,. the sensible world becomes liJ a body for
them,. and they Am inf'ormed. of ail thi:ogs whic:h exist in the world of
sense and nature..96
Avicenna insista - again through. the mou.thpiece of "some
scholan" - th.t the imaginative faculty (al-quwwa al-wahmi"a) of the
imperfect soui su.rvives the corru.ption of the body by virtue of a
lineage its has with the rational Caculty..97 The eschatological world
which emerges is thus one which depends for its existence on the
individual subject; it is not a wQrld in it.~ QWU right, that is ta say, one
which subsists by virtue of itself, but an ontological realm r~lative tn -
and. dependent (or its existence - on the perceiver. The world in which
reward and punishment are experienced coaespond$ tn the Rnbjaet in
the sense that the abjects perceived are images which the subject
believed regarding the hereafte~_ Togethe~ witb imagining iblet'
entombe~ this soul imagines the pains which arrived to it in the way

96At/,1)awiyya. pp. 155-6.

97See A4/JtJwiyya: -A group oC th_e (scholars] say that the estimative power unites
with matter by virtue of and on aceount oC the rational power..." Wl.uJwiyya. p.
155). And again later: "Some scholars say that wben the soul separates Crom the
body and earries the estimative power with. itself in the way mentioned. it is
impossible that it is stripped Crom the body purely. DOthing oC natura! dispoeitioas
accompanying it" ~ina. pp. 156-7). Bere 1 translate al-quwwtJ al-wahmiyya
as "the imaginative Caculty'" due to Avicenna's insistance OD rewarels and

punishments experienced through JDaI88. The estimative Caculty implies a kind of

intuition common ta hUID8D8 and a n JD8Js.


of physical punishments well-Imown, and all of what it used ta believe
during liCe that belonged to it or were well-known for it under that
form. 98 Thus, the simple or imperfect 80ul post mortem bas a
particular world created by its intellectual conduct in the temporal
As mentioned above, the attachment the soul has to the
substance which enables it to function after separation is of a spiritual
nature. It is here that Avicenna harmonizes the eschatological
doctine with his psychological system. Dy inssting that simple or
religious souls do not return to matter, Avicenna avoids aU f'nnnR nf'
metempsychosis, and .in no way violates his principle of the
impossibility of more than one soul inhering in a particular bocly.99

The attachment to the celestial spheres upon which Avicenna founds

his eschatology is Dot of the .ame kind as that in which human 80uiR
originally were attached to matter. The conjoining of imperfect 01"

simple souls to celestial bodies is of a spiritual nature, and nnt one nf'
complete attachment. Fo:.- thiR re.a80n, Avicenna cali" the "return
not a retum ta a body as sucb, but rather, to a mixture close tn that nf'

98A(i~awi.a, p. 157. The idea that the iJDaIinal world of the subject is self-relative
is aIso found in Avicenna's other testa, where what is emphasizecl is tbat the world
exista aecordiDg to their individualities. See Kita6 alMabda~ wal Maciitl: "Cet
homme imaginerait alon les formes qui constituaient Sil croyance et se trouverait
dans 80n estimative" (J. Mic:hot, lA destine de l'homme .lon Avicenne, p. 197D).
See alsoAl-Shifii~: "Elles peroivent donc l'enaemble de ce qui kw- a tt! dit..." (J.
Michot, La. Matine de l'homme .loll Avicenne, p. 197n).
99Note that it is TbI who indieates that Avieenna dues Dot admit the poesibility of
the human soul becomiDg the rorm ror a c:elestial body. Sueh a theory would be

tantamount to tanGau, precisely the doctrine Avic:eDDa intends on refutiDg

(Michot, J., La deatinh de l'hom~ selon Avicenne, p. 29D).

the body which the soul previously had for itself.l oo This matter is Dot

matter as such, but a kind of supralunar matter. Celestial matter is

literally the thought of an angel. It s subtle and incorruptible, and
for this reason might enable the rational and imaginative faculties to
function after the corruption oC the body.IOt
For Avicenna, even though it is impossible for two human souls
to exist in one particular body, it is not impossible that the human 80ul
post mortem attach itselC to sometbing close to the mixture of the body

from which it separated.102 The 80ul connecta ta this substance by

virtue of a cause or rea80n (CiUo) that was in the body (rom which it
separated. t03
That Avicenna is quite serious about the seemingly fanciful
issue of celestial bodies acting as "surrogate brams" in arder that the

l00A4~awiyya. p. 155. See aIlO Kitijb alMabd4:J wal Ma.cijd, where the substance
to which the soul attaches is called smoke or vapour.
It !I because the imperfect or simple soul does Dot retul'n to a body as such
that Avicenna emancipates himself from any accusation of taniiJmlth. Previously,
Avicenna insisted that the retum of the soul to either the original body to which it
was attached or a Dew body are to he considered tinda of ta~lth (AtPJmoiY:Y4, p.
It is curous that Avicenna refuses to base bis imaginaI eschatology on the
doctrine oC the "subtle body" he attributea to 'lbAbit b. Qurra. The position tbat at
death the soul carries with it a subtle body is regarded a8 non-98Dsical. See
At!JJ.tzwiyya, pp. 118-9, 158.
101The Persian commentaly to Avicenna'. lIan ibn Yaq.pJ1l indicates that celeetial
matter is very unlike .ublonar matter. As the proclw:t of ODe oC the Cherubim - the
govemon or the celestial spberes - BUch matter 8 literally the tbought of an angel,
etemal and subtle in ita Dature <See H. Corbin, Auicenne et le rcit vDnllG1'e, pp.

l02A4~awi,)')'U,p. 155.
l03Ibid, p. 155.


imaginative faculty subsist post mortem and continue its function is
corroborated by the fact that it is Dot only Af/.1}awiyya that insista on
this doctrine; Al-Shifij', Kitiib al-jfabdtJ' wu-l Ma.c/id, and Ris4la.h al-
Nafs al-Na#qa. advocate similar theories. IM
To return to the anthropologie.l duaHsm mention ad 8.bnve~

although the desire of the hnmaD being's essence for itself is a natural
Cact, this desire is hidden and generally not obtained by the
multitude.l 0s Not only can the soui forget its essence and hence its
purpose, but it needs to obtain its desire for itself. If theTe is
consciousness of the soul's proper function, then there i8 a desire to
Culfill that end. The desire tbat the soul has for its perfection f'oUnw8

104That Avieenna i.s quite seriou about the seemingly Caneiful 88ue oC eelestial
bodies acting as "surrogate brams" in order that the rational and imaginative
faculties subsist post mortem and continue their respective CunetioDs is
corroborated by the tact that it is Dot only in ~iyya that Avicenna insista on
thie doc:trine. See Cor example AllshariU: -Quant aux naffa, s'Us se sont gards
purs, ils parviennent, au moyen du corps, Il un bonheur leur convenance. Peut-
tre en ce bonheur ne peuvent-ils se passer de l'aide d'un corps qui soit un lieu pour
des imaginations Il ceus; mais rien n'empche que ce BOit un corps cleste ou quelque
chose de semblable. Peut-tre cela les Cait-il aboutir" rmalemeDt" prparer la
jonction batitlante qui est celle de ceux qui savent vritablement" (Livre des
directives et remarquelI, p. 478). See also Avieenna's eommentary on the Theology
of Arislotle: "Les Ames qui quittent leurs corps ne sont pas [pour autant] sans
enveloppes et Vtements" et elles ont besoin d'avoir un eorps queleonque auquel
elles s'attachent d'une certaine Caon [et] par lequel elles sont conserv" une Cois
qu'elles ont trouv la Perfection intellectuelle. ED effet" il n'y a pas
d'emphchement Jl ce que les corps clestes soient employ. de quelque manire par
des mes autres que les leun. A plus Corte I1lIIOll l'Ame" lorsque sa pui_Dee est
paracheve cIana ce corps, peuwlle employer Jl sa place une ntk:eait ou un besoin
l'exigeant" un corps plus minent et plus Doble que lui- (G. Vajda, lAs Notes

d'AvicenM .ur la T ~ d'AriSote" pp. 403-4).

lOSMichot, J., Avicenne et la datinle humaine, p. 4:79.


from an acquisition; it is because the soul bas attained a consciousness
of its essence that it desires its perfeetion.I 06 In short, there is a need
to be alerted to the essence as the perfection of the soul, and only then
is there a for that perfection.
The rmal cbapter of At//Jawiyya demoDstrates that the rational
soul fulfills or completes its proper perfection alter the corruption of
the body. Now the body is a condition only for the existence of the
soul as the govemor of the body. It is not a condition for the existence
of the souI as such - tbat is - for the soul in its own right as a spiritual
substance. The rational soul, as not simply the fonn of the body in the
Aristotelian sense of the term, but as both substance and form, has two
ends; it bas an activity in relation to itself wbich is intellection, and an
activity in relation ta the body which is 10 govem and control it. The
former activity does not depend on tbe body, for the body is a
condition for the existence of the soul only as the govemor of the
body; it is Dot a condition for the existence of the soul as sucb - that is
- for the soul as a perfection. It is the former activity 01" end which
Avicenna is concemed with in the final chapters of Af/,1}awiyya, for
upon emancipating itself (rom the body, tbe sonl lA ale1"tP.d tn ib mIe
end, which is to come ta the intelligible world. Associated witb tbis
end (oC the highest kind), is the loftiest pleasure. 107

l06Ibid. p. 480. See AJlMiiral: "The desire Collows Clam an alerting and is gained
by acquisition" (Liure da direetiua a renuuqlUB, p. 277).
l07The PsycholO/lY makea elear tbat perfection or enteleehy (itJmiil) is of two tind8;
the U'St perfection I tbat by wmm a speeies becomes a species iD actuality like the
Conn (shtzil) of a sword. 'lbe second perfection is a tbiDg wmm CoUows a tbiDg oC its

aets and being aded upon, like the action oC the cuttmg of a sworel or the distinction
and the vision of the senses, and the movement beloDgng to a human (Avicenna, De

In the rmal chapter of A4/Jawiyy, Avicenna demonstratee tbat

the highest or loftieet pleasure js Dot of a sensible nature, and ie

experienced by perf"ected 80\l1e aCter the destnaetion of the body. As it
appears in the final chapter of Af/,1}owtyya, tbie argument makes
explicit what ie implied in the Comb chapter or A(lIJawiyya - that ie -
that the pleasure particular or speeific to the rational $Oui is Dot of a
sensible nature, and s experienced 10 ite fullest extent when the $Oui
separate8 from the body. In both the fourtb chapter of A41J,awtyya
and Al-Ishar, the notion that what we truly are ie our souls is used to
point out the error in thinking that there cannot be true pleasure or
bappiness if one is without a body.l0B

Anima, p. 11). UnderlyiDg the distinction between two kiDda of perfection is the
notion that the funetional relation of the sou! to body is Dot the same as the quiddity
or essence of the soul as a substance; to bow the BOu! as IOvemor of the body is Dot
equivalent to mowing the soul in itBelf or its essence as a substance. In other
words, functional dermtion is Dot equivalent to quiddity (AviDJUl, De Anima, p. 10).
lOBSee A4l}.tuDiyya, ehapter 4: "Lorsque l'homme considre que son tznniyya est dj
dpouille de lIeS concomitants corporels, et qu'il quitte les catlories du plaisir et
de la douleur qu'il pall6dait par suite de son aseociation avec le corps, c'est comme
s'il tait priv des plaisirs et des douleurs qui emtent chez ses proches et ses amis.
Et lorsqu'il lui arrive une douleur ou un plaisir qui lui appartiennent en propre;
alors c'est bien lui-mme qui 8Ouff're et qui jouit en l'ialit. C'est ce qui lui arrive
dans le Mahad (L'Autn Vie); il moins que 1. domination du corps sur l'Ame et l'id&
qu'il se fait de SOD corps comme tant son moi propre (huwi,na) ne porteDt l'homme
oublier son Ame et II prendre pour lui un autre que lui-mme. n pell8e que les
biens et les maux qui affectent BOD corps sont des bieDs et des maux qui
appartiennent il 80D Moi propre. Et il pense que lorsqu'il est priv de s biens et
de ces ma~ il est priv des biens et des maus de faaa abBolue. n peIUJ8 qu'il ne
peut tre heureux s'il n'prouve pu de joni-BDce corporelle. n peue aUSBi qu' De
peut ptir d'aucun tounnent, s'il Ile BOuffie pu d'un tounDeDt corporel. n D'est pas

possible d'enlever du premier coup cee id_ de la tte du commun des hommea, et

The argument can be 8ummarized as follows: The particular
ativjty of a tbine is its purpoee with re8pect to its 8ubstance. The
rational sou1, being of the most Doble substances because it is simple
and separate from matter, ha8 a8 its activity the highest kind of
perception. The perception of the rational aoul is also of the higbest
orciert for its Jmowledge, which ie of etemal and necessary truths, Bot
particulars, is certain..109 The perfection of the rational soui is
therefore of the hichest kind. because its end e tbat worlds become
stripped of change and multiplicity~110
The true reality of the human being only manifesta itself when
the subject emancipates himseIr fmm }lis body. .Moreover, one cannot
fully know bis essence as an immaterial entity while attached to a body.
ACter it is established tbat the rational Jiloul jt1 a separate substance
independent of matter for both its existence and function proper

en les expliquant une eeule Cois. Aussi il faut que les Lgislateurs ~1igieux~, dans

leurs promesses et leurs menaces, Cusent esp'rer la rcompense et la batitude, et

craindre le chtiment en spciil&Dt que la flicit et la rcompense de l'Autre vie
comporteront un jouissance des sens, et que le chAtiment de l'Autre vie comportera
une douleur des _u" (tnmslation M.T. D'Alverny~ p. 87). Bee al80 l-Ishar4t: "n
ne nous convient pas d"eouter ceux qui demandent: Si DOua arrivions 11 raire partie
d'un groupe dans lequel DOua ne JDaDgerioDS ni De boirioD8, ni n'aurions de rapports
sexuels, quel bonheur aurions nous? Celui qui parle ainsi. il faut l'~lairer et lui
dire: 0 malheureus! Peut-tre l'tat qui est celui des anges et des tres suprieurs 11
eux est-il plus agrUble, plus beau, plus bienfaisant que celui du btail? Ou plut6t
comment serait. possible que l'un ait avec l'autre un rapport que l'on p4t compter
pour quelque chose?'" (Avicenne, Livre da dirediva remarqua, p. 469)_
109The perption oC the rational souI is oC red notions, spiritual forms, the FirBt
Cause in all bis reality in bis majesty ad the greatn_ oC bis purpoee, the divine
angels, the reality of the celestial bodies and elementa and their essences

(Aq,J,tJUJiyya, p. 148)
110Jbid, p. 148.


that is - intellection, AvieeDDa illu8trates that the rational soul post
ma1em possesse8 a nature and fonction similar to that of the eelestial
intelligences. As separate substances, intelligences have intellection u
their 80le function. This activity does not require the aid of a
corporeal organ. Because independent of matter, the celestial
intelligences are of the most noble kind. Further, they partake of the
loftiest aet - that i8 - intellection - and thU8 also the highest land of
pleasure. It i8 to this atate that the rational soul ia awakened or alertecl
after the corruption of the body. To he as an angeUe form in nature
and function is the proper atate of the souI, that is, its perfection or


It is sometimes argued that the Islamieate philosophers writing in a

milieu in whieh they were Dot always eomfortable, were Coreed to
aecomodate their arguments ta theological principles. A religious
milieu has the capacity to compel a philosopher ta justify bis often
heterodox opinions belore the tribunal of the literai or sharica-
minded. AtJ1.&awiyya reveals that this is rtainly not &lways the case.
In At/./.I.awiyya, it is the orthodox religious prineiple of bodily
resurrection which must aecomodate itself to Avieenna's
psyehologieal principles. The following fundamental tenet 1 have
tirelessly repeated corroborates this point: The ontologica1 statua of
the !i'oul - and hence also its degree of felicity in the hereafter -
depends entirely on the degree of knowledge it attained in the
temporal worteL That salvation is a result of contemplation Dot action
makes tenuous the suggestion that A41.uJwi"a ie tainted by a nessity
to .filld _it8elf at eaRe wjth the .more orthndox or .literal-minded.
The mal chapter of A41}awiyya - although perhaps the least
philosophieal in that it does not concern itself with scholastic
demonstratioDs in favour of a spiritual retum - reveals the principle
upon which Avicenna establishes bis doctrine of al-macid. The degree
of knowledge attained in the temporal world determines the
outologcal 8tate of the human being post mortem. The perfect soul as
pure fonn completely leaves the body whieh it oc:cupied, while the

imperfect soul on account of a preoccupation with the body wmeh


caused it to forget its proper perfection - is not liberated from the
sensible world upon al-maciid.
Yet there is more. Not only the ontological state but also the
degree of happiness a sou1 experiences post mot"fl!1n, is proportional to
the extent to which it perfected itself in the temporal world. To he
more precise, the felicity experieneed in the hereafter depends on the
ontological &tate of the human being aCter the corruption of the body.
For, if it is true that perCect souls experien absolute felicity upon al-
ma,cad, tms can only he on account of an ontological status, which is
one akin ta the celestial spheres. As pure forms, perfect souls have
intellection only of the higheat entities. And as shown above, the
pleasure associated with the attainment of these objects is of the
highest kind. Imperfect souls fan short of absolute felicity in the
hereafter because they remain bound to the sensible world. Thus,
intellection or awareness of ooe's proper perfection, which
determines the ontological status of the rational soul determines - a
fortiori - the degree of felicity of the human being in the hereafter.
That the salvation of an individual is contingent upon the
intellectual disposition of the individual is an idea Avicenna inherits
from his master al-FarAbi. To he sure, although al-Farabi and
Avicenna disagree over the intrinsic ontological nature of the rational
souI,ltt the two thinkers share the view tbat the imal end of the 80ul
depends on contemplation rather than action. Further, al-FArabi and

I11For Avinna, the intrinsic immateriality of the rationallOul guarantee8 its

immortality, where.. Cor alFArAbl, the 8001 begns by depending on matter Cor ita

eDstence, bot bu the potential for achieviDg its immortality by becomiDg a separate
substance, even beCore the corruption oC the body. See al-Farabi, RiHlat fi' caql.

Avicenna admit the intimate relation oC contemplation to felicity; the
highest state of felicity results when the soul finds itself in the
intelligible world. To be sure, such astate ean occur before the
corruption of the body for ai-FArAbi, for when the status of the
acquired intellect is achieved, the rational soul does not require a body
for its subsistenee.1 12 Absolute felicity can result before the
corruption of the body when or if the hnman soul ahstracts a majority
of the material forms, and comes to lmow the intelligibles Dot outside
of itself, but as inclistinguisbable from its very being.113 Renee for al-
Farb, absolute felicity ean he aehieved before the corruption of the
body.114 For, Avicenna, on the other hand, absolute felieity only
results after the corruption of the body, if or when the philosophie
soul rmels itselC in the intelligible world.115 Thus, although Avinna
and bis predecessor al-Farabi disagree over the intrinsie ontologieal

112Al-FAri.bI, Risiilat fi"l coql, pp. 31-2.

113pinnegan, J., AlFariibi et le Peri Nou d'Ale:ndre d'Aphrodise, p. 149.
114Note that in .peeking about the ruler, theft are times when Al-FAr6bl argues that
Celic:ity is Dot on11' an outme oC theoretical perfection or contemplation, but is a
result oC a combiDation of theoretical and practieal ac:tivity. Felicity ia sometimes
portrayed as an engagement oC the philosopher-prophet in two aetivities, p11l'ely
theoretic:al contemplation and politiea1 govemanC8_ For a d.iacussion oC Al-Fibl's
alleged contradietory views on human bappiness, see M. Galston, PoUlies Gnd
Exa!Uen.: The Polit:al PhiloBophy of Al-Fiirlib, chapter n.
115Note that in Al-Islaiiriit. Avicenna admitB that the cl-carifKn almattlnazzihn.
begin to uperien the loftiest usociated with al-mGc/id beCore the actua1
corruption of the body. See Al-IshiJrat: "Cette dlectation n"est pas perdue de toute
manire, tandis que l'Ame est danB le corpe; au contraire, ceux qui sont plongs dans
la mditation de la toute-puissance divine, laissant de ct les distractions.
atteignent. 'tant encore dans leurs corpe, il une part abondante de cette jon i8MJlce

qui parCois les domine et les distrait de toute [autrel chose (Liure de. directive. et
remarques, p. 476).


status of the rational soul, the principle upon wbicb the doctrine of
salvation is founded remains the 88Dle.
AviceDDa is prudent Dot to violate bis propositions that intially
appeared to nID counter to the eschatological doctrine he attributes
to "some scholars. ft Although At/.1;&awiyya is Dtent on following its
estabshed principle tbat al-macii,d belongs exclusively to the rational
soul, which does Dot retum to a body,l16 Avicenna is willing to
accomodate the idea of simple or religious souls attaching themselvea
to a pneumatic substance. Sucb an attachment is of a spiritual nature,

as bath At/,1},awiyya, and the Kitiib a/,-Mabda,c wa-l J,faci/, aseert. The
substance to which the soul attaches is not sublunar matter, but an
incorruptible and subtle substance which is literally the thought of an
angel. In accounting for or rationalizing the Quranic events and
occurrences, Avicenna is thus careCul not to violate the underlying
principle of the tbird chapter of Atf.1).awi;y;ya, namely that a return to a
bodily entity is tantamount to taniiBukh. One might weil conclude
that for Avicenna, supralunar or celestial matter can enable the soul
to function post mortem.

116L. Gardet ia iuilhtful in noting that Avicenna'. inaistence on the iDdividual

survival of the 8001 - even when considering the fate of imperf'ect lOuls - defends the

Plotinian principle of Dot llimply a retunl. but rwt in the Source <See L. Gardet.
La pens TeUgie",. d'Auinne. p. l05n}.

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Russli Kamarudin

A Tbesis SublDitted to
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Author : Russli Kamarudin

Title . Political Philosophy ofal-Ghazzilf: An Analysis

Department Institute of Istamic Studies

Degree : MA

This thesis deals with the political philosophy ofal-Ghazzilf from an analytical point

of view. It focuses its examination on his theory regarding the imamate and sultanate. This

examination is based on four of his works, namely, Fat!a'i/J a/-Batinlyab wa-fat/ii'i/ a/-

Must~hirlyah, a/-Iqti$iid n'J-rtiqii~ l1Jyii' &u/m a/-din and N~;1Jat a/-mu/ule ft begins

with an account ofpast scholarship on al-Ghazzili's political thought. Until recently scholars

have focused on al-Ghazzilrs theories without giving due consideration to the circumstances

that 100 him to develop them. This thesis shows how they were shaped by his encounter with

the' Abbasid court and the Seljuq sultanate, and how his own theological and juridical

concerns coloured his interpretations. The practical necessity ofjustif}ring his concept of the

imamate was forced upon him by the challenge posed by the Fitimid caliph in Egypt, and by

the real ity of power politics in Baghdad, where the caliph exercised only nominal control.

Throughout his writings he demonstrates an overriding concem for a stable society in which

Islam cao he practiced in full, even at the cost ofliving under an oppressive system.

Auteur: Russli Kamarudin

Titre: La philosophie politique d'al-Ghazzi une analyse

Dpartement: Institut d'tudes islamiques

Diplme: Matrise s arts

Ce thse aborde le sujet de la philosophie politique d'al-Ghazzilf d'un point de vue

analytique. II examine surtout sa thorie de l'imamat et du sultanat. Cette investigation est

fonde sur quatre de ses oeuvres~ c'est dire~ FIK/a'i/J a1-Bilinlyab wa-fatji'i/ 81-

Must~JJirlyah, A/-Iqti$id R aJ-rtiqiitt lIJyi t;u/tn a1-din et NlI$iiJat a/-mu//c. fi commence

par un examen de la recherche sur la pense politique d'al-Ghazzali. Jusqu' date~ la plupart

des chercheurs a concentr sur ses thories sans prendre compte des circonstances qui l'ont

amens les dvelopper. Ce thse montre comment ces thories ont ts formes par son

rencontre avec la cour abbaside et le sultanat seldjukide, et comment ses propres ides

thologiques et juridiques ont colors ses interprtations. La necessit pratique de justifier sa

conception de l'imamat lui a t impose par le dfi lanc par le calife fatimide en Egypte, et

par la ralit de la politique de pouvoir Baghd~ o le calife n'exerait q'une controle

nominale. Dans chacun de ses oeuvres sur la politique, al-Ghazzilf dmontre un souci

principal d'avoir pour une socit stable dans laquelle l'Islam peut se pratiquer en plein, mme

au cout d'tre oblig vivre sous un rgime oppressif


My very sincere gratitude goes to Professor Todd Lawson~ my supervisor~ for his

patience~ encouragemen~ invaluable suggestions, acute observations, and useful criticism~

aIl of which contributed to making this thesis possible. 1 would Iike to express my personal

appreciation to Professor ner Turgay for a number ofthoughtful comments and suggestions

on my paper entitle~ "Poiiticai Thought of Al-Ghazzill (1058-1111)," which became part

of this work. 1 also wish to extend my gratitude to those colleagues and friends whose

generous help and encouragement aIlowed me to complete my research.

In particular, 1 want to acknowledge the National University of Malaysia (UKM) for

sponsoring my studies towards the Master's degree, without whose help this task would have

been impossible. Thanks are also due to the Institute of [slamic Studies McGiIl University for

giving me a chance to pursue advanced research in my field. 1 must Iikewise thank my parents

and relatives who have always assisted me and wished me success.

Finally 1 owe so much to my wife, Mastura Kamarudin; she continues to he an

inexhaustible source ofencouragement and generosity and has demonstrated great patience and

understanding throughout - to her and to my son Muhamed Aiman is my most enduring debt,

and it is to them that 1 dedicate this study.

With gratitude, 1 would also like to acknowledge the staff of the Islamic Studies

Library, particularly Salwa Ferahian and Wayne St. Thomas, who kindly helped me to locate

the sources for my thesis and the efforts of Steve Millier in editing the enliTe work.


Rsum 11

Acknowledgements ili
Table of Contents iv
Introduction 1

Chapter One: A1-Gbazzili's Life 4

1. His Intellectual Life 4
2. His Political Background 16

Chapter Two: A1-Gbazzili on PoUties 20

His Works on Polities
Fa/i'ib a/-B8Iinlyah wa frji'U a/-Must8?bUlyah
Al-Iqtj~ad 6'I-it:tiqad
4. I1Jyi' i:u1im a1-din 41
5. N8iJat a/-mu/k 44

Coopter Tbree: The Nature of aI-GbazziIi's Potitical Pbilosophy 54

1. Practicality of al-Ghazzifi's Politieal Thought 54
2. Charaeteristies of al-Ghazzifi's Political Thought 65

Conclusion 81
Bibliography 88


Abu l:18mid MuI)ammad ibn MuI)ammad ibn M~ammad ibn Ti'us al-Tosi al-Shafi'I,

better known as al-GbazziH: was bom in 450/1058 at Tabaran, one ofthe townships ofTus,

now in ruins, in the neighbourhood of modem Meshhed in Khurisin. I He was one of the

greatest scholars that Islam bas ever produced and was given the honorific tide al-Islam

(the proofofIslam). His work: bas been extensively studied, not only by Muslims but also by

non-Muslims, many ofwhom have made it their tife's work. He wrote on a vast number of

subjects ranging from jurisprudence, theology and philosophy to Bitinite thought and

S ufism. He is usually perceived as a writer on doctrine, and is therefore less well-known as

a political scientist. There are however Many passages in his works which discuss politics,

and certain treatises that are exclusively devoted to the topic.2

IW. Montgomery Watt, "Ghazilf, Ab lJimid al" in Mircea Eliade, ed, The
Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 5 (New York: Macmill~ 1987), p. 541. CE Hassan
Muhammad, The Influence ofa/-Ghazali upon Is/amie Jurisprudence and Phi/osophy (Beirut:
Dar-el-lil, 1993), p. 9. Cf: M. M. Sharit: ed, A History ofMus/im Phi/osophy, vol. 1
(Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1963), p. 582.

2-'[bere bas 50 far only been one book written on bis politics, that is La Politique de Grali
by Henri Laoust, published in 1971 by Geuthner ofParis. Other studies have appeared in the fonn
of articles, among them: Haroon Khan Sherwani, "EI-Ghazzilf on the Theory and Praetice of
Politics," [slamie CU/lure, vol. 9 (1935), pp. 450-475; Ann K. S. Lambton, "The Theory of
Kingship in theN~8l a/-MuitikofGhamu:" The [s/amie Quarter/y, vol. 1, no. 1 (1954), pp.
46-55; Leonard Binder, "Al-Ghazzili's Theory oflslamic Government," The Mus/im Wor/d, vol.
47 (1955), pp. 229-241; W. Montgomery Watt, "Reflections on a1-Gbazilrs Political Theory,"
Glasgow University Oriental Society Transactions, 21 (1965/66), pp. 12-24; Carole Hillenbrand,
"Islamic Orthodoxy or Realpolitik? Al-Ghazilrs Views on Government," Iran, 26 (1988), pp.
81-94. Of the above, Sherwani gives a brief sketch of the author's thought, where he left a/-

MustiJ?/Ji (written in 487/1094) in bis discussion, which contains the author's thought in politics,

Four books in particular are recognized as containing substantial material on political

theory. These are: Fatja'iJ} a1-Ba/inTyah wa-fat/a'iJ a1-Must8?hifiyah (henceforth called a/-

Musta#Jiri), al-Iqti~ad6'1-i'tiqad (henceforth al-Iqti~8d), I1)ya' u/tn al-din (henceforth

I1Jya' and Na~l1)at al-mu//c Out of these four, only two are exclusively devoted to politics,

namely al-Must8?hiii and Na,lJ)at aJ-mu/iik, while the others are works on theology (al-

Iqti~ad) and Sufism (l1)ya'). AlI four books contain, to a greater or lesser degree, al-

Ghazzali's views on the imamate and the sultanate. The aim of this thesis is to studythe

author's political philosophy from an analytical point of view based on the above four books,

with special attention given to bis ideas concerning the imamate and the sultanate.

To achieve this aim the thesis is divided into three chapters. Chapter one discusses

al-GhazzaIi's life, and is itself divided into two subsections, in the tIrst of which we survey

his intellectual career. For the purpose of our analysis, we have divided this into three

stages: U'St bis life as a student, where we focus on bis travels in search of knowledge, the

subjects that he studied, and the professors onder whom he worked; next, bis career as

professor at the N?8mlyah coUege in Baghdad, where we discuss the subjects that he taught,

the problem that he faced, and bis involvement with Sufism after bis resignation from the

professorsbip; and fmally, the third stage, the longest of bis intellectuallife, which ended

while Lambton focuses on NaiDJat a/-mu/.k (written between 1106-1109), and Binder on the three
of al-GhazzaIi's works, i.e., a/-MustaPHij, a/-Iqti.sid (written in 488/1095) and l1Jya' u/D1 aJ-din
(written in 489-90/1096-97) leaving aside the NBil1)at a/-mu/k. Hillenbrand on the other band
studies bis thought on government {rom the question of orthodoxy or realpolitik, whereas Watt
looks at the reflection of the author's thought based on the a/-Iqtj~ad

with bis death in 505/1111. The second subsection discusses bis political background wbich

covers the period of bis professorship and bis resignation, because it was during this time

that he began to write on political topics, particularly in aJ-Ml/St~ These two subtopics

are important in assessing bis political views.

Chapter two studies the ideas presented in the four books mentioned above. This is

done in chronological order, based on their original dates of composition. The study Dot

only foeuses on the political contents of the books but also the circumstances of their

composition as weIl as their audience. It also discusses the periods when and the places

where they were completed. It begins with a/-Must8?biif, followed by a/-Iqti~id, then I1Jyi'

and finally N~1IJat a/-mu/k.

Chapter three studies the nature of al-Ghazzafi's political philosophy. This study is

based on the materials presented in chapter two. In so doing it concentrates on two things,

namely the practicality of bis thought and its characteristics. In terms of its practicality it

evaluates in what ways bis views helped resolve certain political problems of bis time.

LastIy, various strands of thought are brought together in the conclusion.


Al-Gbazzilrs Lire

1. His Intellectual Life

During his lifetime, al-Gbazzilf showed an interest in a number of intellectual

disciplines, particularly jurisprudence, theology, Greek philosophy, Ismi~rlfthought and

mysticism or S ufism. In his journey in search of the truth, he devoted much of his lime to

studying the last four disciplines, which finally culminated in his desire to live the Iife of a

Sun. 1
This intellectual journey began during his professorship at the N~imfyahcoUege.2

However, long before this stage in bis life, we find him laying the foundations for his career

as a student in Tus.

a. AI-Ghazzalf'searly life.

AI-Ghazzalf, who was orphaned at an early age, was tirst exposed to a ~ lin

environment, wherein he and his brother Al!mad received their primary education. This was

the wish ofhis father, who regretted his lack ofeducation and wanted bis sons to he nurtured

and taken care ofby a Siififiiend. The father left a smalt amount ofmoney to he spent on this

purpose. However, when this smaU legacy was exhausted, and the Sti teacher was himself

IW. Montgomery Watt, "Ghazilf, Ab FJimid al," in Mircea Eliade, ed., The
Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. S (New York: Macmillan, 1987), p. 542. Ct: Hassan
Muhammad, The Influence ofa/-Ghazll1J upon Is/amic Jurisprudence and Phi/osophy (Beirut:
Dar-el-Jil, 1993), p. 9.

2Wa~ "Ghazalf, Ab Iramid al," p. 541. Ct: Muhammad, Influence, p. 18.

unable to support them financially, the orphans were advised to go to a college or madrasah.

For in a college, as students or "seekers ofscience," they would have rations allotOO to them.:;

Al-GhazziIf th us began bis life as a madrasah student in Tus. [t is notewortby that at

this time, as he himself admits, he was studying for wealtb and reputation. 4 Bere he studied

jurisprudence under Al)mad b. M~ammad .-Radhkint and tben travelled to Jurjin where

he studied further under Abu Na.,r al-Isma'Ttr Dwing this period he collected what he

learned in copious notes rather than trying to master them by heart through memorization.

However, he was forced to change this approach when one day, on his way back ftom Jurjan,

he was robbed of his notebooks. Although the notes were retumed to him after much

pleading, he was teased by the robbers for his claim that an he knew was in faet only in his

notebooks. This incident 100 him to spend three years memorizing the material.6

Before al-GhazzillIeft forNiship~ he is said to have studied Sufism under Yusuf al-

3M. M. Shari( ed., A History of Muslim Philosophy, vol. 1 (Wiesbaden: Otto

Harrassowitz, 1963), p. 582. Cf. Muhammad, Influence, p. 18; W. Montgomery Watt, Muslim
Inte/lectua/: A Study ofal-Ghazali (Edinburgh: The Edinburgh University Press, 1963), p. 20;
Duncan B. Macdonald, "The Life of a1-Gbazzilf, with Especial Reference to bis Religious
Experiences and Opinions," Journal ofthe American Oriental Society voL 20 (1899), p. 75.

4Al-Ghazzilf says: "We hecame students for the sake of something else than Gad, but He
was unwilling that it should he for the sake of aught but Himself: ft See Macdonal~ "Life of a1-
Ghazzalf," p. 75. Cf: Muhammad, Influence p. 10; M. M. Shari( History, p. 583.

SM. M Shart: History, p. 583. Ct: Macdonal<L "LiCe of a1-Ghazzilf, p. 76;

Muhammad, Influence, p. Il, wbere he says tbat bis teacber at Jurjan was ash-Sbaykh Isma'fl ibn
Sa'di aI-Isma'nr (d. 487/1094).

~ Muhammad, Influence, p. Il; W~ "GbaziIf, Ab a-amid~" p. 541; Macdonal~

"Life of a1-Ghazzilf," p. 76.

Nassaj. It is a1so believed that under this teacher he was instrueted in certain ~tT exercises.7

However, this period in his life was of short duration, for at the age of about twenty he

proceeded to the N~imfyahcollege in Baghdad to study under Ab al-Ma'alr al-Juwaynr (d.

1085), also known as Imam al-ijaramayn, the most distinguished theologian of the age.8

Under him, al-Ghazzali's studies embraced jurisprudence, Asb'arf theology, pbilosophy,

Iogic, dialectics, the natural sciences and Sufism.

AI-Juwaynf gave bis students complete freedom of thought and expressio~ and

encouraged them to engage in debate and discussion of aIl kinds.9 It was during this

studentship that al-Ghazzatr gave early proof of great leaming and a tendency towards

philosophizing. Realizing his brilliance, al-Juwaynr asked him to be his assistant, and it was

ftom this point onward that he was recognized and honoured as a rising scholar. It was evident

from his writings that he had made himselfthe master ofevery subject to which he had applied

himself. Furthermore, with his book al-MankhiM, he proved himselfthe superior ofhis

teacher, as al-JuwaynI himself admitted. 10

One distinct character trait ofal-Ghazzalf was that he was a born critic, and possessed

great independence of thought. This he proved when he became impatient of dogmatic

7M M. Shari( History, p. 583.

8M. M. Shari( History, p. 583. Cf. Macdonald, "Life of at--Ghazzilf," p. 71;

Muhammad, Influence, p. Il; Watt, "Ghazali, Abu lJimid al" p. 541.

~. M. Shari!: History, p. 583.


Influence, p. 12.

teaching and freed himself from the bondage of authority (taqliJ or bLind folLowing) by

adopting scepticism. II Interestingly, he never missed any chance to deepen his knowledge of

Sufism. During his stay at Nfshipurhe became a disciple to the Sufi Abu "Alf al-Fa41 ibn

Mu~ammad ibn .. AIf aL-Firmadhi a1-Tusi a pupil of a1-Ghazzili's own uncle and of the

reputed al-Qushayrf (d. 1074). From a1-Fi'rmadhlhe learnt more about the theory and practice

ofSufism. He even praetised rigorous ascetic and StT exercises under his guidance but not

to the desired etTect. His failure to attain the stage at which mystics begin to receive pure

inspiration ftom God caused him to feel unsettled in his mind. 12

b. Al-Ghazzalf as a Professor at the Nf~imfyab College

Upon the death of a1-finnadhf in 1084, which was followed by that of al-Juwaynf in

1085, al-Ghazzilfchose tojoin the courtofN~im al-Mulk (d. 1092), the great vizier of the

Seljq sultans, who at tbat time served sultan Malikshih (r. 1072-1092). N~am al-Mulk

very much impressed by aI-Ghazzali's profound knowledge ofjurisprudence, theology, and


philosophy, which he demonstrated at the assemblies for debate and discussion held at the

court. Consequently, in 1091, he appointed him to the chair of jurisprudence in the

Ni~amiyah college, which he himself had established, in 1065-67, one of the leading

teaching posts in the Sunnf world. He was only thirty-four when he was appointed to this

HM. M. Sharit: History, p. 583. This distinct point ofview eventually had an etTect on
his intellectual joumey later on, which will he discussed below.

12Ibid, p. 583.

position, an honor which had not previously been conferred on anyone at so early an age. 13

As a professor at this college, he became renowned and was sought out by many

people, including the chief savants ofthe time, for bis religious and political advice. It is said

that his audiences often reached more than three hundred people. Moreover, he came to he

looked upon as the greatest jurist ever to practice in Bagbdad!4 ft is no exaggeration to say

that with this position al-Ghazzalfhad achieved what he had heen after, Le. wealth and

reputation. However, after four years of holding this post, he gradually experienced an

intellectual and spiritual crisis. 15

During this crisis he became more sceptical about the possibility ofattaining truth. He

claimed that neither the senses nor the mind are reliable for attaining certainty. His scepticism

was so great that he became highly critical of the very subjects he taught. This lasted for

a1most two months. Once he had abandoned bis scepticism, he began his intellectual joumey

in search of truth among the four "classes of seekers of truth," namely, the Ash'arf

theologians, the Neoplatonic philosophers, the Isma'ftryab and finally the Sfis, or
mystics. 16 According to al-Ghazzilf, the truth cannot lie outside these four classes, for these

lJMuhammad, Irifluence, p. 14. Cf. Watt, "GhazIf, Ab lJimid al," p. 541. According
to M. M. Sharit: however, a1-Gbazzilf was appointed ta the chair of theology, rather than
jurisprudence as mentioned by Hassan Muhammad. See M. M Sbari( History, p. 584.

14Muhamma~ Influence, p. 15.

ISSee M. M. Sharit: Hislory, p. 585. Cf. Muhammad, Influence, p. 16; Macdonald,

"Life of al-Ghazzili:" p. 79.

16Muhamm~ Influence, p. 16ft: Ct: Watt, "Ghazalf, Ab l:Iimid al" p. 541 .

are the people who tread the path ofthe quest for truth. Ifthe truth is not with them, no point

remains in trying to apprehend it. 17

His tirst encounter in ms search for the truth was theology. Unfortunately he found no

intellectual certainty there, for the theologians depended entirely on the acceptance oftheir

dogmatic assumptions ofauthority. He said that they never tried to justitY their assumptions,

which he could not accept without sorne reliable foundation. In addition, the disputes ofthe

scholastics among themselves he considered as mere dialectical exercises which had no real

relation to religious life. 18

Soon dissatisfied with theology, he then turned to philosophy. He studied it as

diligently and as comprehensivelyas he could. He devoted three years ofhis life to this effort,

while at the same time teaching jurisprudence and issuing falaw8 (Iegal opinions, sing.

fatw). He devoted two years to the study of the writings of the different schools of

philosophy. He believed in fact that he was the tirst Muslim scholar ever to do this with the

requisite thoroughness. 19 Nevertheless, he found that it was impossible to build theology on

reason aIone. Reason was fine so far as it went, but it did not go far enough. The tntimate,

the Supreme Truth, could not he reached through it. 20

17W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice ofAI-GhaziB (London: George Allen and
Unwin Ltd, 1953), p. 27.

18Sharif, History, p. 585. Cf: Hassan Muhammad, Influence, p. 18. For details, see
Wa~ The Faith and Practice ofAI-GhazaR, pp. 27..29.

l~uhammacL Influence, p. 19.

2Sharit: His/ory, p. 585.

Although he devoted three years of bis life to studying philosophy, and managed to

produce two books 21 on the subjec~ he still could not fmd the goal he sought from this

discipline. He had in fact discovered twenty points on which the philosophers contradicted

Islam or were inconsistent in their own claims. Seventeen of them he regarded as heretical

and three others as infidelity.22 The three points which he regarded as infidelity were: fust,

rejection of the resurrection of the body and physical punishment in the hereafter; second,

the assertion that God knows universals only and not particulars; and third, the teaching that

the world exists from aIl eternity to ail eternity.23 For ail these reasons, he turncd away from


Having been frustrated by philosophy, he next tumed bis attention to the Isma~tliyah.

21These are Maqasid al-falasifah (The Intentions of the Philosophers), which is believed to
have been written in 1091192; and Tah8fut a/-fa/asifab (The Inconsistencies of the Philosophees),
which was most probably written in 1094. For details, see George F. Rourani, nA Revised
Chronology of GhazaIi's Writings," Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, vol. 104, nos. 1-2
(1984), pp. 292-293.

22Heretical bid ah is "innovation," heresy in the context of Islamic law and doctrine,

unwelcome religious innovation and the opposite of sunnah (custom). The introduction of bid'ah
is seen as a great danger for the stability of the community; however, good bid'ahs are seen by
some as acceptable. See Annemarie, Schimmel, Islam An Introduction (New York: State
University of New York Press, 1992), p. 54. For details see Iftikhar, zatnan, "Bid~ah,n in John
L. Esposito~ ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modem Islamic World, vol. 1 (New York;
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)9 pp. 215-6. Infidelity (kuff) or unhelief includes the
meaning of ingratitude or concealing the truth, namely to cover over the truth that God has revealed
through the Prophets and to conceal the blessings that God has given to His creatures. See W. C.
Chittick, Faith and Practice ofIslam (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), pp.
6-7. For details see Charles J. Adams, "Kufr in John L. Esposito, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of

the Modem lslamic World, vol. 2, pp. 439-443.

23Watt, "GhazaIi 9 " p. 542. Cf. Muhammad, Influence, pp. 19-20. See a1so Watt, The

Faith and Practice, pp. 29-43.

This group, wbich was also called the Batin1yah, coosidered itself the party of"authoritative

instruction," deriving truth from an infallible imam.24 Al-Ghazzili studied their views

carefully. In addition to accomplishing bis intellectual journey, however, he was also

fulfilling the command of the then ~Abbisid caliph al-Mus~ (r. 1094-1118) to refute

their views. For the latter purpose he wrote the treatise aJ-Must8?hUl in 1095.25 He found

that the Batinites and their teachings were eminently unsatisfactory; they absorbed dogma

in parrot-like fashion, but besides this they were woefully ignorant. 26

The last destination in bis intellectualjoumey was Sufism. However, he did oot start

this journey from scratch, because he was already familiar with mysticism. He had made a

theoretical study of Sufism and had ventured into its exercises, although he had oot

advanced far enough to fmd truth in any of its doctrines.21 He admits in bis writings that the

complete mystic "way" includes both intellectual and practical activity, the latter consisting

of exercises which rid the self of obstacles to spiritual progress by stripping off its base

characteristics and vicious morals. The heart is thereby cleansed of ail tbat is not God and

24Watt, The Faith and Practice, p. 26.

25Hourani, "Revised Chronology," p. 293. Actually there are four other books of al-
Ghazzili which were written against the IsmaC9tfiyah; for details see Watt, The Faith and Practice,
p. 52.

26Macdonald, ''Life of al-Ghazzifi," p. 87. Cf. Muhammad, Influence, p. 21. For more
details about bis arguments agains the Bitinites, see Watt, The Faith and Praetice, pp. 43-54. Cf.
Richard Joseph McCarthy, S. J. Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of Al-
GhazaIl's al-Munqidh min al-J;Jalil and Other Relevant Worh of al-GhaziD (Boston: TwaYDe
Publishers, 1980), pp. 175-286.

27Sharif, History, p. 585. Cf. Macdonald, "Life of al-GhazziIi," p. 89.

of whatever prevents constant recollection of Him. He confesses that the intellectual activity

was easier for him than the practical. 28

He found that the sure and certain knowledge which he bad earlier sought was Dot a

knowledge which could he contained in books or in words, but one that demanded to he put

ioto living practice day by day. He maintained tbat the saving truth was to he found not in

recourse to authority (although this did lead to specifie truth) but to that confluence of

perception and action denoted by the notion of "taste" (dhawq). Taste means to experience

directiy. Therefore, as he saw il, the highest trutb, attained only by the Most accomplished

Sfis, cao only he acquired by taste, not by learning.29

Realizing that only tbrougb renouncing bis prestigious position and becoming a fully

committed Sfi could be reach the truth and certainty, he found himself "continuously

tossed about between the attractions of worldly desires and the impulses toward etemal

life. ,,30 He remained in the tbroes of a severe moral conflict and spiritual travail for about six

months, beginning in Rajah 488/July 1095. He collapsed physically and mentally; bis

appetite and digestion failed bim and he lost bis power of speech.31

28Watt, The Faith and Practice, p. 54.

2~ric L. Ormsby, "The Taste of Truth: The Stnlcture of Experience in a1-Gbazifi's al-
Munqidh min al-/)aJ8I," in Wael B. Hallaq and Donald P. Little, eds., lslamic Studies Presented
to Charles J. Adams (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1991), p. 141.

3OWatt, The Faith and Practice, p. 57. Cf. M. M. Sharif, History, p. 585; Mubammad,
Influence, p. 22.

31Watt, The Faith and Practice, p. 57.

In Dhu al-Qa'dah 4881 November 1095, he left Baghdad under the pretext of making

a pilgrimage to Mecca but in fact intending to abandon bis career as a professor in order to

secure certainty for bis mind and peace for bis sou1. He gave away ail bis fortune, except

for sorne "trust funds" to maintain bis family, and proceeded to Syria.32 From bis inteUectual

journey ta fmd certainty and truth, he at last chose the ~iifi life as the one means to acbieve

nearness to Ga~ where eventually he found tranquillity of sou!.

c. Al-GhazzaIi as a ~fi

This period was the Most significant of bis life and it lasted until bis death. During

this lime he produced many works, including his magnum opus, i. e. l1Jya' &U/In al-dIn,

a work that has brought him fame until today. It is therefore of great interest to see how bis

life and inteUectual activities evolved during this tme.

Al-GhazzaIi embarked on bis ~Ufi life in Syria. There he is said to have undergone

a strict ascetic existence for two years. He used to shut himself in one of the Umayyad

Mosque's minarets as part of this mission. However, he did Dot spend the whole two years

in Syria alone, for he is aIso said to have visited Jerusalem and meditated in the Dome of the

Rock. While there he visited Prophet Abraham's tomb at HebroD. In 489/1096 he went to

Mecca to perform the pilgrimage and visited Medina, then returned to Syria. This seems to

suggest that he was motivated to visil the holy places of Islam.

Furthennore, it is noteworthy that during bis stay in Syria he studied under Ab'l

32Watt, The Faith and Practice, p. 59. Cf. M. M. Sbarif, History, p. 586; Muhammad,

Influence, p. 22.

Fatq. Na~r b. Ibramm al-Maqdisl an-Nibulusl (d. 490 A. H.).33 However, it was not for

long due to the latter's death later that year. Murta4a names him as al-Ghazzafi's teacher in

iJadIth. 34 Tibawi, however, states that there was another factor that attracted al-GhazzaIT

ta become bis student, that is, mystical experience3S Even though al-GhazzaIT never

mentions this shaykh in bis books, there are many stories that connect the two of them. 36

From Syria, al-Ghazz3II proceeded ta Iraq where he is said to have spent sorne time

teaching at Baghdad. However, he never resumed bis official position as a professor at the

Ni?amlyah college there. Not long after that al-GhazzaIi continued bis journey and reached

Ts in 493/1099-1100. In Tiis he gave private lessons and, in spite of being distracted by

cares about bis family and bis livelihood, he was occasionalIy able to experience mystical

ecstasy. During this time he wrote severa! of bis works, among them: Klmiya -yl sa 'adat,37

33He was not ooly a mystic but also a recognized leading scholar of the Shifi~ school in
Syria. He spent the last ten years of bis life in the city of Damascus. He led a life of extreme
austerity and asceticism. He was described as az-Zahid, who kept alive on one loaf of bread a day
baked in the corner of his brazier. He was a1so known as afaqIh and mul)additb. See A. L. Tibawi,
"Al-Ghazati's Sojoum in Damascus and Jerusalem," lslamic Quarterly, voL 9, nos. 3-4 (1965),
pp. 70-71.

34Murta4a aI-Zabldi, It1)8f al-sadat a/-muttaqln, vol. 1, (Cairo: n. p., 1311), p. 19.

35Tibawi, "Al-Ghazili's Sojoum," p. 71.

36yibawi mentions severa! authors whose books connect al-Ghazzili to this shaykh; theyare:
Ibn Shuhbah, Tabaqat a/-Shati~yab (Hyderabad: Matba'at Majlis al-Du'irat, 1978-1980), p. 5;
Ibn al- ~Imad al-l:Ianbali, Shadharat a/-dhabab (Cairo: Maktabat aI-Qudsl, 1931-32), vol. 3, p.
395; MUJr ud-D1n, KitSb a/-UDS a/-jaIil bi-tankh a/-Quds wa a/-KhaDJ (Cairo: n.p., 1283 A.H.),
vol. i, p. 264; and Murtaq,a al-Zabldi, [t/Jar a/-sadat a/-muttaqln, vol. 1 (Caro: n.p.,
1311/1894), p. 19. See Tibawi, "Al-Ghazili's Sojoum," pp. 71-73.

37According to George F. Hourani, this book is a Persian version of l1)ya' which was

composed after al-Ghazzifi's retum from Baghdad to Ts and before bis retum to teacbing in

Bidiiyat a1-bidiyab (Beginning ofGuidance), Ayyubii'!-waJad, and a mystic work, Misbkiit

a/-aoW8r (Niche ofLighIS).38

His retirement from public teaching lasted until he was summoned to resume this role

by Fakhr al-Mulk, son of N~im a1-Mulk and vizier of Sanjar who was then viceroy of

Khurasan. This took place in Dh'l-Qa'dah 4991 July-August 1106, when he finally taught

again, this time at the N~imfyab college al Nishipiir His acceptance ofthis summons is said

to have been motivated by bis realisation that his retirement in the hope of preserving himself

from worldly contamination had been selfish in nature. However, this did not deter him from

retiring once again in 5031 1109-10 after having taught for three years at that college.

Although it was during this second teacbing Period that he wrote bis al-Munqidh min al-qaJi/

(Deliverence from Error), this second retirement nevertheless seems to suggest that his

preference for private life was stronger than his enthusiasm for public teaching.

Having retired for the second time, al-Ghazzilf lived in Ts during the fmal years of

NLshapirin Dh al-Qa'da, 499/ JuIy, 1106. See George F. Hourani, "A Revised Chronology of
Ghazlfs Writings," Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, vol. 104, no. 2 (1984), p. 300.

380f these four books, the attribution of a portion of MislJk8l a1-lUlwar to al-Ghazzilf is
questioned, namely its "veils section" or its third section. There are several scholars who discuss
this issue, amongst them Hermann Landolt, Montgomery Watt and W. Gairdner. Landolt mentions
that this section is distinctly Iranian in ail its intents and purposes and therefore very unlike al-
Ghazzali's doctrine of "light." Moreover, the pbiIosophy ofreligion ofthis section is heretical. See
Hermann Landolt, "Ghazalf and Religionswissensehaft." Asialische Studien/ tudes Asiatiques,
vol. 45, no. 1 (1991), pp. 19-72. Montgomery Watt, on the other band, reveals the non-
Ghazalian character of this section. For details see Montgomery Watt, "A Forgery in al-Ghazilrs
Mishkatl" Journal ofthe Royal Asialie Society, 1949, pp. 5-22. Gairdner also discusses the
Mishk8t a1-anw.v-and this issue; forthis sec W. H. T. Gairdner, "Ai-Ghazilf'sMisbkSi aJ-anwlr

and the Ghazilf-Problem," Der Islam, vol. 5 (1914), pp. 121-153.

bis life. While there he wrote other works: Ojam al- ~awamm

af-mu1k. Al-Ghazzili died in

December 1111.
~an ~ilm a/-ka/am and N~at

at the age of fifty-three on 14 Jumida II 5051 18

It is no exaggeration, therefore, to call al-Gbazzill a man of knowledge, for he never

missed an 0PPturnity to expand bis leaming. This is apparent when one sees how he

involved himself in the realm of 'ilm or knowledge from bis cbildhood until bis last breath.

After his labonous struggle to fmd the truth, he fmally settled for Sufism, a discipline in

which, he claimed, one can acquire tranquillity and certainty. His literary productivity was

at its most prolific during bis retirement; however, he also composed excellent works during

bis professorship, managing to complete several of these especially during bis professorship

at the N~am1yah college at Baghdad. He was not only a good teacher, but also a fme author

whose life was devoted to knowledge.

2. His Political Background

Al-GhazzaIi Iived at a time when the 'Abbisid caliphate was in decline and when

Arab rule in Baghdad had nearly passed away.39 The caliphs had lost most of their remaining

power, though they retained their position as figureheads with certain official fonctions and

dignities. Real power passed into the hands of a series of warlords, who eventually came

to bear the title of "sultan. ,,40 The caliphs had become Mere puppets of the Seljiiq sultans,

3~cCart.hy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. ix.

.wwatt, MusIim Intellectual, p. 12.

and had been forced to put aIl worldly power and authority in their hands. The caliphs during

whose reigns al-Gbazzili lived were al-Qi'im (r. 1030-1075), al-Muqtadir (r. 1075-1094)

and al-Mus~ (r. 1094-1118).41

Of the Seljq sultans who reigned during al-GhazziIi's lifetime there were Tugheal

Beg (r. 1037-1063), A1p Arslin (r. 1063-1072), Malik Shah (r. 1072-1092), Mal)md

(r. 1092-1094), Barkiyirq (r. 1094-1104), and fmally Abu Shuja~ Mul).ammad (1104-

1117),42 during whose reign he died. The SeljUqs, who were initially a family of warlords,

were able to take control with the support of Turkish tribesmen in Baghdad in 1055. Their

empire included Syria in the west and Transoxania and the whole of Persia in the east.43

In one way this period marked the end of the mIe of the calipbs; in another, it was

a restoration of the central government of the territories directly onder them. In this new

central government the place of military power was explicit, and the political power strongly

depended on it. In short, those who were successful in the struggle for power, like the

Seljqs, were groups of men, not isolated individuals, who had effective military support.44

Furthennore, apart from having military suppo~ political power was also dependent

on the acquiescence of the people, and this was gained by recognition of the Islamic bases

41H. K. Sberwani, Studies in Muslim Political Thought and Administration (Lahore: Sb.
Muhammad Ashraf, 1910), p. 137.

42Ibid., p. 137.

43Watt, Muslim lntellectual, p. 13.

44Ibid., p. 13.

of society, Le., acknowledgement of the caliph, participation in worship on certain

occasions, and continuation of the courts applying the Sharl~h.4s The earlier phase of the

Seljq domination, especially the reigns of Alp Arslin (1063-1072) and Malik Shah (1072-

1092), was a time of peace and prosperity and of great cultural achievement. This was due

ta the wise and efficient vizier of these two sultans, N~im al-Mulk (1017-1092). Though

nominally subordinate to the sultan, he was practically all-powerful for a period of about

thirty years (1063-92).46

However, the latter part of the Seljq period was colored by civil wars among the

claimants to the sultanate. This occurred after the death of Malik Shah, and is said to have

been instigated by the sons of N~am al-Molk, Fakhru'-l-Mulk and Muwayyidu'I-Mulk.47

The civil wars took place during al-Ghazzifi's professorship at the Nqamlyah college in

Baghdad (1091-1095). They continued for years and ended in a kind of political paralysis

in the Seljiiq dominion, its division ioto a number of small states and its [mal disruption soon

after al-GhazzaIi's death.48

At this time, furthennore, the Balinite tbreat was on the upswing. It reached a high

point with their assassination of N~im al-Mulk in 485 A. H. and bis son Fakhru'-l-Mulk

4SIbid., p. 13.

46Ibid., p. 14. See also McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. x.

47Sherwani, Studies, p. 137.


in 500 A. H.49 The Batinites imposed terror tactics in the eastem zones of the IsIamic world.

Behind this movement were the Fatimids, who exploited the political anarchy and Jack of

outstanding leaders among the Abbisids to cause general havoc. 50

In generaI, the political background of al-GhazzaIi was quite confused and

complicated. On the one hand there was a caIiph, whose dominion seems to have been

limited to the mention of bis name in the Friday public sermon and to its inscription on

coinage, while on the other there were the Seljuq sultans, who dominated the army and

politics. Moreover, the civil wars among the claimants to the sultanate also added to the

deteriorating political situation. Amid bis bighest professional achievements al-GhazziIrwas

faced with two big problems, one being bis personal crisis which led to bis physical and

mental collapse, and the other the political agitation and turmoil wbich challenged bis

perception of the established order of things.

4~cCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. x.

5~cCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. xi. Cf. Carole, Hillenbrand, "The Power
Struggle between the Seljuqs and the Ismi~ilis of Alamt, 847-518/1094-1124: The Seljuq
perspective," in Farhad Daftary, ed., Medieval Isma1D History and Thought (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 205-220. Cf. Farhad Daftary, The Isma&ilis: Their
History and Doctrines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 324-434; Farbad
Daftary, The Assassins Legends (London: 1 B. Tauris, 1994), pp. 88ft, 136ft; Bernard Lewis,
The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), pp. 50-58,


A1GhazzIi on PoUties.

1. His Works on PoUtics.

Of the many works that al-GbazzaIi produced, there are certain ones tbat speak of

his views on politics. These include Fat!a'iJ) a1-Ba!inlyah wa fat!a'il a1-Must8?hUfyah, a/-

Iqti~ad O'-i'tiqad Il.!ya' ~ulim ad-clin and N/lilbat aJ-mu/k. 1 The political views

expressed in these works on the imamate and the sultanate2 are the Cocus of this study.

2. Fa/a'ih al-Ba.tinlyah wa-faga'il al-Must8?hUfyah.

(This book contains two parts. The second part raises doubts as to the genuineness of the
work as al-GhazziIi's due to its approach, which is at variance with the rest of al-Ghazziifi's
writings, both in Arabic and in Persian, not to mention the fact that it even clashes with part one of
the same work. For details, please see Patricia Crone, "Did al-Ghazifi Write a Mirror for Princes?
On the Authorship of N~Jat al-mu/k;" Jerusalem Studies in Arabie and Islam, v 01. 10 (1987),
pp. 167-191. See aIso Carole Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxyor Realpolitik? Al-Ghazifi's Views
on Government", Iran, vol. 26 (1988), p. 92. Cf. George F. Hourani, liA Revised Chronology
of al-GhazaIi's Writings", Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, vol. 104, nos. 1-2 (1984),
p. 301. Due to its dubious authenticity, our study will ooly focus on part one of this book.

2Al-GhazzaIi aIso gives bis view on the development of the idea of the state in bis magnum
opus, l1Jyii' &ulim al-din; see in the latter wode, vol. 3, bk. 6, chap. 5, ed. Zayn ad-Dm Abi
FaQI 'Abd al-RaQim ibn l:Iusayn (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Tijanyah al-Kubra, n.d.), pp. 224-230.
Haroon Khan Sherwani, in commenting on this vicw of al-GhazzaIi, says;

"One is amazed to find the modemity of the argument propounded in this synthesis of the
state-idea, and it is refreshing to note that after accepting the Aristotelian doctrine of the
social nature of Man, GhazziIi, instead of falling on the dry beap of patriarchaI theory
faces blunt facts of human association and develops the idea little by little till he reaches
the doctrine of the formation of the State with all ils implications."

For more information please see Haroon Khan Sherwani, Studies in Muslim Political Thought and

Administration (Lahore: Sb. Muhammad Asbraf, 1968), pp. 146-150.

-- This book, better known as KitSb al-MustaPJh7, was named after the reigning

'Abbasid caliph, al-Must~Billih (r. 478/1094 to 512/1118),3 who had commissioned

al-GhazzaIi to compose it. The motive behind its composition Jay in the caliph's bid to show

up the errors of the Ismi'lfis, who constituted a threat to the 'Abbisid caliphate, and to

legitimize bis reign.4

Kitib al-Mustqhiilis believed to have been composed in 487/1094,5 shortly before

al-GhazzaIi's departure from Baghdad in 488/1095 as a result of bis spiritual crisis. In tenns

of its authenticity, no scholar doubts its ascription to al-Ghazzifi. 6 There were two target

audiences for whom this book was written: the Ill'St constituted the masses, incJuding

scholars and lay persons;7 and the second was the caliph al-Must~ himself, whom al-

3Please see Richard Joseph McCanhy, Freedom and Fulfillment (Boston: Twayne
Publisher, 1980), p. 175. Subsequent reference to the English translation of aJ-Must8?biil are
from this work, printed in the appendix 2, pp. 175-286.

4For more details please see McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 175-286. See
aIso Hilleobrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy, pp. 81-87.

sDuncan B. Macdonald, "The Lite of a1-Ghazzali, with especial Reference to His Religious
Experiences and Opinions", Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, 20 (1899), p. 87. See a1so
George F. Hourani, "The Chronology ofGhazifi's Writings", Journal ofAmerican Oriental Society,
79 (1959), p. 227. Cf Carole Hillenbrand, "1s1amic Orthodoxy," p. 82; W. Montgomery W~
[slamic Philosophy and Theology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1962), p. 119.

~illiam Montgomery Watt, for instance, in bis "The Authenticity of the Works Attributed
to al-GhazaIi", Journal ofthe Royal Asialic Society, 1952, pp. 25-45, raises no doubts as to its
authorsbip. Cf. Hourani, "A Revised Chronology," p. 293; Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Studies in Al-
Ghazzali, (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press 1975), p. 46. Lazarus-Yafeh groups this work with

those writteo by al-Ghazzifi during bis stay in Baghdad, Le., from 1091 to 1095.

7This is confinned by Hillenbrand who says:

"It is oot surprising, therefore, that one of the fust actions of al-Must~after becoming

GhazzaIi counsels in chapter ten of the book.8

Political Contents of Kit8b aJ-Mustazbiri

AI-Ghazzifi presents bis political views in chapters nine and ten of this book. In

chapter nine he supports bis arguments with legal proofs to claim that the true caliph of the

age was al-Must~ Bill8h. Meanwhile, in cbapter ten, he gives counsel to the caliph,

listing the religious duties which the latter must observe to remain worthy of merlt.

a. Chapter Nine.

In chapter nine, al-GhazziIi, states bis intention to accomplisb three things: validate

the imamate of al-Must~ acknowledge the validity of bis appointment of govemors and

qa/is Gudges); and to proclaim him. as God's vicegerent over men, therebyestablishing

obedience to him as a duty incombent on ail Muslims.9 To that end, he decries the corrupted

doctrine of most other writers on the imamate. This doctrine deDies the existence of a caliph,

since no candidate possesses all the requisite qualities for holding the office of imam. As

such, those who assumed the latter title would only violate the conditions of the imamate,

caliph was to commission from al-Ghazili, as one of the leading theologians of the age, a
work of polemic against these Ismi1fis whose sophisticated propaganda was exerting
growing appeal amongst the intelligentsia and the common people alike."

See Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p. 82.

8Al-Ghazzifi, Ab I:ramid, Fatf8'ilJ aJ-B8IiDlyab, ed. l'Abd a1-Ralpnin Badawl (Cairo: Dar
al-Qaumtyah lil-Tibi'ah wa-al-Nashr, 1964), pp. 195-225. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and
Fulfillment, pp. 280-286.

9Al-Ghazzili, Faf/a'i!J, p. 169. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 274.

due to their Jack of worth or qualifications. IO This condemnation shows that a1-Gbazzifi

accepted the overall theory of the imamate.

Al-Ghazzifi argues that tbis corrupted doctrine constitutes an attack on law-based

judgement (a1Jkam, prescriptions) and an explicit conmnation of their inoperativeness

(ta ~!I1) and neglect (J ibm8/). It a1so negates the validity of ail administrative posts, the

soundness of qat/is' judgments and the weight of God's righ18 and prescriptions in Muslim

life, II ail on the grounds of the absence of the imam. Consequently, the affairs of the people

are left unadministered and God's laws unexecuted. It becomes a religious duty, therefore,

to right this state of corruption. 12

Having exposed the corruption of the foregoing group, he proceeds with an argument

justifying al-Must~s claims to the imamate. Syllogistically, he argues;

There must be an imam in every age.

But only he [al-Mus~] is qualified for the office.
Therefore, he is the rightful imam. 13

Al-GhazzaIi argues that there must he an imam in every age and that aIl Muslims agree upon

the necessity of the imamate. He affmns the principle of the necessity of this institution in

every age as indisputable and based on the unanimmous consensus (ijma~) of ail Muslims.

10Al-GhazzaIi, Faf/a'iJ}, p. 169. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275.

11 Al-GhazzaIi, Faf/a'iJ}, p. 170. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment p. 275.

12Al-Ghazzafi, Faf/a'iJ}, p. 170. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275.

13 Al-Gbazzifi, Faf/a'l1J, p. 170. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275.

The only points open to dispute, he says, are the qualifications of the individual.

However there was one man who, according to al-GhazzaIi, questioned this

principle, even though all knowledgeable men agreed upon bis falseness. This man was

'Abd al-Ralpnan ibn Kaysan,14 who is also identified as ~ Abu Bakr al- ~A~am, and one of

the persans who held that the imantate is void in the event of civil war (6 ayyam al-Btnab)

or disagreement among the people (ikhtUafal-nas). Without the general consensus (ijma'

of the ummah, 'Abd al-Ralpnin contended, the imamate is void. 1S

Al-GhazzaIi put forward two points to justify the necessity of the imamate. First, the

example of the early companions who acted hastily to set about appointing an imam

immediately after the death of the Prophet Mul}ammad (pBUH).16 Although their action

could have had a negative impact, 17 their urgent attention to appointing an imam served as

14Al-GhazziIi, Faa'ilJ, p. 170. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275. Cf.
also al-Ghazzafi, al-Iqti~ad 6'I-i&tiqad ed. by I. A. ubuk and H. Atay (Ankara: Nue
Matbaasi, 1962), p. 234, n. 1.

15Shahrastirii's commentary on the margins of Ibn Hazm's al-Fa,l 6 al-mi/al wa al- 'a!Jwa'
wa a1-nilJaI vol. 1-2 (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rif~ 1986), p. 93. Abu Bakr al-' A~am also holds that
the Qur' an is a created thing (jism makhliik) and denies the accidents (&ritJ a,/aD) and the
attributes of God originally. See al-GhazziIi, Faifa'ilJ, p. 170, no. 4. Cf. Shahrastin1 on the
margins of Ibn Hazm, al-F~l 6 al-mi/al, p. 96.

16Al-GhazziIi, FaifaJ}, p. 171. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275.

l7Due to this hasty action, the Muslims came eventually to he divided ioto two large sects,
the Sunnites and Shi 'ites. For an account of this development see, among others, Moojan Momen,
An Introduction to Shi~i Islam (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1985); AI-Kishif
al-Ghi!a, 'Allamah Shaykh MuI)ammad ij:usayn, The Origins ofShl&ite Islam aDdits Princip/es
(Qumm: Ansariyan Publications, 1982); Dwight, Donaldson, The Shi-ite Religion (London:
Luzac & Co., 1933); Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam. 3 vols. (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1974); al-M~afIar, MuI)ammad Ri4i, The Faith ofSbi&a Islam

a valuable tesson in the the importance and necessity of the office. Second, he argues that

the duty of defending and championing the faith is necessary and incumbent upon Muslims.

In order to preserve order, he continues, there must he a responsible individual to guide men

and to thwart danger, including anarchy.18 For this reason, al-GhazziIi feels that the

imamate is an indispensable office for Muslim society.

In proclaiming al-Must~ as the qualified imam, al-Ghazzili points to two facts

which discredit the Ba~inites, thereby disqualifying them from eligibility for the imamate. 19

First, their doctrines and their imam are guilty of innovation and deviation (bid'a) al the

very least, and unbelief (kufr) at the most. This includes the affirmation of two pre-etemal

Gods, a concept to which, according to al-Ghazzifi, aIl the Balinite sects agreed. This

falsehood disqualifies them frOID the imamate by virtue of their not meeting the key

conditions of the office: correctness of belief and soundness of religion. 20 Second, the

Ba!inites are at fauit for rejecting, by faIse interpretation, Many of the eschatological details

(Qumm: Ansariyan Publications, 1982); and' Allamah S. Mul)ammad l:Iusayn Tabitabi'l, ShCite
Islam, tr., and ed. S. Hossein Nasr (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1975).

18Al-Gbazzifi, Fa{la~iJJ, p. 171. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 275.

l~be Bitinites claimed that only their master (who occupied the post of caliph in Egypt)
was qualified for the imamate and that aU mankind had to render obedience and submission to him.
He was the infallible imam and the only person qualified to interpret the sbari~ab, and aU men had
to leam from bim. See al-Ghazzifi~ Fa4~iJJ, pp. 46, 73. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and
Fulfillment, pp. 202, 218. See also Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p. 85.

20Al-Gbazzifi, Fa{la~iJJ, p. 172. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 276.

revealed in the Qur'an.21 How then can a person, whose falsehood in religion is clear, argues

al-Ghazzafi, he fit for the imarnate? Given these falsifications, the only eligible candidate

is al-Mus~, because bis views on dogma were sound.

Moreover, al-Ghazzifi employs the idea of "might makes right" (Imamat taqOJ bi-

al-shawkah)22 in strengthening bis argument against the Batinites. He states that if, for the

sake of argument, the leader of the Batinites were fit for the imamate, bis claims would still

lack support frOID the people. By contrast, obedience and submission to al-Must~ were

demonstrated by ail the leaders and ulam a' of the age and the masses of men in the furthest

East and West, excluding only the Batinites. Thus, he argues that if might is another of the

yardsticks for the right to the imamate, then the Batinites' claims must he rejected. 23 [t was

al-Mus~ who enjoyed the support and allegiance of the majority.

It is also noteworthy that al-Ghazzifi repudiates the very source of the Batinites'

claims to the imamate. In chapter seven of this booIc24 he argues that the source of the

21 Al-Ghazzifi, Faf/a'iJ], p. 173. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 276.

nnus idea was used by the enemies of the Prophet Shu~aib, who was lold by the former that
they had all power and influence, whereas he was only a poor teacher. They could stone, imprison
or do whatever they liked with him. However, they spared him, for the sake of bis family.
According to A. Yusuf ~ Ali what the former understood by power and influence was brute strength.
Seeverse 11:91, TheHolyQur'an: Text TranslationandCommentary tr. andcomm. A. Yusuf

~Alj (Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983), p. 539. In Arthur J. Arberry's translation, the verse is
11:93. Please see Arthur J. Arberry, tr., The Koran (Oxford: Oxford University Press~ 1983),
p. 222.

23 Al-Ghazzifi, Fat!a'iJ], p. 173. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 276.

24Al-GhazziIi, Fat!8'~ pp. 132-145. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 261-


imamate is not a textual designation (D~)2S as contended by the Bitinites. The only valid

source, he contends, is the choice (ikhtiyat) of the people of Islam and their consensus in

submission. 26 This is precisely the criterion he employs to justify the imamate of al-

Must~. If the credentiais of the Bitinites are proven faIse, he maintains, the only

criterion left is "election."

Realizing that it is impossible to obtain the consensus of all men, al-GhazzaIi reasons

that the support of one person can suffice if he is on the side of the multitude, as bis consent

would represent theirs. 27 He defends this view by referring to the manner in which the fust

caliph, Ab Bakr, was appointed. He says that when 'Umar swore fealty to Abu Bakr, the

latter's imamate was established by the succession ofthose who followed 'Umar's lead. This

process, he argues, was disputed by no split or faction, for the aim of an imam is the uniting

25According to ShI'ite thought, an imam is appointed tbrough the explieit designation

(n~~) of a preeeding imam. The first D~1 initiated by the Prophet onder the divine eommand or
inspiration, had remained in the l:Iusaynid line of imams, having been transmitted successively
from 'Ali to al-l:Iasan, and then to al-ausayn, Zayn al-'Abidin, al-Biqir, Ja'far al-Sidiq and 50
on in the Alid family. Il is said that il was during al-Biqir's time (son ofZayn al-'Abidin) that the
idea of n8$~ imamate became widespread amongst the Sh1'ites. The process of designation is
sometimes referred to as a eovenant ('ahd) from one to the next. Ja'far al-Samq, the sixth imam
said that each imam knows who is to come after him and 50 he appoints him as bis suceessor. See
Farhad Daftary, The Isma1Ds: Their History and Doctrines (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1990), pp. 61, 69, and 84; Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi'; Islam (New Haven
and London: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. xxi, 37, 39 and 154; M. G. S, Hodgson, The
Ventureoflslam, vol. 1 (ChicagoandLondon: TbeUniversityofChieagoPress, 1974), p. 260.

26 Al-GhazzaIi, Fat!a'iJJ, p. 175. Cf. MeCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 276.

27 Al-GhazziIi, Fat!a'iJJ, p. 176. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 277.

of views (jam sbitat
& ara,.28 However, the one whose allegiance is followed by the rest

must aIso exercise authority and influence whicb are recognized and revered by the populace.

This he tenns al-shawkah, which signifies personal power, military power and influence.

By asserting this point, he determines that there can he no doubt about al-Must~s

imamate.29 Apparently al-GhazziIi, through bis influence, saw himself as perfonning the

role of ~Umar in acknowledging the imamate of al-Mus~. Because of bis influence, the

&u1ama' and the masses would follow suit.

AI-GhazzaIi admits that the specification of the imamate is reduced to the choice of

a single person, and to God's choice and appoinment. If God were not satisfied with it, he

continues, He would not make it workable. Although the imam of the Fiitimids (the

Balinites) had aIse been successful. it had been proven that they hold faise beliefs which

automatically, according to al-GbazziIi, disqualify them from office. The real justification

for the choice is in the alIegiance and obedience that the imam inspires-a grace and gift of

God, unattainable by any human contrivance.30 This does not happen to the Balinites

because they do not appoint their imam by election but by textual designation, which has

nothing to do with the consent of the masses.

Al-Ghazzafi lists ten qualities and conditions that an imam must meet, six of them

28 Al-GhazzaIi, Faf/a'), p. 177. Cf. McCarhty, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 277.

29 Al-GhazzaIi, Faf/a'), p. 178. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 277.

30Al-GhazzaIi, Faf/a'), p. 178. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 277.

innate and the remainder acquired (/cash). The six innate qualities are: (1) aI-buJgh,

maturity; (2) aI- ~aq/, intelligence; (3) aJ-1}urriyab, freedom; (4) male sex; (5) nasab

Quraysh, descent from Quraysh; and (6) sa/amah /Jusat a/-sam ~ wa J-b~ar, soundness

of hearing and sight. The four acquired qualities are: (1) al-najdah, intrepidity (bravery,

courage; fitness for combat, war or fighting); (2) aI-kitayah, competence; (3) al- ilm,

knowledge; and (4) al-wara~, piety.3l Al-GhazzaIi claims that the frrst six qualities were

present in al-Must~.32

For the four acquired qualities, al-GhazzaIi simply shows that al-Must~fulfilled

all the requisites. 33 However, the third quality, Le. knowledge (al- ~ilm) is dismissed by

al-GhazzaIi as a rank of "private personal effort in legal reasoning" (al-ijtih ad), which,

while indispensable to the imam,34 cao he met by consultation with the learned. The imam

31Al-Ghazzifi, Fat!a'iJJ, p. 181. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 278.

32Al-Ghazzifi, Fat!a'iJJ, p. 180. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 278.

33Al-GhazzaIi, Fat;la'i1}, pp. 182-194. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 278.

34Pertaining to the third requisite i.e. knowledge (a1- ~ilm) of the imam, al-Ghazzili says
that the ulami' are agreed that the imamate is ooly for one who has attained the rank of personal
effort (mujtahid) and cao therefore give a legal decision (fatwii) in the science of the Law. He says
that nobody could claim that this requisite is present nor cm he deny that it is a requisite. However,
if one denies it, he ooly departs from the past ulama' and not from the Prophet. He says that
M~ad never mentioned that knowledge is a requisite for the imamate; in fact the ooly requisite
the latter mentioned is descent from Quraysh. He maintains that the requisites of the imamate must
be proved, and it is either by the text of MulJammad (1)aditb) or by reasoning based on the
community's welfare (ma,lal)ab) that this may he achieved. Without such a text referring to
knowledge, therefore, al-Ghazzifi felt entitled to compromises on this requisite for the imamate

of al-Musta?hir. Al-Gbazzili, F8I/8'il}, p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

can "know" by bis own reasoning or by that of others.3S ln principle, he concedes, one

ought to prefer a person of independent personal judgement over one who foUows others.

But if the latter is chosen, and bas the support and the submission of all, and there is no

Qurayshite mujtahid (one who cao exercise independent personal effort in legal reasoning)

who possesses aIl the requisites, the choice is valid.36 However, if there were a qualified

Qurayshite, and the deposition of the other would lead to various exigencies, insurrections

and disturbances, it would not he prudent to depose the incombent and replace him with the

qualified Qurayshite.37 He admits that knowledge adds lustre to the imamate, but argues that

the result sought from the office is to extinguish dissension. This function, he warns, is Dot

to be sacrificed for more precision in differentiating hetween arguments or in conforming to

the views of others.38 Two conclusions cao he derived from this argument of al-GhazzaIi's:

f'rrst, personal knowledge (private personal effort in legal reasoning or al-ijtihaI) is not

something indispensable to the imam; and second, the need for the imamate is paramount

in view of the oeed for an ordered society.

Thus al-GhazziIi's proviso that ao unqualified imam could he removed was only

theoretical in nature. In practical terms, he simply could oot he deposed. Al-Ghazzili was

3S Al-GhazzIi, Fa(la'iJ), p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

36Al-GhazziIi, Fa(la'iJ), p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment., p. 279.

37Al-GhazziIi, Fa(la'i/;l, p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

38Al-GhazziIi, Fa(la'i/;l, p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

the first to state this conclusion in such clear terms. 39 Dissension against al-Mus~ was

therefore unlawful, and the ~ulam' were bound to acknowledge the formal validity and

legality of bis imamate. AlI that remained for al-Mus~was to settle problems through

consultation with the &u1am~ In fac~ al-Ghazzili allowed for the possibility that the imam

who is young might time to attain a rank of independence in the science of the law later on.4O

b. Chapter Ten.

This chapter is comprised of al-Ghazzifi's advice to al-Must~. In it, al-Ghazzifi

counsels the imam on bis twofold dulies. The fust group of dulies is connected with

knowledge (~ilm) and is theoretical in nature, while the second group is connected with

action Cama/) and is practical.41 Al-GhazziIi says that the commander of the faithful

(imam, caliph) is religiously bound to read and reflect on this chapter continually. If Gad

aids him in striving towards mastery of at least one of these sets of duties, even though it

should take a year, it would signify success and ultimate bliss (sa&ada q~w).42

The duties that are connected with knowledge (~i1m) are four in number: (a) the

imam must know why man was created and for what purpose; (b) he must recognize that

39J)eposing an imam is impossible during this time because it would cause various vexations,
insurrections and disturbances, resulting in chaos and disharmony in the society. See McCarthy,
Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

4OAl-Ghazzifi, Faf/a'iJJ, p. 194. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

41The dulies which are connected with knowledge are four, and the duties connected with
action eleven. For details sec al-Ghazzifi, Fat!a'iJ}, pp. 195-225. Cf. McCartby, Freedom and
Fulfillment, p. 280-286.

42Al-Ghazzifi, Faf/a'iJJ, p. 195. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 280.

it is imperative for bis happiness in the next life that he bas piety (godliness), and that the

place of this piety is located in the beart; (c) the imam should know that being God's

vicegerent (caliph) over men carries responsibilities for the betterment of those men; and

that only he has the capability to better the people of the world, bis town, bis household,

and himself; and finally, (d) he must recognize that man is comprised of angelic and bestial

qualities. 43

The duties wbich are connected with action demonstrate al-GhazzaIi's conception of

a truly Islamic ideal for politics and government.44 First, the imam is advised to he just in

dealing with bis subjects. If he deviates from the path of justice (~adl), bis subjects May

regard him as a roler who has usurped power.4S His aim should he to gain the approval and

love of men in a way wbicb confonns to the law. Obedience to him is iocumbent ooly when

he has brought men ioto conformity witb the Iaw. 46 Moreover, he should solicit, and he

grateful for, the counsel of the ~ulama' (the Iearned), as weil as profit from the admonitions

of the rightly guided caliphs and those of religious eIders (mawa'i~ mash8yi1dJ a1-din) to

43 Al-GhazziIi, Fat/a1iJJ, p. 201. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 284ft.

According to McCarthy, this portion on duty (action: famal) is similar to that found in

another work of al-Ghazzifi's, Le., Na,Jat a/-muJk which has been translated by F. R. C.
Bagley into English. See al-GhazziIi, 81-Tibr a/-masbk 6 D8IJat al-muJ~ 00. Mu4ammad
A1Jmad Damaj (Beirut: al-Mu'asassah a1-rami'iyah lil-Dirisit wa al-Nashr wa al-Tauz1', 1987),
pp. 109-140. Cf. al~GbazziIi, GbazaIls Book ofCounselfor Kings (N8ilbat aJ-MuJk), tr. F.
R. C. Bagley (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 12-3l.

4sHillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p. 91.

Al-Ghazzifi, Fat/a'iJJ, p. 206. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 286;


Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy, p. 91 .If

bygone princes.47

Furthermore, the imam is also counselled to live in piety. He is advised to forfeit

comfort, luxury and indulgence in food and clothing. He should ensure that bis office

facilitates worsbip and seize every opportunity to serve God through humility, justice,

empathy and sincere counsel to Muslims.48 The imam is reminded that the imamate is a

fonnidahle post: it can lead to good. or to unsurpassed misery. Kindness in all matters should

be more predominant in the imam than barshness. While he is in power he must temper bis

actions with mercy, clemency, good conduct and restraint.49

Al-GhazzaIi's approach, in this chapter, is similar to that of bis other works in that

he quotes frOID the Qur'an and 1)adith and the sayings of the rightly guided caliphs to buttress

bis arguments.

3. AI-Iqti~ad fi 'l-i'tiqad

This book was weitten in 488/1095 while al-GhazzaIi was still teaching in Baghdad.5O

It was compiled just after al-Must~and before l1}ya' fiu!D1 a/-dfn. This book is said to

have been called al-GhazziIi's "chief theological work" and bas received considerable

scholarly attention, fonning the basis of many of the generalizations made about bis political

47 Al-Gbazzifi, Fat!a'iJ), p. 212. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 286.

48 Al-Gbazzifi, Fat!a'iJ), p. 203. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 286.

49 Al-GhazzaIi, Far!a'iJ), p. 220. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 286.

5~ourani, liA Revised Chronology," p. 294. Cf. Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p.



Political Contents of Kitab aJ-Ig,tisad 6 '}-itiqad

The political content of this book is concentrated in chapter three, entitled "On the

imamate. ,,52 Only the fmt two sections of this cbapter are relevant to this discussion, while

the third section explains the belief of the ahl al-Sunna [the People of the (established)

Custom] in the companions of the Prophet M~ammad and the Rightly Guided Caliphs. In

section one, al-GhazzaIi emphasizes the need for an imam. He argues that this need is not

dictated by reason but by revelation,53 the same argument put forward by al-Miwardi (d.

450/1058).54 Al-GhazzaIi employs a syllogism to support bis argument. In bis words:

5 1Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p. 87.

s2Al-Ghazzifi, al-Iqti~ad B'J-i&tiq8d, ed. by [. A. ubuk and H. Atay (Ankara: Nor

Matbaasi, 1962), p. 234.

s3Ibid., p. 234.

s4Abu'I-ljasan lOAli b. M~ammad b. l:Iablb al-8~n al-Baghdidi al-Mawardi was

regarded as one of the greatest and most leamed jurists of bis time. Because of bis work a1-A1)kam
al-suJ.tinlyah wa a1-wilayh aJ-dinlyab, he is looked on as the OOt Muslim to have developed
Islamic political science in the modem sense ofthe term. He was a ShafilOite, like al-GhazzalL For
bis views on the the mamate, see ~awardi, aJ-A1)kam a1-su1!amyab wa al-wiliiyib al-dinlyab, ed.
Khilid Abd al-La!lf (Beirut: Dar al-Kit8b al- Arabi, 1990). Among other works on bis views,
lo lo

see Sherwani, Studies, pp. 87-112; Hamilton A. R. Gibb, "Al-Mawar<fi's Theory of the
Khihfah" , lslamic Culture, vol. It no. 3 (1937), pp. 291-302; Erwin I. J. Rosenthal,
Political Thought in Medieval Islam: An lntroductory Outline (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1968), pp. 27-38; Hamilton A. R. Gibb, Studies on the Civilization oflslam (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1982), pp. 151-162; M. M. Sharif, ed., A History of Muslim
Philosophy vol. 1 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1963), pp. 717-732; A. al-Baghdidi, "Al-
Mawardi's Contribution to Islamic Political Thougbt," lslamic Culture, vol. 58, no. 4 (October
1984), pp. 327-331; Qamar-ud-Din Khan, "Al-Mawardi's Theory of the State," lqbal, vol. 3,
no. 3 (Jan. 1955), pp. 39-86; and Muhammad Nafis, "The Concept of the Imamate in the Works

of al-Miwardi" (M.A. thesis, McGill University, 1993).

Good ordering of religion was an aim of the Prophet (,8l)ib aJ-sbar);
good ordering of religion is brought about only by an imam who is obeyed;
therefore, the setting up of an imam, who is obeyed, is necessary (obligatory).ss

Realizing that the middIe te~ i.e. that a good ordering of religion is incumbent upon the

presence of an imam who is obeyed, might he disputed as un-Islamic, al-Ghazzifi defends

it with another syllogism. He says;

Good ordering of religion (aldln) is brought about only by good ordering of this
world (al-duny);
good ordering of this world is brought about ooly by an imam who is obeyed;
therefore, good ordering of religion is brought about only by an imam who is

obeyed. 56

In upholding this syllogism, al-Ghazzifi provides a clear indication of what he means by the

word ''al-dunyi.'' He admits that bis defmition of the word is not equivalent to that in

common use.57 His definition implies basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and

health. These, he maintains, are the preconditions of life. 58

Furthennore, Al-GhazzaIi admits that worldly security is essential. If one is busy

defending oneself and one's family against tyranny or in search of a livelihood, he reasons,

no time cao he devoted to the quest for knowledge or worship; which are the only means of

SS Al-Gbazzafi, aJ-Iqti-!ac/, pp. 234-235.

s6Ibid., p. 235.

57Al-GbazzaIi says that to most people the world (aJ-dUDy) denotes the opposite of religion
(dIn), and that the preoccupation with promoting it willlead to the destruction of religion. This
meaning includes excessive enjoyment of tbis world's pleasures. Al-Ghazzili, aJ-Iqti~~ p. 235.

5sAl-Gbazzafi, aJ-Iqti-!ac/, p. 235.

attaining true felicity in the hereafter.S9 In other words, ifthere is no security in this world-

which can, in tuen, guarantee a commitment to knowledge and worship - one cannot gain

bliss in the next. This argument, i.e., the need for an ordered society, is the same as in the


As an exemple of "disorder," al-Ghazzili points to the climate of strife which erupts

on the death of sultans (sallln) and imams. If no immediate appointment is made to

replace him with another sultan who is obeyed (su//an mU/a " then, he argues, discord

will prevail and the sword will take precedence.61 In short, the masses will face a great

ordeal. A situation such as this would preclude anyone from devoting himself exclusively

to the acquisition of knowledge and worship. To al-Ghazzifi, "Religion (al-dIn) and

authority (sul/ana) are twins" and "Religion is a foundation and the su/tan its guardian

(1J8ris); a thing which has no foundation will fall and that which has no guardian will he

lost. ,,62

Al-GhazzII concludes bis arguments by maintaining that a reasonable man cannot

dispute the fact that human beings - because of their different natures, the inherent diversity

of their passions and the divergence of their opinions - would engage in quarrels and wars,

S~id., p. 236.

60Al-Ghazzifi, Fat!a'i/J, p. 193. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279.

61 Al-Ghazzifi, aJ-Iqti~iid, p. 236.

62Ibid., p. 236.

and that the victor would destroy the loser if left to bis own devices. From this stems the

necessity of appointing an imam.

The second part of chapter two deals with the way in wbich a person may he

appointed to the imamate. Al-Ghazzili stresses certain properties (kha ~~) which a person

must possess and wbich differentiate him from the rest, prior to bis appointment as imam.

These properties are of two kinds7 namelY7 properties that one possesses in connection with

the self (fI nafsihJ)7 and properties which are connected with other people (min jihat

ghayrihl). The propertie~ he mentions fmt are a/-/dfiiyab (competence), a/- &jlm

(knowledge), a/-wara& (piety), and descent from the Quraysb.63 These properties are the

same as the qualities cited in the a/-MustaPiiii64

Al-Ghazzifi maintains tbat if there is more than one Qurayshite descendant who

possesses the flISt set of properties, then the need arises to evaluate them against the second

set, namely: being appointed to govem (tawliya) or; being entrusted with authority

(tafwltf) by other people. The ways in which a person is given this authority are 7 he

continues, threefold: through designation (na,~) by the Prophet M~ammad; through

appointment by the mling imam of a suitable successor from among bis sons or from among

the Quraysh; or through entrusting authority (tafwi!) in a suitable individual by a person

vested with military power (dhu sbawkah) whose lead is followed by others such that they

63 Al-Ghazzifi, al-Iqtj~ad, p. 237.

~e first three properties are found among the acquired qualities, while the last property,

Le., descent from Quraysh, is found among the innate qualities. See above page 28 of this cbapter.

participate in giving fealty to the appointed imam..65

Of the three methods of conferring appointmen~ ooly the Iast method interested al-

GhazzaIi. The flISt two methods are not given the same weight, and are only alluded to in

brief.66 The last method, an act of alIegiance by one man with military power (db

shawkah), is sufficient to appoint a person to the imamate.67 This is due to the support and

respect which the former enjoys among the people. Moreover, bis actions meet the demands

of the imamate itself, that is, to unite the divergent views and interests of men. The imam

is obeyed because allegiance is, in tom, given by the man who is obeyed (shakh~ mUfa,.68

Furthennore, if more than one man is vested with sucb military power, they must agree with

one another and pay aIlegiance to the appointed imam, for only then can obedience he


In case onlY one Qurayshite, who is obeyed and foUowed (mU/a& muttabi" appoints

65 Al-GhazzaIi, aJ-Iqtiiad, p. 238.

66As regards the first method, al-Ghazzifi mentions that the Prophet had never designated
(Lam yanu~ buwa) bis successor nor had the four rightly guided caliphs, thereby refuting the theory
of designation, see al-GhazzaIi, a1-Iqti.~ p. 241. W. Montgomery Watt comments that the first
two methods are simply mentioned for the sake of completeness, and then dismissed. Sec W. M.
Watt, "Retlections," p. 19.

67This view is similar to the views of al-Juwayni (d. 1085 A. D.); see Watt, "Reflections,"
p. 15; for comparable vicws byal-Miwardi (d. 450/1058), see Ann K.. S. Lambton, State and
Govemment in Medieval Islam: An Introduction to the Study ofIslamic Political Theory (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 90.

68 Al-Ghazzifi, aJ-Iqtiiad, p. 238.

69Jbid.., p. 238.

himself as imam and bas shawkah (military power), kifliyab (competence) and the

necessary attributes of an im~ bis candidacy is valid and it is incumbent upon people to

swear obedience to him. He will he able to win the aIlegiance of the important men (akibir)

of the age, and of those who loose and bind (abl aI-/Ja U wa'l - &aqdJ.70 The latter are those

who are qualified to act on behalf of the jama&a (community of believers), as they form. an

ijma& (consensus) in electing a caliph or imam. In Medieval political theory, their main

function was contractual, namely, to offer the office of caliphate to the most qualified

person and, upon bis acceptance, to administer to him an oath of allegiance (bay ah). They

were also entrusted with deposing him should he faIl short in fulfilling bis duties. The

members of the ah1 al-lJall wa 'J- &aqd must he Muslim, of age, just, Cree, and capable of

exercising ijtihad (private persona! effort in legal reasoning), and be jurists of the bighest

caliber. 71 On the number of members making up this body, scholars disagree; this is

because there is no text (Qur'amc verse or /Jadith) about it. Al-Miwarm, for instance, is

of the view that one person is enough because this reflects the historical reality in which a

caliph or an imam normally designated bis successor.72

70Al-Ghazzili, a/-Iqti~ad, p. 238.

llS ee Wael HalIaq, "AhJ a/-I;IalJ wa-al-~qd." in John L. Esposito, ed., The Oxford
Encyclopedia afthe Modem [slamic World, vol., l, pp. 53-54. Cf. E. I. J. Rosenthal, "The
Role of the State in Islam: Theory and the Medieval Practice," Der Islam, vol., 50, no. 1 (April
1973), p. 7.

72Al-Mawardi maintains that since the caliph is appointed by the ab1 al-/Jall wa-al- "aqd, he
must enjoy the same qualifications required of the members of the appointing body; therefore he
himself must he deemed its most qualified membert who alone might designate a successor. Due

to this fact he maintains that the allegiance of the ab1 aI-/Jall wa-a/- "aqd was a subsidiary process,

AI-GhazzaIi asks whether a man who becomes an imam and possesses aU the

conditions (shurU 1) of the imamate, except knowledge, but also regularly consults with

the tu/ami' and follows their advice, should he deposed or obeyed. He holds that the man

must he deposed and replaced by someone who fulfills an the necessary conditions, provided

that bis deposition and replacement do not engender battle (qitaJ). Otherwise, he must he

obeyed and bis imamate validated. He reasons that the disadvantages of having an imam

who cannot give legal decisions are less than those of having an imam who cao render legal

decisions but whose entry to the office would spark civil war. 73

In defending the above argument al-GhazziIi says that it is not a matter of

compromise which makes him hold to the view that the office is an imperative for Muslim

society. He provides an analogy in support of bis view: the consumption of carrion is

prohibited, but death (from starvation) is a worse proposition (tanawal al-mayta malJ?r,

walldn al-maut ashad minh).74 He likens this analogy to a situation where one is faced with

two possibilities. If one says that there is no imam for lack of a qualified person, then aIl

efforts at administration are invalid and ordinary people are doing what is wrong because the

legal underpinnings of their actions are void. Conversely, if one says that there is an imam

who is validated by the necessity of the situation (though he might lack one of the

and resorted to only in cases where the caliph failed to appoint an heir. See Hallaq, "AhJ aJ-Qa/l, "
pp. 53-54.

73 Al-GhazziIi, al-Iqti,~ p. 239.

74Ibid., p. 240.

requisites), then there is administration and validity in action, and the public interest

(mBiJalJah) of the ummah (eommunityofbelievers) is preserved. Therefore, he says, the

people should opt for the latter choice. Again, he puts forth a view that defends an imperfect


4. l1Jya' "uJ01 a/-dfn.

This book is believed to have been written and completed in 489-90/1096-97.75 It is

acclaimed as al-Ghazzifi's most valuable and comprehensive work. Some people even go

so far as to say that it rivals the Qur' in76 in outlining, for the devout Muslim~ every aspect

of worship (badah), conduct in daily life, purification of heart, and progress along the

mystic path. 77 ln p~ its popularity May he attributed to its accessible style for average

readers who have an ordinary knowledge of Arabie literature. It is also free of linguistic

ambiguity, idiomatic and teehnical tenninology78 and its authenticity is beyond doubt.79

Political Content of Ki/ab Ihya' "u/tn al-dm.

Al-GhazziIi's politieal ideas are found in chapter five of book fourteen, namely the

7SUSwas during the early period of al-Ghazzan's retirement from teaehing in Baghdad. The
book was written in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
See Howani, "A Revised Chronology, p. 297.

76Hassan Muhammad, The Influence of al-GbazaO upon Islamic Jurisprudence and

Philosophy (Beirut: Dar-el-Jil, 1993), p. 42.

77Ibid., p. 40.

78A. H. Muhiyuddin, "Al-Ghazali: Recollection ofhis Works", Islamic Literature, vol.

6, no. 1 (1954), p. 58.

79Jrulenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," ibid., p. 90.

Book ofwhat is licit and what is illicit (Kitb al-IJal81 wa a1-lJaram). In brief, he discusses

the irnamate and its relationship to the military warlords. 80 At the same lime, he also

develops bis views on the suitanate. An unjust, ignorant sultan (a1-~u1.tan a1-?aIim aJ-j8h i1),

who is sustained by military power (shawkah) and whose deposition would engender civil

war (Dtna tha~ira), should, he reasons, he left in power, for obedience is due to him, as

it is due to an amlr. 81

Al-GhazzaIi maintains that the caliphate (khilafab) is given contractually to the

member of the ~ Abbasid family who is charged with its functions, and that authority

(wilaya) in the varions lands is legally exercised (natidha) by sultans who pay alIegiance

80Al-Gbazzafi, Il;Jyii' uJ111 aJ-dir4 ed. Zayn aI-Oln Ab al-Fa4l 'Abd al-Rahlm ibn l:Iusayn,
vol. 2 (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Tijanyah al-Kub~ n.d.), pp. 140-141. There are numerous
English translations of this wode. However, ooly two of tbem claim to caver the entire forty books
of the I1Jyii', one by al-Haj Maulana Fazul-ul-~ and the other by Bankey Behari. Of these two
translations, the tirst constitutes four volumes, while the second is in one volume ooly and seems
ta be more a summary of the IQyci~because it discusses every subject in very brief terms. See al-
Ghazzafi, Imam GazzaJj's Ibya Ulum-id-Din, tr. Fazul-ul-Karim, 4 vols. (Lahore: Sind Sagar
Academy, 1971), and al-GbazziIi, The Revival ofReligious Sciences byal-Ghaz.i, tr. Bankey,
Behari (Surrey: Sufi Publishing Co. Ltd., 1972). The rest of the translations are of individual
books, and they include: Al-GhaziiU: The Remembrance ofDeath and the Afterlife, Book XL of
I1Jyii'~ tr. T. J. Winter (Cambridge: The Islamic Text Society, 1989); Martin Stanley, Stem,
"Al-Ghazzifi on Repentance: Book Tbirty-One of the Revival of the Religious Science," Pb. O.
Diss., University of Califomia, 1977; Marnage and Sexuality in Islam: A Translation of al-
GhazaJls Book on the Etiquette ofMarriage from the l1)ya~ tr. Madelain Farah (Utah: University
of Utah Press, 1984); AlGhazzao, The Mysteries ofAlmsgiving: A Translationfrom the Arabic
with Notes ofthe Kitiib Ami- aJ-Zakiih ofaJ-Gbazz8D's IQya: tr. Nabih Amin Faris (Beirut: The
Heidelberg Press, 1966); The Mysteries of Worship in Islam: Translation with Commentary and
Introduction ofal-GhazziiD's Bookoftbe 1lJyii' on the Worship~ tr. Edwin Elliot Calverly (Lahore:
Sb. Muhammad Ashraf, 1977); and A/-GbazaD: Invocations and Supplications (Kitiib aJ-Adbkeir
wa 'l-Da awiit) BookIXofthe IQya~ tr. K. Nakamura (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society,

8IAl-Ghazzili, lljyci: p. 140.

to the caliph. 82 This simply means that any sultan who holds power, regardless of wbether

he meets all the requirements, is considered legitimate as long as he pays allegiance to the


In defining the relationsbip between sultans and caliph, al-GhazzaIi says that the

attributes and conditions (al-1if8t wa al-shurif) of sultans are meant to safeguard the public

welfare (mazaya a/-m~au'J). Consequently, if the mlers are decreed as null and voi~ the

interests of public welfare would also he null and void. How then could the source of power

be lost in the quest for profit (ribl)un)?83 To al-GhazzaIi the only means of bringing the

imamate into being is through the efforts of a sultan who bas military power, a condition

which was also met by the Fitimids. Admitting the sultans' legitimacy is, therefore, a

necessity. In bis day, authority was only possible through military power (shawkah).

Anybody to whom the holder of military power might give bis allegiance would become

caliph, a view that is open to dispute for its oversimplification. In return, whosoever bas

military power and pays tribute to the caliph in respect of the khU/ba - namely, mentioning

the caliph's name during Friday prayers and on the coinage (sikka)- migbt become sultan,

whose orders (l)uIan) andjudgements (qa!a' are valid (natidha) in Many corners of the

world. 84 Due to its simplicity, this view is even less persuasive.

S2Ibid., p. 141.

1 ., p. 141.

84Ibid., p. 141.

In this book al-Ghazzili maintains that only sultans can appoint the caliph because

they have the sole military means of amassing real power. From this premise, he expounds

the belief that even if the sultan is unjust and ignorant and yet hard to depose except through

civil war, obedience is bis due. Snch a view, HilIenbrand remarks, is more pessimistic than

any expressed ever before,ss and 1 agree with her.

5. N8l1Jat al-mu/lc86

This book is believed to have been written in Ts, either immediately before

499/1106 or soon aiter 50211109, and is in keeping with the views expressed during the

intervening period in Nishapf, when the author was working in a more urban, political

environment. 87 There are two theories as to whom this book was intended for. In its Arabie

manuscript fonn, the book is addressed to the sultan Mu1}ammad ibn Malik shah as "King

of the East and West", whereas in the Persian manuscript, as edited by Professor Huma1,

8SHillenbrand, Islamic,.. p. 90.


86o'J1ris book was originally written in Persian; however, for the purpose of this thesis, its
Arabic translation is used, published onder the tille a/- Tibr aJ-masbk 6 D8iJat al-mu/ik ed.
Mu4ammad Alpnad Damaj (Beirut: al-Mu'assasah al-rami'iyah lil-Dirasit wa al-Nashr wa al-
Tauzl', 1987). It has a1so been translated ioto English by F. R. C. Bagley onder the tille Book of
Counselfor Kings (N81!at aJ-Mulik) {London: Oxford University Press, 1964).

87George F. Hourani, "ARevisedCbronology," p. 301. However, there is no standard date

given by authors for the composition of this book. HilIenbrand for example, says that it was
probably written before the author's death, namely in the years 503-5/1109-11; see Hillenbrand,
"Islamic," p. 91. Meanwhile, Lambton mentions that it was written some time between 498/1105
and 505/1111. See Lambton, State and Govemment, p. 117. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, Book ofCounsel,
tr. Bagley, p. xv. Nevertheless, what cao he inferred bere is that it was composed during the last

years of the author's life.

it is addressed to Sanjar, "King of the East", M~ammad's full brother and ally.88 Whoever

the addressee may have been, it is explicitly intended as a counsel to a sultan. As a result

of the doubt which has been cast on the authorship of the second part of this boo~89 this

study limits itself to an analysis of part one.

Political content of Ki/ab Naslha/ a/-mulik

The 1ust section of this book is not a theory of poUties, but rather, a set of

instructions given to a sultan on how he should conduct bis relations with God as bis creator

and bis dealings with men as bis subjects. The basic teachings contained herein are: that

rulership is a gift bestowed by Gad; and that the mIer will he accountable for it to Gad on

the Day of Iudgement.90

As a mler who is directly accountable to God, al-GhazzaIi holds that the sultan must

possess a correct faith which is perceived as "God's gift" and as "etemal wealth" (al-sa adab

al-mu'abbadah wa a/-niwab al-mukballadab).91 He likens the gift to a seed of faith which

may be nourished with the water of justice and piety until it grows into a tree whose roots

reach the bowels of the earth and whose branches touch the clouds of the sky.92 He sets forth

88Al-Ghazza, Book of Counsel, te. Bagley, p. xv. Cf. Hourani, liA Revised
Chronology," p. 301.

89See note 1 ofthis chapter.

90 Al-GhazzaIi, Book ofCounsel, te. Bagley, p. xxxix.

91 Al-GhazzaIi, aJ-Tibr, p. 94. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, BookofCoUDseJ, te. Bagley, p. 3.

92Al-Ghazzifi, BookofCounsel, te. Bagley, p. 4. Cf. Al-Ghazzifi, aJ-Tibr, p. 94, where

the text states that the seed May he nourished with the water of obedience (ma' a/-Tala ).

ten principles of the creed which are the roots of the tree of faith. 93 The strength of these

roots signifies the strength of the sultan's vertical relationsbip to God.

As regards bis horizontal relations (i.e., bis conduct with bis subjects), al-Ghazzau

outlines ten principles which are likened to the branches of the tree of faith. These ten

principles, adroits R. J. McCarthy, provide insight into al-Ghazzifi's thought and

spirituality; which may truly he ealled an Islamic ideal of politics and government.94

The fust principle expounded by a1-Gbazzifi is justice. In explaining this, he says

that authority (wiliiyah) is a great blessing (ni~ah), since he who exercises it righteously

obtains unsurpassed happiness; but if any roler fails to do so, he ineurs torment surpassed

only by the tonnent of unbelief. This is proven by the tradition of the Prophet of Islam

(PBUH) who said: "One day of just rule by an equitable sultan is more meritorious than

sixty years of continuaI worship. ,,95 He quotes another tradition whieh relates that on the day

of resurrection no shade or shelter shall remain except the shade and shelter of God on High,

in which seven persons sball he found. At the head of them would he the sultan who had

93Al-Ghazzifi, al-Tibr, pp. 97-105. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, pp.
6-l2. This correct bellef has been taken from section 1 of the rnt 'Pillar' of bis Klmiya-yi sa ~adat,
and agrees in content with book n of bis I1)yi on the Articles of Faith. See al-Ghazzafi, Book of
Counsel, tr. Bagley, p. xxxix.

94McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 285. This principle is also found in al-Ghazzifi,
al-Fa{1a~ pp. 285-286 and in bis Kfmiya-yi sa~8dat, sec al-Ghazzili, Book of Counsel, tr.
Bagley, p. xxxix.

9sAl-Ghazzifi, aJ-Tibr, p. 109. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 14.

treated bis subjects with justice.96 Apart from being just, the sultan is also reminded that

he must discipline bis slave-troops (ghulaman), companions, servants (&umm8l) and

officers (na'iban) and never tolerate unjust conduct from them, for he is Dot only

accountable for bis own unjust deeds but also for those of bis staff.97

Aiter justice, he mentions the second principle, that the mler should always he

compelled to seek out devout uJams' (&ulama' a/-din) and ask them for advice. However,

the mler is warned not to meet with &ulama' of worldly ambitions (&u1ams' a/-s' who

might inveigle, flatter and seek to please him in order to gain control over bis terrestrial body

by stealth and deceit (al-maJa- wa al-ljiJa). Al-GhazzaIi maintains that the devout &8limis

not one who has covetous designs on the treasury, but who gives bis knowledge in just

measure. 98 This principle accords with al-GhazzaIi's compromise over the condition of

knowledge for a ruler,99 as the latter is advised to tom to devout ulama'for counsel.

96Al-Ghazzifi, al-Tibr, p. 109. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, BookofCounsel, tr. BagIey, p. 14. The
other six persons are: (i) the young man who grows up in the worship of Gad; () the man wbo
lives in the bazaar but whose heart is in the mosque; (ili) two men who make friends with each
otber for God's sake; (iv) the man from whose eyes tears cain down when he remembers God and
is alone; (v) the man who is sought after by a beautiful and wealthy woman but tells (ber) '1 fear
God'; and (vi) the man who gives charity with bis rigbt hand in such a way that bis left band does
not know of it.

97 Al-Ghazzifi, Al-Tibr, p. 127. Cf. idem, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 23.

98Al-Ghazzifi, Al-Tibr, p. 118. Cf. idem, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 19.

990Jbe compromise made by al-Ghazzifi on the requirement of knowledge as a quality of the

ruler is evident in severa! of bis works. In al-MustaPJiri for instance, when dealing with the
requisites of the imamate, he maintains that these must he proved either by a /Jaditb from the
Prophet MuQammad or by reasoning on the basis of the good for which the imamate is sought. He

says that the only text (/Jadith) is about descent from Qurasyh- a/-A 'immab min Quraysh- (Imam

The rest of the principles are the qualities and actions which al-GhazzaIi demands of

the sultan and are, generally, of an ethical nature: 1OO the king is to overcome pride;lol he

should imagine himself in the position of the subjects; he should do nothing which he would

not wish to he done to himself; 102 he should not treat with contempt those who come to him

in need;I03 he is to avoid luxury;l04 as far as possible he should show compassion to all;IOS

and, mally, he should act in conformity with the sbarlah in striving to satisfy bis

subjects. I06

Having mentioned the roots and the branches of the tree of faith for the sultan, al-

Alpnad bin I:Ianbal, aJ-Musnad (Dar al-Fila: a1-Tab~at wa a1-Nashrwa a1-Tauz1" 1994), vol.,
4, p. 259 and va!., 7, p. 182], meaning that there is no text about knowledge. See above note 34

of this chapter. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 279. Another occasion is in the 1lJya'
&u1iim aJ.-dJn; here again he compromises over the requirement of knowledge for a sultan when he
says even an unjust and ignorant sultan must he left in power and that obedience is due to him should
deposing him run the risk of starting civil war. See al-Ghazzifi, I1)ya', p. 140.

lOOUunbton, State and Govemment, p. 119.

IOIAl-Ghazzafi, al-Tibr, p. 131. Cf. idem, BookofCounsel, tr. Bagiey, p. 25. Cf. also
Lambton, State and Government, p. 119.

I02Al-Ghazzafi, al-Tibr, p. 136. Cf. idem, BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 28. Cf. also
Lambton, State and Government, p. 120.

I03Al-Ghazzafi, al-Tibr, p. 137. Cf. idem. BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 29. Cf. also
Lambton, State and Government, p. 120.

I04Al-Ghazzafi, al-Tibr, p. 138. Cf. idem. BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 29. Cf. also
Lambton, State and Government, p. 120.

al-Tibr, p. 138. Cf. idem. Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 30. Cf. also
lOS Al-Ghazzafi,
Lambton, State and Government, p. 120.

lO6Al-GhazzIi, Al-Tibr, p. 139,140. Cf. idem, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 30,31.

Cf. also Lambon, State and Govemment, p. 120.

Ghazzaii then explains the two springs Caynayn) which water (mashrab) it. The fllSt

spring is knowledge of this lower world which, he says, is not a flXed abode, for the

ultimate home ( wa!an) of man transcends it in the hereafter. 107 He then includes ten

analogies to describe the ugliness of this world. 10S The second spring is knowledge of the

last breath (nafs a/-'8kh) which is illustrated through five anecdotes 109

This book contains ManY references to the Prophets, and anecdotes and sayings from

the earliest caliphs, such as 'Umar ibn al-IChattab, 'Umar'Abd al-' Azlz, 'Ali, Hiriin aI-

Rashld and al-M~ras weIl as sayings attributed to Jesus. As ils title suggests, the thrust

of this book has nothing to do with the caliphate or the imamate. However, one still fmds

echoes of bis earlier concems, snch as in bis insistence upon the importance of knowledge

when he advises the sultan to frequent the cu/ami' for their counsel. The same insistence is

a pervasive theme in bis previous books. With such insistence, al-Ghazzili consolidates a

new institution, namely, the culama~ Al-Ghazzili places the latter above the imamate and

the sultanate, who must in tum rely on the uJama'for counsel. This makes the culama'very

influential in society, and it was to the former that a1-Ghazzili and bis colleagues belonged.

107 Al-Ghazzan, al-Tibr, p. 142. Cf. idem, Book o/Counsel, tr. Bagley, p. 32.

I08Al-Ghazzifi, al-Tibr. p. 144-155. Cf. al-Ghazzili, BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p.


I09Al-Ghazzifi, al-Tibr, p. 155-169. Cf. al-Ghazzili, BookofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p.


Having studied their political content (i.e., on the imamate and the sultanate), we

may DOW look at the differences to he found in these books. The differences are manifested

where audience and motive of composition are concemed. The al-Must8?/Jirl, for example,

is aimed at the caliph and the ~uJama' who had the intellectual and linguistic ability to

understand the author's argumentation and bis elegant Arabic style. Therefore, its audience

was small and selecL110 It was written al the command of the 'Abbisid caliph al-Mus~,

to highlight the errors of the Ba~1nites, and to justify the mIe of its patron. III The aJ-Iqtj~ad

however, was targeted for a larger audience than aJ-Must~ and is not conrmed to a

select group. This is because the author did not write this work with any particular patron

in mind,112 as he had a1-Must~ and could therefore freely air bis views. With such

freedom al-Ghazzall was not coDmed to discussing the Batinites or to justifying al-

Mus~s imamate. It was composed, as the author himself says, more as preparation for

the gnosis (ma 'rifah) of the ~fi than the usual dogmatic works. 1l3

/l;Jya' 'u/m al-dIns audience, as Lazarus-yafeh points out, constituted three possible

groups. These were: Le., the masses, those who could not understand the esoteric hints114

11lflillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy, p. 86.


Ibid., p. 82.
Il 1

112Ibid., p. 87.

113See William Montgomery Watt, "Al-Ghazifi," in H. A. R. Gibb et al., eds.,

Encyclopaedia ofIslam, vol. 2, second ed. (Leiden; New York: E. J. Drill, 1994), p. 1040.

114According to Lazams-Yafeh, the J1)ya' contains esoteric portions that cao only he

understood by a few chosen readers, whereas the average Person might easily he misled by them.

contained in the l1Jya'; the ~iifis, Le.. those who did not need these hints; and the ~ulama~

i.e.. those whom these hints might direct to the right path and for whom they were added to

the IlJya'. [[5 However, Lazarus-Yafeh maintains that this book is more suited to the last

category, since, according to her, they have the ability to understand and are worthy of this


Moreover, the 1l)ya'was writte~ according to Montgomery Watt. as a guide for the

devout Muslim on every aspect of religious worship and devotional practice, conduct in

daily life, purification of the heart. and advance along the mystic way.l [6 Lazarus-Yafeh

concurs with this view, noting that al-Ghazzili wanted to point sorne of its readers towards

the light of true knowledge. However, he did it in a graduaI way, hoping to "heal" the

spiritual maladies of Many of bis contemporaries. 117 Moreover, she considers the lJ)ya' to

he the author's "map" for the gradual education of bis worthier readers, designed to impart

to them sorne of the divine secrets l18 so that they May know the truth and sharpen their

See Hava Lazaros-Yafe~ Studies in AI-Ghazzali (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1975), p. 363.
For details on the esoteric aspects of the 1J)ya: see ibid., pp. 366-373.

1ISlbid., p. 370.

116S ee Watt, "Al-Ghazifi," Encyclopaedia ofIslam, p. 1040.

1 [1This condition describes the 'ulama' during al-Ghazzifi's professorsbip in Baghdad,

whom he saw as corrupt and exploitative of their position for fame and money as a reward for their
scholarly studies. He describes them as ambitious and mercenary, serving the rulers with their
knowledge, but not contemplating tmth. This realization compelled him to correct and help, or as
he puts it, heal them. See Lazarus-Yafeh, Studies, p. 373. It is said that this corrupt condition
was also the cause of bis spiritual crisis. Ibid., p. 365.

118Ibid., p. 373.

intellect~ thereby allowing them to lead a pious life as taught by Islam.

The chronology of composition a1so contributed to the differences between these

books. Al-Must;qhiJ7 for instance was composed at a time (487/1094) when the threat of

the Batinites, who were led by l:Iasan-i ~abb~ (d. 518/1124), was so palpable in

Baghdad. 119 The composition of the book was directly linked to the political climate. Even

though al-Iqti.sad was composed slightly later than al-Must~ i.e., in 488/1095, one

can still classify them both as belonging to the same period Le., at the end of the author's

professorship in Baghdad. However, al-Iqtiiad differs from the latter in target audience,

content and cause of writing.

Furthermore, l1Jyi~ u/m al-din was written during the period of al-GhazzaIi's strict

II9J:Iasan al-Sabbag. was previously a representative ofthe ~imid da 'wah in Rayy, who then
broke frOID it due to the dispute over the succession following the death of the Fi~i.mid caliph al-
Mustan~ir (d.487/1094). I:Iasan led the Nizan Ismi'Ui movement, known as the da'wah al-
jadldab~ as against the da wab a/-qadimab in Egypt. This movement took the name of Nizir (d.
488/1095), al-Mustan~ir's son whose right to the succession was challanged by bis brother, al-
Musta~Ii (d. 495/1101). I:Iasan's activities in Khurasan posed a menace to Seljq power, as he
initiated a poticy of open revoit against them. His movement was still seen by al-Gbazzifi as being
an extension of the larger Fi~imid rivaI.ry with the Seljqs. By the time al-Ghazzifi wrote al-
MustB?hi, I:Iasan's movement was politically uncontroUable. For details of this story see Carole
HilIenbrand, "The Power Struggle between the Seljuqs and the Ismi'ili Movement of Alamt, 487-
518/1094-1124: The Seljuq Perspective," in Farbad Daftary, ed., Medieval IsmaiU History and
Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 205-220. Cf. Farhad Daftary,
"I:Iasan-i SabbiQ and the Origins of the Nizii Movement," in Farhad Daftary, ed., Medieval
lsma ili History and Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 181-204. Cf.

Farhad Daftary, The Assassin Legend (London: 1. B Tauris & Co. Ltd., 1994); Bernard Lewis,
The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), pp. 50-58,
64-65; Farhad, Daftary, The IsmaiUs: Their History and Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1990), pp. 324-434; Farouk Mitb~ "Re-reading of al-Gbazifi: Orthodoxy,
Reason and Authority in the Kitab al-MustaPJiil" (M.A. Tbesis, McGill University), 1993, pp.


seclusion in Syria. There, the author led a ~fi life, througb whicb, according to hint, one

fmds truth. In this book he tries to hint to bis readers (especially contemporary scholars who

were not devoted to the ~iifi life), that their lives would only lead them to etemal perdition

(muhlika t).120 The N8!l1Jat a/-mu/k on the other band, was composed during the time of

the author's second teaching pos~ at the N~8miyya college of NisbapI', after he was

summoned there by Fakhr al-Mulk in 499/1106. 121 Even though its audience differs from

that of a1-Must~, its content is similar to cbapter ten of the latter. This similarity across

time demonstrates the author's consistency of counsel. 122 Nevertheless, ail demonstrate

different emphases on the part of al-Ghazzafi. AJ-MustB?hirl is polemical, al-lqtif8d

theological, and l1Jya' concemed with Sufism, while N8!l1)at a/-mu/k is a mirror for
princes. Regardless of their differences, the political views contained in these books

constitute the author's thought on the imamate and the sultanate.

120ULzarus-Yafeh, Studies, p. 365. Examples of mubUkat (etemal perdition) include

jealousy, hatred, conceit, vanity, hypocrisy and ambition.
121Hourani, liA Revised Chronology," p. 301.

122Even though its content is similar to that aJ-Mustapuns, the N~)afs views however,
are not in keeping with those found in the former. For instance their arrangement is greatly at
variance with that found in aJ-Mustll?biil The first point of aJ-Must8?bi, i.e., the advice to the
mIer that what he would not approve bimself he should not approve in bis subjects, is numbered as
the ftfth point of N~!at al-muliik. This is ooly one example of the Many of its kind in the latter.
Furthermore, there are two points on the same issue discussed in al-Must~, that is number two
and ten on counselling the ~ulama~ of which ooly one is found in the N8IJat al-muliik, namely
point number two. Moreover, there are many anecdotes and I)aditbs in the Naiil)at a/-mulk which
are not found in the al-Mustll?biil For examples of those digression sec al-GbazziIi, Fa{la'iJJ, pp.
202-225, and idem, Book of Counsel, te. Bagley, pp. 14-31. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and

Fulfillment, pp. 285-6.

Chapter Tbree

The Nature of a1Ghazzili's Po6tiad Philosophy

In studying the nature of aI-Ghazzifi's political pbilosophy, this chapter focuses on

two aspects. They are: 1) the practicality of bis political thought; and 2), its characteristics.

1. Practicality of al-Ghazzifi's Political Thought.

Based on the books discussed above in cbapter two, it cao he said that al-Ghazzifi's

thougbt on politics involves mainly three subjects, namely, the imamate, the sultanate, and

the 'u/ama'. Each will he studied in terms of their practicality in dealing with the political

agenda of bis day.

a) The Imamate

It was stated in the previous chapter that al-GhazziIi contended that there must he an

imam in every age, and that this conclusion is dictated not by reason but by religion. 1 The

fundamental reason for sucb a need is that the imam is the source of legitimacy for qat/ls
(judges) for those holding administrative posts in the government. Without the imam sucb

officiais would he ineffectual. Furthennore, an imam is looked upon as a person who unites

all people and one to whom they must give tbeir obedience, so that thereby aIl divergent

lThe helief that an imam is necessary for the state to function is not derived from the Qur'an
or the IJadifh but from the unanimous consensus of the Muslims, or ijma~ upon the importance of
this office. In Sunnl Islam there are four sources ofrulings (a1Jk"'), i.e., the Qur'an, the 1JadItb,

ijma& and qiyiis (analogy).

views and interests can he hannonized. 2

The imam is aIso looked upon as the one who implements the Sbail~ab (lslamic law).

His absence would result in the laws of Gad not being executed, leaving the community in

a lawless and chaotic state. Al-Ghazzifi maintains that the imam must he a descendant of

the Quraysh, as is held by both Sunn1 and Sh1~ scholars. He maintains that the lineage

requirement was stipulated in the /Jadith known as al-A ';mmatu min Quraysh,3 which must

be taken as proof of this condition. This view is found in three of the four works discussed

in the previous chapter.4

According to al-Ghazzifi, the candidate for the position of imam must meet severa!

conditions in order to he appointed to the post. He gives these conditions in both bis a/-

Must~jrland aJ-Iqtj~ad; however, they differ slightly hetween the two works. In the

former he presents ten innate and acquired conditions, whereas in the latter he discusses the

two kinds of properties required in an imam: those that are connected with the self (6

nafsiln) and those that are not connected with the self (min jibat gbayriln). The properties

in the second set deal with the ways that an imam May he appointed, including the concept

2A1-GhazzaIi, Fat/ii'iJ}, pp. 170 and 177. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp.
272 and 277.

3For details of this l.Jadith, see Imam AQmad hin lJanbal, aJ-MusDad (Beirut: Dar al-Filer,
1994), vol. 4, p. 259; vol. 7, p. 182.

4In the first two works, i.e., aJ-MustJl?biil and aJ-IqtiiBd, this is mentioned among the
conditions which the imam must meet, while in the l1)ya~ il is said that the ~ Abbisid family, Le.,
the descendants of the Quraysh, was given the calipbate contraetually. See chapter two above, pp.

28, 36 and 42.

that bis allegiance to the one who wields military power (shawkah) is sufficient for bis

appointment to the role. S

Having leamed bis views on the imam, let us DOW look at the situation of the imam

of al-Ghazzafi's tme. Al-GhazzaIi lived in the tinte of the 'Abbisid caliphate, as institution

whose power had been cODsiderably weakened during the rising power of the Seljiq sultans.

The 'Abbasid imam was only the titular, while the Seljiiq sultan was the de facto mIer. The

imam. served onlyas a religious symbol whose Dame was read in the Friday public sermons

and written on the sikka (conage), and who was regarded as a symbol of unity. Even

though he did not possess the real power, he was seen as the protector of the sharl~ah

(Islamic law). This position of the imam was the exact opposite of what it used to he,

especially during the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, when he wielded both de jure

and de facto power.

Although al-GhazzaII lived during the reigns of more than one imam,6 it was al-

Musta?hir (d. 1118) who most influenced bis political views on the lDamate. This is not

only because this caliph commissioned the treatise known as al-Musta,pm7, but also due to

fact that al-Ghazzafi's political views seemed to have developed during bis ceigne Al-

Musta?hir acceded to the throne after the death of bis father al-MuqtaQi in 487/1094, when

he was only sixteen. Because of bis young age he could not meet the condition of 'ilm

SFor the ten conditions in aJ-MustlJ?bjii, see chapter two above, pp. 28-29, and for the
properties in al-Iqti~ad, see ibid., pp. 36-37.

6See chapter one above, p. 17.

(knowledge of jurisprudence), wbich called inlo question bis qualifications for the imamate.

Therefore, he assigned aI-Ghazzili the task ofjustifying bis right to the tille. 7 This is how

al-Ghazzan's views on the imamate began and developed.

After looking at bath bis ideas and the situation of the imam of bis time, we may DOW

turn our attention to how al-Ghazzifi dealt with that situation in practical teons. Realizing

that al-Mus~ lacked knowledge, al-GhazzaIi denied that this condition was

indispensable. Instead, he argued that there is no 1)amth specifically requiring it, 8 thereby

freeing al-Mus~ from the obligation and enabling him instead to seek the counsel of the

~ ulami' in matters of legal problems and jurisprudence. Although this view contradicted that

of the 'ulama' of bis time, it was practical. He found a way for al-Mus~ to retain the

imamate by discrediting the condition of ~ilm. This was particularly important in a period

which witnessed great rivalry between al-Mus~ and the Fatimid imam, al-Mustan~ir

(d. 487/ 1094), for the office of mamate. Even though the imam does not issue rulings

(alJ.kam) on the basis of bis own ijtihiil (private personal effort in legal reasoning), he can

still enforce the laws issued by the 'u1ama~ Had al-GhazziIi Dot supported al-Mus~,

the newly appointed imam would have lacked legal validity, and al-Ghazzifi's view that

there must be an imam in every age called ioto doubt.

7For the purpose behind the composition of aJ-MustlJ?biij, see chapter two above, p. 22.

8Al-GhazzaIi holds that any condition that is set for an imam must he proven by the /Jadith,
and mentions that there is no /JadIth that knowledge is one of these. See chapter two above, p. 29,

n. 34.

Though al-Ghazzifi managed to solve the problem faced by the caliph al-Mus~,

he was forced to defend an imperfect imam. This accommodative approach resulted in two

developments affecting knowledge and its political role. Firsl, he incorporated the 'ulama~

into the governing system, making them part and parce! of il, if not in fact indispensible to

it. Interestingly, their rank seemed to grow to exceed that of the imam himself, as the latter

always sought their advice. The subject of the &uJama~ will be discussed in greater depth

later in this chapter.

Second, by denying that knowledge is one of the conditions for the imam, he

degraded the rank of the imam from that of a mujtabid (one who exercises independent legal

reasoning) or an &iIim to that of an imam who is dependent on others. This transformed the

imam's role from a leader who guides the people to that of a leader who is guided by others.

It placed the imam in an inferior position and marked a departure from the type of leader

envisioned by both Plato and al-Farabi (d. 950 A.D.),9 who maintained that a leader must

be a philosopher-king. 1o Nevertheless, it would unfair to conclude that al-Ghazzili was not

~s name was Ab N~ Mu1}ammad b. Mu1}ammad b. Ozlugh b. Tarkhin al-Firbl, bom

in Transoxania in 870 A. D. He was one of the greatest philosophers the Muslim. world has
produced. He was a Turk by birth and was the first Muslim philosopher to head a "school" and to
become known as a "teacher". He was acknowledged by subsequent Muslim philosophers as the true
founder of philosophy in Islam and called the "second Master" (after Aristotle). See Muhsin Mahdi
and Ralph Lemer, eds., Medieval Political PhiIosophy (lthac~ New York: Comell University
Press, 1963), p. 22.

10 Al-Faribl, who was greatly in.t1uenced by Plato, agrees with the latter on the conditions
of the leader. He views bis ruler as the Foremost Leader (Ra 7su1-A wwaJ) who by bis very nature
does not want to he instructed by others and yet has an inherent capacity for observation and
conveying bis knowledge to others. He says that there is no human heing superior to the foremost

leader and if there were, then he would he the foremost leader. This leader is similar to the

a good political scientist merely on the strength of this facL His approach after all dealt with

the Realpolitik of bis time, whereas both Plato and al-Farabi were theorizing about ideal

situations. Al-Ghazz3fi's imam was a source of legitimacy, a protector of the shar;~h and

a cause of unity. He was in fact successful in developing the concept of the imam through

bis pragmatic ideas.

b) The Sultanate

The sultan was another important aspect of bis political thought, and is discussed in

three of the four books studied in chapter two, namely al-Iqti,ad, l1Jya' and N~!at a/-

mu1k. Of these three books, Na,lIJat a/-muJk devotes exclusive attention to the subject,

as this book was written purposely for the sultan. Before we go any further, it is important

to explore the condition of the sultan during al-GhazzaIi's time.

Of the six Seljq sultans who reigned during al-Ghazz3fi's lifetime, only four of them

-- Malik Shah, Malpnd, Barkiyirq and Ab Shuji' MuI)ammad -- were likely to have

influenced bis views on the sultanate. When he became the professor at the N~amlyah

college at Baghdad, the sultan in power was Malik Shah, and it was around this time that he

began to write Many of bis worles. The sultan MaY have influenced bis ideas on the

philosopher-king of Plata. See Ab N. al-Firibl, Kitib ara' abJ aJ-madina aJ-fit;JiJa (Beinlt: Dar
al-Mashriq, 1986), pp. 127-130. Cf. Haroon Khan Sberwani, Studies in Muslim Political Thought
and Administration (Lahore: Sb. Muhammad Ashraf, 1968), 74; Farouk A. Sankari, "Plato and
Al-FarabI: A Comparison of Sorne Aspects of their Political Philosophies," Muslim World, vol.
60 (1970), p. 224; Fauzi M. Nanar, ''raribl's Political Philosopby and Sh1'i~" Studia lslamica,
vol., 14 (1961), p. 63; E. L 1. Rosenthal, "The Place ofPolitics in the Philosophy of al-Farabi:'

lslamic Culture, vols. 29-30 (1955/56), p. 165.

institution~ although bis a/-MustaPmf and aJ-Iqti,ai were written in 487, during the rule

of Barkiyariiq. Besides these four sultans~ another influence that must aIso he considered

is that of Sanjar, a viceroy of Khurasan and the ally and full brother of Ab Shuja~

Mu4ammad. Sanjar (d. 1157 A. D.) who is pointed to by sorne authors ll as having been

the sultan whom al-Ghazzili counsels in bis Na,Jat aJ-muliik

During al-Ghazzifi's lifetime the Seljiq sultans were the de facto rulers~ the ones who

wielded military power (shawkah), whereas the imams were looked at as religious symbols

who received support and patronage from the former. With the sultans' support, aI-Ghazzili

justified al-Mus~ as having met the condition of najdah (bravery, courage; fitness for

comba~ war and fighting).12 Here we see the support of a sultan as being very important~

even essential to al-Ghazzifi's imam. Therefore, the sultan at this particular point in lime

fonned part of the "imamate system" championed by al-Ghazzili.

In claiming that the allegiance of one sultan represents the allegiance of the whole

people~ 13 al-GhazziIi fails to see that the obedience of the People to the former does not

IIBagley says that the sultan counseUed by al-Ghazzili in bis N~Jat a1-Mu/kwas probably
Sanjar, because at the time he is said to have composed the work he was teaching at the N~amlyab
coUege at Nishipiir, in Khurasan, which was in Sanjar's province. Bagley says that al-Gbazzifi was
summoned by Fakhr al-Mulk. who was the vizier of Sanjar and that at the time it was normal for a
viceroy to he called a sultan. See al-Ghazzi6~ Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. xv.

12Al-GhazzaIimentions tbat the condition of najdah that al-Musta?hir bas to meet is fulfilled
by the shawkah ofhis supporter and patron, namely the Turks (the Seljq sultans). See al-Ghazz8fi,
Faf/a'il], p. 182. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 278.

13Al-GhazzaIi, Fat!a'iJJ~ p. 238.

necessarily signify that they also agree or are content with bis occupying this role. 14 The

peoplets obedience might he caused by their fear of the sultan. Al-Ghazzili takes for granted

the voice and right of the people who fonn the largest group in the society. The sultan issues

commands and expects the people to follow it unconditionally. Were half of the people to

withdraw their allegianee from the sultan, what would then happen to the imamts status? His

imam would he in trouble because the sultants allegiance to him would not in tom represent

the allegiance of the whole people. This exposes one of the weaknesses in al-Ghazzafi's


Al-Ghazzafi also developed the view that an unjust and ignorant sultan who has

military power must he obeyed because bis deposition May cause civil strife. However, this

view does not consider the welfare of the people in calling upon society to be passive and

submissive to tyranny. Al-Ghazzili believed that by eschewing civil war people would have

peace and would be able to pursue knowledge and worsbip God. However, he did not

realize that the people will have no peaee as long as tyranny prevails over them.

Furthermore, bis view seems to contradict the Islamic injunction, to eradicate injustice.

This view reminds us of one of the main elements of Niccolo Machiavelli's idea of

14Al-Ghazzifi appears to have believed that the allegiance of the sultan represeots the
a1Jegiance of the whole people, but did he oot realize that the people may oppose the choice of a
particular sultan, which would Mean that they did Dot grant him their full aUegiaoce? Even though
God commands Muslims to obey those charged with authority over them, He also says that if they
differ, they must refer it to Gad and the Apostle and not to those charged with authority, meaning
that if they disagree with their leaders they can disobey them. Disagreement cao occur especially
if the leaders are tyrannical and the Iike. See The Holy Qur''', tr., A. Yusuf Ali (Lahore: Amana,

1983), chapter 4, verse 59, p. 198.

Realpolitik, Le., "the end justifies the means:'lS What is obvious here is that al-Gbazzili

justified a bad situation in order to lend authority to bis ideas.

Moreover, al-GbazzaIi applies a reciprocal theory to the relation between the imam

and the sultan. Thus, for the sultan to he legitimate he has to pay allegiance to the imam,

and by doing so he is effectively appointing the latter. Thereby both imam and sultan are

acknowledged in the society. At fICSt sight this theory seems to he ridiculous, for, instead

of giving allegiance to the imam who bas no shawkah, why does the sultan not appoint

himself as imam? This argument is refuted by al-Ghazzill's stipulation that an imam must

be descended from the Quraysh, wbereas the sultan in bis day was a Seljq Turk. This

reciprocal theory regarding the conditions for the imamate was apparently pragmatic.

Although in this theory the sultan appoints the imam, al-Ghazzill however insists the

necessity of the bay 'ah was to he perfonned by the important men (akib) and ahl1)all wa

al- 'aqd (the people who bind and loose).16

After advising the people to obey an ignorant and tyrannical sultan, al-Ghazzifi then

counsels the sultan on how he must deal with bis subjects, wbich he does in bis Na,l1)at aJ-

mu1k. In this work he advises the sultan to observe bath bis relations with God and with

his subjects. Amongst the pieces of advice that he gives: the sultan must lead a pious life,

ISNiccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, tr., Paul Sonnino (New Jersey: Humanities Press,
1996), p. 88.

16Al-GhazzaIi, Al-Iqti.s8d, 238. Cf. Binder, "Al-Gbazifi's Theory ofIslamic Govemment,"

The Muslim World, vol. 45 (1955), p. 237.

do justice to his subjects and not he harsh in deaIing with them. 17

c) The &Ulama'

The role of fu/ama' is a subject al-GhazziIi was always careful to include in bis

discussion of the posts of both the imam and the sultan. They are regarded by him. as

knowledgeable people whose guidance and advice should he sougbt by mlers. Let us see

how al-GhazziIi looks at the &ulama' and their relation to the politics of the time.

As mentioned during our discussion of al-Ghazzifi's theory of the imamate 7 the

&ulama' are complementary to the imamate, as they fonn a substitute for one of the

conditions (knowledge) that cannot he met by the imam. The chief example is that of al-

Mus~. Therefore, they were very important to the 'Abbisid imamate. However, their

involvement was temporary and impennanent. Furthemore, al-Ghazzifi stipulated that if

there is another Qurayshite who fulftlls ail the necessary conditions then the imam who

regularly consults the &ulamH must he deposed provided that bis deposition will not lead to

war .18 This implies that if the deposition does not lead to violence, the role of fulama' as

a substitute for persona! knowledge on the part of the imam is redundant. This temporary

approach is pragmatic.

Al-GhazzaIi's insistence that rulers seek out the most devout &u1ama' suggests two

11Al-Ghazzifi, AJ-Tibr, pp. 131-140. Ct: al-Ghazzifi, Book ofCounsel tr. BagleY7 pp.

25-31. Cf. also LambtOD State and Govemment, pp. 119-120.


Al-Ghazzifi, al-Iqti,aJ, p. 68.


things about the rulers of the time. First, there were no mujtahidl9-level rulers (he they

imams or sultans); therefore, they needOO to seek the knowledge of the &u1ama' to make up

for their inadequacy in this area. Second, the ruJers 100 a frivolous life, which led al-

GhazzaII to advise them to seek out the &ulama' for moral guidance. This is seen in bis

counsels contained in the N~Jat aJ-muliik. There he advises the imam to he correct in bis

faith, observe justice, seek out the &uJama:20 overcome pride and lead a pious Iife. This

suggests that the sultans had up to then 100 a blameworthy life which needed to he corrected;

al-Ghazzill called on the &ulama'to shoulder such a responsibility.

Even though he incessantly counsels mlers to seek out the &u/ami: yet he discourages

the &ulami'from frequenting them in tom. He maintains that the scholar who courts rulers

will be drawn ioto he evil ways of the latter. To him the mIers who frequent scholars are

good but the scholars who frequent rulers are bad.ll He views such scholars as spiritual1y

contaminated. However, if they are sought out by the rulers, they must give sound advice

19A mujtahid is one who exercises ijtib8d, "private personal effort" or "independent legal
reasoning. n See Frederick M Denny, An Introduction to Islam, 2nd. ed. (New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1985), pp. 198 and 392.

20JIere the uJama' meant by a1-Ghazzili are those mentioned in the l1Jya~ namely the pious
ulami: who shun the company of mlers, hate fame and worldly gain and nonnally refuse to accept
any gifts or money offered to them by the powerfuI. It is they who are sought out by the rulers and
not vice versa. These are the uJama' who are deemed as waratbat aJ-Anbiyi' (heirs of the
Prophets). For details of u/ama: see al-Ghazzili, Il)yi~ pp. 142-152. Cf. Al-Gbazzifi, lmam
Gazzali's Ihya, tr. Fazul-ul-Karim, vol. 2 (Lahore: Sind Sagar Academy, 1971), pp. 101-107.

21Al-GhazzaIi, l1Jya: vol. 2, pp. 142-152. Cf. al-Ghazzifi, Imam Gazzali's Ihya, tr.
Fazul-ul-Karm, vols. 1 and 2, pp. 101ff. Cf. a1so al-Ghazzifi, The Revival ofReligious Sciences

by al-Ghazi li, tr. Bankey, Behari (Surrey: Sufi Publishing Company Ltd., 1972), p. 39.

to them, even while exercising caution. Al-Gbazzifi bimself was a living example of a

scholar being sought out by a sultan. Afler a long retiremen~ he was summoned by Fakhr

al-Mulk to teach again at the N~amlyah college at Niship1" in 4991 1106. Al-Ghazzifi's

counsel to scholars on how they should conduct themselves when dealing with mlers was

very practical. This, he thougbt, would enable them to preserve their role as heirs of the

Prophets (aJ- &ulama' warathat aJ-anbiya,.

2. Characteristics of al-GhazziIi's Political Tbought.

Having looked at the practical aspects of bis thought on politics, let us look at its

essential characteristics. Tbere are severa! to he found in bis thought that make it distinctive.

These are its pclemical, religious and realistic characteristics.

a) Polemics

This factor can be seen in bis aJ-Must/l?biJi, wbere he launches an attack on the

Balinites, calling them heretics and to sorne extent katirs (unbelievers). The Balinites,

who were Isma'lfi Sb1'ites, became the object of bis criticism when bis patron, al-

Mus~, asked him to refute their teachings. Tbese posed a political as weil as ideological

challenge to the 'Abbsid imam, who for bis part was relying on al-Ghazzili to contnn bis

own position by questioning the theories of the Fitimids, who represented Bapmte political

power. 22

22Al-GhazziIi is reported to have taken part in the ceremony of administering the oath to the

newly enthroned al-Mus~, who tben commanded the former to a write a book exposing the tnlth
about the doctrines of the Ta'fimites (Le., B~inites), i.e., the work that was to become known as

al-Musta#Jid See Al-Ghazzifi, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. xxxiv.

In justifying al-Mus~ as the legitimate imam. al-GhazzaIi disqualifies the rival

Falimid imam, based in Egypt. Al-GhazzaIi discredited the latter's faith as unbefitting an

imam. Moreover, he also condemned the Batinite concept of the imam itself: particularly

their bellef that he is ma~m (impeccable or sinless). Such an attribute, according al-

Ghazzafi, belonged only to the Prophet M~ammad and to nobody else after him. Because

he held sucb beliefs and concepts, the Fitimid imam, he argued, was therefore disqualified.

This, in al-GhazzaIi's view, left al-Mustqhir as the sole candidate for the imamate.

Naturally, al-GbazzaIi's attacks met with a response from bis opponents. Corbin,

for instance, reveals that the Batinites claimed that al-GhazzaIi had compiled bis polemics

under duress and at the direct orders of the imam. Nor, according to them, did he have

enough time to intemalize and understand fully their doctrine; rather, he simply gathered

all the accusations made by various heresiographers, without referring to authentic Isma'ill

sources. 23 Had al-Ghazzill takeD the time to understand the true context of their doctrine,

he would have discovered their sources, and would not have been so vigorous in bis attack

on the Batinites. However, these critics did Dot realize that al-GhazzaIi was not really

motivated by a desire to find out the truth about Batinite doctrine; otherwise he would have

done so by studying it thoroughly and penetratingly as he had done with Sufism and

philosophy. Rather, he wanted to disqualify their imam in support of bis aim to have one

23Henry Corbin, "The Isma'IIi Response to the Polemics of Ghazili," in Sayyed Hossein
Nasr, ed., /sma7R Contribution to lslamic Culture (Tehran: Iranian Academy of Philosophy,

1977), p. 70.

imam for all Muslims. His polemics against the Bitinites were based on political need. They

were in response to the latter's activities wbich were perceived as a threat to the interests of

both the 'Abbasid imamate and the Seljijq sultanate.24 To the ~Abbasid imam~ the Ba~inites

were rivais who claimed that only their imam should he obeyed by aIl peoples.2S The

Batinites aIso claimed that their imam knew the realities of things and that through him

people might obtain happiness in this lite and in the hereafter.26 This claim implied that the

'Abbasid imam al-Mus~was not the imam of the people. Consequently, attacking the

Batinites was a political necessity for al-Mus~, and it was this task that al-GhazzaIi was

assigned to accomplish.

In attacking the Balinites' claim, the fmt thing that al-GhazzaIi does is rejects the

authority of their imam. He argues that the "designation" (Da,~) by the Prophet of Aff bin

Ab1 TaIib as bis successor,27 and then by the latter of bis sons and then on downward

24However in bis al-Musta~ he focuses on al-Must~simamate vis--vis the Fa!imid

imam (the Batinite imam) rather than on the Seljiiq sultan, for this work was meant for the imam
and not the sultan.

2SMcCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 218.

n Al-Ghazzan argues that there are two proofs which make the ftdesignation by the Prophet
of Ali an impossibility. First, if such texts were unimpeachable, men would not doubt them, for

the Prophet's statements about designation would he of such importance as Dot to he passed over in
silence. This, he says, is a decisive proof of the falseness of their claim. Second, if the partisans
of Ali against Ab Bakr clung to the probable expressions transmitted by individuals, how could

they have remained sUent about an unimpeachable text? With these arguments he contends that such
designation was impossible. See McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 262ff. For the details
of the Ba!intes' doctrine of designation see Sami Nasib Makarem, tr. The Political Doctrines of

the lsma7Rs (The lmamate) (Delmar, New York:: Caravan Books, 1977), pp. 27-44. This book

through ~ Afi's lineage is impossible. This is because one would expect to find many reports,

and particularly an unimpeachable repo~ about this designation from the Prophet, which,

according to al-Ghazzifi, is not the case.28 This fact invalidates them as imams, leaving al-

Mus~ as the only legitimate choice for the people. Having refuted the claims of their

imam, al-GhazzaIi justifies al-Mus~, for according to him, the laner's authority was

unquestionable. 29 This is because the source of bis authority was based in the choice of the

ummah (community of believers), based in turn on their ijma~ (consensus of the


His attacks do not stop there, for he also refutes the most important attribute assigned

by the Batinites to their imam as well, i.e., that he is infallible (ma~~m).30 He reveals that

the error of the Balinites lies in their supposition that they have to acquire knowledge from

is a translation of ar-Ris8la 6/-Imama of Ab I-Fawiris AQmad ibn Ya'qb, who was a da~ (a
propagandist) ofthe Fatimid imam. a1-~aki.m (r. 386/966). This work is said to have been written
before 408 A. H. However, the author's date of death is not mentioned in Makarem's translation.

~e requirement of an unimpeachable report for each individual imam assumes four things,
aU of which would have to obtain in every case for it to he valid: a) that the imam actually died
leaving a son; b) that he actually designated bis son before he died; c) that there a1so he
unimpeachable transmission that the Prophet put the designation of ail bis children on the same level
as the imam's "own" designation regarding the necessity of obedience, so tbat error in specifying
would he inconceivable in any one of them; and d) tbat tbere also he transmission of the perdurance
of infallibility and fitness for the imamate from the time of the designation to the death of the
designator. Al-GhazzaIi argues that if there had been tawatur (unimpeachable transmission) in
reports on the designation this would he known by otbers, but as people do not know of such a
tawatur, therefore it cannot he established. See McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 262.

29 Al-Ghazzafi, Fat/ii'ib, p. 173. Cf. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, 276.

3~cCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 264.

the imamjust as Muslims did from the Prophet. The Prophet, from whom the people leamed

the truth, was ma ~,m (infallible); therefore, whatever he said was reliable. The imam

must also he infallible in order to he a reliable source. But this is denied by al-Ghazzili,

who contends that nobody was ma ~~m after the Prophet.31 He continues by stating that there

is both rational and traditional (sam~yah) knowledge. While the former is decisive and

provable, cao he learned from anyone and involves no taqUd (blind acceptance), traditional

knowledge is based on the hearing of tawatur reports (reports of unimpeacbable

transmission) or the reports of individuals, cases where there is no need for ao imam in any

event. 32 He says that the necessity for an imam is related to general administrative reasons

such as defending Islam and the like.33 Such a concept of the imam is naturally very different

from that which was held by the Bilinites.34

Al-GhazzaII's severe refutation of the Balinites and their imam was also a check


3~he Batinites as well as the wbole Sbl~ab believe that the imam receives divine
illumination regardless of any election by the Community, and that it is passed to bim tbrough the
Prophet. The imamate is thus passed to each succeeding imam by the previous one, 50 as to ensure
continuity of inspiration for the esoteric interpretation (ta 'wil) of revelation, which they do in
accordance with the needs of the time.The imam is the sole interpreter of the revelation who is
deemed to he endowed with divine insight See Sami Nasib Makarem, The Political Doctrine, pp,


against the intellectual war launched by ij:asan-i ~abb~, whose ideology, ta~DnTs

(authoritative teaching), was quicldy taking hold in the 'Abbisid empire.36 This intellectual

war was part of l:Iasan-i ~abbiJ1.'s policy, besides political and military initiatives.37 His

agressive tactics, which includOO selective assassinatoD,38 put the Seljq sultanate on high

alert. Snce the sultanate was essential to the ~Abbisid imam as a source of power, its

collapse would most likely bave 100 ta bis fall. Tberefore, besides the military option being

exercised39 by the Seljqs against the Bitinites, al-Gbazzili's polemics represented the

35 Ta &Dm (authoritative teaching), founded by l:Iasan-i Sabb~ was known as a new teaching
(al-da ~wah al-jadidah) in contradiction with the old movement (aJ-da ~wab aJ-qadimab) which was
based in Egypt. See Ismail Poonawal~ "An Ismi'1fi Refutation of a1-Ghazifi," in Graciela de la
Lama, ed., The 30th Intemational Congress of Human Science in Asia & North Africa, 4, 1
(Mexico: Colegio de Mexico, 1976), p. 131.

3&rhe Isma'lfis encouragOO resentment against Turkic rule, particularly the Seljiiq sultanate.
They found partisans, especially among Sh1'1s, in some roral areas, in Most towns, and even in the
lower ranks of the armies. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Venture ofIslam, vol. 2 (Chicago &
London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974), p. 58.

37Ismail Poonawal~ "An Ismi'1fi," p. 131.

3SU1e assassinations were aimed at single prominent enemies who had caused them special
damage, and were seemingty calculated ta avoid bloodshed among ordinary people and bloody
battles. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Venture of Islam, vol. 2, p. 60. This was true of the
assassinations of Malik Shah and bis vizier, N~ al-Mulk, who were both murdered in 485/1094.
For details on the assassination activities, see Farhad Daftary, The Assassin Legends (London: I.
B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 1994); Bernard Lewis, The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967); Farhad Daftary, The Isma~iJis: TbeirHistory and Doctrines
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

3~l}ammad Tapar 100 a general campaign against the Ismi'lfi strongholds and retook Many
of them. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Venture ofIslam, vol. 2, p. 60. Before this campaign,
there was another army sent by N~im al-Mulk against the Batinites; however it was recalled due
to the death of the former in 485/1092. See a1-Ghazzifi, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. xxxi.
See aIso Carole Hillenbrand, "The Power Stnlgg)e between the Seljtqs and the Isma'ilis," pp. 205-


intellectual front in the battle40 to preserve ~ Abbisid rule and Sunnsm itself in the face of

a direct and hostile Shl'ite adversary.

Al-GhazzaIi's polemics against the Bitinites also consisted of fatwas (legal

opinions) on the status of the latter. These are oudined in four sections of bis al-Must8?bid

The first includesfatwas charging them with bidcah (heresy) and /cufr (unbeliet). He

defines as heresy such beliefs as that 'Afi should have been chosen as imam and not Ab

Bakr, 'Umar and Uthmin, that the blood and property ofSunriiMuslims are Iicit to them 9

that the imam must he regarded as ma &~m (infallible and impeccable) and that Ab Bakr

and sorne other companions were sinfuL41 They err on aIl these counts. They draw the

charge of kufr (unbelief) for their assertion that Ab Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthmin were

unbelievers,42 and for their doctrine of ta wll (interpretation of the Que' in) which

4<7he intellectual war by the Culama' (al-Ghazzifi among them) against the Ismi'ifis
proved to he successfuJ, since it managed to unite the Muslims politically, while most of the
population tumed against the Ismie-tlis. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Venture ofIslam, vol. 2, p.

4ISee McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfiliment, pp. 265-266. Cf. Arthur Jeffery, liA Fatwi of
al-GhazzaIi against the Esoteric Sects," in Athur Jeffery, ed. A Reader on Islam Cs-Gravenhage:
Mouton & Co., 1962), pp. 255-259.

Al-GhazzaIi says that declaring 'Umar and Ab Bakr to have been unbelievers is different
from doing so with respect to other Muslims for lWO reasons: 1) it opposes and contravenes the
consensus (ijma' of the community; and 2) it contradicts the report about the former, that they
were promised the garden (paradise). Tberefore, those who accused them of unbelief are
themselves guilty of unbelief, because they lie (takdJuo) about the Prophet. See McCarthy,

Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 266. Cf. Arthur Jeffery, ed., A Reader, p. 258.

according to al-Ghazzfi results in the telling of lies (takdblb) about the Prophet.43

The second section of fatwas applies to the consequences of this unbelief. Al-

GhazzaIT says that the Balinites should he treated in the same manner as apostates

(murtadd) with regard to their blood, property, marriage, and other cult practices.

Furthermore, in spirit (arw8JJ) theyare not to he treated in the same way as those who have

been unbelievers since birth, but are to he strictly put to death.44

The third section deals with the acceptance or rejection of their repentance. Bere al-

GhazzaIT places three conditions on accepting the latter. First, they must basten to manifest

repentance by not figbting or exerting other pressure. Sucb repentance must he positively

received. Second, the one who embraces Islam at sword's point, but belongs to the class of

ordinary and ignorant men and not to the propagandists and those who err, bis repentance

is also to be accepted. This is because bis harm is limited to bimself, and because the

ignorant common man is easily deluded in religious mattels. Lastly, the propagandist who

realizes that the doctrine is false but embraces it as a means to power and worldly vanity,

such aman's evil is to he feared and al-Ghazzifi leaves it up to the imam to decide on bis

43For the details, see McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, p. 267. Cf. Arthur Jeffery, A
Reader, p. 262.

44 Al-Ghazzili says that al-Shifri, the founder of the Shifi'i school, gave a choice to the one
who was an unbeliever from birth, but no options in the case of the apostate. The options for the
former are; a) extending to him grace, b) aIl0wiDg him the chance of ransom, c) eDslaving him,
and d) putting him to death. See McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 268-9. Cf. Arthur

Jeffery, A Reader, p. 265.

fate. 45

The last section concerns the legal devices for escaping from oaths or contracts made

with such people, especially when they have been secured by the standard Sunn1 response.

For this purpose al-Ghazzifi suggests five solutions. FlISt, if the words in sbiiAllIJ (if

God will) is included in the pact, the swearer can violate it. Second, the swearer can

convey in bis oath a thing that is contrary to bis intention. Third, he should look at the

wording of the oath, for it is ooly incumbent when it is asociated with the phrases of wal/abi,

Jalliihi and biU8bl. Fourth, one cao look at what is being swom to, for instance, if it is to

make him a frieod of Gad, then it cao he broken, because he is not a friend of Gad, but His

enemy. Finally, if the swearer does oot try aIl the above solutions then he is bound to the

punishment prescribed by Islam.46

AlI the above are the legal weapons used by al-Ghazzifi to attack the Bitinites for

their errors and wrong beliefs. These attacks and charges are juristic in approach for they

preserve and expIain the beliefs and actions prescribed by revelation, combat error and

prevent heresy.47 b) Religiosity

Religiosity is another characteristic tbat coloues al-Ghazzifi's political thought. Let

45See McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 270-271. Cf. Arthur Jeffery, A Reader,
pp. 269-273.

46For details see McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment, pp. 271-275. Cf. Arthur Jeffery,
A Reader, pp. 273-279.

47Ann K. S. Lambton, "Justice in the Medieval Persian Theory of Kingship," Studia

Islamica, vol. 17 (1962), p. 91.

us look at sorne of the reasons why this statement is a valid one.

The frrst reason is that he bases the foundation of the imamate on religion and oot on

reason~ even though the latter can a1so serve in this regar~48 for it is reasonable to state that

a society requires a leader so that order can he maintained. However, al-Ghazzili takes

religion as the underpinning of the imamate. He views the imam as the person who

implernents the Islamic law (Sbarlliah)~ who is the source of the legitimacy of religious

officiais and who administers the day to day affairs of Muslims. Having said this, it is

significant that the source he relies on is not the Qur~ in or the Sunna, but rather the ijma li

(unanimous consensus) of ail Muslims upon the importance of the imam (m~la1)a ..public

interest) in preserving the laws of God. Moreover, among the conditions that he sets for on

imam are those of wara (piety) and knowledge in jurisprudence (lslamic law). This May

serve as an indication of how important it was in bis eyes to have a leader who is not only a

Muslim but also one thoroughly endowed with Islamic values.49

Furthermore, in bis counsel to the sultan in bis Na,Jat aJ..m ulik he stresses the

importance of faith~ morality~ and the correct observance of religious practices on the part

of the sultan. He says that rulership is something bestowed by God, and a gift for which its

holder (in this case the sultan) will he accountable in the hereafter, whether he has fulfilled

48See Erwin L J. Rosenthal, "Sorne Aspects of Islamic PoticalThought," lslamic Culture,

vol. 22, no. 1 (Jan. 1948), p. 2.
10 Muslim society there are people who are not committed to their faitb~ called nominal
Muslims or Muslims by birth, as weIl as those who observe and practise their religion in their daily

lives, called committed Muslims or sometimes Islamic Muslims.

bis responsibility justly or noL Moreover, he also wams that the mler who fails to do justice

will receive severe punisbment in the hereafter. He says that one day of just rule by an

equitable sultan is better than sixty years of continuai worship.sO He also quotes in bis

N~Jat af-mu/k many /Jadiths, QUI'arnc verses, and as weIl several precedents set by

ealier rulers who preserved justice and Islamic teachings during their reigns. Tbese counsels

offered by al-GhazzaIi are clearly replete with Islamic teacbings.

Besides the advice and admonition offered to mlers there is one view that al-GhazzII

held on religion that seems aImost backward in its presentation. This is found in bis

analogical argument explaining the causal relation between religion and society. In bis

analogy he says that the good ordering of religion is brought about only by the good ordering

of this world, and that the good ordering of this world is in tom brought about by an oheyed

imam. Therefore, setting up an obeyed imam is necessary.SI However, although the

analogy appears to he sound, if we look at the tirst premise, namely, that the good ordering

of religion is brought about only by the good ordering of this world, it seems to me that role

of religion in creating and shaping a good society is denied. This is seen to he the opposite

of the purpose of Islam when it was fust brought by the Prophet, which was to change pre-

Islamic Arab society from barbarous ignorance society (a/-JabiDya) into a religious and

God-fearing society, from a society based on polytheism to one based on monotheism.

SOAl-Ghazzafi, Book ofCounsel, tr. Bagley, p. 14.


SI Al-Ghazzifi, p. 234-235.

Therefore Islam has been seen as a religion that brings development and freedom to people.

In other words it is religion, particularly this religion, that causes the good ordering of a

society and not vice-versa. However, in bis analogy al-Ghazzifi assigns religion a inferior

position, which is the opposite of wbat one would expect.

Nevertheless, if we compare the situation of the Prophet's time with that faced by al-

GhazzaIi, we are confronted by two different stories which cannat he judged using the same

approach. In the Prophet's case, he came to a society whose inhabitants were not yet

Muslims in order to Islamize it and thereby change it from a wicked society into a good

(lslamic) one. Therefore, in bis case Islam served as an agent of change. However, in al-

Ghazzafi's day Islam was already the religion of the people and their mlers. Al-GhazzaIi

came not to change the people as the Prophet did, but to admonish them that without stability

or the good ordering of society, which he identified with civil war and a disobeyed imam,

people would not have time to practise their religion because they would be too busy

defending themselves. Therefore, religious practices such as worship and the search for

knowlege depend on a stable environment. Thus, the good order of society aod religion cao

only he maintained by obeying the imam.

c) Realism

Another characteristic that is apparent in bis thought is realism. This cao easily he

seen in sorne of bis views regarding the conditions that he set for rulers.

To solve the political problems of bis time al-GhazziIi used a realistic approach.

There are several examples of this in bis writings, the cbief among them being bis

compromise over the conditions of the imam. Al-Ghazzifi realized that a1-Mus~ alone

could not meet severa! of the conditions, wbich would consequently invalidate bis imamate.

In order to justify al-Mus~, he resorted to the sultan and the ~uJama' to complement

him, thereby qualifying bis role as imam. The sultan fulftlls a1-Mus~'s condition of

najdah with the support of bis shawkah (fitness for combat and war), whereas the ~ulama'

fulI1l the imam's condition of knowledge with their advice and counsels. With this approach

he manages to solve the problem of the imamate as it existed in bis day. Binder is correct

when he says that in al-Ghazzifi's concept of the imamate there are three main elements,

namely, the imam, the sultan and the ~uJama~S2

Another realistic approach is found in bis argument on the idea of deposing an imam

who is not perfecto Intrinsically, he agrees that the imam who does not have knowledge but

who regularly consults the ~ulama' May he deposed and replaced by one who meets ail the

conditions, but argues that if the disadvantages of keeping the former are less than those

involved in having him deposed, such as civil war, then it is better to obey him. This

approach is very pragmatic, for it places a premium on the maintenance of order in society.

Based on this and other arguments, aIl of which emphasize how important it is to avoid strife

within the community, al-Ghazzifi shows himself to he a thinker who loved stability and

S2See Leonard Binder, "Al-Gbazifi's Tbeory of Islamic Government," The Muslim World,

vol. 45 (1955), p. 240.

hated war; in this respect he pans company from the Realpolitik of Niccolo Machiavelli.S3

Nevertheless, bis realistic approach was not popuIar, because it did not call for improvement

in the politicallife of the state; rather, it maintained the status quo.

Much of bis realistic approach was based on the principle of the public interest

(m~lalJah), even bis justification of an imperfect imam and the view that an ignorant and

tyrannical sultan must he obeyed. His chief reason for this view was that the sultan was the

one who wielded military power, whose presence was vital in guaranteeing the position of

a weak imam. This sultan, due to bis military power and the consequent support of the

people (sorne of it no doubt due to fear) can act as the ah1 aJ-l}a/J wa a/- aqd to the imam.

Moreover, al-GhazzaIi again argues that deposing the sultan would cause wars that would

detract from the peacefulness of the society and its people. For these two reasons it was

imperative that the sultan be obeyed. In spite of its realistic approach, however, the theory

does seem to he rather passive. He gives no consideration after aIl to the feeling of a people

suffering under the tyranny of a sultan. He never suggests that the majority should eradicate

the cruelty at any cost. To him what is important is to have an imam who is supported by the

sultan. This is the type of society that he envisioned.

Moreover, bis realistic approach engenders another characteristic, which is that bis

theory is time-bound. This can he seen in some of the same examples depicted above t

53rn Niccolo Machiavelli's approach, i.e., "the end justifies the means" he allows every
means and approach to power regardless of its goodness or badness, because to him achieving the

end is the primary goal. See Machiavelli, The Prince t p. 88.

namely, in the condition set on the knowledge possessed by an imam, on the deposition of

an imperfect imam and the obedience due to a tyrannical or ignorant sultan. AlI of bis

positions on the above malters were based on the events and concems of the age, wbich

forced him to take an unpopular stance. Rad the situation been differen~ aI-GbazziIi might

have conceived a more popular theory, Iess prone to criticism.S4 One example of this process

at work may he seen in bis aI-Must8?/1i17, where he says that knowledge is Dot indispensible

to the imam, whereas in bis aI-Iqtiisdhe states, while discussing the same issue, that the

imam who regularly needs to consuit the ~u/ams' and implements their advice should he

replaced with one who is knowledgeable enough to function without their help. This position

is different from the one in the aI-MustB?hiii and is more lenient on the subject of

deposition. It also seems to suggest that bis views had a contemporary application, not a

constant one.

There cao be no doubt that al-GhazziIi's political thought was a response to the

political needs of bis age, which forced him to he realistic and pragmatic vis--vis existing

political conditions. Since, to bim, having an imam was essential to the full implementation

of the shan&ah and the correct functioning of an Islamic state, he adopted Many unpopular

views that are open to criticism. However, one must remember that he was not an idealist

~s is proven by bis view that if it could he ascertained that dePOsing an imperfect imam
would not lead to civil Wat, then he must he dePOsed and replaced by the more perfect candidate.
However, he contends that this was impossible during bis lime. See McCarthy, Freedom and
Fulfillment, p. 279. The same case applies to the sultan; since bis deposition would generate civil
war, people are therefore asked to he loyal to hm. See Hillenbrand, "Islamic Orthodoxy," p. 90.

who longed for something that was not present, but rather a thinker confronted with

urgencies of an evolving political situation. For these reasons bis thought fails to take ioto

account the prospect for development and change io society, and is coloured with

accommodation, passiveness and an exaggerated respect for the status quo. To him,

stability must he preserved, in that it guarantees an. opportunity for the people to practice

their religion in preparation for the next world. To meet this need, he envisioned an

arrangement which was in fact a political necessity: a cooperative arrangement between

imam, sultan and u1ama~


Al-Ghazzifi's political philosophy centres on two themes which influence bis entire

political Weltanschauung, Damely, sharl~ah (lslamic law) and stability or order (ni?am).

These two thernes CODstantly inform bis political thought as demonstrated in bis four books

studied above. They are always associated with bis ideas on the imamate or caliphate and

the sultanate. The terms imamate and caliphate are used by hint interchangeably, and denote

the same meaning in bis works. The imam and the sultan are the two persons who maintain

the law and the established order. The former, however, who bas authority (wilayah),

nevertheless does Dot bave the power (quwwah) and must therefore depend on the latter,

the defacto mler. And yet even though the imam does Dot have the power, he is essential

to al-GhazzaIi's political scheme. This is due partly to bis fonction of appointing the qat/ls

(the judges) and administrative officiais who nm and administer the daily lite of the ummah

(community of the believers). Without the imam, society is seen as having no rules or

regulations because nobody is ultimately responsible; thus the law of God is left

unimplemented and stability cannot he preserved.

In developing bis theory that there must he an imam in every age to implement the law

and unite the people, he look a realistic approach. This approach was at the time both

practical and self-serving. It was practical in the sense that it managed 10 achieve its aime

For instance, he justified an imperfect imam. Ta compensate the for imam's weakness, Le.,

bis incapability of practising ijtihad (private persona! effort in legal reasoning), he resorts

to the &u1ama' for help. The addition of the ~uJama'to the equation results in an imamate

composed of three elements, Le., the imam hmself, the sultan and the ~ulama~ Of these

three bodies, the &ulama' seem to play an important role vis--vis both the imam and sultan.

This is because they are sought out by both for their counsel and decision, making them very

influential in society. Al-GhazzaIi himself fuIfilled just such a role.

Al-Ghazzan takes a pragmatic view as weIl of the sultan, the holder of military power

(shawkah). Such power was essential to the imam so that he might keep order and stability

in society, by quelling rebellions and riots and disturbances of the peace. Moreover, al-

GhazzaIi states bis opinion that a sultan who is obeyed has the sole right to appoint the imam,

since the sultan represents the community and its people. The importance of the sultan led

al-GhazzII to conclude that obeying a sultan is necessary, regardless of whether he is a

tyrant or an ignorant mIer. This idea seems on the surface to he in direct contradiction of the

Qur'arnc and characteristically Islamic ethical directive a/-amrbi'l-malruf"wa al-na1Jy ~an

al-munkar. He does not support the removal of a bad sultan, lest doing so should create

disharmony in the society. In one sense he is avoiding a possible conflict (fitnah), namely

war; in another, he is maintaining an evil in society, Le., tyranny (pHm). This shows that

al-Ghazzan was less concemed with improving the lives of everyday people by freeing them

from tyranny, than he was concemed to preserve the political status quo.

Interestingly, when dealing with the Batinites (the Isma'ifis), bis position with

regard to "evil" was uncompromising. Whereas he was of the opinion that a tyrannical sultan

should be obeyed under normal circumstances, in the case of the Batinites it was just the

other way arouod. His legal position on the former is sufficient to explain this. His charge

against them of /cufr (unbeliet) means that they may rightfully he killed at any time, whether

in war or in peace. In the case of the tyrannical sultan, at least this sultan had sound

"political faith" in the ~ Abbisids, a Sunn1 institution. The Batnites, on the other han~

held incorrect dogma and besides posed a constitutional threat to the ~ Abbisid imam. Thus,

bis approach to this group was strongly motivated by political considerations.

The presence of Ba!inite dii1s (summoners or missionaries) in the Abbisid empire


was so prevalent as to endanger the Sunn1 institutions championed by the ~ Abbisid imam

and the Seljuq sultan. The latter moved quicldy to suppress this activity, especially after

Tughril Beg (d. 455/1063) managed to defeat the Sb1'l Buwayhids, l the fonner patrons of

the 'Abbasid imam. Tughril's victory over the Buwayhids did oot stop or silence the

Ba!inites' activities in this area however. Figures like al-Basas1ii (d. 451/1059), al-

Mu'ayyad al-Sh1r3z1 (d. 470/1078) and ~asan-i Sabbil) (d. 518/1124) continued to he

active in learling the Batinites' da 'wah (religio-political propaganda) against the SUnnl

empire. Their success contributed to the instability of Sunn1 rule.

lIn 44711055 Tugbril entered Baghdad and soon after extinguished the mIe of the Buwaybids
of Iraq by deposing and imprisoning the last member of the dynasty, al-Malik al-Raljim Khusraw
Firz (440-447/1048-1055). The ~Abbisid caliph al-Qa'im (d. 467/1075) then coDmned
Tughril's title of sultan and the latter announced bis intention of sending expeditions against the Sh1'i
Fa!imid in Syria and Egypt. For details see Farhad Daftary, The Isma?6s: Their History and

Doctrines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 205.

The coming of the Seljqs as patrons of the ~ Abbisid imam and as champions of

SUnnl Islam was not warmly welcomed by the people, because of their batted for the

former's soldiery.2 This sentiment was exploited by al-Mu~ayyad,3 the Fatimid di'i, who

directed al-Basasm to create anti-Seljuqid disorder. Al-Basism, wbo was originally a

Turkish slave, had emerged as a prominent military chief in Iraq during the fmal decade of

Buwayhid rule. In 448/1056, two years before the birth of al-Ghazzan~ al-Basism had

succeeded in fulf'illing bis mission, for in Maw~i1, Wisit and Kfa the kbU/bah was read

in the name of al-Mus~ir's, the Filimid imam.4 With the support he got from Caro, al-

Basasm inflicted a heavy defeat on Seljq forces in the region of Sinjir in 448/1057. In

450/1058 al-Basislr1 managed to enter Baghdad, while Tughril was in western Persia,

which resulted in the introduction of the Shl'i Corm of adhb., (Muslim calI to prayer) in

Baghdad.5 Moreover, the khu!bah was also pronounced in the name of al-Must~ir (d.

487/1094). Al-Basasm received much popular support from both Sunriis and Sh1'is who

were united in their hatred of the Seljuqid soldiery.

During this period, al-Basas1ii captured the ~ Abbisid palace but then (eft it protected

2Parhad Daftary, The Isma7JIs, p. 206.

3His full name was al-Mu'ayyad fi'l-Din Ab N~r Hibat Allih b. Ab1 ~Imrin Msi b.
Da'd al-Sh1r3z1. Apart from being a F!imid da1 of al-Must~ir he was a1so a pralifie writer and
poet, as weIl as a politieal organizer and a military strategist. He was barn around 390/1000 in
Shiz, where bis father, coming from a Daylanii Ismi'ifi family, was himself a da1 with some
influence in the Buwayhid circles ofrars. For details ofhis life and activities, see ibid., pp. 213ft.

4Ibid., p. 205.

sIbid., p. 206.

under the Uqaylid Quraysh~ a decision which in turn disappointed al-Mus~ir, who had

been expecting the ~Abbasid caliph to he brought as a captive to Caro. The fact that he

managed ta send the ~ Abbasid insignia to the Fatimid capital seems not to have won al-

Basasm any favor with the Fitimid imam, for afterwards he received no more support from

Caro. Al-Basasm was mally killed by the SeljUqs near Kfa after he rejected the offer

made by Tughril, Le., to renounce bis Fatimid allegience and restore the ~ Abbisid imam,

al-Qaim to the throne. 6

During the reigns of Alp Arslin (455-465/1063-1073), Tughril's nephew, and the

latter's son Malik Shah (465-485/1073-1092)~ the Seljq empire was consolidated. Tbis

was due ta the dependence of both on their famous Persian Vzier Ni~am al-Mulk (d

485/1092). It was aIso during this time that the power of the Fitimids was weakening. Due

to the consolidation of the Seljq empire, a change of influence and position occurred in

certain parts of the Middle East. For instance, in 462/1069-70, the sbaTlf (a descendant

of I:Iasan, son of 'Ali by Fatimah) of Mecca informed Alp Arslin that henceforth the

khU!bah in Mecca would he read in the name of the 'Abbasid imam and the Seljq sultan,

and no longer in that of the Fatimids.7 This implied bis allegiance to the former and bis

renunciation of the latter.

6Tughril had previously proposed to leave al-Basasm in Baghdad provided that the latter
renounced bis Fa~imid allegiance and restored al-Qi'im. Sec Farhad Daftary, The Isma~Ds, p.

7Ibid., p. 207.

Even though the SeljQs managed to consolidate their power and influence, the

threat posed by the Fi~imid Isma'lfis (the Bitinites) continued to he fell. The success of

their da fwah in the eastem IsIamic lands, especially Iraq and Persia, jeopardized the Sunn1

'Abbisids and the Seljqis, as well as the local rulers there. Sorne effort was made,

however, to combat this, and this include the circulation of an anti-Fitimid document

sponsored by the ~ Abbisid imam al-Qa'ID. This document, to which a nomber ofjurists and

'Alids subscribed, aimed at discrediting the claim of the Fatimids to 'Alid descent. 8 This,

however, did not stop the Fi~imids from gaining ntmerous converts for al-Must~ir as the

rightful imam of the time and as the caliph of the entire Muslim world.

The rapid spread of Fitimid influence was accompanied by a series of so-called

religious assassinations of many sunrii figures, including sultans, viziers and qat/is. Among

them were sultan Malik Shah and bis famous vizier N~im al-Mulk, who were bath

murdered in 485/1092. Meanwhile, the 'Abbisids continued to encourage Sunn1 scholars

to write polemical works against the Bitinites and the Fitimid imam, which were intended

to discredit the latter. It was because of this need that al-Ghazzifi was drafted ioto the effort

of writing polemics, sorne of which were presented in bis writings on political thought.

Thus bis political approach towards this Bitinites shows a juristic concem to guarantee the

maintenance of pure Islam, the application of the sbarl~ab and the defence of orthodoxy

against heresy.

SIbid., p. 220.

His realistic and pragmatic approach was a response to the political conditions of bis

time, which did not allow him the luxury of considering purely theoretical questions

involving the origin or nature of the state. This makes him distinct from idealist political

thinkers, especially the philosophers. To this we can say that bis political philosophy was

strongly influenced by bis position as a jurist, one who bases bis thought on law, rather than

on philosophy which relies more on rational wisdom. His experiences in the corridors of

power also helped him to mould bis political Weltanschauung. Ta him what was important

was that the Iaw be preserved and the stability of the state maintained. In short, for him

politics was not a goal in itself but a means of assuring a better life in this world and in the



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National Consciousness and the Communist Revolution in Chin~ 1921-1928

Hasan Haider Karrar

Department of History
McGill University, Montreal
November 1997

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in partial fulfillment
of the requirements ofthe degree of Master of Arts

Hasan Haider Karrar, 1997

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"Power resides not in democratic vote, but in property, and by the monopoly of
information and armaments"
Leon Trotsky, Problems ofthe Chinese Revolution


111s essay examines the relationship between national consciousness and the
Communist Revolution in China between the years 1921 and 1928~

In tracing the trajectory ofthe national consciousness in our stipulated time period
we can discem three distinct phases in its manifestation. Up until 1919 national
consciousness was confined primarily to an intellectual elite whose primary concem was
the decadence of the Imperial and Confucian state. Following the May Fourth movement
(1919), these concerns came to be diffused amongst the urban population.

After the formation of the Chnese Communist Party, the Party addressed
nationalist concems by focusing on the role of imperialists and warlords. This continued
following the alliance with the Nationalist Party, the Guomindang, under the United

By 1925 there was the growth of populist movements with distinctIy anti-
imperialist overtones. The same time a1so saw a growing interest in the potential of the
peasantry as the vanguard for the nationalist revolutioD. After the April 12, 1927 coup,
the Party focused exclusively on the peasantry to carry on with the Nationalist


Cette dissertation traite des relations entre le sentiment national et la rvolution

communiste en Chine entre les annes 1921 et 1928.

En faisant ressortir la trajectoire du sentiment naIional, pendant l'poque dj

mentionne nous pouvons discerner trois phases distinctes de sa manifestation. Jusqu'en

1919, le sentiment national se manifeste surtout travers la pense d'une lite

intellectuelle qui.. pour la plupan., se proccuPe de la dcadence de l'tat imprial et

confucen. Aprs le mouvement du 4 mai (1919), le sentiment national se rpand parmi

la population urbaine.

Aprs la formation du Parti Communiste Chinois, le Parti adresse les

proccupations nationalistes en insistant sur le rle des imprialistes et des chefs de

guerre. Cette tendance continuera aprs l'alliance avec le parti nationaliste (le

Guomindang) sous le Front Limit.

En 1925 on remarque la croissance des mouvemelllS populistes aux accents anti-

imprialistes trs prononcs et en mme temps une augmentation de l'intrt envers le

potentiel de la paysannerie comme l'avant-garde de la rvolution nationaliste. Aprs le

coup d'tat du 12 avril 1927, le Parti se concentrera exclusivement sur la paysannerie afin

de poursuivre la rvolution nationale.


Table of Contents

The Polemi&=s ofChiDese Nationalism, 1919-1921
Foreign Capital, Popular CODS&=iousne5s, and Manism 9

Pre May Fourth Nationalism: Some Theoretical Considerations 10

The Nationalization of Marxism: Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu 15
The CCP and a Nationalist Agenda 23
Conclusion 28
Notes 29

From Nationalist Revolution to Populist Movements, 1922-1927
The Comintem and the Chinese Revolution 32

The Chinese Revolution and the National and Colonial Question 33

Collaboration with the Nationalists, 1922-1924 38
The Gro\vth of Proletarian Consciousness, 1924-1927 46
Conclusion 57
Notes 58

Chapter Three
The New Orientation, 1927-1928
The Natiooalist Revolution and the Peasaotry 63

The Nationalization of Practice 64

The Origins of an Agrarian Revolutionary Policy 72
Increasing Nationalist Concems: Japanese Intervention in North China 76
Conclusion 80
Notes 80

COD&=lusioD 84

Seleeted Bib60graphy 87


Very much like the Chnese revolution in the 1920s, my study ofChinese bistory resulted
in my ernbarking on numerous and peculiar tangents before 1 embarked on the current one.
1 have been extremely fortunate that Professor Sam Noumotf(Department ofPolitical
Science), and PrOfesSOT Michael Szonyi (Department ofHistory) have taken a keen
interest in my work, not ooly while 1 wu writing tbis thesis~ but also during my years as an
undergraduate. It is my hope that at sorne level the work represented bere fulfiUs their
expectations. 1 am also grateful to Mary McDai~ the graduate studies coordinatoT., for
patient advice and help on the administrative end.
A special thanks to Azra and Raider Karrar~ and Karrar Husain - keen critics, and
my first teachers.
Many ideas presented here are the consequence ofendiess hours ofdiscussion with
colleagues and friends - Andrew Lodge, Kate Kung, Chris Sberiden, Simone Levne.,
David T. H., IoeUe H., Matt Watkins, James Cambell., Ntlesh Pattanayak, Iarrett Rudy, D.
Rebecca M. Nicholson, and "Imran" Tanvir Rehman - ail took a keen interest in this study.
ln particular, 1 am grateful to Tema Guyse and Ahmer Qadeer for their camaraderie,
friendship, and their fine sense of bumor over the years.

Hasan H. Karrar
20 November 1997
Montreal PQ


During the 1920s the Chinese communists grew trom their humble origins as a group of
individuals united ooly by their interest in Marxism and their concern with the plight ofthe
nation, and zigzagged towards the implementation of an agrarian revolutionary pro~
initiated following the brutal suppression ofcommunist workers in Shanghai on April 12,
The organization ofthe Chnese Communist Party was preceded by particularly
significant events. The collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the apparent failure of
republicanism with the rise of Yuan SbkaL and the dramatic increase in warlordism were
particularly distressing events wbich penneated Chnese society and the political culture.
These were followed by the BoJshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union, and May Fourth
demonstrations across urban C~ which for a moment seemed to otrer the possibility of
a break from the nation' sociaL cultural, and political predicaments. But by the beginning
of the 1920s, save for the study societies, the momentum had ail but died. Many ofthe
May Fourth aetivists were in priso~ and it was widely acknowledged that ttle had been
achieved in concrete terms. The hold ofthe warlords, backed by Western cap~ was as
strong as it had been initially.
In 1921, Comintern representative Voitinsky organized the Cbnese Conununist
Party. However this did not result in the launching ofan immediate radical revolutionary
program. Since the CCP was in its embryonic stage, and with the Guomindang shared the
joint interest to uproot the warlords Uld imPerialists and unitY the nation, the CCP was
maneuvered into an alliance with the Nationalist party. The First United Front was formed
in 1922 and Jasted untiI Chang Kaisbek~5 coup in 1927, after which the CCP was
cornpeUed to develop an agrarian revolution, primarily to integrate the peasantry within
the nationalist phase ofthe communist revolution, but a1so to survive.

The purpose ofthis essay is to trace the relationsbip of nationalist consciousness and the
communist revolution between the years 1921 and 1928. Clearly tbere were concems with

the plight of the nation throughout not ooly the period demarcated by this study, but the
entire duration ofthe Chinese revolution, arguably up tin the present clay. But the period

under consideration gives us an important cross section ofthe diftrent and changing
facets of what 1 consider as national consciousness. Nevertheless my purpose is not to
impose a narrative ofnational consousness on the time frame~ sin a central assumption
ofthis study is that national consciousness in its ditferent manifestations, was closely
linked to a wide range of other issues wbich 1 address in the subsequent ehapters.
The role ofnational coDSCOUSDess in the Cbnese communist revolution bas often
been overlooked in studies on the period, with historians emphasizing other aspects ofthe
movement, namely, ideology~ organintion, Propag~ (abor, or the raie of the Soviet
Communist International. While ail these are valid approaches, this essay will illustrate that
national consciousness wu part and parcel ofail the above aspects ofthe Chinese
revolution. In doing 50 it is possible to demonstrate how, in every stage ofour study,
national consciousness was a central concem. This aIlows us to work: against a teleological
understanding ofthe history ofearly Chinese communism. Historians of early Chnese
communism, by focusing on a specifie aspect of the revolution, have demonstrated either
the centrality ofthe indigenous impetus for change, or the influence ofthe Communist
International in the early years orthe Party. By using national consciousness as our
touchstone, 1 hope to illustrate the complexities ofthe movement with ail its tangents and
contradictions, which were cbaracteristic not ooly ofthe early years ofthe Chinese
Communist Party, but could be said to be true for ail radical movements in general. As
shall he evident in this study, ail these ideas were intimately linked in a time characterized
by social uncertainty, and the ruthless exploitation ofa nation by foreign powers and
compradore ete.
While 1 am not suggestng that national consciousness remained static between
1921-1928, there was always a primary conm which manifested itself in difTerent ways
at ditIerent tmes. Simply put, this primary concem was the plight ofthe nation and the
welfare of its people, as seen through Marxist stipulations about labor~ production, and
exploitatio~ and the role ofwarlords and imperial powers in Chinese society.
Save for the emphasis on Marxism - which was nowhere near as weB developed in

our specified time ftame as it would be tater - one may very weB argue that there was
nothing unique about a concem with the nation and its people. AlI nations, at aIl times,

have shared similar concems. But my purpose is not to establish the uniqueness ofthis
cl~ but to examine how this national consciousness came to he manifested in different
discourses and policies at difFerent tIDeS. In our stipulated time peri~ we can discem
three distinct areas where this concem was manifested; an elite nationalist conce~ the
oationalist revolutio~ and the role of the urban proletariat and peasantry within the
nationalist revolution. WhiJe these are dealt with in greater detail in the corresponding
chapters~ the important distinctions warrant a preliminary theoretical discussion.

In formulating Ibis study my emphasis has been to trace the trajectory of national
consciousness as il was expressed in the discourses ofthe Chnese Communist Party. The
purpose bas been less on an objective understanding ofthe specifie historie events ofthe
time, but rather how members within the Party understood these events. 1 Therefore, in
traciog the evolution ofnational consciousness 1 am not making claims to a historical
objectivity, but am concemed primarily with how national consciousness worked its way
ioto the Party discourses, and what the links were with other issu~ sueh as foreign
capital, warlordism, labor, and the peasantry.
1 have also made use of terature pertaining to social change in Third World
societies. While the use ofthis literature bas been selective, 1 have found the use ofcertain
approaches very useful, namely Chatterjee's work on nationalism in the Subcontinent.
This, 1 feeL otfers us some useful insigbts into the issue of nationalism in the colonies and
The role of nationalism in China, like in other noo-Western societies, must be
approached with caution. In his now intluential study on the rise of nationali~ /magined
Communities, Benedict Anderso~ bas defined the nation as an imagined politica1
[..[i]imagined because the members of even tbc smaUest natioo will oevcr know most oftbeir
feUow members, mcct tbem, or even bear of tbcm, yet in the minds ofeach Im:s the image of their
communion.... In fac:t, an communiticsiarger tban primordial viUagers of fa-to-fa contact (and
perbaps even these) are imagiDed. Commpnies are to be distinguisbed DOt by tbeir
falsity/genuineness. but by tbc style in whicll tbey are imagiDed.

The nation is imagiDed as limited becallee e\'eIl the Iargest oftbcm, encompassiDg perbaps a
billion living human beiDgs, bas fiDiae., if elastic, bomvIarics, beyODd wbich tie otber natioDS. No
nation imagines ilself COIeI'IDinous with mankincl

Il is imagined as a SO\-ereip bccausc the concept was barn in an aae in whieh Enligbtenment
and Revolution were desUoyiDg the Icgitimac:y of the divinely ordained., hieraJ'Chical dynastie
rcalm.... Tbe gage and embIem oftbis frdom is the sovereign SIate.
Finally, il is imagined as a community, because, regardlcss of the aetoal inequality and
e.xploitation tbat may prevail in each, the nation is aIways conived as a deep, horizontal
comradeship. Ultimatcly it is always this fiatemity that makes it possible. <M:f the past IWO
centuries, for so many millions of people, DOt 50 much 10 Ida as willing to die for such limited

From the out~ there is nothing contentious in Anderson' 5 definition of the nation.
Yet its applicability to China in the 19205 is problematic and for tbis reason 1 bave been
reluctant to use the tenn "nationalism" as a sweeping eategorization which applies ta all
classes at any given point of time. My reluetance stems trom the met tbat nationalism, as a
phenomenon that was abstraeted and inteneet~ was essentially a European phenomeno~
which spread to the colonies and semi-colonies al the turn ofthe century as a consequence
of colonialism. As Partha Chatterjee comments, the relationship between the nationalism
and modemity, creates contradictions wben applied ta a colonial context.
[tthe problem of oationalist tbougbt bccomcs the particu1ar manifestation of a much more geoeral
probl~ namely, the pmbIem oftbe bourgeois-rational conception ofknowled~established in the
post-EnlightemDellt period of European intcUec:tual bistory, as the moral and epistemie foundaton
for a supposedly universal framework oftbought wbieh petpcttates, in a real and DOt merelya
metapborical sense, a c:olonial dominance.... Nationalist thougbt, in agreeing to !Je "modem,..
accepts the claim to UDiversaiity of tbis modem ftamework oflmowledge. Yet it also asserts the
autonomous identity of a national culture. It thus simultaneousIy rejects and acpts the dominance,
bath epistematie and moral, of an alien culture.3

For our purpose, another particularly important is this:

If nationalisms in the l'eSt of the wood bave to ehoose tbeir imagiDcd community froID nain
"m~ fonns awiJable to them by Europe and the Americas, wbat do they have left to imagine?
lfistory, il wouId seem, bas cIecrcat tbat wc in the posIlonial \\'Oriel sbaI1 onIy !Je perpetual
consumers of modernity. Europe aud America, the onIy true subjects of hstory. bave thought out on
our behalf DOt only the script of coIoDiaI enligbtcmnent and exploitation, but aIso tbat of our
anticolonial sistan and postcolonial msay. Even our imaginations must forever remain
colonizecl. 4

Seen in aU its complexities, Anderson~s claims ofnationalism being an imagined

association ofpeople corresponding to a certain geograpbical territory cannot be applied
literally to the Chinese context. As Chatterjee points out, ifwe accept the concept ofthe

imagined political community, then how to we explain the fact that elite nationalist
thought in China (during the New Culture movement) at the tum ofthe century was 50

closely tied to the Western inteUectua1 tradition? SimiIarly" ifwe empbasize its Western
roots" what was there left to imagine?'
As 1 demonstrate in the tint cbapter" there was a phenomenon very akin to
nationalism as understood by Chatter,jee in the colonial context" which was present in
China. This was the national consciousness present in the critique ofthe Confucian order
and the Chnese tradition during the New Culture movement. But to say that this fonn of
nationalism corresponded to everyone regardless ofclass would be incorrect.
A central assertion ofthe mst chapter is that nationalist concems moved beyond
their elite underpinnings of the New Culture movement" and came to he diftsed in the
urban population ofChna (forthis reason 1 have considered il important to briet1y discuss
national consciousness prior to the formation ofthe Party). The May Fourth movement
was instrumental in the diftsing of nationalist concerns, which were largely a fonn of
retlexive consciousness when the plight of the nation came to be seen vis--vis the
eolonizing powers . But while the May Fourth movement may have momentarily brought
these concems to the formont, the CCP, tbrougb its emphasis on propaganda" was
instrumental in making the aU too important Iink between Western capital and the
exploitation ofthe proletariat in a manner that was intelligible to the masses. While these
eoneems were present following the May Fourth movement, the nationalist concems were
accentuated by the presence ofa visible adversary" namely Western =:p:tal and the
compradores. But to relegate this form ofnational consciousness as something akin to its
bourgeoisie counterpart would be to ignore the pitfaUs of spreading a phenomenon across
obvious elass cleavages and conflicting class interests.
Between the years 1922 and 1927" national consciousness was addressed by the
Party in its emphasis on the national revolution. This is dealt witb in cbapter two ofthis
essay. The concept of the national revolution was one wbich stemmed largely from
Lenin's understanding oftbe stages colonies and semi-colonies must progress through
before they could embark on a communist revolution. These ideas were first developed in
the Second Congress ofthe Communist International in 1920. Simply put, Lenin was of

the opinion that before the colonies and semi-colonies could acbieve communism, they had
to he unified nationally. This meant tbe uprooting offoreign capital and their compradore

counterparts. Therefore~ in the China, the Comintem's primary consideration was
destroying the hegemony of the imperialists and warlords. For this purpose, the CCP was
100 inta a strategie alliance with the Guomindang since both these parties bad a joint
interest in unifYing the country and seeing an end offoreign exploitation.
During tbis period, national consciousness feU in two distinct phases. While ftom the
very beginning it was clear that the relationship between the GMO and the CCP was
fraught with tension - since both had ditrerent class interests - tiIl 1924 there was a
conscious understanding that the Front was the most strategie alliance under the
circumstances. This does not change per se fonowing 1924; but there was the growing
emergjng of populi st movements both in the urban areas and the countryside. The growth
of these populist movement were an. indieator of the anti-imperialist and anti-warlord
consciousness of the proletariat. Both the CCP and the GMD saw this as a tremendous
opportunity to hamess the potential ofthe proletariat. At the same time, Peng Pai and
Mao Zedong were organizing peasants in Haifeng and Hunan respectively. Similarly, the
Northem Expedition of 1926 gave the Party the oPPOrtunity to conduet nationalist
propaganda in the newly hberated areas.
But by the lime ofthe ascendancy ofChiang Kaishek, the United Front may have
outlived its use. Though this is oever debatecL in that not ooly St~ Bukharin, but even
Trotsky, were in Cavor ofcontinuing the alliance, others sueh as M. N. Roy and Chen
Duxiu may have thought that the conditions were riPe for launching an agrarian
revolution. In the end ofcourse, the decision was made for the communists by the betrayal
ofthe United Front by Cbiang Kaisbek. Stalin's crude prediction. that the GMD, '~as to

be utilized to the end, squeezed like a lemon, and then flung away, ,,6 did not quite work
out the way he foresaw.
The betrayal ofthe United Front forced the Chnese commuoists to reevaluate the
means ofachieving the objectives ofthe nationalist revolutioo. This is dealt with in chapter
three ofthis essay. The period marked a drastic shift in what was understood by the
nationalist revolution, sin the focus ofthe revolution shifted to the countryside, and the

relationship between the peasantry and the nationalist revolution was barder to establish
because they lacked the overt anti-imperialist consciousness of their urban counterpans.

Like the urban prolet~ the peasantry always lacked compradore ties with the
imperialists that would he necessary for the development of nationalism as an intellectual
trend. But the urban proletariat was exposed to the urban movements such as the New
Culture or May Fourth movement~ wbich were instrumental in the diftsing ofa
nationalist awareness in the urban are8S. For example there were cleu anti-imperialist
undercurrents in the strikes foUowing the May Thinieth movements - a faet tbat was
obvious to both the CCP and the GMD.
Peasant movements were an indicator that tbere was an impulse to revoit, which
could he harnessed by the Party. Regardless of whether these coostituted a fonn of
national coosciousness in and of themselves~ peasant movements could he use<! to achieve
the ends ofthe DatiOnalist revolution. In such a case~ the peasants~ revolts was grounded in
a historic struggle against the warlords and the imperialists; the very aet of insurgency
chalJenged the hegemony of the imperialists and the comprador who piUaged the nation.
As Gyanendra Pandey notes of peasant revolts in the Subcontinent during British rule:
"The concept of [fteedom] had inherent in it the idea ofgreater individual fteedo~
equality and justice, and the hope ofaccelerated national and consequently individual
development. ~~7 In China where social forces ofexploitation were closely linked together~
peasant revolts were a means offurthering the nationalist revolutioD.
But taking the revolution to countryside amounted to drastically changing the
nationalist revolution. Unlike under the United Front, which was an alliance of classes~ it
was DOW acknowledged that the notion offurther coUaboration with the bourgeoisie~ even
for the purpose oferadicating the imperialists and warlords, was pointless. This marked a
sharp tum in national consciousness, and was most obvious in the intensification ofclass
struggle. Even the rich peasantry was seen to have interests akin to the bourgeoisie, and
was targeted as weil. The integration ofthe peasantry within the nationalist revolution was
charaeterized by class struggle. It wu significant that even the Japanese invasion of 1928
was seen as an event which could he used ta cement the worker-peasant alliance to lead
the nationalist revolution.

1 The only exceptiOD to Ibis is the first baIf of the first cbapter which deaIs witb national
consciousness prior to the formation of the Party. 1 felt it appropriate to iDelude this scc::tion,. sin when
juxtaposed with post 1921 national COII5C1lrr r il demarcates the grass l'OOIS maDifestation of the

nationalist impulses foUowiDg the formation of the Party.

2 Benedict AucIerson, Imagined CO"""lIIfities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of
Nationa/ism (New York: Verso Pras, 1991),. pp. 6-7.
3 Partha C~ Nationalist Thorlght in the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse
(Minnesota: University of Minnesota Pras, p. Il.
4 Partha Chatteljee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton:
Princeton University PRss, 1993),. p. S.
s [ offer eviden of Ibis in the first cbapter; De\'eltheless 1 am referring to individuaIs such as Hu
S~ Wu Yu and even Chen Duxiu amoogst many otbers.
6 Maurice Mesoer,. Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Mar.rism (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1967), p. 223.
7 Gyanendra Pandey, 04Peasant Revoit and lDdian Nationalism: The Peasant Movement in Awadh.
1919-22," in Ranajit Goba and Gayatri Spvak (cds.), Selected Suba/lem Studies (New YorIe: Oxford
University press, 1988), p. 277.


The Polemics ofChnese National Consc:iousness 1919-1921:

Foreign Capitaly Popular Conseiousne5s, and Marxism

For an organization that claimed to be eSPOusing Marxism as its defining ideology~ the

origins of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were surprisingly divorced from a rigid
ideological orientation. This is not to imply that socialist thought was non-existent in
China at the time ofthe formation ofthe Party in 1921; on the contrary~ historians of
early Chnese communism bave correctly demonstrated an intellectual interest in
socialism in urban China long before the CCP was organized. l However, at the time of its
inception, there was no over-arching understanding of Marxism which provided the
foundation for Party ideology. Rather, "Marxism" came to be a blanket term which was
used to address a wide range of issues - historical determinism, popular consciousness,
and labor. Moreover, these issues were closely linked to a nationalist impulse - or
national consciousness - which was gaining popularity at the time.
The Chinese Communist Party was formed at a critical moment in history. The
Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 - which preceded it by just a few years - had been a
stunning demonstration that the oppressed could indeed overthrow an exploitative state.2
While in 1917 the Revolution May have done little to diftse socialism amongst the urban
population of China, when there was an increase in interest about socialism after 1919, it
stood out as a symbol of proletarian intemationalism.
The Soviet Revolution was soon followed by the May Fourth movement in 1919
which was a watershed in the history of Chnese radicalism. Note that what began
initially as a nationalist reaction against foreign aggression following the handing over of
German concessions to the Japanese~ soon became closely identified with the New
Culture movemen~ its attack on the Confucianorder, and looked towards Western
thought as a solution to China's social, cultural, and political predicaments. Therein lay

part of the problem. The CCP's program - by focusing on exploitation by the warlords
and imperialists on the one band, and the subjugation ofthe Chnese people on the other-

managed to adopt a stance radically different from the elite underpinnings of the New
Culture and May Fourth movement.
ln this chapter 1 begin by examining national consciousness prior to the May Fourth
movement by attempting to present a cross-section of what constituted national
consciousness in the New Culture movement. For this purpose, 1 make use of Prasenjit
Duara's understanding of national consciousness whic~ as he suggests, develops within a
specifie cultural context. 1 also draw from the example of Indi~ where nationalism was
aIso gaining popularity at the tom of the century. Partha Chatterjee aptly demonstrates
how nationalism, as an inteUectual formulation, was not only closely lied to the
imperialist venture, but was also grounded in the European intellectual tradition. Many of
Chatterjee's observations are applicable to China, and are illustrative of pre-May Fourth
This chapter makes the following assertions: first, the May Fourth movement
brought nationalist concems to the forefront. Following the movement, these concems
were no longer a theoretical consideration ofan elite group of intellectuals concemed
with China's role vis--vis the colonial powers. Second, the eHte underpinnings of the
New Culture movement stood in sharp contrast to the mass nationalist impulse of the
CCP. AIso important was the disillusionment with the May Fourth movement by Many
radicais in Chnese society, and the subsequent emergence of study societies. While
documentation on the study societies is sketchy, and they could hardi y he considered
Marxist in the Leninist sense at the time, they were important precursors to the CCP.
Finally, 1 examine the nationalist overtones in the organization of the CCP. Even
after the organization of the Party, it was surprisingly void of orthodox ideology. Rather,
the emphasis was on the mobilization of discontent, and for this purpose there was a
strong empbasis on propaganda. Nationalist concerns played a key role in mobilization by
addressing issues of labor, capitalist exploitatio~ and foreign aggression, which were
central issues in giving impetus to the communist movement in its early years.

Pre-May Fourth National Consciousness: Sorne Theoretical Considerations

In this section 1 have attempted to create a cross section of pre-May Fourth national
consciousness by focusing on two asPeCts of the phenomenon. The purpose of this
exercise is to facilitate an understanding ofwhat constituted nationalist concems before
the May Fourth period. This stood in stark contrast to nationalist impulses following the
May Fourth movement, which was characterized by an immediate concem with the
nations' plight at the hands of the imPerialists and their compradore surrogates.
Duara bas defined nationalism as a two-foid process; central to his understanding is
the necessity of an external phenomenon which gives rise to a national consciousness. J In
the case of China, the presence of foreign capital constituted such an extemal
phenomenon. The other facet of national consciousness is it is grounded in a cultural
framework which Duara defines as 'culturalism," which is a community's means of
identifying itself through rituals, language, and in the case ofChina, the culture of the
Imperial and Confucian state. Consequently, the growth of national consciousness was a
result of the imposition of a '4historical narrative or a myth of descent/dissent upon both
heterogeneous and related cultural practices" which created the realization of a nation. 4
A fusion between cultural symbols and an extemal phenomenon (imperialism) can
he discemed in the writings ofMany Chnese authors who were increasingly concemed
with foreign aggression. One such analogy used by writers at the time was that of
prostitution, which served as a symbol of internaI decay and degradation. A writer
commented that the money spent on prostitution in half a year was enough to redeem the
raiIroads which had been mortgaged to the Japanese. S Another wrote that Japan's victory
in the Russo-Japanese W3r, fought mostly on Chnese territory in Manchuria, was because
80 to 90 per cent of the Japanese soldiers had no contact with prostitutes. Gail Hershatter
comments, "Here is a "nesting" ofsubaltem status, where sex work in China is taken as a
paradigmatic of social decay which is then evoked to explain China's position vis--vis
the colonizing powers.',(j Similarly, the purity ofwomen's body served as a metaphor for
the purity of the nation. The bodies of Chnese women raped by foreign invaders -
Mongol, Manchu, or Japanese - were symbolic of the national body violated by foreign

aggression. 7 Such examples are indicative of a national consciousness which integrated

cultural symbols into its language, and was prompted by an extemal phenomenon~
namely foreign imperialism.
The other facet of national consciousness during the New Culture movement was a
refutation ofaspects of indigenous culture upon contact with the culture of foreign
capital. Emulation of the dominating culture became the means through which people
attempted to assert their independence.
Historically this has been the case with the growth ofelite nationalism in territories
colonized by European countries. For example, in bis study of nationalism in the
Subcontinent, Chatterjee illustrates how Indian nationalism was synonymous with the
rise of a Western educated compradore elite, who discovered that colonial ventures could
in fact be a lucrative economic venture for them as weIl. 8 [n [ndia, a particular kind of
nationalism facilitated the colonial administration of the region; consequently the rise of
nationalism in the Subcontinent was beneficial to both the colonialist and the colonized
elite. What is important is that the growth of nationalism allowed a segment of the elite a
considerable margin of mobility. Such was also the case in China. While in reality the
colonial powers still retained a hold on the colonized people, looking to the West for
guidance gave the pretense that the colonial shackles were not always in place. This was a
process that suited at least two classes in society very well - the colonizer and the
colonized elite - and as a consequence kept indigenous revoit to a minimum.
While China was never overwhelmed as a colony, parallels cao nevertheless he
drawn with the Subcontinent. A key similarity was that at the tom of the century, Western
values were gaining popularity amongst Chnese elite. The questioning of Chnese values
was a trend which begun with gunboat diplomacy, and was indicative of a growing
concern with the plight of the nation. Like India, there was a tendency amongst Many
Chnese people to see Western civilizations as technologically and militarily superior,
while the East retained spiritual superiority. Similarly, apparent in Many of the popular
writings was an acceptance of the fact that aspects of Chnese tradition had been keeping
the country backward, and social construction from this tinte onwards must incorporate

aspects of the modem Western intellectual tradition - Darwinism, rationalism, and an

unprecedented interest in science and democracy. It was accepted, like it had been in

Indi~ that ideas that emerged out of the EnlightenmentILiberal tradition of the We~
fused with traditional ideas, would permit China to compete with the West.9
This quest emerged out of a desire to redefine China's position in relation to the
West. One of the earliest proponents ofthis idea was Hu Shh, who posed the question as
follows: "The larger problem is: How can China feel at ease in this new world which at
fust sight appears to he so much at variance with what we have long regarded as our own
civilization?"'o What was required was a fusing of the thought systems of Europe and
America with those of China. He notes, "Ho\v cao we best assimilate modem civilization
in such a manner as to malee it congenial and congruous and continuous with the
civilization of our own making?"ll
But in reality, the realization that China must borrow from the West in order to
compete with the West created its own contradictions. 12 As Arif Dirlik notes,
Historians have long noled the crises in Chinese consciousness created by this realization~ and the
contradiction il created for Chinese inlellectuals: that in order to ward ofthe Euro-American powers
that threatened the existence ofChinese society~ China must adopt the ways of the very powers that
threatened il. The repeated defeat of China at the hands ofthese powers continned for Chinese the
predictions ofthe social Darwinian ideology thal entered Chinese thinking al about the same time:
than only those nations couId survive that could adjust to the demands ofthe contemporary world. 1J

The process of fusing traditional values with Western rationalism often turned into a
one sided refutation oftraditional Cbnese values and an embracing of Western ones. As
a reader of the New Youth commented, "We should emulate the West, and abolish the old
and welcome the new. 1 am like someone who is sick, and who must breath in fresh air
and exhale the old.,,14 This comment is symbolic of an attempt on behalf of radicals to
reject aspects of Chnese tradition, in particular Confucianism. Tradition was seen as a
source of authority, in which Confucianism was the dominant social trend. In China, the
abolishing of authority meant first and foremost the abolishing of ConfucianiSffi. IS In
attempting to understand the predicaments of the Chnese nation when brought into
confrontation with the foreign powers, intellectuals were looking intemally to aspects of
Chnese tradition as the problem.
This changed following the May Fourth demonstrations. The growing

encroachment of foreign powers, symbolized by the way in which the fate of the nation
was decided at the Versailles treaty, made nationalist concems a lot more tangible to the

large masses ofthe people. A key difference was that nationalist concerns were no longer
shrouded in an abstract language ofrefutation of Chinese tradition and the embracing of
the Western Liberal tradition~ but were now face to face with a real threat of growing
Japanese intervention and the consequences this wouid have for the Chnese people. [t is
easy to discern the sense ofcrises in the pamphlets circulated during the demonstrations.
One read: "This is the last chance for China in ber life and death struggle. Today we
swear two solemn oaths with all our countrymen: 1) China's territory may be conquered..
but cannot he given away; 2) the Chinese people may be massacre~ but they will not
surrender." The statement concludes, "Our country is about to he annibilated. Up..
brethren.'~16 Smilarly, The Declaration ofthe Students ofPeking concluded,
We now approach a crises in which our country is threatened with subjugation and her territory is
going to be ceded. Ifher people still cannot unite in indignation in a twelfth hour effort to save her,
they are indeed the worthless race ofthe twentieth century... Are there oot some of our brethren who
cannot bear the torture ofbeing slaves and beasts ofburden and steadfastly desire to save their
country? Then the urgent things we should do now are to hold citizeo's meetings, to make public
speeches... As for those who willingly and traitorously sell out our country to the enemy, as a last
resort we shaH have to rely on pistols and bombs to deal with them. Our country is in imminent peril
- its fate hangs on a thread. We appeaI to you to join our stroggle. 17

An important difference between the nationalist concerns before and after the May
Fourth movement was a growing disenchantment with the West. While Many participants
of the movement retained their faith in Western ideas of science and democracy, they
could no longer accept the dual role of the West as both a teacher and oppressor. Unlike
the earlier intellectuals,18 participants in the May Fourth movement were not
overwhelmed by the wealth, power, and culture of the West. Participants of the May
Fourth movement were primarily ardent nationalists who wanted to save China from the
clutches of Western imperialism. This is another reason why the example of India is
relevant, for it demonstrates that insofar as national consciousness is confined to an elite
there will he a fascination with the Western intellectual tradition. Yet when national
consciousness permeates to the grass roots it cao no longer allow for an infatuation with
Western values. This was precisely the case with China.
The May Fourth movement did not completely obliterated fascination with the

West. Rather, for the first time since the Boxer Rebellion the question of national identity
became one which was in the forefront ofurban culture and which was manifested

through a series of demonstrations in the cities. Maurice Meisner notes that it was ooly
during the May Fourth movement that nationalism moved beyond an intellectual elite and
came to be representative of the MOst radical and voluntaristic teodences. 19 This is oot to
imply tbat following the May Fourth movement, national consciousness became a
homogeoous phenomenon. On the contrary, it was as discursive as it had been earlier. But
elite nationalism bad been supplemented by a mass nationalist impulse~ the comerstone of
which was the precariousness of China when juxtaposed against the imperialist powers.
And it was tbis very nationalist impulse that the CCP attempted to address in the period
following immediately after its formation.

The HNationa/ization" ofMarxism: Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu

This section looks at Marxism in China prior to the formation of the Party by examning
the intellectual trajectories of Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu. The nationalist impulses that
became accentuated during the M~y Fourth movement also permeated Marxist thought
and were instrumental in a closer examination of Marxism. By using the example of Li
and Chen~ it is my purpose to illustrate how 1919 also marked the origins ofa renewed
interest in Marxism which was linked to the nationalist impulse. For this purpose it is
necessary to trace their intellectual trajectories, because their initial heterodoxy as
Marxists demonstrates an important point, namely that they were nationalists first~ and
then Marxists.1n the years prior to the formation ofthe Party, they were driven by a
desire to find solutions to China' s predicaments. It was this quest which made them
accept aspects of Marxism which they saw relevant to China, such as popular
consciousness as symbolized by the October Revolution, and reject others, namely
Marxist economic determinism.20 Central to an acceptance of Marxism was the idea that
if Marxism was indeed a solution to China's predicaments, then it must he able to provide
solutions, instead of ooly identifying the problems.
The later part of this section looks at the organization of study societies as a
precursor to the CCP, and the humble origins of the Party onder the direction of the


Initially the 1917 Boishevik Revolution was met with lukewarm. Dterest amongst
the Chinese people.21 Even Li and Chen showed only a limited interest in the Revolution.
Far from welcoming the October Revolution as a watershed in the realization of a
proletarian utopian state, Chen initially drew parallels between the October Revolution
and the Boxer Rebellion. At the tinte Chen was arguDg that there were two paths open to
the Chnese people, one of "republicanism, science, and atheism~" and the other of
"despotism, suPerStition, and theocracy." It is clear that Chen saw the October
Revolution, and the Boxer Rebellion, as the latter. 22
Li was more sympathetic in bis response to the October Revolutio~ but it was the
populist aspect of the movement which appealed to him. Part of the reason was that
precious little was known about Marxism at the time, with only a section of the
Communist Manifesto and a few other sections by Karl Marx dealing exclusively with
economics available in translation. Much less was known about Lenin and the connection
between Lenin and Marxism. Under such circumstances, the October Revolution was
only one of Many revolutionary alternatives for China. Li was interested not so much in
the revolution, but revolutionary consciousness. Particularly significant for Li was the
fact that Soviet revolutionaries had been addressing the plight of the people. Therefore for
him, Boishevism came to represent the triumph of"freedom and humanism."n
Li's case is signfficant, particuIarly since initially he had been highly critical of
aspects of Marxism, in particular the Marxist dialectic between the base and
superstructure. Unlike Chen who initially accepted that China must go through a
prolonged phase ofcapitalism before it reaches the stage of socialisrn, Lr's rejection of
this tenet was similar to Trotsky's arguments that revolutions could be made in nations
which were economically at a lower stage ofdevelopment.24 This allowed Li to reject the
Marxist view that a higher stage ofcapitalism was a precursor to the socialist revolution.
In Wodi Makesi zhuyi guan (which can either be translated as My Marxist Views or My
Views on Marxism) he notes: "We are unable to consider correct bistorical materialists
who say that economic phenomenon bave an unshakable and unbending nature and that

the ideas and activities of groups must entirely submit to them.,,25

For Li it beeame easier to break from orthodox Marxism precisely because he
viewed Marxism not as a universal truth, but saw it as an ideology that developed in a
specific historie time frame. He wrote: "To speak frankly, Marx's theory was really a
product ofa certain age; in Marx's age it truly was the greatest ofdiscoveries. But today.
of course, we cannot take the theory that was created in the environment ofone period
and use it to explain all of history, nor apply the whole of the theory to our existing
society. "26
Though Many Chinese communists felt uncomfortable with the materialistic
determination of Marxi~ they looked to other aspects of it which provided a grounding
for their ideological orientation. For Li the October Revolution served to strengthen his
faith in the potential of POpular consciousness. The centrality of consciousness, and its
link with Marxism, is important. Central to the idea of consciousness is that one can bring
about a transformation in the social order. For example, as early as 1916 Li wrote, --When
the young have seen the tight they should break the meshes ofpast history, destroy the
prison of old ideas, and suffer no corpses to restrict their activity."27 Similarly, in 1922 Li
continued to addressed the potential of popular consciousness and socialism as follows:
We can reach for the roots ofsocialism in three aspects ofour psychology. In the aspect of
knowledge. socialism is the critique of the present order. In the aspect of feeling, socialism is an
emotion that makes us capable of replacing the present order with a comparatively good new order;
this new order is the result of our critique of intellectual critique of the capitalist system... [n the
aspect ofwill. socialism causes us to exert our efforts in the objective world (upon the basis) of
things that are already known to us in our intellectual and emotional images. that is to exert our
efforts to replace the capitalist order. which is the fmal form (ofgovemment) possessing the
characteristics ofruling and authority. with a worker's administration.2S

Unlike Li, whose reasoning was being held together by sorne faint socialist
ideology, Chen embarked on wilder tangents before accepting Marxism. After 191 L
Chen fust came to he identified with the New Culture movement and its attack on
Confucianism. While this in itselfwas not particularly unique, Chen's analysis of events
taking place outside ofthe nation suggest that he was desperately looking for an
explanation that would help explain China's increasingly precarious situation.
With a German victory seeming eminentduring the First World War in 1916, Chen

looked towards German victory as an event which would bring about an end to capitalism
and which would herald the emancipation ofcolonized people the world over. His

analysis of the West is also contradictory; on the one band he drew paraUeis between
Confucianism and the growing religious and cultural homogeneity of European states~ yet
at the same time suggested that the greatest contribution ofcontemporary European
civilization was the gift of revolution.29
While this demonstrates the ambiguities and contradictions in the thought ofearly
Chnese Marxists, the purpose has not been to point to theoretical shortcomings on their
part. Early Chnese Marxists, such as Li and Chen~ were first and forernost products of a
certain milieu where experiences and ideology collided in a time of particularly
distressing national circumstances. While with the benefit of historical hindsight many of
their decisions seem contradictory, it is important to place their thought process in a
particular historical contexte
The reevaluation of Marxism was not completed ovemight, nor was there a
conscious effort on bebalfof the Marxists to reinterpret orthodox Marxism to attract a
greater following. In keeping with the tradition that came to he characteristic of
integrating Marxist thought in China, a relentless reevaluation was part and parcel of the
process. Li and Chen were nationalists first, and therefore, the raIe of national
consciousness was extremely significant in this process. It was precisely because
Marxism (or aspects of it) were seen to provide answers to the nations plight~ that it was
entertained in the fi.rst place.30 In the case of Li, the potential of consciousness~as
exemplified by the October Revolution, was particularly signjficant.

While the May Fourth movement May have provided the initial impetus as a consequence
of which nationalist concerns became diffused amongst the masses, the creation of study
societies between the May Fourtb movement and the formation of the Party was
particularly signfficant. Documentation of these societies remains sketchy; nevertheless
we can piece together enough to discem that they marked the transition from May Fourth
radicalism to the establishment of the CCP.
May Fourth optimism was soon replaced by a pessimism which sunk in after it was

realized that very little had cbanged following the movement. Moreover~ Many
participants were suppressed soon afterwards. While in mid-1919 the country was in the

midst of political and cultural turmoil, by the end ofthe year the momentum seems to
have all but faded. Part ofthe reason, Dirlik suggests, is that the differences between the
intellectuals and workers not only became accentuated, but the alienation of intellectual
discourses aIso became very obvious (this would seem to suggests that while the
nationaIist impulse had permeated to the grass-roots, class distinction between mental and
manuallaborers were still very much intact). The two areas where this was felt the most
was the issues oflahor activism and the role ofstudents.31
While the plight of laborers was initially supported by the intellectuals, the growth
of labor activism amongst the workers relegated the role of the intellectuals to the
periphery. According to Dirlik, by the end of1919, the role oflabor in inteUectual
discourses appeared, "patronizing at tirst, [and turned] into something akin to adulation of
the working class."32
But more serious than the alienation of intellectuals from labor, was the aIienation
of the intellectuals and their support base amongst the students. There was a
disillusionment with the role of the intellectuals and their commitment to reform society,
which in tum resulted in a disillusionment with the New Culture movement. Dirlik
writes: ~~The failure of the communal movement, which reached its apogee in late 1919
and early 1920 played an important part in May Fourth radicals' disillusionment with
utopian radicalisrn, and the anarchist philosophy that had inspired it. This disillusionment
was a precondition for the break radicaIs made in spring 1920 with their own radical
sources in the May Fourth and New Culture movements.,,33
The disillusionment with the New Culture movement is extremely significant
because it points to a reevaIuation of the most basic foundations of radicalism by the
people in these movements themselves. At sorne point between the May Fourth
movement and the organization of the CCP, there is a shift in emphasis from intellectual
discourses to politics. Such was the case with Mao Zedong, who after 1919 became
involved in political organization. 1 am hesitant to say that Mao was a prime example of
what Dirlik has described as an alienation of the May Fourth intellectuals from their

student base. Nevertheless, one fact is evident: there was an increase in actual political
organization, as was there an absence of the utopian fervor that marked the May Fourth

movement. Focusing for the first tinte on actual political wor~ at the end of 1919~ Mao
organized the United Student's Association in Changsha and was responsible for
organizing strikes ofstudents in aU secondary and some primary schools. 34
Addressing concrete social issues now became the primary concerne Zhang
Guotao's trajectory is illustrative of this process:
[n the very beginning, 1was a passionate patriol; and like the ambitious youth of the time~ [
looked wholeheartedly to China's becoming rich and powerful. The [became more radical by
supporting the New Culture movemen~ opposing the old influences, and advocating social and
national refonn through revolution. Finally 1became enthusiastic about the Communist movement.
studied Marxism and looked up to the example orthe Russian Revolution.. believing it to be the
panacea for national salvation and the guide to revolutioD. The majority ofthe radical youth ofthe
time were generally similar to me in pursuing such a course ofdevelopment. JS

Two important themes can he drawn from this citation. First, is the central relevance of
patriotisme It was patriotism wbich provided the initial impulse for a reevaluation of the
raie of the individual and society.
Second, and more significantly, for Zhang there does not seem to be any overlap
between the New Culture movement and bis interest in Marxism. That is, the appeal of
Marxism was separate from the New Culture movement; it was after the apparent failure
of the New Culture movement that radicals tumed ta Marxism.
But as l have already suggested, Marxism was far from a weil defmed concept. As
Mao Zedong recalled, "at this time, my mind was a curious mixture of ideas of
liberalism, democratic reformism, and utopian socialism." Similarly, Deng Yingchao
We did not have any fmn beliefs, and did not understand what communism was; we only knew
that the most ideal society was a society of'~om each according to their own ability, to each
according to their own need," we only knew that the October Revolution had succeeded thanks to
Lenm, we only knew that their revolution had liberated the majority ofthe oppressed and had
created a classless society, which aroused our sympathy.J6

The growing interest in Marxism was one of the cornerstones of the study societies.
Yet at the time these study societies were not decentralized communist organizations, but
merely places where people met to discuss Marxist theory. The Shanghai cell best
illustrates this point where individuals such as Dai Kitao, Shi Cuntong, Zhang Dongsun.,
Chen Wangdo, and Li Da, initiaUy congregated because oftheir interest in Marxism, yet

few of them actuaUy remained in the ceUs after the formation of the party.

The actual transformation of these societies into organs of the later clay Communist
Party did not begin until the arrivai ofthe Communist International representative
Gregory Voitinsky in April or May 1920.37 The arrival ofVoitinsky at that particular tinte
was significant for it was only in March 1920 that the Karakhan declaration of 1919 was
made public. The declaration, which renounced Russian claims on Chinese territory.. was
crucial in increasing the popularity of the Soviet Union. This was the tuming point in the
interest in the Russian Revolution. As Li Da commented at the rime of Voitinsky"s
arrivai: "Because the first declaration of the Soviet government on China has just been
published, and was welcomed with great enthusiasm among Many social groups.. people
were particularly happy when they heard a Russian had just arrived in Beijing.....38 Though
he had initially traveled to Beijing, and helped establish the Society for the Study of
Marxism, Li directed him to Chen and the Shanghai celL Thereafter ensued the fonnation
of the Chnese Communist Party and the declaration of the First Manifsto ofthe Chinese
Communist Party.39 It is interesting that the actual organization of the Party was a very
low key event; one gets the impression it was the same study society which was now
given a new name onder the auspices of the Comintem.
The ideological inconsistencies did not end with the formal organization of the
Party. Given the fact that there were such ideological inconsistencies amongst people
drawn to Marxism, we are prompted to inquire wbat held this group of individuals
together? Clearly the interest in Marxism culminated in the Chnese Communist Party,
whereas the New Culture movement lost momentum after the May Fourth movement.
There are two important explanations for this.
First is the question oforganization amongst people who would later fonn the CCP.
While there was no fixed ideological foundation in the study societies - as they were
composed of Marxist, Anarchists, and Guild Socialists amongst others - they did provide
a degree of organization which had been lacking in the New Culture movement. While
Chnese radicals were not organized in the Leninist sense of the word, (or later day
Maoist), there seems to he a degree of networking prior to the formation of the Party

which is very significant. Membership in radical organizations was primarily based on

personal relations - a common background ofschooling was not unusual. Moreover,

many of the individuals were personally acquainted with the central figures, particularly
Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu. Ofcourse, this is not to imply that membership in these
organizations was exclusive; rather the bonds amongst the individuals were often
personal rather than ideological.40
Another significant factor was that these societies were composed largely of
students. Unlike members ofthe New Culture movement whose concems were often
confined to an abstract intellectuallevel, students were operating at a local, grass-roots
level, which if anything, accentuated their desire for change.41 An interesting example is
that of the New People's study society in Changsha which was orientated towards social
programs which included participating in evening schools (as teacbers), working on
popuJar newspapers, conducting surveys in the countryside, and propagating their views
amongst the workers and soldiers.42
These two factors - the presence of organization and that these organizations were
composed largely ofstudents - were instrumental in the development ofa more solid
ideological orientation for the societies. Dirlik writes: "[The societies] helped to bring
coherence to diffiJse ideological dissatisfaction with existing social nomIS, to consolidate
ideologicalloyalties, and to provide social spaces within which initial attempts were
made to convert ideology into practice; in other words, they served as social institutions
in which vague and abstract ideological yeamings were reformed into coherent
ideological identification.'743
Another reason for the success ofthe societies in the May Fourth period was their
orientation towards concrete social issues rather than cultural ones. The failure of the
New Culture movement was perhaps because of its relentless attacks on Confucianism
and their identification of Chnese tradition as the primary predicament. An initial break
with tradition has been characteristic of MOst radical movements in different parts of the
But making a clean break with tradition, while very revolutionary, is always much
easier said than done. Therefore, the discourses of the intellectuals were merely scholarly

abstractions whose practical fulfillment was impossible. Given the dichotomy between
them and the study societies, what was ofgreater practical importance became obvious.

This explains the popularity of radicalism rather than cultural reform. The former also
must have appealed to a humane instinct for justice. M. N. Roy, 100king back on the
beginning ofhis venture into revolutionary politics commented that while they had very
little idea of Marx, Capital.. and the significance ofthe proletariat and class struggle~
"[we] had the human urge to revoit against the intolerable conditions of life. [We] did not
know how these conditions could he changed. But we tried to change them anyhow.'~
It would seem that there are certain constants in historical experiences of radicalism.
As 1 shall demonstrate in the remainder of this chapter, the success of the CCP lay not in
its ideological appeal but its nationalist strain in addressing the plight and predicament of
Chnese people.

The CCP and a Nationalist Agenda

Even after the formal oganization of the Party, the question ofideology did not become
clarified. On the contrary there seems to he initial discrepancies on how Marxist theory
(of which little was still known) would translate into practice. For example, at the time
Chen Duxiu was caught up in the Leninist model of stages, and argued that the proletariat
should support the bourgeois against the monarchy. Just two months later he argued that
China would have to move from feudalism to republicanism, and ooly then couId a
transition to socialism occur. thers were ofthe view that it was possible to avoid the
bourgeois phase if the proletariat took up the struggle. Still others argued that the two
phases could actually be incorporated into one revolutionary stage.4S
While in themselves the different views put forward did not have a historical
significance, they are important to demonstrate that even after the organization ofthe
Party, the path from theory to practice was not a linear one. Nevertheless, despite these
theoretical inconsistencies, there were two foundations for the CCP program. The first
was the emphasis on propaganda work and the organization of labor. The purpose of
propaganda was to mobilize discontent towards emancipation of workers. Second was the
distinctly nationalist overtones in CCP dscourses. However, unlike eartier discourses

which looked to the internai decay, CCP members focused exclusively on the role of
foreign imperialism and the subsequent enslavement of the nation.

Part ofthe reason for the theoretical confusion in the early years was because China
certainly did not fit the orthodox Marxist criteria as a leading candidate for a socialist
revolutioo. The most striking absence was that ofthe proletariat. This made the question
of organizatioo difficul~ since not only was there a lack of a proletariat to propel the
socialist movemen~ but the level of consciousness amongst the workers was thought to
be 10w.46
In July 1921, Zhang Guotao summed up bis report on the Beijing Communist
Group as follows: "Comrades, a bleak political situation pervades our corrupt society;
unbearable social injustices and Pathetic social conditions are ail factors leading up to the
outbreak of a revolution. Whether we cao capitalize on the easily evoked revolutionary
spirit of the proletariat and whether we cao channel a democratic political revolution ioto
a proletarian social revolution aIl depends on the degree of effort we put into the
Therefore, the challenge before the CCP was getting the people interested in politics
and channeling the spirit ofrebellion ioto a proletariat revolution. There was aIso a
conscious effort to ensure that the spirit of rebellion got channeled into concrete political
action rather than intellectual debates which had been characteristic of the New Culture
movement. "How can [workers] be dissuaded from their desire to become scholars thus
joining the intellectual circles? How cao they he persuaded to participate in the
revolutionary movement of the proletariat? Finally, how can they be made into a
Zhang' s emphasis was to capitalize on discontent so that it would lead to a degree
of mobilization. Consider the following example from the sante report:
There are many rickshaw pullers [in Beijing] among the workers. between fifty and sixty
thousand. Although they do not work for the capitalists. they come from lower social strata and their
work enables them to he in contact with people ofail social backgrounds. We must find ways to
conduct propaganda work among them.... Passengers drive on rickshaw pullers with whips. canes.
etc. In my opinion. no matter where. once things like these happen. we should seize the opportunity
to arouse the revolutionary spirit ofthe proletariat.49

A CCP declaration suros up the party line weIl: "We are not a Marxist society

formed by intellectuals, nor are we a utopian, revolutionary society formed by a few

Communists who place themselves above the masses." Rather the Party was said to be

one which was organized by '~e MOst revolutionary amongst the proletariat." To this
purpose, "[The Party] must go deep amongst the masses, forming a large scaie [base]."
Therefore, it was the purpose of the Party to make sure that every action that was taken
was to increase mobilization. so
Towards these eods, the CCP focused on the unionization of labor and propaganda
work from the very beginning. The emphasis was on imbuing labor unions with the
concept of class struggle. While the concept ofclass struggle in the Marxist sense was not
highly develope~ CCP workers attempted to instill doctrines which would awake the
consciousness of the laborers and make them revoit against the deplorable working
conditions. sl This policy was carried out with considerable success with regard to the
organization of labor unions amongst Beijing Railway workers where 300 to 350 railway
workers were unionized and demands of wage increases, shortening work hours, and
further unionization were put forward. 52
Therefore, propaganda in the form of magazines, daily publications, pamphlets and
union magazines, became a central objective of the Party. 53 According to Zhang the
purpose of propaganda was to, "[tell the workers] that they are being exploited by
capitalist factory owners and that this is the reason why they have a wretched life. AIso,
we introduce them to the history of the workers' movement in foreign countries. We
constantly point out to them the significance and method of becoming organized. We
often give lectures and teach them how ta read. At the same time, we teach them to use
words to express their thoughts and make them write about their family' s daily life and
ail the injustices happening in the factory."s4
While the initial emphasis was 00 the organization of urban labor, there are aIso
traces of the later day Maoist emphasis on the peasantry. As a Party which was
attempting to improve the conditions of the poor in China, it was understood that the
peasantry would have to constitute a part of the movement.
The 300 million peasants in China are the most important factor in the revolutionary movement.
Because of the scarcity of land, density of population, rampant natural disasters, wars, and
harassment by bandits, the extra levies imposed and exploited by warlords, oppression by foreign
commodities and rising living costs, the peasants have becomes increasingly poor and miserable....

The poor peasants must rise in revoit if they want to rid themselves of poverty and their miserable
plight. Theo, most of the poor peasants will he able to join forces with the workers in the revolution,
thus guaranteeing the success of the Chinese revolutioD.5S

Alongside the peasantry and the urban laborers, CCP discourses also argued that
small shopkeepers and artisans were becoming increasingly poor as a consequence of
foreign capitalism. It was understood that: '7his enormous mass will, ofcourse, bitterly
hate the system of world capitalism that bas brought them sucb miseries. Then they will
join the rank of the revolutionaries."s6
Following the organization of the CCP, a prominent strain in the nationalist
discourses was that ofthe role of foreign intervention in China. As with the previous
discourses there is a striking overtone ofhistoric cause and effec~ that is~ there was a very
clear idea why China continued to he exploited the way it was. But quite unlike the New
Culture movement with its attack on Chnese traditions, Chinese communists were
pointing to Western imperialism as being responsible for China's plight. It is significant
that in their nationalist discourse, the CCP was using the attack on foreign imperialism as
their comerstone.
The Chnese communists argued that Western economic exploitation ofChina was
a phenomenon that begun weIl before the twentieth century, with Chnese people time
and again resisting the Western advance. However the process of revoit was crushed, and
as a consequence China became further enslaved. 57 This was most evident in the 1911
revolution whicb had primarily been a revoit against internaI decay and foreign
aggression. However, the failure of the revolution had been finalized by the GMD's
alliance with the warlords. The warlords in tom had the backing of the imperialists since
this kept the state weak and enabled the country to he exploited by the foreign powers. S8
The solution according to the Manifsto was a revolution: partial reform would be
inadequate since this would not he able to eradicate warlordism and imperialism. The
Manifsto defines the political struggle in the following way:
The postulate must be clear to everyone that the political struggle is not a struggle between the
individuals for power, but a manifestation and expression of class stnlggle - the social struggle of
the proletariat against the bourgeois revolution, the struggle ofthe bourgeois against the feudallords
and the system of feudal economy. The postulate must also be clear that only such freedom is
precious as is achieved in the process oChard struggle and at the priee ofhuman blood, in distinction
trom those methods ofstruggle which are used by our class enemies.

The struggle for democracy is a suuggle ofone c1ass, a struggle which aims to overthrow the
dominance ofanother class; it is the replacement ofone system by another, and in no event can it he

regarded as a struggle ofone individual or one group for the overthrow ofanother individual or

While the concept ofclass struggle was still in a premature stage, (compared to
what it would he after 1927 for example), the Chinese communists were attempting to
explain China' s conditions in terms ofclass relations. Therefore, while there is no direct
reference to orthodox Marxism, Chnese Marxists were identifying Marxist determinants.
such as class, and the transition to capitalism in the We~ as key factors.
Another important emphasis at the time was the internationalist strans. An
important issue was: how was Marxist understanding of global capitalism useful for
understanding the exploitation ofa nation?
Li suggested that because of Western capitalism, China had been relegated to the
ranks of a "proletarian" nation which was ruthlessly exploited for its economic potential.
Therefore China, because of foreign intervention, was propelled iuto the role of an
international proletarian revolution. This suggestion bas highly nationalistic implications.
While class differences in the country existed, there was also the grave reality of China as
a nation in conflict with the West. As Meisner bas suggested, ifChina was a proletarian 44

nation" than national struggle and class struggle were one and the same thing. If China
was indeed "proletarianized" then it had a revolutionary role to playon a globallevel.
Consider the following statement by Li:
The race question has become a class question and the races, on a world scale, have come to
conftont each other as classes.... the struggle between the white and colored races will occur
simultaneously with the class struggle. The Russian Revolution is evidence ofthis. Although
[members ot] the white race participated in the Russian Revolution, the oppressed colored races also
took p~ and the object [of the Revolution] was to resist the oppressor-c1ass white race. Thus it can
be seen that the "class struggle" between the "Iower-class" colored races and the upper c1ass white
race is already in embryonic form y and its forward movement bas not yet stopped.6O

While never directly colonized, there were the ever present treaty-ports on Chinese
territory which resulted not only in national humiliation, but were a demonstration of the
West's military superiority. Identifying China as a "proletarian" nation meant that it was
placing itself in the anti-imperialist camp. As the July 1922 Second Maniftsto of the Party
declared: "The CCP is a branch of the Comintem. Now it cries aloud to the Chinese

workers and poor peasants: Rally to the f1ag ofthe CP and join our struggles quickly.... It

aIso cries: Come and join our revolutionary friends the world over and advance shoulder
to shoulder. '~l

In this chapter we have demonstrated how nationalist concerns played a central role in the
early years ofthe Party. Given the lack ofa rigid ideological orientation, it was
nationalism which provided the impetus for the Party. While this was radically different
from the elite nationalist preoccupation ofthe New Cultural movement, by addressing
issues of labor and China's exploitation at the bands ofthe foreign powers, the
Communist Party was able to address the people in a language they understood.
The failure ofthe New Culture movement was precisely that it was an elite
movement where discourses remained trapped in scholarly abstractions. While the issues
they were concemed with - Confucianism, the decay ofthe Imperial state, and
relationships of dominance within the family - were genuine concems, theorizing about a
break with tradition bas always been an intellectualluxury. HistoricaIly, movements for
change have always have gained popular support when they moved beyond intellectual
discourses on the plight ofthe people and the nation, and begin addressing concrete social
issues which people can grasp. Such was precisely the case with the way the CCP
attempted to address social issues, by focusing on the role of foreign capital and the
means through which this subjugated Chnese people.
Of course, this is not to imply that from the very beginning the CCP had a coherent
program and ideology; on the contrary, in its early years the CCP was characterized by
ideological inconsistencies. Yet while there were ideological inconsistencies, there was
also a parallel process of focusing on concrete social issues, which could be grasped and
possibly amended. While the program ofaddressing issues of labor May have had limited
success in the early years, by playing ioto nationalist sentiments which were accentuated
during the May Fourth movement, it entrenched the CCP's position as a organization that
was genuinely concemed with changing the social fabric of Chnese society.

1 See for example. Benjamin Schw~ Chinese Communism and the Rise ofMao (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press. 1958); Maurice Meisner. Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1968); ArifDir~ The Origins ofChinese Communism (New
York: Oxford University Press. 1989).
2 Schw~ Chinese Communism and the Rise ofMao, pp. 13-15.

J Prasenjit DuUly "Deconstructing the Chinese Natior1y" in Jonathan Unger (ed.). Chinese
Nationalism (New York: M. E. Sharpe. 1996). p. 44.
4 Ibid, p. 49.

5 Gail Hershatter. "Modemizing Sexy Sexing Modemization: Prostitution in Early Twentieth Century
Shanghai." in Christina GiIman, Gail Hershatter. Lisa Rofel. and Tyrene White (eds.). Engendering China:
Women, Culture, and the State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press). p. 160.
6 Ibid.

1 DulIly "Deconstructing the Chnese Nation;' p. 46.

! My observations on the link between elite nationalism and imperialism are based on Partha

Chatterjee's Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Minnesota: University
of Minnesota Press, 1996).
q Joseph Levenson, Conjcian China and Ils Modem Fate: The Problem oflntellectual Continuity

(Berkeley: University ofCalifomia Press, 1958). pp. 50-53.62; Schwartz. Chinese Communism and the
Rise ofMao, pp. 8-9; Dirlik, The Origins ofChinese Communism, p. 98.
10 Hu Shih. The Development ofthe Logical Method in Ancient China (New York: Paragon Books.

1968), p. 6.
Il Ibid., p. 7.

Il ln the case of India. Asok Sen notes, "The new intelligentsia was stirred by various elements of
western thought - the ideas of Liberal freedom, rational humanism and scientific advance. But the learned
aspiration of the middle cIass was undone by its dysfunctional role in the process of production; the fonner
called for goals which the latter necessarily precluded. Hence modemity could hardly he a force of
objective social achievement... For a middle class with no positive role in social production. the theories of
Locke, Bentham and Mill acted more as a source ofconfusion about the nature of state and society under
colonial mIe." Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, p. 25.
IJ Arif Dirlik. Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution (Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 1991),
14 Dirlik. The Origins ofChinese Communism, p. 84.

IS Confucianism was also the source of family power structures, which after the state, was seen to be
one of the Most authoritarian nodes ofoppression. A key crilic ofConfucianism was Wu Yu~ who
criticized Confucianism not only for the tenets it laid down for social behavior, but also because it argued
for a rigid family hierarchy, which resulted in unnecessary subservience for the sovereign. "Wu's main
argument against Confucianism was that it upheld the traditional family system; that its advocacy of
patemalism had become the basis ofdespotism; and that in its fundamental ethical principle, filial piety.
became the basis of the principle ofunquestioning loyalty to the sovereign. In Wu's view, the Confucian
idea was to eliminate any desire to protest or rebel on part ofthe people. Wu remarked: "The effect of the
idea of filial piety has heen to tum China into a big factory for the manufacturing ofobedient servants.'...
Chow Tse-tsung, The May Fourth Movement (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 304.
Hu Shih had been similarly critical ofConfucianism~ noting that Confucianism had long since been
dead. Hu Shih. The Development ofthe Logical Method in Ancient China, pp., 7-8.
16 Vera Schwarcz. The Chinese Enlightenment: intellectual and the Legacy ofthe May FOllrth

Movement of1919 (Berkeley: Harvard University Press, 1968). p. 15.

11 Vera Simone, China in Revolution: History, Documents, and Analysis (New York: Fawcett
Publishers, 1968), p. 141.
Il For example Wu Yu and Hu Shib. For other examples, see Levenson, Con.fcian China and lts

Modern Fate; Schwartz. Chinese Communism and the Rise ofMao; Chow Tse-tung, The May Fourth
Movement; Schwarc~ The Chinese En/ightenment.
19 Meisner. Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, pp. 99, 194.

20 Please note that these examples only apply to Li: as shaH be evident in this section~ at the time~
Chen was going offon sorne particularly peculiar trajectories.
21 Dirl~ The Origins ofChinese Communism.. pp. 37-40; Schwartz, Chinese Communism and the
Rise ofMao, pp. 13-15.
22 Schwartz, Chinese Communism and the Rise ofMao, p. 14-15. Chen was not the only one who
was initially skeptical about the Detober Revolution. Many others argued that this alternative was not
viable to China Luo Jialun argued that it wouId be disastrous since China had an abundance of<4soldiers~
bandits, and vagabonds." Along with Tan Pingshan he advocated promoting "social democracy.'~ Liang
Qiaoshan proposed, what appeared to be a revolution from above, with the state providing the impetus for
socialism. A similar view was put forward by Zhou Zuoren who also advocated a fonn ofcommunal living
as a means of avoiding the inevitable bloodshed ofa revolution. Similarly ideas of enforcing astate where
the anarchist principles of mutual aid were enforced was also popular amongst certain individuals. Michael
Luke, The Origins ofChinese Bolshevism: An ide%gy in the Making (Hong Kong: Oxford University
Press, 1990), pp. 29-30.
:n Dirlik:, The Origins ofChinese Communism, pp. 37-40; Meisner. Li Ta-Chao and the Origins of
Chinese Marxism, p. 67.
24 Meisner, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, p. 126.
2S Ibid
26 Ibid., p. 94.
27 Ibid., p. 125.
28 Ibid., p. 149.

29 Lee Feigon, Chen Draiu: Founder ofthe Chinese Communist Party (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, (983), pp. 108-111, 117, 125. Chen's solutions forChina's internai problems \Vere
equally ambiguous, with his suggestions ranging trom breaking up the state into northem and southem
states, and mass conversions ofChinese people to Christianity. His vision of the ideal Chinese society~
while utopian did not give any suggestions as to how this society would come about. He simply wrote:
"The new society we have in mind is characterized by honesty. progress, positiveness, liberty, equality.
creativity, beauty, goodness, pcace, love, mutual assistance~joyfullabor~ and devotion to the welfare of
humanity. (n it ail those phenomenon that can be described as hypocritical, conservative, restrictive,
privileged, conventional ugly, detestable, combative, frictional, inert, gloomy, oligarchie will gradually...
disappear." Gregor Benton, China's Urban Revolutionaries: Explorations in the His/ory ofChinese
Trotslcyism, 1921-1952 (New Jersey: Humanities Press, (996), p. 42.
JO The importance of national consciousness can also be discemed from Chen's following statement

in which he criticized bis country people for their lack of patriotism. Disgruntled with the lack of activism
on behalf of the Chinese people, at one point he criticized them for being, "a partly scattered, partly stupid
people possessed of narrow-minded individualism with no public spirit who are often thieves and traitors
and have for a long time been unable to be patriotic, so there is no point in talking to them further." His
statement concludes, "Obviously the more people in a nation who will take responsibility the better, but
amongst this kind of irresponsible people with no ability, purpose or knowledge, to give them
responsibility is to commit national suicide. In China at this time not only is govemment by the whole
people worthless to talle of. but it is a dream." Feigon, Chen Duxiu: Founder ofthe Chinese Communist
Party, p. 152.
JI Dirl~ The Origins ofChinese Communism, pp. 184-85.
J2 Ibid., p. 185.
lJ Ibid., p. 185.
}.I Stuart Schram, Mao Tse-tung (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 57.

lS Dirl~ The Origins ofChinese Communism, p. 173.

36 Ibid., pp. 177-78.
37 Hans J. Van de Ven, FI'omfriend to Comrade: The Founding ofthe Chinese Communist Party,

1920-/927. (Berkeley: University ofCalifomia Press, 1991), pp. 59-61.

J8 Dirlik, The Origins ofChinese Communism, pp. 193-194.
39 Schram, Mao Tse-tung, pp. 62-63.


Dirlik, The Origins ofChinese Communism, p. 157.
Ibid., p. 173.
42" Report on the Mairs of the New People's Study Society," (Summer of 1921), in Stuart Schram
and Nancy Rodes (ed.), Mao's Road to Power: Revo/ulionary Wrilings, Vol. 2. (New Vorle: M. E. Sharpe,
1995), pp. 74-77.
4JDirl~ The Origins ofChinese Communism., p. 177.
44 M. N. Roy, Se/ected Worfcs ofM. N. Roy, Vol. 1. (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp.

45 Luk, The Origins ofChinese Bolshevism: An Ide%gy in Ihe Making. 1920-/928, p. 64.
46 Ibid., p. 63.

47 "Report of the Beijing Communist Group by Zhang Guotao," (July 1921), in Tony Saich (ed.).

The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis (New Vorle: M. E. Sharpe.
1996), p. 24.
41 Ibid., p. 21.
49 Ibid., pp. 21-22.

50 "Resolution on the Constitution of the Organization of the CP," (July 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.).

The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communisl Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 45.
SI "The First Decision as to the Objects of the CCP," (July-August (921), in Tony Saich (ed.). The

Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communisl Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 18.
52 "Report of the Beijing Communist Group by Zhang Guotao," (July 1921), in Tony Saich (ed.).
The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 22.
5J "The First Decision as to the Objects of the CCP," (July-August 1921), in Tony Saich (ed.). The
Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 18.
54 "Report of the Beijing Communist Group by Zhang Guotao," (July L921), in Tony Saich (ed.).

The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 23.
55 "Manifesto of the Second Party Congress," (July 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise to Power of
the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 41.
56 Ibid.

57 "First Manifesta of the CCP on the Current Situation," (June 10, L922), in Conrad Brand~
Benjamin Schwartz, and John K. Fairbank (cds.). A Documentary Hislory ofChinese Communism (New
York: Atheneum, L952), p. 54.
S8 Ibid., p. 55.
59 Ibid. p. 58.
60 Meisner, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, p. 191.
61 "Manifesta of the Second Party Congress," (July 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise to Power of

the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 41


From Nationalist Revolution to Poputist MovemeDts:

The Comintem and the Cbinese Revolution, 1922-27

Following the publicity ofthe Karakhandeclaration in March 1920 there was a drastic
change in attitude about the Soviet Revolution which culminated in the wann welcome
Voitinsky received in Beijing and Shanghai~ and the subsequent formation of the
Communist Party under the auspices ofthe Comintem. Given the realities of global
capitalism~ and the bondage of Chnese society through difIerent modes of imperialism..
the Party now looked towards the Soviet Union for guidance to throw off the imperialist
shackles. The resulting display of solidarity amongst '~proletarianized" nations - to
borrow a phrase from Li Dazhao - of which China was certainly one~ and the Soviet
Union, was based on a mutual desire see the end of Western imperialism.
This chapter begins byexpounding on Lenin's theories on the national and colonial
question. These provided the foundation for early Comintem poHcy, and were
consequently of great significance. In practice the Comintem's policy amounted to
supporting the anti-imperialist elements in the colonies and the semi-colonies. In their
rhetoric~ the bourgeoisie were seen to be fighting for self-rule~ and therefore an alliance
with the bourgeoisie was seen to he the tirst step towards nationalist revolutions in parts
of the world dominated by Western capital. This was the flrst step towards the wOrld
revolution~ since the first order of the day was the overthrow ofthe imperialists; ooly
after that was achieved~ could there he a transition towards socialist society. Therefore, in
their desire for self-rule, the Chnese bourgeoisie was seen to playing a progressive role
of combating the imperialist powers. The sharing ofthis mutual interest between the
Guomindang and the CCP led to the creation ofthe First United Front under the direction
of the Communist International.
While the Comintem played a central role in the early years of the CCP~ the Party

was not hatched out ofa conspiracy in Moscow; as the previous chapter demonstrates,
there was an indigenous impetus for change. Nevertheless, the Comintem was extremely

influential in molding the initial course ofthe CCP, particularly hecause of their stress on
the nationalist revolution.
This chapter attempts to demonstrate the two areas where national consciousness
was to play an extrernely significant role in the period between 1922 and 1927. First was
the significance ofthe nationalist revolution which was an important concern for the
Comintem, the CCP, and Sun Yatsen's GMD. The objectives of the nationalist revolution
were straightforward enough: the unification of China and the destruction ofthe
hegemony ofthe imperialists and the warlords. In the initial phase (1922-1924) the
emphasis, both by the GMD and the CCP, was on the implernentation of a nationalist
revolution from above.
But from 1925 onwards there was also a the growing national awareness amongst
the workers and peasants. This is present most clearly in the growing number of urban
strikes and unprecedented peasant revolts. Not only were the workers and peasants
displaying a national consciousness in their confrontation with the imperialist modes of
production, but by 1926 there was also acknowledgment by sorne members of the CCP
that the peasantry and workers were to be as crucial, if not more, to the nationalist
revolution than the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, by 1926, there was growing awareness that
these forces would have to be integrated within the nationalist revolution. This marked a
drastic change from the discourses covered earlier in this chapter, where the primary
emphasis was on finding a niche within the United Front.

The Chinese Revolution and the National and Colonial Question

The dialectic between theory and practice has been the bane ofMarxist revolutionary
thought, not only in China and the Soviet Union, but elsewhere in Asia, Africa, Latin
America, and the developed world as weIl. Put another way, how does one reconcile
Marxist theory and its stipulation about the nature of production, labor, and class with
actual revolutionary practice in a society exploited by imperial economies, consisting
largely of peasants, and where the proletariat May he at a relatively low stage of

consciousness due to the comparative backwardness of the economic transition? Also,

how could the experiences ofthe Bolshevik revolutio~ when juxtaposed with Manast
theory, present a revolutionary program for the Chnese revolution?
Central to the Comintem's poliey in China during the 1920s was Lenin's Thesis on
the National andColonia/ Question presentedduring the Second Congress ofthe
Communist International in 1920. The thesis, with amendments by the Indian communis~
M. N. Roy, was a peculiar and contradictory document, yet one that would he extremely
influential in the Comintem's policy making process.
The ideas put forward by Lenin during the Second Conference of the Communist
International were a culmination of ideas hitherto developed, both by Lenin and Marx. 1
While adhering to the orthodox Marxist belief that capitalism was a precursor for a
socialist revolution, Lenin also believed that the coUapse of capitalism would herald a
world revolution. Moreover the link between capitalism and imperialism was not only a
central one in Lenin's writings but an essentiai one which was the corner-stone for much
ofthe Comintem's policies. In bis lmperialism: The Highest Stage ofCapitalismOj Lenin
Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental attributes of
capitalism in general.... Imperialism is the monopoly stage ofcapitalism. Such a defmition would
include what is most important, for, on the one hand, the division ofthe world is the transition from
a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unoccupied by any capitalist
power, to a colonial policy of the monopolistic possession of the territories of the world which have
been completely divided Up.l

It followed that it was only by the coUapse ofWestem imperialism that the Western
capitalist economies could he crushed, and a socialist revolutio~ as envisioned by the
Soviet communists, could take place in the rest ofthe worid.
Where Lenin departed from the accepted Marxist orthodoxy was in ms appraisal of
the role of the bourgeoisie in the colonies and the semi-colonies. While Marx (and Lenin)
agreed that the Western bourgeoisie had played a progressive role in the breaking of
feudalism and ushering in capitalism in the West, they both reaIized that this stage had
passed by their time.3 But Lenin still retained a degree of faith in the bourgeoisie in parts
of the world exploited by Western capital. "The Western bourgeoisie has decayed and is

already being confronted by its gravediggers - the proletariat," he wrote, "But in Asia
there still exists a bourgeoisie capable of representing sincere, militant, consistent

democracy, a worthy companion ofthe great preachers and great public men of the end of
the eighteenth century in France." Lenin saw the Asian bourgeoisie in a progressive
binary opposition to the warlords and the feudal remnants which he perceived as being
closely linked to the imperialist ventures:'
The nationalist movement in the colonies was one on which Lenin placed a great
deal of emphasis. Alongside supporting socialist movements in the Western countries
themselves, another means ofbringing about the collapse ofthe Western capitalist
economies was to support anti-colonial and nationalist movements in the colonies and
semi-colonies, which were thought to he in direct confrontation with colonialism. The
colonies were seen to he the weak links in the Western capitalist system, and a collapse
and emancipation of the colonies would certainly have adverse affects on the Metropoles.
Thus, the emphasis would be on the Western proletariat and Eastern nationalism-
together which would constitute a world revolutionary movement.s It was thought that the
social transition in Europe could not take place unless there was also a transition in the
colonized parts of the world. The Western proletariat and Asian bourgeoisie had a
common interest in the eradication ofcolonialism. In Asia, imperialism hampered
indigenous industry and the end of colonialism would allow the emergence of indigenous
capitalism. At the same time, an end to colonialism would deal a tremendous blow to the
Western bourgeoisie and this would allow for a proletarian revolution. 6
Following the First World War, nationalism loomed largely in the foreground with
Many nations expressing their desire for self-determination. The timing of the formation
of the Communist International points to what must have been a logical move to make
alliances with people in colonized societies who were struggling for self-rule. Under 50ch
circumstances, nationalism was seen as a progressive anti-imperialist force which must be
supported to bring an end to colonialism.
In such a global scenario, the Soviet Union emerged as the first socialist society in
history. Not only was the state system radically difIerent from any previous one, but it
was guided by Marxism which laid down very clear postulates about the transition of

society from one economically determined historic stage to the next. Because the
Boishevik revolutionaries had initiated a successful proletarian revolution, the fulfIllment

of Marx's prophecies ofan eventual global proletarian revolution actually hecame a
reasonable possibility. Lenin and Trotsky saw the Boishevik revolution as the tirst in a
series ofproletarian revolutions spanning the globe. AIso the continUDg of the revolution
was not ooly essential for ideologcal reasons, but was thought to he critical for the
survival ofthe Soviet Union. 7 Therefore, the Soviet Union had a historie role to play in
upholding and supporting the proletarian cause the world over.
Though not explicitly state~ the Comintem saw colonized societies as an
aggregation of groups and societies which would have to he maneuvered into different
strategie alliances depending on the revolutionary stage.! Similarly, in these societies~
three potential revolutionary scenarios were identified; the anti-feudal revolution directed
against traditional authority, an anti-colonial movement, and a possible working class
revolution. Because of the virtual penetration of foreign capital in every aspect of the
economy, the anti-feudal and anti-colonial revolution were seen to he one and the same.9
At the time the Comintem's primary goal was supporting elements which were seen
to be the most anti-imperialist. This Lenin had identified as the bourgeoisie. However
during the Congress, Lenin faced considerable opposition forro Royon this issue. Insofar
as Roy believed that the capitalist stage of the revolution could he bypassed, Roy' s
reasoning was similar to Lenin's. For Lenin, alliances with the nationalist bourgeoisie
was essential; yet this did not imply a bourgeoisie led nationalist revolution. While the
policies of the Communist Intemational towards anti-imperialist movements was based
largely on the assumption that the collapse of capitalism would emancipate the Western
proletariat, Roy took this reasoning one step further by suggesting that the collapse of
colonialism was essential for the realization of communism in the West. Therefore, both
saw revolutions in the East to he eritical for the establishment of communist states in the
West. 10
But unlike Lenin who believed that the Asian bourgeoisie still had the potential to
play a progressive role in the anti-imperialist revolution, Roy was very skeptical of the
role of the bourgeoisie. Speaking from the colonial experience of India, he insisted that

the bourgeoisie in the colonized nations could not be trusted as allies. Disillusioned
perhaps with nationalist leaders in Iodia, Roy's cynical appraisal of the bourgeoisie was

based on the bourgeoisie's UDStated realization that making alliances with their colonial
masters prior to decolonization could cement their economic and political status as
leaders of the nation - colonialism was, after ail, a lucrative business. 1[
Roy's cynicism points to a fondamental point in bis understanding of the nationalist
movement in the colonies, wbich was the elite's nationalist impulses had no resonance
amongst the masses, and that the elite were concemed with cementing their own socio-
economic positions, an analysis that bore striking resemblance to the circumstances in
China. Roy also disagreed with Lenin in that he believed that the actual potential for
change lay with the landiess peasantry, and that it was this segment ofthe population that
should he targeted and receive the support ofthe Communist Intemational. Support for
the bourgeoisie could only result in capitalism. He also believed that the task of the
Communist International was to support an anti-imperialist movement independent of the
bourgeoisie, thereby passing the bourgeoisie-democratic stage of the revolution
a1together. 12
Despite the scathing criticism levied against Roy,13 the proposai that was adopted hy
the Second Congress of the Communist International attempted to take his views into
considerations. While the proposai is clear on the role ofthe reactionary role of the
bourgeoisie, it also suggests that this alliance May be necessary.14 Nevertheless it cautions
that: "[The Communist International] must not amalgamate with [the bourgeoisie]; it
must traditionally maintain the independence ofthe proletarian movement, even if it is an
embryonie stage." On the role ofthe proletariat it stipulates: "[t]he entire poliey of the
Communist International on the national and colonial question must he hased primarily
on bringing together the proletariat and the working classes of all nations and countries
for the common revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the landlords and the
bourgeoisie. "IS
It was clear that in its initial stages, the anti-imperialist revolution would not be a
communist revolution, since any attempt to focus the revolutionary movement along the
lines of a proletarian or agrarian standpoint would he to alienate another segment ofthe

population, the bourgeoisie. Yet this did not mean that the communist vanguard should
cede the leadership ofthe movement to the bourgeoisie. 16 While in theory this May have

been possible, by advocating this potiey, Lenin was walking a very fine line between
using the bourgeoisie to support the movement and allowing an all out hijacking of the
anti-imperialist movement by the bourgeoisie, which was preeisely what happened in
This highlights the complexities in theory, and the inherent contradictions in
practice, of the Communist Intemational's approach to supporting anti-colonial
movements. In essence there was no rigid ideological plan ofaction exeept for the belief
that as a first step, the Comintem should ally itself with the enemies of the imperialists.
This Lenin saw as the bourgeoisie because of their nationalist rhetoric. The amendments,
put forward by Roy, while integrated into the supplementary thesis, in practice seem to
pale in significance, with the Comintem continuing to place its primary influence on
supporting the nationalist movement led by the bourgeoisie, instead of the landless

Collaboration w;th the Nationalist, 1922-1924

In Sun Yatsen and the GMD the Comintem advisors found a strong nationalist orientation
which they saw to he anti-imperialist. The Comintem representative, Maring, was clearly
impressed by the make-up ofthe GMO. Consider bis positive appraisal of the
"intelligentsia": '4A numher ofthem became acquainted with socialism in Japan or France
and calI themselves Socialists. Sun Yatsen is one ofthese, and he told me personally that
he considers himself a BolsheVk.... Also among the officers with whom 1 had contact,
there was a great interest in the Russian revolution and the Red Army."17
This section looks at the application of Lenin's theories on the national revolution
in China between 1922 and 1924. The quest for an alliance with an anti-imperialist
nationalist bourgeoisie was quickly fulfilled with the Comintem representatives
discovering Sun Yatsen and the GMD. Impressed by the nationalist overtones of the
GMO, Comintem representatives came up with contradictory analysis of the GMD to
justify the alliance. Fascinated with the GMO, the CCP was maneuvered into an alliance

with the GMO under the banner ofthe United Front. It is important to rememher that the
United Front was essentially a strategie nationalist alliance. While the CCP did reap sorne

initial benefits from an alliance with the G~, the program ofboth the parties were
fundamentally different. The only common interest was the shared nationalist interest of
combating the imperialists and warlords. While the importance ofcreating the linited
Front by the Comintem was illustrative of the stress placed on the nationalist revolution~
we should nevertheless he wary of seeing the nationalist revolution as a concem which
was introduced by the Soviets. As we saw in the previous chapter, concem with foreign
exploitation bad been a central concem of the Chnese communists from the very
Maring had a great admiration ofthe link hetween the GMO and the workers
movement in South China. Commenting on the January 1922 strike of the sailors, Maring
noted: "The striking workers participated in the nationalist demonstrations of the [GMD],
and ail financial support came from the GMO. The communist group in Canton had no
links wbatsoever with the striking sailors... The ties hetween the GMO and strikers were
so close that about 12,000 sailors in Canton, Hong Kong, and Shantou joined that
political party." Even his understanding ofwhat he himselfcategorizes as the 'capitalist
elements" within the GMO is surprisingly positive: "These Chnese have always financed
the workers' party and expect it to unify China, to establisb Law and order, to eradicate
the divisive influence of the [constant fighting] and to defend China's independence from
foreign domination."18
Moreover, he saw the GMD to he a nationalist party with a program to end foreign
domination, establish democracy, and worthy life for the citizens. But Many of these
perceptions were arguably questionable. Roy, for example, was highly critical of the
GMD. At the time Sun Yatsen was flirting with a peculiar scheme ofdeveloping China's
economy with the help of foreign investment. According to Roy:
Having failed to evolve any radical social theory, to fonnulate a dermite political program. and to
lead the revolution when called upon to do 50, Sun Vatsen gave free reign to bis imagination. His
only coherent work was a book tided International Development ofChina. It was a mecbanical
scbeme of fantastic dimensions. Nothing testities more eloquently to bis utter inability for grasping
the problems ofChina. The country was to he economically developed with the aid offoreign
capital. The implication ofthis scheme was to delivertbe country, body and soul., to the tender
mercy of international imperialism which., for more than balfa century bad plundered., pillaged, and
partitioned it. 19

But while Roy had been critical of this debatable economic pl~ Maring was not
tao concemed with the implications it had for China's sovereignty. He merely
commented: "This book contains bis plans for astate capitalist economy; he states in the
preface that this state capitalist economy must lead to a socialist form of production. "20
Furthermore, Sun Yatsen was not very enthusiastic about Comintem support, nor did he
believe in communism or class struggle as a revolutionary alternative. As Roy wrote:
"[t]he social background of the movement was still predominantly bourgeoisie, the
working class still being an auxiliary factor: the leadership as Personifies by Sun Yatsen
was decidedly opposed to communism [but] the Soviet Republic still offered its support
[because ot] the historie importance ofthe national revolution in the colonial countries
and its anti-imperialist character.,,21
The perceived anti-imperialist nature of the nationalist revolution was centraI to the
policy of the Communist International: Lenin had instructed Comintem representatives
not to paint nationalist leaders red in order to support them, and that the CI should give
them "any possible help without condition.,,22 The policy for extending a helping hand to
the Chnese nationalists stemmed from what Roy called a "Marxian understanding of
history," in which, "the struggle of the subject people for national freedom is part of the
greater world-wide struggle for socialism.... Whatever might he the attitude ofthe
Chnese nationalists, the success of their struggle would he a step forward towards the
realization of communism on a world stage." In prlnciple, Roy too favored supporting the
nationalists, and his Leninist justification were as follows: "In the historic struggle for
overthrowing the bourgeoisie from the position of power, the working class must ally
itself with all the forces antagonistic ta its eoemy. Subject nationalities are held by
imperialism in varying degrees of social backwardness." Consequently, "the figbt for
liberation involves classes not directly interested in communism, and in earlier stages it is
usually [ed by social elements consciously hostile to communism. That was the case of
the Chnese nationalist movement in 1923, when it came ioto contact with the Soviet
Republic." Continuing this line ofreasoning, he argued that the nationalist revolution in

colonized nations was fundamentally an anti-imperialist movement. The social

composition ofthe movement was irrelevant and insofar it contributes to the downfall of
imperiaIism, it helped the proletarian revolution. 23
While Sun Yatsen made no secret of bis lack ofenthusiasm for communism.,24
members of the Chnese Communist Party were aIso bighly critical ofthe GMD. In an
April 1922letter to Voitinsky, Chen Duxiu voiced bis disapproval ofMarlng"s
suggestion that the CCP and Socialist Youth Leaguejoin the GMO. Chen was of the
opinion that the program of the CCP and the GMO had nothing in common, and
cooperation with Western economies for the devclopment ofChina's economy was not
compatible with a communist ideology. He also wrote: "People of each province regarded
[the GMO] as a political party scrambling for power and profit. If the CP enters this
party, the faith of members of society will he completely lost (particularly amongst the
young), there will never be an opportunity for development."'25
But despite the fact that the CCP was wary of an alliance with the GMD, in 1922
they accepted the alliance in principle.26 This stage of the alliance was ''the Block
Without" in which the CCP, while entering an alliance with the GMD, still attempted to
maintain its independence and class interest. Given the fact that the Party was still in its
embryonic phase, and therefore numerically we~ the alliance could give the CCP access
to the workers movements. Moreover, the Comintem had been supportive of the alliance,
and the CCP looked towards the Communist International as a source of ideological and
organizational orientation. The Comintem for their part continued to see the GMD as a
genuinely revolutionary party whieh upheld the principles ofthe 1911 revolution. While
the CCP did not deny the bourgeoisie comPQnent of the GMO, they reasoned that the
CCP must ally itself with the Nationalists until such time as the rift between the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat necessitated a split.27
Once the CCP was maneuvered into an alliance with the GMD they justified it as
foUows: in Eastern economically backwards countries the proletariat was subjected to the
combined exploitation of foreign capital and native feudalism. Furthermore, not ooly was
the proletariat weak, but the bourgeoisie bas been unable to concentrate its forces against

the foreign imperialists and the native feudals. Under such circumstanees the proletariat
had a historie role to play in propping up the bourgeoisie against the colonialists. 'The

proletariat must by its economic power make the bourgeoisie understand the necessity for
establishing a united front with the proletariat to over throw their common enemy - the
native feudal militarists and international imperialists." But Chen's following statement
is indicative of the complexities of the alliance: ~'The victory of the United Front will be a
victory of the bourgeoisie. But ooly in the United Front will the young proletariat he able
to fight by actual deeds and not Mere avowal of principles. It cao only develop its
strengili and its own independent class struggle in the complex process of the struggle in
the United Front." He a1so wrote, "The proletariat must not ooly cooperate with this Party
in the struggle for democracy and unification, but it must a1so urge the slogans of"Anti-
Imperialism," "Support Working Class Interests" and ~~Freedom" in order to widen the
scope of the struggle." Despite the alliance, there was a dermite hint of antagonism
against the Nationalists ~'We must carry on propaganda among the workers within the
Guomindang Party, speed up the development of their class consciousness and make
them understand that the Guomindang is not the party of the proletariat. If the
Guomindang Party allied itself,vith reactionary and dark forces... or with imperialists~ we

must ruthlessly oppose it. "28 An implicit understanding was that since the Party was
maneuvered into the alliance, they must use propaganda work within the United Front to
try and capture the workers movement by playing to the nationalist sentiment of the

masses from where they hoped to draw their support.

While members of the CCP were attempting to find a niche for themselves in an
alliance with the Guomindang, the OMO and the Comintem moved even closer in the
beginning of 1923. The joint declaration of Son Yatsen and A. lotIe discounts any
possibility of an immediate communist revolution. 29 While the CCP looked to the
Comintem for ideological and organizational orientation, the Comintem seemed more
interested in strengthening their alliance with the GMO. Shortly before, Maring had
convinced members of the CCP to formally enter the OMD - the Block Within - based on
the assumption that the GMD was a multi-party alliance, which represented different
class interest. Thought the CCP complied, the independent party program was completely

subordinated to the nationalist revolution.

Given the Soviet Union's complete renunciation ofany territorial claims on Chnese
soil procured during the Tsarist regime (in the Karakhan declaration), and also a
renunciation ofany claims in Outer Mongolia, it was not surprising that Sun Yatsen
would endorse the presence of Comintem advisors in China30 But the real betrayal of the
CCP by the Comintem was spelled out in the very first point of the January 1923 joint
declaration of Sun and Joffe. Consider the following: "Dr. Sun is of the opinion that,
because of the non-existence ofconditions favorable to their successful application in
Chrla, it is not possible to carry out either Communist or even the Soviet system in
China. M. Joffe agrees entirely with this view." The declaration continued: "He [Sun] is
further of the opinion that China's most important and most pressing problems are the
completion of national unification and the attainment of full national independence. With
regards to these tasks, M. Joffe has assured Dr. Sun of the Russian people's warmest
sympathy for China, and of their willingness to lend support. "31
The arrivai of Borodin in China in August 1923 saw increased emphasis on the
national revolution. Borodin was sent not as an advisor to the Chnese Communist Party,
but as an envoy to the Guomindang with the specific purpose of assisting Sun with the
nationalist revolution. Their lack of commitment to a revolutionary program Was apparent
in a joint manifesto released in the Fall of 1923. In the draft, prepared by Borodin for Sun
Yatsen, the two asserted that Sun's "Three People's Principles" were in fact a means of
implementing what would essentially he a Chnese Boishevik revolution. They suggested
that the reason the October revolution succeeded and the Chinese had not succeeded till
that time was because people did not correctly understand the "Three People's
Principles." According to Sun, "(The Russian Revolution]... explained [to the Chnese
conununists] that the Prineip/e ofNationalism is a time/y remedy ffor the iUs ofChina]
and not an obso/ete relie ofthe pasto "32 This is an interesting statement. While Sun and
Borodin do not elaborate, 1 am inclined to helieve that nationalism came to he seen as a
touchstone through which China's plight could he addressed. That is to say~ in seeking to
find a language of refonn - no matter how rhetorical - it was the issue of nationalism in

its different guises which was most prominent.

The alliance between the GMD and the CCP was fraught with tension. The 1923
declaration by the Third Congress of the CCP was highly critical of the GMD. The CCP
criticized the GMO on two fronts, the tirst of which was the reliance on foreign powers
for the help in the Chnese national revolution. "Such requests for help from the enemy
not ooly cost the [GMO] to lose the leadership of the national revolution but aIso make
the people depend 00 foreign power, thus destroying their confidence and spirit of
national independence." The GMD's policy ofchanneling ail their resources into military
expenditure also came under criticism. Because they were not concentrating on
propaganda, ''the GMD loses its politicalleadership, because a national revolutionary
party can never succeed by relying solely on military action without winning nationwide
popular sympathy."33
Given these misgivings on key points why did the CCP enter an alliance with the

GMD? The answer lies largely in the limited success the CCP had in mobilization on
their own. The February Seventh incidence (1923) in partcular seems to he a rude
awakening, when the Party's labor movements everywhere in China except in GMD
cootrolled areas suffered from a major crackdo\\o'D from warlords. This illustrated the
precariousness of the communist movement. Still in its infancy, it was apparent that if the
Party was to play any significant role, the tirst prerequisite was its survival. For this
reason it was thought that the GMD - which was more established - could be used as a
smoke screen by the CCP. A Party resolution in 1923 stated: "The Gl\ID is most certainly
the central force in the nationalist movement.... We must establish or join the progressive
organizations in the name of the GMD.,,34 The February Seventh also had a sobering
effect on the Party hecause it indicated that the proletarian movement was still in an
embryonic stage, and consciousness amongst the workers was not at a level that the CCP
had previously thought it to he. 3S
Following the creation of the United Front, the CCP placed greater emphasis on the
nationalist revolution. The espousal of nationalism was not merely because the CCP had
been integrated within the GMD, but a1so because of a renewed interest in the national

question in the Soviet Union during 1923-24, when the Fourth Congress of the

Communist International stepped up their emphasis on supporting the natiooalist
movements in AsiaJ6
The renewed interest by the Comintem was reflected in a similar heightened interest
in the natiooalist revolution by the Party. At the tinte, Chen theorized:
The capitalist imperialists make use of patriotism to cheat the laboring masses and lure them to the
support ofthe imperialism oftheir own countries. This is the type of patriotism we must oppose.
The oppresse~ weak nations use patriotism ta cali up the whole populace to struggle against
international imperialism. We should not oppose this kind ofpatriotism... The nationalism of the
capitalists is aetually the instrument ofimperialism. From the viewpoint ofthe proletariat. the
meaning ofnationalism is the sttuggle ofweak nations against imperialism."37

This made Chen develop a distinction between bourgeoisie and proletarian

nationalism: "[Bourgeoisie nationalism] does oot want to liherate those weak nationalities
under its controL... The other is proletarian nationalism, which advocates self-
determination for all nationalities."38 While the CCP was faced with a oationalist agenda
in their dealings bath with the GMD and the Comintem, they attempted to interpret it in a
way which would have at least some semblance to a proletarian movement. A November
1923 resolution conceming the nationalist movement clarified that at the present moment,
the labor, peasant, student, and women's movements were ail part ofa nationalist
movement. While their emphasis on the peasantry appears to have more to do with
refonn rather than nationalism, the following is indicative of how they saw the
manifestation of nationalism at the grass roots level.
The peasantry is the strongest force in the nationalist movement. Thus, the GMO should use the
nation's peasantry as its base and set up sub-branches in the rural areas ofevery province. The
movement's strategy will be to begin by educating the peasants, using the slogan <4For the benefit of
ail peasants," and by working on irrigation projects, protection against robbers, boycotting foreign
goods, and resisting heavy taxes. At the present stage we should begin to improve economic
conditions ofthe tenant farmers even ifit causes resentment on the part ofthe middle peasants.JQ

Yet unlike Chen and Li, others were not convinced of the feasibility offollowing a
nationalist course charted by the GMO.1n a letter to Voitinsl-y and Musin~ Zhang
acknowledged that the CCP was in its infancy, and that a nationalist movement could he
carried out. But he raised a central point about the legitimacy ofthe GMD: "[The GMD]
which always engaged in making govemment and carrying on military action compelled

to compromise with this or that foreign imperiaIist and domestic militarist and therefore
has ceased to be a nationalist party." He aIso observed that the anti-imperiaIist sentiments

were largely directed against Japan, and not 50 much against British or American
imperialism. But the central point was this: "The Chnese bourgeoisie [that is., industrial
capitalist bankers, and merchants] still very much depend upon the foreign capitalists in
every direction, especially economically... the domestic bourgeoisie is still far off as a
conscious force set against the foreign oppression.".w

In this section we saw how the idea ofthe nationalist revolution came to be the primary
consideration of the Comintem. This was in keeping with the Leninist notion that the
communist movements ought to he allied with the MOst anti-imperialist elements. These
the Comintem identified as Sun and the GMD, and this became the basis of the United
Front, the idea being that before a communist revolution could take place, China had to
go through a phase ofnationalist revolution in which the imperialists (and the warlords)
would be rooted out of the nation. But aside from their joint interest of freeing China
from the imperialists, the CCP and the GMD were composed of different classes and
different c1ass interests. Nevertheless the CCP entered the alliance, not only because it
was initiated by the Comintem, but aIso because at the rime, the Party was weak and saw
an alliance with the GMD as a means of reaching the masses.
But by the time of Lenin's death in January 1924 it became clear that there were
two strains pulling the CCP. While the CCP did its best to twist into the most unholy of
alliances underthe Comintem's instructions, in the period between 1924 and 1927, the
workers movements gained a momentum which was difficult to ignore. Of course, the
labor movements and strikes were not always instigated by the CCP; on the contrary
many were a display of the popularity of the GMD, and the United Front was seen as a
means for the CCP to reach these workers. Nevertheless, here was a populist proletarian
movement for aIl ta see. During the next three years it became clear that a dichotomy
existed between the nationalist politics of the GMD, and the grass-roots activism of the
urban areas and peasant movements. While the CCP continued to look for their niche in
the United Front, the political arena became increasingly polarized.

The Growth ofProletarian Consciousness, 1924-27

Following the death ofLenin and the continuation ofthe "Leninist" polices onder Stalin.,
the Chinese revolution embarked on a particularly tenuous phase. While there may have
been sorne merlt in supporting the Nationalists till 1924 (if one agrees that the CCP was
still in its infancy, and therefore, unable to survive on its own) collaboration with the
Nationalists after 1924 was somewhat harder to justify strategically. This is because from
1924 onwards there was a growing workers and peasants movement in the country.
Moreover, sorne members ofthe Party began to see that the nationalist revolution could
be carried out on the basis of the workers and peasants, instead of the bourgeoisie. But
these views remained confined to a select group of individuals.
In 1924 the CCP was caught in a static political culture of eHte nationalist
discourses. Evidence suggests that the CCP' s programs at this point were aImost
nonexistent; most documents surveyed dealt exclusively with the alliance with the GMD
and the CCP's role in the nationalist revolution. Under these circumstances it was this
stagnant nationalism which brought the CCP to a position of near impotence, thus
allowing Chang Kaishek to launch bis anti-Communist repression of 12 April 1927.
Gaining an insight into the pitfalls of the Chnese revolution al this stage is important
since different approaches to the revolution would become important issue of contention.
This was true particularly of the diverging opinions within the CCP about the potential of
the peasantry and the urban proletariat. An important issue was: was an alliance with the
bourgeoisie necessary for the nationalist revolution, or could the workers and peasants
serve as a vanguard?
Trotsky's views on the policy ofthe Comintem act as a starting point for a crltical
examination of the revolution. Trotsky was crltical of the alliance with the GMD because
the GMD was a bloc of four classes - peasan~ proletariat, petty and national bourgeoisie -
and he considered this alliance un-Marxist. Classes, not political organizations comprised
of blocs.. wielded power. By insisting on a bloc, the Comintem denied the class
contradictions that were inherent in the relationsbip between the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat. Trotsky was of the opinion that only the proletariat could lead the revolution;

as Zhang a1so pointed out, the link between the compradore bourgeoisie and the
imperialists was a very obvious one.41

Trotsky saw the alliance with the bourgeoisie as a fundamental f1aw in the
Comintem's plan. He argued that imperialism affected different classes differently. ""The
powerful role offoreign capital in the life of China has created very strong sections of the
bourgeoisie, the bureaucracy, and military to join their destiny with that of the
imperialism. Without this tie the enormous role of the "militarists" in the lue of modem
China would he inconceivable.,,..2 Furthennore, he argued that the distinction between the
cempradore bourgeoisie and the nationalist bourgeoisie was a false one, since the two
were actually very close together. The alliance between the bourgeoisie and the CCP was
aise unwise, because in a colonial context, class differences end up getting polarized; for
Trotsky the anti-imperialist struggle was class struggle.43 An alliance with the GMD was
bound to end up in a catastrophe. By making an alliance with the GMD, the CCP was in
reality making an alliance against the working class.
Rather than getting caught in the tenninology of revolutionary stages, which
Trotsky believed could he transgressed, and being caught up in discourses on
nationalism, which he sawas inherently anti-proletarian, he believed that immediate
objective of the revolution should he to "deepen itself'; that is to assume control
whenever and wherever the Party could. He also asserted that no social movement
suffered as much as the CCP as a consequence of the influence of the Comintem. His
telling statement that, "power resides not in democratic vote, but in property, and by the
monopoly of information and armaments," appropriately captured the trajectory the CCP-
GMO alliance would embark on between 1924 and 1927.44
Trotsky was also of the opinion that stages could he skipped in a series of relentless
permanent revolutions. Il was not necessary for a nation to go through a capitalist or
nationalist stage. "It is possible for the workers to come to power in an economically
backward country sooner than in an advanced capitalist country... To imagine that the
dictatorship of the proletariat is in sorne way dependent upon the technical development
and resources of a country is a prejudice of economic materialism simplified to
absurdity.''''s This was an important point for it pointed away from a national Darwinian

approach to the idea tbat certain nations, because oftheir advanced economic
development, would achieve socialism before the economically backward ones.46

Fundamental to the concept of the permanent revolution was the idea that the peasantry
and the proletariat must ally itself against the nationalist bourgeoisie; aIso the dictatorship
of the proletariat did not take place after the revolutio~ but was part of the process. 47
Trotsky's suggestion that the workers and the peasants should deepen the revolution
was important. In suggestions made to Indian communists in 1923, Roy had suggested
that they organize workers and peasants parties and then embark on a communist
ideological program. But Roy saw the GMD to he fiJlfiJ)jng this role in China.48 There
was still the genuine heliefamongst Comintem policy makers, as weIl as Roy and
Trotsky, that the GlvID was heing used to propel the proletarian movement.

1924 saw the emergence of POpulist movements in Southem China. These were not
instigated by the CCP, and from the outset they seemed to he closely linked to the GMO.
Yet the link between these movements and the GMD was a faint one at best, and for the
MOst part the movements were propelled by their own momentum.. This display of
solidarity between the workers of China marked the reemergence ofa grass roots anti-
imperialist nationalisme AImost a year from the February Seventh suppression of workers
in 1923, a workers committee was organized to fight for the "improvement of living
conditions, respect for our fate, education for us and our children, the right to form
individual unions, to forge solidarity amongst railway workers.'~9
The number of strikes in the country grew eXPQnentially. In 1918, there were twenty
five recorded strikes, involving less than 10,000 workers. By 1922, the number had risen
to ninety one strikes, which involved a total of 150,000 workers. Through the early 1920s
the labor movement grew with increasing ~~speed and militancy." On May Day 1924,
100,000 workers marched through the streets of Shanghai. Twice the number
demonstrated in Canton. Consider the statements on leaflets: "Eight hours of work, eight
hours of education and eight hours of rest - how reasonable this program is.... For forty
years the working c(ass bas poured out its blood for its realization. The time is past when
the workers are but fodder for the bosses. They will not cede but to revolutioo? Theo they

shaH have it." And, uRemember today, fellow workers, that you are me~ just as the
bosses are. Demand that you he treated as men. Organize! Numbers give strength!

Comrades will extend to you their handr~so These pointed to a workers consciousness
which had no direct link to the CCP or the GMO, though propaganda May have played a
Despite the fact that the workers' movements were emerging on their own impetus,
the GMD attempted to give them a nationalist twist. On May Day in 1924, Sun Yatsen
addressed the workers as following, "The difference between the Chnese workers and the
foreign workers lies in the fact that that the latter are oppressed only by their own
capitalists and not by those of other countries.... The Chinese workers are not yet
oppresses by Chnese capitalists.... They are oppressed by foreign capitalists. ,,51 The same
time a1so saw the mobilization of peasant societies in Haifeng under the leadership of
Peng Pai and the formation ofthe first Peasant Association. While Peng played a
tremendous role as a later day Chnese revolutionary, it is worth noting that at the lime he
appeared to be working on bis own initiative.
It is significant that the Peasant Association was void of a rigid ideological
orientation. The emphasis was on addressing issues in a way that was comprehensible to
the peasants. This, 1 believe, accounted for its success. Like above examples from
pamphlets distributed during the May Day demonstration, the propaganda of the Peasant
Association succinctly addressed the plight of the people without obscuring it in elite
terminology. Consider the following: "The fathers and grandfathers of the present
landowners took [the land] by force from the peasants. Even supposing it was bought, it
was paid for only once, while the landowners bave received rent on it for hundreds and
thousands of years.... The landowners receive the greater part of the barvest without doing
any work. How much money and sweat bave we and our peasant forefathers expended on
this land. ,,52
The Party realized the potential ofthe populist movements. A May 1924 resolution
observed that the Party sbould focus specifically on anti-imperialism and democracy as a
party platform.53 This the CCP attempted to do by emphasizing the nationalist
undercurrents in the populist movements. Similar to the way that Sun had used the May

Day demonstration to bis advantage by making a point about imperialist exploitation, the
CCP a1so attempted to make links between the nationalist anti-imperialist program, the

current wave ofworkers strike~ and the increasing political and economic strength of the
One emphasis was on targeting the nodes of foreign capitalist investment. A CCP
resolution stated: "The strength offoreign capital is greatest in the shipbuilding~ railway..
river, and ocean transportation industries. Organizing these workers is the most practical
and powerful means ofopposing the forces offoreign capital and imperialism." The
resolution also stated that in the future it was workers who wouId play a pivotal role. It
continued: "[t]he proletariat in the manufacturing industries... having a common interest
and suffering equally from the oppression ofbig capitalists, especially big foreign
captalists - is the best material for the union movement."S4
In the initial months of 1925, Shanghai was caught up in an unprecedented number
ofstrikes. On May 30, students and strikers marched in the streets to protest the shooting
of workers in Tsingtao and the murder ofa Chnese worker in Shanghai by a Japanese
foreman. In the subsequent months, there was an escalation of strikes and imperialist
economic ventures in south China were ground to a halt for three months.
A boycott of British goods was also declared and 100,000 workers from Hong Kong
moved to Guangzhou. The strike which lasted til1 September, not ooly cost the British
government 250,000 pounds a day, but Was an astonishing demonstration of the growth
and the potential ofthe workers movement which the CCP was quick to realize: '''The
most backward part of the proletariat in north and central China was mobilized to jon the
struggle, thus helping millions of workers attain consciousness through the political and
economic struggle. This is an unprecedented period and compels the CCP to emphasize
the proletariat~s leading role in the struggle and guide it in the nationalliberation
movement. "ss This growing awareness amongst the workers was a demonstration of a
nationalist revolution, which the CCP defined as the liberation of the entire nation (from
imperialists and warlords) and the improvement of living conditions of the proletariat. '''If
we forget the proletariat's economic gains... if we forget the proletariat's economic
struggle during the nationalist revolution~ if we forget the proletariat's preparation for it's

own class revolution in the nationalist revolution~ if we are oaively involved in the

bourgeois national democratic movemen~ we will do irreparable harm to the proletariat
and reduce the revolutionary character ofthe nationalist movement. "56
These ideas were put into practice during the Northem Expedition of 1926 where
the CCP workers were instrumental in conducting propaganda work in the areas liberated
by the nationalist armies. Special political officers~ MOst of whom were communists~
accompanied the liberating armies, and were instrumental in winning over the local
populations. Emphasis was placed on propaganda work~ by placing placards and
distributing pamphlets thereby undermining the enemy's morale. 57
Saon after the capture ofa city~ labor organizers set to work to organize the
proletariat, and as a consequence revolutionary fervor escalated. In Hankowand
Hanyang, the cities were soon plastered with posters denouncing imperialists and
warlords and calling for the support for the nationalist revolution.58
Thus far in this section we have seen how there was a shift in the trajectory of the
nationalist revolution around 1924. While the earlier period (1922-1924) was
characterized by the politics ofthe United Fron~ following 1924 there was the emergence
of populist movements in the urban areas. Not ooly were there an unprecedented number
of strikes, but the workers movements had distinctly anti-imperialist overtones. Because
they were seen to be against foreign intervention, they were essential to the nationalist
revolution. Both the CCP and the GMD were quick to pick up on this fact~ and there is a
conscious effort to make links between the populist movements and the nationalist
revolution~ both of which shared the common goal of eradicating foreign capital from

The end of 1925 and beginning of 1926 marks the emergence of another trend which
would be instrumental in the Chnese revolution after 1927; a growing concem with the
agrarian question. Li was the principle advocator in the tum towards the peasantry as the
new vanguard of the revolution. Maurice Meisner bas suggested that it May have been the
over whelming authority ofthe warlords in the North, and the subsequent lack of

proletarian consciousness, which made Li fear that the Party May end up alienated in the

North similar to the way the radicals were following the May Fourth movement. It was
largely this realization which made him tum to the peasantry.59
This marked a drastic shift in attitudes towards the peasantry. On an individual
basis, Li had never been over-enthusiastic about the role of the peasantry. In facL it is
possible to discem distinct Marxist traces in bis writings about the political and social
impotence ofthe peasantry as a social force prior to 1926.60 Most other memhers of the
Chinese Communist Party were also skeptical in their appraisal of the peasantry. While a
Party proclamation agreed that the PeaSaIltry had suffered as much as any other class
because of imperialism, there was also the realization that the peasants had yet to
organize themselves as a political and social force. While the same proclamation outlined
in great detail just how the peasantry should form organizations, it was clear that the CCP
thought the peasant movement to he on a lower rung of consciousness than the urban
Another reason why Li addressed the potential of the peasantry was the realization
that if the peasantry could he brought into the revolutionary process than the success of
the national revolution was not far off. The tum to the peasantry May have largely been
influenced by a growing realization that the United Front was beginning to show fissures
by the time of the Northem Expedition. In 1926 Li made the following statement in bis
Land and the Peasants, 'In economically backward and semicolonial China, the
peasantry constitutes more than seventy percent of the population; among the whole
population they occupy the principle position, and agriculture is still the basis of the
economy. Therefore, when we estimate the force of the revolution, we must emphasize
that the peasantry is the important part.,,(;2
In order to make the peasantry aware of the class relations within society, Li and
others within the CCP considered it was essential that the peasants be organized within
peasant organizations and that the peasantry ought to develop organizations which were
devoted entirely to organization in the rural sector; urban proletarian organizations could
not be expected to serve a multitude of class interests.63 In October 1925 a Party

proclamation had stated: "If [the peasants] want to get rid ofpoverty and oppression, ail
of [the peasants] have to organize groups, form peasant associations, and then let the

associations organize peasant self-defense corps. AIl existing associations in every
province and country were organized by the landlords and the gentry. Their interests are
directIy opposed to the interests ofthe real peasants. Unless the real peasants who till the
land organize their separate associations, peasant interests cannot he protected.'~ Li
believed that towards these ends, the CCP had an important role to play in this process.
Consider the fol1owing (written shortly afterwards in 1926):
The young revolutionary comrades ought to bring [the anned peasant groups] together by going to
the villages to help the peasants to improve their organizations and to resist the oppression from
which they suffer. Following rural organizational work tbey ought to direct their attention of raising
the cultural [Ievel] of the countryside. The comrades who go 10 the villages ought to know how to
utilize the period ofagricultural slack, especially the month ofthe New Year according to the old
calendar to spread ail kinds ofgeneral knowledge and revolutionary education. For this work to

produce the MOst effective results, it is necessary to prepare pietures simple songs. and magazines.

It is also necessary to organize the village schools and open supplementary classes for the peasants.6S

Li's writing's hear a striking similarity to an essay written by Mao in September

1926 titled, The National Revolution and The Peasant Movement. Mao too strong[y
advocated looking towards the countryside for support for the nationalist revolution. 66
Seeing the peasantry as absolutely critical for the nationalist revolution, Mao stressed, "if
the peasants do not rise up and jon and support the national revolution, the national
revolution cannot succeed." Clearly impressed by the Haifeng soviet, Mao advocated
that, "Ooly when every place throughout China becomes like Haifeng cao it be said that
the basis of imperialism and warlords bas truly been toppled; otherwise this will not be
the case. Thus we see that what is called the national revolutionary movement is, for the
MOst part, the peasant movement.,767
The writings of Li and Mao, and the practice in the Haifeng soviet, pointed to a
growing awareness of the revolutionary potential within the countryside. This was
reflected in a Party resolution which stresses that the peasants should he integrated within
the nationalist revolution. "[The Party] should expand and train peasant organizations and
lead the peasants to participate in the nationalist movement to overthrow imperialists and
warlords and to struggle for the Chnese revolution. We should show them the methods of
revolution and stages of the revolution... We should [also] pay more attention to the role

and significance of the united front ofall classes.,768

Li had identified that peasantry as an untapped revolutionary class; within a year
Mao would he writing bis famous report on peasant uprisings in Hunan. Indeed by the
end of 1927 the Chinese revolution would cease to be a solely urban movement and
would turn to the countryside and develop its revolutionary in the rural areas in the
decades to come. Yet all evidence suggests that this May have been possible even before
Chiang's April coup; clearly some individuals within the party (Li, Mao, Peng) had
identified that peasantry as a potentially revolutionary class wbich could be mobilized.
The obvious question is why then did the Chnese communists not look exclusively
towards the countryside?
The answer lies in the fact that the Chnese revolutionaries were still primarily
concerned with the discourses on the nationalist revolution. This in the end led to their
undoing. Ofcourse, by 1926 no one could afford to ignore the potential of the peasantry.
Even the ECCI thesis on the situation in China portrayed the peasantry as a progressive
social force. The thesis noted that at this stage in the national revolution, the agrarian
movement was of crucial importance. '''In the present situation in China the proletariat is
the only class that is in a position to carry on their radical agrarian policy which is a
condition for the successful outcome ofthe anti-imperialist struggle and the further
development ofthe revolution.'~9 The thesis also stated that the alliance between the
peasantry and the proletariat was essential for the revolution; the proletariat could not
achieve hegemony on their own.70 "The developing process of class differentiation in the
rural districts intensifies the struggle between the peasants and the exploiting class. This
class differentiation and the struggle resultant from il, require the closest attention on the
part ofthe Communist Party.,,71 The thesis also made some rather radical suggestions,
such as the arming ofthe peasantry and the granting of protection by the Canton
government. Yet after making these claims the thesis again got caught in the potential of
the nationalist revolution and the alliance with the OMO, claiming that it was only
through the OMO that the CCP could reach the peasants. Therefore, the Comintern
insisted that the CCP must continue to ally themselves with the OMD.

But there were factions within the CCP who wanted to end collaboration with the
Chiang Kaishek. Chen Duxiu, for one, appeared to he against further collaboration with

the GMD. n The presence ofRoy in China, and bis emphasis on the agrarian revolution~
must have further accentuated the impulses to withdraw from the alliance. ln an article
written on the Chnese revolution, Roy was very clear on the course the revoLution would
take: "The Chnese national-liberation movement will either continue to develop and
emerge victorious as a workers' and peasants' revoLution, or it will not win at aiL
Capitalism has become a reactionary force throughout the world. The bourgeoisie can not
lead the revolutionary struggle.,,73
But Roy did not put forward the proposition that the CCP should withdraw from the
alliance, his ooly display ofuncertainty being when Sun Chung Fang slaughtered
communist strikers in Shanghai, who went on strike in February 1927 anticipating a
Nationalist military advance into the city. Ofcourse, the Nationalist army, led by Chang
Kaishek stayed outside the city, and this appeared to have been a cause for concem for
Roy, though not one wbich he went to great deal of lengths to voice. 74
Thus, maintaining the alliance with the GMD was the Comintem's position on the
Chnese revoLution into 1927. An editorial in March 1927 in the Pravda noted that there
were different class interests in the Chnese revolution. "It would he a grave political
mistake and extreme wishfulness, which bas nothing in common with Marxism, to
helieve that the difference in the camp of the revolution are not inevitable. Various social
elements... participate in the Chnese revolutionary movement. These social groupings
have sorne common interests and sorne divergent interests." What was to be done then?
Nothing. The editorial concluded that the path to revolution was a difficult one, and there
was no room for pessimism. 7S
To he sure, the issue of continuing support of Chiang Kaishek was one which was
addressed in Moscow. But even though he May have been considered a rightist, Stalin
helieved that insofar as Chiang was fighting the imperialists he was of sorne value. Of
course, Stalin's appraisaL of the amount ofinfluence the leftist elements in the United
Front wielded in the United Front May have heen somewhat optimistic. "Why drive away
the Right when we have the majority and the when the Right listens to us? The peasant

needs an old wom out jade as long as she is necessary. He does not drive her away. So it
is with us. ,,76

AlI this changed with Chiang Kaishek's coup ofApril 12, 1927. But even Chiang's
brutal suppression ofcommunist demonstrators did not malee the Comintem realize that
any form ofalliance with the bourgeoisie (petty or otherwise) would deny the Communist
Party hegemony. After the repression, the Comintem looked towards leftist elements
within the Guomindang. Stalin, ofcourse, insisted that recent fiasco simply demonstrated
the correctness ofthe Comintem program in China. For Staln, the event marked the
desertion of the national bourgeoisie and the Guomindang rightists from the natiooalist
revolution. He simply noted that from now on, "in South China there will be two camps.
two governments, two annies, two centers.,,77 Even Comintern representatives, Roy and
Borodin agreed to support the "left Guomindang." Though the t\vo had major
disagreements in the period following April 12 on the direction the revolution should
take, there was never any disagreement on this issue. The Comintem merely isolated
Chiang Kaishek and the Kuomindang rightists, and continued to look for support
amoogst the petty bourgeoisie, since it was thought that these could still he led ioto the
proletarian revolution. '8 As Robert North notes, Roy believed that the Comintem's policy
of supporting the Guomindang had been correct throughout. The task of the Communist
International had been to mobilize all forces that could be used to oppose imperialism.
Roy felt that it was evident that all classes within the anti-imperialist alliances could not
possibly be part of a communist movement. The central point was that it was mandatory
to fmd as wide a base as possible whic~ in China, was provided by the Guomindang. 79

In this chapter we traced the development ofthe United Front alliance between the
Chinese CommUDst Party and the Guomindang. As 1demonstrated the emphasis on the
nationalist revolution and therefore the alliance with Sun Was based on Lenin's
understanding of the national and colonial situation in the colonies and semi-colonies. By
supporting all groups in society which were seen to he against imperialism, Lenin
believed that a world revolution could he achieved. But the United Front - both in its Bloc

Without and Bloc Within stages - subordinated the CCP to the GMD. While this alliance

May have been useful for the CCP initially, the discourses on the nationalist revolution

ground the party to a near halt till the emergence of populist movement.
While the growth of the populist movement May not have exactly caught the CCP
and the GMD off-guar~ it left both the CCP and the GMD scrambling to hamess this
potential. The death of Sun Yatsen and the ascendancy ofChiang Kaishek drastically
changed the United Front. The inevitable parting ofways took place after April 1927 ~
though there is reason to believe that the potential of the revolution in the countryside
May have been apparent as earlyas the beginning of 1927.
The Chinese Communist Party was aImost dragged into oblivion by a near-fanatical
emphasis on the nationalist revolution. In the following chapter which deals with grass
roots national consciousness, it is my purpose to demonstrate that national consciousness
continued to provided impetus to the Chinese communist revolution following 1927. But
it was characterized by its grass-roots orientation and not by elite bourgeoisie orthodoxy,
which at the end of the day, was concemed only with consolidating its own position.

1There are fundamental similarities between Lenin's understanding ofthe link between capitalism
and imperialism and the way in which Marx and Engels perceived the process of colonialism. For example.
in The Communist Manifesto, they too saw capitalism as a process which spanned the globe. '"The
discovery of Americ~ the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh markets for the bourgeoisie. The East
lndian and the Chinese markets, the colonization of Americ~ trade with the colonies, the increase in the
means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce [and] industry an impulse never
known before."1 They also note: "The need for a constandy expanding market for its products chases the
bourgeoisie over the whole surface ofthe globe. It must nesde everywhere, settle everywhere, establish
connections everywhere.... The bourgeoisie through its exploitation has given a cosmopolitan character to
production and consumption in every country:' Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "The Communist
Manifesto,n in David McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press,
2 v. 1. Lenin, "Imperialism: The Highest Stage ofCapitalism:' in Hentu M. Chrstman (ed.),
Essentlal Works ofLenin (New York: Dover University Press, 1966), pp. 236-37.
3 Gail Omvedt, Cultural Revoit in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahmin Movement in Western
India. 1873-1930 (Bombay: Scientific Socialist Education Trust, 1976). p. 17.
4 Robert C. North, Moscow and Chinese Communists (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1963), p.

s Omvedt, Cultural Revoit in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahmin Movement in Western India.
183-1930, p. 18.
6 Conrad Brandt, Sta/in's Fai/ure in China. 1924-1927 (New York: W. W. Norton and Company,

1958), p. 2.

7 Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy ofthe Chinese Revolution (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961),


a For example, white the Bolsheviks realized that "peasants" as a category incorporated a wide strata
of classes, the first step was to ally all peasants against the landlords. Following the overthrow of landlords
by the peasantry, the peasantry could he segregated and the landless peasants would he supported in the
struggle against the rich peasants.
9 Omvedt, Cultural RevoIt in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahmin Movement in Western lndia.

1873-/930, p. 19.
10 James W. Huise, The Founding ofthe Communist International (Stanford: Stanford University

Press, 1964), pp. 201-3.

Il An example from his days as a memberofa secret society recounted in Roy's India in Transition,

iIIustrates this point. He notes that in lndia in 1915, the conditions were ripe for launching an ail out
militant movement against the British, since the World War had depleted British military reserves in India
to a minimum. "AlI the available troops were sent out, and the new recruits, British as weil as native... were
incapable ofresisting a possible national upheaval. Ifthere had been a revolutionary national consciousness
anywhere outside the small middle class, that was the most opportune moment to strike a blow which
would have been morta! in all probability."
But the uprising never materialized because precisely at that moment the British decided to give
economic incentives to the lndian pettybourgeoisie, and given the choice between capitalizing on the
opportunity or ending British role in the Subcontinent, the Indian bourgeoisie chose the former. According
to Roy, "The potentiality ofthis discontent was reduced to aImost nothing when the capitalist class, the
backbone of nationalism, unexpectedly found opportunities for industrial development. The monopoly of
imperialist capital was made untenable by war conditions; the competition of manufaetured goods imported
from European countries, including England hersel( was removed. Indian industries suddenly entered
upon an era of spectacular growth. This economic revolution deprived the political movement of its most
powerful social foundation. The intelleetual and middle class found it more profitable to stand by the
govemment." M N. Roy. India in Transition (Bombay: Nachiketa Publications, (971), p. 211.
12 North, Moscow and Chinese Communists, p. 18; Huise, The Founding ofthe Communist
International, pp. 201 -3; A. Remikov, The Comintern and the East: Strategy and Tactics in the National
Liberation Movement (Moscow: Progressive Publishers, (978), p. 71.
13 Because ofhis unorthodox views, Roy came onder criticism during the Second Congress. Since
Roy had been using the example of India, and the revolutiooary movement there had been unable to
achieve a substantial foothold despite more than tweoty years ofmilitant activity, Roy seemed to have
something ofa credibility crises. The Commission of the Second Congress stated: "Comrade Roy is going
too far when he claims that the fate of the West depends exclusively 00 the extent of the development and
power of the revolutionary movement in the Eastern countries. Despite the fact that [odia has only five
million proletarians and 37 million landless peasants, Indian communists have not succeeded yet in
creating a communist party in the country and, if for no other reason, the views ofComrade Roy are
largely unjustified." Remikov, The Comintern and the East: Strategy and Tactics in the National
Liberation Movement, pp. 73-74.
14 "Thesis on the National and Colonial Question," (in), Comintern and the National and Colonial

Question: Documents ofCongress (New Delhi: Communist Party of [ndia, 1973), p. 37.
IS Ibid., p. 35.

16 Remikov, The Comintern and the East: Strategy and Tactics in the National Liberation

Movement, p. 67.
17 "Report from Comrade H, Maring to the Executive," (July Il, 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.), The

Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1996),
la Ibid..
19 M. N. Roy, Revolution and Counterrevolution in China (Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, (973),


20 "Report from Comrade H, Maring to the Executive," (July Il, 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.), The
Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 30.
21 Roy, Revolution and Counterrevolution in China, p. 373.


Ibid., pp. 368-69.
Ibid., p. 373.
24 On this issue Sun's position is somewhat contradictory, especially since he considered himselfa

Boishevik. See for example, the "Report from Comrade H, Maring to the Executive," (July II. 1922). in
Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 29.
2S "Letter from Chen Duxiu to G. Voitinsky," (April 6, 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise ta
Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents andAnalysis, p. 34.
26 Theoretically, this alliance was also based on a notion that was present at the time amongst CCP

members, in particular Chen and Zhang Guotao, that a democratic revolution would have to precede a
socialist one. ln fact, Chen's acceptance ofChen Jiongming (the leader of the GMO in Guangzhou) as
Chair of the Guangzhou Education Committee as early as the autumn of 1920. sugges15 that he was not
entirely opposed to the ideaofan alliance with the GMO. Members of the CCP rationalized this alliance as
the f1I'St step towards an anti-imperialist revolution. There were also practical consideration for the alliance;
the CCP, still in i15 inception, had had limited success till the time. Michael Y. L. L~ The Origins of
Chinese Bolshevism: An [dea/ogy in the Making, /920-/928 (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press. 1990),
pp. 65-66.
27 "lnstructions for the ECCI representative in South China by H. Maring," (August 1922), in Tony

Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communisl Party: Documents and Analysis. p. 54.
2S "The Immediate Tactics of the CCP, by Chen Duxiu," (December 1922), in Tony Saich (ed.), The
Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents andAnalysis, pp. 55-56.
29 "Joint Manifesto ofSun Vatsen and A. A. Joffe," (January 26, 1923), in Conrad Brandt, Benjamin
Schwartz, and John King Fairbank (eds.), A Documentary History ofChinese Communism (London:
George Allen and Unwin Ltd.), p. 70.
lO Ibid., pp. 70-71.
li Ibid., p. 70.

l! "Sun Yatsen's Comments on an Accusation Against the CP," (1923), in Conrad Brandt, Benjamin
Schwartz, and John K. Fairbank (ed.), A Documenlary Hislory ofChinese Communism, pp. 72-73.
Emphasis added.
II "Manifesto of the Third National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party," (June 1923), in

Conrad Brandt, Benjamin Schwartz, and John K. Fairbank (ed.), A Documentary History ofChinese
Communism, pp. 71-72.
l" .. Resolution Conceming Implementation ofthe Plans for the Nationalist Movement," (November
1923), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis.
lS Luk, The Origins ofChinese Bo/shevism: An [de%gy in the Makin& 1920-/928, pp. 70, 167.
l6 An event which made the Comintem adhere to an orthodox interpretation of Lenin's views on the
national question was the failure of the Comintem in Germany. While up tilll923 the Comintem's primary
objective had been to instigate proletarian revolutions in European countries, after the failure of the
proletarian revolution in Germany, the Comintem looked towards Asia with a fresh renewal of interest in
promoting the anti-imperialist movement. This continued to he carved in stone in the dogmatic
understanding of Lenin's thesis on the national and colonial question. It is also ironic that the Comintem
would malee the same mistakes in China as they had in Hamburg in 1923 where the workers had been
organized in a revoit but failed to received any subsequent support. Also note that following 1924 China
became the Most important theater ofthe Comintem's influence and that it was al50 an arena where the
conflict between Stalin and Trotsky was played out. [saacs, The Tragedy ofthe Chinese Revo/ution, pp. 42-
43; Richard C. Kagan, The Chinese Trots/cyist Movement and Ch 'en Tu-Hsiu: Culture, Revolution and
Polity (University of Pennsylvania: Unpublished PhD. dissertation, (970), pp. 5-6.
37 Luk, The Origins ofChinese Bo/shevism: An [de%gy in the Making, /920-/928, p. 182.
38 Ibid.

19"Resolution Conceming Implementation ofthe Plans for the Nationalist Revolution," (November
1923), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise ta Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis,

40 ~Letter from Zhang Guotao to G. Voitinsky and Musin," (November 16, 1923), in Tony Saich

(ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis. pp. 69-70.
41 Kagan, The Chinese Trotslcyist MOllement and Ch 'en Tu-Hsiu: Culture, Revolution and Polity.

42 Leon Trotsky, Problems ofthe Chinese Revolution (Aon Arbour: Center for Chinese Studies.

University of Michigan Press. 1967), p. 20.

4l Ibid., pp. 20-29.

44 Ibid., pp. 55, 62, 71, 153,206.

4S Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution (New York: Merit Publishers, 1967), p. 181.

46 Kagan, The Chinese Trotslcyist Movement and Ch 'en Tu-Hsiu: Culture, Revolution and Polity. pp.
47 Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, pp. 182, 277.
48 Robert C. North and Xenia J. Eudin. M. N. Roy's Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang

Split of 1927 (New York:: Octagon Books), p. 18.

49 Isaacs, The Tragedy ofthe Chinese Revolution, p. 65.

so Ibid.
SI Ibid.

S2 Ibid., p. 67.

Sl "Resolution conceming the Problem ofCP work: in the GMD," (May 1924), in Tony Saich (ed.),

The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, pp. 119-121.
54 "Resolution on the Question of the Labor Movement." in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power of

the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 123.

ss "Resolution on the Question ofOrganization," (Oetober 1925), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise ID
Power o/the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 158.
56 "Resolution on the National Revolutionary Movement," (January 1925), in Tony Saich (ed.), The

Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 133.
57 Martin C. Wilbur, The Nationalist Revolution in China, 1923-1928 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1983), pp. 63-64.
58 Ibid.

59 Maurice Meisner, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1967), pp. 234-37.
60 In 1924, Li commented on the October Revolution noting that the peasantry had played no raie in
the Bolshevik Revolution. despite the fact that they were exploited and fonned the majority of the nations
population. The way Li saw it: "[Their] one hope was to protect their rights ofownership, and they did not
look to political refonn. They hated the landlords and the officiais but they did not hate the emperor.
Therefore, the responsibility for the revolution... fell on the minority ofthe people." Meisner, Li Ta-Chao
and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, p. 238.
61 "Proclamation for the Peasantry:~ (October 10, 1925), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power of

the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, pp. 16366.

62 Meisner, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, p. 239.
63 Ibid.~ p. 239.
64 "Proclamation for the Peasantry," (October 10, 1925), in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise to Power of

the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis~ p. 165.

6S Meisner, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChinese Marxism, p. 240.
66 Mao wrote, "[a] large number of comrades must immediately summon up their resolve, and go to
undertake the grandiose task of organizing the peasants. They must resolve immediately to begin studying
the peasant problem. They must go ioto the countryside with which they May or May not be familiar, in the
blazing heat ofthe summer sun and the bitter cold of the winter snow storms, to grasp the hand of the
peasants and ask them about their suffering.. From their suffering and their needs, they must lead the

peasants in organizing.... lead them to participate in the anti-imperialist. anti-warlord national revolutionary
movement." Mao's Road to Power: Revo/utionary Writings, 1912-1949, Vol. 2, Stuart Schram and Nancy
Hodes (eds.), (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1994), pp. 389-90.


Ibid., pp. 387-389.
"Resolution on the Peasant Movement in Guangdong," (July 1926), Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to
Power ofthe Chinese Communisl Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, p. 188.
But not all members ofthe CCP saw the peasantry as having the revolutionary potentia[ that Li
foresaw. Meisner has suggested tbat certain individuals within the Party, 50ch as Chen, May have continued
to cling ta the orthodox Marxist view regarding the backwardness ofthe peasantry and ooly tumed to the
Peasantry when it became clear tbat they were a tremendous revo[utionary force. Meisoer, Li Ta-Chao and
the Origins ofChinese Marxism., p. 145.
69 "Thesis on the Situation in China by the Seventh Extraordinary Plenum of the Executive

Committee of the Communist International,'" (November 22- December 16, 1926), in Robert C. North and
Xenia J. Eudin. M. N. Roy's Mission 10 China: The Communist-KuominlangSplit of 1927. p. 137.
70 Ibid., p. 138.

71 Ibid., p. 129.

n Robert C. North and Xenia J. Eudin.., MN.. Roy's MISsion to China: The Communist-Kuomintang
Split of 1927, pp. 25-26.
7J "The Significance ofthe Chinese Revolution by M. N. Roy," in Robert C. North and Xenia J.
Eudin, M N. Roy's Mission 10 China: The Communisl-Kuomintang Splil of 1927, p. 149.
74 Robert C. North and Xenia J. Eud~ M. N. Roy's Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang
Split of 1927, p. 52.
75 Ibid., p. 55.
76 Ibid., p.57.
77 Ibid., p. 65.

7S A number ofdeclaration by the CCP and the Comintem malee this point. For examples see North

and Eudin (ed.). M N. Roy's Mission 10 China: The Communist-Kuomintang Split of 1927. [n fact almost
ail documents dating after the coup end with the slogan, "Down with Chiang Kaishek, Representative of
the feudal bourgeois reaction and instrument of imperialism," and a[so cali for his arrest.
79 Ibid., p 127.

Chapter Three

The New Orientation, 1927-1928:

The Nationalist Revolution and the PeasanUy

This chapter attempts to examine the relationship between national consciousness and the
communist program from the split with the Guomindang in 1927 to the beginning of
Japanese intervention in North China by late 1928. Though the chapter focuses on only
two years, this period saw the evolution of a type of national consciousness which would
develop into a more overt part of the communist program in the duration of the Chnese
In this perio<L national conseiousness manifested itself in two area, the. first of
which was the integration of the PeaSaIltry in the nationalist revolution by the Chnese
Communist Party. In the previous chapter we saw that by 1926 there was a growing
realization by certain individuals within the Party that the peasantry must he integrated
within the nationalist revolution. With Chiang Kaishek's coup of April 1927,
collaboration with the bourgeoisie came to an end. This meant that the Party had to
address the vital issue ofideology and integration into PeaSaIlt societies (In this chapter, 1
refer to this as the nationalization of Marxism). The emphasis on guerrilla warfare, the
creation of soviets, and the fundamental debates on land reform, were illustrative of a
desire to incorporate ideology witbin specifie circumstances. The role of radicalism and
violence in this process, and how it was characteristic ofa specifie approach to change in
peasant societies, was a1so addressed. Very different from its bourgeois counterpart, a
fundamental eharaeteristie ofthe integration of the peasantryin the nationalist revolution,
was a new emphasis on class struggle. This emphasis grew out of the radicalization of the
party program in the second halfof 1927. In particular, it was at the end of the Autumn
Harvest Uprising when we see a drastie change in the Party program.
Second was the role of growing Japanese intervention in North China and the

imminent threat ofa eonfliet in the Pacifie between the imperialist POwers. Very similar
to the threats that were addressed in early Party documents in 1921 and 1922. there was a

growing fear that China's territorial integrity was tbreatened as a consequence of global
capitalism. This fear became accentuated with Japanese aggression in China and South
East Asia, and the onsetofthe Second World War.
Growing concem with China's territorial precariousness, while prompted by the
Japanese invasion, was closely linked to the concem of integrating the peasantry within
the nationalist revolution. My purpose is not to examine the invasion in any great detail~
but to highlight a cruciallink between the two forms of national consciousness. Even
after the Japanese invasion, there was no hope for collaboration with the GMD; rather
individuals within the Chnese Communist Party saw this as an opportunity to conduct
anti-GMD propaganda, and continue with the nationalist revolution under the alliance of
the workers and the peasants.


Though the Guomindang betrayed the United Fron~ the Chnese revolution was still
considered a nationalist revolution1 since the two primary objectives of the nationalist
revolution were yet to he fulfilled - the abolishment of warlordism and the up-rooting of
foreign capital. But a drastic change in orientation occuned as the Party Looked more and
more towards the countryside and the revolutionary potential ofthe peasantry. Because
the bourgeoisie had been replaced by a new vanguard, the peasantry, it foUowed that
there had to be fundamental differences in how the objectives ofthe nationalist revoLution
were to be attained.
Shifting the base of the revolution entirely to the countryside created its own
contradictions. As Arif Dirlik bas argued, a major underlying contradiction at the time
was the reconciliation of Marxist stipulations about revolutionary consciousness and the
social and Chnese consciousness as manifested in PeasaIlt Iife.2 But it is to the credit of
the Chnese revolutionaries, that they did not see contradiction as a deterring factor.
Fundamental to Mao's understanding of the applicability ofany theory was that it had to
be relevant to a given circumstance.

According to Mao, the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge stressed that

practice was the primary consideration of any theory.3 In the case of Marxism-Leninism

and its applicability to China, it was understood that ideology was not a hard science
which could be applied in a literai manner. The ooly possible use of ideology was the
process of adaptation. "Knowledge begins with practice," he observe~ an~
"[K.nowledge] must he redirected to the process ofchanging the world... in the practice of
revolutionary class struggle and revolutionary national struggle." Knowledge was not
merely an abstraction, but had to he applied to social practice.4
Mao's brilliance as a Marxist theoretician (albeit in a very unorthodox sense) was
his acknowledgment that contradiction was not ooly present in all relationships~ but that
contradiction was fundamental for forward movement. As he himself noted: "The
fundamental cause of the development ofa thing is oot external but internal; it lies in the
contradictions within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing,
hence its motion and developmeot."s The dialectical relationship between Marxist theory
and Chnese social circumstances constituted such a fundamental contradiction, a facet of
which was the integration of the peasantry in the nationalist revolution.
In the specific agrarian context of Maoist ideology, Dirlik has identified class and
class consciousness as the mainstays ofChnese nationalism.6 An important reason for
this was that United Fron~ conceived as an alliance ofclasses with similar interests, had
failed to achieve its objectives, since the individual class interests of the bourgeoisie
betrayed the alliance. After the United Fron~ the Chnese revolution was based solely on
the workers and the proletaria~ and even the Party's understanding of these became
polarized with the growing attacks on the rich Peasantry. With the shift to the
countryside, and the integration of the workers and the peasants in the nationalist
revolution, the emphasis on class struggle not ooly became accentuated, but was a central
issue in the debates on land distribution and agrarian revolution.
These ideas began emerging in the period between April and November 1927. This
was an extremely important phase in the development of Chnese communism - despite
the fact that Many members of the CCP continued to cling to the idea of an alliance with
the GMD Left till weIl iota 1927, in reality, the April coup marked the termination of the

alliance with the Guomindang. By November of the same year we see the origins of a

Party program which contained the seeds ofthe policy ofconsolidating the revolutionary
movement in the countryside.
In the previous chapter 1 suggested that it was largely the obsession with the
nationalist stage of the revolution which left the CCP unable to concentrate on grass-roots
level organization and class struggle. Consider the foUowing:
The Party's leading cadres, in theory and especially in practice, had [ditferent] viewpoints in
evaluating the strength ofthe various classes in the Chinese revolution. This caused the wavering
and hesitant opportunism of the Party leadership. In the mensbevik manner the CC separated the
nationa/ist liberation movement and the c/ass strugg/e as conj1icling e/ements. and seemed to think
that the development ofthe c/ass srruggle would he detrimenta! to the national revolution. The CC
wanted the Party, the working class, and peasantry to (imit their class demands and refrain from
staging revolutionary struggles against the Chinese bourgeoisie and the landlords.... The CC seemed
[0 imply that the emphasis on attacking feudalism had led to unfavorable consequences. The CC
upbraided the CP members for going too far and instrueted the revolutionary peasantry led by our
Party to retreaL 7

By suggesting that the Party had heen incorrect in separating the nationalist revolution
and class struggle, the implication was that the two did not belong to a different
revolutionary stage - that is, class struggle was not to he followed after the nationalist
revolution - but was to he part of the same process. The document does not define what
exactly is implied by class struggle, but one possible interpretation is the workers and
peasants movements which had heen becoming increasingly mobilized following 1925. A
key component of the nationalist revolution prior to 1927 was the supposedly progressive
role the bourgeoisie was to play in attempting to eradicate the warlords and the
imperiaiists. Seen from such a persPective, this represents a shift not ooly in the Party's
understanding of the nationalist revolution, but aIso a much more fundamental and
important change in the Party's understanding of the role of the workers and the
peasantry within the nationalist revolutionary stage.
The shift to the countryside did not take place immediately. Following the coup,
sorne people within the CCP still tlirted with the idea of collaboration with the GMD
leftists, 8 since Chiang Kaishek and ms followers were seen to represent only a renegade
faction of the Nationalist Party. But the July 15 decision by the GMD that they was no
longer going to cooperate with the CCP must have sent a loud and clear message to the

communists: while they may theorize about an alliance with the GMO, from this point
onwards the CCP would have to devise and follow their own program.

Beating a hasty retreat after the failed Nanchang uprising, members of the CCP
convened at Ruijin, where they tumed their attention to the development ofa grass roots
Party program. But disagreements on fundamental issues between the Party members
became increasingly apparent. In a movement that was drawing support from the
peasantry, the question of land distribution was a central concerne Yet there were serious
differences on this issue. This had also been a cause for disagreement in July when
certain members, such as Li Lisan and Yun Daiying, had advocated the confiscation of
the land of the landowners, while others, such as Tan Pingshan, had argued that this
would turn the landowners against the communists. The latter's policy, ofcourse, would
not carry an agrarian revolution very far, and it was agreed that if a landlord possessed
more than 200 mu (30.3 acres) it was to he confiscated. This had caused discontent
amongst Guangdong peasants, who argued that because of the smaliland holdings of the
landlords in Guangdong, few landlords would get their lands confiscated. With discontent
amongst the peasants being a potentially disastrous scenario for the Party, it was hastily
decided at Ruijin that land was to be expropriated, but no limit was set. One major source
of concem was that through the expropriation of land, the party would end up isolating
GMD land owners who May otherwise be sympathetic towards the Party.9
Thus far it became obvious that the CCP was trying to win peasant support without
antagonizing the land owners to a degree that they may openly support Chiang Kaishek.
There were clear historical parallels to the previous alliance under the United Front where
it was assumed that the proletariat could be counted on for its support, and yet the large
landlords would not he forced to take a stand against the Party. Yet while the revolution
still continued to be classified as a bourgeois-democratic revolution, and would continue
to he for sorne time, the equation had clearly changed and the CCP could no longer walk
a fine line as it had done under the umbreUa ofthe United Front. It was largely this
realization that prompted the Communists to convene on August 7 to try and come up
with a coherent revolutionary program.
The documents ofthis meeting are contradictory in their analysis of the historical

trajectory of the CCP. The Most obvious discrepancy is on the raie of the Communist
International in the April debacle. In an acceptance ofblame that is historically absurd,

the CCP took the faIl for the break with the OMO by not foUowing the Comintem' s
But it is very significant that there was a1so resistance to the crs policies in China:
this was an extremely important development since it signified a break with the previous
policies. Qu Qiubai, for one, a1so took a strong stand against continuing the alliance with
the GMD. Basing his observations on the fact that there was no such thing as
revolutionary stages, and this preoccupation had ooly resulted in the ill-fated cooperation
with the OMO, the purpose now was to smash the GMD. 'The Chnese bourgeoisie has
no democratic essence. Now we have only two choices; either we eliminate the GMD, or
they destroy us." Clearly the policy ofappeasement would no longer work. '-We can no
longer expect to gain power by making concessions. We can win it only through
revolution.... Before JuIy 15 when we participated in the govemment, we could create
conditions from the top to help develop our work at the grass roots level. Now, because
the whole country is controlled by reactionaries, our most important task is to create a
new force from the rural revolution."ll
Now since the peasantry was given a central role in the nationalist revolution, the
CCP was faced with their earlier dilemma; oUght the Party go for an all out armed
revolutionary struggle, or should it attempt ta appease the landlords while attempting a
degree of reform? A circular letter sent out in August 1927 posed the question as follows:
'''Under the circumstances, cao [the CCP] accept the policy ofthe petty bourgeoisie? Ifwe
did, we would destroy our own stren~ forfeit the leadership ofthe proletariat, and
surrender to Chiang Kaishek and it would Mean a capitalist future." But on the other hand
the other alternative a1so had potentially grim consequences. "Can we then insist on the
confiscation of land and the arming of the workers and peasants? The result of such
insistence would he an immediate split [with the GMO leftists], leading to the immediate
destruction ofthe revolutionary bases.,,12 While there was a concem that a break with the
GMD leftists could destroy the revolutionary base, Qu and Mao advocated a more radical
program, which for them amounted to the break with the GMO and an emphasis on the

agrarian revolution. 13

The CCP's reevaluation ofthe revolutionary potential ofthe peasantry made the
Party leadership look to an agrarian movement, and plans were drawn up for the Autumn
Harvest Uprisings which would begin in September. The Party leadership helieved that in
the very least, the countryside could he instrumental in destabilizing the authority of
Chiang Kaishek, and could even ultimately lead to the establishment of revolutionary
governments in Hunan and Guangdong. Later Jiangxi and Hubei were also included as
places where the uprisings could take place, though in the end the insurrection was only
attempted in Hubei and Hunan. '4 The Autumn Harvest Uprising was particularly
important for our case, because while it started out as program with limited radical goals,
by the end there was a drastic change in Party policy with a strong emphasis on class
From the outset, the objectives of the uprisings appeared radical enough: the seizure
of not just entire villages, but entire counties, in which a peasant organization, under the
auspices of the revolutionary govemment, would establish control. It was aIso the
objective of the uprising to organize the workers and peasants in a series ofuprisings
against counterrevolutionaries (though how this was ta he done - like the actual military
planning of the Autumn Harvest Uprising - was ambiguous).The revolutionary centers
would abolish rent for communal property - temples, clan halls, and public fields, and
would establish a fixed rent on property rented out by a peasant. Yet this is where Party
radicalism cornes to an end: the Party resolution clearly stated that the land of the middle
peasantry was not to he confiscated. Note that the CCP was hoping that they May still be
able to win the support of the GMO leftists, and for this purpose there May have been a
conscious decision to ensure that they carry out a policy ofagrarian refonn and appease
landlords whom they thought could he won to their side. [5
But Mao Zedong, who was in Hunan, advocated a more radical program of action.
Observing that conditions have been ripe for a revolution in China since 1917, he saw
this as an opportunity to hegin a revolutionary seizure of power. While this may have
been in keeping with the CCP's aspirations at the time, bis advocating of a radical land

refonn policy was met with resistance in the Party. Instead ofconfiscating the land ofjust
the large landlords, Mao advocated the: "Confiscation ofall the land, including that of

smalliandlords and owner-peasants, take it ail into public ownership, and let the peasant
associations distribute it fairiy to ail those in the village in accordance with the two
criteria of"Iabor power" and 'consumption'~(in other words, the actual amoont of
consumption for every household~ calculated on the basis ofthe number ofadults and
children in the household). "16
In a prompt reply, the central leadership declared that China had not reached a 1917
level of revolutionary consciousness and the Party should continue to work onder the
banner of the GMD leftists. They believed that at this point the Party should not try to
establish soviets, and also disagreed with Mao~s poliey of confiscating the land of ail
landlords and peasants, and reiterated that their POlicy was to ensure that the small
landlords only agree to rent reduction. In their opinion, the policy ofconfiscation of all
land was premature, since China had not reached the requisite revolutionary stage. In
making these criticisms the Party central accused Mao ot: 'military adventure by
depending on the military for insurrection. "17 It was clear that despite the setbacks earlier
the same year, the CCP was still harboring hopes that they May yet attain the support of a
certain faction within the Guomindang. This is evident from a section of the reply which
noted: "[u]nder the name ofthe [leftist] KMT we should help the democratic political
power of the worker and the peasants but oot, as was previously the case, have the
workers and peasants help the KMT.... You assume that the present Chnese revolutioo
has already advanced to the third stage, that you cao abandon the KMT banner, and
realize soviet political power, and that China has objectiveiy reached 1917. This is not
But significantly enough, by the time the uprisings were actually initiated, the Party
stance had become a lot more radicalized. The Party now suggested that the '-unrelenting"
nature of the revolution was to he not only '~oroughgoing," but was a1so to confiscate
all private property. Moreover they suggested that in the process ofthe agrarian
revolution, the local bullies, bad gentry, and reactionaries were to he killed. Also, their
property was to be confiscated and tumed over to the peasant associations. If there was

any resistance to the Party policies, this resistance was to be annihilated. 19

In the end the Autumn Harvest Uprisings failed to achieve their objectives~ with the
main shortcoming being the lack of planning that was put into the military preparation. 20
In fac4 the actual military planning was an asPeCt ofthe uprising that was completely
rnisunderstood~with peasant bands being no match for the weIl trained armies of the
landlords. This illustrated an important point; while theorizing about agrarian revolution
was certainly necessary, it was oot merely enough to assume that the revolutionary
potential in the countryside would he adequate to resist the forces of the reactionaries.
Following the failure of the urban uprising in Nanchang~ the Party May have
automatically shifted their attention the peasantry as the vanguard ofthe Chnese
revolutioo. But ifa eommunist program was to be instrumental io solving China's
predicaments~ then it had to he integrated ioto that specific social cootext. The Autumn
Harvest Uprisings were a demonstration that it was not enough to merely stage uprisings
in the name of agrarian revolution without trying to work within specifie conditions.
Tbese lessons were oot 1051 on the CCP. There were serious ret1ection on the
understanding of the agrarian revolution on two fronts. On a more objective level, it was
acknowledged that there had been a shortage of money and power~ and that the program
to launch the revoit aIl over the province had been ambitious. But a particularly important
realization was that the Party had not been cooeemed with understanding the conditions
of the peasantry, and thereby failed in arousing the iotere51 of the peasantry io the rural
revolution. 21
The critique of the Party program continued at the November Plenum, presided by
Qu, with a number ofkey points being iotegrated ioto the communist program. For one,
the CCP dropped any bope of further collaboration with the OMO leftists. "The present
meeting agrees entirely with the CC's September resolution on canceliog the plan for
organizing a GMD-left and raisiog the slogan for the establishment of the soviet... The
failure of the GMD-left demonstrates that the GMD bas degenerated ioto a party of white
terror and that the ooly way out for true revolutionaries is to unite under the banner of the

But more important was the realization that following a break with the GMD, the
CCP could no longer follow the moderate revolutionary program; the present condition

called for a direct revolution. Moreover, it was also acknowledged that the revolutionary
process would not he a brief one, but one which would take a substantial amount oftime.
Very similar to what Trotsky described a permanent revolution, in which the stages could
be telescoped, the CCP used the Marxist terminology of4~continuous revolution." [t was
understood that from this point onward there was to be no clear distinction of the
bourgeois democratic stage. This was partIy because the Chnese bourgeoisie had been
incapable of fulfiUing their historic role of overthrowing the feudal and imperialist
elements. Secondly, it was also acknowledged that the Chnese bourgeois was so divided
that they were never he able to agree on a single program. While the CCP acknowledged
that the Party had not finished its role of a democratic revolution - presumably the
overthrow of feudalism and imperialism - it would have to develop into a socialist
revolution in order to survive. 23

The Origins ofan Agrarian Revolutionary Policy

The desire to integrate the peasantry in the nationalist revolution was most visible in the
program to create soviets of peasant societies, and the emphasis on guerrilla warfare as a
mode of resistance catering to the realities of peasant societies. But what underlay this
trend, especially when seen in confrontation with previous Party policy, was the centrality
of class and class consciousness.
Clearly there were practical considerations being drawn from the lessons leamed
during the Autumn Harvest Uprisings - part ofthe reason for the deveLopment of the
policy on guerrilla warfare was to ensure that the armed uprisings did not become
military adventurism. Instead of launching bold military ventures, the Party suggested
that small scale uprisings he initiated,24 the consolidation of which could he manipulated
to achieve more ambitious military ventures. Similar to the tactics the Red Army would
soon be implementing, the Plenum dictated that: 44We should strike when the enemy is
unprepared, seize its arms, execute the gentry and landlords, and destroy all kinds of
reactionary govemment organs." Yet through this entire process, the Party stressed that it

should not Loose sight of its objectives. 441t would he military opportunism if, after a
peasant uprising, we concentrated only on attacking county seats and forgot that the

fundamental task for the rural revolution is to mobilize more people~ to distribute land to
the masses~ and to help establish a govemment.'~2S
Another important idea that was being developed at the time was that revolts must
be localized. As a Comintern resolution observed:
It is not necessary that guerrilla warfare should tom into local revolts. Only when, during the
process of the struggle, the vast peasant masses are mobilized, when there arises a genuine demand
on the part of the masses for a political regime oftheir own, and when the reactionary forces in the
area are actually tottering, can guerrilla warfare develop into local revolts. Therefore. when the
guerrilla forces have brought a large area onder their control, have secured the participation of a
large number of people... the party must consider carefully its objective conditions and subjective
strength and proceed with the revoit weIl prepared, weIl organized, weil planned. 26

But probably the MOst important decision that was reached at the Plenum was the
decision to establish rural societies. Just two month earlier the CCP had insisted that the
Chnese revolution had not reached a stage where it was feasihle to establish soviets.
Therefore, this marked a tremendous change in their appraisal of the revolutionary
struggle. Now that the bourgeoisie were relegated to the counterrevolutionary camp~ ail
power was seen to reside in the alliance of workers, peasants, soldiers, and artisans. The
manifestation of this power was the soviet. It was clearly stated that the soviet was not to
be organized until the revolutionary fervor is at its peak; at the same time the Plenum
observed that the present time was ideal for the creation of soviets, thereby implying that
the Chnese revolution had reached a stage where such an endeavor could be undertaken.
Representing the locus ofrevolutionary power, the soviets were to adopt a poHcy of "self-
determination, confiscate land, eliminate landlords and scabs, destroy all the old Chnese
social orders, apply guerrilla warfare tactics~ disarm the enemy troops, and found a
worker-peasant revolutionary army." A central purpose of the soviet was to give the
workers and peasants a say in the decision making process oftheir own communities.
There was also a desire to implement more homane conditions for the workers. These
included an eight hour work day, a sharp rise in wages, one day of rest per week~ a social
security system, and supervision over production.27
The policy on the creation of soviets was not planned at one given point in tme.
N evertheless there were some constants, namely the idea that the land ought to belong to

the tiller, and that the individuals should have a say in the governing ofa territory and the
distribution ofresources. For this purpose, the criteria was the working capacity ofthe

individuals and the number of mouths to he fecl, regardless ofsex or age. Put another
way, the policy hehind the soviets was one of draw-on-the-plentiful-to-make-up-for-the-
scarce and draw-on-the-fat-to-make-up-for-the-lean. 28 In short, the soviet was to achieve
the utter destruction of the present social and existing order, thereby increasing the ccp' s
strength, by bringing about a change in the peasants lifestyles. 29
This points to a particularly important trend, namely the intensification ofclass and
class struggle - in fact, the move towards establishing soviets was itself a part of
intensifying c1ass struggle. 30 During the Sixth National Party Congress it was a1so
acknowledged that the rich peasantry too was opposed to a communist revolution.. and in
doing so, they would throw in their lot with the reactionaries. This realization was based
on the fact that previously the attitude ofthe rich peasants bad often been defeatist,
neutraI, or hostile. In production they employed capitalist, precapitalist, and semifeudal
modes of exploitation. By doing so they were no ditIerent than the landlords since they
too, "usually engage in exploiting hired laborers in agricultural, as weIl as industrial and
commercial enterprises; or at the same time they rent out a part of their land to exploit the
tenants in the usual cruel manner." At the present moment, the main task of the Party was
ta neutraIize the rich peasantry, thereby eliminating the strength of the enemy.
Furthermore, it was decided that "no concessions should he made to rich peasants.,,31 The
Party's policy oftargeting notjust the warlords and large land owners, but the rich
peasantry as weIl was indicative of the growing radicalization of the Party program. The
CCP now aIso called for a "ruthless elimjnation" of the ~~gentry, landlords, scabs, and ail
reactionaries. "32
Given the fact that the national bourgeoisie had betrayed the United Fron~ the

leadership of the revolution in its bourgeoisie democratic phase had shifted to the
proletariat and the Peasants. For this purpose aliland was to he taken from the landlords.
Again, this marked a sharp change in policy from that of August 1927.33 There was aIse a
conscious decision to concentrate once again on propaganda work..34 The role of the Party
at the present moment was to exploit the contlicts hetween workers and capitaIists in the

factories, peasants and landlords in the countryside and soldiers and officers in the
military. "However small these clashes may he, they should he exploited to agitate and

penetrate deeper into these class conflicts in order to win the vast masses of workers and
peasants on our side. The Party must exploit all the imperialists' brutal deeds in China
and ail slaughter and suppression of the masses by the reactionaries.,,35
In practice, tbis was most obvious in the Haifeng soviet onder Peng Pai, wbere the
leadership placed a great deal of emphasis on the elimination of counterrevolutionaries.
As Peng stated: ''The Party must strive to make the peasants deal severely with, and kill
without compunction, alilocal bullies, evil gentry, and counterrevolutionaries." In
another speech, Peng is reported to have said:
On retuming home each representative must kill al least 10 counterrevolutionaries and he must
lead peasants and workers to kill 10 more to a total of20 per representative: with 300
representatives, the fmal count will he 6,000. But that is not enough since more will still he left
bebind.... We must kill! kill! k.i1I!, until the harbor in the Swabue and in the bay of Ma Kung tums
red, and the cloths ofeach brother are tainted with the blood ofcounterrevolutionaries...36

Similarly, sorne popular slogans in the Soviet were: "Those who owe rents or debts
should repay them with the knife;" '~ose with guts and daring are invited to enjoy the
New Year;" and, "With guns and canon, the Ne\v Year is a grand and marvelous time.,'37
This radicalization is an extremely important aspect of the agrarian revolution in that it
demonstrates a radical break with a bourgeois hegemony ofthe nationalist revolution.
In bis famous report from Hunan province in 1926 Mao Zedong had similarly
endorsed peasant militancy, despite remarks ofhow "terrible" the outbreaks ofviolence
had been, even by "revolutionary-minded" people. Mao was of the opinion that the
patriarchal feudaI social order had been the corner-stone of imperialism, warlordism, and
corrupt officialdom. According to him, the objective of the revolution was to overthrow
these very feudaI forces. Furthermore, "[t]he peasants have accomplished what Dr. Sun
Yat-sen wanted, but failed, to accomplis~ in the forty years he devoted to the national
revolution. This is a marvelous feat never before achieved, not just in forty, but in
thousands of years. It is fine. "38 In the years up till the Japanese invasion in 193 1, the
Party would fully endorse peasant militancy, and coupled with guerrilla warfare, would
be seen as instrumental in establishing communist control.
But the role of militancy was not confined just to the strategie purposes of achieving

power; it came to be cbaracteristic ofpeasant participation in the national revolution. In

bis study on anti-colonial violence in Algeria, Frantz Fanon bas demonstrated the

centrality of violence in grass roots movements which May offer some relevant insights
into our inquiry on violence in peasant movements. For one, not ooly was violence a
radical departure from the bourgeois policy of Moderation and collaboration, but was
representative of the very essence ofproletarian struggle for emancipation. As Fanon
observed: "You do not tum any society, however primitive it May he, upside down with
such a program if you have not decided from the very heginning... to overcome ail the
obstacles that you will come across in so doing. The native who decides to put the
program into practice... is ready for violence at all times... It is clear that this narrow
world can ooly he called into question by absolute violence."39
Fanon also suggested that the peasantry is the MOst revolutionary class. Often
considered the MOst backward and least class conscious group in society, (both by
Marxists and others), the peasantry had nothing to loose and everything to gain in the
struggle for better living conditions. "The starving peasant, outside the class system~ is
the first amongst the exploited to discover that ooly violence pays. For him there is no
compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization are simply a
question ofrelative strength. The exploited sees that liberation implies the use of ail
means, and that of force first and foremost.'"ao An important implication here was that
unlike the bourgeoisie, ideology played little role in and of itself. In China too,
communist practice in the rural areas had an appeal amongst the peasantry because the
Party was initiating a policy of land distribution and reform"u This was precisely the case
in the Haifeng soviet where there was more support for the local peasant association
rather than the communist party.42 For the Peasantry to support the communist movement
in China, the CCP had to bring about a significant change in the rural societies. This
perhaps explains the peasantry's indifference towards the retreating communist forces
fol1owing the Nanchang uprising, where the CCP received little or no support from the
peasants along the way. Therefore the radicalization of the Party platform, through land
distribution, was not just a means of targeting the enemy; it was a1so the process through
which the peasantry was won over by the CCP in the small but emerging soviets at the

Increasing Nationalist Concerns: Japanese Intervention in North China

Between the April 1927 coup and the July 1928 there was little mention of foreign
imperialism in Party discourses, a reason probably being the Party's more immediate
concems with stabilizing the CCP's own position after the break with the nationalist
bourgeoisie. But the role of imperialist powers in pillaging the nation was brought up
again during the Sixth Party Conference. The resolution stressed the need for
overthrowing foreign capital in China and confiscating the banks and enterprises ofthe
imperialists. While doing so China's role in the world proletarian revolution was
emphasized, and demands were also made that the principle of self-determination be
recognized and applied to China Because ofthis realizatio~ the CCP found itself once
again reasserting its historic role in the world revolutionary struggle against Western
capital, allying itselfwith the Soviet Union and the proletariat of the world, and paying
lip service to the almighty Stalin and Bukharin. However, a very significant difference at
this point was the stress on the workers' and peasants' alliance. Unlike documents from
1921 and 1922 concerning Western capital, which made little mention of the urban
proletariat and almost no mention ofthe peasantry, there was a drastic shift in that it was
DOW acknowledged that it was only the workers and peasants which could carry the
nationalist revolution through, and thereby, counter the threat of the imperialists.
The growing concern with the sovereignty ofthe state worked itself in Many
discourses; identical ta the Party's understanding in the early twenties, warlords were
seen ta be means through which foreign influence was exerted on the nation. Given the
increasing factionalism between the warlords, the CC was compelled to note that the
situation in China was no difIerent from what it had been before. 43 As Mao Zedong
commented: "The contradictions and struggles amongst the cliques ofwarlords in China
reflect the contradictions and struggles among the imperialist powers. Hence, as long as
China was divided among the imperialist powers, the various cliques of warlords cannat
under any circumstances come ta terms, and whatever compromises they reach will he
temporary. A temporary compromise today engenders a bigger war tomorrow.,,..4
At the time these ideas became accentuated because of a reemerging nationalist

concem with the nation's sovereignty as result ofincreasing activity of Japan in North
China, and the dispatching of Japanese troops to Jinan. The Party feared that this

signified the partition ofChina amongst the imperialists. They also anticipated an
imperialist war in the Pacific in which China would become the battleground~and that
part of the reason for the contlict would he the control and exploitation of the Chinese
markets~ labor, and spheres of influence amongst the imperialist powers. Regardless of
how the actual contlict unfolded~ imperialist powers would he opposed to the Chinese
revolution. "Although there are extremely great conflicts within the imperialist camp such
as that between Japan and the United States, the imperialists are still stronger than the
Chnese revolution and are forming again an alliance to oppose the revolutionary United
Front in China. Whenever their political and economic rule is slightly endangered., they
will jointly oppose the Chnese revolution.~"'s As a consequence ofJapanese aggression in
the North, and the GMD's inability to counter the offensive, the central committee saw
the Japanese invasion as '~a hundred percent victor in Manchuria and Shantung.,,46
To avert this increasingly bleak scenario, China was in urgent need of a nationalist
revolution under a worker-peasant alliance. The most immediate concem of the
nationalist revolution was the overthrow of the imperialists and their warlord "tools" in
Chin~ thereby ending the threat to its actual geographic integrity. 47 Given the fact that

Japanese aggression and butchery in Manchuria and Shantung was intensifying by the
day, the Party decided that it ought to pay attention to anti-GMD propaganda work.
The main line is to penetrate the masses by employing the strategy ofthe workers' united front. [n
the course of this movement we should constantly enhance anti-~tT consciousness and action but
our method is the zigzag one, not a simple one, once started, for the overthrow of the KMT only to
scare away the masses, for it the anti-imperialist movement ofthe masses can arise on its own, it will
necessary move into an anti-KMT direction... We should conduct independent political propaganda
and criticisms ceaseless pointing out the way to the masses. The more we penetrate the masses, the
more we can win the masses and build the party on the mass basis.48

The document then lists a nomber ofdemands. These include: the confiscation of
foreign enterprises, the establishment of workers, peasants, and women's rights, the
establishment of an elected Nationalist government. But it is interesting to note that these
demands were consciously used as slogans for spurring the masses, and were not
regarded as a PQlitical program. In doing so they were seen to he the means of reviving
the urban movement. ''Under this kind ofdemand the people cao arise and fight to expand

the organizational basis ofthe masses and their fighting strength, and increase even more

positively their anti-KMT coosciousness as weU as their determination and consciousness
to oppose the KMT.,,49
The nationalist impulse, aside from arising out of a growing concem with China"s
plight at the hands of imperialist powers., was seen as an impulse which could aid the
Chnese Communist Party.
The expansion of the anti-imperialist struggle will certainly give an impetus to the development of
the labor movement and the peasants ~ struggles.... Tberefore, the anti-imperialism movement has a
role to influence and promote the economic struggles ofthe workers and peasants' movements. If
we pay no attention to daily struggles of the workers and peasants and simply dream ofsetting off a
huge, anti-imperialist movement that will revive the workers and peasants movements, this will be a
extremely wrong

Even at that comparatively early stage., there was a very real danger ofanother
global conflict. Amongst the programs ofthe Party was illustrating the threat of another
world war which would he prompted by the rush to seize colonies, and in which the
Soviet Union would he the sole leader ofworld revolution against the imperialists.
Therefore, the role of imperialists was threatening on two fronts. On the one hand, the
threat of a world war meant that China could be a theater ofconflict. But on the other
hand., the ever-present foreign capital supporting the wariords ensured that China
remained divided amongst warring factions. Whether the world war materialized or not"
without the overthrow of imperialists, there could he no world revolution.

In this chapter 1have attempted to demonstrate that the years 1927 and 1928 were
instrumental if we want to understand the relationship between national consciousness
and the communist revolution.
We saw how, after 1927, and the betrayal of the United Front by the GrvfD't there
was a shift to the countryside. But while the tenets ofthe nationalist revolution remained
the same - the unification of the nation and the overthrow ofthe warlords and imperialists
- the actual face ofthe revolution changed dramatically. Quite contrary to the earlier
phase, there was a growing awareness of class and class struggle. These were evident in
the Party's programs ofagrarian revolution, with the creation of the soviets, and the
emphasis on guerrilla warfare as a mode ofresistance. In this chapter 1 have found it
appropriate to consider these as the nationalization of Marxism, the basic assumption
being that the ideology would have to correspond to the objective circumstances of a
given societies. We see precisely this emphasis in the creation of the soviets, where
success was based not on ideology, but the fact that the Party, through its programs, was
trying to improve the lot of the people.
In the decades to come, Many ofthese ideas would become more well articulated,
most notably the nationalization ofMarxism. Growing Japanese aggression was also
particularly important, not only because it introduced very basic nationalist concerns with
the plight of the nation, but also because it was one of the ways through which the role of
the worker-peasant relationship was highlighted in the nationalist stage of the communist

1 See for example, Richard Thomto~ The Comintern and the Chinese Communists. /928-/931

(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969), p. 8.

2 Arif Dirlik, "The Predicament of Marxist Revolutionary Consciousness: Mao Zedong, Antonio
Gramsci, and the Refonnulation of Marxist Revolutionary Theory," in Modern China, VoL 9. No. 2, 1983.
p. 198.
l Mao Zedong, "On Practice," in Se/ecled Works ofMao Tse-tung, Vol. 1. (Beijing: Foreign

Language Press, 1967), p. 297.

4 Ibid., p. 304.

5 "On Contradiction:~in Selected Works ofMao Tse-tung. Vol. 1. (Beijing: Foreign Language Press.
1967). p. 312.
6 Dirlik, "The Predicament of Marxist Revolutionary Consciousness: Mao Zedong. Antonio

Gramsci~ and the Reformulation of Marxist Revolutionary Theory," pp. 189-19 I.

7 "Circular Letter ofthe CC [CCP] to ail Party members." (August 7, 1927). in Conrad Brandt.

Benjamin Schwartz. and John K. Fairbank (ed.)~ A Documentary History ofChinese Communism. (London:
George Allen and Unwin~ 1952). pp. 104-5. Emphasis added.
8 For example, during the takeover ofNanchaog. the CCP allotted a number ofkey pos15 in the
administration to famous GMD members (none ofwhom showed up to take their allocated sea15 ofcourse).
Marcia R. Ristaino. China's Art ofRevolution: The Mobilization ofDiscontent, 1927 and 1928 (Durham:
Duke University Press. 1987). pp. 28-29.
9 Ibid. pp. 30-3 I.

la Without actually elaborating where and when the CCP faiIed ta follow the directives of the CI~ the
following apologetic statement is made: "The CCP not ooly carried out an erroneous poliey, a poliey that
brought the revolution to defeat. that voluntarily liquidated the revolution and capitulated to the enemy. but
also would not admit their own errors or obey the instructions of the CI," "Circular Letter of the CC [CCP]
to aIl Party members," (August 7. (927). in Conrad Brandt. Benjamin Schwartz. and John K. Fairbank
(ed.). A Documentary History ofChinese Communism, p. 116.
Moreover. the CI representative, Lominadze. had this to say about continuing the alliance with the
GMO leftists: "Instead oftrusting a few GMD leaders. we should rely on i15 ordinary members. Now is not
the time for us ta withdraw from the GMD. Not until we win the victory of the national revolution and
begin the socialist revolution cao we break up with the GMO," "Report by the Comintem Representative.
Lominadze," (August 7. 1927) in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party:
Documents and Ana/ysis. (New York: M. E. Sharpe. 1996). p. 312.
The GMD Ieftists were not the only group within Chinese society that the Comintem was
supporting. It is interesting that even the warlord. Fung Yu Xiang. was supported by the Comintem
because he was seen to be against Chiang Kaishek. See Harold [saacs, The Tragedy ofthe Chinese
Revolution (Stanford: Stanford University Press. (961), pp. 208. 219.
Il "Report of the Representative of the CC Standing Committee. Qu Qiubai." (August 7. (927). in

Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise 10 Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents andAnalysis. pp.313-
14. This also represented a radical break with the Party's previous emphasis on analyzing what had been
practically speaking. rather trivial issues. Such as: what was the current stage of the Chinese revolution as
demarcated by Marxist theory? Or, what marked the end ofone historical stage and the beginning of the
next? While the Chinese revolution had previously been contextualized in this form~ it was now forced into
circumstanees where its very existence depended entirely on assessing its raIe in the agrarian revolution
and acting accordingly. See for example. Kim npyon~ The Politics ofChinese Communism: Kiangsi
Under the Soviets, (Berkeley: University ofCalifomia Press. (973). p. 8.
I:! "Circular Letter of the CC [CCP] to ail Party members," (August 7. (927), in Conrad Brandt.
Benjamin Schwartz. and John K. Fairbank (ed.), A Documentary History ofChinese Communism. p. 105.
lJ "Commen15 on the Report of the Comintem Representative. Mao Zedong~" in Tony Saich (ed.).

The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis. p. 316.
14 "Outline of the CCP CC on the Peasant Autumn Harvest Uprising in the Four Provinces of Hunan.
Hebei, Guangdong and Jiangx4" (August 3. 1927), in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese
Communisl Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, pp. 317-319.
15 Ibid.

16 Mao Zedong, "A Letter from Hunan to the Central Committee," (August 20. 1927). in Stuart

Schram (ed.). Mao's Raad to Power: Revo/utionary Writings, /912-1949. Vol. rll. (New York: M. E.
17 "Letter of Reply to Hunan." (August 23. 1971). in Hyobom Pak (ed.), Documents ofthe Chinese

Communist Party 1927-/930: Documenls Selected From Chung-yang Tung-Hsun. (Hong Kong: Union
Research Institute. (971), p. 91.
18 Ibid, p. 94.

19 See for example the "Resolution on the Current Situation in China and the Mission ofthe CP,"

(November (927), in Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents
and Analysis, pp. 333-34.
20 Roy Hotheinz, The Broln Wave: The Chinese Communist Peasant Movement. /922-/928
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 57-59.
21 "Resolution on the Cunent Situation in China and the Mission of the CP," (November (927), in
Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, pp. 327-
22 "Resolution on the Current Situation in China and the Mission of the CP:' (November (927), in

Tony Saich (ed.) The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, pp. 331-32.
23 Ibid., pp. 333-34.
24 ft is significant to note that even the policy on the soviets, which was supponed by the Comintem,

specifically stressed that the soviets were to be established not over a large geographical territory, but in
small pockets. Thomton, The Comintem andChinese Communists. /928-/91/, p. 50.
:!S "Resolution on the Current Situation in China and the Mission of the CP," (November (927), in
Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 335.
26 Thomton, The Comintern andChinese Communists, 1928-1931, pp. 50-51.

27 Resolution on the Current Situation in China and the Mission of the CP," (November (927), in
Tony Saich (ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Ana/ysis, pp. 337-
28 Tso-Liang Hsiao, The Land Revolution in China, 1930-1934: A Study ofDocuments (Seattle:
University of Washington Press), p. 18.
29 Thomton, The Comintern and Chinese Communists, 1928-1931, p. 56.
3D Ibid., p. 50.

31 "Resolution on the Peasant Question," (July 9, (928), in Tony Saich Ced.), The Rise ta Power of

the Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 370.

l:: '~Resolution on the CUITent Situation in. China and the Mission of the CP," (November 1927), in
Tony Saich Ced.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 339.
]J '~Political Resolution ofthe Sixth National Congress [of the CCP]," (July 9, 1928), in Tony Saich

Ced.), The Rise ta Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, pp. 342-43.
34 The Comintem had sent special instructions to the Chinese communists to play upon existing
social conflicts. Even Li Lisan, on bis return from Moscow, was specifically told to accentuate existing
conflicts. Thomton, Comintern andChinese Communists, 1928-1911, p. 47.
35 "Political Resolution of the Sixth National Congress [of the CCP]," (July 9, (928), in Tony Saich
(ed.), The Rise to Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis, p. 350.
36 Fernando Galbiati, P 'eng P 'ai and the Hai-Lu-Feng Soviet (Stanford: Stanford University Press,

1985), p294.
37/bid., pp. 316-17.
38 Mao Zedong, "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan," in Selected Works
ofMao Tse-tung, Vol. 1, p. 27.
39 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched ofthe Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1963), p. 37.
40 Ibid., p. 61. Emphasis added.
41 Since actual party policies implemented to improve the lives ofthe peasants were more important

than ideology, it follows that these had to be based on a thorough understanding ofpeasant societies. Mao
Zedong's questioner, dating back to bis days as the head of the peasant institute in Guangzhou is
illustrative of this point. While there are questions pertaining to landlord-peasant relationships, the
distribution of land, the question of rent and taxes, there are also questions pertaining to the life-style of the
peasants, education and health and sanitation. This illustrates that while ideology was important, an
understanding of peasant societies and making ideology and practice correspond to their needs was equally

important. See Appendix A in Myron Galan, The Mass Line in the Modernization Process ofChina
(McGill University: Unpublisbed M. A. thesis, 1875).
42 Hofbeinz, The Broln Wave: The Chinese Communist Peasant MOllement, 1922-/928, p.242.

43 "Central Notice on the Current Situation~" (July 3 9 1928)9 Hyobom Pak (ed.)9 Documents ofthe
Chinese Communist Party 1927-1930: Documents Selected From Chung-yang Tung-Hsun. p. 449.
44 Mao Zedong, "Why is that Red Political Power Can Survive in Chin~ " in Selected Works ofMao

Tse-tung, Vol. 1~ pp. 63.M.

olS "Political Resolution ofthe Sxth National Congress [of the CCP]~" (July 9. 1928). in Tony Saich

(ed.). The Rise ta Power ofthe Chinese Communist Party: Documents and Analysis. p. 348.
46 "Central Notice on the Current Situation,u (July 3. 1928)9 Hyobom Pak (ecl). Documents ofthe
Chinese Communist Party 1927-1930: Documents Selected From Chung-yang Tung-Hsun. p. 450.
47 Mao Zedong "Why is that Red Political Power Can Survive in Chin~n in Selected Works ofMao

Tse-tung, Vol. 1 p. 64.


48 CentraI Notice on the Current Situation." (July 3 9 1928). Hyobom Pak (ed.). Documents ofthe

Chinese Communist Party 1927-1930: Documents Selected From Chung-yang Tung-Hsun, p. 452.
49 Ibid. p. 455.

50 'fhe Political Resolution ofthe Second Plenum orthe CC - The Current Situation orthe

Revolution and the CCP's Mission;' (June 1929), in Tony Saich (ed.). The Rise 10 Power ofthe Chinese
Communist Party: Documents and Analysis. p. 390.


In this essay we saw how national consciousness was manifested in different ways in the
period between 1921 and 1928.1 also felt it important to eonsider national consciousness
as it was understood by the intelleetual elite ofthe New Culture movement since it
demonstrated an important point, namely, that nationalist concerns were no longer a
concem of a select group of writers and radicals whose primary coneem had been the
decadence of the Imperial state and Confucian order~ but came to he diffused amongst a
wider strata in society. While the primary consideration \vas the same - the plight of the
people, and the exploitation ofthe nation by the imperialists~ warlords, and the
compradore eHte - national consciousness was a discursive phenomenon. Furthermore,
the actions of Many people acting on this impulse were often contradictory.
This was true of Many Chnese communists~ Li and Chen being good examples, and
Comintem representatives, Roy, Borodin, Voitinsky, Maring, who often adhered to, and
advocated, contradictory positions. At tintes to attempt to find a (ogie in their views is an
exercise in futility, and we must accept the contradictions in their points ofview.
Attempting to trace their trajectories, historians ofearly Chnese communism have
often imposed a rigid narrative on the course of events, either by stressing the centrality
of the indigenous impetus for change, or focusing exclusively on the role of the
Communist International. Neither ofthese approaches is wrong per se. But as l have
demonstrated in this essay, all these issues were inter-linked, as was the role of national
consciousness, labor, exploitation, foreign capital, and the warlords. National
consciousness, while being a prlmary consideration at ail times, cannot he seen in
isolation. Therefore, whether we address eHte national consciousness, the role ofthe
nationalist revolution, or the integration ofthe peasantry and workers in the nationalist
movement, we are talking about inherently complex, and often contradictory,
phenomenon. While 1 demonstrated how a nationalist concem was present at all limes, l
am. hesitant to impose a narrative of national consciousness on the given time frame.

Chnese communists were first and foremost products ofa certain period oftime where
ideology and exploitation clashed under particularly distressing social circumstances, and

the imposition ofa meta-narrative is not to do justice to an otherwise highly complex and
genuine historie process with all its tangents and contradictions.

Working against a teleological understanding of the history ofthe early years of the Party
gives us important insights, not only as far as the history of the CCP is concemed., but
also seen in a broader eontext ofexploitation (both indigenous and foreign)., and
resistance to that exploitation. An important aspect of socialism, as Arif Dirlik and A.
Sivanandan have recently argued.,( is, and always has been., understanding the capitalist
modes of production and exploitation. The imposition ofa radical socialist ideology.,
whether in the form of a party platfonn or state ideology, is an attempt to provide an
alternative to the drudgery that capitalism has historically imposed on the laboring classes
the world over. This was true for China. While there was little emphasis on Marxism as a
body of ideas hetween 1921 and 1928, what little emphasis there was addressed the plight
of China, and the role of global capitalism. And nationalist conseiousness., whether in
China or elsewhere, was the means through which this social and economic exploitation
was often contextualized at different points in time.
Given the fact that the nationalist concem was a primary and central concem at all
points in time of our study, is there something eise that we can discem from our study? 1
think there is, and that is the centrality of consciousness. Our understanding and study of
the past seldom takes the dynamics ofhuman consciousness fully into consideration. Yet
while we May not always he able to conceptualize these ideas completely within an
academic framework, they are nonetheless important components of history. Whether m
its elite manifestations in the critique ofthe Confucian order, and the fascination with the
Western Liberal tradition; whether under the guise ofthe nationalist revolution as
understood by the Comintem and the politics of the United Front; or whether in the
growing realization that workers and peasants could indeed he the vanguard of the
nationalist revolution, there was a realization, not only that a change could be brought
about., and that human beings were not passive victims to he exploited endIessly, but also

that something positive and constructive may yet come out of this merciless history. 2

1 ArifDirlik, After the Revolution: Waking to Global Capitalism (Hanover: Wesleyan University
Press. (994); A. Sivanandan., Communities ofResistance: Wrilings ofBlack Struggles for Socialism
(London: Verso Press. (990).
2 Ajaz Ahm~ ln Theory: Classes, Nations. Literature (London: Verso Press. 1992). p. 228.

Selected Bibliography:

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of

Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991.

Brandt, Conrad. Stalin's Failure inC~ 1824-1927. New York: W. W. Norton and
Company, 1958.
- - , Benjamin Sch~ and John K. Fairbank (eds.). A Documentary History of
Chinese Communism. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1952.

Benton, Gregor. China's Urban Revolutionaries: Explorations in the History of Chinese

Trotskyism, 1921-1952. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1996.

Chatterjee, Partha. Nationalist Thought in the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse.

Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
- - . The Nation and Its Fragment: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1993.

Dirlik, Arif. "The Predicament ofMarxist Revolutionary Consciousness: Mao Zedong,

Antonio Gramsci, and the Reformulation of Marxist Revolutionary Theory.,'" in
Modem China, VoL 9 (1983), No.2: 182-211.
- - . The Origins of Chnese Communism. New York: Oxford University Press., 1989.
- - . Anarchism and the Chnese Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.,

Duara, Prasenjit. "De-constructing the Chnese Nation," in Jonathan Unger (ed.). Chinese
Nationalism. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched ofthe Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1963.

Feigon, Lee. Chen Duxiu: Founder ofthe Chnese Communist Party. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1983.

Galbiati, Fernando. P'eng P'ai and the Hai-Lu-Feng Soviet. Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1985.

Hershatter, GaiL "Modemizing Sex, Sexing Modemization," in Christina Gilman., Gail

Hershatter, Lisa Rofel, and Tyrene White (eds.). Engendering China: Women,
Culture, and the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Hobsbawm, Eric J. Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Foons of Social Movements in

the 19th and 20th Centuries. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1959.

Hofheinz, Roy. The Broken Wave: The Chinese Communist Peasant Movement 1922-
1928. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Huise, James W. 1964. The Forming ofthe Communist International. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1964.

Isaacs, Harold R. The Tragedy ofthe Chnese Revolution. Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1961.

Johnson, Chalmers A. Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of

Revolutionary China, 1937-1945. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962.

Kagan, Richard Clark. The Chnese Trotskyist Movement and Ch'en Tu-Hsiu: Culture~
Revolution, and Polity. University of Pennsylvania: Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation..

Kim, Ilpyong J. The Politics ofChinese Communism: Kiangsi Under the Soviets.
Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1973.

Lenin, V. I. Essential Works of Lenin, Hentu M. Christman (ed.). New York: Dover
Publications, 1966.

Levinson, Joseph R. Confucian China and Its Modem Fate. 3 Vols. Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1958.

Luk, Michael T. L. The Origins ofChnese Bolshevism: An Ideology in the Making,

1920-1928. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Mao Zedong. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. 4 Vols. Beijing: Foreign Language Press,
--a Mao's Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949.3 Vols. Stuart R.
Schram and Nay J. Hodes (eds.). New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1993.

Marx, Karl. Karl Marx: Selected Writings. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Meisner, Maurice, Li Ta-Chao and the Origins ofChnese Marxism. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1968.

North, Robert Carver. Moscowand Chnese Communists. Stanford: Stanford University

Press, 1963.
- - , and Xenia J. Eudin. M. N. Roy's Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang
Split of 1927. New York: Octagon Books, 1977.

Omvedt, Gail. Cultural Revoit in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahrnin Movement in
Western Indi~ 1873-1930. Bombay: Scientific Socialist Education Trust, 1976.

Pak Hyobom (ed.). Documents of the Chnese Communist Party, 1927-1930: Documents
Selected from Chung-yang Tung-Hsun. Hong Kong: Union Research Institute,

Pandey, Gyanendra.. "Peasant Revoit and Indian Nationalism: The Peasant Movement in
Awadh, 1919-22," in Ranajit Guha and Gayatri C. Spivak (eds.). Selected Subaltem
Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Reznikov, A. The Comintemand the East: Strategy and Tactics in the National
Liberation Movement. Moscow: Progressive Publishers, 1978.

Ristaino, Marcia R. China's Art of Revolution: The Mobilization of Discontent, 1927 and
1928. Durham: Duke University Press. 1987.

Roy, M. N. Inelia in Transition. Bombay: Nachiketa Publications, 1971.

- - . Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China. Westport: Hyperion Press, 1973.
- - . Selected Works ofM. N. Roy. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Saich, Tony (ed.). The Rise to Power of the Chnese Communist Party: Documents and
Analysis. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1996.

Schram, Stuart. Mao Tse-tung. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967.

Schwarcz, Vera. The Chinese Enlightenment: Intellectuals and the Legacy of the May
Fourth Movement of 1919. Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1968.

Schwartz, Benjamin. Chnese Communism and the Rise of Mao. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1952.

Simone, Vera. China in Revolution: History, Documents and Analysis. New York:
Fawcett Publishers, 1968.

"Thesis on the National and Colonial Question," in Comintem and the National and
Colonial Question: Documents ofCongress. New Delhi: Communist Party of Indi~

Thomas, Bernard S. Labor and the Chnese Revolution: Class Strategies and
Contradictions ofChnese Communism, 1928-1948. Ann Arbour: University of
Michigan Press, 1983.

Thomton~ Richard C. The Comintem and the Chinese Communists~ 1928-1931. Seattle:
University ofWasbington press, 1969.

Trotsky, Leon.. Problems ofthe Chnese Revolution. ADn Arbour: University of Michigan
Press, 1967.
--a The Pennanent Revolution and Results and Prospects. New York: Merlt

Tso-Liang Hsiao. The Land Revolution in China, 1930-1934: A Study of Documents.

Seattle: University of Washington Press~ 1969.

Van de Ve~ Hans J. From Friend to Comrade: The Founding ofthe Chnese Communist
Party, 1920-1927. Berkeley: University ofCalifomia Press, 1991.

Vogel, Ezra. "The Unlikely Heroes: The Social Role ofMay Fourth Writers,l" in Merle
Goldman (ed.). Modem Chinese Literature in the May Fourth Era. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1977.

Wilbur, Martin C. The Nationalist Revolution in China, 1923-1928. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1983.

, ..


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Department of ltalian
McGill University. Montreal. Canada

November 1997

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The ltalian Hterarure which came to life in the Eighties broke with the tradition of

the preceding period during which fiction was but a fertile ground for social criticism.

Furthermore, the new literary scene came to he dominated mainly by unknown young

wrirers, who had come of age in a decisively new and modern social serring in Italy.

This thesis aims at presenting the writers that make up most of the "Giovane
Narrativa" of the Eighties. It also presents the main aspects of the social and economic

developmenr in Italy after the war and meir rdevance to (his generation of young writers.


La literature italienne qui a pris son essor au cours des annes quarrevingr a rompu

avec la rradition littraire de la priode prcdente qui.. par contre, dbordait de critique

sociale. En plus, la scne littraire tait maintenant domin par de jeunes crivains tout--

fait inconnues qui avaient grandi dans un milieu social trs diffrent de celui qui l'avait


Cette thse prsence les crivains qui forment la "Giovane Narrariva" des annes

quatrevingt. D'un mme souffle elle prsente aussi les aspects sociaux et economiques de

l'Italie et la relance du cadre social et conomique qui a servi d'arrire plan pour cette



La lerterarura iraliana degli anni Ortanta ha rotto con la rradizione precedente che
vedeva in essa un foro per la cririca sociale. Inolue, la nuova scena Ietteraria fu dominara da

giovani csordienci sconosciuri. cresciuci in qucsra nuova e moderna societ italiana.

Quesca tesi presenter i giovani scrirrori che formavano la compagine Ietteraria della

"Giovane Narrativa" degli ann o ttanra. Presenter anche le condizioni sociali ed

economiche che hanno in una certa misura influenzato la loro narrativa.


1. Introduzione

II. Considerazioni sul contesto socio-economico

III. Gli Osservatori: Calvino, De Carlo e Del Giudice

IV. Il Gorico Moderno: Eco, Duranti

V. Gli Accumularori/Fanrascientifici: Tondelli, Busi, Benni

VI. l Classicisti Inquieti: Tabucchi e Pazzi

VII. Due di due: Il rirorno aUa critica sociale

VIII. Conclusione


Gli anni Onanta seguono un periodo fortemenre politicizzato nella lecre-

ratura italiana. Ricordiamoci dei gruppo '63, la rivoluzione giovanile deI '68 ed

i mov;mentatissimi anni Sertanta. Ironicamente, la generazione ribelle degli an-

ni Sessanra e Settanra non fece alrro che chiudersi in prospettive individualisti-

che, concenrrandosi su fini economici e pcrsonali: cCClass war is pass. Export or

die."1 La generazione che matura all'inizio degli anoi Ottanta si trova davanri

ad una societ modernizzaca, individualisrica, estraniante ed interdipendentc,

perch universale ed urbanizzata. Da un laro, gli scrinori giovani di quesro pe-

riodo poterono esordire grazie aile nuove possibilit offerte dalla societ di con-

suma. D'aItro canto, essi si distanziarono dalla critica sociale che caratterizzava

la letteratura dei due decenni precedeoti e si concentrarono a face letteratura.

La espresse appropriatamente Walter Pedull: "Sono pacifici gli anni Quanta.

Riposa in pace non sola ogni idea di uguaglianza sociaie e di conflitto di classe,

ma anche quello dello sconero fra culture. Sono morti 0 quasi morti i contesta-

tori, i ribelli, gli uropisri e tutti quelli che volevano cambiare il sistema. Ha vinto

Ginsborg. Paul. A His/ory o[Co",n"p0,./I'Y [lIIly. N~ York: Pcnguin. 1990 p. 409.

il realismo 0

meglio il pragmatismo. Ad esscr empirici, si tocca con mana che

finita un'epoca, l'et dei moderno."2

Questa tesi si propone di prescntare un panorama selettivo degli autori

della cosiddetta "Giovane Narrativa" degli anni Quanta. L'alienazione sociale e

spirituale sentita da questi giovani scrittori richiede un tentativo di BilJung

tramite le opere d'ane che concidono con 10 sviluppo dell'io non solo narrante,

ma anche esistenziale. Poich questo movimento di per s riflette una trasfor-

mazione radicale nella vita italiana nel dopoguerra, 3 nelle pagine seguenti ana-

lizzeremo non solo gli effetti che 10 sviluppo economico ebbe sull'Italia (fatto

che la catapult al rango di quinta nazione pi industrializzata nel mondo), ma

anche la trasformazione che ha subito l'unit pi importante della fabbrica so-

ciale italiana: cio la famiglia e l'avvento della cultura popolare e consumistica.

La "Giovane Narrativa" rappresenta, quindi, una nuova generazione che

vive in un nuovo mondo. Il modo di vedere e di concepire le cose diveota la

questione pi importante. Questa nuova W~ltanschauung viene mediata da

strumenti tecnologici (televisione. videoregistratori. macchine fotografiche.

ecc.) che oramai sono diventati. essi stessi, anicoli di consumo; ne derivano vi-

sioni di mondi vari. ambienti da fantascienza politicizzata e ricerche sul passato

per capire il futuro. Andrea De Carlo, uno degli autori pi rappresentativi di

quest'epoca. rompe la tradizione legata alla letteratura d'evasione intorno alla

fine dei decennio con un romanzo che documenta la psicologia della sua gene-

Pedull~. WaIrer. Uz namltiufl italiiuuz co"tnnpoTIIMII: 1940/1990. Roma: Tascabili Economici New-
ton. 1995. p 75.


razione rra "gli ideologici e turbolenti anni Settanta e i consumistici e di5incan-

ranci anni Ouanta".4 La pubblicazione di questo romanzo coincide con una

nuova situazione sociale ed economica, dei tutto inaccenabile alla nostra gene-

razione. Esamineremo quindi questo romanzo intitolato Dru di du~ in un capi-

tolo a pane per evidenziare i vari regisni interpretativi che palesano i nuovi staci

psichici e sociali.

La "Giovane Narrativa" fil lanciara grazie, in parte, all'appoggio di Italo

Calvino. che scrisse la prefazione al primo romanzo di Andrea De Carlo, Tr~no

di panna, edito dalla Einaudi nel 1981. L'industria editoriale italiana che, fino a
quel momenro, aveva conrinuato a far aggio su Domi gi affermati, riscosse un

norevole successo di pubbHco con queste novit leuerarie. Ne segul una stagio-

ne pi propizia ai nuovi nomi sulla scena letteraria. Gi nel 1985, alla Fiera In-

ternazionale del Libro di Francoforre, la cririca italiana dipinse la "Giovane Nar-

rativa" come un elemento di prestigio nazionale. 5 L'indusnia editoriale scopri

COS! il potenziale di nuovi e giovani esordienti: "Si spera negli imberbi, i giovani
che non hanno passato. Qualcuno ha presente e futuro. Un buon esordio non 51

nega a nessuno, 0 quasi."6

Vc:dc:rc: il discorso sviluppato nd: Cac:sar Michad and Hainsworth, Petcr cds. WrilUf do Soci~ty in
Conlonporary Ilaly. Warwickshire Ikrg. 1984. p. 2
T mi li rtlrtIIlnzD Ji rirorno: J.J rol'NDlZll mnJio
ann; OantIL MiJano: Mursia. 1990. p. 8
anni Sm4nta a&z giotJa"~ Nlmuiva d~g/;

Tani. Stc:fano... 14 GiotJa"~ Narrativa 1t4ima: 1981-1!J86. "Il Pont~: RiIlla ",msik tii po/inca ~ ktu-
ranml. luglio-Qnobre 1986: v42 (4-5), pp. 120-148. p. 161.
Pedull, Waltcr. lA 1IIZ1TIltiva italma contnnporan~a: 19401/990. Roma: TasQbili Economici New-

ton. 1995. pp. 75-76




La vita polirica ed economica italiana si trasformo completamente dopo

la seconda guerra mondiale. La nascira deUa Repubblica italiana e la sua succes-

siva inregrazione nella comunit economica europea diedero all'Italia un nuovo

volto. Grazie al cosideuo "miracolo economico", ci fu anche una repentina

rnodernizzazione della societ italiana. L'indusuializzazione, l'urbanizzazione e

l'emigrazione interna ed esterna furono i fattori che pi a fondo influirono sulla

vira nazionale nel dopaguerra. Quesra trasformazione massiccia condiziono an-

che la cultura italiana dei dopoguerra. Pero, con 10 stabilirsi dell'economia e

della societ moderna, gi la cultura negli anni Ottanta riflette una visione post-

indusrriale e Maderna.

L'Italia dei dopoguerra conobbe un repentino e continuo sviluppo eco-

nornico dalla fine degli anni Quaranra in poi. Nei primi anni il governo perse-

gUI una cIassica strategia inflazionaria e di massicci interventi centrali.7 Esempi

di questo interventismo statale furono, nel 1953, la creazione dell'Ente Nazio-

nale Idrocarburi (ENI), cui seguirono vari alui enti di consimile concezione e

scopa. Essi diedero lavoro a milioni di italiani durante gli anni Cnquanta e Ses-

Kcsselman. Mark and Krieger. Joel. EUTOptll11 Politia in T,IINition_ D.C. Heath and Company.

1987. p. 354.


santa. In questo periodo fil pure varata e, in pane, attUata la riforma agraria che

si proponeva di disuibuire la terra ai conradini non abbieno. 8 Se l'economia ita-

liana ne benefici, la societ italiana passa invece anraverso una vera crisi di va-

lori esistenziaIi e di abitudini di vita, pagando cari i sacrifici fatti per attuare le

riforme. 9

Negli anni Cinquanta ('accento fu messo sull'indusuializzazione di massa.

Il 35% delle spese pubbliche andarono per promuovere l'indusuiaIizzazione,

menrre so[tanro il 17% fil speso sull'agricoltura (l'occupazione pi importante

fino a quel decennio in Italia) ed il 20% per sviluppare le infrastrutture genera-

. IO Si risentirono gli effetti di questa politica economica soprattutto negli anni

Scssanta, allorquando l'ltalia visse ('industrializzazione su grande scala e il teno-

re medio di vira miglior di molto. 11 In effetti, l'incremento dei prodotto in-

terno lordo (PIL) fu pi dei 60/0 all'anno nel periodo che intercorse rra il 1958 e

il 1962, il pi elevaro in Europa dopa quello della Germania.

Di conseguenza la modernizzazione deU'economia italiana fu articolara in

vari settori, in conformit coi modelli pi avanzati delle economie capitalisti-

Ginsborg. Paul A Hislory ofContnnporll'Y ItiZ{y. New York: Pcnguin. 1990. Yc:dcre il quano capi-
tolo dedicato aIJa riforma agraria soprattuEto le pp. 131-133. Ginsborg analizza qucsra riforma. da!
pumo di vista politico deducendo che qucsta misura fil utilizza come mezzo economko ptt Clf-
forzare l'influenza della Democrazia Cristiana (in panicolare nel Mezzogiorno).
La commissione pa.rlamentare sulla. povcrt dei 1953 dipinge un quadro aIIarmantc: il 24% delle
famiglie ita.liane furono dassificate come miscre 0 disagiarc; il 21% delle case accomodavano pi di
due persone pcc sanza; il 52% delle case ncl Mezzogiorno erano prive di acqua pobile; mentre il
57% 5OJtantO avcv:ano il laYatoio. Ycdere Caaar Michael ad Hainsworth. Peter cds. Writur & 50-
cty il, Contnnporary Irll/y. Warwickshire: Berg. 1984. pp. 5~.
Podbiepski. Gisde. Twmty-fiw Y~a1S' of5~etJ Aaionftr th~ DnJ~1pmml DfSi1ulhon lttzly. MiJano:
Giuffre. 1978. p. 76.
Carson. Iain. "EndJcss Tighrropc: A Survey of me Italian Economy" in TIJ~ Eco"o",ist. Sept.

14/1985. p.4


che, con una netta preponderanza dei settore terziario dei servizi e con un sem-

pre minor numero di addetti nel settore deU'agricolrura. Negli anni Settanta e

Ouanta i ceri operai collegati alla grande indusuia diminuirono gradualmente,

menrre i nuovi ceri medi collegati aU'attivit rerziaria, quella dei servizi, diven-

nero la classe pi importante nella societ italiana. Ci fil un "riflusso"

dell'azione sindacale-colleuiva negli anni Settanta e gi nel 1980 ci divenne

cvidenre con la sconfitta delfazione opcraia alla FIAT a Totino. 12 1 movimenti

collertivi degli anni Sessanra e Settanta, che mantenevano vaIori anti-capitalistici

collerrivisrici ed egalitari, infatti, non poterono riuscire a controllare l'effetto

dell'urbanizzazione della societ. Gi negli anni Ottanta l'i:uegrazio,le sociaIe

urbana si era srabilira.

A causa dello sottosviluppo dei Mezzogiorno, dal 1950 al 1980 cinque

milioni di lavorarori emigrarono dal Mezzogiorno verso il Settenrrione in cerca

di lavoro. 13 inreressanre norare che l'emigrazione di massa nel dopoguerra fu

incenrivara dalle forri relazioni dinastiche prcsenti nel tessuto sociaIe meridio-

nale, che promossero il sense di solidariet tra emigrari e emigranti, creando il

fenomeno del ..campaniIismo" nelle grandi citt di destinazione e che si riscon-

rra turtora nelle comunit degli emigrari nell'Italia settentrionale e altrove. 14

Ginsborg. Paul. UFamily Culrure and Politics in Comemporary IWy" in CUI4"~ and COnflicl in
POSrwitT l~y: Essays on Mass tInS POpllku Cllu",.~. Zygmunr G. Baranski and Robert Lumley Eds
London: Macmillan. 1990.p 42.
crOout. Hugh. Rqj07UI/ Varilltions i" EIlTOp~an CommMnity. Cambridge Cambridge U. P. 1986. p.
Concetto discusso a fonda da Bell. Rudolph M_ Fate and Honor. Farnily and Village: Demographie

and Cultural Change in Rural (caJiy since 1800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1979.


Mario in Due di due l5 , per esempio, fa di tutto per aiurare il suo arnico Guido a

sistemarsi in una lontana campagna dove si efa sistemato prima lui, offrendogli

casa, lavoro e altro. Se negli scrittori giovani degli anni Ottanta non troviamo

tracce di questo fenomeno, cia dovuto al fatto che gi negli anni Ottanta la

situazione demografica interna si efa stabilizzata; anzi, l'Italia era diventata

adessa un paese destinatario di emigrazione, con centinaia di migliaia di stra-

nieri in tutta il paese.

L'incresciosa situazione nel Mezzogiorno conta come uno dei fallimenti

pi grandi nel dopoguerra. Negli anni Dttanta e sopranutto Novanta. questo

problema divenne epicentro della policica italiana che ora sempre pi deve fare

i conti con una crescente spinta verso l'autonomia regionale, a maggior scapito

delle soluzioni centralizzate, da cui dipendeva in buona misura una soluzione

del problema dei Mezzogiorno (si pensi alla Lega Nord). L'interventismo fal-

limentare non vaise al governo di Roma il solo risentimento delle regioni ser-

tentrionali, ma anche la sfiducia da parte della societ nel Meridione, che gra-

dualmcnre concepl la politicizzazione di questo problema come un patto fra i

ranghi superiori della mafia ed il governo,16 0 secondo alcuni,17 rra la mafia e il

cero indusrriale del Nord-Ovest. L'endemica disfunzione governativa si infiltra

anche nella societ italiana dei Settentrione, dove negIi Ouanta si verifica un

clevaro numero di casi di corruzione e criminalit mafiosa. Gli scandali diventa-

rono pi comuni in quegli anni soprattutto nella capitale finanziaria d'Italia.

Oc Carlo, Andrea. DIU Ji JII~. Mano: Mondadori. 1989.
Ricordiamoci deI processo contro Giulio Andrrott.

Vcdasi illibro di Carc1lo, A.N. TIN Northrm Qllmion. New Jersey: AUP. 1989.


Milano. 18 Nella "'Giovane Narrativa" di qucgli anni si palcsa qucsta sfiducia at-

traverso le denunce dirette di personaggi lenerari, come i protagonisti di Du~

di due. ma anche attraverso la metatesi in vari autori come T ondclli. La mani-

polazione deI mezzo televisivo per mantenere il potere. in Mllcno, e l'incapacit

di svelare l'idenrit di una vitrima assassinata, nel Fi/o tk//'orizzo"t~, non sono

che pochi, ma eloquenti csempi.

Agli albori degli anni Qttanta. l'economia italiana, sulla scia di quella

mondiale. registr un forte declino economico. In quel periodo l'inflazione ar-

rivo al 21 % e nel 1982 l'incremento dei PIL in media non super il 0,5% e poi

scese addirittura allo 0,2% nel 1983 19 Si penso, in particolare all'estero, che si

sarebbe avuto prima 0 poi un riassestamento dell'economia italiana. Si verifico,

in efferti, poco dopo, e sempre sulla scorta di andamenti paralleli nell'economia

mondiale. Ma quelli furono. per l'Italia e per i giovani che in quel frangenre si

dovevano inserire nella vira e nel mondo del lavorot anni durissimi e caraneriz-

zati da fosch~ rinre di pessimismo. L'esordio della "Giovane Narrativa", che si

avvaIeva per la maggior parte di scrittori maturati dopo il '77, si fece con opere

dagIi intrecci pessimistici, personaggi confusi in cerca di destino oscuro e reite-

rati episodi d'evasione sociale.

La crisi economica pero porto a un nuovo consenso politico quando, per la

prima volta, il Partito Socialista Italiano (PSI) si alleo con il Centro-Destra ed

elesse un suo leader al posto di Presidente deI Consiglio dei Ministri. Comincio

cosi uno dei periodi pi stabili della repubblica sono la direzione dell'allora

Th~ Economist.. July 27. 1991. p. 43.


Primo Ministro Bettino Craxi. Questa stabilit fornl un convincente sostegno

agli investiron, che erano altresl incoraggiaci dalla diminuzione dei terrorismo

rargaro "anni di piombo:1) e dai risultari del rcferendum sulla scala mobile dei

1985 (che lissa gli incremenci delle paghe nd settore pubblico). 21 Si anuo cos}

un alrro "miracolo economico" in Italia, e questo gi a partire da! 1984, con un

incremento dei PIL dei 2,5%.22

Il miracolo si protrasse per il resto dei decennio. La Borsa di Milano, la

pi importante della nazione, registra una crescita di quamo voIre dei volume

degli scambi precedenti. Circa quattro milioni di italiani investirono nelle borse

nazionaii, mostrando un avvicinamento netto a modelli di societ di consu-

mo. 23 Infine, arriva il "Sorpasso", quando il PIL raggiunse i 600 miliardi di

dollari, facendo dell'Italia la quinta nazione pi industrializzata dei mondo, da-

vanri all'Inghilrerra. 24 L'ltalia registra allora uno dei rassi di sviluppo pi elevati

della Comunit Europea2S Quindi, gi verso la met dei decennio si ebbe Wl

netto recupero della fiducia neU'economia nazionale. Il sorpasso economico si

manifesta anche in altri settori, specialmente in quelle della cultura. Il successo

otrenuto da giovani scrittori ail' esrero (la "Giovane Narrativa" veniva rappre-

senrara come una squadra nazionale al Buchm~ss~ di Francoforte) coincideva

Ginsborg. Paul. A History o[Co"tnnpoTlZry fUlly. New York: Penguin, 1990 p. 406.
u. denuncia popolare eontro il tcrrorismo cra al suo apicc nd 1980 dopo l'csplosione ndla sala
d'attcsa alla stazione di 8ologna da panc dei Ncofascisti. Vcdcre Cacsa.r Michael and Hainswonh.
Peter eds. Writt'P'S t!r Soci~ty in Co"tnnpoTIZry fllZiJ. Warwickshire: Berg. 1984. p. Il.
Ginsborg. 1990 p. 407
Ibid. p. 408.
Ibid. p. 408.

Th~ Economist. Oetober 5. 1991. p. 87.


con una letteratura sempre pi cosmopolita ed accessibile ad un pubblico mul-

tinazionale. Il grande successo de Il nom~ ekll4 rosa di Umbeno Eco fu seguito

da altri successi come Notturno inJiano di Antonio Tabucchi (che divenne un

film di produzione francese).

Quesri furono anni di forte commercializzazione. Il ceto economico si in-

grandl con rarrivo di nuovi capitalisti che non erano indifTerenti alla vira sociale

e policica e che, anzi, si proponevano di guidare la nazione. 26 T ra i nuovi capita-

ni d'industria, con spiccare aspirazioni politiche, si annoveravano nomi come

Raoul Gardini, Carlo De Benedetti, Silvia Berlusconi e Luciano Benetton, uo-

mini d'affari che aprirono la via per le grandi affermazioni economiche italiane

in tutto il monda e, bisogna pur diclo, che ambivano a monopolizzare la ric-

chezza made in ltaly con precise prese di porere non pi visee da tempi di Lo-

renzo il Magnifico. Non per nulla furono chiamari i "Condottieri".]J Pedull

cosl descrive il pensiero di questi condottieri: "Magari ci si augura che le case

non cambino: vanna, 0 pare vadano, bene. Ovviamente per i gruppi sociali pi

ricchi, che non hanno motivi per mutare la loro condizione. Anche i pecsonaggi

stanno econonlicamente meglio, e si sente da loro pensieri: sebbene non si dia-

no pensiero della questione sociale."28 1 personaggi che si crovano nelle pagine di

questa "Giovane Narrativa", difatti, non sono guidaci dalla critica sociale come

stato gi accennato. 0, meglio, alI'inizio, quello non il problema centrale

degli intrecci. Fabrizio, per esempio, il personaggio principale de La casa sul lago

Basta pensare a Silvio Berlusconi che crcO il proprio panito e divennc Primo Ministro negli mm '90.
Ginsborg, Paul. A Hislory ofConronpoTtZry /14(r. New York: Penguin. 1990 p 408


di /una,1!) meno preoccupato della sua panner di trovare un lavoro rimunerati-

vo. Il personaggio nel romanzo intitolato Trmo di panna va in America per la-

vorare, ma cio appare pi come una necessit di scoprire il mondo che di inse-

rirsi economicamente in esso. Cammin facendo, tuttavia, si ritoma alla denun-

cia sociale, e cio pi marcatamente in Dra Ji due, dove la manipolazione della

societ e deIl'economia discussa a fondo, come vedremo nelle pagine seguen-

ti. Il nuovo "miracolo economica" non si tradosse insomma in un netto miglio-

ramenro in tutti i settori.

In reaJt, gli anni Ottanta furono anche anni di grandi misfatti. II debito

pubblico prima raggiunse ['84,G"u dei PIL nel 1985 30 e POi il 103% dei PIL31

(cio il pi alto livello d'indebiramento nel mondo, eccedentare rispetto al valo-

re del PIL gi a pamre dal 1989)32 e con un deficit budgetario uguaIe aI 10,5%

dei PIL. 33 Cio non collimava con le esigenze dei nuovo accordo europeo in cui

si mertevano a punto i criteri d'ammissione all'unione monetaria europea. J4 Gli

anoi '80 furono cararrerizzati anche da una policica monetaria che manreneva

aItissimi rassi di interesse (relarivamente agli aItri stad della comunir europea)

per fare fronte all'inflazione, a scapito dei consumi. Le autorit utilizzarono

questo merodo per mantenere la stabilit de! tassa di cambio della ra e come

Pedull. Waltcr. la ""wativll iraltna confnnpor""~1l: /940/1990. Roma: Ta.scabili Economici New-
ron. 1995. p 74-75.

Durand. fr:msca. La CIlSil rul tf~1Ia Uma. Milano: Rizzoli. 1984.
Ginsborg. Paul. A HistoT] ofConfnnpo,,,'Y IfIIlJ. New York: Penguin. 1990 p. 409.
OECO Stacistics. 1991
Ginsborg. Paul. A HistoT] ofContnnpo,1UJ IliIly. NewYotk: Penguin. 1990p 409.
OECO Statistics. 1991.
-'" La versione tedcsca deI tr.imato richicdcva che roui gli suti mantcnesscro un deficit fiscaJc meno

dei 4% dcl PIt e un dcbiro pubblico meno dei 60% dei PIL TIN Econornist. Oaobcr 5. 1991. p. 87.


misura di [Utela della valuta nazionale in genere.3~ Negli anni '80 i govemi ita-

Hani spesso indebitarono ulterionnente 10 staro pee fmanziare grandi spese pub-

bliche. Quindi l'ironia consistene nel fatto che una pi aira circolazione ddla li-

ra (necessaria per finanziare il debito pubblico) POno al contemPOraneo aumen-

rD nello sresso tempo dell'inflazione che si cercava di combattere.36

Per prendere ano del fossaro ua governo e societ possiamo considerare il

fatto che gli italiani preferivano che illoro governo si concentrasse non sulla sta-

bilir dei prezzi, ma piuttosro sull'eliminazione della disoccupazione e sullo

sviluppo economico in gencrale. 37 Non quindi del tutto sorprendenre vedere

un'assenza nella letteratura dell'epoca di un dialogo rra societ e stato, cosl co-

me non si risconuano critiche rivolre all'esiguit a all'assenza di quesci legami.

Vi invece una forte denuncia del governo in Due di due verso la fine dei de-


Con la dilaganre commercializzazione della vita iraliana, corroborata da

fenomeni e pravvedimenti di pari passo (come la fissazione della scala mobile),

il ceta media-basso al quale apparreneva pi del 50% degli italiani gi dal

1974,38 si senti pi vulnerabile. Ancora pi incena era la situazione della gioven-

t per la quale il tassa di disoccupazione era molto alto. Inoitte, agli inizi degli

anni Ottanra il fossaro sembra accenruarsi non solo tra i ceti alti e medio-bassi,

Rrvitw ofEco1/omic Conditions in 11iI/y. May-August 1989. Banca di Roma. p.203

~ Economut. Oerober 5. 1991. [noltK. g'i economisti sanno che un incremenro delle risorse ma-
nerarie causer~ UII incremcnlO nella aggtegata domanda delreconomia in genera.le che a suo tumo
&r cresccrc 'indice gcnerale dei prezzi ovvcro 1inflazione.
Th~ Economut. February 18.1989. p. 12
Cacsar Michael and Hainsworth. Peter cds. Writn:r t!r Si~ty in CDnmnptJr/zry ltiJy. Warwickshire:

Berg. 1984. p. 14


ma anche tra coloro che avevano un impiego e coloro che non r avevano, quelli

isuuiti e quel1i meno fortunati, e quelli capaci di influire con fom mezzi di

pressione, non sempre ortodossi, sulla burocrazia e suUe masse.39 La generazione

di questo decennio parlava maggioritariamente pec i ceri medi. La psicologia

che emanava dai ponavoce di questa generazione non poteva essere altra che di

rassegnazione e d'incenezza davanti al futuro. Nella letteratura giovanile rie-

mergono le questioni del destino incerto (Palomar, Notturno indiano, Atlante

occidentale), l'evasione verso alrri paesi (TrenD di panna. Due di due) e la denun-

cia giovanile dell'establishment (Altri libertini. Pao pao).

In une degii studi pi importanri sull'ltaIia, pubblicati di recente, Robert

PutnamJ discetta suUe realr regionali in Italia e abbozza una definizione della

societ civica (definita come quella pi orizzontaIe e non paternalistica). Par-

rendo da una ricerca empirica sullo sviluppo dei governi regionaIi in ltalia dalla

loro isrituzione nel 1970 fino al 1990, Pumam conclude che il forte sviluppo

economico del Setrentrione, di contro alla siruazione stagnante nel Meridiont:.

si spiega meglio storicamenre tenendo conto dei fauo che il Mezzogiorno, pe-

rennemente sottoccupato ovvero affeno da forme politiche verticali come feudi

mcdievali, non por sviluppare una societ pi civica, come invece era il caso nel


Insomma, la modernizzazione economica in [talia nel dopoguerra non

andara di pari passo con una corrispondente polirica sociale. La legge del 1975

Cacsar Michael and Hainswonh. Peler cds. Writt'n r Society in eo",nnpor/lry lfllly. Warwickshire:
Berg. 1984. p. 15


sulla riforma familiare in Italia (realizzata dopo moiti anni di dibattito e un re-

ferendum sul divorzio) faceva seguito a notevoli cambiamenti verificatisi nelIa

composizione dei nucleo familiare. Questa nuova legge istituiva modifiche si-

gnificanti che sancivano la parit ua marito c moglie e stipulavano le regoIe di

gesrione dei figli da parte dei genitori. Seconda Ginsborg"1 questa legge segn>

la fine della precedente concettualizzazione legaIe della famigIia italiana quale

struttura verticale, autoritaria e piramidale. Ma il vero significato di quesre leggi

consistette nella reaIizzazione che le strutture familiari non erano pi adeguate

ad assecondare il benessere dei loro componenti, com'era. stato il caso prece-

dentemente. Invece, il "weIfare stare" doveva intervenire per colmare le lacune e

ovviare a tutre le incongruenze del sistema sociale italiano.

Le ca.ratteristiche della nuova famiglia in Italia si palesarono appieno con

l'urbanizzazione; ne seguJ un rapido dedino della vecchia famiglia a nudeo

esteso. Ne! 1971, la famiglia media contava solo 3,3 persone e si addensa'Wa ~~i

grandi ceneri urbani. Nonosrante tutto cio, bene notare che nd 1985 si regi-

stra ancoro in tuu'Italia una presenza residuale della famiglia a nucleo esteso,

con percentuali che raggiungono mediamente 1'11%. Questo si spiega con la

forte presenza delle famiglie estese neI nord-est (p.e. Veneto), dove l'economia

si sviluppo grazie anche ad una miriade di aziende a conduzione familiare, im-

perniate sulle risorse della famiglia estesa. Comunque, la maggioranza delle

Pumam. Robert D. MAking DnnoCTIlCY WOTk: Ciuic TTlUt;ons in MoJnn 1kl1y. Princcton. N.}.:
Princeton University Press. 1993
Ginsborg, Paul. A History o!ContnnpoTllry /t4ly: Socin, I11III Politia 19'/3-1988. London: Penguin.



famiglie in Italia si adeguer alla struttura nudeare predena di 2 a 3 persone. 42

Nella "Giovane Narrativa" degli anni Quanta gi evidente la presenza della

famiglia Ducleare. L'esempio il protagonista di Du~ Ji du~, dove egli cerca di

rovesciare le dinamiche della rea1t ritomando alla campagna (che non aveva

mai vista) e creando una famiglia estesa (ovvero numerosa) pa poter gesrire, m

verir, la difficile impresa di una azienda agricoJa.

Da un lato, questa evoluzione deI nucleo familiare offriva un margine di

libert individuale aIle donne ed ai giovani che non aveva precedenti negli an-

nali della societ italiana. D'altronde pero questa struttura familiare si faceva

ancora vieppi frammentara ed isolata di quanto visto in precedenza. Le ten-

denze al consumo promossero l'individuaIizzazione della societ italiana. Gin-

sborg la vede CaSt: "The Economie Miracle linked rising living standards wirh

accentuared individualism, and introdueed into Italya new model of urban so-

cial inregrarion."43 Questo fatto direttamente atuibuibile al dedino della so-

lidarier collettiva di fronre al prevalere degli interessi individuali. Nelle scienze

sociali, il valore individuale fu associato allo sviluppo della famiglia nudeare,

menrre il valore collettivo era pi presente in sena delle famiglie estese. Ci

confermerebbe che la societ moderna di sua Datura individualizzante. Per 50-

stanziare questo basta pensare ai vari problemi economici e sociali comuni alla

nostra societ. L'individualizzazione ovviamente appare anche nella letteratura

degli anni Ottanta, ora eondannata (Du~ di due), ora aceettata con perplessit

Ginsborg 1990. p. 414


(Stadia di Wimbledon). L'uomo rinchiuso in se stesso e si sente solo soprattut-

to sul piano esistenziale, POich esuaniato da! contesto sociale. Palomar di

Calvino segna l'apice dell'individuo indipendente. li personaggio avulso sia

dalla natura che- dal mondo sociale che 10 circonda. Il valore individualisrico

coincide con la cerca dei destino e con una confusione generale che si puo rin-

tracciare nella psiche di quasi tutti i personaggi. In quesco senso, la rappresenra-

zione di questo fenomeno nella "Giovane Narrativa" la prova ultima

dell'importanza d'un legame qualsivoglia con la societ .

Negli anni Sessanta, questa trasformazione della structura famaiare iralia-

na e dei valori individuali mettevano il sistema sociale itaIiano in crisi. Nelle so-

cier tradizionali sono le famiglie a provvedere i bisogni dei loro componenti

sotto tutti gli aspetti: cibo, abitazione, educazione, istruzione, mezzi finanziari.

Questi rapporti dinastici non ce la fanno a funzionare nello stesso modo negli

ambiti di srrutture famigliari nucleari e urbanizzate. La societ italiana che fino

a questo periodo dipendeva sulle unit famigliari per la sua organizzazione n-

terna si novo davanti a una serie di nuove problemi sociali. Per dare a questo

discorso fondamenta empiriche, possiamo considerare qui uno studio fatto nel

1987 da Luigi Guiso (della Banca Centrale) e T uHo Jappdli (dell'Istituto di

5cudi Economici) suUe trasfene dei capitaIi all'interno delle famiglie bisognose.

Lo studio conclude che un bassissimo numero (106) di trasfene di capirali fu

Ginsborg, Paul. "Farnily Culrure and Politics in Comemporary ltaly.. in C"Jrr,,~ tmtf Conjcr in

Posrwar italy: Esstrys on Mass iDIS POP""" Ct4lruu. Zygmunt G. and Robert Lumley Eds
London: Macmillan. 1990.p 35.


effettuato nelle famjgIie sotto inchiesta {l249).'" Ecco perch, vista l'imperfe-

ziane della nuova struttura familiare, intervengono i W~/fizT~ staUs in tutte le

economie moderne per provvedere agli individui uamite una vasta gamma di

servizi sociali. L'ltalia si rese conta di qucsti trasformazioni sociali soprattuuo

negIi anni Settanta, epoca nella quale furono varate varie leggi sociali.4S In verit

questa policica sociale ebbe risultati disparati, sia qualitativamente che quantira-

rivamente, e a seconda delle regioni. Quesro dibattito sociale in lraIia negli anni

Settanta non fece altro che confondere la giovane generazione che sviluppo le

proprie tematiche e avanzo i propri dissensi solo negli anni Quanta. A Dostro

avviso. il distanziamento dalle istanze sociali avanzate dalla "Giovane N arrativa"

negli anni Dttanta in grande parte dovuto aIle incertezze manifestatesi tra i

giovani di fronte alla confusione di istanze e di valori emananti da! quadro so-

ciale. 1 nostri scrittori non erano pi in grado di formulare una critica sociale

perch non erano convinti circa la fattihilit dei collettivismo e di un ritorno a

dei valori sociali basilari e precedenti. Invece essi si sentivano pi a loro agio ad

analizzare la psiche deWindividuo. Mutatis mutandis. si ebbe un ennesimo ritor-

no aIle questioni esretiche e alla letteratura come ane. Faceva eccezione a queuo

and:lZzo. come gi osservato. Du~ di du~ di Andrea de Carlo che, comunque,

sembrava voler concentrare il discorso pi sulla famiglia e sui misfatti genera-

Guso. Luigi &: ]apclli. Tullio. -Ineergencradonal Transfers and Capiral Markee Imperfections:
Evidence From a Cross-section of lralian Houscholds." in &rop&l1l &o"o",ic Rnnnll. v35. January
199I.P.p 103-120.
Vedasi gli studi compilati da Sgritt:l. Giovanni. -The IcaJian Family: Tradition and Change." in
Journal of Fllmi/y lssurr. v9. Sepr. 1988. e Sgritcl. Giovanni (a cura cL). {""""pi tk/Ja sodrr4 /tIl/uuz.

Roma: ISTATI Istitu[o Centrale di Statisdca c Associazione IcaJiana di Sociologia. 1988.


zionali che sulla critica sociale (diciamo che Mario un registratore abbastanza

passivo delle idee di Guido Laremi e sceglie una strada diversa da lui).

Yale qui la pena di rilevare che rapparizione dei mass media nel secondo

decennio deI dopoguerra diede vira ad animati dibattiti sulla radio~ sul cinema

e sulla te1evisione. In pochi anni apparvero saggi sulrargomento.46 In lralia~ 10

specialista sulla materia divenne Umbeno Eco colla pubblicazione di Apocalitti-

ci e integrati-$7 gi nel 1964. Eco, che si conferm come aucoric mondiale nel

ramo della semiotica e dei segni, dimostr la sua capacit di comunicare con un

pubblico moderno tramite il suo primo romanzo nel 1982, Il nome de/la rosa.

Comunque, il mezzo pi importante di questa culwra popolare senza

dubbio la televisione, che si era affermata gi da tempo negli USA. In Italia la

TV assunse un nuovo significaco speciaImente dopo la legislazione che metteva

fine al monopolio della cete pubblica, la RAI, nel 1971, epoca alla quale fecero

la loro apparizione varie stazioni private.

La popolarizzazione dei mass media creai> una contraddizione nelle cultu-

re tanto dei ceri e1evari che di quelli inferiori. L'influsso deUa culrura popolare

americana fu possibile soprattutto per via della mancanza di una vera cultura

popolare italiana.48 Nel caso del cinema l'effetto era ovvio. 1 fil01 italiani dove-

Zygmun[ G. B:lJ':lnski and Robert Lumlcy Eds. C.Jru,~ and Co".flia in PfJStwllr lllliy: Ess4ys on Mag
ans Popu!4r Crllrun. London: Macmillan. 199O.pp. 2-3.
Eco. Umberto. Apoc/Zlittici ~ ;nt~ati. Milano: Bompiani. 1964.
Ginsborg. Paul. "Family CuJ[Urc and Polidcs in Conremporary IWy" in Cu!trlr~ lDId Ctmf/kt in
Posrwar l/llly: EssilJs on klag lUIS Popular Cu/trI,~. Zygmun[ G. B:uanski and Robert Lumlcy Eds

London: Macmillan. 1990.p 52.


vano imitace modelli americani che captavano rimmaginazione popolace.49 Pee

quanto riguarda la televisione, le nuove ceti private utilizzarono programmi

americani doppiati in italianoe, pcc la rnaggioc pane, di scarsa qualit e calibrate

sui gusti dei ceti culturaImente mena abbienti. 50 Queste trasmissioni influicono

ovviamente sulla cultura popolare italiana che li feee suoi, appropciandone anche

la dinamica sociale e la panoplia dei valoci in essi propinata. Secondo Ginsborg,

la penetrazione della televisione nei salom italiani ha profondamente cambiato

la nozione della comunit sulla quaie si basava la panecipazione PQlitica e cultu-

ra popolace. 51 Il consumo dei prodotti televisivi e ['educazione di massa hanno

tuttavia avuto almeno un cisvolto positivo e farto SI che J'individuo medio fosse

pi informato sulla policica e mena dipendente dalle strutture politiche. 52 Dob-

biamo comunque aggiungece che l'individuo italiano si dissociato da! proces-

so politico. disilludendosi riguacdo a possibili sblocchi della situazione auribui-

bili a rimpasti governativi. Agli intrighi paclamentari il Signor Mario Rossi pre-

fecisce la sua privacy. 53

n prepotere dei mezzi audiovisivi, come la te1evisione ed il cinema. nella

societ moderna certamente ha contamnato con modelli massmediatici tutta

Ginsborg. Paul. "Family Culture and Politics in Con[rmpor:ilry Iwy" in CIlIru,~ lDILi Conflict in
Portwar IUlIy: Essap on MIISr ans Popul4r c,tlitu,~. Zygmunr G. Baranski and Robert Lumlcy Eds
London: Macmillan. I990.p 57.
Zygmunr G. Bar:ilnski and Robert Lumlcy Eck Cuiturr.nJ Conflicl in Pomuar 1f4iy: EssAyr on Masr
IDIS Popul4r Cuilurr. London: Maanillan. 1990. p. 3-
Ginsborg. Paul. "Family Culrurt! and Poli[ics in Comcmpor:ilry halr" in Cllllrr and Cqnflia in
Postwllr lraly: Esrays on MIISS il1U Populi" Cuitllrr. Zygmun[ G. Baranski and Robert Lumlcy Eds
London: MacmiUan. 1990.p 60.
Ibid. P IDS.
Cacsar Michael and Hainsworth. Pe[rr cds. Wrilnt t:!r Soci~1J in Contnnporil'Y ltilly. Warwickshire:

Brrg. 1984. p. 14.


la gamma anistica. 54 La prova di questo fcnomcno presente negli scrittori

esaminari in questa tesi e si manifesta in vari modi. Prima di tutto 10 stile lettc-

rario aderisce a una forma pi paratattica, come per esempio in Due Ji Ju~, do-

ve il romanzo diviso in molte piccole parti 0 scene. Secondo, un nuovo modo

da vedere (poetica adorrata negli scrittori che continuano sulla scia di Calvino)

coincide con il vedere audiovisivo 0 cinematografico. Notiamo in scrinori co-

me Calvino, De Carlo e Del Giudice uno sforzo per rappresentare tutti i detta-

gli visivi, ovvero una cetta forma di minimalismo. 1 nosui autori utilizzano il

mezzo dei vedere anche come un distanziamenro dello sguardo dalla realt che

stanno rappresenrando, una recnica comune ai mezzi cinematografici. Fa capo-

lino anche un clemento di narrazione fantaStico 0 fantascientifico, in cui notia-

mo uno sviluppo dell'intreccio quasi audiovisivo. L'esernpio pi palese di cio sa-

rebbe Stefano Benni. La letterarura conscia di questa influenza e anzi ci sono

delle rappresentazioni meta-testuali nelle quali si rappresentano prima di turto

vari strumenti audiovisivi (videoregistratori, macchine fotografiche, cineprese,

ecc.) e poi anche la rea1r mediara da quesri mezzi. Infine, vi la re1evisione in

posizione di cenualit in Marno. 55 dove il dittatore utilizza questo strumento

efficace per rafforzare la sua aurorit.

Le grandi trasformazioni culrurali ed economiche ebbero il loro effetto

anche sull'indusrcia ediroriale. Aumentarono il nurnero dei libri pubbcati in

Italia, ma modestamenre: 9.182 titoli nel 1956; 15.119 nel 1966; 17.000 nel

T ani Scefano. Il 'Omtll1ZD ai ritomo: Jal romalU:O m~tlio tgli alflfi ~n1lt alJlZ tJOtlil~ llIl"lZIiva a~gli
anni Orrantil. Milano: Muris:l. 1990. p.317.

De Carlo. Andrc:a. MacTlo. Milano: Bompiani. 1984.


1978.56 Verso gli anni ~80 i grandi editori italiani erano osscssionati dalle vendi-

te dei b~st-jler provenienti dall~estero. Nel nosero villaggio globale l~opera nar-

rativa arrivava molto rapidameote, tradotta nel giro di poche senimane. Cosl i

romanzi mondiali, soprattutto quelli in inglese, erano rappresentati quasi come i

nostri. "Talvolta sembrano tanto .italiani che il nostro lenore si trova di pi in

essi che non negli autan connazionali". 57

Si cominci a pianificare una produzione di opere locali di grande tiratu-

ra. Ma qUe5to significava rrascurare sempre di pi le opere di qualit che avreb-

bero potuto arnrarc le masse. L'esempio pi imponante forse per l'editoria ita-

liana fu il best-s~//~r di Umberto Eco Il nome de//4 rosa. '58 Cosl emerge, secondo

T ani: "il profilo di una narradva in pane attenta al mercato e intenta a concilia-

re intrattenimenco e buone dori di scrittura, in pane dedita a sperimenrare

nuove sintonie con una percezione dei rcale molto mutata dal progresso tecnico

e scientifico."'j'} Quindi comincia una nuova epoca in cui la sperimentazione let-

teraria coincide con le csigeoze della cultura di consumo, ovvero la "cadura

delle ideologie"OO e ci introduceva una nuova condizione anistica.

Caesar Michael and Hainsworth. Peter cds. Writn:r c!r Soci~ty in Conr01lpoTlI'Ij' lf4iy. Warwickshire:
Berg. 1984. p. 17.
Pcdull. Walter. l4 714rr1ztilla itlZ/Uzna co"'nnpo'II7I~1I: 19'f0l/990. Roma: Tascabili Economici New-
ton. 1995. p 81.
Cesare S~re. "Lctteratura" in Lz cuJIra itlliUz"" tili NOllecmlo. A cura di Corrado St3jano. &ri: ~
[erza .1996. p. 409.
Tani Stefano. Il romll1lZO ai rilomo: ti41,."m41lZO meaio tfegli anni St!ssImra IIIiJzKiOIlll7le nmrativil fgli
Ilnni OttlZnla. Mibno: Munsa. 1990. p.3n.

Ibid. p.139.



Il primo problema che Stefano Tani propane quello della definizione.

L'etichetta "Narrativa Giovane" una definizione provvisoria che vuole inclu-

clere quegli scrittori la cui et si aggira ancora ancora, grosso modo, sulla trenci-

na. In realt, da questo terminus a quo non se ne cava aIcuna definizione concre-

ta. Ci riflette piurtosto il desiderio dell'industria di avere "un gruppo 0 mo-

vimento, un qualcosa di patriotticamente identificabile" ,61 come il Neorealismo

e il Gruppo '63; d'alrronde, c' un tentativo di superare la mediocrit degli

scrittori usciti dalla turbolenza delle tematiche dei '68 e degli anni Settanta. 1

problemi sorgono pero quando si considera che nessuno rimane giovane e

quando si avverre che il termine non comporta nessuna caratteristica precisa.

Questa carenza programmarica si accentua ancora di pi con il delinearsi, ben

presto, di rendenze divergenti aU'interno della "Giovane Narrativa". Certamen-

te gli autori a capo di quesre diverse rendenze avevano dei punti di contacto.

Ounque, le categorie elaborare da T ani che si elencano qui di seguito non sono

assolure, ma meramenre indicative.

Tani. Stcfano. "la Giovanc Namuiva Ialiana: 1981-1986." Il Ponu: Rivislll ",msik Ji politiclt ~ krt~

rarUrtl. Luglio-Ottobrc 1986: v42(4-5). 120-148. p. 121.


T ani identifica due fondamentali tendenze nella "Giovane Narrativa". La

prima la linea che fa capo a Italo Calvino ed rappresentata <lai due roman-

zieri da lui pauocinati, Andrea De Carlo e Danide Del Giudice. L'alua prende

l'avvio con il successo de Il nom~ lJ4 rosa di Umberto Ec0 62 e comprende scrit-

tori particolarmente vigili al gusto dd pubblico, capaci di compiacere e di pia-

cere, riproducendo, con poca vocazione, vecchie strategie scrittorie, resuscitate

da Eco. A questo gruppo appartengono Francesca Duranti, Gianfranco Man-

fredi, Alain Elkann e Laura Mancinelli, scrittori tutti che con le loro opere inau-

gurano un modo di scrivere apparentemente nuovo per un nuovo pubblico; non

per nulla essi risultano pi interessanri da! punto di vista socio-culturale che da

quello artisrico. Tra le aine correnri ne emerge una interessata al movimento

dei giovani degli anni Settanta e ai modelli americani, Ci ribelli ripo Miller, la

detective-story alla Chandler e le fiabe fantascientifiche). Gli esponenti pi in vi-

sta sono Aldo Busi, Pier Vittorio Tondelli e Stefano Benni, il vero contributo

dei quali sembra essere queUa di creare un nuovo, smisurato linguaggio giova-

nile. Resta inflne quello che il Tani chiama "il c1assicismo inquieto" di Antonio

T abucchi e la ricostruzione srorico-simbolica di Roberto Pazzi.

1. Tani deflnisce il primo gruppo evolutosi sulle orme della tradizione calvi-

niana come "gli osservatori". Ci perch il vedere costituisce una compo-

nente importante della poetica di Italo Calvino, specialmente ove si prenda

in considerazione l'ultimo suo libro S~ una nott~ dnllerno un viaggiatore.

Eco. Umberto. 1/ nom~ 1!14 roSit. Milano: Bompiani. 1980.


bench segni evidenci di questa scrittura si reperiscano gi in opere come

La giornata di uno scrutator~ e l'ultimo lavoro, Palomar. Vedere diventa un

mezzo per coneepire la rea1t. lnfatti, ne La gi017l4t1l il vedere assolve ad un

compito civile-politieo, con una eonseguence critica e denuncia della mani-

polazione della societ da parte del partito al potere. In Pil/omllr il vedere

"la continua diaIettica fra l'inesauribile reale e i modelli teorici che permet-

tono di fissarlo".63 Secondo Tani " staco Calvino a trasformare 10 sguardo

impassibile ed indifferente, in fondo cieco, che ahbiamo ereditato dal

"nouveau roman", in une sguardo che interroga il mondo circostaDte, la

societ, la natura e persino i meccanismi narrativi per vederne i significati,

per padroneggiarne la eomplessit".64. Ma in che cosa consiste questa nuova

poetica? ln due cose fondamentali: primo. la voce narrance in queste opere

la sguardo. leggermente alieno, che distaccato dal mondo che descrive.

Questo sguardo lascia filtrare in parte le emozioni, senza permettere pero

che queste orientino il modo dell'osservazione e della descrizione (come

avviene, ad esempio. in Treno di panna e Stadia di Wimb~ldon). Questo

implica la trasparenza della voce, che appunta descrive in modo imparziale

gli elementi nella situazione. Cio non toglie il fatto che gli aurori scom-

paiano di fronte alla oggettiva descrizione degli oggetti, ma la sceha rima-

ne chiaramente soggettiva. Questo vero anche quando la narrazione in

terza persona (At/ant~ occidentale e Marno), perch il punto di vista adotta-

Tani. Scefano. "u Giovane Narr:lthra ltaliana: 1981-1986." 1/ Ponte Riuistll mmsilLJi po/itica ~ k"~
rarura. Luglio-Occobrc 1986: v42(4-5), 120-148. p. 122.

Ibid. pp. 122-123.


co in queste opere selettivo e sensibile a particolari dettagli. Quindi la di-

versit rispetto al "nouveau roman" consiste nel fatto che anche qui c' uno

sguardo distac:cato, ma non indifferente alrinterazione ha personaggi e

realt. Secondo e pi importante, il vedere terna narrativo. 1 prot~onisti

sono degli osservatori c:he guardano intorno 0 che sono in c:erca di qualcosa

o in attesa che qualc:osa accada; cio ha c:ome risultato una c:erta Bildung dei

personaggio-osservatore. Come prec:isa T ani, la Bi/tiung gi il proc:esso di

formazione basato sul Bi/d, roe signifia immagine. Perdo troviamo i per-

sonaggi di questi rom:mri coinvolti in una rirca delle 10ro immagini 0 di

quelle che li circ:ondano, in un proc:esso formativo che diventa ('obbiettivo

finale della loro ricerca. Non a casa perci rroviamo degli strumenti di ri-

produzione delle immagini c:ome mac:c:hine fotografiche (Tr~no), focogra-

fie (Treno. Stadio), videoregisrracori (Macno), monitor (Atlante), strumenri

otrici navali e canografie (Stadia). Inolrre, in questa poetica la luce natu-

ralmence assume un molo importante di rarefazione (Del Giudic:e) e sma-

scheramento delle illusioni (De Carlo). La poerica dei "vedere-cosa" e c:o-

me "vedere-come" cambier per De Carlo e per Del Giudice.

II. La seconda corrence della "Narrativa Giovane" quella dei narratori c:he si

rifanno a Umberto Eco. Con Il nome della rosa (I980) Eco effettua un ri-

torno al genere gotico e al romanw storico, ambientato nel medioevo con

una perfetta congenialit tra mistero e storia. Questo romanzo servi da

modello per scrirrori come Gianfranco Manfredi, Pier Luigi Bertotto, lau-

ra Macinelli e Roberto Vacca. La ricostruzione satirica e il misrero ricorro-


no anche in scrinori di altro genere, come Alain Elkann e Francesca Du-

ranti. Le caratteristiche generali di queste opere si possono riassumere in

due punti. Primo, la sroria come "appesantimento" dei presente. Il passato

influenza, male 0 bene, le azioni dei proragonisti deI presente. la forza di

un tempo misterioso che rende interessante la narrazione di un presente

piatto. 1 personaggi scoprono luoghi segreti e dimenricati. La citt in questi

rornanzi rappresentano il luogo idea1e e divenrano un fattore tecnologico-

gotico. culrurale-gotico e esistenziale-gotico. Il protagonista dei presente

affascinaro dal mistero dei passaro e s'imbarca in una ricerca ossessivo. Qui

l'importante che ('intreccio avvinca il feuore e rinforzi in s la magia dei

cernpi passati. Secondo elemenro di questo genere , per l'appunto, la sco-

ria come magia e ritorno dei passaco. Il passato in queste opere ritorna neI

presente, sia come minaccia che come sicurezza. La forma dei ritorno varia

clai morri ai vivenri, dalle scoperte aile opere d'ane, dalla dittarura e perse-

cuzione allo scioglimento di un nodo esistenziale. T ani nota anche cne

"sempre la storia ritorna non come cielo collettivo, ma come esperienza in-

dividuale, parrcolare ..chiamata" 0 destino medianico di spiriri sensibili."

DaI gotico medievale di Eco al giallo della metropoli post-industriale, il

passato sembra tornare ad appesantire l'insostenibile leggerezza ('~effe[[o

Kundera") di una narrazione che in fonda riassume il genere dei romanzo


III. La terza tendenza che Tani identifica quella degli "accumulatori". Qui,
Pier-Vittorio TondelIi e Aldo Busi si avvicinano nell'esprimere l'influenza


dei romanzo americano nelresprimere la rabbia creativa, lontana dalla poe-

rica dei vedere 0 della noria, di una vera letteratura giovanile ma posruma

perch non mai cresciura a suo tempo. "'La scenario di questa narrariva

per 10 pi provinciale ... 0 concenttazionario" .65 Le condizioni della gioven-

ru proleraria sono interiorizzare in un animo frusuato che coincide con 10

stile narrativo acro e pieno di monologo interiore. Secondo T ani la cosa pi

inceressanre di qur:~ti autori la sperimentazione linguistica. Infam pro-

pongono un lCparlarsi addosso" delle nuove generazioni sfrenate ed esduse

dal pocere. La situazione proposra da quesri autori piuttosto improvvisa,

non meditara, da adolescenti in fuga da un sisrema-rrappola. A grandi li-

nee. le caratteristiche di questo ripo di scrittura sono: raccumulazione fa-

bulatoria, la sperimenrazione linguisrica. i modelli culrurali statunirensi e la

disrorsione grorresca. A quesre caratteristiche aderisce anche il romanzo

fanrascienrifico di Stefano Benoi, che pero incorpora anche elemenri deI

secondo genere, ovvero il rappono con il passato ed il mistero che viene da!

passaro. L'opera pi famosa di Benni Terril. ambienrata nel 2157, dopo

varie guerre nudeari. La capacir di Benni di creare quesro genere di no-

velle. secondo T ani, non ha nienre da invidiare al pi ovvio modello arncri-

cano e supera moiti altri post-moderni. Nelle sue opere Benni usa animali

fantasrici in vesti umane, e cio viene bilanciaro da una trama gialla che co-

involge il lerrore. "'Con T ondelli e Busi, Benni condivide la spirito di de-

Ibid. p. 132.


nuncia, il ritratto di una condizione giovanile emarginata, la predilezione

per il grottesco ed une stile accumulatore".66

IV. L'ultimo gruppo individuato da Tani quello dei "classicisti inquieti". In

una rinascita della narrativa che propane un DUOVO modo di vedere, un ri-

ciclaggio della storia e r accumulazione dei diverso, si presenta questo

gruppo di scrittori misurati e tradizionali che offre una pi privata risposta

aile mode. Antonio T abucchi e Roberto Pazzi sono stati inclusi dall'entu-

siasmo della stampa nel gruppo dei giovani scrinori, nonostante che en-

trambi siano arrivati alla quarantina ed avessero esordito gi da tempo con

aIrre opere. T abucchi si distingue per la sua scrittura proporzionara, da cui

craIuee il dettagIio sapiente e il sense della scdta narrativa. Dopo un ro-

manzo-saga e un secondo non riuscito negli anni Settanta, Tabuechi ha

scelto la misura dei racconto breve, dove riesce a bilanciare le sue qualit

narrative con la eapacit di evocazioni suggestive. Ne risultano una raffina-

ta ricerca stiJistica e una "splendida ma fragile voce della memoria sospesa

Fra meditazione e nostalgia"6:". Invece Roberto Pazzi ha suscitato polemiche

con il suo primo romanzo Cercando l'imperatore, che implica una vana

"quest" da pane di chi cerca, con la passivit dei cereato. Il romanzo una

medirazione sull'ineluttabiIit dei cambiamento, sul potere e sulla rinuncia,

sulrazione Dobile ma inutile, sulla morte necessaria di chi dalla storia sta-

Ibid. p. 136.

Ibid. p. 140.


ro superaro"68. Tani include in qucsto gruppo anche Mana Morazzoni, che

pubblico solo un volume di racconti intitolato La ,agllZZll col turbant~ nd

1986. Qui vi un turbamento morale pee la crudelt umana.

Condudendo, T ani ribadisce la presenza di un processo di amencanlz-

zazione deI romanzo, dei gusto dei pubblico e della politica editoriale. 1 mo-

delIi secondo lui sono da ricercarsi nella narrativa americana. Cio sfocia in una

"generale e massiccia colonizzazione economica e di costume". Aggiungiamo

che la societ americana quella dove il consumismo e ('individualismo sono a

livelli pi elevati. La socier moderna iraliana, anche se non copia i costumi

americani di per s, ma di natura sta diventando anch'essa, per via dello svilup-

po economico ed industriale, pi consumistica ed individualistica, ovvero pi

vicino ai valori tipici della socier moderna. Quindi, sono nuovi 0 no questi gio-

vani narratori? Rimane dunque da vedere quanto siano originali. Quanto a Ta-

bucchi e Pazzi, il giudizio di T ani si sofferma sulla soluzione estetica di otri ma

qualit narraCva, ma scnza sosranziali modifiche. La "'Giovane Narrativa" riflet-

te anche una nuova capacir dell'indusrria che ha i mezzi di promuovere sul

mercato le sue scelre. Concludendo, si pub constatare che il pi originale svi-

luppo lerrerario degli anni Oetanta in Italia stara la "Giovane Narrativa" con le

sue varie affiIiazioni.

Ibid. p. 141.




La poetica degli "osservatori" non limitata a quesri autori, ma si diffon-

de in varia misura anche in aItri. Senza dubbio, stara Calvino a sviluppare que-

sta poetica. grazie alla quale la sguardo passivo passato a interrogare la realt.

Questo si vede bene nel suo ultimo romanzo Palomar.

1 In Palomar>? il nome richiama alla mente il patente telescopio della stazio-

ne di osservazione che d il ritolo al volume. Le esperienze dei personaggio

consisrono nel concentrarsi ogni volta su un fenomeno isolato, come se non

esistesse altra cosa al monda. Palomar osserva e interroga agni casa, cost va

meditando e interrogando se stesso e il mondo. La strurnento di osserva-

zione in fonda la stesso protagonista. La narrazione del testa, in terza

persona, non perde la sua monotonia nanastante le azioni e gIi eventi; a

questo prezzo che si ocriene la focalizzazione sul terna principale. Si assiste

ad un gioco dei punti di vista, sempre suilivello psico-cogitativo. Nd se-

conda capitolo, "II sena nudo", i punti di vista individuali coincidono con

Calvino. Italo. Palo11UlT. Bcrgamo: Euroclub. 1985.


quelli socio-culturali: Palomar va avanti e indieuo sulla spiaggia, davann ai

sena nudo di una donna per provare diversi sguardi possibili. Ogni sguardo

esprime un punto di vista; pec esempio, "Sa che in simili circostanze,

ail' avvicinarsi d'uno sconosciuto, spesso le donne s'affrenano a coprirsi...

perch le convenzioni rispettate a met propagano insicurezza e incoerenza

neI comportamento anzich liben e franchezza".70 Cio implica che la rap-

presentazione del mondo esterno dipende daI nostro sguardo e viceversa,

che il oostro osservare la reaJt un tentativo di riconoscere nell'immagine

noi stessi. Cosl anche le cose pi semplici acquistano delle caratteristiche

speciali. persino una coppia di merli scoperta per caso in giardino: "Dopo

aver ascoltato lentarnente il fischio dei merlo, egli prova di ripeterlo... se-

gue un silenzio perplesso, come se il suo messaggio richiedesse un attento

esame... continuano a fischiare e a interrogarsi perplessi, lui ed i merli

Allo sresso modo, quando descrive una scimmione albino. l'unico esempla-

re in uno zoo, Palomar si mosua capace di provare i suai stessi brividi di

angoscia di fronte al monda: anche Palomar sta meditando sui misteri

della vira. A questo si aggiunge il fauo che Palomar. narrato da una terza

persona sconosciuta, non ha n pass.lto n presente. Palomar dunque solo

uno sguardo. Il narratore entra nell'animo di Palomar e pare distanziarsene

con il suo sole, di volta in volta. In cern istanti il racconto pi freddo: "Il

signor Palomar decide che d'ora in poi far come se fosse morto per vede-

re come il monda va senza lui. Da un po' di tempo si accorto che tra lui e

Ibid. p. 13


il mondo le case non vanna pi come prima, ... adesso non ricorda pi casa

ci fosse da aspenarsi, in bene a in male....".n 0'altronde, Palomar scopre il

caos dei monda con tristezza e a volte si agita volendo capire le case. Alla

fine quando Palomar cessa di parlare, il narratore conclude cast il romanzo:

"Se il tempo deve finire, la si puo descrivere istante pee istante - pensa

Palomar - e ogni istante a descriverlo, si dilata tanto che non se ne vede

pi fine. Decide che si metter a descrivere ogni istante della sua vira e fin:'

ch non li avr descritti tutti non penser pi di essere morto. In quel mo-

mento muore"73. L'identificazione dei narratore con Palomar a questo pun-

ra esplicita e simbolica.

T ani giustamente interpreta Palomar come un romanzo dove "vedere

la continua dialettica fra l'inesauribile rcale e i modelli teorici che per-

merrono di fissarlo," un'operazione in riadattamento continuo e con la

quale non si potr raggiungere mai un risultato completo. Egli nota che

imparare a osservare per Palomar un fatto complicato perch significa che

bisogna far i conti con la "complessit del mondo."

La complessir del mondo certamenre quello che definisce l'opera

di Calvino nel secondo periodo della sua produzione letteraria. Egli ci sug-

gerisce un discorso sociale ed esistenziale dove i due livelli coincidono.

1 valori di questo nuovo mondo (ovvero di questa societ moderna)

rivelano la netta individualizzazione di ciascuno di noi di fronte a una so-

Ibid. p. 33.
Ibid. p. 134.

Ibid. p. 140.


ciet dedicata alla produzione economica. L'uomo di Calvino quello

moderno che non "vede pi fine , che pub morire senza cambiare nulla nel

mondo e che estraniato dalla natura come i merli che s'interrogano a vi-

cenda sul personaggio. Pcr T ani giusto asscrire che il vedere rappresenta

la correlazione rra rcalt e modelli che ci permettono di definirIa. Pero il

vedere, che qui un processo stteaamente soggcttivo ed individuale, biso-

gna ribadire, nasce da una nuova forma sociale in diretra correlazione con

la sviluppo dei sistema capitalisrlco.

II Andrea De Carlo, Rato nel 1952 e fotografo di mestiere prima che scritto-

re, ha esordito 1981 con Trmo di panna, grazic anche a Calvino che scrisse

anche una nota sulla copertina. Subito il romanzo riscosse un grande suc-

cesso in Italia e al contrario di moiti altri esordienti attira l'artenzione della

critica per un lungo periodo. Anche il romanzo di De Carlo adottava la

poetica dei "vcdere'. Srranamente il secondo romanzo, Ucc~/li da gabhia ~

da voliera, nonoscante le immense iniziative promozionali, resta invecc

un'opera sconosciuca, con un breve presenza in classifica7<4.

Treno di panna essenzialmentc la storia di un giovane iraliano che

non si sa perch si trovi a Los Angeles e che cerca di sopravvivere lavorando

occasionalmcnce. La storia si svolge uamice le sue espcrienze, ovvero il suo

sguardo. II suo, come quello in Calvino, une sguardo "impercurbabile"

che contempla e cerca di definire cutto. Cosi, procedendo a caso, egli ci

Spinazzola, Vittorio, a cura di. Pllbbco 1983. Milano: Milano bri. 1983. pp. 282-283.

pona in un mondo estraneo ove crescono le sue rdazioni con gli amici e le

ragazze. Calvino spiega cosl questo sua sguardo: "La giovinezza tante co-

se. anche una panico:are acutezza dello sguardo che afferra e registra un

enorme oumero di particolari e sfumature; un'insaziabilit degli occhi che

bevono 10 spenacolo dei mondo multicolore ingigantito come attraverso la

lenre d'un reIeobiettivo e 10 depositano in fotogramm miniaturizzati nella


Questo spettacolo la storia fondamentale che di tanto in tanto pro-

voca dei pensieri immediati nel personaggio. di soddisfazione e di fastidio:

"nell'arrimo in cui mi si fissata sulla retina. l'immagine di Marcus sdraia-

to di fianco a Jill mi ha provocato un lampo di rabbia"76. Tutto pero rima-

ne sulla superficie e rimane ai lettore di individuare i veri tormenti del per-

sonaggio. Infatti non esduso che 10 sguardo proiettato verso il mondo

esteriore ci possa dipingere quello inreriore. Consideriamo questo pensiero:

"Forse non mi vedevano dei turro. Forse mi uniformavano a colpo

d'occhio aile migliaia di giovani squaIi ansiosi che girano in circolo per Los

Angeles. tutti pi a mena con le stesse pretese fuori misura. le stesse idee

sbagliate sulle proprie quaIit"77. La tecoica di De Carlo dei turro con-

forme alla sua recnica di fotografo. dove egli disponeva di un obbiettivo.

La Los Angeles che De Carlo dipinge. in un romanzo narrato addirittura

in prima persona. una dimensiooe densa di paesaggi. parcheggi, ristoranti

De Carlo. Andrea. Trmo Ji ptm1l4. Tonna: Einaudi. 1981. Nota introduttiva al volume.
Ibid. p. 174.

Ibid. p. 174.


iraliani, cinema, ove la gente dominata dell'idea surrea1e dei succcsso,

tucro svolto in superficie. Questo tema percorre il romanzo fin dall'inizio:

"C'efa una ragazza sedura di 6anco a me con una vera faccia di luna: occhi

srretti e piccoli, guance larghe. Leggeva un libro e non guardava fuon. Le

sembrava scontato atterrare senza problemi. Andavamo gi come precipi-

rare".75 E si sofferma anche sull'oggeno principale dei romanzo, la citt di

LA., con la quale il romanzo finisee, cosi: "Ho guardato in basso e di col-

po c'era la citt, come un immenso lago nero pieno di plancton lurninoso,

csteso fino ai margini cleU'orizzonte. Ho guardato i punri di luce che vibra-

vano nella disranza... C,erano punri che lasciavano tracce filanti, bave di luce

liquida... Ii guardavo solcare gIi spazi dei [utto neri che colmavano inem il

YUoto, in attesa di assorbire qualche riflesso nella notte umida n. 79 Questa

realt viene riflessa anche nelrio narrante. Giovanni Maimeri, il protagoni-

sta, vive anch'egii alrrettanro efficacemente il sogno californiano dei suc-

cesso. Giovanni d Iezioni ci! italiano alla bella e famosa Marsha Mellows in

una scuoIa di lingue; lei 10 inuoduce nel mondo dei ricchi e delle feste not-

turne in ville con piscina, secondando il SUD desiderio di successo. Il foto-

grafo Maimeri continua a "scattare istantanee" con il suo sguardo, ma vie-

ne rapidamente coinvolto nella reaIt che osserva, diventando anche lui

moralmente uno dei migliaia di giovani "squali" e al massimo pua per

scherzo alzare un piede "come per schiacciare la testa"80 a un attore ad-

Ibid. p.3.
Ibid. pp. 209-210.

Ibid. p. 209.


dormentato nel pareo, un suo vecchio idolo. L'idea deI successo sia de-

nunciata che cercata in questo romanZOj non a caso la storia si chiude con

scena delle luci di Los Angeles sul luogo di un pany dove "la gente si era

coagulata in gruppi pi compatti, lungo le pareti e vicino aIle salette di

collegamento. Le voci e j suoni adesso seguivano tracce indipendenti, su

frequenze separate. Lorchestrina andava avanti pcr conta suo, produceva

musica che girava in spirali su se stessa: liquida acuta"II. La narrazione fa

una descrizione minuziosa delle cose, (minimalismo, appunto), ma lascia i

personaggi in una dimensione superficiale, osservandoli seconda solo i loro

gesri come se bastasse vederli in fotografia; dice infatti: "Guardavo Marsha

Mellows a crenta centimetri da me e mi sembrava solo di vedere delle sue

fotografie, disposte in successione COS( da creare uo'idea di movimenco.

Guardavo queste sue focografie di fronte e di tre quani e di profila e mi

sembrava di conoscerle bene. Mi sembrava di poter anticipare e accompa-

gnare e concludere ogni sua gesto a espressione"ll2. COSt i personaggi di De

Carlo vengono adattati ail'ambiente actribuendo loro dei ruoli specifici e

limitati. Tutravia, il sua sguardo distaccata non indifferente perch gi

automaticamente egli vive una sua Bildung; "non avevo voglia di girare COSt

a vuoco. Mi sembrava per la prima volta di non vedere la situazione con di-

stacco. Passavo in quel momento davanti a una grossa Buick bianca e luci-

Ibid. p. 206.

Ibid. p. 131.


da e ho visto la mia immagine riflcssa nd vetta dei fincstrini. Mi sono fer-

mato a guardarla per cinque minuti: pieno di rabbia generica".13

Seconda T ani, De Carlo vuole rapprescntare la societ dei costumi

tramite un'analisi dei rappono fra manipolazionc dell'immagine e potere.

La societ viene cio idenrificata con gli strumenti delfirnmagjne, acqui-

scando COS! un valore negarivo. Non sono d"accorda con questa definizione

perch la manipolazione delle immagini appartiene prima di tutto a Mai-

meri, il quale cerca semplicemente di capire la sua nuova societ. T ani ha

ragione, invece, quando constata che "il valore di De Carlo sta nell'accura-

tezza iperrealista della rappresentazione, neI talento di osservatore obiettivo

di una societ radicalmente modificata dal nuovo contesta tecnologico"....

Non a caso che il romanzo trana dei centro urbano pi famoso nel

mondo. Los Angeles, come se volesse avvisarci dei mali dell'urbanizzazio-

ne. Le immagini qui rappresentano non solo una dimensione dei tempo 0

dei momenri scattati, ma anche delle forme di realt con cui i personaggi

vogliono identificarsi. In un certo modo, De Carlo denuncia il yuoto della

citt e i moti che ci separano dalla natura e dalla realt. La. sua rabbia con-

tro questa societ moderna e i mali dell'individualizzazione esrrema saran-

no tcanati pi a fondo nei suoi filturi romanzi.

Ibid. p.41.
T mi. S[cfano... La Giovane Narr.uiva Ialiana: 198 [~1986." Il Ponte Riuist4 mmsik di polirica ~ ktu-

Tartira. Luglio-Ouobrc 1986: v42(4-5). 120-148. p. [26.


Macnt/'s, il terza romanzo non a casa dcdicato a f. Fellini, anch'esso

un romanzo riuscito in cui De Carlo manifesta di nuovo una poetica im-

perniata sullo sguardo. In un paese ignoto, in un'America Latina tante si-

mile all'Italia, il "dittatore latino" Macno, "giovane e seuro, agile", vive cir-

condato da una folla di sudditi in un palazzo stravagante. Egli arrivato al

potere denunciando l'ipocrisia e la corruzione della classe dirigente in una

trasmissione televisiva in diretta con g uomini pi potenti dei paese. Ma,

una volta al potere, lui deve creare il consenso sociale al sua potere e deve

perci sottrarsi ai rici e ai meccanismi delle comunicazioni di massa. Cos}

aI terzo anno di dittatura personalmente in crisi, infelice nel suo ruolo.

Macno inolue un uomo carismatico, invaso dall'ansia di "scoprire i mec-

canismi, impadronirsi delle chiavi" della vita; qui eentra 10 sguardo che
vuole descrivere e anaIizzare tutto. Egli agisce con sicurezza e fermezza

senza perdere tempo ed affascinato dalle cose. La corte di Macno im-

penetrabiIe, ma per certi cortigiani un luogo comune. La stato delle case

viene disrurbato delrarrivo di due giomalisti dagli USA, Liza e T ed, che

cercano di ottenere un'intervista esdusiva con l'imperatore. Il panorama

dei terni affrontaci si allarga, dalle televisioni private, alla corruzione politi-

ca, dat degrado morale all'alienazione umana, daI progresso tecnico

aIl'eterna paura dei vuoto. La scrittore, in modo indirecto. si riferisce ai

problemi pi vivi della societ italiana contemporanea che tratter con pi

approfondimento nel suo futuro romanzo, Du~ di tlll~.

De Carlo. Andrea. ~fllcno. Mibno: Bompiani. 1984.


N eI franempo, cresce la figura di Liza, "lontanissima da tutto il resto,

in un'oasi di 5ensazioni pure e infantili," e anche "persa nello spazio, priva

di equilihrio", in50mma in cerca della propria identit, che semhra volersi

cancellare. Sboccia aU'improvviso una storia d'amore fla Lisa e Macno e si

intreccia con una situazione: la vira arriva ma af:lnoiata dei palazzo, le ceri-

monie, i discorsi ufficiali, la facciata delle convenzioni e, d'aluonde, la 50-

ciet, la cin con i ,cmilioni di virrime della vita che al massimo esprimono

piccole opinioni marginali", uomini che non hanno idea di cosa succede e

vivono manipolad da altri. La verit dipinta dallo sguardo si rivela come un

copione gi serina e ben studiata da personaggi: Ted e la ballerina che

corrono sullo stesso ritmo, la mediocre scrirtrice Gloria che non inventa

novir, Palmaria indeciso se scrivere 0 vivere la sua storia. Onavio rigido e

altri cosi assumono delle parti. Dunque il vedere qui va oltre la superficie

per entrare ad analizzare il nostro mondo interiore, cio il livello esisren-

ziale-sociale. Direi che da questo punta di vista ed anche per alrri motivi,

questo romanzo si avvicina al dramma Enrico IV di Pirandello86 Macno

inoIrre, si sofferma in denaglio su questioni politiche e di potere, conside-

rando la gente "piehe" e il sua regime come non fine in se stesso. Macno

infine trova la situazione che si creara troppo sfocante e pianifica la pro-

prio morre e resurrezione in un'esplosione stile attentato che distrugge

l'apparramento in cui presumibilmente si trovava con Liza. La sorpresa fi-

nale fa Uovare Liza in fuga ail' aeroPQrto mentre osserva un giovane con oc-

Nd senso che concepito come un dr.unma psico-analirico.


chiali neri, Macno, il quale ha ritrovato la sua liben e con cssa anche


Qui giusto ritornare al concetto espresso da Tani sul rapporta fra

manipolazione delle immagini e potere, che ci pona a un vedere tccnolo-

gico che acquista un valore negativo. Pcr Macoo questa interprctazione dei

potcee giustificara, perch il dittatore conos il sapic:nte uso degli audio-

visivi: infatri, aveva potuto manipolare le immagini a suo favore quando cra

diventaro dittatore. Oltre ai concetti di tecnologia e vedere trattati da Ta-

ni, bisogna accenruare che De Carlo si propane di presentare una dimen-

sione politica attuale. In Du~ di du~ egli si riferir alla manipolazione dei

mass media da parte deI ceto politieo italiano in un modo molto pi evi-

dente quando paragona il contenuto dei quotidiani ad una: "palude di pet-

tegolezzi politici drammatizzati e finti principi e moralismo fasullo e cini-

SIDa nero, parole usate solo per il loro suono". 87

Macno si propone di rivelare i legami che esistono rra media, socier e

polirica. La produzione delle immagini che vengono diffuse nella societ

servono a creare una dimensione finizia. Ci ricorda un po' alla diffusione

di massa della RAI - Radio Televisione Italiana - che nell'immediato

dopoguerra con 10 sviluppo della socict di massa e di consuma era mani-

polara dai governi OC e scrvi a rafforzare le loro posizioni di porcre. Le

immagini ormai sono una parte integrante della societ moderna cd in un

cerro modo sono anche una dimensione di potere. De Carlo vuote avvisarci

Du di du~. p. 211.


dei rischi di accettare le immagioi come rcalt assoluta, come spesso acce-

de nella societ maderna dove l'individuo dipenda dalla tv per la sua in-

formazione quotidiana.

La tecnologia concepita dall'autore come un mezzo molto efficace

nella mani di quelli che la sanno manipolare. NeI finale di Mamo" la tec-

nologia la srrumenro grazie al quale Macno crova la liben. Comunque

non direi che ha una connotazione dei tutto negativa" perch questo ro-

manzo fmisce felicemente, come una fiaba, quando Macno ottiene la sua

libert e ['amore.

III Daniele Del Giudice l"alrro romanziere scoperto da Calvino. Del Giudi-

ce nato nd 1949 a Roma, dove abira ancora e collabora a giornali ed a ri-

viste con scritti di critica letteraria. Ha pubblicato due scritti nel 1972:

cCPrendere la parola per prendere il poreee" e "Nuova Scena: Storia d'un

esperienza" in La paroUz netpugno, 81 un volume da lui curato sull'esperienza

teatraIe aIterllativa della cooperativa N uova Scena fondata da Dario Fa nel

1968. Il suo primo romanzo appunto Lo statiio di WimbkdoTf9 pubblicaro

grazie a Calvino che scrisse anche una nota sulla copenina. Questo roman-

zo, che segue la tradizione della poetica dei "vedere', ha ottenuro un note-

vole successo per un romanzo d"esordio, vincendo pedino due premi, il

Viareggio e il Mondello. Calvino scrive di questo romanzo: "Cosa ci an-

Del Giudice. Daniele. "Prcndcre la parola per prcndcrc il poterc" e "Nuova sccna: Storia di
un'espericnza". IL parok n~i P"flIo. Rimini: Guaraldi. 1972.

Del Giudicc, Daniele. lo slilJio Ji WimbkJon. Torino: Einaudi. 1983.


nuncia questo insolito libro? La riprcsa. dei romanzo d'iniziazione d'un gio-

vane scrittore? 0 un nuovo approccio alla rappresentazione, al racconto, se-

condo un nuovo sistema di coordinate?n~.

Lo stadio di Wimbktlon la storia di un giovane che s'interroga su un

cerro intdlettuale, Bobi Bazien, a distanza di 15 anni, andando a Trieste e

a Londra per parlare con i suoi amici. In parricolare egli voole capire perch

un personaggio culturale di alto livello come Bazien avesse deciso di non

scrivere un romanzo, come tutti si aspcnavano. "Qucsto nonostante che

Bazien lotrava, non era di queUi che rinunciano a priori, cercava di avere

qualcosa dalla vira; poi pero credo che finisse per essere deluso n .91 In una

Trieste semideserta e triste, i vecchi conoscenri offrono al narratore ritratti

diversi di Bazien. Tra questi ci sono due donne, conosciute anche da Mon-

tale: Gerri, che il narratore visita a Trieste e Ljuba che ora abita a Londra,

vicino alla stadio di Wimbledon. Attraverso questa ricerca appare che il

narratore sta vivendo una sua Bi/dunK- "quando la citt in funzione, risuI-

ta pi tollerabile essere avulsi e stranieri. Ogni tanto, poi, l' ossessione di

quello che gli aItri saprebbero vedere dove io, camminando e guardando,

non vedo nulla".92 La sua consapevolezza arriva a completezza a Londra,

dove termina la ricerca e mostra la volont di scrivere lui stesso. Il narratore

sente "il piacere di essere nel tempo e non conuo il tempo, di frcela ri-

schiando ua le immagini, rischiando anche la propria, lasciando che diventi

Del Giudicc. Daniele. Lo stMiio Ji WimbktJon. Torino: Einaudi. 1983. Nota di copertina.
Del Giudicc. Daniele. Lo stlUiio Ji Wimbktion. Torino: Einaudi. 1983. p. 26

Ibid. p.34


una propriet comune, modificata, viva".'" Naturalmente qua parla della

necessit di scrivere, affermando con convinzione che "non sono mai stato

COS1 all'inizio, determinato ed inceno".!N

La sille deI romanzo originale perch distaccato. Dd Giudice un-

Hzza molto la recnica minimalista, descrivendo dettagli che sembrano a

volte non avec niente a che face con il resto dei discorso. La presenza di un

mistero non trascina il romanzo in direzioni mistiche ma mette a fuoco la

re1azione rra scrivere e non scrivere e ua il sense della memoria. Questo

romanzo forse un omaggio a Bazien, ma di pi alla sua memoria nei ri-

cordi degli altri: CCl'unica cosa che resta di lui sono gli amici che gli hanno

voluro bene"9"). L'io narrante qui pi preciso ed esplicito sulla marurazione

raggiunca attravecso la ricerca di quello in De Carlo. Egli ha uno sille di

descrizione evocativo e eccessivo. Per esempio fantastica sulla disrruzione

di un ponte. su un relitto di nave e fa presto commenco su una sranza

d'albergo: CCII risveglio una luee calda, nella trasparenza delle tende; e con

la sensazione di avec fatto sogni che non appanengono a me ma sono della

sranza Iasciati qua da centinaia di sognarori precedenri":J6 Un'altra diffe-

renza rispeno a De Carlo nella rappresentazione della tecnologia che,

sempre modernissima in De Carlo, qua riguarda anche gli strumenti con-

siderati invecchiati, cio vecchie auto, vecchie navi, vecchi strumenti ottici,

con l'affecta che queste cose meritano per la memoria di una societ mo-

Ibid. p.34.
Ibid. p.34.
" Ibid. P. 58.


derna ma non di massa. Quindi Del Giudice inuoduce una dimensione

storica ovvero un richiamo alla societ tradizionale che passata alla me-


Inoltre. le descrizioni sono fatte con calcolata precisione: sulla nave di

guerra francese nel porto di Trieste. l'Ile d'Dleron, "adesso cammineranno

nei passaggi suetti ua le paratie; davanti a ogni locale, prima di ennare,...

avr gi spiegato che una nave ausiliaria. come sembra dall'armamento

ridotto e dalla structura mercantile. Certi locali... appariranno incredibil-

mente piccoli ai due visitatori... "jr. e quella della rotta verso Londra

dall'aereo: "Lui, 0 il suo secondo, avranno preso la radiale 292. un'uscita

standard sul mare da Roma Fiumicino; dopa quaranta miglia avranno vira-

to a destra. sul punto Alpha, per circa 23 gradi. quanti ne occorrevano per

imboccare quella linea ideale. spostata di 315 gradi rispeno al Settentrione

magnecico..." .98 Percii> il lettore ha l'impressione di esercitazioni, 0 istanze

fisse in una dimensione geometrica. Infatci, l'aurore si propone di associare

la dimensione tecnica e quella istinriva dello scrivere in una serie di metafo-

re. Parlando della carta di Mercatore, che ctata da Calvino come

un'immagine chiave, dice: "Ma la Carra di Mercatore non una proiezione

geometrica, inventata con un calcolo preciso e con una matematica quasi

perfetta. II suo secondo nome Rappresentazione".'n E anche:

"Determinate parole fanno prendere un determinato ponamento. E poi

Ibid. P. 88.
Ibid. p.43.
Ibid. p.8I.


queste parole gli piacciono perch non banna sinonimi e possono congiun-

gere la precisione recnica a una certa quantit di evocazione" .100

T ani vede in questo romanzo non solo una ricerca letteraria ed esi-

stenziale, ma anche il rifiuto di vedere il passato attraverso la rappre-

sent2Zone distorcente delle faro (si uatta delle foro di Bazien). la ricerca

anche di una nuova "canografia del reale". Il giudizio plausibile, secondo

me, in questo caso, bench si uatti solo di una ricerca di nuove coordinate

da scrivere, ma la questione rimane se quesro miscuglio di tecnologia-

geometria e letteracura accenabile.

Del Giudice, comunque, dimostra tramite i suoi strumenri la cecnicir

estrema dei nostro monda che in parte il risultato dello sviluppo recnolo-

gico e sciencifico. Si pua consratare che il oostro un secolo di tecnologia

che influisce e definisce 10 svilupPO deIl'economia, la societ e, non a caso,

l'individuo moderno.

Il secondo romanzo di Andrea Del Giudice Atlante occidentale, 101 il

mio preferito fra i due, ed un'opera che si richiama al best-seller inricolaro

Illusions di Richard Bach. lo2 la storia di un messia in biplano che cerca di

capire la verir e il sense delle case. Similmenre, il romanzo di Del Giudice

narra di un fisico, Pietro Brahe, che lavora in un grande aneUo di accelera-

zione sorterraneo e della sua amicizia con l'anziano scrirrore redesco Ira

Epsrein, enrrambi appassionati di volo. Infatti la sroria della loro amicizia si

Ibid. P. 82.
Ibid. p.44.
Del Giudice. Daniele. AI/anlr D~dtlmt"k. Torino: Einaudi. 1985


svolge in un piccolo campo di aviazione a Ginevra. L~incontro casuale e le

parole seguono un tempo spontaneo "senza punti di fuga per 10 sguardo".

Anche qui c' il tentativo di unire visione e informazione tecnica: "Cam-

minano nell'hangar ma non con una direzione precisa~ passano da un aereo

aIl~aItro come si cambia argomento; non si puo dire che camminassero

proprio insieme, ... come i loro movimenti nello spazio" .103 Lo scenario

queUo raffinaro di Ginevra, dove i due sono assorbiti in esperimenti a pri-

ma vista lontanissimi ma in realt vicini. Illavoro dei fisico sull'anello di

accelerazione gli permetter di vedere le pi invisibili particelle della mate-

ria; 10 scrittore ha deciso di smettere di scrivere le sue storie per poter

"'vedere". L'idea di base forse che nella cultura e tecnologia dell'im-

magine elerrronica, gli oggetti stanno scomparendo e perdendo corpo, so-

stieuiei dalla luce e~ di conseguenza. anche l'atteggiamento dell'uomo nei

confronti di se stesso e delle cose sta cambiando. Lo scrittore si riferisce

qui all'introduzione deI forte senrimenro individualistico che risulta dalla

realt moderna della societ. Brahe e Epstein si rendono conto di questa

"'mutazione sentimentale" e di un'anrica radice merafisica che cannette le

culture. Il romanzo si sviluppa cosl in una serie di clialoghi statici sul vedere

e sulla luce. illuminati da certi eventi che alludono decisamente alla impor-

tanza di quanto succede. come il volo in aereo dei due, i fuochi d'artificio

su lago in onore dello scrittore candidato al Nobel, una gita al castello di

Voltaire dove il passato ha lasciato il SUO fantasma nelle ombre di luce. La

Bach. Richard. Il/lI.Sions. New York: Dell. 1979


narrazione si sotTerma qui sui sentimenti dei due personaggi e la loro per-

plessit. Epstein, che ha un'aria "attenta e leggera" dopa "aver attraversato

la scrinura in tutte le sue forme", avverte di trovarsi di fronte al YUoco, n-

capace di raccontare nuove storie, terne l'aridit che forse viene dalla ripe-

orione e il ritorno ai terni gi sfruttau. Egli invece vuole andare fmo a fon-

da a scoprire la verit, "ma in modo diverso." Brahe a sua volta soffre il

dramma della disumanizzazione dei proprio lavoro, l'allontanamento dalla

realt. Anche questo pero appare diffuso nella descrizione della sua pratica

scientifica e dei vari ambienti. Come Epstein egli tenta di "raccordare le

persane gli oggetti e gli oggetti all'esperienza e ai sentimenti, alla percezio-

ne di s aIle idee." La disumanizzazione a cui accenna l'aurore non altro

che il risultato di un sentimento elevato di individualismo nella nostra so-

ciet. Il romanzo si condude con il successo delle rispettive imprese dei

due personaggi e con l'affermazione dei loro credo nella poetica dei testa.

Atlant~ occid~nta/~ riprende moiti terni e motivi gi sviluppati nel

romanzo precedente, come il vedere, la luce, l'amicizia, la scelta tra scrivere

e non scrivere, l'incontro fra vecchi e giovani, la geografia e 1'0rientamento.

La narrazione in terza persona comunque, opposta all'io di StaJio, pare ca-

pace di sviluppare le sceneggiature e descrive con pi precisione e con pi

credibilit gli oggetti tecnici e scientifici. Insomrna, Del Giudice cerca di

increcciare il realismo dei suai personaggi con la prospettiva deI suo ro-

manzo, quindi sia il sentimento che la materia appartengono al discorso e

OC:! Giudice. Danicl~. At"'nt~ OcciJnltlz/~. Torino: Einaudi. 1985. p. 10.


la combinazione di questi e1ementi la risposta dell'autore alla ricelca di

un nuovo stile letterario e di una realt verosimile.

T ani definisce la ricerca in questo romanzo come scientifico-

umanistica. giu5ta anche la sua osservazione sulla natura pi contemplati-

va di questo romanzo rispetto al precedente. lnsomma, quest'opera tenta

tramite le sue suggestioni di completare la rappresentazione della realt, in-

rerrogandosi sulla interrelazione delle cose. Inolrre, sembra che i personag-

gi arrivino attraverso le loro osservazioni minuziose ad una pi completa


Da q uesto punto di vista la poetica di Del G iudice sulla societ ed il

mondo positiva. Gli strumenti di felicit sono ['osservazione minuziosa

della realt. Egli ci trasforma dalla tristezza della cin di Trieste a un luo-

go lontano dove la libert individuaIe dei suoi personaggi si anenura

tramite il volo. Nd secondo romanzo non uoviamo pi le dinamiche di una

socier vecchie 0 moderna. ma l'ideale di libert dell'uomo individuaJe. Il

denominarore comune ua De Carlo e Calvino ci rimane sempre: cio la ri-

cerca angosciata dei destino e della verit individuale che la caratteristica

pi ovvia in noie



Questo genere stato creato da Umberto Eco. [nfani, gli scrittori che

appartengono a questo gruppo hanno, pi 0 meno, fedeImente riprodotto le

recniche di Eco e 10 spirito deI suo primo romanzo.

l Umberto Eco nacque ad Alessandria {Piemonte}. Studio Filosofia

aIl'Universit di Torino presso cui si laure nel 1954 con una tesi sul

"Problema estetico in San Tommaso". Fu impicgato della RAI a Milano,

dove abita oggi. Ha insegnato estetica, comunicazione visiva e semiotica

nelle Universit di Torino, Milano, Firenze, Bologna e aItre nell'America

deI nord e dei sud. Dai 1975 dirige il dipanimento di Semiotica aIl'uni-

versit di Balogna, il primo nel sua genere. Ha organizzara infarci il primo

congresso internazionaie di sem iorica nel 1974 a Milano. Ha pubblicato so-

sranziaImente su riviste, giornali. Le attivit di Eco toceano problemi e

questioni anuali: arte e cuJcura moderna, comunicazione di massa e semio-

rica. Egli consideraro come un modello dell'inter-relazione tra intellet-

tuaIe e soder, uno che associa la teoria con la pranca. Ha esordiro con


Opera aperta lO4 , un saggio su estctica c tcoria d'avanguardia che ha contri-

buiro alla formazione del Gruppo '63 deI quale Eco era uno dei socL Nel

1964 ha pubblicaro Apocillinid ~ int~grlltl'05 individuando due atteggia-

menti opposti fondamentali dei mass media e illoro effetto sulla cultura

moderna. La sua prima opera suJla semiotica stara 1.4 strutturll asuntr 06 ,

poi Le forme dei contenuto lO7 e Segno.los La sua opera pi importante sulla

questione il Trllrtllto di smzioticil gen~ralrl19 pubblicato prima in inglese.

La sua tesi pi originale forse quella che l'intellettuaie di prima doveva

occuparsi della realt contemporanea per riuscire a cambiare il monda,

mentre l'intellettuale odierno pensa che si puo scrivere solo Per il semplice

piacere di scrivere. Ecco perch Eco scrisse il sua famoso romanzo, nona-

stante la sua repurazione accademica, addirittura riuscendo a vendere mez-

zo miIione di copie, solo in Italia, nel primo anno.

Il nome d~l/a rosa" O un libro complesso, estremamente ed inesauri-

bilmenre ricco di significati. AJl'inizio dei romanzo, nell'introdunone,

"naruralmente, un manoscritto" l'aurore afferma di aver rcadotto il libro in

italiano da un libro in francese dei XIX secoIo che era staro riprodotto da

un'edizione larina dei XVII secolo che, .l. sua volta, era la versione srampata

di un manoscritto latino scritto nel XIV secolo da Adso da Melk, monaco

Eco. Umberto. OpO'I1 apm4;fo""'~ ~ iNktuminazioni M/k po~rich~ conlnnporan~~. Milano: Bom-
piani. 1962
Eco. Umberto. Apoclliitni:i ~ i"twari. Milano: Bompiani. 1964.
Eco. Umberto. Lz st7fIltIUa IISSml~. Milano: Bompiani, 1968
Eco. Umberto. U fOmu tkl co"/~""lo. Mi1ano: Bompiani. 1971
Eco. Umberto. Il s~o. Milano: ISEDI. 1973
TrattlltO Ji snnioticl1 gmmllr. Milano: Bompiani, 195

Eco. Umberto.


tedesco protagonista dei romanzo. Infatti, la "uaduzione" di Eco cerca di

mantenere il ritmo dell'originaie farino con le sue lunghe frasi che banna

un colore arcaico ma piacevole. Dalla lettUra dei romanzo si esce spossati,

con la sensazione di una proposta encicloPedjca in cui ogni voce collegata

con le aine in un tono organico. Qui sono le macerie di un'abbazia "lungo

il dorsale appenninico, tra Piemonte, Liguria e Francia," un luogo dove ac-

caddero case lLmirabili e uemende". Siamo nel 1327, quando la chiesa

devastata da lotte interne ed combattuta da "eretici" ostili con i loro

programmi messi in pratica attraverso la violenza e l'appoggio dei popolo.

L'inrccio la storia nafrata in prima persona di una settimana in novem-

brelll quando Adso da Melk, un benedettino che accompagna li dotto

francescano Guglielmo, soggiorna in quest'abbazia dell'Italia Settenrriona-

le. LI Guglielmo doveva mediare le trattanve fra i rappresentanti dei Papa

e quelli di un gruppo di eretici francescani. La sceneggiatura medievale

curata in tutti i particolari ed illettore uasportato nel gioco di potere rra

il Papa e Ludovico di Baviera, successore al trono deI Sacro Impero Roma-

no. Le descrizioni della vita al monastero, le discussioni teologiche e 610so-

fiche fra i monao, il senso di crisi nella abbazia che constata la crescente in-

fluenza delle citt-stato in quel periodo e le persecuzioni deg(j eretici da

parte dell'Inquisizione sono i terni che percorrono [Utto il romanzo. Gu-

glielmo era stato un inquisitore pero aveva rinunciato alla posizione perch

sentiva di non potere pi distinguere fra il male e il bene, fra vera fede ed

Eco. Umberto. Il no",~ dellA rosa. MiIano: Bompiani. 1980.


eresia. Guglielmo entra in scena addirittura descrivendo un cavallo mai vi-

sta. Nell'abbazia circola una strana sensazione di morte. Si trova prima un

monaco in fondo a un dirupo, poi un altro immerso in un carino di sangue

di maiale; un terzo giace inerte nel bagno pubblico... Nell'abbazia si spande

una "storia di ruhamenri e di vendette rra monaci di poca virt" che verte

intarna a un "libro proibito". Questo libro proibito non perch contenga

argomenti vietati ma perch presenta un capovolgimento dei modo stesso

di vedere le cose, cio une schema inedito di Aristotele. Tocca a Gugliel-

mo di decifrare i "segni", con accanto sempre il "discepolo e scrivano" Ad-

sa e la fa con accurata ricerca, come un detective. Ma lui consapevole dei

dari "casuali" della rea1c; "sono gli inquisitori che cercano gli eretici"

esdama improvvisamente, lui che stato un inquisitore e che sa che una ri-

teouta strega non che "carne da hruciare". Attorna a Guglielmo c' una

folla di monaci, aIcuni doppiogiochisti, altri sospetti di eresia e cosi via. La

risposta nella biblioteca, un luogo di sapienza e anche un posco dave le

tracce dell'eco si perdono, inaccessibile. Nd frattempo amori omosessuali

e starie di lotte di potere fra vecchi monaci e un cerro libro, cosrituiscono i

"segni" seguiti da Guglielmo e da Adso. In tutto il racconto si fanno illeci-

te gite notturne e si cerca questo libro che non si ttova che nella biblioteca

dave entra solo il bibliotecario. 1 due protagonisti riescano a fare una map-

pa che li poner alla stanzina dov' il manoscritto. La hiblioteca interpre-

tabile secondo tre livelli simbolici: il labirinto rappresenta il mistero, gli

Il romanzo ha appunto 5Ctte capitoli che rapprcscnrano i sene giorni vissuti a1I'Abbazia.


specchi rappresenrano la distorsione e la mappa la soluzione finale. Alla

fine Guglielmo nova il libro, il libro secondo della Poetica di Aristorele,

che si presumeva perso. La sezione ricuperata afferma che il ridere esorcizza

le paure irragionevoli; il vecchio guardiano cieco della biblioteca, Jorge, ri-

teneva che qUe5tO concerto rappresentasse un rischio per la Cristianit

"attraverso uno schema apocalittico che sembrava reggere tutti i delitti,

eppure era casuale." In fine la bihlioteca incendiata da Jorge. Guglielmo

comprende di aver inseguito solo la verit dei "segni" e di non aver inteso

le 'relazioni". Qua c' una condanna della realt come armoniosa, l'autore

propane piuttosro il trionfo della mutevolezza della vira.

Si porrebbero scrivere moiti saggi su questo romanzo e da moiti punti

di vista. In generale si puo constatare che Umbeno Eco gioca abilmente fra

la zona che separa il passato dal presente. In questa ricostruzione minuziosa

del medioevo ci si trova anche il presente. Cio che conta l'uso dei mate-

riale Medievale; infatti un romanzo storico ben costruito, con un pizzico

di mistcro. T ani trova che questo romanzo "godeo" associato con 10 stile

moderno dei giallo e con l'idea dei passato che toma a dannare il presente,

ovvero la storia che torna come magia, cerca di "appesantire" l'insostenibile

leggerezza dei presente. Il discorso Kundera che Tani espone un concerto

molto interessante se teniamo conta anche dei successo di questo romanzo

sul mercato internazionale.

Aggiungiamo che Eco trasmette dei messaggi molto imporranti, ma-

gari chiamiamoli dei vari segni che costituiscono la realr e la poetica dei


vedere e capire il mondo tramite la scrittura. A parte dei significato narra-

tivo, l'opera di Eco dimostra anche l'inremazionalizzazione della letteratu-

ra italiana contemporanea. Il romanzo infatti seritto per un pubblico non

solo nazionale ma con chiavi che 10 rendono internazionaIe. 1..0 stile giallo

per esempio quello che definisce il romanzo pi sovente; il declino della

Chiesa e rimmora!ir degJi ecclesiastici di fronte alla societ anche un

terna che richiama i tempi della societ indusrrializzarai la valorizzazione

della classicit un tema che richiama agli inizi della cultura moderna. Il

"quest" della felicit, ovvero il problema dei destino, quello che penurba

i personaggi dellibro e, inoirre, l'individuo moderno.

II Francesca Duranti nasce nel 1935. Si laurea in legge aIl'Universit di Pisa e

rraduce opere da! francese, da! redesco e dall'inglese. Attualmente abita a

Milano dove conrribuisce al quotidiano Il giornlll~12. La casa sul lago della

luna l13 il suo successo pi grande che le valse i premi Bagutta, Martina

Franca e Citt di Milano e viene tradotto in moite lingue.

La casa sul lago della luna la storia di Fabrizio Garrone, un trenro[-

renne nevrotico che pretende di non voler immischiarsi con il mondo rite-

nuro da lui sporco. Fabrizio viene da una famiglia ricca ma andata in rovi-

na e vive a Milano facendo il traduttore dal tedesco, ma avendo dei diffi-

cili rapporti con gli edirori. Ha un difficile rappono anche con "la cultura

Le informazioni biogrilfichc della scrittricc si trovano nci scguenti volurni:
Duranti. Francesca. Happy Entlir'g. trad. A. Cancogni New York: Random Housc. 1991.
Duranti, Francesca. Th~ HOIH~ on Momrlalt~. uad. S. Sanardli. New York: Random Housc. 1986.


alla moda" e la societ in genere. L'ambiente milanese nel romanzo quasi

ritrarto oggettivamente. Fabrizio ha delle ambizioni da germanista. Uno

dei personaggi Fulvia, l'amante solida che vorrebbe da lui un impegno

chiaro. Poi c' anche l'amico di inf.mzia, un pleheo figlio dei custodi della

villa di famiglia a Genova dei tempi buoni, che diventato un editore di

successo. Su una bancarella di libri usati Fabrizio uova e compra una rac-

colta di elzeviri di Giorgio Pasquali nella quale legge l'accenno, in una re-

censione tcanale deI 1913, ad un romanzo sconosciuro, Das Haus am

Mandsee. appunto La casa sul/aga della luna, di Fritz Oberhofer, stampato

a Vienna in cenro esemplari fuori commercio e giudicato da Pasquali

"invenzione originale e Felice e tuttavia esence da ogni dubbio" }14 Fabrizio

si propone di conoscere questo scrittore ignoro. Dopo indagini infruttuose

egli pane per Vienna alla ricerca dei libro grazie ad un prestito di Fulvia.

Alla biblioteca nazionale trova i quartro romanzi precedenti dello scrittore

ausrro-ungarico conosciutQ nei circoLi intellettuali del suo tempo pi per il

sua "taLento per la vira" che per quelle per la letteratura. 1 quartro romanzi

infarti non avevano avuto successo, specialmenre in confronto ai successi

amorosi delL'autore. Fabrizio uova finalmente illibro che cerca in un al-

berghetto dove si sente per la prima volta a sua agio. Torna a Milano e si

butra ispirato a rradurre: "Va a posto da s - disse Fabrizio a Fulvia... sci-

vola si capovolge, cerca la suada pi giusra, come un delfino che gioca

nell'acqua. Sembra che Fritz abbia scritta per essere tradotto da me e che

Durand. Francesca. LA ntl kilO Jelkt IMM. Mano: Rizzoli. 1984.



io abbia imparato il tedeseo pee tradurre lui... una speeie di affmit, non

sa spiegani".1f5 Una volta finira la uaduzione Fabrizio ritorna a Vienna

mandato da Mario per preparare una bibliografia di Fritz da pubblicare

dopo il romanzo. Pero Fabrizio non nova un granch e quindi inventa la

biografia inventando in particolare i suoi amoei. Il romanzo e la biografia

ortengono un grande successo e Fabrizio, che csaurito, si rinchiude nella

casa per e si laseia andare ad "un funesto delirio - idencificandosi con un

morro per vivere una storia d'amore con una donna che non era mai esisti-

ta" .116 Il mito della donna, Maria, eresee e Fabrizio sente che gli stato ru-

bato il personaggio che ha creato ed in una rabbia di gelosia decide di ri-

velare la verit per "ricaceiare Maria nel monda delle ombre a cui appartie-

ne".117 Ma Petra, un nipote di Maria che era stara il vero ultimo amore di

Fritz, rivela a Fabrizio l'epistolario della nonna Petra, che vive in una casa

vieino al lago, ehe corrisponde totalmente all'invenzione di Fabrizio. Fabri-

zio infine decide di abitare sullago della luna, cio nel modo di Fritz e di

abbandonare il oostro monda violenta.

La. narrazione di questO romanzo in terza persona. T ani nota giu-

stamente che il oarratore onnisciente scivola troppo spesso nel facile errore

di commentare cio che accade. Inoltre, il romanzo non sviluppa bene il di-

scorso esistenziale che sembra voler essere il messaggio dei libro. Il mistero


Duranti. Franccsca.14 CilS4 sul "'go ik/J4 IMM. Milano: Rizzoli. 1984. p. 24.
Ibid. p.83.
Ibid. p. 125.

Ibid. p. 135.


accaduto nel passato comunque ricevuto pi facilmenre nel presente~ gra-

zie ai suggerimenti della fine.

Quesro romanzo pero riflette il dilemma dell'individuo di fronre aIle

incertezze del presente. Il personaggio rca delle risposte in altri luoghi e

tempi e nonostante questa ricerca quasi da tkuetitJ~ che si svolge nel passa-

to, egli rimane infelice nef centro urbano. Fabrizio trova pace quando ab-

bandona la cirt a1ienante; ecco la citt che ci cosuinge ad accettare le sue

regole con dei poso di lavoro (che il personaggio rifiuta di cereare). un

rerna che sar sviluppato meglio da Andrea De Carlo in Du~ di due.

Tani la descrive cosl: "L'anima troppo nobile per quesro mondo cor-

rotto, l'esitazione fatale rra la donna corporea e la donna fantasmatiea e

notturna, il cedere ad una passione morbosa che uccide, il vampirismo e la

fona dei destino. nlls

Un'ultima nota su Duranti: il suo successo lerrerario era dovuto in

parte a Giorgio Bassani che presenta l'opera dopa la pubblicazione nel

1984. 119

Tmi Stefano. Il T011Ulnzo Ji ritomo: tiIl,
T01NUIZD ",~Jio tkt/i IInni SmimtilIIi/4 giOr.ttlM ND'ratiVil J~g/i
IInni OttanliJ. MiJano: Murisa. 1990. pin.
Tani Stefano. Il T071lilllZO Ji ritomo: tI4/ T01rUI7IZD ",~Jio tIIr/i IInni ~ 1lilagnh:zM NUTatiVil J'g/i

Il1lni OlTllnliJ. MiJano: Murisa. 1990. p.131




Come si gi accennato, 10 scenario delle opere di T ondelli e di Busi,

che formano una coppia a parte, piuttosto "provinciale" 0 "concentrazio-

nario". La condizione giovanile al cuore della loro poetica, caratterizzata dal

senrimento della frustrazione e di una condizione ghettizzante. Lo sole cu-

mulativo e frastornante.

Benni, insieme a Tondelli ed a Busi, in cerca di un nuovo stile tramite

terni fantascientifici, condivide l'interesse per la condizione giovanile emargina-

ra ed uno srile accumulatorc.

Pier Vittorio Tondelli nato nel 1955 a Correggio (Reggio Emilia) e ha

studiato all'Universit di Bologna, laureandosi con una tcsi sul romanzo

epistolare. Ha curato due antologie di racconti: UnJu 25 "Giovani blues"

pubblicata. nel 1986 e B~/lj 6- Perversi. uscita nel 1987 e si occupato della

serie editoriale "Mouse (0 mouse" per Mondadori, affermandosi cosl come

promotore di nuovi esordienri. morro, purtroppo, nel 1982.


A/tri /ibeninz'1fJ il sua primo romanzo, a suo tempo sequesrraro per

oscenir e poi assolto dalla magistratura. un libro molto polemico, ma

forse il pi vivo di quegli anoi. n romanzo costituito da sei episodi

modo che ciascuno di essi, pur costitueodo uoa unit a s, confluisse in un

romanzo sostanziaimente unitario che " queUo della mia terra e dei nosui

miti generazionali"121. Quindi quesro romanzo-racconto un libro con cui

si chiudeva un decennio di confusione e di libert, di collettivismo e di tra-

sgressione, prima del massiccio ritorno all'ordine degli anni Ottanta. InoI-

tre T ondelli molto conscio della condizione della sua generazione (viene

chiamato un aurore dell'autariuatto generazionale da T ani nel Romanzo di

ritorno lZ2 Le sei storie hanna in comune l'ambientazione (Reggio Emilia e

Correggio). un simile mondo giovanile e. nelle ultime quattro. un simile

"io" narratore autobiografico. Il primo racconto. "Postoristoro", che il

pi violenta, si svolge alla stazione di Reggio Emilia. La narrazione in terza

persona descrive una giornata neIJa vira di spacciatori di droga, tossicodi-

peadenti. prostirure vecchie 0 giovani e sdentare. Uno dei personaggi

Giusy, un "pusher" scassato; un alrro Molly che parla un linguaggio ger-

gale. rabbioso e duro. Qui ci si uovano i relitti deU'umanit. Il racconro

usa moite parolacce indiscretamente e si propone come una descrizione ve-

rosimile della miseria al postoristoro di questa stazione. Infine Giusy sogna

TondeUi, Pier Vjuorio. Altri /ibmini. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1980.

Tondelli, Pier Vittorio. A/tri lib~,.tini. MiJano; Fc1trineUi. 1980. Nota introduttiva dell"aurorc al
proprio romanzo.
T ani, Stefano. Il T01IfIZ1IZO di ritomo: Dal1r1manzo m~Jio tkg/i an"i I6kDlta lIiIA giOUIIN ",,"atiua tkgli

anni Ottant4. Milano: M ursia. 1990. pp. 197~228.


che "prima 0 poi qualcosa cambier. e saro uomo e non me la faro pi con

tutti i parei lerci dei postoristoro e trovero una donna e ci faro dei figli e

mi sbatter coi buchi finche ho vene e soldi e un pezzo di culo da dar via,

perch perch perch" 123 Ma nel frattempo egli dorme e "le gambe gli

sembrano le srampelle in legno di un pavero martire della Parria"':!". La. se-

conda stona, "Mimi e isuioni", quella di quattro ragazze scatenate, le

"splash" di Reggio Emilia, che vivono ed amano sfrenatamente nel periodo

dei colletovi giovanili, dei gruppi autogestiti, delle radio libere e dei labo-

ratori musicali e tcatrali. La vicenda raccontata da una di loro, Pia, in une

sole confidenziale e aperto, dopo la dissoluzione delle vacanze estive, attra-

verso un "noi" collettivo che riflette un sentimento contro-culturale che pa-

re allo stesso tempo istintivo e meditato, una specie di ideologia. In questo

modo riferimenti a Dante e Manzoni si mescolano con quelli a Godard ed

a McLuhan ed anche a discoteche. C' un senso di libert associara aile

ubriacature. Pero "c' quasi nausea per quegli anni sbandati e quel passato

che vorremmo anche noi rigettare assieme alla Nanni (che fa un lavaggio

gastrico) quel pomeriggio yuoto di febbraio"'2S. Questo succede quando si

rivelano i destini oscuri delle protagoniste, ma comunque febbraio restava

vuoto, un paradosso. Viaggio il resoconto della ricerca di identit e di

formazione da pane dell'autore a Bruxelles, Parigi, Bologna e Milano.

Vengono descritti i suoi amon omosessuali, le ubriacature e la droga, vo-

Tondclli. Picr Vittorio. A/tri Hburi"i. Milano: fcltrinclli. 1980. p. 34.

Ibid. p.34.

Ibid. p.65


lendo riflettere cosi gli anni Settanta. Questo il racconto pi lungo e inte-

ressante, anche pee 10 stile che traducc l'autobiografia senza rinunciare

aIl'immediatezza dei racconte. Di un suo amore dice: "Karla questo mio

risveglio, Karla che nient' ai no che una beUa ballata di Leonard Cohen,

una canzone ubriaca e roca"lU>. E della sua vira: "non ho i soldi pee compe-

rare dei buchi 0 una stecca di fume, ci do dentro con l'alcool... un giorno

sto male. Tutto succede non appena accendo la prima sigarena, al matti-

no"lZ7. Il breve "Seno contrario" semplicemente una notte di una guida

folle che fugge da vigilAntes, incurante dei divieri e sensi UDici e dat sesso

omosessuale a [re; a quesro pero segue il "vuoto enorme" Della prima mar-

tinata e si sente "meno che uno straccio". A/tri /ibertini una tipica sroeia

di provincia, ambientata a Correggio, ovvero "questo cessa di paese stacca-

to da! resto dei mondo "1l8 con amici al bar, notti in bianco, penegolezzi ed

amori grassi, tutto che esplode in una festa libidinosa di ragazze e di ragaz-

zi "assatanati". narraro con un "nof' impersonale e crana le manovre col-

lettive per "cuccarsi" 10 srraniero. Pare che qui il racconto si soffermi di pi

sui rapporti personaIi, ma 10 stile rimane intatto. In fine, Autobahn una

fuga con la Cinquecento dei solito "io" di Correggio suU'autosrrada che da

Capri porta fino a Amsterdam. un viaggio verso la liben, verso "rodore

dei mare dei Settenrrione che spazza le srrade e la campagna e quando ar-

riva senti proprio dentro la salsedine delle burrasche e dell'oceano e persino

Ibid. p. 127.
Ibid. p.97.

Ibid. p. 146.


il rauco gridolino dei gabbiani... ho fra i denti le salscdine aaghhh e in testa

libert" 129. Questo racconto quello che mostra di pi il linguaggio diverso

con cui scrive Tondelli. Si chiude con "ah, buoni davvero buoni odori in

verit, ma saranno pur sempre i vostri odori e allora via, alla faccia di tutti

avanti! Col naso in aria flutate il vento, strapazzate le nubi a1l'orizzonte,

foru, ora di partire, fona tutti insieme inconuo all'avventuraaaaa!". 130 In

quesc'opera, come si era gi visto nella letteratura femminile di Dacia Ma-

raini, vi l'esaItazione della rottura con le convenzioni sociali e con la liber-

c assolura. La libert di T ondelli pero riguarda tutti i giovani ed solo

conforme alla reaIt dei giovani che descrive. Tani non discute la necessit

di libert in T ondelli, si limita invece a notare che un ritratto generazio-

nale di rottura e di sfogo autobiografico; forse il fano pi importance da

cenere in mente.

Questo romanzo rappresenta : "La condizione giovanile vissura co-

me gherrizzanre. Lo srile cumulativo e frasrornante come la complessit

della realt in cui ci si muove. "131

Pao paolJ! evoca resperienza deI servizio di leva dell'io narratore. La

sigla PAO infatti significa Piccheno Armato Ordinario. Come nell'opera

precedente, questo romanzo autobiografico raecanta le storie amorose e

Ibid. p. 182.
Ibid. p. 195.
Tani Stcfano. 1/ ro7NI11ZD Ji ritomo: Jal rom",1ZO m~Jio ikg/i ""ni Smtmrit """ rjOVtiIN "",.,.ari'/Il ti~g/i

anni Ottant4. Milano: Murisa. lm. p. 193.

Tondclli. Picr Vittorio. PilO ptuJ. Milano: FeltrincUi. 1982.


seIvatiche che uavolgono una compagnia di ragazzi durante l'anno di servi-

zia militare in quell'ambiente da) presunto "statuto fone". Il significato del

PAO s'applica paradossalmente a queUe uasgressioni. Dopo un breve sog-

giorno in U mbria, il gruppo si ritrova a Roma. L'inueccio basato sugli

umori, 10 spirito di rivolta, le paure, l'afTetto e la sensualit di questi ragaz-

zi. Essi resistono fortemente alla costrizione dei regolamenti militari. In ca-
serma, i ragazzi trovano un modo di sfogare le loro vogUe e i loro discorsi

nelle docce, negli sgabuzzini, negli scantinati, nei magazzini. Nel periodo

di libera uscira, rutto ritorna alla normalit: discoteche, viaggetti, gite a

Ostia, Villa Borghese, Piazza Navona, Cinecitt, Monte Caprino,

"moltissimi film, qualche ceauino e i soHti caff" e tanti vizi. Pao pao sco-

pre sia l'esperienza drammatica dei ragazzi che affroncano "il rito di pas-

saggio della caserma" sia quell'esperienza comica e franca dei sopravvivere

in allegria. Pcr escmpio: "Calcata un paesino in miniatura che sta su una

rocc:a abiraco prevalentemence da fr~aks in uasferta. L'andremo Beujean

ed io alcune voIre per toglierci di dosso l'odore militare e vivere un poco

fra persone civili e non sempre fra najoni". La Iingua riflette il parlato

contemporaneo giovanile, confidenziale e umoresco. Questi personaggi so-

no visti da vicino e con un rigore cosl fone che distingue tutta l'opera, vo-

lcndo accennare il polemico, ma in essenza limitandola. L'clemento auto-

biografico che s'intreccia con un "io" narratore, daU'egocentrismo esplicito,

influenza mua la narrazione: "poich le occasioni della vita sono infinice e

Ibid. p. 101.


le loro armonie si schiudono ogni tante a dar soUievo a questo nostro pau-

rosa vagare per sentieri che non conosciamo "04. Questo romanzo ricalca le

tracce del precedente senza portare notevole novir. Si caranerizza pero,

come nota Tani, per essere enfatico, giovanile nel peggiore dei sensi.

RiminP35 l'ultimo romanzo di Tondelli e rappresenra un cam-

biamento notevole nella sua scrirtura. Questa unopera meditata che af-

ferma la capacit dell'autore di scrivere per un pubblico pi vasto. Inoltre,

la narrazione cenamente originale nel senso che gioca con la terza e con la

prima persona - molreplici persone. Olrre alla voce onnisciente. qui ci so-

no due narratori in prima persona: Marco Bauer, un giovane cronisra ambi-

zioso di un giornale di Milano che viene inaspenatamenre promosso a re-

dattore della pagina estiva dell'Adriatico e si sposta quindi a Rimini dove

investigher su un suicidio poco chiara; e Renato Zarri, che in due sezioni,

"pensione Kelly" e "HoreI Kelly", situate alla fme di ciascuna delle due

parti, narra la uoria dei suoi genitori alberghieri e della sua infanzia e ado-

lescenza inserendola nella crescita economica italiana - dal caos - e spe-

cialmente la crescita di Rimini. Le due prospective si complimentano per

offrirci un panorama complessivo di Rimini: quello interno e quello ~rer

no, vista da visiratori. L'arrivo di Marco da Milano a Rimini narraro in

prima persona, ma il racconto diventa in terza persona quando descrive le

storie di alrri personaggi venuti a Rimini per realizzare i loro desideri:

Robby e Toly, alla ricerca di soldi per produrre il loro film, "speranza di

Ibid. p. 185.


entrare a far pane un giorno di un $Ognon; l'antiquaria Beauix, in cerca di

una sua sorella ma anche di se stessa; il sassofonisra Albeno che si avventura

in una reIazione con una donna sposata. Quando racconta Marco, anch'egli

s'intreccia con i protagonisti delle aine storie: incanna la $Orella drogata di

Beatrix, vede il film di Robby e Tony, ecCe L'unico persona con il quale

Marco in rappor(o diretto Bruno May, che a ogni descrizione risu1ta di-

verso: gigolo, violento, romantico. Bruno poi si rivela un giovane scrittore

di talento che vive ancora l'effetto dei successo di un primo romanzo ed

inorridito da un infelice amore omosessuale. T ondelli scrive in una nota

che i personaggi e il luogo sono dei tutto immaginari. L'inizio dei romanzo

la descrilione di Marco in attesa della notilia della promozione, dopa la

quale festeggia. un "afoso manino di met giugno, il diciotto giugno

millenovecento Ottantatr". La narrazione veloce, efficace, tutta fatti,

condotta con una cena ironia, piena di sorprese, descrizioni ed anche pau-

se. T ondelli cerca qua di rappresentare una rea1t variopinta, esatra e dei

tutto naturale. Egli procede in modo calma e con una cerra spertacolarir

dell'esrate a Rimini. Scrive infatti in una nota finale che "tutto questo lavo-

ra aveva un solo punto debole e cio che la notilia, l'accadimenro di cui ci

saremmo dovuti occupare, poteva nascere all'improvviso e magari nella cit-

t pi improbabile".'J6 Dipinge in questo modo un paesaggio un po' rncta-

flSico descritto come "un panorama di baldanza"137 0 "citt di mone" , 138

Tondelli. Picr Vittorio. Rimini. Miiano: Bompiani. 1985.

Ibid. Nota finale deU'aurore.

Ibid. Nora finale dell'aurore.


con dei visi e giochi che ilIudono. 1..0 scrittore raffigura un' "immensa va-

riet di combinazionin d