Economy and social affairs

Where is the hope for the world's poor?

(Published in Grail World 14/2000)

Failed development aid, ruined communism: does Islam hold belief in the future?

After the end of the Second World War, the destroyed cities in Europe and in the Far East were rebuilt faster than expected. So began a time of hope: the world economy was developing, and everything seemed doable with technology and democracy. Because there was by no means only one German “economic miracle”; but also the rise of Japan or the rapid development of South Korea after the Korean War (1953) seemed to confirm all optimistic forecasts.

This optimism was not limited to the “capitalist” world. Even beyond the “iron curtain”, people were convinced that they would succeed in building their country and stepping into a better future.

I cry woe over this world:
I cry woe because I like it;
I shout woe three times because, cruelly,
what it promises does not keep the starving man.
Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891)

On a global scale, however, there were great upheavals: In many countries of the “Third World” - mostly located in the southern hemisphere - the worst poverty prevailed, and a “decent life” (whatever one might mean by that) seemed to the poor of the world far, far away

This is where the great idea of development aid began. The industrialized countries - especially, but not exclusively, those of the West - wanted to help the underdeveloped nations of the South with know-how and capital in order to "fight" ignorance, disease and poverty and to open up a better future for neglected people, even in forgotten regions. Unfortunately, this goal of "helping people to help themselves" has often remained unachieved, and many countries around the world are poorer today than they were half a century ago.*)

Where even development aid could not improve the lot of the poor, where, despite all the promises made by politicians, the economic situation even worsened, there Marxist ideologues promised the end of injustice and mismanagement, provided that a socialist state was established based on the model of the Soviet Union would.

Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, communism has become the hope of the world's poor; to the longing of the underdeveloped or oppressed peoples who - rightly or wrongly - felt exploited by capitalists and demanded a more just world order that took their needs better into account.

Corresponding slogans of ideological propagandists found approval in not a few countries. China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela and many other countries professed socialism. Similar to the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc that it dominated, these countries also tried to follow the paths indicated by the founding fathers of the communist movement. As we know today, with negative economic and social results.

Hope for socialism as a savior has collapsed since 1989 at the latest. The huge, large-scale experiment in which hundreds of millions of people were to be educated to communism has failed after seven decades. The Soviet system proved unsuitable for solving the problem of poverty. Obviously, Marxist theorems were not suitable for building a prosperous economy or for educating people. This realization is painful for some “left” idealists, but it can no longer be denied or repressed. What is remarkable in this context is that Marxism is an "economic" theory, and the practiced Soviet socialism has perished because of its totally rotten economy.

The collapse of Soviet socialism is particularly bitter for the world's poor. Their only hope, perhaps the last, was the expectation of a coming socialist order that would finally bring them justice and modest prosperity. This hope for the future has been shattered, and many are at a loss before the apparently absolute victory of the “capitalist” or “market-based” economy, which has proven to be vastly superior to the state-controlled economy. But is extreme capitalism, which is rightly unloved by many people, the ultima ratio?

In various countries, attempts are being made to fill the gap left by the decline of Marxist ideology with a different world view: Islam. In Europe, people like to talk about "fundamentalist" Islam as soon as we hear about religious zealots who promise to solve all problems with the Koran and Sharia**); a promise that seems medieval.

But what may seem out of date to us, something that could hardly mobilize many supporters among Central Europeans, often has a convincing effect on the poor and disadvantaged in Islamic countries. They long for a just world order, and who else could create such an order if not a god-sent prophet?

A possibly imminent intellectual confrontation of the West, which calls itself “Christian”, with Islam will then be more difficult than the controversy with socialism. Islam offers a theology developed over centuries on the basis of a revelation recognized by the Muslims as God-given, which can hardly be attacked or refuted by philosophical means.

In addition, we have every reason to take the longings of the disadvantaged seriously, but little reason to rise above Islam - whether fundamentalist or deeply religious. The gaps in which it is penetrating have not only been torn open by the collapse of socialist ideologies.

Western politics had the greatest influence on the majority of Islamic countries for many decades. But the politicians of the western world were no more convincing than the Christianity practiced by Europeans and Americans. No wonder that the developing countries today are hoping for no real help or spiritual role models from the West, from Europe, from America or from the UN. So they fall back on their own traditions, on ancestral religions, in order to finally find the justice that has been denied them by the various rulers so far.

So in all probability the Islamic countries will look for their own paths, the direction of which will also depend on the extent to which fundamentalist preachers inspire the masses and win new followers of the Prophet.

It remains to be seen whether the Islamic states, which are quite different in culture and history, will unite to form a bloc of Muslims or to form several Islamic groups; It seems certain, however, that they want to shape the future differently and find better solutions than the West.

The path of Islamic peoples into their future will therefore in all probability differ just as clearly from the path of the Occident as from the paths of the emerging states of East Asia. Whether the Sharia in Islamic countries can better meet the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised than other religious, political, ideological approaches will then be shown. -

Read the article "" under "Book reviews".War of religions", and under "Economy and Social Affairs" the article "Intelligence ticks left".

Final grade:
*) Read about the failed development aid in Africa in "What apocalypse is coming?" the final score [v] under "Ecology". 
**) Sharia (sheria) is the religious law of Islam. It is determined by the idea of the identity of state and religious community and is both state and religious law. Sharia is attributed to God as the head and supreme legislator.