Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Socialist Worker on Somalia

So ... has Britain's largest revolutionary socialist organisation really adapted its politics to Islamism since establishing Respect?

Let's consider this portrayal of the recent takeover of Mogadishu by the Union of Islamic Courts, published in the latest Socialist Worker:

'For the first time for many years there is a sense of relief and hope among many people in Somalia,' we are told in the opening sentence, which pretty much sets the tone of the entire article. There is not one single word of critique, not one indication that this development is anything other than entirely positive.

True, it is incontestable that the UIC have considerable popular support. The SWP attributes this to what it sees as the organisation's quasi-social democratic politics. The UIC are depicted essentially as armed reformists, delivering pavement politics through the barrel of an AK-47:

'Key to the success of the UIC was the fact that it was already an established and accepted presence in local communities, with a demonstrated social welfare policy.

'Apart from bringing security to areas under its control, through its own militia and justice system, it had also set up farms, schools, water points, health clinics and orphanages.

'Although the UIC did not initially have strong popular support, there was a feeling that it upheld moral standards and discipline, and had a unifying and familiar ideology in Islam ...'

Read that again. Slowly. Upholding moral standards and discipline, eh? Sound chaps. Most rightwing Tories would approve. But is it truly the job of revolutionary socialists to cheerlead for such moral standards as forcing women to wear the veil and the amputation of the limbs of thieves?

It's also open to question whether or not the UIC are capable of mounting a challenge to the clan system, as the SWP maintains. All but one of the Islamic Courts are associated with one single clan, the Hawiye.

And class analysis is nowhere to be seen. What is the movement's social basis? In the interests of which classes does it operate? We are not told. An astonishing omission on the part of what still claims to be a Marxist publication.

Ultimately, the definitive evaluation of what the UIC represents, from a socialist perspective, will have to wait until it has been in power for some period of time. Let's just see what the future brings, although I have to say the portents don't look too promising.

But even as a preliminary assessment, the SWP's position is at the very least imbalanced. The article's final sentence explains why any sense of perspective has been lost:

'There is no doubt imperialism has suffered a blow.'

And that's all anyone needs to know.

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