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Somalia: who asked to be colonised?

So much for the initial stated aim of the US of restoring hope in Somalia. What hope is there for the people when innocent civilians are being gunned down under the pretext of a humanitarian mission? The Somali people have enough murderous leaders of their own without foreign nations intervening in such a way that only adds to the bloodbath and exacerbates an already unacceptably horrific situation.

The Somali people did not ask for a prolonged and bloody military intervention in their country. They did not ask to be patronised, colonised and murdered. They did not consent to being part of a publicity stunt that allowed one US president to leave office to the applause of a nation he has poisoned, and another to enter riding on the waves of a military action that blinkers citizens to the crises on their doorsteps. The Somalis requested humanitarian aid, not a scavenging media machine plucking at the carcass of a troubled nation for pictures of dying children and heroic soldiers.

It is perhaps ironic that the US soldiers are 'protecting' civilians from gunmen armed with American weapons in the conveniently forgotten struggle for the Horn of Africa. How can the US think to puff out its chest and pat itself on the back when its previous involvement has helped lead to the terrible events that are now tearing Somalia apart?

Why have I spoken only of the US intervention when the operation has of course been spearheaded by the UN? Could it be because offensives taken by the US appear arbitrary and without thought for UN stipulations? Could it be because Boutros Boutros-Ghali appears to be no more than a stooge in a macabre play staged and directed by an American president possessed of a paranoid obsession with being taken seriously and seen as strong?

Whatever my reasons and regardless of your own beliefs about who exactly is taking the leading role in this operation, one fact stands out clearly - there is no place for killers in Somalia. Foreign military heavy handedness must cease, for as long as the Somali leaders feel themselves to be backed into a corner with no dignified way out, the harder and more fiercely they will fight leaving little hope for recovery.

The one wish of the Somali people - a wish they demand to see realised - is the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from their soil and for the rebuilding of Somalia to be aided by the agencies that genuinely care about the lives of the people. Somalis everywhere must come together to present a united stand against foreign military intervention.

HI Ahmed Somali Welfare Society

Oil imperialism

In your editorial ('Peacekeeping means imperialism', August) you argue that 'Western governments are increasingly driven to intervene abroad, under the banners of the UN, in a bid to overcome their domestic crises. Their aim is not to save lives in Somalia or Yugoslavia, but to salvage their own authority in the West'.

The United States' intervention in Somalia may have had more to do with old-fashioned imperialist plunder (which is not to say that the baloney about 'restoring hope' did not serve short-term propaganda purposes).

According to journalist Mark Fineman, writing in the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, 'far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major US oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of Somali countryside. That land, in the opinion of many geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the US-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation'.

In the words of the New York journal Left Business Observer, 'nearly two-thirds of the country was allocated to four oil companies - Conoco, Amoco, Chevron, and Phillips - by the wretched Siad Barre regime, a Washington favourite that was overthrown in January 1991. Industry sources told Fineman that they hoped that the US deployment would 'protect their multi-million dollar investments'.

Left Business Observer notes that no other major American newspaper ran this story. And of course the same self-censorship applies on this side of the Atlantic.

Justin O'Hagan Co Down

PS How can you 'campaign against militarism' and at the same time support the military elitists of the IRA who go about their murderous business with the support of around six per cent of the Irish people? Capitalism has its glaring contradictions, but so too does 'revolutionary communism' if your politics are anything to go by.

Bosnia and the West

The cry of 'do something' reverberates through the chattering classes as if the United Nations had not done enough to wreck the lives of the hated Slavs already. Having carved up Yugoslavia, the diplomats are doing the same to Bosnia. Our governments blockade Serbia, fire upon Croats and persuade the Muslims to establish an independent state - only to stab them in the back once they do.

Perhaps it's a sign of the times that the only kind of action that warrants the name is the action taken by people in authority. John Howard (letters, August) writes that the policy of opposing Western intervention is a do-nothing policy. Western intervention is the problem; stopping it is the best action we can take.

John Howard says that a 1936 issue of Living Marxism would have read 'Western intervention can only make things worse'. If so, it would have been true. The intervention by the German government on the side of Franco, by the British government against the international brigades, and by Britain's liberal establishment to restrain the republican government to the limits of acceptable behaviour, combined to frustrate the Spanish revolution.

Nat Cohen and his comrades in the Stepney Communist Party (the first volunteers to fight for the Spanish republic) made many mistakes - not the least of which was the desire to find the revolution anywhere but where they lived. But one thing they did understand was that you never ask the state to act on your behalf - and when the bailiffs came round to evict a member of the British Union of Fascists they would join in giving the bailiffs a good hiding. Nowadays the 'must do something' brigade join in with Hackney council officers demanding the eviction of tenants accused of stealing.

Working class action, independent from the state, is 'brave and inspiring'. Joining in with the chorus of school sneaks, pulling on teacher's skirts and pleading for some 'action' from on high, is what I call 'flaccid'.

James Heartfield London
Your article 'How the West has won' (July) is a load of bollocks. It is true that no-one of any significance has questioned the right of Western powers, through the UN, to intervene in the Yugoslavian war. Yet as far as Clinton, Major, Mitterrand, etc, are concerned, the main reason for intervening is to improve their standing at home.

John Major is the most unpopular prime minister ever, Francois Mitterrand's party has recently received a pretty comprehensive thrashing in the French elections, and Bill Clinton is not exactly flavour of the month. It would appear, therefore, that intervening in Bosnia-Herzegovina has done little to improve their political standing. If anything it has had the opposite effect. In other words, they have failed in their (undeclared) aims. They have also failed in their declared aims.

The 'Vance-Owen peace plan' which has been sponsored and championed by the UN for so long, will not be implemented. The 'safe areas' for Muslims have been constantly bombarded by Serb artillery pieces and small arms fire. Aid convoys to Sarajevo and other Muslim cities have been held up, turned back, confiscated and in some cases destroyed by Serb and Croat forces.

Another of the UN's declared intentions is to prevent the carve-up of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Recent meetings suggest that Bosnia-Herzegovina will be divided up, effectively between Croatia and Serbia. Another failure for the UN. The 'Useless Nincompoops' have proved militarily incompetent to handle the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Finally, the UN itself is in pieces. Its members cannot agree on any policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina. The very raison d'etre of the UN has been brought into question.

How anyone can say the West 'has achieved an important victory' in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a mystery to me.

GC Macquarie Nottingham

PS There are many ethnic and racial differences between Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Serbs and Croats do not speak the same language. Serbs speak Serbian, Croats speak Croatian. The two languages are quite similar, like Spanish and Italian, but they are not the same. They even use different alphabets. If you don't believe me, try learning to speak Croatian and then go to Serbia and see how far it gets you.

Ad nauseam

With regard to Living Marxism's efforts to expose militarism in society - perhaps an article on militarism in advertising? Perhaps, too, the wankers and wankerettes who jerked out 'Make war not love' (Nike around Wimbledon-time) and 'Heat-seeking' (Vauxhall cars, current) could be asked to explain to us why they are so keen to have themselves commemorated as Imperial War Museum postcards?

Michael Searle Twickenham

Sex and politics

John Everett (letters, August) asks 'what has sex got to do with politics?'. This is a good question which he should address first and foremost to the capitalist authorities, since it is they that continue to fine and imprison homosexuals and sadomasochists for having sex. His own answer is less than satisfactory.

Finding such sexual pleasures as mine 'totally incomprehensible', John Everett concludes that homosexuality can have nothing to do with politics. The persecution we suffer, it would seem, is the result of our own 'peculiar' behaviour, leading us to 'offend against what other people regard as the norm'. If we kept ourselves to ourselves there would be no problem. Meanwhile socialists should restrict themselves to the 'establishing of direction and control of economic factors in the interests of the people'.

I am completely in favour of getting sex out of politics but I recognise that first we have to get politics out of people's sex lives. John Everett's 'norm' is of course highly political - a device for defending the status quo by establishing middle class family values as the only acceptable form for working class lives. The resulting sexual and gender divisions are then morally policed by the authorities so as to redefine society's problems as those of 'immoral' behaviour on the part of deviant individuals.

Only when working people join the struggle for basic democratic rights for homosexuals will any of us be able to leave behind the petty differences in sexual desires that are promoted by the authorities, and move towards our shared interest in a communist future.

You can't dodge the issue, John. As long as the capitalist authorities have got you all up tight about the 'peculiar' sexual pleasures people like me are enjoying in the bushes, they can relax and get on with the business of screwing society.

Geoff Burnham Northampton

Pension wrongs

Whilst I would agree that an alarming number of recession-hit employers are turning to the company pension scheme as a source of cash, however shortsighted and tax inefficient, Andrew Calcutt's report ('Pensioners mugged by men in suits', July) makes a number of misleading statements.

As a result of a European Court judgement, deeming pensions to be pay, some women will see their pensions reduced at 60. This will not affect people retiring now, but will gradually equalise men's and women's pension ages, in the future.

Money purchase schemes are quickly dismissed, when they have the advantage that 'cash hungry' employers have no access to the funds which are allotted to individual members at outset. To state that they are not inflation-proof is confusing, they are simply dependent on the amount of the contribution, which is known on an individual basis and can therefore be judged, by the employee.

John Reid Guildford

Viva Cromwell!

Megan Ap Gruffydd (letters, August) has no grounds to complain about Penny Robson's use of a Roundheads and Cavaliers analogy to end her anti-monarchist article ('Off with their head of state', July). There are two points to be made here.

First, Penny Robson was using the analogy not to draw direct parallels between the seventeenth century and today, but to point out that the subservient attitude of the Labour Party and Charter '88 towards the monarchy makes them more conservative than Oliver Cromwell. (Clearly irony is not Megan's strong suit.)

Second, Cromwell was a revolutionary (clearly history is not her strong suit either). Megan says Cromwell's struggle was 'conducted within the confines of the ruling establishment of that period', as if it were a sort of pre-Maastricht split in the Tory Party. In fact his was a revolutionary war fought precisely to break the confines of the old order; cutting off the king's head symbolised that process perfectly.

Megan's point seems to be that Cromwell was not a Marxist. Give in Penny, she's got you there. Cromwell led the embryonic English bourgeoisie, 200 years before there was any such thing as Marxism, and was well prepared to defend his new ruling class against the lower orders; witness the crushing of the Levellers' movement. But that does not alter the fact that the anti-monarchist war was progressive. It is ironic that the capitalists whose predecessors fought with Cromwell now worship the monarchy and insist (like Megan) that there has never been a revolution in Britain.

Megan really is right to say that 'the actions of the living' are what matter. But we will be ill-equipped to understand the present if we start from wrong-headed assumptions about the past.

John Makeham London
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 59, September 1993

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