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
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
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
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
'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.
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
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
John Reid Guildford
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
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