The Socialist Workers Party has had a fairly patchy relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, over the years.
Writing in 1946, its founder, Tony Cliff, famously had this to say about the party:
The British are… doing all in their power to foster the Moslem Brotherhood, a clerical-fascist organisation in Egypt, which is at present organising branches in Palestine. It was this organisation which succeeded to a certain extent in diverting the demonstrations against the Balfour Declaration which took place on 2 November 1945 in Cairo and Alexandria into attacks on the communal minorities, Christian and Jewish. Their success was only partial, as the Egyptian workers’ movement understood that the communal attacks constituted an assault upon it. The workers’ paper El Damir stated at that time: “It is very heartening that the workers were not dragged into the plots hatched against them to involve them in the attacks of 2 November, the day of the cursed Balfour Declaration… The Egyptian workers’ movement struggles against racial fanaticism and deprecates every movement fostered around it.”
Read the rest.
Incidentally, you will increasingly hear Arab Nationalists, Right wing loons, and those on the far Left advance very similar theories about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, today. Whatever self-deluding fantasies some in Western governments have about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, that party most certainly does not regard itself in allied in any way, shape, or form with any Western nation.
But back to my main point.
In the last decade, the Socialist Workers Party swung from its opposition to clerical fascism, to embracing it as an ally. The turning point came with a pamphlet by the late Chris Harman, The Prophet and the Proletariat, in which he argued that they should not support the state against the Islamists, even on the basis that they “threaten secular values”, that they should regard them neither as ‘allies’ or as their ‘prime enemy’: but merely as a distraction from class struggle. Therefore, he concluded, Trotskyites should sometimes work with Islamists when they find themselves “on the same side as the Islamists against imperialism and the state”. Their watchword should be: “with the Islamists sometimes, with the state never”. Harman concludes:
The left has made two mistakes in relation to the Islamists in the past. The first has been to write them off as fascists, with whom we have nothing in common. The second has been to see them as “progressives” who must not be criticised. These mistakes have jointly played a part in helping the Islamists to grow at the expense of the left in much of the Middle East. The need is for a different approach that sees Islamism as the product of a deep social crisis which it can do nothing to resolve, and which fights to win some of the young people who support it to a very different, independent, revolutionary socialist perspective.
This is fantasy. The thought that a Trotskyite revolution was ever going to sweep away an Islamist one, in a country where electoral support for Islamist parties is overwhelming, is hilarious. Yet Trotskyites believe it, because their politics is in essence a religious faith, that endures irrespective of the lack of evidence to support its validity. They have more in common with the Islamists than they recognise.
So, throughout the last decade, the SWP entered into alliances with various Islamist parties. Within RESPECT, they joined forces both with the Muslim Association of Britain, the British chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, and nominees of the Islamic Forum Europe, the British chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which had been founded by Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, who is awaiting extradition to Bangladesh where he is expected to be charged with leading death squads which murdered leading Bangladeshi intellectuals – some of them socialists – in the 1970s.
The SWP cheerleads for the tiny Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists, a miniscule party which even in their Workers Democratic Party coalition boasts a mere 5,000 members: the population of Egypt is over 82 million. Shortly after the Egyptian Revolution, when it became clear that their allies were not likely to be leading the government, the Socialist Workers Party started to become critical of the Muslim Brotherhood again. In the last month, they have gone into overdrive.
Here’s the latest from the ERS, writing in Socialist Worker:
Today all the masks fell from Mohamed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood organisation, who trade in revolution and for whom the revolution is nothing but a means to reach the seat of power. They and the remnants of the old regime are two sides of the same coin, which is tyranny and enmity towards the people.
And so on. They end “All Power And Wealth To The People”, like the bunch of Middle Eastern Wolfie Smiths that they are.
Funny. Except, today, the Muslim Brotherhood have killed one of their members:
The Revolutionary Socialists have said that one of its members was killed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters during clashes today.
Chris Harman is long gone, dead of a heart attack in pre-revolutionary Cairo. He failed to see what Tony Cliff so clearly understood. In Iran, in Egypt: clerical fascists will always start by killing socialists.
Morsi, in turn, is being accused by his opponents of being both a pirate, and a Jew.
Hat tip: David Osler