Marxist Governments: Volume 3: A World Survey

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Alan Woods

On occasions, in remote places, I was stoned and verbally abused by groups of children reacting to the unexpected presence of a 'foreigner'. More frighteningly, while attending the pilgrimage of Sharif Yusuf al- Qonain, a very excited ecstatic figure suddenly loomed up in front of me brandishing a huge sword. Luckily, this would be assailant was quickly restrained by a more tolerant religious leader and local elder. I was still able to attend this ceremony on three successive occasions, thus qualifying as the recipient of the same quantity of religious blessing provided by a single visit to Mecca.

Some Somalis told me subsequently that the impressive size of my family could be attributed to this source. On the other hand, on other occasions, I was received with remarkable friendship at the weekly religious ceremonies which I regularly attended for some time at a local branch of the Qadiriya tariqa. Here I felt a real wealth of what seemed to me sincere goodwill, and an atmosphere of peace which contrasted quite starkly with the often combatant spirit evident in other contexts.

In fact, I visited every District in the Protectorate to try to establish how general my findings from these regions were in relation to economic occupation and, of course, spent considerable time also in towns.


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Half way through my research I also made an extended trip through the Ogaden to Somalia then. I was very lucky to meet with a friendly reception from a number of impressive Italian officials and their new Somali counterparts who were just assuming authority at this time of transfer of internal administration In British Somaliland, most officials were tolerant of what some found to be my bizarre activities, although a few initially regarded my research as a self- indulgent, exploitative exercise of little benefit to Somalis.

The Politics of Austro-Marxism

The Protectorate Administration was strongly committed to Somali interests, and often at variance with the Foreign Office which saw relations with Ethiopia as of greater importance than Somali concerns. The Protectorate administration, it must be understood, was a proud, elitist organisation comprising in less than senior officials of whom 25 were locally recruited Somali officers. The latter were the only Somalis admitted at this time to the exclusive local Hargeisa Club, a circumstance that caused the then Commissioner for Somali Affairs who was a member of the British Communist Party to refuse to join.

Despite some lingering racist attitudes, particularly after the Second World War, when Somalis and British soldiers had served in the same units, the Administration became strongly committed to Somali interests. This pro-Somali policy in the Protectorate was fostered by making the promotion of expatriates dependent on developing good relations with Somalis, and on progress in learning the extremely difficult Somali language However, when I was in the Protectorate at this time I found only a handful of expatriate officials who could speak Somali fluently.

I was myself provided initially with a Government Interpreter, a fine old gentleman on the verge of retirement, who worked with me for three months and tried to help me develop the rudiments of Somali I had been taught in London by my friend and teacher B. The interpreter soon concluded that I was very stupid since, as he complained, I kept asking people the same questions which was my deliberate anthropological attempt to check the validity of descriptions and interpretations. Thus we soon parted company, and I was left to do what I could on my own which was, of course, a great spur to increasing fluency.

Somali policy in Somaliland was often at variance with that of the Foreign Office. This division between the policies of these two British government departments was particularly clearly seen in relation to the vexed question of rival Somali and Ethiopian claims to the Haud grazing areas on the edge of the Ogaden. When in November Britain finally implemented the terms of the Anglo-Ethiopian treaty of contracted in defiance of prior Anglo-Somali agreements see Lewis, , pp. It is important to emphasize, that although a number of writers e.

Samatar, ; Kapteijns, have carelessly described Somaliland as a 'colonial state', its Protectorate status excluded foreign settlers and, especially after Sayyid. Muhamad Abdille Hassan's jihad, Christian missionaries. The situation, thus, was very different from that in Italian Somalia with its settlers and formal colonial structure. In the Protectorate, government rested extremely lightly on the pastoralists and those who lived in towns which were best seen, as I discovered, as an extension of the pastoral Somali system.

When other more senior staff being on leave, the Administration itself was often under the control of the 'acting Chief Secretary' in my time frequently a young administrative officer of my own age. Theoretically, the recognition of clan and lineage elders as salaried local government officials constituted a form of 'indirect rule'. But because of the profoundly uncentralised character and fluctuating political identity of Somali clansmen, this bore no comparison to Lugard's indirect rule in other parts of Africa where 'traditional chiefs' existed and locally centralised authority was readily incorporated into the Administrative political system.

As I was at pains to emphasize in the published accounts of my findings, this did not mean that one could analyse the operation of Somali segmentary politics without taking account of the presence of the over-arching British Administration. Somalis were particularly adept at manipulating this system to their own sectarian advantage. This feature of Somali political sophistication is of course, contrary to the hackneyed and essentially ethnocentric Marxist view that such activity was a monopoly of the expatriate administration.

Actually divide and rule was applied to the colonial authorities rather than vice versa! In truly colonial Somalia, where there were more stable and slightly more centralised Somali political units, with a stronger pattern of indirect rule, this ancient administrative tactic was indeed applied from time to time at various points in its history.

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With this much lighter impact of foreign government in Somaliland, groups were led by their elders and Somali juro-political relations regulated by the contractual treaties xeer binding kin-groups as, in effect, insurance policies in terms of their joint responsibility for injury to person and property. This system of compensation cover for murder mag, in Somali, diya in Arabic and lesser torts lay at the heart of traditional Somali politics and was as crucial as the underlying kinship ties tot which were thus articulated and defined by such political contracts.

In my travels amongst the nomads, I collected from local elders a large number of such contracts and examples of their implementation. In some cases I saw people collecting compensation to pay out to claimants. My extensive record of agreements from these oral sources was supplemented by consulting administrative records in District Offices, where they were generally stored. I found some evidence suggesting that prior to the European presence, these treaties were sometimes recorded in Arabic, or Somali written in Arabic, and lodged with the custodians of a prominent saint who thus provided political neutrality.


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  8. In other parts of Africa, 'customary law' was, of course, codified and incorporated into colonial legal systems. However, I found no evidence of this in Somaliland where there had been no systematic study of it and no attempt to elevate xeer into a general scheme of 'customary law'. If there had been such administrative activity it would have greatly simplified my task. Working in this way, collecting material as widely as possible, my only formal obligation to the Protectorate administration — a small return for all the benefits I received — was to prepare a substantial report on my findings.

    Some months after the birth of my first child in the Hargeisa general hospital, this was completed, a month before I left Somaliland in Entitled rather cumbersomely, 'The Somali Lineage System and the Total Genealogy: a General Introduction to basic principles of Somali Political Institutions Lewis, , it included a substantial section on the development of Somali nationalism and my analysis throughout emphasized process and political change and the interaction with the administration.

    This argument was developed further in my book, A Pastoral Democracy, first published in and recently reprinted My earlier report was circulated to a number of senior officials, expatriate and Somali, who very interestingly commented that they wished this text had been available a decade earlier when its findings could have been applied in actual administration.

    In Defence of Marxism

    Here, I fear, my 'government anthropology' came too late to serve 'colonial' interests! Before going to Somaliland with my wife in , I had already become involved with nationalist Somalis campaigning for the restoration of the Haud grazing area which had just been surrendered by the British to Ethiopia see Lewis, , pp. This gave me an entree with some of the nationalist figures in Somaliland, but I still had to spend days explaining to antagonistic nomads in the interior that I was not personally responsible for this betrayal of Somali interests, and, indeed, shared their indignation!

    Not, that they necessarily believed me. As mentioned, in the course of this first spell of fieldwork I spent a month, in touring round Somalia, at the time of the transfer of power in internal affairs from the Italian UN Trusteeship Administration to the first Somali government under Abdillahi Ise. Naively, I was so impressed with the pace of political developments there that, when I returned to the Protectorate, I took it upon myself to urge the nationalists there to get a move on, even making this point in. I thus met a wide range of senior Somali officials and politicians, spanning the spectrum of clans, who subsequently became leading figures in one way or another and with most of whom I've kept up over the years.

    My links with these figures were reinforced by my frequent subsequent field trips and visits to Somalia and by my writing and later broadcasting on Somali nationalism. Much later, I was thus flattered and amused to learn from a friend then in the British embassy that a senior Ethiopian official had referred to me as one of the founders of Somali nationalism.

    That was quite an exaggeration! Of course my enduring relationships were not only with people who were, or became leading political figures. When I first met him in Las Anod District in the s, Aw Jama seemed a typical Somali 'bush' wadad, an itinerant sheikh of a somewhat fundamentalist disposition, who carefully covered his mouth while speaking to an infidel like me. At any rate, he was extremely suspicious of me and my activities, moving as I did among the Dulbahante nomads, seeking information about their customs and institutions and writing down their genealogies.

    Like most un- Westernised Somalis whom I met, his initial judgement was that I was evidently a British spy, and I must admit that I found him somewhat menacing in the encounters we had. Some years later, I was astonished to meet Sheikh Jama in Mogadishu and to discover that he had become a self-taught oral historian and was busy collecting the poetry of Sayyid Mohamed Abdille Hassan — having received encouragement and equipment a tape-recorder from the commander of the Somali police force, General Mohamed Abshir who was later imprisoned by his old rival from British Military Administration days, General Siyad, and eventually became one of the leaders of the North Eastern Regions SSDF.

    Aw Jama explained to me that he had closely observed my ethnographic activities and deciding that actually, I was harmless, he had concluded that what I was doing was worthwhile, but could be done better by a native Somali speaker with his knowledge of the religious background2. In this period of my association with the Dulbahante pastoralists, partly through gifts and partly by purchase, I also acquired the nucleus of a small herd of camels.

    Although I have not seen them myself since the s, I receive reports on their well-being from time to time, most recently by cassette in The anthropologist as scribe. On one occasion in the s when I was in Somalia carrying out a land tenure study amongst the Digil Mirifleh for FAO which enabled me to study their specialised social organisation , I happened to meet in the street in Mogadishu the then prime minister, Abdirazaq Haji Husseyn. He took me by the hand in the democratic Somali way, and invited me to meet his cabinet.

    He introduced me very cordially, as 'the fellow who writes about us. We don't always like what he writes-but the important thing is that he writes about usV I also remember about this time, after I had published a sympathetic account of the Somali struggle to secure the independence and unification of the Somalilands, I received a cable from the secretary to the Somali cabinet, congratulating me on my efforts -with the exhortation 'pray continue'. As the concept of journalistic reporting became familiar to Somalis in this period, I often found that once I had described my aims and activities, people identified me as a 'journalist', a description with which I had no serious quarrel.

    Other more traditional Somalis referred to me in Somali by the more attractive, generic title 'writer'. On another occasion in the s, I gave a public lecture at the University Institute in Mogadishu with the rather dry title: 'The peopling of Somalia-the history of tribal and clan migrations'. The atmosphere was indeed very highly charged when I finished.

    demo-new.nplan.io/zumos-y-otros-secretos-zumos-y-snacks.php Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal got up, quickly assessed the situation and announced that 'As there are no further, questions' there had not been time for any! This was then the time of the 'exes' when the English or Italian term 'ex- clan' 'ex' for short had been introduced into Somali nationalist discourse to reflect the new political realities, where, officially, divisive clans belonged to an earlier, more primitive stage of society.

    Western-educated Somalis now referred to people's ex-clans rather than their clans and the word 'ex' had been adopted into Somali cf. Lewis, Clanism, thus, attracted the same opprobrium as tribalism in multi-ethnic states. Interestingly, I cannot recall African nationalists elsewhere employing the expression 'ex-tribe' in such contexts. I do not know exactly when the term was invented, but in the s I was told that the Somali for anthropologist was, appropriately, toi yaqaan, literally, 'he who knows clans and clanship '. Certainly, I was at risk from being seen as an outsider, a member of the general category, ga'al, non-Muslim 'heathen', 'unbeliever', as undifferentiated Europeans were disparagingly described.

    I was, moreover, unhealthily interested in those internal divisions which Somalis. My questions thus sometimes elicited an angry response, particularly when people did not know or recognise me. More generally and fortunately for me, however, I was already quite well- known in Somalia through broadcasts on the BBC World Service which were sympathetic to the nationalist cause.

    Political correctness isn't a communist plot.

    By that time, my original mentor in Somali, and close friend, the linguist, B. Andrzejewski, and I cooperated closely and often visited Somalia together. To many people the definition of Marxism as the theory of a particular social class is incompatible with its claims to be scientific. The argument runs both ways. On the one hand there are those who recognise Marxism to be based on a definite social group and consequently deny its status as science.

    The foremost representative of this position is the sociologist Karl Mannheim.

    Marxism vs Communism (w/ Richard Wolff)

    The most important contemporary proponent of this view is Althusser, for whom such a definition reduces Marxism to "the level of ideology". These objections are the product of a double confusion: first as to the nature of natural science, second as to the relationship between natural science and social science.

    Natural science is seen as providing exact, "objective" and non-socially determined knowledge, and therefore is held to be the model for "objective" social science. But this view of natural science is itself a social product. In the last analysis it derives from the alliance between science and the bourgeoisie which was necessary for the battle against feudalism and for the development of modern manufacturing. Just as the bourgeoisie depicted the laws of capitalism as natural and eternal so it depicted the achievements of science as absolute truth.

    The history of science, however, shows it to consist of a series of provisional relative truths which are produced under the stimulus of developing practical human needs, and which in turn demonstrate their truth in practice, by making possible the performance of definite tasks. All social science, including Marxism, is, of course, subject to these same limitations, but there is also a fundamental difference between natural and social science. Natural science possesses an objectivity [24] which is not available to social science.

    There are two main reasons for this.

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