Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Left v Political Islam

Soumaya Ghannoushi says socialists and Islamists should unite for change in Tunisia (Tunisians must dismantle the monster Ben Ali built, 18 January). No they should not. Socialists and Islamists both opposed Ben Ali, true – but they disagree about what should be done next.

The real left is democratic, secular, in favour of women's equality, opposed to antisemitism and sees the united working class as an agency for change. Many Muslims are leftists on this basis; but Islamist parties stand for something radically different.

This attempt to blur the lines between the left and Islamism is a feature of politics in this country too. For 10 years parts of the far left (for reasons of opportunism and lack of political confidence) have allied with Islamists in the anti-war movement, with disastrous consequences for the political health of the socialists.

It is time to get back to constructing alliances on the basis of what we are for, not simply on what we are against.

Mark Osborn


• Soumaya Ghannoushi's call for an alliance between socialists and Islamists is a disaster from the point of view of the left. In 1978-80, many Iranian leftists thought they and the Islamists shared a common struggle against the Shah. The result was the crushing of the left, the destruction of the workers' movement and the installation of an Islamist tyranny just as bad as what went before. Islamists may use democratic slogans against secular and western-backed regimes, but their real goal is to destroy all elements of democracy and workers' self-organisation in society. The left should make solidarity with democratic, secularist and socialist forces in Tunisia, not political Islam.

Sacha Ismail

Alliance for Workers' Liberty