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Support Croatia?

Croatian supporter Attila Hoare is wrong to say that Lenin and Trotsky supported 'self- determination for every nation' (letters, February) . For a start, they only supported the right of nations to self-determination, and did not treat that as an absolute principle. Lenin argued that national demands 'are subordinated to the interests of the class struggle' and that the working class must confine itself to 'the negative demand of the right to self-determination, without giving guarantees to any nation, and without undertaking to give anything at the expense of another nation'.

In the specific instance of Croatia, where the West is fostering ethnic strife to suit its own interests, Hoare would do well to read Trotsky's explanation for the Red Army's occupation of independent Georgia in 1921: 'Where the fiction of self-determination, in the hands of the bourgeoisie, becomes a weapon directed against the proletarian revolution, we have no occasion to treat this fiction differently from the other "principles" of democracy perverted by capitalism.' In 1921, British and French imperialism were using independent Georgia as a launchpad to crush the Bolshevik revolution. In 1992, the West is again using the 'fiction' of self-determination to justify its intervention in the East.

Andy Clarkson Hackney
Attila Hoare should know better than to equate wartime Serbia with the Croatian NDH state (letters, February). Thanks to Hitler's generosity, the independent fascist NDH state comprised most of present-day Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina plus parts of Serbia and Montenegro. What was left of Serbia (others also took chunks) became a German-occupied military zone.

Hoare equates the Chetniks, a stateless guerrilla movement, with the Ustashe who were an arm of a state. The Serb-led Chetniks initiated resistance to the Germans but were quickly put on the defensive protecting the Serbian peoples who were menaced by the occupying forces of Germany (and Austria), Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Italy and, worst of all, Croatia. The Ustashe, upon gaining power, embarked upon the massacre of Serb civilians. Their aim was to eliminate Serbs as a people within the NDH.

Hoare downplays Croatia's murky wartime past claiming that the Ustashe hijacked the NDH state. This sits unhappily with the role of Archbishop Stepinac who was head of the Roman Catholic Church in the NDH. At no time did he publicly criticise those of his monks, priests and high-ranking churchmen who supported and, in some cases, were active members of the Ustashe.

Hoare pleads for the Croat people's right to self-determination but this is not disputed by the Serbs. At issue are appropriate sovereign borders for an independent Croatia. The Germans due to their wartime misdeeds lost 'German lands'. Why should an equally culpable Croatia be rewarded with 'Serbian lands'?

From a comfortable London vantage point Hoare emphasises the differences between the Serbs and Croats. This could be forgiven but for the fact that such a large proportion of the Serb and Croat peoples are geographically intermixed. Could Hoare be advocating transfers?

Y Kovach Middlesex
Not Kristallnacht

Angela Hughes and Rob Knight use the term Kristallnacht to refer to the events of November 1938 as 'night of the shattering glass' ('Nazis are not the problem' and 'Don't mention the war?', January).

Kristallnacht means crystal night. It's obvious for anti-fascists that it wasn't a beautiful night when Jewish synagogues were burnt down and Jewish shop-owners were forced to hand over their businesses to so-called Aryan Germans. The increased use of the alternative words Pogromnacht or Reichspogromnacht is long overdue among the German left, and I hope English people find an alternative too (perhaps 'pogrom night').

Angela Hughes correctly recognises the British left's ignorance and even participation in immigration restrictions. However she concludes that British anti-racists would be better employed over here rather than tackling German problems. Her approach adopts the idea of the nation state she says she wants to destroy whereas, in fact, we are living in a world that is economically, politically and culturally interrelated. There is no use posing the British left's role against that of the German left - the point is to act in any part of the world where fascism exists. People in Hamburg are active against the fascists of Munich. The British cannot escape from European integration.

Armin Grambart-Mertens Manchester
The meaning of liberalism

What does James Heartfield mean by 'liberalism'? ('The end of liberalism', January). He suggests that a liberal thinker upholds reason against tradition, enquiry against faith and the hope of equality against submission. A useful starting point-but Heartfield's explanation raises more questions than it answers.

Is it fair to call Hayek a liberal in 1944, when the tradition of classical liberalism to which he subscribed - laissez-faire capitalism - was long dead? Hayek yearned for the return to the good old days of progressive capitalism, which in the context of the decay of capitalism at the time, amounted to a backward-looking appeal to tradition with no liberal content at all. During the postwar period liberalism took on a new meaning, becoming the abstract moralism espoused by the Guardian. The modern emphasis is on state intervention to compensate for the inequalities resulting from the untrammelled operation of the market.

Hayek's economic liberalism is the same as the Guardian's: both believe in the liberatory potential of capitalism. However we need to consider the forms that liberal ideas take and the contexts in which they are put forward, which must have some impact on how they are perceived at any given time. It seems that rather than Hayek moving from liberal to conservative ideas, it is the relationship between his ideas and the rest of society which has altered.

Lynn Kelly Liverpool
Hillsborough: no justice

On 6 April 1989, 95 Liverpool fans were murdered at Hillsborough stadium - victims of the government's anti-hooligan hysteria and law and order drive. Today, the charade of justice is over. The police inquiry, Lord Justice Taylor, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Complaints Department have all shut their books on the case. The result - a big fat zero!

This privileged kind of treatment - British justice - is usually reserved for the likes of Irish civil rights marchers or the Toxteth community. Its purpose is to let the culprits off the hook while accusing the victims for their own slaughter.

We are told to 'forgive and forget this tragic affair'. Yes, I'm sure they'd like us to forget the police lies about fans pissing on rescuers and picking the pockets of the dead, and forget the empty oxygen cylinders and non-existent medical equipment at the stadium. Most of all, to forget that the ruling class are guilty of callously murdering another 95 people and not a damn thing is going to be done about it.

A Carter Glasgow
Animal instincts

I agree with Ann Bradley that it is childish and regressive to debase human emotions and characteristics by attributing them to animals ('Animal crackers', January). Humans are rational, independent of instinct and capable of free thought. Giving animals human characteristics suggests that animals are capable of being independent of instinct for which there is no scientific evidence.

Animals perceive the world differently to humans. The world of the animal is outside human consciousness and is therefore incomprehensible. For example, 'rape' in human terms is the act of forcing sexual intercourse. What the David Attenboroughs would describe as 'rape' by a male sealion may be perfectly natural-we don't know because we don't have the sealion's perspective. All we can do is look for patterns in animal behaviour and not muddy scientific analysis by immersing it in human terms.

Steve Hodson London
Revising the Irish Rising

Mark Reilly's review of some of the prominent texts on Ireland provides an excellent perspective on the different strands to be found (Marxist Review of Books, February). He is correct to point out the intra-Ireland myopia and the development of the 'two nations' theory, which permeates almost all of the texts on Ireland over the last two decades and which now assumes the form of the wishful argument that European 'regionalisation' will facilitate the new (non-national) for Ireland's plurality.

Another trend though is maturing which seeks to overcome the problem of the essentially negative perceptions of 1916 that the revisionists have peddled for so long. By rubbishing 1916, they effectively leave no room for the development of the 'Twenty-Six County' nationalism which is necessary to trump the republicans. By tracing a direct continuum from Pearse to the Provos one is left with a moral vacuum where the 'Free State' should be. In order to overcome this problem, the Easter Rising is being resuscitated, but a firm line drawn between it and the Civil War.

This approach is most clearly articulated by Tom Garvin in his recent contribution to the Field Day collection 'Revising the Rising', where he locates the denial of democratic as the primary locus of interaction in the events leading to Easter week, and argues that '1916 accelerated the democratisation of Irish life'. Partition though is seen as 'inevitable', so therefore the inauguration of the Free State in 1922 is the nadir of the 'revolutionary' period, while the Civil War was 'foolish'.

Garvin's approach is not unique, but it is indicative of a wider desire to cohere a more general (and less particularist), credible alternative to the crass revisionism which treats 1916 as a pro-German putsch that only served to delay the inevitable and destroy 'constitutional nationalism', while bequeathing a legacy of anti-democratic extremism. Such, essentially Unionist, revisionism is obviously of limited utility in the South; as Seamus Deane notes in the same collection, 'the Easter Rising of 1916 has been so effectively revised that its seventy-fifth anniversary is a matter of official embarrassment'.

North and south, there are different agendas for legitimising the current impasse (and one should not underestimate the impact of the Anglo-Irish accord here). Both need to accept partition as 'just', but both need to formulate some coherent and positive History (with a capital H!) for their 'state'. Squaring that circle requires a vivid imagination.

SB Belfast
Flavor Flav for president?

Emmanuel Oliver correctly points out that many young Americans express their alienation from the traditional values of American society through rap music ('Rap against the American Dream', January). But the ironic point is that rap music itself celebrates a particular version of America.

Black music was promoted as part of American culture to recapture disaffected urban populations. Today, rap doesn't reject Americanness-rappers from different minorities claim they are every bit as American and a lot more relevant than George Washington. The status quo has no more ability to inspire young Americans. Even the banal utterances of Flavor Flav look momentous compared to George Bush's speeches.

Kevin Young London
Bernard Manning and Benny Hill

I agree pretty much with Frank Cottrell-Boyce (February) on the question of comic revisionism. The old mainstream comedy did decline because it was awful, not because of the equally awful Ben Elton. Frank Cottrell-Boyce is also obviously right to ridicule the idea that a TV corporation like Thames would have dropped Benny Hill for so- called Politically Correct reasons (although I think he will find that Beadle's About is actually perpetrated by London Weekend Television, not Thames).

That said, however, I feel Frank Cottrell-Boyce goes too far by including among his targets Toby Banks' 'paean' to Bernard Manning in Living Marxism (December 1991). Unlike Benny Hill, Tarby and the rest of the true blue Brits, Manning is funny. Which is why his career didn't need to be artificially 'revived' by the revisionists; he has been doing very nicely all along.

Manning is also, of course, an obnoxious bastard and an utter racist. But surely that was the point of Toby Banks' (admittedly over-indulgent) article; not to celebrate Manning as a grand old British trouper, but to point out that, while Manning may make you want to throw up, he can also make you crease up at the same time. The remarkable thing is not that Living Marxism should publish such an opinion, but that it should cause such controversy.

As for the complaints about the Manning piece from Messrs Leslie and Boyton (letters, January), it must be wonderful to be able to stop yourself laughing at non-Marxist material.

C Baker London
Oxygen of publicity

Michael Jackson does not buy oxygen tents. (Frank Cottrell-Boyce, January). All the gossip about him sleeping in oxygen chambers was actually started by him as a publicity stunt (see JR Taraborrelli, The Magic and The Madness, p432). I also noticed Macaulay Culkin's name is spelled wrongly as McCauley.

Alex Tan Nottingham
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 41, March 1992

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