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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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