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Tyson, race and rape

I have just come across a copy of the inaugural US issue of Living Marxism (April, 1992). A new socialist journal is to be welcomed at any time, but especially when revolutionary Marxism is being confronted by the strains and attacks such as those of the current historical epoch. Nevertheless I would like to take issue in the strongest possible terms with Emmanuel Oliver's article 'The rape of black America'.

Aside from the tasteless double entendre of the title which denigrates the significance of rape, the entire analysis reflects the atavistic political discourse of a reactionary age. To imply that Mike Tyson's rape indictments, trial and conviction were merely instances of the racism of a white society trying to bring down a black hero is patently false. Tyson has had a long history of brutalising women, and has finally paid the price for his act. To shift the focus of the case to the oppression of African-Americans is disingenuous at best. At worst it typifies the sexist stereotype that rape victims deserve what they get.

It is politically indefensible to uphold the legitimate claims of one oppressed group at the expense of denigrating another group's equally legitimate grievances and aspirations. The question of women's rights is one that cannot be dismissed cavalierly and contemptuously. No woman must ever be told that violence and brutality committed by men should be condoned because to oppose such acts might offend some fragile male egos or lose some men to the political cause. There is no place in revolutionary politics for wishful thinking, much less for one-sided, narrow-minded, stereotypical, prejudiced and dogmatic views.

Ronald Kieve Los Angeles, USA.
Scottish nationalism: no model

How wrong you are, Francis Huddy, when you suggest that 'Scottish nationalism should become a model' (letters, May). There is absolutely nothing progressive about Scottish nationalism. It is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the failure of traditional party politics.

It is absurd to try to compare Scottish nationalism with the struggle for Irish freedom. The former can afford to be 'benign' because it represents no threat to the established order.

You are right to suggest that the fight for Irish self-determination is much more violent. This in itself is an indication of how different the two struggles are. The denial of democratic rights to the Irish was carried out in a brutal way and continues to operate through violent measures. The response from the Irish is, therefore, necessarily violent and requires our support.

There are no armed troops patrolling the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow. There has never been in Scotland internment without trial, sham Diplock courts, killings of peaceful civil rights marchers. The Irish struggle challenges the very authority of the British state - Scottish nationalism simply offers an alternative form of managing that state. In this sense alone, the Irish struggle represents an element of real progress that is clearly absent from the narrow focus of Scottish nationalism.

Genevieve West London
Deconstruct the Union?

James Heartfield's misrepresentation of deconstruction belonged to the hurried journalism of the tabloids, not to a putatively theoretical journal like Living Marxism ('The Heidegger Affair', April). The sooner Marxists begin to engage seriously with deconstruction rather than rubbishing it the better.

Derrida has said of Marxism that 'there is not one Marxism....But I would reaffirm that there is some possible articulation between an open Marxism and what I am interested in'. Derrida has recently been denied an honorary degree at Cambridge due to the intervention of conservative dons. Is Living Marxism to join the ranks of the true blue guardians of English intellectual culture?

Engels maintained that if members of a conquering nation called upon the nation they had conquered and continued to hold down to forget their specific nationality and position, to 'sink national differences', that was not internationalism. Rather it was attempting to perpetuate the dominion of the conqueror under the cloak of internationalism. There is living Marxism for you.

Anything which threatens the integrity of the British state is good for internationalism. Three nations - well, two and a bit - are dictated to by England in an exploitative arrangement which benefits no-one but the British ruling class. Marx was an anti-Unionist, and he saw the advantages to be gained from putting the boot into John Bull.

Dr Willy Maley English Studies, University of Strathclyde
Rights and wrongs

You attack electoral reform and a bill of rights because 'they identify the problem too narrowly in the political sphere, where its roots are to be found in the structure of capitalist society itself'. ('Fear of the masses', April). Yet, as usual when you decide to attack us 'liberal critics of parliamentary democracy', you fail to back up your assertion with any proof whatsoever.

Is it not about time that you realised the only reason why the government has been able to push through the poll tax, to crush individual rights, and ignore the wishes of the Scottish people for self-government (whether you like it or not, that's what they want) is firstly, because it does not need the support of the majority of the people, and secondly, because the Westminster parliament is omnicompetent and omnipotent? Far from rejecting a desire to enshrine the rights of every member of this country into a written bill of rights, I support it. Of course, constitutional reform is not going to come from advertisements in newspapers, it is going to come from winning the battle of ideas among the British electorate. It's a challenge for everyone.

David Jackson Glasgow University Liberal Democrats
While I may agree in part with your assertion that 'history offers examples of constitutions imposed by dictators from above or enforced by revolutions from below' ('Fear of the masses', April), there is a country where a constitution was 'imposed' by neither dictators nor by the masses: Spain in 1978.

The point is that a written constitution changes nothing, but it does provide a clear example of the discrepancies between what a worker apparently has a 'right' to and what that worker actually gets.

For example, Article 18 gives a right to privacy at home. Yet the controversial, recently introduced 'Ley Corcuera', named after the Spanish minister of the interior Jose Luis Corcuera, gives the police a right to enter your home if no satisfactory identification can be produced on demand while in a public place. The most banal aspect of the Spanish constitution is Article 35 which gives one a right to a well-paid job - with unemployment at 16 per cent.

Gareth King London
What causes Aids?

By swallowing establishment propaganda that HIV = Aids = death, Living Marxism helps reinforce scare campaigns aimed at heterosexuals. HIV is only 'an indication of high-risk behaviour' (Professor Peter Duesberg quoted in J Adams, Aids: The HIV myth', 1989).

In Africa, Aids is caused by malnutrition/starvation = immune suppression = opportunistic infections = death. In the West, immunosuppressive drugs such as Amyl and Butyl nitrate plus repeated re-infection of immunosuppressive pathogens (ie, syphilis, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, etc) = overprescription of immunosuppressive antibiotics = Aids = death.

By believing HIV = Aids = death (medically untrue) Living Marxism hands the government a powerful weapon in its moral campaign. The contrary argument quoted above kills any moral campaign at birth. We should be arguing that as it causes third world poverty, gay oppression and the alienation which causes drug addiction, that capitalism is the primary cause of Aids.

Lee Osborn Newcastle
Social insecurity

The 'Wages of fear' and 'Job insecurity for life' articles (Living Marxism, May) touch on the contradiction that although the work environment is more restrictive, there is no reaction. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, because people want to hang on to any sliver of employment they've got, they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep it. Secondly, my experience of being forced to compete with a fellow working colleague in a publishing house made me hate my competitor even more than the boss who calmly told us that we had to resolve who would keep the one job between ourselves. Eventually, the colleague in question lied about the work I had achieved and she got the job (who needs enemies when you work with people like that?).

A political response won't come about at work because of the isolated way we all work and are set against each other. I think that political change will come from people agreeing on certain issues like anti-racism or anti-sexism generally, rather than focusing attention on to a particular office and its conditions of employment which are too restrictive for political activity.

Tracy Webb South London
Breast-feeding debate

The very fact that E Watkins couldn't contain herself on the classless nature of breast-feeding speaks for itself (letters, May). However, there were several serious points raised in the original article ('The breast-feeding fraud', April) bypassed by Watkins in her rush to proselytize working-class women.

The description 'time-consuming and boring' can indeed be applied to many aspects of childcare. The point is that at least someone else can share these tasks, whereas breast-feeding ties you to the baby or the breast pump round the clock. In fact 'sturdy nipples and confidence in your ability to produce milk' have little to do with it in my experience, neither has money. It costs a fiver a week to feed a baby on formula milk, and I get free milk tokens from the DSS to cover this anyway.

The substance of the article was that intelligence cannot be measured physiologically, and that suggesting breast-fed babies turn out more intelligent is tantamount to saying that the middle-classes are cleverer than the rest of us. This holds because it is mostly middle-class women who not only choose to breast-feed but also feel they have to make a great song and dance about it to boot.

Sharon Rice Tottenham
The K-Klass struggle

To describe rave music as 'everyone wired on E, jogging to the same record for 10 hours at a stretch' as Jim Roberts did (letters, April) is crude to say the least. If Mr Roberts can find me another type of music that exudes a hyper-energetic spirit of defiance, that incites the fastest, hottest and sexiest dancing, and that inspires technological experimentation (albeit limited) in the kingdom of sound and light, then I'll eat my old sun-hat.

Undoubtedly the music is also very much a product of these pessimistic times, resulting in lyrics that celebrate the irrational and mystical (eg, Oceanic: 'Take Me into Insanity', K-Klass: 'Rhythm Is a Mystery') or just the dangerously naive (eg, Rozalla: 'You've Gotta Have Faith in the Power of Love'). Consequently the music fails to single out the working class as the agent for change in a society out of control.

SL2, perhaps futilely, demanded 'DJs Take Control', but this demand is possibly not as audacious as Mr Roberts', viz that musicians should strive to emulate guitar virtuosos Rose and Holdsworth, the better of whom Mr Roberts describes as having a 'manner reminiscent of Hendrix himself'. Isn't that the 'Hendrix himself' who died over 20 years ago? In any case, since when has it been our task to tell musicians what to produce? Let's face it, throbbing 20K bass and strobe-light are moving thousands of working class groovers now, so come on, Mr Roberts, take a trip to the dance platform and get stompin'.

Ciaran Nottingham
'Humane' medical research

I am cancelling my subscription for Living Marxism as a protest against the way your publication condones vivisection.

I wonder how well Ann Bradley researched her article ('Origins of a speciesist', May). Sadly, thousands become ill each year in the UK alone as a result of prescribed drugs and their side effects, drugs which were successful in curing rats and beagles but, as Ann Bradley reminds us quite frequently in her articles, we are very different from animals.

I support medical research - I want people to be cured and I value people more highly than animals. We now have human tissue culture and a vast range of technology at our disposal - vivisection is outmoded, expensive and often inaccurate. A growing number of doctors and scientists are reaching this conclusion. There are a number of charities which raise money to fund humane medical research projects. One of these, the D'Hadwen Trust run by Dr Gill Langley would happily give more information to Ann Bradley about their work.

Mary Montgomery Bristol
Space cadets

Having read Militant and Socialist Worker during the election campaign, I believe readers of Living Marxism should be thankful that any waste of space stays strictly between articles.

Nye Thwashnormosc Leeds

Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 44, June 1992

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