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
Ronald Kieve Los Angeles, USA.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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