Blame 'Essex Man', not Scots
Your articles on Scotland have confused two issues: straightforward Scottish
nationalism and the debate on Scotland's constitutional position within
the Union. The former has always existed but the latter has arisen after
the Scottish people rejected the Tories for the fourth successive election
although Scotland remains governed by the Tories.
It seems that Living Marxism's articles on Scottish current affairs
are deliberately distorted in order to apologise for your beloved 'Essex
Man', to excuse his reactionary tendencies to vote Tory. As usual, Scotland
is used as a whipping boy and scapegoat for the sins of others.
Strangely, Living Marxism is in favour of a united Ireland. The Irish
Republic is one of the most conservative countries in Europe. You favour
this and yet reject the idea of an independent Scotland which would certainly
be strongly socialist. Just remember the next time you speak disparagingly
of Scottish politicians talking of 'living a little dangerously', Mrs Thatcher's
downfall began, I am proud to say, with the highly organised and motivated
Scottish anti-poll tax, non-payment campaign.
Joe M Kane Glasgow
Dons hons for Derrida
Whoops. Dr Willy Maley (letters,
June) thinks that reviewer James Heartfield
should not join in the attack on deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida
since 'he has recently been denied an honourary degree at Cambridge'. Now
that Cambridge has in fact decided to honour Derrida, it's worth asking
whether the difference between deconstruction and the 'true blue guardians
of English intellectual culture' is as great as it appears.
When Derrida was first proposed the dons promised a sterling defence of
reason against his Continental mumbo jumbo. But none such was forthcoming.
In fact, it is Cambridge and the Anglo-Saxon tradition of analytical philosophy
that led the way in the dissolution of reason. It was in England that Russell,
Moore, Wittgenstein and Ayer denounced the possibility of universal reasoning
as 'metaphysics', castles in the air. Now Derrida attacks the same metaphysics,
he is denounced as an enemy of reason.
Both the dominant English analytical school and Continental deconstruction
share the same prejudice, that investigation is a process of dissection,
reducing a thing into its ever more elemental parts. They forget that the
truth is whole and the articulation of its elements is the real object of
Shocked to find Derrida saying out loud what they have suspected for ages,
that it is not possible to sustain a universal outlook from the standpoint
of the paid ideologues of a sectional interest, the dons panicked. 'Shush',
they hissed, 'don't let everyone know that we don't know what we're talking
about - what about our security of tenure?' Welcome to Cambridge, Jacques
Derrida, a place untroubled by any commitment to reason, where appearance
is everything - you should like it there.
Hamish McHugh Edinburgh
A two-way race?
It is undoubtedly true that all pro-capitalist political parties from Conservatives
to ex-'Communists' will play the race card when it suits them. But I think
Sharon Clarke rather overstated the anti-black vote in the general election
('Race to victory', May).
Race certainly played its ugly part in constituencies like Basildon and
Cheltenham. As for some of the other examples given, I very much doubt it.
Though the small swing against the Asian official Labour candidate in Southall
may have contrasted with the pro-Labour swing in other Ealing constituencies,
there was more to it than this. Firstly, Southall is a predominantly Asian
constituency anyway. Secondly, the Labour vote was split between the official
Labour candidate and the deselected former MP and ex-Trotskyist Syd Bidwell.
The total Labour vote reveals that there was an overall swing to Labour
in Southall of four per cent - twice the national average.
If the race factor was quite as uniform (or for that matter one-way) as
Sharon Clarke seems to imply, can she explain why Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz
and Diane Abbott all achieved much larger swings than their neighbouring
white Labour colleagues? Or why Niranjan Deva, successful Asian Tory in
Brentford and Isleworth, did better than most other Tory candidates in West
London, including, curiously enough, notorious anti-immigration MP Terry
Dave Perrin Clwyd
Science: prophet and scapegoat
Science and scientists appear to be both prophets and scapegoats in the
world today. John Gibson and Manjit Singh ('God
and the Big Bang', June) link 'a revival of faith in a negat-ive sense'
to a 'disenchantment with science'. We can clearly see disenchantment where
science is blamed for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ozone depletion and third
world famine. Yet other aspects of science are becoming more and more fashionable.
Witness the glut of 'layman's' books on quantum physics and cosmology. I
would suggest that the two sides of science are different aspects of the
same problem - that of a materially and ideologically stagnant society.
The rise of the 'science book' reflects a view of the world in which humans
have no part except by accident or design. Science books are well suited
to this role. They discuss what appear to be highly important questions
related to the cosmos or the universe but, as many top scientists admit,
most 'science books' are unintelligible and all have crude theological overtones.
The aim is to show that science proves the existence of God, the supremacy
of Bhuddism or some other mysticism. (Paul Davies' latest work is entitled
The Mind of God). The 'science book' fad gives a pseudo- scientific
veneer to irrationalism. In being turned into a justification for religion,
'science' itself has become a new form of religion - a philosophy to be in
Ideas which mystify rather than clarify are less than useless. This indicates
the need to bring science back to earth into the realm of reason. God and
science don't mix. Humans and science do.
The Aids-HIV link
Lee Osborn (letters, June)
seems to confuse Aids - the disease - and the Aids issue which has inspired
debate about morality. Osborn points to the longstanding argument put forward
by professor Peter Duesberg that HIV does not cause Aids. He says we should
expose how the government has used the idea that HIV=Aids=death in its moral
campaigns, and expose how capitalism causes Aids.
However the question, 'what causes Aids?', is a medical question of finding
a cure through scientific research as quickly as possible. Capitalism is
not the primary cause of Aids. This simply obscures what is going on. There
is a difference between finding a cure for a disease, and showing how present
society limits finding a medical cure and alleviating disease and poverty.
It is true to say the government has used the 'HIV = Aids = death' link
in their moral campaigns. In fact the main thrust of the government's moral
campaign is to use Aids as a way of reinforcing conservative moral values.
This is why the government is interested in promoting certain scientific
facts, to help promote their moral and political outlook, not just to obscure
facts for the sake of it.
The government has said that it will fund research into other causes of
Aids apart from HIV. According to Osborn's argument, the fact that the government
has used the HIV=Aids=death would imply that they are lessening their moral
campaign if they are willing to question the HIV=Aids link. In fact, the
moral climate in which the issue of Aids is discussed is being further reinforced,
whatever new scientific discovery is made. We are now witnessing a moral
backlash against gays and it is this moralism and repression that we must
concentrate on and expose.
Angela Hauldren Manchester
Mick Hume's article seems to say that a campaign against the parasitical
and undemocratic institution of the monarchy will serve to expose the wider
problems of British capitalism ('Abolish
the Monarchy', June). The monarchy is seen by many as an anachronism - as
a bit of a joke. It is also true that many young people would see the Windsors
as 'spongers.' However when it comes to ripping off working class people,
privilege is as rife in Canary Wharf as in Buckingham Palace. The abolition
of royal privilege would do nothing to expose the more fundamental basis
of privilege in our society. One need only look to Germany or the USA to
see how the lack of a monarch does not necessarily lead to the clarification
of class divisions.
It is incorrect to lay the blame for British decay at the feet of 'the culture
of deference'. Falling rates of profit and the moribund nature of British
capitalism cannot be explained by the prevalence of bowing and scraping.
The 'culture of deference' is based on our lack of real social power and
not just on bizarre traditions (which exist all over the world).
Who is going to lead a campaign against the monarchy? Certainly not the
spineless wonders of Charter '88 with their 'don't mention the Irish' school
of 'democratic politics'. As for a new oppositional movement based on ordinary
people, as Frank Richards says in the same issue of Living Marxism, 'people
will only move if there is something big to fight for'. They will not be
inspired unless we can build a campaign to kick out the parasites in pinstripes
and not just the ones with crowns.
Ben Brack and Nick Underwood Camden
not all in the mind
Whether an artist is a good artist cannot be decided on the basis of what
he thinks about his work or by reference to his private life. If Francis
Bacon is a good or bad painter is ultimately to be judged on the basis of
the product, whatever his motives and stated aims. Alan Harding's psychologistic
response to Bacon's art ('Life and
death', June) misses one important point: by painting nudes in the unflattering
light cast by an electric light bulb, Bacon captures alienating social conditions.
Unlike Otto Dix, Bacon's art does not promote a false reconciliation with
history by inscribing human sorrow in nature and presenting it as an unavoidable
aspect of the human condition. His 'ugly' pictures really inform us about
our ugly (social) world. In the way in which painting war cripples does
not make Otto Dix into a 'political' painter, the absence of explicitly
political themes does not make Francis Bacon into a sheer existentialist
(whatever he may have thought about it).
Craig Barton's review of Otto Dix ('Loss
of faith', April) missed the point. Dix's work is political.
The image which illustrated Barton's article only preserves the popular
idea of Dix as a portrait artist of dead/mutilated Germans. The politics
of Dix's work lies in the associations conjured up by the images. The Dix
show remains anti-war, yet fixes war in Germany for the English audience.
For the German government, it associ-ates war with the degeneration of the
twenties. It is political, although not anti-capitalist.
Michael Searle Twickenham
Does Ann Bradley run ICI?
I have just started reading your magazine for the first time, I thought
it made a welcome change from the 'where have we gone wrong?' cries of the
Labour Party. Until I read Ann Bradley's
article about animal experiments (May).
I had to make a big effort not to vomit. If I had not known from which magazine
the article came from, I could have sworn it had been written by the chairman
of some big pharmaceutical company. She seems to ignore that a viable and
more reliable alternative, in great need of funding, is provided by the
use of human tissue. It's strange how the most stubborn defenders of cruelty
to animals are (in the West) Catholics and paleo-communists. They seem to
be on guard in case someone challenges man's superiority over nature.
S Podesta Sussex
article fails to address the real issues involving animal experimentation.
The vast majority of drugs are developed in response to patent laws, not
for medical need. The World Health Organisation lists around 200 drugs as
being essential, yet greedy capitalist drug companies continue developing
new formulations to add to Britain's 18 000 licensed medicines. Inadequate
clinical trials have caused many deaths not predicted by animal tests. If
penicillin had been tested on guinea pigs it would have been predicted to
have been highly toxic to man. Most diseases are preventable but will only
be eradicated with improvements in living standards. We do not face the
stark emotive choice Ann Bradley presents: choosing human suffering over
animal suffering. The real choice is a system that cares about people and
Mary Lawson Manchester
Surely, Ann Bradley, you should not be
alienating a whole section of activists that are potentially your allies?
Many animal welfare campaigners are well aware of the injustice of a society
that condones monarchs and rich landowners to shoot foxes for sport. Give
these people a chance and credit them with the ability to make the links
between the abuse of animals and people alike, and the capitalist system
that carries out that abuse. Maybe we could learn from each other.
Elly Tams Birmingham
Congratulations on your newly-discovered ability as tipsters. I refer to
April's issue in which you remind us of your prediction last October concerning
Labour's inability to win any imminent election. As this was proven to be
correct, can you please furnish me with the results of next year's Grand
National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and 2000 Guineas, as I am planning an audacious
treble at the expense of Ladbrokes.
Martin Callaghan West Yorkshire
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 45, July 1992