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Bosnia: somebody has to go in

I am in broad agreement with the analysis developed by Living Marxism which stresses that Western powers have demonised Iraq and Serbia for their own purposes. But in the case of current conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics, there has to be a more sensitive response to the situation than the simple demand that the West should not intervene militarily.

The Guardian reports that Serbian forces have been 'cleansing' Muslim areas of Bosnia and transporting their inhabitants to 'concentration camps'. Even if accounts of children dying in cattle trucks and mass executions are exaggerated it is clear that Serbian and Croatian forces have been committing terrible violence and enforced clearance operations against minority communities.

Mick Hume (editorial, August) admits that 'nobody could object to the provision of humanitarian relief', but in the case of Muslim detainees, the Red Cross is allowed to visit only a few of the several camps. Relief work in war zones is being hampered precisely because racist and quasi-fascistic elements on all sides wish to exterminate or drive out certain groups. Thousands of non-combatants have been forced to flee their homes.

Joan Phillips (August) is right to see Western intervention as a primary cause of the war and it is true that 'competition for resources was turned into ethnic conflict by nationalist politicians'. But is it enough to say 'Hands off the Balkans' to the West while allowing the forces of nationalism and racism to succeed in demonising and destroying communities in Bosnia?

The West cannot and should not seek to impose its will through large-scale military operations against Serbia or Croatia, but somebody has to prevent the systematic 'cleansing' of defenceless ethnic groups and ensure their protection. This may require a more substantial military intervention than the existing UN presence.

The RCP risks the charge of cold theorising and hypocrisy if it pillories the West for intervention and demonising without having an active policy on how the violent subjugation of ethnic groups is to be combatted. We should be thinking of ways to protect and empower vulnerable peoples - ways which guarantee that they will not be exploited by Western politicians or nationalist aggressors.

Jonathan Hesk King's College, Cambridge
Aids: facts is facts

Stephanie Pride warns that citing the facts about the rarity of the disease Aids simply 'allows the moral campaigners to cite the containment of the spread as justification for the "success" of their campaigning' (letters, August).

Yet the fact that Aids is a rare disease is one powerful weapon in the face of the official government campaign and its presentation of the facts about Aids. The campaign over the last few years has been based on the assertion that Aids is an imminent threat to us all, accompanied with statistical models that predicted tens of thousands would have Aids by the 1990s. This was the justification for moral campaigning on Aids. The reality, far different from the nightmare scenario painted by the authorities, is a useful tool to counter the hype.

I agree with Stephanie Pride that simply citing the facts or exposing the 'lies' is not in itself sufficient to win the argument on Aids. What is needed is a political analysis of the Aids issue, not an analysis of whether to use facts or not.

It is strange that Ms Pride then suggests that Living Marxism has not taken up the moral and political agenda being pushed via the issue of Aids. I thought this was what the RCP is famous for! Where else can you read a condemnation of the moralism, irrationalism and conservatism being promoted through the Aids panic, and an exposé of the 'facts' promoted as a 'neutral' health campaign by the government?

Janet Copeland Birmingham
I read with interest Dr Fitzpatrick's two articles (July, August). I quite agree that the sort of 'moral correction' that he has described has nothing to do with counselling. However, I have never met anyone in Aids education in this part of the country who demonstrates the sort of aloof, middle class judgementalism that he lays out as the norm in his articles.

I do know many Aids and health educators who are most sensitive and responsive to the needs of people. Their work practices are grounded in the enabling, in their client base, of respect and trust. Through the development of self-respect and negotiating skills they enhance client empowerment such that people who are HIV positive, HIV negative and those whose status is unknown are then possessed of the ability to construct informed decisions on their lifestyle practices.

I know many who fight against the 'KEB Model' of health education which seems so popular among politicians. Thus, they clearly recognise that Knowledge may lead to Education but not necessarily to Behaviour changes that are involved in personal growth and the development of society.

Dr Fitzpatrick's remarks hinder the fine balancing act between the development of freedom and joy in sexual expression and the excessive prurience and fear that can accompany the energetic predication of complete denial.

Martin Talbot Sheffield
The Basque questions

I find the thrust of Andy Clarkson's article 'Eta is not Spain's IRA' (July), that 'Basque nationalism is an invention', to be both deeply insensitive to many Basques and worthy of the most boneheaded advocate of the Spanish right.

It is an error to view Eta as too closely bound up with the anti-Francoist past. Clearly, Eta guaranteed the end of dictatorship in Spain with its 1973 assassination of the senile dictator's heir apparent, General Carrero Blanco. Nevertheless, with varying levels of Marxist rhetoric, Eta has always advocated Basque independence as its ultimate aim. Andy, like the ruling Spanish socialists, argues for the disarmament of Eta on the grounds that as an anti-dictatorial guerrilla organisation it has outlived its historical function.

The article curiously goes on to attempt to discredit Basque nationalism 'by association'. For instance, we are told that the Ikurrina, the Basque national flag designed by the local bourgeoisie, is styled on the Union Jack. So what? The Irish tricolour is based on the flags unfurled by the republican European bourgeoisie after the French Revolution.

In the 1930s Andreu Nin, Trotsky's former Catalan secretary, called for the separation of the prosperous Basque provinces from the archaic and militaristic Spanish state. Today it is of fundamental importance for Marxists to address the political issues stemming from nationalism. Although the political configurations in the Basque Country have changed since the 1930s, the right of the Basque people to shape their own future has not.

CM Ealham Barcelona
It would take a long article to correct the romantic nonsense in the letters complaining about Andy Clarkson's article on Eta. Nevertheless Clarkson is wrong to claim that there is little resemblance between Eta and the IRA.

It is true that the ethnically Basque section of the population, Eta's main support, is on average better off than the descendants of 'Spanish' immigrants, but Clarkson's account of Basque prosperity is rather dated. Basque GDP per head is now well below Madrid and Catalonia and is only 8 per cent above the average of Spain. Eta has some support from the children of immigrants in areas devastated by the current slump.

It is perfectly true that Francoist repression was no more intense in the Basque country than elsewhere in Spain, but it was more widespread, as the nationalist middle class was also persecuted. Surely the prohibition of books and journals in Euskera does amount to persecution? While the Spanish police are no longer allowed to rampage like British Paras, torture was routine for many years after Franco's death. Until the mid-1980s the Spanish (Socialist) government was employing the GAL murder squads to attack Basque refugees in France.

Clarkson's analysis of Eta is basically sound. Where he goes wrong is in abandoning that method when he looks at the IRA. If he spoke to Herri Batasuna members he would recognise the same mixture of an ill-defined socialism with considerable chauvinism which you find in Sinn Fein supporters. Clarkson's critical approach should be applied when examining other ethnically based movements. Living Marxism has made a good start in breaking from the liberal consensus of demonising the Serbs.

John Sullivan Bristol
The Scottish duo Messrs Hunter and MacWilliam who objected to my article on Eta (letters, August) should have the courage of their convictions, stop hiding behind the Basques, come clean on their hidden agenda and argue on its own merits the case for Scottish separation that they obviously support.

As Spaniards, Basques were fully complicit in the Reconquista crusade against the Moors, the Counter-Reformation (the Jesuits were a Basque initiative), the Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews, the construction of the Spanish empire in Latin America and elsewhere, and as the first guerrillas against Napoleon's occupation. Basques have usually lined up behind one faction or another of the Spanish establishment - notably the reactionary Carlists in the nineteenth century and the republican government during the Civil War. Apart from Arana between 1882 and 1902, and Eta today, they have never supported full independence but called for more regional autonomy. Basque 'national' history is mythical because it is really a form of Spanish regionalism.

MacWilliam doesn't believe it is possible to understand the Basque question unless you go there. I wonder if he also feels that applies to South Africa and apartheid.

His contention that Basques have been oppressed by Madrid is weak since he relies on the argument that Franco suppressed Basque culture and the Basque language, Euskera. Virtually all Basques speak Spanish as their first tongue. Franco banned Euskera's use in public (where it is spoken mainly to make a political point) but not in private. While Franco opposed Basque political separatism, he had no designs against Basque culture as such. After all, the Navarrese Basques counted themselves among his strongest supporters and he let them retain their traditional privileges.
Today a minority of rural Basques speak Euskera as their first tongue, but most urban Basque political activists have to learn it as we would French. Herri Batasuna leader Jose Maria Sasiein has conceded that 'extraordinary' efforts are needed to prevent Euskera dying out.

Andy Clarkson London
Animals, humans and hierarchies

The letter from Mary Montgomery (June) protested against Ann Bradley's piece in the May issue supporting experimentation on animals. Ms Montgomery's letter annoyed us because it meekly objects to vivisection solely on the grounds that it is outmoded and unnecessary. This prompted us to look back at what Ann Bradley actually said. A short letter enables us to deal only with her advocacy of hierarchical grading to determine non-humans' (and consequently humans') importance and rights.

Every society in history that had a dominant minority had a hierarchical structure throughout. The dominant class in modern society impose a hierarchical structure on the class they dominate - the working class. There is a general ranking with white men at the top, followed by white women, boys, girls, the handicapped. Below them are blacks and at the bottom they put the non-human animals.

Once this is accepted it is a very short step for the dominant class to rationalise the oppression and exploitation of the class they dominate. Don't forget that the German fascists were able to convince many that Jews, Gypsies and the handicapped were inferior and could therefore justifiably be killed and/or experimented on.

We want to record the strongest objection to Bradley's doctrine. Anybody, any group, any party which honestly believes that revolution is essential to achieving working class freedom from oppression must totally oppose all kinds of hierarchical grading and organisation.

Violet, Pete, Mark, Karl, Framboise, Beryl, Andy Birmingham
'Troops Out': a travesty of Marxism

I wonder what the position of Living Marxism is on the problem of Ireland. From the August '92 issue it looks like pretty standard 'UK left' - call for 'Troops Out Now' or define yourself out of the left. Never mind small details such as a settlement, or the fact that a majority of people in the North of that island actually want UK rule - just 'strike a blow against imperialism' and pull out the troops.

Support for the IRA/Sinn Fein (often unconditional) is more of the same. Never mind what the IRA are; what their aims are; or the implications of their actions, such as blowing up Protestant building workers. 'Troops Out Now' implies a refusal or inability to look at reality and is a complete travesty of a genuine Marxist position. Why not open a debate in LM on this problem?

Steve Revins Stafford
Calling Tokyo

Living Marxism readers in Tokyo now meet regularly to discuss the magazine and exchange ideas. Any other readers who would like to join our group in Japan can contact us through Living Marxism in London, c/o BM RCP, London WC1N 3XX. Thanks.

Raif Collis Tokyo
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 47, September 1992



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