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Bosnia: dangerous do-gooding

Although Mr Hesk (letters, September) rejects military operations by the West in the Balkans, he nevertheless calls for 'somebody' to go in.

I wonder who this 'somebody' is? Maybe Mr Hesk has a military force of his own somewhere in Cambridge, which he has managed to keep hidden from everyone? I suspect instead that Mr Hesk is calling for the West to intervene for humanitarian reasons, rather than naked self-interest.

This understanding is not only naive, it is wrong. The solution to the conflict does not need to be 'brought in' from outside. The only force with the potential to solve the crisis is already there: the working class of the region. Any external 'solution' can only amount to interference which intensifies existing problems and creates new ones.

The 'cold theorising' Mr Hesk finds so objectionable comes from the truth of what Western intervention amounts to. Which sort of warmer, 'more sensitive' solution would Mr Hesk prefer? The frazzled-to-a-crisp variety experienced by Iraqi people on the road to Basra, or the compassionate 'saving' of the Kurds which left them dying of diseases like cholera, which they never even had before the West lent its helping hand?

It's about time Mr Hesk addressed the consequences of his argument and stopped being a dangerous do-gooder.

Sara Walthamstow

At a time when the imperialists have acquiesced in the creation of Greater Serbia, have pressurized the Bosnians to surrender, have prevented them from arming themselves and have actually accused them of slaughtering their own people for publicity reasons, it takes a particular kind of spitefulness to join with the imperialists in equating victims and aggressors; to claim, like David Irving, that the genocide is a myth and to say, like Thatcher with regard to South Africa, that sanctions on Serbia only hurt the people.

What next? Perhaps your great anti- imperialist hero Saddam Hussein didn't really gas the Kurds? Maybe General Franco was really a great fighter against Soviet imperialism in Spain? You may continue to spread your racist poison about Croats and Muslims, but it won't hide the fact that the RCP has shown itself to be a staunch supporter of British imperialist interests in the Balkans and of fascist Serbia, Britain's anti-German Balkan stooge.

Attila Hoare Cambridge

The old lie in Darwin's deathbed

I was surprised to see the old lie of Darwin's deathbed conversion being repeated in, of all places, Living Marxism (Wayne John, letters, August). It is irritating to see ignorant Christians propagating this old fiction despite its having been repeatedly refuted by Darwin's own relatives.

Darwin's daughter, Mrs Litchfield, was present at his death and, referring to the deathbed conversion talk, wrote in The Christian (23 February 1922): 'He never recanted any of his scientific views either then or earlier. We think the story of his conversion was fabricated in the USA....The whole story has no foundation whatever.' His granddaughter, Lady Barlow, also refuted the story in a letter to The Scotsman (8 May 1958) and, quoting Mrs Litchfield, referred to one 'Lady Hope' as the originator of the myth. Darwin's family denied he ever met Lady Hope or was influenced by her.

Voltaire, Paine, Lincoln and many other eminent non-believers have posthumously fallen victim to deathbed conversion tales by dishonest Christian propagandists. What Wayne John foolishly calls 'a historical fact' is nothing more than a cruel Christian hoax. Darwin died an agnostic.

Dr Stephen Moreton Cheshire

The Chips are down

Has Living Marxism become a euphemism for Woman's Weekly? Helen West ('My one night stand with the Chips', August) not only failed to answer the two questions she asked, but also to address the hypocrisy of male strippers being made powerful, professional artists by women, when for so long female strippers have been relegated to powerless bad and sad individuals.

Why did she fail to expose the fact that this 'professional' show is based around man's interpretation of women's sexuality, as passive and subordinate. She went as far as to validate the sexual fantasies by giving readers several unchallenged, stereotypical examples - women's sexual fantasies determined by men for men.

I find the idea of 1000 women having a great time together watching The Chippendales a confirmation of how women have internalised their oppression. The article was purely a representation of women's oppression, an education for women about their place in the socially constructed sexual hierarchy.

I particularly take offence to the use of girl when referring to women. It undoes any implication of status, authority and seriousness, which, in fact, was the whole definition of the article. Finally it must be clear that the selling to women of sexual stereotyping of themselves serves the interests of maintaining patriarchy. If women have any real desire for validation of their sexuality it must be done on their terms.

Zoe Richmond Nottingham

Having read your article on the Chippendales, I was disappointed that the author made no attempt to investigate the impact of such a show deeper than the superficial analysis of it just being a great time. An exploration akin to that would probably have ensued had the piece been concerned with a female striptease - ie, its effect on social relations outside the confines of the auditorium.

Surely the women who idolise and enjoy such displays are basically supporting women's oppression and men's for that matter by creating a virtue out of physical strength? With the level of theoretical science as it now stands such expressions of masculine power are anachronistic and serve reactionary purposes helping to maintain the status quo.

It is bad enough there being a process of brutalisation which distorts people to fit work, which non-profit-bound technology would remove, or at least ameliorate considerably, without its victims going out of their way to rejoice in the Frankenstein's monsters that are created by it.

The fact that, in all probability, the women who visit this entertainment are too scared to walk home lest the nasty side of male superior strength flips up in the guise of an insecure man who cannot live up to the demands of his female peers to be like one of their fantasy males, would seem to illustrate the danger and naivety of this type of venture.

Reader Gwynedd

The mafia fraud

I disagree with Kirk Williams ('Mob Rule', September). The 'mafia' as an organised crime syndicate does not exist now and never has.

The 'mafia' is an invention dating back to pre-Second World War America. The idea of a foreign crime organisation created anti-Italian racism and more importantly a moral panic akin to the anti-communist hysteria. Both were false issues greatly exaggerated to legitimise an ailing ruling class.

As with all moral panics there was a grain of truth among the hype. There was evidence to suggest a small proportion of crimes were committed through syndicates. However the idea that there was a 'mafia', which was a highly organised, super-efficient crime machine posing a major threat to governments was a myth.

To discuss the 'mafia' therefore in the context of Italy is absurd. Italy has a major crime problem but to label every offence as a symptom of this 'Italian disease' is a misdiagnosis. In reality they are sporadic incidents with no common perpetrator. In Sicily I would suggest the hired 'guns' used to impose order, were merely individuals not members of the so-called Mafiosi.

I am not throwing into question the legitimacy problem of the Italian state, but the 'Italian origins' of the mafia. In my opinion the mafia is as American as Mom's Apple Pie.

Donna Gray Liverpool

Ireland's artificial majority

Mr Steve Revins (letters, September) would do well to read up his history books. The reality of Northern Ireland is that of a propped-up Loyalist state for a Protestant people. After the flight of the Earls in 1609 after the nine year war with the English that part of Gaelic Ireland was fiercely colonised with English and Scottish settlers. Meanwhile the native Irish were kicked out of their homesteads and farms. This plantation of Ulster was carried out with ruthless efficiency at the expense of the indigenous Irish population.

It is ridiculous that the Loyalists today have the nerve to claim that part of Ireland in fact belongs to Britain. They do so on the premise that they have a two-to-one majority over the nationalists in that province. This is an artificial majority and the sooner this is realised by everyone the better. Let's give Northern Ireland back to the Irish now.

James Lynch London
Striking lessons from Newham

Living Marxism has often argued that Labour is no longer the party of old, and that this is expressed through the severance of the party's close links with the trade unions. Nowhere is this point more clearly vindicated than the way in which striking Newham council workers were forced back to work in September.

It was the first time that a Labour local authority has taken a trade union to court under Tory legislation. It was also the first time that a court has gone even further than the Tory anti-union laws in making it illegal for a union to campaign for a 'yes' vote before a secret ballot.

After the court decision, Nalgo pulled the plug on the Newham strike. After 15 weeks of indefinite strike action against compulsory redundancies, council workers went back to work with trade union activity further criminalised than before the strike. The unfortunate consequence is that many will feel it is not worth taking action in defence of our jobs or conditions. This would be a mistake.

The action itself was not the problem. The ideas which informed the strike strategy pursued by activists became the barrier to that action achieving something.

The first barrier was the failure to recognize that the Labour council had fundamentally altered its relationship both to the unions and its own workforce. With the defeat in the general election, Labour councils are more isolated and restricted in their options than ever before. They cannot and will not return to the old ways of collective bargaining.

The second barrier was the failure to recognise the isolation of the trade union bureaucracy itself. The Nalgo leadership made a desperate attempt to use Newham strikers as a test case to regain their place at the negotiating table. Their narrow interests were always going to be in conflict with the needs of the strikers.

Recognising the real reasons for the defeat of the strike is the first step to working out awinning strategy for the future. As the old institutions of the labour movement become more ineffectual and useless, they also present a bigger barrier to our needs - unless, as suggested by Living Marxism, we get rid of them and create our own. Lobby the TUC? Whatever for? Bury them!

Sharmini Brookes A Hackney striker

Banal Banks

One of the things I like about Living Marxism is that it does not suffer from the antiintellectualism which afflicts much of the left in the UK. In most of the magazine I know I will find well-argued and rigorous analyses of political events, and critical discussions of new books and ideas. All the more disappointing, then, that the 'Living' section and some of the regular columns seem often to be depressingly banal.

Take Toby Bank's piece 'Generation X' (September). Part book review, part venomous caricature it purports to say something about the thousands of middle class, educated, anti-materialistic young people who 'don't like capitalism, but reject any collective alternative too'. This could have been a fascinating article, but it turns out to be a rehash of well-worn stereotypes in which Banks substitutes personal prejudice for political analysis. Instead of trying to develop an understanding of this group - who are they, what form does their disaffection with capitalism take, why have they rejected a Marxist analysis, etc - Banks has written a Burchill-esque piece which merely sneers at them without adding anything to our understanding.

As the old political order breaks up we are going to need more, not less, sophisticated analyses of new class fractions, their political allegiances (if any), the role of 'new social movements' in articulating dissent, etc. If you want to do something constructive with the anger of young educated people, then you'll have to do more than dismiss them with easy stereotypes.

Rosa Gill (Dr) Nottingham

Sporting chance

Alan Harding's preoccupation with the health and safety aspects of athletics diverges somewhat from the will to win, safety to the wind attitude of many of the great sporting competitors ('Drug-runners', September). While it's an easy point to make that the pressure to win at all costs and the panic about drug use leads to hypocrisy and moralising, Alan sticks to the tired old leftie prejudice against competition as bad and dangerous. A much more fruitful line of enquiry is to look at the degradation of competition caused by the use of sport in today's society.

If all rules on drugs were lifted we would only have real competition between pharmacists. If this is what people want, fine, but let's face it sport would become like Formula One motor racing, boring. Alan's red herring about going back to wooden javelins misses the point. Of course people will have different equipment, but there is a framework of rules within which this equipment is regulated so as to bring out the physical element in competition.

The context doesn't exist at the moment where the values of fair competition in sport are likely to hold, that's true, but Alan should know that some things are worth fighting for.

Roy Lidster Sheffield

Hierarchies and non-humans

The letter from Violet, Pete, Mark, Karl, Framboise, Beryl and Andy (September) said they are against animal experiments because they 'totally oppose all kinds of hierarchical grading' between people and 'non-human animals'. If by this they mean that they are on the same intellectual level as a rabbit, we must agree with them.

John, John, John, John and John London
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 48, October 1992



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