The Chips are up
Not one but two letters
(October) accusing Helen West of conniving in her own oppression for daring
to see and enjoy the Chippendales.
What are Zoe Richmond and the anonymous correspondent from Gwynedd really
saying? Would boycotting male strippers strike a blow for women's liberation?
Or perhaps it's OK to watch them as long as you don't like it? I think there's
some confusion here.
The oppression of women is real. It's not false notions about ourselves
and each other that make women second class citizens but social facts. We
don't have the right to abortion, or adequate childcare, or even equal wages.
It's beyond doubt that sexual relationships are distorted by such facts
but there's no way of redefining those relationships without tackling real
life obstacles to equality. Suggesting that women perpetuate their oppression
by 'rejoicing in the Frankenstein's monsters' of beefcake strippers is to
trivialise the whole affair to one of personal choice.
Love 'em or loathe 'em, holding the Chips responsible for the aspects of
the relationship between men and women which their stage act evokes just
doesn't make sense. In fact objecting to them in today's moral climate carries
the risk of lining up with the 'family values' brigade. What kind of blow
for women's liberation would that be?
Maybe a social movement which is actively reshaping society will make male
strippers a thing of the past. I hope not; I want to have my Chips.
Do universities breed Marxists?
Two articles in last month's Living Marxism ('Access
to what?' and 'Studied ignorance')
claimed to represent a balanced critique of contemporary higher education,
yet they demonstrated a rather sensationalistic hit at authority on behalf
of the student population. This cannot be seen as a serious Marxist approach.
Khalid Morrison's item, right-on kid though he may be, seemed to display
that he had learned a fair degree of self-expression and the ability to
think for himself and not swallow the established discourses of the ruling
middle classes. Surely, he is partly a success for higher education, not
a proof of its failure?
Penny Robson points out about higher education change, 'a large proportion
of the academics will go along with it' - just as a large proportion of women
will go along with the abortion laws. Yet Living Marxism doesn't
overtly condemn women. A large proportion of lecturers are as concerned
as Penny about falling resources and big unwieldy classes.
There is a ray of hope, though. The Victorian capitalists recognised the
potential dangers of having an educated and politically conscious mass of
unemployed and expressed alarm at the rising number of schools and colleges.
Perhaps we shall see more Khalid Morrisons coming out of the higher education
system; but perhaps better directed in their anger. Penny Robson suggested
that the 'old system' of education 'gave students something worthwhile in
the way of education': in defending the capitalists, it did. Maybe the 'new
system' will (inadvertently?) give them something more worthwhile.
Richard Pearson (lecturer) Worcester
Out of Bosnia
'Here we go again' I thought reading Attila
Hoare's ludicrous letter (October). He seems to be suggesting that to
take a stand against Western intervention in Bosnia is tantamount to support
for British imperialism, an oxymoronic view if ever there was one. In fact
the interests of Whitehall are ambivalent - witness former defence secretary
Alan Clark calling the diplomatic machinations a 'charade' to get UN (ie,
Western) troops involved, and saying that the Bosnian crisis is 'none of
our business' - all quite true, but opinions that would have been inexpressible
during the Gulf crises.
The point is, Attila, to develop a genuinely internationalist perspective,
allowing the indigenous populations of the Balkans to sort out their own
problems. A position that endorses Western intervention simply allows the
political elite to make up the rules as they go along. After all, I don't
recall any Western power rushing to intervene to save East Timor, if I can
name just one notorious, or rather what should be a notorious example.
As for 'slaughtering their own people', it is a well-documented fact that
all sides have been attacking themselves in order to deceive the peace monitors
and a gullible media. In the case of the mortar attack on the funeral - which
Radovan Karadzic claimed was staged with pre-planted mines - virtually every
newspaper was begging for armed intervention. Any decent experienced journalist
would have been suspicious, but black propaganda or not, the media response
made it clear that attacking your own side is an excellent tactic.
Hoare needs to slow down and look at the situation in Bosnia. The bone
of contention is the creation of a holocaust in Bosnia which Hoare obviously
feels is going on. Where's the evidence? Maybe his approach is more 'this
person's evidence cannot be independently verified but....'? Maybe it's
the United Nations' evidence he believes. This is the same institution that
murdered 200 000 Iraqis and created a safe haven for the Kurds but never
lifted a finger when they were bombed by Turkish war planes. Or maybe it's
the selected scenes on TV?
Nobody has found mass graves, gas chambers or anything else attributed to
the mass extermination of the Jews in the 1940s. The Final Solution was
not the result of an ethnic war between the Jews and the Germans but a symptom
of capitalism in extreme crisis. The civil war in the Balkans is a result
of Western intervention. It is a war fought along ethnic lines because ethnicity
itself has been given a political strength by, most notably, the recognition
of certain states by the West and the demonisation by the West of others
The call for greater Western interference in the region (or anywhere else
for that matter) to stop a 'holocaust' gives credence to the idea. But if
the governments of the major capitalist powers can intervene in their lives - who's
to oppose the government intervening in yours? Imperialism must be opposed
around the world.
Steve Hodson West London
I would like to congratulate you for
your brave articles and accurate analysis of what is really going on in
ex-Yugoslavia. I have not seen anyone that has provided such a good analysis
in so few paragraphs. In my view many of the so-called 'left' have simply
failed. They do not understand what is going on.
There is a strong German and American interest in the war, the latter for
the purpose of destroying the last remains of communism in Europe. There
is an awful propaganda machine in place which is centrally orchestrated.
To win the war, the enemy needs to be denigrated and satanised. In the case
of former Yugoslavia, the techniques have been perfected much beyond what
we have seen in Iraq and Panama.
Yugoslavia is an early example of the 'New' Germany muscling for power in
the 'New World Order', and in Europe in particular. In some sense it is
the 'Sudeten Gebiet' of the 1990s. What is all of this going to bring and
'who is next?' (as you rightly point out)--we shall wait and see.
Ivan D Trifunovich California, USA
I would like to comment on the article by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick 'The
dangers of healthy living' (September). As a life-long physique and
fitness trainer also dedicated to the reconstruction of society largely
in accordance with your aims, it is my belief supported by pragmatic observation
and continuous study of numerous subjects from quantum mechanics to health
matters that it is desirable to maximise what might be called the living
It is not that healthy living necessarily ensures longevity, that is to
say, living beyond the so-called allotted span, but that the person who
looks after his or her health via diet, exercise and perhaps nutritional
supplementation increases the probability of at least living to that theoretical
limit, as well as living better and free from many of the diseases which
trouble numerous people.
On the other hand I fully agree with the author's statement that it is the
social conditions which contribute largely to the ill health which plagues
our society. The poverty and demoralisation of unemployment and the stresses
and strains of overwork constitute what I call the adverse society.
Nevertheless, this observation does not negate the need for individual care
for his/her own physical well-being. The brain was surely evolved firstly
to secure the survival and therefore the well-being of the organism, and
with the evolution of the human brain this should be its basic directive.
If well-being is the goal then the legitimate purpose of social organisation
should be to ensure that well-being. Clearly this is not being done and
the need for radical reassessment is paramount.
The Irish War - a blast from the past?
Just to say 'thanks' to James Lynch of London (letters,
October) and to the article by Fiona Foster on body-counting politics
('Blood on whose hands', October)--all
very interesting if you're a historian. I'm not.
I've had the pleasure of living and growing up in Northern Ireland and supped
up first-hand the propaganda machines, and was 'kindly' told that my experience
made me too 'emotionally involved' to see the truth and the lies. The secret
lies, I'm told, in past constitutions and country arrangements - the North
back to the Irish and no to military intervention. It's all a nice thought
but falls on one small point - we no longer have the past but the future.
Despite the history of Northern Ireland the population, motives and feelings
of the people have changed. Artificial and propped-up the state of Ulster
may be, but the illusion of borders on maps is a desired reality by most
people. A return to the past situations, dragging the Loyalist community
behind, will no longer do as the past was the source of the present problems.
Instead we, the people of the North, South and the UK must build on our
Where stones are crumbling in the tower of human rights, they must be replaced
and a new state born where the rights of each minority/majority are equally
protected and the means of violence to guide politics abandoned whether
by security forces or terrorists. Giving Northern Ireland back to the Irish
is no longer a solution and neither is greater union in the UK. Time moves
on, so must we.
Kenneth May Glasgow
Eta and the working class
I have been following the debate on Basque nationalism with interest. While
agreeing that Eta is not an anti-imperialist movement I think Andy Clarkson
should look again at some aspects of his
Andy assumes that with the granting of a Basque regional assembly in 1981
Eta went into decline. I think this is incorrect. Certainly when I was in
Madrid in 1988 there was a degree of panic following publication of a survey
showing Herri Batasuna poised to become the largest single Basque party.
The key to these developments seems to lie in the relationship of Eta to
the working class. A number of observers have pointed to the shift of Eta
support towards the urban working class. This doesn't imply anything positive
about Eta itself. But close study of the development of Basque nationalism,
especially its relationship to working class aspirations, provides us with
the opportunity to develop a materialist analysis of the dynamics of regionalism
in the West as opposed to the East.
Andy paints a rosy picture of 'the post-Cold War unravelling of European
nation states like Spain' but the only thing to unravel 'by default' will
be working class unity.
John Murray Dumbartonshire
Life on the dole
Considering today's spiralling social problems of crime, drug abuse and
homelessness, is this the best moment to make life more difficult for the
On becoming unemployed one must now provide good reason before receiving
either unemployment benefit (£43.45 per week) or income support (£42.45
per week) otherwise the circumstances surrounding this sorry state will
be investigated. In waiting for the inquiry (often a matter of several months)
those involved will receive only £25.50 per week, and if found culpable
will receive this same princely sum for a period of not less than six months.
A rent officer, a government agent, may decide the present rateable value
of a home falls beneath that of either the rent or mortgage payable. This
shortfall must of necessity be drawn from either income support or employment
Small wonder perhaps that as the safety net is dismantled, more individuals
are falling through the holes. Disenfranchised, either through an inability
or unwillingness to pay the community charge and well beneath any recognised
minimum living standards, can we afford the luxury of treating this growing
underclass as if they had engineered their own misfortune?
Brian Davidson Wiltshire
Writing on the wall
I would like to ask your readers if they could help me to gather information
on wall murals throughout the world. I am interested in the location of
murals, what the murals are about, why they were painted and a photo of
the mural if possible. I am interested in all types of wall murals. Readers
can contact me at the address below - thank you.
Leo Morgan 6242 D Wing, H-Block 6, Long Kesh Gaol, Lisburn, Ireland
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 49, November 1992