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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.

Manda KentsLondon

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.

Gary Edinburgh
Attila 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 (ie, Serbia).

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

Health matters

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 potential.

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.

John Everett

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 present foundations.

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 analysis.

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 unemployed?

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 benefit.

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

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