The emphasis of the article on the Irish republican movement (Mick Kennedy,
'Bomb warnings', December) seemed unbalanced in making the (so far) ineffective
bombing campaign the focus of criticism. The campaign's problems merely
reflect the broader difficulties of the movement in adapting to the new
situation, which have strengthened the tendency towards negotiation.
It is this political strategy which should have been at the heart of the
critique. It is laughable to argue it is the bombing campaign that hinders
the cause of freedom when Sinn Fein's shift towards compromise opens up
a real danger of a British-imposed solution. Candid points yes, but get
the priorities right.
S Davies Sunderland
According to Mick Kennedy, 'it has never been appropriate for supporters
of the cause of Irish freedom in Britain to criticise IRA bombings'. Nonsense.
People on the left should not be afraid to criticise anything, especially
when the object of criticism is quite as flawed as the IRA campaign.
Sinn Fein/IRA has a certain amount of support in Ireland (for example, three
electors in 10 supported Sinn Fein in West Belfast in April's election).
But its claim to carry out acts of violence on behalf of the whole nation
is plainly dishonest. And, what is worse, its acts of violence over the
past two decades have produced nothing except the private grief of thousands
bereaved and wounded.
Mick Kennedy argues that 'all of the deaths and destruction connected with
the Irish War (sic) are the ultimate responsibility of the British authorities'.
I fail to understand how Provos who talk of 'freedom' and 'liberation' cannot
take responsibility for their own actions. Who plants the bombs and pulls
Justin O'Hagan Co Down
Mick Kennedy's article is a timely one. Bombs, like the recent two in Manchester,
disempower people. And when people lose their confidence they become conservative.
They retreat into themselves and look to the state to protect them. And
the arm of the state is strengthened.
Working class British people will never understand the fight for Irish freedom
unless they have confidence in themselves. Planting a bomb in the street
wrecks that - especially when they are the intended target.
Wrong exchange rate
Tony Kennedy ('They're all speculators now', November) says that forward
exchange rates 'are determined by market consensus' and that 'if the market
expects the pound to fall...then the one month pound/DM forward rate...will
be lower than the spot rate today'. This is wrong.
Today the market expects the pound to fall. Forward pound/DM rates show
the pound as more valuable. This state of affairs has existed since British
short-term interest rates fell below those in Germany. A training course
for city dealers would argue that forward rates are determined by the current
spot rate and difference in interest rates of the two currencies.
So are forward rates determined by market consensus or by spot rates and
interest rates? It is a mixture of the two.
A 'market consensus' by dealers and analysts can certainly change forward
rates. However the spot rates will be changed as well. Deals in the forward
market will have an affect on the spot rate and deals in the spot market
an affect on the forward rate. The relationship between the two will be
the interest differential.
There is no question of forward rates being a prediction of what rates will
be in the future. They are no more than the rates in the forward market
Bill Hawk North London
Madonna does not mark such a radical departure from the sexploitation of
women in the pop music industry (Helen West, 'Neurotica', December). Rather,
she carries it to new heights and reinforces it. That she professes to be
'in control', and to have complete authority over her artistic output completely
misses the point. The fact is that Madonna finds it necessary, in
this sexist world, to present herself as a sex object, and to sell herself
in this way, in order to make a living.
Madonna presents herself as a sex object, but by doing so she implicates
all women. She reinforces the old stereotype that it is the body, not the
brain, that matters in a woman.
Madonna's imagery of the wholly independent, sexual, erotic woman, playing
with bisexual and lesbian imagery, may at first appear to be different,
and perhaps progressive, asserting the right of women to be erotic and pornographic
because they want to be. But in a society where women are oppressed simply
because they are women, and are exploited, harassed and abused as part of
the daily grind, the idea that Madonna represents a move in the right direction
for those of us interested in emancipation seems to come straight out of
cloud cuckoo land.
Perhaps Madonna's next feminist venture will be to have her own brand of
lager with a tastefully posed, erotic picture of herself on the side of
every can. Capitalism and sexism do mix.
Kevin Reid Surrey
The slump and superprofits
Phil Murphy ('A slump-ridden, devalued system', November) clearly describes
the slump in Britain today, but his argument might have been followed further:
if I can get only five per cent return on investing in 'real' wealth production
in the British car industry, I will go instead to a bank offering six per
cent. But then that bank must ultimately find a real investment yielding
seven per cent and much more, to be able to give me the six per cent.
Banks and other speculators find such superprofits partly by dealing in
primary goods and raw materials from the brutally exploited third world,
but more particularly from industry in developing countries (South Korea,
Philippines, etc) where people work in wretched conditions with little union
or legal protection.
As a result, British industry effectively relocates to these areas of high
exploitation and will not return until labour conditions here become abject
enough to compete, ie, until British social conditions begin to resemble
countries such as the Philippines (and the first signs are appearing - it
is going to be a rough decade!).
Finally if the state can't keep enough people on the consumerist bandwagon
to ensure stability, democracy itself could be abandoned - and then the decade
will really get tough!
Jim Dixon Cork, Ireland
Damn lies and Bosnia
I enjoyed Joan Phillips' article 'Lies, damn lies and Bosnia' (November).
It had the refreshing ring of authenticity, contrasting vividly with the
picture given in the distorting mirror of the media.
But Joan Phillips failed to touch on one aspect of official hypocrisy. The
tears supposedly shed for the suffering Croats conceal capitalist self-interest,
a convenient formula behind which American and European imperialism can
justify their intervention in a civil war.
It is interesting to speculate what the attitude would have been in the
Second World War had a neutral country - say Sweden - attempted to send food
to beleaguered Berlin. Would General Eisenhower have allowed such convoys
to travel into the German capital unhindered? Or would the Allies have claimed
that the Germans' suffering was a necessary and inevitable consequence of
their continued resistance?
Even after capitulation, the Allies continued the inhuman policy of deliberately
depriving the German people of the bare essentials of life. Labour politicians,
like Attlee and Dalton, defended the death and suffering it caused, particularly
among the very young and the very old, by making racist remarks, suggesting
all Germans were responsible for the war.
Raymond Challinor Whitley Bay
Darwin meets Marx
Toby Adam's article 'Why doubt Darwinism?' (December) was a welcome recognition
of the implicit links between the development of Darwinian and Marxist theory.
From the outset Marx was eager to confer on Darwinism the 'scientific' character
of his own work and the public defence of Darwin by Marxists is as old as
Marxism itself. There was, however, a personal issue of jockeying for position
between the exponents of the two theories. Writing months after receiving
an inscribed (and unread) copy of Capital in 1873, Darwin thanked
Marx but dismissively 'confessed' not to grasp the 'important subject of
Marx for his part wrote that 'Darwin's book...supports the class struggle
from the point of view of natural science', though as he privately complained
'one has, of course to put up with the crude English method of discourse'.
(from a letter to Ferdinand Lassalle, 16 January 1861).
Like Marxism, Darwinism continues to assail reactionary ideas because both
are polemical, having evolved in open confrontation with their ideological
opponents. As Adams implicitly points out, the experience of the last century
of capitalism has done nothing other than confirm and validate the propositions
of both Darwin and Marx.
Billy Greenup London
Doctors aren't God
I disagree with Ann Bradley in her support for doctors who kept a brain-dead
woman attached to a life support machine so her baby could be born ('I'm
for Frankenstein's baby', December).
As a nurse I have come across many instances where patients have been used
as 'guinea pigs' by the God-like medical profession. Terminally ill people
have been operated on for dubious reasons and have never recovered. 'New
drugs' have been given to elderly patients. People have had to endure painful
treatment when they repeatedly expressed their wish to die, but the consultant
is all-powerful and must never be questioned.
If a clinically dead woman is no more than an incubator to a 10-week old
fetus then what are living women? It is interesting to note that the girl's
parents were initially against the idea of her body being kept alive. One
wonders what persuasive pressures the doctors used to get them to change
When people have more control over the way they are treated and are given
proper information instead of being treated as 'yes doctor' idiots then
perhaps we can acknowledge that medical science is a necessary tool for
the benefit of the human race. However at present 'medical science' impinges
on the rights of people, where so many white lies are told so that the doctors
can persuade working class people to undergo procedures they would not otherwise
The parents of Tony Bland wish him to die with dignity. Perhaps instead
he should be used as practice material for junior doctors? After all, he's
past caring. The medical profession already have too much power. They are
an elite group who have had the benefit of education denied to working class
people. We must remember this before we give them the right to practice
on people under the guise of 'medical science.'
Linda Hollings Kent
The miners' ballot
'If [the NUM] had called a ballot in the spring of 1984, and let miners
campaign for a united national strike, they might not be in this mess today'
('The pits', November). I agree with that argument, and I think the letters
which objected to it miss the point.
The only way that the miners could win was through a united national strike.
That was the key not just to closing down the industry, but also to winning
solidarity from other workers. Anybody in their right mind knew it.
The only reason why Arthur Scargill and the NUM executive wouldn't call
a ballot for a national strike was that they thought they'd lose. And they
were right - not because Notts miners were 'born scabs', but because the
NUM officials weren't capable of winning them over.
What was needed at the start of the dispute was a ballot, but more than
that. It had to be backed by a rank and file campaign, so that miners from
Yorkshire, Kent, Scotland, etc, could go around the country and argue with
the Notts miners and others about why they all had a stake in supporting
a national strike.
Instead, all we got was the NUM executive trying to deal with the problem
by throwing the union rulebook at Nottinghamshire. But a rulebook never
won any political argument. It made things worse by hardening the divisions.
Instead of debating what needed to be done, miners from Yorkshire and Notts
coalfields ended up throwing rocks at one another on that black day at Mansfield.
Maybe even a rank and file campaign for a national strike wouldn't have
been enough to save the 100 000 miners' jobs which have since gone. But
by refusing to contemplate such a thing, the NUM leaders made sure that
strike was lost before it even started.
M Spencer Yorkshire
Congratulations on your fiftieth edition. I was a little disappointed, however,
that the event was not marked by the introduction of a new shot of Mick
Hume on the editorial page. Mind you, if such a photograph is in the pipeline,
please make sure he keeps that side part. You could sail a boat down it.
Martin Cullen Wakefield
Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas
The August issue of Living Marxism carried a letter from Andrew Coates
entitled 'Socialists against Serbs'. It has been drawn to our attention
that this letter accused Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas of racism. We acknowledge
that Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas are not racists, and apologise for any
distress caused by the publication of this allegation.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 51, January 1993