The February issue of Living Marxism carried an open letter to Amnesty
International from Joan Phillips ('Whose
side is Amnesty on?') in response to that organisation's newspaper advertising
campaign about the war in the former Yugoslavia. This is Amnesty's reply.
I am sure that your readers and Joan Phillips share our desire to see an
immediate end to the appalling human rights violations perpetrated by Serbian
forces detailed in our report (Bosnia-Herzegovina: Gross Abuses of Basic
Human Rights) though this is not evident from your open letter. I am
pleased to see, however, that you agree our facts are correct.
Rather the letter attacks us for the impression that Joan received mediated
by her particular viewpoint. Throughout Amnesty's history we have been similarly
accused by right-wing governments of being a left-wing organisation and
by left-wing governments of being part of a right-wing conspiracy. The last
few paragraphs enter the realms of the absurd asking (I trust rhetorically)
if we are really saying we need more human misery.
Yes, human rights abuses have been committed by other participants in the
various conflicts in former Yugoslavia and Amnesty has publicised all those
it has details of and will continue to do so wherever this is within its
Our advertisement sought to give the opportunity to men and women who were
not currently Amnesty members to play a part in ending the abuses by all
sides. Naturally we cannot print the full report in our advertisements without
buying the whole paper. Neither does an advertisement calling for positive
action read like an academic thesis if it is to be successful in mobilising
people. The power of public opinion harnessed like this does matter and
has in countless cases made a real difference. Giving people the opportunity
to do something is important.
You may like to know that Amnesty is also publishing paid advertisements
in the main newspapers throughout the various republics stressing the primacy
and universality of human rights, calling on those involved in the conflict
to ensure the maintenance of basic, minimum standards.
The recommendations from our Bosnia report are:
In its recently released report on rape and sexual abuse by armed forces
Amnesty International also recommends that the international community offers
established expertise or resources in the field of information-gathering
and counselling of rape victims either through inter-governmental and non-governmental
bodies working in the region or through support for local initiatives.
- Leaders of all parties to the conflict within Bosnia-Herzegovina, as
well as the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia,
share responsibility for the gross human rights abuses.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be granted
full access to all places of detention. All civilians detained solely because
of their national origin or held as hostages must be released, with adequate
protection for their safety following release.
- All parties to the conflict must carry out thorough and impartial investigations
into all reports of gross human rights abuses, including deliberate and
arbitrary killings of non-combatants and torture and ill-treatment. Anyone
who ordered or carried out such abuses must be brought to justice.
- All parties to the conflict should give unimpeded access to all areas
under their control to missions dispatched by inter-governmental organisations
and humanitarian organisations, with guarantees that people who provide
information to these missions will not suffer reprisals.
I am sure that your readers will join with us seeking an end to abuses by
all sides involved in the conflict.
John Baguley Head of Fundraising, Amnesty International, British Section
Don't desert Serbian left
How long are you going to stab the Serbian left in the back by your opportunistic
support for greater Serb hegemonism? Don't you think it ludicrous to be
on the same side as the Thatcherite union-basher David Hart or the monetarist
Sir Alfred Sherman on a foreign policy issue?
Socialist ideas caught on early in Serbia, introduced by Svetocar Markovic
(who died in 1887). He called for the creation of a federal Yugoslav state.
Dimitrije Tucovic (1881-1914) called for a federal Yugoslavia, founded the
Serbian Social Democratic Party, published a pamphlet berating his fellow
countrymen's brutality towards the Kosovan Albanians, saying 'the historic
task of Serbia is a big lie'. As for the Communist Party of Yugoslavia,
right from its origins in 1920, it called for a federal Yugoslav state and
opposed the centralist beliefs of the Serbian (and first Yugoslav) premier
Pasic in the Constituent Assembly, and was banned for its pains in 1921.
The trouble with the Serbs is that although they number only 40 per cent
of the Yugoslav population, they wish to give themselves the same airs as
Englishmen, who number 80 per cent of the population of these islands. You
don't want the English to rule Wales, Scotland or any part of Ireland, so
stop sucking up to the Serbs when they seek to brutalise Slovenes, Croats,
Albanians or Bosnians.
If you were to push your hatred for the so-called New World Order to its
logical conclusion, you would end up rehabilitating Nicolae Ceausescu. In
his day he never had any time for it. By the way, the Romanian fascists
Eugen Barbu (who admired Ceausescu when he was alive) and Gheorghe Favar
(who still admires him) are both very fond of the Serbs, and a person is
known by the company he keeps.
Tom Carter BA (South-East European Regional Studies) Somerset
In his article 'Corrupting democracy'
(January), James Heartfield implies that popular democracy exists in the
United States. Not!
It can't really be Heartfield's suggestion that the legislative branch (congress)
somehow represents the public interest in the face of attacks on the working
class by the executive branch (the president). Agreed, term limits for congress
would restrict voters' rights to decide who should represent them, and for
that reason should be opposed. But although members of congress are elected
directly by popular vote and the president is elected somewhat less directly
(by the electoral college), it does not mean that congress represents the
interests of ordinary people.
Heartfield goes too far by describing what would be curbed as 'popular democracy'.
Certainly, the introduction of a line-item vote, an unlikely event as it
would have to be approved by congress and accepted by the supreme court
(the judicial branch), would increase the powers of the executive branch
at the expense of the legislative branch. But what real difference would
that make to the working class? How can you 'further restrict' democracy
that doesn't exist? Can you reduce zero by 10 per cent?
Though I was taught in school that American parliamentary democracy was
the best system ever devised because of its ingenious system of checks and
balances between the three branches, as a Marxist I no longer hold this
to be self-evident. Heartfield implies a distinction between the different
branches of government, suggesting that one is defensible over the other,
when in fact all three are branches of the same tree; one that serves only
the interests of the ruling class and needs to be cut down, not pruned.
Daniel Bryan New York
What's the point?
I am at a loss to see the point of your 'What's in store before 1994?' extravaganza.
Where your serious articles seek to identify the mediations between underlying
trends and current events - and have thus been able to anticipate developments
in Britain and throughout the world - we have here a series of snippets taken
out of any theoretical context. Instead of collective thinking about underlying
tendencies, we have what looks like a bunch of individuals sounding off
'on anything you like', as your preface to the column helpfully puts it.
Contributions from Neil Joseph and Mike Belbin are simply a recycling of
observations which will be familiar to any reader of Living Marxism.
The only thing 'new' here is the whining tone and the occasional excruciating
attempt at satire. Mark Reilly's contribution on Ireland, on the other hand,
launches us into the future with a vengeance giving us a whole doomsday
scenario for 1993. How is such an exercise supposed to advance our political
understanding of the current situation in Ireland as analysed by Mick Kennedy
in the same issue of the magazine?
The common denominator in all the contributions is fatalism. We are passive
spectators to events that evolve - slowly or rapidly - according to some immanent
logic. The calendar cut-outs at the top of these pages, with their curious
resemblance to bingo cards, remind us that we are dealing here more with
a game of chance - in which you can choose shorter or longer odds - than with
Even Living Marxism is bound to run the occasional sub-standard article - but
here we have the prospect of another 10 months of this ballyhoo. Ann Bradley
remarks that 'there is intense pressure on space' in the magazine. Surely
the answer must be obvious.
Louis Roche Paris
Casement Park showtrials
An attempt is being made to criminalise the nationalist people of West Belfast.
In an extraordinary perversion of the legal doctrine of common purpose,
the British state through a series of cases known as the Casement Park Trials
has imprisoned people whose only crime was to defend themselves.
In March 1988, following the SAS shooting of the Gibraltar Three, their
funeral was attacked by the Loyalist Michael Stone. Three mourners were
killed. During the funeral of one of the victims, Kevin Brady, two undercover
soldiers drove at high speed into the cortege and began brandishing their
revolvers. Fearing another Loyalist killing spree some of the mourners courageously
disarmed the soldiers and removed them to nearby Casement Park. Later they
were shot by the IRA.
Since then 41 people have been charged in relation to these events. Five
have received life sentences although none have been accused of shooting
the soldiers. Indeed three of the accused, Pat Kane, Michael Timmons and
Sean Kelly weren't even accused of being present at the shootings. They
were convicted on the basis of an alarming interpretation of the legal doctrine
of common purpose.
The traditional interpretation of common purpose means that a person can
be convicted of, say, murder if, together with others, they formulate a
criminal plan resulting in a killing. Kane, Timmons and Kelly were not alleged
to have formed any such plan with those who actually did the shooting. Nonetheless
they were convicted of abetting murder. The courts have thus extended the
meaning of the law to say, in effect, that anyone present at Casement Park
or indeed in the funeral cortege can be taken to have assisted in the killings.
If these judgements are not reversed, anyone participating in a march, picket
or other demonstration runs the risk of criminal prosecution simply for
being present. This is a product of the state's attempt to criminalise the
entire nationalist community of British-occupied Ireland.
A Justice for the Casement Park Accused campaign has been formed to raise
this and other issues thrown up by these series of vindictive trials. They
can be contacted c/o Green Ink Bookshop, 8 Archway Mall, London N19 5RG.
Steven Hepburn Middlesex
So Dame Jill Knight is offended. Oh dear! Apparently she is worried that
the friends and relatives of serial killer Dennis Nilsen's victims will
be offended at his televised descriptions of the murders. How charming of
her to be so concerned for the sensibilities of what...100 people? Maybe
While no-one would wish to minimise the anguish of such people, perhaps
Dame Jill needs reminding of a few other rather larger groups of the population
who also have cause to be offended?
The NHS has customers waiting and waiting, hoping it's their area's turn
for the share of cash. They are highly offended. Every user of state education
is offended when the goal- posts are moved and the rules changed again.
Time is running out for our children.
Customers of public transport are offended waiting at bus stops and train
platforms for rumbling old stock that may never arrive. That ever-increasing
group, the unemployed, outcasts from this government's systematic destruction
of our manufacturing base, are quite offended too. As are the ever-growing
numbers of bank workers, shop assistants, nurses and teachers being fobbed
off with worthless 'voluntary' redundancy.
And lastly that dwindling minority group, that threatened species, the employed.
With fewer resources to work with and increasingly menacing threats from
management of lower pay and redundancy, it's not difficult to see who wields
the knives in our society. Offended? Sure! I just wonder where the opposition
Sandy Fox Birmingham
Spot the difference?
I wonder if any of your readers have noticed the resemblance between Quintin
Hoare - subject of January's apology after Living Marxism published
a letter by Andrew Coates that accused Hoare of Serb-baiting racism - and
Attila Hoare, who wrote to Living Marxism some months ago accusing
it of 'a vile piece of racist propaganda' in associating present-day Croatian
nationalism with the rehabilitation of that republic's Nazi past.
Are these two people related? We should be told.
S Alec Bo'ness
What's in store before 1994?
Due to our special 12-page picture feature
on the banned Yugoslav war exhibition, this month's contributions from readers
on the likely effects of the slump in 1993 have been postponed until the
April issue of Living Marxism.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 53, March 1993