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.
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.
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
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?
Sharmini Brookes A Hackney striker
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
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
John, John, John, John and John London
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 48, October 1992