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Letters

Self-Determination

Dear Editors

The last two decades have witnessed an increasing number of anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation movements seeking a voice through protest and opposition to the damaging practices of trans-national corporations and the World Bank, IMF and WTO. The probability is that the vast majority of these individuals have never studied economics or politics and don’t understand much of the workings of current economic policies, but they certainly do see and feel the results and negative effects of these policies and they have a feel for what is unjust. They share a common desire for a better world, a fairer world. They may not have identified clearly or explicitly what it is they want in this other, better world, but they have undoubtedly recognised much of what they don’t want. Their protests and their slogans are demands to be heard; these are ways of expressing anger, frustration and disagreement with the status quo.

Around the world such groups are voicing many different grievances from many different angles. Bolivians grabbing their water rights back from Bechtel, who are now suing the Bolivian government for compensation for what they would have earned in the future. Hundreds of thousands of Indians being forced off their fertile productive farmland in favour of huge dams which promise fat profits for fat cats. Millions of AIDs sufferers denied access to life-giving treatments for lack of cash.  Empathisers in the minority world protesting against the methods and results of worldwide capitalist business.

So many different reasons from so many different perspectives; different stages of anger, deprivation, disenfranchisement. It would be unrealistic to make broad generalisations about the myriad individual goals but it’s certainly possible to gather the separate bits and pieces together and view them as discrete perspectives with converging aims. All these fingers may not be poised over exactly the right button but at least they are scrabbling in the right area. Surely, better something rather than sitting in a darkened room absorbing more mind-numbing images from another evening’s bombardment courtesy of the capitalist media?

It’s about choices. People’s first choice should be socialism. It seems such a small step from the examples given here, but a huge paradigm shift. For people focused on life’s necessities – enough food for the family everyday, somewhere safe to sleep, healthcare and childcare for increasing numbers of chronically ill, a job this month, next year that will pay the bills – it’s hard to focus on the light at the end when the tunnel is long and dark. So, as socialists, how do we address this last little push, this yawning gap? Let’s not criticise those who haven’t figured it out yet. Let’s harness their strengths and energies. We need first to get people to see the light, recognize it for what it is and then to keep focused on heading for it through the long dark tunnel of capitalism, in growing numbers, with growing strength in the knowledge that there is a better world, a fairer world, a socialist world.

JANET SURMAN, Turkey.

Marx in error?

Dear Editors,

I note that you, in the September issue, favourably quote part of Marx's sixth Thesis on Ludwig Feuerbach:

"Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations".

I would like to point out that Marx was in error on this point, and that in fact Feuerbach did not abstract from social relations. Here is the man himself:

"The natural viewpoint of man, the viewpoint of the distinction between I and thou, subject and object, is the true and absolute viewpoint; consequently, it is also the viewpoint of philosophy. The single man for himself possesses the essence of man neither in himself as a moral being nor in himself as a thinking being. The essence of man is contained only in the community and unity of man with man; it is a unity, however, which rests only on the reality of the distinction between I and thou. Solitude is finiteness and limitation; community is freedom and infinity. Man for himself is man (in the ordinary sense); man with man - the unity of I and thou - is God" (Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1844), p 70-71)

A bit fluffy and abstract perhaps, but it is clear, just as it is clear in his Essence of Christianity, that his analysis was based upon social relations.

R. CUMMING (by email)

What “Marxist terrorists”?

Below is a letter sent to Colombian Ambassador to Britain

Mr Ambassador

Following on the return to Ireland of the three Irish republicans convicted of assisting the FARC nationalist movement in Colombia, your Vice President, Mr Francisco Santos, is reported in the British and Irish media as saying that the men in question were training ‘Marxist terrorists’.

If Mr Santos has some authoritative knowledge of Karl Marx and his political and economic philosophy that knowledge would necessarily have come from the abundant and easily-available writings of Marx or his friend and co-worker, Frederick Engels.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain since its establishment in 1904 has become the repository of genuine Marxist thought in this country and bases its political practice on the basic tenets of Marxism. We affirm that Marx’s vision of socialism – or communism, for he used the terms interchangeably – was a wageless, classless, moneyless and stateless, world wherein the machinery of production and the resources of nature would be owned in common by humanity and wherein the state as an apparatus of government over people would give way to a simple administration of things.

As Marx made clear, the very nature of his conception of socialism precluded any form of minority violence; socialism would necessarily have to be established by the conscious, democratic action of the working class – the producers of all real wealth – and be maintained by the most wide-ranging forms of participative democracy.

If Mr Santos had applied himself to a study of Marx’s writings he must surely have noticed that, rather than advocating terrorism, Marx devoted much of his time and energy to repudiating the views of those who urged terrorism on the working class as a means of resolving any facet of its exploitation.

In the present climate of fear engendered by the brutal sectional and conflicting interests of capitalism, Mr Santos’ statement is irresponsible in that it exposes genuine Marxists to the threat of violence from many quarters. Indeed, one can only wonder at the possible fate of someone in Columbia thinking he or she had a democratic right to advocate the principles of Marxism.

Since we are not in a position to challenge Mr Santos directly we would ask you as a matter of urgency for clarification of his remarks specifically in relation to the suggestion that Marxism is in any way compatible with the idea of terrorism.

John Bissett, General Secretary.

 

The following reply was received:

Dear Mr. Bissett,

Thank you for your letter of 10 August regarding certain reported statements by Colombian Vice President Mr. Francisco Santos following the return to Ireland of the three Irish republicans convicted of assisting the FARC in Colombia. Your letter has been forwarded to the Vice President.

Alfonso López Cabellero, Ambassador.