Letters

Marching in the rain

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Last month around 80,000 people marched in Glasgow for Scottish independence, in drookit weather that echoed the results of the general election a month earlier — though like the results, the weather didn’t hamper the desire for change.
The demo maintained its anti-Tory message, but it also carried within it a grander vision of a more socially-just Scotland.

The failures of the war on drugs

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Jim Barlow’s article “Tackling drug dependency” (January SR) revealed how damaging the government’s War on Drugs is. Its refusal to countenance the Scottish government’s proposal for safe places for those dependent on drugs to inject and dispose of needles will condemn more and more of the most vulnerable to dreadful ill health and early death.

The long depression

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Socialists can be forgiven for not noticing the Royal Statistical Society’s announcement of its UK Statistic of the Decade in December. The statistic was 0.3 percent. But beneath this rather dull figure lies a fascinating tale of the financial crisis, the long depression and Britain’s economic decline.

Vasily Grossman and state capitalism

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I greatly enjoyed Bob Light’s article “Vasily Grossman always sided with the oppressed” (January SR). Bob is correct to claim Grossman for the left.

It’s clear Grossman understood there was a fundamental difference between the aims and the achievements of the October Revolution and what constituted Stalinism. For Grossman the crucial year of change was 1937 — the year of high-Stalinism.

Understanding and feeling in film

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In her review of Terrence Malick’s movie A Hidden Life (January SR), Jessica Walsh contends that “you could easily lose over an hour without losing any plot points.” This argument betrays a rather functional approach to cinema.

Jessica is closer to the truth, I think, when she acknowledges that Malick’s contemplation of the anti-Nazi stance of religious conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter is “a meditative hymn”.

Love and alienation

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I very much enjoyed Sarah Bates’s insightful article on online dating (“Love me Tinder, love me true?”, January SR), and it’s very refreshing that a socialist magazine takes up such subjects on the borderline between the personal and the capitalist system we live in.

There are a couple of points however I tend to disagree with. Sarah writes “Tinder is a mirror held up to our society — one based on the buying and selling of love, sex and relationships as commodities.” But Tinder doesn’t actually sell relationships, it provides, at a price, a platform for people to meet up.

Commemorating the role of the early IS

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I was most interested to read the obituary of Ian Macdonald QC (December SR). The story of a life devoted to fighting within the legal system for justice and against racism was indeed inspiring.

But I was a little surprised that there was no mention of the fact that, in the 1960s, Ian was for some years a leading member of the International Socialists (IS), the forerunner organisation of the SWP.

I knew Ian a little in those days. In 2009, when writing my biography of Tony Cliff (the founder and leader of the IS), I interviewed him about his memories of his days in IS.

Trade union leaders

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Dave Lyddon claims in his latest contribution to our discussion about the 1972 docks’ strike (Feedback, December SR) that the TUC threat to call a general strike was not key to the release of the Pentonville Five, that the crucial factor securing their release was growing unofficial action in which 250,000 workers had walked out by the time the Five were released in July 1972.

Clearly the TUC would not have acted without the unofficial strikes, but to describe the threat of a General Strike as “icing on the cake” underestimates its significance.

Dockers and the TUC

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The springing of five dockers from Pentonville in July 1972 was class struggle in the raw. Sabby Sagall (Feedback, November 2019) suggests that the unofficial strike movement “was certainly crucial but, arguably, the dockers’ release would not have happened without the TUC’s intervention”. Ralph Darlington and I detailed the sequence of events in Glorious Summer (Bookmarks, 2001), building on Fred Lindop’s account. All three of us challenged the mainstream opinion that the TUC’s general strike call was key.

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