Letters

Marxism and religion

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I would like to thank Peter Keighron for his letter (April SR) responding to my article on the Bolsheviks and Islam.

To answer your first question regarding the socialist political theory of religion and whether it has been maintained, I believe that in Britain it has — this can be seen in the fight against Islamophobia. However, in some places, such as France, it has not, and that is very much reflected in the rise of Islamophobia. The left in France has sided with the oppressor against the oppressed in the name of secularism.

Going beyond gun control

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Simon Guy’s article, “We don’t want your thoughts and prayers” (April SR), looks at the huge movement in the US for action over gun control. The protests have been progressive and mainly led by young people. They have been a cry of rage against the Trump administration and the NRA.

But in order to tackle the gun violence in the US we have to go beyond the demand for tighter gun control, and look at the conditions which drive young people to commit such horrifying atrocities.

Mindfulness is limited

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Alongside his generous comments on my book Politics of the Mind: Marxism and Mental Distress, Stephen Tollyfield points to what he sees as a “notable omission” in the book — any reference to mindfulness (February SR).

He suggests that what the omission reflects is a materialist disdain for what he calls the “spiritual dimension of life”.

Fight austerity in or out of the European Union

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I disagree with Keith Cargill’s letter (April SR) about voting leave being the wrong decision in the EU referendum.

I have some sympathy for his uncertainty about what a “workers’ Brexit” might be like, because unfortunately the question of class has hardly got a look in in the discussion pre- or post-referendum.

Otherwise, Keith’s arguments fail to convince. Racism is indeed on the increase since the Brexit vote, but it is throughout Europe.

Make the theory fit the economic facts

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Mark Thomas’s review of Kim Moody’s book On New Terrain, the interview with UCU activists and Simon Gilbert’s article on the Chinese working class (April SR) all share a common theme, namely Marxists and the working class coming to terms with the restructuring of capitalism.

As Mark’s article states, “new concentrations of capital have also created new concentrations of workers” and therefore new opportunities for the left and our class.

This is a welcome addition to the left’s intellectual concentration on “the ongoing crisis of capitalism”.

Up with curationism?

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I enjoyed Noel Halifax’s review of the exhibition Another Kind of Life (April SR). It is a complex exhibition and as he says raises questions about the nature of photography and how it is exhibited.

I think that on the whole the rise of the curator is to be welcomed: it makes explicit the previously hidden biases of exhibitions. It makes clear that any artwork is a transaction between creator and viewer.

Voting leave was still the wrong decision

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I supported Remain in the EU referendum. After reading Charlie Kimber’s article (“Tories out before 2022?”, February SR) I have not changed my mind. I believe that a second referendum should be held on the terms and conditions offered.

Whatever Kimber means by a “workers’ Brexit” I don’t know; neoliberal economics exist outside the EU also.

All that I can see or read about life in the UK is that racism is on the increase, that EU citizens will be very poorly treated, requiring visas and all sorts of exemptions from benefits of all kinds.

Is our theory relevant?

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Naima Omar’s article on religion and socialism (March SR) was fascinating and illustrated a consistency in practice from socialists, stretching over a century, in support of those who are under attack for their religious beliefs.

But Omar says that socialists always have to “maintain our politics” in relation to religion and I wonder whether the socialist political theory of religion has been or indeed should be maintained a century or so on?

Marx famously wrote that religion was the “opium of the people”, a drug that people take to escape reality.

Nazi bans no answer

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Nadia Sayed wrote a good piece in last month’s SR on the far-right. Historically, as Nadia says, it has been mass resistance confronting the Nazis in the streets, such as at Cable Street in 1936, that stopped fascism in Britain. East London, of course, has its own great tradition, which is kept alive by many local activists.

One point though: campaigning to ban the far-right was mentioned. Some anti-fascists seek to stop the far-right by calling for fascist marches to be banned.

Did the Bolsheviks win?

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Patrick Nielsen paints a vivid case of how Lenin neither led to Stalin nor did he lay the foundations of the Russian Revolution’s demise (“From the dream to a nightmare”, January SR). All the more refreshing that he does so by concentrating on the objective circumstances and the state of the Russian working class, rather than going on about what a great guy Lenin was.

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