Letters

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.

Politics of mindfulness

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Iain Ferguson’s Politics of the Mind, reviewed in January SR, is my book of 2017. There is however one notable omission and this is any reference to mindfulness.

I understand why. It is for the same reason that R D Laing’s contribution is dismissed when he wanders off into mysticism. It is because they involve a recognition that there is a spiritual element to human nature.

If you are an historical materialist then Iain’s book is the full story.

1968 began in Vietnam

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It was the Vietnamese who kicked off, 50 years ago, what became one of the greatest years in recent history for political advance — 1968.

On 30 January that year an 80,000-strong combined force of the Viet Cong and the People’s Army of North Vietnam carried out surprise attacks on some 100 towns and cities, including 36 regional capitals, in South Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive, named after the Vietnamese New Year Tet holiday, was aimed particularly at the major command centres of the South Vietnamese Army and its then massive US military support.

High and low art

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I don’t disagree with Sabby Sagall’s account of Russian music and modernism (December SR) but I do want to add a few extensions. The article mentions that Stravinsky did not like the revolution and left Russia, but it was more than dislike. As he wrote to the Nazis to get himself listed as an Aryan composer:

Defining value

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I read with interest Joseph Choonara’s response (October SR) to Ken Muller’s letter arguing that education workers should be regarded as productive workers. I agree with Joseph’s essential point that education workers are not productive in terms of capitalism. As he pointed out, “productive labour is labour hired by capitalists to create a commodity (whether a tangible good or service) that contains surplus value.”

Remember Sedgwick

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Regarding your interview with Iain Ferguson on Marxism and mental health (November SR) I was surprised that there was no mention of Peter Sedgwick, a leading member of the International Socialists (forerunner of the SWP) who published in 1982 Psycho Politics (Pluto Press). This dealt with anti-psychiatry including Goffman, Laing and Foucault.

Peter’s conclusion was that the mental health movements overemphasise civil liberties and individualistic solutions — at the expense of developing collective responsibility for the care of those experiencing mental health problems.

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