Letters

War and Witchunts

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I have a quibble with Chris Harman's otherwise excellent article, 'Left Pole of Attraction' (March SR).

He concludes by saying that we need to build the 'biggest possible anti-war movement--and then argue within it for an anti-capitalist agenda that confronts the system as a whole'. Given the hysteria over asylum seekers, it strikes me that we have to begin doing both at the same time.

As Chris acknowledges, and as Julie Waterson's following piece ('Beating the Bigots') shows, the BNP are homing in on the issue in the run-up to the May council elections. Unless we get behind a campaign of exposing the lies and myths they feed on, the Nazis are poised to make significant gains.

Christopher Hill's Legacy

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As Brian Manning's tribute demonstrates (March SR) the late Christopher Hill was a fine and pathbreaking Marxist historian, a long way from the mechanical Stalinist suggested by some.

Since Hill's death he has been the subject of a vicious witchhunt. 'The Times' has suggested that during the Second World War Hill was a Russian spy, although the evidence for this accusation would not be enough to convince even Tony Blair. Meanwhile the right wing historian Norman Stone has suggested that Hill could not be trusted because he, apparently, dyed his hair.

Christopher Hill's Politics

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I enjoyed Brian Manning's tribute to Christopher Hill (March SR).

What a shame that since Hill's death, the right wing press have alleged that as a member of the wartime foreign office he 'must' have been a Soviet spy. The idea that he concealed his politics is laughable. Not only was Hill a prominent, public member of the Communist Party (CP), he was also a dissident intellectual whose ideas were distrusted by the bureaucrats at the head offlis party.

Resisting Repression

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Thanks to the many readers of 'Socialist Review' who supported the campaign to free anti-war activists in Egypt (Letters, March SR).

On 7 March, after several weeks of imprisonment and torture, 14 activists were released and have been able to return to their work in the anti-war movement.

Kernal Khalil is one of the leaders of the movement and a founder of the Socialist Centre in Cairo. He says, 'I believe it was the solidarity movement locally and internationally that won our release. When in prison I saw statements of solidarity and hear news of your activities and it made all the difference.

Labour's Pains

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Huw Williams (March SR) correctly identifies the scale of the crisis facing the Labour Party.

Here in Scotland the Labour Party managed to defeat an anti-war amendment put by rebel labour MSP John McAfflon by just 5 votes at the Scottish Parliament. After the vote health minister Malcolm Chisholm made clear he only voted against it due to loyalty to the Labour Party, but is now prepared to publicly speak on anti-war platforms.

Nothing Natural about War

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I joined the protest outside parliament on the night of 18 Much 2003 when our leaders decided to help the US butcher innocent Iraqi civilians.

Watching the charade unfold was sickening. Parliamentarians agreed to state murder and then congratulated themselves on the 'high level' of their debate. Blair won his vote by relying on the support of the Tories, and by arm-twisting spineless and unprincipled labour backbenchers. The antics of Clare Short alone showed how low New labour has sunk

Nothing Natural about War

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William Halpern asserts that 'human nature' needs 'to be considered alongside the purely political and economic issues 'to get closer to the truth about the nature of war' (Letters, March SR).

Like other arguments from human nature, this presupposes that some trait, say the ability to learn a human language, or violence, is genetically hardwired into the human organism--that it is part of what it means to be human to manifest the trait. This is a very strong claim. A single counterexample--a society whose institutions do not express or promote greed or violence--means that we have to scrap or modify the assumption and reconstruct any arguments that rest on it. 'The exception proves (ie tests) the rule.'

On Mums and Orphans

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Shaun Doherty's review of Peter Mullan's 'The Magdalene Sisters' (Feburary SR) was spot on. It is also worth drawing your readers' attention to Mullan's earlier masterpiece, 'The Orphans', which is available on video and DVD.

This is a grim, wonderful, surreal, working class black comedy. Set in Glasgow, it follows the misadventures of three brothers and their disabled sister the night before their mother's funeral.

While not wanting to go over the top, it was one of the best films I have seen, although my mum thought the masturbation scene unnecessary! It is essential viewing.

John Newsinger
Leicester

In the Right Direction

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In his review of Welcome to the Desert of the Real!, the latest book by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, Alex Callinicos remarks that despite Zizek's intermittent political 'misses', he's generally 'heading in the right direction' (January SR).

One noteworthy example of this appears in an interview with Zizek published in 'Ha'aretz', the liberal Israeli newspaper, on 13 January. At the end of the interview Zizek is asked what sort of alternative to capitalism he'd like to see. He replies: 'There's the puzzle. I would say, a new version of what was once called socialism.'

This, to my knowledge, is the first time that Zizek has explicitly used the word 'socialism' to describe his hopes for the future. Previously, he tended to (mis)use the term to describe state capitalist regimes of the former Eastern bloc.

Slush and Nonsense

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What an excellent article on the late Joe Strummer (January SR), and the lyrics to 'White Riot' still inspire today.

Of course after this single and the excellent first album The Clash made startling progress (the album reached number 12 on its release in Britain). The record company started taking control, and after that the band, despite critical acclaim for their efforts, started churning out what can only be described as corporate slush, and the politics died a death.

The best way to appreciate Joe and his thinking is through The Clash's first album--which reflected 1970s Britain superbly.

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