Letters

The Good Side of Focus Groups

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In his article on asylum seekers, 'Labour puts asylum seekers in focus' (July/August SR) Solomon Hughes refers to focus groups as 'guided discussions which reflect the prejudices of their organiser more than public opinion'.

While it's absolutely right to be sceptical about Philip Gould's use of focus groups, they are also a valuable research tool. They have been used by critical social scientists to investigate how opinions are formed collectively--and how they can change collectively.

I'd refer interested readers to work done by the Glasgow Media Group, to Michael Billig's writings and especially to a fascinating book by William Gamson, 'Talking Politics', which shows working class Americans to be far more politically aware than their leaders think.

Rachel Aldred
London

Corrupting Ideology

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Sabby Sagall's article on anti-Semitism (July/August SR) takes a very superficial attitude towards anti-Jewish sentiments in the Middle East.

While there has often been a tendency for protests in the Middle East against Zionist colonisation and discrimination to degenerate into a pogrom against Jews as a whole, the rise of extreme Islamic sentiments has been accompanied by the popularisation of prominent features of European anti-Semitism. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion do a roaring trade in the Middle East, and only recently a Saudi Arabian newspaper retailed the very European myth of the Jewish blood sacrifice.

Threat Requires Anti-Establishment Response

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John Shemeld's letter (July/August SR) was well argued. Indeed for five minutes he convinced me.

But then I tried to relate that to my experience in the May elections. I stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate, and while we were canvassing on the estate, people kept bringing up the issue of asylum seekers, but the same people agreed with everything else we were saying! That is because we were talking about how neo-liberalism is making people's lives shit. We stuck to our guns and argued against the racism and people respected us for that, especially because our counter-argument that the rich were the real enemy and were trying to scapegoat refugees did strike a chord.

Popular Front is a Warning from History

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John Shemeld, Jamie Rankin and Phil Webster argue that it was right to call for a vote for Chirac in the French presidential elections (July/August SR).

Rankin in particular dismisses the experience of the fight against fascism in the 1930s as having no relevance today. In fact applying the lessons of a period when the stakes were even higher is crucial.

Wrong to Back Chirac

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I disagree with those who argue it was right for socialists to call for a vote for Chirac in the second round of the French presidential elections (July/August SR).

John Shemeld's analogy of the football match is misleading, because a football match is a self contained event, whereas the election took place in the wider context of political polarisation going on in France. That polarisation existed before the election, and continues after it. The most important aspect of this polarisation is the anti-capitalist movement.

Cut the Crop

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Dogs were let loose on anti GM crop protestors in Scotland recently. At least one activist required medical treatment for bites to the chest.

This followed extensive damage that was done to the huge 40-acre crop nearing maturity at Munlochy, near Inverness. An eyewitness described the events: 'A lot of us were attacking the crop. It was a full moon and we were probably spotted when the clouds broke. In the early hours the police arrived, and searchlights were set up and mad dogs let loose. Everyone scarpered!' The police are refusing to say whether they were police dogs, or private security with whom they were colluding. Police cars blocked all roads nearby and questioned everyone.

In with a Bang

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I was surprised to read that Paul Jakubovic (Letters, June SR) considers the 'Big Bang' theory of the origin of the universe to be idealist and regressive.

There is overwhelming evidence for this theory, which was predicated on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

Observations by Edwin Hubble in 1929 showed that the galaxies are receding away from each other, and the discovery of the relics of background radiation in 1965 suggested that the expansion of the universe began at a finite time (about 13 billion years ago) in the past from a state of infinite density and temperature.

Drowning in Numbers

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In a review of Antony Beevor's 'Berlin: The Downfall' (June SR), mention is made of 'the greatest maritime disaster of all time', the sinking of the Goya by a Russian submarime with the consequent drowning of 7,000 refugees.

However, a disaster of even greater magnitude took place on 3 May 1945, when the RAF bombed and machine-gunned the German luxury liner, Cap Arcona, in the Baltic in the bay of Lubeck, south of the Danish island of Lolland. On this occasion 7,700 died, and what makes the incident even more grotesque was the fact that the victims were concentration camp prisoners.

Why Weapons Fuel War

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Here is a draft letter we have done in Britain for the regional and local press. I hope everyone will write at least one letter to their local press, wherever they may live.

Dear Editor,

The increasing tension between India and Pakistan is of concern for all of us. Firstly it is a humanitarian question--already in the border region innocent civilians are daily being wounded and killed. If the conflict develops into full scale war, thousands of people would be killed with the deadly weapons which both sides have been acquiring. In our area of Greater Manchester this is made the more fearful as many local people have relatives in the region.

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