Letters

One Nil to the Supporters

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The campaign to save York City Football Club is a good example of fans resisting the trend whereby people who own professional football make a financial killing with no regard to fans or players' livelihoods.

Owner Douglas Craig's contempt for the supporters and his refusal to sign up to the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign had combined to make him deeply unpopular with York City supporters. In December Craig announced his intention to sell the club or close it. Days later he revealed that he would sell Bootham Crescent, the club's ground, to house builders for £4.5 million, evict the club and resign from the football league.

Report Digital

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When I was at the Berlin conference against deregulation and for labour rights for all, I was given quite a nice video of May Day 2001 in London and a protest against tube privatisation.

These are two separate films on the same video. These were filmed by Alex Klute of Vereinte Dienstleistgungs-gewerkschaft (ver.di), a German trade union. I have one video and one digital tape which are available on loan free of charge. Please contact me if you would like to see them.

Ben Rickman
Secretary Brent TUC
www.brickman.dircon.co.uk/btuc.htm

Debates on Death Row

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Thank you for sending copies of 'Socialist Review' to my penfriend, who is currently on death row in Texas.

The men and women on death row in Texas have no access to television. They are locked up in purpose built (no bars) six foot by nine foot cells for 23 hours a day. They have inadequate diets which can only be supplemented if they have access to sufficient funds. They are subject to barbaric and retaliatory 'lockdowns' which can be declared at the whim of the state governor (Bush had the whole of the system on lockdown during the election). And even for the 'best behaved' prisoners there are no contact rules, and extremely limited phone calls and access to stamps for postage.

Double-Edged Bard

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Paul Foot says that Shakespeare's sympathies were probably with Mark Antony, and against the conspirators, in Julius Caesar (March SR). This is usually the view that is taken, but it is also one that can be questioned.

There are good reasons to believe, when we look at the context in which Shakespeare wrote the play, that perhaps his attitude towards the conspirators was more complex. In a classic essay the Marxist historian Christopher Hill has examined the role of censorship in 17th century drama. He points out that Shakespeare switched to writing Roman plays from history in 1599, at a time when English history plays were being more and more heavily censored. This increased censorship was the response of the absolutist state at a time of growing political and economic crisis.

Building Blocks of Protest

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War is a key issue for the unions, but how are we going to mobilise them?

Tony Benn's call to stop the city on the day they bomb Iraq is a brilliant opportunity for activists. But it is also a serious challenge-we need to start organising now if we are going to deliver action on the day.

First and foremost, this means holding workplace meetings to discuss Bush and Blair's war drive. Union branches need to decide what action they will take on the day, whether it's calling an immediate stoppage, a 15-minute lunchtime meeting in the canteen, or gathering to spread the word about local street protests.

Building Blocks of Protest

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Some 500,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Barcelona against a Europe of capital and war.

This demonstration shows that the movement is not at all dead, but alive and growing. People from Barcelona and the rest of Spain and Europe showed their strength, and their capacity to draw in more and more people from different backgrounds to participate in this rally. The demonstrations in Barcelona were the biggest ever, and have become a turning point in the struggle following on from Genoa and Seattle.

Heroes and Villains

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Mike Gonzalez implies that the recent production of Channel 4's Shackleton gives the eponymous hero too much of a positive makeover when he should have been reviled for being just another ghastly member of the ruling class (February SR).

He also points out that the portrayal of the 'stroppy Scot' McNish who flirted with insubordination on numerous occasions was the voice of the working class raging against the ruling class, namely Shackleton.

The Struggle of Good against Evil

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John Molyneux's attempt to explain the popularity of Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' from a left perspective is, I think, a little dubious (Letters, February SR).

Firstly, it isn't necessary to seek out a left wing justification for why some on the left might enjoy a work of fiction. If a novel is well written, engages you with the characters and draws you into its story, then surely this is justification enough. Secondly, Molyneux's thesis of a critique of capitalism, arising from the contrast with a 'feudal communism', doesn't fit this novel. Tolkien's model is not feudalism as such, but the myths and stories of the Middle Ages, indulging in all the respect for heroic royalty which come with them.

Two Sides of the Story

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I was interested to read the review by Diana Swingler of Jane Jordan's biography of Josephine Butler (February SR).

The Contagious Diseases Acts have rightly become notorious for the regime of harassment and abuse which they introduced in the mid-19th century, not only for women working as prostitutes but for working class women in general. Certainly Josephine Butler was the key figure in the cross-class campaign which eventually led to their repeal. I wonder, however, whether Jane Jordan's biography has anything to say about what happened after their repeal?

Lessons to be Learnt

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In his review of Alfred Rosmer's book 'Trotsky and the Origins of Trotskyism' (February SR), John Molyneux says the argument about Zinoviev's role in the Comintern is 'obscure', and that Stalinism is explained by 'objective factors'.

Certainly the rise of Stalin was not just the defeat of 'good' individuals by 'bad'. But the isolation of Russia was not inevitable--it was caused by the failure of the Comintern, and here Zinoviev's role was important. There are two examples of this.

At the second congress (1920) there were a number of delegates from anarchist and syndicalist backgrounds. Lenin and Trotsky welcomed them, stressing unity in action. Zinoviev addressed them in terms that were patronising, sectarian and insulting. The debate is quite relevant to tactics in the anti-capitalist movement today.

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