Letters

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.

NHS in critical state

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The survival of many of our hospital services in South West London is at a critical stage, and the government (with complicity from local management and Clinical Commissioning Groups) is taking them from us.

We’ve five main hospitals left (in our so-called South West London “footprint”), and they are St George’s (Tooting), Croydon, St Helier (Carshalton), Epsom and Kingston. We’ve been told that they can’t sustain (a current buzzword) all five, and that it’ll be reduced to four, or even three. This where Mr Elkeles comes in.

Catalonia and Lenin

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The SWP is quite right to support the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future. Most of the mainstream media frames the question as “Should Catalonia break away from Spain?” In fact the real question is, “Should the people of Catalonia have the right to separate from Spain if they want to?”

The “illegal” referendum was organised because the Spanish Constitution makes it virtually impossible to hold one “legally”. And the brutal repression we have witnessed has probably created a majority in Catalonia for independence even if one did not exist before.

Architecture for all

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Even the UK’s most stolid institutions are waking up to the fact that, post-Grenfell, things are changing. Rather than award its annual top gong to someone responsible for designing a posh museum, sports stadium or residential block for wealthy people, the architects’ association RIBA has this year chosen Neave Brown as the recipient of its Gold Medal.

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