The reality of power
Having just returned from three months in Bolivia I read Roger Cox's thoughts on the Tipnis road with interest (Letter From Bolivia, Socialist Review, January 2012).
Cox paints the complex reality of competing class interests into a bad MAS government versus good people cliché. He underplays the lack of popular consensus within Bolivia and overlooks the real issue - how can MAS reincorporate indigenous groups into the broader movement at the same time as satisfying legitimate demands for land from peasants in other parts of Bolivia?
The coalition of movements that coalesced into MAS fractured due to the reality of power.
It is within this context that the Tipnis struggle has to be placed. There are legitimate demands for a road but the route is in contention, because it will facilitate the continuation of land seizures by masista peasants in Cochabamba in a territory that was granted to other indigenous peoples.
The issue has been seized on by the right, but the MAS government has actually responded well given the formidable constraints it is under. It suspended the road and passed a law in November confirming the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Tipnis. It is condescending to dismiss recent counter-mobilisations in favour of the road as being carried out by "MAS supporters" as if this means they lack any sort of autonomy from the government or any legitimate demands.
The real solution is for MAS to continue to build links with aggrieved indigenous and peasant groups in the east. Then a real land reform of the large holdings can take place. This is, of course, easier said than done and it would potentially stoke the renewal of right wing terrorism.
Punch Jim Davidson
I'm writing to congratulate Martin Smith on his article about comedy (Culture, Socialist Review, January 2012). He is spot on. I think another change came about with the proliferation of the Jongleurs chain of comedy clubs. I used to drive comedians to their gigs and visited these clubs on many occasions. The mainstay of the humour here was the "knob gag" designed to appeal to the "pissed accountants" (as Mark Thomas called them) in the audience. I was also tour manager for Mark Thomas, and what he had to say about Jongleurs and the "humour" they served up is unprintable (even in this publication!).
With regard to Jimmy Carr, the BBC had to apologise for a "joke" he came out with about Gypsies on the Loose Ends radio show. Mark Steel once said of Jim Davidson, "I'd like to punch him and then say, 'I'm not being violent - just ironic'." I feel the same about Carr, Boyle and Co.
Not just a game
As a young man who enjoys not only your magazine and the politics it articulates but also a well-crafted video game, I took issue with your recent article Playing the Empire's Game, (Culture, Socialist Review, January 2012). It seemed a somewhat shallow analysis of the politics of this increasingly important medium.
My generation has grown up playing video games, but we are not the first and as such socialists ought to understand them in all their contradictions. The article rightly calls attention to the links between some developers and the American military, as well as the militaristic qualities of games like Medal of Honor. But by focusing almost exclusively on these games, it paints an alarmist picture of video gaming as a whole.
Video games are inherently neither progressive nor reactionary. They are, like literature, music and film before them, capable of both reinforcing and challenging the status quo. Even Mercenaries 2, mentioned in the article, takes a dim, cynical view not just of its thinly-veiled Chavez figure, but also of multinational oil corporations and American imperialism.
Admittedly, the progressive politics of many games can have their limitations. In Bioshock, for instance, the dispossessed don't fight back by going on strike or occupying but rather end up following a gangster disguised as a revolutionary.
But that is all the more reason for socialists to engage critically with these video games, looking past the most reactionary examples of the medium to understand video gaming culture as a whole.
ACTA against this!
In John Molyneux's article last month (Features, Socialist Review, January 2012) he points out that democratically elected governments do not control the principal means of production, and thus govern within the "limits prescribed by and acceptable to the bourgeoisie". This is glaringly apparent in the recent battle over the control and democracy of a free internet brought about by the Sopa and Pipa bills in the US.
The legislation would allow the state to block and remove online content deemed harmful to the profits and ideals of the worlds biggest corporations. The bills sparked the biggest ever online wave of protests, epitomised by the blackout of online giants such as Wikipedia and Google, which turned the tide of opinion against the legislation overnight.
The fight is far from over. In Europe 21 countries, including the UK, have recently signed up to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that promises to spread the threat of censorship across the globe. This has sparked a wave of protests both virtually and physically, notably in Poland where demonstrations hit several major cities.
The takedown of Megaupload (under the existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is just the beginning of a coming trend that could see websites and blogs shut down at the behest of companies and governments without evidence or trial. If we look at the power and scale of the internet, and how it can help spread political ideas and protest it becomes apparent why we need to oppose such laws, and continue the fight to protect a technology which offers us an open and democratic space to spread our ideas.