Letters to the Editors

Against the Current, No. 72, January/February 1998

Justin O'Hagan, Markar Melkonian, Laurence G. Wolf and Paul Lowinger, M.D.

IN HIS OTHERWISE accurate account of the state of politics in post-election Britain, Harry Brighouse underestimated the support given to the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) when he stated that it polled “nowhere . . . more than a few hundred votes.” (“Britain’s Clinton Comes to Power,” ATC 69)

The SLP ran only 64 candidates in the general election, of whom 13 received more than one thousand votes. It received 52,000 votes in total; the combined non-Labour socialist vote, covering 103 constituencies, came to 75,683.

Apart from the SLP the primary recipients of this vote were the Socialist Party and the Scottish Socialist Alliance. If these disparate groups were to forge an alliance and stand candidates in every constituency, the non-Labour socialist vote would be a force to be reckoned with.

I agree with Harry Brighouse that the introduction of a proportional representation system would probably initiate a split in New Labour, as its left-wing elements would abandon the (Tony) Blairite machine in favor of something more beneficial to ordinary people. Perhaps these dissidents could find a home in the SLP.

To be sure, the existence of the SLP does not in itself bode well for the future. The party is currently an extremely marginal force in British politics. According to one source, “in those areas where workers have an opportunity almost one in 50 are . . . looking for a working class alternative to the mainstream parties.” (Weekly Worker, London)

Yet it should be remembered that the SLP is only one year old and that the current governing party has its own roots in such humble beginnings.

Incidentally, anyone in the USA interested in a generally supportive left analysis of the SLP could visit the web-site of the (small but vocal) Communist Party of Great Britain at http://www.duntone.demon.co.uk./CPGB/or subscribe to their paper Weekly Worker (CPGB, BCM Box 928, London WC1N 3XX, England). I’m not a member of this group but find their material worth reading.

Justin O’Hagan
Newcastle, Northern Ireland

TERESA EBERT’S CALL for renewed internationalism was as refreshing as it is politically incorrect. (“Toward a Red Feminism,” ATC 66) I find myself in agreement with her on this point, among others.

It is worth reminding ourselves, however, that one need not advocate “the solidarity of humanity on the basis of shared needs” to be Red. In my book Marxism: A Post-Cold War Primer (Westview Press, 1996), I describe a lean, mean, class-focused Marxism that eschews Enlightenment assumptions about universal needs, universal emancipation and universal justice.

Also, Ebert appears to concede her opponents’ point that the dismantlement of the so-called welfare state has accompanied a diminution of the state as a whole. But Marxists have emphasized that the state is first and foremost a constellation of more or less directly coercive institutions of class rule.

In recent years repressive state institutions and practices have, if anything, burgeoned—prisons, police forces, “anti-drug” and “anti-terrorism” legislation, telephone and internet surveillance. Other state agencies have brought the entire populated surface of the planet under IMF discipline and satellite surveillance.

One can only say so much in a short article, of course, and Ebert did an admirable job of packing a lot of information into a small space. Still, I have the impression that she has granted too much to her “deconstruction of the state” opponents.

Times have changed, of course—in some respects, perhaps, more than the “post-Marxists” are willing to admit—but the changes are a far cry from “a weakening of the articulation of national discourse and state apparatuses” (let alone a diminution of state power, which is not exclusively a function of state institutions).

Markar Melkonian
Van Nuys, CA

THE REVIEW BY K.A. Wainer of Catherine Samary’s Yugoslavia Dismembered (ATC 64) indicates to me that Samary is on the right track. How many wars have these nationalities waged against each other in their supposedly “eternal” ethnic hatred?

Current hatreds are, especially, the residue of Hitler’s support for murderous bands of (Ustashe) Croats and (Chetnik) Serbs in World War II, the failures of the Yugoslav economy, the removal of Tito’s political savvy, the opportunistic machismo especially of Serb and Croat leaders, and more recently even the Muslim ones, and the obvious conniving of the outside Powers to cut Yugoslavia up into little ethnic pieces, the better to manipulate them.

The articles on the Black Panthers, Trotsky and Nicaragua I found very useful too. Thanks for publishing them.

Laurence G. Wolf
Cincinnati, OH

THE 1967 DETROIT rebellion was well described in Kim Hunter’s interviews with Ed Vaughn and Ron Scott (ATC 70), but we also need to study the three white Detroit Area rebellions that summer. As I recall there were mini-uprisings on South University in Ann Arbor, North Woodward in Royal Oak and in a park on the East side of Detroit.

Each involved several nights of street battles with police resulting in property damage, arrests and injuries. Small compared to Detroit’s Black Uprising from which they drew energy, they were manifestations of the rock and roll, pro-marijuana, anti-racist, anti-Vietnam War, libertarian and anti-government counterculture of the time.

In 1967 I was on the faculty of Wayne State University and Detroit’s Lafayette Clinic. The first of the four published report was P. Lowinger, C. Darrow and F. Huige, “Case Study of the Detroit Uprising: The Troops and the Leaders,” Archives of General Psychiatry 21:33-38, 1969.

Paul Lowinger, M.D.
San Francisco, CA

ATC 72, January-February 1998