New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 96

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] TRANSPORT[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] NI READERS[image, unknown]

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Stuck in the mud
Congratulations for an excellent issue on Transport (NI 92). However, much as I agree with the basic tenets of the issue, which as usual featured solutions based on relatively inexpensive intermediate technology, I would like to say a word in defence of the need for proper asphalted and drained roads.

During the rainy season the desert tracks here in Sudan are virtually impassable: a sixty-mile busjourney can take a whole day as the bus is frequently bogged-down and has to be dug out or pulled out by a tractor. A pedal-powered vehicle would find the tracks equally impossible. Any type of wheeled vehicle, without proper weather-proofed roads, is likely to find the rainy season difficult. And in this vast, sparsely populated country, buses and lorries are the means by which people both keep in contact with their families and friends and market their produce.

Stuart Masters
Wad Medani Technical School
Gezira Province, Sudan

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Manifesto facts
Having read the Communist Manifesto, may I make a couple of comments on your review of it (NI No. 94).

First, your reviewers' claim that Marx said that "'the bourgeoisie will create its own grave-diggers": the trade unions', is completely erroneous. On the contrary, he claimed it would be a `political party' which would bury capitalism. Also, your reviewer impled a distinction between Socialism and Communism. This is also false. Marx and Engels used the words interchangeably throughout their lives.

Incidentally, the original title was `Manifesto of the Communist Party'. There was, of course, no such party, nor was there during Marx's lifetime. That is why Engels, twenty-four years later in a preface to the Manifesto, said that some of it had become obsolete.

Lewis Higgins
Birmingham UK

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[image, unknown] ELITES[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Trickle where?
In the November 1980 issue of New lnternationalist, the term `trickle down' is dealt with at some length. The term is popular because it seems to imply immutable laws of gravitation that would ensure a flow of money eventually to people at the bottom.

Perhaps the term would seem less attractive if instead of thinking of the rich at the top, middle class in the middle, and poor at the bottom, we put the poor at the top, reverse the order, and try then to justify a `trickle up' process.

In fact Third World monetary flow is such that there is a process of osmosis in the middle sector that draws some money from the top down, but also draws up an enormous amount of productive effort from the bottom, while distorting local economies to the further disadvantage of the poor.

Perhaps in 1981 we can de-emphasise `trickle down' and examine the `osmotic syndrome' as a more descriptive and accurate piece of economic jargon.

Harry Martin,
National Director
Community Aid Abroad Australia

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No flow
`Trickle down' theory (NI No. 93) presupposes a condition in society which does not normally occur in the Third World - individual liberty.

If individuals are free to join the economy on their own, rather than as an employee; and are allowed to fail or succeed on the basis of their own skills and free market pressures, then the theoryworks. All economists agree small indepedent businesses are the most efficient and innovative of economic units. Any newly generated wealth spreads through the system benefitting a large number of people, since so many people are a part of it.

If, however, the economy is controlled by price-setting oligopolies, it is nearly impossible for small newcomers to enter the system. Any newly generated wealth will stay with the oligopolies.

There is a symbiotic relationship among economic, social and political structures. Oligopolies will be paralleled by an elitist society and a pervasive government. Ahost of small independent economic units will be paralleled by a society where no group predominates and a limited government.

It is not as if the theory is wrong; it has just not been given an honest chance to workbythe self-perpetuating elites running most Third World states.

Daniel Allan Kyba
Fairview Alta
Canada

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[image, unknown] SOUTH AFRICA[image, unknown]

Good intentions
Patrick A. B. Peacey says (NI Letter November) that South Africa has a contribution to make to Africa as a whole `if she is allowed to do so'. In fact she is doing so. In the first eight months of this year her trade into Black Africa increased by 70 per cent and now accounts for 10 per cent of her total exports.

This spectacular increase is due to massive supplies of food to Black African states which would otherwise starve. The Economist of London reported in June that South Africa was sending 80,000 tons of maize to Kenya, 250,000 tons to Zambia, 150,000 tons to Mozambique and lesser quantities to Zaire, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mauritius. Since June these supplies have increased further and also include wheat.

The paradox is that while Russia sends more and more arms to Black Africa to destroy life there, South Africa is providing food to sustain Black lives.

Pierre Hughues
75016 Paris

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The road to hell
There is nothing stopping South Africa from `doing good' in its own Bantustans. But the infant mortality rate in some of them has now risen to nearly 250 per 1,000. Enough said about South Africa's `good' intentions?

L Clarke
Uxbridge UK

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[image, unknown] WOMEN[image, unknown]

The eye of the beholder
It gets boring constantly having to counter prejudices and preconceptions like those displayed by Dennis Clow in his letter about women and make up, and how `natural' it is for women to want to `enhance' their `beauty' (NI Letters December).

Surely there would be more beauty in the world if there were more justice and equality. Equality can never be gained by women or anyone else whilst they have to waste time and money distorting themselves to fit an image which other groups in society want them to conform to. Black people have realised this and they are now taking control of, and pride in, their own identity and the way they want to look, as the Rastafarian pictured on the cover of your issue No. 94 well illustrates. Women are trying to do this too.

I'm not saying that women shouldn't wear make up - but they should have the choice. If they choose to wear it they should do so because they enjoy wearing it, not because they want to look the way Mr. Clow thinks they should.

Secondly, I would argue with Mr. Clow's stereotyped image of a feminist. As Editor of the Women's Studies Newsletter I've been to many feminist gatherings and failed to see all these 'grim-faced, humourless, dowdily-dressed feminists'. We're grim-faced occasionally perhaps, but anger at oppression makes us all serious sometimes.

What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't really matter what Mr. Clow `would rather look at'; an individual's appearance must be controlled by the individual concerned.

Carolyn Brown
Stourbridge UK

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Land for all
I recently watched the excellent BBC 2 programme, The Politics of Compassion. This correctly emphasised that the primary problem of many of the poor is a lack of land or extortionate rents required of tenants by absentee landlords.

One solution would be for charity to establish a programme of systematic land acquisition in countries where a shortage of land is the chief obstacle preventing the poor from helping themselves. The land acquired would then be divided into small, but viable holdings and leased at low rents to the poor. The rents, plus donations to the charity, would provide the means for continuous expansion of the programme. The tenants' rents would therefore be used to help others worse off than themselves. Perhaps some charity is already engaged in this sort of programme. If so, I am sure readers of the New Internationalist would like to know who they are.

R H L Disney
Yorkshire UK

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More good news
New Internationalist fulfils its aim of pointing out the grave injustices of this world but one thing bothers me greatly: there are so few articles on where some projects, ideas, concepts or actions have done some good - or which point to a way of remedying injustices. Does this mean that all development efforts are an insensitive, expensive, possibly destructive waste of time - or does theNewInternationalist subscribe to the law that appears to govern so much journalism these days - 'good news is not news'?

If they exist, perhaps we could have some more articles with an emphasis on where some solutions lie?

Yvonne Crofts
Woollahra NSW
Australia

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