New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 108

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] COMMUNITY ACTION[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Company co-operatives
As is clear from your community action issue (No. 106) Britain has a dismal record on creating industrial co-operatives. Something more imaginative needs to be done.

Why do we have to wait until a company is on its knees before handing it over to the workers? I am sure that there must be many small or medium-sized companies that would be given a new lease of life now if they were turned into co-operatives while they are still breathing. Mondraon has shown that even the largest organisation can work successfully in this way.

But the British Labour Party finds itself saddled with the idea of heavy-handed state ownership that will do little to improve the workings of the organisations themselves. Perhaps they should be less concerned about the ‘commanding heights of the economy' and more about how real companies could work as co-operative ventures.

D.A. Mulverhill
Walton-on-Thames
UK

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Manageable problems
I'm glad to see that your issue on community action was a solid argument for good management - whether the operation is capitalist or cooperative.

Indeed if more people realised that strikes are usually the product of incompetent management we would stand a better chance of avoiding them.

Michael Richards
Leeds
UK

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[image, unknown] BRANDT REPORT[image, unknown]

The heart of Brandt
One point which I feel your otherwise useful issue on the Brandt report (No. 104) did not emphasise strongly enough is the absolute necessity of justice within Third World countries.

What is the point of my paying more for my bananas or coffee if the money is only going to swell the pockets of plantation owners or industrialists? Raising the incomes of the poorest could be achieved much more rapidly and effectively by fairer political systems in the countries concerned.

These unfortunately are issues which no-one wishes to address in international forums - precisely because they represent the heart of the problem.

Robert Maddox
Toronto
Canada

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[image, unknown] THE PACIFIC[image, unknown]

Unilever’s half-truths
The letter from Unilever’s P.R man (No. 106) is full of the kind of half-truths which are much more dangerous than outright lies. Like margarine they look like the real thing but are not

To say that there is no quarrel with Iriri and that Unilever has by-passed Iriri is true but misleading. The truth is that Unilever’s decision to by-pass Iriri was the outcome of a long history of arrogant stand-over tactics by Unilever on the one hand and extraordinary resistance, including a resort to the law-courts, by Iriri villagers on the other. This history is well documented.

The people who resisted Unilever in New Georgia were not members of some weird religious cult but the inhabitants of what someone described as ‘one of the most attractive and best-kept villages in the Solomons’ — people whose only ‘crime’ is that they, like the Iriri villagers, have learned how to become self-reliant and how to survive and progress without the ’help’ of the transnationals.

As to Unilever’s generosity to the New Georgians this has recently been described by a visitor as follows: ‘They have recently negotiated logging rights with less "recalcitrant" owners of customary land for the princely sum of 6% of the profits, to be paid into a trust fund for local development.

We gathered that this was regarded as a major concession!’

Robert Waddell
University of New South Wales
Australia

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[image, unknown] WATER[image, unknown]

Dreamtime shattered
In your recent ’Water’ issue (No. 103) you described the Australian Aborigines as having been ‘driven from the rivers of their lush homelands’. But it is far too simplistic and perhaps even racist to assume that the Aborigines were driven into the wastes in the classic tradition of white colonialism.

Archaeology is now proving that the Ozab Aborigines had lived in the vast southern world undisturbed by the insanity of the rest of the world for at least 50,000 years. This ‘Dreamtime’ was shattered by the coming of the whites as elsewhere. But they did not get driven anywhere for there is no otherwhere for an Aborigine. An Ozab Aborigine removed from her land would cease to see any meaning in life or any possibility of happiness. She and her kin simply died.

Allan Kessing
Mountcharles
Co. Donegal
Eire

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Tanzania’s ex-rulers
In your Country Profile on Tanzania (No. 105) you say that Tanganyika ceased being a German colony in 1945. This is not correct. In fact, the German supremacy was ended in 1916 when British and Belgian troops occupied the territory of ‘Deutsch Ostafrika’. After the Versailles Treaties, parts of it came officially under Belgian rule (today’s Rwanda and Burundi), the rest (today’s Tanzania) under British mandate — courtesy of the League of Nations (after 1945, of the UN).

This is certainly a minor point as concerns your article, but a major one for the country in question. For if Tanganyika had remained German until 1945, it would probably have been much more ‘developed’, i.e. unequally transformed, made dependent and even more exploited. With the British as rulers who were not really interested in that territory (since they had richer Kenya and Uganda as the core of their activities in East Africa), Tanganyika was more or less left alone and this, in turn, helped her to become — despite her vastness and ethnical diversity — the fairly homogenous and comparatively autonomous nation the is now.

Walter Satzinger
Stetten
W. Germany

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Steel solution
There is a simple remedy for development — sadly neglected by the sociologists and economists — and that is higher productivity.

It is products and services which give a high standard of living for those who provide them. If rural peasants are to grow more food to feed the town dwellers then the latter must provide goods and services which the peasants want. The urban unemployed clearly cannot do this.

Steelworkers for example could be used to make better blades for hoes and cutlasses used by peasants who now have to make do with used motorcar parts. Better tools would allow less work to produce more food in the available time. The cycle is then broken and the unemployed can be employed imaginatively.

Professor T.A. Preston
Christchurch
UK

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Charity shake-up
David Pitt’s article (NI No. 105) showed something of the confusion which currently exists on the question of charity status under British law.

Amnesty International is denied such status, and other well-known charities are chivvied around and made to register as limited companies. But every public school in Great Britain is automatically registered as a charity, to its great advantage financially, and this piece of legerdemain is held to be legally valid on the grounds that in the time of Elizabeth I, schools for poor scholars qualified as charities. It is no surprise to find the General Secretary of War on Want describing this as just plain barmy.

A real shake-up in the affairs of the Charity Commissioners, in Parliament, is long overdue.

L. Knight
39 Hautesille
St. Peter Port
Guernsey C.I.

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Profitless progress
Surely it is time to replace the outmoded British concept of a voluntary agency as a ‘charity’. The more general term ‘non-profit’ corporation seems to work very satisfactorily in other countries.

Ian Sutcliffe
York
UK

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A taxing issue
The article in your issue 106 about a ‘Peace Tax’, in which people choose the purposes to which their taxes will be put, raises uncomfortable possibilities. If you can choose not to pay for armaments you can presumably also elect not to have your income-tax used for things like welfare, education, health services or foreign aid. Given that there is probably a very strong correlation between a conservative opinion and high tax payment any retaliatory moves from this group could be a lot more significant.

R.A. Schneider
New York
USA

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High-speed aid
Has the World Bank finally discovered how to get their aid to the needy? A recent mission of theirs that had gone to China to study the financing of rural credit had its hotel room broken into and was relieved of its collection of dollars. This must be the fastest grant they have ever made. Efficient people’s participation is clearly alive and well in China. In this a principle that other Third World countries could follow?

Gordon Wilson
Hong Kong

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[image, unknown] BEYOND BRANDT[image, unknown]

In issue 104 there was an accidental omission from the list of Australian organisations active in fields covered by the Brandt Report:

Australian Council of Churches

A Council of 12 member churches with a major programme in emergency aid, development assistance, refugee settlement and development education. Also active on Aboriginal matters, international affairs and social issues in Australia.

P0 Box C199
Clarence Street
Sdydney 2000

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