Your ‘Looking beyond violence’ theme (NI 136) remains essentially a flawed analysis. It begins wrongly by counterposing ‘peaceful’ with ‘violent’ struggles - this obscures the fact that ‘peaceful’ and ‘violenf are always relative terms (even Gandhi’s tactic of threatening a death fast is self-inflicted violence based on emotional blackmail).
It then wrongly argues that combatants in guerilla warfare need be centralist, hierarchical and elitist; easily accepts that the Greenham Common peace camp has been successful, when it has succeeded neither in stopping Cruise nor in mobilising the support of local residents; and encourages existing sex-role stereotyping by associating non-violence with women.
People need not be assumed to be naturally or traditionally ‘peaceful’ any more than they should be assumed to be essentially or necessarily ‘violent’. Circumstances dictate responses and they should also be allowed to determine the nature of resistance.
Through courtesy of a friend, I have read a few issues of New Internationalist. In much of the writing there is an unhealthy strain of tendentious theorising - and even polemic.
If the remarks about the Maze hunger strike and Gandhi (NI 136) are typical of the magazine’s interpretation and analyses. then your readers are being deceived by your Independent’ stand.
Chris Brazier (NI 136) writes that the hunger strike of the Maze prisoners was ‘a tactic lifted directly from Gandhi and the nonviolent text books.’ In fact it had less to do with Gandhi than with the Irish martyrdom syndrome and the cult of the ‘blood sacrifice’.
In the Irish context this involves a small band of rebels taking on impossible odds. The hunger strike is more a matter of tactics than of principle. Unless there is a bedrock of support neither guns nor hunger strikes will achieve success.
Changing our diet
I was shocked, frightened and depressed after reading NI 135. I knew many of the facts about food anyway, but this was put in such a clear and informative way that it was impossible to ignore.
My personal feeling is that many people do want to change their eating, drinking and smoking habits. This type of information helps them to make that decision more easily. The next step should be support groups and the strength, sharing, talking. socialising that they can offer - reinforced by the New Inter nationalist producing a follow-up issue which would offer practical information and advice on how to change our eating habits.
Your readers need hope. belief and a way forward to change.
You really should restrain yourselves and one another from using a phrase like ‘the lower classes’ (NI 135).
There are indeed countless millions of poor people, most of whom are oppressed and exploited and, not surprisingly. uneducated in some ways. Some of them may well be nasty, greedy and even stupid. But I’m damned if you have the right to imply that they stand lower in some social order. Lower than whom?
Than the financially wealthy and the economically powerful. many of whom seem to be arrogant as well as nasty. greedy and stupid?
Only fools with an inclination or an urge to act like ostriches refuse to acknowledge the class structure of society. But you are not fools. I believe you to be honest people. So use honest words to describe the class of society; wordS like ‘working-class’. ‘exploiting-class’. ‘oppressingclass’, ‘rentier’. ‘parasite-class’.
I was surprised that your otherwise excellent expose of the food industry did not mention wholefood shops as a worthwhile alternative. These are completely separate from the ‘health food’ shops that you rightly attacked. Whole-food shops are usually small and co-operatively run with links to the local community - and they are genuinely committed to a healthier diet. They are supplied by wholesalers who also provide an alternative and are much more prepared to make decisions based on non-commercial grounds - such as not buying from South Africa or Chile.
R. Everett (NI 136) rightly pointed out that what socialism used to mean was ‘a fundamental transformation in the way people relate to one another in economic terms’. But what he failed to point out was that for many people this is what socialism still means. Its implications are the abolition of the wages system, free access to all goods and services, a worldwide money-less society, and the wholly democratic organisation of production, distribution and of the other activities that affect people’s lives.
Right to choose
The writer from LIFE states We believe it is abortion which enslaves women and not pregnancy.’ If abortion is chosen and pregnancy not wanted how can that be true?
It can only be true because it rests on the view that women should accept and be happy with every pregnancy whatever the circumstances (including victims of rape). Women want to choose motherhood and not be bound to it. Readers of New Internationalist should be familiar with this struggle not to be victims or powerless.
What a pity that well-meaning people such as R. Hartness from LIFE (Letters, NI 136) can be so woolly-minded. I would also like to live in a world without abortions. But campaigning for anti-abortion laws, as LIFE members do, will not alleviate the present problem. Making abortions illegal would not prevent them - it would merely force thousands of women into back-street operations and expose them to the risk of infection or even death.
If LIFE members care so much about the welfare of mothers and their children, perhaps they should spend more time trying to change the policies and attitudes of our society. When single-parent families are forced into poverty through insufficient benefits and employers discriminate heavily against women who want both a career and a family, who can blame those who consider children a burden rather than a joy? Banning abortions. instead of tackling the source of the need for them, would be both futile and dangerous.
R. B. Keen
Discrimination against Tamils has been going on for many years in all spheres of life, supported and initiated by the Colombo Government. Tamils, especially the young, have nothing to lose by violence. Only the Colombo Government can give them reason to stop their acts of desperation. The first step - without which all else will fail - is to take the soldiers off the streets. While the military are in politics, a gun is the only way to vote.
I would like to add a few comments to your article ‘Murdering the Poor’ (NI 136) on the killing of poor Indonesians by the military. When I left Indonesia in July 1983, after four years there, the killings had been going on for four months and were directed at petty criminals in urban areas. But a friend who recently returned from Central Java tells me that the operation has not stopped there. Heads of villages are asked to produce a list of’undesirables’, and do so knowing that these people will probably be murdered. Hundreds of innocent people have been taken out and shot, with their bodies left in the streets of nearby villages as a lesson to the others.
It is understandable that no one in Indonesia is prepared to expose these events in full. since this would lead to expulsion for foreigners and to a worse fate for Indonesians It is incredible though that these and other news items from the world’s fifth largest country are ignored by the world at large.
Janet E. Cochrane
Your December 1983 issue (NI 130) stated that two US destroyers were sent to El Salvador in 1932 during the rebellion against the dictator Martinez. The two warships were actually Canadian and represented half of Canada’s navy at the time. A naval platoon armed with machine guns landed at Acajutla in the north of El Salvador and enabled Martinez to deploy his troops inland. So Canada shares responsibility for the 30,000 people murdered by the dictator during and after the rebellion.
Although Canada likes to present itself as a peaceful, benevolent country, it is actually just as imperialist as the US or Britain. I know because Canada took over my country 35 years ago.
David L. Benson