issue 140 October 1984
I was somewhat disturbed to see that your excellent magazine needs to stoop to the tactics of the more biased parts of the media. I refer to your reference to the Soviet Union on page 20 of the July issue.
What evidence have you got that anything similar to public school education is given to senior Communist Party members - or their offspring? What privileges can this bring? The Soviet Union is not a 'stagnant, class-ridden or inefficient society' - even if the British is - as only a brief visit or meeting with Soviet citizens can amply demonstrate.
To print such nonsense can do only harm and prevent the understanding of life in socialist countries which is so essential if we are to have peace and understanding. Inequality there is in the Soviet Union but it is minuscule compared with the differences in wealth and access to culture that exist in the capitalist West.
D G Turvey'
A 'stagnant and inefficient society'? A recent report of the USSR Central Statistical Board tells a different story. All indices of economic development showed a typical increase between 1982 and 1983 of between 3% and 6%. Soviet citizens enjoy full employment at an average wage of 254 roubles (approximately $330) per month for factory and office workers. Food prices are stable and rents are very low by our standards.
Economic recession in the West is now crippling the developing countries through the reinforcement of protectionism, trade barriers and increased interest rates. Against this background trade between the USSR and the newly-freed states increased by 70% between 1979 and 1982 with a growth in direct economic assistance which now exceeds that afforded by most capitalist countries.
The USSR is an important ally in the 'action in the fight for World Development'. Please let this be reflected in the pages of New Internationalist.
John D Sminett
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Eton for all?
I'm glad that your statement 'Public schools are the exclusive preserve of children whose parents have much larger bank balances than normal' (NI No 137) is not true. I am a Housemaster at a public school and know that a significant proportion of parents with children at the school have below average incomes. They include Christian missionaries serving abroad, single-parents and families where there are domestic difficulties. The benefits of boarding school education in these cases attract financial assistance from LEA's and a wide range of charitable organisations. Thus we have an excellent social 'mix' and dislike the stereotyping your article tends to perpetuate.
Please check your facts before generalising.
M J Clark
I was interested to see Brian Haddon's letter on depression (NI No 137). Having come through a three-year depression myself, I would hazard a guess that depression can be caused quite as much by wealth and privilege as by hardship.
Looking back, though I didn't understand this at the time. I would put my trouble down to complete disorientation, and lack of any sense of responsibility to my own locality, caused mainly by having been sent to boarding-school.
I should like to see a full investigation into the psychological effect of sending children to boarding-schools. As a trained teacher, I believe it to be educationally unsound, and detrimental to those who are made to attend.
Privileged schools, in my view, harm not only the poor, by diverting money which they badly need, but also the rich children they are supposed to benefit. It would be in the interests of all to abolish them.
I call myself a Christian. I read with shame at my own self-indulgence in 'The Church of the Rich' (NI No 137).
I would like to make three points:
1 Individual members who control individual churches tend to be successful (and rich and powerful) in society. These church leaders substantially share the assumptions of their fellows in the dominant groups in our society. It is hardly surprising that the church displays materialistic tendencies.
2 Church leaders also control much of the work done on the 'mission fields' of the developing countries. Projects require the approval of financiers in developed countries. This imposes a kind of colonialism onto churches in the developing countries.
3 The world population of Christians is not 1.5 billion people. This figure includes as nominal Christians the entire population of the developed world.
A word for Mr Jones
I read with mounting disgust your article on Moneymakers (NI No 137); only J R D Tata seems to have retained any sense of morals. But I could scarcely believe the comment from Bob Jones that: 'A woman's right to choose is as valid as a man's right to rape. As well as being superficially shocking I should like to point out that it is as logically inconsistent as the statement: 'This sentence is a lie.'
Consider: if he meant that a man has every right to rape then it follows that a woman has every right to choose. But a raped woman has been given no choice, so we reach a contradiction.
Conversely, if a man has no right to rape, it follows from Jones' statement that a woman has no right to choose. But if a man is only permitted to make love to a woman who says 'yes' then she has been granted the right to choose and we arrive at a contradiction again.
From this evidence it seems that Mr Jones doesn't really know what he is talking about, and I would suggest that his right to dictate morals is as valid as my right to shoot him dead.
Yours in peace
E M Sourbut
...and if there are any allegations against me when I am away, deny them immediately ...
I have been arrested for participating in several non-violent demonstrations against nuclear weapons. In doing so I have become aware of the lack of information about peace arrestees. Therefore, I have produced a questionnaire to help answer some of the following questions, with a view to sharing this information amongst peace groups and peace researchers:
1 What is the scale of arrests, charges, fines and imprisonments?
2 What variety of ages, sex and background have been involved?
3 How, where and during what kind of activities are the arrests being made?
4 What are the police, court and prison conditions like?
If anyone has been arrested, or knows of someone who has been arrested to whom they could pass on this information, please write to me for a questionnaire. I also need help in gathering information on demos and arrests, so if you have individual or group reports on demos and arrests or local/national press cuttings on such activities I would be very grateful if you could forward copies to me.
To 'many' of us barely alive in the Third World there can be no spectacle so ridiculous as the industrialised world in one of its periodical fits of grandeur - every four years to be exact. Take the Olympic Games for instance. A million plus dollars to be spent on security alone. A spending which must quite dishearten Third World humanity even more. A sum almost near enough to bail out developing world poverty, drought and starvation at least for a few months. Incidentally, why not something on the Olympics? There lies nothing as exploitative as American sponsored commercialised sport.
53/30 Torrington Avenue
In issue number 137, July 1984, there is a piece in the Update section entitled 'Deadly toothpaste, excess of fluoride causes disease'. In the first paragraph of the piece, it is stated that multinationals are 'vigorously' promoting fluoride toothpaste in East Africa.
I returned from Kenya in April 1984, where I was teaching in a rural school as part of the VSO programme. What struck me about the advertising of toothpaste in Kenya was the emphasis on lack of fluoride.
The comparison made between the recent invasion of Grenada and the events which took place during the Santo rebellion in Vanuatu in 1980 (Update NI No 135) is misleading.
The attempted secession in Santo was financed by the US right-wing Phoenix Foundation and partly incited by the French colonial settlers attempting to protect their exploitative livelihood (the same people who are now resisting the independence attempts in New Caledonia).
Vanuatu, as a recently independent nation, had no army of its own at the time, the former British and French colonial powers had refused to take any action which could possibly damage their own mutual interests, and the action by the PNG troops had popular support throughout the country.
Finally, the action was carried out with a minimum of violence with no civilian casualties, and the troops returned to Papua New Guinea promptly. Without the assistance of Papua New Guinea, internal disruption would have affected Vanuatu's present pursuit of self-sufficiency and independence.
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