The myth of intervention
The Oxfam charity last week released its report, A Fair Foreign Policy, calling for British foreign policy not to shy away from humanitarian intervention after the debacle of Iraq.
Instead, it said Britain should refocus its foreign policy efforts on protecting civilians, standing up for human rights and strengthening multilateral interventionism, such as in Sierra Leone and Kosovo.
Oxfam’s common sense reasoning, however, bases itself on a number of myths.
The first is the myth of non-interventionism, as in the wars of succession in the former Yugoslavia. The West apparently stood by as the Serbs massacred Croats and Bosnian Muslims. In fact, the West intervened in a number of ways to reinforce ethnic division.
Notably, Nato air strikes made the ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Serbs from the Krajina region by the Croatian army easier.
The second myth is that of benign interventionism, as in the Kosovo war.
The West claimed that it bombed Yugoslavia to prevent an escalating humanitarian crisis. In fact, war on Yugoslavia made the crisis worse and left Kosovo as divided as before. Around 200,000 non-Albanians have been forced to flee under the watchful eye of the Nato-led Kosovo force (KFOR), while the Ahtisaari plan foresees an ethnically divided Kosovo under an international protectorate.
Those Albanians seeking true self determination are met with brutal violence and political repression.
The final myth is that the Iraq war was simply an accident or mistake.
But a disastrous war fought on false pretences and using the age-old imperialist tactic of divide and rule appears to be the norm in the history of British imperialism.
It was a logical consequence of a global system that emphasises competition and accumulation at the expense of human need and solidarity.
In its report, Oxfam has effectively backed liberal imperialism, a stand worthy of a Blairite think tank.
Vladimir Unkovski-Korica, Central London
Is this how to save the planet?
This summer dozens of millionaire pop stars will take part in gigs on every continent to raise the profile of a global issue requiring urgent attention.
Does this sound in any way familiar?
“Live Earth” seeks to do for climate change what Live 8 did for Third World poverty – to sanitise and trivialise it.
Public awareness of the perils of climate change has never been higher.
What we need now is concrete action.
At the NUT teachers’ conference last week, Respect supporters passed campaigning policies designed to put the planet before profits.
We need more such action and less corporate mood music for the latest celebrity fad.
Andrew Stone, East London
Banks for the rich
I could barely believe my ears when I heard that HSBC, “the world’s local bank”, is shutting a Dorset branch to anyone who doesn’t have more than £50,000 savings, a £200,000 mortgage or a salary of at least £75,000!
This is a clear statement from the banking group that if you aren’t rich, you don’t deserve the “privilege” of being able to speak to a bank cashier.
What is worse is that their reason for doing this is that “not everybody in the world is equal”.
Of course, big business is largely responsible in the first place for the disparity between those that have and those that don’t.
What distresses me so much about this little episode is the lack of any kind of remorse or apology to those who are now forced to travel to other branches.
However, in the interests of fairness I should point out that anybody who does not meet this criteria can, in fact enjoy the same “Premier” level of service, by paying £19.99 a month!
HSBC, in common with almost all banks, levy outrageous charges for things like returned direct debits, accidentally going over the overdraft limit on our accounts, plus shocking levels of interest on our overdrafts.
But now it insists that “poorer” customers in Dorset pay an additional regular charge just so that they can talk to the guard dogs that stand in the way of their own money!
HSBC is merely being more honest about the attitude that banks and financial institutions have long held – that the poor are less worthy of basic rights than those who find themselves in a better financial position.
I would urge all those as outraged by this as I am to contact HSBC and make their feelings known.
The public face of “community concern” has been set aside by big business which believes that the working masses are too “toothless”.
I would urge HSBC and all such institutions to be wary, or they may find that the masses have a few more teeth than they think.
Christian McCormack, Hertfordshire
Workers across the world should unite
Abigail Hartley’s concern (Letters, 7 April) at the CWU union opposing the outsourcing of BT jobs is understandable – as India needs jobs too.
Indeed, at first glance outsourcing can be seen as “progressive” in this sense.
But dig deeper. As trade union research has shown, the truth is these sort of outsourcing deals distort the receiving economies as much as the sending. They provide a bubble of employment, but this tends to be short term and insecure.
India may have the jobs for now, but just as soon as a cheaper source of labour can be found – or if the Indian workers were to dare demand better wages or conditions – off the jobs will go again.
The very same jobs will be outsourced to South East Asia, Africa or wherever the bosses sense they can squeeze a bit harder. And so on.
Outsourcing is simply another part of the divide and rule strategy, playing workers from different countries off against each other in a “race to the bottom”.
In reality we all need secure jobs and decent pay and conditions. And it’s only by standing together that we can achieve this.
Perhaps the CWU could use the opportunity alongside this campaign to seek to build links with Indian unions with a view to agreeing a joint policy against job competition?
Ben Drake, York
Inequality is true cause of violence
The Socialist Worker editorial (No hope for young people over crime, 14 April) was completely right – we reduce youth violence by eradicating inequality. Other things do matter, but creating a more equal society would be a major step.
If anyone doubts this, read a magnificent book entitled The Impact of Inequality by Richard Wilkinson. In it he explains how the structure of society is the cause of much violence.
Wilkinson gives proof that the wider the income range between rich and poor, the more sensitive people become to being “dissed” or disrespected. Status becomes an emotive issue.
Feeling that you are being looked down upon creates an aggressive response.
People then lash out at those similar or “below” them, not further “up” the social scale. They hit out at others near them. This explains a lot of so-called “gang violence” we read about in the media.
The excellent film Bullet Boy captured all the above in fictional form, but drew on real life. I recommend it.
If we want to reduce violence in society, we must tackle inequality. It’s a matter of life and death.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
In the name of democracy
I was watching the news the other night following the bombing of the Iraqi Parliament.
George Bush remarked, “It reminds us there is an enemy willing to bomb innocent people in the name of democracy.”
Been looking in the mirror again George? Or just discussing US foreign policy in general?
Ad Williams, Anglesey
Fantasy or surrealism?
Capitalism responds to radical cultural movements by “turning rebellion into money”.
This process is illustrated in your recent review of the Surreal Things exhibition at the V&A (Objects of desire that fuelled consumer culture, 14 April).
But concluding that “the Surrealist notion that fantasy could undermine capitalism proved to be little more than a dream”, does a disservice to genuine Surrealists such as Andre Breton.
The Surrealists recognised that transforming the world would take setting upon it with material hammers, not dreams.
The juxtaposition of objects – in disconcerting combinations – is meant to jolt the observer into reconsidering reality.
The incorporation of “surreal” tricks to sell products does not involve adoption of a Surrealist method, but instead requires the ripping apart of surrealist imagery from Surrealist intent.
Keith Crane, Essex
Hands off Falklands
I am appalled at the editorial (Give the Falklands back, 7 April) suggesting that the Falkland Islands (or Las Malvinas) should be unilaterally handed over to Argentina.
A founding principle of socialism is democracy. Are you suggesting that we should remove the right for self determination for those people living on the islands?
The islanders themselves should be able to democratically decide the future of their home – not Britain, Argentina or Socialist Worker editors.
Do you really believe that the calls from Argentina to take back Las Malvinas have anything to do with reasons other than nationalism or greed (for oil and fishing rights)? These motivations are continually lambasted in this paper.
Andy Harries, West London
US hypocrisy on terror
The news that the US is funding the Jundullah terror group in Baluchistan (US forces involved in funding terror group, 14 April), is like history repeating itself.
The US also provided funding to Islamic militant groups operating in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s – as part of a wider strategy to undermine the Soviet regime.
The US’s condemnation of Iran and Syria for, according to US officials, supplying militant groups operating in Iraq with military equipment is clear hypocrisy. The US is clearly trying to undermine the stability of Iran.
Ben Kindler, by email
Campaigning for refugees
The Manchester lesbian and gay community are organising to support lesbian and gay asylum seekers fleeing persecution.
The latest campaign is to support Florence and her son Michael from Sierra Leone.
The Manchester Lesbian Community Project are the main organisers of Florence’s campaign.
Organisations who would not normally be involved in such campaigns because they are seen as too “political” are now enthusiastically getting involved.
If you want to sign petitions, write letters or find out about Florence’s campaign go to www.manchesterlcp.org.uk
Kate Richardson and Laura Hamilton, by email