You're wrong: Olympics can inspire socialists
Sure, the Olympics are an extravaganza of corporate values and nationalism, but I'm going to have to take issue with Alex Callinicos's dismissal of them as 'two weeks of corporate-sponsored flag-waving in honour of a bunch of muscle-bound dullards' (» Olympian hoo-hah over China power, 23 August).
Am I the only socialist who found the sight of the Jamaican victories in the athletics, or that of competitors running in the hijab, inspiring?
The sight of black men and women winning gold medals builds the same sense of 'black pride' as did the achievements of sporting heroes like Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali, and makes it harder for the racists to spread their poison.
To dismiss this as something 'irritating' sounds patronising and elitist, and makes socialists sound out of touch.
Tim Evans, Swansea
Some Socialist Worker writers seem to have extreme criticisms of popular sport. Alex Callinicos's denunciation of Olympic athletes was vulgar mechanical Marxism.
The US Marxist agitator JP Cannon was an accomplished sports commentator. He could make serious criticism of capitalism's domination of our dreams while drawing socialist lessons from top boxing, baseball and football.
Gordon Blair, South London
I can't see how Alex Callinicos bashing the Olympic athletes is helpful. We don't know the opinions of these individuals, and certainly there are bigger fish to fry – like George Bush and Chinese leader Hu Jintao.
We wouldn't call Olympic anti-racist heroes like Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos nasty put-down names?
Bruce Knobloch, Sydney, Australia
In answer to Ben Drake (» Letters, 23 August), I too am a lover of some sports – including football. But this only proves that Marxists have contradictory consciousness too.
It doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't have a critique of this 'love'. We have to understand the ideological purpose of sport under capitalism.
I write this after watching Usain Bolt break the world record in the Olympic 200 metre sprint. In some ways this feat was very impressive, but in others very depressing.
The Olympics are being used to sell us competition and elite fitness as something inherently natural, part of our very being.
As socialists, we have a historical vision of co-operation and human emancipation. If anybody wants to competitively kick a ball around a field or competitively run around a track under socialism, they will be free to do so. The question is, who'll be watching?
Alan Scott, Edinburgh
Britain's violent actions set the bar for the rest
What a sad spectacle it is to see that the British government's continual support for violent interventions around the world means that Russia can simply ignore protests over the invasion of Georgia.
A week after the fighting began we heard George Bush insisting that 'bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century'.
Then we had to endure our own foreign secretary, David Miliband, stating the obvious, that 'force is not the basis for resolving difficult issues and is not the basis for international relations'.
The obvious problem with these words is that they are spoken by the representatives of two countries who have most engaged in bullying and intimidation – both in the past and in the present.
These two are clearly not afraid to use force to resolve affairs in their favour. Russia will never listen to hypocritical thugs denouncing others for something they do themselves.
If our rulers had listened to the democratic voices of the millions who took to the streets in an attempt to make them see sense over the invasion of Iraq, perhaps millions of lives both there and in the Caucasus would have been saved.
Ray Deans, Huddersfield
Chile was bullied into the market
A reader asked Socialist Worker for more articles on capitalism's crisis, and the example of Chile in particular (» Letters, 9 August).
Can I suggest he read Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine, which details every major economic event since the Second World War.
I thought I had a fair grasp of what happened in Chile, Britain under Margaret Thatcher, and more recently, South Africa after apartheid. But this book showed me I had only a vague notion of what had happened and continues to happen.
Klein chillingly shows how Milton Friedman's Chicago School of Economics was able to replace the welfare policies of Keynesian economics with neoliberalism.
General Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, was aided by the CIA in his terrorising of the population to ensure no opposition to these 'laissez faire' policies. This proved so effective that it has since been used all over the world.
Klein's description of how the ANC in South Africa betrayed the millions who fought apartheid by handing over the economy to the market is simply shocking.
Alex May, Liverpool
It's a sick system
I read with interest about the lady who had difficulty with getting disability benefit (» Letters, 2 August) and I know just how she feels.
I am 62, have worked for most of my life, and have been denied benefit too. As a last resort I have just been to a tribunal in Manchester where they made me feel like a criminal.
Despite evidence – including three doctors' statements that said I suffer from severe anxiety, scoliosis of the lumber spine, small osteoporosis in the hip, a bad hiatal hernia and acid reflux irritable bowel syndrome – they refused my claim.
The panel sent their decision by letter. My claim was turned down but the panel could not even tell me this to my face!
I have never been treated like this before. Do any readers know if anything can be done about cases like mine?
Barbara Ward, Manchester
'Get off my land!'
I was angered but not surprised to read about how shopping centre security guards attacked a Socialist Worker stall in north London (» Letters, 16 August). Our ability to campaign seems to be coming under attack in many parts of the country.
We almost had a repeat of the north London incident in Luton a fortnight ago. Security officers told us that the area that we have sold papers for the past 15 years without incident is apparently 'private property' and that we are not allowed to be there.
Eventually the police threatened to arrest us, and we were forced to shut down our stall. Undeterred, last week we continued with our paper sale as normal and without incident. We intend to continue to do so despite any future intimidation.
But perhaps we should keep a record of how these incidents are developing nationally – and have a strategy for dealing with them.
Kate Ramgopal, Luton
Race, religion and Rome
On the question of Jews in the Roman Empire (» Letters, 16 August), the Jewish revolt had its very own Roman Jewish historian, Josephus.
Unfortunately Josephus is not necessarily helpful on the question of Roman attitudes to Jews because he famously changed sides during the revolt!
Nevertheless, using Josephus, there is a powerful case to be made that what worried the Romans about the Jews was neither 'race' nor 'nation' but religious cult and culture.
Josephus sometimes boasted about the impact of Judaism in the Roman Empire. 'The masses have sometimes shown great eagerness for our piety... there is not one city... where the custom of the 7th Day, free of work, has not infiltrated.'
Indeed, as we know, the Roman Empire finally succumbed to a particular breakaway Jewish cult several centuries after the Jewish revolt.
John Rose, East London
We just can't carry on flying
'Current airport expansion plans are thoroughly unsustainable – but this shouldn't be a barrier to travel abroad,' says Martin Empson (» What sort of society can save the planet?, 16 August).
I'm not sure what he means by this. Obviously, the importing of many products by air is sheer stupidity. But won't people have to cut back on travel abroad in order to reach our carbon reduction targets?
Adam Gilbert, by email
Do as I say, not as I do!
Councillors in Renfrewshire, Scotland, approved a 16 percent pay rise for council bosses last week in an act of selfish greed. They expect their workforce to accept a measly 2.4 percent. As you can see this new single status pay deal really benefits the workers... not.
Workers at the council now want to down tools on an indefinite strike until this government gets its finger out and gives us the same 16 percent.
Aldo, by email
Why we must back Obama
When it comes to the US presidential election, like Derek Wall (» Letters, 16 August), I too like Ralph Nader a lot but prefer the politics of Cynthia McKinney, who was my congresswoman for many years.
However, for socialists the choice of whom to vote for, and more importantly campaign for, is dictated by the needs of the class, and in the US that is easy.
The best elements of the working class remain the African‑Americans, particularly those in the former Confederacy states.
These sections will be revitalised by an Obama victory, and demoralised by a McCain victory. It is for these reasons socialists should offer critical support to Obama.
Jon Fanning, York
Left leaves the right on shelf
As an Usdaw union member and a Waitrose worker, it is good to see a proper person of the left standing for the top post in the union.
Good luck to Robbie Segal. It is time the New Labour lackeys were run out of town as they have done nothing for us over the last ten years.
Roy Henderson, Lymington
I'll have what they've got
I read that Marks & Spencers want to change the redundancy terms for their workers.
If some fat cat gets a pay-off of one year's salary, why shouldn't all shop floor workers get the same?
The government should make this a level playing field. Come on Gordon, do something for the workers for a change.
Bill Moores, Egham, Surrey