Problems on Italian left
On Saturday 11 March, Italian police authorised a march by a section of Alternativa Sociale in Milan. This is an openly fascist coalition whose members include Allesandra Mussolini and Roberto Fiore, a suspect in the 1980 Bologna station bombing who fled to London.
Some social centres organised a counter demonstration in Milan’s equivalent of Oxford Street. Unfortunately the rest of the left ignored the issue. A few hundred anarchists protested and a few cars were burnt out.
A few of these young people were attacked by right wing shopkeepers, some of whom are linked to Gianfranco Fini’s “post-fascist” Alleanza Nazionale. Forty protesters were arrested, but the Nazis were allowed to march.
With just three weeks before a general election, the Italian media – much of it owned by president Silvio Berlusconi – went on the rampage. The centre left L’Unione coalition condemned the violence of the anti-fascists and the right wing had a field day.
Francesco Caruso, a Rifondazione Comunista candidate in Naples, was accused of defending them and was publicly attacked by the leaders of L’Unione. For his part, Berlusconi attacked the protesters for obstructing “the lawful march of one of our allies”. The fascists are supporting Berlusconi’s election bid.
The shopowners in Milan have organised a march to “protest” at the damage, and Fini has said he will be there. Now the entire centre left says they will join the march too. This is a feeble response. It’s high time the Italian left stopped being so defensive, and united against fascism and Berlusconi’s blackmail.
Margherita Segre, Naples, Italy
Revolution will transform the family
Rosie Cox’s article on domestic labour (The Servant Problem, 11 March) is welcome in that it locates women’s oppression in the division of labour in the home, rather than speculating about culture.
However, I think she underestimates the depth of the change needed to solve the problem. She says, “Real liberation involves men and women sharing domestic responsibilities equally and governments investing in childcare and the elderly care as a right for all.”
These are valid demands – and men should certainly do their share of housework and childcare as a matter of principle.
But the sexual division of labour cannot be overcome within the existing institution of the family.
The model of a couple living with their dependent children should be replaced by new forms of communal living. This would also be better than governments providing social care, since governments can never provide love.
Such a transformation may seem far fetched – and it would be folly to attempt it until a workers’ state has been established – but the creation of a genderless society requires vision.
The great struggles that constitute a revolution will change relationships between women and men fundamentally, and release the creativity needed to sweep away the habits of millennia of women’s oppression.
Mark Donaldson, Edinburgh
Modernism, architecture and science
Owen Hatherley is correct to defend the idealism of the early modernists and quite rightly derides the bland brick boxes proliferated by volume house builders (Utopias in the sky, 11 March).
But when he defends the nonsensical maxim of “form follows function”, he presumes that those who dare attack such ideological whimsy wish to revert to neo?classicism. This doesn’t automatically follow.
The fact is there is nothing inherently socialist about modernism. The manifesto of the International Congress of Modern Architecture is riddled with elitism, mechanical determinism and pessimism as to the potential of the working class to change society.
Style in architecture is just fashion multiplied by time. Capitalism absorbs and incorporates all ideologies – especially those that contribute to more efficient accumulation. So the slogan “less is more” becomes “Give them less, charge them more!”
The term “brutalism” was coined to describe the housing schemes designed by some inexperienced young architects who overspent the budget and had no money left for proper finishes.
Don’t admit you screwed up – just sell it as an honest expression of the artistic qualities of mortar snots, stained concrete blocks and exposed rainwater pipes!
Architecture needs to be turned from a whimsical craft into a confident science. If we study Georgian architecture, we find that decoration invariably covers awkward expansion joints between materials.
Stone string courses are not primarily there for the aesthetic delight of the bourgeoisie, but to cast rainwater away from the facade and avoid ugly streaking – an aesthetic quality modernist elevations will invariably display after six months.
Architecture must be based on scientific research as to how a building performs in meeting human comfort – not the confused whims of an aesthetic elite that have directly led to millions of workers suffering miserable and unhealthy housing conditions for the last 50 years.
Stirling Howieson, Edinburgh
Fund blows whistle on government’s claims
As part of its attack on public sector pensions, the government wants to remove the “rule of 85” in the local government pension scheme (LGPS). This rule currently allows certain local government workers to retire early on a full pension.
The West Yorkshire Pension Fund, which is part of the LGPS, has just written to its members outlining its views on the issue.
It has passed these views on to the office of the deputy prime minister (ODPM), the government department in charge of the scheme.
“We are totally opposed to the removal of the 85-year rule for all existing members of the LGPS,” the letter says.
“We think that removing the 85-year rule would break the ‘pension promise’ to anyone who joined the LGPS based on the rules in operation when they joined. We also think that the ODPM’s belief that the 85-year rule is unlawful is questionable.
“West Yorkshire Pension Fund’s financial situation is presently very sound and does not support the ODPM’s concern that the LGPS is under financial strain.
“Our assets total around £6.3 billion, and our annual income from contributions and investments exceeds the amount we pay out in pensions each year by more than £150 million.”
These are exactly the sort of arguments we need in order to confront the government and defend our pensions.
John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire
Don’t let Tham be deported to Nepal
Your coverage of the deteriorating situation in Nepal has been welcome (Nepal’s deep crisis, 4 March).
Human rights activists have been tortured, murdered, or “disappeared” at the hands of the Royal Nepalese Army and the security forces.
The civil war in Nepal has now entered its tenth year and has claimed 13,000 lives. The situation has worsened since King Gyanendra called a state of emergency in February last year.
The foreign office has advised against travel to Nepal – yet at the same time the government is trying to send Nepalese asylum seekers back to face persecution.
Activists in south east London have been supporting Nepalese refugee Tham Prasad Sarki’s right to remain in Britain. Tham came to Britain after threats to arrest him for campaigning to stop discrimination against lower caste peoples.
Since living in this country he has been active in the anti?war movement. If any readers would like to support Tham’s campaign please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Watts, South East London
Support Tham Sarki’s appeal hearing. Assemble 9.45am, 31 March, Field House, Bream’s Building, London EC4
City cleaners gave me a lift
With a 55th birthday looming one is prone to the odd lapse of apathy and cynicism – even as a socialist. So thanks to the cleaners in the City of London for fighting back (City of London cleaners, 11 March).
As T&G union general secretary Tony Woodley says, “Some of the people working in these buildings will get more as a Christmas bonus than some cleaners will make in their working lives.”
Condi Rice not welcome here
We in the Merseyside Stop the War Coalition are asking our civic, cultural and political leaders to speak against the forthcoming visit to Merseyside by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
Rice is a former US national security adviser and a close confidante of president George Bush. She has been involved at every stage in planning and executing the immoral and illegal invasion of Iraq.
We call on our civic leaders to boycott any events involving her. We ask the musicians of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra not to play for her.
Rice has blood on her hands and she is not welcome in our city. We say to our civic leaders – if Prince Charles can boycott meetings with world leaders, then so can you.
Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition
Devastation in Kashmir
Thank you for Guy Smallman’s article on the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake (Earthquake didn’t get Blair’s compassion, 18 March). The Australian government’s response has been as bad if not worse than that of Tony Blair’s government.
I am a nurse, and in my distress at the scenes of such devastation, I decided to travel to Pakistan with some instruments and dressings, sleeping bag and some food.
I worked for seven weeks tending wounds in remote villages, and later at a sawmill in Mansehra that had been turned into a 200 bed orthopaedic hospital.
I met only one other Australian. Back home few people seem interested, in contrast to the response to the East Asian tsunami.
I am not Muslim, and have no family links to Pakistan, yet I was made very welcome. I was fed and given wonderful home based hospitality.
I could not do enough for these people – I felt that they were being abandoned by the world. They were so grateful for so little, and had endured so much.
Frances Walton, Melbourne, Australia
Milosevic was an alternative
Rather than join the reformed Communists of the former Eastern Bloc, sell off state assets and queue obediently for European Union and Nato membership, Slobodan Milosevic resisted integration with the West (Not the only monster, 18 March).
This was his downfall. As long as an alternative European model existed, no matter how bogged down with sanctions and armed conflict, it would always be seen as a threat by Pentagon planners and North Atlantic policy makers.
A country rife with worker cooperatives, a significant manufacturing base and a large, well trained army in such a sensitive part of Europe could simply not be allowed to exist.
Jesse Lawrence, North London
Serb atrocities were far worse
Serb atrocities were backed by the Yugoslav national army and planned methodically months in advance.
There is simply no comparison between crimes committed by Serbs against Bosnians, Croats and ethnic Albanians versus the counter atrocities committed by Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
I’m no advocate of any regime that comes to power on nationalistic dogma. But comparing Milosevic to Tudjman and Izetbegovic is like comparing Hitler to FD Roosevelt.
Chris, New York, US