Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2010

Protest in Brussels earlier this year against “dinosaur” energy policies  (Pic: Friends of the Earth)

Protest in Brussels earlier this year against “dinosaur” energy policies  (Pic: Friends of the Earth)

Nuclear neo-liberalism

The government’s latest energy review paper, released on Tuesday of last week, leaves us facing an increasingly unsafe future under the control of New Labour.

This review has nothing to do with establishing a safe and environmentally friendly energy programme. It is all about tying us even more tightly to the neo-liberal agenda.

The only people who can take hope from this report are organisations such as the Association of Electricity Producers, a corporate lobbying group that has campaigned hard for the government to go down the nuclear route.

Given this lobbying, it should be no surprise that the government’s energy review has given the green light for building more nuclear power stations. It offers to assist private companies that want to build new nuclear plants by making it easier for them to receive planning permission.

In its drive to satisfy big business, New Labour is pretending that nuclear energy is a safe green option. This ignores the fact that nuclear waste is highly dangerous and can take tens of thousands of years to become safe.

We already have 50 years of this radioactive rubbish lying around, and adding to this problem is hardly a clean energy strategy. That’s before we consider the fact that it takes 15 years of intensive building to build a nuclear power station, or that generating nuclear energy involves the heavy mining of uranium.

All these factors together make a future energy programme based on more nuclear power a danger we should avoid at all cost.

Besides, the energy review offers nothing to address the fact that 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are a consequence of transport. Energy efficient public transport that moves us away from a car culture would do far more to address energy efficiency in the here and now than anything proposed in the government’s review.

An energy review that takes the environment seriously cannot be simply another means for capitalism to make money. Rather it should be about how capitalists can repay their ecological debt to the world.

Global warming is a weapon of mass destruction and the time to save our environment is now. Energy policy measures that promote the destructive neo-liberal agenda are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Mark Porciani, Dumbarton

Lebanon crisis – we need your help

The Israeli offensive against Lebanon is an act of aggression against the whole Lebanese people. Thousands of people are fleeing the country, and thousands of people are fleeing from the areas where the bombing is heaviest into central Beirut.

We are calling on our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world to help us with our relief work in Beirut. We urgently need money to buy the supplies we need to help the internally displaced population.

We ask everyone who can to send donations, however small, by bank transfer to the Relief Committee - Spears, care of the following two people:

  • Georges Azzi, Credit Libanais SAL Beirut - Agence Sassine, Swift code CLIBLBX, account number 0430012080006817356
  • Bassem Chit, Société Générale de Banque au Liban - Hamra Branch, Swift code SGLILBBX, account number 007004362092875014 or 007004367092875014

Bassem Chit, Leftist Assembly for Change, Beirut, Lebanon

A definition of great art

Sinead Kennedy’s introduction to the Marxist approach to art (Is it ‘ideological’ or just a jolly good read?, 15 July) was very good. She is right about the need to combine politics and aesthetics without simply reducing art to ideology.

Trotsky said that “art must be judged first by the laws of art”, but he didn’t say what those “laws” are.

The enormous differences in the art of different societies and times mean they cannot be a fixed set of rules.

So is there a distinctive Marxist theory of what makes a work of art artistically good?

I think there is and that its starting point lies in Karl Marx’s key proposition that art is part of the “superstructure” of society, which arises on and is conditioned by an economic “base” - the forces and relations of production.

These core relations of production shape a multitude of other social relations - political, personal, sexual and so on.

These range from how a courtier looks at a king and vice versa, to how people have sex and the relations between parents and children, from how the individual relates to society to how people relate to nature, from the life of the village to the life of the metropolis.

These relations form the stuff of our lived experience and the raw material of art. Great art is that which achieves a precise, moving and critical representation of and response to such relations, especially when they are new or changing.

This can be done from a variety of political standpoints and in many different forms.But it is the common core which links Shakespeare and Beckett, Michelangelo and Tracey Emin, Mozart and The Clash.

John Molyneux, Portsmouth

The prison service must accept responsibility

John Bowden, writing from HMP Edinburgh, rightly protests that none of the officials named in the Zahid Mubarek inquiry report has been disciplined, and it is good to see a serving prisoner speaking out about injustice (Letters, 15 July).

Some 19 prison service staff were named and shamed in Mr Justice Keith’s report. Niall Clifford, governor at Feltham when Zahid was murdered by his cellmate in 2000, was among those criticised. Bizarrely, Clifford was allowed to leave the prison service earlier this year with a golden handshake.

Phil Wheatley, the prison service’s director-general, writing in the Guardian’s letters page on 10 July, says that Clifford was not promoted after Mubarek’s murder, and that the positions he held subsequently were all at the same grade and pay scale.

But Wheatley fails to explain why Clifford was allowed to retire earlier this year with a payout of £175,000 - rewarded and not reprimanded, before the facts about Zahid’s death could be established.

This report is another ugly stain on the record of the beleaguered prison service and home office, both of which appear stuck in a time warp, stubbornly refusing to accept the concept of accountability.

Pauline Campbell, Mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the “care” of HMP Styal 2003

Sexist creeps slide lower than ever

I was on the HMV website the other day and was astounded to find them promoting the latest Playboy film, “Girls of McDonald’s”.

According to Playboy, “Our recent search for the ‘Girls of McDonald’s’ found plenty of friendly faces and hot bodies working for the fast food giant.” They boast they have “a knack for finding sexy women, often in unexpected places”.

It is absolutely disgusting that this video has been produced - it represents just about every nasty thing about the system we live under.

Workers in McDonald’s, who already suffer the indignity of a shitty job with low wages and no prospects, are now presented as sex objects as well.

Women who work in bars, cafes and fast food outlets already have to put up with sexual harassment. This porn simply gives a green light to all the creeps.

I am sick of the way that women’s bodies are used to sell everything from bottled water to cars.

I would recommend that people read Ariel Levy’s brilliant book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, which charts the rise of “raunch culture”.

Sarah James, York

Surviving the slaughter

The picture of a soldier from the Battle of the Somme on the front page of Socialist Worker, 1 July is of my grandfather William John Beckett.

He was a Gypsy born in Durham. Him and his brother Tommy were two of only six men who survived the Somme from their entire regiment.

The mindless brutality that he and many others experienced is hard to comprehend, but my grandfather was a hero.

Sidney R Beckett, Gillingham, Kent

Refuseniks act with honour

I read your article on US soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (US troops refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, 8 July).

This is a contrived war perpetrated by a bunch of criminally dishonourable politicians, and I applaud the stance that these honourable citizen soldiers are taking.

Herbert J Levinson, Florida, US

Trans fats are not to blame

Monica Lissak’s call for a ban on trans fatty acids - so called “trans fats” - was broadly correct, but needs some clarification (Letters, 15 July).

Fast food outlets and producers use trans fats to increase the shelf life of food and decrease refrigeration requirements.

These trans fats are generally more harmful than other fats, and should be reduced in these contexts.

However, trans fats also occur naturally in cow, goat, giraffe and sheep milk, and form part of the diet of most humans - so a ban is hardly practical. If women consume these products their breast milk will also contain trans fats.

It should be the unnecessary adulteration of food by multinationals eager to increase their profits at the expense of our health that is regulated, not trans fats themselves.

Even this requires some thought. Many trans fats are produced by partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. This means that products containing trans fats can be suitable for vegetarians and those on kosher or halal diets.

A suitable substitute would have to be found, so as not to alienate people with these dietary requirements.

Margaret Miles, Manchester

The real state capitalism?

Regarding your article on state capitalism (Russia and socialism, 15 July), in my view state capitalism has been practised by Britain since the 17th century and is still practised today by all the capitalist imperalist states.

These states use military force to enforce compliance with the free market system and to remove regulations on the economy. This enables them to take possession of the assets and markets of other nations.

This is state capitalism - and not, as you claim, the system of former Soviet Union. The system there was known as the command economy and would be used in every socialist state - with, I hope, some sort of democracy.

Eugene McAteer, Manchester

Prisons don’t prevent crime

Does anyone seriously believe that increasing sentences will solve the problem of knife crime?

If we are intent on building more prisons and giving tougher sentences, we may as well go ahead and lock up these youths for the rest of their lives.

After coming out of prisons and young offender institutions the majority will be worse off and more bitter and twisted than before.

It is just going to be one big merry-go-round. We need to find the root cause, look at our attitudes, the media etc. There is a lot of rejection going on in this country - our children are growing up with it and they feel it. What kind of society are we creating?

Clare, South London

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Sat 22 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2010
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