Every socialist would agree with Chris Edwards that the Palestinians, as an oppressed nation, have the right to “self-determination up to and including separation” (Letters, 19 August). Nowhere does Alex Callinicos, in his article of 5 August, deny Palestinians the right to their own state. But socialists, who give unconditional support to the Palestinian struggle, have the right to argue for a different solution - one state.
To begin with, Israeli colonisation of the West Bank has slowly killed off the two-state option. Today, 400,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements controlling perhaps 40 percent of the West Bank.
In addition, Israel’s 400-kilometre road network and its apartheid wall divide Palestinian areas. Such a Palestinian state would be unviable.
But what if Israel’s leaders agreed to dismantle the wall and the military bases, and withdraw the settlers? Palestinians now probably outnumber Israelis. In such a Palestinian state, we would witness a growing Palestinian population crammed into 22 percent of the country.
Further, a Palestinian state might well have an appearance of sovereign independence, but in reality it would live in the shadow of its big brother. Israel would continue to dominate it economically. Palestinians would once again become a source of cheap labour for the Israeli economy.
Such a situation would become explosive. Israel would see its survival in renewed and intensified military repression. Israel would, therefore, also insist on continuing to exercise political control, either formally or informally.
The only secure, long term solution is one that breaks the link between territory and ethnicity - a single, secular, democratic state embracing the whole of historical Palestine and comprising both Arabs and Jews as equal citizens.
It would, of course, entail repealing the Israeli Law of Return and granting the Palestinian refugees the right of return.
However, even such a unified state, if it remained a capitalist democracy, would reproduce the same inequalities and ethnic oppression of the Palestinians. A post-Zionist state would be like post-apartheid South Africa, ensuring that Israeli Jews retained dominant positions within the new society even if they abandoned the Law of Return.
The struggle against Zionism will have to become one for a socialist Palestine which would itself be part of a wider fight for a socialist Middle East federation.
Sabby Sagall, North London
There is an obvious flaw in Chris Edward’s letter. This flaw is that the territory from which Chris would have the Palestinians fully separate to achieve an “independent” state was until 1948 theirs as well.
By his logic, it would also have been better for black South Africans to accept the basic premise of apartheid and struggle for the separation of the so?called “Homelands” from “white” South Africa.
There was of course no shortage of Homeland politicians arguing that this was precisely what national liberation meant. Fortunately, the masses chose instead to topple the apartheid regime in favour of a unitary and non-racial state whose vast resources could be shared by all.
Just as in South Africa, there will be no real freedom for the Palestinian people if their state amounts to little more than the fragmented and impoverished Bantustans into which they have been historically driven, with Israel’s massive power still intact. Their genuine liberation can only come through the full recovery of the pre-1948 territory.
This inescapably demands the struggle for a single, secular state in which all citizens have equal rights regardless of race, religion or creed.
Gavin Capps, London
The recent correspondence on the letters page about Stalin’s Russia raises three important questions. Why was it state capitalist? Why was this important? Does it matter today?
The theory of state capitalism put its finger on the dynamic of Stalin’s Russia - the “thing that made it move”. If it was socialist, why did it transform all existing Soviet institutions? Why the ruthless industrialisation, the terror, the sharp class differences, the official nationalism and racism, the forcible takeover of Eastern Europe? And if it wasn’t socialist, what was it?
Richard Sakwa, a leading mainstream scholar, has described how Stalinism transformed political competition with the West “into an economic race, but one whose standards and measures of achievement were set in the West… Stalinism was primarily a war machine, with the emphasis on heavy industry, a way of industrialising the country to sustain its military potential.”
Stalinism accepted the terms of international capitalist competition. There are important differences between Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Waitrose, but they all belong to the same species. This was as true of Joseph Stalin’s Russia as it was of Winston Churchill’s Britain, Hitler’s Germany or Franklin D Roosevelt’s US.
This argument clarified essential differences between capitalism and socialism in a period when socialism was widely identified with state control.
It re-emphasised the Marxist view of capitalism as being based on rivals locked into an vicious circle of producing a surplus to compete with each other, and of socialism being about direct, democratic rule by workers.
It also reasserted the revolutionary alternative to the Stalinist doctrine of “socialism in one country”. You can’t have a simultaneous world revolution. But capitalism is a global system. The socialist revolution can begin in one country, but it has to spread if it’s going to survive.
That’s why the international anti-war movement of today isn’t just a spanner in the works of imperialism - it’s a step towards another world.
Peter Glatter, South London
Botswana protest against attacks on Lebanon
Anti-war demonstrators took to the streets in Botswana's capital Gaborone on 11 August. A lively and colourful march protested against the attacks on Lebanon by Israel.
With just one week preparation an alliance initiated by International Socialists Botswana consisting of the Student's Representative Council of the University of Botswana, the Botswana Muslim Association and representatives of the Red Cross. Youth came together and decided that we need emergency action to take a stand against the atrocities committed against the Lebanese people by the Israeli state.
All together we mobilised around 500 people. The feeling of unity amongst the large contingent of Botswana's Muslim community, university students, school students, activists from the main opposition party, the Botswana National Front and some trade unionists was fantastic.
Though first slogans emphasised 'Peace now', soon the most popular chants were naming what is really behind the war in Lebanon. With 'Stop attacks on Lebanon' and 'Down with imperialism'‚ 'US - Stop supporting terrorist Israel state' the marchers expressed their anger.
People also came to participate in the march because Botswana has seen the fourth fuel and paraffin price increase this year. The reason given is the instability in the Middle East. Especially the paraffin price hike hits mostly the poor as they still have to use paraffin for cooking and lamps due to the lack of electricity.
In the final rally one speaker after another emphasised imperialism and US-dominance as the driving force behind Israel's attacks. Also the mayor of Gaborone, a young BNF activist, spoke and emphasised international solidarity: 'This protest shows that we are true citizens of the world. Any injustice perpetrated against any human being around the world should be our concern.'
Kerstin Andrä Marobela, International Socialists Botswana
The real inspiration of Spain’s Revolution
Pablo Roldan’s letter (Letters, 12 August) misses the point about the Spanish Civil War’s anniversary. The Franco regime and today’s political mainstream silenced the memory of the peasants’ and workers’ revolution of July 1936. In Spain the real battle to remember the revolution continues.
Workers can run society and 1936 is proof. Pablo quotes Trotsky saying that the Poum were “the chief obstacle... to building a revolutionary party”. But this misrepresents Trotsky’s complex relationship to the Poum.
Since Stalinists in 1937 and then Franco systematically murdered the Spanish far left, it is an unhelpful historical assessment. Trotsky provides brilliant insights into the Poum’s sometimes dreadful mistakes.
Yet it argued correctly that only revolution could win the war. Its members fought valiantly for revolution on the barricades and in the militias.
Through George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom, remembering the Poum provides the means to rescue the revolution from decades of silence.
The 1936 revolution can inspire a new generation politicised through anti?capitalism and the anti?war movement. Alternatively the left can alienate them by stressing dusty polemics taken out of context.
Matt Perry and Sam Robson, Newcastle
Racial profiling is already here
I work at Heathrow airport. During the recent terror alert people were rightly angry that they didn’t know what was going on and were left without information for hours on end.
For much of the time, neither did the staff. All people on the Heathrow Express heard was a recorded voice announcing, “You can take tissues on the plane, but only if they are unboxed.
“You can also take baby food and milk on board, but the contents of the bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger.”
The one thing that did start happening was that people who looked Asian or had Muslim sounding names got held longer and searched more thoroughly.
Numbers of passengers for the flights to America were told they couldn’t fly. What they had in common was they were Muslims.
The first reaction to the crisis was to presume that anyone Asian was cause for concern. The airport bosses say they are thinking about introducing racial profiling - the reality is that they already use it.
Security guard, Heathrow Airport
Wrong to back Hizbollah
I believe in liberation, equality and freedom of expression, and in revolution as a means to achieve those ends.
The revolutionary struggle is not one based on bearing arms or killing. Those are the tools of oppression and what every socialist should be striving against.
How then can you condone Hizbollah in their recent actions of capturing Israeli soldiers? Supporting any form of terror is no way forward.
Peace making through protest and truthful dialogue is the way towards a better world.
Julian Hill, by e-mail
Was Tommy case a victory?
Tommy Sheridan says that “the overwhelming majority” of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) backed him in his court case, and that only a “scab minority” didn’t (Tommy Sheridan defeats injustice, 12 August).
Why then did the biggest SSP branch in Scotland pass a vote of no confidence in him last week? And why did the Tay Coast branch describe his behaviour as “enough to damn him in the eyes of any decent person”?
It is laughable to say that Sheridan’s court victory was a “tremendous victory for all those who rage against injustice and inequality”.
Times are bad if the left is reduced to imagining that this tawdry victory is a victory for socialism.
Brian Smith, Shetland
SSP’s turn to the grotesque
I’m not an SSP member but a working class mother from the east end of Glasgow.
I’m proud to have voted for the SSP. Nothing in politics inspired me more than seeing six SSP MSPs taking their seats in Holyrood in 2003.
Now things have taken a grotesque turn and you can’t really believe that people like me can’t see past the supernova ego of your erstwhile working class hero.
For six years I’ve worked with asylum seeker families, and everywhere I go I see MSP Rosie Kane battling and arguing. Maybe she doesn’t have Tommy’s charisma, machismo or whatever it’s called but she has something I believe is more powerful called integrity.
Fran Whitmore, Glasgow
Civil servants: no sympathy
It’s very hard to sympathise with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials threatened with redundancy.
For decades, in the area where I live, the DWP (formally the DSS) was renowned for the predilection of many officials to obstruct, lose and thwart claims to social security benefits by the unemployed.
While I feel sorry for the few who almost always did their best, I can’t feel anything except a degree of schadenfreude for those petty-bourgeois tyrants and bullies, who may themselves have to go cap in hand to a smug little reactionary of their own.
Geoff Way, Bournemouth
Visual culture of Chartism
Your article on a new exhibition of portraits of Chartist leaders (Chartist leaders at the National Portrait Gallery, 19 August) highlights the role of Britain’s first mass circulation paper.
The Northern Star, which commissioned the portraits, far outsold the Times, which was the leading bourgeois paper of the 1840s.
The portraits also underline what a visual culture Chartism had. Memorial plates and mugs of leaders and demonstrations were produced, banners and flags with political slogans were commonplace.
It may sound like modern PR, but the point was it was done not for profit, but to assist a great movement for political change.
Keith Flett, North London