Write On: Letters to the editor

Saturday, July 12, 2008 - 10:00

Zimbabwe

In response to Brian Souter's letter (GLW #757), I would say that while there is officially a two party system in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime has refused to relinquish its power after losing the first election earlier this year, and has used all sorts of intimidation to keep its grip on power. If this is not a dictatorship, it is a very authoritarian regime.

GLW has consistently printed articles in support of the democratic opposition in Zimbabwe while criticising the pro-capitalist course of the Movement for Democratic Change. What I would like to know is whether Souter would rather have the left support the Mugabe regime, which has long ago ceased to play any progressive role whatsoever, or give support to the pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe, despite the flaws of its leadership.

Alex Salmon

Fremantle, WA.

US lackeys

Now that Freedom of Information has revealed proof that the United States was planning to test poison gas on our army personnel in the 1960s, when are we and our federal governments going to realise that we are not allies of the USA but, in my opinion, lackeys to be used in whatever way that country sees fit, in order to further their belligerent globalisation agenda.

Despite the constant denial of the Howard government that depleted uranium weapons have not been used in army training exercises on our soil, I simply do not believe it, and it makes me ill that our citizens are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting an illegal US-initiated war. The profiteering that is going on there is also a scandal.

Alex Hodges

Birdwood, SA

Artistic freedom

In "Defend artistic freedom: the case against censorship" (GLW #753), Lauren Carroll Harris allows her argument to degenerate into simplistic rhetoric about the freedom of expression that, ironically, resembles the rhetoric of constitutional fundamentalists in the United States who fight for their "right" to distribute hate literature concerning people of colour.

Were a racist-cum-artist exhibiting photos of Indigenous Australians meant to reinforce the prejudice and bigotry of White Australia, Harris would be furious, no doubt, and would favour censorship, and herein lies one of several flaws in her piece.

She also struggles to challenge the hypocrisy of critics of the photograph by Bill Henson, who may or may not accommodate the eroticisation of underage girls in mass media, but she fails to see the hypocrisy in challenging the latter while practically arguing that the former is itself above criticism.

My personal engagement with socialist thought, not to mention any dictionary, I suspect, tells me that left and liberal or libertarian are not synonymous and, in fact, I believe that anyone who identifies as left wing who would suspend the principles which underline progressive philosophies with regard to gender or abandon a critique of the value of consent in the marketplace in the context of the photograph, to defend something that is essentially a commodity, however artistic, isn't left by any standard or definition.

If Harris wants to defend an artist whose work I and I suspect countless other feminists believe represents little more than white middle class male fantasies about adolescent girls she is free to do so but she should be reminded that it is not us but her and her ilk who are in bed with the right on this one.

Max Blair

Kelvin Grove, QLD

Aboriginal rights campaign split

Rather than address the problems that beset the anti-intervention campaign in Sydney, Alex Bainbridge's letter (GLW #757) seeks to score cheap political points. Firstly, to claim that Solidarity led the split is both untrue and patronising to those independent activists who've been playing a significant role. Secondly, Alex's letter ignores the divisions in the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC) over the questions of transparency and accountability.

Socialist Alliance members were initially for a "black steering committee" to direct the campaign, then against it. Solidarity has consistently argued for an open, inclusive campaign of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, accountable to the democratic decisions of the collective.

However, ARC meetings had become poisonous. Meetings turned into screaming matches, younger activists were derided, and collective decisions were overturned with no explanation. Many Aboriginal people and new activists dropped out.

Despite the fact that a caucus of Aboriginal activists from around Australia didn't support having a black steering committee, tensions continued to mount. The day after the June 21 rally, a meeting of many ARC activists (Solidarity members in the minority) decided to set up a new campaign body.

To grow, the campaign needs to build democratic, grassroots collectives that are empowering for all activists. The campaign needs more Aboriginal leaders, old and new. However, the ARC meetings led directly to the sidelining of Aboriginal activists.

Alex accuses Stop the Intervention Collective, Sydney (STICS) of "stabbing the campaign in the back". On the contrary, had we shied away from our responsibilities to the campaign, more time and energy would have been lost on a politically destructive debate.

Since parting company, STICS has organised a protest when Rudd was in Sydney for the COAG meeting. We helped take the anti-intervention campaign to the Students of Sustainability conference (alongside representatives from the NT). And the Ashfield ALP intervention forum which we attended carried a strong repeal resolution.

There is much more to do, including mobilising when the "review" comes out in late September. Perhaps all our energies now can be directed at fighting the intervention.

Sarah Thorne, James Robertson, Mark Goudkamp & Ian Rintoul

Solidarity, Sydney

From GLW issue 758