Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jimmy Hill (2016)

Letters to the Editors from the March 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jimmy Hill

Dear Editors

The obituary on Jimmy Hill (February Socialist Standard) failed to mention his role as consultant and mediator of a ‘rebel tour’ to apartheid South Africa to play football in 1982. There was also omission of his defence of football manager Ron Atkinson’s use of the word ‘nigger’ in an off-air  2004 television transmission for football.

I am also very surprised that we devoted so much space to the death of David Bowie.

Joel Thompson

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David Bowie

Dear Editors

I was surprised as a socialist to read the rather effusive article on David Bowie in the February Socialist Standard, (‘David Bowie: Ground-Breaking Artist’) when many readers would, I believe, regard him as the hyped-up product of that epitome of brash capitalism; the pop music industry.

Rather than being a genius as the article tends to imply, I would venture to suggest that a more realistic reading of the situation would be that his greatest talent was in recognising his limited ability and boosting his career by wearing outrageous clothes, adopting weird personas and making controversial statements to appeal both to the young and those who see profundity where none exists.

An example of the latter was his claim to be gay/bi-sexual at a time when later admitted that this claim was a lie and not unconnected with the promotion of Ziggy Stardust, the androgynous character he was then adopting for his stage shows.

It's difficult, therefore, not to reach the conclusion that, rather than being concerned with the plight of the LBGT community, his greater concern, as with other similar statements and stunts, was for self-publicity, his image and greater record sales.

Richard Layton

Reply: 
This might be what some are saying down at the pub but it’s surely simplistic and unfair to assume that all pop artists are mere talentless self-publicists. Bowie at least wrote his own music which the writer, a musician himself, judged had merit. In view of the large number who liked him he must have said something that echoed how they felt under capitalism?  – Editors

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Myriam Namazie

Dear Editors

The article 'From No Platform to Safe Spaces' (February) concluded that suppressing free expression at universities 'must be opposed and exposed just as much as the Leninist ‘no-platformers’'. It is probably worth then pointing out to readers that the militant atheist and ex-Muslim Maryam Namazie works for the Central Committee of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran (WPI) as editor of its journal. While critical of the Soviet Union the WPI nevertheless operates as a vanguard with a cadre and 'rank-and-file' reprinting works by Lenin.

Their figurehead Mansoor Hekmat wrote 'If it is a question of a real assessment of Lenin, of the truth of his views and his practice from the viewpoint of Marxism, of his contribution to the revolutionary thought and practice of the working class, and so on, of course I am a Leninist. In my view Lenin was a genuine Marxist with an essentially correct understanding of this outlook, and a worthy leader of the socialist movement of the world working class.' (http://wpiran.org/english/?p=299)

On 'safe spaces' policies, definitions might vary. While it might be undesirable for applying too broadly, a space free from prejudice, discrimination or harassment voluntarily agreed to by freely assembling workers might be achieved (even inadvertently) by the Socialist Party practice of meeting with chairpersons and having editors publish the Socialist Standard.

Jon D. White

Reply: 
We are not aware that, even though it regards itself as a Leninist vanguard, the Worker-Communist Party of Iran advocates ‘no platform’. Not all Leninists do, to their credit. If it does then Namazie would be a hypocrite, but even if she were she should be free to express that view. Even no-platformers should be allowed a platform. That’s the point. – Editors

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Paul Mattick

Dear Editors

Stefan's review of Gary Roth's book on Paul Mattick (February Socialist Standard) is interesting and thought-provoking. There is, however, one otherwise minor point I think it would be useful to bring out. The World Socialist Party of the U.S. did not 'originate' from the Socialist Party of Michigan, as stated in the review.

The Workers' Socialist Party was the direct result of collaboration between disaffected Detroit members of the SP of A and SPGB 'slackers' Adolph Kohn and Moses Baritz, on the run from the British wartime authorities. These members, drawing on Kohn's input, resigned as a body from the SP of A, which would not allow the breakaways to use its registered trademark as the Socialist Party of the United States. So they dodged the issue by adding the qualifier 'Workers' to the name.

The emergence of the Proletarian Party, on the other hand, was the outcome of mounting conflicts within the SP of A's Michigan affiliate: between the faction grouped around John Keracher, who promoted a radical policy of no reforms of capitalism, and members who had no trouble selling the national office on Keracher's heretical radicalism. The national organization finally 'expelled' the Michigan troublemakers by excluding them from its reorganized state affiliate.

The new Proletarian Party, under Keracher's leadership, held views that were generally regarded by the WSP as nearly identical to its own  – except for the PP's passionate endorsement of the Bolshevik Revolution. It is true there was a longstanding relationship between the Proletarian Party and the Workers' Socialist Party/Socialist Education Society. But it was a debating interest centered mainly around the latter's infatuation with 'the Russian bug,' as WSP members referred to it. The PP often derisively referred to the WSP as 'revolutionary tea drinkers.'

It is in any event somewhat misleading to describe both organizations unqualifiedly as having a common origin in the Socialist Party of Michigan.

Ron Elbert, 
Boston, USA

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