A lot of what you say nukes sense. However, I’m afraid I disagree strongly with Steve Coleman in his article "After Bulger" (Socialist Standard, January), when he says that the British tabloid press are worse than James Bulger’s killers. As far as I know, the Daily Mirror and Daily Star have never abducted or killed anyone.
Steve Coleman writes "The boys played video games for hours.” Well, so did I when 1 was ten, but I’m not a murderer.
Don’t get me wrong, what you say about the capitalist system is quite true, but I think you’re wrong to try and make excuses for those two bastards. Being "confused and anti-social" is no excuse for murder.
And finally, I don’t understand why, under socialism, you would abolish the police, courts and jails. Surely, that would lead to lawlessness and anarchy?
In saying that we cannot endorse punishing those whose foul actions are a direct result of being brought up under this system, we are not making excuses, as if to suggest that it was acceptable for two boys to murder a smaller boy. In fact, our article stated clearly that we refuse either to blame or to excuse.
What we are saying is that these awful kinds of behaviour will inevitably happen in a social system which glorifies violence, gives medals to killers, corrupts the social environment in which young people grow up and denies us the right to be innocent by dragging us at an early age into the sordid priorities of an oppressively anti-social system. Attacking the effects might satisfy the anger which our correspondent is not alone in feeling, but only by eradicating the cause will we prevent it from happening again . . . and again
Police, courts and prisons are products of an oppressive social order which regards punishment as being the only response to wrongdoing. The problem is that the very laws which our correspondent is concerned about are only there to defend property relationships. Abolish property and we will not need laws; we can live co operatively as equals in a lawless society.
What about anti social behaviour which is not property based? In fact, much of that is really property related when it comes down to it: for example, rape is essentially about the right to take for free what is not yours; many murders occur in possessive relationships.
But even in those cases of inexplicable viciousness and sadism, what evidence is there that prisons do anything to cure such behaviour? Surely it would be far better for such people, should they exist in a socialist society, to be given help to understand their anti-social behaviour and to feel remorse for any harm that they caused others. Police and prison screw's don’t help that process.
Rather than put the pictures of these two boys on the front pages of the tabloids and call them names, would it not be more sensible for society to devote its efforts to teaching them to behave co-operatively? Of course, people need to be protected from those who are anti-social, but prisons only make the prisoners more resentful and anti-social.
In a capitalist society punishment is the cheapest response. Only in a socialist society can we not only remove the cause of gratuitously violent behaviour, but deal with the effects of it if it occurs in a way that is humane.
"When I was very young . . ."
When I was very young, I overheard the owner of an apple orchard say, "I’m letting them rot on the trees, it doesn't pay to pick them”. The year was 1922. I was bewildered, all those acres of luscious apples . . .
When I reached the age of 16 my father sat me down and tried to explain something that was apparently bothering me. He told me that he worked eight hours a day and only got paid for two hours. Once again 1 was bewildered. I could not understand why people agreed to do such a thing. I was told, of course, that they were not aware of the robbery.
In 1929 there was another event that was puzzling. The stock market crashed. Rich folks lost all their wealth overnight and some solved their problems by jumping out of windows located on the 10th floor.
Today, we read about millions of people dying of starvation because they cannot buy food. The owner of the apple orchard goes broke because he cannot sell his apples, at a profit.
Today there are mini-wars springing up all over the globe. In Russia they have not yet decided who is going to be top dog. It may end up in a civil war ... then there would probably be intervention by other nations?
There are people who have extreme wealth. They own private jets, fabulous homes all over the world and perhaps a large yacht in some secluded cove . . . Other folks are hunkered under an overpass for the night.
The culprit of course is the profit system, capitalism. The reason that it still exists is that folks just don't realize that the solution is Socialism.
Have a nice day.
May I be allowed to respond to your reply to my letter, published in the December issue, on the subject of the emotional plague of fascism.
Confirmation of your fixation on "Economic Man” is verified (as with your general approach to other matters) by your vulgar interpretation of Marxism that purely socio-economic factors are responsible for fascism.
It is essential to repudiate that fascism is the ideology or action of a single individual or nationality or of any ethnic or political group and to strongly deny that it as an exclusively socio-economic foundation. But to understand that fascism is the expression of the irrational character structure of the average human being whose primary biological needs and impulses have been suppressed for thousands of years.
The social function of this suppression and the crucial role played in it by the authoritarian family and the church should be carefully analysed. Every form of organised mysticism, including fascism, relies on the unsatisfied orgastic longing of the masses.
The human character structure that creates organised fascist movements exists, dominating our present social conflicts. "Fascism" is not a political party but a specific concept of life and attitude towards man, love and work. Who has not met the black, Jewish, Indian or Oriental fascist and racist? Who has not met the materially comfortable and financially secure racist? Or the “red fascist"?
Who docs not remember the scenes of the 1930s of countless millions of workers overwhelmed with fanatical zeal with racist and fascist madness?
Who can ignore the mindless adoration of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin?
Once again we are witnessing that fast growing onslaught of the "fascist" emotional plague — worldwide.
The previously mentioned work by Dr Wilhelm Reich of The Mass Psychology of Fascism will help to reinforce the facing of the tasks, to combat these dangers, for today’s Marxists. We must all understand the emotional plague.
You keep saying we are "vulgar Marxists" and partisans of "economic man”, but what about our articles that take into account Marx’s theory of alienation (see previous reply and last month’s article)?
Unlike Ali Browning (Letters, December), I don’t think that abortion and contraception are completely separate issues. How about the IUD which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus? What about the ‘morning after"pill? Are these contraceptives or early forms of abortion, or both?
Also, for the women facing an unwanted pregnancy, when contraception has failed, or simply wasn’t used, abortion is one important option.
Ideally, there would not be any unwanted pregnancies, but there are, and I think that there will be, even in a Socialist world, with all the best sex education, access to contraception etc.
In the case of an unwanted pregnancy (distinct from "unplanned"), the woman should take into account the wishes of her partner and the advice of her doctors, but in the end the woman herself should have the final say. Not priests, doctors, nor even her partner should have more rights over her than she has herself.
As medical technology gets more and more sophisticated, and younger and smaller babies can be saved, are we to say that abortion should only be performed earlier and earlier in the foetus’s development?
I think that abortion should be performed ‘as early as possible and as late as necessary". I believe, as most Socialists do, that people should have a choice whether they want children or not. Thus I condemn the system in China, which limits family-size to one child and tries to force women expecting a second child to have an abortion, as much as I condemn LIFE and SPUC for trying to prevent women from having an abortion.
Perhaps it is best summed by by saying that I believe in choice. For Socialists still pondering the rights and wrongs of abortion, I found The Socialist Feminist by Janet Richards very helpful.