Triumph of capitalism proves Marx was right all along
Triumph of capitalism proves Marx was right all along
Sir: Tim Hammond (letter: "Modern politics has moved on from the left-right dichotomy", 15 November) is quite wrong: the right has not "won the economics argument". On the contrary, the sharper Marxists have been proved right. As Western capitalism advances, it is proving increasingly adaptable, as the Frankfurt School predicted. It happily accommodates liberal values such as tolerance and equality; indeed, it necessarily takes account of dominant and emergent socio-cultural values in order to consolidate and further extend its power and reach.
The capitalism that positions us as happy, healthy consumers - hallelujah - is the same one found in Marx's sophisticated exposition of the mechanisms of the capitalist process(es), the one that located the majority of people as workers, whose labour power was exploited at the point of production for the profit of the few. There remains today a clear continuity from the earlier industrial ages that cannot be denied. The difference now is the degree of sophistication that masks the exploitation and allows an obviously bright individual such as Mr Hammond to imagine himself and his fellows free from the old shackles.
Or perhaps we are so comfortable now that exploitation no longer matters? We know how it works; the labour theory of value isn't too hard to grasp. And anyway, we can turn a blind eye to the obscene gap between domestic rich and poor, and to the terrible price being paid around the globe for US and UK (Mr Hammond's economic "triumphs") wealth accumulation. As long as we have our share certificates in the bank, our performance bonuses and our private healthcare plans, what does it matter that others are profiting grotesquely at our expense? We've enough to keep ourselves occupied tinkering around the edges, where the "real" and "exciting" debates are happening, without interfering with the glorious onward march of advanced global capitalism.
Hove, East Sussex
Wind and nuclear power work together
Sir: Stephen Tindale seems to be applying some confused logic in every aspect of his letter (16 November) arguing against a future for nuclear power in the UK.
It may well be true, as he states, that over the full life-cycle of nuclear it produces 50 per cent more CO 2 than wind power, although other studies have found full life-cycle CO 2 emissions from wind power to be twice that of nuclear. Yet this is the difference between two tiny numbers when set against the carbon emissions from the fossil fuel sources on which we currently rely for three quarters of our electricity.
And he forgets that the unpredictability of wind means that it alone cannot power the nation - we need reliable power operating around the clock, which is just what nuclear provides. Indeed, a combination of nuclear and wind could well represent the "dream ticket" in terms of balancing carbon cuts and supply reliability.
The argument that nuclear is somehow not worth pursuing because of the lead time involved is similarly flawed. Even accepting his extremely pessimistic timing - that new nuclear would not start generation until 2018-2020 - this is exactly the timeframe in which several of the existing AGR nuclear units are due to close, and matches the expected dates for the current UK coal fleet essentially winding down. It would therefore be a great help to have new, low-carbon nuclear plants coming on stream at such a time.
We should also remember that the fight against global warming is a marathon, not a sprint. UK targets for emission reduction are set for decades ahead, with the aim of being on target to make a 60 per cent cut by 2050. We will need all the solutions we can muster to this challenge, not just those we can implement in the next couple of years.
Chairman, Nuclear Industry Association, London SW1
Price of gluttony
Sir: Johann Hari ("I love junk food",17 November) states: "If people want to abuse their own bodies, they should be free to do so. Smoking, drinking, over-eating, under-exercising? It's your own business." OK. And who does he suggest should pay for the medical treatment of these people who are free to abuse their bodies ? Those of us who do not knowingly abuse our bodies?
St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Sir: As usual when writing a political piece Johann Hari made a lot of sense. However I have a question for him: have you overcome your socialist principles and taken out private health insurance so that the rest of us won't have to pay for your triple by-pass and the treatment of your diabetes?
Sir: Johann Hari's attempt to make his gluttony appear virtuous cannot be credible until he pledges himself to fund for life all the costs of his resulting avoidable ill-health. In the absence of any such pledge, Mr Hari shows contempt for all of us who suffer illness because of genetics or other factors. The carelessness with which the healthy underestimate their vast good fortune, and their habit of taking stupid risks, never cease to disgust me.
Sir: So the Government is thinking about banning junk food ads before 9pm on the telly. Not a bad idea but I think that all adverts directed at children should be illegal, as they are in Sweden. This however only deals with one side of the problem - healthy foods are not seen as cool by children, as they are not advertised on TV. One way of dealing with this is to counter-advertise healthy foods. Have you ever seen an ad on the telly for good healthy parsnips or broccoli?
And where should the money for this come from? From the advertising industry of course. There should be a tax on advertising.
Best of enemies
Sir: John Lichfield ("Chirac meets his Waterloo", 17 November) claims that "the French remain our enemy of choice". If only Britain had such enemies who regularly visited here in their millions for the food, the weather, the culture and, in hundreds of thousands of cases, to establish themselves in the country to enjoy a much higher quality of life. With enemies like that, who needs friends?
Sir: John Lichfield remarks that "the French remain our enemy of choice". Sed in Scotia non (as mediaeval Scots canon lawyers are said to have protested when faced with an interpretation of Church law they didn't like). Scots still tend romantically to prefer to remember the "Auld Alliance" of 1295 with France, and to overlook the relatively brief period of anti-Jacobin sentiment to which Robert Burns responded in his 1795 poem "Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?"
Sir: Reading your article on Waterloo as a Frenchman I feel frustrated: you forgot to point out that the young Wellington studied for a year at the Military Academy of Angers, France. Does not this mean that, after all, the battle was won by the French military genius?
Sir: I am surprised that John Lichfield should translate the opening lines of Victor Hugo's poem "Waterloo, o morne plaine" as "Waterloo, what a boring spot". The obviously more appropriate translation is "Waterloo, o desolate plain" - or was Mr Lichfield making a joke? Certainly it was not a boring spot at the time of the battle: as one Guards officer is reputed to have said, when asked about the famous event, "Oh, my dear - the noise, and the people!"
Newcastle upon Tyne
Art at City Hall
Sir: I am shocked that The Independent should be concerned with the ramblings of Robert Neil, the Tory leader on the London Assembly (Pandora, 5 November). He suggests that the exhibition DEMO, which I made with Cat Picton Phillipps in City Hall, was only there because I have known Ken Livingstone for many years and have given work to the Bid for Ken auction.
In the two art auctions which raised money for Ken, 100 artists gave their work, and I'm sure many of them have given work for other causes which they believe in. In the last few years I have given work to the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, MIND, Amnesty, and students raising money for their development as artists.
It's true I've known Ken since the GLC days but I'm sure Nick Serota knows a few artists who have shown at the Tate Gallery. City Hall is an important public building available for the people of London. In recognition of this fact Cat and I wanted to make an exhibition that expressed directly our condemnation of the invasion of Iraq
Private money has had an insidious effect on what it is possible to show in public galleries. Corporate sponsorship would never fund a gallery that exhibited work which directly attacks government policy or corporate interest. City Hall is one of the few public spaces in London where it is possible to show work that is directly engaged in issues on which the public have demonstrated their anger to no avail.
Sir: I would like to congratulate Prince Charles as his comments served for me as a timely reminder of my good fortune ("Stick to your lot in life: Charles scorned ambition of 'politically correct' PA", 18 November). Had I suffered a freak accident of birth I too could have found myself pontificating widely (and often at great length) on a range of subjects about which I know nothing, thus regularly laying myself open to intense ridicule. Thankfully, I have a Prince to do this for me.
Dr JOHN GORDON
Sir: In his response to the heir to the throne's ill-judged and self-regarding comments, the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said, "Not everybody can be born to be king." Quite so. But if we had a proper, grown-up democracy, every citizen could be born with the opportunity to become the elected head of state - regardless of race, creed, birth or gender. Most of them would do a far better job than the current lot.
Sir: I can sympathise with the Prince of Wales's comment about people thinking they are qualified to do things beyond their capabilities. In my experience (43 years working for private companies, for a government-funded organisation, for charities, education establishments and a mutual company) virtually every organisation suffers because people are promoted beyond their capabilities. The fault lies not just with those who overestimate their abilities but also with those who appoint them to a job too far.
Lower Quinton, Warwickshire
Sir: Just to underline how much I disagree with the hand-me-down-titled Prince Charles Windsor, I shall tell my 11-year-old daughter tonight that, if she carries on comporting herself so well, I expect her to be the head of state of Great Britain in 40 to 50 years' time.
St Neots, Cambridgeshire
Sir: I agree with Emma Milne (letter, 15 November): why so many people insist on buying poor mutants of nature as pets when there are so many unwanted animals out there is beyond me.
Having a "pedigree" cat or dog is just about human vanity. Granted, not all pedigrees are unhealthy or have been messed about with. Many have, however, so much so that they not only look ludicrous, but are subjected to a life of discomfort; and it is thoroughly irresponsible to be encouraging people to go out and buy these sorts of breeds as pets. Instead we should be helping the public to take a more responsible and altruistic attitude to pet ownership by encouraging them to rescue rather than buy, neuter or spay their pets and educate themselves about the responsibilities, and privileges, of owning a pet.
The breeders who make a living from selling these breeds are profiting from the suffering of the animals and the ignorance of those who buy them.
Minister without nappies
Sir: Margaret Hodge's assertion that she entered politics as a break from "the boredom of nappy changing" (interview, 15 November) made me wonder if she is in the right job as Minister for Children.
Welton le Marsh, Lincolnshire
A great German
Sir: I'm not sure if Anne Frank was great, but she certainly wasn't Dutch ("Twenty genuine Dutch greats", 17 November). Anne was born in Frankfurt on 12 June 1929. Her father, Otto, was born in 1889, also in Frankfurt, and her mother, Edith, in Aachen in 1900. Both her parents belonged to well-established and respected German families. They left Germany to escape persecution. Otto moved to Amsterdam in summer 1933 followed by Edith and the two children the following winter.
Evolution towards what?
Sir: So, one reason early man adopted a standing posture was "to show off his penis in a mating display ... and evolution did the rest," says Terence Blacker ("Everyone has the walk they deserve", 16 November). It's times like this when I wonder - just for a minute - if the so-called creationists might have the edge on Darwinian theorists after all.
Sir: Jack Straw is to be congratulated for his frankness about his political trajectory (letter, 16 November). How many other old Stalinists are in government, and does this explain the New Labour approach to dissent?