Issue 176 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 1994 Copyright © Socialist Review


Helter skelter

While I agree with much of Dave Beecham's analysis on Italy (May SR), he concludes his article by stating that 'people can be won to fight back and build the socialist organisation that is so badly needed'. Yet he misses the point. What sort of socialist organisation? How is it to be organised and built?

If one looks at the history of the Italian left, particularly post-1968, we find a revolutionary left founded on a curious mixture of Guevarism, Maoism and orthodox Trotskyism. Organisations such as Lotta Continua and Avanguardia Operaia had become by the 1970s the largest revolutionary organisations in Europe. But they failed to realise their potential. They failed to break the influence of the Italian Communist Party over the organised working class. Consequently, the Communist Party succeeded in isolating them.

They offered Maoism as an alternative to Stalinism, which led to disillusion when the reality of Mao's Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot's Cambodia came to light. They developed a fatally short term perspective, which effectively led to the collapse of their organisation by the end of the 1970s.

What remains of the post-1968 left in Italy today is fragmented, demoralised and, speaking from personal observation, unable to relate to a new generation who want to fight and are looking for an alternative. It is partly because of the historic failure of the revolutionary left in the 1970s that, in the present crisis, the youth vote in a city like Milan swung dramatically to the Northern League and in Rome to the fascist MSI.

The conclusion to be drawn is that: firstly, the old post-1968 left in Italy is unequal to the challenges the left faces; secondly, socialist organisation has to be rebuilt from scratch; and thirdly, in the present helter skelter situation, people can turn dramatically to the left--there is no time to despair!
Gianfranco Sinha

Child abuse: it's not the norm

Richard Purdie (April SR), rightly argues that children are oppressed--an important point, and one often overlooked by socialists. I think he contradicts himself though when he argues that we should be in favour of a legal age of sexual consent because it regulates 'sexual access to children'.

The logic of his argument seems to suggest that without consent laws every adult would be abusing every child. Capitalism distorts sexuality, as it does all relationships, but abuse is the exception rather than the norm. Sex is a commodity, stacked on the shelves next to the baked beans, so as it's possible to steal beans it is possible to steal sex. It is rare though that someone's sexuality is so distorted that they steal sex and when this is the case the law is not the main deterrent.

Young people want to experiment sexually but they don't look to adults in this process of discovery, rather they look to people of their own age. Removing the age of consent not only decriminalises many young people but it takes away some of the guilt surrounding sex.

Ultimately only socialism will free us of oppression and allow us to express our sexuality, but in the meantime why punish the people whose rights you champion, Richard?

By taking away the age of consent at least one part of the guilt surrounding sex will be removed.
Julia Nawrocha

Better than nothing

The four letters in May's Socialist Review vividly show the abuses of psychiatry ranging from its repressive ideology, the class and racial bias, to the abuses of drugs. After working in psychiatry for 14 years I could name many more examples.

However, it is a mistake for socialists to take a pure anti-psychiatry position. It is like being anti-teacher or anti social worker and dismissing completely the limited amount of caring these workers are able to carry out.

Dileep Bagnall calls all workers in psychiatry 'agents of social control for the ruling class'. Presumably all SWP nurses had better shoot themselves!

To take this position echoes how the left helped close the mental hospitals of Italy, and how the 'do-gooding' left of Britain, most of whom had never spent time in an institution, welcomed the Tories' money saving closure programme.

The argument went, 'psychiatry is bad--we're better off without it.' Tell that to the thousands of ex-patients wandering the streets and dying in various ways in their hundreds. Tell it to the families of the 40 or so patients who killed themselves after Torbay closed its acute unit a few years ago.

Working in a mental hospital caused me to become a socialist. There is no contradiction if you realise that even 'good psychiatry' can only help the odd individual in our sick world.
Stephen Arthur

The same old story

Many thanks for publishing the TalkBack feature. The rearranged application for leave to appeal went down in May. It was the same old story and the application was refused. The judges were not interested in the 'Archway' but kept harping on about 'Gartree'.

My brother had about 300 copies of the TalkBack feature made, and him and my friends leafletted Holborn and the Strand with them.

The fight goes on and I am now about to lodge the case with the European Commission. Nuala Mole of Advice on Individual Rights in Europe is to discuss with Justice about the best way forward for taking the Archway case before the European courts.
Andy Russell(JA0233)
Full Sutton Jail(SSU)
York Y04 1PS

If you would like to write to Andy or help with his campaign write to him at the above address.

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