Letters

Submitted by AWL on 1 May, 2019 - 12:44

One of the people who joined us on our 18 April protest at the Israeli Embassy against Netanyahu’s plan to annex Area C on the West Bank queried some of the text on our leaflet.

She didn’t dispute that the “right of return” to Israel of all six million descendants of the 1947-9 refugees is neither workable nor just (since it could not happen without the conquest and displacement of the Israeli Jews). But, she said, we should uphold the “right of return” *to the West Bank*.

Part of the call for a real independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is a demand for that state to have sovereignty over its borders. No special “return” slogan is necessary: the state would surely extend rights of citizenship to the Palestinian diaspora, and welcome scattered Palestinians who want to come back to their ancestral land.

That’s good. But “return”— promoted by Arab states by decades, by much of the Western left today, and by Hamas has always been a demand to repossess what is now Israel — to reverse the outcome of the 1948 war.

Between 1948 and 1967, the West Bank was annexed by Jordan, and any of the Palestinians living in Jordan (today about 3.2 million, of whom 2.2 million are UNRWA-registered refugees, some 370,000 in camps) could easily move to the West Bank. None saw moving to the West Bank as “return”. 800,000 of the 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank are registered refugees, 200,000 in camps. An independent Palestinian state would bring great improvement, but it would not be “return”.

We can’t win the argument against Hamas by pretending that we have a similar slogan to them, only in a tweaked version.

Rhodri Evans, London

Physics, maths and telos

Continuing my dissection of Martin Thomas on Aristotle and Hegel (Solidarity 499) — he says, “quarks, as far as we know, do not go through ‘stages of development’.”

Now, strange though they are, it is self evident that they have “become” fundamental to the constitution of the sub-atomic particles necessary for the existence of neutrons and electrons. That will do for me.

Since we are talking about physical fundamentals, let’s remind ourselves of the relevance of this to Marx and Aristotle. Marx’s Doctoral Dissertation is an exhaustive discussion on the “atomic” theory of the Greeks.

He is exploring a “categorical mistake” made by the Greek Democritus and his many followers, that the world is governed by atoms in motion. The argument ends with Marx agreeing with Aristotle that the large parts of reality we are concerned with, the physical, living and social worlds, are composed of entities which are not reducible to smaller, simpler bits of reality. There is no explanatory power in saying everything is made of atoms in motion, or quarks.

This principle applies to entities making up bigger entities too. So you cannot reduce history and society to simple aggregates of individual humans. You need the categories of class, state money, market etc. A stomach cannot come into being as an isolated organ. It is “organically” inseparable from a whole with a necessary line of development (Telos) and function (Ergon).

Division of labour, exchange, commodity, trade, money, capital and state are a line of necessity, a coming-into-being. This is humanity’s Telos, that is the realisation of the social nature of humanity as it transcends animality, domination by nature, domination by economic forces, and slavery to class

I think a possible confusion here may stem from Martin’s references to “‘emergent’ patterns of development of very large systems...”. I’m assuming this is about structures and events emerging from randomness over time, complexity etc.

This is of mathematical and statistical interest and of course, lays the material foundation for the emergence of something completely different and more interesting, the coming-into-being of entities.

Martin also says: “Numbers don’t develop”. Consider that numbers are not entities and that mathematics is not an entity. Both are formal systems of logic.

The world is not mathematical. It lends itself to mathematical description and abstraction because there is “lawfulness” in nature, but that is not reducible to mathematics or formal logic. Unless you’re Plato or Hegel.

Grey... grey is theory. Green... green is the tree of life!

Paul Cooper, south London

Economic and ideological

Much of what Todd Hamer (Solidarity 500) reveals is plausible in uncovering the connections between economic inequality and mental health disorders that are widespread in capitalist society, such as anxiety and depression.

However I don’t believe this is the whole story. Other “ideological” factors come into play.

I could use myself as an example, though it is a moot point whether or not it is the best approach to move from the particular to the general.

It became clear to me when the fog of misery had cleared that the root cause of the “psychotic” disorder I had fallen into in my late teens was double-edged.

Growing up in a working class family with expectations of bourgeois normality and masculinity, I was crippled by the fear of being discovered a sexual pervert coupled with an aversion to making any form of sexual contact with other males. It didn’t help that one of my sisters was a lesbian and one of my brothers was gay.

Hence compounded secretiveness under a domineering older brother who acted like a controlling patriarch in place of an absent father added to the frigid zone of cold deception, evasion and alienation.

Had we been living in a society that was more accepting of homosexuality, none of this mental disruption and social dislocation would have happened. In other words ideological oppression in the shape of bourgeois expectations of normality played the major part here, rather than any considerations arising from income or status inequality.

There are many other cases of people considered to be “mad” because they do not conform to the social role or emotional route assigned to them by bourgeois convention, or because of the twisted and contradictory parental signals on how to live a normal, respectable life. This could range from the woman who found marriage unsatisfactory because her husband did not measure up to marital expectations of love and affection that he promised her, to the child who defied his parents by simply not doing their bidding as a “good” child should.

My own non-conformity to bourgeois norms were apparent in some of the findings of the MMPI test for psychological disorders. Apart from establishing how miserable I was (self-evident), these included the very unmasculine traits of having a “basic interest pattern in the direction of the opposite sex. He is tender minded and nonaggressive, preferring poetry to sporting activities”.

Add to that the fact that I was “imaginative, creative, unconventional and an individualist” and capable of “unusual thoughts and sometimes preoccupied with abstract ideas”, and you have a shopping list of forbidden fruit disallowed in a capitalist-bourgeois system or at the very least frowned upon.

Women, BAME, and LGBT+ people are disproportionately affected by mental illness because of bourgeois normativity, as in racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

Ian Townson, south London

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