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As a reader and subscriber to PN since the 1930s, and as one of the founders of the Scott Bader Commonwealth – totally engaged since the end of the Second World War in working to demonstrate a living, economic way of working life beyond capitalism, I found Lucy Lant’s letter and the editor’s reply (PN 2542) deeply challenging and enormously relevant.
[The Scott Bader Commonwealth was established in 1951, when Ernest Bader gave the company to its workforce. Today, Scott Bader is an £180m chemical firm, employing 560 people worldwide, with no external shareholders. – Eds]
In our Commonwealth, we have both ‘crucified the covenant’ on the way and practised ‘modified capitalism’ to keep it alive. But we did not give up and accept capitalism like 98% of Quaker initiated companies have done, go half-way like the John Lewis Partnership, or sell out and fund a research association on the problem! – we took ‘practical action’ (and were fortunate to have had Fritz Schumacher as a trustee).
We have been recognised recently by a forward-looking academic for creating less ‘moral debt’ than capitalism. Yet Lucy is absolutely right and even Time printed a comment: ‘Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find.’ But who or what is going to stop it? Only sufficient worldwide understanding of the crisis. We know simply electing managers is not enough.
Well, I agree with everything Lucy Lant (PN 2542) says about climate change and most of what she says about capitalism, but I can’t understand why much of the environmental movement ignores the role of those officially communist countries which are at least as exploitative of the environment and its natural resources.
Yes I know they are not genuinely socialist but they certainly wouldn’t call themselves capitalist and China, to take the worst example, is responsible for huge and increasing environmental depredation. To focus just on capitalism over this issue is lazy thinking. The real enemy is the consumerist lifestyle that the west has held up as the acme of “civilisation” and which developing countries, understandably, want to copy.
Many thanks for your letters, Godric and Helen. To clarify, the suggestion we made was that making managers democratically-elected by their workers would be a radical reform, helpful along the way to a truly humane society. We did not mean to suggest that this would be, all by itself, a solution to the crises that confront us. As for the Western consumerist lifestyle, that is indeed damaging both to the planet and to our selves. But as long as corporations continue to be enormously powerful private empires, largely outside democratic control, they will pose a threat both to ecological sustainability and to human freedom, whatever kind of lifestyle we ordinary citizens lead. As for countries like China, they could fairly be described as forms of state capitalism, where the state is the owner and manager, lording it over disempowered workers. – Eds
Lucy Lant (PN 2542) argues that capitalism must be overthrown hook, line and sinker on the grounds that ameliorating – such as increasing social/economic equality – can only sustain its cancerous growth. PN editors give a convincing answer (we should prioritise government’s actions in helping environmental and tax issues), which seems to me the best way forward.
There is one PN viewpoint I would like to question. That is the argument against western involvement in Afghanistan. As a peace-activist, I sympathise with campaigns against warmongering, but I do question whether ‘our’ involvement in Afghanistan should be seen as a military invasion. I have read reports from Afghan women on their relief from Taliban oppression when western forces have helped them access human rights. I wonder what Maya Evans would say on this question. And Guy Smallman.
I would like to respond to John Taylor’s letter (PN 2542). It is an important point well made and not the first (or probably the last) time that there has been a call for CND to “stick to its own nuclear remit.” In fact we discuss just this point frequently at CND Officers meetings and CND Council. In October last year there was even a resolution on this topic put to our annual conference. As part of the discussion – unfortunately limited by time – it was emphasised that well over 90% of CND work is firmly focussed on the UK Trident nuclear weapons system.
Sometimes there are obvious links between our campaign and others – eg the war on Iraq and the threat of war against Iran. At other times the connections may not be quite so obvious.
As such, we are always aware of the intricate links with other ‘peace movement’ issues and campaigns – such as stop the war, the arms trade, global poverty, oppression, etc. While not wanting to lose focus on nuclear weapons we do often make the links with these, partly because we want to emphasise the connections and invite people to join with us on our issues but also because that’s what many of our members are also involved with anyway.
It seems from his letter that John Taylor’s overriding concern was that CND’s work should not lose or dilute its powerful anti-nuclear weapons message. All I can say is that we will continue to lead the campaign for national and global nuclear disarmament as well and as effectively as we can.
With reference to the letter critical of CND published in your last issue (PN 2542), I think it a pity that the writer was not present at our last national conference where the whole matter was debated.
A motion which sought to limit CND to its core issues was on the agenda but found support from no-one except the mover!
In practice, if we are to achieve a nuclear-free world we cannot ignore Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Palestine, etc. Neither should we ignore risks arising from nuclear power.
As for London’s public forum last November, I think it no bad thing if the speaker expressed a controversial point of view – much better than being bland and soporific, I’d say. Our principle has always been to welcome all points of view and I trust that we can continue in this spirit.
When we read the editorial and coverage of the anniversary of 11 September 2001 in Peace News, we decided not to renew our subscription. Having read all David Ray Griffin’s books we felt the coverage of the anniversary of 11 September in Peace News was lacking in balance, one-sided and inaccurate. It has made us doubt the balance given to other issues in which we are not so well-informed. Sadly we no longer trust the content and regret we will not be subscribing in future.
We’re sorry to see you go, Geoff and Eleanor. There’s certainly a range of views about the 9/11 attacks within activist circles. The position of Peace News as a paper is that we do not believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by the US government through controlled explosions, and we do not believe that the US government fired a missile at the Pentagon and got hundreds of people to lie that it was a 747. More importantly, we believe that the circular debates around 9/11 take much-needed time, energy and resources from other valuable campaigns.
As long-time subscribers to PN, we’re sending you our feedback on how much we like the new layout. It has more immediacy, being similar in some aspects to PN’s earlier ‘newspaper’ layout – but more spaced out than I remember the earlier PN and having colour right through the paper brings attention to the articles.
It’s easier to read the longer articles when they’re set out like this. We particularly liked the David Polden and Medea Benjamin articles.