Letters

Submitted by AWL on 27 February, 2019 - 11:37

Janine′s article on “Neurodiversity, capitalism, and socialism” in Solidarity 494 was interesting and informative. I agree with most of what she advocates. However, I′d like to query her implication that “text-heavy” newspapers are no longer very important, and that alternative media (videos, meetings) can replace them.

Those other media can′t replace in-depth reading. Videos can and should play a useful supplementary role, and meetings are of course vital. Text allows for in-depth studying of topics in a way that is often much more difficult or impossible in other formats. Text-based material also has an advantage in its ability to be distributed hand-to-hand. The generally lower barriers to the production and distribution of leaflets, newspapers, and pamphlets make text a more democratic medium than video.

Being dyslexic or neurodivergent can make some things more difficult. Not attempting or encouraging people to attempt those more difficult things is sometimes not the best response. Sometimes adaptations we as a group can do can make activities easier, for example by making it easier to read it with a tinted background or particular fonts. We can support each other in using aides and developing techniques for reading and writing. Tinted overlays, reading guides and ergonomic pens can all be fashioned or aquired quite easily.

I am dyslexic, and a slower reader than many. At points I have struggled with attention span or felt daunted by the prospect of reading a long text in a limited time. There are techniques that can help many people to improve their reading speed. Taking breaks and reading in short intervals can help attention span. Perseverence, recognition of the importance of reading, and confidence in the usefulness of trying, can help.

I read and write significantly more than many of my non-dyslexic friends. In compensating for my ″disorganisation″, I have put a lot of effort into organisational techniques, and end up in some ways _more organised_ than many people who might ″naturally″ find it easier. Supporting and encouraging, where possible, people to work on reading is an emancipatory approach. We should aim to make audio recordings and other versions of our own texts and of many Marxist classics. But for the foreseeable future, a large proportion of the extremely extensive body of socialist and other thought will remain in text format.

Where possible, we should seek not to be simply ″gatekeepers″, providing individuals with access to certain content. We should seek to empower them to be able to freely engage in the body of thought as a whole. For some individuals this is not possible, or not possible as a first step. We should aim to support them as far as possible.

Mike Zubrowski, Bristol

No vote for Sanders!

The justification for voting for the Labour Party has always existed: its trade union links, mechanisms of accountability (however eroded), and the particular history of the UK (with no mass socialist or communist party), giving Labour a working-class base of activists and voters. That remained true even under the successively right-wing leaderships of Wilson, Kinnock and Blair. It was always a workers’ party of some kind. Of the most degraded kind to be sure, but the fact remains: it is a bourgeois workers’ party. No such justification exists for the US Democrats.

Its only link to the unions is the demand for money. It is unsurprising that people who joined Labour because of Corbyn drew the conclusion that the only thing that matters is electing a left-wing leadership, no matter the class make-up of the party or its programme.

If Bernie Sanders wins the presidential nomination for the US Democrats (as he has just announced his intention to do), many of those people will argue it is suddenly warranted to vote for the Democrats. These people have drawn the wrong conclusions about how revolutionaries should relate to fundamentally different types of parties.

The most pressing political task for the American working class remains the building of an independent workers’ party, not sowing illusions in the left wing of the US ruling class. I still maintain the same logic applies to the French presidency, and calling for a vote for Macron was deeply mistaken.

KM, south London

Ilhan Omar: the main thing in our statement was missed

Thanks to Barry Finger for citing the statement “Defend Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib” by the Solidarity (US) [no relation] steering committee in your 20 February (Solidarity 496) issue. Our statement is posted here and I encourage comrades to read it – including Barry, who apparently missed one of the main points.

We pointed out that Rep. Omar was mistaken a few years back when she tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized” US and world political leaders. Quite the contrary, US imperialism has a bipartisan eyes-wide-open policy of partnership with the Israeli state in the interests of its global empire (please read Jeff Halper’s book, War Against the People. Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification, Pluto Press, 2015, on this absolutely central point.)

I’m sure that Barry Finger is in agreement on this issue. Surprisingly for a US observer, however, he dismisses the real, vicious and intimidating impact of AIPAC, and other Zionist lobby outfits like Campus Watch and Canary Mission, on US political discourse and in terrorising Palestine solidarity activism. AIPAC is a profoundly poisonous influence in American politics, even though it is not ultimately decisive in the formulation of imperialist policy. The existence of actual antisemitism in US life is undeniable, but quite small in comparison to the Islamophobia and anti-Arab vilification that AIPAC and the rest of the Zionist lobby, above all the huge Christian Zionist movement here, feeds on. That’s why we emphasise that the attacks on Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are not a one-off thing.

They will only intensify as the USA enters our unbearably long electoral season. The left needs to be vigilant about antisemitism and all manner of retrograde expressions, but we need to be clear about “keeping the main thing the main thing,” as a popular saying has it.

David Finkel, Solidarity-U.S.

Comments

Submitted by Janine on Thu, 28/02/2019 - 22:40

I agree with the main thrust of what Mike writes, and would agree with it as a critique of my article if I had actually argued what he claims that I did. But I didn't. My article argued that "We can not just rely on a text-heavy newspapers any more." I didn't write that reading text is not important, and I certainly didn't argue that other media could replace newspapers. Mike partly acknowledges this by stating that my article 'implied' this rather than claiming that it actually argued it. But this is not my article's implication; it is Mike's interpretation. Unfortunately, Mike misinterprets a specific point I made about reliance on text-heavy newspapers as a general opposition to long texts.

As someone who has written several books, it would be odd indeed if I were arguing against reading long texts. But newspapers - which are designed to be read and thrown away in a short period of time - are not the most effective format for long texts. More durable pamphlets, journals and books are better. Text-heaviness can also be usefully lightened by illustrations, readable layout, clear writing and division into chunks.

Moreover, I think that Mike is simply wrong to state that there are greater barriers to producing and distributing videos than to producing and distributing newspapers. Two hundred thousand videos are uploaded to YouTube every day. A huge number of them are made by rank amateurs with basic equipment at practically no cost. They are instantly visible to anyone in the world, and can be promoted and shared much more easily than a newspaper can.

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