Rafael Behr, brilliantly concise as ever, puts his finger on the central question: what can be done about hereditary inheritance and power (Politics Column, 21 February). But he doesn’t get his sociology quite right: there was no mass embourgeoisement from the Sixties onward, just a rise in wages up until 1976 (when inequality was at its lowest), after which there was mass unemployment and deindustrialisation, a decline in union power and the flatlining of ordinary people’s wages for the next 30 years.
After the Eighties, the rise in middle-class jobs started to decline and the panic about lack of social mobility began. The “equality of opportunity” mantra was exposed as the chimera it had always been; now, the chances of anyone of working-class origin getting to work on the Guardian are almost nil.
Ed Miliband says we must have more “predistribution”, which means capital must take less and workers get more. But how? Revolution, the Ukrainian solution?
Mehdi Hasan (Lines of Dissent, 21 February) quotes the US economist Dean Baker as referring to “nanny-state conservatives”.
Toryism, the hard-headed philosophy of survival of the fittest, has always been contemptuously dismissive of any interpretation of economic reality that is less harsh. So why now is the right prepared to bail out failed bankers,
failed train operators, 725 failed PFI contractors, and so on, as Hasan points out? Has the right become soft all of a sudden?
Soft-headed, yes. The right clings still to its post-imperial illusion of our eternal greatness as a nation. It does not accept that international competition has burst this bubble. It will not concede that the hard-headed philosophy of eternal growth has run its course.
Back in 1975 at the time of the UK referendum on Europe, I used to laugh at the arguments put forward by Marxists. They claimed that the construction of a continent-wide superstate would lead to a loss in democratic accountability, that neoliberal competition policies would make public ownership of key industries impossible, and that the wages of manual workers would be pushed down by the free movement of labour. I’m not laughing now (NS Essay, 21 February).
Your Leader (21 February) makes a number of lazy assumptions. First, why should Scotland need “permission” to use the pound? There are the precedents of a number of South American countries using the US dollar without a formal currency union. Second, you accept uncritically José Manuel Barroso’s assertion on Scotland’s position after independence. Finally, you lump together everyone who advocates independence as “nationalists”. Many of us are socialists and internationalists who despair of the present direction of the UK government.
Your cover (14 February) proclaims “The dawn of the Storm Age: why everyone is avoiding the obvious question about the floods”. The ensuing article then follows the same avoidance. The obvious question is: “What causes the floods?” The answer given, climate change, is only half the answer. We cause the floods. There are too many of us and we manage our landscapes, and much else, badly.
At last you mention the elephant in the room! In the four years in which I have been a subscriber, there has not been a smidgen of a mention of climate change, until the recent floods prompted your inescapable response.
In his review of Guy Cuthbertson’s Wilfred Owen, Rowan Williams (The Critics, 21 February) mentions only one predecessor to this new work; what he calls Jon Stallworthy’s “definitive biography” of 1974. He does not mention, or appears to be unaware of, the work of the leading Owen scholar of the past three decades, namely the late Dominic Hibberd.
I was very surprised by the letter from Faduma Elmi (Correspondence, 21 February) asking why the New Statesman does not have more black writers. I have been a reader for 50 years and have never wondered or cared about the ethnicity of NS writers but have believed in Martin Luther King’s dream that one day people will be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. Quite apart from this, only 3.5 per cent of the UK population is black, according to the 2011 census.
Bad Korea move
What insensitive timing it was for the NS to run John Pilger’s apologia for North Korea (World Citizen, 14 February).
On 18 February, that same week, a UN commission of inquiry led by the respected Australian former high court judge Michael Kirby released a 372-page report on crimes against humanity committed by the North Korean regime, which Kirby said were reminiscent of those perpetrated by the Nazis.