Don't Be Too Quick to Blame It All on Marx

Regarding the editorial ``Marx Flunks Out,'' Dec. 4: I find somewhat parochial and simplistic the continual hubris that socialism (communism, Marxist-Leninism, fill in the blank) has proven an irrelevant failure and is headed toward the ``trash-bin of history.'' This position conveniently ignores that: (1) Marx's theory and philosophy were based on conditions present at the turn of the century, and history cannot be condemned simply because it appears less applicable in 1990; (2) The benefits of socialism cannot be rejected just because totalitarian governments which called themselves socialist are dissolving - in fact, Czechoslovakia and other East European countries appear likely to include strong and popular ``democratic socialist'' parties; (3) Most economic/political systems, including our own, encompass both capitalist (privatelyowned for individual profit) and socialist (publicly owned and/or funded) components - highway systems, welfare/medicare, national forests, the defense industry; and, (4) We'd be the snake oil salesman calling the bandit crooked if we pretend the ``free market'' is the sole guarantor of freedom, decency, and social harmony.

Let's go beyond nationalistic economic partisanship with our own perestroika by incorporating what is productive and fair in all models for organizing society. A world order based on scientific knowledge, humanitarian principles, and international law isn't such a bad idea. Tom Dudley Tempe, Ariz.

Is it because of Marxism that millions of people are starving or living in abject poverty in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa? Is it because of Marxism that the greenhouse effect is literally wrecking the planet, or private corporations are getting away with mass murder by lethally polluting and damaging our biosphere? Is it because of Marxism that people sleep on grates in the dark shadows of the White House while a president's personal friends feast on the billions poured out from HUD? Is it because of Marxism that millions are injecting dangerous drugs into their bodies to escape the utter futility of living a life based on money and power? There are the questions we should ask before setting ourselves up as the model for all to follow. Roger Lafontaine Williams, Calif.

Fighting Tyranny at the Ballot Box In his column ``Vote for Democracy, Not Incumbency,'' Rushworth Kidder writes: ``First there is the damaging effect of extended incumbency. Carried to its extreme, it breeds tyranny.''

The fundamental rule governing elections is ``let the best man win.'' If the incumbent is that man, and is barred from re-election by such a law, the results may also be tyrannical. Tyranny really results from the destruction of our Bill of Rights. This destruction is now taking place because the public isn't interested in choosing the best man, incumbent or otherwise. We need more discussion of our Bill of Rights. Such emphasis is the best defense against tyranny from entrenched power, or tyranny from newly elected officials. Louis R. Henry Watertown, Mass.

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