Democracy in the workplace is important
Former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin Yifu's book, The Quest for Prosperity, reviewed by Clive Crook ("A middle way around the economic errors of the past", December 24) suggests that the "structuralism" of the Soviet Union failed because of "isolation from global markets".
American economist Richard Wolff and others suggest that a much greater force was at work.
The Soviets failed to resolve the central conflict between workers and their employers.
As in capitalism, the surpluses created by workers were appropriated and distributed by others, in this case party leaders and the apparatchiks of government. It was a kind of state capitalism.
No matter what "reforms" or "structures" are put in place, capitalists and party leaders use the great profits created by the labour of others to unravel them and reduce wages and taxes.
This creates an endless cycle of regulation and deregulation, booms and busts.
US president Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his New Deal reforms of the 1930s, put a "bulletproof" structure in place. This eventually created the highest growth rate and standard of living in history.
American workers had enjoyed rising wages for over 100 years because of a shortage of labour.
That came suddenly to an end in the 1970s with the arrival of automation, immigration, women entering the workplace, and shifting jobs overseas.
In 1947, Congress, in the Taft-Hartley Act, dismantled much of the labour reforms of Roosevelt.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in a rising tide of neo-liberalism, began dismantling his banking reforms. In the 1990s, president Bill Clinton, pressured by business, completed that job (with the partial repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act).
The great recession of 2008 is what happens after 30 years of stagnant wages.
Failure to address the conflict of the workplace degrades democracy itself. People spend most of their lives at work. Democracy in government without democracy at work is hardly any democracy at all.
The solution is not more regulation or state intervention but in the democratising of the workplace. Let the workers run the business. It deserves a try.
William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau
Unfair analysis of Hinduism and women
The gang rape of the woman in Delhi on a bus deserves to be severely condemned and the rapists ought to be handed the maximum sentence possible.
Like all Indians, I support all the protests that are taking place against this horrific incident. However, I am deeply offended by Priya Virmani's attempts to link India's Hindu religion as the prime cause for the implied inferior status of women in India ("A real shame", December 29).
Which of the world's major religions are female-centric? Actually, Hinduism is the only religion where God is worshipped in both male and female forms. Ms Virmani writes: "Hindu goddesses … are not glorified for being lodestars of standalone identities".
North India's most visited pilgrimage site is Vaishno Devi, which attracts 10 million pilgrims annually. The central deity of the temple is dedicated to the goddess Vaishno Devi.
Navaratri/Durga Puja is a celebration where only the goddess is worshipped. In some states, such as West Bengal, Gujarat and the Punjab, this is the most important festival for Hindus.
Shaktism, one of the integral parts of Hinduism, regards the Mother Goddess as the supreme, ultimate Godhead.
She is considered to be the source of all creation. Can any parallel be found in any other religion?
Haresh Khushi, Tsim Sha Tsui
Diaoyu Islands activists were out of order
Last month, two members of Hong Kong's Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands were briefly detained by police in Tokyo.
They intended to protest at the Yasukuni Shrine.
The two activists presumably entered Japan as tourists, but their purpose was to carry out political activities.
No one would deny them freedom of expression and many Hongkongers would agree with their views on this issue. But they could have protested here. Instead, they chose to attract media attention by attempting to incite the Japanese in their own country at their war shrine.
I find it despicable that they exploited the visa-on-arrival system to enter Japan for political ends. They could have put at risk the easy access that applies to Hong Kong citizens visiting Japan.
Tokyo will not rescind this privilege as it does not want to raise tensions. However, what right do people have visiting another country in order to pick a fight?
Also, if more people follow the example of these activists, will the Japanese have second thoughts about keeping the present visa system in place for Hong Kong citizens wishing to visit the country?
What the two activists did was in bad taste and I think it hurt Hong Kong's international image.
Leung Ka-kit, Yau Tsim Mong
Pressure an integral part of school system
A number of correspondents have questioned Hong Kong's education system and asked if pressure in the classroom produces good students. I think young people do benefit from being put under this kind of pressure.
In a school where they are given a lot of tests, they soon come to realise that they can only get good results if they study hard and, if they don't, they will graduate with inadequate qualifications.
Although they may sometimes feel stressed and tired, they realise that they will do well if they persevere.
I think learning to deal with this kind of pressure can help students to be more successful in an academic environment.
If they do badly in a test or exam then, under the present system, they will hopefully try harder next time.
The school system that exists here and the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education have resulted in a lot of students making it to university and this is an indication that it works.
Schools, which have a more relaxed set-up and have fewer tests, may make pupils feel more relaxed and under much less pressure, but I would doubt if they can perform as well academically.
The phrase "no pain, no gain" does make sense and applies to Hong Kong's school system and to the Diploma of Secondary Education.
Iris Chan, Sheung Shui
Workers at risk in many factories
China's overworked migrant labourers suffer from many health problems.
Many are forced to work in factories with old and poorly maintained machines where there is very little training and no safety supervision.
Accidents are inevitable and in some cases serious, with some employees even losing limbs. And afterwards they might find it difficult to get money from the factory owners or managers for the medical treatment they need.
Clearly, many factories on the mainland are unsafe.
The central government must understand that ensuring workers are looked after is important if the country is to develop.
More health and safety laws, which can be enforced, must be put in place to protect factory employees and ensure they get proper medical care if they are hurt.
Wong Tsz-sin, Tsuen WanTopics: Democracy Capitalism Hinduism women rights Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands Territorial Disputes Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Migrant Workers Factory Worker