The Soul of Man Under Capitalism: NHS – Unwittingly Breeding Terrorism?

The Soul of Man Under Capitalism: NHS – Unwittingly Breeding Terrorism?

Missed this one, well worth a read.


The Left and Faith

Fotografía de Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, teólog...Image via Wikipedia

I know I shouldn’t but I take great delight in watching the rise in blood pressure that invariably develops amongst certain on the left whenever faith comes into the conversation. I’m reminded of the numerous occurrences from the Hammer films popular in my youth where Christopher Lee’s Dracula recoils from the crucufix or clove of garlic held aloft by Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. There is somethng about ‘faith’ that many have difficulty grasping, of seeing beyond their typecasting or negative preconceptions or even dare I say, bigotry.

There is a long and sweet history of faith working in the realms of the ‘left in the UK. We can look back to the radical christian and faith movements that flourished around the time of the English Civil War, to the reformers calling for the abolition of slavery, to emancipation, to relief for the poor, to housing and employment and trade unions. We can look to the almost remembered past where icons of the labour movement were driven, at least partly or initially by their faith in their desire to obtain justice for the workers and for the poor. Think Hardie, Lansbury, Mann and many others. In times not so long ago we have seen some influence of Liberation Theology and the Catholic Workers Association within the Catholic community. In today’s times we see the activities within the peace movement of many people who define themselves by their faith. And also in foreign climes people of faith have contributed to the struggle against oppression. Dorothy Day, Father Thomas Hagerty, Merino, Metz and Chavez spring to my mind.

This isn’t to say that we can make a statement along the lines of ‘faith = left’ as there are also many, many situations where the churches and those of faith have sided with the oppressors for their own ends or where their interpretation of theology leads to marginalisation and inequality. But as the church itself is not one politically homogeneous structure, neither is the left. Just as the church can act and appear in a variety of conflicting ways and thoughts so does the left. Just as the church and faith groups can cherry-pick their understanding of the activities of the left, so do those on the left allow their own prejudices to colour their view of the church and people of faith.

One thing which does concern me is the current opinion whereby faith is something that needs to be actively expunged from public view and life. Less of a case of freedom of religion and more along the lines of freedom from religion. The left itself in a worldwide view has been at the sharp end of oppressive governments and states where being seen as left-wing is a portent of the breaking down of a door and the sound of boots in the hallway before becoming one of the ‘disappeared’. Or where being seen on the left causes employment issues. We’ve seen this in the structure of the European Union where people who were previosuly part of the ‘Communist’ state establishment in former Warsaw Pact countries have been denied positions within the EU governmental framework. So I do get worried when I see the left in power denying people a public platform because of some perceived worldview that someone may have. We are all subject to our worldview being shaped both by what we believe, what personal philosopy or politic we hold to and what we are fed by the media. Not one of us has ever had a single thought that hasn’t been influenced somewhere along the line by our history, culture or personal experience.

But there are parties in existence where the ‘marxist’ left have become bed fellows with faith groups. Respect is one where the SWP have worked with muslim and other groups to form a political party of broad support that has had council success and put one MP into Parliament. We have seen in the recent Euro elections that the various factions and parties of the left have been unable to make a political breakthrough under their own steam. Low turnout and split votes have retained the dominance of the incumbent political parties. The best outcome for those of a progressive view in this political climate is through coalition and compromise. I think we have seen the first fruits of that, and my hope is that the left is a broad enough ‘church’ to encompass all groups that make up society without discrimiation along faith or religious lines.

A Voice of Reason II

WELLS, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09:  Harry Pa...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The last British survivor of the World War I trenches, Harry Patch, has died at the age of 111.

Mr Patch was conscripted into the Army aged 18 and fought in the Battle of Passchendaele at Ypres in 1917 in which more than 70,000 British soldiers died.

Something he said a few years ago is worth repeating.

Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn’t speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that, but still we send our lads to war. In Iraq, our young men are being killed and told to kill.

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The Future for Housing

Council houses at Hackenthorpe, South YorkshireImage via Wikipedia

Me and my wife tried to get a council house more than 20 years ago but were basically told that we haven’t a chance in hell. So we had to purchase in a completely new area as where we lived is considered an affluent area and house prices reflected this. Basically even with both working we couldn’t afford anything. We eventually moved about 18 miles away leaving family, friends and our roots.

Move forward a couple of years and we considered moving house. A visit to a mortgage broker exposed us to what I then saw as an unsustainable aspect of the housing market. House prices were high and the ability for many to meet the lenders requirements was becoming more difficult. The lenders couldn’t reduce their criteria any more than they had so they changed tack. We were offered what was called a ‘self-certificated’ mortgage. The upshot is that you lie through your teeth about how much you earn and then you lie lie about your ability to repay.

It was a way to artificially sustain the climb in house prices, and was a portent of the crisis to come.

Anyways, this leads to my thoughts about housing and what I’d like to see done.

For me housing is a basic human necessity and right. It’s a fundamental support for family and community cohesion. It’s too basic a need and too special to be treated as a commodity or a way of ‘making money’ and definitely shouldn’t have anything to do with the financial spivs and parasites. As such I think the profit motive associated with housing needs to be removed. But how?

Some thoughts:

  • remove the profit aspect through fiscal means, taxation etc
  • remove the house from the personal estate
  • bring all housing under ‘social’ control
  • allowing owners to transfer their house to the council and then rented back to them at sustainable rates
  • a massive drive in social housing construction to reduce the price of private property

Just pie in the sky thinking I expect. But it would be good to aim for something like this.

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Oh the irony!

LONDON - OCTOBER 09:  Prime Minister Gordon Br...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Looks like Prime Minister Brown and Justice Jack have sprayed themselves in a sticky dose of irony.

They plan to change the legal loophole where suspected war criminals and those accused of crimes against humanity before 2001 can remain at large in the UK and avoid prosecution.

Speaking at the press conference, the PM said:

My message to those accused is simply – your time is up. You may have run from responsibility but you can no longer hide from justice.

I look forward to the day when Blair, Brown, Straw and the myriad of other world neo-con leaders and hawks have those words come back to haunt them.

Unite the Union to call for Tube strike ballot

London Underground roundel logoImage via Wikipedia

Well we’ve had the RMT out on strike recently and now Unite which represents 600 engineering, electrical, and management workers employed by London Underground has today (Tuesday) decided to reject the employer’s ‘final’ pay offer.

The union will now be balloting it’s members with regards to what action to take next.

It will be interesting to see the response of the RMT with crossing picket lines. Can’t remember if Unite members respected the picket during the recent RMT action. Anyone know?

In 2008, job descriptions and salaries reveal that the average pay, benefits and bonuses of Transport for London (TfL) top management was £140,000. One hundred and twenty-three TfL managers earned more than £100,000 in 2007-08.

I hope that the wider union movement can counter the expected foaming at the mouth of the press and media. We need to make people understand that actions such as this are always in response to actions by the management and to put the focus where it belongs – with management and their constant moving of the goalposts and the race to the bottom whilst retaining and increasing their generous salaries and plush pension funds.

Pay Justice for Women Workers

Back in 1997 there were meetings between unions and local government representatives to discuss equal pay. The idea was to kickstart the process of ensuring everyone was paid an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work and the result was the single status agreement. But things didn’t go as quickly as planned. In 2003, six years after the initial meeting a revised deal was agreed with a deadline of 2007 to implement the agreement. Come 2007 only a third of councils had implemeted the equal pay agreements. Adding fuel to the fire there was an EU ruling in 2004 that the disparity could be back-dated up to 6 years allowing many people to claim this.

It’s now 2009 and in many councils the workers are still waiting to see the fruits of this agreement. But the councils would do well to view the recent tribunal outcome regarding Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.

BBC News

What the BBC don’t mention is that the council execs squandered over half a million quid trying to fight a legal requirement. And their response? Apologies for trying to defend immoral actions? Graciously accepting that they had been trying to keep the majority femaile workers on lower wages than they were legally entitled to? No, not a chance. Their attitude is that they expect the workers to pay. So says council chief Mark Sanders “Jobs will go – there’s no doubt about that,”.

Sound familiar? Those in authority cock things up, workers pay the price? Hmm, banking crisis anyone?

Anyways, congratulations to Unison for pushing this through. And shame on those councils and their leaders whose incompetence, stupidity, criminality, mysoginy and intransigence are creating a situation that is entirely their own creation. I hope the voters will be made aware come the local elections.