Nick Clegg says Lib Dem-Labour coalition possible

Seems Nick Clegg is touting his party round looking for another host to latch onto.

I wonder what the Labour leader’s response will be?

Ed MacDonald, or was it Ramsay Miliband?

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Sacco and Vanzetti

August 22nd or 23rd of August 1927 the US State murdered Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

“Did you see what I did to those anarchist bastards?”

– Presiding Judge Webster Thayer

Read more at libcom.org, and also at http://saccoandvanzetti.org

And here’s a great version of the song Sacco and Vanzetti by David Rovics.

Authored by Chris Hall

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Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed (or MPs Pay)

4. Independent Parliamentary Standards Authori...
4. Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority take part in welcoming and briefing New Members (Photo credit: UK Parliament)

Can you believe the arrogance of it?

Give MPs a pay rise or risk another expenses scandal, says IPSA chief

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10161649/Give-MPs-a-pay-rise-or-risk-another-expenses-scandal-says-Ipsa-chief.html

So says the well paid Chief of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, ‘Sir’ Ian Kennedy.

Here’s a third option: Pay MPs the average working wage and let them truly be representative of those whom they represent, not the swivel eyed, money trousering, big business arse licking career politicos that a lot of them are and aspire to be.

My Old Bloggings

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair was...
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair was subjected to calls for impeachment during his time in office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Looking at the wayback archive I can find my earliest bloggings back in 28th April 2001. Was coding everything by hand, not much in terms of blogging platforms that took my fancy.

Some things don’t change! I was banging on about Blair back then, as well as slavery, liberals and animal welfare.

26 Apr 2001Bribe
Tony Blair promised bonds for each child born if Labour is returned to power. Have you ever seen such blatant electioneering? I just can’t believe that a government would have the front to trot out ‘policies’ like this just before a general election. they should be ashamed of themselves. I used to be a Labour party memeber back in the early 80’s. How things have changed. Power is everything for Tony and his cronies now. Bring back Michael Foot!
13 Apr 2001Sudan
Check the national and international papers. The government in Sudan is still encouraging the slave trade. They are allegedly supplying weapons to the Arab traders who raid the Southern Sudan and bring back captives. We’ve come a long way since Christ was crucified, died and rose again. Or have we? Hmm..
01 Apr 2001BBC
The atheists and trendy liberals at the BBC have struck again! They’ve just broadcast the first part of a series looking at the life of Jesus. Apparently they’ve removed references to the establishment of God’s Kingdom cos it may offend the Jews. Uh? Not content with that they are using the programme to rationalise the miraculous. Still, what can you expect from a Religious Affairs department who have constantly blocked attempts by christian broadcasters to gain a licence for a national Christian radio station.
28 Mar 2001Animal Welfare
Am I the only one who thinks that we’ve lost the plot when it comes to the husbandry and welfare of the animals we have been given for our food?
I believe we pay far too little for our meat and dairy products. I can buy a whole chicken in the supermarket for less than a fiver. I believe that the supermarkets, farmers, distributors etc have to make a profit, so ask yourself the question, where’s the squeeze being put? On the care and welfare of the animal of course.
I pray we get real about the resources that God has given us.

The General Election

So Gordo’s set the date, the media has gone into a frenzy and already I’m bored. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s the cult of celebrity and the media will be spinning out of control to bring us the ‘character’ of the party leaders. Truth is, I don’t care. It’s a turn-off. But the media really has no choice, as Neil Clark says on his blog:

For the sad truth is that the vote on May 6 will be the most meaningless poll in modern British political history.

In a country which takes great pride in its ‘democratic’ credentials, and which sees its divine mission as spreading ‘democracy’ across the globe, the British voter will be presented with a choice of three main parties advocating almost identical policies on the most important issues of the day.

You have it there, no difference except by degree. All the major parties are cooking from the same menu which is giving me indigestion. For the past 15 years there has been a powerful clique in Labour working to disengage the party from it’s socialist roots. Can it ever recover? I don’t know. But it’s present policies are nothing compared to what Labour should be coming out with.

Disarmament
Nationalisation
Control of the nation’s infrastructure
Rebuilding our manufacturing base
An end to our foreign adventures
Building a representative Parliament
Increased public spending
Putting the blame for the financial crisis where it belongs
Tackling inequality and encouraging diversity
Repealing anti Trade Union laws
Rolling back Thatcherism and free reign capitalism
Higher taxation
Plugging the tax loopholes that the rich enjoy

Drop those policies in my lap and you have my vote. Come to me with spin and fake tan and you know where to stick it.

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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.

Faith, Socialism and the Left

One thing I notice whilst trawling through the blogs of what I generally term as the ‘left’ is the high incidence of disdain that a number have for faith. This disdain ranges from a ‘bah, humbug’ attitude to a more confrontational approach, even through to what I see as an aggressive, almost childish attitude.

So why is this? What causes people to take this attitude?

Actually, I’ve just asked a question that has as many answers as there are people!

So perhaps a detour is in order, one which has a quick shufty at the history of the radical left of faith and how their faith exhibits itself in action and in the wider labour movement. Being English I’ll (mainly) limit it to the radical English Christian tradition. And seeing as this is a blog post and not a small book we’ll just run over some of the key characters and organisations, their footprint and influence. I’m also not an encyclopaedia or an expert in history, so a lot of what I have posted is only my knowledge and experience. Mind you, this could end up as rambling rubbish!

Going back a few centuries we come across John Ball, having something of a part to play in the Peasant’s Revolt. Excommunicated by the church and finally executed when the establishment extracted revenge upon those involved. Famous for his sermon to the revolters at Blackheath, the famous section was

When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the Gentleman?” From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.

Rolling forward a few years to the time of the English Civil War we have the emergence of a plethora of radical traditions and maybe the first mass movement of people out from he control of the established church. We can label these under the title of ‘English Dissenters‘.

Perhaps the most famous figure in this era is Gerrard Winstanley. Winstanley argued that all land belonged to the community rather than to separate individuals. In January, 1649, he published the The New Law of Righteousness. In the pamphlet he wrote:

“In the beginning of time God made the earth. Not one word was spoken at the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another, but selfish imaginations did set up one man to teach and rule over another.”

Compare that with what John Ball had written and you see the continuation of a tradition formed from a radical understanding of scripture. Winstanley also established a group called the Diggers. In April 1649 Winstanley, William Everard, a former soldier in the New Model Army and about thirty followers took over some common land on St George’s Hill in Surrey and “sowed the ground with parsnips, carrots and beans.”

Winstanley was looking for a redistribution of land from those who had to those who had none. In 1652 he published the Law of Freedom. In this he expounded a view that officals should be in office for no more than a year and also for a society without money or wage,

“The earth is to be planted and the fruits reaped and carried into barns and storehouses by the assistance of every family. And if any man or family want corn or other provision, they may go to the storehouses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in summer, or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers, and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money.”

A good review is here. Two books I can recommend reading which cover this period are The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution by Christopher Hill and The Law of Freedom’ and Other Writings by Gerrard Winstanley, compiled by Christopher Hill.

Moving on a bit we come to the 19th Century and some people of faith who had a great deal of input into fledgeling labour movements.

Keir Hardie, evangelist, trade union leader, first secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, member of the Independent Labour Party, member of the Labour Representation Committee and ultimately the leader of the Labour Party.

Tom Mann, socialist, communist, trade unionist, founder of the Eight Hour League and Anglican. His writings regarding the church and social justice at the Marxist Internet Archive are worth a look. If anyone has any more information on Mann’s Anglicanism throughout his life I’d be very interested!

Slightly off track to the USA with The Reverend Friar Thomas J. Hagerty, a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Suspended by his Archbishop because of his agitation in encouraging strike action, he never let that get in the way of his consideration of himself as a priest. Famous words:

“The Ballot Box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation of the working class, and in my opinion it never will.”

Hewlett Johnson. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read about the activities of Hewlett Johnson. Radical but of limited effect, but interesting nonetheless. He is also known by the title of the ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’. Best known for his unwavering support of the Russian Revolution and of the resultant Soviet Union itself. More info at the Marxist Internet Archive.

I think that’ll do for now but the question still remains. Given the outworkings of radical faith in socialism and communism in centuries past, given the commitment of recent christians to furthering the lot of the working man, given the workings of the church through concepts such as liberation theology, why do many on the left have such issues with faith? Or is it that so many of faith have issues with the left? Or perhaps the answer is found in the works of Marx and Engels?

My Inspiration #3 John Ball

John Ball (priest)Image via Wikipedia

There’s something peculiar to the evolution of socialist thought and practice in England that separates it from the continental version, and that is the influence of faith. Concepts of socialism, communalism and communism have all been touched upon in the emergence and history of the radical in English thought and politics.

John Ball was a man of faith, a priest who had some pretty radical ideas about faith and community in the 14th century, which led to him being excommunicated, imprisoned and finally executed for his support of the Peasant’s Revolt.

Little is known about his early life but he was known to have fame as a ‘hedge priest’, a priest without a parish and not linked to any priestly order. Froissart referred to him as ‘the mad priest of Kent’. He was likely to have been influenced by the teachings of John Wycliffe and would have been seen to hold Lollard views. His sermon at Blackheath to the insurgents of the Peasants’ Revolt show his understanding of social equality, a radical concept at the time.

When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.

For his part in the Peasants’ Revolt he was hung, drawn and quartered in the presence of Richard II on July 15, 1381, his head subsequently stuck on a pike on London Bridge.

Were it that more like John Ball would stand in the church!

Kinnock in the Cabinet

Former emblem of the British Labour Party, 190...Image via Wikipedia

I see in the media the flood of Blairites and careerists throwing themselves themselves out of what seems to be a Cabinet with the stability of a shopping trolley and my heart is somewhat warmed. I suppose I must be clinging to hope that this exodus gives the Labour Party a chance to pull itself back from the jaws of death, to give one herculean effort at getting the heart moving again. You see, once the mutineers cast themselves adrift Cap’n Gordo has the opportunity to bring aboard a new crew. A crew that know what makes Labour work, that are in touch with the workers with whom they reside.

But no. He’s too far gone with the terminal plague that goes by the name of nulabouritis. It seems that it deprives a sufferer of reaching out to the panacea that can cure them. In fact it’s worse, they appear to lose all sense of clarity and thinking. He’s now gone and replaced Caroline Flint with Glenys Kinnock.

Yes, that right, Glenys Kinnock. Glenys Kinnock of the Kinnock clan of trough snufflers and party wreckers. Those who had a Damascene conversion to Thatcherism and free market economics once they realised they weren’t actually up to the task of supporting the working men and women suffering whilst trying to retain the coal industry against a butcher with hands blooded red.

When I joined the Labour Party I got a little yellow folded card. On the front was the Red Flag. Inside was part of Clause IV. By the time Kinnock was through the card was worthless. What brought me to the Labour Party had been ditched like a soiled handkerchief. They were what drove me from the Labour Party, never to return.

I suppose that I have always remained eternally optimistic that the Labour Party could recover and one day reclaim it’s place at the head of the working class movement.

How deluded I was.

Kinnock my arse.