Posts Tagged ‘Trident’

Vox Political on Owen Smith and the Privatisation of the NHS

July 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece discussing Owen Smith’s contradictory attitudes towards the NHS. Smith claims he believes in a ‘100 per cent’ publicly owned NHS, and hugely admires Nye Bevan. Except eleven years ago, when he was working as a PR man for the drug giant, Pfizer. The company had produced a report endorsing the policy of opening up the NHS to private companies. Smith declared “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda.” Smith’s endorsement of creating greater private sector involvement in the NHS had been revealed by the Times, whom he accused of doing ‘a hatchet’ job, and he was challenged about his comments on Radio 4. That was when he spoke about believing in a publicly owned NHS. He has also said that he would prevent further involvement of private companies in the NHS. As for his comments in 2005, he tried to shrug them off, saying that this was when Labour was using ‘choice’ to describe hip, knee and cataract operations. He also claimed that it was a gross distortion to refer to a report commissioned by Pfizer before he worked there. Mike points out that this is immaterial. The date the report was commissioned is irrelevant, as Smith was working for Pfizer when it was published, and he date make the comments endorsing it.

Mike also makes the point that the Tories – Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and now probably Theresa May, have all made speeches stating that they believe in a nationalised health service, while doing everything they can to privatise it. And stating that he would prevent further public sector involvement is also contrary to what the masses of Labour supporters actually want, which is that privatisation should be reversed and the private sector removed from the NHS.

Mike has also put up a couple of memes pointing out the contrasts between what Smith says, and what he does. For example, he says he is against nukes, but votes for Trident. He states that he is against austerity, but doesn’t vote against austerity measures. He also can’t make up his mind on whether he supported the Iraq invasion or not.

Mike also quotes the report on this in the Guardian, which says But he conceded that Labour made a mistake while in power for the way it communicated the use of private providers in the NHS.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/21/owen-smiths-vision-for-the-nhs-is-the-same-as-the-conservative-partys/

There’s a considerable amount of deliberate falsehood and distortion in Smith’s statements, beyond what Mike has identified. Firstly, New Labour was committed to a policy of NHS extensive NHS privatisation. NHS – SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis provides extensive evidence that Blair’s Labour party wanted to privatise the NHS and introduce a system of insurance-funded healthcare similar to that in America. It was not simply a case of private companies performing a limited range of operations, such as knee and hip operations. Furthermore, New Labour, like Maggie Thatcher and the Tories before them, realised that if they made the extent of their plans to privatise the NHS public, they’d lose the election. Hence they were very keen to keep the whole process quiet. Remember – Alan Milburn stated that he wanted to keep the NHS as a logo for services delivered by private companies under an NHS ‘brand’. So Smith’s endorsement of NHS privatisation, along with the official policy of the Labour party at the time, was much more radical than he is now claiming.

Whatever Smith says now about supporting a publicly owned NHS is false. He supported its privatisation over a decade ago, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that his views have changed since, or are substantially much different from those of his Conservative opponents.

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Chunky Mark on Corbyn’s Solitary Stance in England against Trident

July 19, 2016

Okay, I know I’ve put several pieces from Chunky Mark the Artist Taxi Driver already today. And I know that some of you can’t listen to him because of the way he shouts. I tend to turn down the volume when listening to him as well, and I can appreciate how some find it off-putting. On the other hand, as others of you have pointed out, the issues he vlogs about are intensely important matters of justice, of peace, about combating poverty, neglect, misinformation and exploitation. Deeply emotive subjects, about which people do have a right to feel and express their rage and anger against an unjust and exploitative political and economic system.

The two pieces I reblogged from him earlier were about Jeremy Corbyn and the Trident debate respectively. Well, yesterday parliament voted overwhelmingly to renew Trident. 58 of the 59 Scottish MSPs were against it. South of the border, it seems that the only politico, who spoke against it was Jeremy Corbyn. In this rant, Chunky Mark describes how he appeared like a ghost, and compares him at the end to the last figure standing, staring out the wall, while everyone else is running about in panic at the end of the horror flick, the Blair Witch Project. Corbyn stood there, being heckled and vilified by everyone, even his own party. And at the end they all raised their fingers and pointed at him.

Mark makes the case that this is an indictment of most of the politicians in Westminster itself. He describes the sheer expense involved in purchasing Trident – £49 billion, according to one politician – as economically illiterate. It’s massively expensive, and adds to the growing threat of nuclear annihilation – the deaths of 8 billion people – all for just 15,000 jobs. He states once again that Britain could have shown the way forward for bringing about peace by rejecting it. And then there was Theresa May. When asked if she could kill 100,000 people, she declared ‘Yes’. She announced that she was willing to incinerate 100,000 men, women and children. And Chunky Mark points out once again that despite the mass hostility against him in parliament, Corbyn still has mass support from everyone, who wants a genuine alternative and believes another world is possible.

Vox Political on the Failings of Trident

July 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a long piece on the many faults of the Trident nuclear submarines that the Conservatives, the Americans and Owen Smith would like to see adopted by this country as part of its ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent. His piece is quite a long one, containing a couple of memes laying out just how expensive Trident is, what else could be done with the money, and indeed the very many problems with Trident and Britain’s nuclear deterrent as a whole.

In short, the main problems are that it’s extremely expensive, to the tune of about £205 billion. The number of jobs it will create in the UK is minimal: about 520 in Faslane maintaining the subs. All the others are going to be in America. And oh yes, it runs on an obsolete version of Windows. We live in a world of built-in obsolescence, where products are designed to become obsolete within a couple a years so the manufacturer can get you to buy more, but this is taking the concept way too far.

And one of the more general problems with Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent is that it isn’t. We effectively gave control over our nuclear weapons decades ago. We’re basically paying for the privilege of having an American weapons system on our island. This may not do anything for us, but it will help defend America. I’m not being cynical. I can remember hearing about several simulations of a nuclear war with Russia, which ended up with us and the rest of Europe a radioactive cinder, but America effectively protected by its long distance and by having many of its nuclear missiles located outside the homeland, in the more vulnerable locations in Europe.

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/trident-debate-reveals-faults-of-uks-independent-nuclear-deterrent/

Trident is supported in the Labour party by Owen Smith, one of the challengers for the leadership of the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn. Smith said on the Andrew Marr show that he was for disarmament through multilateralism. When pressed on whether he would push the button, Smith announced that he was indeed prepared to ‘annihilate millions of people’.

Mike comments: ‘What a nice guy!’

In this respect, Smith is actually worse, much worse than Ted Heath. Every Prime Minister when they take office has to write out the orders to be given to the commanders of the nuclear subs in the case of a nuclear attack. Blair when it was his turn understandably went white. Major insisted on making the decision over the weekend, as he felt he could only make it back in his constituency. And Ted Heath, so I’m told, wrote out a message that basically consisted of ‘Goodbye, chaps, and good luck. Don’t bother retaliating, as there’s nothing left to defend. It’s all been destroyed. Go and sail down to New Zealand or which other country has survived, and have a nice life.’

A civilised, philosophic response from someone who realised that nuclear war made all this futile.

The possession of nuclear weapons hasn’t made the world safer. Indeed, it’s made it even more dangerous, as increasing numbers of countries now have, or are developing nuclear weapons. And far from standing for peace, Barack Obama has actually increased America’s military spending and its nuclear arsenal. Of his possible successors, Donald Trump is a maniac, who looks all too unstable enough to start a nuclear war, while Shrillary is the ‘Queen of Chaos’, a hawk every bit as bloodthirsty and indifferent to the suffering of the weaker countries America and the West have ground under their jackboot as George W. Bush and his cabinet of horrors.

I’ve mentioned several times before that I and the rest of my generation have lived through one Cold War and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. I remember all the right-wing shouting when I was at school about how we needed nuclear weapons to defend ourselves. Part of this was just superpower posturing. Way back in the 1960s there was debate about Britain being a ‘third-rate power’ after the loss of the colonies. The possession of nuclear weapons seems to me to be a kind of psychological compensation. We’ve lost our place as a superpower, and other countries have overtaken us in terms of economy and manufacturing. But hey look! We can still turn somewhere into radioactive slag!

Unfortunately, all this military posturing and sabre-rattling is seen by most of the population as being self-evidently true and correct. So true that it hardly needs to be defended. We need nuclear weapons, just like we need the armed forces. Except that we don’t. They’re expensive, they’re not keeping us safe, and as I said, for much of the time it all looks like a scam by the arms industry to boost their profits. But it’ll be defended with all the establishment’s might and main, because Britain depends on it, the special relationship with America depends on it, and Jeremy Corbyn is against it.

Chunky Mark: Stop Trident

July 19, 2016

This is yet another rant from the Chunky, Taxi Driving Artist. It’s his considered thoughts on yesterday’s vote about Trident. I should have put it up then, but I’m just getting over a cold, and frankly, was just too drained of energy to do very much. So here it is today, one day late. My apologies.

He begins by quoting Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, who said that today Britain could join the multitude of other countries in rejecting Trident in favour of peace, or could spend hundreds of millions of pounds on a missile system that could never be used. He describes Trident as ‘a cold war relic’, and states that it sends a message to the world that security is only possible through the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. MPs, he argues, should be making a stand against Trident, especially in view of austerity, and the destruction of our welfare infrastructure and communities. He notes that Jeremy Corbyn has said he’d vote against Trident, and in favour of unilateralism. He asks how it is that Britain can sign up to the non-proliferation agreements, and yet support Trident. This is, he says, an opportunity to show leadership in the world. He states that the Chicken Coup – Owen Smith, Angela Eagle, Hilary Benn, Chuka Ummunna and Liz Kendall will all be voting for Trident. It’s why the media, the Tories and New Labour are all out to get Jeremy Corbyn. But it’s not about him. It’s about his political ideology – anti-war, anti-Trident, anti-Armageddon. He notes that the guid folk of Scotland oppose Trident. 57 out of 59 Scottish Nationalist MSPs are against it. The Scots are against it because of the way nuclear vehicles were passing through Glasgow on their way to the base at Faslane at night. And Trident’s sheer cost is unjustifiable. He also goes off on a rant about our supposedly highly educated MPs voting in parliament today, and apparently seeing nothing wrong in giving the nuclear codes to Donald Trump, as required by law if that maniac wins the US election. He talks about the absolute destruction wreaked on both sides if nuclear missiles are used, and says that this is supposed to be a deterrent. It’s only a deterrent, because it hasn’t happened yet. But if it does happen, we won’t be around to know the argument was lost, as it only needs to happen once. He states that the movement against Trident is a real movement for change, and a progressive alliance between peoples, who believe that another world is possible.

There’s a lot that can be said about this piece, and again, the Chunky One is right. Trident’s cost in an age of austerity is unsupportable. It will be born, not by the rich, who are having their taxes cut, but by ordinary people, and especially the very poorest at the sharp end of the benefit cuts. Lobster has published a number of pieces of the years, one of which I blogged about, on the way the arms industry and Cold War is a massive scam to channel funds into the weapons manufacturers as a way of covert government spending to boost the economy. I say covert, because the government’s real intention is to boost the general economy. America is anti-Keynsian in it’s economics, and so this can’t be done through direct spending on infrastructure or welfare, as in other nations, but through Cold War expenditure on an already bloated armaments industry. One of the characters, Ostrander, accurately summed up the situation in an episode of the X-Files twenty years ago: ‘The business of America, Mr Mulder, isn’t business; it’s war.’

These missiles aren’t going to keep us safe, and by their presence are encouraging more countries to acquire nuclear weapons themselves. This is also partly because of the different fates of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and North Korea. Hussein didn’t have nuclear weapons, despite all the allegations and ‘dodgy dossier’. He was invaded and overthrown. North Korea does, and hasn’t.

Way back in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher ran a series of simulations to see what would happen if the country suffered a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The simulations showed that the country would be destroyed, especially its major cities. Thatcher didn’t want to hear that. She wanted the British public to be reassured that Blighty would still remain safe and sound, and so started interfering with the simulations to get the results she wanted. Eventually they were abandoned, as the amount of distortion they suffered in order to give the results Maggie wanted to sell increased nuclear spending to the British public made them useless.

And there have already been three times, when the world teetered on the edge of thermonuclear Armageddon. That’s three time too many. We need desperately to get rid of Trident, and take the first step in encouraging other nations to do the same. We need to stop this new arms race, before it’s too late.

Chunky Mark on the Hyperreal Smears and Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn

July 19, 2016

This is another worthwhile and entirely accurate rant from Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver. Chunky Mark’s standard rhetorical device is shouty rants, in which there are isolated moments of quiet reflection on a given point. But, as this piece shows, he’s also very well informed in the literature of philosophy and media manipulation in the era of postmodernism, quoting Nietzsche, Plato, Jean Baudrillard, and Umberto Eco’s theory of the hyperreal. Oh yes, and he has a few digs at Pokémon Go as well, as an example of the latter.

This rants starts out with the Chunky Artist explaining Nietzsche’s theory that humans lived apart from reality, and that the representation we had of it in our minds was only a construct. He talks about how the media have tried to smear and distort everything Jeremy Corbyn has said. This follows a report from the London School of Economics, that found that 75 per cent – three quarters – of what was said about Jeremy Corbyn in the media was false, and that a third of this rubbish came from his fellows in the Parliamentary Labour Party. He notes that Owen Jones wrote a piece in the Guardian before all this broke out stating that if Corbyn was elected, there’d be a firestorm. And there has. Chunky Mark defends Corbyn’s supporters from the accusation that they are a ‘cult’. He states that it is not like the worship of Jesus or Buddha. His supporters are well aware of his faults, such as the fact that he isn’t a good speaker. They support him not because of who he is, but because of his ideas. He puts people first, and is against Trident, the nuclear submarine system. He is not like the rest of the political parties and the media – the Tories and Blairite New Labour, who put corporations and the rich first, who give money to wealthy tax dodgers in the Cayman Islands. And so the media has to smear him, producing a false image of the type described by Plato and then by the French postmodernist, Jean Baudrillard, a Virtual Reality, like Pokémon Go. They seek to infantilise people to destroy their support for Corbyn, comparing his supporters to a Trotskyite rabble wearing donkey jackets, hippies stinking of patchouli oil and waving joss sticks. They, the media gurus and PR manipulators, know how afraid people are of appearing on the outside, of being left out of the crowd, and so they attempt to smear and marginalise Corbyn and his supporters. Because they think differently. They do not accept the post-Thatcher consensus, and believe another world is possible.

All this is true. I don’t agree with Chunky Mark’s comments about Jesus and Buddha, as both of these figures did stress compassion to the poor and unfortunate. But I take the wider point he was trying to make, that it wasn’t about Corbyn himself but his ideas. And he’s right: they are a threat to the media establishment, the Tories and New Labour, because he and his supporters threaten corporate profit and power, because they value prosperity, dignity and health for the poor and ordinary people, not for the rich few. Hence the lies, smears and distortions. All to keep the Thatcherite consensus shored up for just a little while longer.

Chunky Mark on the Very Undemocratic Labour Coup

July 16, 2016

Blair Purge Cover

Here’s another video from Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver. In this one, Chunky Mark delivers his rant, which is nevertheless very acutely observed, on the Labour coup. He describes why the coup plotters hate Jeremy Corbyn, and how absolute undemocratic they are.

He observes that the right-wing – the Tories and the media didn’t want Corbyn from day one. The Labour MPs hated his anti-war stance, including his rejection of Trident, his rejection of austerity, his support for building ‘not-for-profit homes’, nor for standing up for free education and holding the wretched vulture capitalists to account. The Right and the Labour MPs hate everything he stands for and his supporters. And the forthcoming Labour election, the Chunky One declares scathingly, is a fraud.

He states that the coup started with the resignation of Hilary Benn, but Angela Eagle had already bought and paid for a website with the title ‘Angela Eagle for Leader’. The Coup Plotters have raised the membership fee from £3 to £25, and excluded 130,000 new members. The NEC – the head council of the Labour party – has also banned constituency parties from holding meetings. They’ve suspended the largest local Labour party, that of Brighton, and launched an algorhythm to search social media to make sure that Labour party members do not use words like ‘traitor’. If they do, they are suspended. Corbyn’s supporters have been denounced as ‘Trots’ and ‘rabble dogs’.

Chunky Mark says that somebody observed that they’re living under a Tory government, they didn’t vote, going through a Brexit, that they didn’t vote for, and have a Tory prime minister, that nobody voted for, but that’s democracy. Now the one person, who could be democratically electable, has to be voted for again, because the Labour MPs don’t like him, and want to get rid of him. Chunky Mark rightly points out that we should be fighting the current, extreme Right Tory government, which is attacking people’s rights. The Labour Coup, however, have sent this country backwards. He states that the Coup Plotters’ dream seems to be to suspend the membership, leaving only the Labour MPs and their donors. He quotes the journalist, John Harris, who said, ‘There is a fetid cloud of acrimony over Labour, and it is the reek of death.’ The Chunky One observers that the plotters would rather see people’s vision of an alternative, better world die than attack the status quo. It’s all gerrymandering, backed by lies and smears. The massive increase in membership fee discriminates against the low waged, the unemployed, students and the elderly.

This is the Labour election fraud.

Chunky Mark’s right. This is the parliamentary Labour party, the official Labour party wedded to Tony Blair’s neo-liberal vision, the ‘New Labour’ that came into being with the removal of Clause 4, the article providing for nationalisation of the means of production, trying to defend itself from Old Labour, now that the neoliberal vision is being increasingly found to be bankrupt. New Labour came to power impressed with Thatcher’s popularity, and convinced by her own threadbare ideas. State control and planning was rejected, along with all but a minimal welfare state. The rich, private industry and the media barons were to be courted and won over, as without them, Labour, it was held, was unelectable. And besides, only private industry knows best how to run the economy.

Except that it’s become blindingly evident that they don’t, and more and more people are aware of this. But it runs against everything the Blairites have instilled in the party for the last quarter of a century. And I wonder, in some of this, how much simple careerism plays a part. There was already a revolving door between business, senior civil servants and ministers under John Major. It became wider, and even more sleazy and corrupt under Blair. And now MPs see the promise of a nice, lucrative career in the industries they helped to privatise, and win government contracts after their parliamentary careers have ended, disappearing.

Berthold Brecht once remarked of the East German Communist party, when they clamped down on their people after they dared to demand democracy, that the Communist party had voted democratically to dissolve the people and elect another. This is what an authoritarian and careerist Labour party machine is trying to do to its membership. They want to destroy the party, rather than see themselves and neoliberalism and its horrors fail.

Dennis Skinner’s Personal Recommendations for Improving Britain

May 31, 2016

The veteran Labour MP and trade unionist, Dennis Skinner, also makes some political recommendations of his own in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences, published two years ago in 2014. He summarises his plans, saying

So I’m fighting for a new Labour government to axe the bedroom tax, save the NHS, cut fuel bills, created jobs for the young and raise living standards. My personal manifesto will be to the left of that of the party but I’m committed 100 per cent to the election of Labour candidates across Britain. (p.313).

As for the proposals themselves, he writes (headlines in bold are mine)

I’ve a few suggestions of my own to boost Labour’s popularity and beat the Tories.

End Privatisation

To start the ball rolling we should end expensive privatisation instead of paying a fortune to contractors such as G4S, Serco and Capita that make a mess of services in the process. It’s time we got back to publicly run, publicly owned services provided in the public interest.

Nationalise the Railways

On the railways, the £900m surplus on East Coast trains, operated publicly after the private sector crashed twice, shows us the way ahead. Instead of boosting Richard Branson’s profits, a nationalised railway could make a profit and generate the cash to improve every station in Britain.

A ‘Robin Hood’ Tax on City Speculators

If we want extra money for the National Health Service and social care, we should levy a Robin Hood tax on speculators in the city. Directing the funds raised directly to health and care, including help for the mentally handicapped, rather than to the Treasury, would be immensely popular. We could start with a low rate and increase it when the tax proves to be popular, as I’m sure it will be, by emulating the one per cent National Insurance rise for the NHS when Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

Scrap Trident

Scrapping Trident would free up billions of pounds for a massive house building programme so everybody has a roof over their head and nobody is homeless. The position on council house sales has to change or local authorities won’t build houses if they know they must sell them cheaply after a few years.

End Nuclear Weapons, Restore Local Democracy

The savings from defusing nuclear weapons can also help save local democracy. Councils are being swamped by central government. Powers are either grabbed by Whitehall or transferred to unelected quangos. Ever since the Clay Cross rent rebellion, Whitehall has dictated to communities. We need to reverse the trend.

Nationalise the Utilities

On the question of the utilities – gas, electricity, water – this is the moment to start taking them back into public ownership. We took control after 1945 and right up to Wilson’s final government, when he nationalised aerospace with a majority of only three, public ownership was advanced. To cap energy bills is a good idea but a better plan is to control utilities by restoring public ownership in Britain of firms that are currently owned in France, Germany and almost every country on the globe.

Spend More on Education; End Privatised Schooling

Spending on education more than doubled under the last Labour government, which was impressive. let’s stop the growth of faith schools and misnamed free schools – tax payers fund them so they’re not free – by enhancing the powers of local authorities to champion the education of every single child.

Raise Minimum Wage

We need to end the pay freezes. The people that are carrying the burden of the bankers’ ramp are mainly workers at the bottom of the scale. The Living Wage shouldn’t be optional. Everybody should get it. But let’s not stop at £7.65 an hour outside London and £8.80 in the capital. The trade union campaign for 10 an hour should be Labour policy. A decent day’s work deserves a decent day’s pay.

Ban Zero Hours Contracts

We should introduce legislation to outlaw zero hours contracts and private employment agencies. Playing off worker against worker, ferrying into Britain cheap labour to undercut employees, is poisoning community relations. Sticking 10, 12 or 15 eastern Europeans into a house then deducting large sums form their earnings is in nobody’s interests except cowboy employers. Reasserting the role of Jobcentres as local labour exchanges will improve wages and conditions.

Increase Trade Union Rights

Trade union rights must be strengthened significantly, including the abolition of sequestration. Industrial action requires two sides to be involved in a dispute, yet it is union funds that are seized. Rebalancing employment rights in favour of workers and unions is essential if we are to build a fairer economy.

Abandon Tory Obsession with Fiscal Restraint

And we must escape the dumb economic mantra about balancing the books. There would have been no Spirit of ’45 if Clement Attlee’s goal was to balance the books. There would have been no NHS, new Welfare State, new council houses and unemployment wouldn’t have dropped to 440,000 in 1950, after only five years of the finest Labour government ever. In fact the finest government ever.

We need spending to get people to work and the economy growing. You don’t need a crystal ball to see where we should be going. We can find the way ahead by reading the history books. (pp. 309-12).

He states that they’re not just his ideas, but have been discussed for the last 10 or 20 years in the Bolsover constituency.

I have some caveats. I don’t like the attack on faith schools, having been to an Anglican faith school myself, and I don’t share his euroscepticism. But other than that, I think he’s absolutely right. Thatcherism has done immense damage to this country. Now, after thirty years of it, it is long past the time it should have been discarded.

Pax Christi and Christian Anti-War Groups

December 27, 2015

Several of my relatives are Roman Catholics. I was at their parish church yesterday, as I’d been invited to join them for a special family service. Looking around one of the stalls in their church carrying the church’s religious and devotional literature, I found several newsletters from Pax Christi. They’re the official Roman Catholic peace movement, and are part of a broader Christian organisation, the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. The other Christian peace groups in the Network include the following:

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Baptist Peace Fellowship
Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Christian International Peace Service
Church and Peace
Community of Reconciliation
Congregational Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation England
Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation
Martin Luther King Peace Committee
Methodist Peace Fellowship
Northern Friends Peace Board
Pax Christi
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Student Christian Movement
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship.

Pax Christi in Britain publishes a monthly newsletter, Justpeace. The April 2015 edition gives a brief history of Pax Christi International and an overview of their activities across the world. According to the newsletter, it was

founded in France in March 1945 as Catholic movement for peace and reconciliation following World War II, Pax Christi International is now a network of 115 member organisations on five continents with over a hundred thousand members worldwide.

Recognised by Pope Pius XII as the official Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi has also always been autonomous, with members of the hierarchy, clergy and laypeople working together as equals for peace and reconciliation in situations of violence and war around the world. The presidency of Pax Christi International, for example, is shared by a bishop, Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa, and a lay woman, Marie Dennis from the United States, both of whom were elected by Pax Christi member organisations.

Pax Christi International has held consultative status at the United Nations since 1979 and is working at the UN in Geneva, New York, Vienna and Paris. It is also officially represented at the African Union and the Council of Europe and has regular access to the European Parliament, the European Commission and NATO.

Among its activities across the world, Pax Christi is involved in

* a multi-year strategy to address deep-seated racism in the United States

* dynamic ‘sports for peace’ programs in South Sudan and Haiti

* strategies to integrate former combatants back into their own communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

* courses in preventive reconciliation using the principles of haikido in the Philippines.

* efforts to address destructive mining practices in Colombia and Peru;

* advocacy and campaigning at a national and international level for the abolition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; for a meaningful arms trade treaty; for an end to the use of depleted uranium in weapons.

* ‘peace week’ initiatives, many of them annual, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, the African Great Lakes region, Kosovo, Russia, Croatia, the Philippines and Colombia.

* collaboration with local partners to support active nonviolence in southern Mexico.

* excellent grassroots peace education programs in Lebanon and Philippines.

* exchanges of experience between civil society from the Middle East and from Central Europe on their role in bringing about nonviolent social change

* work with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), our partner in Brazil, in response to growing conflict over land – and

* ongoing work with civil society groups in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations and Trident at the General Election

The NCPO also produced a General Election Briefing for this last year’s election in order to promote disarmament and specifically to tackle the government’s intention to introduce Trident. Their very short – four page! – pamphlet outlined the way Christians and church groups could work to promote peace, and had short sections on the issues of Military Spending and Human Security, Renewal of Trident, the UK Arms Trade , the UK Armed Drones Programme and Britain’s Role in the World. It included questions and requests that should be asked of politicians respecting these issues. The pamphlet also carried details of other organisations dealing with those specific issues and their websites.

Pax Christi and Atomic Weapons

Pax Christi also produced a little pamphlet outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. This included statements by the Church, including papacy, condemning them. Pope Francis last year (2014) declared that ‘Nuclear deterrence cannot be the basis for an ethics of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among people and states’.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2007 was much stronger in his condemnation. He said, ‘What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries?… that nuclear weapons have any place in civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’.

The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World in 1965 states in article 80 that

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

This is all enough to have Pat Robertson and the right-wing American evangelicals start screaming ‘Social gospel! Social gospel!’ at the top of their lungs, before launching into a long tirade about how ‘cultural Marxism’ is undermining society. And just to show you how ‘Christian’ some of these right-wingers are, a few of them flew into a rage this past year when Pope Francis said something rather left-wing. They like Christianity, but only when it appears to support their prejudices and policies.

I’m not a member of Pax Christi or any of the other organisations. But if you’re a Christian and would like to join their witness for peace, their address is:

NCPO, c/o Pax Christi,
St Joseph’s, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY

and their website is http://www.ncpo.org.uk

Pax Christi is also on the web. Their address is http://www.paxchristi.net.

May God bless them and their work.

Vox Political Asks the People of Broxtowe If They Really Want Their Tory Candidate

March 21, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has post this piece, whose very title asks a very, very good question Broxtowe: Do you really want Anna Soubry as your MP?. Soubry is a right-wing, true-blue Tory reactionary, who now occupies the seat. It had been Labour since 1997, and although now Tory, is a marginal.

He points out just how right-wing and nasty her views and voting record are. She has voted for the punitive welfare cuts that have sent hundreds of thousands into poverty, including the bedroom tax. Against this, she supports tax cuts for the rich, and the transfer of the tax burden to the poor through raising VAT. She also supports the privatisation of the NHS, the forests, Royal Mail, and Britain’s schools. She doesn’t, however, seem to believe that further and higher education should be free, as she voted for raising tuition fees and ending the support for ‘A’ level students. She also support further military actions overseas and purchasing Trident. As for justice, she supported the ending of legal aid, secret courts, and the further expansion of the powers of the security services to spy on citizens’ private emails and telephone conversations without warrants. She is also an opponent of devolving further powers to local authorities, as well as a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Given this record, it’s to be expected that she also hates green energy and supports the badger cull.

The article begins

Anna Soubry has been among the more vocal Conservatives in the Coalition government – which is interesting as she represents the extremely marginal seat of Broxtowe.

The seat had been Labour-held since 1997, and it seems likely that the Tory victory here in 2010 was a sign of dissatisfaction with the then-current Labour government, rather than interest in anything the Tories had to offer.

How would residents vote if they knew Ms Soubry’s voting record? Let’s find out.

She is against increasing income tax paid by the extremely rich; against a bankers’ bonus tax; supports cutting Corporation Tax (even though this does not make companies more likely to invest in the UK or its workforce); and supported the increase in VAT. Clearly she believes in taxing the poor to pay for the rich.

She is strongly in favour of the current government’s creeping privatisation of the NHS.

She strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.
She strongly supported cuts to social security benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment and so on.
She strongly supported the benefit uprating cap, ensuring that benefits do not rise in line with prices.
She voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping people afford council tax – and for reducing the amount available for such support.

She is thus a typical member of Cameron’s Tories, who believes in grinding the poor into desperate poverty and rolling back the frontiers of the state in order to make life even better and more profitable for the rich.

Mike states that people of Broxtowe need to know this information.
They do. Then they can judge if they really want this woman to represent them.

Conservatives Lose a Third of their Support from Evangelical Christians

February 23, 2015

The Huffington Post has this story Christian Support For Conservatives Drops By A Third, Evangelical Alliance Report Says. It reports that forty per cent of British Christians are changing their electoral allegiance. It begins

Conservative support among Christians has dropped by a third since the last election, in new research that will lend weight to the Tories allegations of a left-wing allegiance in the Church.

Almost 40% of Christians surveyed by the Evangelical Alliance said they intended to change who they vote for in this election, and both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have seen significant drops in support from a community where almost double the national average intend to vote.

The Faith in Politics? report follows a survey of 2,020 evangelical Christians, conducted by the Evangelical Alliance between August and September 2014, shows that poverty and inequality is the single most important issue for evangelicals, compared to only 4% of the general population saying the same.

The article states that this will lead to fresh accusations about left-wing bias in the churches after the Anglican bishops’ 52 page letter to prime minister, which included topics such as the European Union, Trident and welfare. Indeed, Nadine Dorries has attacked the bishops’ letter for its supposed left-wing bias. Christian support for the Greens and UKIP has increased massively, while the Tories have lost a third of their support and the Lib Dems half. The party that now has the largest Christian support is the Labour party, according to the Huff Post.

The articles at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/19/christian-conservatives_n_6712218.html.

This will doubtless enrage the Tories, who have since Thatcher’s administration attacked the archbishop of Canterbury and any other cleric for being ‘left-wing’ whenever they criticised the government since Maggie Thatcher. The Cranmer blog for Conservative Christians, mostly Anglicans, was deliberately set up to muster their support for the Tories.

If this latest attack on the Tories’ attitude to poverty follows previous criticisms from the churches, you can expect the Tories, in addition to moaning about left-wing bias, to start ranting about how the clergy should keep to preaching Christianity, and if they did, their congregations might start going up. That’s the line they used to take under Thatcher.

It isn’t about simply preaching Christianity. It is about living the Christian life, and manifesting Our Lord’s concern for the poor and marginalised.

I am very much aware that some Tories are deeply religious, and give generously to charity. A survey in America found that politically Conservative Christians gave far more to charity than secular liberals. Surveys have also shown that, in contrast to the popular perception of theologically conservative protestants – Evangelical Christians, half of them are left-wing, with many being much more Left than American Roman Catholics.

Part of the change in political attitude amongst British Evangelicals may well come from experience working for charities and especially food banks. Many churches have started collecting food for them. This experience brings you face to face with the poor and starving in Britain today, as the blog Diary of a Foodbank Helper documents.

The Tories, however, have consistently denied that such grinding poverty exists, and, indeed, the need for them at all. A succession of Tory MPs and apparatchiks have opened their yaps to claim that people are only using food banks, because they’re offering free food, not because they’re starving.

This is an egregious lie, as you have to have a chit from the jobcentre stating that you are absolutely poor in order to go to them. Such lies are an effective slap in the face to the people, who give to food banks, and who work there. As a result, many Christians are rightly turning their backs on the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators, and seeking out other parties with better attitudes to poverty.