Save Lifeworks mental health service!

April 15, 2014 at 6:23 am (Cuts, Disability, health service, mental health, posted by JD, protest, unions)


Service users and supporters rallied in Cambridge on 5 April

By Matt Wells (via Workers Liberty)

Lifeworks is a Complex Cases Service drop in centre which currently supports over 70 people with complex mental health problems in the Cambridge district and has supported many, many more over several years.

Following a deeply flawed decision to close the Lifeworks centre, taken behind the backs of those using it, a group of service users decided to occupy it. That was six weeks ago and the occupation is still holding out. This short video interview from inside the occupation with one of the participants gives a flavour of the resolve being shown by those fighting to save the service.

Please visit their Facebook page and sign their petition: see here.

They are seeking donations to sustain their campaign. Cheques to Cambridge & District Trade Union Council, marked Lifeworks. Send to Ian Beeby, Treasurer, CDTUC, 55, Station Road, Whittlesford, Cambridge, CB22 4NL.     

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Protests in East Ukraine: mostly Russian imperialism

April 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm (AWL, imperialism, posted by JD, protest, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia)

Pro-Russian protesters storm the regional administrative building in Kharkiv

Above: pro-Russian protesters storm the regional administration building in Kharkov

By Martin Thomas (at the Workers Liberty website)

On the weekend of 5-6 April pro-Russian crowds staged demonstrations in some cities of eastern Ukraine, and seized public buildings.

In Donetsk the demonstrators echoed events in Crimea by saying that they were constituting a new regional government and would organise a referendum on transferring Donetsk to Russia.

Are these justified protests by Ukraine’s Russian minority, strongest in the east, against Ukrainian chauvinist policies from the new government in Kiev?

Or are they operations fomented by the Russian government, using Russians crossing the border to join the protests, and the east-Ukrainian Russian minority? Operations whose core aim and function is to serve Russian foreign policy, for example by setting up clashes which will give Russian troops an excuse to invade?

The balance of evidence suggests they are mostly the second. The demonstrations do not emerge from a background of growing protest against specific policies and actions by the Kiev government disadvantaging Russian people in eastern Ukraine. Instead, they start immediately by seizing public buildings.

Without question there is a large Russian minority in eastern Ukraine (over 30% in some districts), and many Russians look to Russia.

Without doubt many in that Russian minority dislike the new government in Kiev. In that sense, an element of the depiction of the demonstrations as protests by an aggrieved minority is correct.

However, the broad historical facts which we know for sure are that Ukraine has been an oppressed nation, and mostly oppressed by Russia (Tsarist or Stalinist) for centuries; that for centuries also, Russians have come to Ukraine as imperial colonisers, Russian has been the language of the better-off and culturally-advantaged in Ukraine, and Ukrainian has been disdained as the “peasant language”; and that Putin’s government, keen to sustain Russia as a great power, has been striving to regain some of the reach of Tsarist and Stalinist imperialism (Chechnya, Georgia).

As contemporary evidence we have a large opinion poll conducted across Ukraine and Crimea on 14-26 March, with its results published on 5 April. The fieldwork was conducted by a Kiev-based agency (the “Rating Group”) and funded by the US Agency for International Development, so some bias can be suspected. However, it’s the evidence we have.

In the poll, only 12% of people in Ukraine and Crimea said “yes” or “to some degree” when asked whether Russian-speaking citizens were under threat. Only 29% of people who considered themselves ethnic Russians reckoned that Russian-speaking citizens were under threat, and only 17% of the population in eastern Ukraine had that view.

17% is a big enough minority to provide a base for spectacular demonstrations when the demonstrators know they have support from a neighbouring great power. It is not a democratic mandate for deciding the future of the area.

Only 13% (in Ukraine and Crimea combined) supported the “decision of the Russian Federation to send its army to protest Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine”. Only 14%, and only 26% in the east, were for the federal set-up in Ukraine which Putin demands.

When asked what should the new Kiev government’s priorities be, the big majority in the east as in the west said it should be tackling economic corruption. Only much smaller percentages mentioned minority rights or decentralisation.

27% of people across Ukraine emphatically did not support the Independence Square protests in Kiev which brought down Yanukovych. However, that 27% was a lower disapproval rating than the 33% recorded in February 2014, before the fall of Yanukovych.

In other words, it is not that people supported the movement against Yanukovych, but have recoiled on seeing the new government. On the contrary, some of those who supported or semi-supported Yanukovych to the end have switched sides after seeing Yanukovych flee to Russia and hearing more revelations about his corruption.

The theory that the overthrow of Yanukovych was produced by a surge of the far-right in Ukraine looks doubtful. The far-right Ukrainian chauvinist party Svoboda scores only 5% in the poll, as against 10% in the last elections; the vicious “Right Sector” group scores 1%.

The poll shows low levels of confidence in the Kiev government everywhere in Ukraine, and especially in the east. 50% expressed disapproval of the job the Parliament is doing, and 73% in the east.

That percentage, however, should be compared with 80% across the whole of Ukraine and Crimea who expressed disapproval of the job that Parliament was doing under Yanukovych, in September 2013.

It was not that Ukraine was jogging along fine under Russian hegemony until a far-right pro-EU conspiracy spoiled things. Rather, that the majority of Ukrainians resent both Russian aspirations to dominate, and the rule of Ukrainian oligarchs whether pro-Russian or Ukrainian-nationalist, and rightly doubt that the fall of Yanukovych has changed much about the oligarchic corruption.

The three principles on which Solidarity bases our attitude about Ukraine are:

• Ukraine is a nation historically oppressed by Russia which has the right to national self-determination. Russians living in Ukraine should enjoy democratic minority rights, but their rights cannot cancel the right to self-determination of the whole Ukrainian nation.

• We do not endorse the trade deal which the EU has got Ukraine to sign, and we demand that the Western governments give Ukraine real aid by cancelling its crippling debt to Western banks. But the immediate threat to Ukrainian political self-determination comes from Russia, invading Crimea, massing troops on Ukraine’s border, fomenting small coups in east-Ukrainian cities, and demanding Ukraine fit its constitution to Russian wishes.

• The oligarchs offer Ukraine a bleak, unequal future even if Ukraine manages to conserve its independence. Socialists internationally should back the Ukrainian left and labour movement in its efforts to create a force which can win real victories for the social demands which fuelled the Independence Square protests.

Such a force would provide a solid basis for uniting all workers in Ukraine, Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking, “ethnic”-Ukrainian and “ethnic”-Russian, west and east.

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Ukraine in flames

February 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm (Europe, posted by JD, protest, riots, Russia, stalinism, thuggery)

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police.

Above: protesters behind metal shields in Kiev’s Independence Square, Tuesday

From Richard Greeman

Dear Friends,

As the uprising in the Ukraine seems to be coming to a crisis after weeks of mass demonstrations and occupations, I would like to translate for you the following letter received last week from Julia Gusseva, the Russian translator of Victor Serge and co-organizer of the International Conference of Independant Labor Unions in Kiev last November. Julia, an activist since the ‘80s, is one of the founders of the Praxis Center in Moscow, and writes from an anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint.

Dear Richard,

You ask what we think of the situation in the Ukraine. In fact, the Ukrainian movement is a part of the wave of civil protests that has been unfurling for the last few years in every corner of the world (“Arab Spring,” Occupy Wall Street, Indignados, the movements in Greece, Turkey, Russia …). In the Ukraine, the pretext was the refusal of the President to sign the agreement on association with the countries of the European Union. In this semi-authoritarian country, a large part of the population considered that association as a step toward democracy, rights, higher social standards, etc. The positive demands of the movement are democratic (return to the 2004 Constitution, new, free, honest elections, etc): the people are fighting for their full rights. The main thing is that the movement is self-organized (autonomous) everywhere around the country, with activists occupying the town halls, etc. The same labor unions who participated in our conference in Kiev last year have recently formed the all-Ukraine strike committee.

As far as the “leading personalities” of the movement are concerned, we see the same thing as in Russia, Turkey, etc: politicians who are trying to put themselves at the head of the movement, but whom the great mass of protesters does not at all recognize as their leaders. Yes, there are various political currents in the movement, including Ukrainian nationalists (and also the Left, which is part of the “citizen sector” of the protesters), but the vast majority – as in Russia and elsewhere – are regular citizens, non-party political activists.

Kiev has already seen police violence (before the current clashes – RG ) causing hundreds of injuries and (at least 70 at present -JD) deaths; this means the movement will not stop half way and fade out. Besides, the President is inclined to give in to popular pressure (there is no doubt that Putin would have acted differently in his place!) So there is a good chance that the popular movement will triumph and, on the condition that the politicians don’t turn it to their own ends, will make the Ukraine a freer and more democratic country than it is today.

Je t’embrasse, Julia

P.S.

Asked about the publicity given to the presence among the demonstrators of right-wing and nationalist elements (both in the mainstream media and on the Left), Julia referred me to this article, refuting what she called “Putinist/Stalinist insinuations about democratic revolutionary movement in Ukraine.”

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Pete Seeger’s break with Stalinism

January 28, 2014 at 8:28 am (anti-fascism, civil rights, culture, good people, history, Jim D, music, protest, song, stalinism)

The death, reported today, of Pete Seeger, reminded me that he publicly broke with Stalinism back in 2007 (some say he’d privately broken with it some years previously).

I wrote the following at the time, in a deliberately provocative style intended to infuriate folkies. Nevertheless, I hope it’s suitably respectful towards a brave and principled man:

Pete Seeger changes his tune: finger removed from ear

I’ve never particularly liked folk music, with its whining three-chord “tunes”, its anachronistic and lachrymose lyrics and the sheer musical incompetence of most of its performers – including the famous ones like Bob Dylan.

Having said that, I have to admit that most of the folkies I’ve met over the years have been thoroughly decent people, often stalwarts of left-wing campaigns, strike-support activity and international solidarity. But for some unexplained reason, these admirable people almost invariably turn out to be Stalinists of one variety or another: what is it about the music or the “scene” that brings this about? Delightful, sandle-wearing,  hirsute do-gooders turn out to be apologists for some of the most monstrous regimes and genocidal crimes in human history!

Pete “If I Had a Hammer” Seeger always struck me as the spritual progenitor of the finger-in-the-ear school of folkie Stalinism (the finger being in the ear to prevent the truth about Uncle Joe’s crimes ever being heard): he was (and is) a very good and brave human being, so far as I can judge. Certainly, he had the courage to defy the House Committee on Un-American Activities, rather than betray his friends and comrades, and spent a year in jail as a result. On a less serious note, I’ve also always harboured a sneaking admiration for his legendary attempt to take an axe to Bob Dylan’s microphone cable at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. But still, this admirable figure remained an unremitting, unreconstructed Stalinist [*]…

…Until now. According to Nicholoas Wapshott in the New Statesman, the 88 year-old Seeger says he has “‘been thinking what Woody (Guthrie - JD) might have written had he been around” to see the end of the Soviet Union. In a letter responding to (a) complaint that he had repeatedly sung about the Nazi Holocaust but failed to acknowledge the millions killed in Stalin’s death camps, he (Seeger) wrote: “I think you’re right – I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in (the) USSR”.

So now Pete has written a new song, ‘The Big Joe Blues’, which goes: “I’m singing about old Joe, cruel Joe./He ruled with an iron hand./He put an end to the dreams/Of so manyin every land./He had a chance to make/A brand new start for the human race./Instead he set it back/Right in the same nasty place./I got the Big Joe Blues./(Keepyour mouth shut or you will die fast.)/I got the Big Joe Blues./(Do this job, no questions asked.)/I got the Big Joe Blues”.

According to Wapshott, Pete now acknowledges that, “if by some freak of history communism (I think he really means Stalinism – JD) had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in jail”. So the finger’s well and truly out of the ear. At long last.

Above: despite my prejudice against folk music, I think this is great! Pete with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in the mid-60s

* Addendum: BTL comments (below) would seem to confirm that my statement that PS remained “an unremitting, unreconstructed Stalinist” (until 2007) was incorrect. It would also seem to be the case (sadly) that the story of the axing of Dylan’s electric cable at Newport in 1965 is  apocryphal.

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The courage of Pussy Riot

December 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, Feminism, good people, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, protest, religion, Russia, thuggery)

The article that follows (‘Pussy Riot Roars Out of Prison’) appeared in The Daily Beast on 23 December: I can’t improve on it. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

By Anna Nemtsova

Maria Alyokhina showed no mercy for Vladamir Putin when she walked out of jail, saying his performance felt like a”dark art of performance”:

They went behind bars as feminist artists and came out as human rights defenders. Both Pussy Riot performance group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina qualified for amnesty last week but they were only officially told on Monday and freed the same morning. Maria Alyokhina immediately spoke to The Daily Beast about being Vladimir Putin’s pardon, the tactics of the Russian penal system, and more.

Alyokhina said her release from jail felt more like “a secret special operation” than an act of humanism. Monday morning, prison guards told her that she had been pardoned but did not let her walk free on her own. Officials hurried to pack her belongings without letting Alyokhina decide what she wanted to bring with her or what to leave for her friends. A prison convoy led the artist to a black Volga car and drove her away from prison in unknown direction.

With this amnesty, people are given some freedom but not all of it. Last week, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was awoken in the middle of the night and taken away from his prison. Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny commented on Twitter that he could not understand such amnesty accompanied with “idiotic abductions, flags and black Volgas.” Alyokhina had no chance to say a proper goodbye to her friends: the other inmates. Officials brought the artist to the Nizhny Novgorod railway station and left her there. Alyokhina still wore her prison coat with her name written on it. She could not wait to see her little son Fillip and “was dying to take a shower,” she said. Alyokhina also felt worried about the fate of 20 women, fellow inmates who supported her in prison.

Alyokhina said after the “endless humiliations” in prison, what had happened to her this morning seemed like “ a dark art performance.”

In phone interview, Alyokhina said that after all “endless humiliations” she had experienced in prison what had happened to her this morning seemed more like “ a dark art performance.” Looking for a place to go, Alyokhina called her friends at a local human rights center, the Committee Against Torture. One of the activists at the center, Stanislav Dmitriyevsky said that officials “secretly sneaked Masha out of jail” so she would not walk free to meet with her family, friends and reporters.” To Alyokhina, who spent almost two years in jail, the prison’s behavior was no surprise: “This is typical act for our penitentiary system, close and conservative as jail itself—their methods are all about secrecy, no information and zero transparency,” Alyokhina said. Nobody would tell that she had just walked out of prison. Even in her green prison overcoat and uniform skirt Alyokhina looked as any young woman, “except that she is extremely intelligent, brave and stable for a 25-year-old woman, who spent over 1.5 years in jail,” said human-rights activist Igol Kalyapin.
Kalyapin visited Alyokhina in her Ural prison colony last spring. The system applied methods meant to break any man’s courage to Alyokhina, Kalyapin said. “She would call prison guards ‘personnel’ and demanded they respect her rights, at the time, when she knew she could be murdered any night; her life was threatened several times. She was punished by isolation in a single cell but Masha stayed unbreakable; she is a well-mannered, intelligent and very respectable woman, “ Kalyapin said.
Meanwhile, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova called for a boycott of the Olympic games in Sochi as soon as she had a chance to speak to press waiting for her outside the hospital where she had been kept.

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The segregationists unseated

December 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm (BBC, civil rights, culture, fascism, Feminism, Free Speech, Guardian, insanity, islamism, protest, religion, religious right, Rosie B)

(Jim has already written on this below, but  I want to add my piece.)

Well, can you believe it?. An illiberal piece of policy is advanced by a powerful body, against it comes a petition, a demonstration, media shouting and then the policy is withdrawn. Amazing.

To recap,  Universities UK, (UUK) (formerly The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom)  put out guidelines that allowed speakers at meetings in universities to insist women and men be segregated for “genuinely religious” reasons. Student Rights picked this up.  The bloggers you’d expect – Maryam NazieOphelia BensonJames Bloodworth produced angry posts. The mainstream media moved in – Nick Cohen in the Spectator, and Yasmin Alibai-Brown, finely furious, in The Independent.

Imagine the scenario:-

Sheikh Shifty is invited by some ISOC group to speak about Freedom and Justice at the University of Excellence.  Sheikh Shifty will only speak if the women sit separate from the men.

Obvious answer – tell the misogynist theocrat to take a hike, in these words,

“I am sorry to inform you that it is against the principles of the University to allow meetings to occur with gender segregation.”

But not in the UUK’s horrible management speak:- .

if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully

There was a petition and a small demonstration which Channel 4 covered at length.

Then the BBC began to thunder. The Today programme (1:35) on 11th December had a long piece which started with the reporter regretting his old LSE, the one in the 1980s where students were raucous but not so ready to be offended, or offended on the behalf of putative others.

The next day the BBC got Nicola Dandridge, the Chief Executive of UUK, into the Today (2:10) studio. Regular Today listeners recognised the tones with which Justin Webb interrogated her. It’s the one which they use on a duplicitous politician who has no moral leg to stand on -  who has, say, been fiddling her expenses.  It’s the voice of outraged decency against a moral moron and it was music to my ears, an angry liberal telling off a squirming piece of inconsistency and illogic. (For a biting take down of Dandridge’s muddled defence, I would strongly recommend this.)

“If this is all that Dandridge means – that people have the right to sit where the hell they want and some will sit cliquishly by gender or other groupings, there is no role for Universities and no reason why the situation should ever be addressed in policy.

Worse, “If women want to sit where the hell the want”? IF? What is this world in which you live where women routinely have no desires and sit where they are told without a single thought disrupting the gentle currents of air between their ears?

All women always sit where they want unless coerced or forced. The fact that you can’t acknowledge this openly, that women naturally have desires and preferences, that we make conscious choices here-there-and-everywhere, speaks to a profound sexism whose paucity of respect for a woman’s mind truly challenges the ability of words to express. I can only repeat your own phrase:

If women want to sit where the hell they want

and goggle at your idea that you will only impose segregation in times and places where women have no preferences.

The politicians  -  Chuka Umunna , Jack Straw, Michael Gove, David Cameron spoke out.  Under the threads of their statements in the Guardian commenters were saying, Bugger me, the horrible Tory creeps are right this time. I’d normally be spitting that politicians were interfering in University affairs – they really shouldn’t, you know – but I’m cheering them. If the representative body of the Vice Chancellors and Principals are so bloody clueless, and the NUS are so supine, they need to be kicked.

Separatetables

I think a lot of the response has been visceral. The suffragettes weren’t force fed for this, the women who fought a grinding battle to get entry into English universities shouldn’t be pissed  on

So now the UUK has withdrawn gender segreation from its guidelines. It looks like the forces of light have won for once.

Congratulations to those who attended protests and wrote copiously.  If only every campaign could be so successful.  But what a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time and anger-fuelled action.

Flesh is Grass has a sane, thoughtful piece:-

Women always miss out when public spaces are segregated by leaders and organisers – even if voluntary, it’s a small change in culture, in the general view of what is acceptable. Authoritarians always use the values of open, pluralist societies against those societies themselves, and weaken them incrementally. Let’s stop this.

She also pointed out that feminists like Caroline Lucas, MP, Green Party and Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party did not speak out. I read that Caroline Lucas had said it wasn’t a priority. Also there hasn’t been a peep out of that clutch of feminist writers in The Staggers.   Polly Toynbee,  one of the old-guard Guardian, undid the miserable expectations we now have of her paper, by sticking to her old feminism and atheism.  At least they didn’t publish any of their usual apologetics on these matters. The Observer has an editorial  and a good piece by Catherine Bennett.

On the other side:-

Well, one is an article which looks like parody in the Huff Po by Camilla Khan, the Head of Communications,(!) Federation of Student Islamic Societies, who tries to wrap this up in a mixture of post-modernism and spirituality.  She has managed to use every con-trick word – those words that irritate like berry bugs in a bra cup – “discourse”, “empower”, “nuanced”  and “diversity, “

Firstly, the term segregation itself is highly problematic and acts to conflate the reality further. As Saussure theorised on syntagmatic relations, ‘within speech, words are subject to a kind of relation that is independent of the first and based on their linkage,’ and segregation connotes various forms of separation and oppression.

The problem is calling segregation, segregation.  If you called it something else it would be fine. Telling Molly when she walks into a room that she can’t sit here because she’s a woman, isn’t segregation, just nuanced diverse empowerment.

Tendance Coatesey has a bit of fun with Khan’s linguistic studies – Saussure is old hat, I understand – but she really should read a bit of Orwell, and note that calling mass murder “liqudation of anti-social elements” doesn’t stop it being mass murder.  But whoever has influenced her writing style, it wasn’t Orwell.

Her other con-trick is that very old anti-feminist ploy, that women taking a different (and different will mean inferior) place is a path to spirituality.  So the anti-suffragists said that women agitating to take part in public life spoiled their purifying influence and their moral specialness.  They were meant for a higher destiny.

As with life, Islam acknowledges that we form different groups who occupy various intellectual and social spaces. Diversity is celebrated with spirituality at the forefront, forming a broad frame of reference which is not always easily comprehensible to those outside of it.

No, I can’t comprehend how her spirituality is so much compromised when she takes a bus, goes to the cinema or sits in her cultural studies class. What about the diversity of those women who don’t want to be herded with other women, and men also.  Is that celebrated? (Add “celebrate” with abstract nouns to my list of berry bug words).  I think the “diversity” is a pretty damned narrow one.

Second is Shohana Khan. Khan is a member of Hitz ut-Tahrir, the fighters for a Caliphate where apostates will be killed.

Her argument boils down to:- Men and women must be separated because otherwise they will get sex on the brain and not be able to do something.

Rather the concept of separating men and women in public spaces in Islam, is part of a wider objective. Islam has a societal view that the intimate relationship between a man and a woman is for the committed private sphere of marriage, and should not be allowed to spill outside of this sphere. This is because in society, men and women need to cooperate to achieve things in society whether in the work place, in education, in interactions across the public space. Islam firmly believes if the sexual instinct is let loose in this public sphere, it can taint and complicate these relationships. Therefore Islam promotes ideas such as honouring women which are upheld in society, but alongside such ideas specific rules and laws are implemented to help maintain the atmosphere of healthy interaction between the sexes.

And if the woman breaks these rules, eg by not covering her head she’s fair game is she?

I think it has been observed that public school boys for instance, especially in times past, had a highly unhealthy attitude towards women because they weren’t used to them as normal human beings.  So you’re talking garbage – and rather prurient garbage at that.  Islamists are as sex obsessed as Hugh Hefner.

Now I won’t say I haven’t been at a public meeting and thought a chap in the audience was rather a dish. In fact, political meetings at universities is where many of us met our soulmates – that person who was highly vocal about the need to oppose nuclear proliferation and had lovely grey eyes.  The partnerships of couples who fell in love with the shared ideals and the person can be highly productive. The Pankhursts were one such couple.  Jennie Lee and Nye Bevan were another.  So I can’t deny there is a sexual element at public meetings, as there is in the offices where we work.

But that it should dominate someone’s mind so much that it screws up their ability to act! What’s wrong with them?  Knowing how to behave in public is part of growing up, as is concentrating on the matter at hand. The only people offering distractions who should be segregated are those twerps with buzzing mobile phones.

So a victory this time round.  End with Any Questions  (:38).  Shami Chakrabati took what has been a common attitude – why on earth are we even talking about this?

Johnathan Dimbleby: Is there justification for segregation in an educational setting?

Amjad Bashir  (small business spokesman for UKIP, Pakistani immigrant, from Bradford): No.  The answer is no. Absolutely not. . .  All through my life, and my children, my grand children are all mixing, all sexes, whether it’s primary schools, whether it’s secondary schools. whether it’s universities. There is no room. This is England This is the twenty first century.  It’s not Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive, It’s not Saudi Arabia, where they are not allowed to have bank accounts. This is England. We should allow our youngsters to mix and decide their own future. This is the twenty first century. I am against this segregation.

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No to gender segregation in universities: protest in London today!

December 10, 2013 at 10:59 am (civil rights, Education, Human rights, islamism, misogyny, NUS, posted by JD, protest, relativism, religion, secularism, sexism, women)

Short notice, I’m afraid, but any readers who are in London this evening are urged to attend:File:School segregation protest.jpg

Above: segregated education in 1950′s America; surely we’ve moved on since then?

At Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC 1H 9HQ, 5 pm (for 5.30 start) Tues 10 Dec

From One Law for All:

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day we oppose the legitimisation of forced gender segregation by Universities UK (UUK), the body representing the leadership of UK universities. UUK has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” The document also alleges that universities would be legally obliged to enforce fully, not only partially, segregated seating orders on audiences at universities. Outrageously, the document has been supported by the National Union of Students.

We will meet at 5pm to start the protest at 5.30pm

Speakers will include: Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Maryam Namazie (Fitnah and One Law for All), Kate Smurthwaite (comedian), Anne-Marie Waters (National Secular Society), Julie Bindel (Justice for Women), Charlie Klenjian (Lawyers’ Secular Society), Helen Palmer (Central London Humanist Group), Sam Westrop (Stand for Peace), Sean Oakley (Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society), Georgi Laag (London Atheist Activists Group), Ahlam Akram (Palestinian women’s rights campaigner), James Bloodworth (Left Foot Forward), Erin Saltman (Quilliam Foundation).

A petition against UUK has received more than 7.500 signatures already, and the issue has been extensively covered by the Times, Guardian, Spectator, Indepenent and Telegraph. You can find a collection of the articles below. Sign the petition here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Universities_UK_Rescind_endorsement_of_sex_segregation_at_UK_Universities/ A detailed analysis of the document can be found here: http://hurryupharry.org/2013/11/23/you-are-a-woman-you-cant-sit-here-uk-universities-condones-gender-segregation/ Follow us on twitter: @maryamnamazie @lsesusash #no2sexapartheid See More

Woburn House 20 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9HQ
 :

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Jeremy Hunt is trying to change the law: sign this petition!

December 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm (Cuts, health service, London, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, Tory scum)

Readers are urged to support this petition against Hunt’s outrageous “hospital closure clause.” However, I feel obliged to say that 38 Degrees have a bit of a cheek in seemingly claiming all the credit for the brilliant Lewisham Hospital campaign, which has been conducted on the ground by local activists and rank-and-file trade unionists, many of whom have not even heard of 38 Degrees…

****************************************************************************************************

From 38 Degrees: This is a message from Louise Irvine, a 38 Degrees member and hospital campaigner. Read her message below, or sign  her petition here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/hospital-closure-clause

I’m a doctor and part of the Save The Lewisham Hospital campaign. Along with thousands of 38 Degrees members, we stopped health minister Jeremy Hunt from closing services at Lewisham Hospital. Thousands of us chipped in to take him to court, and we won. [1]

Jeremy Hunt appealed the decision – but he lost again. So now, having been told twice that he acted illegally, he’s trying to change the law! [2] He wants to bring in a “hospital closure clause” to give him new legal powers to shut A&Es like Lewisham. If he gets this through, none of our hospitals will be safe from his meddling or closure. [3]

The hospital closure clause will soon be voted on by MPs. We need to persuade enough of them to vote against it. A huge petition will show MPs that the public don’t want them to give Jeremy Hunt new powers to shut hospitals.

I’ve started a petition on the 38 Degrees website. Please can you sign it today, before MPs vote?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/hospital-closure-clause

It’s a pretty cynical way to respond to our campaign, isn’t it? After losing in court, Jeremy Hunt’s trying to sneak a change into a law to allow him “to dismantle hospital services arbitrarily.” [2] Even the very best hospitals wouldn’t be safe. This sinister clause is hidden within a much bigger piece of law - presumably he’s hoping that it will go through unnoticed.

A big petition can help stop this happening. When the bill is next debated, we can prove that thousands of us are coming together against these plans. Every signature helps sound the alarm. Every signature is a blow to Jeremy Hunt’s reputation, an extra voice against him getting new powers to shut hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt saw the public outcry the last time the government changed the law to damage the NHS. He saw his predecessor, Andrew Lansley, lose his job. The last thing Jeremy Hunt will want to see is 38 Degrees members coming together again to stand up for NHS.

NOTES:
[1] 38 Degrees blog, Jeremy Hunt beaten in court… again!
http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/10/29/jeremy-hunt-has-been-beaten-in-court-again/
[2] Parliament website, Early Day Motion 656
http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/656
[3] The Telegraph, Government wants free rein to close hospitals, claims
medic
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10414510/Government-wants-free-rein-to-close-hospitals-claims-medic.html
——————————

H/t: Trudy S

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Return of the Rat

November 25, 2013 at 6:54 pm (Guest post, labour party, mccarthyism, protest, scotland, Unite the union)

By Roland Wright

UNITE Union Smell A Rat

A decade ago the Scottish Sunday Herald had a circulation of over 60,000. But now it has sunk lower than 25,000.

A decade ago Paul Hutcheon was an investigative reporter. But now he just hunts with the pack.

Could the decline in the paper’s circulation be in anyway related to the decline in the quality of its journalism?

“Leading Labour MSP Urged to Resign After Taking Part in Unite Demo Outside Director’s House,” read the headline above an article by Hutchinson in yesterday’s edition of the paper.

Over five weeks after the event, the giant inflatable rat used in a Unite protest outside the house of an Ineos director had made a comeback: “Smith was one of 13 people pictured. He was standing next to the rat.”

Hutcheon’s use of the hack-journalist technique of guilt-by-association was positively breathtaking. It ran as follows:

The rat was next to Drew Smith who was next to his aide Michael Sharpe who is the son of Cathie Jamieson MP who is part of Ed Ball’s shadow treasury team at Westminster.

Sharpe, luckily for him, was not standing next to the rat. He was “holding a placard.” A very unconventional activity for someone taking part in … a protest.

Not that Hutcheon actually refers to the event as a protest. Deploying his wordsmith skills to the utmost, he writes instead of “the Unite trade union’s notorious ‘leverage’ demo.”

Another problematic aspect to the article was that Smith was not actually taking part in the protest (not that there would have been anything wrong with his participating, especially given that he is chair of the Labour Trade Union Group in Holyrood.)

The Unite protest coincided with the Dunfermline by-election campaign for the Holyrood seat left vacant after the resignation of the incumbent SNP MSP.

Along with two of his aides, Smith happened to be distributing Labour by-election leaflets on the estate where the Unite protest was taking place.

This certainly makes a mockery of the anonymous “senior party source” quoted by Hutcheon: “A trade unionist with any sense would not have gone within a hundred miles of that protest.”

Clearly, there wouldn’t have been much point in distributing leaflets calling for a Labour vote in the Dunfermline by-election over a hundred miles away in Inverness.

But the bigger problem with the article is the headline reference to Smith being “urged to resign.” By whom was he being “urged to resign”?

Why, none other than Eric Joyce MP!

That’s the Falkirk MP with the chequered history of drunken brawls in the House of Commons and Edinburgh Airport, dalliances with a 17-year-old schoolgirl, drink-driving, refusing to take a breathalyser test, and record claims for parliamentary expenses.

When it comes to speaking out about parliamentarians who should resign, Joyce clearly commands no small degree of authority on such matters! In a comment unlikely to endear him to local councillors, Joyce said:

“The image of a Labour shadow cabinet member smiling as he takes part in a leverage squad outside someone’s home is thoroughly nauseating. He should resign immediately.”

“The Scottish shadow cabinet doesn’t feel like a serious prospect at the moment. Members are content to operate at the level of the local councillor which some of them remain.”

A non-story about a man who stood next to a giant inflatable rat over five weeks ago?

It’s hardly investigative journalism. In fact, it’s not even news.

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Support Unite members at Grangemouth!

October 23, 2013 at 9:05 am (posted by JD, protest, scotland, solidarity, Unite the union, workers)

Protesters gather at Grangemouth oil refinery in in Falkirk Scotland

From Tony Burke: 

 You will have seen in the media the dispute at the Ineos Refinery and Chemicals plant in Grangemouth Scotland.

Unite members are under attack by their own company who are attempting to impose new terms on conditions on the workforce, ending the company pension scheme, taking disciplinary action against one of our convenors, Steve Deans. The company say they are losing money and need to make changes. Unite has called off any industrial action at the site to allow talks to take place. However, the company continue to issue ultimatums to members, telling them to sign a “survival plan” or they face losing their jobs over the last weekend. Our reps in attempting to find a just resolution have been faced with abuse by irresponsible management.

The company, and its owner, the billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, are holding the workforce, their families and Scottish and UK energy supplies to ransom.
 
The workforce have responded to the company ultimatum with over 65% rejecting the “survival plan” by Monday evening. 
 
More details on the dispute including latest media reports along with an opportunity for Unite activists and members to show their support for our members fighting back against this attack by their employer can be found at: 
 
 
You can click straight through to send your message of support at http://tinyurl.com/pgwe96u 
 
On Twitter to follow events supporting Unite members at Ineos Grangemouth follow Comrade Kat @ComradeKat
 
Please email this message onto your members and contacts.
 
Tony Burke
Unite Assistant General Secretary
 
 

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