Bangladeshi soldiers use earth mover during rescue operation at site of factory collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013. At least 161 people were killed. / AP
Statement from Labour Behind the Label:
Labour Behind the Label today mourns the senseless loss of life, after an 8 story building in Savar, Bangladesh housing 3 clothing factories collapsed this morning (24.4.13). Over 82 workers [now known to be at least 161 -JD] were killed in the wreckage and 800 people injured, with the death toll set to rise as further bodies are found. Labour rights groups and trade unions in Bangladesh and internationally are calling for immediate action from international brands following the collapse.
The building contained 3 separate clothing factories, which locals say housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including C&A, Matalan and Wal-Mart.
This collapse follows the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. The speed of the garment industry expansion in the Savar area is an ongoing and pressing concern. Savar, just outside of Dhaka, has seen significant growth in garment factories in recent times, with factories being built on swamp land and without proper building regulations in place. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.
“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,” says Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label.
She adds: “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But shortly they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, will be without income and without support. Compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”
Labour Behind the Label is calling upon all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign the ‘Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement’ immediately to stop future tragedies from happening. The Clean Clothes Campaign, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations, has developed this sector-wide program that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. This transparent and practical agreement is unique in that it is supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.
Note to political cartoonists: time to revisit and update this:
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” -Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution
Whatever the merits of such notions about personal and national security (they are, to say the least, highly questionable in this day and age), it is important to note that the only kind of militia the Second Amendment expressly regards as consistent with security is a “well-regulated” militia. One may rationally and reasonably conclude that this applies both to an organized militia and an unorganized one. Otherwise, an armed citizenry consisting of men and women using guns for presumed high purpose according to their respective dictates of personal whim and political fancy is the stuff from which anarchy could result, and in turn the tyranny against which the private possession of guns is supposed to protect Americans.
The right to keep and bear arms (a term that connotes a military purpose) stems from the English common law right of self-defense. However, the possession of guns in the mother country of the common law was never an absolute right. Various conditions were imposed. Britain today has one of the strictest gun laws in the world.
There is nothing absolute about the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is not freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is not freedom to have multiple spouses, or sacrifice a lamb in the local park, as religiously sanctioned practices. Similarly, whatever right the Second Amendment protects regarding the private possession of guns, for whatever definition of “militia,” is not an absolute right. It must serve the overall public interest, including (from the preamble of the US Constitution) the need to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Whatever right there is to possess firearms is no less important than the right of every American, gun owners included, to protection against the possession of guns by persons who by any reasonable standard lack the crucial credentials for responsible gun ownership.
- From a 1977 article by David J.Steinberg, Executive Director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms Policy: “Does The Second Amendment Mean What It Says?”
- Socialists debate gun control here: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/4681
Some good news for the Chinese working class: Hu Mingjun is about to be released.
But with so much of the contemporary “left” noticeably keen on China (either as the inevitable future world superpower, or as the only realistic alternative to Western ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism), it’s important to remember that it is a highly repressive, anti-working class state-capitalist regime. The following is from
Hu was one of the leaders of the Sichuan provincial branch of the banned China Democratic Party. He was detained by police in early 2001 after offering to help striking workers at the Dazhou Steel Mill in Sichuan. Around 1,000 workers at the plant had earlier organised a mass protest demanding the payment of overdue wages.
Hu was initially charged with “incitement to subvert state power” but the charges were subsequently increased to “subversion.” Hu was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment by the Dazhou Intermediate People’s Court in May 2002.
Hu’s mother told Human Rights in China that after his detention, the family heard nothing from the authorities until months after his trial. She said, “We did not know that he had been sentenced to 11 years until August or September 2002, when the police brought the verdict to his father in a hospital room to get his signature. His father said, ‘I won’t be able to see my son again.’ He passed away a few months later.” She said that Hu Mingjun was suffering from frequent chest pains and nausea, and would faint from the smell of cigarette smoke. According to her, when Hu applied for permission to get a check-up in a hospital outside the prison, it took two or three years before he got the approval. The exam showed that his left ventricle was enlarged and he has needed medications ever since.
Hu was one several activists sentenced to long prison terms in the early 2000s for their role in helping workers seek redress for rights violations during the mass restructuring of state-owned enterprises at the time.
Courtesy of the Torygraph (believe it or not): here are the proposals (drawn up at Cameron’s request by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist, in conjunction with government officials and lawyers), for mor or less doing away with an employee’s right to claim unfair dismissal. This comes on top of the already enacted increase in the qualifying period of an employee’s service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim, from one year to two.
We’re told that Vince Cable the Lib Dems are resisting these proposals, but we all know what their “resistance” is worth.
Beecroft comments on unfair dismissal:
Four approaches are possible. First, the whole concept of unfair dismissal where discrimination is not involved could be removed from UK law (apart from a few provisions where employees are protected from dismissal under the EU-derived rights under the Working Time Directive, Fixed Term/Part Time Directives and T.U.P.E). There is no EU concept of “unfair” non-discriminatory dismissal, so there are no other EU constraints on what the UK can do in this area. Second, the period within which an employee can be dismissed without being able to claim unfair dismissal could be extended beyond two years. The exact period might depend on the size of the business concerned. A longer period could be allowed for smaller businesses that find the specialised processes for dealing with unfair dismissal harder to understand and follow than do larger businesses which can justify employing an HR specialist. Third, the process for proving that an employee is no longer up to the job could be streamlined. The burden of proff on the employer could be reduced, making it harder for the employee to cliam to a tribunal that the process was flawed. Reducing the burden of proof would also address the problem of employees that dismissal was for discriminatory reasons rather than performance reasons since if it is easier to prove that dismissal was for underperformance it is harder to say that it was for discriminatory reasons. The steps currently proposed to change the system, including the obligation to suggest ACAS conciliation, fees for employees starting the employment tribunal process and greater use of cost orders for frivolous complaints are all sensible steps in the right direction.
However if it is felt to be politically unacceptable to simply do away with the concept of unfair dismissal I strongly favour a fourth approach which allows an employer to dismiss anyone without giving a reason provided they make an enhanced leaving payment. New legislation would precribe that it is not unfair dismissal if the employer simply states that he is not happy with the employee’s performance and then consults, gives notice and pays a defined level of compensation linked to the employee’s salary and length of service. I am proposing for two reasons that the compensation should be that speicified in redundancy situations. First, these will typically be higher than those specified in the employee’s contract of employment, thus providing compensation for the no fault nature of the dismissal. Second, if the payments were different from redundancy payments there would be financial incentives for game playing as to which sort of dismissal was chosen. This type of dismissal could be known as Compensated No Fault Dismissal.
As well as this attack on the right to claim unfair dismissal, Beecroft also proposes:
• Delaying laws which will force companies to provide pensions for their workers from this autumn. The report states: “It is unclear why introducing from 2012 a measure that will costs employers £6 billion per year, individuals £7 billion per year and government £2 billion per year is sensible in the current economic climate”.
• Stopping the planned spread of flexible working to allow all employees to request changes to their standard working week. It recommends a new voluntary code of conduct rather than laws.
• A watering down of the TUPE rules that mean that a supplier taking over another’s firm’s contract and workers must respect the existing terms of employment for workers. This is a particular issue when private firms take over roles previously conducted by the public sector.
• Scrapping plans for firms to introduce equal pay audits.
• Allowing larger firms to make so-called “collective” redundancies where more than 100 workers are dismissed with only 30 days notice. This notice period is currently only available for smaller firms, which means that larger firms have to pay people an extra 60 days worth of wages.
• A new online immigration system which allows employers to check a potential worker’s legal employment status. At the moment, firms have to keep paper records for up to two years after an employee has left.
• “A modest amount of one-off work by the Home Office…would eliminate any risk of well-meaning employers fearing or facing prosecution for honest mistakes,” the report suggests.
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
It is pretty difficult I think to make a rational case against gay marriage, and John Sentamu, writing in the Guardian, does nothing to buck that trend.
He begins by admitting that sometimes the church has been a bit tough on homosexuals: “But that baleful history does not diminish the need to speak the truth in love.” That gives me the same bad feeling I get when reading a comment which begins ‘with all due respect …’ He goes on:
“I firmly believe that redefining marriage to embrace same-sex relationships would mean diminishing the meaning of marriage for most people, with very little if anything gained for homosexual people.”
Well, it wouldn’t diminish it for me (and I am married) and in fact would make me feel a bit more cheerful. He concludes that point:
“If I am right, in the long term we would all be losers”: Well, yes, of course – and if you are wrong, we won’t be.
He then starts to argue that society needs to respond “intelligently to differences” rather than treating everyone the same. That’s true up to a point – if you have a disability and need some adjustment at work for example. But Sentamu is using the rhetoric of anti-discrimination to justify – discrimination. He goes on:
“To change the law and smooth out this difference on grounds of equality would force unjustified change on the rest of the nation.”
Why is it that opponents of gay marriage always end up talking as though someone was trying to force them into one?
He eventually meanders back to his anti-discrimination rhetoric:
“The question for me is one of justice, and not equality. Justice is the primary category. It does not mean not treating everyone the same way, but giving everyone what they need or deserve.”
Sorry – I fail to see why I need or deserve marriage more just because I am not gay.
Finally: why did Socialist Unity feel the need to reproduce, without comment, this letter against gay marriage? And why did it attract only two comments? I suppose it mustn’t be a shibboleth.
The two month “Falklands War” between Britain and Argentina in 1982 was a freak event. It was part of no larger conflict; no issue other than possession of the islands was involved.
Both Argentina and Britain were bourgeois states. Neither of them oppressed, and neither of them was trying to conquer the other, or likely to, as a result of the war.
The Falklands Islands were not a base from which Britain oppressed others in the region, and never had been. The only issue between Britain and Argentina, the cause of the war, was the fate of the Falklands Islands and their inhabitants.
Living 400 miles across the South Atlantic from Argentina, the Falkland Islanders were British. In identity, desired international affiliation, language and culture, they were British. The islands had been British since the 1830s, when the modern Argentine state had not yet emerged.
Argentina’s claim to the Falklands rested on a few years of formal possession by Argentina’s predecessor state, a century and a half in the past, and on their comparative geographical proximity to it.
Against that stood the wishes of the inhabitants to remain British and their no less strong desire not to be subjected to Argentine rule.
Argentina’s rulers were, under General Galtieri, a murderous, unpopular military junta. By invading the islands, they sought to make themselves less unpopular at home and rally the forces of Argentine chauvinism behind them.
Margaret Thatcher and her government, though their political standing in Britain would improve greatly as a result of the war, were at that point very unpopular at home too.
On the merits of the issue, right lay with Britain, defending the Falklanders. To recognise that did not imply support for Thatcher’s war, and we did not support it: indeed, we ran the slogan “The Enemy is At Home” above the masthead of the weekly paper, Socialist Organiser, throughout the war.
On the other side, nothing but Argentine chauvinism could lead socialists, if they were capable of registering what was happening in the world around them, to support Galtieri’s invasion and occupation.
In fact a fantasy “let’s pretend” “anti-imperialism” could and did lead many not only (rightly) to oppose Thatcher’s war but also (wrongly) positively to back the fascistic Galtieri junta. Many socialists, and not only the “revolutionaries”, became honorary Argentine chauvinists for the duration of the war. Why? How?
On the grounds that its opponent was Britain, sections of the left cast Argentina as the hero in a drama that was going on nowhere else except in their own heads. They lost themselves in a delirium of “anti-Imperialist” political fantasising.
The fact that there was nothing “anti-imperialist” in the Argentine seizure of territory 400 miles from Argentina, inhabited for generations by people who did not want to be part of Argentina and had done Argentina no harm, did not faze them at all. Your “Anti-Imperialist”, when desperate for a “fix”, tends to be impervious to reason and arguement.
All the activist left opposed Thatcher’s war. Beyond that, the left divided into two groups. That time round the SWP was on the side of sanity and rational politics. Along with “Socialist Organiser” (what is now AWL), it refused to support Argentina, its military rulers, or the occupation of the Falkland islands.
(Militant (now the Socialist Party/ Socialist Appeal) had a bizarre approach all of its own, declaring that the alternative to the war was “a Socialist Federation of Britain, the Falkland Islands, and Argentina”.)
The other main group in the left consisted of a large part of the softer Labourite left, around Labour Briefing (The Argentinians were fighting Thatcher, weren’t they? What more did we want?); the Mandelite Fourth International, then a sizeable organisation, the International Marxist Group; the Workers Revolutionary Party, crazy as a bed-bug; Workers’ Power; and the other half of the organisation to which the tendency which is now AWL then belonged, the Workers’ Socialist League.
The pro-Argentine part of the WSL was led by Alan Thornett (now of the ISG).
The story of what happened in the WSL, and how Thornett’s section made themselves the pioneers of what today is the “anti-Imperialist” politics of the kitsch-left in Britain, including the SWP, has a lot of light to shed on the current dispute between the “anti-Imperialists” and ourselves.
(Some of the documents of that dispute can be found in Workers’ Liberty 2/3.)
The WSL of 1982 was the result of the fusion, in July 1981, of the forerunner of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Organiser, and a group that had separated from the WRP seven years earlier, called the WSL. In the fusion, we took the name Socialist Organiser for the joint paper and WSL for the joint organisation.
After nine months, the unification began to break down around the Falklands war. The organisation divided into warring and, as it proved, irreconcilable, factions.
We all agreed on opposing the war, and at the start all of us had rejected positive support for Argentina and declared ourselves in principle for the right of self-determination for the Falkland Islanders.
Six weeks after the British fleet set sail, the Thornett group decided that we should back the Argentine military junta against Britain. Soon they claimed that backing Argentina was a principle of “anti-imperialism”.
First, without any prior warning, they tried a small coup, changing our position by a vote of five to three on an Executive Committee whose full membership was 12. After the National Committee majority rejected and overturned that, they started to reconstitute the old WSL and counterpose it to the rest of the organisation.
From then on, the new WSL unravelled, and within it the Thornett section itself unravelled even faster, scattering their supporters out of the organisation in all directions.
The late Alan Clinton, a Thornetteite who would become Labour Leader of Islington Council some years later, coined what then became the response of the Thornettites to all talk of the rights of the Falkland Islanders: “The Falkland Islanders? They wouldn’t populate two streets in Islington!” That disposed of their rights!
They denounced us as “pro-imperialists” because our attitude, “defeatist on both sides” implied that we wanted the fascistic military government of Argentina overthrown by the Argentinian workers during the war. They insisted it was the duty of “anti-imperialists” to support the Argentinian military forces against Britain, to be “revolutionary defencists” for “anti-imperialist” Argentina and its military dictators.
I responded to their bizarre solicitude for the Argentine military with the statement that I’d be happy to see the whole military apparatus of the Argentine state, whose sole function in history — apart from extirpating the native Amerindian population of the country — has been internal policing, sunk to the bottom of the South Atlantic. They went into shock; and when they came out of it some of them denounced me as “an agent of British imperialism”.
We on our side of the common organisation, thought of the Thornettites as hopelessly disoriented people, politically drunk on foolish, self-indulgent fantasy politics; and as people who were shamefully ignorant of the Trotskyist political tradition in which they claimed to stand.
“Revolutionary defencism” for Argentina was political nonsense; but leave that aside. They understood it to mean that socialists should “subordinate” class struggle within Argentina to the potential good effects of an Argentine victory, “even if it strengthens Galtieri”, on “the international balance of forces”. That had nothing to do with Trotskyist politics or the Trotskyist tradition.
Trotsky, for instance, being entirely on China’s side against the Japanese invaders in the 1930s, advocated a war of national defense. Nonetheless, he advocated a working class revolution against the Chaing Government, during that war.
Their joke-shop, buffoon-fantasy “anti-imperialism” was no harmless bit of inconsequential nonsense, though: it led them to an all too real support of the foul Argentine regime and its mini-imperialism in the Falklands.
Today the biggest forces on the left, in the first place the SWP, have the politics, or very close to them, that the Thornettites had then. Their “anti-Imperialism” is no less empty.(Alan Thornett can rightly claim to have been the Copernicus of this sort of anti-imperialism”, and for all I know, he does!)
They don’t just oppose our own government – they back some of the foulest regimes on Earth, on the sole criterion that they oppose the British and US governments.
The SWP’s descent into such politics did not start with Iraq. It started with their switch in 1987 to support Iran in the Iran/ Iraq war, on the grounds that the USA was backing Iraq. (It had been doing that for the previous seven years.) Until then, the SWP had opposed the Iran/ Iraq war on both sides.
The SWP’s descent from Marxist-socialist politics first reached its present level of political dementia in the Balkans War of 1999. They tried to build an “anti-war movement” in support of a Serbia which was engaged in attempted genocide against the people of its “internal colony”, Kosova. Serbia’s activity in Kosova was the sole issue in the war, which stopped when the Serb Army withdrew from Kosova.
The SWP learned nothing from that experience. Then came 9/11.
The New Anti-Imperialism identified itself, so to speak, to the kitsch left by Bin Laden’s great blows for human liberation in New York and Washington.
There was a new and vigorous “anti-Imperialism” loose in the world.
But this was a comprehensively reactionary “anti-Imperialism”? It was not “anti-Imperialism” in any sense in which socialists and consistent liberals are anti-Imperialist? Don’t be silly, comrade!
Nothing is or ever could be more reactionary than America, Britain and their allies and stooges. History moves in strange and unexpected ways. The Islamic clerical fascists are against America, and that’s all that matters now.
This was a stark change for the SWP in more ways than one. In the mid-1990s, when Muslims in Bosnia were being butchered, the SWP kept strictly aloof from any hint of supporting them, or denouncing the international arms embargo which hindered them in defending themselves.
They were still remiss in their Islamismophilia during the Balkans war, when they sided with Serbia, which was slaughtering and driving out Muslim Albanians.
Then came 9/11. In the Afghan war the SWP jumped “on board” — and with all the shamelessness of old-time Stalinists shuffling when their “line” switched.
In the Afghan war, Socialist Worker went so far in “supporting” the enemy of our British and American enemies as to attempt to explain away the horrendous treatment of women by the Taliban regime (Socialist Worker, 6 October 2001).
At the heart of all such thinking is the syndrome where the left defines itself largely in negative terms – by what we are against, not what we are for.
The moral, political and intellectual crisis of the left today takes the form of a comprehensive collapse of positive norms. But it is cumulative. It has been going on a long time. The Falkland War is now a quarter of a century in the past.
You can trace the present state of the left back to the attitudes which the once-very influential Stalinists, and some of the “orthodox Trotskyists”, cultivated towards the USSR and other Stalinist regimes. They were unconditionally on the side of those regimes against “Imperialism”, by which they meant the advanced capitalist countries of the west.
I was shocked into the awareness of something qualitatively new during the Balkans war of 1999. We did not support NATO, but we emphatically refused to do or say anything which implied support for or complaisance towards the primitive ethno-imperialism of the Serbian regime. Serbia had launched a genocidal drive in Kosova which NATO – in its own way, for its own interests, and after over a decade of complaisance towards Serbian imperialism – was attempting to check for the sake of regional stability. (See the dossier on Kosova in Workers’ Liberty 2/3).
Yet the kitsch-left and in the first place the SWP created a one-sided “anti-war” campaign which in fact was so designed as to give maximum support to Serbian imperialism.
“Anti-war”? The Serbian government could at will have “stopped the war” by withdrawing from Kosova (as eventually they did). If NATO had abandoned its action without Serbia withdrawing, then war would have continued – one-sided war by Serbia against the Kosovars.
The SWP indulged in a fantasy of anti-imperialism as bizarre as, and greatly more irresponsible than, that of poor old Alan Thornett when he passionately championed the anti-imperialism of the murderous Argentine junta in the Falklands war.
Or take another measuring rod. Repeatedly in articles and speeches over many, many years, I have used an incident in the history of the French Communist Party to illustrate the moral and political degeneracy of Stalinism.
In 1938, the leader of French Stalinism, Maurice Thorez, publicly proposed that the catchment-area of the “Popular Front” should be extended to include “patriotic”, that is anti-German, French fascists.
I can still recall how shocked I was when, young and naïve, I first read about this.
The PCF never achieved a popular front with patriotic fascists. I have lived to see people who say they stand in Trotsky’s political tradition realise something very like it – the SWP’s “popular front” in the “anti-war” movement with the obscurantist authoritarians of the Muslim Brotherhood – MAB – who advocate the creation of Islamic dictatorships all across the Muslim world.
You could quibble that they are not quite fascists, but it would be only a quibble.
They rightly opposed the 2003 war, but did it by lining up squarely with the Saddam Hussein Regime. They used Saddam’s long-time British Stooge, George Galloway, as the face and voice of the pro-Saddam “Anti- war” movement.
They have given abject and uncritical support to the Sunni supremacist and Jihadist “resistance” in Iraq against the bourgeois-democratic — more or less — forces in Iraq.
This “Left”, this kitsch-left, is far gone in political corruption, disintegration and decay.
In this situation, the first responsibility of honest socialists is to tell the truth. Describe things as they are. Only in that way can socialists prepare the future.
The One Law for All 11 February rally for Free Expression is being held in London from 14:00-16:00 hours at the Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords.
The call for action follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old Rhys Morgan being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page.
It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. More recently, the LSE Student Union has asked the atheist society to remove its affiliation to the union again due to a Jesus and Mo cartoon.
Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of bogus accusations, threats and censorship.
The right to criticise religion is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.
Speakers are: Richard Dawkins (Scientist); A C Grayling (Philosopher); Alex Gabriel (Blogger); Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All); Caroline Cox (Peer); Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association); Faisal Gazi (Spittoon.org); Gita Sahgal, (Centre for Secular Space); Hasan Afzal (Stand for Peace); Jennifer Hardy (Queen Mary Atheism Humanism and Secularism Society); Jenny Bartle (National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies); Jim Fitzpatrick (MP); Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian); Kenan Malik (Writer); Lilith (Poet, Anti-Injustice Movement) ; Marco Tranchino (Central London Humanist Group); Mark Embleton (Atheism UK); Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain); Nick Cohen (Writer); Nick Doody (Comedian); Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters); Rashid Ali (Centri); Rhys Morgan (Student activist); Roy Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union); Rupert Sutton (Student Rights); Sohaila Sharifi (Equal Rights Now); Sue Cox (Survivors Voice Europe); Sundas Hoorain (London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society); Susan Zhuang (University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society); Terry Sanderson/Keith Porteous Wood (National Secular Society); and Yasmin Rehman (Campaigner). There will also be a message from Jesus and Mo creator. Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya will be the Master of Ceremonies.
More info here.
Background to the events that Ophelia Benson designates as the “shut-uppery at UCL and Queen Mary U and LSE”.
If I lived near the Great Plughole I’d go to this.
On the Strauss-Khan case, like most people I’ve been gob-smacked by the reactions from the likes of Bernard-Henri Levy and Jean-François Kahn, in voices of pure entitlement (“he [the judge] thought that Strauss-Kahn was an ordinary person subject to trial, like anyone else”) and rich male privilege (“hanky-panky with the help”).
Strauss-Khan may be acquitted of the charge. But his friends and supporters are guilty of the crappiest male chauvinism, of the shoulder-shrugging kind.
An article on the union aspects of the affair:-
One very important fact has been largely absent from the coverage of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, until latterly, leading candidate to be the next president of France. The hotel housekeeper whom he allegedly assaulted was represented by a union.
The reason that this is an important part of the story is that it is likely that Strauss-Kahn’s alleged victim might not have felt confident enough to pursue the issue with either her supervisors or law enforcement agencies, if she had not been protected by a union contract. The vast majority of hotel workers in the United States, like most workers in the private sector, do not enjoy this protection.
Read the whole article and follow some of the links eg here:-
Housekeepers and officials with the main hotel workers union, Unite Here, said that housekeepers were often too embarrassed or scared to report incidents to management or the police. Sometimes they fear that management, often embracing the motto “the customer is always right,” will believe the customer over the housekeeper and that the worker may end up getting fired.
I would also bet that in a pre-Civil Rights USA a chambermaid, an African immigrant, would have been too frightened to take such an accusation against a rich important white man to the police. Well, she did, and the police treated her seriously – something which Strauss-Khan’s peers seem to find an outrage against the natural order.
When the referendum in Switzerland banning the construction of minarets was hot news the blogosphere was full of cheers and boos. Two cheers that I noticed came from:-
- libertarians who were crying a victory for democracy and liberty (this here explains the difference between those two political abstractions and how they can come into conflict); and
- blog commenters who spend much of their time denouncing Iran or Saudi Arabia who were now saying, “This is Switzerland’s business. Who are we to criticise?”
So plenty of people approved a ban that was grossly illiberal and scary too, since the referendum was organised by the far right Swiss People’s Party.
But this Swiss guy sounds like an honourable liberal acting in a way John Stuart Mill would have approved.
“A Swiss shoe-shop owner has built a mock minaret on the top of his warehouse in defiance of a ban on the Muslim architecture.
Guillaume Morand extended a chimney, gave it the form of a minaret and sprayed it in gold paint to protest against a constitutional amendment approved in a nationwide referendum last month.
“It was scandalous that the Swiss voted for the ban,” said Mr Morand, 46, who owns the Pomp It Up chain of shoe stores.
“Now we [the Swiss] have the support of all the far-right parties across Europe. This is shameful.””
But could any libertarian who gave this ban the thumbs up please imagine yourself as a gladiator and the crowd in unison giving the thumbs down as to whether you should live or die. Your liberty would be severely compromised, however democratic the decision.
“Our minaret is pretty,” he said. “You could say I’m proud of it and I’m happy that people are talking about it.” His neighbours are less enthusiastic and have showered him with racist insults since the minaret appeared this week, he said.
Another bunch were defending the ban on aesthetic grounds i.e. the Swiss didn’t want alien structures spoiling the look of their cities, or on feminist grounds, because Islam = female oppression. Mr Morand, though, hasn’t been abused for building something ugly, out of keeping or representing religious patriarchy and the misogyny in Abrahamic religions. A chunk at least of those voting saw minarets=Islam=religion of a foreign minority, and that is what they were taking exception to. Xenophobia isn’t necessarily a vote winner, but it has had popular support in the past to a murderous degree, and it is the reason for existence for a fair amount of political groups in Europe who are active at the moment.