Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Strike!

Nobody seriously doubts that there are massively complex systems to manage and futures to contemplate in the debate about public sector pensions, working conditions and securities. How we need cool heads, deep mathematics and the kind of trust which alone makes a public sector viable in the first place. Nobody seriously doubts the difficulty of imagining, organizing and funding the kind of educational structures which will benefit society now and into the future, or the kind of essential health, welfare and maintenance provision which should characterize any mature society.
Headlines and soundbites launched against today’s strike action may distort or obfuscate these core facts; namely that good society finds ways to prioritise, organise and fund those components necessary for sustaining and developing good society. Education and training for the common good, access to essential health care, emergency response services, safe environments, adequate housing, clean water, efficient transport … and reliable, competent financial structures. We know the list. We certainly know when something necessary is missing or threatened.
Today’s strike is necessary and important. Maximum disruption should be sought, in order to bring home to the most stubborn-willed that the people we depend on to sustain the systems which make for good society should be honoured and valued. Yes, we acknowledge that the practical details are complex. The complexity is felt differently by each person impacted. Many are profoundly anxious about their futures, for one reason or another, and what seems most important about today is the fact of solidarity, of standing together, of being present and visible as societies of people who know we depend on one another.
We are realistic about the persistent temptations to selfish ambition, the dreams of access to those tiny gated societies built around ‘my fantasies, my ambition, my private welfare.’ These desperate insecurities which once would have shamed or embarrassed more of us have seeped into the mainstream to corrode even our belief that good society can flourish. If today were just taken as an unofficial day off for fitting in some Christmas shopping, it would be worse than pointless, playing into the hands of those who continually work against the very idea of society. But it isn’t that kind of day. Today’s job is the work of solidarity, presence, dignity and union.  In the relationships and mutual dependence we recognize and demonstrate on a picket line or at a rally is real power - power to confront, to construct and to re-imagine a society where trust means something.

Gary Hall

Thursday, 28 April 2011

WORKERS MEMORIAL DAY


Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates those workers.

Worker’s Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.
The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight like hell for the living”.
The TUC coordinates activities across the country, publishing a comprehensive listing of events and suggestions.

For details see here

For an article on Workers Memorial Day see here

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

HOLY WEEK AT MATSON LIBRARY

Holy Week is a good time to reflect on how the campaign has been running to save Matson Library. This is because the image of a crucified library has become a powerful symbol of the way government – big and small – scapegoats and sacrifices public services while ignoring the wider political problems we all face.

On the evening 4 March 2011 nearly 70 Matson residents gathered outside Matson Library for a candlelit vigil. Books had been attached to a six-foot wooden cross and we sang together, “Were you there when they crucified our library?”.

Some gave testimony to its role in their life and in the community; former Matson librarians came forward to tell their story too. Another pointed out that powerful people have always executed the innocent – Jesus wasn’t the first and Matson library will not be the last. Young families, retired library users, and all ages and demographics between were present and able to speak truth to power – some were moved to tears.

Market forces ebb and flow and, like all violent gods they demand the occasional sacrifice. All the major political parties – priests to the market gods – say these sacrifices must be made.

But that evening was only the culmination of a series of public meetings, community-led consultations, and targeted campaigning. Meanwhile our MP had been rushing around trying to get a third sector group to agree to take on a public library and then when ‘Together In Matson’ (TIM) expressed an interest in offering some replacement services for youth he publicly said that they had agreed to take on a public library: a statement, which he no doubt now regrets and that has been to the embarrassment of Conservative councillors.

Even Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) have given up pretending to the idea of a Community-Run library in Matson: realising that they have no successful models on which to base such aspirations. They are now suggesting Information Services for young people and maybe – maybe – some shelving and a drop-off point for books, also for young people, could be include at some point in the future.

TIM is presently consulting the local community on this. Whether TIM takes this up in the future or even looks to offer the service to the whole community is yet to be seen – certainly it would be a huge challenge and it does not detract for the need for a proper Library in Matson.

All sorts of issues were not taken into account when GCC decided to axe Matson library – they claimed it was ill-used but forget that the accumulation of fines in Matson is going to have a far bigger impact on library usage then in the wealthier areas; they claim that we are 20 minutes drive from another library but forget that some neighbours afford the bus let alone a car; they claim footfall is low but when the opening hours were randomly arranged to suit the needs of the council over the needs of Matson folk knowing when it’s open takes some serious planning on the part of users. In other words – or rather in the words of Antonia Noble, they took, “no account of economic deprivation” and have long since abandoned listening to the real needs of library users.

Much of our hopes now lay with legal challenges being made but our greater hope is in the people of Matson who, whatever the outcome, have shown that they can organise, educate, and agitate for change and against the plotting of local and national government.

We need to continue to speak truth to power; it isn’t Easter Day yet.

Keith Hebden is a priest and curate at St Katharine’s Church Matson and, as a member of the Matson Forum, is involved in the campaign to save Matson library. Keith is an initial signatory of the Commonwealth document; a challenge from the churches to the Big Society agenda. http://commonwealthnetwork2010.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 27 March 2011

CARNIVAL AGAINST THE CUTS - HALF A MILLION TAKE TO THE STREETS



Good reports and discussion starting on Collective Resistance website about the March and prospects for the movement. Also see A Bike's eye view by Political Dynamite to get an alternative perspective on the 'violence'. Very good and thoughtful analysis from Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb who we can also thank for the video above. And some excellent reporting from Laurie Penny at the New Statesmen

Also Check out this report on the action planned against Barclays by Christians Against the Cuts

Saturday, 26 March 2011

People of all faiths should be protesting against the cuts

By David Haslam in Guardian CIF


People of faith should be on the streets of London today, as an act of prophecy against the greatest attack on the vulnerable in society for the last 50 years. When we examine the scriptures of most of the world's major faiths, we are faced with a call to defend the poor, and for the rich either to share their wealth or face unpleasant consequences.
The Judaeo-Christian prophets such as Amos castigate those who loll on beds inlaid with ivory, feast on lambs, drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the richest of oils, but feel no grief for those who struggle. Or to put it in today's parlance, those who pay themselves bonuses to purchase ever-larger yachts, eat at exorbitant restaurants and wear outrageously expensive perfumes, because they're worth it.
Christians for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) have evolved what they call the Common Wealth statement. In it they explore the idea of "fairness", which everyone is in favour of, although not everyone agrees on the content. The problem, they say, with the government's claims of fairness is that "they leave the essential parameters of economic power and inequality in place". The most detailed analysis of the proposed cuts is that they fall disproportionately on the poorest, including the homeless, those on housing benefit, people on incapacity benefit and women with childcare responsibilities.
Common Wealth asks why companies such as Vodafone and Boots are allowed to evade billions in tax. Some observers estimate that if all the large companies that have accountant armies helping them minimise tax decided to pay what they owe, welfare cuts would be unnecessary. "God did not create people to be the pawns and slaves of economic powers, shifted around by the political arbiters of 'fairness'." Some Muslims have said they find this analysis helpful.
Earlier this year Church Action on Poverty (CAP) launched its campaign to "Close the Gap", between the rich and poor. It says the gap is now "greater than at any time in the last 40 years, over 20% of people in the UK live in poverty, trapped by unjust structures and prejudice, made to pay more for everyday goods and services". "If you oppress the poor," says CAP, quoting Proverbs 14, 31, "you insult their Creator."
On 24 March 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered as he celebrated mass by gunmen hired by the El Salvador elite to rid them of this turbulent priest who spoke for his country's poor. CAP, with CESJ, have organised a service at St Martin in the Fields at 11am on 26 March to mark the anniversary of Romero's death, martyred for challenging the exploitative rich. People will then join the TUC march, arguing for genuine fairness in the cuts which all are facing.
In addition to quoting Amos, Common Wealth reminds us of Leviticus's teaching that the land – source of all wealth – belongs to God, of Ezekiel's warning of the dangers of false leadership, which ensures the profits of the rich at the poor's expense, and of how scathing is Isaiah about the hypocrisy of those who mark fast days while keeping their labourers at work. Then there is Jesus's parable of the labourers in the vineyard, each of whom received the same living wage at the end of the day, whether they had been given work for 12 hours, six or only one.
That's the kind of society people with faith – or with none – should be working and marching for. That's what it means to be fai

Friday, 25 March 2011

Christians Bail-In Against the Cuts

Christians Bail-In Against the Cuts

Christians concerned about the cuts will be holding an ecumenical service in Barclays on 16-17 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 1BH at 2pm. Be in the store at 2pm and join in when you here “O Come All Ye Faithful” start.

The British taxpayer bailed-out the banks with £1 trillion of public money and they haven’t paid us back. So now we are bailing-in and transforming this Barclays into a church. Churches play a vital role in supporting thousands of communities across the country, and we want to show the millionaires in cabinet that we know what their cuts are doing to our communities and they should be making the banks pay, not our communities and congregations.

Barclays was founded by Christians – Quakers to be precise. It's early success was at least in part due to the reputation the Quakers had as fair and honest people. But just last month Barclays paid £3.5bn in bonuses, with average pay per employee in the investment banking division rising to £236,000 – that's ten times the UK's average salary. It was this greed, and the recklessness of the banks, that caused the economic crisis. Yet the government are making ordinary people pay the price. David Cameron himself has said that the cuts will change Britain's "whole way of life". We call on the bankers and the government to act fairly and honestly to ensure that the banks that caused this crisis pay.

This will be an ecumenical service, and we will be praying in solidarity with those affected by the cuts and for the banks and government to listen to Jesus's message of justice. The liturgy for the service will include a sermon, Bible readings, silent reflection and a closing litany. If you want to contribute something for the service, please email christiansagainstcuts@gmail.com . 

CHRISTIANS URGED TO MARCH AGAINST CUTS

Christians of all backrounds are being urged to join in a national demonstration against the Coalition Government’s cuts in public spending, and their disproportionate effect on poor and vulnerable people.
The ‘March for the Alternative’ on 26 March in London will bring together thousands of people to protest at the injustice of the cuts, and call for the UK’s deficit to be tackled in a fairer way.
Alongside other Christian churches and agencies, Church Action on Poverty is asking Christians to be a visible presence on the march, making it clear that churches are standing alongside the poorest people in Britain.
Christians will gather at 12:15 on the north side of St Martin in the Fields church on Trafalgar Square, and then join the March at an appropriate moment. The March will go through central London to finish with a rally in Hyde Park. Individuals and groups can Pledge to join the March by visitinghttp://bit.ly/marchforthealternative .
Church Action on Poverty Coordinator Niall Cooper commented: “It is becoming clearer every day that the Government’s public spending cuts are falling unjustly on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. As part of our campaign to Close the Gap between rich and poor, we’ll be marching on the 26th to tell our politicians that there is another way – a fairer way. Before the March, we’ll be attending a service of commemoration for Archbishop ├ôscar Romero at St Martin’s church. We will gather inspiration from somebody whose stand with the poorest cost so much.”
Other churches and networks who are mobilising Christians to join the March include the United Reformed Church, the Roman Catholic National Justice and Peace Network, the Student Christian Movement, Housing Justice, and the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia.
Frank Kantor, the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Church and Society, commented: “As Christians, I believe that one of our key prophetic tasks, in the context of the drastic austerity measures and policy reforms of the coalition government, is to stand in solidarity with those who are on the margins; the march will bring together more than 200,000 people from all over the UK and send a clear message to the government: There is an alternative to the cuts and it needs to be given urgent consideration."
He added: "As members of Church Action on Poverty’s Close the Gap campaign, the United Reformed Church needs to be well represented, joining many thousands of other Christians in marching for a fairer way of dealing with the budget deficit.”
Other Christian leaders have condemned the cuts recently - including the Bishop of Manchester, the Rev Nigel McCulloch, who said: “Whatever else the government cuts, it shouldn’t cut compassion. My fear was and remains that it will be [doing just this]. The overall programme of cuts are really a very blunt instrument and in applying them there are bound to be some people who are very vulnerable who will be damaged... It is completely lacking in compassion."
Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, which has endorsed the Coalition of Resistance and participated in the Common Wealth theological statement of Christian opposition to the cuts, commented: "The destruction, atomisation, delayering, disabling and selling-off of large swathes of Britain's public services makes as little economic sense as it does human or moral logic."
He continued: "The gap between 'big society' rhetoric and the government's actual investment choices is glaring. It's no good postulating that communities and neighbourhoods can suddenly start taking over libraries, children's centres and job programmes which the state has abandoned - simultaneously being expected to work, care for the family, subscribe to charity, bail out elected authorities for free, and operate with little or no capacity-building or training. This is policy wonkery beyond the recall of reality."
Barrow added: "It is also important that churches and church-related agencies do not find themselves sucked into plugging unsustainable welfare gaps without asking tougher questions about the ideology and priorities shaping the government's agenda - and the role faith groups can play in developing networks of resistance and regeneration instead."
Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk) is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK. It works in partnership with churches and with people in poverty themselves to find solutions to poverty, locally, nationally and globally.
The March for the Alternative (http://marchforthealternative.org.uk) is being organised by the Trades Union Congress and supported by many other organisations concerned about the impact of the cuts.