Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats

The Guardian: Everything that’s wrong with the Liberal Stand on Islamism.

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Islamism: Discipline and Punish. 

To much of the world the British daily, the Guardian is the best known English-language paper of the liberal-left.

It is important to emphasise the word ‘liberal’ (the Guardian advocated voting for the Liberal Democrats at the last election).

But the hyphen attaching the word to the ‘left’ is indissoluble.

Guardian writers, above all in the Comment in Free Section, shows the limits of what this left believes in.

The section, (run between 2001 and 2007 by former Communist Party of Great Britain member ), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.

The present editor,  has stated that “Queer theory informs my politics and journalism – and made me understand Robert, my childhood alter ego.” (Here)

Some of the principles these people stand for are admirable, such as freedom of speech, promotion of diversity, human rights, gender equality, social equality, and tolerance.

Their advocacy of liberty extends to letting a range of people expressing their opinions in the paper who have very different interpretations of these ideas.

But they are heavily modified when it comes to one political and cultural  issue, the nature of Islamism.

A couple of days ago the daily published an article by George Monbiot, Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?

The author, who has previously compared European recruits to the genociders of ISIS to volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic, argues,

“Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East.”

Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?

Nothing, according to Monbiot, the latest US-led bombing will all end in disaster, killing, and destruction by the “destroying angels of the west”. He ends his article with the observation that politicians “scatter bombs like fairy dust.”

Monbiot now deigns to mention that the group amongst the Syrian rebels, which he compared to the Spanish Republican democrats – Isis – has its faults, “the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14).

But it’s one of many networks of death.

Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.

So it’s just one of many. And attacking them would make them worse.

Monbiot then fails to mention any form of physical military reaction to Isis that he could support.

Sound the alarm, run to the hills, the world is about to be flattened!

We can’t do anything at all!

Today the Guardian publishes Seamus Milne.

He begins well,

Theresa May devoted over three quarters of her speech in Birmingham to Muslims and the threat of a catch-all “Islamist extremism”.

Drawing on the tricks of Tony Blair’s invasion-prone government and Thatcher’s failed campaign against the IRA, she promised yet more anti-terror laws: this time to ban nonviolent “extremists” from television and protests, and to proscribe groups with no links to terrorism.

The package amounts to a straightforward attack on freedom of speech and democracy – in the name of the “functioning of democracy”. It would alienate Muslims from mainstream politics still further and create a new, all-purpose collection of thought crimes, allowing the authorities to ban views or activities they deem likely to cause “alarm” or “distress”.

Milne is now a defender of free speech.

He would have done well at this point to oppose something he once backed, to make causing offence to religious faiths a crime. (1)

But he doesn’t.

And, in the wider news, perhaps I missed this bit,

The justifications were straight out of the Blair playbook too: from May’s insistence that we are at war with an “ideology” and that “they” hate our values rather than our violent interventions in the Muslim world – to the claim that Isis could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us“within a few hours’ flying time of our country”.

Yes I did miss that one, because it’s from the far-right Daily Express’s spin on the May speech….

I suppose Islamic State’s tortures, rapes, genocide and the threat to hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have merited a mention from anybody with genuine left-wing feeling.

In a sense they do get mentioned,

Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before it, the bombing has been sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe and imminent threat but already shows every sign of spreading the terror it is supposed to stop. Mission creep is already upon us, as Cameron softens the public up to join the US campaign in Syria. As in the past, the war is projected to last years, has been launched against our own mutant creation, and is fanning reverse sectarian cleansing on the ground. Revenge terror attacks at home are once again seen as almost certain.

Ah, “sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe”.

What Milne’s views on this catastrophe are, part from the fact that they have been “sold”,  remain in decent obscurity.

One thing sticks out: no mention of the need to back the Kurdish and other fighters on the ground battling Islamic State/Isis!

But the prize for feeble-minded analysis of Islamism must go to a piece by .

Speaking of how people treat recruits to the genociders in Australia he laments a “sudden terror panic“.  Loewenstein uses a Muslim interlocutor to express the dismay.:

“There’s a lack of context, lack of spirituality and understanding, combined with impatience. Many Isis fighters are newly converted, newly pious … these men have grown a beard in three months and they don’t give Islam time to be understood.”

He is tired of having to defend his religion against bigots who take these instant Islamists to be the authentic representation of Islam.

“Keyboard warriors often ask: “Where is the universal Muslim condemnation of terror acts?” We’re distancing ourselves, so why do you keep asking? People just aren’t listening.”

“It’s been the same narrative of apology for decades and we’re sick of it. It’s like the probation the media is trying to grant me. I want to stand back, it’s got nothing to do with me and it’s nothing to do with Islam. I don’t need to come out and prove my innocence.”

Indeed, it is remarkable that those who trumpet their religious belief, in Islam and the Qu’ran, should be called to express disapproval of those who trumpet their religious belief in Islam and the Qu’ran – Isis.

As he continues in the vein we weary.

But there is some truth in this, though “dis-empowered” – an expression now confined to ageing social workers – is not perhaps the right word.

The pressure on the Australian Muslim community is immense, a feeling of being outsiders, exacerbated by a message that they’re different and under suspicion. Many Muslim women in particular feel disempowered and not trusted by the wider, white majority. Islamophobia is now unofficial government policy and some media’s central world-view

Muslims have ample reason to be sceptical towards government and intelligence services; real journalists would investigate why. Sadly, most in the media are failing in their basic duty to question.

Islamophobia is an ageing and muddled term as well: it tries to conflate opposition to islamism with prejudice, and offers no way to distinguish them.

This will not help clear up what ‘Islam’ is.

“Islam isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Samir says. His religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others, is complex, contradictory and open to various interpretations – but figuring that out can’t be done in an instant.

I will,  as will most readers, give up at this point….

Why does this matter?

We could say that a paper that publishes Richard Seymour is a fun journal, a good laugh, and that nobody takes the ideology in these articles seriously.

But what is striking is that not a single Guardian commentator has come close to analysing Islamism in any depth whatsoever.

That is a extreme-right-wing ideology, with a very material institutional basis, support in the pious Muslim bourgeoisie, and wider roots in the class structures of many Middle Eastern countries.

There are Marxist and other political studies which go into this in depth (Maxime RodinsonGilbert Achcar the latter’s sole contribution to the Guardian on the topic relates to ‘Holocaust denial’).

Or the rich critique of Islamism, democratic, socialist and secular,  offered by  the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan groups such as the Worker Communist parties (Mansoor Hekmat)  and other left individuals and organisations  in the Moslem world.

We could, for those interested in ‘Gender and Queer’ studies, also look at Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘micro-powers’ – intimate oppressive apparatuses that create a religious prison, in para-states and actual states.

Foucault’s Discipline and Punish  is perhaps a good starting point to the operation of the Sharia, along with Nietzsche The Genealogy of Morals. (2)

We could look at its (or rather), since Islamism is a plural formation, their patriarchal roots, and its creation of sexual apartheid.

We might even mention that every single form of Islamism is viciously oppressive towards gays.

That it is anti-democratic and ‘communitarian’ on the template of 1930s ‘organic’ far-right.

We might even consider that its religion is a load of utter cack.

But nobody in the Guardian’s comment articles says that.

Nobody.

**********

(1) “But for showing solidarity and working with Muslim organisations – whether in the anti-war movement or in campaigns against Islamophobia – leftwing groups and politicians such as the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, are now routinely damned by liberal secularists (many of whom have been keen supporters of the war in Iraq) for “betraying the enlightenment” and making common cause with “Islamofascists”, homophobes and misogynists. The pitch of these denunciations has been heightened further by the government’s plan to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred. This measure would extend to the most vulnerable community in the country the very modest protection already offered by race hate legislation to black people, Jews, Sikhs and all religious communities in Northern Ireland. It is not a new blasphemy law; it would not lead to a ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian film; or rule out jokes about Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lenses; or cover ridicule or attacks on any religion (unlike the broader Australian legislation) – but would only outlaw incitement of hatred against people because of their faith.” Guardian. December 2004

This bill was thrown up precisely because it was a new “blasphemy law”. Does Milne back its return?

(2) I am all too aware of Foucault’s morally cretinous welcome to Khomeini, What are the Iranians Dreaming About (1978). More relevant to Isis is  the way their beheadings of hostages could be compared to the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens analysed in Discipline and Punish (1975).

Congratulations to Ipswich Labour!

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Hats off to Ipswich Labour Party!

Ipswich: Labour wins two Tory seats after the town goes to the polls for borough council election

Labour won two seats from the Conservatives during the election for 17 councillors, one in each of the town’s 16 wards and a by-election in Alexandra.

Whitton and Rushmere were the two wards switching from blue to red.

And despite big UKIP votes in some wards, including Bridge, Castle Hill and Gainsborough, they were unable to secure a council seat.

EADT

Labour worked extremely hard in these elections.

The won on the basis of the good record as a Borough Council – ranging from their widely acknowledged competence, standing for the majority of the people in the town.

There have been no devastating cuts.

They have begun to build new Council Housing.

Their backing for the Living Wage, their anti-racism  (march against the EDL), to policies, such as their opposition to Workfare, have solidified good links with the labour movement, unions, and to the broad progressive  constituency.

Further remarks.

Just to give an example of things have changed politically in the UK.

This is where Tendance Coatesy lives by the centre of town (we call it a town, but  in most English speaking countries it would be called a City).

Alexandra (first two elected): John Cook (Labour) 935, Jane Riley (Labour ) 917, Jose Esteves (UKIP) 444, Mark Felix-Thomas (Conservatives) 400, James White (Green) 390, Alex Hopkins (Conservatives) 331, Robert Chambers (Liberal Demcrats) 215, Andrew Houseley (Liberal Democrats) 180. Maj: 18. Turnout: 33.58%. No change.

Notes.

UKIP beat the Tories.

The Green beat one of the Tories and both of the Liberal Democrats.

This pattern was repeated with the exception of St Margaret’s where the Liberal Democrats (aka the St Margaret’s Residents’ Association) clung on.

Further Notes:

There were no candidates standing from TUSC and other left parties, or from the Galloway communalists.

This is because most (not all) of the left in Ipswich works well with Ipswich Labour – which naturally represents a far larger constituency.

We might have our differences on this or that, but we consider in unity there is strength.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

Ipswich Liberal Democrats: is This the Saddest Election leaflet ever?

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Ipswich Regent

This gaff could be yours if you vote Ipswich Liberal Democrats.

Just got a leaflet from the Ipswich Liberal Democrats.

If I could cut and paste it I would but they are not up to putting it on-Line.

Time was and they had a councillor in our ward: a certain, well he’s better off spending more time with himself and his closest friend and love partner  (as in right arm) .

So they are standing.

The leaflet spends most of its time going on about how their candidates support Ipswich Town FC.

Er, that’s about it.

If you want to read more you can see their site,

Ipswich Liberal Democrats

Working for Ipswich.

And read this.

Sir Bob’s Diary 3rd May 2014

Article: May 6, 2014

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

Channel Four Censors Jesus and Mo Cartoons in Deference to Mohammed Shafiq .

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Channel Four censored a Jesus and Mo cartoon last night.

“This is not about freedom of speech – this is about the behaviour of a parliamentary candidate”: Mohammed Shafiq from the Ramadhan Foundation says Lib Dem Maajid Nawaz has offended Muslims. Channel Four News.

What is the background to this censorship?

The Huffington Post says,

The row began when Quilliam Foundation’s Nawaz, whose think-tank was credited with Tommy Robinson’s departure from the EDL, tweeted a ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon, stating he was not offended by the content.

Nawaz has since said he has received “credible” death threats over the tweet.

The cartoon was the same as the one worn on t-shirts by the LSE Atheism society, who were told by the University to remove the t-shirts or cover them up when they hosted a stall at the university Freshers’ Fair.

Nawaz was challenged over the tweet by Shafiq, along with Muslim TV commentator Mo Ansar and Bradford Respect MP George Galloway.

Apprarently the two have kissed and made up (Liberal Voice),

Maajid Nawaz, the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and Mohammed Shafiq, member of the Liberal Democrats, have released a joint statement:

“We wish to make a statement about the recent concern expressed over issues related to conflicting views on depictions of Prophet Muhammad.

“We recognise that, when it comes to this question, some Muslims of various persuasions may take different views. However, we also recognise that there are many Muslims who have taken offence, and we assert that images of the spiritual leaders of all religions should be deemed to be respectful. We also respect the freedom of every member of the Liberal Democrats on either side of this debate who feels offended by tone or language to make representations to the Liberal Democrats as is their democratic right.

“We are both Liberals and support the principle of freedom of speech. But we also understand the importance of respect for others’ views and of moderation of language. In so far as this second principle of moderate language has been breached in the heat and passion of the current debate, we regret this and call for all those who have differing views to ensure that any debate which continues on this subject should use language and attitudes which conform to Liberal standards of respect and moderation.

“We now call on those on both sides of this argument to return to moderate debate, free of insult and threat and we do so because we believe this is in the interests of our Party, of the wider Muslim community in Britain and of the principles of peace to which Islam is committed.”

Maajid Nawaz, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Mohammed Shafiq, member of the Liberal Democrats.

Shafiq showed scant regard for freedom of speech on Channel Four.

He managed to say, in the allusive and imprecise way that is typical of Islamist bigots when they try to appeal to a liberal-minded audience, that nobody should be allowed to show images of the ‘prophet’ Mohamed.

On the basis of 21,000 people signing a petition calling for Mawaz to be removed a Liberal Demcorat candidate (a small number in the sum of things) he also mentioned that “Muslim leaders” were  having a special meeting with Nick Clegg today.

This, we learnt during the programme, had been changed.

It would be a talk with Paddy Ashdown (no doubt on the basis of his experience in the aftermath of the Balkans civil war).

In fact they have not been reconciled at all.

If Nick Clegg were hoping that a joint statement by the Liberal Democrats at the centre of the Prophet Mohammed cartoon row would defuse the situation, then he is going to be disappointed.

IBTimes UK has learned that Mohammed Shafiq – who led the campaign for candidate Maajid Nawaz to be deselected over a tweet about the cartoon – is to take part in a meeting with members of the Lib Dem leadership about the controversy on Wednesday.

Critics of Nawaz are expected to insist again that he should not be allowed to stand for the party in Hampstead and Fulham at the 2015 general election. The row ignited when Nawaz tweeted a link to a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammed earlier this month. Shafiq and others claimed the cartoon offended Islam.

The renewed call for Nawaz to be dropped came just hours after he and Shafiq issued a joint statement designed to foster unity. Death threats against Nawaz had sparked a police investigation.

More on IBT.

We are concerned that Channel Four’s censorship is not yet worthy of the demands of Mohammed Shafiq.

A special committee of Islamic scholars should no doubt be set up to supervise the Channel’s output, and indeed all the media, to ensure that no Muslim is ever offended.

This will have to go!

home

More Jesus and Mo (while you’re permitted to look at it): here.

Meanwhile Maajiid Nawaz has made a dignified defence of his actions in the Guardian, “• Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it“.

Galloway Backs Call to Ditch Majid Mawaz – because of Jesus and Mo Cartoon.

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Galloway Says Those who Tweet this are Cuckolds. 

George Galloway ‏@georgegalloway18h

No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL.

*******

Now we have little sympathy (in fact none whatsoever)  for Liberal Democrats and not a  great deal for Mawaz’s foundation, Quilliam (which is involved, we are pretty sure,  in the Jimas Ipswich charade with Jimas and the ‘ex’ EDL Tommy Robinson).

But this is the reason for Galloway’s comments,

Prominent members of the Muslim community have written to the Liberal Democrats and their leader Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to ask them to reverse their decision to back Maajid Nawaz’s attempt to become an MP at the next election.

The campaign comes after Nawaz posted a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Prophet Isa (as) on his Twitter feed. Any depiction of the prophets is considered offensive to most Muslims and has traditionally been prohibited by the majority of scholars.

Nawaz, who’s the chairman of the anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, defended his decision to post the cartoon by saying that it was not offensive and that scholars were split over the depiction of the Prophet. He also accused others of inciting his murder by calling him “a defamer of the Prophet.” Here

And,

“I have been discussing this matter since Friday night with a high profile Lib Dem who agrees people who attack religions with cartoons and other jokes are impolite and childish. Lets hope Nawaz can get this into his skull. Clegg must choose, lose hundreds of supporters by keeping Nawaz or sack Nawaz and rescue the Lib Dems which would fizzle out because of people like Nawaz.”

This is the background,

Two Muslim political commentators have clashed over a cartoon which was tweeted by one of them.

Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation tweeted a cartoon with featured ‘Jesus and Mo’.

He added, “This is not offensive & I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it.”

It led to a backlash by some readers, none more than Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation.

Shafiq said, “I intend to formally complain to the @libdems about @MaajidNawaz and his offensive tweet of a cartoon.”

Nawaz defended his tweet after being accused of being offensive, “My point is, that cartoon is not offensive. That’s my opinion. Don’t like it? Don’t read my tweets”.

Nawaz then accused Shafiq of inciting his murder. He said, “Using term “Defamer of Prophet” (Gustake Rasool) he knows gets people killed in #Pakistan,Mo Shafik incites my murder.”

To which Shafiq replied: “For the record I do not wish to see you murdered as you claim or wish you harm. But defend my right to challenge your tweets.”

Even political and social commentator, Mohammed Ansar added to the debate, “A parliamentary candidate has tweeted out something millions will find offensive. A very silly thing to do.” Here.

Maajid Nawaz (Urdu: ماجد نواز‎, born 1978), a British Pakistani, is Executive Director of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank. Himself a former member of the Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

If this is the kind of thing “Muslim political commentators” row about then one can see why they have such universal respect.

You can see more sacrilegious Jesus and Mo cartoons here.

More information over at Shiraz.

Labour ‘Pluralists’ Reach out to Liberal Democrats.

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 A new cross-party group will be set up by senior Labour figures tomorrow in an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.

Labour for Democracy will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens. But it will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

Although the launch was planned before last week’s Leveson report on press regulation, it is timely because Ed Miliband and Mr Clegg have backed the inquiry’s call for a new system

The Independent

For good measure the Greens are added to the ‘progressive’ list.

The background is Labour for Democracy’s analysis of how ‘pluralism’ can further  ‘progressive goals’.

Support for progressive values and policies is not restricted to a single political party, as shown by our new analysis of polling data. A real desire to see progressive change means working with supporters of other political parties.’

‘Pluralism is simply a commitment to work with others, including members and supporters of other political parties if that increases our chances of achieving progressive change. While Labour values are most strongly supported by Labour voters, many supporters of other parties also share some of our values. No party today speaks exclusively for progressive opinion; none will do so in the fut

“All Labour members will work hard for every Labour vote. But whether we win the outright majority we seek, or end up with a hung Parliament, the change Britain needs will require the support of all who share our key values. Existing structures encourage tribalism, but Labour’s history has often been of working with others for progressive goals – in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and defending the environment. Some of the changes we are proudest to claim – the NHS, the welfare state and devolution – would not have happened without the support of people outside the Labour movement. At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active and effective  support, we need that approach more than ever.’

 John Denham, one of Labour for Democracy’s   founding supporters, has argued the case,

The launch of Labour for Democracy on 4 December is an attempt to break down tribal sectarianism and promote a pluralist culture within the Labour movement. The focus is not on coalitions or cross-party deals, but on finding ways of delivering what progressive voters want. We’ve already shown that, in the main, past Lib Dem voters hold similar values to Labour’s, and quite different to most Tory voters. It’s also clear that, despite the failures of the coalition, the public still generally want politicians to work together when they can, rather than exaggerate their differences.

The launch of this initiative  has met instant hostile reaction.

Labour First have condemned the creation of the new “Labour for Democracy” group within the party, which according to the Independent will “will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens” and “will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.”

The Independent reports that the Group is “an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.”

Speaking to LabourList this morning, Secretary of Labour First, Luke Akehurst, said:

“The creation of this misnamed group, “Labour for Democracy” is a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners who are working flat out to beat all our political opponents, Greens and Lib Dems as well as Tories, UKIP and BNP, as we did comprehensively in the recent by-elections.

It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a realistic chance of a majority Labour government.

We need to continue to squeeze the Lib Dem and Green votes in order both to take seats off them and seats off the Tories. Any move which rehabilitates the Lib Dems and lets them off the hook for having put the Tories in power actually increases the chances of another hung parliament. Their behaviour in 2010 indicates their preferred coalition partner is the Tories.

We had naive talk about pluralism in 2010. The people making those noises should have learned their lesson. The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at the ballot box, not pandering to them.”

There is little to add, immediately to this.

Except apart from the fact that everybody on the left and most of the Labour Party  in the UK (including Ipswich) loathes the Liberal Democrats, and that ‘progressive’ is too windy to mean much, there is this:

The Labour for Democracy initiative will strongly remind many people of  Charter 88 and the  (now wound up) Democratic Left (DL) in the early 1990s.  These groups advocated tactical voting, support for ‘anti-Conservative’ candiodates, right up to the 2011 election. They were open to Liberal Democrats and Greens who supported ‘proressice values’ above all on Constitutional issues.

Are Labour for Democracy linked to this tradition?

There is, as yet, no direct evidence.

But…

The old Charter 88 and Democratic Left  strategy for a ‘progressive alliance’ is not dead.

On the Web site produced by the remnants of Charter 88 and the Democratic Left (Charter 88 transformed itself , through its merger with the New Politics Network (what remained of the Democratic Left)   into Unlock Democracy, we find this today:

“Beyond the Progressive Alliance

Charter 88 was very much a political response to Thatcherism and its basic strategy was to bring together the two parties of the centre and centre left around a programme of democratic and constitutional reform. Probably the high point of this strategy was the Cook-Maclennan talks prior to the 97 General Election between the Lib Dem’s and Labour which lead to joint programme of constitutional reform that included devolution, freedom of information and the HRA. 

Though this strategy delivered much it was always a limited one. The reality was then and is now that if democratic change is going to happen it needs to appeal beyond a sterile left right divide. Democratic reform is not a left right issue but one that divides people along a libertarian authoritarian axis and there are people on the left and the right who recognise that our society needs more democracy not less.”

Nothing, it seems, feeds hope like failure.

The challenge over the next few years is not to recreate the alliance between people on the centre left of politics that was at the heart of Charter’s strategy, but to build new alliances that include all those who want to transform politics. Many of these alliances will be issue specific and like the one we created to deliver the Sustainable

Big Society Goes Bang.

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Model of the ‘Big Society’.

Plans to devolve a large chunk of public services to ‘voluntary groups’  and charities are in a  shambles. There is whingeing even from its supporters. Efforts to replace representative democracy with “radical decentralisation”  (giving power to local unaccountable ‘voluntary’ groups  and private business ) have suffered the effects of cuts (more Here , Here and Here).

Unions and voluntary groups have joined forces to campaign against the Government’s spending cuts, arguing that they make a “mockery” of the Government’s Big Society.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused ministers of driving through “savage” cuts which he said will impact hardest on the poorest, most vulnerable communities.

The union organisation said the voluntary sector was set to lose around £4.5 billion because of the Government’s austerity measures.

Mr Barber said: “This unnecessary and economically damaging austerity will make Britain a meaner, nastier, more unequal place to live, so we’re bringing together unions and voluntary sector organisations to defend our civil society from attack and campaign against these cuts to vital support services.

“The TUC is keen to build the widest possible coalition against the cuts, involving unions, charities, community groups and faith organisations.”

More Here.

There is a brilliant dissection of the Big Society concept by Posterous here.

Point 5 is “It enshrines a Victorian model of philanthropy which will enable those with time and money to decide which causes are ‘deserving’.”

I question, then, Brother Barber’s unqualified support for the role of charities and voluntary groups. They have an important place in civil society, but they are no replacement for public services.

We should look at the roots of the problem.

In the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914) Robert Tressell painted a picture of early Edwardian town, Mugsville (Hastings). An important theme in this socialist classic is unemployment. This is met, Tressell lightly satirised, by the town’s worthies setting up an “Organised Benevolence Society”. It is headed by Sir Graball D’Enclsoed Land, Lady Slum rents, and the Rev. Mr Bosher. All help for the out-of-work is given over the ‘Big society’. Without rights the unemployed are obliged to seek charity.

Oscar Wilde  in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) described what this help meant for the poor.

It could be seen as a,

“ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives.”

Many familiar with modern Charities would be the  first to say that this attitude no longer exists. They would be wrong. Many religiously based charities have very strong ideas about influencing the morality and behaviour of the poor.

They are resented as such. 

In this respect it is wrong that charitable institutions should replace equal public provision with services that are funded indirectly by the state and delivered by organisations which are not under democratic control.

Wilde further noted that,

“It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.”

To put it simply, the people who were the agents of the economic crisis are allowed to shove responsibility for dealing with its results – unemployment and poverty – wish to divest state responsibility for dealing with its effects. Charitable and voluntary bodies are, if often useful, unable to deal with the enormous task: this needs universal public provision carried out by publicly accountable  services.

The state’s attempt to use the unemployed to step in (unpaid) where public spending cuts have created a gap is described on the Ipswich Unemployed Action Blog.

The Big Society is an attempt to bring back the Universal Benevolence Society, run by Sir Graball d’Bankbonus, Lady Jerrybuilt Property, and Rev. Mr Nosyparker.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 8, 2011 at 11:35 am