Thursday, May 26, 2005

Governments betraying human rights

At the launch of Amnesty International's annual report, Secretary General Irene Khan said:

"Governments are betraying their promises on human rights. A new agenda is in the making with the language of freedom and justice being used to pursue policies of fear and insecurity."

For instance, "In Iraq there were gross human rights abuses by US-led forces, including unlawful killings and arbitrary detention, and by armed groups, who targeted civilians, took and killed hostages."

To read more go to Amnesty and Guantánamo is gulag of our time

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

'The Mother of all Databases'


NO2ID is supported by a broad range of organisations

"...in November 2004 the government acknowledged that the cost of the scheme over ten years would be £5.5 billion"

For 'all you need to know', go to No2ID this includes:
  • Exactly what is the Government proposing to do?
  • What personal information will be contained in the Register and on the Card?
  • Will an identity card help eliminate benefit fraud?
  • Will an identity card help prevent terrorism?
  • Will the ID system reduce the problem of identity theft?
  • How much will the scheme cost the taxpayer?
  • Will the card be voluntary or compulsory?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Welsh Peace Project: A Oes Heddwch

The Welsh Peace Project: A Oes Heddwch will be launched on Sat 4th June from 10.30–4.30
at Y Morlan, Morfa Mawr, Aberystwyth. It is organised by Cynefin y Werin

A Oes Heddwch is a Cynefin y Werin Project. The aim of the project is to:
  • Promote opportunities for non-violent direct action training and the initiation of affinity groups for activists and others rooted in Wales
  • Disseminate information about the project and about non-violence in action
  • Promote the philosophy of non-violence, including providing information about on-going actions to the media
  • Provide a point at which those returning from non-violent service can reflect and share their experience
  • Network within Wales and internationally with other relevant groups
To book a place and for more details, please email or phone:

Clare - clare@wcia.org.uk 029 2082 1055

Ben - benica@gn.apc.org 01286 882 359

There will be workshops on developing a conflict resolution course; supporting peace campaigners, and sharing experience between international volunteers, opportunities to network with other activists and refreshments.

To find out more about the project click here.

Assembly vote against tuition fees

'Labour defeat in top-up fees row'

Opposition parties have defeated the Welsh Assembly Government in a debate on university tuition fees. Assembly members voted by 30 to 29 in favour of a motion not to introduce fees in Wales.

Monday, May 23, 2005

US Democrats consider Blair probe

SENIOR American congressmen are considering sending a delegation to London to investigate Britain’s role in preparations for the war in Iraq.

Democratic opponents of President George W Bush have seized on a leaked Downing Street memo, first published three weeks ago by The Sunday Times, as evidence that American lawmakers were misled about Bush’s intentions in Iraq.

See: Blair faces US probe over secret Iraq invasion plan

Sunday, May 22, 2005

£ducation, £ducation, £ducation


NUS campaigning for free education to tackle poverty and inequality

The Labour assembly government has pledged not to introduce variable fees during its current term, which ends in May 2007. But what happens after that date?

The Rees Commission was set up by assembly Education Minister Jane Davidson to assess different proposals, they include a number of fee-based options.

Assembly Members could, however, deliver a stinging rebuke to the prospect of the market-driven English competitive model being further imposed in Wales.

Peter Law AM and MP for Blaenau Gwent said: "As a socialist, I believe in a free education system and I have told them in the assembly a number of times."

Whilst Plaid Cymru AM Janet Ryder said her party believed fees were not the way to pay for higher education. The Lib Dems have also reiterated their opposition to fees.

To contact Delyn AM, Sandy Mewies, on this matter you could email her sandy.mewies@wales.gov.uk or send a message via www.writetothem.com/

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Summer of Colourful Dissent



'Make Capitalism History'

Golfers, Rebel Clowns and Hill-walkers will all be exercising their rights to dissent and maybe engaging in acts of civil disobedience too when the G8 Summit will take place at Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland from July 6-8, 2005. This dissent will be in addition to the Make Poverty History, Stop the War and G8 Alternatives events.

For instance, the 'People's Golfing Association' (the PGA) is planning to host an open golf tournament on Thursday 7th July during the G8 at Gleneagles. People are encouraged to begin forming autonomous golfing affinity groups. No caddies, no Masters.

For a programme of action go to Dissent.

Ending Child Poverty?

In this week’s Chronicle, Delyn MP, David Hanson, announced he is “100% committed to supporting measures to reduce child poverty” after witnessing the End Child Poverty Coalition’s visit to Westminster. He added, “there is much more to be done. That’s why I am publicly backing the campaign to end child poverty.”

Jonathan Stearn, End Child Poverty Director, said: "Labour has renewed its pledge to halve child poverty by the end of this decade, but has only removed 100,000 children from poverty in the last year. Much more radical action is needed if it is going to fulfill."

Child poverty defies government targets: 3.5 million children were still living below the breadline towards the end of Tony Blair's seventh year in office. In spite of its investing billions of pounds in tax credits and incentives to get lone parents into work, the number of children in households below the official poverty line fell by only 100,000 in 2003-4 after housing costs were taken into account, the Department for Work and Pensions said. Inequality was marginally higher than the level inherited. "The net effect of seven years of Labour government is to leave inequality effectively unchanged and at historically high levels," it said.

End Child Poverty's Charter contends that the government should:
  1. Raise child benefit and pay an equal rate to all children, whether first born or not
  2. Extend child benefit to pregnant women
  3. Link the child element in tax credits and benefits to average incomes (or prices if they are rising more quickly)
  4. Ensure the National Minimum Wage provides a living wage
  5. Take action, including extending the ten year childcare strategy, to help groups facing multiple barriers to work, including minority ethnic groups, disabled parents and parents of disabled children
  6. Reform the Social Fund and provide grants for essential items and at times of key transition
  7. Reform education funding formulae at local and national level to give greater weighting to poor children
  8. Ensure poverty stops at the school gate by introducing school uniform grants and school activity funds.
  9. Ensure all children, regardless of immigration status, qualify for benefits and inclusion in mainstream services
  10. Poverty proof all policies across all government departments to tackle low incomes head on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Born Free


Born free but everywhere in chains

Blair vs Rousseau: The Social Contract Debate

In Mr Blair's analysis, so-called ‘radical reforms’ to welfare and public services announced in yesterday's Queen’s speech will create a new 'social contract' between the people and the state. Is this a fair and legitimate Social Contract? Just precisely who is agreeing to it?

The Disability Rights Commission, for instance, offers a differing perspective that is in sharp contrast to New Labour’s spin on the proposed ‘reforms’ to incapacity benefits - that appear to be integral to this new 'social contract'. The DRC’s Bert Massie says: "If the government is serious about supporting disabled people back into work, then the energy it has exerted in sounding tough should be turned toward the real challenges - tackling the barriers to work, ending employer discrimination and investing in disabled people's skills."

Meanwhile, Leonard Cheshire's Jon Knight said: "The government's policies could end up making disabled people, already some of the poorest in society, even poorer. People whose condition causes them pain or fatigue should not be forced to look for employment."

A famous social contract theorist was Jean Jacques Rousseau. He was cynical of certain concepts of the social contract. He warned of the wealthiest and most powerful members of society tricking the general population to accept the legitimacy of states of conflict, and so cementing inequality as a permanent feature of human society. His 'Social Contract' can be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form of association.

His book Social Contract (1762), emphasised the rights of the people over those of the government. According to Rousseau's line of argument, it should be the people not the Prime Minister declaring a new Social Contract. In Social Contract he also argued that government is justified only if sovereignty stays with the people. He thereby rejected representative democracy in favour of direct democracy, modelled on the Greek polis and the Swiss canton, and stated that a government could be legitimately overthrown if it failed to express the general will of the people.

Classic Rousseau Quotes:

Humanity was born free, and we are everywhere in chains
- Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762

The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying, 'This is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors might the human race had been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow humans: 'Beware of listening to this imposter; you are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth belongs to no one.'
- Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1755

In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and will never exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.
- Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762

Useful Links:

Warning over benefit reform

Driving a radical reform agenda

New Labour, new moralism: the welfare politics and ideology of New Labour under Blair

Jean Jacques Rousseau (on the Social Contract & the Origins of Inequality)

jean-jacques rousseau on education