Category Archives: Equality

An ever-widening wealth gap exists in Israel

The Israeli government suppresses more than Palestinians it seems since many of its own citizens are poor. Presumably many settlers do bring considerable resources with them from places like the US. Building continues apace as more of them take over Palestinian land.
One Palestinian village in the West Bank, Bil’in, has had a small piece of land returned to it after years of non-violent struggles. The problem they face is that there is little water. Israel command control of the water sources and the settlers the other side of the Bil’in wall consume very high amounts of the precious commodity well in excess of citizens of places like Tel Aviv.
Protests against the Israeli government are long term as tent cities spring up and while in the first place much happened in Tel Aviv other cities across the country are joining in.
So it looks like a small wealthy elite (as elsewhere across the market driven Capitalist World of “Disaster Capitalism”) imposes its will with military might and domestic policies which disadvantage its people who do not have access to housing, employment and other basic needs. Israel is wealthy with money pouring in from the US but they choose to spend it on military might in the name of defence and oppressing the poor. Seems familiar.

Continue reading

Bankers’ bonuses. Dustmens’ bonuses

Class division. Doesn’t exist. Take a look at these two stories, both involving the Lib Dems, one nationally, one in Birmingham, supposedly the blueprint for the Con Dem war on the people. Cleggy has done another u-turn and again the party is squirming, very quietly so as not to attract attention, but it appears some may have a conscience. Meanwhile back here in Brum Paul Dale in the Post has uncovered yet more scandalous bonus payments which allow a refuse collector to earn £45,000 a year!
I suspect very few will pick up anything like this, but I don’t quite get the point. It is an accepted norm still that people who work with their hands can expect a small return compared to the 6 figures that those with control of finances award themselves. Cllr Martin Mullaney who sits on Birmingham City Council is a Liberal Democrat. Well I thought so, but you would never have guessed given the scathing remarks he has made about the ability of the council’s work force to earn a decent living. Much of this has now been stopped. Today we are protesting in Birmingham that the refuse collector’s basic wage has been slashed by £4,000.
Bringing the wages of women and men into line has been a vexed question for a long time, but single status was introduced because of the unfair way that pay differed because of your gender. When I had some dealing with this as a councillor a snag was hit when it was found that with back pay owed bringing parity to women would bankrupt councils. I never hit on the idea of lowering already low paid men down in line with the scandalously low pay many women received as cleaners, working in kitchens. or as carers. It has taken the Con Dems to think of that. It is quite familiar and expected Tory thinking, but if you voted Lib Dem did it ever occur to you that they would fall in line. Cllr Mullaney was saying the other day how the scab labour that the council found money to pay for clearing the streets of black bags were better than the councils’ work force.
As chair of the now defunct Contact Services Committee I had regular monthly meetings with the refuse collectors who were as loyal to Birmingham City Council as anyone could wish. At every meeting they were anxious to hear that targets were being met, sickness rates were kept as low as possible and so on. And this is the thanks they get. Cllr Mullaney hide your head in shame. Are you still a Lib Dem? I would never have believed it.

Continue reading

A day out in Cradley Heath

A group of Socialist Labour Party members and supporters trekked off to Cradley Heath to celebrate the centenary of the Chain Maker’s strike when women workers achieved a magnificent victory in substantially improving pay and conditions for working people. The leader was not a local woman at all as we heard from one of the speakers at the Salvation Army Hall. Former MP Sylvia Heal told the 200 or so assembled about the story of Mary McArthur who had come from a privileged background in Scotland where her father was an anti-trades union Tory.
It transpired that McArthur’s stay in Cradley Heath was just one episode in a life which had achieved a number of notable landmarks for working people and for women. While she supported the campaign for votes for women she was less happy with the suffragette movement who wanted votes for women with property. Her outspoken criticism didn’t make her popular with them but when voting rights came it was universal. Mary MacArthur was influential and her stand with the women of Cradley Heath gained the notice and support of the likes of Winston Churchill, then a Liberal MP, Ramsey MacDonald and Keir Hardy. George Cadbury donated funds to her cause. She stood for parliament as a member of the Independent Labour Party in which her husband had been an MP. As a socialist she was an internationalist and a founder of the International Labour Organisation. She died from cancer at the age of only 40.
Earlier Tony Barnsley, author of “Breaking their Chains” spoke about his book and film was shown of interviews with strikers, something which has been lying in BBC archives for years. How much more working class history lies untouched? I have come across such invaluable material before when viewing the work of Phillip Donellan whose subjects were also connected with the Midlands.

Continue reading

Racism. A culture of denial.

The UK is a place which sends seven times as many black people to prison than white folk, The US has a reputation of being bad in this respect but the proportion there is a mere four times as many blacks than whites! Jesse Jackson finds that policies being followed are institutionally racist and asks how this can happen in a developed society.
Black people are 26 times as likely to be stopped and searched than white people. How, Jackson asks, can moral authority be maintained if this is the case.
The Institute of Race Relations asks why 77 migrants and asylum seekers have died – they believe this to be an underestimate – through racist policies.
A tolerant caring society? That is what we believe ourselves to be, but these figures deny this and in a highly significant way. The situation is not likely to improve given the massive spending cuts on the horizon and how they are targeted. As the UK’s massive wealth disappears into the black hole of personal wealth – bankers we see are taking another huge multi-million slice of tax payers’ money into their coffers. Presumably this will pay for massive bonuses and pensions, unaffordable for most of us says Labour Peer and millionaire Lord Browne.

Continue reading

A notable Midlands anniversary

At a time like this examples of human struggle over adversity are to be cherished as never before. One anniversary on the horizon is the Centenary of the Chain Makers’ Strike of 1910 when women achieved a notable victory in improving pay and conditions for working people. The Chainmakers strike ended on 22nd October 1910. There will be a day of celebration for the anniversary on 23rd October which will include a speech by former MP Sylvia Heal, footage of interviews with strikers, a performance by Making Links. a procession to Mary McArthur gardens and the unveiling of Plaque.
The website has a number of interesting features, including Helen Salmon reviewing a book “Breaking their chains; Mary Macarthur and the Chainmakers’ Strike of 1910”, by Tony Barnsley, a re-enactment video and a teaching resource for schools. Quite a treasure store.
I find this extremely refreshing after reading about Tony Blair’s foray into providing a “bank for the super-rich“. This he calls a “boutique” and is located in Mayfair. This of course will provide an essential service for the pressing needs of a reviled and ostracised section of society.
Another celebration will take place at the Chainmakers Strike Anniversary Cradley Women Chainmakers festival. Saturday 18th September, Black Country Living Museum. Organised by the TUC. Speakers include Tony Benn.

Continue reading

When will Britain get that Obama moment?

They say she’s a token. They say she won’t win, but hey she’s got a nomination for leadership of the Labour Party. Diane Abbott has got where she is against the odds. For all their women-only short lists – black only short lists were pushed aside sometime back against Many Labour Party members’ wishes – it now looks extremely depressing as a group of 40 something white males, all tainted by New Labour in some way, show themselves to be the face of modern Labour. As I said before, why not bring back Blair. While New Labour can’t get rid of his ghost, once again there’s a division between those who represent a discredited elite and those who want a fresh start. Diane is the only alternative.
Diane herself I believe has articulated her candidature well with a clear analysis of reasons for standing now. She is showing courage and determination in the face of an entirely cynical and discouraging general belief that we are stuck in a rut. We have returned to an apparent dominant position where everyone running the country is white, male, privileged. If the ConDem coalition looks that way – one honorary woman in cabinet (like Thatcher’s Cabinet – Reagan thought she “was the best man” there!) then Labour looks alike. That’s been the problem that New Labour copied Thatcherism right down to privatisation, wrecking the country’s real wealth by substituting jobs in manufacturing with jobs in the finance sector. This acts more as a leech on resources but contributes nothing of substance.
We should be grateful to Diane for coming forward right now. The depressing thing is that if (to most when) she is knocked out of the competition then we revert to the norm. We know that in spite of decades attempting to bring in equality we have not progressed one iota in our ruling sector. As she made clear herself Diane will force some crucial debates. Unfortunately because it’s the Labour Party it will not challenge the underlying problem that it is Capitalism’s inherent features which have led to crisis. When and if there is a recovery that will just recycle itself. We, the public need to gain control of banks, the economy, not let it be cut because the elite group says we must to save their skin. They created the problem and should pay for it as the people of Greece above all have recognised. Diane won’t or can’t change all that, but at least it’s a good start.

Black soldier picture emerges from the Spanish Civil War

A picture has come to light of a black American soldier who was involved in the Spanish Civil War. The invisibility of black people in history continues in so many areas, that is until evidence like this emerges. Sometimes their absence from films depicting events is deliberate, as was the case of a fairly recent account of Iwo Jima.
The matter of awareness has been raised a notch higher by the fact of Barack Obama as President of the United States. A portrait of the soldier will be presented to him when he visits Spain shortly.
No one knows who the so;dier is: ” ‘All we know is that he arrived with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers and that he died in the battle at Brunete [in July 1937],’ said Sergi Centelles, whose father, Agustí, took the picture.” (Source Guardian).

Continue reading

Banning the EDL in Birmingham

Banning the EDL meeting
l to r Khalid Mahmood MP, Birmingham Perry Barr, Adrian Goldberg, Editor, The Stirrer, John Hemming MP, Birmingham Yardley
Yet another meeting took place at Birmingham Council House yesterday (23/8/2009) to discuss the clash between the English Defence League and anti-fascist demonstrators on 8th August. This one attracted two MPs, John Hemming and Khalid Mahmood, and two prominent councillors, Salma Yaqoob (Respect Birmingham) and Judy Foster (Dudley and the Police Committee). There was no one from the Tories available on the platform.
Also on the platform was Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley, head of West Midlands Police’s “diversity and community cohesion unit”. If he’s the head of this unit I suggest it is inappropriately named since the police policy of allowing the gathering of a group of people from Luton, where they have already been banned, was bound to lead to anything other than cohesion. The meeting representing around 80 people across the political and cultural spectrum unanimously agreed with Luton’s approach. The Chief Inspector continued to insist that the EDL and UAF had the right to exercise a peaceful gathering while some of their supporters resorted to violence.
Salma Yaqoob made it very clear to the Chief Inspector that he had been warned of the possibility of trouble arising. She emphasised that Mosques and parents had discouraged young Muslims from attending, but faced with the provocative message that the EDL in common with the BNP insisted on making it was unrealistic to expect a different outcome.
At the beginning of the meeting Adrian Goldberg, Editor or the Stirrer, gave a very clearly argued proposal for the idea of “Birmingham United” which would be a gathering of people to celebrate our cohesive multicultural society at the time members of the EDL were due to gather. This too met with unanimous approval.

Continue reading

Unequal Britain

Tony Blair said this, Tony Blair said that when he came into office. He noted Britain was unequal then and proposed “education, education, education”. What he and New Labour did to tackle it was rather different. Their espousal of Thatcherite policies from the start ensured that not only did inequality remain but it has become entrenched.
New Labourites have always been bedazzled by wealth and fame. Bernie Eccleston, Rupert Murdoch et al were all courted by Blair who now rubs shoulders with the elite and coins a million when he opens his mouth. Goodness knows why since what he has to say is usually vacuous. Tragically Gordon Brown continues to bring big names into government, self advertisers like Alan Sugar who have a lot of money but not much judgment. As for the all powerful, self regarding Mandelson, his love of the high life, Russian billionaires and all is well documented. So where is the will to do something about equality? Trevor Phillips is kept as the head of the Equalities Commission to ensure nothing will change. As long as the window dressing is there – we need a cohesive community they believe. Well people aren’t fooled that easily and know the whole thing is a sham.

Continue reading