Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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Protest against Marks and Spencer over Indian sweatshop (via the commune)

Marks and Spencer want to look good to their customers, but they also want to keep their profit margin looking healthy. Fair enough, but not when it means that Indian workers, who produce good for Marks and Spencer and other shops, are being beaten. The contractor, Viva Global, has a history of labour-law violations and human-rights abuses.

Join the protest at Marks and Spencer’s Oxford Street shop on Saturday morning, and/or write and ask why they persist in using such an outfit:

Marks and Spencer Group plc
Waterside House
35 North Wharf Road
London
W2 1NW

protest against marks and spencer over indian sweatshop Join a solidarity protest in front of the Marks and Spencer store, 173 Oxford Street, London – 11 am, Saturday 4th September 2010 From a press release of Mazdoor Ekta Manch, a union based in Gurgaon: Workers of the Viva Global Factory, including women were brutally beaten up with hockey sticks and lathis [canes] by goons called in by the Management of Viva Global, the Gurgaon based sweatshop apparel house. The incident happened on 23rd of August … Read More

via the commune

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We are being cheated about benefit cheats

Clamping down of benefit cheats, those who fraudulently claim government benefits, has been a oft-repeated mantra of the political right in Britain. By ‘right’, I include the neoliberal New Labour project. Much of the mainstream media, not just the usual hard-right press, have merrily chimed in without needing too much encouragement. The usual news item focuses on some benefit claimant who is holidaying on a luxury yacht, or some other eye-catching headline. This follows the usual methodology of the populist right, use an individual story, even hearsay, to illustrate your point.

There have been various government strategies to encourage us to ‘shop the scroungers’, and now the ConDem government will be entrusting the credit-rating agency Experian with tracking down benefit cheats — all performance and profit led.

However, David Osler has posted on the statistics show that benefit fraud amounts to less than 1% of all benefit payments. So, the greater fraud is that perpetrated by politicians and journalists who have vastly exaggerated the problem. In absolute terms, that 1% translates into £1 billion, but even then, as Dave points out, the bank bailout was £850 billion.

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I believe in Brilliant Britain

Last night I saw the new Labour Party election broadcast featuring Eddie Izzard. The Labour Party rolled out this passionately clever comedian to front this broadcast at the same time that the Tories courted Gary Barlow, boy-band singer, pop-song writer and charity worker. Both are great Britons, but whereas Izzard brings a wry humour and indomitable otherness, Barlow comes across as a rather superficial populist.

Anyway, Eddie Izzard’s broadcast reminded me of the absolute root of the difference between the political right and left: the right have always played on people’s fears (crime, economy, immigration) to gain power, whereas the left pleads for people’s hopes (free healthcare, education, equality).

Izzard makes two main points in the short broadcast. Firstly, he mentions that the Tories have massively more funding than any other party. Prominently, Ashcroft, tax-avoiding non-domiciled Tory life peer, has invested in campaigns in marginal constituencies. As Izzard says, they probably expect some return on their investment.

The other point is a refutation of the Tory slogan Broken Britain. Since time immemorial people have complained about the kids not respecting their elders, fears of crime and general dissatisfaction. The rightwing media have spearheaded this ‘feel bad’ message. But it is this curse of fear that is the real problem. As a Christian, I believe in hope as the fundamental motive of our action (from faith to love). As a Briton and an Englishman, I love my country for all its quirkyness, beauty, dodgy food and funny people. Britain’s not broken, it’s brilliant.

For the record, I’m a paid-up member of the Labour Party. Watch the broadcast here:


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Óscar Romero on sin and the liberation struggle

Oscar RomeroTomorrow, 24 March, will be the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador. San Romero is remembered for his radical faith that compelled him to take a stand against the US-backed right-wing military government of El Salvador. Although often associated with liberation theology, the Marxist theological movement that began in Latin America, Romero rose through the ranks of the church as a staunch conservative, demanding obedience to the church hierarchy and the government, and being openly critical of Marxist priests and the guerilla fighters.

However, it was the assassination in 1977 of Romero’s friend, the outspoken Jesuit liberation theologian Rutilio Grande García, who set up base church communities (Christian worker’s communes) in the poorest districts of the country, that was something of an epiphany to him, and foreshadowing of his own death. Romero said, “If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”. Óscar Romero began to speak out against the assassinations and in defence of the poor. He remained critical of the Marxist guerillas, but grew in sympathy for liberation theology.

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A Marxist Mothering Sunday

Grave of Karl Marx

Monument at the grave of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery, London.

Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday (the third Sunday before Easter). Being 14 March, it was also the 127th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx.

After a very busy Sunday morning with a packed out church, we went on a Northern Line pilgrimage to Highgate Cemetery, getting to Marx’s tombstone just after the moment of his death — 14:45 — made famous by Friedrich Engels graveside remembrance

“On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep — but forever.”

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British jobs because of migrant workers

British jobs for British workersLast year, the slogan British jobs for British workers became popular, even spoken by the Prime Minister. And what’s not to like about a catchy slogan like that? Keep unemployment down! New job creation! However, it seems that a lot of people were brandishing the slogan to say ‘kick the immigrants out’.

If one takes a very simplistic view of supply-and-demand economics, one might paint a picture like this: there are x British workers employed in British jobs, y immigrants come along and work for lower pay, knocking y British workers out of jobs. When you look behind the rhetoric of the anti-immigration campaigners, the maths is no more developed than that over-simplistic little picture.

The maths is wrong for a number of reasons, partly because employers don’t buy and sell employees like football mangers, but mainly because the total number of jobs at any one time is not constant. And all the evidence points to immigration increasing the number of jobs in this country. Yes, they come over here and they make more jobs (not take our jobs)!

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