Archive for the ‘Secularism’ Category

Crowd welcomes the result, Dublin Castle, Saturday afternoon, May 26 (Irish time)

by Philip Ferguson

“I think for so many people in this country the weekend’s vote was just like an enormous weight being lifted – a ball and chain that dogged us all our adult life being finally gone. And I can’t believe that I’m 50 years of age and it’s taken this long. . .  I think for so many women it represented so much.  It’s almost like society atoning for everything it’s done to women in this country.  Atoning for how we stigmatised women faced with crisis pregnancies, the Magdalene Laundries, the Mother and Baby Homes, the shaming, the forced adoptions, the robbed identities. . .  For me, the biggest sentiment of the Yes vote, the thing that people said the most was, ‘Who am I to judge? It’s not my decision.'”

‘Kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse!’ The making and popularity of the ‘Father Ted’ TV comedy series, made in the mid-1990s, was an indication of changing attitudes towards the Catholic hierarchy.

With these words, spoken this week in the Dublin parliament, independent Marxist TD (MP) Clare Daly, welcomed the massive victory for women’s rights and human progress in the referendum vote last Friday, May 25.  The referendum was on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution (the constitution of the southern or 26-County state).  The amendment, which had been passed in 1983 effectively banned abortion in Ireland.

Scale of victory

On May 25 66.4% voted Yes for repeal and just 33.6% voted No.  In numerical terms this was a vote of 1,429, 981 to repeal the anti-abortion amendment and 723,642 to maintain it.

Indicating the sea-change of attitudes among the people in the 26-Counties, this was a (more…)

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by Daphna Whitmore

Gideon Levy is on a mission to tell the truth to Israelis, that they are accountable for the occupation. He has just finished a short visit to New Zealand and  several hundred people turned out to hear him speak at a public meeting in Auckland. 

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Gideon Levy

He gave a compelling view of the Israeli regime and society.  Born and raised in Israel Levy  did not start out as a critical thinker. It wasn’t until he started visiting the occupied territories in the early 1980s as a journalist for the newspaper Haaretz that he gradually realised how brainwashed he’d been.

He characterises Israel as three regimes. One is a liberal democracy for the Jewish citizens, though there are cracks emerging in that democracy. Nevertheless Jews, including Levy, enjoy all the rights of a democracy and he has published his unpopular views in Haaretz for decades without being silenced. The second regime is for the Palestinian citizens living within Israel, known as Israeli Arabs, who have formal civil rights but face deep discrimination. The third regime is the “dark backyard” of the occupied territories, one of the most tyrannical regimes, not identical to that of apartheid South Africa, but one that looks a lot like apartheid.  (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

by The Spark

Seventy years ago, on 15 August 1947, former “British” India gained independence. But fearing that a sense of victory would allow India’s future regime to resist Britain’s continuing economic domination, while boosting the then-growing rebellion of other colonized people against their colonizers, the British government ensured that independence came at an exorbitant price for the Indian masses. It played a cynical game of divide and rule which led in the end to the partitioning of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, thereby causing one of the largest, bloodiest refugee migrations in modern history and a toxic legacy of warfare and religious bigotry.

Proletarian masses against colonial domination

The very basis for this artificial division was laid by colonial policy. The British created an electoral system based on religion and cultivated the loyalist Muslim League against the larger nationalist party, the Indian National Congress. This INC, although it espoused an all-Indian nationalism, also had ties to Hindu nationalist groups.

The end of WWII saw a mobilization of the Asian poor masses against the colonial powers. In China, the peasantry rose against the landlords and threatened to set the towns alight. After the collapse of the Japanese occupation in Malaysia, Indonesia and Indochina, the proletariat rose against the return of the old colonial powers. In India, a mutiny of 20,000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy, in February 1946, sparked off a wave of strikes involving (more…)

by Socialist Democracy

The announcement by an Irish government minister that “significant quantities” of human remains had been discovered at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway has brought official confirmation to claims about the disposal of the bodies of babies and very young children who had died there during the almost forty year period it was in operation. Even to a public who have become accustomed to revelations of abuses perpetuated in Church run institutions the treatment of the women and children in the Tuam home were truly shocking.

These mother and baby homes were places where unmarried pregnant women were sent to give birth. After birth their babies were then taken from them and raised in a separate part of the home by nuns. These children were later given up for adoption, often without the consent of their mothers. The women remained in the home for a year, working unpaid hours to reimburse the nuns for their “services”. This was the standard practice – not just at Tuam – but across all ten of these type of institutions that existed within the state. It is estimated that 35,000 unmarried pregnant women passed through these homes.

Informed by a warped religious dogma that deemed the sexual activity of females outside of marriage to be a sin, these homes were designed as places of punishment rather than care. This punishment came not only upon the women but also their children who were seen as the products of sin and therefore less than human. While forced separation and adoption is shocking even more shocking is the very high death rate of children born into these homes that meant that most never left alive.

At least 6,000 children died in mother and baby homes throughout Ireland. For many the end was an unmarked burial plot within the grounds – their remains disposed of with those of numerous others in what can rightly be described as mass graves. For others even death didn’t end the exploitation with hundreds of bodies being sent from the homes to Irish medical colleges. These deaths cannot be accounted for solely by the poverty of that time but rather by the conscious neglect and cruelty that women and their children were subjected to.

Investigations

It was claims about the nature of the disposal of the remains of almost 800 children at Tuam – that they were dumped in part of the sewage works – that (more…)

Redline has run articles with different perspectives on Syria – from those who emphasise imperialist involvement to those that emphasise the awfulness of the Assad regime and the need to solidarise with its victims and those fighting it.  Below is the third perspective, presented by one of our Iranian readers (Redline is blocked in Iran, but we have readers there as well as Iranian readers around the world).  This third perspective is that the Assads are brutal and corrupt dictators but the alternative is even worse, as happened in Iran in 1979 – and, for that matter, more recently in Libya.  This perspective also suggests that western leftists who place emphasis on getting rid of Assad, at virtually any cost, are playing with fire but that it is not them who have suffered the consequences of the replacement of Gaddafi and it won’t be them who will suffer the consequences of the replacement of Assad by Islamic fundamentalists – it will be the working class, women, and national and religious minorities; the western left will just walk away unscathed (and unreflective).

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As bad as the Assad regime is, the alternative is even worse

by Karim Pourhamzavi

The tragic and brutal chaos is getting close to completing its fifth year. Recently, the siege of Aleppo by the Syrian army and its allies, along with the Russian heavy bombardment, has attracted a large amount of media attention, particularly by the anti-Assad camp. The extensive advance of the troops loyal to the Syrian regime, at the time of writing, put an end to the controversial siege.

Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, did not witness a large-scale uprising in 2011, when the wider rebellion took place and steadily became a transnational armed struggle by the end of the same year. Various militant groups who fight in Syria, most prominent of which is the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, took over eastern Aleppo in 2012. The eastern part of the city includes approximately 300,000 residents and the western part, which has remained under the control of the Syrian regime to this day, is home for over one million residents, although you would not know this from ‘mainstream’ media coverage – you would think the whole of the city has been in ‘rebel’ hands and is being bombarded by the regime.

Propaganda

Any attempt of the Syrian regime to regain the eastern part of Aleppo was confronted by extensive propaganda in much of the western media. Not to mention the increase of multi-dimensional supports to the militants, including the Nusra Front, by the anti-Assad camp. The focus on civilian casualties whenever the Syrian army tries to regain Aleppo is, however, only one side of the story. The other side is that (more…)

james-connolly-starry-ploughA wonderful extract from the great Irish marxist, mass workers’ leader and insurrectionary James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916:

“. . . This will be the rule of the people at last realised. But, says Father Kane, at last showing the cloven foot, ‘the will of the people would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders’. Spoken like a good Tory and staunch friend of despotism!

“What is the political and social record of the mob in history as against the record of the other classes? There was a time, stretching for more than a thousand years, when the mob was without power or influence, when the entire power of the governments of the world was concentrated in the hands of the kings, the nobles and the hierarchy. That was the blackest period in human history. It was the period during which human life was not regarded as being of as much value as the lives of (more…)