Nelson Mandela on Globalisation

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In the light of the secret negotiations which are taking place to create a TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Free Trade Agreement (US-EU FTA, TAFTA), it is salutary to read Nelson Mandela’s assessment of globalisation, both as it has developed, and as it should have been created.  His speech printed below was made on receiving the Freedom Award From the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2000

Speech on receiving the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, November 2000

http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS919&txtstr=22%20November


To stand here tonight as the recipient of the Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum humbles and inspires us.What is regarded as having been achieved by me in the struggle for freedom and human rights is in fact the result of the collective efforts of hundreds and thousands of colleagues and comrades in the leadership of organisations I have worked in and with.It is, even more importantly, the result of the sacrifices, resolve and courage of millions and millions of so-called ordinary men, women and youth most of whom shall never even achieve a mention in the annals of history. One cannot but be humble for being singled out to be honoured for such a collective achievement.For a South African to be honoured here tonight in this place and by this body inspires as it reminds us again of the indivisibility of human freedom. Where the freedom and rights of people in one part of the world are violated we are all demeaned and diminished as human beings. Our freedom cannot be complete while others in the world are not free. Your award inspires us to continue the struggle for freedom and human rights. It reminds that the long walk to freedom is not yet over.Those of us who lived through most of the twentieth century can tell what high hopes for universal freedom were entertained in that century. The world fought two great wars that promised to end all wars and to end tyranny. The process of decolonisation, ending European dominance over the entire planet, got underway. World bodies were established to ensure a free and equitable world.The progress humankind achieved in the field of science and technology outstripped the accumulative achievements of all preceding generations. We were able to utilise the resources of nature and to produce far in excess of what was required to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the entire population of the world.

Yet we closed that century and entered the new millennium with the largest part of the human population still far from enjoying those fruits of freedom of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks. Tyranny, oppression and abuse of human rights still rule in too many parts of the world for us to relent in the struggle for freedom.

Even in parts of the world where political freedom has been attained or where it has applied for long, the material fruits of a decent living have not always or universally accompanied that freedom.

The single most demeaning feature of our modern world is the persistence of massive poverty. The majority of the world’s population languishes in conditions of abject poverty and deprivation. This is in spite of the fact that we have the capacity to take care of all the world’s people. This is in spite of the opulence and privilege in which large sectors of the world live.

The divide between the rich and the poor, those who have plenty and those who suffer penury, is even widening in our contemporary world. And nothing threatens our collective freedom more than the persistence of this divide. None of us can sleep comfortably while our brother or sister goes hungry, cold, unsheltered, ignorant and ill.

We often talk about the globalisation of our world, referring to our world as a global village. Too often those descriptions refer solely to the free movement of goods and capital across the traditional barriers of national boundaries. Not often enough do we emphasise the globalisation of responsibility. In this world where modern information and communications technology has put all of us in easy reach of one another, we do again share the responsibility for being the proverbial keeper of our brother or sister.

Where globalisation means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom. Globalisation opens up the marvellous opportunities for human beings across the globe to share with one another, and to share with greater equity in the advances of science, technology and industries. To allow it to have the opposite effect is to threaten freedom in the longer term.

The right of a person to vote freely in democratic elections, to express him or herself without hindrance, to gather and associate as one wishes, to move freely in one’s land – these are precious freedoms that lift the human spirit and give expression to our God-given rights.

We must, however, at the same time as we cherish them remain constantly aware that those freedoms get devalued if they are for too long devoid of that dignity that comes with a decent quality of living.

That is the challenge to the freedom fighters of the twenty first century – the alleviation and eradication of poverty. Abject poverty is demeaning, is an assault on the dignity of those that suffer it. In the end it demeans us all. It makes the freedom of all of us less meaningful.

I thank you for this great honour. I wish you well in your work. May this century indeed be the one in which we achieve universal freedom and the universal enjoyment of those rights our glorious charters speak of.

I thank you.

Hat-tip Prue Plumridge and Occupy London for an inspiring reminder of the politics of Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

One Nation .. Two Worlds..

One Nation .. Two Worlds: From Julijuxtaposed

I don’t think the comfortable but rapidly diminishing middle classes really want to see the poor made poorer, or to gain particularly at their expense. They just believe, albeit very mistakenly, that there’s not enough to go round so they think they’re protecting their interests. They have swallowed the snake oil argument that says this is the way the world works so this is the way it must continue to work. They don’t really know if the poor are ‘undeserving’ but the notion of it soothes conscience and provides convenient justification to instincts, ambitions and actions.

This must not endure. It’s entropic and we all know it, whether consciously or by that nagging discomfort deep in the pits of our stomachs. Actually, we know it literally cannot endure because, if it does, its prognosis will look like a scene from Kozintsev. The plenty-rich-enough really will have to live in gated, high security communities with helicopter pads and armed escorts for exit because the outside world – the real world – will be ruthless, hostile and just a tad lawless. The nightmares portrayed by science fiction all set to become fast approaching realities as the abandoned become increasingly destitute in ever greater number.

We already talk, in jest and seriousness, about the other planet that the 0.1-1% inhabits but really, today’s grimmest quality of life will seem like an aspiration if we don’t get a grip of our leaders and their bloody and bloodied interests. We truly will have two worlds: one with all the good food, clean water, reliable energy, effective medicine, education and technology (for a while anyway); the other: the dehumanising beg-steal-and-make-do environment of arcane feudalism, replete with all its arbitrary day-to-day precariousness.

Right! Melodramatic mini rant over! Back to being forever open and on the alert for all pockets of light and hope…

See Soylent Green, George Osborne and Plutonomy, Think Left.

Support Petition for Fair Pensions – UK Neglect of the Elderly is a Disgrace

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UK Petition for Fair Pensions
- Neglect of the Elderly is a Disgrace

by Michael Thompson

Millions of elderly people in Britain today are having to choose between eating, and heating their homes because the State pension is so low. And what’s more the media are sweeping this issue under the carpet.

Cold kills 200 British pensioners a day during winter. Nine elderly people die from cold related illnesses, against a backdrop of soaring energy bills.

The Government’s future 2016 State pensions policy is inadequate and will be two tier. Today’s pensioners will continue to receive a meagre State pension and means tested handouts, only future pensioners will receive a £144 a week State pension based on contributions made, and means testing will be abolished.

So the UK’s existing 12 million pensioners will continue to be more worse off than their EU counterparts whose State pensions are much higher. I’m sure that a lot of elderly people believe they will be getting this full Universal State pension come April 2016. But they wont. This only applies to new pensioners from 2016.

When The Chancellor announced plans for the new state pension, he and all the media called it the Universal state pension. The rate would be £144 (at today’s rates), and it would be payable to all pensioners from April 2016. Now, that is what myself and others understood Universal to mean.

There was no announcement stating that this would only apply to new pensioners, and more importantly, that the amount payable would still be based on your national insurance contributions – needing 35 years contributions to get the full payment.

Britain is part of Europe at a cost of £60 million per day after net rebate, yet UK pensioners are not allowed to receive and enjoy Europe’s much higher State pensions. This is wrong!. As we are a part of Europe, Britain’s State pension should be upgraded accordingly. There is an EU ruling which says that all pensioners of the EU should be treated the same regardless of where they now live.

At the EU Laeken summit in Belgium in 2001, there was a ratified proposal that all EU member States, of which Britain is one, should endeavour to attain a State pension level of 40 per cent of their median wages as their basic State pension by 2007, and thereafter work toward 60 per cent.

This is how we did in 2007, compared to the rest of Europe.

STATE PENSION AS A PROPORTION OF AVERAGE WAGE 2007 COUNTRY % OF AV EARNINGS.
Greece 95.7 %
Luxemburg 88.3 %
Netherlands 81.9 %
Spain 81.2 %
Denmark 79.8 %
Italy 67.9 %
Sweden 62.1 %
EU AVERAGE 60% %
France 51.2 %
Germany 39.9 %
Estonia 32.9 %
Ireland 32.5 %
UK 30%

This is how we are doing this year, 2013, compared to the rest of Europe.

State pension comparison 2013

Max State Avg% of pension age

Country Pension Pay Avg Men & Woman.
Spain £26,630 £23,491 113% 65 65
Germany £26,366 £29,366 90% 65 65
France £15,811 £29,817 53% 60 60
N’lands £10,981 £35,627 31% 65 65
Denmark £11,381 £45,661 25% 65 65
Ireland £10,415 £41,803 25% 65 65
UK £7,488 £31,413 24% 65 62
Greece £3,756 £17,772 21% 65 65

Nothing has changed for Britain’s pensioners since this ratified proposal was made.

Millions of UK pensioners still live in poverty on a much lower State pension than European pensioners receive.

We in Link-Age UK wide are relative younger people taking this issue on, on behalf of our elderly people, wish to urge the Government to stick to the agreement made at the Laeken Summit in 2001, that due to the ratified proposal all member states should endeavour to attain a level of 40% of their median wages as their basic state pension by 2007 and thereafter work towards 60%. and to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe, this should be adhered to.

We in Link-Age UK wide are relative younger people taking this issue on, on behalf of our elderly people, wish to urge the Government to stick to the agreement made at the Laeken Summit in 2001, that due to the ratified proposal all member states should endeavour to attain a level of 40% of their median wages as their basic state pension by 2007 and thereafter work towards 60%. and to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe, this should be adhered to.

Please support this petition and send a message to the Government through your own constituent MP, or can contact Michael after 7pm any evening to receive a “free” copy of a letter to send directly to their MP at the House of Commons, and not their MP’s constituency address, because this is an issue of national importance, it is not a local matter.

People must have a pen and paper at hand when they ring.
The phone number to ring is 01803/ 857020. Also for those online, there is a petition, “Department for Works and Pensions:. We urge the UK Government to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe. Please take 30 seconds to sign it right now.
Here’s the link.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51449

Here’s why this is important.
Nothing has changed for Britain’s elderly people since the pensions and earnings link was cut in 1980, and this ratified proposal was made at the Laeken Summit in Belgium in 2001, and was agreed by “all” member States of which Britain is one.

I urge people to contract me at the above number after 7pm, and to sign our petition to show your disgust at this disgraceful situation for all UK pensioners, and force Parliament to discuss this issue which will bring Britain’s State pensions crisis to the media’s attention.

Milk Snatching, Free School Meals and an Artful Dodger.

People of a certain age will remember,  the third-of a-pint milk bottle, drunk with a waxy bent straw on school morning breaks. I am one of them. Provision of free milk in schools went a long way in the efforts to eradicate rickets. Free school meals ensured  that children in poverty received a wholesome meal.

After the passing of the 1906 Education Act Local Education Authorities were empowered to provide free school meals. In 1921 this had been extended to free milk. However, an investigation by John Boyd Orr (published as Food, Health and Income in 1937) revealed that there was a link between low-income, malnutrition and under-achievement in schools. Following the 1945 General Election, the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, appointed Ellen Wilkinson as Minister of Education, the first woman in British history to hold the post. Wilkinson had long been a campaigner against poverty and in 1946 managed to persuade Parliament to pass the School Milk Act. This act ordered the issue of one-third of a pint of milk free to all pupils under eighteen. (Spartacus)

School Milk for all children, like the National Health Service were both introduced by the 1945 Labour government. It was a brave government, supported by a unified population intent on rebuilding society , as shown in ‘Spirit of ’45‘. Policies like these demonstrate the commitment the 1945 government had in improving living conditions, health and education for working families and to help eradicate the poverty and poor health which many children faced, rickets was not uncommon. A caring welfare state  built communities and brought people together – a unified society.  Provision of milk for all children avoided the stigma at being ‘ seen to be poor’ and in need of charity.  There was real movement towards a more equal society which turned its back on the Dickensian state.

The signs that the Conservative Party opposed a more  united society were there in 1973, when as Education Secretary, a young Margaret Thatcher’s intention to remove the entitlement of school milk for all children. I remember the anger she caused and in defence of the welfare state, protested and marched chanting, ” Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.”

milksnatcherBut the scale of the plans she had to break up the welfare state, were kept secret, and not publicised until 30 years later in 2001.  At the time it was vastly underestimated

“…. documents released under the 30-Year-Rule paint a more complicated picture of what the future prime minister was prepared to sign up to.

Shortly after election, Prime Minister Heath wrote to his cabinet, telling them: “We shall need determination and a willingness among spending ministers to accept reductions in programmes which, from a departmental stand point, they would be reluctant to make.”

And in August 1970, the new Secretary of State for Education responded to a Treasury demand for education cuts in four areas:

  • Further Education fees
  • Library book borrowing charges
  • School meal charges
  • Free school milk “

The Tories always had a plan to reverse the improvement in living standards.  Even then they knew their policies would be so unpopular it would induce civil unrest. She also introduced fees for museum entry. Since the Coalition government has been introduced , the dismantling of the welfare state in but just one term is ensured. They planned it as such because, like then they knew of its unpopularity, and have done so by deceit. It is not necessary to wait for another 30 years, the evidence is already clear, though hidden in the main by the mainstream media. The internet has allowed the lay person a voice. How long until it is silenced.  She oversaw the increase in charges for children’s meals, through the principle of entitlement for free school meals  has remained, with the belief it would invoke public outrage. Until now. Now we hear that free school meals are under threat and the return to Dickensian Britain will be complete.

schooldinners Independent

Free school meals could soon be scrapped and people paid to look after elderly neighbours as councils take desperate measures to deliver a “tidal wave” of spending cuts, ministers will be warned on Tuesday.

Closures of municipal theatres, leisure centres, libraries and play groups will accelerate because of a 50 per cent reduction in local authorities’ spending power, according to a report from an independent think-tank.

The New Local Government Network said town halls will struggle to cope with a £16.5bn gulf which could, under current Coalition plans, open between their income and the demands on them.

See Gaming the Cuts, “Anyborough in 2018″

Austerity is based on lies, that ‘there is no money left’ It is time for some straight – talking from politicians and the lie about the structural deficit exposed. This is a time for investment not cuts. These Austerity policies being put in pace are totally unnecessary. It is a planned, ideological programme, continuing Margaret Thatcher’s great plan to dismantle the welfare state which protects us all. Undoubtedly she was clever in avoiding the truth, in Dickens’ own words, an “Artful Dodger”.

If Thatcher was ( to some degree) cautious in the rate at which she dismantled the welfare state, Osborne has no such qualms. Now, one hundred years on, the return to a Dickensian state is ensured, and Osborne  has said as much. The believe that Victorian Britain is desirable is surreal, like the worst nightmare from which we awaken, shaking in  disbelief.

We have all heard stories of Victorian Britain.  Apparently it was a golden age, or so our current government wishes us to believe. For some of us Victorian costume dramas are not merely agreeable ways to while away Sunday evening but enactments of our inner fantasies … “I don’t think there has been a better time in our history.” said Michael Gove Guardian  Clearly Mr Gove’s history is quite different to mine, and to the vast majority of people living in the UK today. The Guardian article adds:

David Cameron had stated that his goal is to defund and deconstruct the welfare state, to “dismantle big government and build the big society in its place”. His ambition is radical in the purest sense of the word, for it is a conscious attempt to turn the clock back to the historical period for which he feels the greatest affinity: the 19th century.

Victorian Britain was a land of laissez-faire capitalism and self-reliance. Government regulation was minimal and welfare was left to charity. With little tax burden and low labour costs, industrialisation turned Britain into the workshop of the world and created a thriving middle class. The state helped promote and safeguard trade through a bullish foreign policy that created a consumer’s empire. In 1839, we even went to war with China to force the Middle Kingdom to lift its ban on imported British opium.

Disappointingly, in 2010, the previous Labour government was not courageous enough to show the Spirit of 1945. The document Child Poverty Act of 2010 to eradicate child poverty is available here  for downloading. This was Labour’s plan. Spot the difference.

Section 26: Free School lunches and milk

111. Section 26 concerns the provision of free school lunches and milk. Subsection (1) amends section 512ZB of the Education Act 1996 to give the Secretary of State (or, in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers) an order-making power to extend eligibility for free school meals if the child meets prescribed conditions and the child’s parent is in receipt of a prescribed benefit or allowance.

112. The Secretary of State may extend eligibility for free school meals to a primary school child if the child’s parent is entitled to Working Tax Credit and the family has a household income below a specified threshold. Currently, the Education Act 1996 allows the Secretary of State (or the Welsh Ministers) to adjust eligibility for free school meals only on the basis of the benefit being received by the parent, rather than the age of the child. It is therefore not possible to use existing powers to extend the entitlement to free school meals to primary school children of parents who are entitled to Working Tax Credit without also extending the entitlement to secondary school children within the same family.

Now the nightmare is a reality, it is time to wake up, discover a “Spirit of 2015″ , plan for a Courageous State. A united left needs to plan a better future together just as the Labour Party did seventy years previously.