Apr 20 2014

SOCIALISTS AND A SECULAR SOCIETY

Eric Chester  makes a contribution to the ongoing discussion and debate in the RCN about secularism

The demand for a secular republic has always been central to the struggle for socialism. All too frequently state power is used to bolster a specific religious orthodoxy, with those who adhere to other religions, or to no religion at all, finding themselves the target of discrimination and repression. Nineteenth century bourgeois revolutions, such as the American Revolution and the French Revolution, raised the demand for a separation of church and state, and significant steps were taken toward that goal. Nevertheless, an established church remains entrenched in most countries, receiving special privileges and state subsidies to reinforce its hold on the populace.

In this context, the call for an end to all state funding, either direct or indirect, for any religious institution is essential. One consequence of this demand is the banning of all state subsidies to faith base schools of every religious belief, and an insistence that state schools be totally free of religious indoctrination. Certainly in Glasgow, where Catholic parochial schools are widespread, and where the state school system promotes Protestant religious teaching, a genuinely non-sectarian and universal school system is long overdue.

Still, the demand that the state should not finance any religious institution is only one component of a socialist program to establish a secular state. In my view, socialists need to start with this fundamental principle: No one should suffer any disadvantage, or gain any advantage, from holding to a religious belief, or holding to no religious belief as either an agnostic or atheist. Each person living in a secular republic should be treated equally, and every law and regulation should be applied to everyone on an equal basis.

This might seem to be a self-evident principle, but it has far-reaching implications. This can be seen in examining several situations that remain controversial. In the United States, the Amish insist that their children should not be cajoled into going to high school, since, after all, they would be exposed to other teenagers who hold very different views, and who engage in activities that are forbidden to the Amish. Thus, the Amish insist their religious freedom is being violated by the enforcement of truancy laws. In fact, the Amish are demanding that their religious beliefs entitle them to flout laws that apply to everyone else.

In another current controversy, Orthodox Jews and Muslims insist that the animals they eat are to be killed according to a protocol that is otherwise illegal. They are convinced that their religious beliefs exempt them from laws and regulations intended to provide a minimum of protection to slaughtered animals. These regulations are reasonable, and should apply to everyone.

Then there is the issue of the burkha. Some Muslim women believe that their religion prescribes this form of dress as the basis for modesty. Women should have the right to dress as they please, but there are certain situations in which everyone is expected to be present with their face shown to public view. Many banks insist on this for security reasons. In most judicial trials, jurors can observe the facial expression of witnesses. Again, if the rules are reasonable as applied to the public as a whole then religious beliefs should not be a sufficient basis for exemption.

Of course, those who hold to the established religion frequently assume that they are entitled to special privileges. In the centre of Glasgow, the use of microphones and audio amplification equipment is sharply limited. Nevertheless, street preachers expanding on the virtues of the bible are permitted to spend hours blaring their hollow pieties at random passers by. It is just taken for granted that Christian preachers have rights granted to no one else.

In Glasgow, a metropolitan area of over one million, no buses run on Christmas Day. The bus system depends on subsidies it receives from the local government, so this act of religious discrimination is, in effect, establishing Christianity as the official religion. Mass transit is a basic right. It should be available on every day, even on a religious holiday.

Creating a truly secular society will not be easy. As socialists we need to resist religious sectarianism in theory and practice. Religious creeds when they involve the holding of certain beliefs concerning a deity are completely protected as the expression of one form of ideas. Those who hold religious beliefs should be able to advocate them through writings and speeches. Believers should be able to hold religious services and celebrate their distinctive holidays.

The problem begins when believers argue that their religion requires them to take certain actions that infringe on the well being of others. As socialists, we need to be very clear that we can not accept such expressions of religious beliefs. Believers can only engage in religious activity to the extent that it does not harm others, or require the granting of special privileges not available to others not holding these religious beliefs, or holding no religious views at all. The fact that the religious dogma of some sect requires certain actions is irrelevant to whether or not it should be legally permitted, or sanctioned by the society as a whole. If this is not the case, then the society is not truly secular, but rather a theocratic state

We have a long way to go before we live in a genuinely secular society. At every level, from the immediate realities of every day life to the purely conceptual, the implicit assumption remains that religion, and specifically Christianity, is an integral component of the cultural mainstream, and, thus, must be defended and provided with privileges and subsidies. Those of us who are not believers need to stand firm, while firmly presenting the case for the secular alternative to religious orthodoxy.

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Apr 14 2014

SCOTLAND: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM VENEZUELA

 Ewan Robertson, an RCN member and a Scots born journalist living in Venezuela, is touring Scotland.  He will be addressing the following meetings:-

  • Monday April 14, STUC: Joint Scottish Venezuela Solidarity Campaign & others lunchtime Latin America fringe meeting for delegates with speakers including Ewan Robertson, 12.30-1.45pm, Caird Hall, Dundee.
  • Tuesday April 15, Aberdeen: Public Meeting with Ewan Robertson, 6.00pm, Unite Offices, 44 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5TJ
  • Thursday April 17, Glasgow: Ewan Roberston to speak at 7pm showing of the film Revolutionary Doctors, organised by the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign  & supported by SVSC at the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road Glasgow G3 6NG.
  • Thursday April 24, Edinburgh: Open eyewitness meeting with Ewan Roberston, 7.30pm, Augustine Church, 42 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 1EL.

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In the article below Ewan contrasts the experience of the Bolivarian revolution with the aspirations of the people of Scotland in relation to the question of Self Determination.

 

Continue reading “SCOTLAND: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM VENEZUELA”

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Apr 12 2014

INVITATION TO ‘THE LEFT AND MAIDAN’ IN KIEV, 12th-13th April.

Dear comrades!

We invite you to take part in our conference “The Left and Maidan” to be held in Kiev on 12-13 April 2014 in the Blue Hall of Cinema House ( 6 Saksaganskogo street).

The events of the last few months raise difficult questions for the left movement. Should we participate in the Maidan events on public squares and in what way? Should we participate or not in the “Anti-Maidan” and the so-called “pro-Russian” protests? If we do, in what form should we take part? Is it really possible to promote the left agenda in these protests? Was the hegemony of the right in the Maidan inevitable? What results have we achieved for the independent movement of the left? What are the lessons to be learned and how should the left act when the next mass mobilization happens? What kind of mobilization could it be?

All these questions have caused severe internal disputes, conflicts and discussions. The conference will provide an opportunity for sober analysis, constructive discussion and practical consideration about possible joint actions of the left within the following areas:

1. Lessons from the Maidan for the left : successes and failures.

2. Possibilities for  left propaganda on the Maidan and the Anti-Maidan.

3. The Maidan as public square in the context of global protest movements (compared with the Russian  “marsh” protests, the Arab Spring , the Occupy movement,   protests in the European Union , Turkey, Bosnia, Thailand and Venezuela).

4. International influences on the Maidan and Anti-Maidan.

5. A strengthened extreme right: consequences for the left.

6. Attacks against the CPU and the fall of Lenin statues: new opportunities or a threat to the New Left ?

7. Left strategy under conditions of the Russian intervention.

8. Prospects for forming a left-wing political party.

The conference organisers are inviting leftist activists from different regions of Ukraine, as well as comrades from the Russian Federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have participated in similar mass protests in their own countries.

The following may join the Organizing Committee of the conference:  left-wing organizations and initiatives that condemn national chauvinism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and at that equally condemn the Russian intervention and any violent action against leftist or trade union activists or unarmed protesters.

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is a sponsor of the conference.

Applications to participate in the conference should be sent by March 30 to Nina Potarska by email nina.potarska@gmail.com. Submissions should include the title of the paper, a short description (up to 500 characters), the name of presenter, place of residence and organizational membership (optional). The Organizing Committee will consider, but cannot guarantee, reimbursement of the cost of travel and accommodation in Kiev.

Presentations can be fine-tuned into analytical articles for publication in the upcoming issue of the journal of social critique Commons: http://commons.com.ua/?p=17376.

Organizing Committee of the conference:

Centre for Society Research

Centre for Social and Labour Research

Journal of social critique Commons

Socialist movement Left Opposition

 

also see

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/03/07/ukraine-a-statement-from-awukiev/

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Apr 01 2014

25 YEARS SINCE THE POLL TAX: 1 YEAR SINCE THE ‘BEDROOM TAX’

Today, April Fools Day, RIC supporters handed out the leaflet below on the streets of Scotland. The 25th anniversary of the poll tax also provides an opportunity to provide a link to the article written by Allan Armstrong (RCN), Chair of Lothian Anti-Poll Tax Federation, for Red Banner, on the 20th anniversary of the tax.

 

ricpoltax

 

 

20 Years after the Anti-Poll Tax: Lessons for the Anti-Cuts Movement

see

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/05/27/20-years-after-the-poll-tax-lessons-for-the-anti-cuts-movement/

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Apr 01 2014

YES: THE RADICAL CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE – GLASGOW BOOK LAUNCH

John Lanigan (RCN) attended the book launch of YES: The Radical Case for Independence, written by James Foley and Pete Ramand of the International Socialist Group and the Radical Independence Campaign. The book was launched at the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sunday March 30th. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, James Foley and Pete Ramand spoke. Below is John’s report of this event.

Pete Ramand, Bernadette McAliskey, Cat Boyd and James Foley at Glasgow book launch

Pete Ramand, Bernadette McAliskey, Cat Boyd and James Foley at Glasgow book launch

Continue reading “YES: THE RADICAL CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE – GLASGOW BOOK LAUNCH”

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Apr 01 2014

INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW IN ACTION AT THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE AND THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN NATIONAL FORUM

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England writes the following report of the Left Unity Conference held in Manchester on March 29th. This was held on the same day as the National Forum of the Radical Independence Campaign in Perth.

There was a remarkably good showing for the RSA motion, in the face of the combined opposition of the current LUP leadership and an amalgam of the British Left organisations present on the day. The RSA has attracted a lot of new support and it is fairly clear that when it further develops its organisation, the LU’s ‘Neither for/Nor against’ position could be overturned. In the meantime several LU branches are proceeding with organising solidarity events anyhow. 

Meanwhile, the RIC National Forum in Perth unanimously passed its motion in support of an ‘internationalism from below’ approach to the campaign for Scottish independence.

 

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance  speaking at Left Unity conference

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance speaking at Left Unity conference

Continue reading “INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW IN ACTION AT THE LEFT UNITY CONFERENCE AND THE RADICAL INDEPENDENCE CAMPAIGN NATIONAL FORUM”

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Apr 01 2014

LET’S ALL END OUR ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UK STATE

Below is the lead article from the Republican Communist Network RIC Special Bulletin, first distributed at the RIC National Forum in Perth, on March 29th. This was handed out along with the Republican Socialist Alliance bulletin, Hands off the people of Scotland  (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/03/25/hands-off-the-people-of-scotland-solidarity-from-england/) made for the Left Unity conference held on the same day in Manchester.

 

RIC banner

Edinburgh RIC banner on demonstration. Photo by John Lanigan

 

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Mar 25 2014

HANDS OFF THE PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND – Solidarity from England

The following motion will be placed before the Left Unity Conference in Manchester on March 29th. It was initiated by members of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England. Steve Freeman, of the RSA, addressed the RIC National Conference in Glasgow on November 23rd, 2013. 
th-2The Daily Telegraph (16 March 2014) claimed that the 2015 general election would be thrown into turmoil if Scotland voted for independence. It would plunge Britain into a major “constitutional crisis”.  It is not ‘merely’ the future of the British Union. The fate of the Cameron coalition government may hang by the result. The Prime Minister who lost Scotland will find it difficult to survive the result, never mind win the general election.  

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Mar 24 2014

UNDERCOVER BUT WITHIN SITES – POLICE INFILTRATION OF TRADE UNIONS

Emancipation & Liberation has been covering the long term of blacklisting of building worker, Brian Higgins.  Brian has also been involved over many years in a struggle with the UCATT bureaucracy. More recently, developments  over Stephen Lawrence have highlighted the use of undercover police to infiltrate defence campaigns. Here Mark Metcalf reveals how the police infiltrated the Brian Higgins Defence Campaign. 

 

Mark Jenner, police infiltrator into the Brian Higgins Defence Campaign

Mark Jenner, police infiltrator into the Brian Higgins Defence Campaign

 

The government has just ordered an inquiry into the role of undercover police spies. Mark Metcalf, who first revealed the activities of one spy in The Big Issue in the North three years ago, reveals more about his activities and asks whether the inquiry will go far enough.

Continue reading “UNDERCOVER BUT WITHIN SITES – POLICE INFILTRATION OF TRADE UNIONS”

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Mar 24 2014

US TRADE UNIONS: WAITING FOR GODOT

James Fearon (Socialist Democracy-Ireland) argues that a lost vote for United Automobile Workers union recognition at Chattanooga in Tennessee shows US workers distrust of union partnership policies while Walmart and fast food workers illustrate power of rank and file organisation. He also draws some parallels with UNITE, which organises workers throughout these islands.

 

UAW puts US corporate interests before those of its members

UAW puts US corporate interests before those of its members

Recent events have revealed that the established conservative leadership of the trade union movement is faced with a dilemma. The era of relatively low class conflict is closing and the trade union bureaucracy is under attack from both the working class and the capitalists. The scant regard shown for Unite’s bureaucratic leadership by Ineos has now been added to by a slap in the face from the working class, this time administered to the United Auto Workers bureaucracy by the workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Continue reading “US TRADE UNIONS: WAITING FOR GODOT”

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