Glad to be gay, ashamed to be Anglican?

Let us pray for the repentance of Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, who is a troubled soul.

If he’s not knocking England’s Muslims, it’s our gay compatriots…

The editorial in today’s Morning Star, A message to the bigots, on the bishop’s response to Pride.

There’s a message to all of us contained in the distasteful pronouncements of the Bishop of Rochester at the weekend.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali delivered his considered opinion of what he believes is a proper, Christian attitude towards those who do not share the conventional sexual orientation that his church espouses.

And that message was every bit as detestable as the Islamist fundamentalism that justifies jihad and terrorism as weapons in a battle for religious rectitude.

It bears about the same relationship to the attitude of everyday Christians as jihadism bears to the attitude of everyday Muslims. And that is none whatsoever.

We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude them, said Bishop Bigot.

“But they are going to have to repent and be changed.”

Everyone with any involvement in the peace and anti-war movements has had experience of working with active and committed Christians of all denominations or none.

And, from a socialist perspective, that experience is generally a positive and optimistic one, of working with people with a different motivation, but with a commitment to the human race, to the shared values of respect for life and of toleration of difference.

It’s a meeting of minds with people who do not necessarily share every principle that we espouse, but who have enough courage to join in solidarity over the things on which we agree and to develop mutual understanding on those points which may divide us.

It is a celebration of mutual respect and a working agreement that there are shared aims which are common to people of very different life experiences and have a value which transcends the proscriptions with which those who would divide us hedge us around.

There is a lesson for Dr Nazir-Ali in our shared experiences.

It is a lesson that he, and all the bigots of all religions or none should take to heart.

And that lesson is that the human race is greater by far than the narrow, prejudiced and perverted caricatures that the merchants of dogma would turn us into.

Half a million people gave the lie to the bishop at the weekend on the streets of London.

The queers and the queens, the bears and the dykes were joined by the trade unionists, the communists, the socialists and the militants from a dozen different fields in mutual solidarity to celebrate people’s right to live as they are, not as they are expected to be by their lords and masters, temporal or spiritual, in this narrow, proscriptive, capitalist society.

The Tories and the Establishment are falling over themselves to appear gay-friendly.

However, that’s not through tolerance of difference, that’s through a cold appreciation of the electoral advantages to be gained.

But take the mask off and you have the crusader, the figurehead who would thrust onto you the conformity of intolerance and the rigour of convention – provided that that conventionality suits the prejudices that still hold sway in a reactionary Establishment.

There’s a lesson for socialists in the bigotry of the bishop and the unity of the half-million people on the streets of London whom he railed against.

And that is that solidarity and tolerance are principles which unite us. Given unity, all the distasteful orthodoxies that are built to control us are powerless to do so.

That unity takes work to achieve, tolerance to establish and patience to build.

With it, we are invincible but, without it, the Nazir-Alis of this world will divide, weaken and dominate. It’s our choice.

Bobbies on the beat – G20 style

“No thanks, we’re not covering this, we see it as just a London story.”

That’s what the BBC said when offered footage of a policeman beating a man to the ground – a man who died of a heart attack shortly after.

This happened at the G20 protests last week -Mr Tomlinson was just walking home from work and was not a demonstrator.

Paul Feldman‘s is the best analysis I’ve seen:

Once again the police have blood on their hands and a cover-up is already well under way. That’s the only conclusion you can draw from the video of the gratuitous police attack on bystander Ian Tomlinson during last week’s G20 protests in the City of London, soon after which he collapsed and died.

The police had the area covered from every angle by CCTV and by their own photographers and must have known what happened. Yet the first official statement said that Tomlinson just happened to be found in a side street and that the Met’s brave police were attacked when they went to his assistance!

Sounds familiar? Jean Charles de Menezes, you will recall, was alleged to have leapt over a Tube ticket barrier and was wearing a bulky jacket, clearly trying to evade the police. None of this, naturally enough, turned out to be true. Yet no one was prosecuted for the execution of the Brazilian electrician while he sat reading his newspaper. And you can bet that the same will apply in the case of Tomlinson.

Why? Because the police are always only “doing their duty” in “difficult circumstances”. And what is this higher “duty” that allows them to behave with impunity and do things that ordinary citizens would end up in jail for? The duty in question conferred on the police by the state is to protect the status quo of capitalist society by whatever means are necessary, lawful and otherwise.

The first professional police force in the world was set up first in London in the 1830s and then throughout the rest of the country at a time of major social and political unrest. Workers had demanded and been refused the vote, trade unionists were deported from Dorset for illegally combining and riots were breaking out against the introduction of the workhouse for the unemployed.

The Royal Commission on the Police 1839 reported that the creation of a force throughout the country was a way in which “the constitutional authority of the supreme executive is thus emphatically asserted”. What the commission was talking about was the authority of the state as a whole in relation to maintaining and developing capitalism in terms of private property, as our book Unmasking the State – a rough guide to real democracy elaborates in more detail.

And that’s how the boys in blue have behaved ever since, with the notable exception of the London police strike after World War One when demands for an independent union were ruthlessly crushed. The high command of the state in the shape of senior officers sets the tone with wild statements about a “summer of rage” on the streets and then the unthinking plods are sent into action to do their worst, which they gleefully do. That’s what happened at the Climate Camp in Kent last year and is routine for just about any protest or action that is not some orderly march from point A to point B.

As the economic slump develops, more and more people will act to defend their jobs and their livelihoods. The police are being prepared for this by the sinister and secret Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). This is the organisation that did the Thatcher’s government’s bidding during the miners’ strike, which began 25 years ago. In the course of that dispute, a total of 11,000 miners were arrested, 7,000 injured, eleven people died, and 1,000 men were sacked. More than 100 were jailed.

The present capitalist state is clearly an alienating power that is undemocratic and more or less the plaything of the corporations and banks. The police, together with the army and the spy agencies, are this state’s enforcers and nothing will change their historic role. This should add to the urgency of developing a strategy for creating a new kind of political democracy. This would be founded on co-ownership and control of resources and require the replacement of institutions like the police with new forms of community control.

Privatising the database state – who will profit from our loss of liberty?

Another costly IT project that the private sector fails to deliver on time? Could cost more than money, our civil liberties are at stake, reports The Guardian:

The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone’s calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a “hellhouse” of personal private information.

“Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything,” said Macdonald. “All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.”

The home secretary postponed the introduction of legislation to set up the superdatabase in October and instead said she would publish a consultation paper in the new year setting out the proposal and the safeguards needed to protect civil liberties. She has emphasised that communications data, which gives the police the identity and location of the caller, texter or web surfer but not the content, has been used as important evidence in 95% of serious crime cases and almost all security service operations since 2004 including the Soham and 21/7 bombing cases.

Until now most communications traffic data has been held by phone companies and internet service providers for billing purposes but the growth of broadband phone services, chatrooms and anonymous online identities mean that is no longer the case.

The Home Office’s interception modernisation programme, which is working on the superdatabase proposal, argues that it is no longer good enough for communications companies to be left to retrieve such data when requested by the police and intelligence services. A Home Office spokeswoman said last night the changes were needed so law enforcement agencies could maintain their ability to tackle serious crime and terrorism.

Senior Whitehall officials responsible for planning for a new database say there is a significant difference between having access to “communications data” – names and addresses of emails or telephone numbers, for example – and the actual contents of the communications. “We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing any content of emails, texts or conversations,” the spokeswoman said.

External estimates of the cost of the superdatabase have been put as high as £12bn, twice the cost of the ID cards scheme, and the consultation paper, to be published towards the end of next month, will include an option of putting it into the hands of the private sector in an effort to cut costs. But such a decision is likely to fuel civil liberties concerns over data losses and leaks. Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: “The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people.”

Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. “It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information,” he said. “It would be a complete readout of every citizen’s life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls.”

The moment there was a security crisis the temptation for more commonplace access would be irresistible, he said.

Other critics of the plan point to the problems of keeping the database secure, both from the point of view of the technology and of deliberate leaks. The problem would be compounded if private companies manage the system. “If there is a breach of security in that database it would be utterly devastating,” one said.

Bill of Rights, anyone?

As part of his Britishness agenda, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set in motion a process of constitutional reform – or preparing for it, at least. A written bill of rights (and responsibilities, presumably) was one of the options to be considered.

Now that he’s going to be writing a book on his favourite subject (no, not prudence – it’s “Britishness”, again) and trying to revive his premiership with an economic rejaunch, will Brown have time to draw up a list of rights? There won’t be many, since he’s all for internment and the anti-union laws…

Paul Feldman at A World To Win writes:

Parliament’s joint committee on human rights report acknowledges that both major parties are lukewarm about the idea, so the chances of the Bill becoming law are tiny. Secondly, the economic and social rights outlined by the committee would not be enforceable in law – they would be a statement of rights and no more.

[...]

Recent surveys show that more than 75% of those questioned favoured a Bill of Rights, with massive majorities in favour of the right to privacy, to a fair trial, trade union rights, hospital treatment and housing. The market state that has replaced the parliamentary state has no interest in enshrining these principles, let alone making them enforceable.

Under these conditions, the struggle to establish permanent democratic, social and economic rights can only succeed in the context of a new, democratic state that reflects the aspirations of the presently powerless majority. How to achieve this aim is one of the key themes of our Stand Up for Your Rights festival on October 18.

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