Thursday, 6 August 2009

‘Poverty Over’

On my way to central London yesterday and in the vicinity of Limehouse, well to be precise under the railway bridge of Poplar and Limehouse Station; my eyes fell upon an exact copy of the above billboard poster.
Actually I was on my way to meet some friends who every night queue up at the food handouts in Holborn’s Lincolns Inn Fields. I was on my pushbike traveling through one of the most poverty stricken areas in the country. I will spare you the statistics’ about child poverty in London’s East End as I’ve given them so many times in previous posts on this not bleak but black and distressful subject.

But of all the places to display such a poster it just beggars belief, it really dose!

Christian Aid is the charity behind this ad campaign, as it has a vision that poverty can be eradicated. Instead of prayer! It aims to stimulate debate and invite people to take action to help bring about political change; and so they say. The activity is called ‘Poverty Over’ and thousands of pounds have been spent putting up static and digital billboards in community and other high-impact sites. A few thousand ‘Squid’ has been dished-out to advertising development consultancies that have come up with this unintelligent, daisycutter advertisement which will have as much impact as a spider living amongst a pride of lions.

Child poverty is a scourge on our children wherever in the world they live; it has always existed in one form or the other in every county of the world. Only a few weeks ago MPs were debating the Child Poverty Bill in the House of Commons, and all that this bill amounted to was placing a duty on local authorities to undertake a child poverty assessment in their area's and then develop a child poverty action plan.

Common sense, empty talk, what will it take? To ensure that every child gets a square meal - an earthquake?

Nelson Mandela once said: “Poverty is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”.

One look at South Africa tells us that Mandela and all his grand words have eradicated nothing. What we must ask ourselves is why that is, and not just of him but of all the establishment politicians in every corner of the globe.

All the people of the world, wherever they live, whatever their skin colour, whatever language they speak, really do deserve better than the few crumbs sill cast aside from the masters table. It’s not a pop concert or a poster demanding an end to poverty thats needed but a movement, a world movement for Socialism that will really take that gigantic step to make poverty history, once, and for all humanity.

As always I welcome all comments and contributions to my blog, so long as they are kept clean, I will have no problem in publishing them. And as Christian Aid wish to start a debate and stimulate a discussion, I offer this post as my contribution and would welcome any comments they may like to make by way of return, as I will be forwarding this post to them when publishing.


Chris H said...

If you have a shufty at the bumf on their website you'll see that the idea behind this is just the implementation of the UN's Millenium Development Goals. Whilst there are good things within them, like events such as Live Aid it's never going to get anywhere near ending poverty. You know as well as I do that poverty is a requirement for the capitalist system. You can't have rich without poor, you can't have wealth without poverty in such a system. The MDG in terms of financial change is nothing revolutionary, just tinkering around the edges whilst the rotten system in the core continues as before.

What Mandela said is true though, we can eradicate poverty. We can also eradicate all the other things that divide and oppress, housing, inequality, health. Why we don't is another matter.

Some might see the way forward to be found in a political philosophy and system, others may see things in a purely spiritual sense. Some may see an answer in a mixture of both.

But I personally think that Christian Aid is to be commended. The heart may be in the right place, although I fear the effect of the MDG is designed by it's creators to give the appearance of change rather than real change.

For a Christian organisation it's progress. Slow progress but progress none the less. Look how long it took to expunge the dodgy verse from the hymn 'All Things Bright And Beautiful'! And how long has it been since Lansbury wrote

"I want the Church to say in a clear language that it is against God's Law that in the midst of abundance there should be poverty. I want them to rally the people to a great crusade to compel Parliament to alter the system which dooms the people to these conditions."

Jim said...

Thanks for your post Chris, always welcome here!

Just one or two things though that I must comradely take issue on!

For all his proclaimed charisma and charm; and now his position as a world statesman Mandela has no idea or he just plays along with the world of capitalism. Just one look at the ANC after what is now years of being in power in SA, has changed nothing for the vast majority still living in Shanty Towns and as they were under the social policy of apartheid. They remain with the rest of us in economic apartheid, albeit somewhat more extreme!

With all respect towards you; I fail to see the significance of this Christian organisations progress slow or otherwise. Because they (the church) change the words and sing a new song from the pre-prepared hymn sheet is hardly going to eradicate poverty. So the money that some folk put into the small envelopes that they send out is just a waste of time when it’s spent on this type of campaign.

Tony Blair as you know; a very ardent follower, even has his own Faith Foundation and he says: “that it is important to hundreds of millions of people. It underpins systems of thought and of behaviour. It underpins many of the world's great movements for change or reform, including many charities. And the values of respect, justice and compassion that our great religions share have never been more relevant or important to bringing people together to build a better world”.

Well he made his mark on the world then, but then again he’s in good company: Margret Thatcher was a lay preacher and Bush well he had gods word so he claimed. As for George Lansbury he was fine when he was a member of the SDF and to a point Poplar Council. But Socialism is not about any one individual; leader or otherwise even Marx and Engels made what they would have considered modest contributions’. That’s why members of the Socialist Party say they are neither followers nor leaders. We understand only too well that if poverty is to be eradicated it will only happen when the worlds working class understand that the only way to remove poverty and replace it with plenty; it will have to remove itself from the shackles that hampers them from a world worth living in!

Dave said...

Chris H said:-

"You know as well as I do that poverty is a requirement for the capitalist system. You can't have rich without poor, you can't have wealth without poverty in such a system. The MDG in terms of financial change is nothing revolutionary, just tinkering around the edges whilst the rotten system in the core continues as before".

Well, if you know that you must also know that the only way to eradicate poverty and all the other things "that divide and oppress" is to change the way society is organised. Only by making everything that is in and on the earth the common property of everyone can these problems be solved. It really is that simple but you and millions like you for reasons best known to yourselves wish to make it much more complicated. Get up off your knees and take action - now!

Chris H said...

One of those paradoxes, it really is that simple, but the process of getting to that stage is fraught with problems.

Can you ever perceive a time when the working class will gain enough 'class conciousness' to enable a parliamentary and democratic transition to a wageless socialism?

There are many competing worldviews and philosophies that interact and influence the working class, each with their own path to their own 'nirvana' for want of a better word. Everyone of these can be a stumbling block to that transition.

There's also the issue of the capitalist class and the machinery at their disposal both under the banner of the state and of private corporation. They'll not be rolling over quietly.

Dave, the words you write echo similar by John Ball and Winstanley from a long time ago. Although I would love to see those words come to fruition I have yet to see a way to do it.

Jim said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the links on your blog very kind of you! And I intend to reciprocate soon!

I’ve been a Socialist of a kind for all most 35 years I think?

It’s been a bit like swimming against the tide at times, or walking over London Bridge in the opposite direction to most of all the thousands that have just disembarked from the many trains bringing them into London Bridge Station for a days work.
I often feel like shouting out to them, turnaround go back home to your families get a life! But how could I for we know they are only slaves to the system. And it’s never that simple is it?

Slowly but surely over the years, I began to realise that our backs were really pushed, nay slammed against the wall; first the attacks upon the Steelworkers whom I was raised amongst; then our near neighbours the Miners followed by the Dockers and then the Print Workers.

From the cradle to the grave capitalism has a handle, a hold over us all.

Take South Africa as an example and one of many that can be given. A country in crisis. The economy wakened by the world recession tipping it over the edge. Striking miners and public sector workers have been in dispute. People have taken to the streets to demonstrate with anger and frustration. The anger of ordinary people is easy to understand. After 15 years of ANC rule many in the Townships and slums still have no electricity or running water, the quality of housing (shanty) is still very bad and unemployment is 23 per cent and rising. After years of struggle to free themselves from apartheid racist rule, the expectations for the ANC were high. But the ANC are not socialist or have they ever been – they simply wanted a western style liberal democracy and the creation of a black capitalist class. This has been achieved, but the ordinary South Africans have been left on the scrapheap, living in constant poverty with no way out.

There are similarities in every country of the world; if you look at the election of Jacob Zama earlier this year brought about and not too unlike Barack Obama or even Tony Blair a fresh wave of hope to the poor. Zama pledged to make improving public services his number one priority and with the help of the Labour Unions he came to power. I’m under no illusion how this is going to go?

I remember only to well that Mandela was treated virtually as a living saint by the national and international capitalist class for achieving a “peaceful and responsible transition” from white rule to majority rule. Even Margaret Thatcher and Fidel Castro flocked to see the newborn multi-racial South Africa and bless it in its cradle.

Unemployment is growing in every county of the world, more and more people are being flushed into the capitalist sewer of poverty and deprivation even in the so-called affluent west the sludgier is mashing workers in a messy and often unpleasant way; like never before.

It’s a twenty to twelve on the clock and it’s still ticking; our planet is threatened; again like never before. The ravages and excesses of capitalism, with its wars and murdering ways are many.

I’m not prepared to stand alone; I will turn to my class and put the ‘Socialist Case’ even if that means swimming against the tide. Because one day it will turn, that’s been the position of socialists who came out of the SDF dissatisfied with the policy of pursuing reforms of capitalism instead of concentrating on campaigning for world socialism. And 105 years on it remains our objective not to spread and create confusion and make it that much harder for workers to understand the socialist case. What is needed is for each worker to make that crucial choice between capitalism and Socialism, to reject the one and support the other. For this the utmost clarity is required, not the confusion that would inevitably follow from associating with those who profess to support Socialism but who in their deeds are its very enemies.

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