A couple of quotes –
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre;
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” (W B Yeats, The Second Coming)
“Liberty, if it means anything, is the freedom to tell people that which they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell)
The first quote is apt, because it describes a process which destroys the established order of things – the idea of social democracy which seemed so dominant after the Second World War is rapidly being dismantled, at the altar of profit and unrestricted, laissez-faire capitalism.
The second quote describes the necessity for freedom of speech, the right to protest, the right to have a democratic voice, to go on strike, to organise in a trade union – to tell those in power what they do not want to hear.
I will be speaking for TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) at a debate on the future of the Human Rights Act on Wed 9th December, the day before International Human Rights Day.
We are broadly in favour of the Human Rights Act, even though socialists recognise that it does not go far enough in guaranteeing people’s economic rights, that it can be superseded by national legislation, and that rights granted under capitalism have to be fought for – having legislation alone is not enough. However, the Tories’ proposal to strip us of basic rights is still an outrageous attack on civil liberties.
We have seen the clamp-down on freedom of speech in the wake of the Paris bombings by Hollande, the so-called “socialist” President of France, with environmental protestors being unable to have any say, even outside the recent United Nations climate change talks.
This is highly ironic, since it was the United Nations which introduced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 – in order to set baseline standards of human rights, in an attempt to legislate against the horrific Nazi regime, to simply say that some human rights (privacy, life, freedom from torture, right of privacy, right of assembly) were sacrosanct.
Again, the British government (then New Labour) came up against this in 2004, with their willingness to indefinitely hold foreign prisoners without trial, in contravention of international human rights legislation. The Lords overturned their intent, due to it being incompatible with the Human Rights Act.
So what is the future of the Human Rights Act, and why is it still relevant today? Join in the debate on Wednesday 9th December at the Race Equality Centre, 6.30pm.