The Dove Women: ‘About Making a Living, Not a Lot of Money for One Person’

It has long been understood that freedom is inextricably linked to the availability of sufficient personal economic and social resources. Financial domination and oppression can be equally as damaging as political domination and are frequently interlinked. These issues are, of course, tied in with the traditional radical concerns with greater equality and inclusion in society. So this short post is about a great women-led enterprise supporting its local community.

I discovered the Dove Workshop in Banwen near Neath in Wales when I attended an Open University degree ceremony in Cardiff during spring 2013. What stuck in my memory about the event was the strongly independent stance of the OU in Wales – (‘we only see strivers!!)’ during a time when vilification of the unemployed had become a persistent and vocal theme of the Coalition Government!! As described on their website, the primary role of the Dove Workshop is to help and support those members of the community seeking education or training. But it does more than this, extending its activities to include a community café, child care provision, garden centre, music concerts and much more. Such activities continue to be a crucial part in areas still looking to move forward nearly 30 years after the industrial devastation of the 1980s. The Dove itself emerged from the wreckage of the era following the 1984-85 miners strike. No society could have comfortably coped with the sheer scale and rapidity of change inflicted on it by an ideologically driven Government and it was the women from the local Miners’ Support Group who clearly saw the need for a social enterprise to help save their community. The result was an innovative organization working in partnership with universities, colleges, community groups, trade unions and many more.

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The Queen’s Birthday Celebrations; a Cynical Exercise in Corporate Branding

A few weeks ago during April (2016) I was invited to celebrate the 90th birthday of a very wealthy and privileged Londoner I knew little about, had never met and was never likely to meet.  For me Elizabeth Windsor is a media entity with no more reality than, say, Sherlock Holmes or Daffy Duck.  I cannot truly say I never wish to meet the Queen since I have some questions I would like to put to our Head of State! A casual observer of the British media, however, may have concluded that I was almost unique in finding the whole situation bewildering, not to say nauseating. That I am not a casual observer is evidenced by the fact that I made a brief appearance in Stephen Smith’s biassed BBC Newsnight package on Republicanism. By the way, my balding pate can just be seen in the background at a Republic Birmingham meeting as CEO Graham Smith was interviewed. I mention it in case my fame suddenly accelerates and I am the subject of a future Have I Got News For You round!

Back to reality and the whole experience led me to reflect on how this preposterous situation came about and, more importantly for todays republicans, how it is maintained.  The conclusion was that we are the victims of a single event which allowed a psychotic chancer and a bunch of bandits to seize power, initially in England, almost a thousand years ago in 1066. Now, we cannot be sure how history would be different if Harold’s troops had not been duped into breaking ranks, handing victory to William the Conqueror (or more correctly William the Bastard). It may be that I would be encouraged to celebrate the birthday of an entirely different Londoner equally remote and unaccountable.

So how did we get from that moment to 2016? Initially, the shock of conquest combined with the application of the feudal system subdued the population with William allocating tracts of land to his invading Earls, who ruled absolutely and in the case of the North of England, genocidally.  Coincidentally with feudal overlordship a concept was promulgated which still finds some traction hundreds of years later, the idea that the King is the ultimate protector and guarantor of the security and liberty of the people. If your Lord is oppressive then you can petition the King who will either summon the miscreant for punishment or arrive in person with a body of troops to sort things out.  It was on this acceptance of the nature of the King which the leaders of the Peasants Revolt (incidentally triggered by the imposition of a punitive Poll Tax) met with King Richard II in 1381, during which the leader Wat Tyler was slaughtered. This should have been a warning, but there was another crucial factor at work.  The concept of a society without a King was literally unthinkable to the vast majority of the population in medieval times. The King was appointed by god and was the earthly kingdom’s link with the eternal state of heaven.  An appointed Head of State was therefore impossible and only a very few were aware of the ancient Roman Republic or he existence of the Serene Republic of Venice with its Head (the Doge) elected by a closed college system.

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Supporting David Cameron is Incompatible with Supporting Democratic Principles

Last month I blogged about the imprisonment and trial of four Levellers (for details of the Levellers see here) in March 1649 for publishing a pamphlet (England’s New Chains Discovered) which dared to criticize Oliver Cromwell and the military government. In effect this was the start of a determined programme of suppressing opposition and avoiding accountability which lay at the heart of the concerns articulated in the pamphlet. The warning which the event hold for us today was starkly illustrated a few weeks ago during Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons. This is supposedly a central event in British democracy where the Prime Minister is held accountable by our representatives. While all Prime Ministers in recent times have been known to dissemble, David Cameron has established a special notoriety for ignoring questions. In this instance he did it with a persistence, arrogance and contempt for the House of Commons which defied belief.

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