Year 2000 No. 91, May 31, 2000

What Is Behind the Fuss over "Elitism" at Oxford?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

What Is Behind the Fuss over "Elitism" at Oxford?

Disabled People Carry Out Three Days of Actions in Defence of their Rights

Protest Outside the Centre for Life

Summit News: US President Clinton Begins Week-Long Trip to Europe and Russia

The Beast of British Chauvinism

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What Is Behind the Fuss over "Elitism" at Oxford?

Just a little thought will show that the fuss over "elitism" at Magdalen College, Oxford, and generally at Oxbridge, is not what it is meant by the Labour government to appear on the surface.

After all, it is the government’s policies, its cut-backs in investments in education, its introduction of tuition fees that have resulted in the exacerbation of a situation where there is no "opportunity for all" to have access to higher education at the highest level that society can provide.

It would be more true to say that the government is at pains to replace one "elitism" with another, to shift the content of educational "elitism".

It is clear to all that the government has seized upon one case to unmercifully make political capital in the most opportunistic fashion. Its aim, in the name of opposing "elitism", is to divert attention from its refusal to recognise that education in a modern society is a right and not a privilege. In doing so, it is trying to obscure that the new arrangements it is trying to put into place in society are reflected also on the front of education. The education system it is trying to bring about and consolidate is one which is consonant with the economic base, which is in all round crisis, and demands that the financial oligarchy reap their maximum capitalist profits from education, health and other social programmes, as well as other aspects of the anti-social agenda.

The opposition to "elitism" by the government and the pledge for "opportunity for all" is a smokescreen to cover over that higher education is becoming more and more of a privilege for the few. This is the nub of the matter. A green light is being given to move closer to the "American" system, in the sense that the "premier league" of universities will be enabled to put up their fees, the numbers of students limited, the government will invest even less in education, and the system will be further geared to the needs of the monopolies in training an elite who identify with the system and the ideology of the Third Way, while the majority of students will be increasingly denied an all-round education and instead be force-fed the education that befits a cog in the job-seeking market. The all-round cultural level of society will increasingly be attacked.

One feels that this is not the end of the matter and that the struggle on the question of the right to education is going to intensify.

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Disabled People Carry Out Three Days of Actions in Defence of their Rights

From Thursday to Saturday, May 25-27, the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network (DAN) organised three actions in Newcastle-upon-Tyne as part of their national campaign in defence of the rights of disabled people.

On Thursday, about 30 protestors occupied the leader’s office at Gateshead Civic Centre overnight in a protest against the charging for services to the disabled and for their demand that disabled people be allowed to live in their own homes and not forced to live in institutions.

The following day a similar protest was organised at Newcastle Civic Centre with the protestors chaining themselves to gates for over two hours.

On Saturday, a militant demonstration was organised in the centre of Newcastle with several hundred people taking part. At a rally at the Monument in the centre of Newcastle several speakers spoke about why they had been campaigning for three days in the North-East. One speaker pointed out that up and down the country disabled people were forced to live in institutions at the mercy of companies that made huge profits from these private nursing homes. He pointed out that in the North-East 1,053 disabled people live in institutions and he asked people to sign the wooden crosses that represented their brothers and sister who were buried by the system. He said that what the disabled people want is the right to be cared for in their community and live in their own homes. Before and after the speeches, theatre pieces and songs were performed by art and music groups consisting of disabled people which were very well received. Following these performances the march then moved off around the streets of Newcastle and was warmly supported by the people along the way. When it reached Eldon Square, the 1,053 wooden crosses were planted by the demonstrators in the grass in front of the monument to "Justice".

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Protest Outside the Centre for Life

On Saturday, May 27, a protest was organised at the opening of the Life interactive amusement attraction at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. At 10.00 am, around 50 people gathered outside the entrance to protest at its opening. A large number of police confronted the demonstration with police vans and barriers blocking the entrance as the protestors unfurled a large banner Bad Science + Big Business=Bad News and leaflets were distributed to passers by and the few people who entered for the opening.

The leaflet entitled Lies opposed the idea of using cheap gimmicks to avoid confronting the real difficult issues facing our society. It posed the issue that if you want to know how life works you wouldn't visit an amusement park. In dealing with frequently asked questions, the leaflet opposed profit-driven science that reduces life to genes and ignores other factors in disease. It gave the rationale that sickness is caused by many factors, but especially social and environmental degradation.

The leaflet concluded by pointing out that health issues are complex with many causes and that we would improve public health far more by concentrating on the basics such as good housing, the improvement of welfare services, a healthy diet, organic food, less pollution, clean air, a healthy environment, active lifestyles, less car dependency, increased education to accept and integrate disabled people into society and non-western, holistic medicines and therapies and taking control of our own health. The protest lasted for two hours.

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Summit News:

US President Clinton Begins Week-Long Trip to Europe and Russia

US President Bill Clinton has launched a week-long trip to Europe and Russia. He arrived in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on Tuesday, May 30. Portugal is the present holder of the rotating European Presidency, held for a six-month term. Clinton will also visit Russia, Germany and the Ukraine.

Tuesday’s agenda focused on the bilateral ties between Portugal and the US, and Clinton met the Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio and Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, ahead of the summit on Wednesday between President Clinton and the European Union leadership. The bilateral relationship between Portugal and the US is codified in the 1995 "Agreement on Co-operation and Defence", which provides for access to Lajes Air Base in the Azores. US foreign direct investment in Portugal, according to the White House, was $224 million in 1998, nearly a quarter of all such investment.

This will be Clinton’s 14th and last scheduled US-EU summit, and during it he will meet the European Commission President Romano Prodi. The US-EU trade disputes are expected to be high on the agenda. The EU, for example, opposes the US programme of tax breaks for hundreds of billions of dollars of exports. The talks are also expected to focus on maintaining stability in south-east Europe. Other items on the agenda are said to be the "international fight against terrorism in cyberspace, and on new efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids".

It was also announced that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak would fly to Berlin on Thursday to meet Bill Clinton and discuss the latest developments in the Middle East. A statement issued by Ehud Barak’s office in Jerusalem said: "The two men will discuss the Middle East peace process in general and implications of the withdrawal from Lebanon and ways to advance the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in particular."

In his welcoming speech to President Clinton, Portuguese President Sampaio said, "Globalisation requires the international community to take responsibility for the future of our planet. The United States of America has a decisive role in this process." He went on to say that the US and Europe, "in which we are integrated, have the same values and share a great number of interests". He said, "We have a common interest in guaranteeing peace and security in Europe and in the world, ensuring the prosperity of our economies and the defence of our values."

After leaving Portugal, President Clinton is scheduled to fly to Germany, to give a foreign policy speech in Aachen on Europe’s future and receive the International Charlemagne Prize, which, it is reported, is being given for "contributing to world peace and European unity". On Friday and Saturday, President Clinton will attend a conference in Berlin on "The Third Way", convened by the German Prime Minister Schröder. The conference will also be attended by leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and Portugal.

Clinton then will fly to Moscow for his first full meeting with the newly-installed Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks between the two presidents are expected to focus on arms control issues, specifically the US plans to further develop its "anti-missile defence shield", directed against the alleged danger of attack from so-called "rogue states", which would involve renegotiating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Russia is opposed both to the system and to amending the Treaty. The Republican president candidate George W. Bush has said he will scrap the ABM treaty altogether if Russia does not agree to change it.

On Monday, June 5, Bill Clinton will address the Russian Duma, the lower house of parliament, and visit former president Yeltsin. He will then fly to the Ukrainian capital Kiev for a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma, to urge the Ukraine to push ahead with "economic reform" and co-operate with the IMF requirements on economic management.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Commerce Secretary William Daley and the White House national security adviser Samuel Berger are accompanying President Clinton.

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E-mail to the Editor

The Beast of British Chauvinism

May 27, 2000

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on your bold article denouncing British imperialism in Sierra Leone and the rest of Africa. See Workers' Daily Internet Edition No. 83, May 15: Britain’s "Commitment" to Sierra Leone Is One of Sordid Self-Interest.

Concerned people around the world are watching in horror as the imperialists renew in earnest their scramble to carve up Africa for their particular monopolies. In every corner of that long-suffering continent the agents of monopolies have brought the local economies under their control using commercial and institutional loans, destruction of the national currencies, commodity price fixing resulting in unequal trade – especially arms sales – and direct plunder of the labour and resources through investment.

To solidify their control of the local economies, and protect and expand "their regions of plunder", the monopolies are destroying any semblance of national government by arming, bribing and instigating paramilitary gangs to create an atmosphere of panic, chaos and anarchy. When the situation is ripe, the big powers organise armed intervention to protect whatever side they may control, sometimes egging Africans to fight Africans, at other times going in themselves. Again British liberalism is leading the sordid spectacle, pathetically aided by its social-democratic conciliators, providing ideological justification to fool the gullible.

Comrades in Britain, when are the billions of people who live far from that small island of fifty million going to be free from the danger of its insidious propaganda, filthy bloodstained capital and murderous armed forces? Three hundred years is long enough!!

Thank you brave hearts in Britain for having the courage to stand up to British chauvinism from right within the belly of the beast. March on!

A web site reader abroad

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