Politics and Protest

Report to ETF Women's Conference 2017: Violence Against Women Transport Workers - It's Not Part of the Job!

This is the report I gave to ETF Women's Conference about the previous four years campaigning against violence against women ...

The 2013 ETF Women's Conference decided that opposing violenece against women transport workers would be one of its priorities for the next four years.

Mental ill-health: asking why

My contribution to the debate on mental health at TUC Disabled Workers' Conference 2017:

I'm speaking in support of all the motions on mental health, but especially the one from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, as that is the one that acknowledges that workplaces are causing mental distress.

There is now a lot more talking about mental health than there used to be. That is very welcome.

That's a Tory

(To the tune of Dean Martin's That's Amore)

There's a knock at the door
Then a snort, a guffaw
- That's a Tory
With a suit, blue rosette
And a snarl, you can bet
- That's a Tory
When they hurt the disabled
Say they're strong and they're stable
- Some story!
When they tell you to blame the distressed and the lame
- That's a Tory!

Behind the Headlines: Tories' Cancer Drugs Fund Exposed as Rip-Off

Today’s headline is that the Cancer Drugs Fund, which was announced by the Tories in 2010 and ran until 2016, was a ‘huge waste of money’. The Annals of Oncology journal has published a study led by Professor Richard Sullivan of King’s College London, who also described the Fund as a ‘major policy error’.

The Conservatives thought they could pick up a few votes in 2010 by promising to fund expensive cancer drugs that the NHS was not funding, and the CDF was the result. It funded cancer patients to receive medications which had not yet been approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Launched in 2011 with a budget of £200 million, the Fund was supposed to be a stopgap while alternatives were developed, and was initially scheduled to run until 2014. However, the government did not pursue its alternative policy, the ominous-sounding Value-Based Pricing, and instead extended the CDF until 2016, by which time it had been denounced by the Cancer Taskforce and the National Audit Office as unsustainable, and some doctors - including Richard Sullivan - were calling it an ‘unethical fix’ and a ‘waste of public money’. Still the Conservatives promised in their 2015 election manifesto that ‘We will continue to invest in our lifesaving Cancer Drugs Fund’ and issued the poster pictured, only to scrap the CDF a year later, absorbing it into NICE.

Marxism and Autism: matters arising

Some notes from recent discussions on Marxism and autism (two meetings and some online exchanges):

  • There is a capitalist market in products aimed at autistic people and their families. These range from useful resources through to fake and even abusive 'treatments' and 'cures'. As well as commodifying autistic people's needs, this also exploits the fears felt by autistic people and particularly by parents of autistic kids.
  • The mass production brought about by capitalism has had the effect of 'standardising' human beings, pushing us into a narrowly-defined 'normal', in contrast with the more individual, craft-based systems of production that preceded it. On the other hand, mass production has brought major advances and increased living standards. Can socialism combine the advantages of mass production and a renewed scope for individuality and diversity?

Marxism and Autism

Published in Solidairty 434, 29 March 2017:

 

Can Marxism can help us to understand autistic experience in modern capitalism? How might Marxism inform our struggles for equality and liberation?

There are different approaches to understanding autism. Perhaps the dominant approach is a medical one: seeing autism as a disease or tragedy, and autistic people as being broken and needing fixing. Over recent years, a more progressive approach has developed. It stresses acceptance of autistic people rather than simply “awareness”, and demands rights, equality and support rather than abusive “treatments”.

This approach is based on the concept of neurodiversity: the recognition that the human species is neurologically diverse; that different people have different brain wiring. But this more progressive approach, while welcome, does not necessarily locate autism and neurodiversity within the social, economic and political structures of society. It is important to do this — firstly, because all disability exists in a social context; and secondly, because autism is largely an issue of how people interact socially. We are all expected to follow social rules, but who makes those social rules, and how?

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