Thursday, 11 December 2014
The US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence report into the interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] was published this week and makes grim reading for anyone who believes the US [and Britain] are the ‘good guys’ upholding the law and bringing felons to justice. It is so bad that the normally bi-partisan Barack Obama and US Democrats have condemned the CIA and former Republican President George Bush for sanctioning the use of inhumane and illegal practices to extract confessions from prisoners in their custody across the world. ‘Water boarding’, where suspects are repeatedly held under water until they are all but drowned and pass out is just one of many macabre portfolio of tortures widely used. Sexual humiliation, rape, ‘rectal hydration’, stress positioning, applying electric shocks to the genitals, extracting fingernails and toenails, sleep deprivation, all these punishments and more too blood curdling to describe here are outlined in the Senate report and all are completely illegal under international law. When you might ask then is George Bush to be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand trial? And where do the tortured find justice after such criminal violations? UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson has demanded US officials responsible for using such torture should be handed over for prosecution. That of course will never happen. Even Obama is not calling for that because he too believes the US is above international law. Laws they nonetheless expect everyone else in the world to live under. The Senate report chronicles the CIA’s activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and dozens of other locations. Notwithstanding such double standards this Senate report will be widely circulated around the world. The CIA will of course get off scot-free and continue to use such methods of torture claiming they secure information vital to the ‘War on Terror’. The truth is they are the best recruiting sergeants the so called ‘terrorists’ could wish for. And the United States’ enemies will use this report to radicalise another generation of suicide bombers and ‘jihadists’. Such terror techniques do not end the ‘war on terror’ they perpetuate it.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Independence deferred say 2,500 who join Scottish Socialist Party Now that the dust has settled on the referendum I thought I might reflect on the new Scotland that has emerged and the reasons 2,500 people have given for joining the Scottish Socialist Party. Scotland is a country like no other today. The level of political engagement here has been extraordinary. It is surely worth reminding ourselves that 97% are now registered to vote and in some areas 90% participated in the referendum. I suspect such levels of political engagement will not be seen again for a long time. History may well record that ‘Yes Scotland’s’ greatest legacy was not winning 45% of the vote [10% higher than Independence has ever enjoyed before] but building the biggest grassroots political movement Scotland has ever seen. ‘Better Together’ were simply not at the races when it came to the numbers of activists, their energy, enthusiasm and organisation on the ground. Scotland’s progress towards self-determination is not halted, as far as ‘Yes’ voters are concerned, merely delayed. Tens of thousands of people are not despondent, far from it, they refuse to be demobilised. Their resolve is extraordinary and seen in the fact that 50,000 people have applied to join the three independence parties in the referendum’s immediate aftermath. Many are former Labour voters angry at the role that party played as the linchpin of the No coalition. Standing alongside the Tories, Liberals and UKIP the Labour Party abandoned even the social democratic values they once advocated [having of course long since abandoned their founding socialist principles]. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls’ promise for example to cut child benefit if they triumph in next years General Election and Johan Lamont’s infamous evaluation of those who advocate universal benefits as representing ‘the something for nothing culture’ show us precisely why so many former Labour voters stood alongside the three Yes parties last month. The Scottish Socialist Party’s 2,500 new applications reflect an unprecedented level of interest in our ideas. That figure is greater than any ever recorded by any socialist party in these isles before. Those applications have come from former Labour voters and from many Yes activists who, as one woman in Dunfermline put it to me this week, she ‘refuses to go back in the box after this’. So, who are these people joining Scotland’s socialist party? They are young like 15-year-old Lewis from Dunfermline and the ‘young at heart’ like Nan, 88, from Glasgow. They are people often at the brunt of the worst exploitation but who refuse to give up on the belief that a better world is possible, one where working class people can maximise their full potential free from exploitation, injustice and poverty. They also understand that socialists in Scotland should join a socialist party not build illusions in other ones. They applied to join the SSP because they admire our party’s fortitude in supporting an Independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic, for the past 16 years. Others admire the way we carry the socialist standard for a radical, left wing vision of Scotland. We have also won many new admirers for the tireless work we did in the schemes and workplaces of Scotland advocating a Yes vote. We proved it is possible to work with others who had another vision of Scotland. All these new recruits are keen to help build an independent socialist Scotland. So where does the independence movement and the left go from here? That is the question on the lips of all these new members keen to know what tactics the movement must now employ in pursuit of Independence and socialism. In my view, we must first accept the result on September 18th. As democrats we respect the will of the Scottish people. We can also concede there will not be another Referendum for the foreseeable future. However, that does not mean Independence cannot be raised again in other ways. Jim Sillars, for example, argues that we should declare the 2016 Holyrood contest ‘the Independence elections’ and insist that if the SNP, the SSP and the Greens win an overall majority then that result is seen as a legitimate mandate for Independence. And those elections may well take place against a completely new backdrop with three dramatic changes to the most recent debate; the complete absence of any meaningful extra powers for Holyrood, another Tory Government elected at Westminster [despite again being overwhelmingly rejected here in Scotland] and that Government then embarking on an ‘IN/OUT’ referendum on Europe. Such circumstances would ignite the Independence debate anew. By Colin Fox, www.scottishsocialistparty.org
Sunday, 5 October 2014
Dear Lord Smith, As you know the Scottish Socialist Party was one of three political parties to establish and lead the ‘Yes’ campaign. Six parties in total were formally engaged in the Independence Referendum over the past two years, three on the Yes side – the SNP, Greens and the SSP - and three on the No side – Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I am therefore disappointed that your Commission has decided to uniquely exclude one party, ours, from the process now under way to consider what further powers might be devolved to Holyrood following the referendum. This approach does not in my opinion reflect well on your Commission’s integrity nor suggest the process is as democratic and inclusive as it ought to be. In the instructions laid down for your Commission by Prime Minister David Cameron asks you ‘To convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30th November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and tax raising powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.’ The Prime Minister’s explicit instructions are therefore not reflected in your decision to exclude our party from this process. It is surely self-evident that excluding the Scottish Socialist Party from ‘cross-party talks’ is not exercising ‘an inclusive engagement’. The argument some use to justify our exclusion on the grounds that we currently have no ‘Parliamentary representation’ fails to appreciate that the referendum was not a Parliamentary process but an unprecedented public debate that resulted in an extraordinary level of engagement from all sections of society. To exclude the SSP is to exclude an important constituency of opinion in Scottish society. I therefore ask you to reconsider your decision to exclude the Scottish Socialist Party and extend to us the same rights offered to the 5 other parties formally engaged in this debate. I look forward to your earliest reply. Yours sincerely Colin Fox, Joint national spokesperson, Scottish Socialist Party
Friday, 19 September 2014
The Scottish Socialist Party is naturally disappointed by last nights result. It is a setback for the forces of social democracy and socialism in this country. But our disappointment today is tempered by an immense pride in the 1.6m Scots who voted Yes and the thousands of new political campaigners who energise this country, stimulated it politically in a way never seen before and withstood the hysterical propaganda of a panicked UK establishment over the last 10 days. Scottish Independence is not defeated today it is deferred. Support for Independence reached 45% yesterday and that is unprecedented. I do not see that receding. As democratic socialists the SSP fully respects the decision reached by the people of Scotland but, as they say in Italy ‘La lotta continua’, the struggle for an independent socialist Scotland continues. The Independence tide is not halted today, rather it has shifted irrevocably. No prevailed because a slim majority of elderly Scots, vested interests and the well to do were not prepared to change. The NO campaign won with an unrelenting battery of negativity and pessimism. Yet Scotland is not remotely the same place as it was yesterday. It is changed utterly by this referendum campaign. Many Scots opted for the Yes message of prosperity, fairness and democracy and rejected the status quo. They have demonstrated their keenness to take our own decisions and our rightful place as a full and equal member of the family of nations. I am sure they will continue to champion social democratic and socialist values in seeking prosperity for all, greater democracy and an end to exploitation and warmongering. The British ruling class threw everything at us and 1.6million stood tall. I am proud of that defiance and bravery. And I pay tribute too to all the SSP’s partners in Yes Scotland for what we have achieved together. The NO side won because they promised a more prosperous, fairer and more democratic nation. They must now deliver and show how that inclusive, progressive and more democratic new country can be built via their preferred route.
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Here's my initial thoughts on last nights TV debate on Independence, published in todays Evening News. I missed the last live TV debate where Alex Salmond was said to have ‘under-performed’, I was on holiday. But there can surely be no doubt he won this “return leg” hands down. His naturally combatative style had returned, walking out from behind the lectern, his script was dotted with upbeat references to “this extraordinary time . . . this golden opportunity for the people of Scotland . . . best placed to make the right decisions . . . and a hugely exciting and energising campaign”. In contrast Alistair Darling’s remarks were noted above all for their timidity, their caution and risk averse emphasis. He mentioned “threats”, “costs”, “gambles”, “volatility” and “insecurities” but failed to offer a positive vision. More alarmingly perhaps for Better Together strategists the former Chancellor was also rather gaffe-prone. He conceded ‘Of course Scotland can use the pound’. And he made the mistake of returning once too often to the currency issue leading Salmond to accuse him of being a ‘one- trick pony’. The audience at Kelvingrove Museum and viewers around the country seemed to groan in unison. But in conceding ‘This [referendum] is not about him [Alex Salmond]’ he has blunted the instrument which No activists have been using above all others to tell Labour voters in particular that this referendum is in fact ‘all about Alex Salmond’. The polls will reveal in due course whether this second live TV debate has changed people’s minds, but it has certainly put a spring in the step of Yes campaigners with three weeks to go.