Thursday, 31 December 2009

End the occupation and withdraw the Troops

Letter posted in the Sunday Herald of 27 December 2009.

Sayed Salahuddinin's report from Kabul 'Afghan cabinet retains ministers favoured by the West' [Sunday Herald 20/12/09] highlights the essential role President Karzai plays in the occupation, serving his masters in Washington and London occupying Afghanistan militarily on the one hand, and beholden to ethnic and tribal warlords, some would prefer the term 'war criminals', for local influence on the other.
Corruption is a very strong charge inferring as it does accusations of fraudulence, double dealing, financial and political skullduggery. And yet in describing the regime of Hamid Karzai, a man who lived in California for 20 years before being installed by the Americans and who remains a US citizen, it does not sufficiently describe the day to day reality on the ground for ordinary Afghans. Their circumstances are so dreadful as winter sets in that one is almost tempted to suggest their response to his cabinet appointments this week will be 'so what, under US and British instructions he appointed 60% of the entire Afghan Parliament!'
The appalling corruption in Hamid Karzai's government is, as the remarkable Afghan MP [democratically elected overwhelmingly in her own constituency] Malalai Joya pointed out in her recent trip to London, an inevitable by-product of the occupation Britain and America have conducted against the wishes of the Afghan people for the past 8 years.
The most recent poll, conducted for the Washington Post, shows 80% of Afghans want British and US forces to leave. For such a corrpution of the democratic process as this to persist it is of course necessary for a 'quizling' such as Karzai to be propped up. It is no wonder given these circumstances then that 70% of the British population want Gordon Brown to end our occupation and withdraw our troops.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Celebrating Hamish Henderson

A review of 'Poetry Becomes People' Volume 2 of Hamish Henderson a Biography by Timothy Neat. Published by Polygon [pp395]. Price £25.

Every self respecting, politically progressive Scot over the age of 50 will have their favourite Hamish Henderson story I am sure. I have several. And the great joy in Timothy Neat's thoroughly compelling biography, of which this is the second volume, is that all of them are to be found inside.
'Hamish Henderson lived one of the great lives of the twentieth century Scotland, a dramatic life of epic European scale, a life of major artistic, political and spiritual achievement.' claims Neat. And indeed he did. A Scottish republican Hamish famously turned down and OBE after luring the monarch into thinking he would accept. As a Major in British Intelligence during WW2 he took the Italian surrender. Posted to North Africa he wrote the hauntingly beautiful book of poems 'Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica'. He also composed the inspiring anti-imperialist anthem 'Freedom Come All Ye'. And in 'The John Maclean March' he celebrated the life of the great Red Clydeside legend. He almost single-handedly revived the Scottish folk tradition after WW2 mixing music and literature and he discovered in Jeannie Robertson, a traveller from the North East of Scotland, a woman who was later described as 'the greatest ballad singer in the world'.
His work in the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University attracted interest from across the world and he influenced and array of artists and performers, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Billy Connolly, John McGrath and Tilda Swinton among them. He translated the works of the outstanding Italian Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci. He wrote the song 'Rivonia' for the African National Congress based on the 1962 trial of Nelson Mandela and it became an anti-apartheid anthem worldwide for 40 years. He was a prominent anti poll tax campaigner and supporter of an independent socialist Scotland. And he founded the Edinburgh People's Festival.
I attended his funeral at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh on 15th March 2002 with 1,500 other admirers. In considering how best to remember his life and the many 'gifts' he had left working people in Scotland and worldwide I decided to arrange a one night, one off gala evening in his memory and call it a People's Festival.
It is a testament to Hamish's genius and the essence of that idea that the People's Festival has run now for 7 years. [See]. In 2008 we even inaugurated the Hamish Henderson Memorial Lecture and Timothy Neat delivered it.
Hamish once said that the Edinburgh Festival was 'Scotland's second greatest gift to the world'. He was proud that the world's largest arts festival takes place here each August and he was passionate about the arts being imbued with his 'democratic intellect'. The People's Festival has both the spirit of Hamish and Antonio Gramsci running through it. Perhaps, like I did, you want to know what Hamish considered Scotland's greatest gift to the world. The answer will surprise many, for it wasn't penicillin, or the Enlightenment, of James Watts' steam engine, or Logie Baird's television, or even Billy Connolly! It was, according to Hamish, the Battle of El Alamein! He believed the mainly Scottish Highland regiments fighting in North Africa deserved the accolade for halting the previously unstoppable advance of Field Marshall Rommel's German armies. It was for him an enormous and first real turning point of WW2. He felt the defeat of fascism in the savage Egyptian desert saved the world from disastrous and barbaric consequences. He had a habit of making you think afresh!
Timothy Neat's first volume 'The Making of the Poet' covers Hamish's life from 1919, the year of his birth, to 1952. One critic described it as being 'celebratory' of Hamish's life, as indeed it is. Volume two is no less a celebration and why not, there is plainly a great deal to enjoy. Timothy Neat, a close friend of Hamish for 40 years, has been able to show the entire man, his foibles, imperfections and a' that, but he is always able to convey the many unique and outstanding talents in the man and the power of his intellect and broad range of interests to which he applied it.
In 2006 I was invited to address a Stop the War rally in London's Hyde Park on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party. In my brief remarks I recited a couple of lines from verse two of Hamish's 'Freedom Come All Ye' to illustrate how Scottish soldiers were again being shamefully used to repress the poor Iraqis:

'Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when our braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans fae pithead and clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken families in lands we've harriet
Will curse 'Scotland the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black and white ane-til-ither marriet
Mak the vile barracks o their maisters bare'

This awesome piece of work indelibly marks Hamish Henderson, like Burns before him, as an immovable anti-imperialist and proud internationalist and is as timeless and powerful today - in reference to both Iraq and Afghanistan - as it was in 1960 when it was written.
Hamish Henderson was fiercely proud of his Scots heritage but he never allowed himself to be blinded by our history or the brutal class struggle contained within it. His generous nature, essential decency and common humanity ensured he could easily find a welcome for everyone.
His place as a major artistic, political and cultural figure in modern European history is not yet assured as he needs to be, and deserves to be, much better known. A poet, balladeer, folklorist, musician, songwriter, working class intellectual and political activist, Hamish was at different times a member of the Communist Party, the Fife Socialist League and the Scottish Labour Party. Many people don't know who Hamish Henderson was so this book should introduce him to new readers and help ensure he is soon given his rightful place.
'Hamish Henderson lived on of the great lives of twentieth century Scotland' says Neat and I for one don't dissent.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

For an independent socialist Scotland

John Maclean [1878-1923] - For An Independent Socialist Scotland
The Scottish Government will unveil its long awaited Bill for a referendum on independence on Monday [November 30th - St Andrews Day] which also happens to be the anniversary of the great Red Clydeside revolutionary John Maclean's death.
I support the referendum Bill because I believe in independence and because I feel the people of Scotland should have their say on this important
question. It's a straightforward issue of democracy for me - Let the people decide.
If the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are so convinced any vote would go against independence it stands to reason they should have no qualms about the question being asked.
Meanwhile, Scottish Socialist Party activists in Edinburgh will gather at 6pm on Monday [30th November] at the Mercat Cross, outside Edinburgh High Court, to celebrate the life of John Maclean. In 1916, facing charges of sedition, he famously turned the tables on his prosecutor declaring from the dock of the Court in Edinburgh
'I stand here not as the accused, but the accuser of capitalism dripping from head to toe with the blood of working people....'
Join us if you can.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Letter to Newspapers on Afghanistan

Letter published in one form or another on the 17th of November in The Glasgow Herald and the Scotsman, and on the 19th of November in The Guardian.

As opinion polls continue to defeat him Gordon Brown's speech at the [London] Lord Mayor's banquet last night [16/11/09] calling for a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan over an as yet unspecified number of
years is unlikely to persuade voters who want to see the occupation ended and British troops withdrawn.
The latest polls put support for bringing home the troops at 71% and as the remarkable young Afghan MP Malalai Joya made clear on her recent trip to London, Gordon Browns 'handover' strategy falls at the first hurdle as there is no such thing as a 'National' Afghan army or police force. Instead the Karzai government has channeled billions of dollars into the hands of paramilitary forces loyal, not to some nonexistent Afghan state, but to local warlords who, as Joya points out, many of whom were guilty of war crimes as vicious as anything the Taliban committed.
The murder of 4 British soldiers inside their barracks last month at the hands of a veteran police officer shows not only how the police have been infiltrated by the insurgents, but that they are thoroughly corrupt and
hated by the very Afghans whom they purport to protect. Incidentally, the regime in Kabul is certainly vile and dishonest, but it surely ill behoves MP's at Westminster to overplay 'political corruption' charges after the year they have had robbing taxpayers while sitting in the 'Mother of Parliaments'.
The reason opinion polls continue to defeat Gordon Brown is because the public recognises we are occupying Afghanistan against the express wishes of its people. Some 50,000 innocent Afghan civilians have been killed under our watch and voters ask 'how does that make the world a safer place? How does that make London's streets safer? And the answer is it doesn't. Instead it provides a breeding ground for those seeking to attack us and that is why voters rightly want to see our troops withdrawn.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Public Meeting on Afghanistan

Colin Fox, SSP joint National spokesman
Representative of the Scottish Afghan Society

Wed 18th November

Penicuik Town Hall

Monday, 9 November 2009

Keep Burdiehouse primary open

Council’s case for closure full of holes
Parents in Burdiehouse feel understandably betrayed by SNP and Liberal Councillors who were elected in May 2007 to oppose cuts in services and who now plan to close 4 city schools.
After 20 years of Labour cuts people voted for change. SNP/Lib Dem councillors were not elected to close Burdiehouse Primary or any other school. Furthermore their case for closure is weak.

Marilynne McLaren, the Council’s Education Convenor, claims the city hasn’t got the money to keep Burdiehouse primary open -Wrong.
Edinburgh is the 2nd richest city in Britain. Edinburgh Council is spending £500m on trams. Go get the money Marilynne!
She claims there are not enough children in the area to make the school viable – Wrong.
If she stopped telling people that Burdiehouse was about to close parents would not send their children elsewhere. And with the birth rate growing in Edinburgh school rolls will increase soon Furthermore 25% of youngsters in the city go to private schools. Marilynne McLaren sent her own children to private school! So she is wrong to suggest there is somehow a shortage of kids!

Labour? The Tories? SNP ? Lib Dems? No, no, no and no again!
They all voted for them. Indeed Labour’s record is the worst of all. You might want to remind Nigel Griffiths of that when he hands you his ‘Stop the SNP/Lib Dem cuts’ leaflet. What he is actually saying is ‘How dare they make cuts! That’s Labours job!’

We are proud of that fact. The SSP joined with parents at Lismore Primary in Bingham in 2004 for example to defy the closure plans of Ewan Aitken and his Labour Council. And they won a famous victory. We can win another one in Burdiehouse.
We oppose the closure of schools like Burdiehouse because to us they are the heart of local communities. If people here want the school to stay open then that’s good enough, that’s democracy after all.The school belongs to the local community, we pay for it

Our Case for keeping Burdiehouse Primary Open:
It achieves very good educational standards
Smaller class sizes are a good thing for our children’s education
It’s what local people in Burdiehouse want
Edinburgh’s enormous wealth must be shared out much more evenly and fairly. That means investing IN Burdiehouse not taking AWAY vitally important assets like the Primary School.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

BRING HOME THE TROOPS. Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans

NATO Defence Ministers meet in Edinburgh next Saturday. Stop the War Scotland, Scottish CND and the Scottish Afghan Society have organised a protest march calling for them to stop occupying Afghanistan. I will be there and I urge you to join me.
With the appalling death toll for Afghan civilians and British troops alike showing no signs of abating next Saturday's march takes on even more significance.
I am calling on all SSP branches and members to come along, to bring their party banners and to show our steadfast opposition to the military occupation of Afghanistan by Britain and America.
This 8 year occupation of one of the worlds most impoverished countries does enormous damage to Britain's international reputation. The Afghans have made it repeatedly clear they do not want us to be there.
In recent days two opinion polls - one by the Independent, the other by Channel 4 News - have shown around 2/3rds of the British population no longer support the occupation and want to see British troops withdrawn. This shows quite conclusively that the scaremongering argument put forward by Gordon Brown that withdrawal would mean the Taliban reactionaries would sweep back to power has not had the persuasive impact he thought it would. Instead people believe our military repression of 33m people to be senseless and unsupportable. We continue to occupy a country that is no threat to our security and we do so against the express wishes of the Afghan people. Thousands of innocent Afghan civilians continue to die and British troops are blown to smithereens day after day in a conflict which appears to have no end.
The re-election of the utterly corrupt and vile President Hamad Karzai represents a huge blow to Gordon Brown. The Afghan people utterly despise Karzai and see him as a stooge of their US oppressors. He is utterly corrupt and his vicious administration does not in any case govern Afghanistan at all. Instead local warlords have been left in charge by the US and their record is so dreadful that millions now support the various insurgencies like the Taliban because they are fighting back against those who occupy and destroy their country on the one hand and the vicious murderers and war criminals who govern provinces like Helamand at a local level.
Saturday's demonstration called by Stop the War Scotland, Scottish CND and the Scottish Afghan Society assembles at East Market Street at 10.30am.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Commemorating Scotland's International Brigade

Thomas Brannan, William Fox and Thomas Fleck, three men from Blantyre in Lanarkshire went to Spain in 1937 to fight on the Republican side in the civil war battle against General Franco's fascists. All three died there within months of their arrival. The statue or 'cairn' pictured was commissioned by East Kilbride and South Lanarkshire Trades Union Council to commemorate the three local men who paid the ultimate price to defend our ideals. The trades council invited me to speak today at the cairns unveiling. As a Lanarkshire boy I was delighted and honoured to say a few words both in their memory and about the ongoing battle against fascism in Britain today. I want to express my thanks to Stephen Smellie and the other members of the trades council for inviting me along. And I want to congratulate them for establishing such a wonderful monument in tribute to the three men and indeed to all those from Scotland who joined the international brigade. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and well supported event.

Friday, 23 October 2009

BBC puts fascists on prime time tv

The BBC have made every mistake in the book reporting the BNP. Earlier this week they ran an utterly spurious and bogus story, orchestrated by the right wing of the Tory party, claiming the BNP had no right to use pictures of WW2 RAF Spitfires or Churchill on their propaganda. The impact of course was to victimise the BNP, that it is right to suggest they are not allowed to use images widely available to everyone else. What utter nonsense. But having victimised them one day, they pander to them the next by putting Nick Griffin centre stage on their prime time flagship current affairs programme.
Let's be clear, this is not about freedom of speech. The BNP do not give a monkeys about freedom of speech. Indeed they want to withdraw ALL 'freedoms' from black people, Asians, Jews, homosexuals, or any other so called 'minority' groups. 'Freedoms' or rights like these have been won by progressive peoples fighting against reactionary and repressive forces like the BNP. Ask Aung San Suu Kyi about freedom of speech, ask Nelson Mandela incarcerated for 30 years about freedom of speech, ask the Palestinians about freedom of speech. The BBC have made it clear they do not understand who they are dealing with nor the nature of fascism or the BNP.
The best way to combat the BNP is not to rely on the BBC. To effectively combat the threat of fascism and the BNP we need to build an effective, united left and that remains the key objective for working people in Scotland and throughout Britain.
(picture by Craig Maclean)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Standing shoulder to shoulder with the posties

More than 140,000 postal workers across Britain were on strike Thursday and Friday to defend their jobs and conditions and to fend off both Government and Royal Mail management attempts to privatise the service. Over the past 2 years the so called 'modernisation' of Royal Mail has meant 63,000 jobs have been cut and the cancellation of both post box Sunday collections and deliveries to customers. The Communication Workers Union has made it clear they have no problem with genuine modernization of the service but they will not stand by and watch managers bully staff and tear up national agreements by implementing unilaterally changes to long accepted working conditions. The union believes the Government is planning to hive off the service to private companies like TNT and Deutsche Post who would scrap the universal delivery and the universal price of a stamp, replacing a service to the public, owned by the public and answerable to the public, with a privately owned, profit orientated private enterprise. The population of Britain has repeatedly made it clear by huge majority they stand beside the postal workers and want to see Royal Mail remain publicly owned. The Communication Workers Union Scotland NO 2 branch based in Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians has long been one of the best organised and best led local unions in the country. They support every progressive cause that asks for their backing including the Scottish Socialist Party. Today was our chance to return the favour and we did so proudly.
(picture by Craig Maclean)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Stall in Aberdeen to build for SSP public meeting on Afghanistan

On Saturday 17 October, Karly, Johanna and I went up to Aberdeen to draw the public's attention to the situation in Afghanistan and the need to withdraw the British troops.
Two members from Aberdeen joined us on the stall, Ewen and Jamie, and Sandra gave us a hand too.
Our public meeting there next Wednesday [28th October] in Aberdeen Trades Council Social club looks like it will be a big success if the response to our leaflets is anything to go by.
Speakers are me, John McAllion and Mohammad Atif, meeting starts at 7.30pm.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A light comes on

In recent weeks eleven new members joined the Scottish Socialist Party in the Edinburgh area. At a recent branch meeting we invited them to tell us why they joined, why now and what they hope to see the SSP achieve. In the first of a series of articles Karly, Catherine, Henry, Colin, Tancred, and Steve tell us their stories.
Karly Oliver lives in Leith and she joined the SSP after moving to Scotland from Australia. 'I was a member of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne for a year before I came here. There have been contacts between the Socialist Alliance and the SSP for some years I guess. We always speak highly of the SSP back home. People still recall Colin [Fox's] speaking tour back in 2003 with admiration. The SSP's was the only party for me when I came to Scotland and I'm looking forward to being part of a big party in the months and years to come.'
Colin Webster is a teacher and he lives in North Edinburgh. Like Karly he only moved to Edinburgh fairly recently. He is originally from Inverness but more recently lived in Galashiels. 'I vote SSP. Voting for the so called 'mainstream' parties never crossed my mind. My beliefs are held by the SSP and I now want to do more than vote. I want to help get the SSP's message over in one strong socialist voice.'
Catherine and her husband Henry live in South Edinburgh. They were both members of the Labour Party for many years until, so disgusted by Tony Blair over Iraq, they left. 'I'm an idealist. To me the SSP is the only party which cares for those who have nothing. I like the way you stand up and speak out on issues of social justice, poverty and inequality. I have a handicapped son. I know what it is like to care for the old, sick and disabled in today's society. Lenin used to say 'From each according to his ability to each according to his need'. I joined the SSP after seeing Colin [Fox] on the European Election programme[on STV] and I'm so glad I did because I have found ideas are welcomed in the SSP in a way they never were in the Labour Party.'
Her husband Henry added 'When I saw the SSP party election broadcast [during the European elections] a light came on. 'At last' I thought 'someone who speaks for the poor and disadvantaged. I don't know what I expect from the SSP really but it is so nice to be part of something like this with people who share the same values. It is fantastic to be around so many people who feel the same way I do. I really think the SSP will go from strength to strength and I'm really proud to be a member.'
Steve is a civil servant who lives in Lochend, East Edinburgh. 'What it comes down to for me is that New Labour has been just a terrible let down. The big thing was the Iraq war. I also feel the absence of a socialist voice in the Scottish Parliament keenly with no one there to speak on behalf of those who need help the most. Like Henry, I enjoy spending time with people who don't regard my views as weird and that is what is so good about the SSP.'
Tancred is also a civil servant from East Edinburgh. He has a particular interest in fair voting, issues of justice and enhanced democracy. 'I have always been left wing I suppose. None of the other parties speak for me. What pushed me towards the SSP in recent months has been the newspapers which have been forced to reflect more and more the opposition to neo-liberalism. I support vast amounts of the SSP's policies like free school meals and its green agenda like free public transport which is an amazing idea. No other party is in favour of taking finances away from the military. I like the party's approach to legalizing cannabis, gay and lesbian equality, and the way it says 'no' to public spending cuts. Privatisation is hugely unpopular and yet governments are still pushing it on us. That's why I am here, in the SSP.'

Monday, 5 October 2009

Raising her voice for democracy and equality in Afghanistan

Malalai Joya made the headlines in 2003 when as an elected member of the Afghan Loya Jirga, or Parliament, she denounced, in front of the entire world's press, the US occupation of her country on the one hand and the murderous warlords, gangsters and drug dealers handpicked to sit in its Government on the other. For speaking out against these unelected 'representatives' she was banned from the Parliament. Yet in doing so she became overnight a much loved heroine of the Afghan people.
I came across her story when she was in London recently. This extraordinary young woman, still in her twenties, stands up for the rights of Afghan women in the face of harrowing brutality. She confronted the repressive religious fundamentalists in the Taliban and their counterparts, the warlords, gangsters, rapists and murderers of the Northern Alliance. 'Raising my voice' was written to expose these 'representatives' of the Afghan people and to expose the role of US imperialism and their so called 'war on terror'.
She explains the heinous role played by the current political leadership in Afghanistan. President Hamad Karsai is exposed as a stooge of the hated occupying armies. Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against Karsai in the September's Presidential election, is, if anything, even more odious. This former leader of the Northern Alliance was just as bad as the Taliban in persecuting the Afghan people. She names all the warlords, drug dealers, torturers and rapists now sitting in Karsai's Government and explains how they have been granted immunity from prosecution over their blood curdling crimes. She shows why these people have no democratic mandate to run Afghanistan and why thousands of young Afghans are running off to join the insurgents.
It all reinforces the need to bring the British troops home. Despite being bestowed with dozens of humanitarian awards Malalai Joya refuses to escape the very real dangers she faces in Afghanistan every day.
In 'Raising my voice' she outlines what ordinary Afghans go through to survive the savage odds stacked against them. Her faith in their determination to build a multi cultural democratic, tolerant and progressive Afghanistan never falters. She has survived several assassination attempts made by the warlords and is determined to remain alongside her people.
She writes with a certain fatalism that she may not survive the next attempt in a style that reminds me of Dr Martin Luther King. Ironically she admits she is forced to travel the country underneath a full length burqa in order to conceal her identity, with several bodyguards protecting her. Yet this intelligent young woman who is fond of quoting the German playwright Bertholt Brecht to make a point, speaks with a deep passion, knowledge and determination about the cause of her people.
For those of us trying to make sense of contemporary political events in Afghanistan this book is essential reading. Malalai Joya is an inspirational woman offering hope to democrats and people of progress worldwide. Above all she reiterates the right of 33m Afghans to determine their own future and to live together in peace and greater prosperity.

*'MALALAI JOYA - RAISING MY VOICE' The extraordinary story of an Afghan woman who dares to speak out. Published by Rider Books £11.99

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Taleban winning war in Afghanistan

Letter published today in Edinburgh Evening News

The resignation of Major General Andrew Mackay, Officer Commanding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England, last week in protest at military equipment and personnel shortages in Afghanistan surely puts into sharp focus the Taleban's most powerful weapon, its support from the native population. The insurgents haven't a fraction of the equipment Major General Mackay had at his disposal and yet they have kept the most powerful armies in the world at bay for eight years now. How can that be?The US and British military high command are fully aware that the overwhelming majority of Afghans deeply resent the presence of an alien army from the other side of the world and have done so for the best part of a decade. It is therefore delusional to suggest that pouring in ever more soldiers and military hardware will alter that basic fact or lead to victory for this unwarranted aggression.That's why the Taleban are winning the war in Afghanistan and why both US General McChrystal and British General Sir David Richards are now openly contemplating defeat.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Top Marx Michael

I am looking forward to seeing Michael Moore's new film 'Capitalism - A Love Story' which is out soon. The movie exposes the naked greed, corruption and violent injustices of American capitalism in the way only Michael Moore can, this time in relation to last years worldwide banking collapse.

The film has been described by those who have already seen it 'as Moore's best work yet' so it should be good. Whether he wins another OSCAR or not remains to be seen but the film will certainly be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

With that in mind I thought about pointing out - using a visual medium this time - the important complementary role which people like Michael Moore play on the one hand and groups like the Scottish Socialist Party play on the other.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Refugee urges British forces out

Picture taken at Edinburgh University SSP Society open meeting on Afghanistan with Mohammad Asif in the centre, Mr Wahid on the left and myself.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Refugee joins anti-war calls

An Afghan refugee will join Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox in calling for British soldiers to be withdrawn from Afghanistan at a meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow.
Mohammad Asif, chairman of the Scottish Afghan Society, will tell students at Edinburgh University that his countrymen bitterly resent the presence of British soldiers in their lands.
He said: "Afghans see Britain and America illegally occupying our country for the past eight years and we want them to leave immediately.
"Mr Fox said opinion polls showed a majority of Britons also want to see the troops brought back home. The open meeting starts at 1pm in Room G.02, William Robertson Building, George Square.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Referendum relevance

This article appeared in the Morning Star newspaper on 23/9/09.
At the same time as Alex Salmond was presenting his Governments legislative programme for the coming year to the Scottish Parliament, including as it does the Bill for a referendum on Independence, undertakers were presenting two corpses to the army for burial. Twenty four year old Kevin Elliott from Dundee and his comrade Stuart Millar from Inverness were killed in a war 60% of Scots don’t support.
Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MSP’s far removed from the hell that is Helmand province, lined up to denounce Salmond’s referendum as ‘an irrelevance’. Labour leader Iain Gray said it was ‘constitutional vandalism, an unwelcome distraction from the job of fighting the recession’. Annabel Goldie for the Tories accused Salmond of ‘posturing’ and Tavish Scott dismissed it as ‘being more about the SNP’s internal politics’ than anything else.
As ever in politics it pays to look at the context of any debate. Scotland is a nation which has repeatedly made it clear that, left to its own devices, it would not have troops fighting, and dying, in Afghanistan. Yet we are not afforded a referendum on that choice. Scotland also asserted its opposition to the war in Iraq but got no referendum then either. Our opposition to nuclear weapons based on the Clyde and our opposition to the monarchy is similarly ignored.
Scotland’s political ‘centre of gravity’ has been to the left of New Labour for some time. The SNP have exploited this fact in recent years. People rejected PFI but New Labour pressed ahead and privatised schools, hospitals, prisons and council housing. Scots favour redistribution of wealth and public ownership but the party of neo liberalism rejected these values.
Salmond argues that the referendum is no dry constitutional argument and he’s right.
This is about democracy itself and Labour in particular is in a complete ‘fankle’ on the issue. Iain Gray’s predecessor Wendy Alexander claimed, during her brief and ineffectual spell at the helm, that Labour would welcome a referendum. ‘Bring it on’ she goaded Salmond famously, believing voters would reject Independence outright. She calculated this tactic would ‘shoot Salmond’s fox’. In the end the only thing ‘shot’ was poor old Wendy herself, forced to resign after a Parliamentary Committee found her guilty of tawdry financial misdemeanours.
Yet the argument for the referendum remains potent, ‘Let the people decide’. Those who deny Scots their say risk being branded ‘democracy deniers’ by voters.
Of course there is a legitimate concern within the left that the ‘break up’ of the UK could weaken the working class movement as a whole in these islands. But it need not be so. Our movement has never moved at the same pace throughout Britain throughout history. The important advances made by working class activism in East London, Merseyside, South Wales, Clydeside, Yorkshire or the North East for example in the 20th century didn’t hold us back from developing general unions, the shop stewards movement, advancing women’s suffrage or defeating the poll tax.
The Referendum may not happen at all if MSP’s vote the Bill down but the wider Independence debate will continue nonetheless and in an altogether different atmosphere if, as seems inevitable David Cameron wins the Westminster General Election. This outcome will inevitably lead to yet another ‘democratic deficit’ for Scotland. It was just such a painful and enduring experience under Thatcher which ultimately forced the arch-centralist Tony Blair to concede a Scottish Parliament in 1997, an assembly he famously and accurately described as having all the powers of a ‘parish council’.
The Scottish Socialist Party supports a referendum on Independence because we believe the voice of the people should be heard after an informed debate with the option of Independence thoroughly evaluated. We will campaign for a ‘yes’ vote because we believe the break up of the British state to be a thoroughly progressive step. Let’s not forget this is the state which as well as leading us into senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also the 4th largest arms exporter in the world, with its own nuclear ‘weapons of mass destruction’ based on the Clyde, which has been at the forefront of neo liberal exploitation worldwide and maintains the worst anti trades union legislation in Western Europe. The ruling classes in Britain vehemently oppose any diminution of that power. We should not.
The Scottish Socialist Party is convinced working people and the poor in Scotland, the strongest advocates for Independence today, will be economically, socially, culturally and politically better off if we are able to determine our own future. We believe that the question should now be put.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Public Meeting on Aghanistan

Picture taken at the public meeting on Afghanistan with Rose Gentle from Military Families Against the War.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Fox tells Gordon Brown: 'bring home British troops or resign'

Article published on today's Edinburgh Evening News:

SCOTTISH Socialist Party leader Colin Fox will tell a public meeting in Edinburgh this week that Gordon Brown should either bring home British troops from Afghanistan or resign.Amid reports of a low turnout in the Afghan presidential elections - just150 voted in an area which saw some of the bloodiest fighting involving British soldiers - the former Lothians' MSP said Labour's strategy had been reduced to "tatters".
He said: "The unparalleled British casualties sustained during July and August from this aggressive operation now appear to have been for nothing."
Sharing the platform with Mr Fox at Wednesday night's meeting in Jury's Inn,Jeffrey Street, will be Rose Gentle from "Military families against the war". She lost her son Gordon in Iraq, and recently met the PM to express concern that lessons learned in Iraq were not being used in Afghanistan.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Afghanistan: 8 years of a pointless war is enough, its time to bring home the troops

Over the past few weeks the Scottish Socialist Party has stepped up our campaigning against the war in Afghanistan. We are in favour bringing the troops home and letting the Afghans run Afghanistan.
No other party in Scottish politics can hold a candle to the SSP's record in opposing the senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since it is now 8 years since Tony Blair took us to war in Afghanistan alongside his chum the 'Texan terrorist' George Bush we are entitled to draw up a balance sheet on what has been achieved. Tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians have been killed, tens of millions now consider Britain and America to be occupying their country against their express wishes, and more young British soldiers have been killed than died in Iraq, that other pointless, senseless war.
In the face of these facts the bankruptcy of Gordon Brown is clear for all to see as the best he can say is that 'we must resign ourselves to being in Afghanistan for a further 40 years'.
Well I tell you what, rather than us resigning ourselves to another 40 years of this senseless, pointless war, it is Gordon Brown who should be resigning and we should bring home the British troops now.
In the next few weeks the Scottish Socialist Party in Edinburgh will hold a public meeting on the issue to offer the public a chance to have their say. Rose Gentle, who lost her son Gordon in Iraq, from Military Families Against the war, will join me on the platform to outline why the majority of the British people now oppose the war and wish to see British troops withdrawn.
Watch this space for details of the meeting.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Peoples Festival celebrates songs of protest

In the year Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and Woody Guthrie’s ‘This land is your land’ were sung at the inauguration of a US President and we celebrate the 250th anniversary of songwriter and poet Robert Burns the Edinburgh People’s Festival presents a musical tribute to those protest tunes which changed the world.
Musicians Fiona Keenan, Lee Paterson and Wendy Weatherby will join rock bands Townhouse and Enradgey in the Nelson Hall, St Leonards on Saturday night [15th August] for an evening celebrating political songs of protest.
This year more than most we have cause to reflect on how the power of music and song can change the world. People in this city and beyond have used music and songs throughout history to express their feelings, campaigns and struggles for justice and equality. The People’s Festival presents a wonderful array of talent using various musical genres to show how music and song has changed the world, whether that be in the fight for civil rights in the US, for peace in the world, on picket lines or against apartheid and other forms of oppression.
‘Songs of Protest’ starts at 7.30pm on Saturday 15th August. Tickets are available on the door on the night priced £2.00.*
[*The People's Festival acknowledges the support of the city's trade union movement in allowing us to keep ticket prices within everyone's reach]
For full details of the Edinburgh People’s Festival visit

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Dozens enjoy People's Festival guided walk around radical Edinburgh

Local activist and historian Allan Armstrong led today’s ‘Radical Auld Reekie’ tour as part of the Edinburgh People’s Festival. He explained the fascinating revolutionary history of the city and the struggles it is connected to from the 1790 to 1938 and highlighted key figures like James Connolly who led the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, Thomas Muir the leader of the Reform movement in Scotland at the time of Burns and those who went to aid the Republican side in the Spanish Civil war of 1936-1938 amongst others.
Allan highlighted the many episodes of that most important side of Edinburgh, its working class history and struggles. You will not find any of his tour notes on the ‘Visit Scotland’ website, or BBC TWO’s ‘Festival’ coverage, or the Rough Guide to Edinburgh – but you will be able to see Allan for yourself soon on the Edinburgh People’s Festival website.
The picture shows Allan and part of his party in Calton Hill cemetery, where there stands a monument to Thomas Muir and the Scots radicals sentence to penal servitude for championing the rights of working people in the 1790’s, as well as the first statue erected to Abraham Lincoln outside the USA.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Let the people speak

The Edinburgh People's Festival August 2009 programme opened last night at the North Edinburgh Arts Centre in Muirhouse.
The public were able to see our award winning exhibition explaining the history of the People's Festival from 1951-today and the entries in our arts competition 'Let the people speak' for the first time. Each show runs until 29th August.
The photograph shows myself and Professor Richard Demarco one of the competition judges with the prize winners Steven Hood, Joyce Gunn Cairns, Shelagh Atkinson and Alan Kilpatrick. ‘Let the people speak’ is a fantastic show which is well worth seeing and complements the huge success of last years arts competition.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Hamish Henderson memorial lecture

Last year the Edinburgh People's Festival initiated the Hamish Henderson Memorial lecture. Hamish Henderson [ 1919-2002] was a remarkable figure in Scottish culture, celebrated in many different ways. He was a poet, song writer and scholar who wrote Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica about his experiences as a soldier in North Africa during World War 2. As the father of the Scottish folk music revival in post war Scotland he left us the wonderful anthem Freedom Come All Ye. He took the Italian surrender in World War 2 and translated the work of the celebrated Italian writer and thinker Antonio Gramsci into English. He established the ground breaking School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and was also the founder of the Edinburgh People's Festival in 1951. He even found time to turn down an OBE.
In last years inaugural lecture Hamish Henderson's biographer and close friend Mr Timothy Neat delivered a thoroughly engrossing talk about the man to a highly appreciative sell out crowd.
The Edinburgh People's Festival is absolutely delighted to announce that this years lecture will be delivered by Dr Fred Freeman a celebrated authority on Hamish Henderson from the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University. Fred recently presented an acclaimed hour long special on Hamish's life and legacy on BBC Radio Four.
The lecture takes place on Wednesday 12th August at the Nelson Hall in St Leonards [7.30pm] which is not far from where Hamish Henderson used to live. It is widely expected to be another sell out crowd so get there early if you want a seat.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Out of conflict comes clarity

Not satisfied with bringing in 'scab' labour to try and break the binmens' industrial action SNP leader Steve Cardownie is quoted in the Evening News warning that the entire refuse service may be privatised.
It says a great deal about the SNP and the kind of alternative to New Labour they offer.
The bin men are poised to go on strike because this SNP/Lib Dem Council intends to take £6,000 off their already low wages. The bin men deserve our full support as they rightly rejected the Councils outrageous interpretation of the Equal Pay Act which involves savaging the pay of low paid male workers rather than increasing the wages of their even lower paid female colleagues.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Johnny Walker Protest

Around 10,000 people marched through the centre of Kilmarnock today in protest at the decision by Diageo, the world's biggest drinks company, to close their Johnnie Walker whisky factory in the town with the loss of 700jobs. Johnnie Walker, the world's most popular whisky brand, has been produced in Kilmarnock since 1820. Diageo made £2bn profits last year, including those at its Kilmarnock factory but recently proposed to close the plant and move the bottling plant to Leven in Fife with the loss of 900 jobs in order to make even more profits. If this decision goes ahead it will be a hammer blow to the town of Kilmarnock with unemployment rates expected to double overnight. The Scottish Socialist Party joined the protest and pledged our full support to the communities fight to keep these jobs in Kilmarnock.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Edinburgh binmen refuse to lift £70/week less as Council demands cuts

The Scottish Socialist Party received a call from David Cameron last week.
But this wasn't the David Cameron born with a silver spoon in his mouth who went to Eton or votes Tory. He is a bin man with Edinburgh City Council and has been for 21 years. David contacted us to ask for help after the Council's SNP/Liberal administration informed him and 600 of his colleagues their pay was to be 'modernised', by chopping £3,000 a year from it. Bin men like David earn £16,000 including bonuses. Management aims to take £70 per week off them.
Council leaders insist the cuts are necessary if they are to implement the 'single status' agreement in the Equal Pay Act. This Act, passed into law three decades ago but not fully implemented, affords women workers the same rights as men by insisting that work of equal value be equally rewarded regardless of gender. The Scottish Socialist Party supports this principle wholeheartedly, however we, and the rest of the labour movement for that matter, are determined that wages are 'equalised up' not down. In other words it must mean a substantial pay rise for women not a cut for men.
In a ballot result announced last week David Cameron reported that the 600 bin men in Edinburgh had voted '599 to one' to strike against the proposed wage cuts. He further explained that the workforce had begun a 'work to rule' refusing overtime or taking up shifts on their days off.
The union believes the ballot result puts the ball firmly in the Council's court. The prospect of rubbish piling up in the city's streets with temperatures, as we have seen this week, into the 80's and with 200,000 visitors heading here for the Festival will put the SNP/Liberal coalition under huge pressure to back down.
Meanwhile I have written to Stephen McGregor, TGWU Unite shop steward pledging the Scottish Socialist Party's full support for the union. I added that as far as I was concerned bin men earning only 2/3rd of the average wage was an inadequate level of pay for the important and yet dirty job they do in serving our communities across this city.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Edinburgh People's Festival Art Competition

People’s Festival launches £1,000 visual arts competition with Richard Demarco to judge entries.
Visual Artists (including photographers) across Scotland are invited to submit wall mounted work on the theme ‘Let The People Speak’.
Entries will be exhibited at the North Edinburgh Arts Centre in August as part of the 2009 Edinburgh People’s Festival.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

MPs and MSPs forget the poor as they feather their own nests

Figures released by the Scottish Government this month show that the oft repeated promises of politicians at Westminster and Holyrood to reduce poverty and inequality in Scotland have simply not been kept.
The Scottish Government report 'Poverty and income inequality in Scotland: 2007/08' reveal that no progress whatsoever has been made in lifting children, low paid workers and pensioners in Scotland out of poverty in recent years, indeed many observers believe the situation may well have worsened sharply.
The Department of Work and Pensions who carried out the study found that between 2006/07 and 2007/08 17% of the population in Scotland were living in poverty and their total income, compared to the rest of society, fell once again.
These figures are doubly disappointing considering they refer to a period of economic boom. It is widely accepted that periods of economic recession like the one we are in at the moment with unemployment rising at record levels, cuts being made to public services and taxes due to increase, hit those on low incomes hardest.
To think that the same MPs who have been 'rifling' through the public purse to maintain their own highly inflated life of luxury in recent years ignored those in much greater need tells us a great deal about the appalling priorities of those parties currently sitting in Westminster and Holyrood.
The poor clearly need someone else to stand up for them if they are ever to obtain their fair share of the enormous wealth all around us.That's why the Scottish Socialist Party is so important.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Thank You!

I want to thank all my comrades and friends in the SSP for this wonderful birthday gift, a cartoon of me drawn by the brilliant Edinburgh Evening News cartoonist Frank Boyle. Give that man a rise! Of course he's got the age wrong, I'm only 25! I shall treasure it.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Sorted - Labours Royal Mail privatisation plan

Since Lord Mandelson's Bill to privatize the Royal Mail has been 'returned to sender' and is now to all extent and purposes dead and buried [it failed even to appear for its scheduled First Reading in the Commons last week] I want to take this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of people across Scotland who signed the Scottish Socialist Party's petition to keep our postal service in public hands.
Our collective opposition, with 90% of the British population against it has defeated Labours sell off plans.
There are those who fear Lord Mandelson will return with this Bill but I am not one of them because this issue would bring down his teetering Labour Government. Mandelson and Brown need the support of the Tories to get the Bill through Parliament and Cameron has so many incentives not to back it that the Bill would fall and so would the Government!
Labours plan to sell off this vital public service to the Dutch postal company TNT failed because the public much preferred to keep Royal Mail in public hands; owned by the public, run for the benefit of the public, with the price of a stamp the same for every member of the public regardless of whether they lived in say Shetland or South London and where the profits [£344m last year] went into the public purse to build hospitals and schools rather than into the hands of private shareholders in private postal companies.
Peter Mandelson's Bill has again exposed Labour as the party of privatisation. Yet it is not privatisation Royal Mail needs, it is investment. The public has witnessed a stark deterioration in the service in recent years as private companies 'cherry picked' the lucrative business to business post. This has meant residential customers have suffered fewer deliveries and collections.
With the Tories likely to win the forthcoming Westminster General Election however it is important our collective opposition to privatisation is not demobilized. It is a battle we will need to fight again. Let the Tories take note however, the campaign to keep the Royal Mail in public hands is emboldened and our case is stronger than ever.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Where now for the SNP

These are heady days for the Scottish National Party. If the results of the European elections were repeated in the forthcoming Westminster contest Labour would be annihilated in Scotland. There would be no Labour MP's in Edinburgh where they currently have four. Both Alastair Darling and Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy would be roundly defeated, and the Nationalists would take a majority of Labour seats.
The SNP, in Government in Scotland, out polled Labour for the first time in a UK wide election last week, surpassing even their Holyrood triumph of 2007. They have been ahead of Labour in the polls for two years now.
Whereas in England Labour is hemorrhaging votes to Cameron and the right, in Scotland it is the SNP and they stand to the left of Labour in every conceivable measure. Furthermore they have virtually monopolised the left vote.
Labour just doesn't know how to handle them. They are at sixes and sevens strategically. Their historic opposition to a referendum on Independence was dropped by the hapless Wendy Alexander only to be imposed again by Iain Gray their 3rd Scottish leader in as many years. Having tried and failed to pigeon hole the Nats as irresponsible big spenders, Labour now, laughably, wheels out the old bogey that 'the SNP brought down the Callaghan government in 1979' and are in effect just 'Tartan Tories'! This charge is both preposterous and inept since Labour are the self proclaimed heirs to Thatcherism with their own wars, privatisations and low taxes for the obscenely rich.
Like it or not working class voters see the SNP as the most attractive anti Labour vehicle, one which has ended the rampant PFI/PPP privatisation of the NHS in Scotland, opposed the war in Iraq and pledged to rid Scotland of the nuclear weapons stationed on the Clyde. Furthermore it is widely noted that the SNP picked up all the Bills pioneered by the Scottish Socialist Party between 1999 and 2007, on free school meals, abolition of the unfair Council tax and scrapping prescription charges and represented them to Holyrood. Labour voted against all three.
Of course just as the SNP creates problems for Labour it also provides a clear challenge to the Scottish Socialist Party. There is an important response to that challenge however and it is this. Whilst the SNP has certainly adopted a progressive social programme it remains nonetheless a bosses party, a big business representative. Its support for neo liberalism is equal to any Tony Blair ever demonstrated. Indeed Alex Salmond has moved significantly towards courting capitalism in recent years.
'Salmond's dilemma' here is however best illustrated in relation to the financial collapse. The SNP's independence model 'took a helluva beating', to quote the famous Norwegian football commentator, as the banking collapse all but wiped out what Alex Salmond referred to admiringly as the “Arc of prosperity” of Ireland, Iceland and Norway. His defence to charges that an independent Scotland under the SNP would have bankrupted the country has been to claim that they -the SNP - would have kept the banks 'on a tight leash' and prevented all their reckless acquisitions and 'toxic trading'.
This is, to put it mildly, just not supported by the facts. Some might go further and suggest, in Salmond's favoured language of the streets, that his claims are 'utter mince'. In my experience as an MSP at Holyrood over 4 years watching the SNP at close quarters, they were the most obsequious of all the parties towards the banks. Desperate to reassure RBS, HBOS, and Standard Life for example and the other financial institutions in Edinburgh - Europe's fifth biggest banking centre measured in terms of equity under management - that their interests were safe with the SNP, they have been putty in Sir Fred Goodwin's hands. And indeed they still are as the banking classes insist on making working people pay for the economic collapse which RBS , HBOS and the others caused.
So lets call a 'shovel a shovel'. The SNP is every bit in 'hock' to big business as New Labour. Alex Salmond's fawning over US billionaire Donald Trump was a clear case in point. Trumps plan to trash an area of outstanding natural beauty in Aberdeenshire in order to build a £1bn luxury golf complex was rushed through at the highest levels of the Scottish Government and the entire episode shows conclusively what side the SNP are on.
Like New Labour they have been caught in the headlights of the worst capitalist recession in 80 years. As hundreds of thousands of workers lose their jobs on the back of it the SNP offer no resistance whatsoever. The recent sacking of 700 workers by computer giant Hewlett Packard in Erskine offers yet another case in point. When the issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament the workers got tea, sympathy and offers of retraining but sadly no promise from First Minister of 'Erskine no more'.
Despite vacuous talk about “standing up for Scotland”, as closures and sackings mount, the SNP simply wring their hands and walk away blaming — no doubt correctly — the Westminster Government. And as far as Gordon Browns imminent swingeing cuts in public spending are concerned the SNP will huff and puff about them and then implement them. Indeed their Finance Minister John Swinney has his own agenda for what he calls Scotland’s 'bloated' public sector.
Perhaps the most intriguing factor looming over Scottish politics however is the potential impact of a Tory Government elected in London. The Holyrood Parliament was established in response to what many Scots saw as the 'democratic deficit' wherein we voted Labour and yet were landed with an alien Tory government. The election of Cameron next year looks certain to reignite that conflict and at the same time boost the drive for independence.
The SNP is committed to holding an independence referendum next year. Both Labour and the Tories intend to block it in the Scottish Parliament, running the considerable risk of being seen to prevent Scotland's right to decide. Whilst it is fair to say that the SNP has done next to nothing these past two years to mobilise and embolden the independence constituency ahead of that referendum campaign, it will be a critically important vote.
The SSP will actively campaign for a Yes to Independence vote because we firmly believe working people and the poor will be economically, socially, culturally and politically better off if able to determine our own future and make our own decisions. Unlike the SNP we favour a Scottish republic, a break with the monarchy, a Scotland where the banks and corporate elite are under the control of the public.
The old British certainties in Scotland where undermined fatally by years of Tory arrogance under Thatcher and Major. Labour was forced to deliver the Scottish Parliament as a result of this famous 'democratic deficit'. Having done so they set a new politics in Scotland in motion.
The SSP will remain an important part of the process of change arguing for a break with an increasingly irrelevant Westminster, for a green socialist Scotland, a republic capable of delivering justice for all and acting as a beacon of resistance to neo liberalism internationally.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Lordy. Lordy. Lordy – Labour’s Government of the unelected

There they sit Lords Mandelson, Adonis, Sugar, Malloch-Brown, Drayson and Baronesses Royal and Scotland, seven peers of the realm whose allegiance is to the Queen not the people centre stage in the Labour Cabinet.
This Government is a caricature of a Britain long gone, a vivid testament to how Labour has abandoned its founders. The first vote passed at the first Labour conference in 1900 was to abolish the House of Lords. In 2009 Labour depends on it to rule the people.
Amid the severest economic crisis in 80 years and with the European elections providing irrefutable proof that Labour has no democratic mandate it must be a great comfort to the British establishment and its ever loyal Labour Party that they can always rely on unaccountable, unelected feudal relics to help govern the country.
These seven Ministers sit in the Cabinet without fear of an electorate of any kind and provide Gordon Brown’s life jacket as HMS New Labour plunges into the murky depths.
Those who expect anything meaningful from Gordon Browns vaunted plans for Constitutional Reform should take note. Packing the Cabinet with unelected peers, representative of no-one and answerable to no-one - and not averse to fiddling the public purse themselves - is not just an affront to democracy it typifies New Labour through and through.
The French, who hosted the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings last week and were upbraided by the right wing in Britain for not inviting the Queen to lead the parade of militarism – as Head of the Armed Forces – were by all accounts howling with laughter at the idea they should need the permission of a Monarch. After all the French solved that particular problem centuries ago.
And lest we here in Scotland think it is only those South of the border who are being ridiculed internationally may wish to consider the scene to be acted out in Edinburgh next week as The Queen formally presides over the 10th anniversary of ‘her’ Scottish Parliament. Her Scots ‘subjects’ will be expected to bend the knee and tug our collective forelocks.
In 2005 when she arrived to ‘officially open’ the new Holyrood Parliament amid sycophantic pomp and democratic effrontery the Scottish Socialist Party took to the hills. Calton Hill in Edinburgh city centre to be precise, to proclaim our belief in a modern democratic republic. We look forward to a Scotland without feudal monarchs, without divine rights for Kings and Queens, without all our hospitals and civic institutions being ‘Royal’, where the people are citizens not ‘subjects’ and where our democracy is not ‘protected’ by unelected Lords of the Treasury, Lords Privy Seal, Lords President, Lords Chancellor and Barons or Baronesses.
The Scottish Socialist Party stands for a modern democratic republic. Our guiding principles egalitarianism and democracy, not class hierarchies and feudalism.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

European election results push Scotland Left

The European Elections in Britain were overwhelmingly dominated by the financial swindling of Westminster MP's in London. Voters vented their anger at the corruption of the political establishment and this led to a collapse in support for the Westminster parties, although the Euro seats themselves remained in largely in their hands.
In common with the much of the rest of Europe Britain witnessed sizeable gains by parties of the centre right and the extreme right.
This peculiar election campaign somewhat masked the biting impact of the worst economic recession in 80 years, which is certainly the most important political issue in Britain today. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the recession will be deeper and longer lasting here than in virtually any other European country. Several influential economic studies suggest that, for example, it may be a decade before unemployment figures return to 2008 levels.
The response of voters across Europe to this recession appears to have been to vote for the right. Certainly that is true in England and Wales, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Ireland. Why is this? Is it because they see the pro-capitalist parties as more likely to solve the capitalist crisis? Or could it be that the consciousness of the population lags behind events, as yet unprepared for the savage assaults on living standards the right wing have in mind in 'solving' the crisis?
In England the right certainly benefited with the Conservatives, United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] and fascist BNP all advancing at the expense of Labour.
In Scotland however the country seems to be seeking answers to the twin crisis of Westminster corruption and a crashing economy from the left.The collapse in support for Labour here gathered significant further pace. Labour suffered their first defeat in 50 years of UK wide elections at the hands of the left leaning Scottish National Party. The SNP won the biggest share of the popular vote - 28% to Labour’s 20%. The Greens also made headway. This outcome is significant as the SNP is the traditional working class protest vote in Scotland and it sits to the left of Labour not its right.
Indeed it has adopted policies pioneered by the Scottish Socialist Party such as the abolition of health charges for medicines, providing free school meals for all youngsters, opposition to nuclear weapons and scrapping the unfair local Council taxes which has placed the SNP in such a strong position. Their leader Alex Salmond has thoroughly outmaneuvered Labour for the past two years and is the country’s most popular and populist politician by far.
Yet the SNP in the last analysis presents its social democratic social model within a pro business, neo liberal economic policy. It is wedded to ‘market’ solutions and will dance to the same neo liberal economic tunes imposed upon it in due course.
It is in this context that the somewhat disappointing - if expected - 1% vote the Scottish Socialist Party achieved has to be seen. Left voters in Scotland rejected a discredited New Labour Party but see the SNP at this stage as the most credible left alternative.
The SSP is still living under a cloud following a highly damaging and yet utterly avoidable spilt three years ago which has heavily diminished the purchase of socialist ideas among the public.
Yet the SSP Euro election campaign for all it’s lack of support at the polls was very important for us. Through it we maintained our profile as a party and marked out our unique political terrain. Unique because we rejected the separatist position adopted by the right and some on the left in Britain. A new left formation 'No2 EU - Yes to Democracy' backed by the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of England and Wales and the railway workers union RMT with its sizeable financial resources was constructed for this contest and campaigned for British withdrawal from the EU and a shift of power towards London. They made no impact and will probably not continue.
Our campaigning, as part of the wider European Anti-capitalist Left, was rather more internationalist in programme demanded those who created the crisis, the bankers and neo liberal bosses should be made to pay for it. Our 'Make Greed History' campaign included calls for a 10% “Greed Tax” on Europe’s millionaires and billionaires to provide the funds necessary to create jobs, expand public services and build desperately needed housing. This demand places the blame for the crisis where it belongs and proposes measures which not only reject the austerity promised by the pro capitalist parties but actually raises the prospect of more jobs and improved services.
On the face of it electoral support for this idea appears extremely limited but the fact remains that Scotland is looking at ten years of high unemployment, cuts in public services and crippling taxes on working people as the neo liberals attempt to 'solve' their crisis.It is also clear that consciousness here lags behind the economic and political realities.
Since it is virtually certain now that a right wing Tory Government will be elected in Britain within the year, there can be no doubt that such an outcome will usher in a era of savage cuts to public services as bad if not worse than that of the Thatcher era.
In Scottish terms, where the public sector is a more significant part of the economy, that can only mean a rising tempo of attacks and resistance in which the role of the SSP in both campaigning against cuts and sackings and proposing alternatives will increase in importance. The election of a Conservative government at Westminster will heighten considerably the unresolved contradictions within the national question and sharpen demands for Independence for Scotland. The SSP supports an Independent socialist Scotland. We see independence as a progressive step forward and recognise that it is overwhelmingly supported by workers and young Scots.
With the next UK General election now less than a year away and Scotland due, in 2011, to elect a new Scottish Parliament the question of Scottish Independence from the UK is sure to be centre stage. The SSP stands firmly in the camp seeking to break up the reactionary British state and usher in a Scottish Republic.
Despite our disappointing vote in the Euro elections the SSP remains the key socialist force in Scottish politics. We offer a coherent socialist solution to the economic crisis and support the fight for national independence and democracy. We continue to rebuild the party as the economic crisis deepens.
We look forward to working with our allies in the Anti-capitalist Left across Europe and in solidarity with those fighting for policies which can tackle the gathering economic and ecological crisis we all face.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Edinburgh shocking housing shortage

Sue Gyfords report ['One in 17 people in city waiting for a council house' 1/6/09) highlights the fact that 27,000 people in the city are on the council house waiting list. This figure represents an appalling indictment of both the current SNP - Liberal administration and their Labour predecessors. Indeed the statistics almost certainly mask the full extent of the problem as repossessions in the mortgage market rise steeply and other families in need walk away having concluded it is now futile to approach the City Council for help.This appalling housing shortage in Scotland's richest city puts the SNP - Liberal coalition to shame.
Not only have they failed to act, the position has clearly deteriorated from the one which they inherited.The record of the Labour Council that preceded them was awful its true. Labour tried to eradicate the problem not by building more houses but by selling off our existing council houses in its ill-fated stock transfer ballot. But current Housing leader Paul Edie and his team have simply continued this record of failure. They have effectively relegated our chronic housing shortage to a '3rd division' issue.
Who can believe they see the provision of affordable, quality, rented accommodation as a priority when they spend so little on it compared to say the £600m they have allocated to the city tram scheme? Since neither Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat or SNP Councillors support publicly owned housing for rent, as long as they inhabit the City Chambers the needs of our citizens will continue to receive scant attention and inadequate provision.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Lobby of Parliament June 9th against the privatisation of Royal Mail

To all Lothians MP's

As you know the Communication Workers Union [CWU] has arranged to lobby MP’s on Tuesday June 9th over Lord Mandelson’s Bill to privatise the Royal Mail. I am hoping to come down for the lobby and perhaps meet with you in person to chat over the issues involved.

In the meantime I am writing to you today to ask for your own views on the Bill.
The Scottish Socialist Party has been campaigning throughout Edinburgh for several months now to retain the Royal Mail as a wholly owned public service. I am sure you know the Bill is hugely unpopular, the latest poll has 90% of the population simply not persuaded of the government’s case for privatisation.
There is a widespread belief that even ‘part privatisation’ will jeopardise the universal delivery which ensures that all parts of Britain enjoy the same service, pay the same price for stamps and share in the profits.
Much has been made of the impact of electronic communications like email on mail volumes in recent years, which has undoubtedly altered the nature of the industry. However it is also true that the new technologies have generated extra postal demand through online ordering and booking systems and as you know none of the private postal companies have shown any interest in delivering mail that ‘last mile’ to households or businesses in any volume sense.
It is clear to me that voters want the Royal Mail to remain a wholly owned public service whose profits go back into the public purse to build hospitals and schools, not siphoned off into the pockets of private shareholders in private postal companies like TNT. It is a classic case of public interest being threatened by private profit.
If the case for privatisation is actually based on fears over the future sustainability of the Royal Mail pension fund I cannot see how handing over a third of the profits to TNT will help.

I appreciate you will have spoken to enough of your own constituents to realise they expect you to oppose this Bill when it comes in front of the Commons for further consideration and I look forward to your earliest reply.

Politics Now - Euro Elections

Here is the link to the Politics Now show I participated in on Thursday May 28.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

SSP Party Election Broadcast for the European Elections 2009

Featuring Tam Dean Burn, directed by Dhivya Kate Chetty & Martin Clark. Produced by David Archibald.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Reflections on the MP's Expenses Scandal

Watching the outrageous and at times sickening feather bedding and corruption of our MP's these past two weeks I was repeatedly reminded of the wise words of advice James Connolly, the great Edinburgh socialist, gave to those seeking to represent working people.'Rise with your class, not out of it.' said Connolly condemning in particular in my view those Labour MP's who masquerade as representatives of working people and the poor.When I had the great honour of representing the people of the Lothians at Holyrood between 2003-2007 I was guided by Connolly's principle. I took it to mean that until such time as those I represented enjoyed the wages, conditions and privileges I did then the inflated salaries and perks were not due to me either. That is why all SSP MSP's took the average wage of a skilled worker and donated the rest of our £55,000 salary to the party. For me that meant writing out a cheque for £1,300 each and every month to the SSP.
They say we all live in a Parliamentary or Representative democracy yet there is scant evidence our 646 MP's are typical of the population as whole. The fact is these lawyers, Old Etonians and businessmen are completely unrepresentative. Where are the health workers, local government workers, low paid civil servants, transport workers, shop workers or sheet metal workers for that matter?
If I hear someone argue that MP's are underpaid at £68,000 per annum once more I will scream. The fact is they are in the top 2% of wage earners in Britain and that is before fiddling their expenses, allowances and travel!If MP's lived on the average wage of those they represented not only would they have far more fire in their bellies and better understand the job they were sent to London to do, they would be less inclined to pass the buck to meaningless Committee's and procrastinate in countering the big scandals of our age; the poverty, inequality, ill health, homelessness and financial corruption of the bosses system.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Royal Mail sell off is "Labour Sell Out"

As Scottish Socialist joint national spokesman I today warned the Government that pressing ahead with the privatisation of the Royal Mail would not only be a political “sell out’’ but also a ‘’Kamikaze mission.”
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s House of Lords third reading of Peter Mandelson's Bill to privatise the Royal Mail I issued a press release which says“Despite pretending that the EU is forcing its hand Gordon Brown and his cabinet are actually privatising Royal Mail themselves, insisting it be handed over to profit hungry private postal companies like TNT.”“I have been on Princes Street each week for months now campaigning on the issue and talking to postal workers and the public alike. It is abundantly clear that this privatisation is hugely unpopular. Nearly 90% of voters oppose the sell off. Yet still it is being pushed ahead by Industry Minister Peter Mandelson.”“You would think by now that even he would grasp how out of touch they are on this issue.
‘’With 150 Labour MP's threatening to vote against the Bill it can only now be passed in the Commons with the help of TORY MP's.”“The SSP demands Royal Mail is kept in public hands. Like the public we wish to see it remain a vital public service, owned and controlled by the public, where the profits it makes - £323m last year - go into the public purse to build hospitals and schools and not handed over to private shareholders in private postal companies like TNT.”“The expenses scandal has already undermined the Brown government and railroading this unpopular privatisation through Parliament thanks to Tory votes could well prove a fatal blow for this embattled government.”“I urge the public to contact their MPs and demand they vote to keep the profiteers paws off our Post Office.”

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Edinburgh May Day 2009

Edinburgh May Day 2009 platform speakers outside the Scottish Parliament;
Willie Marshall, Branch Secretary CWU Scotland No2, Councillor Gordon Munro, Mark Lyon, Unite convenor, Grangemouth oil refinery, Hilary Wainright , editor Red Pepper, myself and Matt Wrack, General Secretary Fire Brigades Union
[pic; Craig Maclean, NUJ]

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Make Greed History

Make Greed History is a new campaign launched by the Scottish Socialist Party. Corporate greed is devouring our planet. Corporate greed now threatens to plunge us into a new depression. Corporate greed has to be challenged, Join the backlash against the billionaires.

Global depression. Climate chaos. Billions starving. Why?
Most of the world’s problems today can be traced back to a single cause. Greed.
For decades, the rich went on a feeding frenzy. They piled up profits galore. They devoured the world’s resources and ignited global warming. They grabbed more and more wealth for themselves at the expense of everyone else.
One per cent of the UK population now own 34 times as much wealth as the bottom 50 per cent. Never in human history has so much been owned by so few.
How the rich caused the slump
With more cash than they could ever dream of spending, the rich went on a gambling binge. Instead of using their wealth to create jobs and fuel the real economy, they squandered trillions in the casinos of global capitalism.
Now the orgy of greed has turned sour. But who will pay the price?
The Scottish Socialist Party has launched a European-wide Make Greed History Campaign. The reckless rich caused this crisis – and they must foot the bill.
Why we need a wealth tax to create jobs
In Europe today, the wealthiest one per cent of the population own liquid assets worth $10 trillion dollars.
A modest, one-off wealth tax of just 10 per cent would generate a trillion dollars to create eight million jobs across Europe.
Scotland’s share of that tax would amount to £6.5 billion – enough to create and sustain 80,000 jobs over the next three years, with an average annual salary of £25,000.
We could build tens of thousands of new homes to rent. We could reduce class sizes by employing thousands more teachers and learning assistants. We could insulate every home in Scotland.
Call it a ‘Wealth Tax’, call it a ‘Crisis Tax’ – or even call it a ‘Greed Tax’. It would be a mighty step out of recession, paid for by those who caused the crisis.
The Scottish Socialist Party stands for a green socialist Scotland in a green socialist Europe, an independent socialist Scotland.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chamber of Commerce mourns 'THE DEATH OF NEW LABOUR'

I found myself at a 'Budget Breakfast' hosted by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. [Don't ask!]
Sitting in the up market Balmoral Hotel at 8am surrounded by 'Chamber men' I was 'treated' to two examinations of Alistair Darlings proposals.The first, delivered by a Mr David Collier of Tax Consultancy firm Chiene and Tait, addressed amongst other topics the increase in top rate tax for the rich. Clearly among friends David felt he could speak his mind. He was outraged at the plan to raise the taxes of those on salaries above £150,000 per annum from 45p to 50p.'Lots of people will be appalled at this move' said our tax Partner.
As I looked around the room I realized I was sitting among the 'people' he had in mind. Around me were gathered Edinburgh's accountants, lawyers,businessmen and sundry Executives all obviously about to pay more tax.'Are we witnessing the end of New Labour' asked Mr Collier mournfully to a sea of nodding heads.
How out of touch can these people get? I thought. In Scotland today some 850,000 workers live on or around the minimum wage of £7 per hour! Average wages are, according to the governments latest figures, £24,800 per annum. So my fellow diners were earning at least seven times as much and yet clearly resent paying 5p extra tax on their earnings above £150,000! The second of our 'seekers after the truth' was none other than Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman, a man seldom off Newsnight Scotland when grave matters economics are scrutinised. Bill was not best pleased by the current economic situation. He was perplexed to say the least.'We are moving from one era to another' he warned in an ominous tone, reminding me strangely of Trotsky of all people. Repeating himself in case anyone failed to notice it the first time he stressed 'The world has moved from one epoch to another'. Trotsky was fond of his 'epochs' too. Our 'Scotsman' told how he could barely watch the Budget statement as he was still in a state of shock from a year which had seen a revolution in Edinburgh's financial world. 'Who could have predicted last April' asked Bill genuinely perplexed 'that we would meet a year later with the Bank of Scotland gone altogether and RBS nationalized? How on earth did we get to this position? 'The Scotsman's font of all wisdom was plainly at a loss to explain the enormity and the rapidity of the collapse. But there was more than ignorance in Bills delivery there was fear too. 'The £750bn New Labour has borrowed ''scares the life out of me'' he confessed, as well he might. No one he knew had any confidence in Labours' ability to pay it back, nor, he told us, in the likelihood other capitalists would extend the credit.
Alistair Darlings forecasts for future economic growth were laughable he warned. And his audience agreed. This seemed to set him onto a favourite Chamber of Commerce theme 'the bloated public sector and the unprotected plucky 'enterprise' sector.' Now in familiar territory, he insisted there had to be severe cuts in the public sector with its final salary pension schemes, job security and 0.7% guaranteed income growth if the country was to rise from the ashes again. These demands had his audience in raptures. Despite the obvious allegiance of those gathered I couldn't resist the chance to put a [rhetorical] question to Bill during the Q. and A.'s. 'Why' I asked 'is UK national borrowing at the level it is, if it isn't to bail out the banks and 'detox' the debts they have left us? Isn't it true that we are borrowing £750bn not to bail out the public sector but rather to clear up the mess left by the so called 'golden goose', his precious 'enterprise sector'? 'Good question' replied Bill perplexed and reverting to earlier type.....