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