Friday, 26 April 2013
Last nights Scottish Socialist Party public meeting in Craigentinny, East Edinburgh on the socialist case for Independence was a great success. I thought I might give you a flavour of the issues that arose.
Both speakers John Finnie, MSP [Independent: Highlands and Islands] and John McAllion for the Scottish Socialist Party were in sparkling form.
Unfortunately Sandra Webster, the SSP’s joint national spokeswoman, was unable to join us - her bus from Glasgow broke down en route. John Finnie opened the proceedings by insisting that Scotland was held back by the UK and the different values prevalent in the South East of England. He mentioned for example how the NHS South of the Border is facing further privatisation of services in many areas which he envisages will only worsen in the months and years to come under the Con-Dem Government. And the clear inference was that both the Con-Dems and New Labour have the same intentions for Scotland’s health services should there be a No vote in September 2014!
A key feature of the No campaign’s strategy, suggested John, is to play down the Tories involvement in ‘Better Together’ and by contrast play up Labour’s. They recognise the Tories are a complete liability to the No camp and are urging Cameron, Osborne, Ian Duncan Smith and the others not to come to Scotland over the next 18 months. By the same token they are playing up Ed Milliband’s alleged appeal and his chances of winning the 2015 Westminster General Election.
But even if Labour is elected in 2015, warned John Finnie, and it’s a big if, working people need to remember Labour supports 80% of the Con-Dem cuts, they will not repeal the bedroom tax, and they will keep the Trident nuclear missiles Scotland wants rid of. They too will attack the Scottish working class and people’s standard of living. That was after all the experience between 1997 and 2010 said John. Whilst the prospect of a Labour victory in 2015 may be the No campaigns favoured option, people recognise Labour are now staunch Unionists. They are as wedded to the City of London as the Tories and they will not hesitate to make whatever cuts they deem necessary to ensure working people pay for an economic crisis caused by the bankers and the rich.
John McAllion also took up this theme as he ridiculed the increasingly ‘doom laden’ propaganda coming out of the No campaign HQ. He ridiculed their increasingly gloomy predictions by highlighting how they present a relentless message of fear, panic and impending catastrophe should Scots opt for self-determination.
‘Scotland is too small they argue’ said John sardonically pillorying the No message
‘Scotland is too poor they tell us, we have too many old people, we couldn’t defend ourselves, none of our businesses could survive, we would be an economic basket case which couldn’t survive without the pound, we are vulnerable to financial speculators, cyber attacks and terrorists. And so it goes on. In other words its doom, doom, doom, doom from the No camp.’
But, said John, they need to make their minds up because Alistair Darling, their leader, rather insists on a different line. He says repeatedly ‘Of course Scotland could run its own affairs. Of course Scotland could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Of course Scotland could make its own decisions free from UK interference. Its just that we are even better off as part of the UK.’
The truth, insisted John McAllion, is that the UK does not serve Scotland’s needs and hasn’t done for decades. They need us far more than we need them. North Sea oil and gas revenues pour £40bn a year into the UK Treasury, with £1.25 trillion more due in over the next ten years. The UK Treasury and political elite in Whitehall are terrified of losing Scotland. As well as our huge oil and gas reserves, we have vast quantities of renewable energy and we have the highly profitable whisky, engineering and financial services industries too. So, Scotland becoming Independent would be a defeat for the British state itself an enemy of socialism and a warmongering exploiter of peoples worldwide.
Both men agreed the 2014 Referendum result is wide open and that there is every reason to believe working class people will see the advantages Independence brings, not least in avoiding the worst recession in 80 years and the disastrous consequences facing working class people. The UK Government intends to ruthlessly penalise working class people for a crisis caused by the greed and recklessness of the bankers and the rich. An Independence vote in Sept 2014 offers a way to avoid that dreadful fate and to embark on a historic and much more progressive course. Independence, bring it on, both men said as they predicted a Yes majority next year.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
It is another measure of the paucity of argument offered by the defenders of nuclear weapons remaining on the Clyde when David Cameron claims, as he did last week, they are there to protect us from North Korea. It is not clear whether he had been drinking or not!
Kin Yong Un and the poor impoverished, frightened, North Koreans seem, for the moment at least, to have taken the place of the Russians, the Iranians and even the French as our gravest potential enemies in the ‘dangerous world’ the militarists never cease to warn us about. They have invented one supposed threat to Britain’s security after another for the past 50 years to insist we must continue to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation.
The fact remains Britain is one of only 9 ‘rogue’ states with these indiscriminate nuclear weapons of mass civilian slaughter in the world today; the USA, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea being the others. Whilst the US is said to have around 60,000 nuclear warheads, North Korea is suspected of having just one and no one is quite sure if it even works. Be that as it may, launched from a site on land it certainly can’t reach Britain. Korea is 6,000 miles away. Trident on the other hand is a submarine based system constantly at sea and therefore capable of potentially annihilating people in any country in the world.
Furthermore given that it is Britain [and the US] that has been invading and occupying countries all around the world in recent years, perhaps the question most people who share this planet with us will be asking is ‘Who protects us from Britain and America?’
Opinion poll after opinion poll in Scotland show a large majority of people here want rid of Trident. On Saturday that view will again be demonstrated as thousands take to the streets demanding Scotland scraps Trident and leads the way to a nuclear free world.
We in the Scrap Trident coalition want rid of them for many reasons. We are outraged Scotland should be associated internationally with such immoral missiles. They are in the last analysis un-useable militarily. And we firmly believe the £100bn earmarked for a second generation of nuclear weapons would be better spent creating jobs, building houses, hospitals and schools and creating a better world, not threatening to destroy this one.
That’s why I will be marching in Glasgow this Saturday alongside my colleagues in the Scottish Socialist Party. It’s not the first Trident protest the SSP has been involved in these past 15 years and it probably wont be the last. But it is nonetheless where all progressive minded, peace loving, internationalists should be this weekend.
Saturday’s march and rally is the centre piece of a weekend of action against Trident. There are workshops on non-violent direct action on Sunday and a mass blockade of Faslane Naval base on Monday.
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
In death as in life Margaret Thatcher fiercely polarised opinion. History will inevitably record that she governed for her kind, for finance capital and for the elite who believe they have a right to power and privilege. And it is their spokesmen above all who are today proclaiming her many alleged political, economic and social achievements. But in the long run history must distinguish myth from reality.
Whilst it is true that some in the City of London made billions out of Thatcher’s decisions, millions more were pauperised by her. The boardrooms of Britain revered her its true as she helped them maximise their profits, but those profits came from the increased exploitation of the unorganised and the weak. The neo-liberal political establishment today celebrates her legacy and yearns for her return, but billions more are glad to see the back of her.
And the wall-to-wall media coverage her death has attracted reminds us what it is we loathed about her. In the former pit villages and steel towns, including the one I grew up in, no tears will be shed for her passing. She was despised in a way no other British Prime Minister ever was, not even the warmonger and liar Tony Blair. And she was despised above all because she destroyed communities of people and brought premature death to millions. Indeed her wanton acts of brutality, greed and exploitation render redundant the verse of St Francis of Assisi she famously cited on the steps of Downing Street on assuming office in May 1979 - ‘Where their was hope she brought despair, where there was harmony she brought discord, where there was security she brought exploitation and fear’.
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy was mass unemployment and the Poll tax. That’s what she will be remembered above all in working class Britain. She was responsible for appalling levels of poverty, indebtedness and insecurity and the fear that accompanies it. ‘Expert witnesses’ in studios across the land tell us today she was right about the unions and the decrepit state of British industry and made the necessary changes but they are wrong.
They refuse to see her real legacy. She was wrong about the Poll tax, she was wrong about Scotland, she was wrong about privatisation, she was wrong to sell off Britain to City spivs in London in a way and to an extent never seen before. She is also responsible for Britain becoming one of the most unequal societies in the Industrialised world.
And Internationally she disgraced Britain and our values repeatedly with her use of the UN veto and her association with vicious regimes like General Pinochet’s in Chile and the Apartheid Government in South Africa. And history demands we record she goes to her grave having called Nelson Mandela and the ANC ‘terrorists’ for insisting on black majority rule.
And yet it was her flagship policy, the Poll tax, which was most typical of her and her kind. This transparent attempt to shift the burden of tax from the rich to the poor not only came to symbolise her, it finally claimed her. More than 14 million people refused to pay it in the biggest act of mass defiance Britain has ever seen. Her legendary stubbornness meant she was toppled by that rebellion and removed from office by her fellow Tory MP’s, fearing they’d lose their own seats, hung her out to dry before they all ‘hung together’ in the 1992 General Election.
And yet there is one important lesson above all the British labour movement still has to learn from the Thatcher era, and Tony Benn put it best, ‘ the working class in Britain need a leader to stand up for us in the way Thatcher stood up for her class’.