For a guaranteed 16 hour working week

While a lot of the talk yesterday was about a fairly ambiguous motion on the relationship between the SSP and RISE, in my opinion of much more importance were some of the other motions being debated. In the linked article, Richie Venton talks about one potentially groundbreaking motion which was passed by conference.

Read Richie Venton’s article here —-> clicky clicky clicky

ABELLIO PREPARING FOR WAR USING SCOTRAIL SCABS! by Richie Venton

No tactic is too low for Scotrail as they mount their attacks on workers.
Richie Venton, Scottish Socialist Party TU Organiser, wrote about their scab army on Saturday.

Dutch-owned Abellio, who run Scotrail services for profit, have been caught red-handed coercing and conscripting an army of scabs to defeat industrial action by guards/conductors that are trying to defend public health and safety from these cost-cutting butchers.

Read Richie’s full article here.

Posted in Scottish Politics, World Politics

Krushchev’s Lesson

Nikita Krushchev, who led the Soviet Union from 1953 until he was deposed by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964, is perhaps the least celebrated of the Soviet leaders. Certainly, many of his policies are viewed as erratic and were often ineffective. Regardless, he is generally looked upon favourably for his denouncing of Stalin and ushering in of a less repressive era in the USSR. Ironically, it was this “success” of his that would lead to his downfall, when hardliners in the Kremlin supported Breshnev and brought the Krushchev era to an end. Krushchev recognised as much when the day following his removal from the Kremlin he commented to a friend and colleague:

“I’m old and tired. Let them cope by themselves. I’ve done the main thing. Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn’t suit us anymore and suggesting he retire? Not even a wet spot would have remained where we had been standing. Now everything is different. The fear is gone, and we can talk as equals. That’s my contribution. I won’t put up a fight.”

What Krushchev knew was that his own reforms had sown the seeds of his own downfall. But rather than hastily try to undo his reforms he instead took pride in them. Breshnev had been able to overthrow him because Brezhnev had been able to talk to others about a change of leadership. No-one would have been brave enough or stupid enough to have spoke about a change of leadership during the Stalin era. Krushchev’s defeat was also his victory.

One would hope that in our supposed “enlightened” and more “progressive” Western democracies that Krushchev’s Lesson would be a rather unquestioned element of democracy, whereby those who seek to champion and further spread democracy into more and more areas of our lives would be comfortable with the fact that the same democratic expansions could lead to them being removed from their positions. How many leaders of left wing parties, for example, have claimed that theirs is the most democratic party in their country – only to go on and suspend their party’s constitution when they fear they won’t get their own way? Or in Scotland, where we see RISE claim that everything they do is democratic, yet they put people in key full time paid positions without even so much as a vote or an explanation of how they are to be held accountable.

Thankfully we’re now entering a post-RISE political landscape in Scotland, although no doubt they will refuse to disappear completely and will revert back to some sort of middle class student group much like the ISG was. They do warrant further mention here however as they are a fairly unambiguous example of those who have failed to learn a “Krushchev lesson”. As I mentioned, their leaders continually preach about democracy while refusing to implement anything that could lead to their leadership positions being challenged. Their failure to learn a “Krushchev lesson” is also apparent in their attitudes towards non mainstream media.

During the Scottish referendum campaign it was blindingly obvious to everyone that the Scottish mainstream media was massively biased in favour of the NO campaign. This resulted in a massive growth in popularity for “alternative media” in Scotland during this period as those who supported independence, and even just those who only wanted more reliable information, turned to alternative sources. One such source which rose to prominence (or notoriety) during this period was Wings Over Scotland. Wings popularity seems to be based on the fact that they hold the Unionist media and parties to account. They scrutinise them heavily, and the result is a website which is a treasure trove of evidence regarding the Unionist media’s lies and spin.

During the independence campaign, and pre-RISE, many of the current RISErs enthusiastically supported Wings, regularly sharing posts from the site across all social media platforms. Many gave up their spare time to deliver copies of the Wee Blue Book to potential YES voters. How things have changed now though! No longer are RISE fans of Wings, instead regularly throwing insults that way from their social media accounts. Any insult will suffice, although they seem to like the labels of homophobe and misogynist in particular.

The thing is: what attracted them to Wings and what led them to promote alternative media in the first place is the exact same thing that now leads them to denounce Wings and alternative media with such an intense hatred. They promoted alternative media because they were attracted to the platform it provided to write about and scrutinise the unionists, something which the mainstream media was completely failing to do. What they failed to grasp was that the same platforms could also be used to write about and scrutinise RISE. Once they realised this they turned against these platforms with a vengeance.

They have failed to see alternative media writing about and scrutinising their election campaign as a victory in the growth of alternative media, one which they played a part in. Remember RISE are an insignificance in Scottish politics. They only gained 0.47% of the popular vote. They polled below Tommy Sheridan’s party and even below the Scottish Christian Party – Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship (clicky for analysis of their performance). They are barely mentioned in the mainstream media at all, with almost the only exception to this being Cat Boyd’s column in the small circulation The National. But rather than view the fact that they are getting any coverage at all as a success, or their success in as much as they helped promote alternative media, they are now doing their damnedest to discredit this alternative. Even this site, which putting it generously is “modest” compared to Wings, hasn’t escaped their vitriol with numerous slanders being launched across the internet. In an ironic way the greatest success of the RISErs also ensured their total defeat in the recent election, a defeat that they won’t recover from. Rather than display the peace of mind that Krushchev demonstrated, RISE seem intent on doing as much harm as possible to any source that criticizes them. They’ve totally failed to learn a Krushchev Lesson.

Posted in Scottish Politics

Unionist and Government Media Bias

I don’t want to use this piece to rehash old arguments about the Scottish media’s bias in favour of the NO campaign during Scotland’s independence referendum. Those arguments have been done to death elsewhere. I do want to share some thoughts on the subject however.

While browsing some of our old radio broadcasts I came across a piece where we were discussing the Smith Commission. In particular we noted how Inverclyde Council Leader Cllr McCabe was in the local press declaring his delight at the Smith Commission, and claiming that we now have one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. Cllr McCabe is of course rather famous in Inverclyde for his almost daily displays of political illiteracy. I think what he was displaying here is that he has no idea how many devolved parliaments there are in the world, and was effectively showing off about Scotland being more powerful than Greenland or Madeira. Not much of a boast! In fact, many of the American states actually enjoy significantly more powers than Scotland. You don’t have to be a supporter of full independence to agree that this is not good enough for Scotland and that we deserve better. But New Labour, totally consumed by their sectarian hatred of the SNP, were campaigning for less simply because the nationalists were campaigning for more. YES and NO voters together need to reject this tribal approach to politics. Scotland deserves more powers, not because the SNP says so but because that is what is in Scotland’s best interests. Cllr McCabe and the rest of New Labour need to put their deep rooted loathing of anything that reminds them of the SNP behind them and recognise this simple fact. Otherwise the people will vote to relieve ourselves of New Labour. Judging by Cllr McCabe’s obnoxious and insulting comments almost every day in the local paper, it appears he is actually enjoying New Labour’s decline and approaching political irrelevance.

Although, to get back on topic, one thing I have consistently argued for and would have liked to see included in the report is for BBC Scotland to be devolved to Holyrood. It takes a massive degree of generosity to describe the referendum campaign as “democratic”, given that the state broadcaster was totally anti-independence from the start and made no attempt to avoid bias, instead repeating lie after lie after lie to defeat the YES side and demonise any of us who thought that we could govern ourselves. A democracy can only function when we have a genuinely free press. What we have instead is a press that pushes the agenda of one side.

Many journalists and reporters have responded to this claim from the YES side by saying that they are not coerced into saying anything. We have a fair and free press, they say, because they are not told what to say by their bosses or have their words edited. This is colouring between the lines however.

They only get to say what they say because the bosses already agree with them. That’s how they got to where they are; that’s how they got their job. How many supporters of independence host politics shows on the BBC?, or report on their flagship news programs? None, because if you support independence you don’t get these jobs. These channels are wall to wall unionists because that’s what the bosses want broadcast. They don’t have to tell them what to say or edit their words because they have deliberately hired only people that already agree with them. The effect is a controlled and compliant media. A media that pushes only one agenda. And that is extremely undemocratic. To devolve responsibility for BBC Scotland to Holyrood would allow us to tackle this in built bias. In America they used to have a fairness law which ruled that the media had to give equal coverage to each side of an issue. It worked well, but was repealed at the insistence of the large media companies. We could have something similar in Scotland, but only if responsibility for the media in Scotland lies at Holyrood.

Of course what I propose would be the good kind of control, democratic control. There is another kind of control that we must resist, and that is censorship. The tactics of the BBC in only employing Unionists is a type of censorship, censorship by the back door. But there is a more direct form of censorship whereby the government actively shuts down and silences opposition opinions. On the show local SSP member John spoke at length about the ways the government, via their puppets in the main stream media, use fear to push their agenda.

One way they are doing that just now is using threats of impending financial doom to push their austerity agenda. We must resist austerity. Austerity has been a lie from the start, there is simply no need for it. The first round of austerity saw the bedroom tax. They said they needed to impose the bedroom tax to save the country money, yet the very same week the bedroom tax came into effect they gave the millionaires a tax cut that cost the country three times what the bedroom tax was supposed to save. Why did people accept it then? They accepted it because they were scared by stories of the country going bankrupt.

Now let me make this clear, this is a very wealthy country, which is richer now than it ever has been. So where is the money?, why are we being told we have to cut our public jobs and services? The money is being hoarded by a few rich people who are getting richer and richer, leaving us with less and less. We need a radical redistribution of wealth. Not the impotent policies offered by the politicians, but real change. To take the wealth of this country away from that handful of selfish people and share it out via public spending.

That is the essence of the street campaigning being conducted in Inverclyde by local Scottish Socialist Party activists. We know that austerity is a lie, an ideological attack on the working classes so that rich people can get a wee bit richer. We’re taking that message to every street in Inverclyde. We’re telling people they don’t need to accept the austerity driven cuts being inflicted on them by Cllr McCabe. Get involved, help us spread this message of resistance.

Posted in Inverclyde Politics, Scottish Politics

John MacLean and Inverclyde

On Friday 30th November 1923 a stunned working class population of Scotland read in their newspapers that their great leader, John MacLean, was dead. He was only 44, but years of selfless toil in the service of the people coupled with the hardships he had suffered during successive terms of imprisonment had seriously undermined MacLean’s health. MacLean’s death was a blow to the working class movement, not only in Scotland, but throughout the world. The esteem in which he was held was reflected at his funeral which was attended by over 10,000 people. The poet Hugh MacDiarmid recalled MacLean with the following words, “Scotland has had few men whose names matter, or should matter, to intelligent people. But of these MacLean, next to Burns, was the greatest, and it should be of him with every Scotsman and Scotswoman to the end of time, as it was of Lenin in Russia. When you might talk to a woman who had been a young girl in 1917 and find that the name of Stalin lit no fires, but when you asked her if she had seen Lenin her eyes lit up and her reply was the Russian word which means both beautiful and red. Lenin, she said, was “krassivy, krassivy”. John MacLean too was “krassivy, krassivy”, a description no other Scot has ever deserved”.

At times it seems like everyone in Scotland claims to be following in the footsteps of MacLean, from the Communist Party on the left to the SNP on the right. This has led many to ask the question, was MacLean a socialist or a nationalist? To those who have studied the man, it is obvious he wasn’t a nationalist. His desire to see Scotland independent was not based on a narrow parochialism, but on a much broader understanding of the necessary eventual failure of the British capitalist class and on a belief in internationalism. In fact, the stand that MacLean took on the topic of Scottish independence in the first few decades of the 20th century are remarkably similar to the stance that the Scottish Socialist Party takes now in the first few decades of the 21st century. While this is now regarded as the obvious moral position of any true socialist, in MacLean’s day it was the opposite and led to many criticisms of the man from people who should really have stood by him. As the referendum has shown, history has proven MacLean to be correct, and so we see many people who were always dismissive of MacLean’s politics on independence (such as the ultra London centric Socialist Workers Party) now try to claim MacLean’s name.

While John MacLean’s legacy belongs to the whole of Scotland, he did of course have a special relationship with Inverclyde, and Greenock in particular. Early in 1908 MacLean issued his first pamphlet, The Greenock Jungle. In this early piece of writing MacLean displayed his characteristic concern for the plight of the working classes and anger at the selfishness and insidiousness of the profit chasing classes. The pamphlet itself was a strong indictment of the slaughterhouse methods and trade in diseased meats that was being carried out in Greenock at the time. This pamphlet was a result of the tireless campaigning MacLean did in Greenock. He could often be found at the gates of the slaughterhouse in what used to be Crown Street, addressing the workers as they arrived for or left work. One such worker is prominent in MacLean’s pamphlet, and I’m certainly interested in finding out more about the person.

The Greenock worker who featured so heavily in Maclean’s pamphlet was a Mr Houston. He plays a central role due to the fact that he was the one who exposed many of the practices being carried out by the owners of the slaughterhouses, which included selling diseased meat for human food. It was a practice that targeted poor people, as any diseased meat would be made into “cheap sausages” for being sold to the working classes. MacLean argued that this was a direct cause of tuberculosis among the working class, and as a result of his campaigning a government inspector was appointed to investigate the slaughterhouse conditions.   

Mr Houston deserves further mention for his role in these events. As a socialist, he was fully aware that he was risking his own job by exposing the practices of the slaughter house owners, but he did so anyway as he was driven on by a desire to protect his own class from disease and death. Mr Houston, after 31 years of service, was forced out of work as a result of his whistleblowing. His employer was a broker, who the owners of the slaughterhouses boycotted until they got rid of Mr Houston. When the pamphlet was published, Mr Houston had already been unemployed for 8 months, and MacLean makes an appeal in it to the good people of Greenock to assist in finding Mr Houston new employment. They certainly owed much to him, given his selfless defence of their health to his own detriment. So while the guilty owners continued to enjoy the profits of their enterprises, for only protecting others Mr Houston ended up in poverty. MacLean commented, “Why should the guilty one enjoy such a great privilege, while the innocent one must suffer the worries of unemployment, and the fears and forebodings accompanying the prospect of immediate financial ruin”. MacLean is commenting here on a theme that continues to this day, when we think about the persecution of the likes of Snowden and Manning. I don’t know what eventually became of Mr Houston, if anyone does know I would be delighted to hear from you.

Of course, this affair was not the only time MacLean would visit these parts. We find many references in the history books to MacLean coming here to address the working class. One such reference captures perfectly MacLean’s attitude and enthusiasm for politics. A member of the Scottish District Council recorded, “I stayed with John MacLean and I must say he is the most earnest worker for socialism I have ever met. He has just spent his seven weeks’ holiday preaching socialism in the North of England and Scotland. On my last day he arranged a sail down the Clyde, getting back to Greenock in time to give my last address. After I had left to catch my train to London, MacLean stepped onto the platform and went on with the meeting.”

MacLean also gave up much of his free time to give education to working men and women, and was often giving evening classes in Greenock on the topic of Marxist economics.  

For many though, MacLean will always be remembered as a great anti-war hero, and it is probably for this reason more than any that his memory is so dangerous to the British ruling class, to the extent that his name doesn’t even appear in the approved school text books from which our children learn about the first world war. There is as much a need today for MacLean’s message as there was during that terrible war. As we see our country drift closer and closer to militarism, we need those voices who speak out, those who see the working class as more than mere cannon fodder to be used by our imperialist masters in their illegal wars. The poppy, once a symbol of remembrance of all those wasted lives is now being used by right wing politicians as a symbol of British exceptionalism. We have TV adverts from companies such as Sainsbury’s portraying the First World War as a rather pleasant experience. And now we even have the Royal British Legion attempting to sanitise the war by releasing heavily edited versions of an anti war song, The Green Fields of France, which omits any criticism of the war.

What MacLean knew was that, despite the jingoism and propaganda from the British state, the First World War was not fought to keep us safe. It was a war for colonies, for spheres of influence, for markets. In other words, it was a war for profits. A great Scot and contemporary of MacLean said: “If these men must die, would it not be better to die in their own country fighting for freedom for their class, and for the abolition of war, than to go forth to strange countries and die slaughtering and slaughtered by their brothers that tyrants and profiteers might live?” These sentiments were shared by MacLean.

In the years leading up to the outbreak of war, Britain had seen a great deal of left wing activity, and MacLean was certainly recognised as one of the stalwarts of the left. Between 1911 and 1914 trade union membership had doubled, and Brits were increasingly active in the internationalist socialist circles as well. At the Internationalist Socialist Congress in Copenhagen British socialists were amongst those who agreed that “should war break out, their duty is to intervene to promptly bring it to an end and with all their energies to use the political and economic crisis created by the war to rouse the populace from its slumbers and to hasten the fall of capitalist domination”.

Instead, and much to MacLean’s dismay, when war did indeed break out, many of these same socialists entered their national governments to help the war effort. Leading British socialists, such as Hyndman, actively and enthusiastically supported the war – including speaking on recruitment platforms. While a majority of socialists in the country didn’t sink this low, many did argue that the war could be supported on grounds of defence, to keep us safe from supposed German aggression.

MacLean had no time for either position. He argued right from the start that the war couldn’t be defended on any terms. “Plunderers versus plunderers with the workers as pawns. It is our business as socialists to develop class patriotism, refusing to murder one another for a sordid world capitalism”. MacLean was clear that only socialists could bring about an acceptable end to the war. He insisted that a capitalist settlement of the war could only lead to further wars between the capitalist powers. His position stood out like a sore thumb at the time, but has proven to be correct as the settlement reached at the end of that war lead directly to that other great war of the 20th century – the second world war.

When we look back at the First World War through the eyes of the British state and its propaganda machine, the main stream corporate media, we would be forgiven for believing that there was universal and enthusiastic support for the war in the country. We’re told that “conscientious objectors” were widely hated and considered to be cowards. This of course is a complete misrepresentation of history. The war was in fact deeply unpopular with the population, and there were massive anti-war demonstrations all over the country. In fact, the anti-war movement during the First World War was even larger than what greeted New Labour when they made the despicable and illegal decision to take us to war in Iraq. The greatest threat to Lloyd George’s terrorist regime in London was not the German troops, but the anger of the British working class, which in Scotland was lead by MacLean. In order to impose their will and ensure their monarch got his war with his German cousin, the London government had to enact a series of emergency draconian laws to control the workers, which included suspending many civil liberties and making it illegal to strike.

To MacLean they were even more severe. For speaking out against their war, the British ruling class twice had MacLean jailed in Peterhead. The treatment he received while he was locked up was horrendous, he was drugged and force fed, and this time inside had such an adverse affect on his health that it contributed to his early death in 1923. That the ruling class would turn on MacLean is no surprise. He was after all, according to their own head of military intelligence Basil Thompson, the most dangerous man in Britain. Basil Thompson, we now know from declassified documents was involved in a deliberate campaign to smear MacLean by spreading rumours about his sanity.

The British State knew fine well that MacLean was sane, but the British left were only too keen to jump on this particular bandwagon. MacLean stood for an independent Scotland, which has earned him an everlasting vilification by the British left. All the British writing about MacLean declare him to be insane. Even today, the Socialist Workers Party continues to vilify MacLean due to his stance on independence.  Their reasoning is easy to understand, as due to their own political bigotry they are unable to view any Scot who does not want to be ruled by London as anything other than insane or fascist or racist. Any slander will do.

While the British left vilified MacLean, to the Scottish left he was a hero. Beyond this island he was held in the highest regard by international socialists. In recognition of his principled stand against the mass slaughter of ordinary people in the First World War the Bolsheviks elected MacLean an Honorary President of the First All Russian Congress of Soviets, along with Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht, Adler, and Spiridonova, which was ecstatically received on his beloved Clyde; an area which had become known as Red Clydeside due to the likes of MacLean and many others. He became Lenin’s man in Scotland when the Soviet leader ordered that the Russian Consul be handed over to him. He was refused a visa to visit Russia; he could have travelled illegally but decided not to.

It was a tactical error on MacLean’s part and one which only increased his isolation in British politics. As it transpired, a certain Willie Gallagher took the opportunity to meet Lenin which MacLean had passed up. Like other revolutionaries of the period, MacLean hadn’t fully grasped the significance of the Bolshevik Party, even after the October revolution. With the encouragement of Lenin, Gallagher became instrumental in setting up the Communist Party of Great Britain, largely funded by Moscow wealth. The Bolsheviks regarded MacLean as the authentic voice of the revolution in Britain but he never joined the new party, although he remained a convinced revolutionary and supporter of Lenin.

His own party would never enjoy the success that MacLean’s popularity seemed to indicate it should. Party membership never amounted to more than a few hundred, and votes never more than a few thousand. His tactical errors in failing to meet with Lenin or secure funding from the Soviets were fatal to his political career. He continued to campaign for the Scottish working class right up to his death, but sadly left nothing behind in way of a Bolshevik style political organisation.

Rather than fade into political obscurity, however, MacLean remains every bit as relevant today as he was to those countless working class men who were sent to their unnecessary deaths during the Great War, or to Mr Houston whom he personally campaigned for when the bosses turned on him. Today, MacLean’s message about the necessity of revolution appeals to a new generation who are clamouring for real political change.

In May 1918, when facing jail for inciting the workers to transform war into revolution, he made his famous speech from the dock:

“I am not here as the accused – I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot. In the next five years there is going to be a great world trade depression and the respective governments must turn more and more to the markets of the world to get rid of their produce. And in fifteen years time from the close of this war we are into the next war – if capitalism lasts we cannot escape it. My appeal is to the working class. I appeal exclusively to them because they, and they alone, can bring about the time when the whole world will be in one brotherhood, on a sound economic foundation. That, and that alone, can be the means of bringing about a reorganisation of society. That can only be obtained when the people of the world get the world and retain the world.”

MacLean stood for internationalism, socialism and independence. That message is relevant now more than ever. We must keep the memory of MacLean alive, to ensure that the message did not die with the man.

Posted in Political Philosophy

On Arguing About Racism

My purpose in writing this piece is to try to offer a way to move beyond a current impasse in anti-racism dialogue. The problem arises when the question of whether or not white people can experience racism is asked. On one side are those who argue that white people can not experience racism because racism involves “power plus privilege”, and as we live in a “global white supremacist hegemony” then by definition it is impossible for white people to suffer racism. On the other side we have people pointing out fairly regular occurrences of white people being targeted for abuse simply for being white, which to them is ample evidence of white people actually suffering from racism. The two sides are locked in disagreement, which often descends into nonsensical arguments and accusations of the other side “being part of the problem” of racism. As a result, genuine action against racism is almost zero while student types control the discourse demanding that everyone else accept their definition of a word and verbally abusing anyone who disagrees with them.

I’ve experienced the arrogance of these (usually) white middle class anti-racists recently. The type who with no sense of irony demand that we adopt the definitions they learned on sociology degrees at white middle class first world universities, while simultaneously accusing anyone who rejects these definitions as being part of the “global white supremacist hegemony” problem. For full disclosure, I think white people can suffer from ‘racism’, but that is just because I recognise a rather mundane aspect of the English language – words can have more than one definition. So when we say a black person in America suffered from racism and then also say a white person in Scotland suffered racism, although we have used the same word (racism) we are not equating the two situations. Unfortunately this is not enough for some. I was previously told by members of the Executive Committee that I am no longer welcome in either the SSP or RISE because I identify as a Marxist. That has now been followed up with me being told by members of the Executive Committee that I am no longer welcome because I don’t share the stance that the “power plus privilege” definition of racism is the only acceptable definition. So as it stands I am currently in a state of limbo, I don’t actually know whether I’ve been expelled from SSP and/or RISE for not thinking in the way dictated that I should. I await an official communication from them to settle this one way or the other.

As I said above, I think white people can suffer racism. What usually happens when I say that is I’m then challenged to explain how this can be so, when white people have the privilege. This response misses the point, I tell them, I’m speaking from a different definition of racism. Call the “power plus privilege” definition racism-Φ, and call white people being abused for being white racism-Ψ. We can then see the mistake more clearly: I say “white people can suffer racism-Ψ”, to which it is argued “white people have privilege so can’t suffer racism-Φ”. It misses the point, they are talking passed what I said. When I point this out, that there is more than one definition in play here, they challenge me to explain why my definition should be used instead of theirs. Again, this misses the point. Words can have more than one meaning. These meanings don’t compete with each other, neither is independently more valid than the other. Competent users of a language can more often than not easily deduce what meaning of a word is being used based on the context. If we are talking about a black person in America we are using the racism-Φ meaning; the power plus privilege meaning. If we are talking about a white person in Scotland we are using the racism-Ψ meaning.

My hope here is that we can start to make progress, and get beyond this artificial barrier created by an inability of certain people to accept that others use language differently. Neither side is right or wrong in their usage of the language, they are just different. Certainly, if someone interrupts a discussion about police racism against the African-American population of the USA by saying something like, “yeah, but white people also suffer racism”, then that person is mistaken. Their mistake, however, was in the use of the word ‘also’ not in the use of the word ‘racism’. The word ‘also’ here conflates the different meanings of the word racism, it deliberately equivocates racism-Φ with racism-Ψ in order to shut down a discussion. These people need to be challenged, but it does not follow from this that every person who says that white people can suffer from racism also need to be challenged. To do so just leads to a situation where various injustices are competing with each other to demand our attention, with certain people claiming that only the genuinely ‘racist’ injustices should be tackled. We should reject this position, and to paraphrase Che, we should shake with indignation at EVERY injustice, not try to be clever about which ones deserve our attention and which ones don’t.

This problem finds it roots in the identity politics which currently infects most of the left. As with many modern feminists, the modern anti-racist movement has also lost any sense of class consciousness. This common problem between the two is most visible in the question of domestic labour, which is now largely understood in terms of “unpaid labour” and income for housework. Income is a matter of consumption; class is a question of production. Rarely do modern feminists or anti-racists struggle against the existing labour relations based on the hegemony of global capital. The few exceptions were the historical-materialist feminists and anti-racists of the 70’s and 80’s, who engaged the class consciousness of gender, race and sexuality. Unfortunately this work has largely been abandoned and cut off by the modern feminists and anti-racists due to the rise of identity politics amongst the left.

Racism, contrary to Foucauldian theory, is not simply a matter of asymmetrical power relations. Nor is gender, nor is sexuality. Racism (even understood as only racism-Φ) is not simply oppression, it is not simply the exercise of power by whites over blacks. There is a lot more going on here than simply white versus black. Power is the social and political manifestation of the ownership of the means of production. Clearly the means of production are overwhelmingly owned by whites, but it is a failure of logic to conclude from this that all white people are therefore part of the “global hegemony”. The vast majority of whites don’t own the means of production either. This gives the modern anti-racist a problem if they get this far: it appears that if they are intent on demanding the “power plus privilege” definition of racism be the only one permitted then they are going to have to accept that the vast majority of whites can not be racist, as they have neither the power nor the privilege that comes with ownership of the means of production.

At this stage they play what they believe to be their trump card. All dialogue, they claim, is created by the “global white hegemony” to protect itself, so by taking part in this dialogue all white people are in fact talking from a position of power and privilege as they are talking from the position of the white supremacists. Now I’m no stranger to the argument that the media and politicians use language in a certain way to protect the power of the ruling class, I made that very argument in a previous contribution to this site. However, in claiming that it’s not only the media and politicians but the population at large who take part in this sort of power preserving dialogue, the ‘white middle class-ness’ of these sorts is painfully apparent. Remember, the people I’m talking about here include EC members of the SSP and prominent members of RISE (Scotland’s Left Alliance). They are supposed to represent Scotland’s working class, but comments like these create the impression that they have never actually conversed with anyone from the lower classes. Our language in no way whatsoever resembles the language of the ruling class. If a Rupert Murdoch or Prince Charles were to find themselves in a housing estate in Glasgow or Inverclyde or Dundee they would find the locals totally incomprehensible. The language used by the working class has often evolved through conflict with the ruling class, not to protect it. The language of the working class is rooted in our working class communities, not in some hidden conspiracy to protect the capitalists. And this language which evolved independently and in conflict with the capital hegemony also includes the way many working class people use the term racism (i.e. racism-Ψ). Nothing could be more hegemony protecting than demanding we drop our working class usage of the language in favour of a usage supplied by first world white middle class university students.

Posted in Scottish Politics

The Youth Fetish of the Left

It’s often said that the SNP lost the referendum because they failed to convince the people of Scotland that they had a plausible vision for independence. There is certainly a lot of truth in this. Their arguments were at times perplexing and self defeating. They wanted independence but not independence from the monarchy; independence but not independence from the Bank of England; independence but not independence from NATO. This was the SNP’s undoing and something I hope, but don’t expect, they will address for any future independence referendum.

It is, however, overly simplistic to say that the SNP alone lost the referendum. There were many groups campaigning as part of Yes Scotland, and SSP and RIC activists were easily the match of their SNP counterparts in terms of commitment and input to the cause. Importantly, these groups were anti-monarchy, anti-NATO and in favour of a new Scottish currency (although perhaps in the long term rather than immediately after indy). So while the SNP’s self defeating stance would certainly have cost the YES vote considerably it can’t be the whole story. On the left we must also look at what went wrong and what we need to address for any future vote.

The reasons are of course complex and many of them have been discussed at length elsewhere. There is one problem with the left’s campaigning during the indy ref that hasn’t been discussed much, and that problem was the over-reliance on young activists. On the left we don’t enjoy large donations from millionaires from which to finance our campaigns. This is just a fact of life, and during the indy campaign as with any other it meant that we had to work with what we had; and what we had was a lot of excellent motivated and intelligent young activists. Every party in the country would love to have our activists, it’s the one thing money can’t buy. Just look at the Scottish Labour Party, funded by millionaires but during the recent election had to rely on paid staff to deliver leaflets through the doors because of a total absence of activists.

An over-saturation of young activists becomes a problem, however, when they are required to talk to older generations. Many of them just haven’t developed those skills yet. It’s a combination of a lack of life experience and that irritating habit teenagers have of thinking they are right about everything. We’re often told that the current politicians need to be replaced because they are out of touch with real life. That argument isn’t very convincing if it’s being made by a 16 year old who has never had a proper job and doesn’t intend on getting one for about another 10 years (once he gets his gap year, uni and post grad out the way).

This isn’t just an exercise in hindsight; it has become a genuine problem for the left that a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge. Within a couple of weeks, the Scottish Socialist Party, with a handful of other individuals, will officially launch a new left wing alliance for Scottish elections. As of now, the SSP are the only credible group in this alliance but we hope to attract more to it as time goes by. Indeed, we’re already talking with some other groups. There are a number of things that need to happen for this alliance to be successful, but one of those things is that we must not inherit this “youth fetish” from RIC and the left of the YES movement.

During the indy ref the strong youth element that the left brought with it certainly won the argument among the younger generations. The statistics show that young people voted for independence. On the other hand, the older generations voted overwhelmingly against and we have to accept that the reason for that is our message failed to resonate with them. It failed to do so primarily because it was being delivered mostly by teenagers and young people, who were just unable to connect with the older generations.

The challenge for the left in the future, not just for any future indy referendum but in general, is to ditch this youth fetish. On the left we have a lot more to offer than just a lot of young faces, but a belief has crept in from somewhere that all we need to do is connect with the “youth” and we’ll be victorious. The result of the indy ref should have ended this belief but for some reason it still persists. Let’s just quickly examine the demographics here: the youngest generation eligible to vote is also the smallest in terms of numbers (and therefore potential votes). Further, it is the generation whose members are the least likely to vote. So while there are undoubtedly votes to be won in that demographic, it isn’t hard to see why pinning all your hopes on the youth vote isn’t exactly a strategy for success.

I should point out that I am not anti-youth. In my younger days I was the youth organiser for my branch of the SSP, so I can totally appreciate the hard work all our young activists put in. I’m certainly not calling for an end to their activism or criticizing their commitment. We can’t, however, expect everyone to be convinced by them. In a recent debate about the EU I was told by a teenager that I just don’t “get it” because I’m too old but that if I listen to him he’ll explain it to me. Now let me get this off my chest. I’m not too old! I’m 34. Older, but not old. Am I to seriously accept that someone who believes being in your mid-thirties is akin to having zero intellect is somehow “more in touch with real life” than New Labour or Lib Dem MP’s? I can’t believe many in the electorate will be convinced. That approach (the “thinking you know best about everything just because you’re a teenager” approach) might work when speaking to other teenagers (who of course share the belief that teenagers know best about everything and that no one else’s life experience is ever relevant to political debate), but it only annoys older people. Older people who, let’s not forget, make up a much bigger proportion of the electorate than the youth.

Posted in Political Philosophy, Scottish Politics

Socialism for a Modern Scotland

Socialism

Socialism was an alternative to free market fundamentalism throughout most of the 20th century. Its influence on world development is enormous. Over the past decades, the world has changed dramatically and continues to change rapidly. However, the rapid development of technology has not made the world more just, or freer, or more united. There are millions of people living in extreme poverty, and a continuing trend of deepening social inequality. The processes of globalization have shown even more clearly the barbaric nature of capitalism. Global free markets have created a new injustice, and their “invisible hand” is increasingly transformed into an iron fist. The world economy is divided, into affluent centres and poor peripheries. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Whole countries have been turned into raw material appendages of the multinationals.  There exists a huge gap between rich and poor countries and it provokes conflicts such as the ugly phenomenon of international terrorism.

The inefficiency of the current market, which rules via an unchallenged monopoly, was apparent even in the middle of the last century. Capital is becoming more speculative as money turns into more money without being tied to production. Hundreds of billions of dollars are carried around the world in search of profit. The pinnacle of the liberal “creativity” became the global financial crisis and the ensuing recession. This is the third large-scale economic crisis in the last quarter century.

To socialists, the current catastrophe being suffered by the international financial system was obvious long ago. The world pyramid of fictitious capital has reached such proportions that it threatens to collapse and crush beneath it the real sectors of the economies of many countries.

Now even the most orthodox adherents of the free market are beginning to speak the language of social democracy, although the need for state intervention in the economy has not even been discussed. What the discussion should really focus on is how to make government regulation of the economy most effective.

The world lives today, not just in times of change, but at the time of the change of epochs. Financial, economic, social and environmental issues should be part of a single progressive political plan, and its priority must be the interests of the people.

The Scottish Socialist Party recognises that in our modern age there exist not only serious threats, but also a huge opportunity. To take advantage of this opportunity requires the active use of public resources to stabilize the markets, which is unacceptable from the ideological positions of liberalism. Therefore, the alternative to the old world order can only be a socially oriented economy and a rejection of liberalism. The economy must be subordinate to the interests of society.

Only the socialist and social-democratic parties are able to take current global processes under public control, as well as protect the social rights of the common people and the national interests of their countries. Only they can create a more just and secure society, a society in which the interests of the people come first.

Socialism is not an abstract project; it is a necessary tool with which to reconstruct reality. Its current agenda is the humanization of the social and economic life of the community; ensuring public control over the use of the natural resource potential of the planet; respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens; improving living conditions for present and future generations. Socialism is based on the huge cultural and historical experience of mankind, and on the national, historical and spiritual heritage of each country.

Socialism in Scotland 

The party firmly believes that the economic model of neo-liberalism, implicit in the manifesto of all the major parties, has proven to be a complete failure and cannot continue to be the dominant economic structure in Scotland. Especially since the discovery of North Sea oil, but arguably for the entire history of the union with England, the country has failed to realise a significant part of its potential development. The current economic structure has been systematically unable to solve any social problems and has resulted in further alienation of the people.  

As a party, the SSP is deeply concerned about the situation in the country, the threats and challenges faced by the Scottish society and by every person. Social stratification and increasing inequality have become rampant. A recent report described Scotland as facing a “humanitarian crisis” caused by poverty.[1] Insecurity has lodged in the hearts of millions of people. The human resources of Scotland are being depleted, not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, as our people are forced to move abroad to find work. This is viewed by the party as not just a problem that must be solved immediately, but as a large scale threat to Scottish society and the future of our country.

The Scottish Socialist Party believes that socialism, as a conscious democratic choice in a fully independent Scotland, is needed to protect the long-term interests of Scottish society. Socialist ideas firmly anchored in the spiritual and moral values ​​of the people of Scotland. The party have been instrumental in developing the socialist idea so that it meets the challenges of the 21st century as well as the traditions of the Scottish people and culture. This is what I mean by a “new socialism”.

A “New Socialism”?

The term “new socialism” may be misleading, but not intentionally. I do not mean that socialism has been reinvented in Scotland, just that it has been “revamped”. The core values of our Scottish socialism are the same as they always have been, and are the same as values of other socialists in other places. There is no doubt, however, that the campaign for independence has injected freshness into the Scottish socialist movement and displayed on centre stage the relevance of socialism to 21st century politics.

Socialism can be understood as a promising socio-economic model for the modern age. It inherits all of the previous experience of human civilization, including market experience, but adds our advanced technology, social programs, democratic rights and freedoms. In the modern age, the basic condition of the people is achieved via education. Therefore, new socialism aims to provide free access to knowledge for the betterment of the basic conditions of human life, strengthening the autonomy of the individual. Access to free education is a guarantee of prosperity and security, for the individual and the society.

Socialism should also be understood as a workable government, based on the choice and confidence of the people, which is under rigid democratic control. The state is responsible for the welfare of its citizens and the citizens are responsible for the effectiveness of the state. The people do not exist for the state; the state exists for the people, ensuring full respect for their legitimate rights. The state is primarily a service provider to the people. The most important task of the state is to ensure that one part of society cannot dominate another (for example, to ensure that the media cannot dominate and influence the legal system).

Our socialism would actively use the state for the preservation of the spiritual traditions and values ​​of the people, and the protection of the national culture and languages.

The above ideas may not sound new, and serve to highlight that the “new socialism” I am discussing is in many ways just a continuation of previous socialist movements. However, there are some new ideas which socialism for our modern age must accommodate if it is to appeal to the population. A new socialism must also mean that there is no more “right” or “wrong” socialism; there is not a single ideology which is to be realised on the implementation of the socialist project. There are values ​​that unite the world socialist movement. The European social-democracy focuses on the implementation of democratic alternatives to the private market economy. Latin American countries and China implement socialist principles in the framework of their chosen model of state capitalism. Russians socialists study the Soviet Union and decide what to leave to historians and what to take with them into the future. We cannot build a socialist country in isolation, but that does not imply that we must build the same socialism everywhere. In Scotland we can choose our own path!

So what is it about this new Socialism that will win us support in Scotland? New Socialism involves an active state social policy of social security for its citizens. Basic social guarantees include minimum wages and pensions of at least legislatively mandated social standards, free medical care for all, free education for all, the right to social housing, the normalized cost for utilities and ease of access to the cultural heritage of the nation. This is not about handouts from the state; it is about caring for the main wealth of the country – the people. These are the obligations of any state to its people. The fate of the Soviet Union, amongst others, has demonstrated that if the state is not fulfilling its obligations to the people, then the people will relieve themselves of responsibility for the state.

Our socialism is also to be understood as a socially oriented market economy. The term “market economy” should not be understood in any way that is contrary to socialist ideals, and should definitely not be confused with capitalistic ideas of a free market. Although it does accept one truth that the capitalists got right, that competition is one of the most important aspects of economic justice. As opposed to the capitalists understanding of this truth, however, we use competition to empower the workers, not to forcibly reduce their wages and living conditions.   Socialism, so understood, essentially empowers people to engage in business, and stimulates private initiative and business activities. It allows workers to use their skills to take control of their own labour, which will result in more small businesses and self employed workers.

Acting most fiercely against this competition today, against the “fair rules of the game”, is the government in alliance with the multi-nationals who control capital. Public interest should prevail over the interests of the capitalists. If capitalists ignore the social consequences of their activities, then they have no right to continue in those activities. New Socialism does not accept the rule of unbridled market forces and instead redistributes power over the market; from the capitalists to civil society and the state. By implementing this new Socialism we will strengthen the institutions of civil society that can become a real force, as opposed to excessive government intervention and the unlimited power of the free market.

We are for a market economy but not a market society! The spread of market relations outside of the economy destroys the moral atmosphere in society and hardens people. There can be no market between the people and the government. Important spheres should also be kept beyond the power of the market, such as medical research. Likewise, the national culture should not live by the laws of the market.

Socialism must also embrace a variety of forms of ownership. Any form of property ownership, if law-abiding and competitive[2], has a right to exist. By socialism we do not mean the elimination of private property, but political regulation of property rights and the establishment of state controls over the ownership, disposal and use of the property. Private property is only to be abolished, and replaced with common ownership by the people in the spheres of natural resources, industries of national importance and the cultural heritage of the country.

Socialism in Scotland is now inseparably connected with democracy and can only be developed by relying on the democratic process. The Scottish Socialist Party places particular importance on consolidating all forms of participatory democracy, so that the working classes have the opportunity to influence the decision-making process, to take part in state affairs so to speak. A true representative democracy is a participatory democracy! Our socialism promotes the development of all levels of government and increases the participation of regional and local authorities in solving the pressing problems of life. Our Socialism gives impetus to the development of civil society institutions and promotes community based initiatives that form a proactive stance of the people to protect their interests. In this way our new socialism will be developed in close cooperation with other left wing parties and trade unions.

Another important aspect of our new socialism is respect for the environment. Throughout the world, it is left-wing parties that have elevated environmentalism to the rank of national policy.

Our policies are carefully thought out and offer a realistic path for Scotland to take in the future as a way of establishing the country as one of the leading countries in the world, a country that acts as a beacon to other progressive people around the world. Every great country should have great goals. This “new socialism” of the SSP, socialism for the 21st century both in theory and in practice, is able to respond to real threats and challenges posed to Scotland in our modern age.

Justice and Freedom

Our party shares with the Scottish people the core values ​​of justice, freedom and solidarity. For us socialism is a constant movement to a society of social justice. Justice is to be understood as equality for all people in terms of political rights and freedoms, and the distribution of benefits in accordance with the labour input and the abilities of the person. In short, each person has the right to a decent and dignified life regardless of their place of origin, place of residence, property status or age.

The pursuit of justice is firmly rooted in our national consciousness, in the values ​​passed down from generation to generation through culture, traditions, and historical memory. The party believes that the state has an obligation to ensure that justice is in fact pursued. Therefore the purpose of the development of democratic institutions is to achieve political and social justice. Without this goal, democracy is nothing more than an empty slogan.

Violations of social justice are the main obstacle to the development of the country. Such violations include government corruption and the obscene wealth of the super rich. We reject as arrogant the judgment that success is measured by adaptability to existing free market relations. A person’s potential can only be truly revealed, not in the current harsh conditions of survival, but in reasonably organized economic and social relations which are based on justice.

Within the manifesto of our party there are various policies that are the result of this conception of justice. The gap between the rich and the poor is to be tackled, everyone is to have equal access to educational resources and the health care system, while there is also to be targeted social assistance to poor people. For the Scottish Socialist Party, the idea of ​​justice is not a political slogan, but our main goal. It is evident in each line of our party’s manifesto. It is the common theme between the ultimate goals of the party and the specific tasks that must be addressed today.

Freedom in the socialist tradition is understood as man’s power over circumstances, freedom from exploitation and oppression of man by man. Freedom requires overcoming abject dependence, poverty and fear. Freedom enhances self-determination of the individual and his right to defend his own political position. It is not only the goal of social development, but also a means of building a truly civil society.

Freedom without justice is always and only freedom for the few. Such freedom is nothing but a vulgar selfishness. The Scottish Socialist Party does not believe that freedom can be achieved in the free market. An essential precondition for individual freedom is social security. The free market cannot deliver social security. To have true freedom, freedom for everyone, we must have social security.

The freedom of man is inseparable from his personal responsibility for what is happening around him. A freedom that ignores the rights of other people degenerates into tyranny. Freedom can only be realized in a legal state, with a well established system of justice which is completely impartial. Legal safeguards should be used to provide reliable protection from violence and humiliation, and from the dangers of abuse, fraud and arbitrary power, and to guarantee freedom of conscience, speech and political choice. We firmly believe that freedom and justice are the measure of the development and modernization of the country.

[1]  Press release 4 March 2014, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

[2] “competitive” in this sense means everyone having an equal shot at ownership

Posted in Scottish Politics

The Problem of corrupt Labour MPs

Transcript of speech given by Bill Bonnar of the Scottish Socialist Party on 30/4/2015. A recording can be found by following the link below. Any mistakes contained in this transcript will probably be due to me rather than Bill.

http://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/SSPGlasgowSouth

“This poses a very simple question: Why is every MP in Britain rich? The average intake of the House of Commons is rich people, mostly Tories, and they then use their position as MP’s to get richer. Or they start with relatively modest backgrounds, a lot of Labour MPs, and then they become rich after they enter parliament and again use their parliamentary position to become richer and richer. Let me illustrate it with the example of a west of Scotland MP who now sits in the House of Lords, he retired as an MP at the last election. I’ll not use names because I want to use it as an example, a typical example. He entered parliament in the 1990’s. What was his social-economic status the week before he entered parliament? He was an unemployed former factory worker living in a council house. When he retired as an MP he was a millionaire. How does that work? When your only job is to be an MP, how do you turn being an MP into being a millionaire?

The way you do it, and the way every MP does it the length and breadth of Britain, is you turn being an MP into a family business; you turn it into a business. What he did was quite simple. Of course he’s got his basic salary of almost £70,000 per year, he can also claim his expenses of almost £70,000 per year because he can pay for an office and he can pay for staff and other expenses. So what does he do? And I’m using this as a typical example; he decided he needed an office manager. So he hired his wife to be his office manager. Two problems there. One; his wife, no disrespect to the woman, had no qualifications to work as an office manager. Her job prior to him becoming an MP was she worked on the checkout at Sainsbury’s. And also he didn’t have an office. He then employed his various sons to be political researchers. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a political researcher, but the standard qualification to work as a political researcher would be at least an honours degree. I’ve met some of his sons and they didn’t have two standard grades to rub together. In reality they weren’t researchers; all of that money simply went into his household. And then of course there were all the other expenses he claimed. He claimed his flat in London, his transport back and forward, his food allowance was enormous. Basically if you could claim it he claimed it. He was very good at it, so he basically doubled his income. And then of course having all this spare income he then put it to good use, he went round his constituency and he built up a property portfolio. He bought flats, he bought buildings, and he bought pubs. So that when he retired, he retired a millionaire with a nice little nest egg and now he sits in the House of Lords.

Now I used that not as an extreme example, but as atypical example. A typical example not of Tories, because if that was a description of a Tory MP I think people would just shrug and say “well they’re Tories”. I’m talking about typical West of Scotland Labour MPs who are a million times worse than the Tories. I’ll give you another example, and I will name this one because he’s dead now. Former Labour MP Jimmy Wray who died 2 or 3 years ago, came from a similar background to the first character. His wealth became public knowledge because his family started falling out about who would get the estate. His estate was worth £1.5 million. How does a Labour MP from a working class background in Glasgow end up with £1.5 million when all he’s ever been is a Labour MP?

If you look at that situation and translate it throughout Britain that is what all MPs do. They turn being MPs into businesses. And the other thing they do in particular is they use their position as MPs to go and get other bits of work, so they then become directors of companies, they become consultants. Now leaving aside an obvious point, if you look at the job description of an MP, to be honest to them, it’s immensely demanding. It’s actually two full time jobs written into one. There’s a constituency MP and a parliamentary MP: and if they happen to be junior government minister then it’s a lot more again. So how can they then have a situation where they turn this lucrative MPs job into part time work as they go chasing all the other directorships and consultancies? And that’s how they become wealthy, so that when they leave they’re well looked after. The Scottish Socialist Party has always argued that any elected representative should be elected on a worker’s wage. When we had MSPs in parliament they all took the wage of a skilled worker. Why did we argue for that position? It wasn’t that we were being noble. There are actually sound reasons why we do this. If you remember the expenses scandal two or three years ago, MPs were flipping houses all over the place, it was like a property speculation boom in London as MPs used tax payer’s money to buy and sell houses. Those few MPs who raised their heads above the parapet and tried to justify it were saying things like “well actually it highlights a problem that MPs aren’t paid enough”, “Mps don’t get enough money, that’s why they’re fiddling their expenses, if they were paid properly, a proper rate for the job, not the paltry £70,000 but real wages they wouldn’t have to fiddle the expenses and it would attract precisely the calibre of MP that we need”.

We argue the polar opposite of that, the more money you pay an MP attracts precisely the wrong type of people, because at the end of the day an MP is an elected public servant paid for by the tax payer. His or her job is to represent the public, represent the electors. If you lowered the salary of what MPs get to that of a skilled worker, and if you apply a rigorous transparent expenses system, and if you absolutely rigorously ban this idea that MPs should have paid contracts outside being an MP (which incidentally is banned in most other areas of employment) so that they have one job and there is no conflict of interests: we argue that actually that would attract precisely the kind of MP that you want, someone who is not in it for the money, someone who has got a genuine interest in public service. And get rid of all these people who seeing being an MP as a business, who see it as a way of making money, who see it as a way of building a network of rich contacts. The Tories we know do this all the time. The Labour Party are worse because the Labour Party claim to be the party of the working class, they claim to be the party of social justice, they claim to be the party that will stand up for fairness and the poor while their MPs are enriching themselves at tax payer’s expense. So we need a different type of MP, in exactly the same way we need a different type of MSP.

That proposal about wages is about reforming Westminster, alongside abolishing the House of Lords and abolishing the monarchy and bringing a whole series of reforms. But the cynic amongst us might say “they’ve been trying to do that for 100 years”. What I’ve been suggesting was first suggested at the end of the First World War. Westminster has had no serious reforms in that century, and that’s because it takes the form of a kind of private members club where they all have a commonality of interests to defend. It’s a club of vested interests. Why on earth would they reform that? But we do need to reform it, and the best contribution we can make in Scotland to reforming it is to break away from it. To end it and to build a different political system here in Scotland.

Now to be fair we do have something that is better. The Scottish parliament is better than Westminster (although frankly that wouldn’t be difficult). It is better; it’s much more transparent and much more open. But it’s got its limitations. The campaign for independence isn’t just for independence by itself; it’s a campaign for building a different better Scotland. The Scottish Socialist Party argues that means Scotland should become a republic. What do we mean by that? Do we simply mean an absence of monarchy? Well let’s end the monarchy, let’s end this nonsense of us being subjects of the crown. But that’s the easy bit, that’s straightforward, that’s common sense. It also means radically rethinking our political system in an independent Scotland to make it much more democratic, much more transparent, and much more representative. It’s about extending democracy into every aspect of life, including the workplace. It’s about having a written constitution that entrenches civil rights into that constitution, outlining the rights and responsibilities of citizens. It’s about having a parliament in Scotland that reflects the people who voted for it, reflects it in terms of the diversity, in terms of women’s representation, and in terms of income. Because you can’t have a situation where a parliament claims to reflect the people it represents when they earn two three or four times what their average electors earn. So we would argue that MSPs also need to be on a workers wage because that way they will actually reflect the realities of the people who elect them. So you have two choices, we can continue with the corrupt nest of vipers or we can actually build something which is bigger and better in Scotland in terms of a democratic system. That’s what we argue for as the Scottish Socialist Party, as do others such as SLP. It’s the alternative vision for Scotland.”

Posted in Inverclyde Politics

Meandering through Fuel Poverty, via Yugoslavia and the USSR

Fuel poverty is defined as paying 10 percent or more of your household income on heating and lighting, or in other words 10 percent or more on your gas and electricity bills. Now 10 percent might not sound like much at first, but when you take into account all your other household bills such as rent/mortgage, council tax, food, transport, telephone, childcare, clothes, insurance, debt repayments, and so on it soon becomes apparent that 10 percent of your income is a rather significant amount.

In Inverclyde alone there are roughly 8000 households in fuel poverty. A recent study, which actually appeared on the front page of the Tory friendly Daily Express, found that 84% of Scottish households ration their energy usage during the winter as they can’t afford the bills. 84% of us in an energy rich nation! That is simply not good enough, and it is about time the politicians did something about it. The big energy companies make obscene profits every year, and yet they continue to put our bills up. People have had enough of being ripped off! At the Scottish Socialist Party we want to see the energy industry returned to public ownership to ensure the needs of the people come before the greed of shareholders. That is the essence of socialism – arranging our society and industries so that everyone benefits, not just the rich.

Now of course, any-time we speak about nationalizing industry, there are those who repeat the line that we somehow need private companies. They claim that private investment is what makes our economy work, and that we shouldn’t use government to interfere with the markets in an attempt to solve our nation’s problems. One of the fundamental beliefs held by that sort of person is that if we leave the markets alone and unregulated then the markets will correct themselves and everything will be fine. Despite literally centuries’ worth of evidence to the contrary, many people still accept this faith in private markets unquestioningly.

The ideological universe that these people inhabit is one that has been removed from the social context of the real world. History records that in the 1840’s, when it was becoming apparent that Ireland was facing a famine, a delegation from Ireland visited the Prime Minister of the day (Lord John Russell) to plead for relief for the starving poor people. Russell answered their pleas by reading to them from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, to explain to them that the markets would solve everything and that the government shouldn’t interfere. As a result, over 1 million people starved to death in Ireland. In effect, over a million people starved to death because of the capitalist’s economic ideology.

Fast forward to today, and we see the same dangerous ideology still claiming millions of lives annually: poor people sacrificed at the altar of capitalism. Last year that included 31,000 UK pensioners who died of preventable cold related illnesses, and all because they couldn’t afford to keep their heating on during the winter. Meanwhile, the profits of the biggest six energy companies rose by 77%. At the Scottish Socialist Party we demand that the profiteering be taken out of this vital industry. We should be cutting prices and profits, not people’s lives!

Frankie Boyle was onto something when he noted that to certain people capitalism is a religion. Acolytes believe in its principles even when these are proved wrong. As Frankie says, “Business people, in case you haven’t noticed, dress in costume, go off on retreats together, and speak with the same glassy-eyed passion about their orthodoxy as Christians.” In their world, the market is our God. It’s everywhere. When the market is angry, ‘sacrifices’ have to be made. Go to your nearest scheme, look at the lives of the kids there, and tell me that the market doesn’t demand sacrifices.

Frankie goes on to wonder what kind of God the capitalist’s market actually is. Clearly a God that thinks you shouldn’t receive medical treatment unless you can afford it; that tells us patent profits in the developing world are more important than affordable medicines. It will be interesting to see how their God fares against the Chinese. The Soviet Union was bought off with promises of jeans and cars and cheap stereos. It’ll be difficult to sell the same mirage to China, because they already make all that stuff.

So let’s reject this capitalist notion of free markets, the weight of evidence collected over the centuries is evidence enough that we should. That millions are starving to death while food literally rots in the fields is simply indefensible. It is interesting how famine deaths become ‘mass murder’ only when they occur in a Communist Party-led state. If we use the same criteria that are used to tally up the astronomical death counts attributed to the USSR and PR China, the British Empire is responsible for nearly 50 million deaths in India alone, as a result of the famines in the 1870’s and 1890’s. In fact, in that case there is far more convincing evidence that the deaths were intentional. The historian Mike Davis documents that at the height of the famine grain was being exported for profit outside India, and that foreign observers witnessed British troops massacre starving mobs as they tried to storm the grain silos.

It always galls me how anti-socialists are always going on about the so-called “mass murder” of starvation in communist countries like the Soviet Union and China. Meanwhile in the capitalist world tens of thousands of people are starving to death every single day, even though there is enough food to feed the entire world human population twice over. The famines in the Soviet Union and China were caused by there simply not being enough food to distribute. The constant hunger under capitalism persists even when there is plenty of food. During the famines in Africa a few years ago the countries there continued to export food for profit. Hunger in capitalism exists by design; it is a logical consequence of the capitalist mode of distribution according to profit for the owners rather than human need. Whenever there is a mention of the USSR, the capitalist apologists will say something like “The evil commies starved their own people!!!” But you’ll never hear them say the same thing about Ethiopia or the Congo or any other country where hunger and starvation are a fact of life under capitalism. If communists are “murderers” because they couldn’t wave a magic wand and distribute food that didn’t exist, then capitalists are far worse murderers because they deliberately withhold food and only distribute it according to their own gain no matter how many people are starving.

Of course, these people will say that “socialism doesn’t work”, and that history somehow proves this. They claim as if it were fact that every country that ever tried socialism failed. First of all, even if that were true, it still wouldn’t justify the suffering that capitalism causes around the world. But more importantly it is demonstrably false. Before NATO (led by the USA) went in and totally destroyed their country, the Yugoslavs were leading the way in terms of successful socialism. In the two decades before the crimes committed by NATO, Yugoslavia had an average annual GDP growth of 6.1%, a decent standard of living, free medical care and free education, everyone had a guaranteed right to a job, there was affordable government owned transport and housing, the literacy rate was over 90% and the life expectancy was 72. They achieved all this by implementing their own model of socialism: a mix of public ownership, private investment and workers cooperatives, all of which contributed to give Yugoslavia a higher rate of growth than most western European nations. So let’s just forget that lazy argument that “Socialism doesn’t work”.

Let us instead implement socialist solutions to the problems of our society, problems such as fuel poverty. Let us reject as immoral the government’s own solution that people who can’t afford their heating bills should just put on more clothes, or go to bed early. That sort of attitude by the Tories is demeaning and disgusting. Worse still, it deprives those suffering from fuel poverty from enjoying a true freedom. Freedom in the socialist tradition is understood as man’s power over circumstances, freedom from exploitation and oppression of man by man. Freedom requires overcoming abject dependence, poverty and fear. The exploitation of the masses by the big energy companies, through artificially high fuel bills in order to produce astronomical profits, is one of the biggest threats to the working class today. The current Westminster and Holyrood administrations simply are not doing enough to tackle this problem.

In an independent Scotland the Scottish Socialist Party will campaign to bring North Sea oil and other energy generating industries into the public sector, so that we can eliminate fuel poverty as well as invest in protection of the environment and developing renewable energy. Under devolution, the SSP is committed to campaigning for responsibility for energy to be transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament and for the wealth of Scottish energy resources to be brought into public ownership. This will allow us to put people, and the planet, before profit.

As Colin Fox recently observed in his pamphlet on the subject, fuel poverty is developing into a political crisis in Scotland and it is not unlike the one we faced in the late 80’s with the Poll Tax. In that instance the Tories introduced a highly regressive tax, one which bore no relation to a person’s ability to pay, and just like today’s fuel bills they demanded people paid when they didn’t have the money to do so. In the end the poll tax was abolished because 14 million people refused to pay it. There are many important lessons to be learned from the anti-poll tax struggle in terms of fighting fuel poverty. Most importantly is to realise that opposition to injustice is right and proper.

So if you, like us, feel a sense of indignation at injustices like fuel poverty, perhaps you will find a home in the Scottish Socialist Party. Let me take this opportunity to invite you along to one of our meetings, you will be warmly welcomed. You can find us Facebook or Twitter, or visit www.scottishsocialistparty.org, for more info.