McCluskey and Labour: a view from Scotland

December 7, 2014 at 7:21 pm (elections, Guest post, labour party, scotland, unions, Unite the union, workers)

Guest post by Mick Rice

A CUNNING PLAN?

McCluskey: ultra left?

In 1968 I became a socialist. In 1969 I joined the trade union movement. In 1970 I got a job as a Research Officer for my union, the AEU.

One of my tasks was to prepare a report on what had happened to the union’s policies. In 1969 the union had sent a motion to the Labour party requesting an incoming Labour Government to nationalise the British chemical industry. I phoned the Labour party to find out what had happened. I was put through to Margaret Jackson (subsequently Margaret Beckett ) in the Research Department. Now I have a bit of a soft spot for Margaret Beckett as any politician who admits to ordinary enjoyments (she is a caravan holiday enthusiast) cannot, in my book, be all bad.

She told me – one researcher to another as it were – that the Labour party conference arrangements committee would have merged all such motions into a great big composite. The composite motion would have been written to sound as radical as possible whilst committing the Labour party to nothing whatsoever. The motion would have been rendered meaningless. I was shocked – I was still quite young – that I actually asked why the Labour party would do such a thing. She told me that an incoming Labour Government always sought maximum freedom to do as it pleased. The Labour leadership didn’t want to be saddled with policies decided by members and the unions. She was just telling me how it was and I do not believe that she was a supporter of such behaviour.

I had suspected that the Labour party was not quite “what you see is what you get”, but I was now made privy to the dark arts of political chicanery and double-dealing. Labour, then as now, was a top-down organisation where the members do the work to maintain a “Westminster elite”.

If anything it has become worse. Shortly before the 1997 election how we all ached for a Labour Government. Eighteen years of Tory rule had almost been too much – immigration or Dignitas beckoned if the Tories won a fifth term!

After a hard day’s campaigning one of my mates opined: “You know after 6 months of a Labour Government we are going to feel terribly let down”. The tragedy was that we all knew that it would be true.

In government, the Labour leadership maintained a vice like grip over the party machine and ensured that only its supporters were selected as parliamentary candidates. Some of us thought that things would loosen up a bit once we were in opposition – but not a bit of it. In Falkirk the disgraced Labour MP announced that he would not stand again following his arrest for a punch up in a House of Commons bar. My trade union, Unite, sought to secure the nomination for a union friendly candidate.

The Chair of the constituency Labour party, Steven Deans, who was also a union convenor at Ineos, campaigned to recruit more trade union members into the party. The right wing leadership was horrified as this would mean that their favoured candidate would probably lose. In consequence Ed Milliband called in the Police to investigate Steven Deans for potential fraudulent recruitment! The Police found “insufficient evidence” for a prosecution (basically he had done nothing wrong). By this time his employer had sacked him. Clearly Ineos were encouraged in their anti union victimization by the way the Ed Milliband treated Comrade Deans.

As far as I am aware the Labour party never apologised for its treatment of Steven Deans!

Political bodies are never willing to amend their constitutions when they are winning elections. After all there can be no justification for improving internal democracy when the electors support you! But next year in Scotland the SNP are likely to do very well – some polls indicate that Labour will lose 37 of its 41 Westminster MPs!

Len McCluskey, forced a fresh general secretary election last year because he believed that the union should not be distracted by an internal election campaign around the time of the general election. His re-election means he has a further 2 years as general secretary. He also said that if Labour loses that Unite could disaffiliate and support a new Workers’ Party. It is not often that union general secretaries can be criticised for ultra-leftism, but McCluskey is wrong, a thousand times wrong! Instead of asking union members to disaffiliate he should ask Unite’s Scottish levy payers the simple question:

Do you want the Scottish Labour party to be an independent body?

With the “vested interests” significantly cut back through electoral defeat in Scotland the trade union component of the party must have greater weight! Accordingly, most affiliated unions in Scotland would follow Unite’s lead and do likewise.

Even if Labour doesn’t lose the election and forms a coalition with the LibDems, or has a confidence and supply deal with the SNP, who have vowed never to support a Tory government, Unite should still raise this with its Scottish members.

Of course, an independent Scottish Labour party must also mean that the English and Welsh parties would become independent also. At one stroke the Westminster elite of careerists, ne’er-do-wells and apparatchiks that has dominated the party for so long would be dealt a death blow! Of course there is nothing to stop the new independent Scottish Labour party seeking electoral packs with its sister parties in the UK but control would be in Scotland and the leadership would be in Edinburgh! It will be somewhat easier to ensure leadership accountability on a more local basis and it will also mean that power right across the party will become regional.

Just at a time when Labour becomes more amenable to trade union interests, McCluskey is suggesting abandoning the historic party of the labour movement and setting up a new Workers’ Party.

Members of Unite should force him to see sense.

Affiliated unions in Scotland can change the party for good

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Scottish Labour: vote Findlay and Clark!

November 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm (elections, labour party, left, scotland, socialism)

Jim Murphy claims the Prime Minister behaves like a 'foreign dignitary' on his visits to Scotland

Jim Murphy : skeleton
 
By Dale Street
Neil Findlay MSP is the left challenger for the position of leader of the Scottish Labour Party, with Katy Clark MP standing as the left candidate for deputy leader.

Both of them are committed to rebuilding electoral support for Labour by a return to “the timeless Labour values of community, solidarity, fairness and justice.” They want Labour to adopt policies to attack poverty, unemployment, exploitation in the workplace, and health and wealth inequalities.

Both of them also have an established track record of campaigning for such policies. Unlike one of their competitors in the elections — Jim Murphy MP — they have not discovered such issues only after the resignations of the previous leader and deputy leader.

Neil and Katy have won nominations from Unison, Unite, GMB, UCATT, ASLEF and TSSA.

Constituency Labour Parties backing one or both of the candidates include Glasgow Kelvin, Cunninghame South, Coatbridge and Chryston, Almond Valley, and Carick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Hundreds of CLP and trade union activists have volunteered to help build support for their election campaigns.

In deciding which candidate to support for leader and deputy leader, Scottish Labour members and members of affiliated organisations need to face up to reality and recognise the tasks now confronting the party.

Between 1997 and 2010 Labour Party national membership fell by over 60% (from 440,000 to 180,000). Over the same period Labour lost five million votes and two trade unions disaffiliated from the party.

Scottish Labour membership is now around one fifth of that of the SNP. The party lost the 2007 and 2011 Holyrood elections. Electoral support slumped by a third between 1999 and 2011 and although an overall majority voted “No” in the recent referendum, what had once been Labour urban heartlands voted “Yes”.

Recent opinion polls put Labour on around 23% of the vote and the SNP on 52%. In a Westminster general election this would give Labour just four seats, and the SNP 54.

The politics which have reduced Scottish Labour to this pitiful state are the politics represented and embodied by Jim Murphy.

Murphy voted in favour of spending billions of pounds on war in Iraq. He has also voted in favour of a benefits cap for claimants. That sums up his politics: billions for war, but more attacks on the unemployed and low paid.

In an earlier life as President of the National Union of Students Murphy railroaded through the dumping of NUS policy opposing the scrapping of student grants. On a scale of one to ten, his chances of rebuilding support for Labour among young people are therefore zero.

People in Scotland, like elsewhere, are disenchanted with politicians. Murphy is not going to restore their faith in them. He rented out his property in London, and then exploited the parliamentary allowance of £20,000 to rent a property for himself.

Murphy has certainly won more nominations from career-minded parliamentarians than the candidates of the left. He has also won nominations from small and poorly attended CLP meetings. And the right-wing media have boosted him as the “odds-on favourite”.

But, symptomatically, the only union backing Murphy to date is Community (although USDAW may end up nominating him as well) – and Community is very small, very right-wing, very bureaucratic, and renowned as the union for labour movement careerists.

The problem is not that Murphy has a lot of skeletons in his cupboard. The problem is that he is the skeleton.

If Murphy is elected Scottish Labour leader, the party should rename itself Dignitas Scotland – the only difference being that Dignitas is about people dying with dignity whereas a Murphy-led party would be more likely to die a lonely, miserable, poverty-stricken death in the gutter of Scottish politics.

The time is long overdue for Scottish Labour members to have a leader who is not an embarrassment, one for whom they are not constantly required to apologise.

The last leader invoked Thatcherite language to attack Scotland’s supposed “something for nothing culture”. Her predecessor ran away – quite literally – from political argument. And his predecessor, despite having overall responsibility for the entire Scottish budget, could not even keep track of the rental income from subletting part of his constituency office.

Nominations by CLPs, trade unions and affiliated societies closed last week. The next stage will be to win further support for Neil and Katy in the balloting period, running to 10 December.

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Reports of the “death” of the Scottish Labour Left are exaggerated

November 17, 2014 at 1:03 am (elections, labour party, scotland)

Neil Findlay MSP
Above: Neil Findlay

By Vince Mills, Campaign for Socialism and Red Paper Collective

The quote (actually a misquote) attributed to Mark Twain  that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated, could equally well apply to the Scottish Labour Left.  The vast majority of socialists in the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) campaigned for and voted “no” in the referendum  campaign. This in itself was enough for many in Left groups outside the SLP to consign it to the dustbin of history, rather  perversely given the long anti-nationalist history of the socialist movement.

Of course, and here I have some sympathy, this sat alongside  other accusations that the Scottish Labour Left had made little impact ideologically on the SLP, was numerically small,  and showed little sign of challenging for the political leadership of the party any time soon.

On Saturday 25 October, all of that changed.  It wasn’t just that the room booked for the Campaign for Socialism’s post-referendum analysis in the STUC in Glasgow  had standing room only; it was the renewed sense of purpose and commitment from so many of the speakers and participants.

First up among a high powered list of political, trade union  and local council speakers were Elaine Smith and Neil Findlay, both MSPs.

Elaine Smith argued that the reason for Scottish Labour’s  poor performance in its heartlands of Dundee, Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West Dumbarton was a lack of socialist analysis and socialist solutions.

“The root of the problem is class society; the root of the problem is inequality; the root of the problem is in-work poverty; the root of the problem is unemployment. The root of the problem is avaricious capitalism and our job and the job of the Labour Party, surely, is to root it out.” Neil Findlay spoke next, suggesting in some detail how Scottish Labour might go about the tasks that Elaine Smith had outlined arguing that Scottish Labour had to commit to:

• a policy of full employment;
• establish a national house-building programme to build
council houses and social housing on a grand scale;
• set up a living wage unit in the Scottish government that
would use grants, procurement and every lever of government
to raise the minimum wage to the living wage;
• re-democratise local government, financing services,
freeing councils to set their own taxes again and be held to account
for doing and so beginning to reverse the 40,000 job
losses across Scottish councils;
• end the social care scandal by making social care a rewarding,
fairly paid career and ending the indignity of shorttimed
care visits;
• create quality apprenticeships and new college places
that set young people up for life and develop an industrial
policy that promotes manufacturing and new sustainable
jobs;
• undertake a wholesale review of the Scottish NHS — recruiting
enough staff and rewarding them to ensure an NHS
for the 21st century and ending the increasing spend on the
private sector;
• and, finally, build a charter of workers’ rights and new
legislation on equalities.

Neil Findlay’s contribution was all the more important given the announcement on the day before the conference that Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour Party had resigned, citing unacceptable interference from the UK Labour leadership, and ensuring a Scottish Labour leadership contest.

Neil Findlay has since announced his intention to stand for the vacant position, allowing the Scottish Labour Left to test the support for a Left agenda in the wider party. The anticipation of this challenge on 25 October generated considerable optimism. Since then, the respected left-wing MP Katy Clark has announced that she will stand for Deputy Leader alongside Findley.

This left programme is far from the Utopian promises of the Yes Left because it is actually deliverable and this Labour Left is far from a historical footnote. It may actually be on the verge of its most important hour.

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After the referendum: Scottish left falls in behind SNP

October 3, 2014 at 7:25 am (Cross-post, left, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, Sheridan, Socialist Party, SWP, unions)

bag piper in kilt with rippled Scottish flag Illustration Stock Photo - 3474908

By Dale Street
Cross-posted from Workers Liberty

The working class voted “yes”. The Labour Party is finished. And we need a new mass socialist party.

To one degree or another, and in one form or another, these have been the three main responses of the pro-independence left to the result of the 18 September referendum.

The first element has some degree of truth to it. Three of the four regions which had a “yes” majority (even if not a very large one) are traditional Labour strongholds. The fourth (Dundee) used to be a Labour stronghold, until New Labour decided the sitting Labour MP John McAllion was a liability.

But it is also true that large sections of the working class voted “no”. In any case nationalist separatism stands at odds with the basic labour movement principle of uniting people of different nationalities and national identities.

Any socialist welcoming “the working-class ‘yes’ vote” is welcoming the divisive poison of nationalism penetrating into working-class politics. To try to build on that basis — as the pro-independence left is now attempting — amounts to adding another dose of the same poison.

The demise of Labour? According to the Socialist Party (Scotland):

“13% of USDAW members in Scotland have resigned from the union in protest. Unite is receiving many requests from members looking to cancel their membership because it is affiliated to the Labour Party. Unison is also reporting a series of resignations as workers’ anger over Labour’s role escalates.”
Unlike the SPS, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has pointed out that resigning from a trade union is not a good idea. The SSP Industrial Organiser proposes a different way to “punish” Labour:

“We should organise mass withdrawal from payment of members’ fees to Labour in those unions affiliated to Labour. Demand instead that the unions make the break from Labour and help build a mass, working-class socialist party.”

So members of the CWU — which polled its members in Scotland and then adopted policy in favour of a “no” vote at its national conference — should demand that their union disaffiliate from the Labour Party because Labour took the same position on the referendum as their union?

And so too should members of USDAW and GMB who took democratic decisions in favour of “no”?

Labour advocated a “no” vote. The majority of the electorate took the same position and voted against independence. The usual name for something being decided and implemented on the basis of a majority vote is “democracy”.

The call for unions to disaffiliate from Labour because of Labour’s support for a ‘no’ vote amounts to a divisive nationalist attack on the workers’ movement.

No “no” supporter would support disaffiliation on that basis. And it elevates the nationalist demand for an independent Scotland over and above the right of trade unions to base their policy on internal decision-making processes.

The SWP boasts that “we have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people.” The SPS makes similar claims. The SSP boasts that “2,200 (at the time of writing, over a mere five days) have applied to join the SSP”!

That’s nothing compared to the 18,000 new members claimed by the SNP. Not to worry about that. An article on the SPS website explains: They join the SNP. They discover that it does not have a Marxist programme. They quit in disgust. They join the mass socialist party which the SPS is building.

In terms of building something broader than their own organisations, the SPS advocates building its Trade Union and Socialist Coalition:

“TUSC represents the best opportunity to ensure that anti-cuts, pro-trade-union and socialist candidates stand in the elections in Scotland next May.”

The SWP calls for a new, broader party to bring together “yes” supporters: “It can agree on a basic set of anti-capitalist policies, be democratic, grass-roots-based and centred on activity. It would stand in elections but not be obsessed about them.”

Generously, the SWP would allow “no” supporters into such a party. That people voted ‘no’ “doesn’t mean they are scabs.”

But the last attempt to build a united left party in Scotland collapsed when the SWP and SPS split the SSP by backing Sheridan after he walked out of the SSP. And the political fallout from that split continues today.

The SWP gets round this issue by simply declaring: “This party (i.e. the new party) cannot be defined by the splits in the Scottish Socialist Party a decade ago or about splits in the left at some point.”

The SSP has not put forward any proposals for a broad party of the left. This is because they think that they already are that party, presumably because they are hoping for many more recruits.

The “yes” campaign provided a natural home, playing a leading role in the new mass workers party. Both the SWP and the SPS look forward to Tommy Sheridan for Sheridan’s bandstanding demagogy.

According to the SPS: “If a political figure with a mass base of support among the working class like Tommy Sheridan made such a call, backed by leading trade unionists, socialists, etc., a new working-class party would become a force of thousands within a couple of weeks.”

The problem for the SWP and SPS scenario is that Sheridan has come out in favour of a vote for the SNP in next year’s general election:

“I suggest that we in the Yes movement promote continued unity by backing the most likely independence-supporting candidate at next May’s election. In concrete terms, that means advocating an SNP vote to try and unseat as many pro-No supporters as possible.”

Despite the entrenched hostility between the SSP and Sheridan, the SSP Industrial Organiser, who carries some weight within the SSP, has come out with a similar position:

“In the 2015 Westminster elections, I personally would support the idea of a Yes Alliance, a pro-independence slate of candidates (whatever the exact name) embracing the three parties that were in Yes Scotland – SNP, SSP and Greens – and others who were part of that coalition.”

That’s one of the things about abandoning class-based politics and selling out to nationalism: it develops a dynamic of its own.

The SSP Industrial Organiser is equally enthusiastic about the prospects for the 2016 Holyrood elections:

“All those tens of thousands who fought for a Yes vote could fix their sights on winning an absolute majority of pro-independence MSPs in 2016.

“Referenda are but one means of winning independence. The democratic election of a majority of MSPs who favour independence in 2016 would surely be equally a mandate for Scottish independence?”

Despite its aversion to an electoral alliance with the SNP, the SPS shares the SSP’s perspectives for 2016:

“If the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections resulted in an overwhelming majority for parties that back independence, it could also be a trigger for a mandate for independence… Or it could lead to an immediate referendum in 2016 or 2017.”

Despite the 55%/45% vote against independence in the referendum a fortnight ago, the pro-independence left wants to keep the issue of independence centre-stage, seeks to win trade union disaffiliation from the Labour Party on that basis, and proposes an electoral alliance with the SNP.

And while denouncing the Labour Party for supposedly “denying the Scottish people democracy”, it also looks forward to, and advocates, independence for Scotland in the absence of any further referendum.

Is the pro-independence left now politically dead and beyond resuscitation?

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Scotland – where 45% scold 55% for being feardy goats

September 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm (Rosie B, scotland) ()

The referendum being all over now and the Noes (or the “forces of sanity and reason” as we call ourselves) having it, I have to thank Shiraz Socialist and Tendance Coatesy for sticking to their socialist principles. The contortions that the left and Greens went through to defend their acting as troops for the Scottish nationalist movement have to be seen – well you can see them here, in an excellent round up by Bob of Brockley.

Also Shiraz Socialist’s die-hard enemies, Socialist Unity, have stayed staunch. Here’s an excellent piece by Tommy Kane.

Reflecting on the referendum campaign it’s clear that it’s degenerated into the most polarising, divisive and diversionary political event of our times. Countering this view, some socialists in the Yes camp suggest that the campaign has engendered hope, inspired a revitalisation of left politics and saw record levels of political engagement. These supporters pronounce independence will bring freedom from subjugation and a renewal of democracy, others proclaim it will allows us escape from the supposedly different Scottish and English political cultures, while others assert firmly that a Yes vote can go some way to ‘smashing the British state’ (incidentally not at the top of people’s concerns on the doorsteps). Amongst some there also resides a belief that, at the very least, independence will bring social democracy and a fairer and more just Scotland, because, whisper it, ‘we are more progressive up here’. In order to sustain a clean and seamless Yes campaign these left proponents of this missive appear to have suspended their critical faculties, especially in relation to the SNP’s White Paper, and whether they like it or not, have encouraged a discourse that has appears to have focused predominately on the liberation of ‘Scottish nationhood’.

Greens went weird as well.

Scotland wants to invest in renewable energy, but the money for investment will inevitably have to come from further investment and money raised through oil and gas.

AND YET – one of three key principles of the Green Party is to reduce “dependence on fossil fuels”. Scottish Greens too say they want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

So why are the Green Party supporting an outcome that makes a nation even more dependent on exploiting its oil and gas resources?

I wrote a piece of verse about the contradictory times we found ourselves in:-

And so ends the old order,
With Indyref fever full boil.
Lefties campaign for a border,
Greenies shout Yay for the oil.

This was picked up Helen Dale, a Facebook friend, who quoted it in her piece on the indyref in the libertarian magazine Reason.

As a corporate lawyer in Edinburgh, Helen would have advised her clients to vote No for prudential motives. However as she has now just moved to Australia to act as adviser to a senator in the Liberal Democrat Party, she has backed an iScotland because of its potential for a free market economy.

I hope “yes” wins the day, because I also think Scotland’s robust civic culture would make a fair fist of independence. The socialism would evaporate, sure, but the country would not fall prey to the “resource curse” so common among small, oil-rich nations. That Scotland gifted the world the skeptical Enlightenment would stand it in good stead. Its current inhabitants may prove themselves worthy heirs to Adam Smith, David Hume, and all the rest.

The Yes campaign was everything to everybody. As Ewan Morrison said the members campaigned to:-

Get rid of Trident, raise the minimum wage, lower corporation tax, promote gay and lesbian rights, create a world leading Green economy, exploit oil to the full and become a world leading petro-chemical economy, nationalise the banks, nationalise BP, be more attractive to foreign investment.

So now what happens? Yessers are re-grouping and now some have badged themselves “45”, in memory of their percentage share of the vote. ’45 is a bizarre name for a Scottish nationalist group to give themselves.

Fortyfivepercent

Don’t they remember the last ’45 in Scottish history and its ultimate end?

Culloden-illustration-460

Radical Independence, one of the left routes into nationalist politicking, are holding a conference.

The conference was launched earlier this year with a statement signed by dozens of campaigners, trade unionists, cultural figures and politicians, calling for the creation of an extra-parliamentary independence campaign that puts forward a radical, progressive vision of an independent Scotlan

Meanwhile the Greens have increased their membership and I would guess the SNP itself, however defeated they may seem to be, did run a campaign that pulled up the independence vote from lagging behind to scaring us shitless, may be gathering in old Labour supporters and will still be a power, especially if Nicola Sturgeon is as an effective leader as Salmond.

The Yessers are certain that all their newly energised population are not going to go away and that they can build a new independence movement. That would be appalling for Scottish politics, since the Noes, who have found this refereendum an ordeal which they have vowed will never be repeated, will then vote to keep the indy lot out. I cannot imagine anything less constructive to useful politics than a large chunk of the people voting primarily on this particular issue.

However perhaps it will just fizzle out. According to the Very Public Sociologist:-

Surely this view has been rendered null and void by the intrusion of many millions into the Scottish debates? Unfortunately, for all the networked organisations, the radical independence outfits, and non-affiliated people this is a movement under the undisputed leadership of the SNP. Its reach is powered by a soft left-populist rejection of Westminster and, despite the hopes I have for it, is likely to simply demobilise in the event of a Yes victory. I say this not because it’s convenient, but by looking at the mobilisation of similar movements elsewhere. Remember the mass movement against Le Pen in 2002? Where did it go? What happened to the defeated movement for Quebec independence? Or what about the mobilisation of the grassroots for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign? Even huge working class mobilisations under ultra-correct revolutionary leaderships can quickly fade, such as the ‘victorious’ anti-Poll Tax movement. With radical groups present but by no means hegemonic, I can see Yes heading the same way. I understand you may feel different, but enthusiasm in the absence of a unifying organisation can dim very quickly. Once the job is done, if the job gets done, what next? How can the momentum be maintained at the moment its SNP lynchpin works to shut it down?

Yessers now say they will be mocked when they sing what has become Scotland’s anthem, Flower of Scotland, especially the lines “to be a nation again”. Well, perhaps they could dump it. It’s an embarrassing dirge, with terrible lyrics, remembering a victory over a particularly weak English king 700 years ago. It is even more embarrassing in that it was written in the late 1960s, not the 1700s.

At the opening of the new devolved Holyrood Parliament Burns’ great hymn to democratic humanity was sung by Sheena Wellington. Couldn’t we adopt the last verse as the anthem? The ideas behind it are not nationalistic but universal and noble.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

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TUC: don’t mention the (Ukranian) war!

September 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm (AWL, fascism, posted by JD, scotland, stalinism, TUC, unions)

By Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty):

“Don’t mention the war!” — that well-known line from an episode of the 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers” — should have been the header for the emergency motion entitled “Situation in Ukraine” passed by last week’s TUC congress. (1)

The motion ignored Russia’s ongoing political and military attack on Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It misrepresented the (real but limited) influence exerted by fascist organisations in Ukraine. And its concluding demands sounded left-wing but were in fact politically incoherent.

The motion noted comments by the NATO General Secretary that its recent summit in Wales had been held “in a dramatically changed security environment”. It further noted that this statement came only a day after a Pentagon announcement that 200 US troops were being sent to Ukraine for “training exercises”.

But there is a deliberate triple omission here. The “dramatically changed security environment” is the fact that for the first time since the Second World War the territory of a European country has been seized by that of a neighbouring big power.

In March Russia annexed Crimea. This was followed by Russia supplying separatist forces in south-east Ukraine with weapons, munitions, “volunteer” fighters, military instructors, and political leadership.

In August, with the separatists staring eventual defeat in the face, Russia launched an invasion of south-east Ukraine. It still has troops there. All of this has been omitted from the motion.

The second omission is that the “training exercises” now underway are indeed “training exercises”, and were planned long before Russia launched its campaign of military aggression against Ukraine.

The final omission is that while the motion condemns the presence of 200 US troops in Ukraine it fails to mention the tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks periodically concentrated by Russia at the border with Ukraine.

After briefly expressing concerns about the human suffering caused by the conflict, the motion expressed further concerns about “attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that city’s trade union centre burned to the ground.”

The fact that the Odessa trade union centre was not “burned to the ground” is a side issue. More issue is the misrepresentation. Trade unionists should indeed oppose attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups. And there are organised Ukrainian-fascist groups in Ukraine, even if they currently enjoy only very limited support: in last May’s presidential elections their candidates each secured only around 1% of the vote.

But there are also pro-Russian and ethnic-Russian fascist organisations in Ukraine. These organisations figure prominently in the separatist leadership, which includes members of the fascist “think tank” Izborsky Club. Russian and French fascists have also been identified in the ranks of the separatist armed forces. (2)

The motion concluded with three demands.

The General Council should consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in “the Ukraine”.

But this would mean support for Ukrainian trade unions, whose leaders have repeatedly condemned the separatist movement and Russia’s attacks on their country. In fact, given the role played by fascists amongst the separatists, it amounts to a call for support for the Ukrainian military!

There should be an immediate permanent ceasefire and a peaceful negotiated settlement.

But this would require willingness on both sides. As the TUC adopted this motion separatist leaders declared that they were not bound by the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk (3) and that their goal was to sieze the bulk of Ukrainian territory in order to create “Novorossiya”. (4)

And the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict should be opposed.

Given that there are no proposals to use British troops in the “Ukrainian conflict”, the purpose of such a clause is – at first sight — unclear.

In fact, the clause fits into the overall politics of the motion.

A few Dave-Spart left-wing truisms (support for trade unionists, anti-fascism, opposition to NATO) grafted onto a Basil-Fawlty attitude of “don’t mention the war” (no mention of Russian troops, Russian weaponry, Russian fascists, or Russian invasions).

Trade unionists should argue for their unions to adopt policy based on events in the real world: Russia, Hands Off Ukraine!; Ukrainian-Russian workers unity against oligarchs and neo-liberalism in both countries; Against fascism — both Ukrainian and Russian!

1) http://www.tuc.org.uk/congress/congress-2014/emergency-motion-e1-situation-ukraine
2) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/23635
3) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410624783
4) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410602639

NB: Eric Lee adds

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You Take the High Road

September 19, 2014 at 5:30 am (jazz, Jim D, scotland, song)

The wonderful Maxine Sullivan sings Loch Lomond. Somehow, this seems appropriate right now:

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Neverendum Land

September 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm (Rosie B, scotland)

So we really have gone crazy up here. The polls tighten, the campaigners for an independent Scotland, the Yessers, who thought they could pat themselves on the back for making a respectable showing, now have a chance of winning.

Heady, exhilarating – for those on the Yes side and for those who are cheering them on. For us Unionists – and I never thought of myself as such a thing, just a British citizen with dual nationality living in Scotland – these last weeks have been nerve-wracking. Acute anxiety is my normal state of mind now, and others
feel the same.

The charged, hysterical atmosphere is like the outbreak of World War I, except instead of emanating from the newspapers it’s from the Yes campaign, which has captured the patriotic side of the argument. The cries of traitor, treachery, quisling, the message that this is a heroic struggle and only the cowardly and feart will be on the wrong side of history, the solemn announcement that I have voted Yes, with the same pride as I have joined up to fight for King and Country and the proud badges waved on Facebook profiles. Those of us who think this is a march – well not to disaster but at least disillusion and certainly not the land of vibrant egalitarianism they are prophesying- are handed out metaphorical white feathers.
I’ve been called a traitor, a quisling, tory scum, a hun, and a diet Scot, because I support Scotland’s place in the Union. “
There is the endless lies and propaganda and the rumours of secret weapons, such as the hidden oil field that the UK government is keeping under wraps.

42% of Scots believe in this.

And for armchair generals, substitute armchair economists, for moving flags forward and back to show territory won and lost and the attendant mood swings, think poll-watching, and for the Somme and Paschendale think in the short term at least a tanking economy, austerity, high unemployment, emigration. Ah, but all those will be ours. If it’s a mess, it’s OUR mess.

As some Noes have said, I have seen the intelligent minds of my generation turn into blithering idiots.

The Yessers have campaigned in poetry – offering hope that all ills will be removed by independence. Their ad in today’s Metro showed a baby hand against an adult hand “Vote Yes and keep Scotland’s future in your hands for good”. The No ad gave a list of points of contradicting false claims on the NHS, currency etc by the SNP. The Noes are definitely prose, and reasoning, the Yessers offer a fantasy Scotland. And when did reality ever match up to fantasy?

Ewan Morrison has a brilliant article on the cult-like atmosphere of the Yes campaign and compares it to the SWP.

As a ‘Trot’ we were absolutely banned from talking about what the economy or country would be like ‘after the revolution’; to worry about it, speculate on it or raise questions or even practical suggestions was not permitted. We had to keep all talk of ‘after the revolution’ very vague because our primary goal was to get more people to join our organisation. I learned then that if you keep a promise of a better society utterly ambiguous it takes on power in the imagination of the listener. Everything can be better “after the revolution”. It’s a brilliant recruitment tool because everyone with all their conflicting desires can imagine precisely what they want. The key is to keep it very simple – offer a one word promise. In the case of the Trotskyists it’s ‘Revolution,’ in the case of the independence campaign it’s the word ‘Yes’. Yes can mean five million things. It’s your own personal independence. Believing in Yes is believing in yourself and your ability to determine your own future. Yes is very personal. How can you not say Yes to yourself? You’d have to hate yourself? Yes is about belief in a better you and it uses You as a metaphor for society as if you could simply transpose your good intentions and self belief onto the world of politics.

And as Salmond calls any requests for some sane answers on the currency and other questions “scaremongering” so do the Yes campaigners

From Tom Bradby, a reporter for ITV:-

The essential trouble is that the ‘Yes’ campaign’s argument here is high on emotion, but short on sensible detail. I have said before and wholly stick to the view that their long-term analysis is pretty fair, save perhaps for some exaggeration of the revenue they are likely to glean from North Sea Oil.

… But the ‘Yes’ campaign here is about to bring its incipient nation into being based on an economic policy that would literally be laughed at if it were produced at Westminster.

Alex Salmond has barely set foot inside the House of Commons for a decade and yet on the question of a currency union he claims to know what politicians there are going to do better than they do themselves – and certainly better than all those Westminster analysts whose job it is to talk to these people and study their mindsets, day in day out. It is frankly absurd. Anyone who lived through the Euro crisis at Westminster knows that, but point it out and you are guaranteed a volley of abuse.

all reporters I chatted to yesterday agreed that the level of abuse and even intimidation being meted out by some in the ‘Yes’ campaign was making this referendum a rather unpleasant experience.

And whilst I am sure both sides have been guilty, the truth – uncomfortable as it is to say it – is that most of the heckling and abuse does seem to be coming from the Nationalists…

I don’t think Scotland will turn into Yugoslavia or the Ukraine, or a Middle East country where Shi-ites and Sunnis who have lived as neighbours for generations start killing each. Family fallouts, a reeling economy and poisonous politics are not the end of the world. This is still part of a state that is on the whole civilised. How angry I am that a bunch of nationalists, deluded progressives and ideologues are trying to break it apart.

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No to separation! Yes to workers’ unity!

September 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm (AWL, internationalism, posted by JD, scotland, solidarity, workers)

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By Workers Liberty

Borders divide the working class more than they divide capital. That is the core socialist argument for voting no to separation in Scotland’s referendum on 18 September.

The core argument can be overruled where one nation is conquered and ruled to ruin by another. Then, the national oppression creates divisions as evil as any border. Separation lifts the oppression. Workers are better united by a common struggle in which the workers of the oppressor nation side against their own ruling class’s sway over others.

But Scotland has been an equal partner in British capitalism for centuries. Scottish capitalists were equal partners with English in ruling the British Empire, not victims of it. The core argument applies.

Already Scottish workers will stand outside the big strike on 14 October, because public sector pay terms are a shade different in Scotland.

Some will say that’s all right, because Scottish terms are a shade better than England. But a united struggle could win much better than that shade of not-quite-as-bad.

It is still true today, as when Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, that “the struggle of the proletariat [working class] with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle”.

The first move in workers’ struggles is almost always against conditions, settlements, and laws within the borders where they live. Working-class liberation can be won only by a struggle which unites workers across the world around common aims, transcending those local details. Each new border creates a new hurdle to jump in the effort to unite workers globally. It can be jumped; but it is a new hurdle.

Global capital, however, flows across borders easily. It uses borders to its advantage, by imposing a race to the bottom. Governments compete to win and keep global capitalist investment, by offering lower and lower tax rates for the rich and for business, easier and easier regulation, and more and more beaten-down workf­­orces.

Individual workers move across borders. But often with difficulty: look at Calais, a border within the EU! Even where individual workers can move easily, whole working classes can’t move.

Working classes cannot threaten a government with losing its working class to a neighbour unless it cedes better conditions to workers. Yet global capitalists threaten governments with capital-flight unless they match their neighbours’ sweeteners.

The Scottish National Party promises that in a separate Scotland the NHS will be safer and the Trident nuclear submarines will have to be moved to England.

But it makes no sense to set up a new national frontier on the strength of those promises. It makes no sense to rank such unstable promises above the fundamental, long-term truth that the working class benefits from borders being reduced and removed.

The SNP used to promise that a separate Scotland would join the “arc of prosperity” of small states on the edge of Europe: Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Finland.

Then Iceland, Ireland, and Finland were among the hardest-hit by the 2008 world economic crash and its sequels. Norway is better off only because of its huge oil reserves. Separation will not stop the decline of the North Sea Scottish-British oil reserves, or make the exploitation of declining reserves eco-friendly.

Scottish separatists used to mock socialists who opposed separation on the grounds that we were implicitly defending the British monarchy, NATO, and the British financial system.

Now the SNP says that its separate Scotland will still have the British monarchy, NATO, and the British financial system. Socialists and democrats who oppose separation do not defend the status quo.

Our arguments — against increased nationalism and creating borders — are a world away from the official “no” camp. We have no truck with UKIP types who want to keep the status quo and the Act of Union out of “patriotic” commitment to the United Kingdom.

Will Hutton, no socialist but clear-headed on this issue, put it well in the Observer of 7 September:

“If Britain can’t find a way of sticking together, it is the death of the liberal enlightenment before the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity — a dark omen for the 21st century…

“[But the only alternative is] to trump half-cock quasi-federalism with a proper version… a federal Britain… a wholesale recasting of the British state…

“The first casualty would be the Treasury, which would… become a humbler finance ministry. The next casualty would be the House of Lords…”

For united working-class struggle within a democratic federal Britain, within a democratic federal united Europe! Read the rest of this entry »

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Salmond and Farage: a pair of chancers

September 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm (Europe, politics, populism, posted by JD, reblogged, scotland, UKIP)

By Chris Deerin
(reblogged from From Zoo Ears)

Farage and Salmond: better together?

‘Leaving the EU is about making Britain more successful. At its most basic, it is the ability to take our own decisions. No one cares more about our success than the people who live here and that, ultimately, is why leaving the EU is the best choice for our future.

‘By leaving we can work together to make Britain a more ambitious and dynamic country. The big difference will be that Britain’s future will be in our own hands. Instead of only deciding some issues here in Britain, it will allow us to take decisions on all the major issues.’

These rousing passages are a straightforward encapsulation of the Ukip credo: the kind of thing that spouts easily from Nigel Farage’s lips. They represent the argument the party put before voters in the last European election, where it ended up with more MEPs than any other party.

However, the words aren’t Ukip’s. They are taken from the official website of the SNP. I have simply replaced ‘independence’ with ‘leaving the EU’, and ‘Scotland’ with ‘Britain’. Restore the originals and you have the exact beliefs of Alex Salmond.

As both the Scottish and EU referendum debates develop, the similarities in the cases being advanced by the SNP and Ukip become ever more striking. Both, for example, are at pains to insist their desire for a breach is not based on any suspicion towards or distaste for ‘the other’, whether that ‘other’ be French or English. The dark history of nationalism makes this a necessity.

An anti-EU campaigner will often tell you that he ‘adores Europe’, owns a cottage in the Dordogne and is married to a Belgian or a Luxembourger. A Nat will profess his love for holidays in Cornwall and point out that his favourite auntie lives in Corby.

EU better-off-outers will explain that a Briton has different political and cultural preferences to those of an Italian or a Dane, valid though those other preferences may be. There is no authentic common feeling between us. So why does it make sense to pool our decision-making? Similarly, an SNP politician will say that England and Scotland have taken different ideological paths – one a hop to the Right, the other a skip to the Left. Our shared identity has splintered. It makes practical and democratic sense to break apart the Union and create separate political entities.

Both like to talk of creating a new, smaller, sleeker nirvana-state – let’s be Sweden, or Norway, or Switzerland, they say. Let’s be anything other than what we are.

It may be painful for many Yes voters to accept, but the SNP and Ukip share a founding spasm. It is one that rejects the status quo, that sees only the negative in what exists, that backs away from the values of shared responsibility, fellow-feeling and solidarity, and it is one that could fundamentally change all of our lives. Both are willing to gamble our security, prosperity, influence and key relationships on the basis of a romantic, untested theory. Read the rest of this entry »

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