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.
Pete Radcliff writes:
There are some particularly unpleasant sectarians in important positions on the left, in Nottingham and elsewhere, who vilely denounce my friends in the AWL (as well as me) as ‘Zionist’ or ‘pro-imperialists’ – because whilst supporting the Palestinians they advocate a 2 states solution for Israel/ Palestine – or they accuse the AWL of being ‘racists’ because they have always criticised ‘Political Islamism’.
There was a recent attempt by student union officers, under the influence of a group called the ‘Student Broad Left’ in UCL, to ‘no platform the AWL’. They basically argued that the AWL was a physical threat to Muslims because the AWL supported a motion to the NEC of the NUS written by a Kurdish student officer from Edinburgh. It is pretty bizarre stuff – to support a campaign against ISIS makes you Islamophobic and a physical threat to Muslims. Here is my friend and comrade Omar Raii‘s response: http://uclu.org/blogs/omar-raii/rejoinder-to-awls-detractors
The latest edition of Socialist Worker carries an extraordinary appeal for far-left unity, closing with the following observations:
The problem is the extreme fragmentation of the radical left, compounded by the mutual hostility that exists among these fragments. This is, if anything, worse in Scotland than it is in England and Wales. Wallowing in the rights and wrongs of these divisions is futile and self-destructive.
The combination of the Scottish referendum and Ukip’s rise demands that we change.
We have to shake off the petty narcissism of our different projects and work together to create united left wing alternatives to neoliberalism both sides of the border.
History will judge us very harshly if we fail.
Those of us who, over the years, have witnessed the SWP’s unique combination of self-important bombast, ultra-sectarianism towards others on the left, opportunistic grovelling to the likes of Galloway, intolerance of internal dissent and regular expulsions of oppositionists, will have difficulty suppressing our laughter – especially at the stuff about “wallowing in the rights and wrongs of these divisions” and the wonderful phrase “petty narcissism’ which just about sums up the present SWP leadership and much of its middle cadre.
Unity on the far left would be a wonderful thing, but at the moment it looks further away than ever. And it seems (to put it mildly) highly unlikely that the SWP will have any positive role to play in the process of honest accounting and open debate that will be necessary in order to eventually achieve this desirable but elusive objective.
In the meanwhile, serious socialists would be better advised to devote their energies to work in the labour and trade union movement.
Pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine: our enemy’s enemies are our friends?
|Guest post by Dave McGuire|
Since the break-up of Yugoslavia the British left has been split along the following lines; one side of the divide has come to fetishise imperialism becoming uber anti-imperialists on the other side are the third camp socialists. Here I consider the consequences of the ubers approach to some of the major events of the last two decades.
One of their most striking characteristics has been the reworking of the Stalinists framework for viewing the world. The Stalinists divided the world between the socialist and imperialist camp. Behind this division was the idea that Stalin’s Russia was building socialism and so was progressive in relation to capitalism. In the 1930s much Marxist literature including that of the Trotskyists, was devoted to showing the superiority of the planned economy.
This was always a monstrous calumny against the idea of workers power and socialism, Stalin’s Russia was the victory of the counter revolution and a regression from capitalism. By the early post war years this was plain to see to anyone who cared to look – what society could be called an advance on capitalism were slave labour was integral to its economy?
Today the Uber anti-imperialists look at the world through a similar bi-polar lens. The division however is no longer based on the positive, if erroneous, view that the Stalinist states were an advance on capitalism. Rather they divide the world solely on the negative; opposition to whatever the imperialists and `their stooges’ (such as the Maidan revolt, the Iraqi trade unions and the Kurds) do, and support for nearly anyone who is seen to be opposing them. In this redrawn view of the world there is no need for any concrete analysis of the forces ‘fighting imperialism’ – whether these forces are progressive, reactionary or working class – all are lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass, the “anti-imperialist” camp. Most powerful of those aligned against the West is Russia and its satellites and allies, such as the mass murderer Assad. From the struggles in Eastern Europe, through the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, into the Arab spring and now around the Ukraine, almost all international confrontations all are understood through this bi-polar analysis – either one is in the imperialist or anti-imperialist camp. Even the struggle against the barbarians of Isis is seen by some through this lens.
The most significant consequence of the Ubers’ view is that they lose the centrality of the working class both as the driving force in history and as the focus for socialists. Filling this vacuum is not there abstract catch all notion of anti-imperialism but the political results of their campist view nihilism. They have switched tracks from being consistent democrats, supporters of labour movements and advocates of socialism to being cheer-leaders for countries and movements who are against the West and in many instances against progress itself.
The starting point for this regression is their assertion that any military intervention by the west is always wrong. While socialists should never give positive support to their governments, and in most instances should be against interventions … “most” does not mean not “all.” In some cases the rule should be broken, for example NATO bombing in Kosovo, and Libya to name two, in both instances the consequence of non-intervention would have led to massacres and the enhancement of Serb nationalism/imperialism (Kosovo) and Gaddafi (Libya). So why would one be against intervention in principle? For sure the Ubers would be sorry to see massacres happen, but they simply have to oppose anything the West does, as the ‘principle’ of non-intervention transcends all other considerations. Read the rest of this entry »
From the AWL’s paper Solidarity and the Workers Liberty website:
Which “us”, which “them”?
“There are five million of us in Scotland, but sixty million in the rest of Britain. We’ll always be in a minority. That’s why we’ll never get the government we want.”
That’s the SNP case for a ‘yes’ vote on 18 September. Anyone who has attended referendum debates will have heard this argument – word-for-word – from SNP MSPs.
Even if not always expressed in exactly the same terms, that’s also the argument being fired back on the doorsteps by people who are saying that they will vote ‘yes’ on Thursday of next week.
That argument also explains why socialists should oppose a ‘yes’ vote.
“We in Scotland”, from a socialist perspective, are not in a minority.
The “we” that counts for socialists are the working class: people who work, the unemployed, those retired after a life of work, and their families. They are the majority of the population in Scotland, and they are the majority of the population in the rest of Britain.
This is not a coincidence or some transient state of affairs. Capitalism, by definition, is a society based on massive inequalities of wealth and power. A small minority lives off the wealth created by the majority of the population.
That is why, for socialists, it makes no sense to say that “we” are in a minority or to accept that argument from other people. In England, in Scotland, in Britain, “we” are the overwhelming majority of the population.
We might not, and do not, get the government we want.
But that is not because we live in a state called Britain. It is because of the checks and controls over elected government which exist in every capitalist country (and which would also operate in an independent Scotland). Read the rest of this entry »
But today’s ‘Great Lives’ on BBC Radio 4, introduced by the former Tory MP Matthew Parris (a good broadcaster, despite his politics) gave the life and thought of Antonio Gramsci affair hearing.
Dr Tom Shakespeare, a disability activist and former Euro-Communist, supported by Professor Anne Sassoon (‘expert witness’) presented a sympathetic and generally fair profile of Gramsci that is well worth listening to, here.
Naturally, I don’t agree with the Euro-Communist slant of the presentation, but that doesn’t detract (much) from the quality of the case put forward by Shakespeare and Sassoon, which will, hopefully, introduce a lot of new people to the ideas of this heroic figure and giant socialist intellect.
Once you’ve listened, you could do a lot worse than move on to this…
Please forward on to union brothers and sisters.
Dear Friends, Comrades and Family,
As you know, Tom died on the afternoon of Tuesday 5 August 2014. The funeral will be held at Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve, at 2pm on Thursday 14th August (details of how to get there below). It will be a secular celebration, followed by a natural burial, in the woodland. The reception will be held at the Fox and Hounds, Surbiton from approximately 5 p.m
Dress however you feel most appropriate, please bear in mind the burial will take place in woodland, so you should wear shoes which are relatively easy to walk in.
Flowers: We ask that if you would like to bring / send flowers, they be hand-tied rather than wreaths (no plastic, please). Tom was not a man who would have been hugely concerned with his own funeral but would have approved of flowers; if you would prefer to recognise the occasion in another way, you might like to make a donation to Keep Our NHS Public or the Doncaster Care UK strikers, as Tom was passionately committed to public healthcare and we appreciate all that the health professionals did for him toward the end of his life.
Thank you to everybody who has already contacted us to send love, solidarity and support, it really is appreciated.
With love and solidarity,
Johnnie Byrne and the Cashman Family
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting to Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve
Clandon Wood Natural Burial Reserve,
Set Sat Nav to Epsom Road, GU4 7TT
Parking available at the Burial Reserve
By Public Transport
Nearest train station is Clandon, which is served by trains from London Waterloo and Guildford.
478 GUILDFORD to LEATHERHEAD – Operated by Reptons Coaches
462 / 463 GUILDFORD to WOKING – Operated by Arriva
479 / 489 GUILDFORD to EPSOM – Operated by Excetera
It is a thirty minute walk from Clandon Station to the burial ground, unless you prefer to walk we will be arranging to collect people from The Onslow Arms, a pub on The Steet, West Clandon, very close to the station. Click here for map of The Onlow Arms
Getting to the reception at Fox and Hounds.
60 Portsmouth Rd
Parking: Small car park at rear of pub, free street parking from 4pm locally, if both are full there are a number of local public car parks.
We hope to arrange to drive, all or most people travelling by public transport, to the reception. Please speak to Alastair, on the day, if you have space in your car.
By Public Transport:
Nearest train station is Surbiton (5 mins walk), trains run direct from Clandon.
We hope to arrange to drive, all or most people travelling by public transport, to the reception. Please speak to Alastair, on the day, if you do not have a car.
This article by Jon Lansman was written before this weekend’s Labour Policy Forum and first appeared at Left Futures . We think it makes some very important points about the present state of the Labour-union link:
Doubts about this weekend’s meeting of Labour’s national policy forum have already been raised by Jon Cruddas’s comments (£) about the “dead hand” of central control, which I argued remained a problem because of mistakes by Ed Miliband. Of course, party managers have ensured that Cruddas and policy forum chair, Angela Eagle, attempt to present a picture of Labour “united by a single desire” for “big reform, not big spending.” Press commentators at the Independent and Guardian reveal the truth – that party managers are set on preventing commitments to necessary, financially prudent and popular reforms like taking railways back into the state sector at the end of current franchises. As Patrick Wintour puts it:
Ed Miliband is facing a weekend of battles behind closed doors to persuade Labour party activists to back his manifesto, which faces grassroots challenges over railway renationalisation, welfare caps and labour regulation.
Note the reference to “party activists” and “grassroots challenges“. In spite of all the rows in recent years about the “power of the trade unions”, reaching a climax in the Collins report earlier this year, the pressure for a radical bold programme comes not from ‘union barons’ but from party activists. And there is every prospect that the trade unions will this time, as on almost every occasion in the party’s history, allow Labour’s leadership to get its way. Read the rest of this entry »
I didn’t know Fran Broady, though I’m sure our paths must have crossed once or twice, as we were both members of the I-CL (International-Communist League, forerunner of the AWL) in the mid-1970s. I certainly knew her by repute, and was aware of the respect she seemed to inspire in many comrades. She was one of a number of working class autodidacts who joined the Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist movement in the UK in the 1970s, but are all too rare in the ranks of what passes for the far-left today. Comrades like Fran, and the contribution they made, deserve to be remembered. We republish an appreciation by the AWL’s Martin Thomas, followed by extracts from an article by Fran on Eleanor Marx:
Fran Broady, who was a leading member of our organisation in the 1970s, died on 18 May at the age of 75.
Fran met us in 1970, when we were an opposition tendency in IS (forerunner of, but very much more open than, today’s SWP). The IS/SWP expelled our tendency in December 1971, because of our campaign against the switch of line to “No to the Common Market” from advocating European workers’ unity. Fran chose our small expelled group without hesitation.
I remember a conversation with a student member of another left group in 1972, when we were labouring to get a circulation for our new, small, primitively-produced newspaper.
He liked the paper because it combined activist reporting with more theoretical articles, obviously (he said) by well-read writers. The article he pointed to was one by Fran (“Slaves of the slaves”, Workers’ Fight 11, 23/07/72).
“In the family, the man is the boss and the woman the worker… We have a long struggle ahead of us to establish our rights as human beings. Laws alone will never do that. We will have to do it ourselves…
“It is not enough to confine ourselves to fighting for women’s rights. We must take up our place in the working class and fight on all fronts, the economic, the political, and the ideological”.
Yet Fran’s formal education had been limited. She was working in a factory when she first met us; she later worked in other jobs, including for many years for Manchester City Council in a women’s hostel.
I remember her telling me about her first laborious effort to read the Communist Manifesto. The unfamiliar word “proletarians” was in the first section heading. Fran looked it up in a dictionary: “Someone who owns nothing but their children”.
She quickly educated herself in Marxism. Characteristic, also, was her first excursion to sell a socialist newspaper (Socialist Worker, it would have been). She sold some copies at a factory gate, but had one left as she travelled home. So she buttonholed the bus driver and sold it to him.
She was active in the lively women’s movement of the early 1970s, and part of setting up one of the first women’s refuges in Britain, in Manchester in 1972.
Her leaning was to ebullient polemic rather than subtle tactics. In 1976, this made her part of a dispute inside the women’s fraction of our organisation (then called I-CL), with Fran and Marian Mound regarding the others (Pat Longman, Michelle Ryan, Juliet Ash) as tending to political self-effacement in the name of movement-building, and the others regarding Fran and Marian as abstractly declamatory.
The dispute was transcended (with no dead-end aftermath) by the “transitional slogan” of a working-class-based women’s movement.
Fran’s domestic life was not smooth. Her husband Dave Broady, for whom I wrote an obituary in Solidarity just last month, was an angry, unsettled character.
Eventually Fran drifted out of activity. But her ideas, and her special admiration for Frederick Engels above other Marxist writers, didn’t change. She was active in the union; read our paper; donated money from time to time.
Her last years, after retiring from work, were difficult. Her health was poor: hypothyroidism, diabetes, arthritis. Her son David died suddenly in 2012, at the age of 47. Her ex-husband Dave was jailed for manslaughter in 2008, and then died in unclear circumstances. Relations with her daughters Karen and Rachel were not easy.
In January 2014, Fran collapsed at home and was taken to hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. At first she mended well: she was interested and pleased when I took her a copy of our new book of cartoons from the US socialist press, 1930s to 1950s. But after the pneumonia was cured, she remained weak and declined towards death.
We send our condolences to Fran’s family and friends, and especially to her daughter Karen who works with AWL in Manchester.
I-CL National Committee, 1975: Fran is second from left at the front (with scarf)
* Karen Broady adds: Fran’s funeral will be on Friday 30 May at Manchester Crematorium, Barlow Moor Road, M21 7GZ at 3.30pm in the New Chapel.
Fran on Eleanor Marx
Eleanor Marx was born into the workshop and armoury of scientific socialism on the 16 January 1855.
Her father Karl Manx was immersed in the economic research for his great work, Capital. Volume 1 of Capital, which appeared in 1867, was to be decisive in transforming socialism from a moral ideal to a theory based on the most exact analysis of capitalist society and the contradictions driving towards its overthrow.
Meanwhile, the Marx family was plagued by illness and abject poverty. They had been forced into exile in Britain after Karl Marx’s active participation in the German revolution of 1848, and Marx was keeping his family through journalistic work supplemented by help from his friend and comrade, Friedrich Engels.
Eleanor was the Marx’s sixth child. They had already lost two sons and a daughter and were left with three girls, Jenny, Laura and Eleanor.
Eleanor Marx, more notably then either of her sisters, was to grow into a dedicated fighter for socialism. She organised and led the unskilled workers of the East End of London, and was for decades one of the foremost fighters in the British labour movement for the cause of working class socialist internationalism.
We republish, below, an important article by long-standing Labour and Unite leftist, Jon Lansman, from the Left Futures blog. Jon Seems to share my misgivings about the proposed merger/’transfer’ between PCS and Unite:
Above: McCluskey and Serwotka discuss a new union … and party?
Discussions are, we hear, proceeding apace between Unite and civil service union, PCS, about what has until now been described within PCS as a merger but at the recent Unite executive (at which Len McCluskey got its backing for formal talks) was described as a “transfer of engagements“, aka “a takeover“. Many details remain to be discussed, but what has already been agreed is that, if it happens, PCS would in January 2015 become part of Unite, under the existing Unite rulebook, with its current Labour Party affiliation arrangements.
It is clear that both Len McCluskey and Mark Serwotka are personally very committed to it. As an active Unite member, I’ve been a strong supporter of Len McCluskey in both elections he has fought for General Secretary. I also admire Mark Serwotka, who is an excellent communicator, with progressive and non-sectarian politics, and who is clearly popular with a very large section of his members. But I’m unconvinced of the case for bringing the two unions together, for which there seems to be little industrial logic.
The main motivation for merger talks, according to the pre-conference briefing recently produced for PCS members, is “the creation of a new, powerful force in the public sector adapted to today’s changing industrial circumstances that can deliver more for members.” But Unite is predominantly a private sector union. Whilst it has important groups of workers in health, local government and education, it is a relatively small player in those sectors. The vast majority of PCS members would join Unite’s relatively tiny number of civil service members (mainly in the MoD) in a new civil service sector. But Len McCluskey, interviewed in the same briefing, says:
If you did decide to join us, you would bring invaluable experience. In my opinion it could be the catalyst to creating a very powerful public sector force, linking central and local government, health, and education, to build a much stronger coalition.”
My interpretation of this is that there is no pretence that there is necessarily an industrial logic for a merger today. But creating “the second largest public sector union” today, “a fighting-back union” unafraid of backing workers prepared to take strike action to defend pubic services and their jobs, could be a “catalyst” to becoming the largest public sector union sometime soon.
Certainly, that’s the way some people in Unison see it. It is “a statement of intent to launch a competitive challenge to UNISON in the public services” says the Unison Active website. Some may see that as sour grapes for failing to achieve what Unison Active describes as the”impeccable trade union industrial logic” for the creation of “a single public service union” with the merger of PCS and Unison (never mind Unite & the GMB, but did they forget the teachers? – Ed). Others argue that Unison has brought it upon itself. Jon Rogers, left member of Unison’s executive, argues that “friends in UNISON need to reflect upon why no other union … ever wants to consider merging with us“.