Pride! When Lesbians and Gays Supported the Miners

September 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm (AWL, cinema, class, gay, history, Jim D, lesbian, LGBT, solidarity, Thatcher, unions, workers)

I ran into Comrade Clive Bradley over the weekend, and he was warm in his praise for the film Pride, which depicts (albeit in “feel-good” style à la The Full Monty and Made in Dagenham) the role of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the great 1984-5 strike.

Clive was a prominent member of LGSM at the time, although he’s not portrayed in the film.

Here’s an interview that Workers Liberty’s paper Solidarity did with Clive a couple of weeks ago, just after the film’s release. There is also a review of the film, which I haven’t republished, but which can be read here.

“The miners needed solidarity”

Solidarity: What was LGSM and what did it do?

Clive: It was a group that was set up of lesbians and gay men set up to support the miner’s strike. It has to be said it was initially mainly gay men, but more and more women got involved over the time. Practically it raised money for the miners who were on strike for a year. Mainly by standing outside lesbian and gay pubs rattling buckets, it raised quite a lot of money. This was sent to a particular mining community in south Wales, in the Dulais valley, with which connections had been made.

Solidarity: Why did this get started, and how did you get involved?

Clive: It was the idea of two people in particular, Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson. Both are dramatised in the movie. They put out a call at Pride in ‘84 and organised a meeting at “Gay Is the Word” bookshop in London. At that time I was just moving to London from Manchester and was a member of Socialist Organiser [forerunner of the AWL]. It’s not rocket science to see how I got involved.

I went to the second ever meeting of LGSM. I was active in supporting the miners and thought it was a brilliant initiative. It proved to have a very powerful effect on lesbian and gay men and on the miners. The NUM went on to lead the pride demonstration in August 1985. The NUM, a traditional union, not famous for its view on matters such as lesbian and gay rights, became quite prominent in the changing policy on gay rights in the Labour Party.

Solidarity: What impact did it have in the gay community, and what arguments did LGSM make about why gay people should support the miners?

Clive: The strike lasted for a whole year and divided the country, divided everybody. A lot of people supported the miners and didn’t need to be persuaded, but we argued that we needed the miners to win. If the miners lost then the Tory government would be going for everybody, and these lesbian and gay communities would be an easy target. People would put a lot of money into the bucket to show solidarity — presumably a lot of money they didn’t have in many cases. LGSM was the first really concrete example of how an “autonomous” movement of the “specially oppressed” (as we used to say) could struggle alongside the organised working class, and transform working-class consciousness in the process.

Solidarity: Were other left groups involved in LGSM? What was their attitude to it?

Clive: Some members of different left groups were personally involved, even members of Militant [forerunner of the Socialist Party] and the SWP, whose organisations were more hostile to the project. Militant , for example, generally argued that any kind of autonomous organisation was necessarily divisive. LGSM and Women Against Pit Closures, etc. showed that quite the reverse was true.

Solidarity: How was LGSM received in the mining communities?

Clive: The film does this quite cleverly. It is basically a rom com between two communities. The film shows you both acceptance and hostility, but a growing acceptance. That isn’t far off what actually happened.

I went to South Wales twice, the second time when the strike was actually finishing in March ‘85. That was very emotional for all of us. My own experience was that people couldn’t really have been more welcoming.

The first time we went down, there was a minibus load of us, we were being put up in people’s houses, that was the deal. We all went down to the miner’s welfare in the evening to sing songs and get drunk. It was completely fine, no hostility at all.

The reality was we were raising money for them. The miners needed solidarity, and I’m sure if people were at first dubious about where the solidarity came from, need overcame that. And, of course, as you make contact with people you realise that you have more in common than you initially thought. Why the suspicions broke down, as I’m sure there were some, is no mystery. It was the nature of people meeting each other and the power of solidarity.

Solidarity: What do you think members of LGSM learnt from the experience?

Clive: For many people it was their first time going to that sort of working-class community, though certainly not for everyone. We were a mixed group and certainly there were people from working-class backgrounds, it was not all middle class lefties. The vast majority were just people who wanted to do something.

When you have a big confrontation between a section of the working class and the government you have to take sides, more than just in your head.

There have been reunions [of LGSM] recently and many people still seem to hold broadly the same views that they used to. You can tell for many people in LGSM it was an absolutely formative experience in their lives, and very important to them.

Solidarity: Do you think there was rolling back after the defeat of the dispute, both in the gay community and in the mining community?

Clive: The miners were beaten and most of them lost their jobs. Generally speaking in the class struggle, the defeat of the miners had a hugely bad effect. We’re still living with the consequences of it.

I doubt miners’ attitudes rolled back too much with regards lesbian and gay rights. You started to get stories of miners coming out. At reunions we get visits from miners. We often hear “it turns out my son is gay”.

Ex-miners and their families came up from south Wales for the film premiere.

In the lesbian and gay community, struggle wasn’t rolled back. You got growth of the lesbian and gay movement after 1985. Not long after was “Section 28” [the Tory law which prevented the “promotion of homosexual lifestyles”] against which you had enormous demonstrations. The pride parades in the early ‘80s were relatively small, but by the late ‘80s and certainly the early ‘90s they were enormous.

Solidarity: What do you think about the film?

Clive: It gets an awful lot incredibly right. It’s in the broad ball park of something like The Full Monty, but much more political. Over the credits you have someone singing Solidarity Forever. It takes for granted that the strike was right. It’s absolutely about the importance of class struggle and solidarity between communities. The portrayals of the real people are very close and a good tribute.

Its good that for the anniversary of the strike, this particular act of solidarity will be remembered.

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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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No to an English parliament

September 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm (democracy, Jim D, London)

I am and always have been for re-organising Britain as a federal republic. However, I am not for an English parliament. England seems to me far too big to be a sensible unit for regional government. Calls for an English parliament are nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with:

a) nationalist rubbish about “a voice for England,” and

b) the Tories getting one over on Labour.

I support regional government in England, including a much bigger and much stronger London Assembly … and the abolition of the office of mayor.


H/t: Sasha

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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)

dsc_0025_copy.jpg

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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Vic Collard, RIP

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm (Brum, class, ex-SWP, good people, Guest post, history, intellectuals, RIP, solidarity, unions, workers)

My friend Victor
Guest post by Mick Rice

Birmingham’s engineers march over the hill to shut the gates at Saltley coking works in 1972 (Pic: ©Tony Coult/ http://gallery.me.com/tony3ts gallery.me.com/tony3ts )

Above: Saltley Gates mass picket, 1972

Vic Collard was a friend of mine. We met in the late 1960’s when the heady days of revolt embraced the young. I was a “child of 1968” when the French events demonstrated that different politics were possible. Vic was 10 years older than me and a worker intellectual of the finest calibre. As well as being widely read he was also an AEU Shop Steward! There could have only been a handful of AEU Shop Stewards who knew about Marshall McLuhan never mind being conversant with his theories. Vic knew about the Frankfurt School. He was deeply interested in philosophy and psychology. He knew about Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

How much different the world might have been if the Left had concentrated on perfecting the “Orgone Box”! It has, unfortunately, so far, been singularly unsuccessful in promoting world revolution.

Vic once confessed to me about his role in the Second World War. I thought I was going to be entertained by a humorous Spike Milligan type – Adolf Hitler-My role in his Downfall – story. But Vic was ashamed of his behaviour. He had gone out, with a relative, for a walk by the canal. He must have been 5 or 6 years old. Alongside the towpath a group of German prisoners-of-war were clearing overgrown vegetation. Vic, our intrepid Brit, took a run at the first German POW and kicked him in the shins. No doubt thinking the juvenile equivalent of: “Take that you dirty Hun!” The Dandy and other boys’ comics of the time have a lot to answer for as they, of course, were bastions of British Imperialism. Vic had not yet read Marx.

The poor prisoner was probably just a conscripted German worker. However, if Vic felt that he had something to atone for, he certainly made up for it in later years. In the early 1970s the Birmingham East District Committee of the AEU was considering submitting motions to the union’s National Committee. One branch had sent in a motion supporting the boycott of goods to Pinochet’s Chile. If I remember right a Scottish factory with AEU members had already blocked the export of vehicles. Ted Williams, the leading right-winger, was pouring scorn on the motion. “These do-gooders want to interfere with international trade”, he thundered. “They risk putting in jeopardy AEU jobs”. Normally the later point was the ace that floored left-wing opposition as “AEU jobs” was paramount.

Vic played a blinder which completely changed the meeting. “No doubt”, said Vic, “If Brother Williams had been a member of this committee in the 1930s’ he would have been in favour of exporting Gas Chambers to Hitler’s Germany so long as they were made by AEU members”. Yes Vic was great with words and great at thinking on his feet.

Another time the full time officer was singing the praises of equality as he proudly told us he had negotiated an agreement to allow women to work night shifts! Vic had to point out that we wanted equality up and not equality down as working nightshifts was bad for men. It could not be regarded as a giant leap forward for womankind that they were going to be subjected to the same anti-social, unhealthy working patterns!

In the mid 1960’s Vic and his friend Geoff Johnson, were members of the “Labour Loyalist” group. They would go around meetings campaigning for an end to Incomes Policy which had been introduced by the Labour Government. Of course their intention was to be entirely disloyal to the Labour Government of the day. Calling themselves “Labour Loyalists” confused their opponents and, as they explained to me, it was really the Labour Government that wasn’t being loyal to the workers! A neat strategy that put Labour apparatchiks on the back foot! Read the rest of this entry »

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Neither Washington nor the ‘Ubers’

September 14, 2014 at 9:25 pm (Afghanistan, Guest post, internationalism, iraq war, islamism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, socialism, solidarity, stalinism, Stop The War)

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 »

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