Freedom Unfreedom Square

September 26, 2015 at 8:23 am (Rosie B, scotland)

One of the by-products of the Scottish referendum was the re-emergence of Tommy Sheridan (name usually prefixed by “disgraced perjurer) who has refashioned himself from socialist to nationalist trying to lead a popular movement called Hope over Fear. Having been refused permission by Glasgow Council to hold a rally in George Square, Glasgow (which the Yessers like to call “Freedom Square”) the rally went ahead anyway.

I thought it mean of Glasgow Council to refuse permission. Yes rallies are not violent and don’t call for much policing. There’s plenty of music among the ranting, bouncy castles and a lot of it is a Yes family day out. However having taken over George Square, Sheridan’s gang then refused full access to journalists, even from the pro-indy Sunday Herald. Give that man territory…


Here is a sharp and observant – and rather moving – account of the event at A Thousand Flowers. I would guess the writer is a former colleague of Sheridan’s. S/he is anxious at the kind of nationalism arising in a movement which took pride in its distance from the blood and soil kind.

One speaker told the crowd about how “We had repelled the Vikings…and the Danes” coz obviously, a Scotland which gets rid of foreigners is something to be celebrating in the current context.  “Water is going over the border…whisky revenues are at an all time high.”As he furiously bellowed about “traitors”, a woman behind me shouted “burn the Witch” and I breathed a sigh in relief, realising I wasn’t alone in finding all this slightly troublesome.

We were then treated to a speech by “Irish Supporters of Hope over Fear” who talked of “a proud Celtic nation about to break with their foreign masters” and saluted “the bravery of the Scottish people in fighting for freedom throughout the world” (presumably in colonies like, erm, Ireland, where Scots have done a great job shooting the natives at the behest of the British state for the last 300 plus years).

Following Pat Lee delivering good wishes to “a 9 year old celebrating their 10th Birthday today” (perhaps a bit prematurely), we had a nice happy song about dying Westminster paedophiles followed by another one about Pandas, obviously. …

Most gallingly, as always, there was the lie that today represented “all of the Yes family.”   This didn’t feel like “the Yes movement” or “the independence movement” as was claimed, it felt like Tommy stoking a burgeoning nationalist movement, one which has strengthened significantly in the last year and which is being fed by Sheridan’s calculation that he can ride on its coattails to Holyrood in 2016.  The least he can do is sell T-shirts, CDs and beer to it for as long as he can.

There were no Greens, no SSP/RISE/socialists who weren’t in Solidarity, no representatives from Women for Independence, even Robin McAlpine was under orders not to show his face after the furore following his last appearance alongside the suntanned superman.   Come to think of it, there wasn’t a single SNP speaker either, at least not in an official capacity.…

As I fought back the tears this time last year I wrote, “My hope is that the independence we are creating in Scotland continues to resist the forces of nationalism.”  I sincerely hope it does – but after today’s event, I fear we’ve got a long fight ahead.

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Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie banned by Warwick Students’ Union

September 25, 2015 at 5:31 pm (censorship, Civil liberties, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, misogyny, posted by JD, relativism, religion)


By Maryam Namazie (from her website):

I was invited to speak at Warwick University by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society on 28 October 2015. The University Student Union has declined the request for me to speak saying the following:

This is because after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.

There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:

The President (or equivalent) of the group organising any event is responsible for the activities that take place within their events.  All speakers will be made aware of their responsibility to abide by the law, the University and the Union’s various policies, including that they:

  • must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law
  • are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts
  • must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony
  • must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge
  • are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees.

In addition to this, there are concerns that if we place conditions on her attendance (such as making it a member only event and having security in attendance, asking for a transcript of what she intends to say, recording the speech) she will refuse to abide by these terms as she did for Trinity College Dublin.

The Atheist group is of course appealing their decision, however, it’s important for me to comment briefly on the Student Union’s position. I will be writing a more detailed letter to the university to formally complain about the Student Union accusations against me after taking legal advice.

For now, though, suffice it to say that criticising religion and the religious-Right is not incitement of hatred against people. If anything, it’s the religious-Right, namely Islamism in this case, which incites hatred against those of us who dare to leave Islam and criticise it.

The Student Union seems to lack an understanding of the difference between criticising religion, an idea, or a far-Right political movement on the one hand and attacking and inciting hate against people on the other. Inciting hatred is what the Islamists do; I and my organisation challenge them and defend the rights of ex-Muslims, Muslims and others to dissent.

The Student Union position is of course nothing new. It is the predominant post-modernist “Left” point of view that conflates Islam, Muslims and Islamists, homogenises the “Muslim community”, thinks believers are one and the same as the religious-Right and sides with the Islamist narrative against its many dissenters.

It is the “anti-colonialist” perspective which always unsurprisingly coincides with that of the ruling classes in the so-called “Islamic world” or “Muslim communities” – an understanding that is Eurocentric, patronising and racist.

This type of politics denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women’s rights, freedoms and equality under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In this type of politics, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed are perpetrators of “hatred”, and any criticism is racist.

These sort of Lefties have one set of progressive politics for themselves – they want gay rights, equality for women and the right to criticise the pope and the Christian-Right, and another for us.

We are not worthy of the same rights and freedoms.

We can only make demands within the confines of religion and Islam. If we dissent, if we demand equality, if we demand to live our lives without the labels of “kafir” or “immoral” – and all that which they imply, then we are inciting hatred…

It’s a topsy turvy world when “progressives” who are meant to be on our side take a stand with our oppressors and try to deny us the only tool we have to resist – our freedom of expression.

Well, it’s not up for sale or subject to the conditions of a Student Union too enamoured with Islamism to take a principled position.

By the way Warwick, in case you’re wondering, I will speak at your university – as I will be soon at Trinity College Dublin despite my initial talk being cancelled by organisers.

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The Volkswagan emissions scandal

September 24, 2015 at 7:43 pm (capitalism, corruption, crime, engineering, environment, posted by JD, United States)

From The World Socialist website:


The scandal at Volkswagen (VW) over the manipulation of emissions readings from its autos in the US has plunged the firm into a major crisis. The company, which along with Toyota is the world’s largest auto producer, faces the threat of up to $18 billion in fines, along with massive costs related to the recall of almost half a million vehicles and huge compensation claims. The US Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation and a congressional committee has announced plans for a hearing on the scandal.

VW has already acknowledged that accusations by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are valid. It has admitted that it deliberately deceived American customers and government authorities.

“Let’s be clear: our company was dishonest,” said VW’s American head Michael Horn at the unveiling of the new Passat model in New York. “We totally screwed up.”

In a calculated manner, VW broke the law in order to manipulate emissions readings. In diesel models sold in the US, the company installed specially developed software to enable the vehicles to determine when they were being tested and automatically switch to a mode that reduced the emission of pollutants. After the test, the cars automatically switched back to the normal mode, increasing their release of poisonous oxides between 10- and 40-fold.

VW used the low emissions test rates as a selling point for the US market, where diesel cars comprise just one percent of total sales, a far lower percentage than in Europe. Many US buyers decided to purchase a diesel car from VW or Audi because, in contrast to hybrid vehicles from Asian producers, which have low emission rates but are cumbersome, the German models were considered both environmentally friendly and sporty.

The ultimate scale of the scandal is not yet known. The suspicion is that VW manipulated emissions figures not only in the US, but also in other markets. Germany, Switzerland, France and South Korea have all announced investigations into diesel vehicle manipulation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Northern Ireland: clownish play-acting by Unionists puts power-sharing at risk

September 23, 2015 at 7:36 pm (AWL, Ireland, posted by JD)

From Workers Liberty (who know a thing or two about Irish politics):

Northern Irish power-sharing institutions look close to collapse, following a crisis sparked by the murder of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan on 12 August in the Short Strand area of East Belfast.

McGuigan’s murder is widely seen as a revenge killing for the murder in May of Gerard “Jock” Davison, at one point one of the IRA’s most senior commanders in Belfast and allegedly responsible, along with McGuigan, for much of the IRA’s vigilante violence against drug dealers in the mid-to-late 1990s.

After the two men fell, an internal IRA disciplinary unit “sentenced” McGuigan to a “six-pack” — republican parlance for gunshot wounds to each of the elbows, kneecaps and ankles.

For years, McGuigan blamed Davison for the punishment shooting, and last May decided to get revenge. Davison was shot outside his home in the Markets area, near Belfast City Centre.

With a police investigation stalling, the IRA placed their own surveillance team on McGuigan and decided to avenge Davison’s death. McGuigan was ambushed by two men in dark clothing as he was walking with his wife, and killed in a volley of shots.

A number of factors explain why these killings have sparked such an intense political crisis at Stormont.

In a press conference following the McGuigan murder, Police Service of Northern Ireland chief George Hamilton made it clear that the police blamed individual members of the Provisional IRA for the murder.

He did not believe that the IRA leadership ordered the killing but did admit that “some of the PIRA structure from the 1990s remains broadly in place, although its purpose has radically changed since this period.”

No one should have been surprised by the admission of the Provisional IRA’s continuing existence.

Indeed, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers commented afterwards that: “It didn’t come as a surprise to me… that a number of the organisational structures of the Provisional IRA still exist but that there is no evidence it’s involved in terrorism or paramilitary activity.”

Even though Sinn Fein say publicly that the IRA has “left the stage”, no movement of this type could have moved from armed struggle to politics without maintaining a military structure with sufficient authority to rein in “hardliners”.

Without this, the movement would have descended even more than it already has into a collection of local fiefdoms motivated by apolitical criminality or, worse, a continuation of sectarian warfare.

It is remarkable that there has not been more internecine republican violence during the Provisional’s transition to politics. The anti-Good Friday Agreement groups, though deadly, remain little more than an irritant.

In truth, the significance of the McGuigan murder lies ultimately in political rivalries within Unionism.

In the last decade, the IRA has been involved in two high-profile murders (those of Robert McCartney in 2005 and Paul Quinn in 2007), both a testament to its capacity for sheer gangsterism and violence. Both victims were thrown under the juggernaut of the “peace process” by republicans, Unionists and the British government, to ensure power-sharing between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

So what has changed? The Northern Ireland Executive has failed to deliver on any of the promises made to people about a “peace dividend”, instead locking itself in sectarian wrangles over parading, flags and other issues of identity, as well as attempting to implement Tory austerity.

This has largely sapped any enthusiasm that once existed for Stormont across both communities. Added to this is a reasonable fear among Nationalists that many Unionists continue to be hostile to power-sharing.

Sensing this, the smaller Unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), opportunistically seized the chance to reverse its political fortunes after a decade of marginalisation, and piled the pressure on the dominant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

With one eye on the 2016 elections it pulled its one minister out of the Northern Ireland Executive — a move highly popular with over 80% of Unionist voters.

Stunned, and after failing to suspend Stormont pending crisis talks, the DUP felt in turn reluctantly obliged to pull its ministers out of the Executive, effectively shutting down the working of the devolved government which has provided such material benefits to the party in the form of ministerial salaries, expenses and other privileges of office.

This clownish play-acting, which has always been implicit in the very structures of Stormont, risks the return of Tory direct rule, the implementation of savage welfare cuts and an intensification of sectarian tension.

A political system based on institutionalising sectarian identities within the existing boundaries of the six counties has become unable to provide adequate governance of any sort, let alone a space in which workers can elaborate a socialist politics capable of a democratic resolution to the national question.

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The European Refugee Crisis Explained in Six Minutes

September 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm (Europe, Human rights, immigration, posted by JD, solidarity, Syria, tragedy)

From Social Europe:

    There is a lot of discussion in the news about the European refugee crisis but what is the actual background to the plight? Find below a great video that explains the basics of the situation in six minutes. The video description on YouTube includes …

a link to the UNHCR donation page which we are happy to include here

See also,  contributions attempting to analyse the problems and present solutions.:

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Cameron and the pig: how much did Brooker know?

September 21, 2015 at 4:47 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, Conseravative Party, David Cameron, good honest filth, telly, Tory scum)

 Above: a still from Black Mirror’s ‘The National Anthem’ episode, Channel 4, Dec 4 2011
 Charlie BrookerVerified account @charltonbrooker 17h17 hours ago

Perhaps the least prescient line from the script.

Embedded image permalink

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An answer for everything, always the same answer

September 20, 2015 at 7:42 am (internationalism, Rosie B, scotland)

Though there has been a lot of noise in the media about the anniversary of the IndyRef I haven’t noticed it much in real life and social media except among the die-hards on both sides. I am hoping it will grow quieter as time goes by.

Here’s a study of the demographics of the voters.


I fit the No voter template – female, right age bracket, average earner, Protestant (by birth), not born in Scotland.

Average earners don’t want to take risks.  You’re one pay packet away from not being able to meet your mortgage payment (not that that was my reason for voting No.)

It’s interesting though how the 16-24 year olds were more No inclined.  My guess is that they are less nationalistic minded. They’re in contact with their peers in other parts of the UK via social media. Shared interest in music, sport and films are more important than national identity. But that’s just a guess. A slight blow to one of the post ref hopes that the old curmudgeons would soon be tucked up safely into the crem well away from the ballot box.

The Yes/No split is notable on those born outwith Scotland   either in other parts of the UK or abroad were averaged at 65% voting No compared to the even split of native Scots.   Nicola Sturgeon might have to Think Again about encouraging immigration except that she has no powers over immigration and her pro-refugee and immigration noises are We’re Not Like the Horrible Tories noises just as her reaction to Corbyn’s elevation was to talk about his unelectability and so, Vote Independence.  No thought of allying with a proper Left Labour this time round.

2nd poll

The SNP – an answer to everything and always the same answer.

Oh, and when taken to task about the SNP’s various incompetences at Holyrood her answer was that the SNP had delivered for Scotland instead of carping from the sidelines like the Opposition!

Meanwhile a couple of good pieces – one about the SNP’s constant whingeing about The Vow (that pointless PR job which made me howl Oh Shut Up at the time) and the other Where Stands Scotland Now from the excellent Chris Deerin, whose writings were one of the best things that came out of the Indy debate.

Update. Corbyn in Scotland and trying to get back the Labour vote (no chance):-

It is easier – far easier – to find Labour MSPs and veteran members who believe Corbyn will be a disaster for the party. Those critics – like the few who are trying to remain optimistic – are wary of going on the record when discussing the new leader. There is a clear sense of unease about discussing life in Labour under Corbyn.

One Labour MSP said: “If anyone says this is good news because we can outflank the SNP on the left, then they’re not thinking straight.

“The SNP doesn’t really present a left-wing politics, it just says to people ‘you’re compassionate and wonderful’ and people lap it up.

“There isn’t a majority out there for paying more tax and hiking up benefits. If there was, then the SNP would be doing those things.

“There’s a majority out there that wants to feel good about themselves and to get on in life and the SNP absolutely talks to them.

“The rhetoric is left wing but the politics are centre ground. The SNP is New Labour with nationalism added and there’s no way an Old Labour offer is going to counter it. I despair at anyone who thinks that’s going to happen.

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Letter from Jewish Board of Deputies re Corbyn

September 19, 2015 at 10:19 pm (anti-semitism, Human rights, Judaism, labour party, LGBT, posted by JD, reformism, zionism)

This was published in The Times yesterday (Sept 18): JC would be well advised (in the light of reports like this) to respond in an equally courteous and frank manner:

Board of deputies.svg

Sir, We would like to congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his election as Labour leader. We always seek to establish constructive working relationships with the major parties and we hope this will be the case with Mr Corbyn.

There are some key questions on which British Jews will be looking for reassurance. There are concerns about Mr Corbyn’s apparent past openness towards organisations and individuals involved in violent extremism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. These have included Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are proscribed terrorist organisations, overtly anti-Semitic, have hateful policies towards women and LGBT people and total contempt for human rights. We hope he will affirm and implement a “zero tolerance” stance towards racists, extremists, Holocaust deniers and homophobes.

We also hope Mr Corbyn will pursue contact with the mainstream Israeli and Palestinian political parties, with the aim of advancing peace and security for both national communities. We look to him to reaffirm long-established Labour party policy against boycotts, which are stigmatising, divisive and counterproductive. We will also be asking for support on a range of key religious freedoms important to Jews, Christians, Muslims and others.

President, Board of Deputies of British Jews

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Scotland: it’s about class not nationality

September 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm (class, labour party, posted by JD, scotland, socialism)

The SNP’s reactionary social policies are what Scottish Labour should focus on to counter the nationalist diversion of the threatened new referendum.

Elaine Smith MSP

By Elaine Smith

Labour MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston

One year on from the independence referendum campaign Scotland is again reflecting on it and whether there should be another referendum any time soon.

The referendum was a momentous exercise that saw me personally speak to a countless number of my constituents last year on the doorsteps, and it was a process that saw unprecedented numbers of people taking an interest in voting.

However, it was a process that also caused tensions and provoked some nasty behaviour on both sides.

In the weeks leading up to the independence referendum families were split between Yes and No, friends, work colleagues and even strangers had bitter arguments and indeed some relationships broke down never to be the same again.

In the aftermath, many who voted Yes feel cheated out of what they perceived as a better future and many who voted No feel that they are being viewed as less Scottish.

There is also an issue that the national flag is used by the SNP as a political symbol and the tensions remain while the “neverendum” hangs over us.

Still, for me the most concerning issue is the complete disregard by the SNP for democracy.

There was a massive turn-out to vote on September 18 last year so there can be no doubt that this was a democratically representative vote. The engagement of so many people in the vote was, of course, a positive outcome of the process and there was a clear 10 per cent differential, which resulted in a decision to reject independence.

There had also been clear statements by the then first minister and others in the Yes campaign that this was a “once in a generation” or “once in a lifetime” decision and that the result would be respected.

The No side were also challenged to respect any decision and the irony is that had this vote gone the other way, even by 1 per cent, then we would have been independent by next April with no second chances.

The No campaign has been accused of scaremongering on issues like the currency, pensions and oil prices. Since there was no clear plan I actually found these issues, along with many others, very worrying and, of course, we now know that concern about oil prices were certainly no scare story but all too real in their predictions of the possibility of the price plummeting.

However, having thought long and hard about it, my main motivation for voting against separation was a class-based one. I believe in solidarity and I have more in common with people in Blackpool than those in Braemar.

It’s not a change of constitution that is needed but a change of government to achieve the fairer, more equal and redistributive society that I want to live in and that Labour would implement.

Ironically the success of the SNP in Scotland and the threat of some kind of coalition down south was enough to deliver a return of the Tories.

There is an argument now about whether the so-called “Vow” is being delivered in full, although later analysis shows that it seemed to have had little effect on the vote.

The Scottish Parliament always had vast powers which were never fully used and we were getting major extra powers over tax prior to the referendum campaign even starting. Like others I expect the Smith Commission recommendations to be fully implemented since they were agreed to on a cross-party basis by all the main parties in Scotland including the SNP.

Even if the so-called vow is not implemented in its entirety we will still have one of the most powerful devolved administrations anywhere in the world.

When Labour delivered the referendum to establish the Scottish Parliament there were two clear votes: Yes to devolution and Yes to tax varying powers. The latter issue, therefore, had a mandate of the Scottish people agreed to by a democratic vote.

Interestingly, the SNP disregarded that democratic vote when John Swinney their finance minister gave up the ability to use the tax varying power in 2010 without even consulting the Scottish Parliament, never mind the people.

The vote for the SNP last May was undoubtedly in part an anti-establishment vote and an expression of displeasure with the perception of Westminster politics. Added to this their very effective propaganda machine was working overtime on the theme of “Standing up for Scotland.”

The reality is that there were always 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

What amazes me though is the SNP’s ability to act like the opposition when they have been the government in Scotland for over eight years. Given the chaos in the police service, the savage cuts to local government, the problems in education and the crisis in our health service to mention just a few areas I am amazed that any police officer, teacher, lecturer, nurse, doctor, paramedic or any other public-sector employee votes for them.

It will take time for Labour to regain the trust of the Scottish people but we have made a good start this week by electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The negative tag of “Red Tories” was always nonsense but it was SNP spin that stuck with some people — it clearly cannot be levelled at Labour now.

In Scotland, Kezia Dugdale has started to further democratise the party, giving power to ordinary members and changing conference. Together our labour leadership team can show that, unlike the SNP, we don’t just talk about socialism, we act. The SNP have not implemented one single policy to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor in society and have actually done the opposite with their damaging council tax freeze and vicious cuts to council budgets.

Rather than spend time, energy and another £15.8 million on another referendum, the SNP should get on with sorting out the problems they are fully responsible for here in Scotland with the vast swathe of powers they now have.

Scottish Labour will get on with our job of holding the SNP government in Edinburgh accountable for their many failures.

And given time maybe the wounds can heal in families, with friends and across the country and we can all once again be proud confident Scots, living in a tolerant, friendly and inclusive nation.

  • This article also appears in today’s Morning Star. It is republished here with the permission of the author

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The refreshing candour of John McDonnell

September 18, 2015 at 6:07 am (BBC, Ireland, Jim D, labour party, reformism, republicanism)

“What I tried to do for both sides is to give them a way out with some form of dignity otherwise they wouldn’t lay their arms down.

“And can I just say this, because this has been raised with me time and time again – I accept it was a mistake to use those words, but actually if it contributed towards saving one life, or preventing someone else being maimed it was worth doing, because we did hold on to the peace process.

“There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting and some of them continuing the armed process. If I gave offence, and I clearly have, from the bottom of my heart I apologise, I apologise.”

McDonnell was honest, straightforward and (I thought) convincing on last night’s Question Time. In stark contrast to his boss in July, when asked perfectly reasonable questions about his warm words towards Hamas and Hezbollah:

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