Aug 11 2017

A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY, Part 2

This is the second part of A Critique of Jeremy Corbyn and British Left Social Democracy, written by Allan Armstrong. the first part can be read at:- http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2017/08/09/a-critique-of-jeremy-corbyn-and-british-left-social-democracy/

 

2. EMANCIPATION, LIBERATION AND SELF-DETERMINATION AND INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW

IN RESPONSE TO NATIONAL SOCIAL DEMOCRACY, AND OFFICIAL AND DISSIDENT COMMUNIST

INTERNATIONALISM FROM ABOVE

 

Contents of Part 2

 a.     Why did Corbynism and Left social democracy appear in the UK?

 b.     The rise and fall of proto-parties outside Labour

 c.     To party or not to party, that is the question

 d.     Autonomous organisations

e.      International organisation

f.       Labour bureaucracy or dissident communist sects – a false choice 

______________

 a.      Why did Corbynism and Left social democracy appear in the UK?

i.      One thing that needs explained is how did Corbynism and Left social democracy make a revival which nobody predicted? If we look to Greece, Spain, Portugal, France and Ireland, we can see well-supported independent Left organisations, which have developed outside the traditional social democratic parties. One answer to this question is the sheer resilience of conservative organisational forms in a state like the UK with such a long and deep-rooted unionist and imperial history. Continue reading “A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY, Part 2”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Jul 08 2017

DURHAM MINERS’ GALA – BIG MEETING GETS BIGGER

The 133rd Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday 8th July will see some 150,000 march through the ancient city. Dave Douglass, ex-miner and author of Stardust and Coaldust autobiographical trilogy looks at its  history and the ongoing significance.

 

BIG MEETING GETS BIGGER

 

 

A day of looking back and looking forward

Crowds are now back to the size they were in the immediate post-war years following nationalisation, when they celebrated the defeat of the hated private coal-owners. This mother of all miners’ galas, featuring both picnics and demonstrations, was the labour movement’s most prestigious public platform. The miners formed the bedrock among the proletarian, trade union and socialist ranks; they made up an army of labour that was strategically placed in terms of their bargaining power and influence – the politics of coal dictated much of politics per se. The position of the miners in the class war sent waves across the broad labour movement. Continue reading “DURHAM MINERS’ GALA – BIG MEETING GETS BIGGER”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Aug 03 2016

DAVID HOPPER AND THE DURHAM MINERS GALA

David Hopper died on July 16th. He was the General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association and last spoke on Saturday July 9th at the Durham Miners Gala. This was attended by 150,000 people. David Hopper was central to the revival of this major working class political and social event, after the defeat of the heroic miners struggle in 1985. Dave Douglass, an ex-miner from County Durham and a member of the IWW and NUM has written the first piece posted here about David Hopper. This is followed by David Hopper’s own last speech given at the Gala.

 

1. DAVEY HOPPER , 1944-2016

Davey Hopper addressing Durham Miners Gala

Davey Hopper addressing Durham Miners Gala

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the role played by the ‘two Davies’ – Davie Guy and Davey Hopper, respectively the late president and general secretary of the North-East area of the NUM and Durham Miners Association.
Continue reading “DAVID HOPPER AND THE DURHAM MINERS GALA”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Sep 01 2015

JEREMY CORBYN AND THE RE-EMERGENCE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance, who stood as a socialist republican and anti-Unionist candidate in Bermondsey in the General Election, makes his political assessment of the Corbyn campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party.

 

JEREMY CORBYN AND THE RE-EMERGENCE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

th-5

 

The fall and rise of Social Democracy and the re-division of the left

The incredible and unbelievable arrival of the movement to elect Jeremy Corbyn MP to be leader of the Labour Party has taken all the left by surprise. It is a happy shock and one to welcome. Its impact is yet to become clear but no doubt it will have a significant impact on socialist movement. The Corbyn movement should not be seen as an isolated event but as part of a chain of events which reflect the course of the class struggle.
Continue reading “JEREMY CORBYN AND THE RE-EMERGENCE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


May 11 2015

‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’ AND ‘ABANDON THE MIND-FORG’D MANACLES’

Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society in None of the Above calls upon socialists and republicans to have a closer look at the nature and record of the SNP. This was first posted at:- http://107cowgate.com/2015/05/05/none-of-the-above/

Murdo Ritchie (RCN ) in his Abandon the Mind-forg’d Manacles offers an alternative analysis of the rise of the SNP.

 

1. NONE OF THE ABOVE

imagesu2s6rmtd

None of the above? This is the question I’ve been asking myself for the last few weeks. Or perhaps more accurately for the last few years. Having never been a member of a political party, I’m what pollsters call a floating voter. Granted, as someone who has been a political activist for nearly 30 years, I might not be the stereotypical floating voter but nonetheless I have no tribal loyalty to any political party.
Continue reading “‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’ AND ‘ABANDON THE MIND-FORG’D MANACLES’”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Jan 17 2014

REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Mary MacGregor (RCN) at the ‘break-up of the UK’ session at the Radical Independence Conference on 23rd November in Glasgow. The following week on November 30th in London Steve spoke at the Left Unity Party founding conference putting the case for a socialist republican strategy which recognised the significance of the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. In this article Steve analyses the various political forces to be found at this conference.

Continue reading “REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Mar 25 2013

THE CRISIS IN THE SWP:- The failure of the Central Committee’s ‘recruit, recruit, recruit’ tactics

This article  examines one aspect of the current crisis enveloping the SWP. The SWP has not had a  programme, so it has no real strategy for achieving the socialism it claims to support. Instead, the SWP leadership concentrates on the tactics it thinks will bring it new members. In the SWP leadership’s thinking, socialism will come about through an arithmetical increase in SWP members. Allan Armstrong, himself a former member of the SWP and its predecessor organisation, the International Socialists between 1972-82, looks into the history of the SWP’s lack of programme and strategy, and some of the results of its concentration on recruitment tactics.

thThe SWP is currently undergoing a severe, and possibly a terminal crisis. The immediate causes of this crisis lie in the expulsion of four members for planning to meet to form a faction before the 2013 Party Conference; and the allegations of sexual assault directed against Central Committee (CC) member, ‘Comrade Delta’. As elsewhere in Britain, Scottish SWP members are divided between CC loyalists and dissidents.

Just before this crisis exploded into the public arena, the SWP published a contribution to the Scottish independence referendum debate – Scotland – Yes to independence, No to nationalism. This pamphlet has been written the SWP’s Scottish organiser, Keir McKechnie. SWP organisers are appointed by the CC. So, there can be little doubt, where Keir’s allegiances lie in the current dispute in the SWP.

Continue reading “THE CRISIS IN THE SWP:- The failure of the Central Committee’s ‘recruit, recruit, recruit’ tactics”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Feb 03 2011

RCN statement following the Tommy Sheridan Perjury Trial.

The RCN welcomes the vindication of those SSP comrades who refused to go along with Sheridan’s attempt to use his public and celebrity position to extract money for personal gain. Whilst fully recognising the political damage and personal hurt to SSP members resulting from this debacle, the RCN opposes the jailing of our former SSP comrade Tommy Sheridan and looks forward to the day when such issues will be dealt with within the organisations of our class not those of the bourgeoisie.  Lessons, however, must be learnt.

The rise of the Scottish Socialist Party to a position of influence and respect within the working class of Scotland, owes a great deal to the hard work and dedication of many comrades. No one can underplay the contribution made to this by Tommy Sheridan. He became the public face of the socialist movement in Scotland and inspired many people to become involved in class based activity. However, Tommy is a human being and is flawed like the rest of us. He grew to believe his own rhetoric; he courted the press on personal and family matters and set himself up to be the epitome of the clean-cut family man. He grew to believe that he was the SSP.

As we said at the time of the split within the SSP: The decision of Tommy Sheridan to pursue his court case against the unanimous advice of the SSP National Executive represented a rejection of inner party democracy and the accountability of party officials to the membership – an anti-party action, which has had dire consequences for the SSP. It was a gross political mistake. The subsequent decision to form a new organisation, Solidarity, on little other political basis than personal support for Tommy Sheridan, represented a continuation of this anti-party action and heralded one of the most serious mistakes made by socialists in post war Scottish politics. It placed personality and individual egos above principled politics. It weakened the working class in the face of the current ruling class offensive.

The decision of the SWP and CWI to back this split, further demonstrated their own sectarian agendas. These organisations’ lack of commitment to principled socialist unity has already been clearly shown by their recent separate ‘unity’ initiatives in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland. The most immediate lesson for socialists is the incompatibility of trying to build a socialist organisation through promoting a celebrity leader. Furthermore, this has been highlighted, in the UK, not only by the example of Tommy Sheridan, but also of Derek Hatton (CWI/Militant), Arthur Scargill (Socialist Labour Party) Ken Livingstone (one-time Left independent) and George Galloway (Respect).

The consequences of the internecine warfare for the SSP and the working class movement have been catastrophic. Our credibility as an organisation, which can lead the struggles that face us and unite the left in Scotland, is severely diminished. However, we have survived and in pockets around Scotland have continued to work democratically and been leading fighters in various struggles. Now is the time to learn the lessons of this tragedy. If we do so, then we can possibly rebuild as an organisation and once more play our part in forging socialist unity and taking forward the fight for a progressive and equal society.

Although we hold Tommy Sheridan responsible for the initial damage to the SSP, we also recognise the potential for subsequent and continuing damage caused by the misguided actions of a number of our own comrades, some of these actions in direct contradiction to Party policy. To avoid this, we must:-

  • Encourage debates where political differences and attempts to make SSP office bearers accountable for their actions are addressed without acrimony and personalised attacks, either by those criticising or those criticised, and with understanding.
  • Apply our constitution equally to all members.
  • Insist that all officers of the Party adhere to Party policy.
  • Not elevate any individual or group to the position of Great Leader/s. The party has democratic structures to ensure this does not happen and these must be adhered to.
  • The membership of the party must be trusted. Some of the fallout from the court case could have been mitigated if the minutes of the EC had been dealt with in the normal manner and been made public to the membership. Only the RCN argued for the minutes to be open. This was a case of the party still treating Tommy Sheridan as more important than any other member and as such above the democratic scrutiny of the party.
  • No resort to the bourgeois courts to decide political issues as per conference decisions at the October conference post the split.

Socialists should not go to the bourgeois courts for rulings on how we conduct ourselves. Such appeals should only be made to the democratic institutions of our class. What chance have socialists got of bringing about socialism in the face of capitalist economic and state power, if we have to run to their courts to sort out our problems in the here and now? Therefore, we need to re-emphasise the SSP Conference policy passed on October 20th, 2006.

  • SSP members should avoid resort to the state’s courts when seeking redress for politically motivated attacks on their behaviour
  • When SSP members are subjected to politically motivated attacks by the state or media, they should be able to call upon the support of the SSP National Executive to conduct a party campaign including the following tactics as deemed appropriate:-
    • articles in the party’s press
    • direct appeals to the trade union members in the state bodies and/or media responsible
    • calls for boycott actions
  • SSP members should not resort to the non-party media when making allegations against other SSP members. Such allegations should be brought initially before the appropriate party body at the level concerned with the right to appeal to a higher level, the ultimate appeal being the SSP Conference.
  • The elected press officer should be responsible for day-to-day responses to the outside media, when members are under attack. The press officer is directly responsible, initially to the National Executive, then to the National Council, and finally to the National Conference.

We accept that individuals found themselves in exceptional circumstances. However, in line with the above decision, the George McNeilage tape should have been seen to be dealt with by the party. This has been damaging for the SSP amongst the broader labour and trade union movement. The end does not justify the means. Frances Curran’s use of the courts for a ruling being called a scab by the Daily Record was also a political mistake and against Party policy. Party members who handed minutes to police or who gave affidavits to newspapers must now see that however well intentioned, their actions were not helpful and once more were against party policy.

Once again, it is our contention that we must bring the continuing self inflicted damage to an end. The mistakes we made must be acknowledged, breaches of policy on the part of office bearers should be addressed and we must show ourselves to be a democratically accountable party. Also, the Party must now seek to carry through the decision of the post-split 2006 SSP Conference which welcomes back former members without recriminations, especially now that they can clearly see the tragic implications of the misguided actions of Sheridan, Solidarity, SWP and CWI leaderships.

Principled unity is our strength. We have a duty to the working class and the cause of socialism to maintain socialist unity and to conduct ourselves in a combative, determined, confident, but friendly manner aimed at convincing thousands that the SSP’s principles and policies coincide with their interests. The future is ours, provided we collectively seize it.(Passed overwhelmingly 20th October 2006)

We must also try to win back the largest group of all – those former members who left the SSP and did not join Solidarity. They have raised criticisms, not only about egotism of Sheridan and the unattractive sectarianism and splitting tactics of the SWP and CWI, but also of some of the badly misjudged actions of the SSP in attempting to deal with these problems. This group currently forms an important bridge to those wider sections of the working class whom we need to win over once more to principled, socialist unity.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Nov 16 2010

RCN Statement on the decision of George Galloway to stand in next year’s Holyrood elections

George Galloway has decided, with the backing of Respect in England and Wales, to stand as an MSP in Glasgow in next year’s Holyrood elections. This decision would apparently have been taken with or without Respect’s support. It amounts to little more than an attempt at carpet-bagging, following his removal from the celebrity spotlight, when he failed to retain a Westminster seat last year.

Galloway’s articles in the Daily Record show his likely political trajectory. He hopes to follow Ken Livingstone and be re-accepted into the Labour Party. He is selling himself to Labour voters in Glasgow as somebody with a high personal profile in contrast with existing Labour MSPs. Galloway’s most likely obstacle is probable jealousy over his celebrity status amongst the existing lacklustre leaders of the party in Scotland.

The attempt to promote socialist projects around celebrity candidates, whether Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill, Tommy Sheridan or George Galloway, has done nothing to advance principled and deep-rooted socialist organisation in these islands. Galloway’s particular claim to fame on the Left has been his spirited opposition to US imperialism. However, he has a record, not of being a consistent anti-imperialist, but of holding an ambivalent relationship to various regimes (e.g. Saddam’s Baathist Iraq and Ahmadinejad’s Islamic Republic of Iran), which are not opposed to imperialism in principle, but only to their lowly position in the current global order of things.

Domestically, Galloway has placed far more importance upon cultivating links with Islamic communal leaders, than with being held accountable either to socialist or working class organisations. Notoriously, he rejects the idea of  ‘a worker’s MP on a worker’s wage’ and believes that MPs should be paid twice as much.

Politically Galloway is opposed to ‘a woman’s right to choose over abortion’. Through his deeply entrenched Left British unionism, Galloway opposes any meaningful self-determination for Scotland. He still nostalgically hankers over the fate of another unionist and imperial state – the USSR – which still, in many ways, provides his ideal model.

Galloway has every right to stand in the Holyrood election next year. Genuine socialists have every reason to oppose him.

Socialist Resistance

The RCN has criticised Socialist Resistance in the past for its failure to address George Galloway’s articles in the Daily Record supporting the Labour Party in the Glasgow East by-election in 2008. Therefore, we welcome the stance Socialist Resistance has now taken over Galloway’s decision to stand in Glasgow in next year’s Holyrood elections.

Republican Communist Network, 15.11.10

Socialist Resistance on the issue
:

Why we are against Respect organizing in Scotland

After a week in which George Galloway said he was under pressure to stand in next year’s elections for the Scottish Parliament, Respect’s annual conference on November 13 voted, 59 to 15, to organise in Scotland. That resolution, published below, makes Socialist Resistance’s position inside Respect untenable. Resistance supported the establishment of Respect in England and has been central to the party’s leadership and work since then. As we explained in the leaflet distributed to the conference, because Resistance supports the Scottish Socialist Party the decision to organise in Scotland in competition to the SSP is a deep error by Respect, one which weakens Respect’s democracy and neglects the importance of Scotland’s struggle for self-determination.

The following amendment was passed by a large majority at Respect’s annual conference on November 13.

Conference notes that:

1. There will be elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011
2. These elections will be conducted under a form of proportional representation in which some MSPs are elected from a list
3. Respect has not organized in or contested elections in Scotland in the past because of the hegemony of other parties to the left of Labour
4. This hegemony no longer exists
. In the context of unprecedented cuts by the Condem Coalition and disappointment with the Labour and SNP, there is now an opportunity for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish parliament with a realistic prospect of success

Conference therefore believes

1. National officers should start preparations for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish Parliament
. Preparations should include immediately registering Scottish Respect as a description that can be used in Scottish elections and seeking to recruit residents in Scotland to Respect.

This is the text of a leaflet distributed by supporters of Socialist Resistance in Respect who now feel that our situation in the organisation is now untenable.

We are strongly opposed to the proposition that Respect organise in Scotland, as proposed in amendment E to Motion 1

Socialist Resistance has supported Respect since its inception in 2004 and previously supported the Socialist Alliance. We supported George Galloway’s letter which sought to democratize the leadership of Respect and backed the majority in the ensuing split in the organisation in 2007. We put the resources of our newspaper at the disposal of Respect. We understood that George and Salma, given their role in the anti-war movement had a vital contribution to make in building a political alternative to New Labour.

But were a resolution to organise Respect in Scotland to be passed at this Respect Conference this would make our situation in the organisation untenable. We are against such a resolution being adopted on a number of grounds:

1) A controversial change of a long-held policy that Respect does not organise in Scotland should not be introduced a week before the conference and with no discussion at the National Council or in the branches.

2) The only purpose in organising in Scotland would be for Respect to stand candidates in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections and in subsequent parliamentary and local elections. Respect has no policy positions on the specific situation in Scotland, particularly the issue of devolution and self-determination an issue around which there would be several different positions. To go into a Scottish election with no debate on key political issues would be fundamentally wrong.

3) There are already two left parties in Scotland standing in elections and they intend to continue doing so, namely the SSP and Solidarity. The SLP also stands in elections in Scotland. The last thing the Scottish left needs is another left party standing in those same elections and dividing the left vote still further.

4) In Respect there have always been different views on which party to support in Scotland. We support the SSP. If this conference were to adopt a position on organising in Scotland and to fight elections SR members would be in an impossible situation. For a party to have members who advocate voting for a different party would be untenable – both for Respect and for SR.

5) Underlying this issue is an important political question; namely the right of the Scottish people to self-determination, including the right to independence. Therefore we reject the idea of English based parties organizing in Scotland.

6) We still haven’t managed to build Respect on an England-wide basis – a decision to stand for election in Glasgow will inevitably lead to the de-prioritisation of Tower Hamlets.

We therefore urge the leadership and membership of Respect to avoid this course of action and to reject the proposal to organise in Scotland, avoiding both the undemocratic nature of such a decision and its consequences for the unity of the organisation.

Socialist Resistance, 13.11.10

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Nov 14 2009

Can the SNP deliver independence?

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 18RCN @ 7:15 pm

We assess the politics behind the SNP government’s proposed independence referendum and its likelihood of success.

Megrahi, behind-the-scenes deals and the ‘liberal’ US onslaught

Political developments in Scotland are hotting-up in the aftermath of the decision by Kenny MacAskill, the SNP’s Justice Minister, to release Abdelbaset Ali-Mohamed al-Megrahi, the so-called Libyan bomber, on compassionate grounds.

Whatever the undisclosed background negotiations behind this move, involving New Labour at Westminster and SNP at Holyrood, the political fallout has been considerable. Earlier negotiations between the British and Libyan government, involving Tony Blair and Jack Straw, had strongly implied a prisoner transfer agreement. Megrahi would finish his sentence in Libya, in return for BP oil concessions. The Scottish government thwarted this. It denied any right to the British government to interfere with the decision taken by the Scottish judiciary, which had been given original responsibility for Megrahi’s trial, held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, in 2000-1.

What has become abundantly clear is that Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson wanted Megrahi released before his death, to ensure that British corporate interests in Libya weren’t jeopardised if he died in a British jail. MacAskill’s willingness to take responsibility for Megrahi’s release was an added bonus for the New Labour-led British government. It meant that the SNP-led Scottish government could take all the blame, when the right wing press, both in Britain and the US, orchestrated the howls of outrage about ‘weakness’ in the face of terrorism.

It is possible that the SNP leadership thought that, with Barack Obama as President, the new US Democrat government would welcome MacAskill’s compassionate approach. After all Obama had personally given an undertaking to the Moslem world in Cairo on June 4th that he represented a new type of American leader. However, as the continuing war in Afghanistan (and now Pakistan), the continued build up of pressure on Iran, and the US’s failure to discipline Netanyahu in the face of continued Israeli settlements on the West Bank demonstrate, Obama is only trying to re-brand US imperialism, not challenge it.

So ‘liberal’ Obama, Hilary Clinton, and the late Ted Kennedy, led the attack on the Scottish government. Meanwhile, the rabid American Right soon ended any delusions about the longstanding affectionate ties between Scotland and the US. In their eyes, Scotland replaced France as the country all ‘good American’s love to hate. Only now it is the Scots who are ‘haggis-eating surrender monkeys’. Back in Scotland, the British unionist parties, New Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem, characteristically decided to echo the sentiments emanating from the US. They launched an attack on the Scottish government and the nationalist SNP.

The SNP recovers from the attacks and announces its independence referendum

The SNP has been trying for years to win the approval of corporate America, with the prospect of low business taxation and the attempted cultivation of Scottish-American business figures and politicians. Donald Trump, the dodgy property speculator, has been assiduously wooed. Therefore, defending MacAskill’s decision in the face of blatant US imperial pressure did not come easily to the SNP leadership, particularly after the display of Scottish saltires being waved at Tripoli’s airport, welcoming Megrahi upon his return. After all, MacAskill still insisted that he acted solely on compassionate grounds, and that he upheld the Scottish court’s extremely dubious decision that Megrahi was guilty. MacAskill didn’t want to tread on the toes of the Scottish legal establishment.

Early opinion polls seemed to indicate that MacAskill was indeed isolated. However, the Church of Scotland, followed by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, gave their public backing to MacAskill. Whilst this was undoubtedly embarrassing to sections of the unionist alliance, it was the decision of Nelson Mandela to support MacAskill that turned the tables. Within days, support for MacAskill’s decision had risen to 45% in Scotland.

Sensing a possible drubbing in any Scottish General Election their actions might precipitate, the unionist opposition retreated from a vote of ‘No confidence’ in MacAskill at Holyrood. They settled for a motion condemning the Scottish government’s handling of the affair. Although the unionist parties have an overall majority in Holyrood, their alliance began to break up. Former Scottish Labour Ministers, Henry McLeish and Malcolm Chisholm, backed MacAskill, and the Conservatives decided to switch the focus of attention to Gordon Brown and Westminster Government involvement in Megrahi’s release.

It was in this context that the SNP Government announced next year’s legislative programme on September 3rd, with its proposal for a referendum on Scottish independence given flagship status. Now the unionist parties can kill this off at the first hurdle, by using their majority to vote down any such bill in Holyrood. Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, Alex Salmond well knows this, but has likely calculated on there being a British Conservative Government under David Cameron next year. This could place the SNP in a good position before the next Holyrood General Election in 2011, especially with an impotent New Labour in ‘opposition’ at Westminster.

The November 12th Glasgow North East by-election

However, a more immediate by-election battle is taking place in Glasgow North East on November 12th, after the resignation of the disgraced Westminster Speaker, Michael Martin. With the SNP not wanting to be portrayed as the ‘Orange’ party (Labour’s main accusation against it, when it stood against Scottish party leader, Helen Liddell, in the notorious Monklands East by-election in 1994) their leadership is taking no chances. It has adopted David Kerr as candidate. He is a member of Opus Dei!

Glasgow City Council is one of the few Scottish councils still under Labour control, so the SNP cannot so easily be held responsible for the type of unpopular local policies, which contributed to their surprise defeat in the Glenrothes by-election last November. So, Labour has now switched its focus to an alleged SNP bias against Glasgow city, highlighted by the Scottish Government’s decision to cancel the planned Glasgow airport rail link.

The SNP strategy of trying to appeal to all Scots, regardless of class, has also come unstuck. The introduction of new local service charges for pensioners in Fife was just one indicator of where the SNP’s real loyalties lie. In Edinburgh they share responsibility with the Lib-Dems for the council’s attempt to impose draconian pay cuts on refuse disposal workers, with the threat of privatisation looming. In West Dunbartonshire, they have suspended SSP councillor, Jim Bollan, for nine months, for his tireless commitment to working class communities.

The long honeymoon, enjoyed by the current SNP government, is now under strain. The SNP is wedded to a neo-liberal economic model, which once placed failed corporations such as the Royal Bank of Scotland in the driving seat of their proposed new Scottish economy, and lauded the successes of the Irish ‘Celtic Tiger’. Today, the SNP meekly accepts its role in administering the Westminster government’s measures to deal with the current crisis – massive public spending cuts to bail out the bankers.

The Scottish government has also frozen council taxes now for three years. This further contributes to the squeeze on social spending. Added to all this, the full consequences of the SNP’s fawning before Trump means that the Scottish government looks prepared to back a compulsory purchase order to evict residents from their homes in Aberdeenshire to make way for Trump’s new golf course and leisure complex –the new Clearances.

The build-up of reactionary forces and the divided Left

Although the prime press interest in Glasgow North East will be the battle between New Labour and the SNP, there will be other significant political struggles going on. In the last election here, the Conservatives did not field a candidate, following the mainstream parties’ convention of not standing against the Speaker. This left the way open for the Scottish Unionists to stand. They represent that traditional Orange wing, abandoned by the Conservatives, when the party broke their link with the Ulster Unionist Party in the 1970’s. David Cameron has recently reforged that alliance. Official British Conservative backing for a Protestant unionist party in ‘the Six Counties’ will have knock on effects in Glasgow, where sectarian divisions still exist.

However, the Orange Order in Scotland is still not prepared to throw its weight fully behind the Tories. Grand Master, Ian Wilson, has said the Order will be backing the Labour Party, wherever they are best placed to defeat the SNP in elections. Labour remains Scotland’s premier Unionist party.

Both the previous New Labour/Lib-Dem and current SNP Scottish governments at Holyrood have promoted a bureaucratic and moralistic campaign against sectarianism in Scotland, based on the false notion that there is a ‘war between two tribes’, Protestant and Catholic or, sometimes more simply, between Rangers and Celtic. The real underlying issue is support for, or opposition to, the British occupation of part of Ireland. One of the aims of this official ‘anti-sectarian’ campaign is to cutback on the many Orange Order and the handful of Irish Republican marches held in Scotland’s Central Belt. This will become a focus of opposition for hard line loyalists. There is also the planned provocation in Glasgow, organised by the fascist Islamophobic English Defence League’s satellite organisation, the ‘Scottish Defence League’ (SDL), on November 14th.

The BNP are standing in the Glasgow North East by-election. They would love to have the sort of clout that loyalists in ‘the Six Counties’ demonstrated, when the PSNI meekly bowed before their intimidation of Roma families in Belfast. Furthermore, despite BNP denials, there is obviously an overlap between BNP and EDL/SDL. Like the loyalists in ‘the Six Counties’, they have shown a growing admiration for the apartheid state of Israel and its brutal methods. So, it is only an inner hard core of Nazi ‘Sieg Heiling’, swastika worshippers that cling on to the old anti-semitism. The majority of Union Jack waving fascists find plenty to celebrate in the history of British unionism and imperialism.

Furthermore, there are other nasty links being forged. The mainstream, usually socially liberal, Church of Scotland is under growing attack by the reactionary Fellowship of Confessing Churches (FCC), with 45 parishes threatening to break away, unless the Church publicly condemns homosexuality. The FCC is backed by Sam Cole, DUP councillor and Orange Lodge chaplain, along with Maurice Bradley, former mayor of Coleraine, Danny Kennedy, Ulster Unionist depute leader, Sir David McNee, former Chief Constable of Strathclyde, and a hundred members of the ultra-conservative Presbyterian Church of America, which also opposes the ordination of women ministers.

Tragically, the Left today is divided in Scotland. In the last Glasgow North East election, the SSP easily defeated both the Scottish Unionists and the BNP, although Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) was able to do better still and get 14% of the vote, in the confusion caused by the absence of an official Labour candidate, with Michael Martin standing solely as the Speaker. The SLP has left no organisation on the ground and is, in effect, now only one man’s vanity party.

The concern now is that, with a Left split between the SSP, Solidarity/Tommy Sheridan party and the SLP, the BNP’s vote could overtake the Socialist vote. Whilst Sheridan will cultivate the celebrity vote, he faces competition from John Smeaton, the ‘people’s hero’. Meanwhile, John Swinburne, the ex-MSP, from the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, and Mikey Hughes, former Big Brother runner-up, campaigning for the disabled, are also standing. More worrying than any likely BNP vote in itself, would be the opportunity this could provide them to become the ‘shock troops’ of hard right unionism in Scotland, at a time when the issue of Scottish independence is coming to the fore.

When Nick Griffin visited Scotland on October 28th, he said he supported a referendum for Scottish independence. However, he made it quite clear that the BNP would strongly oppose those campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote. He is lining himself up with ultra unionists like the Tory, Michael Forsyth, and New Labour’s Wendy Alexander, who also want a referendum campaign to see off any threat of Scottish independence for the foreseeable future. You can rest assured, whatever differences they still have, that these ultra-unionists don’t intend to confine their opposition to polite democratic debate – and the BNP are signalling that their services can be called upon to defend the Union.

The SNP unprepared for the British state counter-attack – a socialist republican and ‘internationalism from below’ approach needed

The SNP remains a thoroughly constitutionalist party, and has indicated, by its recently declared support for the British monarchy, its complete willingness to play politics by Westminster rules. The problem is, that the British ruling class only play be these rules when it suits them. When their state is under threat, both Conservative and Labour governments have shown their preparedness to utilise the antidemocratic Crown Powers to thwart any challenges, as any Republican living in Ireland can testify. If necessary, they would not be averse to covertly encouraging British loyalists, as the British state’s continued financial support for their organisations in ‘the Six Counties’ demonstrates.

Furthermore, the SNP’s complete lack of appreciation of the continued imperial role of British troops in the world is highlighted by its continued support for the British Army’s Scottish regiments. SNP Westminster defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson, has announced that ‘English’ troops would be welcome to remain in Scotland after ‘independence’. It probably won’t be long before the SNP retreats further to accommodate US imperialism. They could settle for Scotland being removed from the NATO frontline to become a ‘supporting’ state within NATO’s Orwellian renamed second tier, ‘The Partnership for Peace’. NATO bases in Scotland would still remain available for imperial use.

Scotland, with its North Sea Oil, and its numerous British and NATO military bases, is far more central to ruling class interests, than ‘the Six Counties’. It is unlikely that the British state will just wait until the Scottish independence referendum bill comes to Holyrood. US and British security services are probably preparing a strategy, using both official and unofficial forces, to marginalise the threat of the break-up of the UK and the potential loss of NATO bases.

Although there is no deep-seated tradition of independent republican organisations in Scotland, there is nevertheless widespread popular support for a Scottish Republic. Furthermore, this is strongly linked to support for public services provided on the basis of need, and opposition to British and American imperial wars. A vote for the SNP has sometimes expressed this feeling in a sentimental way. As the SNP moves further to the Right such support is becoming as undeserved as a vote for Labour from those hoping to improve their lives.

It is the job of socialist republicans to organise such sentiments in an effective way, by linking everyday struggles, such as the ‘Save Our Schools’ campaign in Glasgow today, with the demand for a Scottish Republic tomorrow, when the SNP independence referendum comes up against British unionist intransigence. Only the SSP links its support for independence with opposition to all imperialist wars, whether or not they are sanctioned by the UN – a thoroughly undemocratic body, which is nothing other than a plaything of the imperial powers. In contrast, the SNP stance on the ongoing US/British war in Afghanistan has been profoundly ambiguous.

Since the British state and its Irish government allies coordinate their actions through the ‘Peace Process’ and Devolution-all-round; and both the British and Scottish TUCs and the Irish CTU promote ‘social partnerships’, which subordinate workers’ interests to those of the bosses; whilst the BNP and loyalists are trying to cement links ‘across the border’ and ‘across the water’, it becomes all the more imperative that Socialists in these islands organise ourselves on the basis of ‘internationalism from below’ to more effectively promote working class interests throughout these islands. We need to build on the success of last year’s Republican Socialist Convention.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,