Tuesday, 27 May 2014


The election of 24 UKIP MEPs; the fact they topped the poll in England; their massively increased share of the vote (up 11 points since 2009 to 27.5%); and the open calls of some Tories for a pact or coalition with them for Westminster governments, should be a loud, frightening wake-up call to workers in Scotland who are pondering what to do on 18 September.

UKIP's racism and xenophobic anti-Europeanism is reasonably well known by many people in Scotland. 
Hardly known at all - largely buried from view by the sycophantic media that has consciously built them up as a means to siphon off the growing disgust with the mainstream parties that might otherwise be attracted to voices on the left - is their rank hypocrisy and their viciously anti-working class agenda.

Ruin and right-wing populism

UKIP appeals to people ruined by the crisis in capitalism. The likes of small business people and the self-employed who are crushed between the bankers and multinational corporate giants, and sections of workers facing destitution and desperation due to the chronic shortage of decent jobs and housing.
Untrammeled capitalism, deregulated under successive Tory and Labour governments, has meant a cataclysmic shock to people's systems, their sense of stability, so some grab at UKIP's easy-sounding explanations: their scapegoating of immigrants, their denunciation of EU bureaucracy, their demonization of the allegedly 'work-shy', and their railing against the corruption of the three big pro-capitalist parties in Britain.
The hypocrisy and inconsistency of UKIP on these issues is nauseating - but rarely if ever exposed by a media which has hoisted them to prominence as a means to drag disgruntled voters to 'the BNP in blazers' rather than risk the anger of ruined workers finding a voice on the socialist left.

UKIP corruption
Whilst thundering against corruption and 'foreigners', UKIP's election strategist was Neil Hamilton, former Tory MP, expelled from Westminster for taking cash in brown envelopes off Mohamed al Fayed.
In the same vein, Farage claimed £2million in expenses as an MEP up to the year 2009 - and chose his German wife from amongst 400 (British) applicants for the job of his parliamentary secretary.
Two of the twelve UKIP MEPs elected in 2004 were expelled for money laundering and false accounts.
Farage was recently rumbled for his secret tax account - a tax dodge - in the Isle of Man, but the mainstream media let it drop as an issue after a few days, in stark contrast to their hounding of so-called benefit cheats, day and daily, for years.
So much for UKIP's anti-corruption ticket - a potent weapon of appeal amongst a population heartily sick of the corruption of British politics, which has accelerated exponentially since the ideological convergence of Labour and Tory.

Racist lies
UKIP's brutal anti-immigrant propaganda has not and can not be countered by any of the big parties in Westminster, for the simple reason they first created the platform for UKIP to pour out their bile, and because the Tory and Labour leadership to some extent or another share their scapegoating of 'foreigners' for the plague of unemployment and poor housing blighting capitalist Britain.
Not a whisper from Tory or Labour politicians about the lies and nonsense about a flood of Romanians and Bulgarians into Britain since new EU regulations took effect in January; in fact the numbers of people from these countries entering the UK this year has taken a nose-dive!
Not a word from the British establishment that contrary to the xenophobic rants of UKIP, the NHS depends on 40% of its nursing staff and 30% of its doctors coming from abroad, and that it would collapse without immigration.
Not a single headline to highlight the Manchester University report that last year alone, immigrants to the UK contributed (in taxes) over £8.8billion more than they took back in any form of benefit.
One incident sums up the fact that UKIP is dragging the other major parties to the right, rather than Labour countering their rightwing British nationalist claptrap: UKIP pounded the Tories into declaring a ban on all access to benefits and the NHS to immigrants for their first two years of residence. Labour rightly denounced this as terrible...and then said they would only do it for the first ONE year!!

Jobs, housing  - and socialism
It's impossible to counter UKIP on jobs, wages, housing and immigration without advocating a socialist solution to the problems causing havoc to millions facing the consequences of capitalism and the bankers' profiteering.
We need masses of work done, for instance, to tackle homelessness, slum housing, overcrowding and fuel poverty. If the government funded councils and local housing associations to build, renovate and insulate hundreds of thousands of houses in Scotland in the lifespan of the first independent parliament, that would create jobs and apprenticeships, as well as cutting poverty. And the jobs could be well paid, with a decent living minimum wage, which would counter the 'race to the bottom' favoured by capitalist employers and successive Westminster governments, who currently dip into a large pool of skilled and desperate 'reserve army of labour' to drive down wages.
And if some of those doing the work came from abroad, most people wouldn't care, so long as there were plenty of jobs for all.
Add to that the potential Klondike available from green energy in Scotland, where hundreds of thousands could be employed to develop, build and operate clean energy supplies, not for private profit but for public need.
In turn these and other job-creating measures would require funding from progressive taxation of the obscenely rich - including the ten richest Scots who between them own wealth of £12billion  - plus democratic public ownership of energy, construction, banking and transport.
And that's a million miles from what UKIP offers working class people.

The flame of Thatcherism
"I'm the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive".
It wasn't Cameron or Clegg who said that, though it could be! Nor Ed Miliband, though in practice it would be true of New Labour's  devotion to the so-called 'free market' and capitalist inequality. It was the 'man of the people', the cheeky chap down the pub, UKIP's Nigel Farage.
UKIP has a totally contradictory clutch of policies, designed to fool different layers of small business people and ruined workers into voting for their right-wing populism.

Vicious UKIP assaults on workers
They openly support privatization of the NHS, to permit people to jump the queue by being able to pay for it.
They want to privatize big chunks of the education system, with vouchers for parents to buy places in private schools.
They generally want more 'free trade', 'deregulation' of business and rampant privatization - former City of London trader Farage is truly keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive.
UKIP want to abolish the statutory 5.6 weeks of paid annual holidays workers have won in this country through generations of trade union struggle.
They even want to end statutory redundancy pay - 'free trade' capitalism means total freedom to exploit workers.
As well as opposing women being on company boards on the grounds that UKIP think women are inferior players of poker, chess and bridge (!!), they want to slash maternity pay by 50 per cent to a miserly £64 a week!
UKIP favour even deeper cuts to jobs and public services than the ConDem coalition. Days after the TUC held its demo in London of over 250,000 in March 2011 against the Westminster Coalition's public sector cuts, UKIP held one - pathetically small - demanding MORE cuts!
In the face of obscene new levels of inequality - which fuels the anger and disillusionment of millions with the traditional political parties who help create these conditions, which in turn UKIP taps into with populist demagogy - they advocate a flat rate income tax. So under a UKIP (or Tory/UKIP) Westminster government, low paid workers and the middle class would pay proportionately far more of their incomes in tax than the bankers, mineral-exploiting capitalists, billionaires and landowners who dominate ownership of wealth.

Race to the top!
UKIP plays on real fears and insecurities in the face of a storm of capitalist assaults on working class conditions. But their policies would lay waste to all the concessions won by past generations of workers; divide the working class and therefore undermine our ability to fight back; and would mean an accelerated race to the bottom for working class people in the jungle of primitive capitalism UKIP favours.
Workers need Scottish independence to escape the prison of a Tory/UKIP government; unity in struggle against capitalist exploitation; and socialist change to ensure a 'race to the top' on jobs, wages, housing and democratic rights.

Friday, 16 May 2014


When it comes to reporting the stance of trade unionists on the Referendum, the picture is consciously distorted in the mainstream media by announcements of national union leaderships declaring their adherence to Better Together, or their sub-contracted messengers, United with Labour.
Under the surface, a groundswell of trade union members are concluding independence is the quickest, and maybe the only, escape route from decades of miserable poverty, job insecurity and capital's dictatorship over their working lives.

It is no accident that the leaderships of giant unions like UNITE and UNISON - plus the STUC as a whole - have remained studiously unaffiliated to either the Yes or No campaigns, whilst in fact regularly lacerating Better Together for its lack of vision and failure to persuade workers of any benefits from continued UK rule. These union leaderships know full well the ranks wouldn't tolerate affiliation to the Tory-funded, Labour-fronted BT. So their Labour affiliation has not led to them toeing the party line. And in the case of UNISON, this is despite pressure from UK general secretary Dave Prentis to accept a huge sum of members' money to affiliate to BT!

Members in revolt

Even in those unions which used UK-wide conferences to impose support for a No vote on the Scottish membership, usually with little or even no prior discussion in Scottish branches, members are refusing to obey the dictats of remote, overpaid national leaderships.
USDAW members on or just above the pathetic minimum wage have a radically different view of the glories of Britain from that of a Labour-loving general secretary on six or seven times the wage of a full-time retail worker.

ASLEF members are angry at the lack of real debate prior to their affiliation to BT, and are now insisting on debates to inform members prior to September.
GMB members are furious at the way their union leadership nailed them to the No camp, which is why Scottish officers have been desperate to disassociate from BT, clinging onto the veneer of being United with Labour instead.

CWU sham consultation 

The CWU leadership are the latest to hoist their flag for the No camp, after an exercise in sham consultation in Scotland. They didn't ignore the Scottish membership as brazenly as the likes of USDAW; they held a series of city-based debates, with members invited to hear a speaker from both sides. But as one of those who spoke in some of the debates for the Yes side, I can testify that the recent UK conference decision to call for a No vote flies in the face of the sentiment of those meetings. 

The leadership circulated scaremongering bulletins to every member, lifted straight from the book of the BT fear factory. At the meetings they consciously never took a vote after the debate. In some of the meetings there was a clear majority for Yes, judging by comments during and after, and in the rest a substantial Yes minority - all despite the leadership documents. 

But fury at the UK union leadership wielding the vote of UK conference - where over 90 per cent of delegates are from outside Scotland - has only added to the determination of CWU activists to campaign for a Yes vote.

The Scottish Prison Officers' Association debated and voted overwhelmingly for Yes. 

The RMT is about to announce the outcome of their consultative members' meetings, where several were enthusiastically for independence. 

And PCS held an extremely democratic consultation of members, where not one single branch in the whole of Scotland supported the No camp.

Escaping the Tories 

Workers face a stark choice. Continued, and indeed escalated, attacks on the working class from a Westminster government regardless of what colour rosette the Prime Minister wears after the May 2015 General election. Or kicking the door open to radical redistribution of wealth and power towards the working class through Scottish self-government, not by relying on the pro-big business SNP, but by fighting and organising to shape Scotland into a socialist society.

The latest polls are reason enough to vote to escape Westminster, with the Tories ahead of Labour and UKIP leapfrogging the LibDems. But even if Labour defied most predictions and won in 2015, what future do they offer workers?

Labour prepared the path for Cameron

We can't afford to forget 13 years of Labour in government preceded the current Etonian butchers, and acted as John the Baptist preparing for the arrival of Christ. Labour initiated the vicious Workfare schemes and benefits sanctions now carried out with the zeal of maniacs by the Coalition, driving 70,000 people a month into destitution. And worse is to come, with threats of daily visits to the JobCentre, compulsory work for no wages - all of which not only condemns the unemployed to pauperism, but helps drive down the wages of those in jobs. And Labour has promised to be tough on benefits too!

Labour retained Thatcher's anti-union laws, now being added to by the Coalition, with plans to effectively outlaw public sector strikes. Westminster are the ones to ban solidarity action between workers - not some bogus splitting of the working class through Scottish independence.

Labour jokers

When Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown promise 'the best of both worlds', with a 'strong Scottish parliament and the benefits of sharing resources across the regions within the UK', with tantalizing promises of only one Xmas until a Labour government that will usher in social justice, I don't know if they're standup comedians or downright stupid, or just lying.

Social justice in the UK after 13 years of Labour in office means the most regionally unequal state in the whole of Europe. As even Coalition LibDem lapdog Vince Cable admits, the City of London "sucks the life out of the rest of the country".
Since the massive recession, London has had twice the growth rates of any other part of the UK, and whilst 284,000 jobs were lost across the UK from 2007-12, 267,000 jobs were created in London.
In Scotland today, the 'best of both worlds' means the richest tenth of the population enjoy 900 times (yes, nine hundred) as much wealth as the poorest tenth of Scots.

Organise to shape Scotland

Independence is a sure way to escape Tory dictatorship, which is a real and present threat up until 2020 or beyond if we remain chained to Westminster.

But that is not to delude workers that a land of milk and honey automatically follows a Yes vote. The wealth is there aplenty in Scotland, but it depends entirely on who owns and controls it.
The SSP wants independence as a means to very desirable ends. 

To banish poverty pay with a decent level of legally enforced national minimum wage - at least £9 an hour in today's figures. 

To end the nightmare of Workfare and benefit sanctions, with massive job creation in housing, green energy, public services - plus a caring welfare system for the young, elderly, sick or disabled, funded by taxation of the rich and big business. 

To scrap the anti union laws and enshrine the right to work, the right to strike, the right to take solidarity action in the constitution. 

To demand widespread democratic public ownership of the banks, energy, transport, construction, and major industries - with elected, accountable workers' representatives making up the majority on boards of management.


These steps towards a socialist Scotland would vastly enhance the lives of the working class majority in Scotland, but also enhance the fighting spirits and chances of similar transformation being fought for by workers in neighbouring countries. 

Workers and their unions should join the fight to shape such a socialist future.
Independence, socialism and international solidarity should be the watchwords of the trade union movement - not surrender to the dictatorship of capital and its various political mouthpieces.

Thursday, 1 May 2014


- we have nothing to lose but our chains!

Workers celebrating socialism and internationalism on May Day events will doubtless be subjected to the annual ritual of Labour politicians making nauseating declarations of their undying devotion to the working class, international solidarity and socialism.
These chancers don't even blush as they make speeches that totally contradict what they practice all the rest of the year.
They fail to explain how introducing what became the Bedroom Tax under a Labour government - and Labour's refusal to pledge its abolition for a clear 6 months after it was imposed - helped the cause of workers' unity. 

They won't be highlighting Labour's track record of retaining the most vicious anti-union laws in Europe - with Tony Blair boasting about it! - for their entire 13 years in government.
They won't want us to recall that it was a Labour government that dragged us into bloody imperialist wars as they prattle platitudes about internationalism.


But this year sees an added layer of hypocrisy from Labour politicians, as they do their damnedest to block democratic self-government for the working class majority population of Scotland.
The Better Together fear factory is funded by Tories and Tory-supporting big business tycoons. £1.3m was donated to them by 19 such multi-millionaires on the eve of Xmas - hoping it was a good time to bury bad news!
The exposure of CBI Scotland as open funders and advocates of continued misrule by Westminster reinforces the message: the chief exploiters and enemies of workers' rights and socialism are at the heart of opposing Scottish self-rule.


But they need to subcontract out their dirty work to Labour to have any chance of fooling enough working people into voting NO. That's why 'United With Labour' was set up, fronted by the likes of Gordon Brown. That figleaf has been blown away, exposing the naked collaboration between Labour leaders and the Tories, with Brown most recently using the toxic, Tory-funded Better Together to tell us we will get 'social justice with Labour by voting against independence'.
Only victims of extreme amnesia could fall for that line. 

Remember the 'social justice' we enjoyed under Brown, Blair and Alastair Darling's Labour governments of 1997-2010?! Rampant privatization, including attempts to sell off Royal Mail; the worst levels of inequality since 1863; announcement of 100,000 civil service job losses; successive assaults on benefits; introduction of student tuition fees that exclude working class people from higher education; wholesale school closures to cut costs at kids' expense; threats to jail Glasgow city council strike leaders by the Labour council; a government - in the exact words of one of its central leaders, Peter Mandelson - that was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich", whilst poverty stalked the land for millions. Not to even mention the wars, or Trident.


And Ed Miliband has made it plain a Labour government - even if we assume they're elected in 2015, which is far from certain - will stick to Tory public spending cuts; backed the Tory cap on benefits but refuses to cap private landlords' rents; will not renationalise even the railways or Royal Mail, let alone the rip-off energy companies or the banks; and has absolutely no intention of repealing the vicious anti-union laws. They use weasel words about stopping exploitation under zero hours contracts, but point blank refuse to abolish them.
So voting NO to democratic control over who governs Scotland and then praying for a Labour government at Westminster that offers social justice is black comedy, a sick joke.


But the most insulting lie peddled by Labour leaders - one which their Tory pals know they couldn't get away with uttering - is that independence threatens the unity and solidarity of the working class and their trade unions. The theme that workers in Scotland have far more in common with a worker in London or Liverpool than with a laird in Scotland.
Those of us campaigning as socialists and trade unionists for independence welcome lectures on workers' unity and solidarity from Labour politicians a lot less than the proverbial Grannies welcome tutorials on the art of sucking eggs!

Workers and socialists in Scotland have nothing in common with the Brian Soutars of this world, any more than with the Richard Bransons. Both make a fortune out of the privatization of transport by successive Tory and Labour governments. And we have everything in common with bus drivers or railway workers, regardless of whether they're from Perth or Poole, Lothians or Liverpool, the south west of Scotland or the south west of England.


But since when did the unity and class solidarity of workers ever depend on the permission, let alone the encouragement, of Westminster governments - whether Tory or indeed Labour?
When the Tories imposed the hated Poll Tax 25 years ago - where 'a dustman paid the same as a duke' - they didn't seem to think we were 'Better Together": they imposed it a year earlier in Scotland, in a crude attempt to divide and conquer.
Did working class people wait for permission from Westminster to revolt against the Tory tax? Or for leadership by Westminster Labour MPs, most of whom whinged about its unfairness but told us there was nothing we could do to defeat it?
No, working class people, often led by those of us who ten years later went on to create the SSP, organised a mass rebellion that eventually toppled Thatcher as well as her tax. And those of us living in England at the time didn't sit back and ignore the battles being waged by Scottish working class communities during the year when it only applied to Scotland. We built solidarity with the Scottish working class; for instance I organised a contingent of 1,000 people from Merseyside to the first big Glasgow anti-poll tax demo. 


And we learnt from the experiences of the Scots, inspired by their defiance, spreading the mass non-payment campaign to 18 million people. Workers' unity and solidarity was neither dependent on Westminster nor the Labour leadership, and crossed the borders of Scotland, England and Wales.
Why would it be any different when Scottish working class people won self-rule and insisted on radical social and economic change? Surely English workers would demand 'some of the same', encouraged to defy and defeat the dictatorship of the Tories and the dictatorship of capital?


Where were Labour's bogus evangels of workers' solidarity when those of us who founded the SSP organised workplace solidarity tours across Scotland for the 500 locked-out Liverpool dockers, or striking Tameside care workers, or victimized Bristol civil servants? If they'd taken part they would have found not a single worker in Scotland spurned the appeal for solidarity on the grounds these workers were English.
And why would that powerful instinct for solidarity with fellow workers, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, suddenly vanish once the Scottish working class majority won self-government? Is Johann Lamont about to tell us they will be 'genetically re-programmed' to become petty, narrow nationalists, against workers from other countries?


Too many Labour loyalists at the tops of the trade union movement ape these arguments that independence, an end to rule by the UK Westminster elite, would wreck workers' solidarity.
How then do they explain the rich traditions of Scottish workers trekking across the Pyrenees in the 1930s to fight alongside Spanish workers against Franco's fascist dictatorship? Spain has never been part of the UK!
How explain the more recent internationalism of the cream of the Scottish working class in support of South African workers and youth defying bloodthirsty apartheid? Or with Chilean workers slaughtered by the fascist Pinochet regime in 1973 - a government first recognized by Westminster's Tory regime? Or for Danish bus workers, Belfast car workers or Nigerian journalists - each of whom I and others built solidarity for in Scotland?


Genuine workers' solidarity has never stopped at Dover, let alone Gretna Green. And it has never been dependent on the permission, let alone the support, of ANY Westminster governments, whether Tory or indeed Labour.
On the contrary, successive Westminster regimes - including those never voted for by a Scottish majority - did their damnedest to divide and defeat workers' struggles. To name but one example: they privatized and broke up the railways into dozens of separate companies doing the same work. Combined with anti-union laws banning so-called secondary action - in other words, solidarity action! - this was used to legally ban railway workers doing the same jobs on the same tracks from taking action together against victimization, pay cuts or worsened conditions.


Too many trade union leaders confuse workers' unity and solidarity with their own centralized power over the union, its decisions and its membership.
Those of us who are trade unionists in the SSP have consistently argued for democratic Scottish conferences of elected union representatives to decide on issues within Scotland. But simultaneously we have advocated democratic meetings of elected shop stewards or union reps across national boundaries within the same services or multinational employers. That would strengthen solidarity, concretely, as well as being a huge boost to members' democratic control of their own unions.


Within an independent Scotland we will fight for socialist change - progressive taxation of big business and the rich; democratic public ownership of all services, banks, energy, construction, transport and big industry.
We will argue for majority control by working class people in the running of these industries and services - a model that workers outside Scotland would be inspired to emulate.
And we will champion genuine workers' solidarity, not just with our nearest neighbours, but also far beyond the boundaries of this island - including through elected international shop stewards' meetings.
Scottish independence would speed up the prospects of radical improvements to the lives of working class people - provided we build a powerful socialist force - and thereby assist workers in other countries.
And a final promise: unlike Labour politicians, we will commit to this all year round, not just once a year in May Day speeches!