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!

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