Sunday, 23 November 2008

We all Rise

SSP Campsie member Pamela Page on the Obama victory...

“You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us.”

The words of Alice Walker in her open letter to Barack Obama.

“Us being the black people of the Southern United States.”

Scottish Socialists would do well to remember we are looking on at events through a prism of white privilege.

It is easy for us to dismiss the symbolic power of a black president as another mainstream Democratic victory but I would argue that this would be missing the point and a serious own goal.

On a personal level I know how I felt when Frances, Carolyn and Rosie were elected. I felt validated as a working class woman. It mobilised me to join the SSP.

I can only imagine what it must mean to African Americans to see a black man enter the Whitehouse - built by their ancestors in chains. Who Alice Walker hopes ‘knew he was coming’ because ‘ancestors have to take a very long view’ and have to live on in faith in the struggle.

The symbolic significance of the most famous black person in the world being a U.S. President and not an entertainer or a sportsperson hit me when I saw a young teenage black girl was so overwhelmed by emotion on television that she expressed through sobs that she never thought she’d live to see the day.

There is no denying it must be a moving affirmation of the significance of the horror of the black struggle and where her ancestors came from.

She must be walking tall for the very first time.

It is not abstract theory or politics, it is personal and real. Real people’s experiences are tangled up in this. People have heard their families talk of slavery. Lynchings are in living memory.

It is personal and emotional. Perhaps that is why poetry has expressed it’s significance better than political discourse.

Poetry in motion – Part of the relay race…

More recently, Katrina embodies how much African Americans have borne the brunt of the last reactionary eight years. Subsequently the symbolic power of a black president cannot be dismissed as worthless.

African Americans do not need anyone to tell them - least of all white leftists- that their struggle is not over or that Obama is not their Messiah but a mainstream Democrat who may well end up reactionary.

This does not diminish their achievement. The torch has been passed – that is all.

The struggle continues…

Nevertheless, a black presidency has captured the imaginations of people all over the world and Scottish Socialists dismiss this at our peril. Consciousness is changing. We can easily sniff at it in our ivory towers, but to do so would be to abandon those progressive voices of struggle to cynicism, and apathy. We must ask ourselves- if we are honest - where is the left’s alternative?

I for one realise that no president of the United States is likely to be a standard bearer for the left. Obama himself is of little interest to me as a Socialist. Yet I understand it is remarkable that a grassroots organisation has galvanised so many for the forces for progress in America.

It may not be the Socialist Revolution I would want but we have to address the reality as it is not what we would like it to be. Otherwise we are abdicating our historic duty to seize the day.

We need to admit that the left has never been weaker. The U.S. left in particular has been decimated in the past 30 years. I would argue that we only have an opportunity to rebuild it by engaging with these newly mobilised groups in a long and difficult process. This is much more productive than dismissing them as misguided.

We need to stop congratulating ourselves on our correct analysis and reach out to what is actually happening around us if we are to stop being an irrelevant sect in the U.S. but also in Scotland.

Obama’s symbolic victory has the potential to be truly consciousness changing. Rather than dismissively arguing that the victory means more of the same ole same ole we must recognise it as an historic opportunity for previously dispossessed groups to engage and really put the pressure on. We can use Obama’s rhetoric as well as the new technologies he has used to great effect during the campaign against him to organise. For the white left to do otherwise would be to abandon any future hope of real change in America.

One of Barack’s supposed mentors is Saul Alinksy, who said that ‘a good tactic was one that your people enjoy’. People are enjoying this small victory. We should stop being churlish and join the party! They do not need to be told of the white Marxist alternative. Black activists already know this and will continue to protest. They do not look to anyone else to solve their problems.

We will win or lose by struggling together.

In the words of the campaign slogan” We are the people we have been waiting for!”

Branch Meeting!

Next Campsie meeting - Milton of Campsie Village Hall - Wednesday night (26th November) at 7.30pm. Meeting should be finished by 9pm. If you are interested in coming along - please do! Contact us on

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Good luck Ann!

Ann Kaniuk, a fantastic comrade, is leaving Scotland to go and live with her family in California. Yesterday the Campsie branch met in the wonderful Taormina Restaurant in Kirkintilloch for a farewell lunch. Comrades from other branches who appreciate the work Ann has done for the party over the years also came to say goodbye. Others who could not make it sent cards and best wishes.

It was a very emotional occasion, but a fitting farewell to a hard working comrade and wonderful friend.

Ron played "Auld Lang Syne" on the Sax, and Willie Telfer composed a special poem for the occasion (see below).

Campsie Branch would like to wish Ann all the best - and hopefully we will all be over in Los Angeles manning a stall in the near future!

Ann's Wee Bag o' Nuts by Willie Telfer

(on the occasion of Ann Kaniuk leaving for California)

Ann's been there aw' the time

through Triumph loss and gain

Through MSP's and victories

And many long campaigns

On Hospitals, Village Halls

And all they Council cuts

Oor Ann was always there with her “wee bag of nuts.”

At conference time in Glasgow, Perth and sometimes in Dundee

Delegates sent Anne and Mark, Ron, Mary and me.

With motions up amendments made

Debates they did ensue

And never once did we give away

Campsie had no clue

Arguments of yes and no

And all time ifs and buts,

The weekend was great for Ann

And her “wee bag o' nuts.”

In all the time I've never seen

Cause for Ann to lose her cool

Until the “Orange One” began

To act like a crazy fool.

I had to go one day

Doon tae her wee hoose

This was the first time

I had ever seen her temper on the loose.

“Whats all this Tommy's doing?

He's surely lost the plot?

Everything we have ever done

We're gonna lose the lot.”

“He's mad!,” she said,

“Calling us all scabs

And Aw' they wummin sluts!”

“Calm doon,” I said,

“Ann, have yer wee bag o' nuts!”

Now on yer way,

We wish you aw' the best

We assure you that back here

Our work will never rest.

But in the sunshine,

Yer kids be fine

And the ones on the way

And may all yer nuts be coconuts

In our minds you'll always stay.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Cuba Solidarity Morning

Campsie SSP would like to thank our Scottish Cuba Solidarity friends who came along to Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre today. We would also like to extend our thanks to those who came along to our Saturday information mornings for the first time.

The film on the Miami 5 was heartbreaking - this injustice must be pursued by our elected representatives. Information on the 5 and how YOU can help HERE.

Kath gave an extremely informative talk and the discussion afterwards was lively and interesting with people present adding to the information Cuba Solidarity provided.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Dutch Diary

Lenzie SSP member Thomas Swann explains the Dutch Squatters movement...

Nijmegen, situated on the river Waal only 5 km from the German border, has a rich history of squatting (Kraaken in Dutch) stretching back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Despite various changes in local and national legislation in the Netherlands, occupations of unused buildings is still occurring in Nijmegen. In contrast to Scotland, where squatting is illegal and squatters can face immediate eviction from a property, Dutch law in effect entitles individuals to squat a building if it is left unoccupied for a period of twelve months, though it does not mention squatting directly. This article will chart briefly the development of the squatters movement in Nijmegen, highlighting the factors which have contributed to its prominence in the city, while also focussing on one event in the history of squatting which was a landmark not only in Nijmegen but across the Netherlands.

First, how does the law in the Netherlands in relation to squatting differ from that in Scotland? While in England and Wales squatting is more practical and so also more common (there are an estimated fifteen thousand squatters in England and Wales), Scots law imposes a fine or even imprisonment on anyone found to be occupying a property for which they do not possess ownership. In the Netherlands, the law is more sympathetic to squatting than even in England and Wales. In order to legally squat a building, an individual needs only to access the building without forcing entry, and live in it with a bed, a table and a chair, as well as a working lock which the squatter can use. These conditions define a home in the Dutch legal system, and since it is prohibited for the authorities to interfere in the private home of an individual, they are also prohibited from invading a squatted building, in so far as it meets the criteria required for it to be legally a home. This would be true of any dwelling, but is also true of a building which has been left unoccupied for twelve months. An individual can be evicted for non-payment of rent, but as squatters have no rent contract, this does not apply. In this way, squatters can occupy certain buildings and, provided they register the squat with the police, not face harassment.

This was one of the three factors which laid the legal and social/political foundations for the squatting movement. The second was the acute shortage of housing which had plagued the Netherlands since the Second World War. This was common to most Western European states, where the number of households was increasing at the same time as a decrease in residential construction in the post-War years. The population shot up following the war from 10 million in 1949 to around 13 million in 1970. Now, the population stands at over 16.5 million. While the birth rate has decreased dramatically since the 1970s (later than other European countries), immigration has contributed to a net rise in the population, and recent projections predict that the population will continue to climb gradually. While the government invested heavily in the third quarter of the twentieth century in social housing (resulting in the Netherlands to this day having a high proportion of social housing: 35 percent), the shortage was not eliminated and still remains an issue.

The third contributing factor was the Western sexual revolution of the 1960s. In addition to liberating individuals from sexual tradition through making available female contraceptions, it liberated people also from other social hierarchies including that of the parent-child dynamic. Generational antagonism fed a demand on the part of the new youth to live independently from their parents at a younger age than had previously been the norm. This, coupled with the New Left outlook of this social group, resulted in an active movement to take over formerly private space and turn it over to a wider public use. It was youth and social workers then who first began squatting buildings in order to provide homes for those who could ill afford to buy or rent their own, or for whom there was simply such a lack of housing that no other option was available. In addition, there was an increasing number of vacant private buildings as the wealthy were more inclined to invest in real estate than in the stock market following the recession of the 1970s.

These factors then contributed to the squatting movement all across the Netherlands as a social need for housing was met through the activities of the youth, made possible by the legal recognition of squatters' rights. This was especially true of Nijmegen because of its large student population, generating a significant number of individuals willing to occupy buildings in order that they could be used to provide housing for those who needed it. This would seem to suggest that squatting was a relatively peaceful affair, with no real antagonism between squatters and the state, whose laws facilitated the occupations. However, to paint such a rosy picture would be to ignore some of the significant events which marked the response to squatting by local and national authorities. One such event in Nijmegen occurred in Piersonstraat in 1981.

Piersonstraat was the site of a housing block which was scheduled for demolition by the local government, to be replaced by a multi-story car park, a solution to the problem caused by increasing car ownership in the city. The occupants of the building, which was being used as social housing, were opposed to the council's plans, as were many in the neighbourhood, which had existed in an incredibly close-knit form for generations. When it came time to finally hand over the keys for the properties to officials from the council, the residents reportedly relinquished their keys outside the front door, while squatters working with their support entered the building through the back. The squatters carried with them folding chairs, tables and beds, to attempt to work within the law and stop the authorities from destroying the homes. While this threw up an instant conflict between the new occupants and the local government, the local population showed a remarkable and uncommon solidarity and provided the squatters with food and other supplies.

As was required by law, the council applied to the courts for a warrant to forcibly remove the squatters. However, the day before the court was due to rule on the issue, the 16th of February, barricades were erected in the streets surrounding the building. The squatters had managed to construct the obstacles behind the backs of the police, by staging a fake demonstration in the middle of the night against the planned demolition. While the authorities were engaged in policing this demonstration in another part of town, the barricades went up. One can imagine the surprise of the first policeman at the scene the following morning, who apparently stood gobsmacked at the sight of the defences. The squatters found support from unusual corners, the break with political and social normality resonating with many. Pirate radio broadcasters decided to cooperate in sending the signal from the squatters' radio station across the country, bouncing it from one small antenna to the next. Taxi drivers used their cars reinforce the barricades and block entrances to the streets.

On the 23rd of February, the police moved in with unimaginable force. In addition to one thousand, two hundred policemen and seven hundred and fifty soldiers from the Dutch army, they were backed up by two hundred riot vans, three Leopard tanks, three armoured personnel carriers and a helicopter. Even with their barricades and support from the local population, the squatters were powerless to resist such an effort. With the area being flooded with Tear-gas and CS gas, those resisting the police and army were left with no choice but to flee. The houses on Piersonstraat were torn down. However, the parking garage was never built. The council instead used the space to build new social housing. Despite this victory, in the mid 1980's, squatting laws were changed which made it much easier for the police to remove squatters from buildings. These changes included the stipulation that a building had to be left unoccupied for twelve months prior to being squatted.

Squatting still plays an important role in political life in Nijmegen, but as a radical act of social resistance it no longer occupies the position it once did. With a Left-wing local government composed of the Socialist Party, the Green Left and the Labour Party, the council takes a contradictory approach to squatting. Recently, some of the oldest squats in the city have been legalised, while at the same time a squat situated in an old post office was evicted. However, Right-wingers in the national government are determined to use squatting as a scapegoat and attempts are being made to ban it outright, which have been resisted in the parliament by, among others, the Socialist Party. The struggle not only to maintain individual squats but to preserve the practice itself is under way not only in Nijmegen but across the Netherlands. Following a recent eviction from a squat in Nijmegen, activists revived the old squatters slogan: 'You cannot evict an idea.'

For further information on squatting in the Netherlands and elsewhere, visit or

Or click HERE to see Dutch squatting in action.

Thomas has also written a piece for LENZIE ONLINE

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Invitation to...

THE CAMPSIE BRANCH SSP have invited Cuba Solidarity to Kirkintilloch to facilitate a session on the Miami 5, and to talk about Cuba.

About Scottish Cuba Solidarity

Despite the 40 year old illegal blockade and ongoing aggression the lives of all Cubans have been transformed since the revolution. Outstanding achievements in education, healthcare and other social improvements have been made. Education is free to the highest level. Medical care is also free.

SCSC call for the immediate release of the Miami Five, five Cuban patriots imprisoned in the US since 2001. Imprisoned on trumped up conspiracy charges the five were trying to prevent acts of terrorism being carried out against Cuba. We support the international campaign to free the five.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

African Socialism

by Campsie SSP member, Bill Newman

A more appropriate heading for these notes could well be Whatever Happened to African Socialism? The progressive arrival of independence for sub-Saharan African colonies following Ghana's independence in 1957 saw the overt embrace of socialism by the continent's new leaders from Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Sekou Toure in Guinea (Conakry), Mobido Keita in Mali, Julius Nyerere in Tanganyika, Patrice Lumumba in Congo (Kinshasa) and, later, though he was assassinated shortly before independence, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, among others. Their formative influences were diverse, but included anti-colonialists and Marxists such as Marcus Garvey, W E B du Bois and C L R James among the British colonies, Aime Cesaire and Franz Fanon among the French colonies and Alvaro Cunhal in the Portuguese colonies. None of the new African leaders could be said to have been orthodox Marxists, though a number had spent time in the Soviet Union and the GDR, but they all believed, in varying ways, that Pan-African Socialism, in its different interpretations, represented the future for Africa. Indeed, the ideal seen by many was a united Africa and with this in mind, Kwame Nkrumah was largely instrumental in creating the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, though a group led by Leopold Senghor of Senegal (the Monrovia Group) was much more cautious concerning African unification.

On a more realistic scale, various attempts have been made to build regional federations, all of which, like the grandiose hopes of many in the early OAU, have failed. The catalogue is depressing. The entirely logical federation of Senegal with The Gambia never developed as a fully functioning body before collapsing. The East African Community of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, established in 1967, showed more hope of development before collapsing in 1977, though the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar has proved durable. However, fragmentation, feared by African leaders, has been at least as prevalent. The breakaway of Eritrea from Ethiopia and the establishment of the still unrecognised Somaliland (the former British Somaliland Protectorate) in response to the anarchy prevailing in Somalia illustrate this fragmentation. With some justification, the tensions in Africa have been blamed on the arbitrary borders created by European colonialists, but subsequent tribal and clan conflicts illustrate the difficulties in creating homogenous functioning democracies. The fragmentation of Nigeria into 36 states from an original three represents the tribalism still present in Africa's largest state, though increased opportunities for wealth creation for the corrupt elite as well as attempts to weaken regional power vis-a-vis the central government also have played their part. Indeed, the slow growth of truly national political parties can be, at least in part, attributed to ingrained tribalism as can be seen, for example in the Ndebele/Shona divide in Zimbabwe and the Hutu/Tutsi divisions in Rwanda and Burundi, though in the latter case Belgian colonialism in favouring the Tutsi populations can be held partly to blame. Worse, in some failed states, tribalism has fragmented into clan warfare, as in Somalia. Yet there are some glimmers of hope for regional co-operation as in the more modest remit of the Southern African Development Community and, hopefully, in the more ambitious East African Federation.

Why, then, have the early hopes of Pan-African Socialism failed and why have hopes of sustained socialist development in individual states failed to materialise. First of all, it is a sad truth that power corrupts and absolute power currupts absolutely. The transition from hopeful moderniser to intolerant kleptomaniac dictator can be seen in more than one state. Sadly, Zimbabwe is not unique. Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain in 1968 with Francisco Nguema as president. Under his notorious rule, a third of the population either fled or were killed. A ghastly example of his homicidal rule was the public execution of 150 political opponents to the playing of Mary Hopkins singing Those were the Days. One would hope that the UN, and developed nations, not least the USA, would react to such monstrosities, yet silence was complete. His overthrow by his reputed nephew, Obiang Nguema, gave hopes for the future, but although less vicious than his predecessor, the impoverished population has seen little, if any, improvement to their lives while their President salts away vast sums of oil wealth. It is almost possible to imagine that the plot allegedly financed by Sir(!) Mark Thatcher and Edy Calil, could not, if successful, have made the condition of the population worse. Their motives, however, were to grab the nation's oil wealth for themselves and their pliant allies. Obiang Nguema has now offered the British Government a deal: he will return Simon Mann to the UK to complete his sentence if the British authorities will deliver Thatcher and Calil to Equatorial Guinea for trial. A tempting offer!

Nkrumah is rightly held up as a model leader, but it should be remembered that for all his idealism, his democratic principals were far from perfect and as early as 1958 he banned all strikes. In 1966, he was overthrown and retreated to Guinea where in 1978 Sekou Toure renounced Marxism. Disillusionment with the willingness of populations to modify their life styles and disappointment at the lack of material growth after independence led to mutual frustration and the ability of armies to carry out coups, partly out of a desire for positive change but more often out of an opportunity to enrich themselves. Some countries have painfully pulled themselves out of lengthy periods of military misrule and, for example, Ghana is now a relatively stable democracy (though socialism has not been espoused by recent governments). Others are still suffering under corrupt kleptocracies.

The West, of course, is also complicit in poisoning the early shoots of socialism in Africa. The apparent murder of such promising leaders as Patrice Lumumba and Samora Machel, the support of anti-democratic armed forces as in Angola and the support of corrupt one-man fiefdoms as in the Zaire of Mobutu all weakened fatally any emerging democratic, socialist forces. It should also be said that the West's insistence on totally inappropriate free market 'reforms' before aid is provided gives almost no scope for socialist solutions to chronic economic problems.

But what about South Africa upon which so much hope had been heaped? After all, the tripartite association of the ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) promised much, not just in healing the wounds of apartheid, but in striving for a more egalitarian society. Under Mandela, much seemed to have been achieved, but social progress has been depressingly slow in recent years. And now we see ominous signs of fratricidal warfare in the ranks of all three tripartite members. The departure from the ANC of the former Defence Minister, Masioua Lekota and former premier of the Province of Gauteng, Mbhazima Shilowa seems to herald the birth of a new party (the South African National Congress/Convention). This in itself may not be an unwelcome development but the extreme reaction of the established ANC, COSATU and SACP gives considerable cause for concern. Calls at an inaugural rally of this new group by organised opposition that Lekota and Shilowa should be killed, though, hopefully, hyperbolic, do not augur well for the future. Already there are signs of revived tribalism as many isiXhosa speakers and isiZulu speakers line up on opposite sides. It is to be hoped that the SACP will encourage politicians back to the real needs of the working class, but recent utterings, notably at an address to the miners' union, have not been reassuring.

The future for socialism, even democracy, in Africa looks sombre, but there are hopeful signs. Some nations have established a progressive record and in this respect, Mozambique, Botswana, Sao Tome, Ghana and, at last, Liberia are among those with positive records. Moreover, the refusal of dockers in South Africa and Mozambique to unload arms from China bound for Zimbabwe shows that the power of the working class can still be marshalled. Perhaps it is necessary to go back to the vision of the early liberators of African colonies and, avoiding the straight jacket of Marxist formal terminology , encourage the growth of indigenous African Socialism. In a time when capitalism is clearly failing, socialism remains the hope for Africa just as much, it not more, as for the developed world.

Bill Newman spent most of his working life in banking, latterly as head of economics and then as Assistant General Manager of a City of London bank. For some 15 years he was also editor of and wrote for a journal on international monetary economics.

He has an interest in African matters, having been responsible for economic and political reporting on sub-Saharan Africa for Westminster Bank and writing for some years for the Europa Yearbook on Somalia and Ethiopia. More from Bill here

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


THE CAMPSIE BRANCH SSP have invited Cuba Solidarity to Kirkintilloch to facilitate a session on the Miami 5, and to talk about Cuba.

About Scottish Cuba Solidarity

Despite the 40 year old illegal blockade and ongoing aggression the lives of all Cubans have been transformed since the revolution. Outstanding achievements in education, healthcare and other social improvements have been made. Education is free to the highest level. Medical care is also free.

SCSC call for the immediate release of the Miami Five, five Cuban patriots imprisoned in the US since 2001. Imprisoned on trumped up conspiracy charges the five were trying to prevent acts of terrorism being carried out against Cuba. We support the international campaign to free the five.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Identity Politics and welfare not warfare - views from two Campsie members...

Persepolis –A discussion on Identity Politics.

Campsie branch recently showed the film "Persepolis" in Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre (we meet there on the Second Saturday morning of the month at 10.30am.)

Pamela Page reviews:

Persepolis is an angry, yet simultaneously joyous and inspirational, animated film based on Majane Sartapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name.

I highly recommend the film! It is funny, quirky and great entertainment on many levels - but rather than give a review I am going to discuss it in terms of how I think it can help Socialists understand the importance of Identity politics.

The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution.

Socialists can certainly identify with a lot of Marji’s rebelliousness - especially at the start when we see the mass protests against the Shah. Even after the Islamic fundamentalist’s take over and her Communist uncle is jailed - her spirit is not crushed. Marji refuses to stay out of trouble whether it’s secretly buying Western heavy metal music, wearing unorthodox clothing or openly rebutting a teacher’s lies about the abuses of the government.

As the film goes on we start to see how women are doubly oppressed by the regime.
There are many obvious examples in the film. One recurring theme however, whether in Islamic fundamentalist Iran or in West, is the very real threat of sexual violence, rape as a weapon of war and sexual slurs as common parlance.

In one scene Marji’s mum has a mild altercation with a guard of the revolution in a supermarket car park. He shouts at her contemptuously “Women like you I bang like whores and throw in the trash!”

In another scene she warns her young daughter not to speak out against the regime in class. It is illegal to kill a virgin she tells her daughter so they will ‘have to’ rape her first!

Fearing her arrest for her outspokenness Marji’s parents send her to a school in Vienna, Austria.

Sexual slurs are echoed over and over again when she is in the West. ‘Slut’, ‘Whore’ and ‘prostitute’ are commonly, and casually, used.

Marji feels intolerably isolated in a foreign land surrounded by people who take their freedom and peace for granted while making her feel ashamed of being Iranian.

Marji becomes enraged when her ‘politically aware’ friends dismiss politics as meaningless because it is not an abstract academic enterprise for her. In her experience these issues are life and death. Her country is at war!

Highlighting how some people face multiple oppressions - whilst others are entirely unaware of their own privilege.

As socialists we need to be careful not to dismiss people’s experiences in this way and seek to understand the converging oppressions that people face. Unless we believe that class alone shapes someone’s identity.

I am particularly interested in a feminist analysis of the film because as a woman – I can’t but know that Patriarchy exists – it is part of my day to day experience. Therefore Marji’s anger struck a chord with me when her experience is dismissed by those in a privileged position.

In this regard I believe that socialists have to be vigilant against lazily accepting sexist rhetoric against women politicians - Sarah Palin being the most recent example - just because we disagree with their politics.

In my view Socialists have to strive to understand identity politics if we are to be taken seriously in wider society about ending oppression. Rather than mimicking those oppressive attitudes ourselves.

We need to recognise that if we were to have a socialist revolution tomorrow – without an analysis of identity politics – we would still have sexism, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, western elitism and many other prejudices.

That is not the world that I am fighting for.

Marji’s granny advises her as she goes into exile ‘Be true to yourself and never forget who you are!’ Wise words.

Welfare, Not Warfare

Ron Mackay has been a socialist all of his life. A retired teacher, he has been arrested for his principles of non-violence and anti-nuclear weapons. He can be found playing sax at most anti-war and pro-socialist demonstrations.

Photo originally appeared here:

The old socialists used to say " you can't have guns and butter". You can't have warfare and welfare. The 3 main parties at Westminster are infact a variation of one - the party of warfare. Every aspect of welfare, health, education,the social services and the arts face cuts while expenditure on wars and preparation for wars is soaring. Trident at present costs millions and renewed trident will cost even more. Developments at Aldermaston and elsewhere, where our nuclear,chemical and biological research is carried out, adds to the emormous drain on our resources.
In the Glenrothes election the (3 in 1) war party will struggle against the S.N.P. The media,essentially exclusively capitalist, will hype up the sham battle between the different strands of the war party. The S.N.P. , tho' more progressive than the main war party, only serves to distract from the socialist policies which give the only real answer to the present crisis.

Lincoln got it wrong - you can fool an awful lot of people for a very long time but we must struggle against the forces dedicated to warfare. The alternative is to sleepwalk towards W.W.3. Socialism is trhe only hope for humanity. Our goal is not easy but essential.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Jim Bollan on Cordale Housing Association

Jim Bollan, leading a discussion on "How we take the councils" and sharing his experience in West Dunbartonshire Council as well as explaining the amazing community owned Cordale Housing Association. The video is just over 20 minutes long.

Friday, 3 October 2008

This Greed Was Beyond Irresponsible

by Campsie Branch member, Bill Newman

Bill Newman spent most of his working life in banking, latterly as head of economics and then as Assistant General Manager of a City of London bank. For some 15 years he was also editor of and wrote for a journal on international monetary economics.

He has an interest in African matters, having been
responsible for economic and political reporting on sub-Saharan Africa for Westminster Bank and writing for some years for the Europa Yearbook on Somalia and Ethiopia.

was also on the Executive Committee and the Management Committee of the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (BIFU) and a delegate to the TUC.

No. The headline above was not from the Morning Star, but was from that house newspaper for the rich and powerful, the Financial Times of 18 September. And how about these headlines from the Herald: Capitalism has proven Karl Marx right again and Bailing out banks is socialism for the rich. All this is true and reflects the intrinsic truth about capitalism, but you won't hear any MPs or MSPs accepting this or recognising that this profound crisis merely reflects the inevitable effect of uncontrolled capitalism, nor will they acknowledge that socialism is the answer to these periodic catastrophes. The press and politicians fulminate about the greed of financial traders and bankers and fail to recognise that it is this greed which is the rationale for capitalism. Without greed and exploitation, the whole structure of capitalism would collapse.

It may seem strange that apparently intelligent men could bring mighty financial edifices to their knees, but if you are earning stratospheric sums trading bits of paper to other overpaid traders, why worry that these pieces of paper might represent worthless or, at the very least, suspect commodities. Did no-one not bother to consider that sub-prime mortgages, for example, were, by their very nature highly risky loans and that by the time they had been packaged up with other dubious products, it was virtually impossible, once they had been traded time and time again on the financial merry-go-round, to tell what underlying value they represented. Some years ago when I worked in banking, I queried with the Bank's chief trader what the quantifiable risks in the derivatives he traded were. In reply he pointed out that the Bank made substantial profits from such trade and that all banks of any consequence were also engaged in this paper chase. In consequence, I raised my fears with the Bank's Board only to receive the same answer. In essence, the boom in these dubious trades was a classic case of pyramid selling, not unlike the South Sea Bubble, and only the greed of bankers blinded them to the escalating risks of these increasingly complex markets.

But do the travails of overpaid bankers affect the average citizen? Unfortunately they do and the coming months will show a massive decline in all economic activity as banks try to rebuild their balance sheets, refuse to extend credit and shed staff. It is impossible to believe, for example, the reassuring noises that Santander makes on employment in their subsidiaries in Britain. If Abbey, Alliance and Leicester and Bradford and Bingley are owned by the same company, is it credible to believe that these banks and their staff will not suffer from consolidation? Without access to credit, what is left of our manufacturing industry will shrink at an escalating rate, unemployment will soar and house price collapse will leave many with unsustainable negative equity.

So what is the response of our politicians? Inevitably, the bail-outs envisaged are bail-outs for the very people who got us into this fine mess, a fact that the American public has been quick to realise. Nor will the enormous sums involved remedy the sickness in the world economy. It is not surprising that our leading politicians seem to have no knowledge of Karl Marx who , as Ian Bell in the Herald pointed out, defined with precision the inevitable economic crises at the heart of capitalism. It is rather more surprising that they seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew, the lessons taught by Lord Keynes, so besotted have they become by the simplistic notions of the free market as propagated by American economists of the so-called Chicago School. It should surprise no-one, not even politicians, that the only UK bank to be trusted by the public at the moment is the only nationalised bank, Northern Rock; so successful that the Bank's deposit services have been curtailed! The lesson, which our politicians will not learn, is that publicly owned banks are secure and privately-owned banks are not. At the very least, it would help if the Government greatly expanded public expenditure, but the very reverse seems to be happening.

The answer to the pending economic crash, is socialism, and now should be an ideal opportunity to get this message across. Given the control of the media and the absence of sympathetic politicians, this will not be easy, but the public will be looking for real solutions and will not be fooled for ever by sticking plaster measures of Western governments. The Scottish Socialist Party offers a principled and practical solution to our economic ills and it is crucial that we get our message across.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Sustainability - some thoughts

Ann Kaniuk with Campsie branch member, Ron Mackay.

Ann Kaniuk, Campsie Branch member, shares her thoughts on sustainability.

As if the credit crunch and collapse of banking wasn’t enough, climate change is hitting us before we’re ready, and the oil is running out; it really is finite, and we’re using it up as fast as we can. North Sea oil has peaked, along with all other sources.

It’s a mug’s game to be dependent on other countries for our energy (new French nuclear power stations built in Britain, imported Russian gas, German electricity…). We need to create our own energy. Wave power good, wind power problematic. Huge wind farms are erratic and destructive, and they’re usually owned by profit-hungry foreign powers anyway. Putting small windmills in communities makes more sense – not attached to houses, where they can shake the walls to bits, but standing free in strategic places. What CAN be attached to houses – and SHOULD be attached to every south-facing roof in Scotland – are solar panels. Photovoltaic cells would be ideal – creating electricity that could be used by each household, with the surplus fed into the national grid. The technology for these is still a way off, but people should be working on it. Economy of scale should bring the price down. What we could do right now, though, is put solar heating
panels on all our roofs, providing hot water. We need the hot water for heating, and washing dishes and clothes. By hand (remember that?). No more dishwashers, washing machines, and tumble driers. Too profligate, when we have the sun shining for free.

Ann with SSP Campsie member Thomas Swann campaigning recently in Glasgow East.

Flying and trucking food from all over the globe is becoming increasingly expensive. Oranges, pineapples and bananas may become unaffordable luxuries again. We need to grow our own food. That means not using our land for biofuels, but using all our land for food. Look your last on vast lawns with stripes made by power-mowers. Dig them up. Grow food.

We need to stick together to overcome the challenges ahead. Sticking together sounds good to me.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Branch meeting - in Holland...

Thomas Swann on his recent move of branches from Campsie... to Nijmegen in Holland.

As the film began, I was reminded of the cold and wet Saturday mornings spent in Kirkintilloch leisure centre with other members of Campsie Branch probably watching a John Pilger documentary or something else as part of our educational activities. The five minutes into the film it stopped and someone had to monkey around with the laptop before it would start up. Again, I was reminded of the regular Campsie Branch film mornings. This was my first real experience of the Dutch Socialist Party.

The film was 'Turtles Can Fly', the first film to come out of Iraq since the US/UK invasion. I'd been meaning to get in touch with the local branch of the Socialist Party before I moved to the Netherlands and was encouraged by the warm welcome I received from the local organiser and the other members who were present at the screening. The Socialist Party began as a small left-wing grouping but through a process of community engagement and activism has grown from having one member of parliament in the early 90s to twenty-five today, plus a large number of elected local government officials. It's been held up as the success story of the Left in Europe, and it is largely thanks to its work in communities, on the ground, as it were, that this level of support has been achieved.

Focusing on a few areas, including Nijmegen, where I am now living (you might recognise the name from 'A Bridge to Far'), the party organised projects as ambitious as offering free medical care to members of the community, and now claims a number of 'strongholds' where it has a base of local support. In a number of areas, again including Nijmegen, the Socialist Party participates in the local government along with other Left parties such as the Green-Left.

In this blog, which will appear most likely irregularly on the website, I will attempt to relate my experience of Left-wing politics and activism in the Netherlands, and specifically in Nijmegen, to similar situations in Scotland, as well as comparing the general social, political and economic contexts in which these are taking place. But my research and reporting will not be confined to the Socialist Party, though as an organised political party which stands in national and local elections this will obviously have a large relevance to a member of the SSP as I am. Nijmegen is also one of the centres of Anarchist activism in the Netherlands and has a number of collectively owned bars and cafés which have developed from squated buildings to legitimate enterprises supported through low rent conditions by the Left-wing council of the town.

So, hopefully my next entry in this blog will have something more concrete than a simple introduction and will perhaps provide information which will prove useful to Socialist and Anarchist activists in Scotland, and particularly in the Campsie/East Dunbartonshire area.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Global Economic Crisis

Many of the articles in this section were written by Raphie De Santos. In these articles, Raphie predicts the fall of HBOS - and warns about other banks.

Raphie was head of Equity Derivatives Research and Strategy at Goldman Sachs International. He was an advisor on derivatives and financial markets to the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange and the Italian Ministry of Finance.

Raphie has been a guest lecturer on derivatives and financial markets at Harvard and New York universities and the London School of Economics and has spoken at the annual Nobel Foundation conference in Stockholm.

Click on image below to go to the SSP analysis of the current crisis.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Stop Power Company Profiteering

Since 2000 gas bills have doubled & electricity bills are up 75%.
The energy companies claim these increases are unavoidable as the cost of oil and gas rises on the world market.

But wait.

These same energy companies have seen their profits increase 600%. Eon, Centrica, NPower and the others made £3,000m this year compared to £557m in 2003.

We do.

The average combined gas and electricity bill in Britain is now £1,500 per household per annum and rising. The consumer group ‘Energywatch’ estimates there are now 5.5million households suffering from ‘fuel poverty’. [* When 10% of all household income goes on energy = fuel poverty].

There are now 6.8m people deep in debt to energy suppliers and they are in no position to cope with further price increases.
Pensioners will not be able to keep warm this winter and will die in their tens of thousands. This simply cannot be tolerated.


The Scottish Socialist Party believes there should be a windfall tax on fuel company profits and bills should be held down.
But we also believe the energy companies should be taken back into public ownership. The rise in gas and electricity prices has been nowhere near as bad in the rest of Europe, the industry here has clearly been mis-managed.
The government must ensure everyone has the energy supplies they need as winter approaches. This is a right.
And if the government does not intervene, then people are entitled to say to say to energy company profiteering



Click on form below and then print:

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the decision by Education Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop for a consultation on the draft guidance for the use of biometrics in schools.

The Scottish Socialist Party have had concerns about this technology since being informed by concerned parents in East Dunbartonshire whose children will be attending the new build schools.

East Dunbartonshire Scottish Socialist Party spokesperson, Bill Newman commented, "The introduction of Biometric fingerprinting in schools has no educational or safety value. It is imperative that the use of these systems is frozen until this consultation takes place. Children are being conditioned to the 'surveillance society' without really knowing what it means.”

The Scottish Socialist Party echo the questions raised by the Leave Them Kids Alone campaign ( )

  1. Why did the school not give parents adequate notice of its intention to fingerprint children?
  2. Why was there no proper consultation, and why were parents not asked to give their explicit written opt-in consent before any children could be fingerprinted?
  3. What advice did the school receive from the manufacturer and others before deciding on this policy?
  4. Aside from manufacturers' anecdotal claims in advertising material, can the school give me details of any independent research proving benefits to my child of using this system?
  5. Has any independent research been carried out regarding the effect on children of repeatedly using biometrics on a daily basis in a familiar setting?
  6. What steps is the school undertaking to teach my child about the dangers of misusing their biometric data?
  7. The manufacturer claims that this system does not store my child's fingerprint, but surely if the biometric template it stores isn't the direct equivalent of a fingerprint, rather like the difference between a drawing and a photo, then the system simply wouldn't work?
  8. Given that there are international standards to ensure that biometric templates from different manufacturers are compatible (so what's stored on one system can be read by any other, including government systems) how does the school respond to the statement made by Microsoft's Identity Architect Kim Cameron that "It is absolutely premature to begin using 'conventional biometrics' in schools"?
  9. Given that neither the DfES, the Information Commissioner, nor BECTA have to date issued guidelines concerning the human rights implications of the use of biometrics in schools, who, prior to the introduction of the system, told the school that it was legal to implement the system without seeking explicit parental consent?
  10. Will my child be photographed as well as fingerprinted?
  11. Will all and any such photographic data be destroyed along with fingerprint templates when my child leaves school, or if I change my mind at any time?
  12. Who, under existing legislation, including the Children Act and the government's stated commitment to widespread data sharing, may access my child's biometric template and associated data as stored on the system? The police? Social services? Civil servants? Technicians from the manufacturer carrying out routine maintenance? The large private multinational PFI companies that now run some LEAs e.g. Amey, Nord Anglia? The private companies running City Academies that may have access to children's data?
  13. Would the school permit 'fishing expeditions' in the stored biometric data (e.g. if the local police were trying to find a match for a crime mark they suspected may have been left by a child from the school)? What would the school do if such a search revealed TWO probable matches?
  14. Bearing in mind that my child's biometric template remains valuable for their entire lifetime, since it can't ever be changed, where is the biometric data stored, where are backups stored, and what security procedures are in place to prevent unauthorised copying of, or any type of access to this data? How will the school know if the data has been copied? What procedures would be followed if the main computer or backup system storing the data were stolen?
  15. Is the computer holding the data connected to the school network and/or the internet? What active measures are taken to ensure the biometric data cannot be accessed by third parties via any such connection(s)?
  16. Can the school guarantee that the data, including any backup copies, will be promptly removed as soon as my child leaves school, or if I change my mind at any point, by an approved professional data cleansing company as required by the Data Protection Act? Will the data-cleansing company certify in writing that the biometric information has been satisfactorily removed? (This requirement was confirmed by the Information Commissioner on 9 Feb 2007.)
  17. Given that the encryption used by the system cannot possibly be guaranteed for the entire lifetime of my child, and that fingerprint templates from different manufacturers are compatible and interchangeable in accordance with INCITS 398 or NISTIR 6529, will the school accept full liability if my child's biometric template stored on the system is compromised at some future point?
  18. As new pupils join the school, will you regularly seek explicit informed written parental consent before fingerprinting them (as recommended by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas on 30 January 2007)?
  19. Where fingerprinting is used for school registration, what backup strategy will the school implement to ensure that if any part of the system fails before registration is complete, a full and accurate record of those children at school will be available in the event of an emergency evacuation at the start of the day, e.g. in the event of a fire?

References: The statement made by Microsoft's Identity Architect Kim Cameron -

Tell Parents about fingerprinting -

InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards

Education Guardian, Tuesday January 30 2007, “Schools advised to seek consent before fingerprinting pupils” -

Paper by Andrew Clymer, senior identity management security expert, “Do Biometrics have a role for school registration?” -

Announcement of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop of a consultation on draft guidance on the use of biometrics in schools. -

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Kirkie residents angry at rise in fuel costs

Campsie Branch SSP members brought the fuel prices issue on to the streets of Kirkintilloch on Saturday with a petition calling on the Government to “Take the Profiteering out of Heating your Home.” Kirkie residents queued up in anger to sign the petition that said, “We condemn the 17% gas and electricity price rises - to bills of over £1,000 a year.”

One angry Kirkintilloch resident said, "I am so glad the someone is highlighting how greedy these companies have got. The executives and profit takers won't suffer, but ordinary folk in Kirkie are. We'll have to turn our heating down and sit in the dark in the winter while they make billions."

Campsie Branch member, Mark Callaghan said, "Six big companies control supplies and fix the prices of our heating, electricity and fuel. They make obscene profits at public expense - Scottish Gas £700m; Scottish Power £502m; Shell oil £14billion (that’s £1.5million an hour!) – enough to run Scotland’s Education Departments and its NHS - and this would exceed the amount of money these departments receive at the moment!”

He went on, " Its time New Labour disappeared and the principle of taking the utilities back into the hands of the people was used to help people rather than banks like Northern Rock. Public ownership of the energy industry would cut prices; ensure we had a quick and painless switch to clean and sustainable forms of fuel; profits could go towards an investment of free insulation of every home and this in turn would help cut poverty and pollution. Sharing out the profit amongst the people of Scotland would improve lives from Shetland to the Borders rather than fuelling the 4x4's in Merchant City."

Click on the image to read our leaflet:

Click HERE for the SSP Briefing paper on rising fuel prices.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Council Workers Strike

Click on the photo of SSP councillor for Leven ward, Jim Bollan to read his views about the scandalous behaviour of the "Elected Dictatorship"

Click on the document below to read the Council Workers Voice:

Monday, 18 August 2008


CLICK ON THE FINGERPRINT TO READ THE ARTICLE ABOUT BIOMETRIC FINGERPRINTING IN EAST DUNBARTONSHIRE SCHOOLS, PROMPTED BY CONCERNS BY CAMPSIE BRANCH MEMBERS (Neil Scott, SSP Campsie member added, "In schools, we teachers are always told to think what the learning outcomes are for various activities in school. I would like parents, children and teachers alike, to think "what are the learning outcomes expected from fingerprinting our children?"):

Letter in the Bearsden/Milngavie Herald, Friday 15 August 2008, from Bill Newman, SSP Culture Spokesperson, Campsie Branch.

"I am appalled to read that biometric fingerprinting is being introduced into new build schools in East Dunbartonshire and that this infringement on personal liberty has already been introduced in Lenzie Academy and Boclair Academy without, as far as I know, any public consultation or any debate in the council chambers.

It is absurd to say that pupils can opt out of fingerprintin. How can the average 11 year old know the implications of such a move? Why have parents not been directly involved in this sinister development? Nor is it sufficient to say that safeguards are in place to protect the use of the data so obtained.

A glance at our Westminster Government's ability to lose extensive personal records shows how well protected databases are in practice.

It is a relief to know that at least one MSP has written to education secretary Fiona Hyslop for an explanation, but I would be more reasured if protests had been heard from our councillors and from our mainstream political parties.

I would think it important that all such biometric fingerprinting records should be destroyed prior to a public debate on the necessity, desirability and safety of such intrusive record keeping taking place."


Friday, 8 August 2008

Milngavie Residents angry at hike in Fuel prices

Today Campsie Branch Scottish Socialist Party held street work in Milngavie gauging the effects of the fuel price rises and giving the residents of the town an opportunity to sign the SSP fuel prices petition. Again, the Party members were overwhelmed with the response. The people of Milngavie are every bit as angry at the fuel profiteers and the Government as those in Irvine (see HERE for a report about the stall in Irvine and see below for photos.).

Milngavie has a high proportion of retired residents, and pensioners we spoke to said they wouldn't be switching on their heating until mid October instead of September this year. One retired lady spoke about the fact she had worked all her life only now, in her late eighties, to be contemplating knitting a thick jumper and giving up her only luxury – bingo – in order to afford the price hike.

As in Irvine, at some points of the afternoon, people were queuing up to sign the petition and even when we ran out of space (we collected around 300 signatures in the space of an hour and a half) people insisted on signing the back of the sheets as we were packing up!

Bearsden SSP member, Linda Howie said, “Lot’s of people in Scotland have the impression that Bearsden and Milngavie is an affluent area. It is true there are well off people here – but there are also huge amounts of pensioners and families who have been hit hard by price rises in oil, gas, electricity and food.”

Lenzie member, Thomas Swann agreed and added, “the people of East Dunbartonshire have been let down by politicians and profit takers. Today ordinary people in Milngavie showed how angry they are at this government’s betrayal of families, pensioners, the low paid and working parents.”

Thomas Swann explains the SSP solution to the fuel profit takers to Milngavie residents.

Milngavie couple sign the SSP petition.

Milngavie resident signs petition as SSP member Neil Scott gives out "Free Public Transport" leaflets.

Milngavie residents sign petition as people voice their concerns about making ends meet over the winter to Thomas Swann.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Local campaigning - Irvine

Campsie Comrades spent Wednesday helping the Ayrshire Scottish Socialist Party with streetwork on Fuel prices and Free Public Transport.

Full article here
Angry Irvine residents mob the SSP stall. For most of the time during the stall the Irvine comrades were swamped with people three deep, clamouring to tell their stories of fuel hardship imposed by the profiteers and to sign the petition.

Denise Morton from Irvine mans the stall.

The streetwork and stall were extremely successful - the Campsie members had a wonderful reception from the Ayrshire comrades and the Irvine people. A day to remember!

It was difficult forPhotographer, Rikki Reid to get a shot of the table as it was constantly busy from the moment it was set up, to the time we decided to call it a day! As Denise says in the press release on the SSP main site, “Irvine has definitely rejected the policies of the New Labour project.”