Friday, 28 January 2011

Guest blogger - Rioting, Sex, and Hypocrisy

by Dave Coull

(Dave would like to  make it clear he is not a member of the SSP, never has been, and has nothing personal against Tommy Sheridan)

Regarding the sentencing of Tommy Sheridan for perjury, somebody remarked that "18 months soft imprisonment seems lenient"

I’m not going to get into a Daily-Mail-style complaint about “lenient” sentencing, from my point of view prisons are the universities of crime and they do more harm than good. I think it’s an unhappy thing that Tommy Sheridan has been sent to prison. Yes, of course, Rupert Murdoch and his pals in the police and the establishment are enemies of the working class; that I would assume from the start. But the schemes of these enemies of the working class were made easier by the fact that Tommy Sheridan is a liar and a hypocrite. If he had just admitted from the start that he was a bit of a swinger, folk would have forgiven him. But it's much harder to forgive being told a pack of lies.

"X" wrote "Tommy Sheridan is someone who i have been familiar with since the anti-poll tax days. I was never a member of the anti-poll tax federation but i did actively protest against the tax from the very start. The reason i never became a member of the anti-poll tax federation was Tommy Sheridan."

From my point of view, although I was involved in the “federation” from the very start, nevertheless, the anti-poll-tax movement was more than just the “federation”. However, let’s be clear about this. First, there were local anti-poll tax GROUPS . I know, I was involved in starting one of the first, without any help at all from Tommy Sheridan. Later on , these anti-poll-tax GROUPS got together and formed anti-poll-tax federations. We got together with a couple of groups in Dundee and formed the Tayside Anti Poll Tax Federation. Then later still the Scottish Anti Poll Tax Federation was formed.

But let's be clear about this; the initiative for resisting the poll tax didn't come from the APT federations. Rather, the APT federations were formed because there was resistance. And I can remember the very first time I heard the name “Tommy Sheridan”. We had sent 3 delegates to some anti-poll-tax gathering in Edinburgh. They came back and told us about various things that had been agreed at that meeting. "Oh, and some young student called Sheridan is supposed to be acting as a kind of co-ordinator". But the appointment of this young student as a sort of co-ordinator wasn’t seen as being any big deal, and it certainly wasn’t seen as him being our “Leader”.

The myth that "Tommy Sheridan led the resistance" is one which has been spread by folk who were not involved in the campaign, and of course Sheridan himself and his pals have not been too particular about countering the myth. But it IS a myth.

Not only did we organise local demonstrations (with no assistance from Mr Sheridan), and take part in national ones, we organised people to turn out to physically stop sherriff's officers from carrying out poindings, organising phone-trees to contact people at very short notice for this purpose, and that sort of thing.

Also, as early as June 1988 I was writing to friends and contacts in England urging them to support our campaign, and to prepare for non-payment in England when the poll tax was introduced there. I presume folk like Tommy Sheridan and co were also contacting their Militant Tendency colleagues in England, saying "get on with organising against the poll tax down there, because if you don't, them bloody anarchists will be leading the movement". I even know a member of the SNP who spoke against the poll tax at a local public meeting in a small town in England months before the tax was introduced there.

It was because we were resisting so successfully in Scotland there was an anti-poll-tax movement in England. If we had failed to resist the poll tax in Scotland, that would have been it, Maggie would have won. Folk in England would have said "What's the point, the Scots have given up, we can't beat Maggie". But we didn't fail, and we didn't give up. We were able to show opponents of the poll tax in England and Wales a successful, organised, mass campaign of non-payment that they could join in with.

I was one of a number of Scottish anti-poll-tax protesters who went down to London for the big protest there on the 31st of March 1990. At the demonstration, folk were congratulating anybody with a Scottish accent on our fight. I made a point of singing, loudly, to that well-known samba tune, "We're STILL no payin the poll tax". The mood of the demo was optimistic BECAUSE we in Scotland had been running a campaign of non-payment for a year.

And yes, that demonstration did turn into a riot. And Tommy and the other Militant leaders completely misjudged the mood of the public over that. I remember getting into a taxi in London, the London taxi-driver told me there were certain parts he couldn’t take me to because of the rioting, but then he added “Mind you, I think it’s great that they are giving Maggie a bloody nose”. And that reaction was typical. The wider public LIKED the rioting.

And Tommy Sheridan was asked about it on the television news and said that “The Federation” would be taking action against these rioters who had “disrupted” a peaceful demonstration. Within a few hours, he had realised his blunder, and he never repeated that remark, or did anything about it. In fact, he and his pals deny he ever said anything like that. But I saw that TV news broadcast, I didn’t imagine it, Tommy Sheridan condemned people who were actively fighting against the poll tax.

"X" wrote "Tommy Sheridan's crimes go much further than perjury."

Indeed they do. I think he should acknowledge this, and stop lying to himself, to his wife and family, to his colleagues, and to everybody else. The first step in redemption is to acknowledge the sin..........

Oh, and the lesson for today's working class rebels? Putting your faith in "Leaders" turns  YOU  into followers, and that's a very bad way to do things. It makes them big-headed and it makes you too easily mainipulated and it practically ensures that they will let you down. Free men and women don't need Leaders. In fact, there's a far better chance of revolt succeeding without them.

Dave Coull was born in 1941, and left school to start full time work at the age of 15. He has worked at many different jobs, always for a weekly wage rather than a salary, mostly in the building industry. Dave has been active in various campaigns but has always avoided joining any political party (unless you count anarchists as a party). While acting as a site steward for building workers in London, Dave was sacked, which led to a (successful) unofficial strike by his fellow workers for his reinstatement. Nowadays Dave has slowed down a bit and tends to feel it’s mostly up to younger folk to carry on the fight.

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