Sunday, 29 January 2012

David Lammy - "smacking ban led to riots..."

... what nonsense!  The Scottish Socialist Party have already investigated the benefits of a smacking ban.  This article, by Campsie member Neil Scott, was originally published in the Voice back in 2006.

Last week I was cooking a curry for tea. I’m quite good at curries; dopiaza, korma, thai - basically any curry you name I can do, and do well. I take pride in my curries. I had bought all of the spices, creamed coconut, yogurt and started to prepare them. I told my wife that the curry would be ready soon. After the meticulous preparation, the dish was to simmer for ten minutes.

I went into the living room where my wife was reading and, to my horror, stuffing herself with a box of chocolates. Now, I know my wife and I know that if she eats anything before her dinner it will put her off her food. My planning and preparation were all to be in vain.What should I do?Would anyone advocate I hit her? I know little children who are hit for the same reason.Society has moved on and we look back in horror at the days when people argued in Parliament against legislation that would outlaw men hitting their wives. Yet people actually argued that it was something we should not criminalise - what went on in their homes was their business, they said.

Today, would anyone say that the legislation introduced to protect women was wrong? Nowadays the same arguments are used against attempts to introduce legislation to protect children from physical punishment. The fact is that there are people in our society who think it is OK to hit children - and some say it is their religious and moral obligation. Quite a few of these people would not see the dichotomy of having laws to protect adults and advocating the protection of the ‘right’ to physically punish children.

British common law currently permits physical punishment of children, under the legal defence of ‘reasonable and moderate chastisement’.In 2004 this was reinforced by the Children’s Act which, whilst offering protection to children against ‘assault occasioning actual bodily harm’ at the same time implicitly reinforced a parent’s right to ‘reasonable punishment’.

The terms ‘physical abuse’ and ‘reasonable chastisement’ are imprecise and ultimately subjective. What constitutes physical abuse and what reasonable chastisement? Is a spank on the bottom with an open hand abuse? What about if it were across the face, or with a stick? Does abuse rather depend on how hard you hit and if so, how hard is too hard? Furthermore, is the nature of the misbehaviour important in determining whether the punishment is abusive or not?

In 2001 Elizabeth Gershoff undertook a study of the association between corporal punishment and certain behaviours and experiences.Gershoff found that children’s fear of physical punishment inhibited the development of internal motivation - problem solving skills. Corporal punishment, she concluded, may further decrease the learning of a moral code if its use results in little or no parental explanation of the problem the child is being punished for. Children live what they learn. In other words, behaviours that have been modelled for them by their parents are the behaviours they themselves imitate.

One of the main arguments therefore against the use of corporal punishment is that it models aggression for children and legitimises violence. In this way, children are more likely to show aggressive behaviour, violent criminal behaviour and aggression towards their own children.

Gershoff made the point that it is particularly poignant when children are physically punished for aggression, because corporal punishment models the very behaviour that parents are trying to discourage in their children. She goes on to say that, despite the risk of imitation, parents use corporal punishment more in response to children’s aggression than to any other child misbehaviour. Gershoff also concluded, in decreasing the moral internalisation (hitting rather than teaching) of society’s values, corporal punishment may predispose an individual to non-violent delinquency and adult crime. Their ability to internally judge what is morally right or wrong has been distorted by the unsparing use of the rod. The painful nature of corporal punishment may induce feelings of fear, anxiety and anger in the child or young person, which if associated with their parent may decrease the quality of the relationship between them. The child may become fearful of the parent who inflicts pain as a form of discipline, may withdraw from, or avoid them, resulting in an erosion of communication and trust between them.

Gershoff argued that children who experienced positive moods and emotions are more receptive to parents’ controls and that in contrast, feelings of pain or anger can motivate children towards resistance and retaliation. Gershoff cited evidence which indicated that coercive forms of discipline have a bad effect on the child’s confidence and assertiveness and increase feelings of helplessness and humiliation, and there is a significant association between harsh physical punishment and distress and depression in adolescence and low self-esteem, depression, alcoholism and suicidal tendency in adulthood.

Her suggestion that, when administered too frequently or too severely, corporal punishment becomes physical abuse is supported by statistics from an American study which showed that in 30 per cent of the families studied there was an escalation from the use of mild punishment to levels which could be considered abusive. Ultimately Gershoff presents a convincing argument indicating little evidence for benefits of corporal punishment but possible detrimental effects of physically punishing children.

In 2002 the Scottish Executive consulted on proposals to outlaw the physical punishment of children up to the age of three. Of the responses, 17 per cent were from people who were totally against a ban - people who were actually pro-smacking. The majority of these were individuals from the Christian right who believed that God, through the Bible, has instructed them that children MUST be physically chastised using an implement. So hitting their children brings the parents closer to their God. This response was typical: “I feel strongly that parents should be allowed to continue to use reasonable physical punishment for disciplining their children. This of course is useful only in a loving environment.“The only guideline that can be referred to is the Bible where it is very clear that corporal punishment has to be used and the short, temporary pain will save the child from a far worse consequence in life.”(From The Physical Punishment of Children in Scotland Analysis of Responses, page 9, see

I am a Primary school teacher. Part of the curriculum I teach to P7’s is Democracy, part of which is learning how to have proper debates. A debate we have recently had in class is the issue of smacking. No child has said to me that they learn anything when they are hit.On the contrary, they say that anger comes in the way of their learning, even if an explanation for their punishment is offered. More than one child described the feeling that they could explode with rage and that they couldn’t hear or make sense of explanations after being hit.

As a teacher I have to ask, how do people think smacking benefits children? Is it not for the child’s benefit that people hit them? Under what circumstances does smacking improve the learning experience? The teaching profession, quite a few years ago, dropped this impediment to education - though not before a sadistic teacher beat a hatred of maths into me. I would argue that in our capitalist, elitist, violence-driven, patriarchal society, it teaches people that in violence lies an answer and that it is acceptable to be violated if you are weak or not part of the elite.

I wonder how many people who believe that the current situation in Iraq is acceptable were beaten as children? Or how many in Israel can look upon the violations they are inflicting upon the Palestinian people and say they themselves were not violated? Part of becoming politically aware is becoming politically aware of your oppression. Some children are aware of their oppression every day, through the imposition of capitalist poverty and through the imposition of adult chastisement. That the violation of children is socially acceptable tells us something very important about our society. We internalise our oppression and help to perpetuate it through the violent treatment of the impressionable young.

One way the class system is perpetuated is through the perpetuation of the violation of the weak and vulnerable. Back in 1979, Sweden became the first of 15 European countries to introduce legislation that protects their children. Three other countries have civil codes, constitutional rulings or supreme court rulings. The Swedish aims were to ensure that public attitudes were changed, to establish a clear framework of parental education and ensure earlier and less intrusive intervention when child protection was required. The ban was intended to be educational rather than punitive. Since 1979, the proportion of suspects prosecuted for child abuse who are in their 20s and therefore raised in a ‘no-smacking’ culture has decreased significantly. Violence against children has decreased since violence has been made unacceptable in law. The prosecution rate has shown a declining trend. There has been no increase of parents being drawn into the criminal justice system since the introduction of the protection and education legislation. There has been no increase of children being removed from parents through intervention. Quite the reverse. The number of children coming into care has decreased by 26 per cent since 1982 and increasingly these have been short-term placements. Youth crime has remained steady since the introduction of the no smack culture. Children involved in theft and narcotics crime has decreased. The proportion of youth who have experimented with drugs and consumed alcohol has decreased.The suicide rate amongst young people has declined. Assault against children by children has decreased. People who were brought up during the no-smacking culture have been less likely to commit child abuse than those brought up before the ban. I could go on. For more statistics go to (pdf file)

In fact you can find reports from all of the other countries that have introduced the ban on the End Corporal Punishment site. Perhaps some will say that it is overly simplistic to say the ban has had a direct causal effect - but it certainly has not had a negative effect. Indeed, in modifying public attitudes it seems to have had an overwhelmingly positive effect.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Minutes of todays SSP Campsie meeting:

May Council Election: We will have candidates across the three LOCAL NEWSPAPER areas in East Dunbartonshire. Further discussions required.

Morning Star advert: further discussions required.

Coalition of Resistance: We will affiliate to the Coalition of Resistance as a small organisation (£15 per year). It was also noted that Owen Jones is speaking on the coalition of Resistance in the STUC on 15 February (and also as part of the Aye Write! festival along with Paul Mason in the Mitchell Library - three events well worth going along to). there is also a meeting of the Coalition of Resistance on 7th February in the STUC.

CND: Re-affiliation to SCND. It was also suggested that we could run a joint public meeting with CND as part of our POSITIVE campaigning for an Independent Nuclear Free Scotland.

Independence campaigning: We will meet with local SNP to help with a positive non sectarian campaign and towards a positive outcome in the Scottish Independence referendum.

Well Red Book Club: meeting to be held on 18 February in Kirkintilloch Library. Posters to be printed this week and distributed to Campsie Branch members to have displayed across the East Dunbartonshire area. Graham Martin will also be contacted regarding an article in the Bearsden/Milngavie Herald about the launch of the Book Club.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Well Red

"Well Red" book club - a book club for the Left starting in Kirkintilloch on 18th February, 2012 - watch this space for more information.  Join virtually by clicking on the icon to the right of this post!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Campsie Scottish Socialist Party Branch meeting this Saturday 14 January at 11am in Kirkie Puffer. Discussing issues such as this:


 By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

 11 January 2012

The experiences of 2011 and prospects in 2012 for working class people can be captured in one phrase: grim - and grimmer!
Food bills, domestic fuel, transport costs and daily essentials rocket as wages are frozen.
The sick, disabled and unemployed are hounded and demonised by the Westminster millionaires' Cabinet, with threats of withdrawal of their measly benefits unless they find jobs that don't exist.
One in three Scottish children officially lives in poverty, with an appalling 52 per cent of kids in north Glasgow.
Meantime the richest 10 per cent of the population are on average £100,000 better off than they were in 2005.
Workers living in fear for their jobs are bullied by bosses into working massive amounts of unpaid overtime – the equivalent of working for absolutely nothing up until 24 February this year – and enough hours to create 2 million new jobs, whilst a million young people rot on the dole!
Workers whose faces don't fit are to be stripped of the paltry rights at work they currently 'enjoy', as the Twin Tories rail against health & safety 'red tape' and plan to charge workers £1,000 just to go through an Employment Tribunal against unfair dismissal.

Things can only get worse!
All this mayhem and exploitation even before the Coalition's fangs sink into jobs, incomes and services, as they have only just begun to do.
Last year 24,000 Scottish public sector jobs were lost; forecasts abound of up to 100,000 more to go in the next year or so. No wonder the SSP's warnings of 'another lost generation' - first coined three years ago - has now become the currency of many commentators and Labour politicians on the make, trying to appear anti-Tory after 13 years of acting as the New Tories in government.
But as the multiple assaults impact, workers and communities have increasingly joined the resistance, challenging the axe-wielders with quiet fury, protests, and strikes. The most spectacular display of working class resistance in several decades was the November 30 strike by over 2 million public sector workers.
At least 300,000 Scottish trade unionists came out in a fight to defend their pension rights. But that issue also acted as the vehicle for struggle against all other aspects of the unprecedented cuts to jobs, conditions and public services.

That battle is now at a critical crossroads, and the outcome will heavily influence workers' conditions for years to come.
As the SSP warned in advance, the Tory/LibDem razor gang have used every dirty trick to try and derail a movement that, behind the smug arrogance, terrifies them.
On the eve of the historic N30 strike, Cameron & Co offered fake concessions, and tried to isolate strikers from the rest of society by issuing blood-curdling exaggerations of the economic ruin it would cause. That, and their hard-faced announcement of even deeper cuts in Osborne's autumn statement in parliament literally the day before, only hardened the resolve of workers and strengthened the strike.
Cameron then tried to demoralise workers by dismissing it as "a damp squib", but in the face of the derision and anger this provoked, had to then admit it was "a big strike".
By taking united, militant action, the unions attracted 100,000 new members in the period of the St Andrews Day showdown; confirmation that decisive action is the way to build the unions as powerful weapons of resistance to the millionaires' butchery.
Having failed to cow public sector workers, the government resorted to an age-old strategy; they sought to use the most right-wing, spineless 'leaders' of the TUC and individual unions to undermine the momentum and unity of workers taking action.

Right-wing treachery
Ten days after the biggest show of workers' power in generations, the TUC's Brendan Barber, GMB leaders and fake-radical UNISON leader Dave Prentis argued for acceptance of the government's allegedly 'new and final offer'.
In fact, as PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka rightly said in point blank refusing to accept this deal, there is nothing new about it. It is a minutely-adjusted version of what was on offer prior to N30.
Coalition Minister Danny Alexander subsequently boasted to the parliament on 20 December that their 'new' offer did not involve a single penny less in 'savings' than their pre-N30 proposals. It is merely a rearrangement of the misery, peppered with crude attempts to divide and conquer the millions of workers who had displayed such magnificent determination to fight the cuts.
Workers over 50 have been granted minor concessions, but will still lose 20 per cent of their pension through the switch from Retail Price Index (RPI) to Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of inflation.
Retirement age is to be tied to the state pension age – 67 or 68.
NHS workers earning under £26,000 are to be granted a year's delay in the implementation of the misery, but that will be funded by deeper attacks on NHS staff earning more. Likewise with local government workers - but only so the assault commences in 2014. A year's respite for a lifetime of cuts to their deferred wages!

Triple whammy remains
The three-headed monster attack on pensions - payment of more in workers' contributions, for longer, for lesser pensions - remains at the heart of this latest offer. It still seeks to double-tax public sector workers - not to improve the state of pension schemes (many of which are in the black, all of which are set to cost less over the next decade), but to fill some of the hole in government funds caused by the bankers' bailout and the recession that has been exacerbated by the ConDem cuts.
To their eternal shame, some UNISON leaders, keen to get back to their quiet lives, undisturbed by outbursts of action by hard-pressed members, blurted out the cynical opinion "this was always going to be a damage limitation exercise"! Not exactly the views of the pickets on N30!
The spineless posture of more right-wing union leaders gave the government the opening to issue a monumental lie through the media at the height of the holiday period; that a deal had been reached. This, alongside repeated assertions that the pension plans were going ahead regardless from April 2012, was designed to browbeat workers into surrendering. And for good measure, the union that has spearheaded the battle in the wider movement - the PCS - was excluded from the so-called negotiations: an attempt to isolate and demonise them, and a back-handed compliment from the arch enemies of workers to this socialist-led union's success in inspiring others to join the fray.

Socialist alternative critical in unions
The obscene readiness of union leaders like UNISON's Prentis and GMB to cave in after the momentous scale of action by millions underlines the dangerous pitfalls of accepting the idea of ANY cuts.
Echoing Labour (and SNP!) talk of the cuts being "too deep and too soon", these union leaders lack a vision of measures that make ALL cuts entirely unnecessary, and so they are outrageously willing to capitulate in the face of a government that puts on a hard face. It is no accident that PCS especially have been firm in opposition to this deal; they have rejected the case for any cuts, calling for taxation measures and investment in jobs instead. The political viewpoint of unions becomes critical in determining what kind of fight they put up.

But when the Tory and LibDem boot boys looked to the TUC right wing for salvation, they reckoned without the furious resistance of union activists and members, who have lobbied their leaderships with demands to not sell out their pension rights even before the battle properly engages. A whole succession of union leaderships has since rejected the deal: PCS from day one; the teachers' unions NUT and NASUWT; POA: university and college lecturers' UCU; UNITE sectoral committees in both the NHS and local government.
But the united front against the cuts has been seriously breached by the decision of UNISON to accept the ‘Heads of Agreement’ – the framework for talks - thereby suspending further industrial action for at least the short-term. The national leadership’s surrender pre-Xmas did enough to confuse and undermine the confidence of branch delegates to their sectoral committees. But UNISON members should still bombard their leaderships with demands that unless the attacks on pensions are withdrawn during the negotiations, rather than delayed by a year, the fight is back on, alongside other unions who have rejected this shoddy package.

Now is the time to fight, not flee
In a remarkable confirmation that now is the time to escalate the fight against an enfeebled government, the doctors' BMA has announced plans to consult 130,000 members in what could be their first industrial action in 40 years.
As the Voice goes to press, the TUC Public Sector Liaison Group meets. Union members who have fought to save the deferred wages of millions from grand theft by the millionaires' government are demanding that they name the day without delay for further, united strike action.
Despite UNISON leadership’s weakening of the united front, the other public sector unions should forge ahead with further united strike action – as PCS, NUT, UCU and UNITE appear to be committed to.
Such a day of action could also involve sections of private sector workers, who a increasingly up in arms at cuts to their own pension schemes, wages and jobs. For instance, the UNITE members in the construction industry, battling and balloting for strike action against mind-boggling 35 per cent cuts in their wages; and Unilever workers taking their first ever national strike action against abolition of their final salary pension scheme by the giant multi-national with a previous reputation for paternalism, high quality tied houses for their workers, model villages, etc.

In rejecting the government's not-so-new deal, the UCU called for another one-day strike before university half term holidays in mid-February. Time is of the essence. Another mass strike could include lobbies of council buildings, as councillors throughout the land set budgets, with demands that instead of wielding the knife on behalf of their paymasters in Westminster and Holyrood, they should set 'No Cuts' Defiance budgets, and help build mass movements that demand back the stolen £millions from central government, to save every job, wage and service. 
Councillors once again face the stark choice: defy or destroy! Faced with mass strikes, even a single council taking this principled route would add another layer of rebellion, another front facing the troubled Westminster cuts Coalition. 
And closer to home, an immediate mass strike of all public sector (and sections of private sector) workers would pound the SNP government with the demand that they stand up for Scotland, for services, for social justice - instead of Swinney and Salmond aping the Tories with their pay cuts, service cuts and job losses. The SNP rightly tell Cameron and Osborne to stop interfering with Scottish democracy on the issue of an independence Referendum; they need to be hammered into something of the same resistance to Westminster 'interference' in Scottish jobs, public services and pay packets...or be exposed as the Tartan butchers that they are.

The unions, with their millions of members - workers who are indispensable in providing critical daily services - are pivotal to the battle against cuts. The union leaders have a duty to lead, not surrender at the first threat of retaliation by the Tory bullies. If they capitulate on pensions, that would be a serious blow to the wider anti-cuts struggle. A serious battle to save pensions will require further, united, national strikes and demonstrations, which would embolden workers, communities and students not even in a union to join the resistance to all aspects of cuts. And at the heart of all this lies the issue of boldly advocating an alternative that explodes the myths that cuts a necessary or unavoidable. The Scottish Socialist Party has consistently broadcast the CSS for taxation of the rich and big business, and democratic public ownership, as the core of a socialist alternative. At critical moments, like right now, the socialist case against all cuts is the difference between confusion, division, and acceptance of very slightly lesser cuts - or unity, confidence and a sustained struggle that can defeat the Eton boot boys and their spineless local servants.