Saturday, 21 December 2013

The SSP Campsie Curry...

...was today!

Many thanks to the Indian Cottage for a great meal (and a super deal!) and putting up with the racket!

We also managed to decide that we will make a collection for the local foodbank at the next branch meeting.


 Review by Kevin Hattie

On Thursday 20th of December 2013, ITV and its Scottish sister channel STV aired a documentary film by Australian investigative journalist John Pilger. Anyone familiar with Pilger’s work will be aware of the truly shocking nature of previous documentaries such as: War on Democracy, Death of a Nation and Stealing a Nation. However, despite the fact that his previous work has created a ‘nothing shocks me anymore’ mind set, the setting of this latest documentary and given it was filmed only last year (2012), has perhaps hit those viewing it in the UK harder than many of the older documentaries.

Australia is a country with close ties to the UK. It is a country that still shares the royal family, and displays a Union Jack in the top left hand corner of the national flag. Many of the people are descended from British settlers many generations ago and there are a large number of British people living in the country having moved recently. It is perhaps this connection which we feel to Australia that makes John Pilger’s documentary as hard hitting as it was. There is no doubt that had this particular situation come to light in any country it would have been equally as shocking, but through decades of inaccurate media coverage the people of Britain have come to believe that Apartheid is a thing of the past, and exclusive to under developed countries with despotic governments.

Firstly, it is important to state that Australia is a country with some wonderful features, friendly people and vast natural beauty. It is none the less important to ask questions of the image that most people have of the Island continent. Racism is something that leaves an ugly scar on a countries image but Australia still has an open wound. The aborigine population have been subjected to slavery, genocide, rape and robbery in a country that seems to forget about its original people. War memorials speak of Australia’s heroes in the WW’s with intense detail, but they seem to forget the first war that the country experienced; that of the aborigines against the British invaders. The only place the aborigine people are represented at this particular museum is in stone carvings on the wall alongside Animals such as Lizards and Birds. This rejection of the true history of Australia’s past mixed with the dehumanising effect of the stone carvings leaves the viewer in disbelief. Surely a country as developed and as modernised as Australia would not lack the ability to see how offensive and racist it is to display such things?

From the lack of truth about Australia’s oppressive history, which includes a former concentration camp turned luxury island resort with no mention of the islands previous use, to modern day apartheid. The aborigine population see none of Australia’s wealth trickle down to them. 1 in 3 of the native people die before the age of 45 and the incarceration rate in northern Australia for Black Australians is 10 times higher than Apartheid South Africa. Specific cases of police brutality and lack of care resulting in deaths of aborigine men, with no convictions, puts faces to the statistics. 2 of the men interviewed during the program died during the filming. Living conditions no doubt played a major role. Shacks with a mattress on the dirt floor reminded the viewers of sub Saharan Africa and the poverty that exists there. Keeping in mind Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, this fact is even more inexcusable.

John Pilger at one point during the documentary set out to interview citizens of Australia in Canberra who were celebrating ‘Australia Day’, a day that celebrates the history and formation of the country. Asking questions about how the native people will feel on such a day, Pilger received mixed responses ranging from confusion to right out racist ignorance. One man had the audacity to say if they come to this country they should learn to live our way. Obviously the fact that these people he refers to were there first escaped this gentleman.  This statement however summed up nicely the very attitude that has plagued this earth allowing such racism and intolerance to exist.

It is a refusal to accept other cultures and differences that have caused great divisions in the world since people started moving freely across it. Schools promote homogeneity, capitalism excludes anybody and any group of people that it does not see as value producing and nationalism is thrown around to keep people supporting profit making, illegal wars such as the Afghan war. The above statement from the Australian gentleman on the streets of Canberra is the very attitude which allows the oppression and murder of whole groups of people based on their race, religion and/or culture. The aborigine people do not ask that the white people that inhabit Australia leave and return to their ancestral homes in Europe. All they ask is that they get the opportunity to live in dignity, and to be allowed to celebrate their ancient culture which has survived oppression and genocide. They are more than happy to live side by side with their white Australian brothers and sister in doing so. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Open Letter to local Labour Party activists

from Willie Telfer, SSP Campsie Strathkelvin Organiser

Many groupings look to their elders for sage advice on the future. This should be the case in relation to local labour activists approaching the independence referendum next year.

Willie Telfer (left) "Labour Party activists would do well to listen to Canavan and Charlie Gray - stalwarts of long standing commitment to true 'Labour' values."

Look at the position of the once giants of the local Labour party, Dennis Canavan and Charlie Gray. Names from the local past when a labour party branch was an integral part of the life of every town and village in Strathkelvin, where the pursuit through representation of social justice provoked large numbers of ordinary folk to become active to ensure their election to Westminster and to the Strathclyde region.

With their experience and their long standing commitment to true Labour values surely the modern day Labour activist would be well advised to listen to them on independence. Denis is of course a national co-chair for a Yes vote and is proving a powerful advocate who is respected by all in Scottish politics, he links independence  with the opportunity to build a progressive society which could show the way for other progressive forces in UK . Gray would agree with that opportunity,though his recent declaration for independence is perhaps more targeted at the heart and soul of Scottish Labour and those activists that still carry the torch for socialism in an organization embarrassed by the very word.

The fact is that the Labour party in an independent Scotland would and should go back to being the mass party of the people,of the working class. It would be free of the shackles of chasing the minds of middle England, placating the Sun, the Mail and the Express, Old Scottish labour values for Scottish people, I believe they would see a regeneration of activism as they rediscover the cause.

The recent white paper on independence shows at present that amongst the larger parties the SNP have at least a decent idea of politics for a cause and in coalition with the SSP, the Greens and other forces on the left, the message of a fairer more just Scotland will gain the day.

I say the only place for a true socialist to be,no matter which party banner they fly, is in the yes camp. Don't take my word for it comrades, Canavan and Gray are calling you again to build a better country and to save the soul of the Scottish Labour party itself.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Opinion: Neil Scott

Madiba - Our Fight

Rosie Kane has a thread on her Facebook on which people have been writing where they were when they heard about the passing of Nelson Mandela. This article started off as a post there.

Read on HERE

Friday, 6 December 2013

Opinion: Angus Clark

Jo lies down with Coalition Tory Bedfellows- Yet again!

(Published in this weeks Bearsden /Milngavie Herald)

Only weeks ago in their autumn party conference in Glasgow the Lib Dems condemned the’ bedroom tax’ for discriminating against the most vulnerable in our society. I was therefore disappointed but not surprised to discover that local MP and Cabinet Member Jo Swinson gave her backing to the bedroom tax at a recent crucial Parliamentary vote. It confirmed my view that when it comes to the crunch, Jo will lay down to her Tory coalition masters – yet again! She has consistently supported Cameron and Clegg and voted for repressive measures that the Coalition has put in place. However this must rank as her greatest betrayal yet as this was a genuine chance to finish off this dreadful measure once and for all. Her path as a career politician is now secure in that she seems to place more loyalty to this neo- conservative led government than she does to the views of her constituents, many of whom are already affected by this attempt to make the most vulnerable make more sacrifice for the bankers’ crisis. Recent modifications to exclude certain categories of recipients do not address the fundamental regressive nature of the measures and Discretionary Housing Benefit will only assist a few for a very limited period of time.  

The imposition of the bedroom tax is just the latest regressive measure to be given her support in her meteoric rise up the greasy political pole to Cabinet level, and she will no doubt be well rewarded. She also supported hiking University tuition fees up to £9000, a part privatised NHS, the dreadful Welfare Bill, War with Syria the lowering of taxes for billionaires and millionaires and Nuclear Weapons. Does she consider that this record fairly reflects the views of her constituents or the general populace-I think not. Some of her Lib Dem colleagues did indeed keep true to their principles and voted to scrap the bedroom tax and their action should be welcomed. Other MPs including Labour, decided that they had better things to do than turn up for this important vote which is very disappointing as this was a vote which could have been won, although I do not doubt that it would have been close.

Let’s be under no illusion, the bedroom tax is not a ‘single issue’ although it may appear so if directly affected. Governments don’t think that way! It is just one part of a concerted ideological plan to radically scale back the Welfare State [which has no democratic mandate].  Unlike the Poll Tax of the late 80’s which was aimed at the whole populace, the bedroom tax is targeted solely at social tenants drawing benefits both unemployed and in work, and by implication, already on or near the ‘breadline’ who are deemed to have an ‘extra room’. It therefore hits the unemployed and those in poverty wages ‘disproportionately’ leaving them hardly anything left over to live on. So much for the ‘Mansion Tax’ which Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems used to push for! Now it’s OK to penalise those at the foot of society, and join in with the Tories and the ‘Cabinet of Millionaires’ in giving the most vulnerable a ‘good kicking’. Who will be next in line?

 We all know there is a better and more equitable way to tackle the nation’s housing shortage and overcrowding problems. The bedroom tax will never be a solution but it will and is leading to misery for thousands of adults and children, including ill health and suicide.

At the next Westminster election I am sure that the constituents of East Dunbartonshire are no mugs and will not be taken in by the Governments ‘fostered illusions’ over this and other matters. They should also cast an eye over Jo Swinson’s voting record before casting their vote.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Opinion: Kevin Hattie

 "School Days - the best days of your life." Really..?

To speak of our education system today, is to speak of a multiverse where the experience of attending school can vastly differ from person to person, even among those who attended the same one. This isn’t totally surprising as people experience many of the same things in different ways. Take for example a work of art, one person may fail to see past the denotation of such a thing but for someone else a world of endless possibilities may be opened up. Unfortunately I don’t buy the idea that the differing experiences of people in education is in anyway related to perception and someone’s own unique way of looking at the world. After some deep thought about my own experiences of school, and discussion with a couple of people who had similar experiences, I have come to wonder if there is a common feature among those who find the experience pleasant and those who perhaps dreaded a weekday for thirteen odd years.

‘School is the best time of your life’. This is a phrase that justifies other phrases such as ‘if I had a penny for every time….’ Due to the sheer number of times a child will probably hear this phrase uttered by a parent or older person trying to encourage them to enjoy the experience. I have no doubt the feeling is genuine among the older generation who remember their school days fondly, perhaps not because they truly enjoyed it at the time, but because they didn’t have the weight of responsibility that adult life has brought them, and also the fact that the whole world lay ahead of them. I for one never accepted this opinion, and have come to place it alongside other myths such as; if you are bad Santa Claus won’t come to you and the Tories favourite: ‘We’re in this together’. It is suffice to say that I consider school to be something rather different from those who romanticise it. 

For me the classroom was not so much a place of learning, but a place of suppression. Maybe I have the wrong idea of what education should be like but I like to think that the school should fit around the pupils and not the other way about. I believe that to give the impression that authoritative figures deserve ‘natural respect’ as opposed to earning it, is a convenient way to teach young people that our politicians deserve the same free ticket to gaining obedience. Maybe again I have the wrong idea but should information given by these authority figures be accepted without questioning out in wider society? No, so why should pupils be expected to accept what a teacher says without questioning them? To challenge a teacher on something was to cross the line in my school. We got the whole ‘I have a degree in this subject’ lecture as if that was enough to squash any possibility of the person being wrong.

Critical thinking and questioning things is for me the most important part of learning. We as people have to be able to make our own minds up about things and to always be true to our values as individuals and as a collective humanity. We can’t allow for the media to have us so indoctrinated with a particular way of thinking that for them it is almost effortless to influence public opinion and to get people to go along with a particular agenda. If you stand back and look at what capitalism has created in this world, you soon realise it is something so unnatural that it has to stop or else we will cease to be. Boris Johnson and David Cameron might celebrate the culture of greed and wish for it to be weaved into the school curriculum somewhere, but if you truly believe that possessions are the defining aspect of a human being then you clearly have sold your soul for short term vices.

‘Work hard and you’ll get a well-paid job’.  Another myth perhaps, given that this so called meritocracy that we live in see’s investment bankers on seven figure salaries while someone genuinely useful, like a nurse or an engineer will be worrying about the rising prices of fuel and food. But put this aside and look at another reason why this phrase should be discouraged. ‘Well paid’, why is this the most important aspect of a career? The government have been quick to encourage people to leave behind the more creative subjects and to look at something which contributes more directly to the economy. Well firstly the creative industries bring a lot of money into to this country, and secondly people should be encouraged to find fulfilment on a spiritual level before they have to worry about ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’.  

School and universities should be places where society develops its thought and its collective consciousness. Not somewhere to go so you become more ‘employable’.  Why should working class people be told to make themselves more useful to the policy makers of society? Education seems to be just that, a place where the workers go to be taught how to be workers. A lack of decision making in the classroom leads to a lack of decision making in the workplace. I would encourage people to study what interests them and to question what they learn. I would encourage people to believe in the power they have in their hands to bring about change in society. It seems however the education system would encourage people to passively accept certain norms and values and to learn through repetition and retention of meaningless information which has not been questioned. It is a sad fact today that the education system of our country encourages a heteronomous society and promotes homogeneity over diversity of the individual, the reasons for this may lie somewhere in the fact that those who have their hands on the levers of power require things to remain as they are and for true human nature and freedom to be oppressed as this is the only way to maintain this pathological ideology of capitalism. If you step outside the rules created to maintain the status quo you will be marginalised and the ‘best time of your life’ may not quite live up to its billing. This is why some of us hated school, not because we are lazy, stupid, hard to motivate or mentally ill, but because we refuse to get in line and conform to the values that would see us willingly participate in a criminal ideology. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Book for this exclusive event HERE


December 7, 2013 at 10:00 am – 1:00 pm 

The Jury's Inn Hotel,
Jeffrey Street,

Speakers - CHAIR: John Finnie, MSP.

Jim Sillars, Isobel Lindsay, Paul Holleran, John McAllion, Maggie Chapman, Prof. Mike Danson and Colin Fox

Download the latest Scottish Socialist Voices FREE here

SsV on Facebook HERE