Saturday, 22 March 2014

Invitation: Remember September 18th 1959. Remember Thatcher's Attacks. Vote Yes in #indyref

As we move rapidly towards September 18th 2014 and a hugely historical day for Scotland, SSP Campsie remember another hugely significant September 18, that of 1959.

It was a day carved into the collective memory of Scots, and in particular those of us who live in the Campsie mining villages. It was on a shift down the mine outside Moodiesburn that a fire claimed the lives of 47 miners. 41 women were widowed and 76 children lost their fathers. Just one miner survived.

The death toll from the underground fire in Auchengeich Colliery, was the worst in the history of mining in Scotland.

SSP members, Willie Telfer and Mark Callaghan paying tribute to the miners who lost their lives in 1959

Next Sunday, 30th March at 2pm in Milton of Campsie Village Hall, the SSP will be showing solidarity with hard working miners across Scotland and the UK who were attacked and sold down the river by successive Governments and of course, Thatcher's Westminster's Tories. An independent Scotland could have nurtured and transformed coal into a clean industry and fair and safe employment for thousands of people was smashed by successive neo-liberal Tory and New Labour Governments.

There will be a screening of the film Happy Lands, based on the highs and lows of a Fife mining community during the 1926 general strike. The strike was called by the TUC for one minute to midnight on 3 May, 1926.

For the previous two days, some one million coal miners had been locked out of their mines after a dispute with the owners who wanted them to work longer hours for less money.

In solidarity, huge numbers from other industries stayed off work, including bus, rail and dock workers, as well as people with printing, gas, electricity, building, iron, steel and chemical jobs.

The aim was to force the government to act to prevent mine owners reducing miners' wages by 13% and increasing their shifts from seven to eight hours.

The industrial action came against a backdrop of tough economic times following the First World War and a growing fear of socialism and communism.  The elites had to resort to open class war to stop working men and women being awarded fair pay for a hard graft.

The film will be followed by speakers relating their own experiences of the 1984 fight against Thatcher's Government, who it has been recently revealed, had plans from the off to close over 70 pits serving working class communities across the UK. 

Local man, Tommy Canavan, arrested during the strike, who helped organize local miners in '84 will speak.

Local SSP Strathkelvin organiser,Willie Telfer said, "Many truths about the strike have only recently come to light, these new facts show how many families in the Kirky area were used by a government hell bent on smashing the trades union movement. Although it is 30 years on, many miners are still campaigning for justice and the disclosure of the facts behind the government's actions at that time".

Although ultimately defeated the event will celebrate the Strathkelvin sense of community and the solidarity shown to miners families during the dispute.

The 18th of September, 1959, was one of the saddest days for Strathkelvin folk and indeed, for all miners and the people of Scotland.

Let's hope September 18th 2014 is a day we remember the men and their families and vote to ensure our communities are rebuilt by a democracy and economy centred in Scotland and no longer in the hands of the Westminster Tories and New Labourites who have betrayed Scottish working class people for the past 35, and more, years.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Learn from History - Socialists Unite!

by Ron Mackay

In1941 I'd just started the 2nd. Year of a science course at Glasgow Uni. when I was called up. WW2 was totally different from WW1. Uncle Alex had been to fight the fascists in Spain. 

I had no hesitation in accepting the need to fight fascism.

I was trained to maintain radar, the new secret weapon and tho' I was in the RN for 4 yrs. I don't recall ever carrying a gun or firing a shot.

In 1946 I was demobbed and like most of the returning service personnel and the population in general were seeking a new way of running things. We'd been horrified at the colossal slaughter of human beings – not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also Dresden, Hamburg, London, Coventry, Clydebank etc.

The Labour party sensing the mood of the people put forward a policy of Socialism and were swept to victory all over the country in both national and local elections. It was the Socialists who repaired and rebuilt our towns and cities . In Clydebank 5 Communist councillors were elected Willie Gallagher was elected as an MP by the Fife miners. The main sources of wealth were nationalised – energy, transport, engineering, construction and manufacturing in general. With full employment and a good social atmosphere we thought we were on our way to Socialism.

Alas, the Labour Party was not a Socialist party and betrayed the hopes of the people. The same old bosses were left to run industry. One of the serious mistakes was the failure to tackle the media Lords Beaverbrooke, Kemsley, Astor etc. the press barons, bitter opponents of the welfare state were left to run the media.

At the Nurenburg trials Joseph Goebles, Nazi propaganda minister stated “No matter what type of government – democracy or dictatorship – whoever controls the media controls the state”. Propaganda is now-a-days called public relations. The Windsors have a very powerful PR dept. ensuring they appear on TV and the media in general 2 or 3 times a week.

Leveson totally failed to democratise the media – it ignored the question of ownership. The media is controlled by anti-socialists. I sometimes wonder if it's going to take a world -wide catastrophe with large populations annihilated before enough people realise the absolute necessity of a socialist solution to our problems.

The media is a very powerful enemy We need a single Socialist party to provide guidance and leadership if we're ever going to get Socialism. I do appeal to all socialists – get your act together . We must speak with one voice when it comes to elections.

I know that there are many sincere socialists in the Labour party, in the SNP , in the Communist party, in the Green party, the Co-operative party, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialists for Independence party and non-party Socialists. If you believe that “ Unity is strength “ is not just an empty aphorism then speak with one voice at elections both local and national.

The independence referendum is an issue that divides some Socialists. Socialists should not hesitate to oppose the warmongers who dominate the Westminster Establishment.

Nuclear weapons, Trident and military research is costing billions and represent a threat to peace on Earth. Capitalism may be in terminal decline but could go out with a bang not a whimper, and so I repeat my dreaded fear that it may take another colossal calamity before enough people realise the absolute necessity of a Socialist solution to our problems.

Can an Socialists get together to prevent a huge human tragedy? It looked like it in the late 1940's.
Today ?

Friday, 7 March 2014

Opinion: Kevin Hattie

Venezuela; The beginning of the end?

There is turmoil in Venezuela. Students have been protesting against the government in nation-wide demonstrations characterised by disorder and violence that have led to the death of three people. Initially organised to protest against economic shortages and insecurity, these demonstrations have been calling for ‘la salida’ – the exit of President Nicolás Maduro. They have been supported by sections of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, led by Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado.

 These events mark a rerun of earlier events, when the opposition pushed for the removal of Chávez through a failed coup in 2002, a private sector lock-out in 2002-3 and a recall referendum against Chávez in 2004. Maria Corina Machado, a signatory to the 2002 ‘Carmona Decree’ that temporarily dissolved the Chávez government, was a key protagonist of the recall referendum. Her ‘civil society’ organisation, Súmate, received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, where she was feted by President George Bush in May 2005.

The Chavistas learned a number of lessons from the events of 2002-2004:  the importance of consolidating grassroots support; the need to build regional solidarity; the capacity of the private sector to paralyse economic activity; and the urgency of countering false reporting on the country. It was this period that was the catalyst for the transformation of an initially centrist Third Way project into Socialism of the Twenty First Century.

The opposition similarly absorbed lessons, after anti-government unions, business associations and the local Roman Catholic Church failed to galvanise public opinion behind regime change in 2002. It adopted an electoral path as the balance of power swung to moderate factions, and radicals associated with unconstitutional tactics were pushed to the margins. This reaped dividends in national and regional elections after 2008 as the MUD focused on bread-and-butter voter concerns and wooed Chavistas alienated by the government’s statist lurch with soothing language of reconciliation and promises to improve, rather than remove, the benefits delivered by the Missions.  At the same time, the protagonist role of the private sector media was gradually tempered by introduction of European-style broadcast regulations.

US-based lobbies antagonistic toward the advance of Chávez’s socialism no longer saw these elements of ‘civil society’ as an effective oppositional vehicle and jettisoned them, deciding that a new tool for regime displacement had to be nurtured.  Students in private sector universities became the new vanguard of ‘democracy promotion’.

In 2008, the US-based Cato Institute awarded the US$500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty to student leader Yon Goicoechea for his role in mobilising protests against the suspension of private broadcaster RCTV’s licence. At the same time, a sizeable amount of the US$45 million in funding provided annually by US institutions to Venezuelan opposition groups was channelled to ‘youth outreach’ programmes.

With financial support and media training, Venezuela’s student and opposition-aligned Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida  became vociferous and mobilised, focusing after 2010 on the alleged censorship by the state of private sector broadcasters and on government legislation intended to democratise the administration of the universities. The latter was portrayed as a threat to university autonomy and some public institutions, such as the Universidad Central de Venezuela, were driven into the opposition camp.
In 2011 JAVU activists staged a hunger strike in support of ‘political prisoners’ and demanded that the Organisation of American States should intervene. Protests in 2012 focused on underfunding in the higher education sector and in 2013 demonstrations were organised outside the Cuban Embassy, first to demand the return of Chávez from chemotherapy in Havana and then to challenge the result of the April presidential election.

The current protests are important on two counts. First, they mark a coming together of the student movement and radical elements of the MUD. López and Machado have been organising with the student leadership, in particular in relation to the February 12th demonstrations on Venezuela’s Day of the Youth, which commemorates the role of young people in the 1814 independence battle of la Victoria.

Frustrated by the slow dividends of the electoral route, López and Machado are challenging the position of Henrique Capriles as MUD leader, even though he defeated them both in the MUD’s 2012 primaries. As Capriles in recent weeks has nudged closer toward dialogue with President Maduro on the issue of public security, following January’s murder of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear, the uncompromising López and Machado have sought to open a chasm between Capriles and grassroots anti-government sentiment.

In turn, the student movement has embraced the ‘salida’ demand of López and Machado, threatening to stay on the streets until Maduro leaves office. This is against a backdrop of  growing tension, with ongoing raids by security forces on private sector warehouse facilities, where food and goods are allegedly being hoarded to create artificial shortages, and with the interception of a recorded conversation between a former Venezuelan ambassador and a vice-admiral where plans for violence and ‘something similar to April 11th’ were being discussed.

The second distinctive aspect relates to the role of social media. Although mobilisations and related violence have been on-going, with two student deaths in 2010, they have not received the same level of attention as the protests earlier this month. One indication of an orchestrated campaign has been the frenzied activity by opposition youth on Twitter, which seems to be substituting for the once vociferous but now calmer private sector media that could traditionally be relied upon to galvanise international attention.

Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating  the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters. In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper cited tweets by opposition activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors. No evidence to substantiate this extremely serious allegation was provided. It also reported on the arrest of 30 students on 12th February, following serious disorder, including barricade building, tire burning and Molotov cocktail attacks, as if it were an egregious assault on human rights. The report was subsequently tweeted by Machado. By way of context, 153 students were arrested in the UK during the 2010 protests against tuition fees.

The images disseminated, for example, to a Green Movement activist in Iran and then circulated to her thousands of followers with the tag line ‘pray for Venezuela’s students’, and to other democracy movements around the world show Egyptian and not Venezuelan police beating demonstrators. This same image was carried by the Spanish newspaper ABC. Photographs and video clips of Chilean, Argentinian and Bulgarian police suppressing demonstrators and carrying out arrests (in their home countries) have been circulated and published as of they were assaults in Venezuela, and one widely reproduced image shows Venezuela’s Policia Metropolitana corralling student protestors. The Policia Metropolitana was disbanded in 2011. Twitter has additionally been used to harangue commentators, including this author, who checked the accounts of her abusive critics to find most had only been tweeting for a day and in that space of time had accumulated around 40,000 followers.

Capriles has been steering the opposition down the electoral path in recognition of the fact that ordinary voters are alienated by violent protest and disorder. It has been widely acknowledged that such a strategy will take time to produce results, but it allows the MUD to build an electoral base and credibility as a political alternative. This hard work will be undone by a return to unconstitutional activities. The students and MUD radicals offer no governance plan, with ‘salida’ serving as a hash tag, not a strategy, according to one opposition blogger.

Just as in 2002, radicals have forgotten that the people they must convince are Venezuelan voters, not international opinion. There can be no short cut to replacing a movement and government that is genuinely popular. Attempting to induce regime overthrow is unnecessary when the option of a recall referendum is available, and it is irresponsible when the outcome of violent change will only be a cycle of violent revenge. Finally, journalists have yet to learn that authoritative reporting requires fact-based accounts, not recycled and unchecked tweets from Twitter – a mechanism that can be used to promote delusion as well as democracy.

Sunday, 2 March 2014


Following the opening of a foodbank in Milngavie, the SSP has been voicing it's disgust at the Tory and Liberal Democrat austerity drive that forced people to become reliant on food packages.

SSP member, Angus Clark had this letter published in the Bearsden/Milngavie Herald.

Dear Sir,

The opening of a foodbank in Milngavie, as referred to in a recent B&M Herald article, made depressing reading. Although the initiative is to be welcomed in one sense, it is an alarming indicator of how desperate ordinary people have become and is a shame on our society.

 In the last 18 months the number of foodbanks opening across the UK has tripled. In only the last year the biggest provider of foodbanks, the Trustle Trust has handed food parcels out to 355,985 people, including 120,000 children. These people are relying on foodbanks to survive but this represents just the tip of the iceberg as this only includes those referred by their GP of welfare advisers. This situation has arisen as a direct result of the Con Dem Governments attack on working people through welfare cuts, the Bedroom Tax, fuel price increases, poverty wages, and delays in welfare payments, and this is borne out by the Trusts report. This crisis is so bad that Tesco will be supplying the equivalent of millions of meals a day and most of its surplus fresh food to charities. The British Red Cross have, for the first time since the Second World War, announced that they will be distributing food parcels in Britain. Most people are having to spend a bigger proportion of their income on escalating food prices and some are even having to buy less food.

 This is all leading to a social catastrophe and the Con Dem Government are trying to deny that their policies are linked to this massive increase, blaming it on’ poor financial planning’. People who have worked all their days are proud and do not find it easy to ask for food hand-out’s. Those who are in poverty wages also feel guilty but find it impossible to pay the mortgage, clothe the children, heat the house and put fuel in the car. The decision to go down to a foodbank will be a painful one but they should not feel ashamed. The Government should feel ashamed. The young schoolboy who has not enough money to pay for his school lunch and no food in the house to make a sandwich and decides to stay off school to avoid embarrassment should not feel ashamed. The Government should feel ashamed.

The Con Dem Government, of which our MP Jo Swinson is a Member, commissioned an Investigation into the reasons for foodbanks and said they would publish the information by the summer of 2013.The need for a survey was a diversionary tactic as we all know the reasons for the increase in foodbanks, notwithstanding this, our elected representatives decided not to publish the Investigation. Maybe they had something to hide? However on 4th December 2013 a member’s motion was tabled to get this Investigation published along with measures to help people avoid having to rely on foodbanks. As usual our elected representatives voted against this motion, including our local MP Jo Swinson. Jo voted predictably along party lines, just as she voted in favour of retaining the bedroom tax, which is now in the process of being defeated in Scotland due to public pressure.

The increase in foodbanks is a worrying trend in that they are the last ‘safety net’ for ordinary people who are in desperation. They run the risk of becoming ‘institutionalised’ and taken for granted which we as a society must never accept. If they fulfil a need in Milngavie then, by implication, they will fulfil a need throughout the country and this is a depressing fact. However, in reality the increase in foodbanks are just one symptom of a failing and degenerated economic system which is no longer capable of providing for basic needs never mind advancing the living standards of ordinary people. This is what we are witnessing in the 21st Century, a system which does not deserve to live, but which refuses to die. We all need to do what we can to help it on its way.