News & Reports

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A small selection of news items and reports that have a particular relevance to Scotland or Scottish workers and our communities.

Today marks a significant day for the Scottish Labour Party. Richard Leonard is a very inclusive, very decent and principled human being. For him to act as decisively as he has done today speaks volumes about the activities of some people at Holyrood. It is right that he now has a team around him who respect the members and their decision to elect Richard as leader. If it was the case that some were not fully on board with his agenda then he is right to have changed his shadow cabinet in a way that better reflects Richard’s politics and the wishes of the Scottish Labour membership.

Labour Party members are fed up of party disunity and in particular the inability of some within the party, including MPs and MSPs who members select and campaign to elect, to accept the democratic decision of members, supporters and trade unions to elect our party's leaders. And, they are fed up of people leaking from the MSP group meetings and their private WhatsApp groups and running parallel media operations, which have never been intended to help the Party communicate our message of real change. 

Today Richard Leonard raised the unacceptable levels of poverty in Scotland at First Ministers Questions. That’s the sort of issue that the party's grassroots want our Parliamentarians to focus on: I sincerely hope that after today’s changes that the new shadow cabinet put the same effort and energy as Richard himself does into tackling poverty and inequality and making Labour in Scotland once again the natural political home for the people of Scotland.

Scottish Labour is in third place because our party lost its soul. We lost our sense of purpose and a vision which could inspire hope in working people. That's no longer the case. Richard Leonard and Jeremy Corbyn are setting out a political and economic agenda that will radically reform our country so it works for the many, not the few. The party must unite around that vision and build on the momentum of last year's snap General Election so that Labour are ready for Government whenever Theresa May's shambolic government falls.

Richard has today strengthened and made much more united the Scottish Labour Party and made it much more electable and credible in the eyes of the electorate. It is time for Labour members to get behind Richard’s new team and help us win with our programme of real change.

This article by Joe Cullinane, The Leader of North Ayrshire Council, was an exclusive for The Red Robin

There was no denying it. The hall was not only rammed for the Brexit debate but there was sustained and loud applause for Keir Starmer when he said that the ‘People’s Vote’ could have the option of ‘Remain’, since nothing was being ruled out at this point. This position was in contradiction to what John McDonnell had been arguing in the run up to conference: he said that if there were a ‘People’s vote’ it should be on the deal that May had negotiated: it should not be a repeat referendum. And as soon as he could after Keir Starmer made the announcement, Steve Turner of Unite got to the platform to re-state the position John McDonnell had been pushing. However, Jeremy Corbyn later confirmed that Keir Starmer was correctly interpreting the composite motion which had been passed by conference.

If, like me, (and incidentally the delegate, David Mallon of Blyth Valley who was the target of Andy Kerr’s comments) you think the EU was designed, post war, to nail down the coffin lid on socialism, you might try to draw some comfort that Labour’s ‘constructive ambiguity’ is winning or at least sustaining votes from Remainers. Not so according to the Observer on 30th September:

“The latest Opinium poll suggests that Labour lost support among Remainers after its conference – the Party was three points down among the group, with support falling from 53% to 50% of those who voted to stay in the EU.”

From the same poll, on the question of which party was seen to be the best to lead Brexit negotiations the Tories were some way ahead – 29% of those polled preferred them to Labour on 21%.  It was closer on overall voting intentions with 39% saying they would vote Tory and 36% Labour. There is, however, no evidence as yet, that edging towards a second referendum to facilitate remaining in the EU is an election winner.

On the contrary, our very own Professor John Curtice was reported on Politics Live on 20th September, arguing that there is no consistent evidence of a shift in support for a second referendum. More generally, polling shows no fundamental change in public opinion on Brexit. Indeed, polling by IQR conducted, admittedly, for the Brexit-supporting pressure group Global Britain, suggests that any attempt by Labour to frustrate the departure from the EU would lead to Labour candidates facing defeat in 19 of its 25 most marginal constituencies held by the party.

Why is there such a gap in the position on the EU between the majority of Party delegates at conference and many Labour voters. The answer is class. In many working-class constituencies there is no love of the EU which is correctly seen as an undemocratic, distant overlord oblivious to the austerity inflicted on them. I have no scientific evidence to draw on, but it appeared to me that the majority of the new left membership do not come from working class communities.

Here is some of what David Mallon from Blyth Valley in the North East of England said in his speech to conference against a second referendum:

“I implore you, all come to Blyth Valley… and tell them why you want them to remain…For too long they have felt marginalised like they have not had their voices heard…I believe the European Union to be a capitalist club that is for the few, not the many…it uses free trade to take advantage of those who are [from] Eastern Europe — Poles, Romanians, who come over for a better life — and our wages are undercut because the bosses think [that] because of the European Union, they can pay them less.”

His speech was received by many delegates, as Bill Connolly would have it, like a fart in a space suit and they were vocal in their opposition. The same tensions were evident over the trade union positions on Party democracy.

David Mallon is right. The EU has embedded and enforced neo-liberal norms not only throughout EU countries but also states which are part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)and through that the European Economic Area (EEA): these too are obliged to honour the four freedoms. Writing in Tribune re-launched at a packed-out fringe meeting at Labour Party conference, Ellen Engelstad excoriates the impact the single market rules have had on Norway.

She describes the contested nature of support for EFTA/EEA by the Norwegian Labour Party in terms reminiscent of differences at the recent Labour Party conference: for the Liberal wing of the Norwegian Labour Party she writes membership of the EU “is a signifier of pro-Western politics and cultural cosmopolitanism” and for its left “the EU represents a serious threat to the welfare state and workers’ rights.”

For Engelstad the Norwegian Labour left  has been spot on. The Norwegian state owned hydro-electric energy company is in jeopardy through the EU’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators; postal services have been made open to privatisation through the EU third postal directive and Norway’s public railway system is vulnerable through the EU’s 4th Railway package.

That is not all. Norway introduced a law supported by the Unions to protect foreign workers in the shipyards from employers who wanted to charge them for travel and accommodation. Challenged by the employers, the Norwegian High Court supported the Union case. The EFTA court of justice which works in tandem with the European Court of Justice, however, overturned that decision. In Norway, dock workers were registered and this meant only registered dockers had the right to load and unload ships. The Danish company Holship challenged this through EFTA legal process and won. Engelstad notes:

“These two verdicts were used by the employers’ association as a battering ram to break down workers’ rights in other sectors.”

You may wonder why on earth any socialist movement would want to be a direct part of an organisation like the EU or indeed like Norway, suffer the rules of the single market and pay for the privilege. And yet many Labour Party delegates had greeted Keir Starmer’s speech as if he had read the proclamation of a socialist republic.

The sense the surreal was made worse by bizarre spectacle of pro-EU demonstrators which met us when we left the conference centre, draped in the EU flags and one of them wearing a hat last seen at the mad hatters tea party.

It strikes me that the left has very little time left to dispel the dream world that large sections of the Labour Party have fallen into.

Vince Mills

One of the episodes at the recent Labour Party conference that drew a great deal of attention in Scotland, though less so in other places, was the remark by the Chair,Andy Kerr to a delegate to the effect that making the sign of the cross would put him off allowing the delegate to speak.

A couple of corrections on the reporting: first the delegate was a man, not a woman as was widely reported and certainly he was not offended by Andy’s remarks in that he felt he was being insulted as a Catholic; he was church of England and therefore a Protestant!

And one piece of context. Andy made the remark in a situation where people try all sorts of ridiculous things to get noticed, including blessing yourself, so that they will get called to speak.

None of that excuses Andy’s remark, but I have to confess as someone brought up a Catholic, now an atheist Catholic, I have made similar remarks directed at both sides of the religious divide in my workplace in the past. Of course, workplace patter cannot be transplanted to the conference platform, but there was very little attempt at understanding by some folk, with threats of resignation and false equivalences being drawn between sectarianism and racism.

For at least half of the 20th century In Northern Ireland from whence mine and many other Scots antecedents came, and to a lesser extent in Scotland, religious oppression was a reality. Being a working-class Catholic reduced your chance of a job, a decent house and a decent education. Religious denomination came with real social and economic power, at least for some sections of the skilled Protestant working class, for others their lives were indistinguishable from poor Catholics.

In Scotland today (or Belfast for that matter), there is no such power in your religious persuasion. The shipyards and the engineering shops where religious discrimination flourished and gave the basis to systemic discrimination, have gone and so has the discrimination in housing and education. Beyond the bile of sectarian chants at football matches, anti-Catholic, or anti-Protestant sentiment has no potency.

In any case, I do not believe for a moment that Andy is sectarian. I think he made a thoughtless comment in a stressful situation and has rightfully apologised for it. Now let’s get on and win the next election together, for everyone suffering from austerity.

Vince Mills

The Scottish Labour Left Morning Star supporters group will be meeting on Sunday 29th April during the Morning Star Conference, which is being headlined by the Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard. The executive of the group will be discussing a number of issues. There will be a report  on the training that Unison's John Stevenson and Malky Burns provided to help Star supporters to get into writing for the paper. One potential outlet for these writers is this very website! It could help provide up to date articles and information on what is happening in the Labour movement and the Labour Party in particular. So really,  watch this space.

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A progressive blueprint for the future

 

In Place of Austerity 2017 Cover

William Steele reviews In Place of Austerity: A Programme for the People (The People’s Assembly)

Click the cover to get a free download of this new essential pamphlet!

“It is essential that we, together with the trade unions, continue to build the mass movement further to force the Tories out of office, and to help elect and sustain a future anti-austerity progressive government — which, of course, would be under fierce attack by the bankers, big business monopoly corporations and their pet politicians and media. This is the clear aim of the People’s Assembly.”

In its strongest-ever policy statement and plan of action, the recently published pamphlet, In Place of Austerity: A Programme for the People, the People’s Assembly reasserts its position right at the front of the very widespread view that the Tories are not fit to continue in office, and the fast-growing awareness that our movement — the People’s Assembly and our trade unions — needs to go beyond protest to organising to bring them down.

Tracing the origins of austerity to the policies of government following the 2008 financial and economic crisis, which ministers claimed to be aimed at “deficit reduction,” the policy statement says: “Many people now say that austerity policies have failed — and indeed deficit targets are routinely ‘missed,’ and there has been no debt reduction … in fact it has steadily grown from under 40 per cent of GDP in 2008 to just under 90 per cent in 2017.

“But the real aim of austerity was to stabilise the post-crisis economy in favour of the bankers and big business billionaires, raising the rate of profit at the expense of the working class. In that they have succeeded, and will continue to do so, if we let them.”

The opening section of the pamphlet pulls together very useful evidence and statistics

The opening section of the pamphlet pulls together very useful evidence and statistics — from pay and pensions to jobs and working conditions, from privatisation of services to community infrastructure, from benefit cuts to taxation policy, from NHS and state education to the growth of bogus or enforced “self-employment,” from the wealth gap and poverty to housing and transport, and much more.

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PAUL SHAW explains why RMT Glasgow shipping branch is asking for your donations to finish a monument to the blockade runners

SOME 15 years ago, Ronnie Moran, then RMT Glasgow shipping branch secretary, was approached by renowned sculptor Frank Casey looking to honour the seafarers who formed the blockade runners to Spain during the Spanish civil war.

The branch (including its then chair and former secretary Stuart Hyslop) and the RMT Scottish regional council then formulated a plan to construct a memorial incorporating the sculpture that Casey would build to create a lasting memory to the seafarers dispatched to Spain to overthrow Francisco Franco’s fascist regime.

Casey stresses the importance of a lasting memorial, saying: “The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked.”

The ships that were part of the struggle to preserve the democratically elected Spanish republic in the face of Francoist aggression has largely gone unremarked

These small ships not only had the threat from insurgent Spanish warships to deal with but also Franco’s well-armed German and Italian allies.

In total 27 British-registered vessels were lost between 1936 and 1939 and are recognised by a plaque placed on the memorial.

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SCOTTISH Labour leadership elections are a bit like Glasgow buses — you wait ages for one and then along come three.


Although to be honest we’ve not had to wait that long for them here in Scotland of late, having had contests in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
It was only a year ago Jeremy Corbyn stormed to his second leadership victory, seeing off Owen Smith in a Britain-wide contest. Then last month Kezia Dugdale resigned ostensibly, and probably honestly, for personal rather than political reasons, creating another contest for the leadership, this time for Scottish Labour.
That is not to deny that there have been political tensions. Dugdale made her disapproval of Jeremy as clear as her support for Owen Smith.
She could probably have survived this given Smith’s relatively good showing in Scotland — at least among full party members.


But questions were raised about her grasp of strategy during the snap general election when she concentrated on an anti-independence platform rather than emphasise the widely popular, radical Corbyn manifesto. It probably lost Scottish Labour the opportunity to pick up many more than the seven seats they managed, given the unexpected sag in SNP support.


Although this was commented on, especially by the left including of course the Morning Star and this column, it was not accompanied by calls for Dugdale to resign.
First, she had by then apparently accommodated herself to the Corbyn leadership and Scottish Labour had introduced a number of radical policy initiatives, and there was, in any case, no obvious alternative.

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The Morning Star election special is available for free in the following supermarkets in Scotland. If there isn't one near you, don't worry - all shops which usually sell the Star will have free copies available

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AS WE enter another general election campaign it will be obvious to all that media coverage of the different parties isn’t fair.

Most of Britain’s biggest newspapers are owned by a handful of super-rich white men — most infamously US-based tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose bid for ever greater control of the news that we are allowed to hear is assessed in a special Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom pullout in today’s paper.
A free press is supposed to hold power to account, but a press owned by the likes of Murdoch, the mysterious Barclay brothers, Lord Rothermere and fat cat pornographer Richard Desmond is more interested in protecting the wealth and privilege of people like themselves.

The same applies to broadcasters — even the publicly owned BBC, where an ingrained prejudice against anything that threatens the status quo has resulted in Labour’s socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, being constantly belittled, misrepresented or slandered on our TV screens.

Some say those of us who want to change the world should avoid the press altogether and use new social media techniques to communicate our ideas — and there’s no doubt this is an impressive and effective tool.

But social media audiences can be self-selecting, creating online echo-chambers which can dupe us into thinking we’re making more progress than we really are.
That’s not to mention the frequent difficulty of assessing how reliable the information we see on social media is.
Not that what we see in the mainstream media can be counted on either, in a world which has lived through Blair’s dodgy dossier on Iraqi WMD and a host of more recent media-concocted scandals.

Socialists need to use every weapon at our disposal to counter the overwhelming advantages possessed by an Establishment which will always have “lawyers, guns and money” at its service.

Part of that means having our own media. That’s where the Morning Star comes in.

Part of that means having our own media. That’s where the Morning Star comes in.

Founded in 1930 as the Daily Worker, then the paper of the Communist Party, it’s been a co-operative since the 1940s and now answers to its owners — not some offshore billionaire in our case, but thousands of ordinary readers who own equal shares and elect its management committee.
We’re also the daily paper of the labour movement. We have nine national trade unions and one trade union region represented on the committee, accounting for a majority of Britain’s organised workers.

We publish six days a week, bringing you the stories the other press won’t — the struggles, strikes and victories of working people, the misery created by a system designed to maximise profit for the bosses, the views and debates of our movement and the culture and history of our class — including a uniquely class, gender and raceaware sports section edited by our award-winning sports editor Kadeem Simmonds, the first black sports editor of a national paper.

We’re the only English-language socialist daily in the world and the only British daily to support Jeremy Corbyn — there’s no other paper like the Morning Star, and we think it’s needed more than ever in the cruel new Britain the Tories are set on building.

We’re the only English-language socialist daily in the world

But life for a little title like us is a constant struggle to survive in an industry where many papers are going to the wall.
We’ve increased our readership over the last two years, but not by enough to keep the wolf from the door and we really need more people buying us daily — either in print form from your newsagent or supermarket or by subscribing to our e-edition, which includes an app to let you read us on your mobile phone (visit morningstaronline.co.uk/subscribe to find out more).

The Morning Star is constantly evolving and on these pages we’ll tell you a bit about that — and how you can help!

From http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-84e8-The-Daily-Miracle-We-are-the-free-press#.WQpY39orJEY

Angela Davis, a radical black feminist, political activist and academic, told a packed audience in Belfast City Hall today of the struggle ahead to oppose the policies of newly elected US President Donald Trump. Ms Davis was in Belfast for an event organised by Reclaim the Agenda on International Women’s Day.

This short audio track of Angela Davis being interviewed on radio by Seamus McKee is a segment from BBC Evening Extra 8/3/2017. The last minute or so is a collection of women saying what International Women's Day means to them personally, recorded at the Bread and Roses event in the City Hall.
(Image of woman with hair of butterflies from freepix.com)

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joe law cpi OPTA loyal trade unionist, JOE LAW campaigned for peace, freedom and socialism all his life, writes Brian Campfield

IRELAND, and the north of Ireland in particular, has lost one of its stalwart communists and trade unionists with the sudden and untimely death of Joe Law on September 28, one month before his 70th birthday.

Joe came from Belfast’s radical Protestant tradition and fought against the sectarian state for workers’ unity and for socialism.

In this he was from the same mould as Henry Joy McCracken and the other northern United Irishmen of the 18th century.

joe law ireland tuAn industrial worker who was active as a shop steward in the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) Joe was an executive committee member of the Belfast Trades Council in which he was active for 30 years.
He worked in a number of heavy engineering companies, including Mackie’s Foundry, Shorts and Rolls Royce.

But it was his initial experience as a young seaman in the 1960s which opened his eyes to the injustices of the world.

His experiences of apartheid when his ship docked in South Africa set him on a journey which led to his active trade unionism and membership of the Communist Party of Ireland.

Following redundancy as a riveter with Shorts Aircraft factory in Belfast, Joe made a major contribution to confronting sectarianism as a tutor and educator with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) anti-sectarian unit, Counteract.
He then became a founding member of Trademark, an organisation which later became recognised by ICTU as its official partner in confronting sectarianism.

Through engaging with trade unionists and managements in a wide range of employing bodies, Joe, in his unique and direct way, successfully challenged long established practices and encouraged people to confront their own prejudices.

Trademark also developed a political economy education programme which is highly regarded by trade unionists north and south of the border.

Unlike many, Joe also understood imperialism and this understanding was at the centre of all his work.

joe law cpi scotland OPTJoe also co-operated with his comrades in the Hope Not Hate Glasgow campaign and contributed immensely to strengthening relations between comrades in Scotland and the north of Ireland.

A Junior Orange Lodge member in Belfast in his early youth, Joe Law travelled a monumental distance and was proud of the contribution of the Irish members of the International Brigades who valiantly fought the fascists in Spain.
He was active in anti-apartheid solidarity work, confronted sectarianism on hostile shop floors in difficult and dangerous times and held the banner high for peace, independence and socialism.

He has left us much too soon. Our sincere sympathy to his wife, partner and soulmate, Brenda.

Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (There will never be the likes of him again).

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Brian Campfield is president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions