Scotland: ‘this movement is learning fast, growing arms and legs’

September 24, 2014

CATHERINE MILLIGAN, a socialist and community activist on the Castlemilk housing scheme in Glasgow, reflects on the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum.

So Scotland said no to independence with a historic turnout of 84%. The margin was 383,937: this was so close. The “Yes” campaign galvanised 1.6 million voters to challenge and undermine the Westminster staus quo –

Solidarity: on the weekend after the referendum, campaigners decided to collect food for Glasgow's food banks, and put the word out on social media to bring donations to George Square

Solidarity: on the weekend after the referendum, campaigners decided to collect food for Glasgow’s food banks, and put the word out on social media to bring donations to George Square

despite the onslaught by the establishment, which threw its full weight behind a “No” vote. Every single tabloid and broadsheet newspaper, bar one, supported a “No” vote; banks and businesses threatened to withdraw from our economy; most trade union leaders  advocated a “No” vote. Firms sent personal letters telling workers that if they voted “No” they could lose their jobs. Pensioners were told their pensions would be undermined. Despite all this 1.6 million people voted “Yes”, against the Westminster elite and its austerity.

In the aftermath, as you can imagine, even those of us who expected that “No” would win marginally were a tad deflated. It didn’t help that George Square [Glasgow’s main square] was taken over on Friday [19 September] by a hundred or so right-wing “No” campaigners, mobilised by Britain First, singing Rule Britannia and spouting hatefulness and division. It was a complete contrast to the previous evenings, when the square was full of hope and unity, with thousands of people united against Westminster rule and their savage economic policies against the working class. On Friday, some of the Rule Britannia mob were seen wearing Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland: “yes” was for social justice, not narrow patriotism

September 22, 2014

A guest post by HILARY HORROCKS, a socialist activist who lives in Edinburgh

The day after the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September – in which 45% voted “yes” to independence and 55% voted “no” – someone chalked on the pavement of Glasgow’s George Square: “Glasgow said Yes”.

Its past tense was a poignant comment on the despair felt in the immediate aftermath by the “yes” campaign, which had latterly turned this area of the city into a mini-Tahrir Square.

In many respects the 45% support for independence was remarkable, given that its backers were subjected to what the Sunday Herald called “the

Catalan demonstrators at an Edinburgh city centre polling station

Catalan demonstrators at an Edinburgh city centre polling station

political equivalent of carpet bombing” in the last two weeks of the campaign, after a YouGov poll suggested for the first time that “yes” might carry the day. The “Better Together” campaign, complacent up till now, suddenly sent its big guns into Scotland, Labour leaders allying with Tories and LibDems to try to “save the Union”.

Prime Minister David Cameron flew in twice, but never met a single voter on the street: he was filmed for TV talking to carefully selected audiences. Even the reclusive ex-PM Gordon Brown was pressed into service to make impassioned pleas Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland: ‘the opportunity for real people power’

September 10, 2014

In this guest post, CATHERINE MILLIGAN, a socialist and community activist who lives in the Castlemilk housing scheme in Glasgow, explains how she has changed her view of the referendum on Scottish independence

I am voting Yes to Scottish independence, and I haven’t come to that decision easily – because I call myself a socialist, and believe I am a citizen of the world, and felt it was ill advised to break up the working class movement

Standing room only at one of the meetings in Castlemilk, Glasgow, to discuss the referendum

Standing room only at one of the meetings in Castlemilk, Glasgow, to discuss the referendum

in Britain. I also fear the rise of fascism, especially in England where Ukip have free range to expound their ideas via most established media outlets.

However the young people of Scotland have changed my point of view, in that they are very pro-Yes and their arguments for this are very sound in my eyes.

They are clearly saying that it is not about nationalism: it’s about having a voice that can be heard – which they do not have now. They state clearly that they hate the Tory and Lib Dem Read the rest of this entry »

‘A vector of inequality, degradation and violence’

August 31, 2014

Review of The Ecological Hoofprint: the global burden of industrial livestock by Tony Weis (Zed Books, 2013)

The rapid expansion of world meat consumption is (1) an indication that more people are getting better fed, right?

This “nutritional transition” is (2) great news for human health, right?

And (3), notwithstanding issues of excessive cruelty to animals, industrial

... and not only Walmart. (Photo from the Mercy for Animals web site.)

… and not only Walmart. (Photo from the Mercy for Animals web site.)

meat production is just a high-tech version of what humans have been doing since they started hunting, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Tony Weis argues.

Weis demolishes justifications for the global process he calls “meatification” with a rigorous analysis of how it exacerbates inequality, and widens the rift between capitalist economies and the natural environment. It’s damaging and unsustainable.

At a time when academics are forced to focus more and more narrowly, he looks at the big picture.

On question (1) – who benefits from growing meat consumption – Weis unpacks the extent of inequalities: people in rich countries consume more Read the rest of this entry »

‘If, in this country, the way to freedom runs through prison, we are ready to go’

August 6, 2014

Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov’s statement in court

UPDATE, 18 August: Alexei Gaskarov and Alexander Margolin were today sentenced to three years and six months in prison; Ilya Gushchin to two years and six months; and Elena Kokhtareva to a suspended sentence of three years and three months.

The verdicts on the second group of defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case – brought against participants in the Russian protest movement of 2011-12 – will be announced on 18 August in Zamoskvoretsky Court in Moscow. The prosecutor has asked the court to sentence Alexander Margolin and Alexei Gaskarov to four years in prison; Ilya Gushchin, to three years and three


Alexei Gaskarov in court. Photo from

months in prison; and Elena Kokhtareva, to three years and three months suspended, with four years of probation. All four defendants have been accused under Article 212 Part 2 (involvement in riots) and Article 318 Part 1 (use of non-threatening violence against a public official) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. On 4 August, 28-year-old Alexei Gaskarov made his closing statement in court. This is the complete text of his speech.

The so-called Bolotnaya Square Case has been symbolic in the sense that through it the public sees how the authorities interact with the opposition, with those people whose viewpoint differs from the general line.

The first thing I wanted to talk about is something that was not addressed in the trial, but which I think is important: why on 6 May [2012], despite Read the rest of this entry »

John Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

August 1, 2014

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war, People & Nature today publishes Accuser of Capitalism: John Maclean’s Speech from the Dock on 9 May, 1918. (Introduction here, text of speech here.) Maclean, a Scottish Marxist, was one of a small number of socialists across
accuserEurope who denounced their governments’ participation in the war, urged workers to resist it, and hoped that it would be superceded by class war.

Maclean was jailed in 1916 for anti-government activity and released after a campaign of support. He was re-arrested in 1918 and charged under the Defence of the Realm Act with actions – public anti-war speeches to big Read the rest of this entry »

World war one and 100 years of counter-revolution

August 1, 2014

A guest post by Mark Kosman

In 1871, Karl Marx wrote that governments use war as a fraud, a ‘humbug, intended to defer the struggle of the classes’.[1] In 1914, that fraud was so effective that not only most workers but also

A detail from Stormtroops Advancing Under A Gas Attack, by Otto Dix. (See "About the picture", below

A detail from Stormtroops Advancing Under A Gas Attack, by Otto Dix. (See “About the picture”, below

most Marxists supported their respective nation’s rush to war. Ever since then, governments have used war to defer class struggle and prevent revolution. But this strategy cannot last forever.

The great unrest and the great war

In all the commemorations for the start of World War One it is unlikely that there will be many references to the huge strike wave that preceded the war. But this strike wave, known as the Great Unrest, created considerable insecurity among Britain’s elites. This was especially the case as these strikes coincided with other disturbing social movements such as the nationalist upsurge in Ireland and the increasingly violent campaign for women’s suffrage.

By the summer of 1914, workers were mobilising for what the left reformist commentators, Sydney and Beatrice Webb, called ‘an almost revolutionary outburst of gigantic industrial disputes.’ The future Prime Minister, Lloyd George, warned that if these industrial disputes Read the rest of this entry »


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