The Lessons Rosa Taught Me

by Sandra Webster

When you look back on old pictures – even family ones – you catch a glimpse of the past. It is how we live on – an instant of time and the circumstances captured briefly. A perception of the observer of who we are. I feel this about Rosa Luxemburg. Her piercing intelligence and lack of compromise which marked her political activity shine out brightly. Today, we remember her murder by members of the Freikorp, but her legacy lives on.

I was a young lefty Dundonian when I first learned about Rosa, a friend took me to see the movie about her life. I was fascinated a young talented woman with a disability. I had heard of Marx and Lenin but why not Rosa? I read all her books and pamphlets and I can say she changed my view of politics and why we do what we do. This still holds true today.

Remembrance

Why should the SSP remember her today? As one of our forebearers who agreed with our anti-war stance. As a member of the Spartacus League, she was critical of other parties who supported a war. This led to her death. She was political, truthful and used her intellectual arguments to be critical of war. She was also an Internationalist she wanted to create a mass movement and wake people up about their situation.

Those who do not move, do not notice their chains” she said. She recognised the need for a mass movement before people can arise they have to recognise their condition and see their chains as being real. That is what we do in the Scottish Socialist Party and is part of our political education.

The name The Spartacus League which in Rosa’s time was about the impending war was adopted by people with disabilities to show what was happening with the entitlement cuts. Rosa had a life long condition as a result of polio as a child but I believe she would be out talking to people letting them know what is happening. This is so crucial to rattle the chains of oppression. Another quote which is important to me and sums her outlook out is.

“The most revolutionary thing one can do is proclaim loudly what is happening”.

No compromise

I am proud to be a member of the SSP and writer for the Scottish Socialist Voice where we have been uncompromising about informing people what is happening. So in the face of propaganda we tell people what is happening be it on a street stall or in a meeting. I think Rosa would be proud of our position. We should always proclaim loudly about what is happening to individuals. In our communities and in our class.

I think too Rosa today would be working in our communities. She was critical of centralism and wanted to build a mass movement. She saw the political education of people as crucial to the revolution she wanted to wake people up which is surely the first step in revolutionary thinking. We proudly carry that legacy on today.

We remember her murder today at the hands of the Freikorp. Her body thrown into a canal. She came from an economically privileged background though seen oppression because of her Jewish background. Her family wealth could have made life easier some may say but she chose the path of speaking her mind. Spent much of her life in prison and was murdered. How many of us would do that for our beliefs? Some political parties use the word “Trot” as an insult well I’m a Luxemburgite and an Internationalist. The phrase is on many of our flags.

On the anniversary of her death look at the images of Rosa and think of why we are members of the SSP. She had a huge influence on me – there are few women remembered, especially women with a health condition. Rosa would want us to get into our communities and show them their chains. She would want us to speak out that affect ordinary people. Now we need her spirit more than ever. Look at the pictures of her smiling with friends her warmth and comradeship shines out. She awakened my political education and for that I will always be grateful and humble. Let’s remember her and the activists who speak the truth.

Always missed and an inspiration Rosa.

Rosa Luxemburg: 05/03/1871 – 15/01/1919

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Has Labour changed its spots?

by Colin Fox

As 2018 dawns, those who believe Labour has buried its Blairite past argue the role New Labour played was a temporary aberration.

From sending in Sheriff Officers to humiliate working people during the anti-Poll Tax struggle, initiating the war in Iraq, occupying Afghanistan, privatising our NHS and schools using discredited PFI schemes, attacking the benefits of single parents, withdrawing the rights of migrant workers and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories during the independence referendum, it was all a temporary straying from the socialist path.

But the party’s 2017 Manifesto ‘For the Many, Not the Few’, described as ‘radical’, casts doubt on their change theory because like a ginger bottle, all the fizz escapes when you open it.

Labour’s civil war

“Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent” it reminds us.

Labour promises to maintain Britain’s huge military expenditure… “The UK defence industry is world-leading, and Labour will continue to support development and innovation in this sector.”

It will maintain NHS prescription charges in England [now abolished in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland]. It refuses to support ‘no cuts budgets’ in local government. It suggests increasing Corporation Tax to 26p from 19p (under Thatcher it was 52p) meaning it would still be the lowest in the industrialised world.

One of Corbyn’s economic advisors Ann Pettifor cheers the manifesto for its ‘pragmatism’ pointing out, “You only have to look at past Labour governments. The party is quite prepared to work with business and the City of London.”

And these are by no means the only ominous warnings that change will not happen. Labour are all over the place on Brexit, on public ownership, on the abolition of The House of Lords and the monarchy, on Syria.

The picture painted is of a party conflicted and irresolute.

One should not underestimate the deep divisions within ‘the people’s party’. I was a Labour Party member in my youth long enough to realise it is ultimately an electoral machine.

The Left and Right tolerate each other in order to share the spoils yet they conceal at least two different parties within. The Left wishes to challenge the British establishment, the Right wishes to join it.

My Labour MP Ian Murray hates Corbyn with a vengeance not demonstrated towards the Tories. No, he is rather fond of the Tories. Without their votes in Edinburgh South he would never have kept the Nationalists out.

And as the BBC documentary ‘The Summer that Changed Everything’ revealed, there is no sign of peace breaking out in Labour’s incipient civil war anytime soon.

The right wing are biding their time and regrouping. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is seen as the next challenger for Corbyn’s crown. It is not a matter of if but when they again try to oust him.

The Scottish leadership contest was also described by Richard Leonard’s campaign as ‘a bitter, uncomradely contest which exposed deep divisions in the party. Divisions that will not be resolved by mere calls for unity’. Labour then is a party confused and divided.

More important than Labour’s infighting is the economic and political crisis facing working people. 475,000 workers in Scotland (5.5 million across the UK) are trying to get by on poverty wages.

Another 177,000 families are waiting for a home. And 1 in 3 children endure chronic, serious disadvantage. Working class people are suffering the longest fall in their standard of living since records began.

And what remedy has ‘JC’ to offer? Corbyn tells them, as all previous leaders have done, to ‘wait for the next Labour government.’

All experience shows that is the last thing they should do. The Birmingham bin men did not wait. They went on strike against cuts proposed by the city’s Labour authority.

Nor did the ‘BiFab’ construction workers wait. Nor ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaigners in the public sector repeatedly denied a pay rise.

Corbynmania

The ‘Corbynmania’ epitomised by Momentum and singing ‘Oh Jere-my Cor-byn’ at this year’s TUC Conference recalls warnings Antonio Gramsci offered the workers movement about ‘the cult of the personality’.

This ‘leave it to the celebrity leader’ attitude didn’t work with Bernie Sanders, Nicola Sturgeon, George Galloway or Tommy Sheridan. And it won’t work with Corbyn either.

This approach masks the lack of a serious programme or strategy to defeat the embedded ruling classes. It is a fad that passes and leaves nothing behind.

Where is Corbyn’s mobilisation of the anger against the Tory government? Labour remains a party devoid of ‘extra-parliamentary’ action.

Building a socialist future must be based on firmer foundations. Political education and ideological grounding are key. ‘Battle hardened troops’ are essential. As the SNP enter their own doldrums—having kicked independence into the long grass – Labour is a party grappling with its own existential crisis.

In these conditions the Scottish Socialist Party can build support by taking up the issues working class people care about most and ensuring progress is made through mass action.

This article was previously published in issue 502 of the Scottish Socialist Voice.

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Eric Canning – “builder of the Widest Unity”

by Bill Bonnar

It was with great sadness that the Scottish Socialist Party learned of the passing of Eric Canning.

Eric was a lifelong communist, first with the Communist Party of Great Britain and after its demise as the founder and leader of the Communist Party of Scotland. He also played a key role in the struggle for Scottish self-government as a founder and leading player in the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly and in the referendum campaign for independence. For Eric there was no contradiction in his commitment to socialism and independence. He saw the break-up of the imperialist British state as a key part of the struggle to establish an independent socialist Scotland, a struggle going back to the days of Connolly and Maclean.

Those who knew and worked with Eric will testify to his many qualities. An unshakable commitment to the cause of socialism and independence. A sharp, analytical mind and a thoroughly pleasant manner which won him friends across the movement. For Eric it was always about building the widest unity to achieve political objectives yet a unity based on clear principles. He devoted his political life to the achievement of a Scottish Socialist Republic and will be sadly missed.

The SSP sends its condolences to Audrey and the family and will continue to champion the cause so dear to him.

Main Photo: Craig Maclean

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FOX: “REMARKABLE” CATALAN POLL RESULT

Responding to the Catalan election result SSP national spokesman Colin Fox said:

“First, the result is a remarkable achievement by the three Catalan Independence parties who have again emerged with the majority of seats, if not the votes, having had this election forced upon them by the Spanish Government and their leaders forced into exile or jailed following the October 1st referendum.

Support for Independence has held despite Rajoy’s brutal attempts to cow it.

As an immediate priority this must end and the Catalan politicians must be free to return to elected democratic politics.

The three Catalan independence parties secured 70 of the 135 seats in the Barcelona Parliament sufficient to form a regional Government again.

At the same time, however, a more substantive reading of the picture suggests the political impasse will continue as there remains no clear majority for Independence among the population as a whole.

The Catalan Independence parties achieved 47.5% of the vote to the Spanish nationalists 44% – the other 8% represented by the intermediate position of Podem en Comu.

This complex picture indicates a population deeply divided over the question of Independence.

It is also notable that the left wing Catalan party CUP lost 60% of its seats and 50% of its vote] to the more right-wing Catalan nationalist parties PdeCat and ERC.

All eyes will now be on the response of Popular Party Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy in Madrid.

His likeliest move will be to recognise the result, possibly even drop the charges against Carles Puigdemont and the ERC leaders demanding in return assurances they desist from any more challenges to the Spanish Constitution such as the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in October.

Failure to do so will see another clampdown on any moves it deems ‘unconstitutional’.

Whether this is acceptable to those supporting Catalan independence is another matter.

The political impasse however is unlikely to be eased with this result. Supporters of Catalonian independence still have a long hard road ahead of them if they are to persuade a majority of their case or free themselves from the constraints of the Spanish state.”

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Scottish Budget – ‘MUCH ADO ABOUT NEXT TO NOTHING’: FOX

Commenting on today’s draft Scottish budget SSP spokesman Colin Fox said:

“Finance Secretary Derek McKay has offered a budget barely worth a penny. In the face of the most prolonged fall in real wages since records began his plan to increase the top rate of tax by 1p is indicative of his lack of ambition. The SNP can apparently offer little to the 500,000 people in Scotland earning £8.45 [the real Living Wage] or less, or the 150,000 languishing on the housing waiting list, or tens of thousands more facing punitive rents and assaults on their benefits this Christmas.

The Finance Secretary should have offered real change to those bearing the brunt of austerity and hardship by:

  • Introducing a £10/hour living wage for all Government employees – NHS, local Government, Civil service etc
  • Insisting that no Government contracts were given to any private company not paying their staff at least the £10/hour living wage – this measure would pass the cost of pay increases on to employers
  • Kept the 2007 SNP promise to eradicate fuel poverty by taking the renewable energy industry into public hands.
  • Replacing the unfair Council tax with a redistributive model, based on ability to pay.
  • Increasing the tax paid by the well off substantially more than 1p

This is another missed opportunity by an SNP Government fast running out of ideas who like to make promises but never deliver.”

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“No Surprises: Hammond Kept Tory Austerity, Only Action will End It”

Commenting on the budget SSP national joint spokesperson Colin Fox said:

“Hammond’s budget underlines that austerity remains in force and put his opponents in Labour and the SNP calling for its end on the spot.

If the crisis of poverty pay, insecure work, chronic housing shortages and attacks on people on benefits is to end then action, not words, is essential.

That’s why we have called on both the SNP and Labour to adopt a fighting response to austerity by using the powers at their disposal.

The Scottish Government and Labour councils now face the acid test of turning words against austerity into action which can challenge it.

That’s why we have put forward a real alternative budget to that outlined today which includes;

  • Introduce a £10/hour living wage to end poverty pay and boost consumer spending,
  • Replace the Council tax with an income based alternative lifting the burden of payment off the shoulders of those least able to pay
  • Introduce free public transport to combat climate change and give people a more attractive alternative to their cars
  • Return our railways to public hands
  • Return our energy industry to public hands to end the scourge of fuel poverty once and for all
  • Provide free access to the internet for all under 25
  • Provide residential elderly care free [to add to Scotland’s free personal care]
  • Implement a massive programme of publicly owned affordable house building for rent
  • To be paid for in part by closing down the tax havens protected by UK law exposed by the Paradise Papers to ensure the wealthy can no longer escape their obligations to society
  • And by cancelling the £100bn due to be spent on a second generation of Trident nuclear missiles stationed on the Clyde.”

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£10 Minimum for 500,000 Public Sector Workers: Day of Action

by Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

It was a Baltic Saturday across Scotland, but the heartfelt response from people on the streets warmed the spirits of the SSP activists who braved the biting cold.

Saturday 18 November was a hastily organised SSP National Day of Action around our campaign demanding that the Scottish government and all 32 councils write a guaranteed minimum of £10-an-hour for the 500,000 workers they employ into their Budgets for 2018/19. A guarantee that from April 2018, nobody they directly or indirectly employ would be trying to survive on anything less.

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Open Letter to Labour’s new Scottish leader Richard Leonard MSP

Dear Richard,

Congratulations on your election as Scottish Labour leader. We hope your victory heralds a new age in Scottish politics. Whilst we disagree with Labour on many things – Independence, failure to repeal anti union laws , sending in Sheriff officers to humiliate working people during the poll tax struggle, the war in Iraq, the use of PFI contracts in privatising our NHS and education services, attacking the benefits of single parents – in recognition of the fact that your election represents a break with past policies we would like to suggest we work together to tackle the poverty pay, insecure work, soaring housing costs and falling living standards working class people suffer every day.

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