Defiance, not Compliance: Build mass movements against cuts

The Scottish Socialist Party has reiterated its full opposition to all cuts, and reissued its demand that the Scottish Government refuse to pass on yet more catastrophic cuts to working-class communities in the December budget.

SNP/Green Finance Minister and Deputy First Minister Shona Robison has threatened further brutal cuts to public services and public sector jobs.

In comments quoted last week in The National, SSP National Trade Union Organiser Richie Venton has outlined how a No Cuts Budget can be delivered in Scotland. Richie was the Merseyside regional organiser of the socialists who spearheaded the victorious mass movement against Tory budget cuts in Liverpool in the 1980s. He was expelled from the Labour Party, alongside eight other leaders of the Liverpool struggle, in 1986.

He said:

“Devastation looms in December’s Scottish Government budget. Devastation to public sector workers’ jobs; public services to working-class communities most in need, amidst the unprecedented cost-of-living crisis; life-threatening cuts to Fire and Rescue Services.

“Ahead of wielding the axe (reportedly cuts of £780m), Scottish Finance Secretary Shona Robison has warned of “the most exceptionally difficult budget decisions since devolution”, stating “the size of the workforce will have to reduce”, declining to deny that the SNP/Scottish Green Party government will breach their policy of no compulsory redundancies.

“In a classic mainstream politician’s attempt to dehumanise the workers facing the chop – and blame job cuts on desperately-needed pay settlements – Robison added “there is a relationship between head count and pay.”

“Undeniably, years of systematic butchery by Westminster’s Tories is at the heart of Scotland’s galloping budget crisis.

“Council leaders – Labour, SNP, Tory, and Scottish Greens – are running out of adjectives to describe the ‘unprecedented’, ‘devastating’ or ‘unspeakable’ cuts they plan. They shamelessly conduct sham consultations, asking local communities: “Which cuts do you want us to implement? Library closures, swimming pool shutdowns, job losses, eye-watering Council Tax hikes, exorbitant charges for use of community facilities?”, to blame local people when councillors vote for wholesale destruction.

“Is there really no alternative?

“Before you collapse into a state of abject surrender, choosing between death by drowning, execution, or a thousand cuts, pause and picture the scene.

“The Scottish Government – elected on an anti-Tory, anti-austerity ticket – sets a budget with absolutely no cuts to jobs and services, no Council Tax rises, and pledges to carry out radical improvements to people’s daily lives. They promise to build 60,000 council houses for rent, with front and back gardens, and 66 new children’s nurseries. They promise an 8-year rent freeze, 5,700 extra jobs in education, and creation of 180,000 construction industry jobs to build and renovate council housing stock.

“In defiance of the Tory razor gang, the Scottish Government honestly, openly warns workers and communities we will need to build mass struggles (demos, strikes, civil disobedience) to force additional funding out of the Westminster dictatorship, to match income to expenditure plans.

“They launch a campaign of meetings in workplaces, communities, colleges, on the streets, around the fighting demand “Give us back our £1.1billion, from the multiple billions stolen from Scotland”.

“That’s not some fantasy, or mere wishful thinking. It’s what the socialist-led Liverpool City Council did in real life in the 1980s – translated into 2023 money and extrapolated from a city of 500,000 to a nation of 5.5 million people.

“I was proud and privileged to be at the heart of that mass struggle, as the regional organiser of the Merseyside socialists who spearheaded the victorious showdown with Maggie Thatcher’s hard-faced Tory government.

“We went to the people with a socialist manifesto on housebuilding, job creation, education, public services – and unlike most governments, forcefully carried out pre-election promises!

“We confronted the Tories, refusing to implement their cuts, demanding back the funds to carry through transformative improvements. But it required mass movements to defeat the ‘Iron Lady’, Thatcher, who up until then basked in the reputation of being invincible.

“We organised mass meetings of the council workforce, private sector factory gate meetings, public meetings in schools and community halls; organised demonstrations of 50-60,000 in a city 30% smaller than Glasgow. We led one-day regional general strikes – not against the council, but in support of their programme of reforms, in opposition to the Westminster Tories, in pursuit of the funding required to balance the books.

“The outcome? In the teeth of mass movements of the working class, the Tories were compelled to concede £60million in grants to the council in 1984 – £240million in today’s money, the equivalent to conceding £2.6billion to the Scottish Government in 2023!

“Instead of wringing their hands in grovelling surrender to the Tories, as they slash jobs and decimate countless facilities and frontline services that hard-pressed communities rely on, the SNP/Scottish Green Party coalition should grow a collective spine, lead and inspire the people of Scotland with a vision, and follow the route taken by Liverpool’s socialist council 40 years ago.

“Imagine the infinitely greater challenge to Westminster’s profit-crazed axe-wielders that would be, when a whole nation was mobilised – where Tories have not won a majority vote since 1955 – compared to just being fought in one city! And Rishi Sunak is no Maggie Thatcher. The Tories are on the ropes, riven with splits.

“Instead of compliance with Tory cuts, devolving the destruction, Scottish Government defiance could defeat Tory austerity by mobilising workers, communities, young people – if they showed a lead, setting a No Cuts Defiance Budget, spelling out the improvements they could implement if mass movements won back some of the £billions stolen off Scottish budgets by Westminster over the last decade.

“Neither the SNP nor Scottish Green Party have shown a glimmer of such vision or determination. They’ve chosen compliance rather than defiance of Tory cuts.

“Starmer’s Labour Party is adamant they will continue the same devastation as the Tories, explicitly stating they will not reverse Tory spending limits, as they coorie up to the moneybags of the Stock Exchange and international capitalism, with all their talk of a Labour government adhering to ‘fiscal responsibility’.

“Trade unionists and working-class communities will need to bombard Holyrood and council chambers with collective action against cuts. The Scottish Socialist Party – with its living link to those of us who led the socialist struggles of 1980s Liverpool – will vigorously play our part in demanding defiance instead of compliance and devolved destruction. There is an alternative!”

Listen: Richie Venton reflects on the socialist struggles in Liverpool in the 1980s:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three