Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2030

A gathering of Scottish MSPs: will independence bring change?

A gathering of Scottish MSPs: will independence bring change?

Scottish independence

Neil Davidson (Should Scotland become independent?, 2 December) grudgingly admits that there may be a case for voting for Scottish independence at the moment, but then spends the vast bulk of his article attacking the idea.

This would be to miss the radical content of independence. Of course a separate Scotland would not “bring socialism” – I don’t think any parliamentary change will do that.

But it would give the system a tremendous shake-up. The Scottish people would have more direct links with their MPs, and at the very least the excuse that “it’s London’s fault” would go.

But more than that, the British state would have been dealt a strong blow. Could Ireland for long be denied the same rights as Scotland? Simply transferring the legislature is not enough to bring change, but it would whet the appetite for greater change.

James Miller, Edinburgh

It was disappointing to see that Neil Davidson’s article did not consider the bigger space for political debate that Scottish independence would opened up for the left in Scotland. It was also disappointing to see that Neil did not consider what material benefits citizens in Scotland might gain under independence.

If Scottish independence is achieved in the next few years, it will be in a left of centre context. The majority of popular aspirations for independence reflect social democratic values, these being tied up with the notion of “Scottishness”.

Scottishness is not couched in terms of being a competitive notion, and neither is it easily dismissed as “cross?class”.

Consequently, it is reasonable to anticipate that space will opened up for the socialist left to operate in, and that the battle to block domestic neoliberalism will be advanced to some degree. This clearly would not equate to socialism, or anything close to it, but it would be several steps forward from where we currently are.

Even if the battle for such outcomes was not clearly won, then the exercise of conducting that battle would help lead to a wider level of leftward politicisation than we have at the moment.

Surely, there is nothing here that would not hearten the left in the rest of Britain? I’d be interested to hear Neil reflect more adequately over these issues than he did in his piece last week. As he says, “More analysis is needed.”

Gregor Gall, Edinburgh

Oh for goodness sake, an independent Scotland might not be the radical new state we want, but it could hardly be worse than the (dis)United Kingdom. Scotland has consistently voted to the left of England for the last 30 years, has a higher level of trade union membership and more struggle.

An independent Scotland would be a thorn in Westminster’s side and would encourage more revolts in the rest of Britain. I’d vote for it tomorrow – onwards to a Scottish socialist republic.

We don’t want a tartanised Westminster, we want a parliament that fits the needs and desires of Scotland’s people – for peace, for class justice, against racism and against nuclear weapons.

Angela McBain, Aberdeen

Inspiration from Jenin

Recently five Palestinians invited by the Twinning with Jenin campaign arrived in Tower Hamlets, east London.

The delegation included Laila Shreim, a councillor for Jenin municipality and textile trade unionist, Yusuf Awad, the director of Jenin Cultural Centre, and three wonderful musicians – Ahmed Bashir, Qays Abu-Nada and Alaa Natour.

In a packed programme organised by the twinning campaign, helped by Bow Stop the War, the Palestinians visited several schools, talked to councillors, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, and the imam of east London mosque.

Council workers, health workers, and teachers all hosted meetings where enthusiasm for developing concrete links with workers in Jenin was evident.

The first public event – a discussion followed by the film The Iron Wall – gave a graphic account of how the Israeli separation wall is a deliberate policy to destroy the possibility of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza.

The second public event, also drawing a packed audience, was at St Barnabas church hosted by Father Brian Mullins. The Jenin musicians were joined by Nizar Al-Issa and a young local group in a fantastic concert.

Disappointment with the Labour councillors – who refused to hold a civic reception for our visitors – was compounded by our visit to Shofiqul Hoque, the mayor, who insisted he was not political. Yusuf had to explain to him that “in Jenin a glass of water is political”.

Apart from these political leaders, the Jenin delegates were welcomed everywhere – appearing on the Islam Channel, the BBC World Service and local Bangla TV.

Their visit has made us more determined to achieve the official twinning of Jenin with Tower Hamlets. The National Twinning Conference held on the Sunday of the visit brought together Palestinians and twinning groups around the country.

If you have a group in your locality please sign up, if not then start one. Contact [email protected]

Miriam Scharf, East London

London Met students won’t be intimidated

A few weeks ago students at London Metropolitan University organised a Stop the War meeting to raise the issue of Islamophobia and racism.

We wanted to meet in an environment where Muslim and non-Muslim students could consider the current situation where there is a racist anti-Muslim campaign from the government.

Some students had printed and distributed the leaflets, which mentioned certain things that had already been reported in the media such as the idea that the university imam “welcomes” increased surveillance of students.

When some students asked the imam about his comments, he denied making them. But then some students also saw him on television saying similar things.

The Stop the War leaflet which advertised the meeting also criticised the university. When the university found out about the leaflets, we were told that any students who distributed them could be expelled.

It seems there is an attempt to intimidate students from having political discussion about how the local and international issues of racism and war are tied up.

We will not be intimidated. We plan to have follow up meetings with MPs. We also plan to pass a motion at our council to affiliate our student union formally to the Stop the War Coalition so as to continue our anti-racism and anti-Islamophobia campaign.

Noreen Fatima, London Met student

Movement must back the cleaners

Along with other members of Tower Hamlets Respect, I was privileged to be on some of the demonstrations by cleaners last week.

Readers of Socialist Worker won’t need to be reminded why it’s an important issue, but for me, it was a reminder of what we should expect from our trade unions.

Full credit should go to the T&G union, not just for recruiting and organising the cleaners, but for really taking the campaign seriously and putting money and resources into it.

The cleaners’ demands are basic workers’ rights of the kind that led to the formation of unions in the first place. But too many unions have become detached from the reality of the workplace and have forgotten the fundamental principles of our movement.

Other than rank and file members, it was very disappointing not to see a single banner or formal representation from other unions in support of the cleaners.

The cleaners’ campaign is continuing and as one of the organisers put it to me, “We have to win.” I hope more people from the movement will come and help them do that.

Glyn Robbins, East London

Litvinenko: who gains?

In all the immense coverage devoted to the death in London of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, from radiation poisoning, I have yet to find any mention of how convenient the whole affair is for the British and US governments.

First of all, of course, it diverts attention from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Britain and the US have other reasons for wanting to put pressure on the Russian regime. They want President Putin to make a bigger and less critical commitment to their leadership.

They don’t want him flaunting the economic power of Russia’s huge oil and gas resources.

And they certainly didn’t want him at the G8 meeting in St Petersburg toning down their expressions of support for Israel during the war with Lebanon.

But because of the disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, they are in no position to embark on a major conflict with Russia.

Hence the campaign to vilify Russia.

No doubt a lot of the things that are said about authoritarianism in Russia are true. But the prominence that is being given to them, compared, say, with China, Egypt or Pakistan, reflects the political priorities of the Western powers.

We should maintain our support for the right of countries like Ukraine and Georgia to true national independence. We should continue to oppose imperialism east and west. Above all, we should not be fooled into forgetting that the main enemy is at home.

Pete Glatter, South London

Party when Thatcher goes

I was punching the air in support when Ricky Tomlinson concluded his excellent history of coalmining (Channel 5, 27 November) with an attack on Tory former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said he hoped the miners would have a good day out when she finally dies, and that he would join them for a pint. I wonder if Ricky would be prepared to host a massive party for the miners on the day of her long-awaited funeral? I am sure this would attract enormous numbers of people and raise a lot of money for an appropriate cause.

It might seem a little harsh to celebrate someone’s death in this way, but when you think of the deaths of people and communities for which she was responsible, I think Ricky simply expressed the emotions of sane people everywhere.

Maybe we could get some support for the idea from trade unionists and their leaders and build up some momentum? I would be glad to help out in any way.

Andy Burnyeat, Brighton

An insult to Newham

I am offended beyond belief at the recent insulting comments about the working people of Newham, made by Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Newham, east London.

In a speech last week Sir Robin said that the people of Newham are “too lazy” to benefit from the opportunities offered by the Olympics. He also said that people in Newham lack skills and their only ambition is to “get a council home” and stay on benefits.

He went on to say that “benefit cuts might be needed” to encourage people to work.

He has proven once again that he is an upper middle class snob, who holds the working class people of Newham in contempt.

Sir Robin is a New Labour politician who has used Newham as a laboratory for almost all the policies that harm working class people.

Now he is telling the very people who have entrusted him and his party for many years to make their lives better, that they are useless, and he is sick of them.

So, on behalf of the people of Newham, I demand that he makes a swift and unconditional apology for this insult and his offensive remarks about the people of Newham.

Councillor Hanif Abdulmuhit, Newham Respect

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Sat 9 Dec 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2030
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