Glyn Powell criticises Socialist Worker’s “reformist response” (» Letters, 26 May) to the Scottish elections for ignoring the “potential impact upon the British state of Scottish independence”. He is mistaken.
It is unclear that the Scottish National Party (SNP) victory will lead to independence. The SNP wants an independence referendum.
It is unlikely that the minority SNP administration could get a referendum bill through the Scottish parliament let alone win a popular vote for independence. The SNP leadership seems happy to become a regionalist party like the Catalan or Quebec nationalists.
Scottish independence will not necessarily “enhance the struggle against the capitalist state”. Before the election leading Scottish capitalists such as the former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as the neoliberal magazine the Economist and the Tory intellectual Michael Fry supported the SNP.
There is now an SNP government in Scotland that the British ruling class accepts. People voted SNP not for independence but against New Labour’s wars and neoliberalism. People will demand the SNP keep its promises on Trident, the war and public services – the concrete issues that link the state, the market and war.
That is why revolutionaries must concentrate on those real struggles, not fantasies about the revolutionary potential of an independent Scotland.
Jamie Allinson, Edinburgh
The debates over the SNP are remarkably similar to those surrounding the Parti Quebecois (PQ) in Canada. In the 1970s, the Quebec left made the enormous error of placing the national question before the social question.
Quebec’s trade union movement was sucked into the cross-class alliance of the PQ, subordinating the task of socialism to that of national liberation.
However, during its periods of rule, from 1976-85 and 1994-2003, the PQ pushed through neoliberal reforms and attacked its working class supporters through anti-union laws and the slashing of social programmes.
It has taken the Quebec left over 30 years to recover and realise that such a stagist approach to national liberation in an advanced capitalist economy is a gift to the ruling class. Every act of working class resistance is attacked as a threat to “national unity”.
Quebec’s new left party, Quebec Solidaire, was formed in February 2006 and in March won 145,000 votes and 3.65 percent of the popular vote. It is independentist but it has made class issues its priority and has started to break unions away from the PQ.
The left in Scotland cannot make the same mistake with the SNP, or allow their smaller left wing parties to be sucked into the dead end of left nationalism.
Quebec’s experience is also framed in a clear cut case of national oppression, whereas Scotland’s “national oppression” is highly questionable. Considering the role played by Scottish elites in oppressing Quebec during the 19th and 20th centuries, it would be very wrong to draw an equal sign between the two.
Doug Nesbitt, Canada
Nuclear is subsidised
The government is proposing to build new nuclear power stations in Britain. The International Energy Agency has said that any new nuclear programme must be funded entirely from the private sector, without any government subsidy or market intervention.
Lord Truscott, the parliamentary under secretary of state for energy, has said there would be no subsidy, levy, nuclear obligation or market intervention to help launch a new nuclear programme.
But there are massive subsidies for the nuclear industry, although they are disguised. Here are three examples:
- The nuclear industry is only insured to cover costs up to £700 million. The cost of the Chernobyl disaster ran to tens of billions of pounds.
Writer Helen Caldicott says, “In the US, the Price-Anderson Act limits the nuclear industry’s liability in the event of a catastrophic accident to $9.1 billion, which is less than 2 percent of the $600 billion guaranteed by Congress. In any case, $600 billion is considered to be a gross underestimate.”
Similar limitations on liabilities in Britain are a huge subsidy for the nuclear industry.
- In July 2006, a Daily Mirror reporter managed very easily to plant a “bomb” on a flask of nuclear waste in a railway siding. The public is being made to carry the risk, and the corresponding costs, that arise from allowing the industry to run these trains. This is another large subsidy for the industry.
- Future generations are being made to pay for the costs arising from nuclear waste that will be dangerous for tens of thousands of years. This represents a large subsidy from those people, yet to be born, to the nuclear industry of today.
Before any new nuclear power stations are built in Britain, the first two hidden subsidies must be removed and the problem of nuclear waste must be solved.
There is more about the many headaches with nuclear power at » www.mng.org.uk/gh/no_nukes.htm
Marianne Jones, Anglesey
Violence is a way of transforming ourselves
Sheila McGregor’s very well written and interesting article on Frantz Fanon (» The legacy of Frantz Fanon, 26 May) provoked much thought for me, particularly on the subject of violence.
Part of the drudgery we all face in society means that our nature is suppressed.
Black slaves were prevented from fighting. It was a punishable offence if they were caught, so they developed fighting that was non-contact and semi-dance.
Violence can be an artform in itself.
The current outlets for it on the sports field do not come up to the mark in terms of our potential since these sports are mainly the preserve of the privileged classes and therefore distort the sporting abilities of us all.
I wholeheartedly agree that any violence necessary to topple the existing order and win a better world should not be conducted by a separated guerrilla force.
Part of the self-transformation that Fanon described would be all the exploited and oppressed rising to their natural abilities through contact/non-contact combat and really feeling the wholeness of what it means to be human.
This would transform the whole of society in the process.
Sophie Jongman, Gillingham
State of funds
A D Williams raises an important issue (» Letters, 26 May). State funding of political parties would deepen the disaffection that voters have with the political process.
If the benchmark for funding were set at current levels of support, the three main parties would be the beneficiaries.
Those that have contributed most to the problem would be seen to have their noses in the public trough in a self-perpetuating process that would make voters even more cynical about electoral politics.
Labour, with its massive haemorrhaging of members, relies more and more on donations from the rich.
But it is also vulnerable in one obvious area – funding from the unions. Respect can challenge it on this.
We need to make sure that the case for a democratisation of the unions’ political funds is heard in every branch and district.
Why should the unions fund a party that attacks their members and implements policies hostile to their interests? The RMT and FBU unions have shown that this is an argument worth making.
Instead the funds should be used to support political campaigns and parties such as Respect that are prepared to defend pay, jobs and services.
Shaun Doherty, East London
What do MPs want to hide?
Respect MP George Galloway (» Galloway blasts MPs’ exemption, 26 May) is wrong to state that the politicians who voted to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act have acted contrary to how they expect the rest of the people to behave.
What he should have said was, “What have the 96 members got to hide that they want to place themselves above the law?
“Why did they choose to vote on the one day in the week when they realised many members would absent themselves from the house?”
It is also worth asking if the said “honourable” members really believe that correspondence with their constituents could become public.
If they do then either their ignorance of the Data Protection Act is monumental, or they have not done their homework.
Public opinion of politicians is already at an all-time low.
This decision would seem to confirm that this is the most corrupt and contemptible bunch of self-seeking parasites that this country has ever had the misfortune to endure.
T J Dowds, by email
Fight for the right to play
The letter about children having no access to playgrounds or natural light (» Letters, 19 May) reminded me of the Cat Stevens song, “Where Do The Children Play?”
It has been proven that children learn social skills through play and that sitting five year olds behind desks results in behavioural problems.
In those European countries where children are not taught to read and write until the age of seven, they display far more academic acumen later in life.
Is this new policy a method to undermine childhood? The concept of childhood is changing to suit the needs of capitalism.
They are going to be worked hard enough as grown ups under the system. Don’t they have a right to play for as long as possible.
Alexandra Lepp, Sheffield
Help promote left wing ideas
I wish to show my support for the Socialist Workers Party through protest against Labour and the Nazi British National Party, which is prominent at my school.
But when I attempted to campaign, the school asked me to stop putting up posters and stop handing out Socialist Worker.
Do you have any ideas on how I can promote socialism in my school? And is it possible to support Israel and socialism at the same time?
Name Supplied, by email
No wait and see policy
This is an exciting new political period for socialists in Scotland.
Elaine Campbell (» Letters, 26 May) wonders if it is not a bit too soon to criticise Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond.
The left in Scotland will not be adopting a “wait and see” approach. In Solidarity we will make sure that we hold our new government to account.
We will lobby parliament demanding the scrapping of PPP and PFI privatisation in our schools and hospitals.
We will fight to make sure Alex Salmond continues to oppose the Iraq war and supports the Stop the War and military families campaign to stop army recruitment in schools.
We also want him to fight to remove Trident nuclear missiles from Scottish waters.
We hope he will stick to his promises.
But we know that the best way to ensure he does that is to let him know that the thousands of people who voted for him are watching and have had enough of neoliberal policies.
The election may be over but the fightback has just begun.
Pat Smith, Lothians Solidarity