Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2229

Students join protests outside the Scottish parliament last week (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Students join protests outside the Scottish parliament last week (Pic: Duncan Brown)

SNP shows its true colours over the cuts

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has enjoyed several years of posing as a left wing alternative to New Labour. But now the mask is starting to slip.

John Swinney, the finance secretary in the SNP government, has just presented his final budget before next year’s Scottish parliamentary elections.

It is a budget that will hurt working class people. There are big cuts to housing, higher education and councils.

Public sector workers are to have their pay frozen. With inflation is running at more than 4 percent, many low paid workers will lose hundreds of pounds next year.

The cuts will inevitably lead to job losses, though Swinney says there will be no compulsory redundancies as long as workers are prepared to be “flexible”.

Hoping that the SNP can cling on to office for another four years, he has postponed much of the spending cuts until next year.

He has also offered one or two things to ameliorate the pain of this austerity budget—a freeze on council tax, the abolition of prescription charges and a cut in executive bonuses.

Of course, Swinney blames the Westminster government for the pain that we are going to suffer. These are Tory not SNP cuts, he says.

How disappointed and angry must be the thousands of Scottish people who voted the SNP into office.

They voted for a party with a radical programme against privatisation, war and Trident—the emblems of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Labour Party.

The reality has been that SNP councils are attempting to drive through privatisation of our local services and now, when there is an opportunity to stand against the Con-Dem cuts, the SNP want to lead us like lambs to the slaughter.

Luckily, we are not prepared to be led!

Around 20,000 people marched in Edinburgh for jobs and against the cuts last month. Hundreds of students from Scottish universities joined the magnificent education demo in London recently.

This is just the start.

We have seen through the phoney radicalism of the SNP and we will not be waiting for them to lead the fight for the fairer and more just society we need.

Pat Smith, Edinburgh

Searchlight editor plays with fire

Simon Basketter describes Muslims Against Crusades (MAC)—the small group of Islamists who burned poppies on Remembrance Day—as “pointless and irrelevant” (Poppies help our rulers forget, 20 November).

I would add that their stunts only receive publicity because the media has a racist agenda.

That’s why Nick Lowles, editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, is playing with fire with his latest campaign.

Called “A Plague On Both Their Houses”, it attacks both MAC and the English Defence League (in that order), claiming the two groups are equivalent.

I think this is wrong on several counts.

To begin with, MAC and similar radical Islamist groups represent no more than a tiny proportion of Muslims. Contrast that with polls that show 44 percent of people in Britain believe Islam is a “serious danger to Western civilisation even in its milder forms”.

Moreover, Lowles is living on another planet when he claims “people have either been bullied into silence or lack the confidence to speak out” against Islamic extremism.

MAC’s views are loudly and universally condemned across the political spectrum.

In contrast, the English Defence League’s paranoid anti-Muslim arguments are regularly echoed and amplified by the mainstream media and politicians.

Even liberal newspapers dogmatically assume that Muslims are somehow inherently “backwards” on issues such as gay rights or women’s rights.

More fundamentally, Lowles’s campaign ignores the fact that we live in a racist society.

Radical Islamism is a reaction to that racism by a small minority of those who face it. We should not equate such reactions with the actions of groups like the EDL that consciously and deliberately stir up racism.

Equating Islamism with the EDL will serve only to stoke up anti-Muslim feeling, while doing nothing to build opposition to the racists and fascists.

Anindya Bhattacharyya, East London

Tories even want to wipe our memories

Museums across the country are under threat.

The government is slashing all funding for what it calls “non-national” museums—meaning many will lose their grants.

For many this is up to 80 percent of their funding.

The People’s History Museum in Manchester is the only museum in the country that documents working class people’s fight for democracy.

It has the biggest collection of trade union banners anywhere in the world.

The National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, was set up in 1988, just a few years after the Great Miners’ Strike.

It also includes items like banners and badges, as well as a wider collection that documents mining as an industry and as a way of life.

It seems obvious why the Tories have targeted working class museums like these.

Not content with cutting our jobs now, it seems they even want to take the axe to our past.

They put the miners on the dole and now they want to wipe them out of history.

Also on the hit list are the Design Museum, Geffrye Museum, Horniman Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, National Football Museum and Tyne & Wear Museums.

We need to fight these cuts—and stick the Tories in a museum.

Ella Jenkins, South Wales

Take care–words can be weapons

Words like “scab” and “scum” are very powerful when used on picket lines and protests.

They are words that express hatred towards those who break strikes or who want to smash democracy.

There are other powerful words, like c**t, which also express hatred, but which have a far more negative effect.

They were used on some homemade placards on the recent student demonstration in London.

Slogans like “Cameron put the ‘N’ in cuts” are powerful, but wrong.

In struggle unity is strength—and some language can be divisive.

A c**t is a woman’s genitalia—it is shouted by sexists at women who challenge oppression and used as an insult towards women who fight for equal rights.

During the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike there were even chants of “Maggie Thatcher’s got one—Ian McGregor is one”.

Women involved in solidarity with the strike rightly challenged this, and often won the argument.

As we enter an era of fighting the cuts, let’s use words that unite us, not divide us.

Julie Waterson, East London

Fascists are floundering

The biggest anti‑fascist mobilisation in Poland since the Second World War took place this month.

Around 5,000 people prevented the fascists of the ONR marching through the main streets of Warsaw.

Protesters formed several blockades and forced the fascists into side roads.

Fascist organisations use the celebrations around Polish Independence Day as a cover for their marches. Last year 500 of them outnumbered us.

But this year we managed to involve many people who do not usually come on demonstrations. The slogan “Warsaw Free of Fascists” really resonated.

In the future we hope to win delegations of trade unionists to protesting and ensure we stop the fascist marches completely.

Piotr Ciesielski, Warsaw, Poland

Tories’ cuts harm young

This crisis affecting our young people is deeply alarming. Many face the prospect of leaving university burdened for life by a crippling debt. No wonder they vented their anger and frustration outside Tory Party HQ.

It is also no surprise to learn that there has been a massive increase in the levels of self-harm among the young. That is a damning indictment of the government’s economic strategy.

Young people have every right to a decent future. Only a Labour government can offer that.

Keith Henderson, Clacton Labour Party, Essex

Mr Odious from Oldham

Phil Woolas has been stripped of his seat as MP and suspended from the Labour Party for lying about his rival Lib Dem in the general election. Woolas used Islamophobia in his bid to get elected.

The odious former immigration minister has a long and disreputable history.

To her credit Harriet Harman insisted that there’s no place for Woolas in Labour.

Nevertheless he has received thousands of pounds from MPs— particularly those associated with the New Labour—towards his legal expenses.

It is a disgrace that so many leading members of a party that claims to represent the interests of the working class have united in support of this grubby man.

It shows how very little is left of the Labour Party’s claim to be a party of progress.

Sasha Simic, East London

Thailand rulers are puzzling

Thailand’s paranoid, illegal, corrupt and murderous government have blocked the London Evening Standard’s puzzles page. It now joins well over 250,000 websites that are banned.

Perhaps the puzzles page hides terrorist activity or provides clues for anti‑monarchists.

Roy Anderson, Thailand

Legal aid cuts hit the poor

Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke last week announced a massive cuts to legal aid—about 20 percent of the total budget.

These cuts will be targeted at those seeking help in family law, clinical negligence, education, employment, immigration, benefits, debt and housing cases.

Unfairly dismissed and need help to go to a tribunal? Forget it. Being harassed by your landlord? You’re on your own.

In other words, the poorest and the most vulnerable who most need access to justice will suffer.

Shamefully, shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan has said that Labour will support these cuts.

But trade unionists, lawyers, advice groups and clients are already mobilising to defend legal aid. See for details.

Simon Behrman, London

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Article information

Tue 23 Nov 2010, 18:26 GMT
Issue No. 2229
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