Socialist Worker

Letters—we’re inspired to tear down slaver’s Edinburgh statue

Issue No. 2710

A plaque to Henry Dundass at the foot of his statue in Edinburgh

A plaque to Henry Dundass at the foot of his statue in Edinburgh (Pic: Bernt Rostad/Creative Commons)


Inspired by events in Bristol, Edinburgh Stand Up To Racism has been holding protests at the Henry Dundas statue at St Andrew Square.

Scotland’s first black professor, Geoff Palmer, has recently spoken of how Dundas played a crucial role in prolonging the slave trade by 15 years.

He has campaigned for there to be a plaque on the monument that explains Dundas’s role in this.

But after events in Bristol there have been growing calls for the statue to be removed completely.

Michael Fry, Dundas’s biographer, claims the focus on him is unfair and that he was in fact opposed to the slave trade.

Yet Dundas was not opposed to slavery. He was an arch imperialist who simply argued that enough wealth could be derived from Britain’s West Indian colonies without the continuation of the trade.

He wanted the slave population to reproduce itself.

At the height of his powers Dundas was known as the “uncrowned king of Scotland”.

He was also one of the most powerful people in Britain.

Dundas was home secretary in the 1790s and was responsible for suppressing the radical movements in Britain that were inspired by the French Revolution.

The actions of him and his son Robert the Lord Advocate in Scotland saw leading radicals transported to Australia.

Contrary to what Boris Johnson and the media tell us, statues are not there to teach us about history. They reflect the power and prestige of the period they were put up in.

Instead of having statues to slave traders and imperialists why do we not have statues to people who campaigned against slavery and  those who fought for democracy and workers’ rights?

That’s the type of history we should be celebrating.

Keith Pender, Midlothian


Trouble for Israel?

Israel’s incoming ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotovely, says the whole of the West Bank should belong to Israel.

That’s all in keeping with the Israeli government’s plan to annexe settlements.

But it means there will be tension between her and pro-Israel organisations.

She’s previously attacked the Board of Deputies for supporting a two-state solution.

Supporters of two states worry that abandoning a two-state solution means ending a strategy that’s kept Palestinian resistance contained. But they also fear it will feed growing opposition to Israel among Jewish people.

Katey Dixon, Carlisle


We can stay organised

York Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) last month co-hosted an event with FFIPP UK, a pro-Palestine organisation. It was a well-attended event.

An activist in Palestine talked about how the Israeli military is using the Covid-19 pandemic to accelerate the annexation of the West Bank.

The Socialist Workers Party’s Rob Ferguson spoke on the need for a one-state solution.

SWSS groups everywhere should organise pro-Palestine events, protests and meetings.

Harkan Karakaya, York


Reject arguments that divide the working class

The Unite union’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner is playing a dangerous game.

In an article for the Labourlist website he called on the government to stop doing business with companies based outside Britain. He thinks workers’ jobs abroad come at the expense of those here.

It’s a dodgy argument that divides workers along nationalist lines.

But it’s one that comes from the idea that the union should work with bosses to secure “British” jobs.

Cooperating with bosses is always a disaster.

In 2013 Unite “saved” jobs at the Vauxhall car plan in Ellesmere Port by agreeing to worse pay and conditions than workers in Germany. That didn’t stop Vauxhall bosses sacking over 600 workers at the plant in the following years.

We’ve got more in common with workers abroad than we do with bosses in Britain.

Catherine Driscoll, Berwick


Are there tensions among the SNP?

During the lockdown, the Scottish Independence organisation All Under One Banner has been holding a series of monthly online talks.

One was by former Scottish National Party (SNP) MP and left wing SNP member George Kerevan.

George’s talk raised a number of important issues for the movement.

These included the nature of the British state and the rightward shift in the Tory party.

He also referenced the connection between the climate change movement and the independence movement.

And he spoke of the need for activists to develop a mass representative assembly separate from the SNP.

He was also critical of the SNP for voting down a series of progressive amendments in the Scottish parliament put by the Green Party and Labour MSP Neil Findlay.

This would have led to a rent freeze for private tenants, no evictions for Covid-era rent arrears, measures for ensuring better pay and conditions in social care and ensuring trade union access to workplaces.

The meeting has been viewed by 9,000 people on Facebook.

Bob Fotheringham, Glasgow


What to do with statues

Put the toppled statues of slave traders and racists in The British Museum and inscribe on their plaques, “Brought to you by fighters for justice and equality.”

Then place them opposite the hundreds of stolen busts, heads, precious historical artefacts, graves and corpses smashed and grabbed from across the world by the British Empire.

Put a plaque on those—“Brought to you by the thieves, murderers and thugs opposite.”

A Jarvis, Stockport


Keep the cops for Corbyn

Socialist Worker says the police should be abolished (Socialist Worker, 17 June).

That’s a very extreme view.

If that was a socialist policy in a manifesto then it would have alienated 99 percent of the electorate.

Peddling this kind of view is going to keep socialism in the shadows for a very long time and undo all the great work done by Jeremy Corbyn.

Richie Jonson, on Facebook

The police exist to protect the capitalist ruling class, capital and the bourgeois state.

They are the enemies of the working class and as such they must be abolished along with the state. Also they wouldn’t be necessary in a classless society.

Axel Mauricio Martínez Shepherd, on Facebook


Anti-racism is not divisive

I can’t help wondering whether the Tories want Black Lives Matter protests. They’re worried they’ve lost the support of the working class as a result of their shambolic handling of Covid-19.

It’ll suit them now to have further division on race.

Helen Green, on Facebook

Not sure what you mean. There is no division on race here.

Only the unity of anti-racists, black and white, against the racists.

Dav Gil, on Facebook


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