Monday, 23 March 2015
I’ll start with a shocking confession: I actually like Katy Clark (Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran).
I think she has done a good job as a constituency MP, and I agree with her on most issues...except her belief that Scotland should remain within the British Union, even if that means we have Tory Governments imposed on us after we have democratically rejected them at the ballot box.
I’ve already made clear that I will be voting SNP on May 7th: the only way for Scotland’s voice to be heard at Westminster, and for us to exert any influence at a UK level, is if we send as many SNP MPs as possible to the House of Commons. Of course, it would be better if we just re-established Scotland as a normal independent nation, but until then we need a very large group of SNP MPs in London.
So, having stated that I like Katy Clark as an individual, I have to say the letter I got from her today is appalling. It certainly does her no favours in her campaign to be re-elected in North Ayrshire & Arran.
Firstly, the letter in Katy Clark’s name says, “In towns across North Ayrshire and Arran we are suffering from decades of closures and deindustrialisation made worse by the Tory Government’s cuts.”
I wouldn’t argue with that assertion, but for the majority of the past two decades (13 years) we had Labour Governments, and Katy’s current British Labour Party is committed to continuing with Tory cuts.
In the North Ayrshire Labour letter, Katy Clark is then quoted saying, “I am determined to create a more radical and ambitious Labour Party”.
So, before anything can be done for Scotland or the people in North Ayrshire and Arran, Katy will first have to completely change the London-controlled British Labour Party. Don’t hold your breath.
The letter continues, “By voting for me in May, you’ll be voting for a principled candidate who is committed to:
. An end to austerity and welfare cuts that damage the fabric of our society.
. Railways back under public ownership and buses under public accountability.
. Higher wages and better working conditions with stronger trade union rights.”
Actually, those statements are what Katy Clark would like to see; they bear no resemblance to Labour Party policy.
The British Labour Party has made clear that, if it formed the next UK government, it would stick to Tory austerity measures, including slashing a further £12bn from the ‘welfare’ budget.
The British Labour Party has no plans to take railways back into public ownership or to re-regulate bus services.
The British Labour Party’s commitment on raising wages is to see the Minimum Wage rise to £8.00 by the end of the next parliamentary term. The Minimum Wage will rise to £6.70 in October of this year and the next parliamentary term ends in 2020. That means the British Labour Party plans to achieve higher wages through increasing the rate of the Minimum Wage by 26-pence a year.
As for “better working conditions and stronger trade union rights”, Labour was in power from 1997 until 2010 and did absolutely nothing to amend (never mind abolish) Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws, the most draconian in Western Europe.
Is this really Labour’s best shot at persuading us to vote for them in North Ayrshire & Arran?
The Labour campaign leaflet currently dropping through letter boxes across the local constituency actually confirms that the best thing we can do on May 7th at the UK Election is vote SNP.
Posted by Campbell Martin at 18:11
Friday, 20 March 2015
The Liberal Democrats are now beyond parody.
Facing electoral wipeout – and deservedly so – the party’s MPs last week supported a Tory budget that will result in even-deeper cuts to public services, and the greatest financial burden continuing to fall on the poorest members of society.
The next day, Lib Dem Treasury Minister Danny Alexander made himself look foolish – even more foolish than usual – by making a speech to the UK Parliament, during which he pretended he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and set-out an imaginary ‘alternative’ budget.
Mr Alexander’s proposals were, apparently, what the Liberal Democrats would have done differently to the Tories, if they were in government: but, of course, the Lib Dems are in government. They have supported the Tories every step of the way in imposing devastating austerity measures. Without Lib Dem support, the Tories could not have remained in power since 2010 and could not have implemented their savage cuts.
If Danny Alexander and the Liberal Democrats really did oppose what Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced last week, they could have withheld support and refused to vote for the budget. They didn’t.
With a UK Election just seven-weeks away, the Labour Party went into overdrive - in parliament and in every TV studio across the country – launching attacks on the Tory (and Lib Dem) budget, demanding voters kick-out David Cameron, George Osborne and their party, and telling us that an incoming Labour Government would do things very differently. Well, that was the message Labour wanted us to get.
In another studio on the day following the Budget Statement, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme asked Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls to list the Tory proposals – on the economy, taxation, wages, benefits, public service cuts - that would be reversed by an incoming Labour Government. Balls replied, “To be honest, there’s nothing from yesterday I would reverse”.
So, there you have it: the London-based political parties have made clear what they will do if they are elected to run the UK.
The Tories intend to continue cutting public services and wages; they want the poorest to continue paying the debts of multi-millionaire bankers and financial speculators in the City of London; they will roll-out further privatisation of the health service in England (which impacts on funding made available to the SNP Government in Scotland); they will reduce taxation paid by the rich; they will spend £120bn on nuclear weapons of mass destruction that can never be used (and will make Scotland a target for nuclear annihilation by basing missiles and submarines on the Clyde); and they will continue to portray the unemployed as a lazy, sponging under-class demanding hand-outs from ‘hard-working’ taxpayers.
The Liberal Democrats have supported this Tory agenda for five years, and would continue to do so if it wasn’t for the fact most of their MPs will lose their seats at the election on May 7th.
The Labour Party, while telling us how different they are to the Tories, have confirmed there would be very little change if Ed Miliband moved into 10 Downing Street. Let’s look again at that statement from Ed Balls: on the Tory austerity and cuts agenda announced last week by George Osborne, the man who would be Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government said, “To be honest...there’s nothing I would reverse”.
Of course, you could vote for UKIP, but only if you are insane.
British political parties have all signed-up to a right-wing, capitalist agenda that panders to the interests of multi-national corporations and banks. Whether Cameron or Miliband is Prime Minister after May 7th, austerity will continue with ordinary women, men and children plunged into further suffering as government pursues policies designed to maximise profits for private companies. Unless, that is, Scots decide to unite in a move that will curb the neo-liberal excesses of Westminster and will benefit the majority of citizens right across the UK.
Polls continue to show the SNP surging ahead in Scottish voting intentions: predictions have the party likely to take anything between 25 and 50 seats. With that level of representation in the House of Commons, there is every chance the SNP would be in a position to heavily influence the actions of a future Labour Government: it is long-standing SNP policy to reject any deal that would put the Tories in power.
SNP support for a UK Labour Government would not be in the form of a coalition. When Ed Miliband last week ‘ruled out’ a coalition with the SNP, he was ruling-out something he had never been offered. It was like me ruling-out a date with Kylie Minogue – it was never going to happen.
A large SNP group of MPs at Westminster would be prepared to support a Labour administration only if the London-run party changed its policies on austerity (in other words, stopped copying the Tories) and on nuclear weapons. By pulling the current Labour Party back to the political centre – away from the right-wing policy agenda created by Tony Blair and New Labour – the SNP would be doing a massive favour to ordinary women, men and children in England. It would be ironic if it was the actions of the SNP that forced Labour to rediscover the core policies that lay behind the creation of the party, which were to give a parliamentary voice to the working class.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the SNP is a socialist party – it isn’t. Today’s SNP has returned to its natural position, that of a moderate, centre-left social democratic party (after a disastrous flirtation with a moderate centre-right agenda under the failed leadership of John Swinney in the early 2000s, which coincided with Labour’s rebranding as the Tory-clone New Labour).
Back where it belongs, the SNP represents the moderate, left-leaning position supported by the people of Scotland. It is for this reason that the party can expect a landslide victory in Scotland on May 7th.
The British Labour Party has abandoned Scotland: its Tory policy agenda and the decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the party of Margaret Thatcher in opposing the right of Scots to run our own country has brought Labour to a position unimaginable not so long ago – it is facing being reduced to a handful of seats in Scotland.
This UK Election presents a massive opportunity for the voice of Scotland to be heard. On this occasion we can hold the balance of power in a parliament that, until now, has treated Scotland as England’s last colony. To achieve that powerful position – and to prevent London parties introducing further devastating cuts and austerity – we need to send as many SNP MPs as possible to Westminster.
Next year, at the Scottish Parliament Election, we can vote for whichever progressive, left-of-centre party best represents our personal beliefs – Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish Green Party for example – but this time, in order to maximise Scotland’s voice and power, we must unite behind the SNP.
Posted by Campbell Martin at 15:32
Saturday, 14 March 2015
Friday, 20 February 2015
UK mainstream media is complicit in a very dangerous and worrying strategy – the escalating demonization of Russia.
Those of us who grew up during the Cold War were used to what was then the Soviet Union being portrayed as an evil empire just waiting to invade and enslave us, if not vaporise us with their arsenal of nuclear missiles. We were told the UK had to spend billions-of-pounds on our own nuclear weapons of mass destruction in order to deter the heathen communist hordes from sweeping across the plains of western Europe.
Led by the freedom-loving United States of America, the narrative we were fed had us as the ‘good guys’, while the ‘baddies’ were the secretive and repressive dictators plotting world domination from the Kremlin in Moscow.
Then, along came Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988, with his westward-looking policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (change). Suddenly, the Iron Curtain was being dismantled: communism crumbled as Russia embraced the capitalist economic system. The Cold War was over, and the West had won.
The Soviet Union was broken-up and independent nations were established as a wave of democracy swept over eastern Europe.
Russians had free elections, in which the Communist Party was replaced by pro-capitalists who began privatising previously state-run industries.
Governments and media in western countries portrayed the transformation as an entirely positive story, extolling the new warming of West-East relations and talking excitedly of the economic opportunities sure to flow from the collapse of the evil communist regime that had stood for so long against freedom and enterprise.
Actually, the government of the Soviet Union and countries of the Warsaw Pact could not have been further from communism. The Soviet bloc was a totalitarian dictatorship, which served the interests of a ruling elite. When the structure collapsed, many members of that elite simply ditched their Communist Party cards and reinvented themselves as free-market entrepreneurs.
Hugely successful Russian industries, such as oil and gas production, were handed-over to former Soviet officials and their friends. People like Roman Abramovich, now owner of Chelsea Football Club, found themselves instantly transformed into billionaires. Meanwhile, ordinary men and women in Russia discovered the concept of unemployment as their former state-provided jobs were scrapped by newly-privatised companies seeking to maximise profits.
At the head of the new capitalist Russia was Vladimir Putin, formerly a Lieutenant Colonel in the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), the Soviet Union’s notorious secret police. This was not a man known for embracing freedom in any of its forms. However, so long as he was prepared to allow western companies to exploit the Russian people through the international capitalist system, and was prepared to sell oil and gas to the west, then Putin’s faults and repression of minorities and opponents were not seen as important issues.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the new Russia was no longer seen as a threat to the West (primarily the United States). In fact, it was now part of the global community of capitalist exploiters.
Even as America and Britain launched illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia did little more than tut disapprovingly on the sidelines. However, these wars were to have a profound effect on the views of Washington’s own ruling elite.
The number of Americans who died in their country’s ‘war’ to steal Iraq’s massive oil resources was seen to be too high by those in the corridors of power on Capitol Hill (and by ordinary Americans), so a new plan of action had to be developed. Instead of sending-in the Marines, America would fund and supply indigenous groups in countries where Washington wanted to see regime change, with new pro-America administrations installed.
A complicit western media then reported these developments as the ‘Arab Spring’, reporting how ordinary people in countries such as Libya and Egypt had suddenly risen-up against dictators, had surprisingly found themselves in possession of massive quantities of weapons, and were determined to hold democratic elections to return power to the people.
Of course, the silly Egyptians got the democracy thing wrong at their first go: after having removed President Hosni Mubarak, effectively by way of an American-backed military coup, the people then democratically voted for a new government containing the Muslim Brotherhood. This, though, was not the pro-America regime Washington wanted, so there had to be another ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt to overthrow the new democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi. Egyptians got the message and in the second ‘democratic’ election they put in place the leader America wanted.
With this tactic apparently working well, the Washington military-hawks turned their attention to Europe.
Former Soviet Union states and Warsaw Pact countries had been drawn into membership of the western capitalist club through being accepted into the European Union, where social and economic influence is exercised by three American-dominated organisations – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Former communist states now EU members include: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Not so long ago all of these countries were satellites of the Russian-controlled Soviet Union.
However, the next step in America’s European hegemony was seen by Russia to be much more serious. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – the nuclear-armed international military body that had stood for generations against the Soviet Union – began expanding eastwards, accepting as members the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia (in that order).
Russia began to see a pattern emerging and, in 2013, when the European Union offered an Association Agreement to Ukraine, the prospect of the EU - almost certainly followed by NATO – edging right up onto the Russian border became a distinct possibility.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the offered EU Association Agreement, which would have meant his country agreeing to IMF controls, including cuts to public services, wages and privatisation of publicly-owned industries and assets. Instead, Yanukovich looked east to Ukraine’s neighbour, Russia. Putin immediately offered cheap loans to Ukraine.
America, through its European proxy, the EU, could see the unravelling of its plans to remove Ukraine from Russia’s orbit, so all of a sudden there appeared a ‘popular uprising’ by Ukrainian people determined to overthrow their democratically-elected President.
Heavily-armed and well-funded groups of protestors appeared on the streets of Kiev, including neo-Nazi, fascist organisations.
Of course, America denied any involvement in this European version of the ‘Arab Spring’, but an official document, subsequently leaked, showed US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland admitting that the United States had ‘invested’ over $5bn in supporting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine since 1991.
Backed by the US, the armed pro-western militias forced the resignation of the democratically-elected president, Viktor Yanakovich. Ukraine’s leader had been removed by an American-funded and resourced military coup. Western governments and media referred to it as a ‘democratic revolution’.
The reality, however, was exactly what Russia had feared – a pro-American regime, including right-wing extremists, was now in power in a nation right on its border, in a country with a large ethnic Russian population, particularly in the east (the part of Ukraine bordering Russia).
This seizure of power and the overthrow of the democratically-elected president caused fear and panic in those areas of Ukraine where the majority of people spoke Russian and considered themselves to have much more in common with Russia than the west.
In Crimea, which had once been part of Russia, a referendum on the region’s future was held. The outcome showed 96.77% supported the creation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea affiliated to the Russian Federation. Western governments and media reported this as Russia having annexed Crimea.
In other areas of eastern Ukraine with large Russian-speaking populations, such as Donetsk and Lugansk, people also rejected the governing regime put in place following the American-backed military coup and decided to resist the imposition of rule from Kiev. This continues to be described by western governments and media as pro-Russian separatists or terrorists bombing and killing other Ukrainians on the orders of Vladimir Putin.
Rather than the eastward expansion of the EU and NATO, newspapers and broadcasters in the UK report the conflict in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin seeking to re-establish a ‘Greater Russia’.
NATO is, and always has been, a front-organisation for American imperialism, while the European Union is now simply a conduit of US capitalism. Putin’s Russia could reach an accommodation with the EU but fears the military expansionism of NATO.
Consider how America would react if Putin reached an economic and military agreement with either Canada or Mexico. What would Washington do if it faced Russian troops being stationed on its border?
Of course, we know how America reacted in October 1962 when the Soviet Union located missiles on Cuba. President John F Kennedy was prepared to initiate a nuclear war. This was despite the fact America had already deployed its own missiles in Italy and Turkey, all of which could strike directly at Moscow. The world was saved from a nuclear holocaust when the ‘evil’ Soviets agreed to remove their weapons from Cuba.
Russia is far from being a perfect state, but the picture of the country we are currently receiving through our newspapers and broadcasters does not reflect the reality of its position and actions.
How often do we hear on our news bulletins about the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) or the 90-page document it published in September 2000 –‘ Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources For a New Century’?
PNAC was the right-wing organisation that shaped the presidency of George W Bush and, today, the people behind it still hold massive influence in relation to US government policy.
Contained in the PNAC plan for the 21st Century is the following statement:
“[We require] a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the past century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.”
The document also states its goal is to “promote American global leadership,” and asserts that “American leadership is good both for America and the world”.
The current demonization of Russia is part of a plan to once again portray that country as evil, while the American-led west are supposedly the ‘good guys’. In fact, it is America and the west that has expanded its influence to the very doorstep of Russia.
UK broadcasters are complicit in the misreporting of what is happening in Ukraine and other parts of the world. We are receiving propaganda in place of objective news.
Posted by Campbell Martin at 20:51