Wednesday, 20 September 2017

LABOUR'S 'NATIONALISM'

Firstly, there is no such thing as the Scottish Labour Party. 'Scottish Labour' is a 'description' registered by the Labour Party, which has its headquarters in London, England. Members of the Labour Party in Scotland can legitimately refer to their organisation as 'Scottish Labour', but the Electoral Registration Commission confirms there is no such body as the Scottish Labour Party.

Secondly, Britain is not, never has been, and never will be a nation. It is a geographical area that forms the largest part of a union-of-nations known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

With those facts in mind, let's look at the comments by the two men vying to be the next leader of the 'Scottish Labour Party' as part of a British 'national' organisation. They both oppose 'nationalism' and state that, under their leadership, if elected, there will be no second referendum on Scottish independence.

The candidates' positioning and choice of words is for them to decide. However, their statement on 'nationalism' is clearly, and deliberately, used as a way of attempting to smear the pro-independence movement in Scotland by seeking to draw a link to other known nationalist movements, such as the far-right, black-shirted, goose-stepping Neanderthals who can be regularly seen on our television screens in undemocratic Eastern-European countries and now, under President Trump, in the USA.

Few reasonable and rational people would disagree with opposition to the far-right concept of 'nationalism', which, history shows us, stems from a national chauvinism, an exaggerated patriotism that believes a particular nation is better than any other. This is the type of nationalism associated with British nationalist movements, which, actually, is more accurately related to a belief in English chauvinism, an imperialist legacy that asserts England is better than other nations, including its neighbour, Scotland. However, the whole point of the comments from the Labour leadership-contenders is to link this toxic 'nationalism' with the peaceful and democratic movement for Scottish independence.

Scottish 'nationalism' - the 'nationalism' to which the Labour leadership-contenders refer - could not be further removed from the far-right British nationalism we see represented today by organisations such as the British National Party, the English Defence League or the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The Scottish 'nationalism' espoused by the Scottish National Party is a moderate, centre-left political ideology, advocating an inclusive, civic identity that argues for the people of Scotland to be recognised as the sovereign power in the country. The SNP's Scottish 'nationalism' seeks to represent the spirit and aspirations of the whole nation of Scotland, coming together to elect a Scottish Parliament that will govern in the best interests of all the people of Scotland, with the full powers that only come with independence, to deliver a progressive, radical society in an outward-looking, modern nation.

To argue against Scottish independence or to link the movement to toxic 'nationalism' – as British Unionist political parties do - is to say Scots should not be the sovereign power in their own country, and that almost half the population holds abhorrent far-right political views. Opposing Scottish independence is to argue for more of what we currently have - Tory governments in London imposing their right-wing policies on us, even after we have democratically rejected them at the ballot box.

Those of us who support an independent Scotland believe we are no better or worse than the people of other nations. We simply argue that the people of Scotland are best-placed to take decisions on the type of nation in which we want to live.

Supporters of independence believe it is in our best-interests to organise our society on the basis of the nation of Scotland.

The two contenders to lead the Labour Party in Scotland reject this argument; this is the position from which their opposition to Scottish 'nationalism' stems. As a British political organisation, the Labour Party believes it is best to structure society on the basis of a perceived nation of Britain, which, if we accept their 'logic' in relation to Scottish 'nationalism', makes them British 'nationalists'.

Now, clearly, members of the Labour Party in Scotland are not bedfellows of the British National Party, the English Defence League or UKIP, but their party's definition and attribution of the term 'nationalism' would appear to place them in such company.

The other statement from the prospective leaders of the Labour Party in Scotland – that there will be no second referendum on Scottish independence – is a worrying development.

In a week that has seen the Spanish Government send armed-police to crush a democratic movement towards holding a referendum on independence in Catalonia, a statement from representatives of the British Labour Party, claiming they will prevent a similar plebiscite in Scotland, smacks of authoritarianism, even toxic 'nationalism'.

Certainly, if the Scottish people, at some point in the future, elect a British 'nationalist' party to govern Scotland, a party like Labour – that is, one seeking to structure society on the basis of a perceived nation of Britain - then it will be perfectly acceptable for that organisation to adhere to its British 'nation' belief and to not hold a referendum on Scottish independence. However, while Scotland has a Scottish 'nationalist' government – one that seeks to structure society on the basis of the nation of Scotland - with a manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum, then any attempt to block this would, again, smack of imperialist, authoritarian 'nationalism'.

The Labour Party in Scotland, and its prospective leaders, really should be careful about using the word 'nationalism' in attempts to smear the broad-based, pro-independence movement. If supporters of an independent Scotland are to be pointed-at and branded as equivalent to toxic 'nationalists' simply because we see the benefits of building our society on the basis of the nation of Scotland, then surely those who adhere to a society based on a perceived nation of Britain are, by definition, British 'nationalists'? 

* Originally published by Newsnet Scotland.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Still Hiding The Real Reason For War

One-hundred-years-ago today – July 31st 1917 – the first shots were fired in the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

It is this battle that most of us picture when we think about the First World War of 1914-1918.

Torrential rain for much of August 1917 turned the Passchendaele battlefield into knee-deep mud, forcing soldiers from both sides to live and fight in atrocious conditions. Most of us considering the Battle of Passchendaele from the distance of one-hundred years cannot begin to imagine the reality of those soldiers: constantly wet, scraping mud from boots and leggings, uniforms crawling with lice, trenches infested with rats, and all this before being committed, over the top, to fight; trying to run through mud, running into gunfire from enemy trenches.

The battle-ground at Passchendaele consisted of just five-miles of Belgian countryside. After three-months the British-led Allies secured victory, only for much of the land to be lost again in later conflicts. In total, estimated figures suggest more than half-a-million men, from both sides, were killed or wounded at Passchendaele. This figure, which some argue underestimates the actual total, works out at almost 4,000 casualties every day. Try to picture four-thousand men standing before you: then imagine all of those men falling, killed or wounded...every day, for three months, and all for five miles of mud.

Today, on broadcast news channels, we see official ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele. In the UK, the news reports lead with Prince Charles reading a poem. Of course, today's British royal family are ancestors of the German and British monarchs who 'ruled' as men from their countries killed each other at Passchendaele and other horrific battles during the First World War. The ancestors of Prince Charles – King George V and Kaiser Wilhelm II – were cousins.

The bravery of the men who fought in the First World War was incredible. It is right we mark battles such as Passchendaele and never forget the price men paid for what they believed was a just cause.

Today, on one of the British television channels, a UK Government minister said, “These men fought for the freedom we enjoy today.” Presumably, one-hundred-years-ago, the soldiers in German uniforms also believed they were fighting for freedom. So, what was the purpose of two armies killing each other in the name of freedom?

The soldiers, on both sides, certainly believed they were fighting for freedom but, in reality, Britain and Germany plunged into all-out war in 1914 to secure economic dominance. The First World War was all about imperialism.

Most of the soldiers, on both sides, marched off willingly to fight for ‘King/Kaiser and Country’, but few of those men fully understood the nature of the conflict they were about to take part in. Not just the new mechanised killing they would encounter, but the actual reasons for the war.

In both Britain and Germany, so-called 'ordinary' men and women were whipped-up into a jingoistic fervour by capitalist-owned newspapers, with the working class told they had to ‘do their duty’ by defending their country, when, in fact, the war was all about the imperial aspirations of the ruling class and the wealth they could accumulate through colonial expansion and exploitation. In a situation unchanged since medieval times, 'ordinary' men were to fight and kill each other at the behest of their lords and masters. One unattributed comment perfectly summed-up the reality of the First World War when it described the close-quarter use of the bayonet fixed to a rifle in the following terms: “A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end.”

Any commemoration of the First World War must tell the story of so many lives destroyed – on both sides – working class men sent to kill other working class men, while capitalist arms-producers on both sides amassed personal fortunes running into millions-of-pounds.

One-hundred-years later, the real reason for the First World War and the inhuman carnage of battles such as Passchendaele is still not being told. Today, in UK broadcast news-reports, we are hearing of bravery and courage, which is as it should be. However, we should also acknowledge that so many 'ordinary' men were killed and maimed, not for freedom, not to save their country, but in the interests of capitalism, exploitation and financial profit.

A modern version of the capitalist media-owners who whipped-up the jingoism that drove men into the knee-deep mud of the trenches at Passchendaele are, today, hiding the true reason for the First World War. It is not in the interests of the capitalist exploiters for 'ordinary' men and women to know how we have been used, and continue to be used, to make the rich even richer, while our lives, and those of our families, remain expendable.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

So, You Thought 'Big Brother' Was A Thing Of Fiction

Latest plans announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will result in around 750 people losing their jobs. Ironically, as the plans relate to the closure of Jobcentres, the people losing their jobs are currently employed to help others find work.

Actually, staff employed in Jobcentres have seen their roles change substantially over recent years. Most members of the public who haven't had cause to recently visit a Jobcentre probably think the facility is a centre where there are jobs. Those people would be wrong.

Long gone are the days when Jobcentres had boards on which local and national vacancies were posted, and people without work or looking for a change could peruse the jobs and apply for any that seemed to fit the bill. Vacancy boards were removed years ago, replaced by computer terminals where 'Jobseekers' could search for vacancies. The terminals, too, were phased-out a few years ago.

Now, 'Jobseekers' must do their 'jobsearch' online, using their own computer or smartphone, and their own broadband or Wi-Fi. Attendance at Jobcentres is now to confirm with a 'Jobs Advisor' that 'Jobseekers' have done a sufficient amount of 'job-seeking' to qualify for a Social Security payment. Currently, 'Jobseekers' are told they must prove they have looked for work over a 35-hour period per week. So, 'Jobseekers' are required to prove they have done a week's work in looking for work.

The role of the 'Job Advisor' at the Jobcentre is to verify the 'Jobseeker' has spent at least 35-hours looking for work, and to offer advice on how the 'Jobseeker' could better use their time to find employment.

If the 'Jobseeker' is deemed to have not done a week's work in looking for work – the 35 hours – then a 'Job Advisor' has the power to refer the 'Jobseeker' for a sanction, which can result in a 'Jobseeker' having every penny of their income instantly stopped, plunging them immediately into destitution. Fortunately, 'Job Advisors', in the main, have sympathy for the plight of the unemployed. This is the human element that tempers the process of sanction referrals.

'Jobseekers' are also told they should allow Jobcentre staff to access their online 'Jobsearch', so it is easier for a 'Jobseekers' 'Jobsearch' activity to be monitored.

At present it isn't legal for Jobcentre staff to insist a 'Jobseeker' allows access to their personal 'Jobsearch', which is done using their personal IT equipment, at home, and in their own time. However, 'Jobseekers' are led to believe this intrusion into their personal life is normal and should be accepted. Of course, once the Tories have dragged us out of the European Union and have scrapped the European Convention on Human Rights, then it will become legal to monitor the personal use of computers to search for work. Our right to a personal life will be gone.

Once the Human Rights hurdle has been crossed, the UK Government can then move swiftly to fully automate the 'Jobsearch' process, and there will be no need for Jobcentres or the real people they employ.

When the UK Tory Government has removed our Human Rights – as they fully intend to do – 'Jobseekers' will be legally required to allow central monitoring of their 'Jobsearch' activities. This will be done by an app. If a 'Jobseeker' fails to log at least 35-hours active 'Jobsearch', the central app will automatically issue a sanction. No human input will be required.

This system would generate substantial financial savings for central government: no Jobcentres would be required and, by extension, no workers needed to staff the Jobcentres. In addition, the automatic sanction triggered by the central app would remove any human sympathy for a 'Jobseeker' trying their best to find employment but who hasn't actually sat at a computer doing a week's work looking for work – the 35 hours. So, even more financial savings could be made as Social Security payments would be stopped and charities would have to pick up the tab of preventing the sanctioned 'Jobseeker', and their dependents, from starving.

The current programme of Jobcentre closures is the latest result of more automated central government control being exercised over 'Jobseekers'. Once that pesky Human Rights Convention is removed, and we no longer have the right to a personal life, then the full programme can be rolled out. No more Jobcentres, no more 'Job Advisors', no more attendance at Jobcentres by 'Jobseekers, no more human interaction. Instead, the whole process will be streamlined by the central app monitoring the 'Jobseekers' actions and automatically imposing sanctions by e-mail.

You thought 'Big Brother' was the all-controlling, central government organisation of a dystopian society described by George Orwell in his work of fiction, '1984', didn't you? Think again, we are fast racing towards the actual creation of a Big Brother system of control over our actions.

To the Tories running the UK, people do not matter. All that matters is money, making profit. So, the central monitoring app, spying on the actions of citizens, would be privatised. American IT corporations are already queueing-up to run the system, with government-imposed targets to reduce expenditure on Social Security payments by strict appliance of the 35-hour 'Jobseeking' rule and the imposition of automated sanctions.

If you voted Tory, you are responsible for this happening.