LSA BACK 'SOCIAL CLEANSING' IN EAST LONDON
28th March '01
"Labour fortress threatened by Christian soldier" is a headline in today's London Evening Standard on the campaign being run by the Christian People's Alliance (CPA) in the Beckton ward of Newham in east London. The Council by-election is a four way fight involving the Tories and the BNP with Labour holding the seat.
The CPA candidate Alan Craig is fighting plans by the Labour council to redevelop parts of Canning Town which would force 1,700 working class people to leave their homes.
On the issue of the redevelopment Mr Craig told the Standard; "I don't romanticise this area. Something needs to be done and I am glad the council is redeveloping. But the people must come first."
He continued: "People are saying that what is occuring is an atttempt at gentrification...they have seen what has happened on the Isle of Dogs, where local people did not benefit".
There can be little doubt that gentrification, or as the IWCA has labelled it 'social cleansing' has been central to any such redevelopment work, not just in London but across Europe. So local working class concerns that it is part of a long term strategm to drive them from the covetted Docklands is grounded in reality.
While acknowleging it is a four way fight with the Tories the BNP, the Standard suggests that it is in reality a two horse race: "the winner will be the Labour man or the Christian". If true, a strong vote for the CPA will represent a positive working class response to both Labour's social cleansing ambitions and the BNP's attempt to fill the vacuum.
But as we all know it would have been a five horse race, had the London Socialist Alliance candidate not baulked at the starting gates. The official reason offered for the LSA decision not to stand, was 'out of concern that the LSA might split the Labour vote and let in the BNP.' But as we are seeing the Labour vote is already split, with it now falling to the CPA rather than the LSA to represent genuine working class interests.
The decision by the LSA not to stand must surely now be seen, even by the most myopic, as the almighty tactical gaffe it always was.
For the LSA to further commit to campaign for Labour against the background of a Labour party set on driving the working class out of the Docklands, must register as the most eccentric, self-defeating stance adopted by any socialist party for half a century.
When the matter of Anti-Fascist Action's public criticism of the east London SA not to stand aginst the BNP was raised at the last eLSA branch meeting, the Communist Party Great Britain delegate "pressed for a formal reply to AFA as important points had again been raised and the need for wider debate was thus necessary. Despite the fact that individuals from the SWP were angered by what they termed "factual inaccuracies" and were clearly upset by some of AFA's allegations, it was decided that no formal reply be given." Bob Paul the CPGB member "was the only one who voted that there should".
One of the allegations made on this newspage was that the decision was taken under direction from the SWP leadership. The response to the AFA criticisms which has seen the SWP denounce them as 'inaccurate' but also vote against a proposal to politically respond to them are familiar hallmarks of SWP strategy. It is a fact that, apart from responding to an invitation to speak on an AFA platform in October 1999, the SWP have never in sixteen years publicly admitted to AFA's existence. In private of course where the membership are counselled, and where AFA have no right to reply, it is very different. Behind closed doors and in internal briefing documents, as well as being denounced as being 'as bad as the fascists' and 'sinking to the BNP's level' AFA are routinely cast as 'anti-working class'. A charge that was always absurd but one with added irony in light of recent developments.
SEA CHANGE IN SCOTTISH POLITICS
27th March '01
Reproduced from International Socialist Movement
Less than two years after the first elections to Holyrood, Scottish politics has undergone a sea change. With a British general election on the horizon in a few weeks or months, Alan McCombes looks at present and probable future developments.
George Robertson must qualify as the Ally McLeod of Scottish politics for his prediction that devolution would “kill separatism stone dead”. Less than two years since the delivery of the Scottish Parliament, the flaws and anomalies of the devolution settlement are beginning to heighten national tension across the UK.
In a famous incident some years ago, an American sports commentator observed that “only an earthquake can stop the San Francisco 49ers now”. A few moments later the stadium began to tremble violently and the game was hastily abandoned.
Attempting to predict future political developments can be as hazardous as trying to forecast the result of sporting events. Even the outcome of the next general election, generally assumed to be a foregone conclusion, has occasionally been thrown into doubt by unexpected twists. For example, the fuel crisis in autumn 2000 for a time shattered the complacency of New Labour, exposing in the most dramatic fashion imaginable how rapidly the political climate can change.
Having successfully weathered that particular storm, the government within three months found itself battening down the hatches once again as the fall-out from the Peter Mandelson resignation scandal rained down. Yet despite the potential landmines that are strewn in the government’s path, the odds remain heavily stacked in favour of another Tory defeat and a second term of office for Blair.
Of decisive importance in Labour’s strong showing in the polls over the past four years has been the strength of the UK economy. Back in 1997, when Labour first took power, it appeared likely that the new government would soon run aground on the rocks of a recession or slump. In the event, the Blair government managed to avoid the type of economic crisis that engulfed Major in the early 1990s, Thatcher in the early 1980s, and Callaghan in the mid 1970s. This has not been as a result of adept economic management, as some pro- Labour economic journalists claim. Rather, the New Labour government has benefited from changes in the world economy that allowed the growth cycle to be prolonged beyond its normal life expectancy.
The New Labour government has also been bolstered by the crass ineffectiveness of the Tory opposition under Hague, who has failed to provide the inspirational leadership necessary to roll back the 1997 Labour landslide. Nor has Hague been capable of dispelling the bitter, lingering memories of the last Tory government. Although Blair looks comfortably on course to win a second term of office, the atmosphere is now entirely different to that of 1997. At that stage, there was a certain air of desperation to get rid of the Tories. There were also widespread illusions in New Labour, particularly among pensioners, health service workers, local government employees and others who had borne the brunt of Thatcherism and Majorism.
Four years on, that sense of hope has evaporated. In contrast to the euphoria of 1997, a Labour victory will be welcomed with a mixture of relief, indifference and cynicism.
In Scotland, the mood is complicated further still by the national question. Those Labour leaders who imagined that devolution would resolve the problem of Scotland once and for all have been proven spectacularly wrong. Lord George Robertson in particular, now the boss of NATO, must qualify as the Ally McLeod of Scottish politics for his prediction, when he was the Scottish Labour leader in 1997, that devolution would “kill separatism stone dead”.
Initially, the establishment of a Scottish Parliament did partially defuse national tension. The delivery of a Scottish Parliament was held up in positive contrast to the pig-headed, bureaucratic intransigence of the previous Tory government. But less than two years later the flaws and anomalies of the devolution settlement are beginning to heighten national tension across the UK.
Tory ideologist, Gerard Warner, may not be the most sober or balanced of commentators. Nonetheless, when he says that “the realities of the devolution settlement are starting to generate the conflict that will end the United Kingdom” (Scotland on Sunday, January 28, 2001), he is reflecting growing unease at the highest levels of the British political establishment.Warner goes on to cite the example of David Davis, the Tory Chair of the House of Commons’ public accounts committee who has called for Holyrood to be given control of income tax, customs and excise and between 66 per cent and 90 per cent of North Sea oil revenues. “When the Tory chairman of the most powerful parliamentary committee at Westminster recommends turning over oil revenues to the Scots, we know that the party is over,” says Warner. “You can strip the blue segments out of the Union Flag now.”
Another hard-line unionist, veteran Labour antidevolutionist, Tam Dalyell, recently denounced a proposal by the Scottish Executive to change its name to the Scottish Government as signifying “the end of the United Kingdom”. Like Gerard Warner, Dalyell is prone to exaggerate the immediate dangers that confront the British establishment. Nonetheless, a series of recent conflicts between Edinburgh and London have exposed the inherent instability of devolution. Concessions made by Holyrood over student tuition fees, teachers’ pay and most notably, the rebellion over care for the elderly will be mercilessly exploited by the Tories in the coming general election. Inevitably, they will seek to whip up indignation over Scotland’s higher share of public spending, and call for an end to the Barnett formula which enshrines this arrangement.
The Tories have also begun to resurrect the old West Lothian question. “Why should a Scottish Labour MP be allowed to vote against free elderly care in England - while their Holyrood colleagues back free elderly care in Scotland?” they ask. Perhaps the most dangerous outcome of the next general election from the point of view of the ruling class would be the return of a Labour government dependent on Scottish and Welsh votes for its majority. If the Tories were to win in England but lose in Britain as a whole, the stage would then be set for a massive escalation of national conflict, with the Tories whipping up anti- Scottish and anti-Welsh hysteria at every turn.
Any future conflict over the United Kingdom will not be a simple rerun of the battles that raged through the 1980s and early 1990s. Devolution has replaced the centralised Union as the new status quo. Not even the Tory Party would now dare call for a return to a centralised UK state. People like Warner, who hanker for a return to the glorious days of Thatcher, are like those retired colonels who spend their last days dreaming of the restoration of the British empire. In the real world of Scotland and Wales in the 21st century, any suggestion by the Tory leadership that the devolution settlement should be scrapped in favour of a return to the unitary British state would consign the party to utter oblivion. The terms of the debate have moved on. Paradoxically, instead of calling for a return to Thatcher-style centralisation, the Tory Party could begin to move in the opposition direction, towards a form of UK federalism, as flagged up by David Davis.
This would mean retaining the trappings of the United Kingdom, especially in the fields of defence and foreign affairs, while compelling Scotland to stand on its own two feet financially. The idea of an English Parliament could also gain resonance among the Tory faithful, especially as the party begins to close the gap with Labour in England. Ironically, one reason why a section of the Tory Party may be prepared to move in the direction of devolving more power to Scotland and Wales is because they have politically written off both countries as a lost cause.
Writing in the London Times, political commentator, Peter Riddell, points out: “Scottish politics has always marched to a different beat, as Baroness Thatcher discovered to her frustration in the 1980s. Collectivism has deeper roots and Blairism has had less appeal north of the border except when coated in the traditional Labour language of Gordon Brown.”He goes on to explain that “The Labour leadership in Scotland is also under pressure from the Left, both within the coalition from its Lib Dem partners and, more publicly, from the Scottish Nationalists, the Greens and the Scottish Socialists.”
There is no question that, at this stage, the New Labour leadership feels secure in the knowledge that in England, its traditional support has nowhere else to go. But in Scotland, and to a certain extent also in Wales, the position is more complicated. In both countries, the main opposition to Labour comes from the SNP and Plaid Cymru, both of which are to the left of Labour on issues such as trade union rights, nuclear disarmament, privatisation and defence of public services.
In Scotland, there is the additional ingredient of the Scottish Socialist Party which will mount a national challenge across all 72 seats in the general election - a phenomenal achievement for a small, working-class party barely two years old. This stands in contrast, for example to the SNP which fought every seat in Scotland for the first time in 1974 - exactly 40 years after the party had been founded.
The SSP still has a long way to go, but is already providing a focal point for the most militant, radical and politically conscious sections of the working class and youth. In England, although there will be localised left challenges, especially via the Socialist Alliances, working class protest against New Labour will mainly take the form of large-scale abstentionism, along similar lines to the United States. This coming general election is unlikely to usher in big changes, either in Scotland or in Britain as a whole. It is likely that Labour will hold power in Westminster with a reduced majority. In Scotland, both the Tories and the SNP will probably make some advances at the expense of Labour and the Lib Dems. Meanwhile it is likely that the election will confirm the SSP as Scotland’s fifth political party and possibly even as the fourth party across most of the densely populated central belt.
The election is almost certain to see the SSP achieve the biggest vote since the Second World War for a socialist party standing to the left of Labour. Never in its history did the Communist Party succeed in winning more than 25,000 votes in Scotland in a general election. Even in its glory years of 1945-50, when it had an MP in Fife and 20,000 members in Scotland - and was basking in the afterglow of the defeat of Hitler at the hands of the Red Army - the CP never broke through the one per cent barrier. Although it would be a tall order and would require over four per cent of the popular vote, it is not entirely ruled out that the SSP could even get the biggest socialist vote in Scottish electoral history by surpassing the 111,000 votes for the Independent Labour Party in the 1935 general election, at a time when the ILP had four sitting MPs who had broken with Labour three years before.
However, the most important developments in Scottish politics are likely to take place in the period following the general election. For most of Scotland’s political parties, the Westminster election is being viewed as a prelude to the much more serious electoral struggle that will unfold in two years time when the second elections to the Scottish Parliament take place.
Over the past two years, the focus of politics in Scotland has shifted remorselessly from London to Scotland. The profile of Westminster MPs has plummeted since the Scottish Parliament was established. With all the bread and butter issues such as health, education, transport, housing and local government funding now being dealt with in Edinburgh, the media spotlight has increasingly centred upon Holyrood.
This gravitational pull on the media has been further reinforced by the instability and volatility of the Scottish Parliament, where no single party commands an absolute majority. Scotland’s political parties are already looking further ahead towards 2003, an election which even now is shaping up to become one of the most ferociously contested electoral battles in Scottish political history.
For the ruling class, the stakes are already piling up. The SNP is in a far stronger position than at any time in its 70-year history. The party has 35 MSPs, with probably a handful of Westminster MPs after the general election. It also has one lethal advantage over Labour and the Liberal Democrats - the advantage of being in opposition. Following the 1999 election, a right-wing Labourite from Wales, Tim Williams, made a telling pointing in the Scotsman: “For devolution to lead to independence, it was essential for the SNP to do well in the election, but not as well as to form a coalition government.” That election was conducted under extremely favourable conditions for Labour. The economy was growing. North Sea oil prices had slumped to almost an all-time low, thus undermining one of the central pillars of the SNP’s economic case for independence. The bombing of Serbia - opposed by the SNP leadership - helped Labour bolster support for the Union. The parliament itself was completely new and untested; this meant that some voters who would generally support the aim of independence were prepared to first give devolution a try before proceeding any further.
Yet despite all of these advantages, Labour was only able to muster the support of 34 per cent of the Scottish electorate in the second ballot. The battle for Scotland in 2003 will be fought out on much more difficult terrain for Labour. The party’s reputation in Scotland has taken a pounding over the past two years. Even in the relatively benign economic, social and industrial climate of the past two years, the ruling coalition at Holyrood has lurched from one crisis to another. The slump in Labour’s popularity probably won’t be reflected in the arithmetic of the coming general election. The UK election will be seen by many voters as essentially a battle between Labour and the Tories, between Blair and Hague. Because of the pressure to keep the Tories out at Westminster, Labour may not lose too much ground in Scotland in this general election. But the Scottish election in two years’ time will be seen by working class voters as a struggle for the future of Scotland - a fight between independence and the status quo, between a right wing Labour Party and a left-leaning SNP.
On top of that, there is the additional dimension of proportional representation and the prospect of further advances for the SSP and, probably to a lesser extent, for the Green Party. Even now, some polls show the SSP running at 5-6 per cent with the Greens running at 3-4 per cent. Given that polls invariably underestimate support for small parties, and given also the big changes that are likely to unfold over the next few years, the combined support for both parties could potentially reach 15-20 per cent, which would almost certainly mean that pro-independence parties would command an absolute majority of votes and seats after 2003. At this stage, there is no significant support within the SSP for the idea of entering a future coalition government with the SNP. On the other hand, if there was a hung parliament with the SSP holding the balance of power, this issue could become much more contentious within the SSP.
Now and in the future, Frontline will argue strongly against such a move. Although there are socialists within the SNP, the party itself is fully committed to a free market capitalist Scotland. Albeit in different circumstances, even the Lib Dems have discovered that sacrificing principles for the sake of short term gains can destroy a party’s credibility. The SSP has a long-term project of building a socialist Scotland; but there are no shortcuts to that goal, and there is no possibility of smuggling socialism in the back door without winning a majority of the population to the idea of the socialist transformation of society.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that the SSP should refuse to collaborate with the SNP and others on specific policies that could potentially advance the interests of the working class or further the cause of an independent socialist Scotland. For example, if the SNP were to emerge as the biggest party in 2003, they would almost certainly seek the backing of minority parties to introduce legislation for a referendum on independence. Even though the SSP’s vision of a future independent Scotland is radically different from that of the SNP, the party should be prepared to back the demand for a referendum, in the course of which we would naturally make clear our distinctive programme for an independent socialist Scotland.
It would be impossible at this point to predict the outcome of a future referendum. But whatever the short term ebbs and flows, there is now a clear, and possibly irreversible, longterm trend towards Scottish independence and the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The historian Norman Davies, author of The Isles, a scholarly history of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, makes the point that “the 300- year old British state is now in terminal decline”. He points out that for an older generation the idea of being British meant standing up to Nazism, pride in the Royal Family, a welfare state and an NHS that was the envy of the world and a long, unbroken tradition of parliamentary democracy that contrasted sharply with most of Europe. But that sense of pride in Britain has gradually diminished over the generations. In 1999, a poll in the Economist magazine found that only one in five Scots - mainly pensioners - identify with Britain, while four in five identify with Scotland.
What processes could intervene to cut across or reverse this momentum towards independence? Some socialists who oppose independence have suggested that a rerun of the big all- Britain industrial battles of the past would tend to draw together the working class across Britain into a single cohesive force with a united class identity. Certainly, movements such as the miners’ strike of 1984-85 tended to marginalise the national question. On the other hand, there were other factors involved, notably the weakness of the SNP who only had two MPs at that stage - both rightwing traditionalists with little appeal to radicalised workers and youth.
It should also be noted that the first serious electoral advances for the SNP took place during the late 1960s and especially the early to mid 1970s, during a period of bitter industrial conflict. Moreover, there have been far-reaching changes in the structure of industry and the trade union movement over the past fifteen years or so.
Most of the big nationalised industries which were the chief battlegrounds during the big all-Britain industrial battles of the 60s and 70s have now been privatised and broken up. For example, the rail industry is now a patchwork quilt of dozens of separate companies, each with their own separate bargaining structures. Complicating the picture further is the existence of the Scottish Parliament, which now negotiates wages and conditions in most public services, including local authorities.
All of these changes together mean that the vast majority of Scotland’s 650,000 trade unionists work for Scottish employers, including the Scottish Parliament, local government and Scottish companies such as Scotrail, Scottish Power, the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and others. During most of the 20th century, there was a trend towards the unification of the trade union movement on an all-Britain scale. In the 1920s there were more than 60 separate Scottish trade unions; by the 1980s only a few survived, notably the teachers’ union, the EIS. This merging of the trade union movement reflected the growing integration of the British economy as a result of the concentration of capital on a British scale and the large-scale nationalisation of industries such as coal, rail, steel and shipbuilding. But from the 1980s onwards, a combination of the general collapse of traditional British industry, the privatisation programme of the last Tory government and the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament has led to a breaking down of the all-Britain employment structures that had prevailed from the 1940s onwards. This general shift was further complicated by globalisation, which has meant that, in manufacturing, for example, Scottish workers are as likely to be employed by a Japanese, Korean or American company as by a British company.
While there are important exceptions - for example the civil servants’ union, the PCS, negotiates primarily at a British level - the changes are likely to lead to a loosening of the ties between trade unionists north and south of the border. In the future there could arise a powerful mood in certain unions in favour of much greater autonomy, especially if national bureaucracies begin to act as a brake on action by their members in Scotland. Instead of trying vainly to turn back the calendar, socialists have to be prepared to face up to the changes that are taking place. In particular, we should support moves towards increased autonomy for Scotland within unions such as UNISON, as part of the general struggle for greater rank and file control over the apparatus of the trade union movement.
That doesn’t mean arguing for the break-up of the trade union movement along national lines; there are battles that still have to be fought at UK level, for example against the anti-trade union laws, and on issues such as the level of the national minimum wage. There will also be local struggles which will generate solidarity across the UK and internationally. But the general pattern of trade unionism is likely to alter in the future, reflecting the wider changes underway in society as a whole.
For socialists, the prospect of the rupture of the British state should be viewed as an opportunity to advance the cause of socialism rather than as an obstacle standing in our path. The national question is not a problem for the Left; it is a problem for the British ruling class. It would certainly become a serious problem for socialists, if Scottish nationalism were to take on a right wing xenophobic character. But the strength of the Left in Scotland means that is unlikely - unless the Left were to make the mistake of isolating itself from the most radical sections of the Scottish working class and youth by defending, or being perceived to defend, the United Kingdom.
For socialists, the future rupture of the British state should be viewed as an opportunity to advance the cause of socialism rather than as an obstacle standing in our path.
How swiftly events move in Scotland, Britain and the rest of Europe will be partly dictated by economics. Over the past eight years, as part of a general economic upswing across the Western world, the Scottish economy has forged ahead. Official unemployment has fallen to a 25-year low. The figure for those in work has reached its highest level since 1966. Day in, day out economists jubilantly brandish new sets of statistics to demonstrate the robust health of the Scottish economy. The real position is not quite so buoyant as the bare employment statistics suggest. Claimants today face a much more brutal regime than ever before. From the day they sign on, they are harassed and pressurised into the most menial and low paid jobs, whatever their qualifications or previous experience. A whole range of short-term training projects have been devised for the purpose of keeping people off the streets and reducing the unemployment statistics.
Comparing the figures today with those of 25 years ago is like trying to compare the Brazilian football team with the All-Blacks; it is not to compare like with like. Nonetheless, this period has been strikingly different from the economic ice age of the 1980s, when the Proclaimers captured the sense of desolation across Scotland in their song Letter to America: “Bathgate No More, Linwood No More, Lochaber No More.”
There is no straightforward mechanical relationship between politics and economics. Since the turn of the millennium, for example, there has been a worldwide explosion of anti-capitalist protest, even against a background of continued economic progress. Instead of engendering a sense of universal optimism, this long upswing has generated mass revulsion, especially among younger people, against the free market and globalisation. In the past year, one of the biggest selling books worldwide has been Naomi Klein’s No Logo, an onslaught against consumer capitalism (see review in this issue). On the other hand, it would be a mistake to underestimate the difficulties that this boom has created for socialism.
In Britain, the total transformation of the Labour Party into a pro-big business, pro-free market operation would have been far more difficult if economic conditions had been less favourable for capitalism. That upswing has also left its imprint on the SNP. In the early 1990s, the party put forward what was, in effect, a left reformist programme, which included re-nationalisation of the privatised utilities. Although the SNP still stands to the left of Labour on a number of key issues, the economic programme of the party has shifted steadily to the right over the past decade, with all the earlier references to public ownership and renationalisation rooted out of its policy statements.
In less prosperous times, the SNP leadership would have found it much more difficult to swing the party behind such a blatantly free market economic strategy. Right now there are storm clouds gathering on the horizon. In the US politicians and business leaders are beginning to brace themselves for a sharp slowdown or recession, which will have worldwide repercussions, not least for the UK economy. The Scottish economy, which is heavily geared towards the export market, would be especially hard-hit by a serious slowdown in the United States.
This in turn could have profound implications for Scotland in the run-up to the next Scottish parliamentary elections in 2003. Even now the success of the SSP, during a relatively stable period for capitalism in Scotland, is being observed closely by the political and media establishment. In a full-page article in the New Statesman (January 29, 2001), former Scotsman editor and one-time adviser to Donald Dewar, Tim Luckhurst warns: “The SSP has become a real force, at least in Scotland’s battleground central belt. Sheridan’s tireless campaign for ‘an independent, Socialist Scotland’ can no longer be dismissed as an amusing diversion. The statistics prove it.”
Luckhurst then goes on to cite statistics showing the electoral advance of the SSP, which he compares with Ralph Nader and points out that, in contrast to New Labour and the SNP: “The Scottish Socialists sound authentic. In the parts of Scotland that prosperity left behind, the SSP has credibility. There are lots of parts like that.”
Even now a significant and growing minority of people in Scotland identify with socialism. At this stage, Scotland is far in advance of the rest of the United Kingdom and, arguably, far in advance of most countries in Europe. The relative strength of socialism in this country is partly a product of Scotland’s radical traditions, its recent history of struggle, and the overwhelmingly working-class social composition of Scotland.
The national question has been an additional ingredient that has helped to heighten political consciousness in Scotland. However, the specific role of the SSP over the past two years should not be underestimated. Politics is not dictated solely by uncontrollable economic and social processes. At certain stages in history, the role of political parties, even of personalities, can be decisive. The timing of the launch of the SSP and its activity over the past two years has helped shape public opinion in Scotland. The cumulative effect of the mass propaganda, the meetings, the election campaigns, the press statements and the written material of the party has been profound.
Of course, it’s necessary always to retain a sense of proportion. The SSP is still in its infancy. It has at its disposal a bare fraction of the resources of the mainstream parties. It is not on the brink of taking power. On the other hand if, as now seems likely, the economy begins to stagger into a new economic recession or slump with rising unemployment, diminishing tax revenues, escalating poverty, and an increasing strain on the welfare state, the forward march of socialism in Scotland could accelerate dramatically.
The International Socialist Movement, which publishes Frontline, has over the past few years played a vital role in establishing, building and politically developing a united socialist party in Scotland.We are 100 per cent committed to this project and, along with others, will continue to work tirelessly to turn the SSP into a mass party capable of transforming society in Scotland.
THE TOPSY TURVY WORLD OF THE ANL
22nd March 2001
In its latest recruitment drive; 'Join Us in 2001' the Anti-Nazi League pull out all the stops in an attempt to convince sceptics that the NF is a major political threat in a vain attempt to justify it's own existence.
"In 2000" the ANL reveals breathlessly "the NF had more marches than it had since the 1970's".
Now on the face it this may be true, but is a long long way from the whole story.
In the 1970's the NF had almost 20,000 members and enjoyed widespread peripheral support. Back then NF marchers were regularly counted in thousands. In electoral terms too,the potential to become the third party nationally ahead of the Liberals could not easily be dismissed.
Today reality for the NF is exactly opposite. These days total NF membership does not reach even three figures, with marchers counted in dozens, (though some events have not even managed that).With such a lack of infrastructure, the NF are needless to say, electorally non-existent.
This then is the reality of an NF the ANL are racking up its 'victories' against.
What we are getting from the SWP/ANL lie-machine is the desperate pretence that the NF are as politically threatening as in the 1970's, and at the same time their propaganda somehow infers that 'tiny' as they are, the NF still somehow represent the sum total of racist antagonism in the country.
From such logic is therefore follows that if the NF are responsible for whipping up all racism, then equally if the 'NF are stopped' racism will be extinguished. Which is why the inability of an organisationally non-existent NF to put up little more than '20 posters on a national day of action' in Scotland last week is celebrated by the ANL as a significant triumph: the topsy turvy world of SWP/ANL propagandists.
Yet there is a very real connection to the 1970's that the SWP/ANL generally do not care to dwell on. In 1977 the NF polled 119,000 in local election in London, in a 43% turnout.
Last year, the BNP candidate for Mayor took almost 80,000 votes on a 33% turnout. A rough adjustment of what the lost 10% in voter turnout cost in terms of votes sees the BNP draw almost exactly parallel to the best vote ever for the NF.
And what did the SWP/ANL say about it last May? Just this: "The nazis are small. They only managed to get around 60 to 100 votes in many areas."
Now, of course when the BNP for the purposes of recrutiment is too promoted as 'threat', the SWP/ANL 'generously' admits BNP candidates accrued not '100 votes' but "almost 50,000" votes in the Greater London Assembly elections in June.
(The additional '30,000' voters that ticked BNP for Mayor are not mentioned. No need to unduly alarm prospective recruits presumably.)
While the ANL continue to employ ridiculous hype to confront the discredited 'march and grow' strategy of a practically non-existent NF, where is the strategy do deal with the evidently more sophisticated euro-nationalism of the BNP?
On this they are largely silent. And with good reason. In June 2000 when the BNP took 26% of the vote in a by-election in Bexley the ANL website simply refused to comment on it. Then as now, a national organisation routinely mobilised to deal with marches of 26 people steadfastedly refused to be provoked. In other words the ANL did nothing.
There was in reality nothing they could do. The SWP/ANL has no strategy to deal with the BNP. It still refuses, along with Searchlight, to admit that under severe pressure from AFA the BNP decisively changed strategy as far back as 1994.
Instead what in the way of analysis is offered, is that the non-appearance of the BNP on the streets is purely down to lack of either 'bottle' or numbers.
How seriously such nonsense is taken among the upper echelons of the SWP/ANL was cruelly exposed by the calling of a council by-election in Beckton in Newham east London earlier in the month.
Instead of smashing the 'tiny BNP' as ANL propaganda claims had rountinely happened during the early 90's; instead of crushing a BNP who were "trying to claw their way back from an all time low" as we were informed less than nine months ago, we have instead the SWP/ANL hierarchy instructing its local membership in the East London Socialist Alliance to obstruct, and if necessary sabotage any intention by the LSA locally to confront the BNP - at the ballot box.
Perversely, the LSA branch then voted to 'undermine the BNP' by calling for a vote for Labour!
If the SWP/ANL/LSA adopts such a craven attitude when the BNP are in their own words 'tiny', what will the political response be when the potential for far-right growth can no longer be ducked? If you have any doubts check the responses of sister organisations in Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Austria...for clues.
In meantime the politically dyslexic ANL will 'rool oK'.
BRITAIN MOST RACIST IN EUROPE?
21st March 2001
The British are the most hostile to political refugees of all European Community people according to a report from the European monitoring centre on racism and xenophobia, while Belgium which has recently seen a huge surge in support for the far-right recently and Greece, are the most xenphobic countries.
In the UK, 23 per cent of those questioned in the survey of more than 16,000 Europeans commissioned by the centre said 'political asylum seekers who had suffered human rights violations in their own countries should not be accepted'.
A further 22 per cent believed that ordinary 'legal immigrants from outside the EU should be forcibly repatriated to their country of origin'.
When asked the same question in 1997 only 15 per cent backed repatriation, which the report concluded meant that 'multiculturalism optimism in the UK is decreasing.'
In 1997, the European Youth Survey published by MTV found that young white Britons (16-24 years olds) were the most racist in Europe, 30% disagreed that all cultures and races are equal -compared to 19% in Germany - and 26% said they would never date anyone of a different colour.
In another extensive survey printed in the Observer on March 18 this year, '47%' of Britons of all age groups, 'would never consider having sex with someone of a different colour'.
Back in 1997 a poll commissioned by the Daily Express discovered that around 25% of the population would vote for a mainstream party like the FN in France that put 'Whites first'.
Looked at objectively, consistent statistical data such a this from a wide variety of sources over a four year period make a nonsense of the liberal Left's claim that 'refugees are welcome here', that support for far-right solutions are 'tiny', and that in the battle for hearts and minds liberalism is generally 'winning'.
On the contrary a huge and possibly growing 'resorvoir of reaction' does exist, and will continue to do so until the question 'why' is seriously addressed.
For a number of years now persistent efforts by both Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action to open up such a debate within the broad and liberal Left, have met with hostile resistance. Even when confronted with the Mori Poll which showed a hostility to refugess as high as 8 in 10, among those who consider themselves politically progressive there remains a firm determination not to engage.
On discussion sites, public platforms
and even within the Steering Committee of the London Socialist Alliance any attempts to foreground militant anti-fascist concerns are firmly resisted. Either anti-fascists are confronted with blanket denial or just as often are accussed of being either alarmist, or motivated by racism, or xenophobia themselves. It now looks likely that the 'denial' will continue until the underlying racism materialises politically. By then of course it may be too late.
*Reference: Guardian/Daily Mail 21.3 2001
TAL EDITORIAL - WHERE DOES ALL THE MONEY GO?
20th March 2001
Reproduced below is the editorial from issue 28 of Tiocfaidh Ar La the Celtic anti-fascist fanzine:
From our very humble beginnings 9 years ago when a couple of the original TAL founders put up their own hard-earned cash to finance the first issue of this magazine we have run on a shoestring budget. Printers have come and gone; sometimes for political reasons, sometimes for shoddy workmanship. In the case of our very first printer (an ‘anarchist’ print shop in Glasgow), the break came when they tried to rip us off by turning a £350 bill into a £750 one. In the end they lost out completely. That is a typical episode in the life story of this magazine. ‘No one likes us - we don’t care’ would seem to be the most appropriate term in the circumstances. The range of political opposition to this fanzine covers the whole spectrum of right, left and republican politics. We must be doing something right! We started out with the idea of verbalising the support for republicanism that existed among Celtic fans. We have moved on to promote progressive working class politics in general.
With an ever-changing political situation in Ireland and developments taking place for progressive working class politics to operate effectively elsewhere on these islands, it is time for TAL to reappraise our political and financial priorities. In keeping with this there are a number of projects that TAL intends to support over the next year or so.
The Campaign Against Sectarian Attacks’ only regular income comes from this fanzine. Unlike certain Lottery grant recipients CASA does not fit into the politically correct, "a plague on both your houses", school of thought when it comes to the issue of attacks upon our community. TAL intends to continue to fulfil its financial and political obligations as far as CASA is concerned.
Similarly, our £10 monthly donation to Anti-Fascist Action will also continue. AFA are among the very few groups on the left in this country that actually relates to working class people and has developed political strategies for fighting fascism within working class communities that are both innovative and effective.
In addition to CASA and AFA, we also intend to make regular monthly donations to the Pat Finucane Centre and the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition. The PFC is very active across a range of human rights issue which affect people in the north of Ireland: from playing a support role to local communities under siege from loyalism to leading the calls for public inquiries into the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Belfast teenager Peter McBride. Last year, from the sales of our Dublin distributor and cash raised by New York rebel rockers Seanchai, we were able to make a donation of £350 to the Pat Finucane Centre.
The Garvaghy Road Residents are a community under attack who also deserve our political and financial support. They are at the cutting edge of the fight against sectarianism and loyalist triumphalism in the north of Ireland. TAL is proud to stand alongside them in their struggle.
At the end of each season we will audit our books and, where applicable, we will make further lump sum donations to those organisations (mentioned above) that we regard as worthy of our readers’ support. With a more regular fanzine and an expected increase in sales we believe that we will be able to make a difference, political and financial.
We made donations over the years to funds for republican prisoners. At one stage - in our very early days - we part-sponsored two republican socialist prisoners, sending around £20 per week to their families. We also made lump sum donations at various times to the fund for IRA prisoners and their dependants.
More mundane financial outgoings are also a heavy drain on our meagre resources. The Internet has for example been a major bonus for us in terms of getting TAL out to the worldwide audience of Celtic supporters, but it has also cost us a fair bit of cash. At the moment we pay around £30 per month in telephone and Internet costs. That is likely to rise again with the launch of our new website and costs of domain hosting. We hope to be able to raise some of the Internet costs through sponsorship and advertising, which would mean more money for good causes. In the meantime we have to budget accordingly, but we are very hopeful that this cost can be eventually reduced.
We also believe that TAL should build up its own funds for further development and expansion of the magazine. There is much demand from supporters for merchandise relating to the fanzine and we believe that the setting aside of some funds for this purpose will be an investment that will pay greater dividends for those organisations that we support in the long run.
ADAMS ADDRESS TO PARTY CONFERENCE
15th March 2001
Reproduced from RM Distribution (10th March)
Below is the full text of the keynote speech by Sin Fein President Gerry Adams at a party conference held at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin
Margaret Thatcher was wrong. Bobby, Francis, Patsy, Raymond, Joe, Kieran, Kevin, Martin, Tom and Mickey were right. And Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg before them were right.
20 years ago the British government failed to defeat the prisoners and the people. Why? Because we stood resolute. Because we stood as one.
And today, not only have they failed to defeat the republican struggle but as each day passes more people become republicans, more people join the struggle for freedom, our political strength grows, and our ability to advance our political objectives grows.
20 years ago, the prisoners and the people stood together.
Today we stand as one in pursuit of our goals of independence, unity, peace and justice. Unshakable in our pursuit of equality.
The prisoners were perceived to be the soft underbelly of the republican struggle. In jail the British thought they could be isolated, beaten, intimidated, and coerced into accepting the label of criminal.
But republican prisoners are political prisoners, men and women of conviction, commitment and determination.
The H-Block and Armagh prisoners resisted. They endured horrendous conditions and bore great physical cruelty with fortitude and courage. And at the end, when no other course of action was open to them, they went on hunger strike in defence of their integrity as republican political prisoners, in defence of this republican struggle, in defence of their comrades in the prison, and to assert their humanity.
None of this was part of any clever republican plan or strategy. It was at its core a very individual response by prisoners in Armagh Women's Prison and in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.
They were responding to a British strategy, devised by the securocrats and authorised at the highest level of the British Establishment.
One leg of that strategy was about `Ulsterising' the situation, drawing British troops back from the front line, where possible, and reorganising, resourcing and training the RUC, a sectarian and paramilitary force, into the cutting edge and the front line killing machine of British counter-insurgency, while at the same time using loyalist death squads to assassinate and terrorise.
The legacy of that policy can be seen today in the refusal by the British Government to implement the recommendations of its own Policing Commission, and create an acceptable form of civic policing.
Another leg of this strategy was to criminalise the struggle, to make the struggle out to be a criminal conspiracy. It was about attempting to portray the conflict as arising from the greed of a small, unrepresentative bunch of gangsters intent on making money and exploiting our people.
Ending political status was part of that lie. And let us not forget that despite knowing the truth the Irish government of that day and every major political party on this island colluded in that lie. And used censorship `Section 31' to block out the truth.
Here in the South of Ireland the hunger strike had a particular impact. It raised a fundamental moral question about the role of the South in Britain's war in Ireland and it made a political impact that shook the system to its foundations.
It was not just the fact that Kieran Doherty was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan. Or that Paddy Agnew was elected TD for Louth and other prisoners, including Joe McDonnell and Mairead Farrell, attracted substantial electoral support. And remember this was at a time when for almost a decade this state had promoted and policed censorship.
It was the fact that the hunger strike unmasked the unwillingness of the South's political establishment to do anything for the hunger strikers, or indeed anything to challenge British rule in a part of Ireland.
But while the Dublin Establishment vacillated and tried to ignore events in the North, the people were sound. The people had stripped away the propaganda and lies. They saw beyond censorship and they were willing to stand up for right against wrong.
We must remember that lesson every day. We must remember that when 10 Irishmen stood against the British, ten of thousands of their fellow citizens from the 26 Counties stood with them.
We must remember over the years of the peace process, when Irish governments have not been as strong as they should have been, ordinary people have stood firm and governments have been moved. We must not forget that the shape of British policy in Ireland and its aims and objectives is dependent on how prepared an Irish government is to uphold Irish national interests and to influence British policy in this direction.
The stories of the hunger strikes have to be told. For those of us who were part of that period it is hard to imagine that it was 20 years ago. It is as if it was yesterday. All of us have a story to tell and in telling the story we should not neglect to tell of the small things that many of us took for granted. Today those small things will shock and educate.
It is important to know where we have come from if we are to know where we are going.
How do you explain the hunger strikes? You can't.
How do you come to terms with what happened? It is impossible. It can be understood only if we appreciate the incorruptibility, and unselfishness and generosity of the human spirit when that spirit is motivated by an ideal or an objective which is greater than itself.
People are not born as heroes. The hunger strikers were ordinary men who in extraordinary circumstances brought the struggle to a moral platform which became a battle between them and the entire might of the British state.
In the course of their protest the hunger strikers smashed British policy. Their legacy is still unfolding and their idealism remains as an example to the rest of us.
I extend to all of their families, on your behalf, our continued solidarity and support in this painful year of remembrances.
WE STAND AS ONE
Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland political party.
Today we stand as one in pursuit of our goals of independence, unity, peace and justice.
We are the only real united Ireland party.
We are for a united, free and independent Ireland. This is our goal.
We reject partition. We reject British rule over any part of this island.
We want, and I believe the vast majority of the people of Ireland want, a united Ireland. And I believe this generation of Irish republicans - not the next - this generation, will make it happen.
Look at how far we have come in recent years.
It has been the political initiatives taken by Irish republicans that have been the dynamic forcing the pace of change, creating a culture of change, acting as agents of change.
Our task is to build equality and partnership and justice into Irish society. It is to change minds and attitudes.
Sinn Féin is for a new beginning between the people of Ireland, as equals, inclusively and in mutual respect, mapping out our own destiny free of foreign domination or interference.
THE VOICE OF AN IDEA
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, a few years ago, described Sinn Finn as ``the voice of an idea''. It is an idea, an idealism that is both republican and labour, the idea of a free Ireland and a sovereign people.
And in the last few years and for the first time in over two decades, people right across this country are hearing of that idea and supporting that idealism.
Tá polaitiócht na hÉireann ag athrú agus tá poblachtánaigh ó gach cuid den tír chun tosaigh san athrú sin.
Saoirse, fuascailt agus ag tabhairt cumacht don pobal príomh téamaí Shinn Féin.
Tá muid ag lorg níos mó ná saoirse polaitiúl ár dtír. Tá muid ag lorg saoirse soisialta agus eacnamaíochta na saoránaigh ar fad atá in Éirinn..
Ciallaíonn sin, saoirse ó smacht eachtranach, saoirse ó aineolas agus eagla, saoirse ó plá na ndrugaí, saoirse ó ranganna scoile plódaithe, ó scuainí oispidéil agus ó easpa tithíocht.
The political landscape of Irish politics is changing and republicans in every corner of this island, are at the forefront of that change.
Emancipation and empowerment are the key themes of Sinn Féin. We envisage not only the political independence of our country but also the social and economic liberation of all citizens within it.
This means freedom from foreign domination, freedom from ignorance and fear, freedom from poverty and inequality, freedom from the scourge of drugs, from crowded classrooms, and hospital queues and housing shortages.
All of these burdens and injustices can be overcome. But this will only happen if we make it happen.
Until such time as Irish reunification is fully achieved, Sinn Féin is adopting a spirited, innovative and strategic approach which aims to diminish the present national democratic deficit as far as possible. Other self-styled nationalist and wannabe republican parties are loud on rhetoric and short on strategy or staying power.
Sinn Féin is what no other party on this island is - a real alternative.
Our credibility and effectiveness have been demonstrated over and over again. Determination and political will are what identify Sinn Féin is distinctive, whether it be in tackling the British Government or in facing up to the scandals of corruption or in rising to the challenge presented by the crisis in our farming industry. The Crisis in Food Production
Our agricultural industry is in crisis - and not just over foot and mouth although that is the most pressing issue today.
We have to see the foot and mouth threat in its right context.
Foot and mouth, E-Coeli, salmonella, BSE - it's a lot more than coincidence. For more than 10 years the farming sector has been rocked by a series of crises that all serve to undermine consumer confidence in the quality of the food products we eat.
This crisis has been caused by the transformation of farming from family-run enterprises to businesses where profits and costs dictate.
We need to tackle the foot and mouth crisis but we also need to look at the underlying reasons that created this crisis in the first place.
There is a clear need to put quality back as the cornerstone of the Irish farm sector - from the decisions made by individual farmers, through to the food processors and abattoirs, and right down to the supermarkets and exporters.
We need an island-wide code of principles and practices for farm and commercial food processing.
We also need to urgently examine ways in which farmers affected by this crisis can be helped, both in the short-term and the long-term.
This reality needs to be at the heart of any honest policy to ensure an adequate food policy in Ireland. It also needs to be at the heart of our approach to the issue of the EU and forthcoming referendum on the Treaty of Nice.
THE TREATY OF NICE
In recent weeks the legal text of the Treaty of Nice was signed in Europe, a fact which few people in this country are aware of. Therefore most people will be surprised to learn that this treaty moves us substantially closer to an EU super-state and will entirely change the economic, political and military face of Europe.
Sinn Féin believes that, if accepted, this treaty would be detrimental to Ireland's interests, North and South. Not only would it result in the further undermining of Irish sovereignty - politically and economically - it would also bring us closer into a European military alliance. With every day that passes, the Irish Government is marching us into a European Army and further away from neutrality.
For Sinn Féin, sovereignty means recognising the rights of the people, not ceding power to unelected officials. We want to see Europe defending our democratic rights, not eroding them. Over the next few months Sinn Féin will be mounting a vigorous public campaign in opposition to the Treaty of Nice. This will include public meetings, door-to-door canvassing and co-operation with groups such as PANA - the Peace and Neutrality Alliance. We will also be building alliances with progressive forces in Europe who share our concerns.
The ongoing march towards an EU super-state and the loss of sovereignty, over-centralisation and the democratic deficit is something which should concern us all and also impacts on the role which the Irish nation can play in global politics. Are we to completely submerge Irish foreign policy within a giant EU state? Will we pursue an independent course, meeting as equals the poorer, formerly colonised nations with whom we have so much in common? Or will we help to exploit them as part of one of the world's economic and political power blocs?
I want to state clearly that Sinn Féin's voice is for democracy and economic and social justice.
Several elections loom in the months ahead. In the Six Counties it is expected that there will be two contests - for Westminster and local elections. In the 26 Counties, a general election may come at any time between now and the spring of next year. We must be ready for all of these challenges and indeed welcome them as a chance to show the vigour of Sinn Féin and the support which is there for us throughout this island of Ireland.
There is no doubt that the nationalist electorate in the Six Counties are in good form and are confidently looking forward to these elections.
There is also no doubt that they have been energised by the peace process and the very positive changes that have occurred as a direct result of it.
They clearly are impressed with Sinn Féin's performance in the peace process and our provision of strong, effective representation.
I am in no doubt that Sinn Féin will win more votes than ever before in these elections.
And despite the obvious intent by the SDLP of introducing Bríd Rodgers as a spoiler into West Tyrone, I am also confident that the people of that area will respond positively and that when our Ard Fheis finally meets later this year it will be to welcome Pat Doherty as the MP for West Tyrone.
But we will not be satisfied with that.
In Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in North Belfast Sinn Féin stands poised to make serious advances. Wouldn't it be a fitting tribute to Bobby Sands if we can elect Michelle Gildernew the first woman Sinn Féin MP since Countess Markievicz for that historic constituency?
If we apply all of our resources, marshal all our energy and drive I am confident that in Newry and Armagh, Foyle, South Belfast and other parts of the North we will see significant republican gains.
There has never been a better climate in the North for Sinn Féin to improve our share of the vote.
That is why we will be standing the biggest ever number of candidates in the local government elections.
We will also be standing candidates in areas where nationalists have come under sustained attack from loyalists. Let me extend solidarity to all those people who have suffered sectarian attack in Larne, Coleraine, Ballymena and other parts of the North. We will be providing nationalists in these areas with an opportunity to vote for Sinn Féin.
I am convinced that we will see significant electoral advances here also.
Sinn Fein's election contest in the North is usually presented by the media as a contest between the SDLP and ourselves. Our ambition is often described as being to outpoll the SDLP. We are much more ambitious than that. Our objective is to become the largest party in the Six Counties.
This can only be achieved over a number of elections and this year's contests will see us making considerable gains as we advance towards that objective.
And here in the South, Sinn Fein also have great things to achieve. I am confident that our poll-topping TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, will repeat his success, a just reward from the electorate for his and his team's hard work on the ground. And I am equally confident that when Caoimhgin walks back into Leinster House after the next election he will not be the only Sinn Féin TD going in through those gates to shake up the system.
All of this will increase our negotiating power to:-
• Fully implement the Good Friday Agreement and advance the peace process;
• Clean up the widespread corruption and sleaze in 26-County politics;
• More equally and fully share out the wealth generated by the Irish people, to the Irish people;
• And move closer to achieving our republican goals of independence and unity.
THE SINN FÉIN MINISTERS
In the North, Sinn Féin, along with all the other political parties, has been on a learning curve in terms of its input into the Executive, the Assembly and the all-Ireland institutions. I am satisfied that thus far we have made a valuable and a constructive contribution to decisions and developments at all levels.
We need to appreciate the strengths of the situation we find ourselves in. We have two republican ministers in the Executive and we have 18 republicans in the Assembly. The republican voice and analysis is at the heart of government, at the heart of decision making, at the heart of positively shaping the lives of the people of this island.
Sinn Féin is responsible for two of the most difficult ministries in the Executive. And here I want to commend Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness. In such a short period of time they have done a remarkable job in health and education.
Inside and outside their departments, they have won the praise and admiration of many people, including some who are not republican supporters.
They have brought to their new task the same dedication, loyalty and diligence they have displayed in the struggle for freedom over the last 30 years.
Bairbre inherited a health service in almost terminal crisis. A service beset - indeed besieged - with difficulties, which have their origins in years and years of British Government neglect and gross under-funding.
To try to immediately improve the service, Bairbre has initiated a range of action programmes, reviews and public consultations.
These initiatives include:-
A review of acute service provision;
A consultation on primary care and the development of a public health strategy;
Setting clear objectives and targets for the health service;
Measures aimed at sweeping away the internal market in the health service;
And she has led the debate for an all-Ireland health service.
Tá sí tar éis bheith chun tosaigh ag úsáid an Ghaeilge ina rannóg, istigh san Assembly, áit a bhí uirthi cur suas le drochíde seicteach ó aondachtóirí.
Ba mhaith liom tacú le iarrachtaí Bairbre an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn agus tá mé ag súil leis an lá a bheidh muid ar fad san Assembly agus ins na institiúidí eile ag déanamh ár ghnó chomh maith céanna tré Ghaeilge agus Béarla.
Molaim chomh maith na teachtaí (MLAs) eile ag Sinn Féin nach bhfuil líofa sa Ghaeilge ach atá ag lorg bealaí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn tré brú a chur ar an gcóras.
She has also pioneered the use of the Irish language, in her Department and on the floor of the Assembly chamber where she has had to endure sectarian abuse from unionists.
I want to support her efforts in this regard and I look forward to the day when all of us in the Assembly, and in the other institutions, are able to conduct our business competently and efficiently in Irish and English.
I also want to commend other Sinn Féin MLAs who are not fluent but are seeking ways to promote the language by making demands on the system.
Martin has won the hearts and minds of large sections of the educational community by his straightforward, honest and thorough approach. Wherever he goes he builds up a warm rapport with the pupils and teachers.
He has ensured that there is regular interaction between Na Ranna Oideachais, between Belfast and Dublin. He has set up four Education Working Groups:-
For special needs;
North-South teacher mobility to increase the mobility of teachers throughout the island of Ireland.
In the field of equality, like Bairbre, Martin has ensured that his department has an Equality Scheme and he has added an Equality Division to oversee the implementation of equality measures.
He has targeted social needs, aimed at distributing funds more fairly, and supported small rural primary schools.
Irish-medium education has also benefited from Martin's ministry. He set up Comhairle na Gaelscoiliochta in February 2000 and secured funding worth three-quarters of a million pounds for an Irish-medium trust fund. Under Martin's tutelage it is now easier to set up Irish- medium schools - and two have been recently established, one in Strabane and Coalisland.
And he has initiated a review of the 11+ and my firm hope is that this will lead to the end of that much criticised selection exam.
Both Bairbre and Martin, the Sinn Féin MLAs who are Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees and are members of other Assembly structures, have done a lot. A lot more remains to be done. I am confident that they, with our help, can deliver the type of change republicans are striving for.
I would once again like to use this opportunity to address the Northern Protestant and unionist population. As always, my comments are aimed at reaching out and finding a route into the hearts and minds of the unionist population.
All I ask is that they listen and accept my words as my personal attempt at addressing difficult and hurtful issues.
Many republicans are of the view that there are large numbers of unionists who look at the conflict and place total responsibility for the conflict on the shoulders of the republican community.
In other words, they hear the voice of unionism saying to them: ``You are morally culpable for the totality of the conflict.''
Taking responsibility collectively for the problem is a necessary pre-requisite for taking responsibility collectively for resolving it. If one does not acknowledge any responsibility for the problem then there will be no acceptance of a need to find a solution.
I believe that we, as Irish republicans, are facing up to that difficult challenge.
Or at least we are trying.
The British Government also must face up to its responsibilities. It must acknowledge, even to itself, as a first step, the wrongs it has done to the people of this island if it is to set the course for righting those wrongs.
While I understand that unionists find it difficult to acknowledge the hurt they imposed on the nationalist community it is important that they do so. But taking responsibility contains another important element - it signals the beginning of the healing process.
Today there are many in our society who lead by their example of healing. In this respect I should like to acknowledge the role of progressive elements of the Protestant churches, the business community and the community sector. Their willingness to engage in dialogue was and remains an essential ingredient of our society's efforts at finding a way out of conflict and a way into a durable peace. How are we to broaden out this dialogue?
I have long held the view that negotiations are the key to unlock the paralysis of our hurt and pain. And negotiations for us by now are a part of struggle. Negotiations also have to be about change. Change is by its nature volatile. But the process of negotiations has its own anchors.
Old hurts may remain but they sit alongside a new understanding of the other. We stop demonising our enemy. We begin to see the human being. We begin to look for the integrity of those who are our enemies or opponents. We begin to dismantle prejudice and stereotyping and replace the old perceptions with new understandings.
For my part, the politics of negotiations demand that we express a sense of the hurt and pain endured by the unionist section of our people. I have tried in my capacity as Sinn Féin president to consistently reflect on this. I also appreciate that going forward in this way is as difficult for unionists as it is for republicans.
These past 10 years have been hard ones for republicans. We have embraced change but not without a cost. We have lost some old friends and comrades who were with us from their early years. We have worked hard to provide our broad base of support with the necessary explanations on the political changes that happen, often on a daily basis.
Today, more than ever, I am convinced that the only way forward is through dialogue, reconciliation and accommodation. These are the values that continue to underpin my engagement with Northern Protestantism and unionism.
But it is a process that we must all embrace, equally and honestly, if our past is not to be repeated as our future.
AN APARTHEID EXECUTIVE
Great progress as been made in recent years. If that progress is to be sustained then politicians must collectively make politics and we must make politics work. The UUP's refusal to nominate Sinn Fein ministers and their reduction of the institutions agreed in Good Friday, and ratified in referendums North and South, is wrong.
The people did not vote for an Assembly and an apartheid Executive in the North. The failure of the British and Irish governments to challenge the First Minister on this issue in a robust and forthright way in unacceptable.
Mr Trimble's action is unfair. It discriminates against a section of the electorate and is grossly insulting and a breach of the Good Friday Agreement. It is also not sustainable in the long-term.
Because I want this process to succeed I try to understand what motivates David Trimble and I am prepared to trust him and his colleagues, but they need to know that the old days of second-class citizenship are over and that Sinn Féin will not acquiesce in undermining the rights and entitlements of any section of people on this island.
There has been much media comment and speculation about what progress, if any, was made at Hillsborough this week.
It was good that all of the parties met as we did but the main progress around this week's talks was made, and is represented by the IRA leadership's decision to enter into discussions with the IICD. If this engagement is to be successful, as the IRA said at the time, then others also must play their part.
The flaw in the handling of the peace process by the British Government thus far is contained in its fixation about IRA weapons, even though these weapons are silent and the IRA has maintained cessations over seven years.
The political process could still fall if this issue is not handled properly. In other words rhetoric that it is not a precondition is not enough. It needs to be removed as a precondition and restored as an objective of a peace process.
Sinn Féin does not have the responsibility, the obligation or the desire to shepherd the IRA into disarming on UUP or British Government terms. This would not be possible anyway. Neither should the two government, or any of the parties, take for granted our willingness to exhaust ourselves in the way that we have done consistently to resolve this issue if it is to be continuously used against us.
APPEAL FOR UNITY AND COMMITMENT
We can only do our best. I appreciate the efforts of the IRA leadership to enhance the peace process. I appreciate also, and I acknowledge and commend, the discipline of IRA Volunteers. But I know that these are all difficult matters for republicans. I know that many will have been shocked and confused when they hear of this latest move and I appeal for the utmost unity and commitment in the face of what appears to be perpetual rejection by governments and others of initiatives by republicans to resolve difficult issues.
Much has been made about the deal done here in Hillsborough on May 5th and 6th last year.
Sinn Féin has been among the parties who have pointed up this development and the subsequent failure of the British Government to deliver on its commitments. What needs to be pointed up also is that the British Government is obliged under the Good Friday Agreement to deliver on most of these matters.
For example, the British Government's policing plans do not meet the Good Friday Agreement's terms of reference for the Patten Commission. No matter how much he may argue otherwise, Mr Blair knows this. Instead of the NIO trying to shoehorn local parties into accepting its policing proposals, the British Government must go back as a minimum to the Patten recommendations.
The way to get nationalist and republican involvement in policing is to create a policing service which we can be part of.
The same position is true on demilitarisation. The people of republican and nationalist heartlands do not deserve to be occupied by the British Army. The excuse that the IRA represents a threat is not good enough. Mr Blair has to face up to his militarists.
This latest IRA initiative has created a space in which the two governments and all of the parties, working together, can resolve these matters and end this crisis.
We must build on this opportunity. Mr Blair has to consider whether he is about achieving that progress or is content to watch all of the gains of recent years being frittered away.
For our part, Sinn Féin is determined to continue with our efforts to end the current crisis, resolve all of these difficulties, and see progress made in consolidating the peace process.
Like many other Irish people, I have been shocked and saddened at the ongoing stream of corruption being uncovered in Irish political society. The revelations have become all so pervasive that we now run the risk of alienating huge numbers of people from the political process.
What we have seen - running from the Beef Tribunal, through to the McCracken, Lindsay, Moriarty and Flood Tribunals - is moral, ethical, political and human decency thrown out the window as some corrupt politicians and profiteers in big business put their own selfish greed before the public good.
Public interests were sold out for personal and private profit.
And those who did it should be ousted from office and stopped from holding any other position of power or influence.
What they did was not about `cute hoorism' - it was about the political establishment being involved in a systematic abuse of power. They did this through illegal acts like accepting money for planning favours, through hiding their money in illegal offshore bank accounts, through using their positions of power to aid their friends in the so- called `Golden Circle'. The political establishment was about legitimising a two-tier society of `us and them'. While so many lined their pockets, young people in this city were dying on the streets in the midst of a heroin epidemic - something that is continuing today. I, for one, am angry about this. I have had enough of the equivocation, the double standards, the false promises of new dawns.
We need a fightback against all of this. We need to build a coalition between republicans in the broadest sense of the term and all those campaigning for real and lasting change in our country.
We need a coalition of all those seeking an end to poverty and inequality through the sharing of the wealth in our economy. We need a coalition of people across sectarian and racial divisions and an end to racism and sectarianism in all their forms.
We need a coalition of those in rural and urban communities who have not been allowed to take full advantage of increased prosperity.
SHARE THE WEALTH
In present-day Ireland we are in the happy circumstance of having a successful and growing economy, particularly in the 26 Counties. But what is also growing is the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
You walk through city streets and see expensive restaurants full of customers while, nearby, young men and women are sleeping in doorways. There are others who are less unfortunate and conspicuous but they are still among the excluded and deprived. The last official assessment of poverty showed over a third of persons in this state falling below the 60 per cent relative income poverty line.
The failure of the economic and political system to secure a better distribution of the recent huge increase in available resources is extremely disturbing.
In the midst of plenty it would be easy for society to forget those who have been abandoned. But while Sinn Féin exists, they will not be forgotten and they will not be abandoned.
Sinn Féin believes that, particularly at this time of unprecedented wealth, we have an unrivalled opportunity to invest in the Irish people and correct many of the inequities and economic injustices inflicted over many generations.
Just imagine a united Ireland where the wealth is invested creatively - and more fairly. A united Ireland where the tens of thousands of children currently living in dire poverty are able to wake up in homes that are warm, where they have adequate clothing, and where there is no hunger
A new Ireland in which the schools are properly resourced, where parents can travel to work knowing that their children are in affordable, quality-built and community-run childcare centres, and where no one waits for a hospital bed, a home or a job.
It isn't a pipe dream. It can happen. We have the resources. But they need to be properly managed in the interests of all the Irish people and not just some of the Irish people.
Who is going to do that? Is it going to be Fianna Fáil? Or Fine Gael? Or Labour? Or the PDs?
Of course not! But Sinn Féin can - and we will!
We will because we are the party of the people. We are the party of Pearse and Connolly, of Tone and Emmet, of Sands and Farrell - the republican party determined to achieve the real republic, the republic of the people! But to achieve that we must build political strength. We must forge new alliances, confront inequality and injustice, promote inclusiveness and democracy, and keep our eyes firmly fixed on the twin objectives of a united Ireland and a lasting peace.
These are inseparable goals.
What we are aiming for is the establishment of a national republic on this island, one which will be no less than a source of enlightenment and a symbol of hope for humanity throughout the world.
We will build a new Ireland in which Irish men and Irish women, whatever our birthplace, or colour, or religion, or politics, will live together in peace and harmony; a new Ireland in which every citizen will respect the dignity and worth of their brothers and sisters.
We Irish, all 70 million of us across this globe, are no petty people. We have a destiny to fulfil in realising the genius of our nation. And at times when we are daunted by the challenges that face us, let us remember the hunger strikers.
One of the biggest achievements of the hunger strikers was that they set a moral standard for the conduct of struggle for the rest of us. I am sure this was not their intention but it is a fact. The women or Armagh and the men of the H-Blocks set an example for all other republicans to follow. When we falter in the face of our opponents, let us draw strength from them and their example, their unselfishness, their generosity, their commitment and idealism.
And let us recall the words of Brendan McFarlane's song.
We're stronger now
You showed us how
Freedom's fight can be won
If we all stand as one
Comrades - let us stand as one. The hunger strikers endure forever in our continuing struggle for freedom. Let us achieve the freedom for which they gave their lives.
Ar aghaidh linn.
LSA CAPITULATE TO BNP IN EAST LONDON!
10th March '01
In an extraordinary development it has emerged that the East London branch of the Socialist Alliance deliberately ducked an opportunity to confront the BNP in a by-election to be held in Newham next month, out of fear their campaign might 'split the Labour vote'.
The branch voted instead to initiate a campaign to 'undermine the BNP as far as possible'. While 'vote Labour to keep the Nazis out' might, some would have argued, had a semblance of logic for the likes of the Anti-Nazi League prior say to 1997, for the identical stance to be adopted by a 'party' who claim it is their intention to replace Labour in their heartlands is simply stunning.
Incredibly, according to a report in Weekly Worker there was a "general assumption" within the branch that it would be "wrong to oppose the BNP in elections."
"Splitting the Labour vote and inadvertently allowing the BNP to win a seat was the primary rationale for not standing" according to Weekly Worker.
Another remarkable factor in the affair, was that the decision, which overturns the whole reason for being of the Socialist Alliances, was taken by little over a dozen members. The body to whom the thinking of the branch might have been referred, the London Steering Committee of the Socialist Alliance has been scrapped for the duration of the election campaign.
When taking into account the bluff and bluster that accompained the 80,000 votes for the BNP in the GLA elections last May, ('the Nazis are tiny') and the high handed way the RA resolutions on the issue of refugees were handled within the 'steering committe',('Refugees welcome here' is vote winner) the cynicism, dishonesty, and not to say outright cowardice on display is probably enough to make even the most hardened Red Action cynic blink.
To their credit according to their own report, the CPGB attempted in vain to introduce some sanity to the discussion. Why, the asked if "it is accepted by all that we initiate a campaign in the by election to undermine the BNP, could these resources not have been used to put forward a working class alternative on the ballot paper."
And "if we accept that the reason people are tempted to vote BNP is because they are deeply alienated from Labour in the first place, then why on earth should we plead with them to return to the Labourite fold?"
Even in the face of such logic not only was the decision not to stand carried, but was compounded by a 12 to three margin for the ELSA to actually 'campaign FOR a Labour vote'.
With the result that the LSA is now in a position where on paper it wants to build an alternative to Blair, at the same time as calling for support for his party. Or as Weekly Worker put it due to the "marginal BNP, we are now prepared to sow illussions in Labour."
However, this CPGB reference to the 'marginal BNP' also betrays a blind-spot within their own thinking. The reality is that the BNP, if it still is marginal by mainstream standards, did actually take twice the vote of the LSA across London only nine months ago.
What, due to a certain insularity of mind the CPGB also failed to ask, is why, if the LSA is strong enough to take votes from Labour might it not also be strong enough to take votes from the BNP? And additionally if Labour is being attacked from the right in the shape of the BNP, is there not a basic anti-fascist obligation, to present a progressive radical alternative to the working class voters from the Left?
Particularly, as is the case here, the failure to do so, practically forces those who seek change to vote fascist. Looked at it that way, what the LSA have done is in fact to allow the BNP a 'free run' at Labour. Instead of being a short term bulwark against BNP ambitions in inner and outer London, the LSA are seen to have capitulated on sight of the class enemy.
The whole thing stinks to high heaven of, in particular, SWP funk. It is not at all credible that such a controversial decision would have been taken at a local level without leadership approval.
And as always, the decisive element for the SWP leadership, would not be any weasel-like concern about possible retribution against the 'large' Newham Asian community advanced by SWP members at the meeting, but the effect coming second to the BNP might have on their own membership, and the knock on effect this might have on the credibility of the whole LSA project.
Ironically in attempting to avoid any serious damage to the LSA in the eyes of their own membership, the SWP leadership have at a stroke, almost certainly destroyed any possible credibilty the LSA might have had as a genuine alternative to Labour among the hard pressed East End working class, white and Asian alike.
In truth the kind of thinking that allowed the BNP 'a free run' in Newham is not simply down to a failure of nerve. Far worse than that, it is a total failure of analysis. Which means that if the same logic continues to apply, and the LSA refuse to take serious stock of itself, then the prospect of the LSA fleeing the electoral battlefield everytime it, and Labour, is confronted by the BNP, will be so common place by the local elections in May 2002, (where the BNP is expected to run a strong campaign) that it will not only be a rout, it will also mark the effective collapse of the orthodox Left in London.
IRA TO RESUME TALKS WITH ARMS DECOMMISSIONING BODY
8th March 2001
Reproduced from RM Distribution
The following is the full text of the IRA statement released this morning.
The leadership of Oglaigh na h-Eireann has received a detailed briefing of the intensive negotiations which have taken place over the last eight weeks.
The British government's position shows that it is not prepared to uphold the commitments it made over the last number of years. This is totally unacceptable to the IRA. Despite this the leadership remains committed to the quest for a lasting peace in our country. This will only be achieved if everyone plays their part.
In recent years Oglaigh na h-Eireann has engaged in an unprecedented series of substantial and historic initiatives to enhance the peace process, including maintaining cessations over seven years, regular monitoring of arms dumps by International Inspectors and a commitment to the creation of a future in which the causes of conflict are resolved by peaceful means.
As an earnest of our commitment, and despite the British government's position, the IRA leadership has decided to enter into further discussions with the IICD. This will be on the basis of the IRA leadership's commitment to resolving the issue as contained in our statement of May 6th 2000 and on no other basis.
For this engagement to be successful, the British government must deliver on its obligations. It must return to and deliver on the agreement made with us on May 5th 2000.
At that time the two governments in a joint letter and a joint statement set out commitments for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by June 2001.
The British government publicly and privately committed itself to deal with a range of matters including human rights, equality, justice, demilitarisation and policing.
The record shows that the IRA have honoured every commitment we have made including the opening of IRA arms dumps to inspections by the agreed International Inspectors, Cyril Ramaphosa and Maarti Ahtisaari.
We have done so despite the abuse of the peace process by those who persist with the aim of defeating the IRA and Irish republicanism and the obvious failure of the British government to honour its obligations.
The political responsibility for advancing the current situation rests with the two governments, especially the British government and the leadership of the political parties.
ANTIFA - MORE THAN ONLY AGAINST NAZIS!
6th March 2001
Response by the 'Autonome Antifaschistische Gruppe' to the Northeastern Anarchist article "Rising Neo-Nazi Tide in Germany Greeted by widespread Anti-Fascist Resistance"
Over the last years, German mass media and mainstream politicians downplayed the attacks by Nazis against migrants, disable persons, lesbians and gays and others who wouldn't fit into their fascist worldview. While the police and the German intelligence stayed blind on the right eye, it were antifascist commandos who delivered in clandestine actions and through infiltrators in the Nazi scene the research that proved the existence of terrorist Nazi networks etc. The party archive of the 'Nationale Front'(NF), which got confiscated in such a clandestine action, copied and given over to a green party member of parliament for example documented that this Nazi group was still existing and organizing in the illegality after they were banned by the German interior minister. It resulted in the arrest and conviction of the NF leader Meinolf Schoenborn.
In the streets, autonomist antifascists were the driving force in coalition counter demonstrations against right-wing rallies and under the slogan "Antifa means Attack!," the only groups who got engaged in the attack of Nazi rallies. "Kick the Nazis wherever you meet them"-politics made it more difficult for Nazis to occupy public space and to form of structures.
Other militant antifascist campaigns included the firebombing of busses of companies, who rented -- repeatedly and despite warning -- their busses to Nazis as well as the torching of Nazis property. As of now, the use of firearms and deadly attacks against fascists are ruled out in the discussion in the militant antifascist movement in Germany. Anti Nazi work became the domain of the left Antifa.
In recent month suddenly, the mass media started reporting about Nazi activism and mainstream politicians who were better known for anti immigrant propaganda tried to present themselves as Antifascists and called for civil courage against Neonazis and Racism. What happened? What does it mean if people like Manfred Stolpe who is ruling in the german state of Brandenburg in a coalition with the racist Joerg Schoenbohm and is responsible for the deportation of thousands of refugees? Did they become conscious because Nazis have killed too many people (in a racist climate that they have helped to create)? Far from it - the reason for this 'state-antifascism' in Germany has little to do with caring about the victims of fascist attacks but has much more with the caring about Germanys economic interest and it's image in the world. Foreign investors refused to invest in eastern Germany out of security concerns for their employees.
Germanys attempt to ensure the international public that the Germans have learned their lesson (in order to bury Germanys fascist history to act freely as a world power) looked through these embarrassing obvious right-wing activities as unbelievable as it is.
The plans to get rid of the problem of the right wing terror and racism by banning Nazi parties and the strengthening of police power (which will be used most likely much more against demonstrations from the left) can't work. Racism is rooted in the middle of the society and is a problem that goes beyond 60 or 70 Nazi thugs. An effective antifascism has to attack the roots of fascism, roots that are embedded in the capitalist system.
In order not to get used by the state propaganda, autonomist antifascists reveal the connection between Nazis and state during every anti-nazi mobilization. At a recent demonstration to the headquater of the "Nationaldemocratic Party of Germany" (NPD), the march stopped at a deportation prison and the attempt was made to break the prison gates while the racist governmental refugee politics got addressed over the loudspeaker car. The autonomist left is fighting fascism in the only way possible - the development of a fundamental critique that leads to revolutionary resistance.
Germany, March 2nd, 2001
Autonome Antifaschistische Gruppe
GOVERNMENT ADVISORY BODY ECHOES FAR-RIGHT WITH A CALL FOR RACIAL SEGREGATION IN HOUSING
2nd March 2001
Following on from recent government proposals to fund demands from some ethnic communities for their children to be educated seperately, the chair of a government advisory body has now called for housing to be segregated on racial lines as well.
In a speech to a European conference in Amsterdam on Febuary 14th, Parmit Uppal, chair of the Tennant Participation Advisory Service, openly called for the widespread adoption of racial segregation in housing, claiming that "some communities want to live closer together."
Advancing the arguments for segregation, Parmit Uppal insisted that it is wrong to "focus on segregation being a weakness...segregation is not weakness" but means in reality "sustainable communities, family ties, cultural and friendship ties", which "should all be valued in housing allocation policies".
She went on: "The Government might say it is not good, it could also be the view of the middle classes and the intellectuals, but it is not the view of the masses."
Commenting on the controversial speech a TPAS spokesman said: "People naturally want to be with people who share their values".
While the call for absolute racial segregation may leave many anti-racists and and anti-fascists uneasy, it also the logical and eventual outcome of the promotion of diversity through the multicultural strategy supported by all the mainstream parties, and the self-styled revolutionary left.
Other groups and organisations who would vigorously if not violently reject the multicultural ethos, but which would nonetheless enthusiastically take up the call for racial segregation on the premise that "people naturally want to be with people who share their values" are the National Front, C18 and the British National Party.
Prominent among what the BNP describe as 'interesting quotes' on their website is one from Muhammed Ali, himself a black nationalist: "All thing's like to stick to their own kind, tigers with tigers, red ants with red ants, black ants with black ants...whites and blacks are totally different, different cultures, different natures, different tastes..."
It is unlikely Parmjit Uppal has much time for the BNP but she does seem to share their values. And if of course segregation is good for black communities then one must assume it would also be good for white communities. But if this argument is accepted it brings society full circle, making a mockery of the principle of anti-racism in the process. For instance support for the call for racial segregation in the name of anti-racism would leave the original principle in tatters, both isolated, and unsustainable. A reality that is surely undeniable.
Furthermore the unaddressed logic of calling for disparate racial groups to be 'housed, educated and policed' only by people with whom they 'share their values' also kicks open the door to the irrestible notion that at some stage they all ought to be invited to return to their country of origin, 'their own countries'. As French National Front leader Jean Marie Le Pen put it: 'I love Muslims but they belong in Maghreb'.
Following his party's capturing of Belgiums second city Antwerp the leader of the far-right Vlamms Blok Filip DeWinter made similar remarks. "I don't believe in all these cultures living together...If I want to experience other cultures I will go to other countries."
Lone voices like those of Anti-Fascist Action who have tried to warn the Left of the political ambush they are walking into have, when not ignored or derided, just as often been accused of being fascists themselves.
For further references see Race And Class section of this site.
The full text of the speech by Parmit Uppal can be obtained by request from the bulletin board of the TPAS site