Is the time right for a new Scottish workers’ party?

Labour’s vote fell further in Scotland, proportionately, than in England and Wales in December’s general election. What conclusions should be drawn for how working class political representation will be secured now, asks Socialist Party Scotland’s PHILIP STOTT?

December 2019 saw Scottish Labour suffer the worst general election result in its 119-year history. Once again the party has been reduced to a solitary Westminster MP. What makes the outcome more catastrophic for Labour than even four years ago was the loss of a further 196,000 votes even compared to the near wipe-out of 2015 – an election which was widely thought to be the very worst it could possibly get. Scottish Labour’s vote fell to 511,838 (18.6%) in December from 707,147 (24.3%) in 2015.   

Following in the wake of the previous year’s independence referendum, the collapse of Labour support in working class areas in 2015 was dramatically illustrated by the loss of 40 of their 41 MPs elected in 2010. Open collaboration with the Tories and the capitalist establishment in the anti-independence ‘Better Together’ campaign had sealed the fate of the Blairite-dominated Scottish Labour Party. Its then leader Jim Murphy boldly declared in the wake of the evisceration that saw the SNP secure 56 of the 59 available MPs: “The Scottish Labour Party has been around for more than a century. A hundred years from tonight we will still be around”. Murphy hastily resigned after a short-lived six months as Scottish leader and is now a well-paid advisor to the Tony Blair Institute.

Read more

Rebuilding the left in the PCS

On December 12, the same day as the general election, the result of the general secretary election for the PCS civil service union was also announced. Mark Serwotka, in office since 2000, was re-elected with 16,420 votes. However, Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd, standing for the first time in a national officer’s election, was second, receiving an impressive 9,278 votes, 30% of the poll. Bev Laidlaw from the Independent Left came third with 5,059.

This was a crucial election in the battle to ensure PCS is maintained as a fighting, left trade union. The votes for Marion now provide a platform to build a new vibrant socialist left within the union, ready for the challenges set by a Boris Johnson majority Tory government. This will be next fought out in the national executive committee (NEC) and group executive elections that will take place this spring.

Read more

The reality of US ‘hard power’ exposed

Adding to the mounting difficulties for the Trump administration, in December the Washington Post published a six-part exposé of the US strategy in Afghanistan. The report was based on the so-called ‘Afghanistan papers’, an echo of the 1970s Pentagon Papers revealing the systematic official lying over US policy in Vietnam, whose release contributed to the fall of president Richard Nixon.

The Afghanistan papers are notes and transcripts from over 400 interviews conducted between 2014 and 2018 with people who have been involved in the Afghanistan conflict in varying capacities. The Post had to pursue a three-year court case to obtain the interviews – done by a US federal agency known as SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) – and is still fighting for full disclosure today, as some of the information was withheld.

Read more

Global Warning: Bad COP

‘Time for action’ read the subheading of the United Nation’s most recent climate change conference, known as COP25. Held in Madrid in December, it was the right call. Following record forest fires in California and the Amazon, and against the backdrop of bushfires raging across Australia, it appeared that, at last, the UN might mean business. That it would put the world’s governments on red alert and ensure decisive action is taken to halt the global warming caused by ever increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

At the start of the annual gathering of representatives from 190 governments and dozens of agencies, NGOs and businesses, the UN issued a stark warning: greenhouse gas emissions had risen 4% since the Paris accord of 2015 and the world will need to cut them by 7.6% every year of the next decade to stay within the limits advised by climate scientists.

Read more

The system that ruins the world

To meet an ever-growing questioning of capitalism since the crisis of 2007-08, the system’s defenders look to theoretically justify its continued rule. The latest effort, by the renowned former World Bank economist Branko Milanović, which claims that capitalism is now unchallenged for the first time in history, is reviewed by PETER TAAFFE.

Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World

By Branko Milanović

Published by Belknap Press, 2019, £23-95

Like the majority of capitalist economists, the author of this book hails what he proclaims is the ‘victory’ of capitalism over ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’. However, Branko Milanović goes further than his predecessors by seeking to argue that the only choice on offer for mankind now is between so-called ‘liberal capitalism’ exemplified by the US, Western Europe and most of the rest of the world, and what he describes as ‘political capitalism’, for which China and Vietnam are the authoritarian models.

Read more

The long decline of British capitalism

What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain

By James Hamilton-Paterson

Published by Head of Zeus, 2019, £9-99

Reviewed by Niall Mulholland

Up to 1939, Britain was the world’s largest exporter of manufactured goods and of energy (coal). From 1939 to 1945, it produced around 125,000 aircraft and a huge number of ships, motor vehicles, armaments and textiles. After world war two, Britain was a pioneer in antibiotics, radar, the jet engine and the computer. In 1950, Britain recorded the highest percentage of the workforce in industrial jobs and 80 percent of the population were classified as “working class”. In the 1970s, trade union membership was at its highest levels and inequality at its lowest.

Yet, within a few decades, much of Britain’s major industries, such as ship-making, coal mining, car-making and steel, were gone or greatly diminished, throwing millions out of work and rupturing working-class communities.

Read more

Editorial: How could Corbyn deliver?

“The only certain outcome of the general election”, argued the Socialism Today editorial published two weeks before the last contest (issue No.209, June 2017), “is that none of the contradictions besetting the political and social relations that sustain British capitalism” would be any nearer to resolution at the end of it.

“The crisis of capitalist political representation signalled by continuing Tory divisions”, we wrote then, “the uncertainties surrounding the Brexit negotiations; the battle around a new Scottish independence referendum… almost all the conceivable electoral scenarios will bring them into sharper relief”.

Two-and-a-half years later the underlying contradictions have only intensified and the political consequences are, if anything, even more unpredictable.

But, while there are a range of possible outcomes from the 12 December election, the most immediately important for the workers’ movement is the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, with either a Labour parliamentary majority or in another ‘hung parliament’, and the consequent question: how could a prime minister Corbyn deliver the reforms he has promised the working class?

Read more

How radical are the Greens really?

The Green Party often present themselves as a radical alternative to the capitalist establishment parties. However, their actions repeatedly undermine that image. In this general election they have reached an agreement with the decidedly pro-establishment Liberal Democrats in order to promote remaining in the establishment’s EU club. This follows a record of voting for austerity measures when the party has held positions in local government.

Climate protests, including the worldwide youth strikes, have seen environmental issues rise rapidly in public consciousness. A YouGov poll earlier this year showed more than a quarter of people in Britain now consider the environment to be among the top three issues facing the country. This rises to 45% among 18-24 year olds.

Read more

Chile general strike rocks Piñera regime

Three million workers, youth and students, took to the streets throughout Chile on 12 November, in yet another mass protest and strike, sparked initially by a price hike in metro fares in the capital, Santiago, in October.

After nearly one month of protests and brutal state repression, this magnificent movement has refused to accept concession after concession by the regime of President Sebastián Piñera. Prior to the strike, Piñera undertook yet another u-turn and announced that the constitution would be revised and submitted to a referendum.

Read more

Global Warning: Still time to stop catastrophic climate change

A widely-reviewed recent book by David Wallace-Wells presents a grim picture of the future consequences of continuing global warming. But the real story of the future, argues JUDY BEISHON, is that socialist change can stop catastrophic climate change.

The Uninhabitable Earth – A story of the future

By David Wallace-Wells

Published by Penguin Random House, 2019, £9-99

David Wallace-Wells isn’t an environmentalist or scientist, but a New-York based journalist who has drawn from hundreds of sources to warn about the future impact of global warming on human lives. He made his book grim reading, opening with: “It is worse, much worse, than you think”. From there the message gets worse still, until about two-thirds of the way through he comments: “If you have made it this far you are a brave reader”.

Chapter after chapter hammers home the estimated environmental effects of each half point rise in planet temperature. The extent of heatwaves, floods, storms, deaths and migration. Already the planet has warmed by about 1.1 degrees celsius above the pre-industrial level and the effects so far are summarised, including that since 1980 there has been a 50-fold increase in dangerous heatwaves and a quadrupling of flooding. A study last year revealed that the melt rate of the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled in just a decade, indicating an increased pace of sea level rise.

Read more