Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Billy Shakespeare...

...from Belfast...

JULIUS CAESAR  ACT III  SCENE II (Mark Antony’s funeral speech By Billy Shakespeare – the Grammatically correct version)

Antony:     Hi biy’s, fella’ Ulstermeyn, c’mere de a tell yis. Jist listin’ t’ m’I'm here te bery Ceasar, nat te bum an’ blow about’m.

Win pe’pil are bawd win thir livin, ye remember it win thir dead.
Ye niver remember if thiv dun good things.

The same with yer maun here.  Good oul’ Brutus towl’ yis that Ceasar hawd a wee bit’ove a wire about himself.

If that wis right, it wis a bit of a failin’ and well, he’s bloody well paid fer it.

Anyway, with Brutuses an’ his mates permission, ‘Cause Brutus isina bawd fella’, and so’s his mates, all of them aren’t bawd fellas, I’m here to give Ceasar a bit of a sendaff.

He wis a good oul’mate of mine, nivir let m’ down an’ wis a fair minded mawn, mind you in my opinyin;

But Brutus say’s he hawd a wee bit’ove a wire about himself, an’ Brutus isina bawd fella.

He took a lot’ive prisners back here te , gettin’ a bit’ive money fur the cumyunity frum ransims n’ all; wis that the acshin of a somebody with a wire about thimselves?

Win poor pe’pil wir cryin’, Ceasar wis bloody well waypin’;
If yiv a bit of a wire about yerself yid think y’ wudn’t b’ such a big pansy;
But Brutus say’s he hawd a wee bit’ove a wire about himself;

An’ Brutus isin a bawd fella.

All’ive yis saw m’ at the parade w’in three times I tried te make ‘im lead!

An’ the three times he toul mi’ te git away from about him. Wis that somebody wi a bit of a wire about himself?

But Brutus said he hawd a wee bit’ove a wire about himself, an’ sure Brutus isina bawd fella’.

I’m not here te call Brutus a liar, I kyin only say what I know.

Yis all thought he wis a great fella’ not so long ago, an’ well ye might’ve thought that.

What, then is stapin’ yis frum mournin’ him?<->

Sure the wile animals must have all the judgemint, an’ men have lost her wit
Bear with m’;

Ach, houl’ on to a gather m’self, a keep thinkin’ about yermaun in the box, there, an’ a have te try to stap.

1 Pleb:     Y’ know, he might b’ right there.

2 Pleb:     Aye, if ye think about it, a think pe’pil’ive bin a wee bit hard on oul’ Ceasar

3 Pleb:     Houl on, ye boy ye!  I think thir might be worse t’ come after’m
4 Pleb:     Have y’ bin listnin’?  He didn’t wan te be head’ove the parade an’ I don’t think he hawd a wire about himself atall.

1 Pleb:     If that’s right, somebody will have te pay fer it.

2 Pleb:     Look at that poor fella’ up there, his eyes are raw with cryin’.

3 Pleb:     There’s not a better fella’ in than yer maun Antony, up there.

4 Pleb:     Houl yer wisht!  Give my head peace! He’s startin’ to spake again.

Antony:     Yistry what Ceasar said wud’ive bin heard all over the place, an’wud’ive bin lisin de, an’ now he’s in a bax, so he is.  An’ thir’s nobody wi’a good word’ove’m.

Look, if I wis here to turn yis, ad be doin’ Brutus an’ Cassius a bawd service, so a wud, an’ thir not bawd fellas, as yis know.

A wudn’t turn yis ag’inst thim, I’d rather spake bawd of the dead, an’ indaid’ove m’self an’ yerselves, than spake bawd of such great fella’s.

But a have a wee bit a’ paper here in Ceasars han’ writin’, it wis in his wardrobe, a’ll tell yis, thisisis will.

If any’ove yis cud see what he has on it, but a’m sorry a’m not goin’ t’ read it t’yis by the way, yis wud all go an’ kiss Ceasars cuts, an’ yis wud dip yer hankies in his holy blood, an’ b’lookin’ t’ have a bit of his hair for te remember him with, an’ win youse wud die yis would leave it to yer childer, so yis wud.

4 Pleb:     Go on yerself, read it Mark Antony.

All:  Read the will!  We wanna hear Ceasars Will!

Antony:     Houl on, lads, fer play te ye, but I can’t read it. It wudn’t be right fer yis t’ know the good word’ove yis Ceasar hawd, so it wudn’t.

Yis aren’t made’ove wood, or stones, yis are flesh an’ blood, an’ if yis were t’ hear  Ceasars Will, yis wid go aff yer heads!  Hones te God, yis wud go mad!

Yis don’t need to know that yis are benifishyuries, fir if yis did, I cudn’t tell yis what wud happen.

4 Pleb:     C’mon fukyi’!  Tell us what’s in Ceasars Will.

Antony:     Houl’ on a minute.  A shud’ve kept m’bake shut, ave bin slabberin’ too much.  A’m givin them boy’s a bit of a bawd doin’, hem there boys that stabbed Ceasar, so a am.

All:  The Will!  The Will!

2 Pleb:     They’re a bunch’ive murderin’ bastards; read the bloody thing!

Antony:     So yis want me t’ read the will, do yis?  Will c’mere round Ceasars body in a circle an’ take a look at the man what wrote this.  Will a come down there?  Is that all right?

All:  Come on down!

2 Pleb:     Aye, come on down.            Antony comes down.

3 Pleb:     Aye, it’s all right.

4 Pleb:     C’mon everybody, get in a circle.

1 Pleb:     Git back frum the hearse, keep back a bit frum the body.

2 Pleb:     Stan’ back a bit, give the fella’ a bit’ive room.

Antony:     Stap pushin’ mi, fer fuksake.  Get back a bit.

All:  Git back a bit, c’mon make a bit’ive room!


 (Nb: I wrote this back in the early '90's)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Team Rize showz da oppressive mehnz!

So, today I gotz an email from Team Rize. They want us to meet in town for AN ACTION!!!

We'z gonna go some nasty stuffs to da system right now (or as soon as mum getz her act together and getz me my crunchy nut cornflakes on dat tray!).

I switch the telly over to Dave so's I can tell mum about how patriarchal and stuffs Jeremy "Stale Male" Clarkson iz. She rolls her eyes in a patronising way. I'm going to contactz the Young Team and suggest we plan a demo against the patronising old peoplez who are oppressing us.

I grab my rucksack (mum has wrapped my sandwiches, Haribo and Irn Broo in tin foil. I go crazeeee at her disregard for my being green on the outside and redz on the inside like a big watermelon (I suggested at our Rize Young Team Circle that we should get badges and teeshirts made with water melonz on them with big axes sticking out of them to symbolise what mehnz are doing to our planet. I noticed at Victoria park yesterday that it was mostly the mehnz doing the park cleaning. This council is just sexist. Can't women cleanz?)

I throw my cereal bowl into the sink as my """mother""" oppresses me about my room and dishes and meaningless shit. Doesn't she know we activists are working hard to SAVE THE PLANET FROM CAPITALIST PIGS LIKE HER???)

I manage to get on the train without paying. The capitalists will not get my money (I want to getz my hair dyed and a pair of DM's).

Aaaaaagh! The capitalist pig mehnz have barriers at Queen St Station and I'm forced to pay _£2.20_!!!

Da crew is gathered with the Rize bannerz and felt tip penz. We gonna change this world!

The mission today is secret. Wee Craigy (cool for an older guy- heez nearly 25!!!!) haz brought a mic and a battery powered speaker. We gonna show dose pale male stale MEHNZ who's da boss!

Craigy tellz us we are going to highlight Rize'z opposition to the exploitation of people from the mehnz who make our lives so shit. I tell him he is a honourable sister. He rolls his eyes and smiles. I'm glad he is on our side. He is so clever. And he is part of Team Rize!

By the way, if you don't know what Rize is, where have you been? We've been taking the fight for the sisterhood against capitalist pale male stale peepulz across Twitter and Facebook. We are going to get amazing sisters (and bruvverz) from Team Rize who brought the party together and kinda rulz us in a non-patriarchal capitalisty way into the Parliamentz. He sayz our parentz and the old mehnz who ruled da movement before Team Rize took over in a democratic way, were stale and mostly male and all pale. I'm glad I know lotz of peepulz who isn't pale male and STALE!

Kill da mehnz

Onywayz (if my working class writing bugz you, fuck right of. I wiz brought up near to Glasgow. Itz da language of da street and in Milngavie we just say fuck right off and stop OPPRESSING ME!!!!)

Craigy leads us into KFC and we shout at the oppressed workers about not paying tax. And I cry beside someone's cardboard box full of dead chicky wicky wingz.

Kfc must be one of the most worst capitalist patriarchal patronising pale male stale places I have beenz to! (I will be telling mum to stop oppressing me and my wee bruvver, Angus, wif dead corpses of chickenz and tax avoiding beardy white mehnz stuff every Friday night. Itz Pizza Hut for me from now on!).

At the end of the day we post pics of Craigy and da cool kidz standing on KFC tablez. I love da face of the capitalist wummin whose bag of chips I stood on. She got ketchup all over her tracky top as my black Vans with the sparkly sequinz stomped the capitalist muck into the table.

As usual onTwitter the oppression from the pale mehnz beginz. I know we are doing the right thing when people call us naive idiots and I know we have educated peepulz what a better Scotland can be.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Healing the Scottish left post #sp2016 #sp16

This years rift in the left in Scotland has been the second most destructive I have witnessed in 11 years (and there have been others!). And it was acerbated by a really terrible understanding of social media, relationships in the old Militant Tendency grouping who were central to the SSP, relationships between the small group who were the core of the ISG and the SSP core, and the independence campaign, on the part of some of those in key positions in both the SSP and in the grouping that became SLP/Rise. None of these misunderstandings were helped by the manipulation of young and new activists by some experienced and older activists.

The rift (or rifts) was magnified by the disrespect, sarcasm and personal attacks on "socialist" by "socialist."

The misunderstanding of how social media works is still failing the ailing Rise (and the SSP), though Rise has, perhaps too late,  began to get its house in order. Slowly Rise have began to realise that social media is NOT a cinema screen or a notice board- it is a conversation. Their conversation undertaken by angry folk with the Rise roundabout insignia was entirely negative until recently. Condemnation of socialists who "just didn't get" Rise and pro-independence folk is now slowly, making way to sensible persuasion or ignoring of the trolls. There are still blips- spats witnessed by thousands with Tommy Ball and with journalists who aren't saying what they want them to- unfortunately some feel the loud voices in MacDonalds approach works in social media. It doesn't- or at least, not against the left you are supposed to be persuading that you are a new thing. A positive change in the left in Scotland. Its roots, as I say are showing.

The SSP used to understand that, and was incredibly profitable for it- during my team's tenure of the social media aspect of the ssp, it had 60k+ interactions (views/ likes/ rt's/ shares etc on FB and Twitter), 4000 listens a fortnight on its podcast and 15k followers on Twitter. The SSP social media fell into reverse as it was taken over by Colin Fox- someone who really has no idea of how to hold a public conversation. A man who is more used to making pronouncements others must follow.

The personalities of Colin Fox, Richie Venton and Frances Curran, and their inability to compromise on tactics and the trading on their respective (and respectable) political history have been stamped on what rifts opened within the ssp during 2015. They spoke at each other and tried to outflank each other- the Machiavellian nature of their political relationships confusing National Secretary Bill Bonnar, who is still spinning from the briefings he had from Colin, Richie, Frances and his branch secretary daughter who went from being enamoured by the promise of power from Frances, to realising that the self entitled "Team Rise," the small group of ex-ISG people, are what the party building was really for.

The confusion around what the SLP/Rise was truly about now has the SSP in a spin over its future. Within the party, groups are saying that the leadership must change. The leadership, in turn, are preparing its members for a disastrous election and are already whispering "leave Rise," and as predicted by many ssp members now either sitting this election out or who have left in disgust at the treatment of activists who had concerns about how internal democracy was twisted last year, many new members are ready to jump into the new party that will split the left further.

The realisation by Rise leaders at how destructive a completely autonomous new, almost unpolitical teenage rebellion online, is now helping create a more positive atmosphere in Rise. Those who say it is a long term project are now gaining credibility within its ranks. The sprint to the May finishing line this year has alienated people who should have been allies. But many SSP loyalists are realising that the SSP name/brand, although buffed up during the independence campaign, has been hollowed out by a very undemocratic core.

So post May, there are many socialists who must create respectful, honest spaces- discussions freed from the machinations that wrecked the left during the 20th century- for those who want to create a better Scotland. A space better than the one created by the SSP in 2002 (when the party included the seeds of its destruction within its ranks).

Those in and around Rise are confusing the ground. Some are trying to create this space. But the rhetoric on social media from some of those around that is "exclude."

In my opinion, the only people who should be excluded from real discussions are those who want to build their own groups through getting involved. The purist sects like the SWP and the CWI should not be allowed to, as they are prone to do, dominate meetings or discussions (total exclusion should be an option, and the recent history of both Scottish branches of these groups should be grounds to do so). Likewise the personalities driving and manipulating the SSP or "Team Rise." At the same time, all views and concerns should be heard.

Building the framework for that process should now be the challenge.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Radical Independence Forum, not new political parties, will unite the left pro- #indyref2 movement...

I've been pro Scottish Indy for many many years. I voted Labour in 1997, but because of problems I had with Blair's "third way," and subsequently with his economic programme-"Thatcherism on speed," I eventually, around 2002, once they proved themselves to be more than a Sheridan Show, joined the Scottish Socialist Party.

(photos in this article are from THIS photo essay I did in September 2013)

I was pro-Irish independence when I lived in County Down for 27 years.  I never supported any paramilitary group- I believe strongly, that the paramilitaries set politics and community relations in Ireland back generations- hearts are still hardened by the loss of family members by those who took up arms on both sides since the 80s (and believe me, I understand the subtleties of who was "worse" than the other- I knew people who carried out horrendous acts for their "cause." Acts I hope are seared into their eyelids and haunt them at all times) - that stance changed for a while when I read Militant Tendency's view-but I think that was more to do with me trying to justify my family/community I grew up with. My Northern Irish community- largely unionist/Protestant, means a lot to me- the people I grew up with were working class, strong people, a lot of whom said cringeworthy, self defeating  things (and I am sure I said cringeworthy things in the past- though I always seemed at odds with sectarianism- I always had catholic friends). I learned a huge amount about my community's place in the world through my nationalist/republican/catholic friends. I admire what has been achieved in Northern Ireland through talking and listening and through forums that bring opposing programmes together. And I fully believe somewhere in the future the people across Ireland will steer their own future in a settlement that benefits the poor and working class on the whole island.

My pro- independence stance has always been about fairness. About ensuring democracy was real, informed and not gerrymandered. And about people taking charge of how their resources are shared; how their labour makes their lives better; how informed democracy devolved to the smallest unit ensures people can protect themselves from exploitation and manipulation.

When I first came to Scotland- 1993, I had a friend who lived in Sighthill, Glasgow. I stayed there often over a period of two years. The neglect of that community at that time shocked me. Walking through Glasgow shocked me.

I understand that Glasgow had moved a long way from the poverty of just twenty years before- but comparatively speaking- the poverty left by Thatcher - the joblessness, the hopelessness around Glasgow, to me, was tangible. It was different than anywhere I had spent time in around the UK. The hopelessness was etched in faces; scored into paint and stone; growing out of the cracks in the abandoned industrial heartlands. In my time here, I saw wonderfully intelligent, witty, interesting people reduced to shadows through drink and drugs. I couldn't understand why the Scottish independence movement was not stronger at the time- the poverty and homelessness in Glasgow was like nothing I'd seen elsewhere in the uk, perhaps with the exception of mid-late eighties London, when I used to go there a lot. And journeys across Scotland taught me that it was a wealthy country- oil/industry and huge swathes of unused land. Comparatively, homelessness in Belfast had been more or less eradicated (though, of course, poverty had not), and Northern Irish politics had created a hopeful, positive attitude within the anti imperialist working class communities. Culture was vibrant and an outward global identity, proud. Scottish culture was not that. It was about decay, defeat, poverty, the kale yard, the crumbling industrial heartlands, drugs, violence. Many worked hard to change this identity problem- and we are on an upward curve nowadays, thanks to the new pride in history, culture and shared purpose of the past few years.

Allan Grogan of Labour For Independence

During the 2000's I became involved with pro-independence left groups. Within the left, these groups were almost ridiculed as fringe. The Scottish Socialist Party was pro- independence, but the debate within the party was continually about how important (or how unimportant) that stance was. The forces that eventually created RIC, and the left indyref movement (The SSP, The Greens stance, Solidarity, the SWP, the ISG, the CWI/SP etc) were mostly made up of the same people who only a few years before were saying "independence is not important/ independence splits the working class."

When the SNP announced the referendum, some of these organisations continued to debate. Some of us immediately, wholeheartedly began to build the working class argument. (My first article for the Huffington Post was on independence and is here-
http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/918219 )

Our want for independence was not a selfish, flag waving nationalism. It was not steeped in "Scotland for the Scottish" rhetoric. It was not a tartanry or blood and soil, swear allegiance to the St. Andrew's Cross belief. In fact, when we began to work with the SNP on the streets, doorsteps and at public meetings, we clashed over our "no borders, rise with your class" message. I remember standing, late at night, debating outside a local town hall, with an SNP right winger over the internationalist message Green organiser, Ross Greer had given to the audience. The right wing of the SNP just did not get the fact our pro-independence stance was not about creating borders and changing ownership of our wealth from London based billionaires to Edinburgh based billionaires.

Colin Fox and Allan McCombes (who first designed the pro-independence vehicle that became the SSP)

Eventually, the left bloc within the independence movement was joined by other voices, who in varying degrees had been persuaded the breaking up of the imperialist Westminster run UK would be beneficial for the world. The degrees of involvement ran from "this is a great recruiting tool" through to people who had genuinely changed their analysis.

Of course, we lost the referendum. Though in my opinion, we won the first main stage. We won 45% of people- a huge swathe of them working class, fair minded folk, to the cause of a fairer democracy and a fairer redistribution of wealth.

Perhaps we didn't persuade all SNP members; we didn't persuade all socialists- but a massive population were persuaded by our left, internationalist view.

Of course, as I say, this is stage one. We have a huge platform from which to build for stage two, launch it and win.

The Triad parties of Yes Scotland...

I have one problem with how representatives of the left have conducted themselves since the referendum.

#Indyref2 is a cornerstone to Rise/SSP's May election manifesto. A reasonable demand. One few disagree with. My problem with it is the collective loss of memory. The left during indyref1 did not just call for "Yes." We called for A Better Scotland, taking its place to help create a Better World. And all of our memes, leaflets, statements to the press etc reflected that. Our slogans were not an empty "vote for the Saltire," they were about why voting for a better democracy would benefit us all.

In the aftermath of the independence referendum, the left, made up of people who once opposed independence are now seemingly, trying to out "indyref" the nationalists. The calls for a new referendum as soon as possible, are not grounded in real analysis, or policy beyond getting list votes in the Scottish Election in May. This has hugely let the left down. It has actually created an adversarial atmosphere within the independence movement rather than the original stance of the left of "independence is a great idea- this is why," that persuaded so many in the lead up to September 2014.

Lining up for the wonderful Margo...

"Taking the fight to the SNP," as Colin Fox, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party said at the first Rise conference, has been the most damaging policy the one time Radical Independence Campaign spokespeople/ leadership have created. Of course the SNP should be challenged- but post indyref, when many socialist and left minded folk joined them because of OUR message- attacking those who in time could be persuaded into a mass left party is really unwise. We can of course say, "we aren't attacking socialists," but as I have said in a previous post, attacking organisations is now actually attacking the identity of many newly politicised people.

So what should the left do in this very strange new political landscape?

I believe rather than closing doors and pointing fingers, we should be creating real space (and time) for dialogue. Cobbling together organisations to attack former allies has been a disaster (though that analysis will, of course, be denied until post May). The SSP should have continued to fight as the SSP -a cornerstone in the triad that made up Yes Scotland- for at least this election, while the other groups who came to independence later, should have continued dialogue with the SSP, to develop RIC- which when indyref2 does come around, will be a much more influential vehicle than it was first time around.

That's what should have happened. Instead, the players decided to build Rise- a vehicle that has been full of rancour because of how it was built. A vehicle that when floated in late 2014, some warned of how divisive it would be. That has proved correct. And post May, the SSP and Rise may divide into two separate entities.

Eddie Reader leading a vibrant cultural movement within Scotland and Yes!

There are many people who were involved in indyref on the left, post May, who will have no where to go. Rise nor the SSP will be attractive. Labour, even with Corbyn in the driving seat is unattractive in Scotland, given the fact that the Scottish Labour leadership are the very people who would knife their Westminster leader in the back.  The corrupt Sheridan vehicle, Solidarity, at last is dead. The left sects are dead- the SWP is a shadow of its former disrupting self, as is the tiny CWI in Scotland.

The SSP is unattractive because of its predominantly male and undemocratic nature. Rise has created too many enemies online with the extraordinary nature of the conversations it smashes into on Facebook, Twitter and in forums (and because of its "taking the fight to the SNP message).

Calling for indyref 2 as an attack on the SNP, is not a vote winner, nor a mature political stance. "We need independence from tax evaders and people who have indebted councils in PFI schemes," etc is. All on the left in the SNP, Greens, the now disbanded Labour for Independence would agree.

Taking the fight to the many many working class socialists who joined the SNP has got to be the biggest suicide note since Ratner called his jewellery "crap."

Independence from the Billionaire elite who impose Trident; who create tax free cash mountains abroad; who make our children pay for capitalist greed; who send our young poor people out to other countries to kill other young poor people; who crush the very souls of the vulnerable and disabled and abandoned...

The Radical Independence Coalition/Campaign- an open forum now active in communities across Scotland, but largely abandoned by the "faces" of the left, can build the confidence of the crucial working class bloc towards their own Emancipation. Some of the (well meaning at times) Rise slogans are creating division, platforms for ambitions and are far from uniting the left. This was not the intention- but it is how it has played out. Many of those involved in its development did not get involved in the Yes coalition- and the dislike from some of those influencing its public statements of the SNP, is one as insidious -and misinformed- as that from Labour.

The Radical Independence Movement - the future of the left in Scotland...

Uniting the left will not be done by a political party this side of a second independence referendum. So the left need to have vehicles in which to influence the nature of the future campaign and the nature of the independence the people of Scotland and the world, needs.  Socialists have chosen to do that enmasse within the SNP -and small numbers of them have decided to do that in the Greens, the SSP or as the tiny Rise.

None of these organisations will unite the left. So all of the left need a neutral ground. Those who built that wonderful neutral ground abandoned it for political ambition. It's time to climb down and help unite the left independence movement, not smash it apart again.

After election fever, the left needs to reboot its effort on building RIC as a place in which we can all work together.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Scottish Socialist Jazz

"Don't call it some made up name- jazz. It's social music." Love that quote being used as a tag line for the new movie about Miles Davis. 

Over the past year, I've been slowly dipping my toe into jazz. I've started with Brubeck, Monk, Davis and some of the singers like Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Ella. 

Like my going back to comics this year, it has been something that has brought me to other places. Other worlds. 

The Scottish Socialist world has proven to be not very social in the past year. On the contrary, it has been discordant, adversarial, vicious. 

There are a few people trying to pull the strings and the percussion together again, my baseball hat comes off to them. They have a difficult job after the past year of name calling, Machiavellian manoeuvring and denigration of comrades over social media. 

I suppose when new people enter the orchestra with their different musical backgrounds, influences and sometimes narrow perceptions of what music is, the tapestry of sound will have plucks and at times unravel. Having said that, it doesn't do for sweet music, or even mind expanding music that moves us all into a new world when the new comer to the band hits the existing members over the head with the amps. New influences, voices and instruments are always needed- but like Friere teaching literacy to those scraping a living from inhospitable places, it is sometimes best to sit and learn from the existing members first before adding new chords, beats and melodies. Music can become stale without the composer/ the social elements listening to new elements- learning comes from all participants.

I love the fact that some of those who have been the most divisive within the socialist movement have been posting links to Paulo Freire's works (it's telling though, that Pedagogy of the Oppressed- his most inaccessible book- is the one they post. Pedagogy of Hope is a better, more rounded, researched and much more accessible book). Freire advocated "social music," in that he saw us all as contributors to learning. His pedagogy was not top down. It wasn't about leaders of learning. It was about all participants knowing they had something to learn. It was like jazz music- everyone had a turn to speak, supported by the others, and then all could come together in a symphony of sound from different perspectives. All playing off each other, all learning from each other and absorbing the experience of others. 

The left in Scotland this year - the left I am part of - has crashed and shrieked and instruments have been used as weapons. Unfortunately the orchestra is at present divided into different melodies and beats. The various sections are not listening to each other. Some are pretending to. Some are ready to create their own 5 piece.  The members MUST become social. They must become Freirian. The basis of a great orchestra is experience plus new ideas. Without both sections the social music becomes discordant and shrill, and no one listens.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

On Social media, Rise/ SSP are just not making friends...

They just don't get "the conversation..."

(present it's programme - predictive text can be so unpredictable!*)

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Messages of freedom: "The evidence does not stack up" while you choke and die.

The term, "The evidence doesn't stack up that our product is dangerous/addictive," must be a phenomena that will never be part of any subsequent system... while profits roll in from vulnerable, addicted, destroyed people. Yet. Is non-alcoholic beer/wine an addiction? Puggy machines with no winnings? What ever happened to the non-nicotine cigarettes? Are organic, Fairtrade, sustainable production and products killing people? Decimating communities/countries/continents?

I agree with the legalisation of drugs. But how will cocaine be marketed? How will marijuana, heroin, "e's" etc be marketed and sold and who will be the people who are paid to come on the telly and say to ruined lives, "it's not my corporations fault?"

As a former drinker, smoker and drug user, I DO know the harm these things do -the harm emanates from the substance, into the person, into their lives and into their community and my use of those things were bolstered by various spokespeople, campaigns, and twisting of research etc.

What a bloody awful job that one where the person comes on the telly to say, "our product hasn't been proven to be dangerous."

And taken further, the spokes people of the cigarette industry, the alcohol industry, the gambling industry- are now joined by the spokespeople of the industries causing the decimation of the world's ecology. I'm waiting for an Edward Bernays to make fracking, nuclear weapons and returning refugees to murderous  regimes, trendy, cool- liberally accepted.

If one part of our media shows that this capitalist system harms, it is the paid, "successful" spokespeople of harmful industries and products.

The Iraqi information minister during the Iraq war told us with a straight face that Saddam's regime was winning. Gadaffi's son did the same in Libya, while all around them, missiles and bullets slammed into their city buildings and ripped people apart. Those spokespeople were jailed for their lies and their support of something that wrecked lives. The Neo-Bernays should also be jailed. Those people knowingly lying to us about their corporations output should be jailed alongside the people who employ them. Ignorance of such a law should be no excuse.

The sign of successful  marketeers should not be getting away with the biggest, most harmful lie. Buffering a harmful product or corporation from the concerns of harmfulness and the harmed  should be criminal. Knowingly selling something that causes harm- or hiding information that show the product/"service" etc to be harmful SHOULD BE A CRIME.

Free choice can only be real free choice in an informed society. Democracy is only really possible in an educated system in which corporations and the interests of the profit takers do not have insurmountable (to those with public health as their raison d'etre)  mountains of access to the media both online and in the traditional media.

It's funny; music, comedy, beautiful scenery, kindness, etc are "addictive," but don't need counselling, wards in hospitals or prison sentences. And huge populations don't stop functioning, families don't disintegrate, hospital addiction, A&E, cardiac, respiratory  and psychiatric  wards are not overflowing because of them.

And it's not so funny that our world is being choked and murdered by the interests of the profit takers and their lying "successful," honeydripping, mealy mouthed spokespeople telling us it is the fault of the refugee; the tobacco/sugar/slavery/alcohol/oil/nuclear/war industries have only your best interests -and FREEDOM- at heart.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

On "Pale, Male and Stale."

A valuable discussion is at present taking place on The Scottish Left Forum on Facebook. It centres on an article and subsequent responses by Suki Sangha, a member of Rise and former member of the organisation formed by ex-SWP and SSP comrades, the ISG.
Suki's superb article is here

This discussion comes as part of the year and a half long debate about the future of the left in Scotland. This debate has led to the current electoral alliance calling itself Rise, and the draining of activists from the Scottish Socialist Party.

It also comes at a time when the extremely troubled Tommy Sheridan has isolated yet another swathe of activists amidst allegations of sexual predators and cover ups within Solidarity, which seems to be now consisting of Sheridan family members and fans. Sheridan became part of this debate during and after his time as "Convenor" of the SSP. His Downfall highlights exactly what Frances Curran calls "he who shouts loudest."

My views on the discussion within the SSP are well known- I have highlighted the warping of democracy within the SSP in order for those who perceive themselves as "leaders" to maintain that power.

I am attempting to unpick the tangled, heated debate that has snowballed in the past year and a half within the SSP which has had huge consequences on the development of the left in Scotland this during that time.

As part of the ongoing debate and discussion (that I feel maybe calming down towards something more constructive than it has been), former SSP MSP Frances Curran has asked a number of questions about challenges to Suki's article.

I'll attempt answers to Frances questions (my answers- I don't purport to represent anyone).

I for one welcome her measured tone in this. Something that has been rare in the discussion within the SSP and Rise for over a year.

"1) why are the people predominantly in leading positions white older men and why has this  been the case for a century? "

It's been the case since the Middle Ages- and during the Roman occupation of the U.K. It is historical and linked to how a theocracy diminished the religions and factions that were feminine led and those that promoted equality (see "witch hunts," the Cathars, the male warping of "the cult of Mary" etc).

Patriarchy is a huge problem that needs addressed.

"2) is it the case that the left just replicates the patriarchal oppression of women that is stratified through every level of capitalist society?"


"3) are we ok about that? I'm not"

I am certainly not ok with that.

"4) this domination by white older men meant that historically the movement would not support women getting the vote, equal pay, women's access to birth control, and our ability to control out own reproductive rights and our own bodies. Why?"

Because of the link within patriarchy to the pseudo science of theological morality. Patriarchy and the structures and assumptions that go with it, are the problem. Power reproduces itself in its own image.

"5) in a contemporary context there are many in our movement led by white men who don't support 50/50 and would like to reverse it - why?"

This is something I found astounding when on the SSP EC- a new constitution was presented to the EC in 2014 that had deleted the much struggled for 50/50. Virtually no one else around the table saw that as a problem.

"6) it wasn't the men in the labour movement who changed the culture and attitudes and the brought the freedoms I have as an unmarried, single parent in social housing who can have sex with whoever I want and it is no-ones business. This is a huge liberation for women. But it was brought to us through the influence of the Women's Liberation Movement. If the left is supposed to be progressive for women why were they not in the forefront of this revolution? In fact this tension led to thousand of women splitting from left organisations in the 70s."

I absolutely agree. I joined the SSP only after voices like Rosie Kane's came to the fore. Sheridan's idiocy put me off voting for and joining the party. I am certainly no advocate of "he who shouts loudest" being the person to lead anything. I as brought up and lived in Northern Ireland throughout the "Troubles." The shouty men were no friends to peace, equality or goodwill! I certainly believe in our society, patriarchy hampers talented women's voices from being heard.

"7) why are a load of men so upset about Suki's very good article? Why was the response not - yes you have a point, we need a more diverse  representative left leadership what can we do to help.?"

I am not upset at Suki's article. There is nothing new in it. I agree with it.

I take issue, though, at her trying to rescue her term "pale male and stale" which originally was aimed at people (not just men as the resignations from the SSP EC should show) who were debating the nature of the push towards having the party involved in the SLP.

 It was an ssp discussion- one that was not allowed to properly take place. That warping of democracy of course caused discussion within the party. Suki used the term "pale male and stale" to describe those having that conversation online.  The article has since slightly changed her original use.

"8) why has the response been we are really angry at this phrase because our feelings are hurt and we don't accept your premise because we don' like the language you have used to express that experience of your oppression? The premise is completely valid."

See my answer above. I'm not angry at her article. I take issue with the almost sanitisation of her original use of the term "pale male and stale."

"Sadly you are running into the same problems of previous generations of left women oh by the way who very very class conscious. The struggle for a feminist left goes on....sadly."

I don't ENTIRELY agree with this. I think it is a case of scattergun diplomacy (or scattergun attack) that has wounded potential allies.

Perhaps Suki didn't realise that the SSP debate was really one that was happening because of a warping of democracy in the party (by those who wanted to push towards Rise).

I think the recent backflips by some of those who did this should show Suki and others where the problem lies - within the democratically challenged EC of the SSP.

Her original use of "pale male and stale" was used against people who could have been allies within Rise (or whatever it becomes), but it was, instead perceived as another attack on those who wanted questions answered about SLP/Rise; about why the SSP's mammoth work within the massive Yes campaign was being set aside for the tiny (by comparison) RIC and why bullying and defamation was being ENCOURAGED within the SSP leadership in order to move towards something they now oppose.

I disagree with many people on this thread. Historically I have rarely disagreed with Frances, but the dreadful personal attacks on those wanting proper discussion within the SSP has seen us on differing sides of this debate. The idiotic thing is, the scattergun attacks on people within the SSP has created false battle lines.

Suki's article is helpful- the phrase, because of its original use, is not.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Let's not condemn Rise or the SSP...

The more I think about SSP/Rise, the more I'm thinking the block to progress from the left comes from a bloc within the SSP EC, some members of Glasgow South branch, -those people who have bullied and tried to "control," as a matter of fact. Not actual "Risers." Rise is a group with a lot of good folk in it. So to attack Rise, is to attack comrades, just  as to attack or dismiss the SSP is to attack and dismiss people the left need- ie people with massive experience of campaigns.

Rise is full of new activists (though "full" is subjective). Some have been very negative in their approach to people outside their circle and immediate politics- but not all.

I think when someone is caught up in servicing a "machine," the bigger picture can be lost (and I include myself in this).

Attacks from within the SSP (from, at the time, pro-SLP folk) on me and on other comrades during the lead up to what became Rise perhaps blinded me to what in fact was an attempt to move away from a "Executive Committee," controlled by people who only saw progress with their involvement. I have never saw progress as my personal advancement - my involvement is neither here nor there (I'm a foot soldier for a bigger cause! Rise with your class...).

Some central to the SSP  etc have ran the SSP into the ground in the past few months. The SSP structures had broken down over the past few years - the EC was an isolated talking shop, badly attended until recently- and that allowed branches to develop and grow without the bovver boot of a controlling hierarchy. Branches made fantastic links in their communities due to being able to control their own activism. This has changed somewhat in the past year and a half. What was good about the SSP and helped it survive, a flexibility, is being stymied and stomped on and it is breaking what was once good. And I feel they won't let up.

Rise has no structure, and the  attempt at creating something without a central committee, though flawed, has promise.  I feel perhaps, within Rise, post May, are the seeds of real engagement (once folk come down from the election fever they are suffering). I don't think the SSP EC (or I should say, those controlling the narrative of the SSP EC), will allow real engagement and discussion within the the party- they will continue to produce and control that narrative. And I don't think they will lose position within what will be a much reduced SSP.

I do feel the party is going to be far from its roots-ie a non-sectarian, left grouping. I feel it will become a block to real progress in building something new.

Having said all that, Rise have a problem. How do they heal the wounds created by a badly managed beginnings? How do they distance themselves from the abuse suffered by some in the SSP at the hands of their supporters? I believe that is crucial to gaining support of local activists outside the Glasgow bubble in order to gain council seats next year.

Or am I just feeling a bit off kilter because it's SPRING BREAK..!