Ex-Labour MP and MSP JOHN McALLION explains why he has decided to turn his back on his former party and stand for the Scottish Socialist Party in a by-election today.
Morning Star (Thursday 09 February 2006) Voices of Scotland Why I've ditched Labour JOHN McALLION HISTORY is littered with examples of individuals leaving one political party and joining another. Keir Hardie himself only turned to Labour politics after he had been rejected as a Liberal candidate. Lloyd George famously split the Liberal Party. Churchill shuttled back and forward between the Tories and the Liberals. In our own time, we have seen prominent Scottish leftwingers like Jim Sillars and Jimmy Reid move from one party to another. In referring to these, I am seeking neither to explain nor to excuse my own decisions to leave what had become Scottish new Labour and to join the Scottish Socialist Party. Each individual will have his or her own particular reasons for leaving and joining political parties. I refer to them merely to remind Star readers of a fundamental political truth. Parties are not a political end in themselves but a means to a political end. When a party abandons the political ends for which you joined it, then it is time to abandon that party and carry on the fight for the same political ends elsewhere. Only scoundrels and political illiterates adhere to the old nostrum "my party right or wrong." In my own case, the seeds of disillusionment with new Labour were sown over many years. They started with Gordon Brown's pre-1997 attempt to neuter a still unborn Scottish Parliament by imposing a second referendum question designed to strip the parliament of tax-raising powers. That particular fix was subsequently undone by the vote of the Scottish people, only for new Labour to then gut internal party democracy in order to deliver tame manifestos in 1999 and 2003 that ruled out any use of the tax-raising power that the people had voted for. By then, the betrayals of working-class people were coming thick and fast. Bank of England independence removed democratic control from the economy. Tory spending plans were ruthlessly imposed. New Labour ministers boasted of the toughest anti-union laws in Europe. Privatisation of public services accelerated under the guise of public-private partnerships and stock transfers. Working people were divided into "deserving" hard-working families on the one hand and "undeserving" benefit claimants on the other. Lone parents, people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed and working-class young people were stigmatised as either work shy or as anti-social elements to be disciplined into acceptance of market capitalism. Any resistance would be dealt with through benefit cuts, ASBOs and even imprisonment. The rich and powerful, of course, received very different treatment. Tory tax cuts that had slashed the top rate of tax from 98p to just 40p in the pound were endorsed enthusiastically. Billionaire businessmen were welcomed into the new party with open arms as government ministers and influential party donors. The City was reassured by a ruthless emphasis on economic stability as a means of securing profits and capital's grip on the economy. Public services were opened up to competition creating new and profitable markets in the provision of health, education, housing and a range of other public services. New Labour, we were told, was not in the business of punishing success. Instead, punishment was to be reserved for the victims of that capitalist success, a defeated working class. A party that had been created a century ago to give the working class a political voice against the established capitalist parties had now itself gone over to the dark side and joined those other capitalist parties. Then there are the wars. Before the end of his second term in office and in the space of just six years, Blair and new Labour had taken the country into five different wars. A party that had entered office promising an ethical foreign policy, respect for international law and support for oppressed peoples ended by being party to a blockade that murdered half a million children in Iraq and by joining in an illegal invasion of the same country that, to date, has slaughtered more than 100,000 innocent men women and children and destabilised the entire Middle East. But then the capitalist success so admired by new Labour flows from US control of Iraqi and Middle Eastern oil reserves. Brown's economic stability at home depends upon continuing US dominance of global energy resources. If the price to be paid for that control is invasion, occupation and the slaughter and subjugation of working-class Iraqis, then it's a price that new Labour is ready to pay. A dwindling band of socialists within new Labour continue to fight a rearguard action. For many years, I was one of them. However, there comes a time when reality has to be faced. Blair and Brown have embedded their new party deep inside the capitalist ethos that you cannot buck the market. Socialism is not only off their agenda, the very idea of socialism is derided as fantasy - or, as Blair would have it, "You cannot have the Labour government of your dreams." Meanwhile, the unions will be kept onside by promises that capitalism can be made to work for them and by the threat of the Tories as an even worse alternative to new Labour. Despite occasional socialist bluster from left-wing leaders, the big union bureaucracies will always settle for keeping the Tories out. The choice facing socialists is, therefore, straightforward. Either we leave the political field to the big four capitalist parties or we begin again to build the case for a mass party of workers that will openly challenge the big four and the global capitalism which they represent. The Scottish Socialist Party exists for precisely that purpose. If it did not exist, socialists in Scotland would have to invent it. With only Tommy Sheridan MSP between 1999 and 2003, the SSP shook the Scottish establishment by building coalitions that forced through the abolition of warrant sales, created a mass campaign for free school meals and came within a whisker of delivering an anti-war majority before the invasion of Iraq. Since 2003, their now six MSPs have kept the Scottish Executive and the big four parties constantly on the back foot with a string of popular socialist measures from free NHS prescription charges to the abolition of the hated council tax. SSP street campaigns on all of these issues are connecting with ordinary Scottish working-class voters, just as pro-business policies are disconnecting new labour from its former working-class support. Not yet six years into the new century, the case for breaking with the old political order is already overwhelming. Workers have nothing to lose but their chains and a world to gain. The time for socialist unity is now. The time for the SSP is now. . John McAllion was Labour MP for Dundee East from 1987-99 and Labour MSP for Dundee East from 1999-2004. He is standing for the Scottish Socialist Party in today's Dunfermline and West Fife by-election.
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, a prime architect of the Iraq war visited Glasgow on Monday 16th January to speak at a fundraising evening of the Jewish National Fund. They were met by a protest notable for its increased militancy and unwillingness to be herded by the police.
The Muslim Council of Britain called for a rally against the rising xenophobia in Europe. The protest will take place on Saturday at 1pm in Trafalgar Square in London.
Streaming documentaries from the Spanish Civil War. Require Quicktime 6 (and probably broadband).
Stuart Christie writes:
The 70th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War
The year of homage to the victims of Francoism
Hi: our internet tv site is now up and running with four films made by the
CNT between July 1936 and 1938:
1) Report on the movement of 19th July 1936 (documentary)
2) Victory in Teruel (Teruel ha caido!) (documentary)
3) Solidarity with Madrid (documentary)
4) Nosotros Somos Asi! (That's the way we are) (musical comedy)
A further six CNT-FAI films will be uploaded over the coming weeks, plus
other more recent anarchist-related feature and documentary films.
Also on the site is Red Years, Black Years, a 10-minute prologue to a
proposed 6 part documentary on the background to the Spanish Revolution and
Civil War and the role of the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists from the
late 19th century through to the death of Franco in 1975.
We would also ask you to check out the Arts and Posters menu on the
site (posters of the CNT-FAI and the
powerful black and white illustrations of Helios Gomez between 1925 and
To navigate the www.tvhastings.org
site: when the Hastings Free TV screen
appears press the 'off' switch to 'on'. Then click the 'menu' button on the
left hand side of the tv set. A Betty Boop cartoon will appear by way of
welcome. Click on the tv 'menu' button again and a welcome will appear on
the screen; again click on the tv set 'menu' button and another menu will
appear on the screen with the various options. The films which are up arre
accessible through the 'films' caption and the christiebooks channel is on
the contributors' channel (click 'Red Years, Black Years)...
Or go straight to www.tvhastingschristiebooks.com
You will need Quicktime 6 or above and a soundcard to view and hear our
films and soundtrack. Quicktime can be downloaded free direct from the site
(above the on/off switch on the right hand side of the screen)
We welcome feedback and suggestions on how to improve the site. There will
be a number of glitches which we will try to correct as and when they are
drawn to our attention."
The two police officers who shot dead Harry Stanley, leaving a London pub whilst carrying a table leg mistaken for a shotgun, will not face disciplinary proceedings. This comes after their being freed from the prospect of murder charges by the CPS in October last year.