Saturday, 14 December 2013

Film Review: The Happy Lands

"In a rare portrayal of working class struggle, BBC 2 is showing Happy Lands on Sunday 15th December at 9pm. 
Below is the Review I did of it in early February 2013. 
No socialist, trade unionist or anyone interested in the epic struggles of the working class in this country should miss such an inspiring portrayal of the showdown between the working class and ruling capitalists and their state in the 1926 General Strike - an event that shook Britain to its very foundations."


It's a rare thing indeed for the working class to be sympathetically portrayed in film - without being patronised.


Rarer still for the movie's narrative to be based on the true stories of real working class people's family histories, as told by them, and indeed mostly acted by them. And just about unique when the stories are not of couthy, folksy whims, but of naked class war.

I had the rare privilege of seeing Theatre Workshop Scotland's 'The Happy Lands' in a pre-launch showing, with director Robert Rae and some of the cast present.



The film is a moving, epic account of the 1926 British general strike, as experienced by the mining communities of Fife. Although the three central families portrayed are fictional, the story told is rooted in undoctored reality.



Methodology

Robert Rae and his team achieved this primarily through the unique methodology used: this is collaborative art at its best, where over the course of four years they sought the participation of Fifers from the (ex-)mining villages to capture what happened in the biggest confrontation between the working class and the capitalist rulers and their state forces in the history of this island.

A thousand local people took part in the project, gladly and freely giving 88,000 hours (equivalent to a combined 10 years!) of their time to telling stories handed down by family members involved in the 1926 general strike and subsequent 9-month lockout of the miners; training in theatre workshops, and eventually in many cases becoming the actors in a superb historical film of keen relevance today.

This methodology echoes some of the best traditions of real-life solidarity that the film seeks to portray.


The film itself is a montage of fact-based fictional narrative, interspersed with occasional newsreel from 1926 and clips of interviews with Fifers whose forbears suffered the heartbreaking hardships imposed by the ruthless mine-owners and government - and the state brutality they meted out.

Moving portrayal 

Gritty it sure is, and spoken in the unadulterated Fife tongue (with sub-titles!), but this film is in turn funny, heartbreaking, moving and uplifting. It ranges from making you cry at the hardship of little kids, and feeling fury at the employing class and their callous methods, to hilarity in the courtroom and vivid portrayal of an indomitable spirit of working class solidarity that makes the hair on your neck stand up.


It invites you in to the miners' rows, the tiny houses they and their families lived in at the mercy of the capitalist mine-owners. It draws you into the worry, anger and fierce, determined solidarity of the miners and the women and children of their tight-knit communities - as they respond to the government's Samuel Commission decision to cut pay (by over 13 per cent), increase working hours, and grind more profit out of the miners.

One of the central characters, Dan Guthrie, is a miner, a communist, a superb and witty speaker, rooted in his own class, and a magistrate to boot. He exposes the class nature of society in his explanations to the entire community, at meetings, picket lines, in his magistrate's courtroom chair! And the authenticity of the acting owes much to the fact he is played by real-life Fife miner, Joki Wallace, himself a veteran of the momentous 1984/5 miners strike, as well as being the grandson of two miner grandfathers at the heart of 1926. The same goes for several of the female characters, played by women from mining families.

The film brings to life the automatic solidarity of the women for the strike, in full knowledge of the hardship it will mean; indeed the women participate in the meetings where it is decided, and go on to be the mainstay of making sure families and kids survive near-starvation.

The Happy Lands pulls no punches - without descending into sensationalism - in showing state brutality towards a working class that dares to challenge the rule of the rich, with kids arrested for picking bits of coal off bings to warm their houses; evictions; imprisonment of workers who dared fight back; the attempt to break the spirit and bodies of communities as they fought long and hard under the slogan "Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day".

It avoids being crude or preachy in depicting the transformation of consciousness and understanding of workers through struggle, as the devoutly religious veteran of World War One changes from being the miner opposed to strike action into the next generation of working class socialist tribunes - through his harsh experiences of being assaulted by 'Black and Tans' on behalf of the government and mine-owners.

The film evokes the power the organised working class had in their hands at the time, for example the way the strike committees decided whether or not to grant permits for the movement of goods, protecting emergency services whilst shutting down the vast majority of production.

It shows miners drilling with sticks, an under-developed reference, presumably, to the Methil workers' militia at the time of the general strike, where not only did workers challenge the power of the capitalists to produce and distribute their ill-gotten wealth, but also their resort to armed protection of the class interests of the capitalists, which is ultimately what the state forces are.

Class war - then and now

This film is working class people telling working class people's stories, real history, of stupendous significance.



The central story - a general strike that poses point-blank the issue of which class rules the country - is not just a bit of ancient history. It is immensely relevant in today's conditions, where some sections of workers are arguing for a one-day general strike against the Westminster boot-boys' assaults; perhaps a conscious filmic warning of what might yet happen as capitalists and their politicians wage class war on the rest of us.
Even the Sunday Mail editorial was moved to write:

"Class war sounds a little quaint now. Like socialism, we're meant to be past all that.
Well sometimes class war doesn't sound so quaint after all. Times like today.

When the RBS think it is just about acceptable to suggest their executives can get £250million of bonuses even as they work to convince taxpayers to pick up an expected £500million fine for fixing interest rates.
When our welfare state, our benefits and pensions, built by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of our parents and grandparents, is under unprecedented attack from a pack of Eton-educated millionaires."

Absolutely! But let's not fall for the tale that the working class no longer exists, nor is capable of fighting back; that 1926 is just ancient history.

There may not be many miners nowadays, but millions of workers being exploited for millionaires' profit remains the nature of the capitalist beast. Solidarity in struggle, and indeed socialism, are relevant now as in 1926.

See 'The Happy Lands' if you can. Laugh, cry, rage and resolve to emulate the spirit and dignity of those working class heroes, to avenge their defeat, to build the socialist future that so many of them dreamt of and sacrificed to achieve.


See thehappylands.com

Originally published in the Scottish Socialist Voice 411

Monday, 9 December 2013

CONDEMN £74,000 MP's SALARY

 
sign ePetition for MPs on a skilled worker's wage


Cartoon by Martin Rowson
It makes your blood boil.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has proposed an 11% pay rise for Westminster MPs!
According to these parliamentary chancers, when it comes to workers' wages the level of inflation is rock bottom, way down about 2% - they claim. 
Back on the planet 99% of us Earthlings inhabit, of course inflation on energy, food, rent, transport, and other daily essentials makes a bitter mockery of such claims. 

£40 an hour for them - £6.19 for us

According to MPs about to be awarded a RISE of £7,600 - to a mind boggling £74,000 a year (near enough £40 an hour) - workers who produce the wealth of society only deserve to be guaranteed a minimum of £6.19 an hour.
The same parliamentary elite have presided over the longest sustained fall in real wages for workers in this country since the 1870s; no that's not a typo, the 1870s.
And of course they prattle on about us 'all being in this together' whilst slashing benefits for the poorest, sick and disabled people included. Even after we pounded Ed Miliband into moving a Motion to abolish the monstrous Bedroom Tax, 47 Labour MPs thought it far too minor a matter to even bother turning up to vote for Labour's own Motion - allowing it to fall by 26 votes, thus prolonging the agony and poverty inflicted on nearly 90,000 Scottish households and 600,000 across the UK. 

Snouts in the Trough


The mainstream party politicians give politics a bad name. They drive people into cynicism and abstention from the electoral process. These parliamentary pigs have their snouts in the trough.
But it doesn't have to be like that. Politics has always been populated by principled people, idealists devoting time, money and energy to fighting for change and transformation of the lives of millions. 
Scottish miner Keir Hardie fought selflessly for working men and women, motivated by his repugnance at the terrible exploitation he witnessed first-hand. When he was elected as the first working class Labour MP 125 years ago, he spurned the pomp and ceremony of Westminster, horrifying the 19th century Hooray Henry's with his working man's clothes, and more especially his socialist aims.  


From No Wage to Obscene Wage for MPs


At that time the House of Commons was stuffed full of landowners and industrial capitalists, who wandered into parliament for a few hours in their spare time to pass laws to their own class advantage. 
There was no wage for being an MP, which suited the capitalists and landlords of the day immensely. It effectively barred workers from being able to afford to enter the Commons to stand up for the working class. They had to hold pit-head collections in the mining villages to prevent MP Keir Hardie's family from being evicted due to rent arrears.

I firmly believe MPs SHOULD have a wage, precisely so working class representatives can afford to be elected to use parliament as one forum for popularizing socialism. But the key is what level of wage.

The British ruling class are past masters at buying off their opponents. They went from no wage for MPs to one that over the years has rocketed into the stratosphere, in many cases literally buying off former fighters, in others simply attracting the lowest form of careerists without two principles to rub together. 

Socialist MP on a Worker's Wage

One of my fondest political memories is organizing the election campaign of socialist MP Terry Fields in Liverpool. Terry was a former firefighter who remained on a firefighter's wage when he was elected to parliament - 'the madhouse' as he passionately denounced it every time he mentioned the place. He donated the rest of his MP's salary to workers on strike, communities fighting to save schools or hospitals, and to the socialist cause he devoted himself to without ever a wobble towards careerism.

More recently, the Scottish Socialist Party MSPs likewise lived on the average wage of a skilled worker, to keep rooted in the realities facing the working class they sought to represent.
That's not just a measure of accountability for the here and now over elected politicians, but also a glimpse of a democratic socialist future, free of privileged elites, with those elected to government at every level remaining on the same income bracket as those who elected them. 

SSP Principle


400,000 workers in Scotland earn less than the so-called Living Wage of £7.45 an hour. How could MPs on £65,000, let alone the recommended £74,000, have the first inkling of what life is like for the rest of us? 

That's why it's a core principle of the SSP that MSPs and MPs should receive no more than the average skilled worker's wage. Then they would be more likely to fight for higher incomes for the 99% rather than living the high life themselves of the 1%. 

Instead of rising out of the working class, they would rise with the rest of the working class, fighting for use of the nation's vast resources to be deployed to eradicate poverty and inequality. 

Sign the Petition

That's why I've launched the online Petition demanding all MPs reject and hand back the disgusting £7,600 rise, that they condemn the £74,000 on offer to them, and go much further still by nailing their colours to the demand for MPs on a skilled worker's wage.

I don't expect any Tory or LibDem worthies to support the latter. Nor do I intend to hold my breath for the numbers in the parliamentary Labour Party with such sound socialist convictions. 

But let's try. Let's show them up, and more importantly in the process also show ordinary people that politics doesn't have to be a dirty game of private gain and unprincipled self-seeking.  

Idealism is Alive and Well

Idealism is alive and kicking back outside parliament. Let's help build the forces that will send principled socialists into the lions' den in the near future, fighting for decent living incomes for all, including MPs/MSPs, putting an end to the obscene gap between those elected to represent policies and principles and those who elected them.

Sign the Petition. Express your fury. Tell the MPs to get their snouts out of the trough. And join the crusade to cleanse the pigsty by helping to get socialist MSPs elected who will remain on the wage of a skilled worker, not the ill-gotten fortune of a skilled careerist. 

Please sign the Petition.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

SHAPE SCOTLAND'S FUTURE FOR WORKERS' RIGHTS

The SNP government's White Paper on 'Scotland's Future' contains many welcome reforms, and certainly represents a massive step forward from the jail-house conditions working class people currently endure. But a Freedom Charter for workers it is not.



Many of the measures pledged by an aspiring SNP government in an independent Scotland would substantially boost the living standards of Scottish workers and their families. Abolition of the bedroom tax, calling a halt to the dreaded Universal Credit scheme, scrapping of Trident - such plans would halt attacks on the poorest, and potentially release a fortune for spending on jobs, public services and people's incomes that is currently squandered on devilish weapons of mass destruction.

The headline-grabbing promise of free childcare of 30 hours a week during term time for all 3- and 4-year-olds and vulnerable 2-year-olds is a powerfully welcome key to many, many women (and some men) being able to realistically choose to work - provided of course the jobs were created.



Promises of a Youth Guarantee of either education, training or employment as a constitutional right for all aged under 24 is in stark, glittering contrast to the wasted generation under Westminster rule, and is indeed something socialists have demanded for years - again, provided we fight to ensure it is based on provision of a living income or student grant and is not a device exploited by employers to displace unionized, older workers with cheap youth labour.

Renationalisation of Royal Mail has been welcomed not just by Communication Workers' Union members but workers in general, as a means to reverse profiteering and service cuts at the hands of the privateers.

WIN OVER WORKERS

With 630,000 workers organised in trade unions - and probably at least as many again willing to join but terrified of victimization, job losses and blacklisting if they openly joined a union - the White Paper was a golden opportunity to enlist the support of the working class majority population of Scotland. But for those hesitating, or even being dragooned into the No camp by the scurrilous Fear Factory that is Better Together and their offshoot United with Labour, a bold, striking vision of a markedly different future under independence is the necessary method of persuasion. 


Again, measured against what we suffer now under Westminster's rule by and for the millionaires, the SNP's prospectus is progress. But nothing like the advances the likes of the SSP or the broad-based Trade Unionists for Independence are striving for.

Labour's Social Contract provoked strikes‏

NO VOTE MEANS NO RIGHTS AT WORK

What do we face as a future if a No vote is cast next September? 

The UK already boasts the infamy of some of the lowest pay, longest working hours, shortest holiday entitlement and most savage anti-trade union laws in the western capitalist world. And things can only get worse! 

The Tory-LibDem boot-boys have slapped prohibitive fees on Employment Tribunal cases, pricing workers out of any measure of justice. They are hammering the right of union reps to function and represent members in the civil service. London's Tory Mayor Boris Johnston, an obnoxious reactionary disguised as a boisterous buffoon, has pioneered a drive towards banning the right to strike in the public sector, and for a 'review' of union balloting laws on industrial action whereby those members who abstain would be counted as voting against any proposed collective action. And as well as ushering in further cuts to the block grant to Scotland from Westminster, a No vote would embolden the Old Etonians to lay waste to what little workplace rights remain. 

So trade unionists don't even face a choice between the status quo and independence, but between a further clawing back of gains won by past generations of trade unionists and socialists in struggle - or a chance to improve our lot as workers by voting for the right to get whatever government the Scottish people elect!

Irish Social Partnership increased inequality



TIMID STEPS FORWARD

The White Paper rightly states that under Devolution, "the Scottish government is responsible for training the present and future workforce, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need, but has no say in how they are treated once they are in a job." 

It makes the welcome pledge that an SNP government with the full powers that independence provides would "reverse recent changes introduced at Westminster which reduce key aspects of workers rights. For example, on independence we will restore a 90-day consultation period on redundancies affecting 100 or more employees." 

Likewise they will abolish the 'shares for rights' scheme recently initiated by the Coalition, bribing workers into surrendering fundamental redundancy and unfair dismissal rights, etc, for a few non-voting company shares.

Welcome promises, but very timid. Not a word about scrapping the bulging package of anti-union laws ushered in by Thatchers Tories in the 1980s, retained by Blair and Browns Labour regimes, brutally added to by the current Thatcherites - both Tory and LibDem!

No mention of the guaranteed right to be in a union, the right to strike without fear of victimization,  the right to take solidarity action with fellow workers.

No sign of Worker Director at First Scotrail RMT strike in 2010!



WORKING WITH THE UNIONS

In sharp contrast to the vilification of trade unions offered by the Better Together parties, 'Scotland's Future' sets as its priority "working directly with the trade unions, employers' associations, employers and voluntary sector to build a partnership approach to addressing labour market challenges". 

The Paper goes on to promise "particular focus on encouraging wider trade union participation and recognition of the positive role that can be played by collective bargaining in improving labour market conditions."

The central proposals on offer from the SNP are the formation of a National Convention on Employment and Labour Relations, involving employers and trade unions, and a subsidiary Fair Work Commission.
The latter "will deliver the mechanisms for uprating the national minimum wage", with the "guarantee that it will rise, at the very least, in line with inflation, to ensure work is a route out of poverty".

LIVING MINIMUM WAGE

Considering the UK minimum wage has lagged inflation for years, leaving workers at least £675 worse off than if it had tracked price rises for the past 5 years, this is better than the No campaign can offer hundreds of thousands of workers. 

But it is miserably timid, with no pledge nor proposal for a guaranteed living level of minimum wage, legally enforced.  

Matching inflation but starting with the current £6.19 an hour for those over 21 - and the White Paper is silent on the lower youth rate - would certainly not be 'a route out of poverty'. 

The SNP swear their allegiance to the Living Wage Campaign, and are right now funding a Poverty Alliance Accreditation Scheme - seeking to persuade employers to pay at least £7.45 an hour. 400,000 Scottish workers earn less than this. But again this is not a legally enforced government figure, merely an aim that they seek to cajole employers into paying, based on the core faith the SNP has in businesses big, medium and small.

SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP

These proposed structures are founded on a central philosophy of 'social partnership' between employers, trade unions and government. 

The SNP even raises the idea of worker directors - imitating the actions of 14 out of the 28 EU states where workers have some form or other of representation on company boards. They advocate "employee representation to bolster longterm decision-making and improve industrial relations". 

Given the way workers' trade unions have been cast out into an industrial Siberia the last 30 years, frozen out of important discussions, with dictatorial management all too common, this is a very seductive prospectus. But it is strewn with pitfalls and lethal traps. 

CLASH OF INTERESTS

Of course, elected union representatives having direct access to discussions on their employers' plans would be a massive advantage compared to, for instance, the capitalist dictatorship on display by INEOS boss Jim Ratcliffe at Grangemouth. Access to secret company accounts would help unions restrict the shenanigans of employers.

But the problems arise because the interests of workers and those of their capitalist private employers clash; in essence there's a conflict over who gets the bigger share of the wealth produced, whether in wages and conditions for the workforce, or profits and dividends for the big shareholders. 

WORKER DIRECTORS?

Social partnership amounts to the partnership of the rider and the horse - not two people with common interests, equals.

In many cases worker directors are gagged from speaking out on company secrets, or at the very least bound by the decisions the majority on the board. That seems to be the situation already in the NHS.
The SNP White Paper lauds First Group as a local example of their model for the future, mentioning the transport giant has had a worker director since it was set up in 1989. That begs the question: where was this 'workers' voice' when First Scotrail launched its savage assault on rail workers a few years ago - when in fact it was uncovered that the SNP government had secretly agreed to subsidise the company for any losses they incurred through strike action by the RMT union? Is that what social partnership entails?

TOKEN PARTICIPATION

In some retail companies, committees exist with handpicked workers on them, partly in an attempt to bypass the collective union and it's elected stewards, partly to pass down the message of top management to the shop floor, disguised as the 'decisions' of these workers on the carefully moulded committee. Despite all the window dressing, this is an attempt to undermine, not enhance, the collective bargaining of organised workers.

INDEPENDENT TRADE UNIONS

The proposed Convention is of course a welcome arena for the unions to independently advocate  measures that meet the needs of their members - ranging from advocating a formula for a living level of legally enforced national minimum wage for all over 16, to a charter of workplace rights. 

Scotland's trade unions should welcome the Convention, and use it to put forward the views of independent trade unions. But they need to thoroughly discuss the lessons of experience here and abroad when it comes to so-called social partnership and 'worker directors'.

SOCIAL CON-TRICK
Back in the 1974-79 Labour government, something very similar was implemented, named the Social Contract, initially popular with some of the lower paid who won wage rises in the first phase, but bitterly nicknamed the Social Con-trick in the following years - until it was smashed on the rocks of workers' strike action in 1978-9. 

The core problem was that the government could control (i.e. hold down!) wages, but they couldn't control prices in a capitalist economy, leading to rip-roaring inflation and a collapse in workers' real wages. 

Union leaders who were the architects of this earlier edition of 'social partnership' were discredited, workers confused, Labour defeated, and Thatcher elected by default!

IRISH SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP

More recently, workers in the South of Ireland have been hamstrung and made to pay the price of horrendous capitalist crisis because their national union leaders sold them a pup - successive National Agreements that allegedly ensured bosses and workers were 'all in it together', which drastically hampered their ability to fight back collectively and defend living standards.

WORKERS' CONTROL

Of course, in all probability an independent SOCIALIST Scotland would include properly elected workers' representatives on workplace committees, to control day-to-day operations, and a working class majority elected onto boards of publicly owned industries, services and cooperatives. But that is a far cry from what is on offer from this White Paper, which is rooted in the open continuation of privately owned capitalist enterprises, which in fact are promised cuts of up to 3 per cent in Corporation Tax.

THE ONLY WAY IS YES!

Trade unions and their members cannot afford to be neutral on the Referendum. We have far too much to lose if we don't help win a majority for independence. More wage cuts. Even worse assaults on services. Catastrophic removal of the remaining rights we have at work. And all of these regardless of what colour of rosette the capitalist Prime Minister in Westminster wears.

SEIZE THE MOMENT - SHAPE THE FUTURE

The SNP government's White Paper is one version of independence, but only one. It says itself, "Each of Scotland's political parties will bring forward policy proposals at the future election to an Independent Scottish parliament." 

Absolutely. And the duty of trade unions, as the biggest single collective body in Scotland, is to seize the unique opportunity offered by national self-government, and combine with socialists to carve out a future that goes far beyond the vision painted in this White Paper. 

Fight for public ownership of key sectors like energy, North Sea oil and gas, the banks and industrial giants - with new forms of democratic control and management by working class people that go way beyond a few token 'worker directors'. 

With socialist change we could build a genuine social partnership. 

This White Paper is a very substantial improvement on what we have in the capitalist UK; it is pale and timid compared to what socialists and the trade union movement need to campaign for on the road to a Scottish workers' republic.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Just back from chairing superb, lively, passionate Trade Unionists For Independence public meeting in Glasgow

Text message I sent to TUFI and SSP volunteers...

Members of huge breadth of unions - GMB, USDAW, UNITE, PCS, CWU, UNISON, RMT, ASLEF, FBU, NUJ, EIS - and several branches of many. Ranged from young shop stewards in charge of their union website and conveners & reps for workers in front line of assaults by todays government of and for the millionaires - to an ex-miner and a veteran of victorious 1971 UCS shipyards occupation. Passionate speeches.

Clear, hardhitting arguments on the workers' case for independence, and determined plans to go back to workplaces to shape our future.

People left more equipped to convince fellow workers, more confident to challenge those union leaders who've imposed a NO position on their unions, more united across party boundaries in favour of a Scotland for the millions, not the millionaires.

Richie Venton, TUFI & SSP

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Peaceful protest over local Labour Party failure to turn up for Bedroom Tax vote

PRESS RELEASE - for IMMEDIATE use

Scottish Socialist Party initiate Peaceful Protest at Labour Deputy Leader's Shameful Failure to vote for Bedroom Tax Abolition

Friday 15th November 3pm onwards At Anas Sarwar's Office, 9 Scotland St, Glasgow

The Scottish Socialist Party is appealing to all those who detest the Bedroom Tax to join a peaceful protest outside Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar's office, to express their disgust at his failure to attend the debate in Westminster on Tuesday and vote for the abolition of the tax.

The protest has been initiated by SSP candidate in the Glasgow Shettleston Council by-election, TOMMY BALL - a constituent of Mr Sarwar's.

Tommy said:" Anas Sarwar recently made great play of how Labour would abolish the Bedroom Tax if they were elected in two year's time.

But he couldn't even bother to turn up at his extremely well-paid work on Tuesday to vote for the Motion to abolish this vicious attack on the poorest - even though the Motion was proposed by his own Labour party! Since then he has blocked all attempts by constituents - including myself - to contact him for an explanation of why he and 46 other Labour MPs boycotted such a critical vote, whether by phone calls, Twitter or Facebook. So we feel we have no other choice but to demand a face-to-face explanation at his office. And that is even more important after a woman was evicted today in Glasgow - where the Labour council has refused to declare a ban on evictions in the city they rule."

SSP regional organiser, and prominent anti-bedroom tax campaigner RICHIE VENTON added:

"For a year Labour has done absolutely nothing to resist and defeat this obnoxious theft of incomes from the poorest, and in fact said they would retain it under a Labour government. Belatedly, in mid-September, Ed Miliband declared they would scrap it if elected in 2015. I immediately initiated an ePetition demanding Miliband act now, not some time after 2015, and the SSP warmly welcomed the subsequent Motion put by Labour on Tuesday. That makes it all the more shameful that 47 Labour MPs didn't think it important enough to attend and vote for their own Motion - including 10 out of 40 Scottish Labour MPs. We expect spineless treachery and obedience to their Tory masters from the LibDem MPs, who ignored their own party conference wishes and voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. But if anything, the absence of the Treacherous Ten from Scottish Labour was even more reprehensible, since they 'represent' the very people hammered by this vicious measure - as today's Citizens Advice Scotland Report confirms, the poorest, chronically sick, disabled, low-paid workers, single parents. Their treachery cannot pass in silence."

END

For more info Tweet Tommy Ball on @tommy_ball or @the_ssp_

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

NATIONALISE AND DIVERSIFY TO SAVE OUR SHIPYARDS

Within minutes of BAE Systems announcing the savage loss of nearly 1,800 shipyard jobs on 6 November - 800 in Govan, Scotstoun and Rosyth, plus 940 with the complete end to shipbuilding in Portsmouth in 2014 - I was asked to text a reaction for the SSP website. My extremely condensed message was:
"Tories shut Portsmouth to stop us voting Yes. Labour's Ian Davidson wants work switched south if we vote Yes! Both holding workers hostage. UK capitalist rule equals devastation for 1800 shipyard workers. Need nationalisation and diversification of work b4 it's too late, to save ALL jobs."


Despite all the constraints of a text message, I still stand by that message today.

CATASTROPHE


Since the announcement, some commentators talk as if the loss of 800 jobs in unemployment-scarred Glasgow and Fife is some kind of success story - because the Scottish yards avoided closure, unlike Portsmouth. These columnists and politicians presumably have never lived through the devastating turmoil for families facing redundancy - especially against a background of compulsory unpaid work or insecure low-paid and part-time jobs being all that's on offer to most of the unemployed.
This announcement is catastrophic for working class communities, who for several generations sweated profits for shipbuilding and shipping magnates.

Down in Portsmouth, bitter fury was vented at the closure - although the town will remain the centre of BAE's maritime services, equipment, and combat systems business, with the 11,000 remaining workers servicing the bulk of the Royal Navy fleet. Some of the fury was directed northwards, with the accusation that Portsmouth was 'sold down the river' to sweeten Scotland against voting for independence next year.

CASH & CONSTITUTION



As subsequent comments from BAE bosses, government and the naval high command have revealed, this was a devastating cocktail of naked cash calculation mixed in with a dose of cynical political calculation.
The detailed allocation of the jobs massacre was designed not only to divide and conquer workers, but also help hold what remains of the British state together. It was meant to make Scottish shipbuilders and surrounding communities feel relieved it wasn't their yards that are to close - allegedly the benefit of staying in the UK, when in fact almost equal numbers of jobs are to be slaughtered north and south of the border.
BAE bosses, since privatization of the yards, have grabbed a virtual monopoly over the remnants of an industry that has been starved of investment and modernization for several decades, as successive Tory and Labour capitalist governments bowed to the demands of the banking class of parasites, rather than develop an industrial strategy, making the yards uncompetitive in the global war for markets and profits. 




Both the BAE butchers and military top brass have openly stated their decisions are based on where they stand to get the best profit! As Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton put it, "We go and get our ships in the place where it makes most sense for the British taxpayer in terms of getting the right capability for the armed forces."

He added, "The UK government and BAE Systems made clear its decision this week was based on the fact Glasgow is the most effective location for the manufacture of the future [13] Type 26 frigates."

BETTER TOGETHER TAKE HOSTAGES

But in case anyone falls for the brutal line of blackmail - punted both by Labour MP Ian Davidson and new LibDem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael - that provided Scotland votes NO to self-government and remains hitched to Westminster then jobs on the Clyde will remain safe, ponder the fact Westminster is currently in high level talks with the Indian government about the possibility of them building the same Type 26s. Physically in India, purely because it would provide dirt-cheap labour. 

Gone is all the guff about having to build military vessels within the UK itself (or in the rUK if we vote for Scottish independence) for protection of British military secrets - one of the several lies these same people have peddled as a scare story against independence.

And what an affront to democracy and to the livelihoods of workers: Labour politicians and Labour loyalists in the likes of the GMB union are arguing for a 'break-clause' that means the work on the T-26s would be taken off Govan and Scotstoun and transferred to English yards if we dare to assert our right to rule ourselves by voting YES. 




An unholy alliance of Tory Ministers, the MoD and BAE bosses massacred workers in Portsmouth partly to try and crush the demand for Scottish independence - and now they are aided and abetted by Labour MPs like Davidson and the GMB convener in Scotstoun with their blackmailing threats of 'vote NO or lose your job'. Shipyard workers truly have been taken as hostages, and the ransom demanded is that the rest of Scotland votes NO or thousands of jobs will die.

WESTMINSTER BUTCHERY

It is complete nonsense on several counts. Even the Tories, BAE bosses and military chiefs have to admit they are attracted by the skills levels and costs on offer on the Clyde. But if we all cave in to the blackmail and vote NO, supposedly to save Clydeside jobs, there is nothing to stop the government placing orders in India, or elsewhere. 

As to closing the Clyde yards and moving work south in the event of a Yes vote, which particular English yards will they take out of 'mothballs', and at what exorbitant cost?

On the other hand, what is to stop BAE (or a government of the rUK) placing orders with yards in an independent Scotland, when for instance they're already cooperating with Australia to design these T-26s?!
It's a bit rich, to put it mildly, for Ian Davidson, Better Together and their Mini Me offshoot 'United with Labour' to spout scaremongering doomsday warnings that unless we keep Westminster rule we face the loss of shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde, when the same Westminster Ministry of Defence - BAE's only customer for building warships - is slashing 800 jobs on the Clyde!

UNITY

Workers across all shipyards need to develop a united strategy to save ALL jobs, not falling for blackmail, lies and threats designed to divide them and turn their gaze away from the root causes of this latest in a long line of devastating crises.



The root causes include decades of underinvestment and utter failure to build or retain a manufacturing base. Cheap labour in developing capitalist nations like South Korea or China might attract capitalist shareholders as a source of a fast buck, but countries with far higher wages than the UK have far stronger shipbuilding industries, simply because they've invested in them. Norway, similar in size to Scotland, has 42 shipyards, and built 100 ships last year - with far better wages than here.

DIVERSIFY PRODUCTION

To seriously fight for every job, unions also need to challenge the toxic dependence of the industry on the war machine - the military industrial complex. The drop in orders for warships, in part due to changes in the modes of modern warfare, inevitably threatens jobs and livelihoods if that's all the yards depend on. But there's plenty of scope for other use of the skills of shipyard workers, and indeed expansion of jobs, apprenticeships and skills. 

Thirty years ago, back in 1987, when the Barrow-on-Furness Vickers shipyard faced devastation on not getting the contract to build Trident nuclear submarines, the shop stewards combined with other local trade unionists to form the Barrow Alternative Employment Committee. They produced an expert Report, entitled 'Oceans of Work', showing how the workers' skills and the available existing technology could be diversified away from weapons-construction to exciting new work to harness tidal and offshore wind power energy systems. And that was long before today's widespread acceptance of the need for investment in renewables to combat fuel poverty, pollution and the havoc of climate change.

PUBLIC OWNERSHIP

But just as with the scandalous holding of Scotland to ransom by gangster capitalist Jim Ratcliffe, one-man dictator at Grangemouth, so too the shipyard crisis confirms the old socialist adage that 'you can't control what you don't own'. Rather than squabble and divide over the jobs that remain, courtesy the capitalist shareholders of BAE Systems, the shipyard unions need to mount a serious fight for re-nationalisation of the yards, and the wider shipping industry too. 

But not the old bureaucratic form of nationalisation: one where committees of workers' elected representatives and appropriate specialists are tasked with devising an alternative plan of production, building on existing skills and technology, but shifting production from destroyers to constructive, socially useful and peaceful purposes - including building equipment for a publicly owned renewable energy sector. Building for the merchant navy, and ferries for an integrated free public transport system, would seem other likely means of retaining jobs and producing for social need.

So this is not just a constitutional issue. The future of jobs north and south of the border depends on workers' unions uniting in action, but also rising to the challenge to fight for new forms of democratic public ownership, with massive investment in the likes of renewable energy. We can't rely on capitalist firms nor pro-capitalist governments to meet that challenge. For instance, for every £1 of government funding for research and development on green energy, £34 is squandered on the equivalent R&D for military work.

SOCIALIST CHALLENGE

The abominable role of the Tory/LibDem Coalition is entirely predictable. The role of Labour on this has been even more treacherous, given the £millions poured into their coffers by shipyard workers' unions. They've combined spineless failure to raise any coherent alternative to savage job losses, with shameful blackmail, using shipyard workers and their communities as hostages to save their beloved United Kingdom, ignoring the brutal fact that the same UK and its profit-crazed military-industrial overlords are the ones plunging the knife.

The SNP's attachment to capitalism, to the interests of multinational profiteering over people and planet, hamstrings them from advocating public ownership and diversification of the industry.
That political task is left to the socialists of the SSP; we will not shirk in our duty to argue this case in the trade unions and beyond, as the only realistic foundations for saving jobs, skills, young people's futures, and indeed as a contribution to the health of the planet itself.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

URGENT: The Bedroom Tax Could be Abolished Next Week!

- pile on the pressure on your local MPs.

How often have you faced the comments "Do you think it will do any good?" or "What's the point in protesting, it never changes anything?", as you organise a street petition, or hold a street protest, or march for a cause?

Those in power rely on the corrosive acid of pessimism and defeatism, the despair that too many people have been driven into by corrupt, self-serving politicians who do their damnedest not to listen when the voices raised are inconvenient.

And for the past year, you'd be forgiven for sliding into defeatism when it comes to the vile Bedroom Tax.

This punitive assault on the sick, disabled and poor was in reality invented by Labour in government, when they introduced a diluted version called Local Housing Allowance in the private rented sector.

Don't forget that when you read the later news in this article.Then the unelected millionaires' bootboys - the Tory-LibDem Coalition - devised an even more devilish version for social sector housing tenants in receipt of housing benefit: the Bedroom Tax.

Labour MPs did little or nothing to oppose it, and literally nothing to mount a serious challenge to it in the communities, on the streets or through housing workers' trade unions (who all fill Labour's coffers with members' money through their Labour affiliation!).

For all the months of 2013, up to and including September, Labour leaders fobbed off questions about their intentions if elected in 2015 with guff about 'needing to cost its abolition before making a commitment to a future manifesto' - except when they openly admitted they would keep the Bedroom Tax under a Laour government! Don't forget that as you read on.Labour councillors voted down motions to outlaw evictions. Labour-run councils like North Lanarkshire issued real eviction notices to a severely disabled mother of three kids. Last week, Labour councillors in South Ayrshire joined in coalition with the Tories and not only issued letters with threats of eviction, but also with threats of taking the children off parents who've fallen into arrears! These vicious would-be child-snatchers give concrete meaning to the expression 'a return to Victorian times'.

Don't forget that's part of Labour's living track record as you read the rest of this account.But Labour politicians are shameless in their opportunism, as I've previously extensively described in the blog 'Signposts and Weathervanes'. They spin round under the gales of public opinion if they think it will win votes, provided it doesn't to totally challenge the rule of the capitalist system they are married to. 

At Labour's annual vote-fest, aka national conference, Ed Miliband didn't even draw breath as he spun round on his own axis to pledge a future Labour government would abolish the bedroom tax. What a mighty collective sigh of relief followed from the 660,000 households hammered by this vicious theft of benefits. Until they realized that it depended on Labour being elected - and that it meant at least 25 consecutive, torturous months of being expected to fork out money they don't have before the next Westminster elections occur, plus however long it took Labour to keep their promise (always assuming they did).

So a few days after his speech promising future salvation, I lodged an online Petition demanding Miliband move NOW - not some time after 2015 - by putting an Emergency Motion to the Westminster parliament for IMMEDIATE abolition of the Bedroom Tax. We did this on the basis also that the UK LibDem conference in Glasgow, pounded by protesters, had savaged the tax their MPs imposed in unison with their Tory partners.

The ePetition unleashed the fury of 3,000 people within a short time, many of them posting comments that would make your blood boil in anger at the impact of this measure.Now, under this pressure, Labour has lodged a Motion to abolish the Bedroom Tax for debate this Tuesday 12th November!

So I appeal to you to act swiftly - with another push we might even get this brutal measure abolished next week!

If you've not already signed the ePetition please do so NOW;

go to change.org and in the search box type 'bedroom tax Miliband'.

Urgently contact a few family members or friends, explain, and ask them to sign it TODAY.

And send an email to local MPs, no matter which party they're in, demanding they vote for Abolition of the Bedroom Tax on 12th November.

You can find the link to them either through TheyWorkForYou.com or WriteToThem.com.

Organised pressure works!

Don't relent - NOW is the time to pile on the pressure. The potential prize is massive. And it doesn't mean you have to stop seeing through the opportunist chancers; just remember their track record as well as demanding they listen for once.

Keep up the #bedroomtax pressure!

Congratulations! But please keep piling on the pressure!

All of you who signed my Petition demanding Ed Miliband move an immediate Motion to Abolish the vile Bedroom Tax NOW have had an impact. Labour is proposing a similar Motion in parliament this coming Tuesday 12th November! 

But don't give up applying the pressure - NOW is the time to pile it on, to try and persuade enough MPs of various parties to vote to end this punishment of the poorest, including disabled people.

- PLEASE ask a few friends or acquaintances to sign it TODAY - before the vote on Tuesday - it could make all the difference. Tell them how we forced this vote to happen in the first place!

- PLEASE send another email to your local MPs spelling out why they must vote to scrap it on Tuesday - you can contact them via either TheyWorkForYou.com or WriteToThem.com

Keep up the pressure - we can win! 

Yours in unity, 

Richie Venton 

Sign the petition "Ed Miliband, leader of UK Labour Party: Present Emergency Motion in Parliament to Abolish the Bedroom Tax - NOW, not after 2015!"

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Text message...

I just sent this text message to TUFI and SSP comrades...

"On train back from Aberdeen, after debating referendum at very well attended meeting of postal workers - CWU members - against local Labour MSP Richard Baker, member of Better Together Board. Very passionate, lively and sharp but respectful debate, with the socialist & trade union case for Indy winning a lot of support amongst posties. No vote taken, part of ongoing CWU consultation, but tremendous warmth for what I had to say on behalf of Yes (and SSP). Much nodding of heads, and handshakes at the end. Came out to find a text saying SPOA declared for Indy. Onwards, trade unionists for independence! Richie Venton"

Saturday, 26 October 2013

'THIS IS THE MODERN WORLD'...

SCOTLAND HELD TO RANSOM BY A CAPITALIST DICTATOR


"Relief" is the most widespread feeling after the eleventh-hour reversal of the closure of the Grangemouth petrochemical plant on Friday 25 October.

Relief for the 800 workers directly facing unemployment without even an enhanced redundancy package 48 hours earlier, when INEOS bosses declared its closure and handover to the liquidators. 

Relief for the 550 workers at the neighbouring oil refinery, which had remained on cold shutdown, with the real threat of it not surviving the liquidation of the petrochemical operation, given their interdependence. 

At least some partial relief, mixed with continued uncertainty about their job prospects, for 2,000 contract workers at Scotland's biggest industrial site - some of whom were already laid off by the INEOS bosses' lockout. 

And relief across the working class of Scotland that such a pivotal employer and economic 'powerhouse' - to use the phrase of UNITE's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty - is not closing down after all, with all the devastation, poverty and social destitution such an act of shameless economic vandalism threatened.

RELIEF - BUT SERIOUS SETBACKS

But whilst having some kind of job is better than having no job at all, and much-reduced wages and conditions is preferable to having no wages, the outcome of the Grangemouth showdown should not be dressed up as anything other than a serious setback, a defeat for trade unionists - and not only those in the eye of the storm at Grangemouth alone. Not a defeat on the scale, for instance, of the heroic miners' strike of 1984-5, but a serious setback nevertheless.

In order to reverse the closure announcement on Wednesday, by Thursday night the UNITE union leadership offered complete acceptance of the savage cuts to conditions which INEOS had demanded - with a rocket-launcher held to the heads of the workers - over the previous week. 

This includes a three year pay freeze; an end to Final Salary Pensions (euphemistically called 'a move to modern pensions'); savage cuts to shift allowances and bonuses amounting to losses of £10-15,000 per worker; drastically reduced redundancy terms; removal of trade union facilities, including an end to full-time union conveners; unspecified 'head count reductions' (job losses to you and me); and a three-year no strike agreement.



ANTI-TRADE UNION FRENZY

In the 24 hours since this package of vast concessions by the workers - plus the concession of £9m in grants from the Scottish government and £125m in loan guarantees from the UK government to a tax-dodging multinational - big chunks of the media and commentariat have launched a festival of lies and vitriol against trade unions. 

They bury the facts and the real sequence of events to tell a fairytale of UNITE the union bringing the workforce and the entire economy to the edge of the abyss. These hired liars of the capitalist media either have short memories, or are blinded by their prejudices against any set of workers who dare to resist the slaughter of their livelihoods by multi-billionaires like Jim Ratcliffe, whose personal yacht alone is worth £130m. 

It doesn't occur to any of these overpaid hacks to ask why £134m of taxpayers' money should be handed over to a gangster capitalist who could get almost exactly that same sum if he sold his super-yacht!


IMPOSSIBLE CHOICES

The phrase "caught between the devil and the deep blue sea" doesn't even begin to hint at the heartbreaking choices imposed on Grangemouth workers, their families and communities in recent days. 

Choices imposed by the one-man dictatorship of tax-dodging Jim Ratcliffe, majority shareholder of INEOS, owner of Scotland's biggest industrial complex and the only oil refinery in oil-rich Scotland.

A choice between the death of entire communities through closure of the petrochemical plant - and in all probability the rapid knock-on closure of the oil refinery - with the loss of thousands of jobs, or slow agonizing crucifixion through the package of concessions the workers were bullied and blackmailed into giving.

Ratcliffe played the cavalier industrial thug, and ultimately got away with it. As explained in an earlier blog, he planned consciously with his cohorts back in March to provoke and defeat a strike - which he marked into the calendar for November! - as a means of decapitating the workers' union, decimating the workers' wages and conditions, and to blackmail £150million out of governments to shore up INEOS investment plans.

FRACKING MAYHEM

This investment plan is largely focussed on the import of shale gas ethane from the USA, where the destructive fracking industry is laying waste to whole communities and the environment. Fracking is something which the Westminster Coalition is likewise devoted to, with recent announcements of tax breaks for fracking fortune-hunting corporations, and the crude, outrageous suggestion by Tory Lord Howell (George Osborne's father-in-law) about the scope for fracking in "desolate areas like the North East of England"! 

And all that in the wake of the recent G8 summit held in my native County Fermanagh, where plans to frack in pursuit of profit threatens to not only wreck the natural beauty of Fermanagh's Lakelands, but infest the local environment with a range of poisonous byproducts - decimating local jobs in tourism and agriculture in the process. 

So the accusation by Grangemouth's local MP Michael Connarty of collusion between the Westminster government and Ratcliffe's INEOS is not wide of the mark.

INDUSTRIAL VANDALISM

In the past week, Grangemouth workers went through a stomach-churning series of twists and turns. They were provoked into voting to defend union convener Stevie Deans from victimization, with an initial 48 our strike, due to have happened on 20-21 October.

On discovering proof this was a long-planned provocation, the union canceled the strike. Ratcliffe took this as a signal of weakness, which invited his increased aggression, issuing 'sign or be sacked' forms to every worker at their home address, deliberately bypassing the recognized union, UNITE.

COURAGE & DEVASTATION

To their eternal credit, over 680 of the 1,000 union members at the site returned the forms unsigned to their trade union; a powerful display of courage, union loyalty and solidarity, a mandate for resistance to the butchers' assault on terms and conditions. 

The ball was back in Ratcliffe's court. In a high risk countermove - given the phenomenal importance of the site to the economy and as a source of profit for INEOS - Ratcliffe shut down the petrochemical plant, liquidating it. The workers and entire community, indeed the whole of Scotland, were thrown into a state of shock and devastation.

Now what to do? Nobody with any experience as a trade union activist or shop steward would envy the horrendous situation facing the 60-strong shop stewards organisation at Grangemouth. They must have agonized over how best to fulfil their responsibility towards the men and women who elected them, whose entire lives were thrown into meltdown by Ratcliffe's brutal, unhesitating vandalism.

REPRESSIVE ANTI-UNION LAWS

In past days, the pivotal economic position of the site would have given trade unionists an almost invincible weapon in the form of solidarity action by workers at both ends of the production process - ranging from the pipeline into Grangemouth from the Forties oilfield, to the supplies of the overwhelming majority of fuel to Scotland, N Ireland and northern England, and the production of about 30% of Britain's needs of ethylene and similar materials.

But 30 years since Thatcher constructed the most repressive battery of anti-union laws in Europe, which 13 years of Labour governments retained in full, workers and their union leaderships were immediately confronted by a harsh choice: convince members to defy the anti-union laws and take decisive, appropriate forms of industrial action in defense of a vital enterprise and the communities dependent on it - or be hamstrung and paralyzed, beating a hasty retreat in the face of Ratcliffe's onslaught.

UCS OCCUPATION

In the situation where a venture capitalist with absolutely no pretense of social responsibility to society - or to the skilled workforce that helped produce INEOS's £2billion in profit last year alone - had declared closure, permanent closure, a strike was not an appropriate tactical option. 

A more timely option would have been occupation of the site, to halt asset-stripping, and to use workers' control of the vast assets to mount a mass campaign for public ownership to save the jobs, conditions and enormous contribution to the national economy. 

It is an unfortunate irony that just a few days before UNITE general secretary Len McLuskey led the union delegation to offer wholesale acceptance of INEOS's brutal package, he had addressed the annual Jimmy Reid Foundation event with eloquent tribute to the inspiration to workers far and wide when Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was occupied by the workers to halt closures in 1971 - successfully. The spirit and lessons of UCS could have been an invaluable guide to the national UNITE leadership in the Grangemouth struggle for survival.

DEFIANCE 

It would be irresponsible sectarianism to criticise the Grangemoth shop stewards or UNITE members who faced such horrendous dilemmas, especially in the context of the anti-union laws designed to neuter collective action. They showed great courage in a horrendous situation.

But the trade union movement as a whole needs to ponder the questions raised. How are we ever going to resist butchery by billionaire multinationals if the unions simply obey these laws? 

When are major unions going to take action in defiance of the anti-union laws, after thorough explanation and preparation of the members, and then build and demand solidarity from the wider trade union movement and working class communities?

THIS IS THE MODERN (CAPITALIST) WORLD

As they announced their gracious decision to accept £134m off the taxpayer, and appalling reductions in the incomes and workplace rights of Grangemouth workers, INEOS bosses and their media sycophants made much noise about 'modern pension schemes', 'modern industrial relations', and 'accepting change in the modern world'. 

In the words of the mighty Paul Weller, "This is the modern world":


Capitalism in the modern world involves systematic lies about the 'financial distress' of the Grangemouth wing of INEOS's 51 manufacturing plants. Ratcliffe told us it makes a loss of £10m a month - although the annual figure pumped out by INEOS varied vastly with each new press release.

In fact the financial experts hired by UNITE proved that Grangemouth petrochemicals made them £7m profit last year, and £6m the year before. They found INEOS's own accounts forecast profits of £500m from Grangemouth by 2017.



BILLIONAIRE BULLY BLACKMAILS SCOTLAND

And just to underline the lies used to stampede workers into thinking the place was 'worthless' (their word) and in need of a bounty from the government and the workforce to survive, Ratcliffe has declared to the world that Grangemouth now has a bright future for "the next 20 to 25 years".

Capitalism 'in the modern world' means it is in the gift of one man - a Swiss-based tax exile - to close down the only oil refinery in oil-rich Scotland; the power to obliterate an industrial site that produces at least £1billion a year towards the Scottish economy.

This is the modern world - one man lies, blackmails and bullies not only thousands of workers whose jobs depend on the place he owns, but holds the elected government of Scotland to ransom, demanding public subsidies for his private profiteering.

NATIONALISATION BACK ON THE AGENDA

But there is something positive stirring in the minds of many ordinary people 'in this modern world', for the first time in years: the attraction to the idea of public ownership of vital national assets and public services.
The dictatorship of capital - in the form of one capitalist in this instance - has been revealed to millions in the past week, and reviled by most of them.

Added to Grangemouth, people are furious at the wider energy cartel, where the 'Big Six' suppliers of household energy carefully coordinate their crucifying 8-11% price increases just as the clocks go back for the winter months. The idea and demand for public ownership of energy is growing exponentially.

Likewise, the planned privatization of east coast railways, after its nationalisation led to over £200m being gifted to the government Treasury this year, infuriates people facing mounting fares and adds another strand to the attraction of public ownership.

ALTERNATIVE OWNERSHIP

When Ratcliffe and his cronies threatened the very existence of Grangemouth, the SNP government (in stark contrast to the Westmonster Coalition) quite rightly started to search for alternative ownership. How the hell could there be any justification in leaving the priceless assets, capital and workers' skills in the hands of JR and his capitalist vandals?

But why on earth did the SNP scour the globe - including China in particular - in search of a new owner? The answer was under their own nose: the Scottish government should have nationalized it, taking the assets off an outfit hellbent on rule or ruin. And they should have ushered in a new, democratic form of management, embracing the skills and expertise of workers' elected representatives, as well as the national government and appropriate scientists and experts.

Neither the SNP nor Labour openly or forcefully raised this blatantly obvious option - although individual MPs, MSPs and government ministers made some mild references to it.

And if the limited powers under devolution make that impossible (although Prestwick Airport's takeover by the Scottish government at least questions this), then surely combining support for nationalisation with the case for full-blown self-government under independence becomes all the more potent as an alternative?

UNITE AND NATIONALISATION

The most disappointing aspect of the fight for nationalisation not being seriously pursued is that UNITE's central leadership did not vigorously expound it or campaign for it.

True, in a press release Len McLuskey called on Scottish and UK governments to give the site a new beginning "free of the tyranny of one man's whims. If this means securing financial assistance - or even nationalisation - then this must be done".

But referring to it in the passing in a press release is not campaigning for it!

Failure by either the trade unions or major political parties to champion the case for nationalisation, or indeed to carry it out in government, has left Grangemouth under the control and dictatorial fancies of Ratcliffe, a capitalist thug who has proven he shouldn't be let near the ownership of a burger van, let alone Scotland's biggest industrial complex.

The whole issue of democratic public ownership is one of the central issues that the Grangemouth crisis has thrown up; the trade union movement should seize the time, and popularize what is an increasingly attractive idea within the working class.

SNP

Although they have, to their great credit, promised renationalisation of Royal Mail under independence, the SNP Is not a party ideologically committed to public ownership. They are more inclined to rattle the begging bowl under the noses of multinationals, enticing them to invest in Scotland with promises of low business taxation.

But surely INEOS has given us a brutal object lesson in the folly of reliance on multinational capitalists for our prosperity and security?!

LABOUR'S DESERTION OF SOCIALISM

Labour has long since abandoned commitment to public ownership. That's what Blair's infamous 'defining moment' was all about: obliteration of Labour's commitment to public ownership of 'the means of production, distribution and exchange', as adopted in Clause Four, part 4 of Labour's constitution at the 1918 national conference. One hell of a series of betrayals have since happened under Labour, and they now reject the very concepts of public ownership or universalism.

BREAK UNION PROP FOR LABOUR

So another profoundly important issue, thrown up in high relief by Grangemouth, is the outrageous absurdity of trade unions - including UNITE - devoting resources, members' money and members' activity to funding and shoring up the 'modern' Labour party.

JR and INEOS are the enemy of workers in this whole episode. They planned and stockpiled and provoked in a conscious effort to decimate the unions, in order to eradicate past gains in workers' terms and conditions.

But they were gifted the opening to apply their murky plans by Ed Miliband and the UK Labour leadership, when the latter witch-hunted Grangemouth UNITE convener Stevie Deans for doing what UNITE the union saw as their best political strategy: recruiting workers to Labour to make it the voice of workers. When Miliband & Co sent a report on Stevie Deans to the police - and treated Scottish Labour with imperial contempt by not even sending them a copy of their reports on the Falkirk Labour candidate selection row - that was the signal for INEOS to turn their guns on Stevie, to try and stitch him up and drag the whole workforce into a showdown that the union never planned for. The rest is recent history, with a detrimental outcome to UNITE's Grangemouth members, and indeed workers generally.

LABOUR'S BETRAYALS OF WORKERS

How many more examples of Labour in action does it take for the national union leaderships to abandon their utterly futile attempts to reclaim Labour for trade unionism, or even socialism? Even when Labour conference delegates voted unanimously to renationalise Royal Mail and the railways under a Labour government, by the time the union delegates who moved these proposals had returned to their seats in the Labour conference venue, Labour leaders and their spin doctors had reassured the media that there is not a snowball's chance in Hell of this happening.

END THE DICTATORSHIP OF CAPITAL

The unions need to ponder much of what Grangemouth has taught us, not least the need to break from a party that has persistently acted as an opponent of trade union rights, public ownership and socialism - Labour - and to instead assist those of us striving to build a genuine, organised socialist voice of working people.

This really 'is the modern world'. If we study the experience of Grangemouth we can help to end the dictatorship of capital, and build a genuinely modern world, where the working class reaps the benefits of our collective efforts, with the most advanced workplace democracy and public ownership of major industries, services and banking. A democratic socialist one.