SSI event to explore “Culture and Independence”

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By Maggie Chetty

Scottish Socialists for Independence (SSI) have been exploring a variety of themes/events in their efforts to win undecided voters to the Yes Campaign. We have been very aware of the need to woo traditional Labour voters and some former trade unionists and activists to the position that a vote for Independence is a vote for a new start and an opportunity to turn our backs on the negativity and disappointment of the Thatcher and Blair years. Something that has characterised methods of organisation in the glory days of the seventies and eighties has been that of the Broad Left –building the broadest coalitions of workers and communities in the best Labour movement traditions.

Those of us who were activists with the Scottish Immigrant Labour Council (later Scottish International Labour Council) worked with the Indian Workers Association, Pakistan Social and Cultural Society, shop stewards committees and Labour and Communist Party branches to challenge racist and fascist ideas and to build links between black and ethnic minority communities and the trade union and labour movement. We carried out campaigning against the growing trend of restrictive and racist immigration legislation, supported the struggles of Asian workers in Loughborough, Bradford and Grunwick and held International nights to celebrate the diversity of working class cultures.

Many of us also campaigned against apartheid South Africa during those Thatcher years when the likelihood of success seemed slim but the drive from Scottish comrades that combined with the international movement across the world and in South Africa saw success, with the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990 and the negotiations for a multi-ethnic bourgeois-democratic Government in South Africa. A source of enduring pride for Scottish comrades was the visit of Nelson Mandela to Glasgow to accept the Freedom of Nine Cities in the UK and to acknowledge Glasgow’s initial effort and campaign.

Other great examples of internationalism and working class solidarity saw the UCS shop stewards win a marvellous victory in saving shipyards on the Clyde against the Edward Heath Government with the support of workers from across the length and breadth of the UK and from across the World.

With this in mind I think it is fair to say that traditions of internationalism and solidarity have deep roots in Scottish culture without any sense of triumphalism or ‘Wha’s like us’ sentiment . It is simply a fact of life and those in the Labour Movement who refuse to vote for Independence on the ground of their self-professed ‘internationalism’ are misguided.

So on Sunday 16th February 2014 we shall welcoming Councillor Feargal Dalton SNP, Dr Serjinder Singh Zafar Hakim of the STUC’S One Workplace Equal RightsProject, LouIse Robertson of West Dunbartonshire’s Women for Independence, Alasdair Gray, writer/ Artist and Scottish and Irish musicians at Partick Bowling Club 30 Fortrose Street G11 5NS.This will be an evening of discussion, poetry and Music around the theme of ‘Culture and Independence’ (£5/3)

Those of us who campaigned in the seventies and eighties for an equal society including ethnicity class and gender, are horrified to see the current campaigns of the Westminster Government to undermine equality legislation. An independent Scotland could provide an alternative vision for brothers and sisters everywhere.