Workers face stark choices


By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

Working class people, the majority population of Scotland, face a stark choice this September. Vote NO to democratic self-government and get a renewed dose of attacks on jobs, wages, rights at work, benefits and public services from a Westminster regime emboldened by their success in seeing off any threatened ‘Scots rebellion’.

Or vote YES this year so that in 2016 and beyond we get the governments chosen by the working class majority. Chosen under a Proportional Representation system more in tune with voters’ wishes, boosting the prospects of a government of the left, hastening the day when a radical socialist transformation of society banishes low pay, poverty, inequality and exploitation.

But nothing will be handed to us on a silver plate by the billionaires, bankers and business tycoons who currently rule the roost.

Working class people, trade unionists included, need to organise to shape Scotland’s future…not just fighting for a Yes majority, but simultaneously forging the policies and measures that would decisively change the lives of the millions thereafter.

The evidence is mounting that a NO vote is a vote for Tory dictatorship over Scotland – a message that trade unionists and workers clinging onto their Labour loyalties would be wise to heed.

The anti-independence Better Together is blatantly Tory-funded whilst Labour-fronted. 

They must have thought Christmas was a good time to bury bad news, but no Labour voter can afford to ignore the announcement of £1.3million in donations to Better Together by 19 obnoxiously wealthy individuals who are also longstanding donors to the Tory party.

People like Andrew Fraser, City of London stockbroker, former head of Barings Bank (before it collapsed), and previously donor of £1million to the Tory party. He gave BT £200,000 to hold onto Scotland’s wealth for his parasitic class. Hotel and whisky tycoon Donald Houston gave them £600,000. London-based Deutsche Bank executive Ivor Dunbar donated £50,000. 

Another £20,000 was handed over by two leading figures from Hakluyt, the ‘private intelligence’ company with links to state spy-network MI6.

So bankers, capitalist chief executives and spies – none of them resident in Scotland – want to fund the Fear Factory that is Better Together, in a ruthless bid to terrorise the Scottish working class into leaving the rich elite’s political puppets at Westminster in charge, to sustain the profiteering and exploitation of workers and natural wealth they currently enjoy.
He who pays the piper calls the tune.

As veteran leading Labour figure, former Glasgow Provost and trade unionist Alex Mosson astutely said,

“This roll-call of NO campaign donors should come as no surprise to anybody who understands the vested interests at play. This should act as a wake-up call to everybody, especially those in the Labour Party, if they’re kidding themselves that the NO campaign is anything other than a Tory-led propaganda machine.

The other Yuletide pronouncements that should put the fear of god into any worker bamboozled into thinking of voting NO was that of Tory Chancellor George Osborne. 

His declaration of class war included a further £25billion cuts, over half of them to welfare benefits, with plans to abolish housing benefits to the under-25s, slash Scotland’s funding from Westminster through ‘changes’ to (or abolition of) the Barnett Formula, and target pensioners for cuts – a move previously seen as taboo, for fear of alienating the ‘grey’ vote.
That’s the future if working class Scots fall for the NO camp’s scaremongering. If you’ll forgive the ‘musical’ pun, it’s not even the Status Quo, but One Direction – backwards!

Some Labour Party and trade union officials who have done their members and supporters the unforgivable disservice of jumping into bed with the sworn Tory enemies of the working class are beginning to panic that traditional Labour voters have spotted their treachery. 

They panic at polls showing one in five Labour voters already plan to vote Yes, and the growth of Labour for Independence, with several Labour veterans recently supporting independence.

Some union officials, like the GMB’s Richard Leonard, are desperately seeking to distance themselves from the Tory-funded Better Together, because their own members are up in arms about Labour and many union leaders joining forces with the party of the bedroom tax and naked class war.

Gordon Brown has been wheeled out to breathe life into United for Labour, which in reality is the Labour wing of Tory-funded Better Together, but talks hypocritical platitudes about being ‘united for social justice’ in the UK.
Where was Gordon Brown, or BT’s Labour poster boy Alistair Darling, when the last Labour government presided over escalating inequality, savage job and service cuts to fund the bankers’ bailout, and continued use of hate-figure Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws to cow workers into submission?

Labour has had decades to prove their claims that workers are ‘better together’ under Westminster rule, but the real-life results included rampant privatisation and profiteering (under New Labour), the most ruthless workplace repression in western Europe (by Blair’s own admission/boast), the squandering of £1.3trillion of taxpayers’ money to prop up the bankers and their bonuses, the worst levels of regional inequality (between the South East of England and the rest) of any EU country, and amongst the lowest wages, longest working week and poorest pensions in the whole of Europe.

That’s Blair, Brown and Darling’s heritage, and the future they offer workers in a Labour-run capitalist UK.

Sustained Tory or Tory-UKIP rule is an indescribable nightmare for the working class. But even the far-from-guaranteed prospect of a Westminster Labour government should fill workers with dread.

British Labour are beyond redemption, beyond the reach of trade unions or socialists trying to reclaim the party founded a century ago to represent the working class.

The party that generations of workers put their faith in no longer exists.
And Scottish self-government is the only realistic route to reviving the founding principles of the labour movement pioneers, provided working class people get organised now to demand change after winning self-rule. That’s where fighting for a Yes vote and for the longer term combine.

To win a majority of the working class for Yes requires a bold, dynamic vision of a new Scotland, one where the fabulous wealth of resources and skills are deployed to boost the living standards of millions.  This is a struggle for the hearts and minds of working class people, and the Yes campaign needs to tap into the deep seated traditions of hatred for unfairness, injustice and inequality in the soul of Scottish workers.

That’s where the demands for change put forward by not only the SSP but also broad-based campaigns like Trade Unionists for Independence (TUFI) become critical.

The Scottish SNP government’s White Paper has put the No camp on the run by exposing their complete lack of a clear vision of what would follow a NO vote. In contrast to their reliance on lies and scaremongering, the White Paper pledges numerous welcome reforms, such as childcare provision for all 3-4 year olds on a par with primary school hours; protection of pensions; defence of fee-free university education; a 5 per cent cut to energy bills; encouragement and involvement of trade unions; rises in the minimum wage to match inflation; restoration of 90-day consultation on redundancies; renationalisation of Royal Mail; removal of Trident weapons…to name a few.

But to win a Yes majority in the population that counts most – the working class – Yes Scotland should boldly go beyond these welcome promises.

And the SSP, TUFI (which includes Labour for Independence trade unionists) and individual union branches have a critical role to play in popularising measures that could and should be carried out after a Yes vote.  Nobody expects a Coalition like Yes Scotland to embrace the entire socialist aims of the SSP, but they urgently need to go beyond the limited agenda put by their SNP component if they are to win the battle for the working class vote.

Rather than merely promising to inflation-proof the current pathetic £6.31 minimum wage (with far lower youth rates) Yes Scotland should spell out a vision of a guaranteed living wage as the minimum for all at 16, without age discrimination.
In addition to public ownership of Royal Mail, they should highlight the opportunity for public ownership – at the very least – of our railways and energy companies to combat nauseating profiteering and the crime of fuel poverty.

And to expose the nightmare facing people at work if Westminster’s dictatorship of the rich is allowed to continue, Yes Scotland should as a bare minimum adopt a charter of workers’ rights.  These should includes the right to join and organise unions without fear of victimisation or blacklisting; legal guarantees for elected union representatives to function during works time to represent members; an end to state interference in the running of union affairs and internal elections; abolition of fees for Employment Tribunals; a constitutional right to strike and removal of the ban on solidarity action.

By putting forward measures to lift the climate of fear in workplaces, allowing unions to function independently of employers and the government, Yes Scotland could give 630,000 trade union members and countless other non-members a glimpse of a new Scotland where they would be profoundly better off.

Whilst calling on the umbrella Yes Scotland to travel this route, trade unionists should and will champion such policies as part of organising to shape Scotland’s future in the interests of its working class majority.  That is why all of us should celebrate the overwhelming decision by the Scottish conference of the Left Unity formation in the biggest civil and public service union, PCS, to campaign for independence – which SSP members in the union played a major part in achieving.

That is why Trade Unionists for Independence, embracing workers from several parties and none, has a major part to play and is stepping up its efforts to reach workplaces.  That is why the SSP – which is uniquely placed as the only party to have for fought for an independent socialist Scotland for the past 15 years – is determined to pick up the banner trampled in the muck by the Tory-collaborating Labour leaders.

Our vision of an independent Scotland goes miles beyond the timid reforms advocated by the SNP leadership, as we champion taxation of big business and the rich; democratic public ownership of the major industries, services and banking; a socialist democracy where working class people gain the full fruits of their labour instead of being stripped of living standards and rights so the bankers and billionaires can amass obscene profits.

Working people, traditionally many of them Labour voters, face a stark choice. Socialists have a duty to help clarify that choice, show how a Yes vote can kick open the door to radical socialist change, whereas a No vote would condemn them to the jailhouse conditions suffered by millions in a capitalist Britain where different factions of Tory ideology are all that’s on offer.

The SSP is determined to help workers reach that conclusion and to organise to shape Scotland’s future.

Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice