Sunday, April 05, 2020

Another Future For Us All?

A lot needs changing to our world if we are all to enjoy decent secure lives. It was clear well before the COVID-19 pandemic that humanity required to learn to share, to cooperate and to create a world free from conflict, and we had to help the planet to heal from the harm done to it. Mankind is one family, although a species large and diverse, consisting of unique individuals with a variety of qualities, yet all sharing the same inherent nature, suffering from the same fears and having similar hopes and longings.

Capitalism has led to a ‘dog eat dog’ mentality, and the false belief that people innately selfish, greedy and driven by aggression. Capitalism has successfully polarised large sections of the world's population through sexism, racism and nationalism, and that is just a few of the ways. Generations have been conditioned into believing that this is the way to live, that we are separate and must compete with one another to survive and it is that what makes us human beings, and there is no alternative. Such ideas are fundamentally misguided.

Socialists have always called for a shift in this way of thinking and demanded a change in mode of production and style of living. The world socialist movement has urged collective action for tolerance and and cooperation. To survive and prosper, to fulfil our potential, socialists say we must reject divisions and that it is possible to build a new society of social justice. Out of chaos of the old we can create a future civilisation in which humanity can live in peace and compassion. As the humanitarian responses to this pandemic is showing, in times of crises , people are expressing solidarity with one another. It demonstrates one more that mankind is good and humanity is social. 

Socialism is the real alternative

The popular demand for social is a sham demand as it is unrealisable under capitalism. Instead the demand should be nothing less than abolition of classes, i.e., abolition of all exploitation. The Socialist Party demands, and fights for, mastery over the production apparatus, whereby under common ownership in a class-free society true equality will be established. You are yoked up as wage slaves. The socialist revolution will be a great step forward in the history of mankind. With socialism for the first time in history the individual will have the opportunity of real freedom, of real self-development. The Socialist Party places its hope in the ability of the people to reach high levels of political consciousness and to end the rule of the propertied dictatorial class. 

Socialism offers as its fundamental contribution to the cause of peace a society with constantly expanding perimeters of political and social democracy.We are socialists. We are opposed to capitalism. We are for socialism. We make no secret about that. It is capitalism and its built-in, all-consuming need for profit, regardless of the needs of people, that enslaves all workers—women and men alike, of all races, ethnic and religious backgrounds—and condemns them to struggle for their very existence. Capitalism’s overwhelming and compelling need to increase profits above, and at the expense of, all else  is the driving force behind all corporate executives, no matter of what race or gender they may be. There is no “trickle down” in money or justice under capitalism. Every bit a worker gets, or will ever get, must be fought for, tooth and nail.

World capitalism and its the frightful crises has plunged working people into unheard of misery which threatens to destroy the whole human culture. When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have to overthrow, these institutions. Throughout the world the workers have to reach the determination to take control of their own lives.  In this country this can and must be achieved peacefully by the workers uniting at the ballot boxes. 

If socialism is to be relevant today it must present a policy for freedom. Vote for socialism and be free. We summon the workers of city and country, all nationalities,  all who are exploited and oppressed by capitalism. Only a socialist world can give us peace and plenty. Look how the capitalist world totters on the brink of destruction. The capitalist parties are as rotten and bankrupt as the system they uphold. They can maintain themselves and that. system today only by piling additional burdens upon the people. The evils of capitalism will disappear only with the destruction of capitalism and the building of socialism. Solidarity and unity are the very life of the Socialist Party, the source of its strength.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

The Real Freedom Fighters

While Scottish “patriots” recall the 700th anniversary of the 1320 Arbroath Declaration, there will be far fewer remembering the bicentennial of the weavers uprising in April 1820.

The neglected Battle of Bonnymuir took place on the 5th of April, 1820, during the ‘Radical War’ . It wasn’t much more than a skirmish, an event that hardly constitutes a major rising. Sixteen Hussars and sixteen Yeomanry routed a band of twenty-five, poorly armed, striking weavers. The leaders were captured, tried and sentenced, with the outcome being a judicial execution of John Baird and Andrew Hardie, who came to be known as the ‘Radical Martyrs’. For some historians, the whole incident may appear minor and of little historical importance. The rising had been doomed from the outset. However, the rising must seen in the context of ordinary people from all over a growing industrial Scotland being inspired to rise up and overthrow the government in order to secure their rights and better working conditions. It should not be forgotten.

Glasgow was just a collection of small villages like Bridgeton, Calton and Anderston. In all of these communities the main occupation was weaving. The handloom weavers traditionally enjoyed skilled status, dictated by the nature of their work. They worked to commission. They could decide upon their own hours of work and could decide upon periods of leisure if they were willing to forego some proportion of their earnings in the short term. Given that these workers had opportunities for leisure a high proportion were able to read and wanted to debate about what they had read and would be discussing the American and French revolutions.

 A slump in the economy after the Napoleonic Wars  resulted in workers, particularly weavers in Scotland, seeking reforms from an uncaring government and from a gentry in fear of revolution. Their pay and conditions deteriorated drastically. Between 1800 and 1808, the earnings of weavers were halved and this trend continued up to 1820. In 1816, weavers in Kilsyth were working for just over £1 per week and, by 1820, their weekly income was down to between eleven and twelve shillings. This widespread discontent came to a head with a two-month long strike in 1812. 

The Weavers Uprising was a culmination of earlier protests where the government had persecuted Scottish reformers such as Thomas Muir in the 1790's with transportation to the colonies. An organisation called the United Scotsmen had been formed to campaign for universal male suffrage vote by secret ballot, payment of MPs and annual general elections. In 1816 some 40,000 people attended a meeting on Glasgow Green to demand more representative government and an end to the Corn laws which kept food prices high. The Peterloo massacre of August 1819 sparked protests across Britain including at various meetings across Scotland often in weaving communities. A rally in Paisley led to a week of rioting and cavalry were used to control around 5,000 demonstrators.

 A Committee of Organisation for Forming a Provisional Government put up placards around the Glasgow districts on Saturday 1 April, calling for an immediate national strike. Some believe that it was actually issued by the Government agent provocateurs as a means of bringing the radicals out into the open as the leaders of the Committee were already in custody.

The proclamation began:
 ’Friends and Countrymen! Rouse from that state in which we have sunk for so many years, we are at length compelled from the extremity of our sufferings, and the contempt heaped upon our petitions for redress, to assert our rights at the hazard of our lives.’ 

And, it called for a rising:
 ’To show the world that we are not that lawless, sanguinary rabble which our oppressors would persuade the higher circles we are, but a brave and generous people determined to be free.’

Most of central Scotland, especially in the weaving communities, came out in support the following week.

One group of strikers decided that attack was the best form of defence. With the purpose of increasing their puny arsenal of weapons, about twenty-five weavers led by Andrew Hardie and John Baird, marched on the Carron Iron Works near Falkirk to capture weapons which were manufatureed there. Tragically for that group due to underground societies like the United Scotsmen gave the government major concern, its spies were active which meant the march on Carron was already known about. Having received intelligence from their informers, the Army was given its own marching orders. The two forces met and the radicals began firing. After a few volleys on both sides, the cavalry flanked the rebels and the inevitable end was swift. And so ended the Battle of Bonnymuir. Later, the militia taking prisoners to Greenock jail was attacked by local people and the prisoners released. James Wilson of Strathaven was singled out as a leader and was later hung and decapitated.

 Nineteen of the weavers, including the leaders, were taken prisoner. Hardie and Baird were condemned, hung and beheaded, and twenty men, including a fifteen-year-old youth named Alexander Johnstone, were transported to the penal colonies in Australia.
On the day of his execution, Hardie spoke saying:
 ’Yes, my countrymen, in a few minutes our blood shall be shed on this scaffold…for no other sin but seeking the legitimate rights of our ill used and down trodden beloved countrymen.’

At that, an irate Sheriff ordered him to stop, ‘such violent and improper language’. 

Hardie retorted:
 ’What we said to our countrymen, we intended to say no matter whether you granted us liberty or not. So we are now both done.’ 

We can look at the 1820 Rising as an early emergence of the mass movements that would later gather under the Chartism.

The Salisbury Crags path at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is known as the Radical Road built by unemployed weavers, at the suggestion from Walter Scott in the aftermath of the abortive 1820 Rising. The Martyrs' Monument was erected in secrecy in 1847 at Sighthill Cemetery, Springburn as a reminder of the sacrifices made in the cause of democracy.

1320 - Declaration of Arbroath

2020 is not 1320 and 700 years makes a big difference to the meaning of language and the intent of the Declaration of Arbroath which tens of thousands of Scottish nationalists are commemorating this month. Scotland in 1320 was a very different country to the Scotland of today therefore we should not give to the medieval mind-set of the authors, an interpretation of a later modern age.

The Declaration of Arbroath, or to give its proper title, "Letter of Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII, should be seen for what it really was – primary as an expression of the interests of nobles determined to protect their privileges against the king.

According to the historian Neil Davidson, a key passage in the Declaration :
‘Yet if he [Robert the Bruce] shall give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or to the English, we would strive at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and we would make some other man who was able to defend us our king; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. For we fight not [for] glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up without his life’.

Stirring patriotic stuff but rather than represent the prototype for modern nationalism, historian Neil Davidson suggests it describes the function of the noble estate ‘as the defender of the kingdom against the claims of the individual monarch in a way that was entirely typical of absolutist Europe.’ Neil Davidson also observes, ‘The sonorous wording of the Declaration is in fact a clear statement of, among other things, the fact that the feudal ruling class still considered themselves to be a nation in a racial rather than the modern sense.’

It was putting out two messages. The first was directed at the English king, Edward II, informing him that it was pointless for him to attempt to depose Robert the Bruce with a more subservient king, since the remainder of the Scottish aristocracy would not cease its resistance. Secondly, it was addressed to Robert the Bruce, making it clear that, considering his dubious past record, they would not brook his jeopardising their interests – which lay in their god-given right to unhindered exploitation of the peasants – through making concessions to Edward.

The claims that the Declaration challenged the traditional belief in the Divine Right of Kings and promoting in its place the notion that the nation itself was foremost and the monarch merely its steward, is argued solely to justify Bruce usurping the rightful king John Balliol. The section of the Declaration reading “if this prince [Bruce] shall leave these principles he hath so nobly pursued, and consent that we or our kingdom be subjected to the king or people of England, we will immediately endeavour to expel him, as our enemy and as the subverter both of his own and our rights, and we will make another king, who will defend our liberties” should be read as a cautionary warning and a veiled threat to Robert the Bruce himself for he had switched his allegence several times in previous years.
The preamble to the Declaration traces the wanderings of the ‘Scots nation’ from ‘Greater Scythia to Scotland, celebrates its triumphs over Britons and Picts, and survival from attacks by ‘Norwegians, Danes and English. In a propaganda war, the Scots were at a disadvantage. The Pope in Rome had excommunicated Bruce who had decided to being more than just an English lord and to achieve that goal murdered his chief rival in a church. He sent three letters to the Pope. The first was a letter from himself, the second from the Scots clergy, and the third from the nobles of Scotland that became known as the Declaration of Arbroath.

The lesser-known earlier 1310 Declaration of the Clergy (the clergy being usually the younger sons of the nobles) proclaimed the Kingship of Robert. It begins by stating that John Balliol was made King of Scots by Edward Longshanks of England, but goes on to criticise Balliol’s status, because an English King does not have any authority to determine who will be the King of Scots. Such authority rests with the Scots themselves and alone, ignoring the fact that the Scottish nobles had given up that right in negotiations with Edward over twenty years beforehand.

That Declaration stated: ‘The people, therefore, and commons of the foresaid Kingdom of Scotland,...agreed upon the said Lord Robert, the King who now is, in whom the rights of his father and grandfather to the foresaid kingdom, in the judgement of the people, still exist and flourish entire; and with the concurrence and consent of the said people he was chosen to be King, that he might reform the deformities of the kingdom, correct what required correction, and direct what needed direction; and having been by their authority set over the kingdom, he was solemnly made King of Scots...And if any one on the contrary claim right to the foresaid kingdom in virtue of letters of time past, sealed and containing the consent of the people and the commons, know ye that all this took place in fact by force and violence which could not at the time be resisted.’

Like a lot of such grandiose statements we've seen down through the ages, the Clergy's declaration was nothing more than misleading propaganda, which sought to disguise the facts of history.
Those medieval signatories to the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath were merely feudal barons asserting their claim to rule and lord it over their own tenants and serfs, not leading any ‘liberation struggle’. In fact, John de Menteith, who turned William Wallace over to Edward of England put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath. 

Not long after the signing, the document was forgotten for a few hundred years until it was rediscovered by Sir George Mackenzie in 1680, who viewed it not really as an expression of nationalism but as support for those who wished to curtail royal power. It was only later that the Declaration of Arbroath came to be seen in purely nationalistic terms. 

What did the signatories of the document actually mean by ‘we’ and ‘freedom’? The ‘we’ who attached their seals to the document were all noblemen. And it was their ‘freedom’ that it concerned. The authors when they spoke of the ‘people’ they meant ‘people like us’, not the peasant in the fields. The ‘people’ of Scotland were the nobles, the majority of whom at that time were still fairly much culturally Anglo-Norman, despite inter-marriage within the indigenous Scoto-Gael ruling families and ownership of the land. No-one who signed the Declaration believed that the common-folk of Scotland had any say in the issue. Or in anything else, for that matter. The Declaration signatories certainly had no concept of popular sovereignty.

A modern myth persists that the Declaration of Arbroath inspired the American Declaration of Independence because both enshrined that sovereignty rests with the people. Firstly, it was not a ‘declaration’ in the sense of the American Declaration of Independence or the French Declaration of the Rights of Man but a plea to the Pope.

If true ‘freedom-fighters’ are required then Scottish workers should look to those brave weavers who rose up five hundred years later on April 1820, in what was known as the Radical War, not the winners and losers of aristocratic family feuds over the throne of Scotland.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Build the Cooperative Commonwealth

The aim of the Socialist Party is the establishment by democratic means of a cooperative commonwealth in which the supplying of human needs and enrichment of human life shall be the primary purpose of our society. In spite of great economic expansion and technological innovation, large sections of working people do not benefit adequately. Wealth and economic power continue to be concentrated in the hands of a relatively few private corporations. The gap between those at the bottom and those at the top of the economic scale has widened. Millions around the world still live in want and insecurity. Slums and inadequate housing condemn families to a cheerless life. In short, our world is still characterised by glaring inequalities of wealth and opportunity and by the domination of one class over another. The growing concentration of income and wealth has resulted in a virtual economic dictatorship by a privileged few. Our political democracy which will attain its full meaning only when our people have control in the management of the means by which they live. Our planet’s resources are not fully utilized. Its use is governed by the dictates of private economic power and by considerations of, private profit. Similarly, the scramble for profit has wasted and despoiled our soil, water and air. The lack of social planning results in a waste.

Unprecedented scientific and technological advances have brought us to the threshold of a second industrial revolution. Opportunities for enriching the standard of life are greater than ever. Unless there is a fundamental change in our economic structure, the evils of the past will be multiplied in the future and will result in even greater concentrations of wealth and power and will cause widespread distress through unemployment and the displacement of populations. Economic growth accompanied by widespread suffering and injustice is not desirable social progress. The Socialist Party reaffirms its belief that our society must must build a new relationship among mankind--a relationship based on mutual respect and on equality of opportunity. In such a society everyone will have a sense of worth and belonging, and will be enabled to develop his or her abilities to the full. With the creation of the Co-operative Commonwealth regulating production and distribution to satisfy peoples needs and not the making of profits will be the over-riding principle.

The goal of the Socialist Party is to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated, in which economic planning will supersede unregulated private enterprise and competition, and in which genuine democratic self-government, based upon economic equality will be possible. The present order is marked by glaring inequalities of wealth and opportunity, by chaotic waste and instability; and in an age of plenty it condemns the great mass of the people to poverty and insecurity. Power has become more and more concentrated into the hands of a small irresponsible minority of financiers and industrialists and to their predatory interests the majority are habitually sacrificed. When private profit is the main stimulus to economic effort, our society swings wildly between periods of feverish prosperity in which the main benefits go to speculators and profiteers, and of catastrophic recession, in which the working [people’s normal state of insecurity and hardship is accentuated. We believe that these evils can be removed only in a planned and socialised economy in which our natural resources and principal means of production and distribution are owned, controlled and operated by the people. The new social order at which we aim is not one in which individuality will be crushed out by a system of regimentation. What we seek is a proper collective organisation of our economic resources such as will make possible a much greater degree of leisure and a much richer individual life for every citizen.

This social and economic transformation can only be brought about by political action, through the election of a political party inspired by the ideal of a Co-operative Commonwealth and supported by a majority of the people. We do not believe in change by violence. We consider that both the other parties are the instruments of capitalist interests and cannot serve as agents of social reconstruction, and that whatever the superficial differences between them, they are bound to carry on government in accordance with the dictates of the Big Business interests who finance them. The Socialist Party aims at the capture of political power in order to put an end to this capitalist domination of our lives. It is a democratic movement, financed by its own members and seeking to achieve its ends solely by constitutional methods, if possible. It appeals for support to all who believe that the time has come for a far-reaching reconstruction of our economic and political institutions and who are willing to work together for the carrying out the transformation of our social system. Reforms are of only temporary palliative, for the mortal sickness of the whole capitalist system, and its social ills cannot be cured by the application of ameliorations. These leave untouched the cancer which is eating at the heart of our society, namely, the economic system in which our natural resources and our principal means of production and distribution are owned, controlled and operated for the private profit of a small proportion of our population.

The Socialist Party will not rest content until it has helped to eradicate capitalism and establishment the Cooperative Commonwealth.