Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Sunday, February 05, 2017


At the end of last year in The Holyrood magazine there were a series of posts asking Scottish based political leaders the question, What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

 Being born poor in order to be exploited as a waged slave,  creating wealth for the enjoyment and luxury of a parasitic economic class, or leading an existence full of poverty both relative and absolute can't fit in with the principle of healthy and meaningful living, can it ?

 In truth, the majority is impoverished. It is impoverished insofar as it has no other option than to sell its working abilities to those who monopolise the means of living and whose conspicuous wealth must irresistibly provide the very yardstick by which that poverty will be starkly exposed.

 This may not only be the poverty of material destitution. But if the measure of a human being consists in the accumulation of material possessions to which he or she may claim then, by that token, we are demeaned. And, ultimately, it is in this devaluation of our human worth—not simply in the fact of material inequality but in the meaning this society attaches to it—that we may glimpse the very essence of this poverty.

Ruth Davison Scottish Conservative leader on poverty

What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

None of these issues can be tackled in isolation and they each affect the other. At root, you need a strong economy with well-paid jobs and an ability for people to access those jobs without discrimination.

Comment: But they are ignoring the reason why these resources and people are unused in the first place, which is that the market does not recognise any profitability in employing them. This is the cruel fate of many workers who have struggled to pay for their own training and skills only to find that the market does not want them, even though their skills would be considered useful by any sane person. Capitalist economics is not interested in what is useful, it only cares what is profitable.

  Further to this it is essential to know that some of the existing higher paid occupations are in the war industry, capitalism's 'aye ready' but  essential for capitalism, murder and mayhem machine needs geared up to be unleashed upon upon fellow workers worldwide. Figures produced this year show more than 60 defence companies have a presence in Scotland, supporting 12,150 workers and making £2.2 billion worth of sales every year.

Patrick Harvie Greens co-convener on poverty
What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

  Poverty and inequality both matter, and ‘mitigating’ them will never be enough. Thinking that only poverty matters, and that a safety net at the bottom justifies a vast gap between the richest and the rest, breaks the feeling of connection and solidarity between people and can never lead to a cohesive society. We need to deal with the structural causes of poverty and inequality, in particular, the massively unfair distribution of wealth in our society.

Comment: He seemed to be almost there when he said, "We need to deal with the structural causes of poverty and inequality", but then he looks at 'the massively unfair distribution of wealth in our society', as something seemingly capable of being fixed, while retaining ownership and control of the wealth producing and distribution means in the hands of a minority class.

Nicola Sturgeon First Minister and SNP leader on poverty
What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

  It’s crucial that we do all of these things, but what we really want to do is change deep-seated, multi-generational deprivation, poverty and inequality.

  We have a proven record of taking action to protect people on low incomes - through our commitment to universal services, establishing the Scottish Welfare Fund and ensuring no one in Scotland is impacted by the ‘bedroom tax’. But we need full powers and resources to lift people out poverty, not just mitigate continually to a standing start.

  In our Fairer Scotland Action Plan, we pledged to increase early learning and childcare provision, introduce a new Best Start Grant for low-income families in the early years, and tackle the poverty premium – all of which will help deliver our ambition to eradicate child poverty.

 Again a hopelessly deluded belief that governments can 'lift people out of poverty', instead of just managing its social control on behalf of the profit accumulating capitalist class for whom poverty is an essential driver of economic activity, (labour) through the exploitation of this asset and wealth poor resource, to produce surplus value above their subsistence. The solution, establishing a welfare fund, negating the 'bedroom tax' in some instances, a new Best Start Grant for low-income families in the early years, and tackle the poverty premium, while welcome for those for whom it applies won't do as she says 'help deliver our ambition to eradicate child poverty', but if successful will impose minimum standards upon capitalism as to enable and produce an adequate supply of the poor to be exploited.

Willie Rennie  Liberal Democrat leader on poverty
What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

  What's important is that all three are connected that you cannot substitute one for the other. Making sure we have a social security system in place that tackles all three must be the priority of any government so that everyone in society has the chance to get on in life, especially at Christmas.

Comment: Rennie must have been asked this question around the festive season as his answer seems redolent of Whigism at its best/worse, this kind hearted capitalism supporter wishing to ensure social security in place of adequate and ample proportions for the Tiny Tims of the wage enslaved class to ejaculate, 'god bless us every one', as they rush refreshed after the festive break into the very wage enslaved conditions of exploitation which produces unearned income and immeasurable wealth for his parasite paymasters, happy with capitalisms iron law of the minimum for the 95% wealth producers and the maximum extraction of surplus value for the 5% capitalist class.

Kezia Dugdale  Scottish Labour leader on poverty
What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?

  This isn’t an either/or. Tackling poverty and tackling inequality go hand-in-hand. We need to ensure that everyone has the same life chances, and that starts with ensuring that our public services are properly funded. I didn’t get into politics just to mitigate Tory decisions that are hurting local communities. I came into politics to make different decisions to the Tories, rather than just pass on Tory austerity, like Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to do.

Comment: This platitudinous and vague nonsense from someone allegedly, a pro- working class politician, for the purpose of winning power to govern over workers, almost beggars belief. 'We need to ensure that everyone has the same life chances', so why then, ensuring that our public services are properly funded'?  If we all had the same 'life chances', surely we would be born wealthy.

 Capitalism's iron law prevails, with very few exceptions, if one is born poor one will die poor and vice versa, if one is born rich one will die rich.

 Comic book crude humour seems to have  a better handle upon the state of affairs which prevails regardless of the shades of difference, implemented or enunciated by capitalist supporting politicians, when in Furry Freak Brother parlance one anti-hero utters, "Life is a shit sandwich, the more bread you have, the less shit you eat".

 Managing on behalf of the smooth running of capitalism's production for profit system,  with the wealth producers in waged slavery and the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth in the private, corporate or state ownership, ensures poverty will continue to exist either in relative or absolute terms, as well as ensuring the conditions for war will continue to exist as capitalism's plundering bands of owners compete over trade routes, markets, geo-political interests against each other and in combinations, of allies one day and protagonists another.

 It is possible for us all to be wealthy and live in real social equality with each other, but for that to occur all wealth must be held in common by all of the worlds population with production for use in distributive conditions of free access, but for that we need to dissolve the politicians and elect ourselves to a socialist society.

"From each according to their ability to each according to their needs"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A breath of fresh air (Not)

 Since the demise of most of the smoke stack industries in Scotland and elsewhere the, passing of the Clean Air Act 1956 which was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in response to London's Great Smog of 1952. It was in effect until 1964, and sponsored by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Department of Health for Scotland.

  The Act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing "smoke control areas" in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. By shifting homes' sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires. Reinforcing these changes, the Act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased.

  The Act was an important milestone in the development of a legal framework to protect the environment. But it came rather late on after capital had exhausted its initial steamrollering of human rights and expectations of dignity in life and work and in response to the fact that the killing smogs of the day could not be expected to distinguish, which class of lungs they permeated, as city institutions demanded at least some occasional attendance from the moneyed classes.

 Since then however although there has been a marked reduction in visible smoke polution, there has been an increase in recorded invisible polution and carcinogenic particulates in the air we breathe, this time from the rapid increase in the use of motor vehicles.
FoE Scotland campaigner Emilia Hanna said it was particularly harmful for small children, pregnant women and people living in poverty.

"For people living in an official pollution zone or near traffic-choked streets, breathing in toxic air is an inescapable fact of life," she said.

"It should not be this way, we have the right to breathe clean air just as we have the right to drink clean water.

"The Scottish government and local authorities are not tackling this public health crisis with the seriousness and urgency required."
The number of pollution zones in Scotland has risen, according to new figures from Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland.
The group found that there are now 38 zones where safety standards for air quality are regularly broken - five more than last year.
The environmental campaigners warned the pollution levels were a "public health crisis".

 But it is even more serious than this. As we reported in January of last year.

In Britain, where latest figures suggest that around 29,000 people a year die prematurely from particulate pollution and thousands more from long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide gas, emitted largely by diesel engines, the government is being taken to court over its intention to delay addressing pollution for at least 10 years.

 The World Health Organisation has issued a new warningabout deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe. WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments. According to the WHO, air quality is deteriorating around the world to the point where only one in eight people live in cities that meet recommended air pollution levels.  The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

 Maria Neira, head of public health at the WHO, said “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous.”

 Frank Kelly, director of the environmental health research group at King’s College London, and an adviser to several governments on the health risks of pollution, told the Observer that air pollution had become a “global plague”. “It affects everyone, above all people in cities. As the world becomes more urbanised, it is becoming worse.”

 A report from the EU’s European Environment Agency (EEA) says pollution is now also the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, responsible for more than 430,000 premature deaths. “It shortens people’s lifespan and contributes to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity,” said the EEA director Hans Bruyninckx.

Trying to improve the air quality of 38 streets in Scotland is laudable, but the problem is a global one, requiring a global solution, which only a post-capitalist, production for use society of common ownership and democratic control of resources can provide.

 Working people are continually involved in a day-to-day struggle against business and government over the basic necessities of life. Hazards in the industrial environment result in disease, disability, and death on an unprecedented level. Millions of cases of occupational disease due to factory pollution occur annually. Workers are forced to breathe air highly saturated with tiny particles, leading to all sorts of diseases such as black lung, silicosis, and asbestosis.

 We have to recognize that there are forces in the society which are anti-life — the ruling class, which is content to maintain its rule as the entire society rushes towards oblivion, a force that we must struggle against if life is to be guaranteed. And in this struggle the primary question is who is going to have the power and it is the necessity for socialists to realize that, the end is life. But the beginning is the successful struggle for a socialist society. A confident, organised working class is essential for the creation of a society in which workers can truly formulate and decide between alternatives.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Soup Kitchen Scotland

The number of people using food banks in Scotland has risen by two-thirds. A total of 117, 689 people - including more than 36,000 children - received a three-day supply of emergency food from the organisation last year. That was a 65% increase on the figures for the previous year.

In 2011, there was one food bank in Scotland operated in partnership with the Trussell Trust. The charity said that as of April 2015, it had 50 food banks in 27 Scottish local authorities. The main reasons behind people being referred to its food banks were due to a benefit delay, low income or a benefit change.

18,000 people in Glasgow using one of its food banks in the financial year from 2014/2015, In Edinburgh, the figure was about 14,000 people and in Fife more than 10,000 required an emergency food supply.

Low income showed the biggest numerical rise, with 24,609 people referred for this reason in 2014/15 compared with 13,552 the previous year, an increase of more than 80%.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager at The Trussell Trust,said: "Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in Scotland. The full extent of the problem could well be much wider as the Trussell Trust figures do not include people who are helped by other food charities [they account for only 20% of all food centres in Glasgow] or those who feel too ashamed to seek help."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Godly Scots

A Freedom of Thought report, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) criticises Scotland for the religiously privileged position afforded to three “religious representatives” who are required by law to be appointed to all 32 local authority education committees.

These positions require at least one Roman Catholic and one Church of Scotland representative, but non-religious people are excluded. The report also highlighted the disparity of sex and relationships education, and religious education between Roman Catholic faith schools and others in Scotland.

Douglas McLellan, Chief Executive of the Humanist Society Scotland said:
 “Many commentators in Scotland still seem unable to mention humanists or atheists without adding the term ‘militant’ or ‘aggressive’. I hope this report will make them reflect on how hurtful that is to the many millions of Scots who wish to lead an ethical and fulfilling life without reference to religion.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Alienated Lives

Why are Scots sicker than the rest of the UK?

Dr Phil Hanlon and researchers at the Centre for Population Health have compared life, incomes and health outcomes in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. They found “deprivation profiles” were almost identical, but premature deaths in Glasgow were 30 per cent higher.

This excess mortality ran across almost all ages, males and females and deprived and non-deprived neighbourhoods. It was not, surprisingly, lung cancer, heart and liver disease were not the factors tipping Glaswegians over the UK average.  It was higher levels of drug and alcohol misuse, suicide and death through violence.

Why are some Glaswegians so prone to self-harming and life-shortening behaviours?

Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns cites the work of Aaron Antonovsky, who maintained that a sense of coherence (SOC) is necessary for adult health. The  medical sociologist defined the SOC as “the extent to which one has a feeling of confidence that the stimuli deriving from one’s internal and external environments are structured, predictable and explicable, that one has the internal resources to meet the demands posed by these stimuli and, finally, that these demands are seen as challenges, worthy of investment and engagement”.

In other words, good health is a mixture of optimism and control that relies on life being comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. Comprehensibility allows people to perceive events as ordered, consistent, and structured. Manageability allows people to feel they can cope. Meaning allows life to make sense, and challenges to seem worthy of commitment.

Socialist Courier would rather phrase it in Marxist terms - Scots are more alienated. So many people are stuck in meaningless lives they can only self-medicate using drugs, booze or food.

Or perhaps as John Lennon puts it  “you can't really function you're so full of fear” and  they “keep you doped with religion sex and tv”

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Glorious 12th

The grouse season opens.  A week of fishing and stalking in Sutherland's Reay forest estate is being offered for £6,500.

Scotland has the most inequitable land ownership in Europe. More than half of of all privately owned in Scotland is in the hands of 432 people. In Scotland, the largest eight landowners own 908,000 acres or 3.2 per cent of accessible land. 50 individuals own  20 per cent of Scottish land.

 According to the academic and land reformer, Jim Hunter explains "We're now six years into an SNP government which has so far done absolutely nothing legislatively about the fact that Scotland continues to be stuck with the most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world."

Agricultural subsidies and forestry grants are weighted so that the largest farms, owned by the biggest landowners, receive the largest handouts. Such owners can claim five-figure sums a week in subsidies. The landowners also cash in on windfarms to the tune of £1bn a year. Scotland's richest people are skimming off more millions from taxpayers when benefits are being capped and the bedroom tax is forcing people on to the street.  A 28,000 acre Highland estate near Bridge of Orchy is on the market for £11.4 million and whoever buys it will immediately qualify for state-funded hand-outs of £12,000 a week,

Land means power, so Scotland's few hundred aristocrats can scarcely be expected to give up on four centuries of owning more than half of the country. They regard themselves as the sole arbiters of what is good in the countryside. As for protecting wildlife, then perhaps we simply have to assume that those golden eagles and other birds of prey found dead on grouse shooting estates every year must have poisoned themselves.

Since the end of the Second World War landowners have without regulation been able to create tracks across their property providing they are for farming or forestry purposes. However, the environmental groups – who include the RSPB, Ramblers Scotland, Scottish Wild Land Group and the National Trust for Scotland – say many of the tracks laid are for country sports such as shooting and have no agricultural or forestry use. They also insist that a number are poorly constructed, unsightly and threaten the environment. Helen Todd of Ramblers Scotland and co-convener of the campaign group said: “Currently tracks can simply be bulldozed across the countryside almost anywhere in Scotland, and have caused huge visual and environmental damage in some of Scotland’s finest landscapes.”

Beryl Leatherland, also of the Scottish Wild Land Group, added: “Tracks have been dug deep into peat, releasing large quantities of CO2 and destroying sensitive habitats, carved straight up steep hillsides and even over the summits of several hills, leaving erosion scars that spread for years and are visible for many miles. Some of the examples we have seen amount to little more than vandalism.”

Since the early 17th century, a cabal of landowners has enjoyed the riches and privileges conferred on them by ownership of land that, for the most part, was obtained illegally and at the point of a sword. The Scots aristocrats are as Tom Johnston once said in his book Noble Families “the descendants of successful pirates and rogues”.

Andy Wightman, author of “The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland (and How They Got It), explains "The land on which many of our lairds sit was stolen in the 17th century. But these ill-gotten gains were protected by acts which maintained their hegemony after the rest of Europe ditched feudalism and concentrated land ownership." He describes how the aristocracy embraced the 1560 Reformation as a means of getting their hands on land belonging to the "Auld Kirk". They needed to protect their stolen goods with a robust law. The Act of Prescription (1617) declared that any land occupied for 40 years or more was indemnified from future legal challenge. The law remains in place and has effectively upheld the gentry's rights to stolen goods for 400 years.

Tom Gray, spokesman and co-ordinator of the Scottish Tenants Farmers Association, said "The families of many of Scotland's tenant farmers have worked this land for generations. They have invested money in them and made improvements, while the estate owners sit back and employ agents to raise rents every three years...we are seeing an increasing number of cases where our members are being forced out due to a lack of co-operation by the estate owners and often downright intimidation."

 Andrew Riddell was a tenant farmer. He and his family had worked on the farm for more than 100 years and then, one day, he was given notice to quit by his landlord, Alastair Salvesen, billionaire and Scotland's third-richest man. The notice followed a year-long legal case which finally found in favour of Salvesen. The judge ruled that the protections Riddell thought he had in the tenancy arrangement were trumped by the landlord's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. He killed himself after collecting his final harvest.


Richard Scott is the 10th Duke of Buccleuch. He owns 240,000 acres of land worth between £800m and £1bn, making him the largest private landowner in the UK. His title confers on him chairmanship of the Buccleuch Group which has interests in commercial property, rural affairs and food. The title was created in 1663 by King Charles II for his eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth.


The 12th Duke of Atholl is Bruce George Ronald Murray, who inherited the title following the death of John Murray last year. The Atholls were to become participants in the Highland Clearances when tenants on their land were thrown off to make way for sheep.


Guy David Innes-Ker is the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. He was the elder son of the 9th duke by his second wife. He succeeded his father to the title of Duke of Roxburghe in 1974. The duke is also a baronet and a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals, having been educated at Eton and Sandhurst. He has expressed disappointment that the Land Reform Review Group "concentrates so heavily on expansion of community ownership".

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Separate Scotland

The voices of millions of Scots on low and average incomes rarely being heard, according to a report by a leading Scottish think tank. The Jimmy Reid Foundation's report, Not By The People concluded: "Scotland is run by people who pay higher-rate tax and they seek advice on how to run Scotland primarily from other people who pay higher-rate tax."

 Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teachers' union, said "This report describes a Scotland of two peoples; one runs the country, the other just lives here... Democracy is about more than simply voting twice a decade."

Although only 13% of Scots have incomes above £34,000, this group accounted for 67% of those giving evidence to committees and 71% of all appointments to public bodies.

In contrast, the 70% of Scots with incomes below the average salary of £24,500 accounted for 11% of public-sector appointments and just 3% of committee witnesses between 2007 and 2012.

The Foundation said it had deliberately erred on the side of caution in estimating incomes, and the true disconnect between income and influence was probably worse than the figures suggested.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

We need a need-based health service

The NHS is failing to provide needs-based care in areas of blanket deprivation, GPs working in Scotland's poorest areas will tell MSPs. The GPs from The Deep End group, which represents 100 practices in the poorest parts of the country are expected to warn that the health service's approach is a "recipe for widening health inequality" when they appear before the Public Audit Committee.

The report warned that the distribution of GPs in Scotland does not reflect the higher levels of poor health and greater need in poorer areas and that "deep-seated inequalities remain between the least and most deprived communities" despite research showing higher rates of multimorbidity (more than one chronic medical condition) in patients from the most deprived areas.

This, combined with "dysfunctional links between general practice and other parts of the NHS", is "a partial explanation of 20 years of failure in addressing inequalities in health. The GPs called for more time for doctors seeing patients in deprived communities, as well as better integration with other services such as social work and addiction services. "The focus should be on sustainable development, with an emphasis on continuity and the productive power of long-term relationships."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Buying Scotland

Billionaire Danish fashion magnate, Anders Holch Povlsen, has become the second-largest private landowner in Britain with the purchase of the 20,000 acre Gaick estate in Inverness-shire.

 Povlsen already owns the Glenfeshie, Ben Loyal and Kinloch estates, has increased the 43-year-old's land portfolio in Scotland to around 150,000 acres. It is second only to that of the Buccleuch Estates, with an estimated 280,000 acres. He has been criticised in some quarters for mounting a "land grab" of Scotland to take advantage of farming subsidies.

Rob Gibson MSP, a member of the Scottish Government's Land Reform Review Group, told The Herald: "It will be interesting to see what plans this gentleman has in terms of biodiversity and the local community. Some estates are used as private kingdoms by their owners..."

Povlsen, whose family owns Bestseller, the Danish fashion company that last year had a turnover of £2bn, also has substantial farming interests in his home country and owns areas of forestry in Romania.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Scottish Propertarian Party

Another party of confusion has been added to the Scottish political arena - the Scottish Libertarian Party (see website)  which declares that the ownership of property is a requirement for human existence and therefore a right, which advocates the abolition of all taxes on business and a free trade policy with a return to the gold standard amongst its policies. Fairly standard stuff of the Right. But genuine libertarians are vehemently anti-capitalist. How easy it is to fall into the  trap of accepting re-definition of words. Check out the history of the political meaning of "Libertarian" here 

The Scottish Libertarian Party is NOT  libertarian, no matter how often they make the claim. To be clear and to use the correct terminology they are a propertarian party. Right-"libertarians" are not interested in eliminating capitalist private property nor the authority, oppression and exploitation which goes with it. They make an idol of private property and claim to defend "absolute" and "unrestricted" property rights. In particular, taxation and theft are among the greatest evils possible as they involve coercion against "justly held" property. They call for an end to the state, not because they are concerned about the restrictions of liberty experienced by workers and tenants but because they wish capitalists and landlords not to be bothered by legal restrictions on what they can and cannot do on their property.

Their logic goes something like this: Free-market capitalism on its own would naturally lead to a world of personal freedom and economic prosperity, but this is thwarted by the power of the state, an organism that grows robustly at times of war. Hence, war must be opposed not only because of its own obvious evils, but as a way to drive back the power of the state which is standing in the way of a better life. For "libertarians" capitalism is an inherently peaceful system. They ridicule the idea that there is a connection between the nature of capitalism and the wars that constantly break out under it. In the "libertarian’s" mind, capitalism is—or should be—a world made up of enterprising capitalists, minding their own business(es) and interacting peacefully, without any need for the state to intervene in these affairs or for wars to be waged overseas. Here we are basically dealing with the viewpoint of the individual capitalist, particularly the small-scale one, who experiences the state as an unpleasant institution that appropriates his hard-earned wealth through taxation, sometimes to pay for wars that bring him no direct benefit. Remove this alien force and life would immediately be much rosier. The “liberty” that "libertarians" wax so philosophical about is the freedom of this economic actor to chase after his profit in peace. "libertarians" feels that capitalism can somehow behave more rationally than it does. This "libertarian" view of the benevolent nature of a market economy is a selective one. Their focus is on exchange, as a mutually beneficial act. This is a real “win-win” situation, where I give you my widget and get your gadget in return. The reality is quite the opposite. What is left out, however, are some of the strikingly war-like aspects of a capitalist economy, starting first and foremost with the cut-throat competition that goes on in the pursuit of profit. Nor do they dwell on the class divisions inherent to such a system and the conflict that that results. Never minding the fact that profits are squeezed out of workers, thus depriving them of their own personal liberty!

The state machinery and the wars it wages may seem a complete waste of tax-payer money to the individual capitalist (and to the libertarian who translates his blinkered viewpoint into a grand philosophy), but things look a bit different if we consider the capitalist class as a whole. Like any ruling class throughout history, the minority capitalist class needs the state, as an apparatus of coercion, to maintain its grip on power. And in addition to this age-old function of the state, a capitalist state is also necessary as a means of coordinating the diverse interests of individual capitalists in order to represent their collective interests as capitalists. The example of banking alone shows how deregulation may benefit a tiny stratum of capitalists at the expense of their bourgeois brethren who have to purchase exorbitant or shoddy products. Given this twin-necessity for the state—as policeman and mediating judge—the more far-sighted or financially more comfortable capitalists view the taxes directed to the state apparatus as money well spent. "Libertarians", in short, loathe the state without understanding why it must exist and play certain roles under their cherished capitalist system.

And the same shallowness characterizes their view of war, which is fervently opposed without an understanding of its root causes. Tensions between nations are always present over shifts in political allegiances between countries that may benefit some better than others. Global politics is a macrocosm of the local economy, with each company vying to get as much of the business as it can, such as trade, material resources and opportunities for future economic growth. Capitalism, as already noted, generates its own war-like behaviour at home, where capitalists will go to any lengths to vanquish the enemy (i.e. competitors). We may find this behaviour deplorable from the standpoint of human decency, but it does have its own necessity. And there is a similar capitalist logic at play when nation-states jostle and throttle each other for access to markets and resources, despite such behaviour being the height of idiocy from the perspective of humanity as a whole.

Opposition to the state might sound pretty good, but the "libertarian" anti-state position is based on a blind faith in the free market. They argue that the benevolent forces of the market economy are curbed by the centralised power of the state, which results in a curtailment of individual liberty. ""Libertarianism" states that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy. If these so-called libertarians are serious about liberty, and truly want to live under a state-less system where peace then they must end capitalism, whose invisible hand keeps slapping us around and pushing us to slay one another .

The Scottish Libertarian Party thinks that a return to a gold or silver-based currency would eliminate crises such as in the 1930s and today. This is an illusion. There was a gold-based currency up until WWI, yet crises occurred regularly, including a Great Depression in the 1880s and a hundred years ago the same sort of banking crises as today. Capitalism goes through its boom/slump cycle whatever the currency. No monetary reform can change that.

Money originated as a commodity, i.e. something produced by labour that had its own value, which evolved to be the commodity that could be exchanged for any other commodity in amounts equal to the value of the other commodity. Various things have served as the money-commodity, but in the end gold (and silver) was almost universally adopted. Being rare (i.e. requiring more labour to find and extract from nature, so concentrating much value in a small amount), and it was divisible and so easily coined as well as long lasting. As capitalism developed it was found that gold itself did not have to circulate, but that paper notes could substitute for it as long as those accepting or holding it could be sure that they could always change them for gold. Up until WWI in most countries the currency was gold coins and paper notes convertible into gold. The Great Depression of the 1930s led to the major capitalist countries abandoning this convertibility. Since then the currency nearly everywhere has been inconvertible paper notes. With an inconvertible paper currency, the amount of money is no longer fixed automatically by the level of economic transactions, nor is there any limit to the amount of paper currency that can be issued. It is this that they object to because, if the central bank issues more paper money than the amount of gold that would otherwise be needed, then the result will be a depreciation of the currency; the paper money will come to represent a smaller amount of gold with the result that prices generally will rise.

The gold standard was put into effect in the U.S. after the American Civil War. The gold standard in the U.S. was implemented due to demands from Wall Street financiers. they had financed the Union Army based on paper money. They wanted to be able to redeem the debt in dollars worth more than what they provided by tying the dollar to gold, and this would cause deflation, thus raising the value of their dollar-denominated debt. But the effect of this was to restrict growth in the money supply which was to drive down farm commodity prices, impoverishing farmers and driving a huge number of people off the land. That was because, as productivity in agriculture and industry in the U.S. grew in the late 19th century and early 20th century, growth in the money supply didn't follow suit. This led to a constant deflationary tendency. as farmers could get less and less per unit of output, they were unable to pay their debts.

In that era credit in general was extremely scarce, for example, until after World War II, it was hard to get house mortgages in the U.S. Typically you could only get a mortgage for a short period. Consumer credit only really developed in the '20s. This is relevant to the issue of the money supply because expansion of credit expands the money supply. Individualist Anarchists in the US in the 19th century spent a lot of time attacking the gold standard as it allowed the banks to charge extremely high interest as it restricted the money supply. Of course, in practice, banks used lots of techniques to increase the supply to make more profits, of course, but it was a key means of restricting working class access to capital -- which was essential to proletarianise a mostly artisan/peasant (i.e., pre-capitalist) society.

Nor was the deflationary effect necessarily a good thing for workers in the late 19th century. Falling commodity prices meant that employers also were under pressure to cut wages, which they did. It was wage-cutting that provoked the Great Rebellion, the railway strike, of 1877. Recessions/depressions tend to reduce worker bargaining power, and the late 19th century was subject to continual recessionary tendencies, with a big depression in the 1870s and again in the 1890s. In reality there is no particular reason to tie money to gold. The right-libertarian types such as the Scottish Libertarian Party like gold because the idea is to have control of the money supply independent of the state.

The Scottish Libertarian Party seeks to abolish what little services the state still provides for its poor, hungry, and dispossessed. In their  "libertarian" Scotland there would be no National Insurance, no Social Security, no National Health Service, nothing corresponding to the Poor Laws; there would be no public safety-nets at all. It would be a rigorously competitive society: work, beg or die. But these services were paid for in sweat and blood by activists who aimed to alleviate the stress and misery of poverty for the working class. Although against reformism we in the SPGB cannot deny the reality that certain reforms such as an eight-hour work-day or welfare assistance help those who cannot endure the nature of our survival-of-the-fittest capitalist state. Social and welfare services which have been forced upon the elite and conceded to the working class cannot be written off as unimportant. Militant labour fought for concessions. Poor people now have social programs. The Scottish Libertarian Party vision is nothing more than the resurrected dreams of robber barons of the past. They may be against state authority, but it is inconsistent to oppose tyranny in the public sphere of government and leave it unaddressed in the private sphere of work. It is to simply to trade one slave-master for another.

Right-"libertarians" ignore the vast number of authoritarian social relationships that exist in capitalist society. The right-"libertarian," then, far from being a defender of freedom, is in fact a defender of certain forms of authority. To defend the "freedom" of property owners is to defend authority and privilege.  Emma Goldman's rightly attacked that "rugged individualism" expoused by the likes of the Scottish Libertarian Party "which is only a masked attempt to repress and defeat the individual and his individuality. So-called Individualism is the social and economic laissez-faire: the exploitation of the masses by classes by means of trickery, spiritual debasement and systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit . . . That corrupt and perverse 'individualism' is the strait-jacket of individuality . . . This 'rugged individualism' has inevitably resulted in the greatest modern slavery, the crassest class distinctions . . . 'Rugged individualism' has meant all the 'individualism' for the masters, while the people are regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking 'supermen' . . .and in whose name political tyranny and social oppression are defended and held up as virtues while every aspiration and attempt of man to gain freedom and social opportunity to live is denounced as . . . evil in the name of that same individualism."

Right-"libertarianism" is unconcerned about any form of equality except "equality of rights". This blinds them to the realities of life; in particular, the impact of economic and social power on individuals within society and the social relationships of domination they create. Individuals may be "equal" before the law and in rights, but they may not be free due to the influence of social inequality, the relationships it creates and how it affects the law and the ability of the oppressed to use it. Without social equality, individual freedom is so restricted that it becomes a mockery (essentially limiting freedom of the majority to choosing which master will govern them rather than being free).

The thinker, Noam Chomsky argues that right-wing "libertarianism" has "no objection to tyranny as long as it is private tyranny...if you have unbridled capitalism, you will have all kinds of authority: you will have extreme authority."
Again as Chomsky puts it: "Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of 'free contract' between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else." Chomsky explains "Consider, for example, the [right-'libertarian'] 'entitlement theory of justice' . . . according to this theory, a person has a right to whatever he has acquired by means that are just. If, by luck or labour or ingenuity, a person acquires such and such, then he is entitled to keep it and dispose of it as he wills, and a just society will not infringe on this right. One can easily determine where such a principle might lead. It is entirely possible that by legitimate means -- say, luck supplemented by contractual arrangements 'freely undertaken' under pressure of need -- one person might gain control of the necessities of life. Others are then free to sell themselves to this person as slaves, if he is willing to accept them. Otherwise, they are free to perish. Without extra question-begging conditions, the society is just.The argument has all the merits of a proof that 2 + 2 = 5 "

Some right-"libertarians" actually claim common ground with true libertarians. Common ground? The socialist opposition to wage labour was shared by the pro-slavery advocates in the Confederacy. The latter opposed wage labour as being worse than its chattel form because, it was argued, the owner had an incentive to look after his property during both good and bad times while the wage worker was left to starve during the latter. This argument does not place them in the socialist camp any more than socialist opposition to wage labour made them supporters of slavery. As such, Right-"libertarian" opposition to the state should not be confused with the anarcho-communist, socialist real- libertarian opposition to it. The former opposes it because it restricts capitalist power, profits and property whilewe oppose it because the state is a bulwark of all three.

To sum up, as Anatole France said, which reflects the Scottish Libertarian Party's philosophy "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Friday, June 01, 2012

Scotland and the Spanish Civil War

Steve Fullarton, Scotland's last surviving veteran of the International Brigade passed away at 87 in May 2008. The last Scottish veteran of Spanish Civil War, 99 yr old Thomas Watters, an ex-Glasgow bus driver who went to Spain with the Scottish Ambulance Unit died in February 2012. We, the working class, should always remember our history. But the heroism of individual members of the working class is not always enough. The Spanish civil war involved bravery and  imagination mixed with calculated cruelty, murder, mayhem and, not a few times, stupidity.

In the 30s fascism had already made huge advances in Europe with dictators established both in Germany and Italy. A demonstration in Hyde Park in London by the British Union of Fascists in November 1936  was attended by some 100,000 people. The BUF were controlled in Scotland by William Chalmers-Hunter of Tillery, which was a country house just outside the village of Udny.

On July 18 1936, right wing nationalist forces attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of Spain. This Popular Front government, which could rely on 260 of the 470 seats in the Spanish Parliament, had been pursuing reforms and widening political freedoms within what was still a very poor and feudal country. At the time many peasants earned less than a shilling a day for 14 hours labours, whilst half of Spain was owned by mere 50,000 feudal landowners. The changes introduced by the elected government to the political and economic make-up of the country fell foul of the landed aristocracy, big industrialists and army generals, who proceeded to organize a fascist-military adventure against the elected government. The rebellion can be described in the main as a landed-class revolt against the agrarian reforms. The fascist-military revolt began in Morocco, a Spanish colony to spread to the mainland. Led by Generals Sanjurjo, Franco and Mola and supported by the Catholic Church hierarchy, the fascist army junta launched members of the Spanish military, Spanish Civil Guard, Spanish Foreign Legion, various fascist, religious fundamentalist and monarchist groups and 30,000 imported Moorish (Arab and Berber) mercenaries against the government and her supporters. In all 75,000 Moorish troops were employed in the Civil War. The fascist-military uprising could call upon 5/6 Italian Legionary Divisions consisting of 8-10,000 men, and, 15,000 Italian and 10,000 German technical troops.

The Spanish Civil War was fought against a backcloth where the British establishment was basically sympathetic to the fascists, their non-intervention in reality ensuring that the forces of General Franco won the day. We now realise that the rise of fascism in Europe was a direct consequence of the First World War and the dire economic conditions which led to the depression era.

To support the Spanish people in their defence of their democracy volunteers came to Spain from many countries. In all nearly 45,000 men and women from all over the world – organised in the main by Comintern came to Spain to form the International Brigades within the armies of the Republic. Some 2,200-2400 volunteers arrived from Britain to eventually form the British Battalion, a part of the International Brigades. The average age of the British Battalion was 29. This brigade saw action in most of the major battles of the Spanish War. One quarter of the British Battalion died during the war, some 526 killed and most everyone else wounded at least once. 80% of British Battalion volunteers were  members of the British Communist Party. Prior to the British Battalion formation in early 1937 volunteers from Scotland and elsewhere fought initially with Spanish militia units and then created a 145-man militia called the Tom Mann Centuria. English speaking troops also saw action in the 86th Brigade at the Cordora front, the John Brown Artillery Brigade and within sections of the Thaelmann (German), Commune de Paris, La Marseillaise and Edgar Andre (French) Battalions. Others operated as part of the POUM (neo-Trotskyist but affiliated to the ILP - the reason George Orwell enlisted in its militia ranks) and also with the anarchist militias. As well as combatants, Scotland contributed medical staff and the Scottish Medical and Ambulance Units. The Scottish Ambulance Unit, acted as a mobile medical service on first the Toledo front and later during the Siege of Madrid. Volunteer medics, drivers and nurses travelled to Spain independently, and worked both under battlefield conditions and in hospitals with a paucity of facilities and resources. Their important contribution to the conflict was to selflessly attend to the wounded under the most brutal and harrowing of circumstances

Scotland’s contribution to the British Battalion was 476 volunteers. Scottish volunteers comprised 23% of the estimated 2,400 men and women who travelled from Great Britain to serve in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

The one hundred Scots in the British battalion were initially engaged defending the road south of Madrid and while the Nationalists were held in check, over a quarter of the Scots died. Later we learned that a force of 381 took part in the disastrous attack on Brunete, where 289 were killed, seriously wounded or captured. "We fight to free Madrid as the first step to freeing Spain. We fight to free Spain as the first step towards freeing the world of fascism." (Orders of the Day 15th Brigade, July 5th 1937, before the Battle of Brunete). With the survivors transferred to the Aragon front where they helped in the capture of Quinto and Belghite, by October they had suffered another serious reverse at the assault on Fuentes de Ebro. It was here that four Aberdonians were to fall.

Aberdeen had always a strong socialist tradition dating back to at least Chartist times, and in the 1920’s the city was said to be considered to be even redder than Glasgow. 19 of Aberdeen’s finest committed to this fight; 5 of them making the ultimate sacrifice to the cause, and dying on the battlefields of Spain at Gandesa and Ebro. International Bigade volunteers  from Aberdeen and its environs: D. Anderson,W. Bruce,,R. Cooney (Bob Cooney was the Political Commissar to the British Battalion), R. Cooper, C. Downie,W. Dunbar, G. Forbes, A. Gibb, J. Londragon, A. Reid, R. Simpson,  J. Watson, C. Watt, A. Christie. Those killed in action: T. Davidson, A. Dewar,  C .McLeod, K .Morrice, E. Sim

The Perthshire contribution was Edward Brown, John Gordon, Robert Malcolm, Hugh MacKay, [John] William Gilmour, James Moir, Ann Murray, George Murray, Tom Murray and George Steele, all connected to Perthshire were members of that small but significant band of men and women who went to Spain during the Civil War between 1936-39. In July 1937, the British Battalion under the command of Fred Copeman was involved in an offensive to relieve pressure on Madrid and the northern front – later known as the Battle of Brunete. James Moir was killed in action during this battle. He was aged 20 and a member of the Communist Party. Edward Brownwas a member of the Communist Party (initially a member of the Independent Labour Party, Edward joined the Communist Party whilst living in Perth) and saw service in Spain at the British Battalion base and as a member of the British Battalion Anti-Tank Battery. When in 1936 Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts organized a march in Perth, Edward Brown was a part of the large crowd that opposed the march. John Gordon in common with a number of other young men found the reality of war too difficult and he deserted soon after deployment. This resulted in arrest and imprisonment at Valencia before repatriation home. Hugh MacKay served in the French Foreign Legion from which he deserted in 1934. It was because he made his own way to Spain in 1936 that he was initially imprisoned as a spy and eventually released in 1937, served in No. 2 Company of the British Battalion, and fought at Ebro .

A meeting took place in Perth at the Lower City Halls on May 17th 1938 organised by the Pro-Franco Friends of Nationalist Spain. The platform speakers included Colonel R.G. Dawson of Orchill, Bracon, Captain H.W. Luttman-Jones of Luncarty (Luttman-Jones was an organiser for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in Perthshire), Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott, Arthur Loveday (Late President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain) and Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman M.P. as chair. Both within and outside the meeting counter-demonstrations and heckling occurred so that a lot of the meeting was disrupted. Nevertheless, a resolution was passed: "This meeting records its heartfelt sympathy with fellow Christians who are suffering such prolonged martyrdom, declares its firm conviction that there will be no peace in Spain or the Western Mediterranean until the forces of anarchy, tyranny and Communism are crushed, and expresses its earnest hope and confidence that the great majority of Spaniards now supporting the Nationalist cause will gain an early triumph for unity, order, liberty and religious freedoms for which they are striving with such heroism."

Opponents to the Republic fell primarily into one of two categories: they either supported Franco and Fascist ideologies, or they opposed the Republicans on the grounds of anti-communism and the atrocities perpetuated by republican forces upon the Catholic Church in Spain. Papers such as the "Daily Mail" and the "Daily Express" often functioned as anti-Republican propaganda, as did (to a lesser extent) the "Glasgow Evening Express". Support for the Nationalists came predominantly from local BUF branches and from aristocracy such as the 8th Earl of Glasgow, who held long-standing military ties.Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, the Conservative M.P. for Peebles, formed the United Christian Front, whose manifesto alleged that Franco’s forces were engaged in fighting the Anti-Christ in Spain, while Major-General Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott formed the Scottish Friends of National Spain, whose first meeting is notable for denying that the attack on Guernica was air-based, and resulting in a riot with pro-Republican protestors.

At the Glasgow May Day Rally of 1937, 15,000 people turned out to march under the banner of "Solidarity with Spain" while Dundonians in that same year raised enough money to buy and send an ambulance to the Republican front. A food ship carrying 100 tons of food for those under siege in Spain was chartered and sent by a collaborative venture from the Edinburgh and Glasgow Trades Councils, while in Dundee, the Basque Children’s Committee was created in order to provide a accommodation for children from the Basque region who had been evacuated to southern England in 1937, with 25 children eventually travelling to Scotland to reside at Mall Park in Montrose, and 200 refugee children taken in by the Co-operative Society in Rothesay.

Arthur Nicol a lieutenant in the International Brigade and one of sixty from Dundee to volunteer for Spain, describes the journey to Spain. "First, we had to slip out of England like criminals. We took a weekend ticket to Paris. Then we had to dodge the French police on our way down through France to the Spanish border. Then it was an all night hike over the Pyrenees into Spain. I must say that the French Communist Party did a marvellous job organizing our journey through France. Dodging from place to place sometimes taking two or three weeks to get through France."

17 Dundonians died in Spain

It is impossible in such blog as Socialist Courier to describe all the volunteers to Spain so a brief biography of James Maley must suffice. He was just 11 when he was in George Square on the infamous occasion in 1919 when troops and tanks were called in after a demonstration for a 40-hour working week became a riot. This was the era of Red Clydeside, when disillusioned men not long returned from the trenches to a thankless civvy street discussed politics at close mouths. The young Maley started attending meetings, and listened to the Independent Labour Party firebrand, Jimmy Maxton, at Glasgow Green. In 1932, at the age of twenty-four, James Maley joined the Communist Party. He was a public speaker at Glasgow Green and Govan and tutor for the Party. He was captured at Jarama, with his machine-gun company. One of his comrades was executed. He was sentenced to twenty years with the others, but eventually released as part of a prisoner swap. His recount his experience of  going to Spain. Three buses were drawn up in George Square with the men paying £5/8s/0d  each for the journey. "It was like a Celtic supporters' outing. I recognised some of them who'd gone to school with me," he said. The lack of organisation was equally apparent when the volunteers were taken to the front. As they were getting off the lorry, the Republicans were already in retreat in a battle which was raging less than quarter of a mile away. "There were four of us with two cannons as well as 12 men with rifles," Mr Maley told BBC Scotland's news website. "As soon as we jumped off the lorry we had to begin firing. It was pandemonium, but we didn't have enough ammunition. There was no organisation; we fired until we ran out of ammunition, until there was nothing left." Following his Spanish experiences, had little time for the Roman Catholic hierarchy and didn't bring up his children in the faith. However, he was a die-hard Celtic supporter,   and two 30ft-long banners were unfurled in his honour at Hampden Park on Saturday during the cup-tie against St Johnstone, upon his passing. Quoting the slogan used by the defenders of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, "They shall not pass," the banners said: "James Maley RIP. No Pasarán". His communism owed more to the Calton than to the Kremlin.

Of the ninety-two Scottish International Brigade volunteers killed in Spain, sixty-five were from Glasgow; another nine came from the Lanarkshire mining communities around Blantyre.

 Five Communist Party members from Renton made their way to Spain to join the International Brigades to combat Franco. Brothers Patrick-Joseph, Tommy and Daniel Gibbons, along with James Arnott and Patrick Curley. Tommy was killed in the battle for Brunete. Danny was wounded in the Battle of Jarama in February 1937, and was allowed to return home – but he made his way back to Spain again. He was captured at the battle of Calaceite in March 1938. Patrick Curley was killed at Jarama.

31 volunteers came from West Dunbartonshire, including the five from Renton, and another 11 from Alexandria. Others came from Clydebank, Dumbarton, Duntocher and Dalmuir.

40 men and women from Fife - 11 of them from Kirkcaldy alone - made their way to Spain to take up arms.

There were 40 men and women from across Edinburgh who volunteered for Spain, ten of whom fell on the battlefields. Among them was Jimmy Rutherford, from Newhaven, who was only 20 when he was executed for his involvement in the battle. He sneaked back into the country after previously being deported – committed to helping the republican cause – only to be recognised and executed. He told his father, "If all the young men had seen what I saw out there, they would be doing what I am doing". Edinburgh shoe repairer Harold Fry, also  died on the battlefields, never seeing his son who was born after he set off for Spain.

George Watters, his brother in-law, William Dickson, who was killed at Brunete, Jock Gilmour also killed in action at Jarama, and Jimmy Kempton were volunteers from Prestonpans, a highly politicised town in the 1930s.

After the Battle of Guadalajara, in March 1937, André Marty reported to Comintern that the Brigades were on the verge of collapse due to the loss of men through demoralisation, deaths, casualties and desertions. Men previously commended for their courage were now described as “cowards, amoral and alco­holics”. The erosion of Brigade morale began with Jarama. Partly this was due to the harsh real­ities of a war in which they were used as expendable shock troops. The next battle in which the British Battalion was involved occurred a few months later, in July 1937, at Brunete, the first major offensive of the war. It quickly turned into an unmitigated disaster, both tactically and in terms of personnel. Of the 331 Britons who answered roll call on July 6, 1937. the first day of the battle, by July 24, when Franco’s forces finally broke through the Republican lines, 289 of them were dead, wounded or captured. With such enormous losses — most battalions were now down to under 200 men —morale plummeted and there were increasing outbreaks of insubordination and desertion. Around 298 British volunteers deserted (16 per cent) compared with about 100 Americans. Only one Briton, a Glaswegian, by the name of Peter Kemp, is known to have been formally executed. Morale deteriorated further in the Spring of 1937 with the Stalinist onslaught against the CNT and the var­ious, smaller "Marxist" parties. The Battalion’s greatest success, however, was its key role in the capture of the Aragonese town of Teruel on 8 January 1938, but this proved short lived as by the end of the month the British were forced into a series of retreats in the face of a fierce Francoist onslaught.

Even though the International Brigadess were rela­tively few in numbers, they played an important role as shock troops, but cen­tral to their effectiveness was their political and moral commitment, particular in the early days. The  example of the International Brigades benefited the Republic, and as the civil war progressed the idealism and heroism of the rank and file had an even greater impact on the wider labour movement, with a marked increase in the membership and influ­ence of the Communist Party. In spite of their politics, the rank-and-file Brigaders’ genuine inter­nationalism and sense of working class solidarity and selfless heroism could not have been in starker contrast to the treachery of their Bolshevik leaders of the Soviet Union or the rank hypocrisy of the bourgeois politicians of the western democra­cies. They inspired later generations with their bravery and selfless courage.

However, in this struggle for freedom and democracy, by November 1937, there were 15,000 anti-fascist prisoners in the Republic’s jails, about 1,000 of them from the POUM. The NKVD established numerous secret prisons around Madrid, which were used to detain, torture, and kill hundreds of the Stalin's enemies. Ethel MacDonald played an important role in exposing the Red death-squads. One of nine children, she was born in Bellshill on 24th February 1909. She left home at sixteen. MacDonald joined the Independent Labour Party eventually attaching herself to the Glasgow anarchists. She  travelled to Barcelona with Guy Aldred's partner, Jenny Patrick, here she began to broadcast on the CNT radio. MacDonald assisted the escape of anarchists wanted by the Communist Party secret police after the Barcelona May Days of 1937, acquiring the nick-name the "Scots Scarlet Pimpernel". Contrary to Communist mythology about it being an attempted POUM­/Anarchist coup d’état neither the POUM nor the Anarchists attempted to seize power but concentrated on negotiating a peaceful settlement. As a result the Barcelona workers were defeated and a Stalinist pogrom unleashed against the POUM and the Anarchists. Ethel would smuggle into prison letters and food for fellow anarchists. She too was then detained until she managed to escape from Spain. After leaving the country she made speeches on the way the Communist Party  had been acting in during the Spanish Civil War. She returned to Glasgow in November, 1937 and in a speech to 300 people at Central Station she said: "I went to Spain full of hopes and dreams. It promised to be utopia realised. I return full of sadness, dulled by the tragedy I have seen. I have lived through scenes and events that belong to the French revolution."

She accused the Communist Party of being complicit in the death of ILP volunteer Bob Smillie who died in jail in Valencia, officially of appendicitis/peronitis. Smillie's death has been surrounded in mystery and subject to speculation, with accusations that he was kicked to death by his Communist interrogators for refusing to co-operate. An official ILP investigation, conducted by David Murray of Motherwell ILP, found that the authorities were guilty of carelessness and neglect rather than direct malice. But it has been suggested by some that the ILP leadership deliberately prevented Smillie's death from becoming a matter of political debate and that the ILP joined forces with the Communist Party to cover-up the death of Bob Smillie. The argument being if it became widely known that the Communists were killing anarchists and the followers of Trotsky, this would only help Franco and the fascists.

ILP General Secretary Fenner Brockway argued that the Communists were on the wrong side of the barricades and were now "committed to the defence of property". Stuart Christie quotes the anarchist historian Jose Pierats that in Catalonia, between July and Octo­ber 1936, the Spanish Communist Party ranks was swelled by 8,000 landowners and around 16,000 "middle class professionals".

Expediency indeed arises during war and perhaps one of the most unusual at the time was when Communist Party members allied themselves with the Duchess of Atholl and supported her in the West Perthshire by-election of 1938 due to her commitment to the cause of Scottish aid to Spain. In fact, the Duchess belonged to the pro-imperial right wing of the Conservative Party and saw victory for Franco as a threat to British imperial interests in the Mediterranean, and the spread of fascism in Europe as a threat to the British Empire as a whole. As the historian Bill Knox puts it in his “Lives of Scottish Women”: “Her stance on the Spanish Civil War conferred on her the title of the ‘Red Duchess’, although never was a title more undeserved than in this case.”

Although having some initial successes, the government forces were no match for Franco and by January 1938 the British contingent eventually succumbed to the Nationalist forces at Tervel. The writing was now very firmly on the wall. By September news filtered through that all foreigners in the Spanish army had to be repatriated forthwith and by December they began to arrive home. With government forces in almost complete disarray, Franco took over most of Spain as dictator. By February 1939, the British government officially recognised Franco and by April his victory was complete.

The toll of the Spanish Civil War was 600,000 dead, 320,000 killed in action, 100,000 executed, 250,000 imprisoned for up to 30 years or more, 340,000 in exile, 250,000 houses destroyed, 150 towns severely damaged, One-third of total livestock lost, 700 bridges destroyed, 11 cathedrals destroyed. Those who weren't killed had been crammed into Franco's concentration camps, penal labour battalions, or settled down to a hungry future. The country swarmed with 57 varieties of police. It really was government by machine-gun and terror.

Whether the Spanish workers were wise in participating in a struggle so costly may be debatable, but as they had decided to take the plunge, and as they faced the most violent partisans of capitalism, the Socialist Party of Great Britain were, of course, on their side. The Socialist Party paid tribute to the conduct of the Spanish workers. Believing that a vital principle was at stake, they had rallied to the government against a powerful revolt backed by the greater part of the armed forces. Workers, with little or no military training, stood up to trained and experienced soldiers. Although sections of the military forces remained loyal to the Government, these were hampered by treason and sabotage among the officers. Only the untrained volunteer militias were thoroughly dependable.

Nevertheless, the SPGB questioned the wisdom of their action in rallying to a purely capitalist government in order to defend it against a military, aristocratic and clerical rebellion. It is difficult to blame socialists and anarchists who took up arms to defend themselves and their unions from murderous bosses; but we can perhaps look towards the rejection of political democracy that preceded the civil war that gave the fascists the pretext they needed to break cover and launch their assault. One thing that was demonstrated was the impossibility of achieving real unity by merging together in a Popular Front parties and individuals who differed so fundamentally in aim, outlook, and method. It was obvious in 1936 that it would be an enormous task to secure unity between long-standing opponents like the anarcho-syndicalists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, liberal-republicans, social democrats and Basque separatists. There was frequent inability to secure effective and loyal co-operation, which shows that, even the stress of war will not make men who think differently work to a common programme. The anarchists favoured a revolutionary popular peoples' militia. The Communists wanted a "political" army like that of the Russian "Red Army", controlled by party-line commissars and Liberal-Republicans sought a party-neutral non-political army, obedient to the government. These fundamental divergences of aim and method naturally have serious consequences.  For libertarian organisations such as our own there was a real problem. If there is no democracy, how could socialist ideas be spread? The truth is - unpopular as it is to some revolutionaries - that achieving socialism was not possible and they could seek only the poor second-best - a bourgeois democracy. Trying to go beyond this resulted in defeat and disillusionment. A war within capitalism could only be fought on capitalist terms. You can't have a democratic army. If, however, you have an overwhelming majority on your side, you don't need an army anyway. No amount of oppression can be made to work against the masses, as the Communist Parties  discovered when the Warsaw Pact countries went into melt-down or Mubarak in Egypt later also learned when his legitimacy as finally challenged. 

In summing up the Spanish Civil War, New York Times correspondent Herbert Lionel Matthews wrote : “Spain...taught us what internationalism means...There one learned that men could be brothers, that nations and frontiers, reli­gions and races were but outer trappings, and that nothing counted, nothing was worth fighting for but the idea of liberty”.

During the Spanish Civil War the call went out for an International Brigade, and workers from all over the world set out for Spain. They had developed an idea of working class solidarity against oppression, against Franco.

sources: Fascism in Aberdeen
see also an earlier post here

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Darien - Ships of fools?

In 1632 Scotland lost Nova Scotia – her only colony – as a result of the English war against France. England’s Dutch wars subsequently compromised valuable trading privileges upon which Scottish merchants had previously relied. Scottish overseas trading activity was further hampered by the Navigation Act, which cut Scottish ships out of international trade by forbidding the import of goods into England or her colonies unless carried in English ships or ships from the goods’ country of origin. Beginning in 1651, the goal of the Act was to force colonial development into lines favourable to England, and stop direct colonial trade with the Netherlands, France, Scotland and Spain. This law was enacted despite the Union of Crowns, and effectively meant that Scots merchants were boycotted for trade in England and all her colonies. To make matters worse two powerful English trading companies – the East India Company and the Royal African Company – claimed monopolies on the rich trades with the East Indies and Africa and jealously guarded these territories.

The year 1707 was the year when Scotland and England became one. The Union meant little to the abused and downtrodden of Scotland. Capitalism was on the cusp of its rapid rise during the Industrial Revolution, where money would be king and ordinary people would be nothing more than commodities and the fodder of profit for the wealthy elite. Scottish commercial interests wanted access to England’s colonial possessions to boost their weak and stagnant economy. In an era of economic rivalry in Europe, Scotland was incapable of protecting itself from the effects of English competition and legislation. The Scottish establishment realised that it could never be a major power on its own and that if it wanted to share the benefits of England's international trade and the growth of the English Empire, then its future would have to lie in unity with England. More so, Scotland's nobles were almost bankrupted by the Darien fiasco. Some Scots nobility petitioned Westminster to wipe out the Scottish national debt and stabilise the currency. The first request was not met though the second was and a Scottish Pound was given the fixed value of a shilling. Personal Scottish financial interests were also involved. Scottish Commissioners had invested heavily in the Darien Scheme and they believed that they would receive compensation for their losses. The 1707 Acts of Union, Article 14, granted £398,085 10s sterling to Scotland to offset future liability towards the English national debt. The events of the Union tended to crystallise the Darien scheme as a story of the Scots against the English but it is argued that economic distress was not the sole factor behind the decision of the Scottish Parliament to vote itself out of existence.

 Scotland’s Darien Company was the inspiration of the Scot who had already founded the Bank of England. William Patterson whilst in London, he had met a sailor called Lionel Wafer, who had told him about a wonderful paradise on the Isthmus of Panama, with a sheltered bay, friendly Indians and rich, fertile land - a place called Darien. Paterson immediately saw the potential of Darien as the location of a trading colony. Trade with the incredibly lucrative Pacific markets was a hugely expensive business, since all merchant ships had to make the hazardous trip round Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America. This added months to the journey, and the ships involved had a high chance of being lost at sea. If a colony could be established at Darien, goods could be ferried from the Pacific across Panama and loaded onto ships in the Atlantic from there, speeding up Pacific trade and making it much more reliable. Moreover, the Scottish directors of the Darien Venture could charge a nice fat commission for the privilege. Never mind that the Spanish claimed control of that part of Panama. There was the widespread belief that Spain was a paper tiger whose great days of imperial and military glory were in the past. The Scots, because of their successful venturing to the West Indies, were familiar with some of the recent stories about its failing powers. Henry Morgan, the legendary buccaneer, had marched across the Isthmus with just over 1,000 men and destroyed a much larger Spanish force that attempted to bar his path to Panama. Eight years after the sack of that city, Portobello was taken by a few hundred buccaneers.  In 1695 the Scottish parliament passed an Act for a Company Trading to Africa and the Indies, popularly known as the Darien Company. Some have said the Darien venture was the most ambitious colonial scheme attempted in the 17th Century, the Scots  realising the strategic importance of the area. However, others have said the Scots were daft to attempt such a venture, as it was doomed to disaster before it ever got off the ground.

Dr Douglas Watt, from Edinburgh University, has spent three years examining for the first time in detail the financial records of the Company of Scotland to reveal the incompetence which crushed all hope of success. Watt said: "The commonly held belief is that the company was undermined by English government, but the financial records paint a different picture." Records show overconfidence and mismanagement from the start. There were too many directors - 30 at one point - mostly inexperienced lairds rather than businessmen like William Paterson. Much of the investment was squandered on extravagant ships. They spent so quickly and badly they almost ran out of money even before departing for Darien. Lists of shareholders in the Company of Scotland show city merchants, lairds, landowners and nobles, doctors, lawyers, some ministers, soldiers, craftsmen and almost 100 women invested between £100 and £3,000 each. The Duchess of Hamilton, the premier noble woman in Scotland, invested £3,000 in the hope of big dividends, as did the Duke of Queensberry.

 Two forces conspired in the company’s foundation—desire in Scotland to find new markets overseas, and the wish of certain London merchants to circumvent the monopoly of the English East India Company. Opposition in the English parliament extinguished the London interest. The English government also threatened investors on the stock markets of London, Amsterdam, and Hamburg with dire consequences if they had anything to do with the Company of Scotland. King William, at war with France, was anxious to be on good terms with Spain, provided no support with instructions not to supply the colony. Nevertheless, Scottish investors went ahead alone. The Darien scheme was to be an attempt by Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called 'New Caledonia' on the Isthmus of Panama, an attempt to emulate London’s commercial success by mobilising Scotland’s meagre reserves of capital and launch  a world-wide trading empire. The management lost touch with reality, thinking a financially poor Scotland could take on the Spanish Empire, set up a colony in Central America and control both sides of the isthmus with just three ships. Scotland, without military power, didn't have a chance. The warnings of the sober and the cautious went unheeded. William angrily denounced the project's promoters as "raging madmen"

Five ships (Saint Andrew, Caledonia, Unicorn, Dolphin, and Endeavour) set sail from Leith in July 1698 with around 1,200 people on board. the fleet made landfall off the coast of Darien on 2 November. The settlers christened their new home "New Caledonia". They constructed Fort St Andrew. Close to the fort they began to erect the huts of the main settlement, New Edinburgh, and to clear land for growing yams and maize. They soon found out that Darien was a malarial swamp on land owned by the Spanish. Also there was nobody to trade with there, apart from a few not very commercially-minded native peoples, the Kuna.

A colonist describes his experience:

'When boiled with a little water, without anything else, big maggots and worms must be skimmed off the top... In short, a man might easily have destroyed his whole week's ration in one day and have but one ordinary stomach neither... Yet for all this short allowance, every man (let him never be so weak) daily turned out to work by daylight, whether with the hatchet, or wheelbarrow, pick-axe, shovel, fore-hammer or any other instrument the case required; and so continued until 12 o'clock, and at 2 again and stayed till night, sometimes working all day up to the headbands of the breeches in water at the trenches. My shoulders have been so wore with carrying burdens that the skin has come off them and grew full of boils. If a man were sick and obliged to stay within, no victuals for him that day. Our Councillors all the while lying at their ease, sometimes divided into factions and, being swayed by particular interest, ruined the public... Our bodies pined away and grew so macerated with such allowance that we were like so many skeletons."

Occasionally,  friendly indians took pity and gifted food but those were commandeered by those self-same idle councillors. Class power and privilege had not disappeared in the settlement. After eight months the colony was abandoned in July 1699. Only 300 of the 1,200 settlers survived and only one ship managed to return to Scotland.

Word of the first expedition did not reach Scotland in time to prevent a second voyage of six ships and more than 1,000 people. A third fleet of five ships left Leith shortly after. The second expedition arrived on November 30, 1699 and almost immediately faced a siege from the Spanish who called for the Scots to surrender and avoid a final assault, warning that if they did not, no quarter would be given. After negotiations the Scots were allowed to leave with their guns, and the colony was abandoned for the last time. Only a handful of those from the second expedition returned to Scotland. Those colonists who returned found themselves cast as pariahs in their own land. Roger Oswald, disowned by his father, wrote to a friend: "Since it pleased God that I have preserved [my life], and had not the good fortune (if I may term it so) to lose it in that place, and so have been happy by wanting the sight of so many miseries that have come upon myself... I never intended, nor do intend, to trouble my father any more."

Hoping to recoup some capital by a more conventional venture, the company sent two ships from the Clyde, the Speedy Return and the Continent under the captaincies of Robert Drummond and his brother Thomas, who had played a part in the second expedition, to the Guinea coast laden with trade goods. Instead of seeking to sell for gold as the company's directors intended the Drummond brothers exchanged the goods for slaves which they sold in Madagascar. The Drummonds fell in with the pirate John Bowen of Bermuda. Neither ship was seen in Scotland again. The Drummonds decided against returning to Scotland to explain the loss of the ships they had been entrusted with and no more was ever heard of them.

The company sent out another ship but it was lost at sea and afterwards not being able to afford the cost of fitting out yet another ship they leased the Annandale in London with the intention of trading in the Spice Islands, but the East India Company had it seized. This led to the scapegoating and hanging of three innocent English sailors. Popular ballads of the time indicate that it was seen as direct revenge for the role of England in the failure of the Darien scheme. Thomas Green drunkenly boasted of taking the Speedy Return, killing the Drummonds and burning the ship. Despite a total lack of evidence, Green and two of his crew, John Madden and James Simpson, were sent for trial. The prosecution case, which was made in medieval Latin and legal Doric, was unintelligible to jury and accused alike. The defence advocates seem to have presented no evidence and fled after the trial. The men were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. The Queen advised her 30 Privy Councillors in Edinburgh that the three men should be pardoned, but the common people demanded that the sentence be carried out. Nineteen of the Councillors made excuses to stay away from the deliberations on a reprieve, fearing the wrath of the infamous Edinburgh mob. Although they had affidavits from London by the crew of the Speedy Return, which proved Green and his crew had no involvement in the fate of the ship, the  Privy Council declined to pardon the men. Green, Madden and Simpson were subjected to derision and insults by the mob before they were hanged, being mocked by the huge crowd on the way to the gallows on Leith sands. Although the oppressed often do revolt, the object of their hostility is frequently misplaced. They vent their fury on a political puppet or scapegoat, effectively masking the truly culpable. It is an old, old game

From the outset, the Darien undertaking was beset by bad planning and poor provision, weak leadership, lack of demand for trade goods, devastating epidemics of disease and increasing shortage of food; it was finally abandoned after a siege by Spanish forces in April, 1700. As the Darien company was backed by about a quarter of the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the nobles and landowners – who had suffered a run of bad harvests – almost completely ruined and was seen as an important factor in weakening their resistance to the 1707 Act of Union. It proved conclusively that when the vital interests of Scotland and England were in conflict, the monarch would always opt to support the position of the more powerful kingdom. For King William the lessons of the Darien affair were clear. In future, he wished to avoid any potential war with Scotland, which was becoming increasingly likely, as this would result in the loss of their lands and associated rents. They also wanted to prevent the Scottish parliament from granting conflicting trade privileges and interfering in England’s foreign policy by acting as a competitor. Darien also brought home to many Scots that their nation simply could not go it alone in the colonial sphere, where massive military and naval resources were now vital for achieving success, convincing the business classes that they needed the military protection of the Royal Navy if they were to benefit from the new riches that colonialism promised. It is a reminder that it was the simple mundane realities of trade which bound Scotland to the union.

The poor of the Edinburgh mob, those Karl Marx described as the lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and  become its cannon fodder. The real danger comes from  the educated "middle-class"  who are barred by a calcified system from advancement and denied what they deem they deserve.  Lawyers without clients, journalists without newspapers, business-men without customers, and who had descended economically because of the Darien Scheme. They set out to rectify their position by bridging  two nations. They recognised personal profit was to be made in a union with England.

The Darien Expeditions was a  Scottish get-rich-quick scheme which most of the wealthy Scots put money into despite being warned off by the English, where the Scots elite lost their cash, bowed to English pressure, creating the union that was to keep them living in the style they had become accustomed too. So when nationalists talk about Scotland being sold out, it was by other wealthy Scots through bad business decisions. Darien is a monument to failure. The company's directors blamed the English government and merchants to deflect attention from their own failures.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blast from the Past

Bill Knox, a one time member of Edinburgh branch of the SPGB,  produces some interesting facts from the 19th and early 20thcentury

The Inequality

In Scotland in 1867 by 10% of the population received over 50% of national income. Those in the top 1% of income earners annually received 200 times more than the bottom 30%. Some of these men were fabulously rich, with industrialists such as ironmaster James Baird leaving an estate worth £1,190,868 on his death in 1876. The uneven distribution of wealth is also shown in the fact that only 12% of Scots had estates worth making a will for in 1881, and that the yearly wage for a well-paid skilled worker, such as a compositor, only amounted to £78 in 1880. The skilled worker would have had to have worked for over 15,000 years before he could have earned what Baird left on his death.
The super-rich were followed by the substantial middle classes whose average annual income was around £145 in 1867. They enjoyed a lifestyle which revolved around work, family and the kirk. Although they did not enjoy the social trappings of the super-rich, which included lavish houses and country estates, they experienced all this on reduced scale. What marked them out from the rest of Scottish society was servant-keeping. Over 55% of female workers in Edinburgh in 1871, although somewhat less in Dundee and Glasgow, were employed as domestic servants.

By the 1890s the picture might have seemed rosy: economic growth was inducing complementary improvements in the standard of living which, in turn, was actively transforming the social experiences of the Scottish people. However, much of this was a delusion.

Between 1901 to 1910 net emigration was running at the equivalent of 52% of the natural increase in the population, or some 282,000 people. Although many of the emigrants  were from the Lowland towns, the numbers leaving the Highlands were still significant. The collapse of the fishing industry in the 1880s had impoverished many crofters and they were unable to afford the rents on their crofts. This led to rent strikes and land grabbing and provoked retaliatory measures in the form of evictions by the landlords. The result was the Crofters' Wars of the mid-1880s. The Highlands and Islands remained poor, with agricultural wages in 1907 13% below the British average. As much as 34% of the total land area of the crofting counties of the Scottish Highlands was given over to deer stalking in 1914. Hunting lodges proliferated costing anything between £10,000-£70,000 for the more palatial to £3,000-£6,000 for the more modest. Although activity in this respect created employment for builders and gamekeepers, the gains were more than offset by the decline in the number of shepherds. Spending was of little benefit to local suppliers as the rich brought their supplies of food and wine from Glasgow or London. As one contemporary put it, the popularity of deer stalking turned the Highlands into the happy hunting grounds of the rich.

In spite of reform in 1845, the Poor Law still discriminated against the able-bodied poor. Under the 'Law of Settlement' the Irish were singled out for particularly harsh treatment, with regular deportations. Spending on the poor was also parsimonious. Expenditure increased from £740,000 in 1864 to £1,600,000 in 1914, but this was still grossly deficient in relation to need. It was also less than expenditure in England. Indeed, the latter on average spent a third more on its poor than Scotland did. For those in work outside the skilled trades the picture was not much better. Women earned much less than men and there was a large gulf between the skilled and unskilled worker.

The Slums

An indicator of poverty - the infant mortality rate - increased as the 19th century wore on. The rate increased from 118 per 1,000 live births in the period 1854-1859 to 122 in 1904- 1905; a figure much higher than that for England and Wales. This was primarily the result of poverty but it also had an obvious connection with housing conditions. In Glasgow 32% of all children who died before the age of five in the late 1890s lived in one apartment houses. The 1861 census had showed that 34% of all Scottish housing consisted of only one room - the 'single end' - and a further 37% consisted of two rooms. Fifty years later the census showed that while the number of people living in one-roomed houses declined to 13% of the total, the number of those living in two-roomed houses remained high at 41% of the total. Of course, in the large cities the situation was much worse. Glasgow still had two-thirds of its population in this type of cramped accommodation, as did Dundee. A survey of Edinburgh in 1913 revealed that there were over 7,000 one-roomed houses, of which 94% shared a common water closet and 43% a common sink. In Glasgow there were 44,345 such houses and of these 93% shared a toilet, but most had their own sink. The position was not much better in Glasgow's 111,451 two-roomed houses as 62% of them shared a toilet. There was a need for good quality public sector housing let at rents people could afford, but the dominance of property owners and their interests on town councils blocked such a move. The public health measures introduced in the  large urban centres in the 1850s and 60s were ignored by smaller towns and villages. Lochgelly in Fife in 1867 had two toilets for a population of 2,000. Sewage was thrown on the streets where it seeped through the ground surface into a mine well from which the public water supply was drawn.

Lloyd George's election slogan 'Homes fit for Heroes' led to the passing of the Addison Act of 1919. This began a programme of house building in the public sector. Local authority building in Scotland was responsible for over 50% of new housing in 1934, while in England it was only around 20% which was to intensify after the 2nd World War and leave Scotland in the 60s with a higher state ownership of housing than most Eastern Bloc countries. However, in spite of the general expansion of the public sector, it was still a fact that most of the population of the leading cities were living in one or two roomed houses, with Dundee and Glasgow by far the worse. Those in most need of re-housing were put off applying for a new council house because of the high cost. In Dundee the yearly cost in 1926 of a four apartment house on the Craigiebank estate was estimated to be 52% of the average textile wage, and a three apartment at the Logie estate was 46%. As a result most of the new tenants tended to be from the white collar or the skilled working class.

The 'Godless Poor'

A survey carried out in 1900 showed that the unskilled did not attend church in large numbers. In mining areas evangelists found it difficult to win converts; in industrial Hamilton the presbytery found that from one-fifth to a half of Protestant families did not attend church in the 1890s. Ten years earlier in one area of Glasgow noted for its unskilled working population only two out of every seven men surveyed had any connection with the church. In spite of the abolition of pew rents, the working class was still alienated from the church and its ministry. The exception was the Catholic Church.

Religion divided Scotland on sectarian lines. Catholic Irish families suffered from the prejudices of presbyterian Scotland. They were depicted by the media and the pulpit as uncivilised and drunken, idle and lazy. The same did not apply to Irish Protestants who migrated in large numbers in the 1870s and 1880s to Clydeside. The growing large Irish Protestant population increased religious tensions as they brought their Orange Lodges with them. By 1913-1914 Glasgow had 107 Orange Lodges out of a total of 400 for the whole of the United Kingdom, and certain occupations, such as boilermaking, were recruited for on a religious basis. Prejudice and discrimination combined to keep the Catholic Irish at the bottom of the heap. Insecurity fuelled sectarianism rivalries. Reacting to the decision in 1918 to provide for Catholic schooling out of local taxation, the Protestant churches led a racist anti-Irish Catholic crusade. In 1923 the Church of Scotland issued a pamphlet condemning the Irish as a 'menace' to the Scottish race and kept up a stream of anti-Irish propaganda throughout the 1920s. This set the tone for more extremist Protestant organisations to make headway as the economic depression grew worse after 1929. At a time when the main churches were losing members in droves, the Scottish Protestant League in Glasgow and the Protestant Action Society in Edinburgh made spectacular gains in local elections, with the latter also carrying out a policy of attacking and harassing Catholic gatherings. Glasgow also faced the problem of sectarian gang warfare which emanated from football. The Billy Boys supported Rangers, while their rivals the Norman Conks identified with Celtic.