The Calm Before The Storm (Issue 19 Editorial)

By Ross Walker

We’re living in the deepest crisis of capitalism in history, a crisis which has left no country untouched. The banking crash of 2008 has had huge economic, social and political consequences which has forced masses of previously “apolitical” people the world over to take an active interest in what’s going on around them. Terrorism, wars and violent oppression are no longer the monopoly of the so called “developing world” but are entering Europe and north America dramatically. In October the world watched in shock at the Franco era style of police brutality in Catalonia shattering many illusions of parliamentary democracy and the so called, civilised and fair EU.Britain has been far from sleepy. The story of the year, so far, is May’s gross miscalculation in calling a snap election, losing a majority and allowing for Corbyn to lead a popular left wing campaign, inspiring millions to register to vote. We’re now in a situation where for the first time in decades, a left labour leader could very soon become the British prime minister. The Tory party, which was once the most stable bourgeois party in the world is ridden with crisis. May seems more and more fragile by the day and no wonder. Her backbenches are full of equally pathetic slimy scumbags trying to stick the knife in whilst in front of her an ever emboldened Corbyn is watching ready to pounce.

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Leadership Election: Scottish Labour Moving Left

By Amy Dean, Glasgow
The Scottish Labour leadership election came as something of a surprise to political commentators, and indeed Labour party members and representatives, across the country. Kezia Dugdale’s resignation on 29th August did not come after an embarrassing election result or in the midst of controversy. Rather, following the calamitous result in 2015, the June general election actually saw a partial recovery with the party returning seven MPs north of the border and increasing their vote by three percentage points. At the time of her resignation Dugdale cited personal reasons and a feeling that it was time to pass the baton on to someone else, though it has been speculated that she had come under criticism from the left-wing of the party for her lack of support for UK leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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Scottish National Investment Bank: A Marxist View

The SNP Spring Conference endorsed a motion calling on the Scottish Government to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB). The idea of National Investment Banking has recently found favour among the left of British politics, with left wing Independence campaign Common Weal publishing a blueprint and Jeremy Corbyn proposing a British bank with regional branches as a key economic policy.

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Pride and Prejudice in Police Scotland

Sarah Taylor, Newcastle and Harvey Dodds, Edinburgh

On 19th of August, at Glasgow Pride, 5 activists were arrested. This allegedly fell under discrimination laws, as one protester was brandishing a sign with the slogan ‘Faggots Fight Fascism’. This arrest occurred, whilst allowing the homophobic Christian group across the road to shout mantras condemning queer people to hell.

 

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Lessons of Charlottesville

By Rb Lyon, Fightback Canada and Revolution Scotland Editorial Board
The violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, with open street battles between the forces of the American far right and a large contingent of counter-protesters, mark a new stage in the process of political polarization taking place.

The fascist terror and violence in Charlottesville with dozens injured and culminating in the murder of Heather Heyer, an activist and Bernie Sanders supporter, is not a one-off event, but an expression of the profound crisis of capitalism.

The events in Charlottesville graphically show us the danger the far right represents and should serve as a warning to all organizations of the working class and on the left. The far right is gathering strength and has come out into the open, but its strength must not be exaggerated. The task now is to understand what has happened and what it means, to study the rise of the far right, and get organized to fight against it.
Polarization to the left and right
As the crisis of capitalism deepens, the traditional establishment parties have proven incapable of finding a solution. Every attempt to establish economic equilibrium introduces profound social instability and vice versa. The economic and social impasse has resulted in the collapse of the “centre” and fuels the sharp polarization in society to both the left and the right.
In the United States, poll after poll show a growing interest in and the popularity of socialism. The process of polarization to the left is reflected in mass demonstrations and protests, the Occupy movement, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon, movements such as Black Lives Matter, the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America, and other currents, tendencies, and groups on the left.
The polarization to the right in American society has been reflected in the rise of the so-called alt-right and the emergence in its wake of far-right and fascist groups. The far-right and fringe fascists, trying for years to ditch their paramilitary outfits and bed sheets for polo shirts and khakis, sought mainstream respectability behind the façade of the alt-right. But behind this mask, the ugly forces of American fascism and the far right began to group and come together.
The victory of Trump represented this collapse of the centre and process of polarization in a confused and contradictory way. While his victory represented an anti-establishment sentiment on the party of many, one other result was that the far right has been emboldened by Trump’s victory.
Trump has surrounded himself with racists and fringe right-wingers, and has sanitized and normalized racism and hatred with his ignorant, bigoted rhetoric. With slogans like “Make America Great Again”, his attacks on immigrants and proposal for the wall, and talk of “taking our country back”, the far right sees a point of support in Trump and believe they are fulfilling his promises.
For months following Trump’s victory there has been an increase in racist attacks. Openly racist and fascist groups have been holding meetings and rallies in ever increasing numbers, promoting hatred and provoking violence everywhere they go. On a local level, in city after city across the United States, we’ve seen the emergence of anti-immigrant and racist gangs of “patrol squads”, anti-left street-fighting goon squads, armed militia groups, and openly fascist organizations.
Counter-protesters from across the left have met and confronted these racist, far-right meetings and rallies anywhere and everywhere. The racists and fascists come to intimidate and to fight counter-protesters. This is their stated aim.
This has inevitably led to clashes. Far-right rallies and the resulting clashes have for the most part been limited, small, and local. Driven by the crisis of capitalism and the process of polarization taking place at all levels of society, escalation has been implicit in the situation. This process of escalation culminated in the events in Charlottesville this weekend. This not only marks a new stage in the process of polarization, but itself will drive this process forward.
The Battle of Charlottesville
Nominally about opposition to the removal of a Confederate statue, the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was intended to be a show of force, a coming-out party for the far right and fascists nationally.
The racist goon squads and fascist thugs came looking for a fight. They terrorized Charlottesville for the entire weekend. Fascists marched on the University on Friday night wielding torches, complete with Nazi salutes and chants of “You will not replace us”, “Jews will not replace us”, and “blood and soil” (evoking the Nazi slogan “Blut und Boden”). Before they were done, in a frenzy and looking for blood they had threatened and intimidated churchgoers and had surrounded and beat a group of student counter-protesters.
On Saturday, in the morning before the “Unite the Right” rally was to begin, far-right goons descended on counter-protesters, attacking them as they made their way to the counter-demonstration. One of the counter-protesters described the scene as follows:
“Eventually, hundreds and hundreds of white supremacists came walking or running or jumping down the streets, in successive waves. Sometimes they were dressed like Italian fascists; sometimes dressed like Donald Trump at a golf course, with white polo shirts and khaki pants and red “Make America Great Again” hats; some Nazis were saying, “Sieg heil!;” and some were saying, “Heil Trump!” It was Nazis of all stripes — proud boys Nazis, and Nazis in camouflage fatigues, and then your normal KKK Nazis. You’d see one group of Nazis, then another group of Nazis, and then another and another, and another.”
Small clashes and street fights between the fascist thugs and counter-protesters escalated into open brawls and street battles. After the rally had been declared an unlawful assembly by police and the crowds were dispersed, a group of fascist thugs decided to go to public housing and attack black residents at a housing project. The residents resisted and fought off the fascist attack as antifa and counter-protesters came to help.
As the counter-protesters were making their way back to the park, they joined together with a Black Lives Matter march. This was when James Fields, in an act of pure terrorism and an effort to kill as many people as he could, drove his car into the crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
A new stage
The “Unite the Right” rally was organized following a similar, smaller “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville in May which had been quickly dispersed by police after clashes with counter-protesters. Various figures and groups on the far right wanted revenge and a show of strength, and spent months planning the “Unite the Right” rally. Members and followers of far-right groups came to Charlottesville this past weekend from across the United States, most reportedly from out of state.
While the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville is now considered the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade or more, after months of planning it was estimated by some in the media that there were only an estimated 500–1000 people in the fascist camp. In any event, by all accounts they were drastically outnumbered by the counter-demonstration, which was at least double the size.
However, the consequences and meaning of the events in Charlottesville cannot be ignored. The rally itself does mark a new stage in the development of the far right. With the alt-right serving as an umbrella, various local far-right groups are linking up on a regional and national level and coalescing around common slogans and common organizational and political aims. From smaller, isolated groups they are trying to form a national network.
However, though Charlottesville marks a new stage in the development of the far right, the strength of their forces should not be exaggerated. The far right has clearly grown stronger and bolder, but their forces remain small. Though growing, they remain small and weak on a local and national level.
The fascists are drawing closer together as a movement in embryonic form nationally in the United States. This is cause for concern and requires immediate action, but we must not exaggerate the scale or extent. There is no immediate danger of the rise of fascism as such, nor are the fascists anywhere near assuming state power.
What is fascism?
Historically speaking, fascism arose as a reactionary force in the 1920s and 1930s out of the intense crisis of capitalism following the First World War. What made fascism unique was that it had a mass base which the capitalist class could use as a battering ram to smash the working class and annihilate its organizations. As a special form of reaction, it was used as a measure of last resort by the capitalist class to atomize and crush the working class and save the capitalist system.
In the interwar period, the crisis of capitalism hit the working class hard – in the form of intense attacks on working and living conditions, attacks on wages and rampant inflation, factory closures, and massive job losses. At various times throughout the entire interwar period, the crisis of capitalism led the working class down the road of socialist revolution.
Class conflict and revolutionary struggle on the part of the working class meant fierce state and extra-parliamentary repression in the form of physical attacks on the workers’ organizations by the capitalist class and the state. Groups of armed thugs like the Freikorps in Germany served as auxiliary organs of state repression. Fascism finds its origins partially in such groups, which were often employed by the ruling class and the state to terrorize the working class. However, organizations like the Freikorps were not powerful enough to completely smash the organizations of the working class.
At a certain point, the revolutionary crisis of society leads to a point where the bourgeoisie can no longer rule on the basis of normal parliamentary, police, or military means. The capitalists can no longer contain the working class or maintain their class rule without utterly smashing the organizations of the working class. This was the historic role of fascism.
The crisis of capitalism also hit the petty bourgeois masses hard. Squeezed by the crisis and crushed by finance capital and big business, the small businessmen and office workers, professionals and civil servants, small traders, small shopkeepers, and peasantry suffered closures of their shops, the loss of jobs and income, and faced obliterated savings and financial ruin. This too drove the petty bourgeois masses to political activity.
Because of their position in society, with an indirect relation to production, and finding itself between the working class and the capitalist class, the petty bourgeoisie cannot act independently politically, cannot find an independent way out of the crisis, and tends to fall into the camp of either of the two other classes when struggling openly to find a way out of economic and social crisis.
If the working class cannot successfully lead a revolutionary struggle and show a way out of the crisis for these middle classes, as was the case in the interwar period in Italy, Germany, and Spain, the increasingly embittered and enraged petty bourgeoisie can begin to turn towards reaction. In the context of the interwar years, this meant that they eventually became the mass base of support for fascist counter-revolution.
The petty bourgeois was frantic and furious, and with the failure of socialist revolution came to see their saviour in fascism. Finance capital and the big bourgeoisie were utterly desperate for a resolution of the crisis in their favour. With powerful, mass fascist movements prepared to go to the end, the big bourgeoisie had found the special tool it needed to smash the working class and its organizations.
As Trotsky explained, “Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpen proletariat – all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.”
Under the pressure of the crisis during the interwar period, the German, Italian, and Spanish ruling classes came to the conclusion that the very existence of the workers’ organizations, the only weapons the workers have to defend their interests and conditions, were an obstacle and incompatible with the continued existence of capitalism. From the perspective of the ruling class, the trade unions and the workers’ parties had to be smashed in order to ensure the enslavement of the working class and resolve the situation in the favour of the capitalist class.
The total terrorizing of the working class and the total destruction of the workers’ organizations required the services of something beyond “normal” state and extra-parliamentary repression. It required the tool of fascism – a mass movement of reaction. Unlike a more traditional military or police dictatorship, which lack a mass social base, fascism, with its mass base, was capable of utterly destroying all democratic rights and the organizations of the working class.
Based on the enraged and frenzied petty bourgeois and lumpen proletariat, the most despondent and backwards elements of society, the mass base of fascism allowed it to penetrate far deeper into the fabric of society than any military or police dictatorship, and on this basis it was able to thoroughly smash opposition at all levels. This is what distinguishes fascism from other forms of reaction and counter-revolution.
Balance of class forces
In exchange for destroying the organizations of the working class and saving capitalism, the fascists were handed total control of the state. The fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were given free rein to smash all opposition to the rule of capital.
But fascism, the distilled essence of imperialism, and the direct, naked, and violent rule of capital, could not suffer opposition. The naked rule of capital had to be protected against any and all threats. Once the working class had been smashed, the frenzied petty bourgeois, now mobilized and emboldened, in turn represented a danger to fascist rule. After mobilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram of reaction, in order to ensure the iron rule of capital, fascism strangled the middle classes through monstrous terror and repression by means of the bourgeois state, which was under their total control, and the repressive mechanisms of which they had expanded to an unprecedented degree.
The fascists were forced to betray their social base and fascism began to approach other, more “regular” forms of Bonapartist rule. Without its social base, fascism weakened and began to resemble other forms of military or police dictatorship.
The ruling class in Germany, Italy, and Spain lost control over their state and were politically expropriated by the fascists. This was a Faustian bargain for the capitalists and a heavy price to pay for saving capitalism, but it does show the lengths they are willing to go to in order to preserve the private ownership of the means of production.
However, the ruling class burned their fingers very badly with fascism and they have not forgotten this. In Germany, the ruling class handed absolute power to an absolute madman and in the end lost half of Germany and Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union. Far from ensuring the victory they so desperately sought, fascism led to the defeat and humiliation of German capitalism. This is why, since the Second World War, the bourgeoisie has preferred to rule through the military or the police when reaction is needed to crush the working class and save capitalism.
Because of the experiences of the interwar years through to the Second World War, the capitalist class will not be so willing to hand over control of their state to the fascists. The police and the generals are more loyal and reliable servants of capital and are more easily controlled because of their economic and social links to the monopolies and finance capital as well as their direct connections to the state.
The students in Germany and Italy in the interwar period were largely the privileged sons and daughters of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois. They overwhelmingly supported the fascists at that time and were a large part of its social base. Working class youth did not go to university, they went to work in the factories. Today the situation is very different. Since the Second World War, capitalism has been forced to expand education services and open the doors of the colleges and universities to the sons and daughters of the working class in order that they can operate the machinery of modern industry. Students today, certainly the most active layers, are on the side of the working class and look to the left. It is no accident that the new left movements we see forming today are composed largely of the youth – young workers and students.
The working class is far stronger today than it was during the interwar period. The peasantry, a major element in the base of social support for fascism in the interwar years, no longer exists in the advanced capitalist countries. The rural population itself has shrunk and the urban working class has expanded greatly. The middle-class professionals, the civil servants, clerks, and teachers have been increasingly proletarianized. The balance of class forces is overwhelmingly in our favour.
The meaning of Charlottesville
The balance of class forces today means that the traditional reserves of social support for fascism as such have been eroded by the very development of capitalism itself. While fascist organizations are increasingly coming out into the open, coalescing, growing stronger, and becoming better organized, they remain small, isolated sects.
While composed of enraged middle class along with declassed and lumpen elements, they do not represent a mass movement of the enraged petty bourgeois. They have no mass base, and they demonstrated this weekend that there isn’t even much of a movement behind them.
What the fascist organizations did this weekend was send a message to the state and ruling class. They have issued notice that they are present, and that they are ready and willing to serve the ruling class when it needs them for the purposes of reaction.
They let it be known that when the ruling class grows tired of social protest movements such as Black Lives Matter, the fascists will be there ready to terrorize and attack them.
They let it be known that when the ruling class grows tired of the organizations on the left such as the labour, socialist, communist, and anarchist organizations, they will be there to terrorize and attack them.
They let it be known that when the ruling class wants to rid itself of the organizations of the working class such as the trade unions, they will be there to terrorize and attack them.
Trump doubles down
The response of President Trump to the events in Charlottesville was not unexpected. On Saturday, Trump equivocated and eventually blamed the violence “on both sides” and drew a moral equivalence between the white supremacists and those protesting them, thereby sanitizing racist hatred and fascist murder. This made the fascists very happy, but created a problem for the establishment and the media.
The Democratic and Republican establishment and the liberal-leaning media were outraged. In the face of the outrage over the racist violence and the terrorist attack and murder of Heather Heyer, the establishment and media found they were not in a position to openly deplore the anti-fascists.
Despite all the talk about “American values”, morality, civil rights, and equality, the real reason for the moral indignation of the establishment and the media is that the far right is not currently benefitting or helping the ruling class. In fact, the events in Charlottesville will in the end help the left. The establishment and the media would much rather continue talking about Putin and Russia, and not Charlottesville, which strikes at race and class issues.
In the face of fierce criticism, Trump finally denounced the KKK, the Nazis, and white supremacists, to the dismay of the fascists, causing some of them to have meltdowns. It was obvious that he was reading from a script clearly not drafted by him and in which he clearly did not believe.
From the perspective of the ruling class and the establishment, it would have been far better had Trump done this from the beginning. If Trump had clearly condemned the fascists from the get go, the media and establishment could have taken this as a given, as a no-brainer not worthy of much attention, and then quickly moved on to criticising the “extremism” of the anti-fascists and the counter-protesters, which they are now starting to do anyway. Then they could get back to focussing on Russia.
Trump clearly didn’t like having to bend to public pressure or being told what to say. The day after he denounced the fascists, he doubled down and again blamed “both sides”, as if people defending themselves from Nazis are to blame and after the fascists killed someone. Speaking off the cuff, he then claimed there were “fine people” amongst the fascists and attacked the counter-protesters, equating them with the fascists by calling them the “alt-left” and accusing them of causing the violence and “charging with clubs in their hands”.
The ruling class wants this whole thing to blow over, but because of Trump it just will not go away. Revolution advances under the whip of the counter-revolution, and the scenes of racist and fascist violence have enraged millions of workers and youth. Shocked at the violence, many people will be spurred into political activity to stop the far right. The events in Charlottesville will radicalize people and only make the left more determined and organized.
Bad apples
Some liberal commentators in the bourgeois media have taken a psychological approach to the question, as if the rise of the far right, the rise of the physical forces of reaction, can be reduced to the question of a few bad apples. Many point to failures in the education system, parenting, addiction and abuse or a confluence of socioeconomic factors that lead youth to join far-right and fascist organizations.
Indeed, there are a multitude of factors that combine in a complex way to determine one’s political beliefs. While a psychological approach may help to convince some on the far right of their ignorance and the error of their ways, this approach could never truly do anything about the movement itself.
As long as there is class society, there will always be a far right. Racism and the far right are an inherent part of capitalism. The ruling class foments racism and chauvinism to maintain inequality and ultimately their class rule. Capitalism cannot provide for all, and if we are fighting each other then we will not be able to unite and fight the ruling class as one, which is the only way we can win. As long as class society continues to exist, as long as there is capitalism, there will continue to be racism, exploitation, and misery, and the far right will continue to exist.
The question of the far right and the emergence of fascist tendencies is not a psychological question, but primarily a social question. There cannot be polarization to the left without polarization to the right. As the forces of solidarity and revolution coalesce and grow, so too do the forces of reaction and counterrevolution.
The forces of the far right have always been fed by the most backwards elements in society. The far right has always been composed of the most despondent, alienated, frenzied elements of the petty bourgeois, declassed elements and the lumpen proletariat. The ideas of the far right, the ideas of racism, hatred, and fascism resonate with these layers, crushed by capitalism, squeezed by big capital and in whose despair racism, chauvinism, nationalism, and hatred are bred.
The overwhelming majority of the population is working class. The social position of the working class in production, the common working and living conditions of we, the wage slaves, builds social consciousness. This social consciousness becomes the basis for solidarity, unity, and socialist ideas.
While this cannot explain the ideological development of individuals, it does explain why the polarization to the left in society is a mass expression and why, as this process continues and class consciousness develops, the masses will seek socialist solutions to the crisis of society.
The events in Charlottesville reflect the polarization in society and will also spur that
polarization forward. The far right may grow and attract a few new followers, but not many. Many, many more will join our side. The disgusting scenes of racist and right-wing violence have enraged millions and many will be spurred into action and become politically active. Young workers and students are interested in socialism and revolution to an unprecedented degree. One of the keys to defeating the far right and fascists will be building a vibrant, mass socialist movement that can confront the threat of the far right head on and overwhelmingly defeat it.
Fighting fascism
We must maintain a sense of proportion. There is no immediate danger of the rise of fascism as a mass movement of reaction. But this does not mean that the emergence of far-right and fascist organizations does not represent a threat and a danger. Though small, these are the physical forces of reaction and counterrevolution, which makes them inherently dangerous. This was proven in Charlottesville this past weekend.
Given the historical experience of fascism in Europe in the interwar years and the Second World War where the ruling class burnt its fingers, and given the changes in the class balance of forces since then where the mass social base of fascism has been significantly eroded, the bourgeoisie is unlikely to hand state power over to the fascists again.
When the ruling class comes to the conclusion that democracy must be jettisoned in order to preserve the capitalist system, they will most likely use other means – but to do this they first need to defeat the working class. Gangs of fascist thugs will play an auxiliary, extra-parliamentary role in reaction and counter-revolution, and will be used to harass, terrorize, and attack the working class and its organizations. This is why these organization remain a direct, physical threat to social movements, the left wing, and the organizations of the working class.
Some liberals have said they hope that after Charlottesville, we will no longer see such displays of white supremacy and fascist violence. However, the far right and the fascists will not be going away anytime soon. They have already threatened vigils, rallies, and meetings in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Far-right and fascist meetings and rallies have already been scheduled and announced in cities around North America. Racist attacks and clashes will continue. There will be ebbs and flows in the struggle against the far right to be certain, but the conflict will continue and they will remain a threat.
The organizations of the working class and the left cannot expect anything from the police. Calls for the police to do something about the far right or to disarm them will fall on deaf ears. Even if some of these demands were met, only the workers’ organizations would be able to implement and enforce them. As an institution, the police are protectors of private property and a key part of the bourgeois state. As the class struggle intensifies, they will openly become the frontline defenders of the dictatorship of capital.
From a class point of view, they have the same job as the fascists, only they do their job in an official capacity. This means that the police are no friend of the working class. We must fight against the reaction with our own means and our own methods.
The situation in Scotland and the UK is different from the situation in the United States but the events contain many similar lessons. The same polarization is taking place and the far right will grow here as well, just more slowly. The Scottish Defence League’s demonstrations in Wishaw and Alloa as well as the Far right Tommy Robinson’s clashes with Celtic fans in Sunderland show this. The events in Charlottesville should serve as a warning to the working class and the left. It would be extremely dangerous on our part if we sat back and ignored the situation under the naïve belief that the far right and fascists are not growing and developing here.
We must stand up against fascist aggression and attacks wherever and whenever they occur. Each time the fascists crawl out from under their rocks we must drive them back. However, the struggle against the far right and fascists must be a social struggle, part of the broader political struggle against inequality and exploitation, low wages and unemployment, racism and police violence, and all the misery and horrors of capitalism. Fighting the fascists through isolated confrontations between small groups will win us some battles, but not the class war. If all it took was street fighting to beat the far right, then we would have achieved complete victory long ago.
The consciously organized working class, acting in a militant and resolute manner, can stop the nascent fascist movement in its tracks. The first step in meeting the threat of the far right would be for the unions to organize mass rallies and demonstrations against racism and fascism in every city. This would provide the base of mass support and the mass organization needed to meet the threat.
A mass united front of all trade union, socialist, communist, anarchist, antifa and community organizations must be formed on the basis of support from the trade unions and these mass rallies. This mass mobilization of the working class, and our common solidarity and unity, will be key in the successful struggle against the threat of the far right and the fascists.
There are of course important political differences between all these groups, but it should be entirely possible for us to achieve unity on the question of combatting the fascists, while retaining the right of criticism. An injury to one is an injury to all, and we must be prepared to work together on this question and defend each other.
On the basis of this united front, the trade unions should facilitate and help organize the establishment of joint counter-demonstrations and anti-fascist meetings, and provide the resources and means to defend all meetings and premises of all workers’ and community organizations.
The growing threat represented by the far right and the fascists will not go away on its own. Through the common struggle of all workers’ and community organizations, based on the best traditions of class unity and solidarity, rooted in the mass organizations of the working class, along with a clear understanding of this threat and armed with a militant program for struggle against it, will we be able to deal with this threat.
The struggle against the far right and fascism are inherently connected to the struggle against capitalism. Racism, exploitation, and misery are component parts of the capitalist system. As a result, there will always be a far right under capitalism.
Under the conditions of capitalism in crisis and the process of polarization, the forces of the far right and the fascists will grow and become increasingly virulent. The only way to decisively defeat the far right and the fascists is the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society, which will give us the tools to put an end to the conditions of misery that breed racism, exploitation, and inequality.
•The people united will never be defeated. For solidarity, unity, and mass rallies organized by the trade unions against racism and fascism!
•An injury to one is an injury to all. For the common defence of all workers’ and community organizations against fascist threats!
•Workers unite against the far right. Fight back against fascism. They shall not pass!

Scottish Government’s Cuts to Produce Industrial Action in Schools

By Tam Burke, Edinburgh

A big FAIL mark was given by teachers in Scotland to the Scottish Government just after the Tories’ general election humiliation. The AGM of the EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland, the teachers union) unanimously agreed to prepare a campaign to restore salaries which have been severely cut by the continual 1% pay cap. If negotiations fail to achieve this for next year’s pay settlement, a ballot will be held for industrial action, including strikes, beginning at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
Teachers have had enough of 1% pay increases which, as for all other workers, mean a pay cut when rises in prices and contributions paid by workers for national insurance and pensions are accounted for. The union’s fair pay settlement is set at 20% for the 2017 pay rise. This is a result of the long running cap public sector pay which has seen their pay fall by a similar figure over several years. The teachers’ mood is hardening.
This year has seen two periods of EIS Further Education College members taking action with rallies, strikes, picket lines and support from students causing disruption. The action was suspended after a deal brokered by the Scottish Government. It may resume if it is not implemented following the announcement on 12th June that several Councils cannot afford to pay staff the amount agreed. Workers in education are under pressure due to unrelenting cuts in spending. Staff must stand united in fighting back against the SNP Government and remind Nicola Sturgeon of her stated principle that “education is at the heart of our plans and I am committed to doing all I can to improve the life chances of every child and young person.”
The reality is the Scottish Government is bending the knee to the Tory Government by passing on the cuts to councils to do their dirty work, destroying services and hope. Then Jeremy Corbyn came along to inspire belief in the fightback against the Tories and that austerity can be brought to an end.
The GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) reported that in 2016 86% of its members reported increased workloads, 19 % had a decrease in workload satisfaction and 54% would not recommend teaching as a job. Implementation of a new curriculum, without sufficient preparation, has resulted in even more stress as teachers struggle to cope to do their best for their pupils. The SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers Association), the other teachers’ union, held their 2017 conference under the theme “Put pupils first – give teachers time to teach”. The question is how best to achieve that decent aim? In October 2016 SSTA members , on a 40% turnout, voted 91% for industrial action short of strikes, over issues such as extra hours workload, the failure to provide supply teachers to cover shortages and for more training time. The SSTA welcomed the Scottish Government’s pledge last year to provide modern school buildings, but stated “fundamentally the teacher in the classroom is the most important educational resource.”
The GTC found a lack of job share provision by employers for staff with families, that teachers on a three day week felt it equalled five days with the extra time need to cover vacancies that would not be filled due to cuts. A lack of permanent jobs means staff look elsewhere for work, not necessarily in Scotland or in teaching. The SSTA has highlighted the 1819 teaching posts lost between 2010 and 2016 due to the Tory Government’s cuts in money to councils for services, including education. This loss increases the workload of those left behind. This is the same reported for workers in the NHS. We support all public sector unions fighting together to defend public services and improve pay and conditions across the board.
Ultimately the Tory Government and capitalism are to blame. However, with only verbal opposition by the SNP Government rather than practical defiance in refusing to carry out cuts, it’s no wonder EIS members are preparing for strike action if negotiations fail. Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, stated to the AGM delegates that they were the key to victory, to encouraging members to support a ballot and to work for its acceptance. He reminded the AGM that under the Tory trade union legislation, every abstention counted as a no vote. The role of local reps and the active rank and file members are key to building members’ confidence to succeed. This struggle with the Tories involves the conditions of all workers in education, so requires widening the struggle to include joint action as “divided we beg, united we win”.
The teaching unions are non-party political, but undoubtedly many members are encouraged by the move to the left by a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. The fightback will more and more lead teachers to draw increasingly political conclusions. Only by taking the means of running of society out of the hands of the tiny minority whose self interest curtails educational spending and achievement and putting it in the hands of the workers under public ownership can we ensure a properly funded and well rounded education system

The Scandal of Research Assessment and Insecure Employment at Our Universities

By Sarah Wells, Glasgow

As the current academic term ends and studies conclude for another generation of undergraduate students, work carries on for the thousands of staff employed at universities and higher education colleges across the country. Just last year, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, analysed and released by UCU, revealed the true precarious conditions many of these workers face. During the period 2014-15 HESA states that on average 53% of all teaching and teaching/research academic staff were employed on an insecure basis, including casual worker contracts with hourly paid rates and fewer rights and protections, through to zero-hours contracts and temp agency work. Most shocking was the shameful revelation that the “worst offenders” were within the UK’s Russell Group; with an average of 59% of staff at these elite research-intensive universities employed on insecure contracts. During this period, Scotland’s Russell Group members, the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, employed 67% and 49% of their teaching and teaching/research staff on temporary or “atypical” contracts, respectively – despite both committing to increased tuition fees for international students and the latter undertaking a huge £775 million campus expansion plan.
Although the resulting backlash has driven many campuses to strive to eradicate this “Sports Direct model” of employment, such campaigns can only help to temporarily alleviate the symptoms of a far more fundamental problem, unresolvable so long as the education system continues as a mere instrument of profit in the capitalist system. UK universities depend on public funds to run, and therefore must demonstrate that they are a worthwhile investment, generating strong, high quality research. This research assessment, and hence the allocation of nearly £2 billion of annual funding to UK universities, has been carried out every 5-7 years since 1986 by REF – the Research Excellence Framework. It is ideally a tool for the unbiased analysis of research “outputs”, driving a commitment to excellence and transparency. However, as announcements are expected imminently for the proposed changes to the next REF, 2021, the fallout is still occurring from REF 2014.
Its critics are far ranging, from those who see it a as a bloated tool of bureaucracy, a “Minotaur that must be appeased by bloody sacrifices”, to a hypocritical system that is there to be played, driving a vicious culture of fear and blackmail. This game-playing to succeed in REF meant it was used as a management tool, driving a frenzy of hirings and firings. The technicalities of REF allowed institutions to submit the previous work of new staff members, with universities attempting to scoop up researchers of high status from other institutions, often hiring them on insecure contracts dependent on the outcome of their REF report. Researchers employed on short-term contracts of as little as a single day a week could be included. As only those staff members on research contracts were assessed, workers with chances of giving a less favourable REF report could be forced onto teaching-only contracts to selectively hide their outputs. There were countless accusations of ghost-writing of papers and research impact reports, as well as tailoring of publication dates and prestigious authorship placements.
This outcry has resulted in numerous research council reviews, a parliamentary bill and finally an independent review by Lord Stern. Although some suggested changes are mostly welcomed, such as the call for an inclusion of a measure of research impact on the public, many fear that others will still allow it to be used as a tool of fear against academic workers. For instance there is no guarantee that a move towards a more flexible assessment of all research-active staff will reduce gaming and unfair treatment of employees when the time comes for REF submission. The majority of academic research staff already face a career where insecurity is seen as the norm, and as the build up to REF 2021 continues there is the risk of even further instability and uncertainty. The rules for REF 2021 have yet to be announced but, despite any safeguards against this culture of gaming the system, it will be the workers at the bottom of the academic hierarchy who will bear the brunt of the clambering for reputation, status and funding.
As universities and colleges face cut after cut in public spending, with workers burdened with both rising workloads and falling pay and security, the effect on student education is clear, all while tuition fees continue to rise and prospects of better employment following graduation fall. What is required is true democratic control of academic research institutions, with universities and colleges ran for the better development of individuals and society as part of a planned economy, not for profit

Is Scotland Turning Conservative?

By Kit MacDougall, Glasgow

The results are in, and things are looking quite different for Scotland. Although the Conservatives have lost ground in England, they have made dramatic gains here for the first time in two decades. Since the 1997 General Election the Tories have managed to sustain an average of 1 seat in Scotland. They now have 13, spread mainly over the rural north-east, many of the seats that were considered SNP strongholds. The apparent rise in popularity for the Tories in Scotland, along with the decline in the SNP’s dominance over the country, has lead many to jump to the conclusion that the Scottish people are gradually losing their progressive edge, turning conservative in the face of change, and thus somehow becoming less Scottish.
It has always been considered the role of Scotland to counter Conservative rule in Britain, and up till now they have been seemingly reliable in doing just that. For many, the change represented in this election shows that people are turning their back on Scotland the brave, submitting to what many equate to rule by Westminster, i.e. England. In choosing not to vote SNP, these scots are making a statement, and that statement is that Scotland should remain part of the UK. After all, the Conservatives have firmly established themselves as the anti-independence party, the only people capable of holding off another referendum as long as possible. With another Scottish referendum as their main objective, the SNP have turned off many of the older voters in rural constituencies who would have voted for them in 2015, voters who have now turned towards the Tories.
However alongside this we have the Labour Party making gains in some urban constituencies, due almost wholly to appeal of Corbyn as a leader, though they have still got some way to go before re-establishing themselves as the main progressive force. Scottish Labour’s move to the right, its stance as anti-independence, which brought them into bed with the Tories in the ‘Better Together” campaign, and above all the lack of appeal to working-class voters meant that most of the left-wing electorate moved towards the SNP back in 2015 and have remained there today. But clearly some have been attracted back to Labour on the basis of Corbyn’s campaign and the prospect of a Corbyn led Westminster government. This is reflected not only in the few seats that Labour has won, but also in its increased vote share generally. Ironically, in some cases this may have helped the Tories to beat the SNP by reducing the latter’s vote, effectively splitting the left vote.
As for the right-wing labour voters, there now seems to be little appeal in voting for a weakened party, especially as the Scottish Conservatives have aimed themselves directly at those who identify as liberal, ‘progressive’, but anti-socialist, what we might call the ‘centre’ although that term seems to become less and less relevant every day. So rather than move right, Scotland has polarised, and with that has come the splitting of the left vote between the SNP and Labour, whereas the Tories have hoovered up all the right wing votes. Hence there is no sudden emergence of a new right wing.
The idea that Scotland has somehow always been an inherently progressive and yet tragically hindered nation is false. Although it is true that Scotland’s cities have largely maintained more socialistic politics, many rural areas in Scotland harbour quite different politics, based of course on laws of property and taxation, but also on opposition to what they see as an attack on the rural way of life by the urbanites. The Scottish Countryside Alliance supports the barbaric activity of fox hunting amongst other reactionary causes. Many citizens who we may presume to be the most pro-independence, i.e. the kilt-wearing, bagpipe blowing nationalists of the north, are in fact probably more likely to vote against the SNP.
On top of this we have the tradition, particularly in Glasgow, of the most reactionary kind of unionism, based on idealisation of the British Royal Family, preservation of protestantism and its culture, which is tied to a ridiculous hatred of catholicism, a hatred which is founded on nothing more than a cultural partitioning of the working class by political elites and which manifests itself in football hooliganism and general sectarianism. Thankfully this unionism, especially in the working class, is increasingly small and outdated, though it does exist.
In the end there is not much to be surprised about. Conservative layers of the Scottish population have existed for a long time, and it remains our job to combat the influence of these ideas on the working class, insofar as they are influenced by them. As Socialists we must understand that the only way forward is to counter this ideology by winning the labour movement to clear socialist ideas – because only a class conscious, urban working class can consistently oppose the basis of these reactionary ideas. And it is without doubt that conservative ideas are discredited and in decline in Scotland, especially the traditions associated with unionism. The SNP still dominates, and has been joined by a Labour Party gaining in support thanks to its left wing leadership.
Nevertheless this election has been a wake up call to the illusion that Scotland was on an irreversible march towards increasing left wing dominance, and that therefore we need not fight for class based ideas and can just rely on the vague left nationalist trend. By breaking with these illusions in Scotland as automatically progressive we can better understand that the left can go forwards only by fighting unambiguously for the interests of the working class, rather than taking them for granted. Through doing this we can organise ourselves into a real force for socialism in a Scottish Republic

 

Sturgeon’s call for IndyRef2 sparks political storm

by Amy Dean

Nicola Sturgeon this week finally delivered the speech that had seemed almost inevitable ever since the Brexit vote in June last year. By announcing her intention to seek a second independence referendum, Sturgeon has started a political storm that will likely rage on – at the very least – until any referendum takes place. Continue reading “Sturgeon’s call for IndyRef2 sparks political storm”

Expropriate Landlords!

Shaun Morris

Nobody deserves to be homeless. A friend of mine is now facing homelessness just weeks before his final exams of university. I’m thankful not to be in his shoes, but it has made me think about how much power landlords have over their tenants’ lives.
My friend’s housing woes don’t begin with this eviction. He was kicked out of his previous home by an enterprising young landlord who wanted to convert his run-down suburban house into something he could flog on the market. Despite agreeing with the tenants to renew the lease, he changed his mind a few weeks later and told them to skedaddle.
This left my friend and his flatmates looking for a new place to live with only two months until the start of term. He feared he would have to move back to his family home and somehow commute over two hours to get to university. This was no real option, so he was forced to move into a place with a dodgy landlord.
The accommodation itself was an old townhouse that had been converted into a money maker. It was a single corridor with several rented rooms and a shared kitchen and bathroom. For this, the rent was not cheap but it wasn’t even near the university campus, a 45 minute cycle away. This is what students have to settle with when made desperate by the greed of landlords.
After nearly a year, the people living there were hit with a sudden demand to move out. As it turns out, the person they thought was their landlord was in actual fact a tenant. He was sub-letting the whole place to students without the knowledge of *his* landlord. He had even hung fake family photographs on the wall to support his story that it was a family home he had inherited! Once the real landlord had found out, he immediately demanded the place be emptied. With no lease and no rights, my friend and his flatmates are forced to squat there, fearing harassment or forcible eviction by the property owner.
For the second year in a row they find themselves desperately searching for a place to live, with final year exams looming. They’ve demanded that their rent be paid back to them, but there’s no way they can force the person who ripped them off to do this. All they can think to do is trash the place in revenge. My friend studies in Dublin, but his ordeal could have just as easily happened in Glasgow, Edinburgh or London (and I would bet it regularly does).
Rent is perhaps the clearest form of exploitation in capitalism. While people can incorrectly claim that profit is earned by the enterprise of the capitalist or interest (usury) is the cost of the risk a capitalist takes when lending money, landlords blatantly exploit the human need for shelter through their ownership of private property. What possible justification is there for this? Most landlords that students will have to deal with won’t even maintain their properties in a decent state, so what are we paying them for?
Young people have the poorest prospects for housing security than they have ever had. Home ownership is out of reach for a whole generation, throwing millions into the reserve army of renters that landlords can draw on to force rents up and conditions down when their tenants demand too much. With increasing casualization, exploitation and insecurity at work for young people, we are the worst hit victims of this crisis-ridden capitalist system.
Changing our fortunes requires a radical change in direction for our economy and society, demanding a break with capitalism and the exploitation it feeds off. We can abolish the current state of affairs if we struggle for the overthrow of the ruling class whose State defends the “rights” of private property over the needs of people. Our alternative is based on a democratic and socialist plan of production, where society’s resources are directed by need rather than profit, rent and usury.
That alternative begins with building a revolutionary labour movement that puts young people front and centre. It will be a movement armed with the broadest organisation of the working class and a revolutionary socialist programme. As Marxists we are at the forefront of preparing for this struggle.
Expropriate the landlords and capitalists! Homes and jobs for all!
Abolish rent, usury, profit and all exploitation! For world socialist revolution!Being a student in a time of capitalist crisis isn’t easy, and as many will know trying to make your loan stretch to the end of the month is a struggle. The days of generous grants seem a world away and it’s an endless juggle between money for food, rent, the electricity meter and having enough to buy a few pints at the end of the week. Of course, this isn’t just the reality for students but thousands of people across Scotland and Europe who have seen their standard of living plummet since the capitalist crisis of 2008 and the brutal austerity policies that have come as a result of it.
I was budgeting the other day when I realised just how much of my money goes on rent. For me two thirds of all the money I have coming in goes straight to my landlord and I am only left with one third for everything else. It struck me just how unfair this system is, where the law requires me to give the majority of the money I have to someone simply because they have a piece of paper saying they own the land and all that is built on it.
I do not live in a beautiful flat where the landlord works hard day-in, day-out to somehow earn these huge sums of money. In fact we had to argue with him for weeks just to get a fire alarm installed. There is damp and mould all over the place and the house was easily broken into because the building is so badly maintained. However the landlord continues to receive all this money for literally doing nothing. I’m not alone and I would argue that it’s a struggle for the vast majority of people in rented accommodation to get their landlord to do basic tasks and repairs.
Rent controls are obviously a start, however I believe we should go right to root of the problem; why should people be forced to pay rent at all? It isn’t right that landlords receive money from us just because they supposedly own the land or building. Why shouldn’t they work like everyone else? Under socialism we could have a system where these parasites are abolished and where society would collectively own the housing stock. No longer would we have to live with damp and unsafe houses, as these problems could be easily fixed if the money was in our own hands. Instead of profit being valued above all else, the aim of housing would be to create pleasant spaces for people to live, and everyone’s standard of living could be greatly improved.