Two Yorkshiremen With Different Views On Scottish Democracy

All political leaders face issues and decisions which define their legacy. There are always times when their ability to truly lead are put to the test.

Richard Leonard has hardly been in his job of Scottish Leader of the British Labour Party but already his inadequacy for the job is plain for all to see. He is a relatively nice guy, I remember him from Stirling University Labour Club 37 years ago, but being nice is never enough to lead in the rough and tumble of politics. His performances at weekly Question Time debates in the Scottish Parliament have been less than inspiring but his high profile intervention in last week’s Labour Party Conference was not only tactically woeful it was also politically disgraceful.

He leads a Party in Scotland battered and bruised by the miscalculations and arrogance of his predecessors who thought they had a divine right to rely on working people to vote Labour in Scotland. The big drift started under the Blair/Brown disaster wrapped up in illegal wars, renouncing of socialism, pathetic PFI/PPP schemes and the removal of free education through the introduction of tuition fees. Many of the most callous welfare attacks were also introduced under the watch of these guys from the early bedroom tax to private sector profit laden assessments of the disabled for benefit payments, Atos. The criminal deregulation of the banking sector and raiding of pension pots were also irresponsible and guided by free market ideology not socialist principles.

However the steady loss of support became a tsunami after the incredulous decision to join with the Tories in a unionist pact with the devil labelled ‘Better Together’ but which rapidly degenerated into ‘Bitter Together’ based on promoting fear, lies and distortions to dishonestly frighten enough people in 2014 to reject independence. Labour politicians in Scotland joined with despised Tories to campaign in deprived communities for the continuation of a union which had delivered record unemployment, poverty and the emergence of the ‘working poor’ oxymoron. Thatcher is a bad word in Scotland’s working class housing schemes and villages. That woman waged war on the miners, steel workers, health workers and the very idea of community. She was always rejected in Scotland but hoisted to power on the back of English Tory votes. She punished Scotland for our refusal to back her when she shoved her hated poll tax down our throats 12 months before introducing it in England and Wales. We fought that flagship policy through mass civil disobedience and eventually sank her and her poll tax ship but the legacy of Thatcher lived on. In 2014 Labour embraced the latter day Thatcherites in a union jack waving exercise which left them in disarray only 8 months later.

From 41 of 59 seats won in the 2010 General Election the Labour Party in Scotland crashed to only 1 seat. They lost all the working class areas they used to consider their own. Those areas which had most enthusiastically backed independence turned their backs on Labour and instead embraced the Scottish National Party. It was an easy leap in many respects. The SNP had long adorned many of the traditional clothes cast aside by Labour. They opposed the illegal war in Iraq. They opposed nuclear weapons. They opposed the Tory inspired Paying For Infinity (PFI) schemes to fund public works. They supported free elderly care. They supported free education. They supported free prescriptions. The SNP was, and is, a left of centre political party. It became the party of the working class in Scotland in 2015. Estimates that at least 30 – 40% of traditional Labour voters supported independence were probably on the low side. The SNP won an amazing 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster constituencies and 50% of all the votes cast.

Labour in Scotland disintegrated from 42% of votes cast to only 24% and one single seat but they did beat the Tories who only managed 15% of the votes. By the time of the snap General Election last year much of the pro-Indy fervour had been allowed to wear off as the SNP fought the election with one hand tied behind their backs saying it wasn’t about independence. No wonder almost 500,000 fewer people backed the SNP and voter turnout fell from 71% in 2015 to 66% in 2017. Labour and the Tories, in cahoots with the pro-Establishment and pro-Unionist media, portrayed the 2017 election as a defeat for the SNP yet they clearly won that election with more seats, 35, than all the unionist parties added together. Their percentage of the votes cast fell from 50% to 37% but the Tory vote increased to 28% and embarrassingly for Labour they forced the once rulers of Scotland into 3rd place.

So in the last three tests of democratic opinion in Scotland (2015 General Election, 2016 Scottish Election, 2017 General Election) the SNP have clearly won. The Party of Scottish Independence has won the last three democratic elections. So why on earth would Richard Leonard wade in last week with a statement that no matter how Scotland votes in the next General Election he will personally ensure the UK Labour Party manifesto carries a manifesto commitment to rule out IndyRef2? https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/richard-leonard-rules-out-labour-support-for-second-scottish-independence-referendum-1-4804119

That is an insult to the very voters Labour has to try and win back from the SNP. Many of Corbyn’s policies are very attractive to working class communities. He wants to tackle the wealthy elite and redistribute wealth and power away from the tiny minority towards the vast majority who actually create the wealth in society. As a socialist I applaud that intention and the policies of wealth redistribution, progressive taxation and public ownership. But I believe fundamentally in Scotland’s right to self-determination. I believe Scotland is a country and has the right to make its own decisions and get the government it votes for. Mr Leonard has effectively told me, and thousands like me, that my vote doesn’t count. He doesn’t want it.

What a foolish thing to do tactically and what a ridiculous thing to do politically. How dare a Labour leader tell the Scots he doesn’t care how you vote you won’t get another referendum under any circumstance? So if the SNP win the majority of Scotland’s seats next time, for the third time in a row, he will ignore that outcome and declare IndyRef2 out of bounds. It is a pathetic position to adopt and even though Mr Leonard will dismiss my opinion, as he has dismissed the 1.6 million who voted YES in 2014, he will hopefully consider carefully the opinion of an older, wiser, Labour Party member from England, a fellow Yorkshire man just like Richard.

Harry Leslie Smith was born into poverty in Yorkshire and recalls his dad striking as a miner during the 1926 General Strike. He struggled through life to become an RAF pilot who fought the Nazis with distinction. He is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party and despises fascism, imperialism and inequality. Read what he Tweeted last week on the back of Mr Leonard’s denial of IndyRef2 comments:

 In my opinion, it’s for Scotland to decide if there is to be a second independence referendum not Westminster. #LabourConference2018

 

Followed shortly thereafter with:

England is not a colonial power to the other nations in the United Kingdom and thus each nation within its own assembly has a right if their people choose to hold a referendum to separate from the United Kingdom

 

There it is in plain English from a Labour Party stalwart and war veteran; “England is not a colonial power” and “each nation within its own assembly has a right if their people choose to hold a referendum to separate from the United Kingdom”. You are absolutely spot on with that opinion Harry, as you are with so many others.

Richard Leonard has two choices now. Put his hand in the air and admit he got it wrong and over-stepped the mark and recognise clearly that if the SNP promote independence and win then they have an inalienable democratic right to put that to the Scottish Parliament to decide. Or stick to his indefensible undemocratic position and preside over further decline in electoral support in Scotland. It is up to him but if Labour Party members in Scotland are satisfied with Mr Leonard’s policy pronouncement then they are complicit when the ship sinks even further.

Last year across England and Wales the Corbyn effect led to an admirable 10% swing to Labour, the highest since 1945. In Scotland it didn’t even reach 3%. Now even those on the left who mistakenly advocated a Labour vote within the Indy Family will find their position untenable. You simply don’t get independence by voting for a unionist party but now you won’t even get a referendum and that means those of us whole believe in socialism but see independence as a necessary step to achieving it will continue to advocate voting for progressive independence supporting parties not Leonard’s undemocratic option in Scotland.

Tommy Sheridan

Always Ask Why?

The name Tony Blair is synonymous with lies, deceit, warmongering and mendacious manipulation of information to create a false but deliberate narrative. I rage whenever I am forced to listen to Blair’s pontifications but despite his despicable political record he is still guaranteed friendly media airtime whenever he chooses to bump his gums in pursuit of more lucrative speaking tour contracts or Saudi Arabian blood money for services rendered. Tony Blair should be prime time news but the story should revolve around his trial in The Hague as he sits in the dock accused of war crimes and complicity in the loss of up to one million lives on the back of his Iraq war adventure in 2003 that was based on lies.

Blair and his deft deceit and manipulation of information comes to mind right now in connection with the ‘Novichok’ affair and the alleged attempted murder of the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England. In the midst of the incredible media hype and rush to judgement without even tokens of independent and verifiable evidence we are all supposed to believe that the apparently ‘ruthless’ and ‘brutal’ regime of Vladimir Putin is responsible for this alleged crime. Those with even a morsel of independent thought asked the key question early on in the story, why? Why on the eve of the global stage prestigious football world cup would Russia despatch trained killers to kill an old guy who had been traded to the West 8 years earlier in a spy exchange deal?

This is the most important question of all. Why assassinate Sergei Skirpal? Secondary questions include how such an apparently ruthless and brutal regime like Russia could cock up so spectacularly the slaying of a 66 year old man in sleepy Salisbury? Were these would be assassins on the equivalent of a government training programme, a kind of Youth Training Scheme (YTS) for trainee assassins? Not according to the impeccable and irrefutable news source that the Western world has grown to trust and rely on, Bellingcat… Sit up in the back row. Stop sniggering. What do you mean you have never heard of them?

They must be good because their ‘intelligence’ led the news bulletins on every station the other night and made just about every front page  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-4566538 . The Russian citizens tracked down by the various CCTV outlets are not tourists after all. They are state assassins. Or at least one of them is. Okay the photos are a bit dodgy, the leaps of faith required huge and the storyline remarkably convenient but it must be true because the BBC, The Guardian and even Channel 4 say so. They have massive investigative budgets but they prefer to rely on the ‘award’ winning online news site Bellingcat because it fits the British Government narrative perfectly. Tony Blair would be proud of Bellingcat, or perhaps jealous.

There is no rational reason for Russia to assassinate Sergei Skirpal but there is plenty of motivation for the British Establishment to ratchet up anti-Russian sentiment and try to create the fear and loathing that served them so well in the cold war years when extortionate expenditures on missile systems and other ‘defence’ measures could always be justified on the back of ‘the Russians are coming’ warning. The use of useful idiots like those behind Bellingcat is not new. These guys verified the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government from the comfort of their sofas 3,000 miles away in Leicester and the facts behind the downing of Flight MH17 with the use of cropped photographs and invented sources https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/on-bellingcat-truth-and-war-revised/  .

Real investigative journalists like Robert Fisk, reporting from the ground in Syria, exposed the complete lack of any evidence linking the Syrian Government to chemical weapons attacks  https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html .

While guys like Seymour Hersh with experience and track records of exposing the lies and shenanigans of powerful governments have slated Bellingcat allegations on numerous occasions for their evidence free propaganda that laughingly poses as news  https://www.alternet.org/media/seymour-hersh-syria-bombshell  &  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnHfKO6INnE . Yet still we are supposed to swallow the propaganda because it is given credibility by the mainstream media.

Sorry guys remember Blair and his Parliament speech which had Saddam armed with multiple weapons of mass destruction and ready within 45 minutes to attack Britain. He used ‘evidence’ and allegedly reliable ‘information’ to whip the UK into a frenzy of fear and justified a ‘shock and awe’ bombardment which killed over a million human beings and destabilised the whole of the Middle-East for the last 15 years https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tony-blairs-iraq-war-speech-8355646 . Remember Iraq was not involved in the 9/11 Twin Towers attack in 2001 and al Qaeda was not present or active in Iraq prior to 2003.

Blair wasn’t alone. Bush told him to jump and Tony dutifully yelped ‘how high’. Bumbling George W. had more believable and credible souls like decorated four star General Colin Powell to promote the case for war with stories about aluminium tubes which could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium and how Iraq purchased dangerous uranium yellowcake from Africa. He said the information he used was sound but we now know from former CIA sources that every bit of that narrative regarding Iraq and uranium enriched weapons and WMD’s was not only untrue it was verifiably untrue at the time it was propagated https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/27/bush-administration-sold-iraq-war . But it was powerful stuff. It worked in the U.S. every bit as effectively as Blair’s ‘dodgy dossier’ deceit worked in the UK. Largely because the mainstream in both cases lapped up the propaganda and reported it as gospel without proper interrogation or investigation or questioning of the narrative. They didn’t hold the state to account. They dutifully served the state as a useful and powerful component part.

We should not be surprised. I was barely 4 months old when a different American President announced bombing sorties and unleashed hell on North Vietnam on the evening of 4th August 1964 in retaliation for an “unprovoked attack” on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. The U.S. had been secretly involved in that war since 1950 supporting the French and supplying arms and military advisers to South Vietnam but the Gulf of Tonkin was the pretext for their open military involvement. The war lasted until 1975 and over 58,000 American soldiers perished. However the loss of Vietnamese lives was truly horrific. As many as 2 million civilians on both North and South Vietnam, 1.1 million North Vietnamese combatants and up to 250,000 South Vietnamese combatants all died, most as a result of American carpet bombing and deliberate use of chemical weapons. Yet the truth revealed by disgusted Military Analysts in later years showed the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie. There were no “unprovoked attacks” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/02/vietnam-presidents-lie-to-wage-war-iraq . But at the time it was reported as truth, based on evidence and information parroted dutifully by the mainstream media.

In other words when faced with official government narratives that are promoted as nauseam by the press and media to create an atmosphere of fear and loathing against other nations I think it is the duty of rational and decent human beings to pause and pose searching questions. Always ask why? Why are we being whipped into frenzy against a particular nation or individual? Who benefits from such a situation? ‘Reasonable doubt’ is not just a legal term it should be a guiding philosophy for each and every one of us.

Information sites like Bellingcat are financed by Western government agencies and proxy groups to spread convenient propaganda https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/02/28/eliot-higgins-of-bellingcat-who-is-he-everything-you-need-to-know/ . Don’t believe them or the lines the billionaire press and media feed you.

Read Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Seymour Hersh and many of the other investigative journalists and websites that seek to find truth within the government propaganda which is so often an elaborate tissue of lies and distortions. Always remember the words of Dom Helder Camara the courageous and wise Brazilian Archbishop and liberation theology advocate:

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist”.

Always ask WHY?

Tommy Sheridan

CASUAL BIGOTRY IS NOT A JOKE – STAND DOWN MR KERR

I really don’t want to write this column. I am convinced and very aware that many other topics are much more important. But I’m angry. I don’t feel personally insulted but my wife and many thousands of good people like her have been insulted. One person’s joke is another person’s insult but context, intent and motivation is vital in rational assessment. Is the joke part of a comedian’s script in a comedy club where people have assembled to be entertained? Is the joke part of a friendly inter-change between friends? Robust banter? Or is it a distasteful and insulting comment described as comedy to shroud the bigotry and sectarian content of the remark?

A very senior, experienced and highly placed official within the Labour and trade union movement in the UK chaired the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool the other day and when selecting a delegate to speak from the floor decided to say to her; “Did you cross yourself, there. In that case I might not” (call her to speak) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-45625635.

Many gasped in the hall at the time given the entirely uncalled for and inappropriate remark but when challenged later about it this individual apologised but said it was meant to be a “light-hearted” comment. “Light-hearted”? A joke? During a serious party political conference and delivered by an individual who chairs the ruling body of that party and who has served as a senior trade union official for many years. Andy Kerr thought it was fair game to joke about someone blessing themselves and suggested they should be punished for doing so by not being called to speak. I love a good laugh. I thrive on robust banter but for f..k sake where is the joke here?

‘Hey you the delegate with the hijab I was going to let you speak but not now that I’ve noticed your hijab, sit down’.

‘Oi you with the kippah I didn’t see that on your head at first if I had done you wouldn’t have been selected by me’.

‘Bloody hell is that a sari your wearing, if I’d seen that I would have given you the eye patch and refused to call you’.

The truth is none of the above statements would have been made by Mr Kerr but if they had been and he had insulted Islam, Judaism or Hinduism his apology would have been part of a longer statement explaining his stepping down from his senior Labour Party and Trade Union posts as an act of sincere contrition and to allow him to attend religious tolerance awareness classes. But hey why the fuss, it was only aimed at those that bless themselves? And in the context of Mr Kerr being a Scottish Labour Party and Trade Union official it has been interpreted as an anti-Catholic jibe. A joke at the expense of Catholicism. Something that has been going on for years in Scotland but which a great deal of good people have been trying to expose and oppose in the name of religious tolerance.

I’m not religious at all. I was christened a Catholic and up until the age of 15/16 would have described myself as Catholic. Now I am quite hostile to all organised religion. While respecting individual beliefs and the solace those beliefs often give believers I find religion to be sophistry of the highest order. The opium of the masses that Karl Marx identified, encouraging alienation of man and woman from their human self. I don’t denigrate or ridicule someone’s religious beliefs but I politely and firmly ask they refrain from metaphorically shoving it down my throat or pronouncing their God as the only true God in preference to all the others. Through gentle persuasion and a hefty dose of science hopefully more people throughout the planet can be won to a humanist view of society which values each individual for who they are and what they have to offer not for what they believe and which God they swear allegiance to. I often find myself rhetorically wondering with all the religions in the world why there is often so little love and harmony.

The point about Mr Kerr’s distasteful and inappropriate “light-hearted” comment was it betrayed an underlying bigotry and sectarianism against one particular strand of the biggest religion in the world. The practice of ‘crossing yourself’ is not unique to Catholics but common amongst Christians. The Kerr ‘joke’ was actually anti-Christian not just anti-Catholic. Many people say ignore it, don’t make a fuss, it was only a joke. But that’s what the oppressed are always encouraged to do. Casual racism? Ignore it. Don’t make a fuss. Casual sexism? Oh don’t be such a kill-joy. It’s only a bit of fun. And now the same with this example of casual bigotry. Well if I don’t demand that someone with such seniority within the Labour and Trade Union movement stands down and honourably resigns for such an offensive comment I might as well join the ‘oh don’t make a fuss brigade’ who talk a good game but duck at the first whiff of gunfire.

I was not personally insulted by Mr Kerr’s remarks but people close to me were and human solidarity is about standing up for those minorities targeted by the more powerful for ridicule and/or exploitation. As I have suggested earlier if these remarks had been anti-Muslim, anti-Jew or anti-Hindu this column would not be necessary as the high placed official would have already resigned or been pushed.

The Scottish Labour Party leader, Richard Leonard, has been quoted as saying;

“There is absolutely no room in the Labour Party for that kind of remark, whether it’s meant as a form of humour or not” https://www.scotsman.com/news/andy-kerr-should-drop-nec-role-after-anti-catholic-remark-say-snp-1-4804701#comments-area .

Strong words and appropriate words. But if words are to mean anything more than empty rhetoric then what will Mr Leonard do about Mr Kerr if he refuses to do the right thing and stand down? “Absolutely no room in the Labour Party” for such remarks, humorous or otherwise. Mr Kerr represents post office and communication workers. Hopefully none of his members will require representation from him against an office boss who fancies a bit of casual bigotry against a Catholic member. Only a wee joke mind you. Nothing serious.

Mr Kerr if you were a wet behind the ears young activist chairing your first big conference then your inappropriate remarks could be roundly condemned and put to one side in the name of growing up and maturing into the tolerant and understanding individual you are supposed to be. Unfortunately you are neither wet behind the ears or young and that makes your ‘mistake’ all the more serious and deserving of an honourable resignation by you or a swift dismissal from your post by Mr Leonard. Own the sectarian remark for what it was and do the right thing as a socialist and trade unionist who should have known better. Resign your position from the Labour Party’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Tommy Sheridan 

BAIRNS NOT BOMBS, PEACE NOT WAR

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron”.

Fine words indeed from former two-term American President and Five Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington 65 years ago on April 16th 1953. The address was delivered under the title ‘Chance For Peace’ only 3 months into the first of his two terms in the White House (1953-1961).

Sadly these fine words turned out to be empty and the “hopes” of our children have played a very distant second fiddle to the desires and avarice of the warmongers and arms manufacturers throughout the last 65 years. Indeed at the end of his tenure in his Farewell Address 8 years later in January 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower was compelled to coin a hitherto unheard of phrase when he remarked on the “new” American experience of the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry which he Christened the ‘military industrial complex’. This colossus had become omnipotent in U.S. society dominating politics and economics like nothing before.

A President who in words at least opposed the usurping of vital resources to feed the production of weapons, warships and missiles instead of feeding, clothing, educating and housing the ordinary citizens had presided over the emergence of an insatiable monster, a beast without morals or a social compass.  This Military Industrial Complex has polluted politics, undermined real economic development and created a permanent war economy in America and across the developed and developing world.

Today military expenditure stands at an eye-watering $1.7 trillion across the world with America alone accounting for more than a third of that total and spending more than the next seven highest spenders and 2.7 times more than China, the 2nd highest spender (Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/sipri_fs_1805_milex_2017.pdf ). America spent $610 billion last year, 35% of the world total and over 3% of the country’s gross domestic product.

This is in a country cursed and blighted by poverty, low incomes and economic insecurity. Almost half the population are struggling to survive on low incomes, 140 million people, and over half of all of America’s children are poor or in low income households, 51.9%. Nine out of every ten African American children will qualify for food stamps before they reach the age of 20 (https://kairoscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Poverty-Fact-sheet-March-2018.pdf ) But $610 billion is stolen from the mouths of these children and pockets of ordinary workers to feed the billionaires who own and control the military industrial complex. I wonder if old Dwight’s concern for this obscene waste of resources was sincere. If it was he must surely be spinning in his grave.

Politics in the UK is sadly little different to that of the US as the military industrial complex here is just as powerful, corrupt, wasteful and immoral. One of the most brutal, undemocratic and inhumane countries in the world is Saudi Arabia. It chopped off the heads of 48 people in the first four months of 2018, half for non-violent crimes (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/26/saudi-arabia-criticised-over-executions-for-drug-offences) and is seeking to impose the death penalty against peaceful human rights activists including a woman for the first time (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/22/saudi-arabia-seeks-its-first-death-penalty-against-a-female-human-rights-activist ). It is currently engaged in a brutal war against Yemen and has been responsible for inflicting terror on that poor nation and indiscriminately killing thousands of innocent civilians, including children.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the United Nations was recently compelled to report:

Between 26 March 2015 and 9 August 2018, our office has documented a total of 17,062 civilian casualties – 6,592 dead and 10,470 injured. The majority of these casualties – 10,471 – were as a result of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition” (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23439&LangID=E ).

Yet who supplied Saudi Arabia with its military hardware and bombs? Primarily the UK as Saudi Arabia is the UK’s number one military hardware and software customer. That trade in arms to the Saudis is immersed in fraud, corruption and flagrant disregard for human rights abuses and the murderous use of those weapons. But that is the corrupting and immoral influence of the military industrial complex which pollutes political life in Britain just as much as it does in America.

The arguments concerning the waste of resources that are dedicated to means of killing people rather than feeding and caring for them are even more acute when it comes to the consideration of nuclear weapons. Such weapons are immoral, illegal and economically insane. To possess and develop nuclear weapons is to risk the very existence of humanity. These weapons have a destructive capacity so extensive that their use would destroy the world as we know it.

From a rule of war approach the very possession of nuclear weapons let alone their use is illegal for they are weapons incapable of discriminating between combatants and civilians. There use amounts to nothing more and nothing less than pre-mediated murder on a scale without comparison. That is precisely what happened on 6th August 1945 when a lone American plane loaded with an early generation nuclear bomb, distastefully nicknamed ‘Little Boy’, dropped its lethal load from 2,000 feet over a small industrial town in Japan called Hiroshima. 80,000 civilians were killed immediately in the thermo-nuclear blast, with a further 60,000 perishing from radiation poisoning before the year’s end. Lingering and painful illnesses claimed more lives in the months of 1946 and the final death toll from ‘Little boy’ is recorded as 237,062. Three days later another lone plane carried another atomic bomb over a Japanese town and laid Nagasaki to waste. This bomb was nick-named ‘Fat Man’ and killed 75,000 instantly and another 75,000 before the year ended.

Only the Holocaust can surpass these actions in the annals of crimes against humanity. Yet these weapons of mass destruction unleashed 73 years ago are mere pee-shooters compared to the destructive potential of the 21st century nuclear missiles. The destructive capacity now is not hundreds of thousands but hundreds of millions. That makes them not just immoral but also illegal. Two cardinal rules are beyond reproach in international humanitarian law in connection with any armed conflict. Firstly combatants are distinguished from non-combatants and weapons unable to make such a distinction should not be used and secondly that States must at all costs avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering. If those two tenets of international law had been applied in 1945 then atomic bombs would not have been allowed to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Last July within the New York HQ of the United Nations an historic vote took place to ban nuclear weapons. The Treaty was endorsed by 122 countries. Nuclear powers like the US and UK boycotted the debate but only one country which actually participated, the Netherlands, voted against the Treaty. Of the 195 sovereign countries recognised by the United Nations only 9 are in possession of nuclear warheads. The fact that 122 nations debated and voted to ban nuclear weapons last year underlines just how socially unacceptable nuclear weapons are and how united the world is to have them banned.

That’s one of the many reasons why this Saturday’s ‘Nae Nukes Anywhere’ (http://www.nuclearban.scot/sep-rally/) International march and rally is so important. Thousands will gather from all across the world to march from the Faslane Peace Camp to the North Gate of the Trident Nuclear Base in Helensburgh on Scotland’s beautiful West coast. I am hoping to attend with my wife and daughter to show support for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament event. Like the vast majority in Scotland I am sick to the back teeth of cuts to vital local authority services and welfare provision on the back of cruel austerity programmes yet no one in the mainstream media ever poses the question to the political axe-wielders why, if we are so cash-strapped, do we have enough money for illegal and immoral nuclear weapons?

The Tories who preach about ‘living within our means’ have already agreed to replace Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapon programme, at a cost of anything between £167 billion and £205 billion over a 30 year period (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/17/trident-renewal-205bn-arguments-for-against). Hospitals have to organise fundraisers and seek public donations to pay for essential equipment like MRI scanners (https://mft.nhs.uk/2018/06/20/childrens-hospital-launches-appeal-to-transform-brain-surgery-for-young-patients/). Cancer research depends on charity to proceed. And thousands of essential NHS staff are being driven out of the health service through a combination of poor pay and stress laden workloads (https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2014/11/unison-survey-shows-nhs-staff-are-overworked-and-underpaid/). But don’t worry we can always find the money for nuclear bombs. That is unacceptable to me.

I say cancel Trident replacement and invest the £205 billion saved in better health care, more health research and to facilitate greater health service recruitment and improvements in wages and conditions.

In the interests of freedom and democracy we should provide the nuclear bomb proponents and assorted warmongers with collecting tins and missile shaped stickers and encourage them to take to the high streets of the UK seeking public donations for their new generation of nuclear bombs. With honest endeavour and many hours of dedicated pleading for support they might just raise enough for a couple of mince pies and a cup of tea but society as a whole would be safer and better cared for. Nae Nukes Anywhere should be our cry. Bairns Not Bombs, Peace Not War.

Tommy Sheridan

 

 

 

‘It’s not my flag mate. Never has been and never will be’

I was stiff as a wooden plank on Sunday morning after a long 10 hour shift attending, helping set up and compering the excellent Hope Over Fear Rally in Glasgow the day before to declare our cast iron commitment to keep the struggle for Scottish independence alive. I’m no Spring Chicken nowadays and auld age always insists on bring along ‘uncle aches’ and ‘auntie pains’ but I had promised a mate I would play in a charity 5 – asides football tournament in Airdrie to raise funds for the excellent work of the St Andrews Hospice. It was an unusually early 10.30am start and despite my presence we managed to reach the semi-finals before exiting by a narrow margin. A couple of hours later I was waiting to cross the road near to my mum’s house. I had some milk and bread for her. She has been unwell recently. A car slowed down at the lights and an angry, and very ugly, man proceeded to shout at me from the passenger seat; “Sheridan ya Fenian bastard don’t ever insult our flag” as he waved a copy of a discredited red top newspaper and sped off.

Tsk, tsk whatever happened to reasoned discourse and informed debate? The black BMW Saloon car was already hundreds of yards away but I couldn’t help but shout out “It’s not my flag mate, and it never will be”. An exercise in futility I know but it was my knee-jerk response to being shouted at and abused in a public street. I may well be a Fenian but I am no bastard.

I later discovered the reason he was waving a copy of the discredited newspaper was it carried a report about me referring to the Union Jack at the start of the rally the day before  as a ‘Butcher’s Apron’. This was prompted by the site of the said flag fluttering on the flagpole of Glasgow City Chambers which dominates the view from the Square our rally was set up in. Given our rally was reasonably well advertised, we were in the biggest city in Scotland, it was an independence rally and Glasgow voted YES for independence four years ago I had expected to see the Scottish flag flying above the Chambers, not the Union Jack. Poor show Glasgow City Council.

Now there is little I can say about the diminishing quality and relevance of the once popular newspaper, the Sunday Mail, which it’s disastrous declining sales does not already say. It is a snivelling servant of the dying British Union which each week is saturated with dross, drivel and dreadful reporting from a staff which dream one day of becoming journalists like those who once wrote for that former institution in Scotland. Only 30 years ago that paper used to sell a million copies every Sunday from an adult population of 4 million. Almost one in four Scots used to purchase a Sunday Mail. Today that paper is a rump of its former self, a comic, a joke, a sad unionist rag. That’s why its latest sales figures have plummeted to an embarrassing 131,416, many of which are actually freebie promotions https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/national-abcs-free-evening-standard-only-uk-paper-to-see-circulation-growth-in-august/ . It has become an irrelevance in Scotland which serves no useful purpose other than propping up the British Union by attacking the independence cause and those who advance it.

As for the comment itself and the angry abuse from the guy with the Hollywood looks leaning out of the car, he was the spitting image of Shrek, the reality is the flag in question is called a ‘Butcher’s Apron’ because it is soaked in the blood of millions who have perished under its sharpened steel bayonet, sophisticated ballistic bombs, targeted rifle bullets and/or deliberate economic decisions designed to cause starvation and famine.

The Union Jack is the flag of the British Empire. An Empire which once straddled one quarter of the world’s land mass and ruled over one fifth of its population. It is an Empire that economically raped and pillaged from lands unable to defend themselves from conquest and literally raped and murdered those who dared to stand in its way. It was a dominant slave-trading power that deliberately stunted the growth and development of nations and continents to advance its own power and enrichen its own elite. The facts about the British Empire are not taught in schools which is why a recent YouGov poll found 44% of the sample were ‘proud’ of Britain’s history of colonisation while only 21% regretted it happened and 23% held neither view https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/worst-atrocities-british-empire-amritsar-boer-war-concentration-camp-mau-mau-a6821756.html.

Proud of the Boer concentration camps set up during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), three decades before the concentration camps of the Nazis were built. Almost a sixth of the Boer population was rounded up and imprisoned in such camps. They were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease. Many died of starvation. The majority of those imprisoned were women and children. Of the 107,000 rounded up and incarcerated 27,927 Boer deaths were recorded alongside an unknown and unquantified number of black Africans.

Proud of the Amritsar massacre of 13th April 1919 when peaceful unarmed protesters defied a government order and protested against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India and were corralled into a confined space inside the Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers under the specific order of British commander Brigadier Reginal Dyer. He ordered the soldiers to keep firing until they literally ran out of ammunition. Between 379 and 1,000 protesters were murdered that day and over one thousand others were injured. All in the space of a brutal and frenzied ten minute period.

Proud of the partitioning of India later in 1947 under the order of British Empire appointed Cyril Radcliffe who took no more than a single lunch course to draw a crazy and unwanted border through India and created the state of Pakistan based on religious lines which saw 10 million people forcibly uprooted. Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were compelled to flee their homes as British inspired religious and sectarian violence descended across the area and up to one million lives perished in the fighting.

Proud of the British Empire which crushed the Kikuyu tribe rebellions against colonial rule in Kenya when mass rapes, imprisonment in concentration camps and literal and systematic torture was deployed by British troops to crush the Mau Mau uprising (1951-1960) and resulted in anything from 20,000 deaths to as many as 100,000. Thousands of elderly survivors of the brutal mistreatment at the hands of the British Empire brought a court action in 2010 seeking compensation from the British Government for what they had endured. During the case University of Warwick Professor of History, David M. Anderson, submitted a statement referring to 1,500 files that went missing from Kenya as British rule in the region came to an end. That statement forced the British government to admit they had deliberately hidden or destroyed those 1,500 files and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was subsequently compelled to admit they were hiding 600,000 historical documents in breach of the 1958 UK Public Records Act and that the stash of hidden documents included 20,000 undisclosed files from 37 former British colonies https://www.globalresearch.ca/crimes-against-humanity-the-british-empire/5597781

So not only is the British Empire guilty of heinous and bloody crimes against humanity it is also guilty of trying to cover them up, in breach of the law.

Time and space prevents me from detailing the British Empire’s critical and shameful role in the famines of Ireland in the 1840’s and India throughout colonial rule. In 1943 alone four million Bengalis starved to death when British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, diverted food away from Bengal to stockpile 170,000 tons of life saving Australian wheat so it could feed Europeans after the Second World War ended. He also forced India to export rice rather than feed her own people. In reference to that horrific famine Britain’s Imperial representative Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits” https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ryan-barrell/winston-churchill-note_b_11976914.html

A whole book could be devoted to British Imperialisms blood soaked history in Ireland and I promise to return to that subject area in future columns but any sober and honest appraisal of the Ballymurphy massacre between 9-11th August 1971 or the Derry massacre on January 30th 1972 testifies unquestionably to the blood soaked character of the Union Jack. In the space of only 36 hours in a small working class community in West Belfast the 1st Parachute Regiment of the British Army, under order from the British Government, gunned down in cold blood 10 innocent civilians including a 44 year old mother of eight whom they shot in the face, a man shot 14 times while he lay injured and a priest shot twice while he attempted to give the last rites to another man who had just been shot. That is the bloody reality of British Imperialism and the British Empire summed up in one short 36 hour period. That same Regiment then went on to gun down 14 unarmed civilians in Derry only 5 months later. That is why I call the British Union Jack a Butchers Apron and it is why it has never been my flag and it never will. I am Scottish not British.

Tommy Sheridan

Hold the Front Page – Braveheart Is Not Historically Accurate


It is said that we learn something new every day. That maxim was certainly underlined this week for me. On the eve of the annual Hope Over Fear Independence Rally in Glasgow, the 6th I have had the pleasure of co-organising, the Organising Committee announced we intended to provide some pre-Rally entertainment by using our Big Screen to show an edited version of the Hollywood Blockbuster Braveheart. It would be shown before the official rally started to occupy those who always turn up early and help set the mood for the day. For those who don’t know it is movie which purports to portray the life of a Scottish Freedom Fighter from the 13th Century called William Wallace. Many in Scotland had hardly heard of him before the film, including me. He wasn’t in my history or modern studies lessons. In fact despite being quite inquisitive at school and associating myself with left wing views from an early age I hadn’t heard about William Wallace very much at all. The William Wallace I was familiar with was the Glasgow Celtic forward who achieved immortality as a Lisbon Lion playing in the first British team to ever win the European Cup in 1967.

As a Politics and Economics student I learned about Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Guevara, Castro, Mandela, Connolly and the great John MacLean. All freedom fighters and revolutionaries in their own lifetimes. But not William Wallace or Robert the Bruce. That was particularly ironic as I attended the beautiful Stirling University in Central Scotland from 1981/85 and didn’t know that very area of my country hosted the most significant battles in the life of Wallace and Bruce. I used to drive past Bannockburn on my way to the university without knowledge of its significance in Scotland’s history as the site of the historic 1314 battle when heavily outnumbered Scottish warriors under the command of Robert the Bruce routed the invading English army and sent them homeward to think again. Thankfully there is now a Heritage Centre near to the battle site which was opened in 2014, 700 years after the Battle of Bannockburn. It attracted 65,000 visitors in its first year https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-31641951

As I got older and learned about the true nature of class society and the power of the state during the titanic Miner’s Strike of 1984/85 I began to resent my formal school education. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of a guy called John MacLean who was born only a couple of miles away from me in Glasgow in 1879 but who led incredible battles against participation in the First World War and for worker’s rights and an independent Scottish Republic. This guy was imprisoned 5 times in his life for taking on the British state and in 1918 was appointed Bolshevik Counsel to the First Soviet Workers Republic by Vladimir Lenin himself. A wee guy from Glasgow, a school teacher, was recognised by the leaders of the 1917 Russian revolution despite being thousands of miles away. No faxes, mobiles or internet in those days. Why the hell wasn’t I taught about him at school? In 1979 the Soviet Union honoured the centenary of his birth in Scotland by issuing a 4 kopek commemorative postage stamp.

For many years I embroiled myself in socialist politics and read more about the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, France 1968, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1979. The list went on and I became an irreconcilable socialist and internationalist but in the left wing groups I associated with Scottish independence was rarely discussed and never encouraged. It was the British road to socialism all the way. I used to question why MacLean supported an independent Scotland if he was a socialist and internationalist but got fobbed off with stories about idiosyncrasies and ill-health warping his views in later life, even though he only lived until he was 44.

Then a film was premiered in Stirling in September 1995 which was to challenge my hitherto held beliefs. It was called Braveheart and purported to be based around the life of Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace. I remember sitting in a cinema in central Glasgow to watch it and being blown away by the story and underlying message of rebellion against tyranny and bravery in the face of bigger foes in the fight for freedom. It was superb. At the end I joined everyone in the cinema on my feet cheering and clapping. Apparently that happened all over Scotland.

Was it a true story? Not entirely. Was it a great story? Yes. I left the cinema and over the following weeks and months reflected on my political life to that day. I felt ashamed. I could quote chapter in verse about the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, the Chile military coup but don’t ask me about William Wallace or Robert the Bruce. Two revolutionaries in their era. Two freedom fighters that fought for Scotland to be a normal independent nation. I was inspired to research and read about them. I acquainted myself with my own country’s history and within a year changed my previous promotion of a British road to socialism to a programme in line with the inspiring MacLean. I firmly believed now in independence for Scotland and the advance of socialism via freedom from English Westminster rule.

It didn’t matter a jot to me that Braveheart was not completely historically accurate. So the belted plaid they wore in the film was not around in the 13th century. So Wallace didn’t have an affair with Isabella of France. So the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge, which Wallace and his volunteer army won against incredible odds, did not actually feature a bridge. So what! It is a film not a bloody documentary. What it conveyed was a story of rebellion against tyrannical occupation of your homeland. Courage in the face of formidable foes. Betrayals from within your own side.

To read some of the bitter and pompous comments from unionists and apparent supporters of independence in opposition to the screening of this film in Freedom Square you would question whether William Wallace actually existed https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16838009.tommy-sheridan-not-frightened-to-screen-cinematic-classic-braveheart-at-his-pro-indy-rally/

Did he raise an army of volunteers to fight invading English armies? Yes. Did those English armies commit atrocities during their occupation of Scotland? Yes. Did William Wallace develop battle techniques that allowed him to rout a much bigger and better force during the Battle of Stirling Bridge? Yes. Was William Wallace eventually betrayed and captured by the English and tried for treason? Yes. Was he brutally tortured and beaten to death in public as a warning to others not to rebel? Yes. Did the screen writer Randall Wallace (no relation to William) and Australian director and actor Mel Gibson shower the film with scenes and depictions which were not historically supportable? Yes. It’s called, euphemistically, poetic licence and just about EVERY film based on true events does the same thing.

Braveheart is not everyone’s cup of tea. Name a film that is. But it is not anti-English, or embarrassing or cringe worthy as some in ivory towers have suggested this week. Believe it or not we know the film is not a true account of Wallace’s life. We know it is embellished but it remains a brilliant story and, in my humble opinion, a fine film.

Spolier alert. In the top 10 List of historically inaccurate films https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/10-historically-inaccurate-movies10.htm Braveheart is not number one. That honour is accorded to Pearl Harbour. It is not 2nd either. That accolade goes to Battle of the Bulge. 3rd is They Died With Their Boots On. 4th is Gladiator. Braveheart is 5th in the list. But here’s the rub. How many of you enjoyed Spartacus? I love it. It is probably my favourite film, next to Reds. Yet although the story is based on a real person the most famous scene of all is inaccurate. Spartacus was killed in the battle with Crassus in Luciana. He wasn’t captured and then humbled by the “I’m Spartacus” display of loyalty which never fails to bring a tear to my eye. He wasn’t crucified and shown his “free” son before he died.

Then there is the superb In The Name of the Father. It is based on the life of the beautiful Gerry Conlon, who is sadly no longer with us. It came out to critical acclaim in 1993 but was slated by British Establishment types for showing them up to be the lying, devious and anti-Irish bastards they are. Yet when I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Gerry on my Radio Show in early 1997 he expressed his disappointment at the film. It had been based on his book Proved Innocent: The Story of Gerry Conlon of The Guildford Four and I was blown away by the film and filled with rage and anger at what the British State had done to these men and women and their families, alongside the Birmingham Six and Maguire Seven. But Gerry pointed out some inaccuracies like the fact he didn’t share a cell with his dad and the lawyer Gareth Peirce, played so well by Emma Thomson, wasn’t actually his dad’s lawyer and as a solicitor was not allowed to speak in the London High Court as she was portrayed in the film. Wow! Powerful scenes in the movie were not accurate. Did it detract from the power of the story and underlying message of British State deceit and lies? Not a jot. Disgracefully not a single police officer or state official has ever been charged for the fit-ups of those innocent men and women.

Films are primarily for entertainment. They are not documentaries. Good films can inspire you to want to learn more about the story being told. That is what Braveheart did for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Tommy Sheridan 

The Original 9/11

Chile and her 60,000 victims of U.S. meddling must be remembered today

Across much of the world, particularly in the West, today has been shortened to just ‘9/11’ and most associate it with the gruesome and awful terror attacks which targeted the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia and, unsuccessfully, The White House in Washington. American symbols of power, wealth and prestige. Almost 3,000 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured this day 17 years ago when hijacked planes were used as weapons by the Islamist terror group al-Qaeda to visit pain, fear and destruction on America, the most powerful nation on the planet. Yet the original ‘9/11’, also on a Tuesday and also involving the mighty U.S., hardly merits a thought or a mention in the Western media despite the fact the loss of innocent lives was 20 times greater and the pain, fear and destruction that was inflicted lasted even longer. History and fairness demand today is about remembering Chile 1973 not just New York and Virginia 2001.

“The people must defend themselves, but not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be levelled or mowed down, but neither can they let themselves be humiliated. Workers of my homeland! I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will overcome this grey and bitter moment where treason tries to impose itself. May you continue to know that much sooner than later the great avenues through which free men walk to build a better society will open”

“Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers! These are my last words. I am sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain; I am sure that it will at least be a moral lesson which will punish felony, cowardice and treason”.

The last speech of a hero. The democratically elected President of Chile in 1970 was Salvador Allende. He was elected on a radical programme of wealth re-distribution, nationalisation of Chile’s copper mines and challenging the grotesque inequality and poverty which scarred Chile as it scarred the whole of Latin and South America. On Tuesday 11th September 1973 Allende was in La Moneda, the Presidential Palace in the Chilean capital Santiago with trusted aides while outside a bloody, brutal and U.S. connived military coup was taking place. Allende was offered safe passage out of the Palace and out of the country by the aggressors, led by a callous and devious General Pinochet whom Allende himself had appointed only 12 days previously. Allende ordered his daughter and other civilians to take up the offer of safe passage but refused to abandon his post. He stared death in the face but refused to surrender such was the strength of his convictions and his belief in democracy and the Chilean political process.

His last speech was broadcast to the Chilean people via a hook-up with Radio Magallanes and was broadcast on air in defiance of the military who pounded the palace with heavy artillery, tanks and planes against the handful of guns and a single bazooka in the possession of Allende and his small band of loyal defenders. Repeatedly the Pinochet led army tried to get Allende to give up and repeatedly, with calmness, dignity and courage, he refused. Eventually the Palace was breeched and Allende was murdered, defiantly, with a machine gun in his hand. Thousands of his fellow countrymen and women were similarly murdered, arrested and/or tortured that day. The Santiago sports stadium was used as a makeshift prison and in the course of the following days, weeks and months up to 60,000 Chilean citizens were killed, many after being beaten and tortured for days, including the celebrated poet, singer, activist and academic Victor Jara.

Please educate yourself. Purchase the small but magnificent anthology of reflections on the 1973 coup ‘Chile: The Other September 11’ (Dorfman et al 2016) or the more comprehensive ‘Salvador Allende Reader: Chile’s Voice of Democracy’ (Cockcroft & Canning (eds.) 2000). In the former read the witness accounts of the last days of Victor Jara’s life compiled by his loving wife Joan Jara;

“I have two more glimpses of Victor in the Stadium, two more testimonies… a message for me brought out by someone who was near him for some hours, down in the dressing rooms, converted now into torture chambers, a message of love for his daughters and for me… then once more being publicly abused and beaten, the officer nicknamed “the Prince” shouting at him, on the verge of hysteria, losing control of himself: “Sing now, if you can, you bastard!” and Victor’s voice raised in the stadium after those four days of suffering, to sing a verse of the Popular Unity hymn, “Venceremos”. Then he was beaten down and dragged away for the last phase of his agony”. (p36 Dorfman et al)

Victor Jara was tortured and beaten to death. Many thousands suffered a similar fate. Up to 60,000 in total were killed during and in the aftermath of the Pinochet led coup. But who orchestrated this monstrosity? Who engineered the economic chaos which severely handicapped the elected Allende government providing the finance, military hardware, knowhow and international go-ahead and back-up for this horrific crime against humanity and democracy? The United States of America, that’s who. Or more precisely the small cabal at the heart of government who work under cloaks of secrecy and flags of convenience to implement plans hatched in the White House which literally decides the fates of whole countries and their people no matter their democratically expressed wishes.

Months before the 1970 election in Chile the White House “Committee of 40” met on March 25th under the direction of National Security Council Director Henry Kissinger, in close cahoots with the then President Nixon to approve the transfer of monies to right wing groups in Chile to try and scupper Allende’s Popular Unity coalition from ever securing power and agree that should he actually succeed measures should be implemented to de-stabilize the economy enough to usher in a military overthrow. In June Kissinger tells that secret “Committee of 40” group that should they fail to prevent Allende from being elected, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people”.

In a three way contest and against all the odds the Popular Unity programme of socialist policies promoted honestly by Allende wins the day with 36.3% of the vote in the September 4th election. Constitutionally the Congress of Chile has to decide who becomes President but normally endorses the candidate who wins the largest share of the popular vote. The “Committee of 40” steps up its secretive, undemocratic and illegal activities to interfere in another countries’ democratic process channelling millions of dollars to opposition groups to undermine Allende and President Nixon, on September 15th, orders the Central Intelligence Director (CIA), Richard Helms, to prevent Allende’s accession to office. When that fails the CIA works alongside the “Committee of 40” and several U.S. Corporations, like International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Ford Motor Company, Bank of America, Anaconda Copper and others to deliberately scupper the economy and cause hardship and chaos while millions more dollars were funnelled to newspapers, radio stations and opposition politicians to inflict maximum damage against Allende. (Think of Venezuela today to get a handle on the process.)

Yet Allende tried to stick to his manifesto promises and increased wages, nationalised the copper industry and implemented other popular measures. In a democratic test of his popularity the country went to the polls on April 4th 1971 in an election involving 280 municipal seats. In a four way contest Allende’s Popular Unity coalition won 49.7% of the vote, a result secured on the back of the historic decision to allow 18-21 years olds the vote for the first time ever. Young people overwhelmingly supported the radical Popular Unity programme of change.

Nixon, Kissinger and the bosses of the big corporations were enraged by this democratic endorsement of Allende. They were already engaged in a dirty, and initially secret, war in Vietnam. The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 left Castro in power and his popularity was rising. The self-appointed policeman of the world and exporter of democracy couldn’t allow Chile’s democracy to work. It was the wrong type of democracy. In their name, but without their knowledge or consent, Nixon, the CIA and the economic captains of industry upped their interference in Chile and financed, planned and directly supported the military coup which overthrew Allende on September 11th 1973.

That is the 9/11 which should be remembered today. That is the 9/11 which should be taught and discussed in schools and colleges across America and the Western world. William Blum’s ‘Rogue State’ (2002) should be core reading. Americans need to learn that their governments and secret security service and military personnel have been involved in the direct bombing of at least 30 countries since World War Two and have engineered military coups and the empowerment of brutal and bloody tyrants in a similar number of countries. The facts are there for all to see. The U.S. is quite simply the biggest rogue state on the planet. In the aftermath of the horror in September 2001 serious and sober politicians, academics and ordinary citizens asked Why? Why would anyone wish to attack America? A basic understanding of their blood-soaked history and role across the world would answer that. What happened 17 years ago in New York was certainly inexcusable but it was far from inexplicable. Knowledge and understanding of the original 9/11 contains all the clues for those willing to read and open their minds.

Tommy Sheridan 

Baby Boxes VS Ballistic Bombs

After several packed rallies in support of independence in 2014 and the outcome that 53.5% of the city had voted YES Glasgow’s George Square in the centre of the city was re-named Freedom Square by the Indy Family.

Next Saturday, September 15th, that square will be packed to capacity with thousands of Scots from all walks of life who can sense in the air the approach of a new referendum and the chance to secure Scotland’s freedom from the restrictive yoke of Westminster rule this time round.

The rally is being organised by the grassroots Indy campaign group Hope Over Fear with support from scores of other grassroots YES Groups and campaigns like All Under One Banner, YES East Kilbride, YES Holytown, Scotland Land of the Brave, YES Bikers and many more. Thousands will march to the square from Clyde Place near to the Square. Some will arrive on their powerful motorbikes while others will assemble in the square from 10am in the morning to watch a film being shown on a gigantic screen especially hired for the day. The film is Braveheart. Some have suggested that film is unsuitable because it is historically inaccurate and even anti-English. In response I say ‘balderdash’

The film is an inspiring depiction of how many ordinary Scots fought with courage and elan to secure Scotland’s status as an independent country in the independence wars of 1295-96 to 1314.

The legends of William Wallace, Andrew Murray, Robert the Bruce and many others were born in the midst of those tumultuous years and against incredible odds the Scottish warriors eventually secured Scotland’s freedom from English domination.

 

The crucial Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was fought over two bloody days on 23rd and 24th June that year and came to epitomise the tenacity and determination of the Scots to be free. Outnumbered heavily, by at least two to one, and less well-equipped than Edward II’s massive English force Robert the Bruce’s brave army won.

The film Braveheart attempts to condense more than 15 years of battles and shenanigans into a 3 hour film and in my opinion it is a cinematic masterpiece.

Of course it is not historically accurate throughout or precise in time frames but the kernel of the story is about courage and a desire to be free from foreign occupation. As for being anti-English should the fact it was English Kings and English Captains who did the invading and ordered the brutal subjugation of the Scots been hidden? Of course not.

While the significant fact that some Scots sided with the English rather than fight for freedom is also depicted. Remember William Wallace himself was betrayed by two Scotsmen before being ripped to shreds, literally, by the English. We will have to condense the condensed on September15th. We can’t show the whole film. It is too long. The rally itself starts at 11am. So the best 60 minutes will be broadcast in the Square.

That historical stuff is not relevant today many argue, particularly those of a unionist persuasion. But they are wrong. It is relevant. Relevant to illustrate that for hundreds of years Scotland was an independent country before the snide and secretive Treaty of Union was signed in 1707 without any form of common consent or knowledge with the connivance of a wholly unrepresentative and poorly attended Scottish Parliament who agreed to it in 1706. Scotland’s independence was signed away over 300 years ago and ever since there have been movements committed to returning her independent status. The arguments for independence have never been more powerful. Recently there was a public row involving the Scottish Government in Edinburgh and English Government in London which epitomised the choices facing those who reside in Scotland today.

The introduction of a ‘baby box’ scheme in August last year was lauded by some as a progressive policy and ridiculed by others as unnecessary. All new born babies in Scotland would qualify for clothes from new born to 6 months, a digital ear thermometer, a bath mat, a bath towel and books. The box itself also has a mattress, mattress protector and a fitted sheet. A straightforward registration form is completed by the midwife responsible for the birth of the new baby and is delivered to the baby’s home. All free of charge and for the specific benefit of the child and assistance to new parents or parent.

 

The respected Royal College of Midwifes has now called for the scheme to be rolled out across the UK.

Unionist politicians of both Tory blue and Labour red persuasions have been less than enthusiastic about the scheme and even suggested cheaply that it is more of a PR exercise than a child welfare policy.

However here is the rub. In the same week as the Royal College of Midwifes called for the Scottish Government’s baby box scheme to be rolled out across the UK the English Government was quite rightly being condemned for their perfidious role in the murder of innocent people, including children, in Yemen through their irresponsible and profit lust supply of weapons and missiles to Saudi Arabia.

Under the headline: ‘Exposed: British-made bombs used on civilian targets in Yemen’ the world renowned Amnesty International UK Group highlighted how British made bombs were being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen to kill innocent civilians but because the trade was worth £2.94 Billion in 2017 alone the Malevolent May Tory Government was willing to turn a blind eye to the sordid and blood stained practice of arming Saudi Arabia. Of course such murky dealings are not the exclusive preserve of Tory Governments as the Blair/Brown Government was also up to its neck in shady and immoral arms deals.

 

The choice is clear. An independent Scottish Government able to progress and develop socially just and humanity enhancing policies like the ‘baby box’ scheme or more Westminster English Governments committed to the export and production of ‘ballistic bombs’. Baby boxes versus ballistic bombs, immoral and illegal nuclear weapons or investment in socially useful jobs with decent wages? These are the very real choices facing the people of Scotland. Independence in and of itself is not a destination. It is not the end of the journey. It is in fact only the start of the journey.

The journey to create a socially just, nuclear free and peace promoting country. Not everyone in an independent Scotland will endorse my socialist vision of an independent republic, not immediately, but the vast majority envisage an independent Scotland that shares out its vast wealth more equitably, that promotes the welfare of bairns before the hosting of bombs, that welcomes citizens who want to come and live and work in our country with a hand of friendship not a fist of fury.

Freedom Square on Saturday will be filled with those who have hope in their hearts and aspirations in their minds for a new and better Scotland to raise their children in. In a country so rich in natural resources like oil, gas, fish, land and renewable energy potential no child should be born into poverty. The oxymoron of the ‘working poor’ should be banished from our lexicon through real living wages protected by law and free trade unions.

Get yourself along to Freedom Square and listen to the 19 musical bands and performers, 5 SNP Members of the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments and fine collection of grassroots Indy supporters there to declare their continued commitment to an independent Scotland. I am also being afforded 5 minutes to convey my tuppence worth. There is a hard won and democratic triple lock mandate on the table right now. Our appeal to the SNP Government is simple — Use The Mandate, Name the Date and let us secure Scotland’s freedom not via the Claymore this time via IndyRef2.

Tommy Sheridan 

An Introduction of Sorts – The Tommy Sheridan Column

Let me introduce myself to this platform. I am Tommy Sheridan and I am 54 years of age. I am blessed with a beautiful wife and gorgeous daughter aged 13. I was born in Glasgow in 1964 and live in the Southside of that wonderful city. It is not the capital of Scotland but it is the most populated and I would argue is the heart of Scotland. My country is where I was born and raised and though I personally own no part of it I am patriotic enough to realise it’s potential as a nation of peace, equality and social progress is stunted by an unfair and archaic Treaty of Union drawn up and agreed to in 1707 by unrepresentative men of land and property behind the backs of the people and without their express consent in any form.

That 1707 Treaty of Union usurped Scotland’s independence and tied us to the coat-tails of England and later an oxymoron of a description called the ‘United Kingdom’ which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Union is archaic, unequal and exploitative. Scotland is prevented from properly utilising its incredible natural resources of oil, land, gas, sea and, most of all, her people by this Union and I am determined to see it rescinded in full within my lifetime. More of that as the weeks ahead unfold.

It is often said each individual has at least one book in them, meaning their life story is worthy of committing to print. I reckon that is almost universally true although it does irk me when I see autobiographies on bookshelves and airport stands from supposedly famous 25 and 30 year olds who, in my estimation, have not lived a long enough life to justify the book. I remember my old Granda Peter, my mum’s dad, used to amaze me with his wise statement along the lines of ‘when you are 20 you know everything, when you are 40 you know quite a lot but when you are 60 you realise you know very little indeed’. For years I thought he was a havering old man. But the older I got I learned to understand his message and the inert wisdom it contained. I then read a very similar gem of advice offered up by the wonderful writer and wordsmith Mark Twain;

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years”. Mark Twain (2012). “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips: A Book of Quotations”, p.121, Courier Corporation

My Granda passed away before I got the opportunity to ask him if his wise words were perhaps inspired by those of Mark Twain. No matter the point is we all live lives that are full of interesting experiences and rich encounters that could fill a book. I am no different.

My home was a humble one in the fourth tier of a four tier building which we Scots call a ‘close’. Basically flats on top of one and other and in very close proximity meaning neighbour rows over noise in general and loud music in particular were constant. There was no central heating, no double-glazing and no gardens. They were very cold and because of the poor design and metal framed windows they were also prone to terrible dampness and condensation. They were flat-roofed structures in a City known as The Dear Green Place because of the rich forests, grass, shrubbery and parks which define Glasgow. The one constant in our lives is rain. We complain about it incessantly but without it we wouldn’t be the Dear Green Place. Such a climate means flat-roofed structures are, however, daft. The sunny climates of Spain or Greece? Maybe. But not Glasgow. The architects of what we called housing schemes in the post-2nd world war period deserved to be captured and made to live in these damp ridden tenements. No wonder the incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses were so common in the 1960’s and 70’s.

So my background is that of a Glasgow housing scheme. Mine was called Pollok. Others were called Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Springburn, Possilpark and Drumchapel. They were each meant to be an oasis compared to the older parts of Glasgow like Govan, Anderston and the Gorbals where poverty, ill-health and overcrowding were endemic. Of course the tough social conditions did not prevent the blossoming of thousands of great men and women who emerged from these places with distinction. Billy Connolly the comedian from Anderston. Alex Ferguson the football manager from Govan. Mary Barbour the political leader from Govan. Individuals who went on to be household names in the worlds of entertainment, football and politics in Scotland and beyond.

I’m proud of my city and my country. I just wish Billy Connolly and Alex Ferguson had not accepted the British Empire baubles that were bestowed upon them making them knights of a Realm that epitomises vested privilege and Royalist pomp and servitude. They are offenders in accepting such irrelevant and ridiculous badges of dishonour but they are not the worst offenders. They are the politicians of the left and trade union organisers who spent lives fighting poverty and inequality only to besmirch their names by accepting baubles which so cruelly represent such inequality of power and wealth in their twilight years. There are sadly too many to mention. Perhaps another day!

Though I am of humble stock and my mother and father were unskilled workers we had in abundance the richest resource on the planet. We were smothered with love and care throughout our childhoods, me and my two older sisters. ‘Imagine being so poor that all you have is money’ is a truism which deserves to be taught worldwide. Material essentials like food, shelter, education, clothes and safety should be the preserve of every human being on our planet but society is not in a mess because we cannot afford to feed, clothe our house everyone but because we cannot afford to feed the greed of the wealthy and privileged. Teaching the cost of everything but value of nothing is far too common across the world, particularly the rich west.

I am a socialist who seeks to see the bigger picture in society and strives to tackle injustice and poverty wherever and whenever they arise. I believe in thinking globally but acting locally. My vision is of a united world sharing resources in a positive, productive and cooperative fashion to ensure every human being has a decent standard of life and real opportunities to learn and develop their inherent talents. In the immortal words of John Lennon’s socialist anthem ‘Imagine’ people like me are belittled as ‘dreamers’ but as Lennon himself retorted, ‘we are not the only ones’.

In the course of my life I have led mass campaigns of civil disobedience, exposed and fought against unacceptable poverty in a society of plenty, physically confronted fascists and racists who seek to spew poison and scapegoat refugees and minorities, been elected to local council office and to the Scottish Parliament as an MSP. I have often fallen foul of the law and been incarcerated for my activities but I believe I have always remained true to my socialist principles and tried to speak truth to power no matter the odds.

In the course of my future articles I hope to offer informed opinion, inspire reactions and provoke debate. Whether you agree with me or not I hope to at least engage you and sometimes persuade you. Unlike many other politicians and commentators my principles are not negotiable. For me integrity is priceless and although many of us may be in the gutter I will always, in the spirit of Oscar Wilde, be looking up for the stars.

Tommy Sheridan