100 years on, the choice is still socialism or barbarism

THE FIGHT IS ON: end wage discrimination. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Ken Ferguson • This Voice goes to press amidst a media clamour marking the centenary of the armistice which finally ended the imperialist slaughter of World War One.

By coincidence, it is also 99 years since the birth of the Scottish poet and folklorist Hamish Henderson whose work casts a pitiless light on war and its consequences, alongside supporting a sweep of progressive causes.

Perhaps the words of Hamish’s Freedom Come All Ye—set to the poignant pipe tune The Bloody Fields of Flanders—where he calls on people of all lands to “Never heed whit the Hoodies croak for doom.”

Having rejected the words of the doomsayers, the song goes on to issue a call for peoples’ unity across national boundaries, race and creed in which “a’ the bairns of Adam” can share equality.

However, despite the decades of struggle, the gains made, the campaigns won and lost, today’s world, though different from 1918, is still filled with menace and poses a raft of challenges to those striving for a better world.

Issue after issue, the Voice reports these challenges and the efforts of those many campaigns, unions and individuals to meet them.

In this paper, we look at the incredibly dangerous election of unashamed fascist Bolsonaro as president in Brazil, Trump’s move to shred controls on nukes, and the gathering people-and-planet danger of climate change.

While, for progressive people, the panorama projected by these issues linked to rising populism, racism and violence is indeed bleak, it also underlines the need for resistance, action and solidarity.

Just as when fascism in Chile sparked a massive solidarity movement—exampled in the film Nae Pasaran—we must stand ready to build a similar movement with the progressive forces in Brazil.

Here in Scotland, the struggles of teachers and Glasgow council workers for fair pay and an end to wage discrimination indicate that, ultimately, it will be action by workers which will force the hands of employers and win justice.

As press reports reveal further safety failures at the nuclear base at Faslane, Scottish CND’s gathering campaign to scrap Trident altogether is surely timely.

Not only is Trident immoral and ruinously expensive, it is a useless weapon which, if ever used, would ensure the virtual annihilation of Scotland, a country that opposes its existence.

All the evidence is that during the Cold War, the planet came close to armageddon on several occasions, yet now we have Trump casually threatening to wipe out Korea and breaking an anti-nuke treaty with Iran.

All this is set in a world where, here in Scotland, tens of thousands exist on precarious, poorly paid jobs, and thousands more desperately seek homes.

In Tayside, the local health board plans the sacking of over 1,000 workers and, as the Voice goes to press the news of the closure of Dundee’s biggest industrial employer Michelin, with a further 850 well paid jobs axed, is breaking.

On Michelin, the STUC and Unite are seeking talks with the company to attempt to keep the iconic plant open but historic precedents from Caterpillar, Timex, Continental tyres and many more are not encouraging.

The closure comes like an icy shower on the on the still glowing rhetoric surrounding the opening of the V&A in Dundee and the many claims of how that would transform the city and its jobs market.

Not mentioned was the fact—revealed in the Voice last year—that staff will be employed on wages and conditions inferior to other V&A sites. Small wonder that the glitzy announcement by Scottish and UK governments of a Tay Cities deal, no doubt with further such projects, has been put on ice.

Alongside an economy based on low pay, zero hours contracts and anti-union laws giving employers the whip hand, is the parallel but closely-related loudly-ticking climate crisis time bomb.

The days when the needs of people and planet were presented as separate, or even opposed to each other, are long gone.

The scientific evidence is clear that humanity has around a dozen years to stabilise and reverse global warming—or face a climate catastrophe.

Of course, a range of campaigning groups such as WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth will be energetically working to demand a change of course.

However, welcome as such work is, the global emergency demands a radical set of solutions which directly challenge our present economic model in which priorities are determined by profits and dividends.

Rather, it needs to see social ownership of key services such as energy and public transport to develop Scotland’s green jobs potential, and with it, a start to the process of rebuilding both our skills base and manufacturing capacity.

In this regards, the experience of the BiFab workers, who are highly skilled on the manufacture of just the kit needed for renewables, spotlights the problem of the market solution.

Despite being “saved”, these yards are largely closed, at least until their next contract, and the skills are un-utilised.

The left needs to understand that campaigning for a policy supporting people and planet can halt global warming but must first break with the logic of profit in favour of harnessing skills and resources to meets the needs of both.

This is a high-stakes battle in which parties like the SSP and papers like the Voice will be fully engaged.

Huge vested interests want to keep us on the path to eco suicide—but they can be beaten.

To do so, we must take the advice of Shelley to “rise like lions,” for, as the poet observed, “we are many; they are few.”

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