Scottish Socialist Voice
Issue 287
17th November 2006

back to index

—front page—

Labour leave children with empty plates

Scottish Executive block Free School Meals Bill

Scottish Socialist MSP Frances Curran this week served notice on the Scottish Executive that despite the decision by the Communities Committee to block the progress of her Free School Meals bill the fight goes on.
Not only is the blocking a crude assault on democracy but it also exposes the opposition of both the Executive parties, and the SNP.
All three backed the gagging move.
Frances told the Voice:
“I have been inundated with angry protests from members of the public and organisations outraged at the Communities Committee gagging of the free school meals debate.
“However, my message is that the fight to win healthy free meals for our primary schools is far from over and I can promise its opponents that they have seen nothing yet.
“Along with many other organisations supporting it, we will be challenging all MSPs to come clean and tell us where they stand on this important issue.
“If I am prevented from progressing the Bill through normal democratic channels, I may seek to raise it as an amendment to the Executive’s own Health Promotion in Schools bill.
“We will also launch a major text campaign to allow the thousands of supporters of Free School Meals to let their thumbs do the talking and text support for this major pro-health and anti-poverty measure.
“These messages will, of course, be forwarded to the First Minister so my message to free school meals supporters is, watch for the text number and text Jack with your views.
“I will also use any other legitimate parliamentary device to challenge the disgraceful anti-democratic behaviour of the Communities Committee, including examining its supposedly heavy workload which is their lame excuse for blocking my bill.
“The disgraceful treatment of the Free School Meals bill blows a hole in the fancy talk about Holyrood being a new democracy and shows that the big parties will cynically use their power to get their own way.
“The reality is that both the Scottish Executive and the SNP know that there is massive public support for free school meals and they are desperate to block any discussion of it.
“Both are content to back bans on junk food in schools and pay for glossy TV ads and food Tsars but take cover when a concrete policy such as free school meals is up for discussion.
“Our job is to expose the hypocrisy behind the gagging of debate and continue to make the case for free school meals loud and clear.”

—page two—

Peerages scandal threatens Blair

by Ken Ferguson

George W Bush may be reeling from his electoral savaging last week, but at least he can comfort himself with the thought that he isn’t facing a grilling from Scotland Yard regarding the flogging of seats in the House of Lords to a bunch of unsavoury money men.
The question now is not so much when Blair will go but whether he will manage to get out in time.
There’s a cloud of suspicion brooding over Downing Street and someone’s in for a soaking.
It is hard to avoid the suspicion - despite hot denials - that the cash for peerages scandal lies behind the resignation from the government of multinational grocer, GM food fan and Blair bankroller, Lord Sainsbury.
Initially the prospect of a police probe was scoffed at by the spoonfed journalists who make a fat living rewriting press releases dished out to them by Blair’s spin doctors.
These so called ‘lobby’ journalists are portrayed as fearless seekers of truth when in reality they meet with Downing Street spinners twice a day to be told what to put in their articles.
Incidentally, despite all the rhetoric about a shining new democracy in Edinburgh, the establishment politicians there work the same type of operation, with the largely compliant Holyrood press corps producing a stream of ‘Jack trounces Nicola/Nicola trounce Jack’ pap which they have the cheek to pass off as news.
Despite the opinions of these ‘experts’, it is now clear that police are engaged in more than just a cosmetic glance at complaints about cash for peerages.
Key Blair henchman Lord ‘cashpoint’ Levy has been arrested and questioned and the cops are now asking questions of all present and recent government ministers.
Their enquiries have even taken them to the plush London home of ex-Tory leader and former Home secretary, Michael Howard.
Indeed the only top politico not yet in the frame is the man himself, former ‘Teflon Tony’ Blair.
The latest reports indicate that Scotland Yard is now taking a close interest in claims that the party produced a false balance sheet and broke the law by failing to disclose £12m worth of loans in audited annual figures published last year.
It has been alleged that the loans were hidden from Labour’s own auditors which, if true, is a clearly illegal act with very serious consequences.
It is apparent that the cops will build a strong and serious case, with a wealth of evidence, before they come knocking on the famous black door.
Opening this new area of enquiry significantly turns up the heat on the increasingly beleaguered Blair, placing him firmly at the centre of suspicion.
Police are said to be looking into allegations that Labour was guilty of the “systematic concealment of liabilities” in its financial accounts, according to sources involved in the investigation, with press reports suggesting that senior New Labour figures knew that the loans were concealed from auditors.
The Scotland Yard team, led by Assistant Commissioner John Yates, is expected to feel Mr Blair’s collar in the next few weeks, with questions about the accounts.
The police will need to consider whether the alleged false balance sheet, part of Labour’s 2004 accounts, was a breach of the terms of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which includes an offence of concealment or disguise.
Meanwhile, ministers are furiously putting distance between themselves and Blair by telling detectives they cannot explain why he nominated secret donors for peerages.
They believe “the net is closing in” on Mr Blair after Commissioner Yates wrote to every member of the Cabinet last week, and clearly intend to avoid sinking with the captain if SS New Labour goes down in a vortex of scandal.
Anyone who scoffs must recall that the current law was formulated as result of just such a scandal, involving Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George and his honours salesman, spy and fixer, Maundy Gregory.
Gregory went to jail and then into a comfortable exile in Paris.
LG avoided the jail but his political career never recovered and he was an increasingly isolated figure from the late 1920s until his death in 1945.

Kids call for free school meals

by Frances Curran

Last Friday I visited Haldane Primary school in Alexandria with Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.
The topic for their presentation, chosen by the class themselves, was free school meals.
The opening lines read: “In Finland, all schoolchildren from 7-18 are entitled to free school meals. The education authorities believe that children should not be dependent on their parents’ way of living to get proper food”
A red-faced Jackie Baillie was then confronted with the arguments.
“Without doubt, a tasty nutritious hot meal has a dramatic impact on behaviour, concentration and the ability to retain information.
“We should learn about food and good eating habits when we are young.
“We believe that if every child received free school meals then: we would all be equal; we would work better on a full stomach; we would concentrate more; it ensures one hot meal a day; young children would be eating a balanced diet; children will be healthier; all of us would be healthier; we would be encouraged to try other foods.”
I cheered whilst Jackie Baillie squirmed, taught a lesson by the 9-10 year olds of Haldane school, who spoke more sense than Jack McConnell and all the Labour and Lib Dem backbenchers put together.
Who says young people want to eat junk food and don’t care about what they eat? It’s a pity we can’t get these pupils into the debate in Parliament. The Executive can try to silence the idea of Free Healthy School Meals by blocking my bill but they cannot stop the momentum for an idea whose time has come.
The presentation ended:
“I am a child, I am special. Every child is special and every child is equal. We look forward to hearing your views on this subject.”
A challenge if ever I heard it. To the boys and girls of P6 in Haldane school - respect!

Scotland’s rape crisis

Last week, SSP MSP Carolyn Leckie took part in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on violence against women.
The debate took place against a background of increasing violence against women in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, especially when they speak out to defend women’s rights.
However, noted Carolyn, we will  find women subjected to sexual violence close to home too.
Last year, despite 900 reports of rape throughout Scotland, there were just 39 convictions. That’s a rate of 4.3 per cent, even though the number of reported attacks has doubled in a decade.
Both the Criminal Procedure Act 1996 and The Sexual Offences Act 2003 were meant to give greater protection to women reporting rape and improve their chances of bringing a successful prosecution.
But the Scottish Executive’s own research shows these efforts have failed.
In June 2006, it was announced that the Lord Advocate was accepting 50 recommendations to improve the way that rape cases are investigated and prosecuted. 
Carolyn said more is needed to protect and support victims of sexual violence.
The courts, for instance, are not even protecting them from humiliation and degradation in the witness box.
Research shows that defence lawyers made verbal applications to introduce evidence of the complainants’ sexual history in 23 per cent of rape cases.
Ninety five per cent of these were sprung on the complainant during her testimony,
“The nature of the questioning and the inspection of the complainers’ private lives, including their medical and gynaecological histories, can be potentially humiliating and intimidating”.
Research from the States suggests that introducing sexual history evidence lowers the chances of securing a conviction.
Carolyn called for specialist sexual violence courts of a type similar to Glasgow’s domestic violence court. 
These courts are presided over by judges who will provide protection to women complainants; prosecutors are determined to secure justice for rape victims and defence lawyers are prevented from humiliating victims.
Until then, we will continue to fail women subjected to vile crimes against their person, whilst letting rapists believe that they can get off “Scot free”.

North Sea divers end strike

More than 900 North Sea divers and support staff, on strike since 1 November, have voted overwhelmingly to accept a pay package that will increase current rates by a cumulative 44.7 per cent over the next two years.
The divers’ dispute was backed in a Scottish Parliament motion tabled by Colin Fox MSP which noted that, despite doing a highly dangerous and demanding job, North Sea divers were paid less than members of the Scottish Parliament.
Some 703 - 84 per cent - voted to accept the deal, with 127 - 16 per cent- against, on an 80 per cent turnout. The strike will therefore end forthwith.
The settlement gives an immediate increase of 25 per cent on all rates, with a further five per cent on the new rates next April, and increases in November 2007 and 2008 of RPI plus 1.5 per cent or five per cent, whichever is greater.
The seven employer signatories to the deal will all now pay eight bank holidays, up from four, and each has undertaken to agree proper bargaining structures with the union, although pay will continue to be negotiated collectively.
“By any standard, this is a tremendous victory,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said Tuesday.
“Divers and their support crews do difficult and hazardous work in an industry that makes enormous profits, and this settlement represents a massive stride towards reversing the two decades of pay erosion they have endured.
He concluded:
“Our members in the North Sea came out as one, stood together through ten days of solid strike action, and can return to work proud that their unity has won a significant advance.”

—page three—

Gearing up for G8 2007

Up to 500 activists converged in the north German town of Rostock last week, to plan demos, road blockades and an Alternative Summit to coincide with  next year’s G8 summit on the remote Baltic Sea island of Heiligindamm.
A delegation from Scotland gave detailed accounts of their experiences from G8 2005 in Gleneagles.
Participants included left-wing parties WASG and PDS, anarchist groups, anti-deportation and anti-nuclear campaigners and representatives from Germany’s NGO scene. 
It was good to see autonomous groups working closely with anti-capitalist left groups.
Suggested tactics for the 2007 Alternative Summit include getting ‘big name’ speakers like Noam Chomsky to hold outdoor mass meetings, as a radical alternative to lecture-theatre style of ‘plenaries’.
Concerns were voiced that the organising process could become dominated by less radical NGOs, who seem lukewarm about direct action, proposing a series of press-conferences instead. 
There were also concerns that the German trade unions remain ambivalent to the Anti-G8 movement

Council workers resist cliff-edge pay cuts made in the name of ‘equality’

by Richie Venton SSP National Workplace Organiser

Labour and SNP councils across Scotland, including Falkirk, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, are slashing pay and conditions in so-called Equal Pay packages.
SSP members in the council workers’ unions are campaigning for a national demo to pull together the strands of struggle, to prevent isolation and dislocation being used as a weapon by the employers, and for strike action if cuts are imposed.
We have everything to fight for. Council and Scottish parliamentary elections loom, making councillors and MSPs nervous and susceptible to orchestrated pressure. The last thing these chancers want is a revolt of council workers, their families and communities.
The SSP MSPs used their allocated debating time last week to argue for funding from the Scottish Executive to reach settlements with the local government workers’ unions without detriment to services.
Carolyn Leckie, moving the motion, reported that her sister, who works with learning disabled adults, is about to see her pay slashed by nearly £3000.
“When the single status agreement was reached, equal pay had been a matter of law for almost three decades, but for all that time, women have had their labour stolen, and over their lifetimes, they have been short-changed by hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“This inequality persists.”
Glasgow city council’s 13,000 UNISON members are balloting for strike action against the Labour council’s attempt to impose a package that directly cuts the pay of one in six workers - nearly 5,000 of the 31,000 staff.
Some stand to lose over £10,000 in cliff-edge pay drops from March 2009.
Many of them are already amongst the lowest paid.
For instance, ushers at the chief executive’s offices face a cut of 10 per cent on their £15,063 salary.
The council insists that nobody will lose out as they will be retrained to restore their current salaries by March 2009. This is nonsense! Workers will have their pay frozen till then, and the scale of rises required and the time-scale to achieve the re-training make it impossible.
Kate Riordan, UNISON steward in Culture and Leisure services, urges members to vote yes for strike action.
“There are a lot of people in my department losing out badly. Michael is a Visitor Assistant, his wife Janette is a Senior Library Assistant, between them they stand to lose £4,000 a year. They are not untypical.
The council, she says, are bulldozing through the cuts.
“Even the council’s bribery of those who gain is dodgy. Many of them will actually lose out after cuts to enhancements, bonuses and overtime rates are taken into account. For example, cleaning staff face £400 a year cuts after the loss of enhancements.
“The council have said they will issue those who sign up for the new deal with lump sums in December. Everyone assumes they will get that for Christmas, when in fact it will not be until 28 December and therefore in the January pay packets.
“Another case of being economical with the truth!”
“I really hope we get the YES vote for strike action. And the councillors should be made aware that many council workers who used to vote labour will never do so again - over 4,500 of them, plus their families for a start.”

Scottish power profits reach for the sky

Scottish Power, the fifth largest energy supplier in the UK, has seen its pre-tax profits leap a staggering 77 per cent, to £483million, in the six months to September.
Meantime, Scottish Power bills have risen 32 per cent for gas, and 18 per cent for electricity.
Scottish Power is the target of a £12billion bid by Spanish company Iberdola.
Lovely news for shareholders, terrible news for us, as it spells an increasing concentration of ownership in the energy sector, the inevitable result of privatisation.
The company insists the profits are borne of ‘restructuring’, rendering Scottish Power ‘leaner and more responsive’.
In other words, sacking loads of staff and keeping power prices sky-high, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of over-65s die of cold-related illness in the coming months and some 90,000 children live in  discomfort because their families cannot afford to pay their fuel bills.
Scottish Power blame rising wholesale prices.
But in fact, they source their electricity cheaply, from coal-fired generators, and forward-bought their gas when prices were lower.
Nonetheless, the government seems set to do nothing and charities like Help the Aged are reduced to lobbying the power giants, asking them to be a bit nicer.
If that happens, hell will freeze over. Then again, given fuel prices these days, that may be a possibility.

—page four—

Israeli phosphorous use exposed

Civilians burned alive in Lebanon

“Phosphorous burns bodies, melting the flesh right down to the bone.”
So said a former US soldier, describing the use of white phosphorous, known in military slang as Willy Pete, in an Italian documentary for RAI News 24, into the US attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.
Willy Pete is in the news again, a team from the UN confirming that the Israeli army used it during its onslaught on Lebanon this summer, which ended on 14 August.
White phosphorous is often compared to napalm, as it combusts spontaneously and melts human skin. It is banned under the Geneva Convention for use in weapons directed against civilians, though Israel, like the Americans with regard to Fallujah, insist they only fired the deadly chemical weapon at military targets, or to “illuminate battlefields”.
We know that isn’t true, as both assaults were characterised by the wholescale destruction of both civilian infrastructure and civilian life.
The Italian documentary - Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, directed by Sigfrido Ranucci - quotes the former US soldier again, describing seeing the burned bodies of women and children, some of them incinerated in their beds.
“The phosphorous explodes and forms a plume. Whoever is within a 150 metre radius has no hope.”
A medical team were dispatched to Fallujah, to report on what they saw. They were appointed by the Bush-appointed Iraqi interim government, and thus were unlikely to be punting propaganda against the US.
They confirmed that “burning chemicals” had evidently been used on the civilian population there.
“All forms of nature were wiped out,” said Dr ash-Shaykhli, meaning animals and plants as well as people. He was speaking at a press conference that went universally unreported by the embedded media.
A Fallujah biologist, Mohamed Tareq, recalled:
“A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by its multi-coloured substance started to burn. We found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact.”
The US committed these atrocities in Fallujah because they sought to instil deadly terror in the Iraqi population as a whole. It was the ultimate terrorist act.
Israel, who learnt the lessons of their patrons well, did likewise in Lebanon. They melted its face to instil terror in the wider Middle East.
On another but hardly lighter note, the UN team insisted they found no trace of Depleted Uranium (DU) use by the Israelis. This conflicts with the findings of three British activists in October, who found traces of DU in southern Lebanon, which were confirmed as such by the Harwell Laboratory in Oxfordshire, a lab chosen because it is also used by the MoD.
Dr Chris Busby, one of the three activists, is alarmed by the UN’s failure to confirm their findings.
“We are concerned that UNEP don’t know what they are doing. Earlier (in 2001), they were useless at finding depleted uranium in Kosovo, due to the wrong choice of instrumentation.”

Children damaged by chemical overload

by Roz Paterson

We face a ‘silent pandemic’ of brain-damaged children, borne of the overload of toxic chemicals in the biosphere, according to a shocking but timely report by Harvard School of Public Health in conjunction with Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Children born to industrialised nations between 1960 and 1980 were exposed to potentially toxic levels of lead from petrol. This may have reduced the number of IQ levels above 130 in these children, whilst increasing the number of IQ levels below 70.
But those born now face many more hazards, from the manufacture and use of pesticides, petrol additives, plastics, fizzy drinks cans and fertilisers, amongst other things, which could lead to such Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDDs) as autism, Attention Deficit Disorder and cerebral palsy.
One sixth of developmental disability in children could be the result of even low-level chemical exposure, warns the peer-reviewed study, which is due to be published in The Lancet.
The authors identified 202 chemicals as potentially dangerous, including styrene, used in plastics production, and which can cause hearing and visual problems, and hinder responsiveness, and acetone, used in nail polish remover, which can cause dizziness and confusion.
These chemicals have already, almost certainly, damaged the lives of millions of children worldwide.
Furthermore, the authors stress, this is by no means an exhaustive list, as over 1000 chemicals are known to be toxic to laboratory animals.
During pregnancy and early childhood, our brains are essentially ‘hard-wired’ - any interference during this period, through accident, ingestion of alcohol or exposure to toxic chemicals, can have a lifelong legacy as there is little potential thereafter for repair.
The fact that the placental barrier during pregnancy is not proof against toxic substances entering the mother’s bloodstream, and that the blood-brain barrier is not established until a baby is at least six months old, also explains why very young children are so especially vulnerable.
We know about alcohol and its detrimental effect on a developing foetus, so it’s not a great stretch to accept that the chemical soup created through decades of irresponsible, market-lead industrial production could be implicated in NDDs.
Industry interests are already trying to undermine the report as scaremongering, and the case is rendered more difficult to make because NDDs tend to evade statistics as their effects are sub-clinical, or not clinically visible - an example being lower than average intelligence.
The report recommends erring on the side of caution and imposing strict regulations on chemical testing and production now, especially with regards to pregnant women and children, rather than waiting until there is categorical proof, a process which could take decades, by which time many more millions of children’s brains could be irreparably damaged.
“There really is a lot at stake,” says Philippe Grandjean, of Harvard, and the lead author of the study.
“We are talking about the brain development of future generations. There will be an enormous cost of not regulating exposure.”
He continues:
“We must make protection of the young brain a paramount goal of public health protection. You only have one chance to develop a brain.’


—page five—

letters page

Rough theatre
Willie Rough, previewed in last week’s Voice (issue 286), is a ‘must see’ play for all those who oppose exploitation and injustice. Written some years ago by Bill Bryden, a weel-kent figure of the Scottish theatre, it is thanks to Leitheatre for reviving this classic about the period prior to and during the First World War.
Willie Rough, the main character, is a young man determined to fight for decent wages and conditions on the Clyde - being inspired by MacLean and Gallagher.
But this play, which is based on fact, also mentions that women played an important role in fighting rent increases, forcing landlords and the government to come to their terms. Willie inevitably falls foul of the Defence of the Realm Act and is imprisoned for his anti-war stance and socialist views when he writes an article in a left wing newspaper.
The Leith players are a strong cast, ably directed by Don Arnott. And they have to be good - ma dug Mac plays a part in various scenes.
Get along and see this powerful production - for the play has an important message today for all those who believe in a better world and socialism.
It’s performed in the Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh, from 15 to 18 November at 7.30pm.
Ron Brown,

The market’s greatest failure
Congratulations on the Voice’s coverage of the environment last week. As socialists, however, you missed a trick.
For years Thatcherism and Reaganomics have assured us that if left to its own devices, the market would automatically, without the intervention of anyone, correct any imperfections in its functioning. Supply and demand, not legislation, will see to it that at some point it will become profitable to stop looting the planet and trashing the environment. Not only that, there would also be a ‘trickle down effect’, whereby the filthy, mucky, dirty, foul, loathsome, spotted, creeping and, of coarse, stinking rich would, by buying caviar and personal jet aircraft, stimulate the economy and allow us to share the goodies.
Great! I hear you exclaim.
Not so. It’s official! Capitalism will destroy the planet! But don’t take my word for it. Let me quote Sir Nicholas Stern, chief economic advisor to the Treasury and head of the government economic service, doing the media rounds last week: “This is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.”
You bet, Nicky. Start composting!
So all you little Fukuyamas out there, who thought history over and socialism as dead as the Berlin Wall, had better think again. It seems the only trickle down that we are likely to see in the immediate future is excrement.
David Fowler,

Grumpy old men bite back!
The SSP members of Maryhill North branch were outraged to read in the Voice financial appeal (issue 286) that our honourable title of glue factory is deemed to be a ‘cruel’ label.
It is, in fact, a badge of honour to our age and time within the socialist movement, taking inspiration from Boxer the horse in Animal Farm.
As this paper does not seem to do research before making inflammatory allegations, we see no alternative but to seek legal counsel.
Not only have you now to raise monies to keep your paper going, but will have to raise extra for legal expenses and our damages - approximately £200,000.
Comrade Malcontent and Comrade Grudge,
Maryhill, Glasgow

SSY just won’t stop growing

New ideas
Voices from the SSY
Jack Ferguson

This weekend, 18-19 November, sees the fifth annual conference of Scottish Socialist Youth, and it looks set to be a real milestone for our organisation.
For the first time ever we’re holding a two day conference, with a record number of motions and members set to be heard.
But that doesn’t mean we’ve lost time for a whole series of participatory and exciting workshops on a wide range of topics.
Naturally enough, after the dramatic events of the summer, there’s a number of motions relating to the split in the SSP and reforming the constitution of SSY. But apart from the sections that we’ve titled ‘The Shit from the Split’ and ‘Navel Gazing’ there are also outward looking motions set to spark really interesting debate, including proposed affiliations to Hands off Venezuela and Iraqi Union Solidarity, as well as participation in the Faslane 365 project.
We’ll also be putting forward statements of solidarity with Communist youth, banned by the Czech government, and with the mass movement against electoral fraud and for democracy in Mexico.
To open the educational part of the weekend we’ll be having a major workshop for everyone on the SSP’s People Not Profit campaign. Groups will discuss one of the ten points from the campaign and try and come up with some specific action that we’ll take on that issue between now and the May elections.
Another workshop for all participants on the Saturday will be Clare and Roisin’s Sparkly Guide to not Being a Bastard. SSY’s resident angry schoolgirl feminists will be educating us on the whole issue of violence against women and unacceptable behaviour.
In SSY we recognise that just joining a socialist organisation doesn’t immunise you from the effects of growing up in a capitalist patriarchal society. SSY members are just as capable as other members of society of reflecting the sexist culture they are part of, and if we want to change that we all need to actively examine and challenge our own prejudices and ideas.
A highlight for Saturday’s programme is going to be slam poet Eamonn Coyle. Eamonn is now known for his work throughout the party after his barnstorming performance at the rally for Unity, Integrity and Socialism (you can still check it out on YouTube).
But we’ve been aware of his talent for some time now. At the weekend he’ll be leading a workshop on radical poetry and song, with the aim of coming up with some new material for anti-war demos.
On Sunday we’ll have workshops on topics as diverse as the possible revolution taking place in Mexico right now, and a role-playing session on the Spanish Civil War, which makes participants put themselves in the shoes of a fighter in the war against fascism and ask what would you do?
Frances Curran is coming along to talk about the campaign for free school meals for all. We’re trying out new directions with workshops on radical graffiti and stencilling, as well as one on radical theatre, and how we can use drama as a tool for our internal education and also as a means of political expression to the wider world.
And of course on Saturday night there’ll be more legendary SSY partying, with music for all tastes from a variety of DJs.
SSY has come on leaps and bounds since our first conference, and have become a fully autonomous part of the SSP with our own identity, campaigns and membership.
If you’re under 26 and aren’t involved in SSY yet, or if you know someone who is, please tell them to get along to the Kinning Park Complex on Saturday.
It will be a brilliant introduction to what SSY is all about, and looks set to be an important step on the road to building a mass socialist youth movement in Scotland.

Elderslie by-election

On 7 December, voters in the council ward of Elderslie, Renfrewshire, will have the opportunity to give Labour a good kicking. If they lose - a distinct possibility - the result will be a hung council.
If the SSP win, and we admit it’s a long shot, candidate Gerry McCartney, a local GP, will fight for public ownership and community facilities, decent council housing, the abolition of the Council Tax and the introduction of free school meals.
Gerry was involved in the recent, successful campaign for a ‘no’ vote in the Renfrewshire Housing Stock Transfer ballot.
“Now we want to see the money, promised if they voted yes, to be released, and invested in housing directly,” he told the Voice.
He is also calling for the local swimming pool, recently transferred to Renfrewshire Leisure Ltd, to be returned to public ownership and subject to longer opening hours.
“We will also campaign hard for the re-provision of youth clubs and facilities for young people in Elderslie and the surrounding area.
“It’s not the answer to everything, but it would ensure less young people were hanging around with nothing to do and maybe getting into trouble.”

—centre pages—

The state of the union

Yes, the Republicans were hammered in the US mid-terms last week, with Democrats seizing control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
And yes, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, two odious, ruthless thugs to be sure, lost their political heads.
And indeed, everyone’s saying this means the beginning of the end of the US presence in Iraq and a U-turn on the gas-guzzling culture that is bringing climatic ruin on us all.
But if you think this means the US is heading for a green, clean, humanitarian future, then take a deep breath...and smell the coffee.
In opposition, the Democrats were no great shakes. Did I say no great shakes? I meant diabolical.
Or, as American journalist and author (of Empire Burlesque: the Secret History of the Bush Regime) Chris Floyd puts it:
“(This) gaggle of corporate bagmen, spine-free time-servers and craven accomplices of tyranny and aggression...Whenever it really counted - Supreme Court nominations, tax cuts for the rich, the class warfare nuclear bomb of the Bankruptcy Bill, the appointment of sleazy, third-rate officials such as torture-enabler and Constitution-gutter Alberto Gonzalez to high office and, of course, the eager goose-stepping into the war crime of Iraq (which was, let us remember, approved by a Democratic-controlled Congress) - (they) folded, would not even go down fighting.”
The Democrats even helped usher in the Military Commissions Bill (see Voice 284), which allows the President - yes, all by himself - to suspend Habeas Corpus regarding certain suspects, thereby denying them access to a free trial and tearing up several centuries of Constitutional law.
In power, for sure, the Democrats will slow down the handcart to hell that is/was the Bush regime, but they won’t change the face of America.
The rich will remain rich and lightly-taxed. Hell yes. The Democrats, like the modern-day Labour Party, is dripping with multi-millionaire sponsors.
And the poor will continue to work three jobs, hardly see their kids, and feed them out of church-run soup kitchens. Without the vast army of poor people, who work for barely enough wages to sustain them, the rich wouldn’t get to be rich, so don’t expect any super new worker-friendly legislation any year soon.
The minimum wage may get a slight tweak upwards, but only because the law of physics demands it; the Republicans have been sitting on it for so long, it’s bound to blow all of its own accord.
But that doesn’t mean Wal-mart ‘associates’ (the corporation’s creepy euphemism for worker) will suddenly be allowed to join a trade union, or health insurance will become an affordable commodity. For America’s underclass, it’s business as usual.
Internationally, it’s not looking good either.
For the Palestinians, the outlook’s bleak. The powerful Zionist lobby seeps deep into the Democrat machine, which displays a wholehearted enthusiasm for arming Israel to the teeth with state-of-the-art military hardware.
Iraq’s future is not rosy either. The Democrats did not spend their time in opposition taking part in anti-war ‘die-ins’ and acting as human shields in downtown Baghdad. They didn’t even block requests for top-ups to the military budget or speak up about civil liberties when the Patriot Act came a-calling.
In truth, the Democrats and Republicans are not poles apart. Both are rich, elitist parties dedicated to rich elites.
Furthermore, the Democrats have limited power, even with both houses in hand, as they control only the legislative wing of government, while George W Bush remains Commander-in-Chief and at the helm. Only if the President is impeached will he lose that power, and the Democrats have already said they won’t follow up on that one.
Which means that, though this was certainly a ballot on the war, and the outcome was a resounding opposition to it, the victorious Democrats cannot do much about it. Congress can ask some awkward questions, through investigations and hearings, into the failure of intelligence that led to 9/11 for instance, and the whole WMD fiction, but they can’t stop the war.
But all this aside, the Democrats’ victory is remarkable and good news for the world.
Remarkable because - you know those crazy Republicans! - vote-rigging peaked this election, with an estimated 4.5million potential Democrat votes canned before the first polling booth even opened, through vote spoilage (900 per cent more likely to happen to you if you’re black), the photo ID scam that allows Republicans to hang around polling stations demanding that your ID photo exactly matches the one on the state database, and a tiny clause of a new law that bars would-be voters if their ID cannot be verified against the state  database.
Says Greg Palast, the investigative journalist who first lifted the lid on the Florida 2000 vote-rigging scandal, “You just can’t win with 51 per cent of the vote anymore.”
And the Democrats didn’t. They won with something nearer 58 per cent. The American people, disillusioned with politicians and government, sickened by war, impoverished by the free market, and, much more than us, unconvinced that their vote could matter, even if they were lucky enough to be allowed to use it, came out and voted anyway, and in so doing, sent the Bush administration into a tailspin.
It won’t change the world, but it sure is a step in the right direction. God Bless America.

It was the war what done it George

Sleaze, corruption and hypocrisy impacted heavily on the Republicans’ vote last week. ‘It was for a friend’, whined Ted Haggard, Bush’s closest religious advisor, as he was caught buying crystal meth from a male sex worker whom he’d been paying for sex over three years.
Republicans are alleged to have covered up for congressman Mark Foley, who sent sexually harassing messages to young volunteers, afraid that exposure just before an election would damage their vote. But possible attempts to conceal his behaviour damaged them even further.
The scandal of Jack Abromoffs, a lobbyist who conned Native American tribes out of vast sums of cash, tainted Republicans all the way up to the Oval Office.
Exit polls found 41 per cent of American voters said ‘public morality’ was ‘extremely important’.
But there’s no doubt the overarching concern was the bloody quagmire in Iraq. A poll for the staunchly pro-Bush Fox News found Iraq was mentioned twice as much as any other issue in voters’ considerations.
The war in Iraq was cited by 89 per cent in exit polls as ‘extremely’, ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important in their reasons for voting.
Some polls found as many as 60 per cent of voters saying they disapproved of the US intervention in Iraq, and wanted to register their opposition.
In the lead-up to the vote, the Democrats kept shaking that stick, candidate after candidate queuing up to say the elections were a referendum on Bush and his failed policies abroad.
The tactic worked, yet the vote was not an enthusiastic one for them, but an overwhelming measure of revulsion for Bush.
William Hughes, for the USA media monitors network, says the credit for the ousting of the Republicans must go to the anti-war movement, whose dogged campaigning has forced reluctant Democrats to take up the issue, meaning voters have eventually turned to them as the “war-lite party”.
Meanwhile other, even right-wing commentators, found the result to be a rejection of the entire neo-conservative Bush project.
“It’s clear that this election will mark the end of conservative dominance,” noted David Brooks, a principal columnist in the New York Times, a few weeks before the election. “This election is a period, not a comma in political history.”

First Socialist In the US Senate

by Colin Fox

Amidst the dog fight between Democrat and Republican in the mid-term elections, a remarkable result was barely covered - for the first time, ever, a socialist was elected to the US Senate.
Bernie Sanders was elected to the US House of Representatives as an independent 16 years ago.
In 2005, the Voice reported that he had agreed to join us in Scotland to lead the Edinburgh May Day rally.
Unfortunately he had to call off because of his election campaign commitments - and now that campaign had paid off.
Last week he won the Vermont seat in the Senate. In fact he romped it. He defeated his Republican opponent by a majority of more than two to one in the most one-sided contest in America last week. Sanders won 170,000 votes (65.5 per cent) against 8