There were no seats left to be had at the packed launch meeting of the Socialist Party Scotland in Glasgow on Thursday 10th June. More than 50 people crammed in to hear speakers from Scotland, Hannah Sell from the Socialist Party England and Wales and Joe Higgins, the Socialist Party Ireland MEP. The speakers made a powerful and inspiring case for mass struggle against the savage cuts being carried through by the new ConDem government in Britain, and big business governments internationally. The need for a socialist alternative to the crisis ridden capitalist system was also the second major theme of the meeting.
Brian Smith (pictured), the secretary of the 12,000 strong Glasgow Unison branch, a member of Socialist Party Scotland and a candidate for the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition at the recent general election, explained the depth of the cuts planned for Scotland’s public services. “Next year a colossal £1 to £1.5 billion is to be cut from the Scottish governments expenditure – which the SNP government will put up no real fight against. This will have a devastating effect on public services, jobs and communities. We need to organise a struggle against these cuts and that starts on June 22nd, ConDem budget day, where Glasgow Unison have called for a demonstration at lunchtime. But we need to go further and ensure the STUC call and build for a mass mobilisation in the Autumn . This should only be a step towards coordinated public sector wide strike action – including a 24 hour general strike - to stop these cuts.”
Brian spoke about how the Socialist Party Scotland traces our political roots back to the launch of the Militant newspaper in 1964 and the work of the Militant from then. This included the mass struggles that Militant led including the Liverpool City Council and the anti-poll, tax campaigns. Today the Socialist Party Scotland is the Scottish section of the Committee for a Workers International and is a campaigning, revolutionary socialist organisation.
Graeme McIver (pictured), the national secretary of Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement said it was a privilege to share a platform with socialist and trade unionists of the calibre of Brian Smith, Hannah Sell and Joe Higgins. He personally thanked members of the Socialist Party Scotland for their support in helping to build and sustain Solidarity over the last few years. Graeme dealt with the huge numbers of people who voted Labour at the recent general election in Scotland. “They were not voting for Brown’s New Labour, a government of the rich and record inequality, but to stop the hated Tories coming to power.”
Hannah Sell explained to the meeting that no one in this room has ever seen or experienced anything like what was coming in terms of the savagery of the cuts planned by the new government.
“This is a crisis of the capitalist system and there will be mass struggle against the cuts. This is a government of the rich elite and the millionaires that will be broken by the massive resistance that their attacks will provoke.”
Touching on the socialist alternative that the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International put forward Hannah (pictured) said: “For a start we call for the nationalisation of the big banking and finance companies. A socialist, nationalised banking sector would be democratically run by representatives of banking workers and trade unions, the wider working class, as well as the government. But this would only be the start. A crucial step towards solving the economic crisis and developing society on a sound basis would be to take the big corporations that dominate Britain's economy into democratic public ownership. This would then allow production to be planned for need and not for profit.”
Hannah also underlined the importance of the TUSC coalition. “”We knew our votes would be modest this time around, but TUSC was important because it allowed trade unionists and trade union organisations from the FBU, CWU RMT among others to seek political representation through TUSC. It is important that we build on that.”
Joe Higgins brought the greetings of the Socialist Party Ireland to the meeting. He exposed the myth of the Irish “economic miracle”, the Celtic Tiger, “that was based on massive speculation in construction, land and bankrolled by the Irish financial sector but which saddled young families with 35 or even 40 year mortgages, which many can no longer afford. Now the Celtic Tiger has gone bust and the government want working people to pay the price. Public sector workers in Ireland have seen pay cuts of 15% in the last year alone.” Joe went on to give and account of his recent visit to Greece when he addressed 2,500 members and supporters of the left coalition, Syriza. Joe and a number of other left MEPs have made a call for a week or protests from June 21st to 26th against the austerity programmes of the main capitalist governments across Europe. As well as raising the ideas of nationalising the banking and financial sector and that the working class of Europe should not have to pay for the bosses’ crisis.
The meeting was then opened up for discussion and heard from trade unionists from Unison, CWU, PCS and the FBU Scottish organiser, Jim Malone, who thanked the speakers and called for a stepping up of the campaign to oppose the cuts , which have seen more than 200 firefighters in Scotland already lose their jobs. Jim called for a strong socialist challenge for the Scottish parliament elections next May.
Luke Ivory from the Youth Fight For Jobs campaign outlined the impact of the planned attacks on young people, particularly in education where thousands are being turned away from university due to the cuts in funding.
The meeting inspired all of the existing members of the Socialist Party Scotland. But especially, important was the numbers of new trade unionists and young people who came to the meeting including from the PCS, EIS and Unison as well as young unemployed people and school students.
A number of them joined on the night and many more said they wanted to come to more meetings of the Socialist Party Scotland to find out more.
Sinead Daly from Dundee made the financial appeal. She contrasted the so-called “new politics” of the Westminster coalition - which has already seen a resignation from the government by a Lib Dem minister for cheating on his expenses - with the record of people like Joe Higgins who live on a workers wage. The support for the Socialist Party Scotland was indicated by an excellent collection of £525, which included £120 from a PCS member and £5 from a school student.
This inspiring meeting was a clear indication that the Socialist Party Scotland is off to an excellent start and has the potential to grow significantly, particularly among young people and trade unionists. We have also redesigned our paper, the Socialist, which is now a 12-page full colour publication. Our new website, www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk will also be available in the next couple of days. The key themes of the meeting, Struggle and Socialism, will be the basis on which the Socialist Party Scotland goes forward in the months ahead.