News from Nowhere

The campaign blog for Socialists in Scotland campaigning in the Livingston by-election - uniting for world socialism.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Interview with Tony Benn January 1980

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Friday, September 30, 2005

A Post-Mortem of the Poll Result

( The following is taken from one of the Party's on-line discussion forums )

My conclusions from the election result are:

1. We got 0.12% of the vote which is what we got at the Scottish Parliament elections when there were 10 or so candidates, and is pretty much what we should expect at a by-election when there is more than just Labour, Liberal , Tory to choose between.

2. I think when we have stood in the absence of any other " Socialist " ( by name ) party then we gain a fair number of votes ( up to 1% of the vote ) simply because we have " socialist " in our name . When someone else uses that name and offers a more immediate or apparently reasonable position ( based on a set of carefully-focussed reform demands ) , then most of those votes disappear , leaving the residual 0.1% who actively go out and vote for the SPGB and against SSP or whoever....

3. ...it seems to me to be a fairly consistent trend . Does the 0.1% actually represent voters with some sort of socialist consciousness ? I think so , although anyone standing on any sort of position is likely to get around 0.1% of the vote ( e.g. we were beaten by the independent Tory who stood on a mixed bag of issues, and the Alliance for Change was a religious nut ) . The key question of course is how do we get that 0.1% of the voters ( or 0.03% of the adult population ) who are prepared to actively go out and vote at elections , actually involved ? It does represent 15,000 people in U.K. In other words , only one in thirty of those who are prepared to actively vote for the SPGB ( even when other socialist parties are on the ballot ) are actually members of the party . Not sure if that is good or bad news ?!

4. Given that the SSP and Greens stood on a raft of apparently attractive reforms (do away with prescription charges , defend local services etc ) , the idea that offering such reforms is a gateway into political change is somewhat smashed against their combined 3% of the vote . Far better to actually say what it is you are standing for , than be caught halfway between , and ending up without influence and without putting a genuine case for change.

5. Anyway , tempting as it is to read significance into the poll result , the main reason for standing was in order to get our leaflet thru' 50,000 doors at low cost . I think the overall cost ( for deposit , leaflet printing etc ) worked out at about 3p per leaflet , which is very cheap I think for production and distribution . The real measure of the worth of standing at election is whether we perceive any sort of increased website clicking , or contacts with Head Office , or attendances at local branch meetings . It strikes me that this is something we can measure , to try and compare the effectiveness of standing at elections against other publicity options we have.

6. Bearing in mind Alan Johnstone's comments regarding the numbers of leaflets coming through doors etc , it might be more worthwhile contesting elections that aren't by-elections, when our leaflet will stand out a little more . On the other hand , general elections are completely TV-dominated that we are maybe even more suffocated . Local elections are a cheaper option and may be an arena where our voice can be heard a bit better , and people are more inclined to vote for something ( as opposed to just keeping the Tory out etc ) . On the otherhand , I think it can be quite difficult to put forward real revolutionary politics in a local election environment, when everyone just wants to talk about the positioning of a bus shelter etc

Brian Gardner , Socialist Party candidate

Election Result

Alas , there will be no Socialist Party MP taking his seat in Parliament . Instead , yet another Labour Party functionary will be going to the House of Commons . Our candidate , Brian Gardner , received 32 votes and , unfortunately , came bottom of the poll .
But are we despondent ? No ! !
We offered the working class of Livingston the choice of remaining with the parties of Capitalism and more of the same or choosing the Socialist alternative and voting for revolutionary change . The truth of the matter , though , is that faced with the sophisticated machinery of the mainstream political parties , the indifference of the media to minority parties , the reliance upon photo opportunities and soundbites , and the lack of a forum for genuine political debate , the voices of real socialists was not effectively heard .
We will continue arguing our case , carry on exposing political fraudsters , and never cease advocating Socialism .

The full results of the by election is as follows :
Jim Devine (Lab): 12,319
Angela Constance (SNP): 9,639
Charles Dundas (Lib Dems): 4,362
Gordon Lindhurst (Con): 1,993
David Robertson (Greens): 529
Steve Nimmo (Scottish Socialist Party): 407
Peter Adams (UKIP): 108
Melville Brown (Ind): 55
John Allman (Alliance For Change): 33
Brian Gardner ( Socialist Party of Great Britain ): 32

There is always a next time .

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Taking to the Streets

With Royal Mail proving rather tardy with delivering our leaflet through the doors , four members took matters into their own hands yesterday , Tuesday , and began handing out our election address outside the entrances of the main shopping centre .
Alas , the weather was against us . Too blustery to set up the lit. stall and sudden downpours forcing us to seek shelter in a nearby hostelry .
We did manage , however , to distribute several hundred leaflets .

" Candidates take safe route to Cook seat " was the headline in yesterday's Scotsman newspaper .
This may be true of the rest of the political parties contesting this election and offering the same old stale remedies to the problems of Capitalism , but , of course , the Scotsman fails to mention the Socialist Party and its case for Socialism , which is certainly not a safe slogan to raise if it is just votes wanted to get a seat in Parliament to maintain the status quo .
We , in the Socialist Party , desire the electors to seek an understanding of the realities of the World . We leave the popularity campaign to simply just get Xs on ballot papers to the PR men and spin doctors of the Coalition for Capitalism . We only want votes from those who agree with our sole aim and objective - The Abolition of the Wages System - No Middle Way .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Unequal time

Unlike for the press, there is a obligation on radio and TV to mention all candidates and their party standing in a particular constituency. In the past the letter of this was respected by at least mentioning the names of all the candidates even if some were mentioned more than others. Then the TV stations dropped mentioning all the candidates in favour of rapidly scrolling the names of those not mentioned across the screen, generally too fast for people to note them properly. On radio as the way round even just mentioning all the candidates, let alone giving them equal time, the practice has been crept in of referring listeners to the BBC's website which lists them. Radio4's World Tonight programme has just done this. After giving the Labour, SNP, Liberal and Tory candidates 10 seconds each the journalist, one of the many John Knoxes that exist, simply mentioned that there were 10 candidates in all and referred listeners to the BBC news website. This isn't good enough. First, because not everybody has access to the internet and, second, those that do have are unrealistically assumed to know what the address is since it wasn't given.
In fact, it's http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4275546.stm and there is in fact a link to our website at http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb . That's OK as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough.
An official complaint has been lodged.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Split the Left ???????

We received this criticism from a Dan Paris ( ? ) .

" Split the left . Why not !
What exactly is the purpose of the SPGB standing in the Livingstone [sic] by-election ?
The SPGB has no grass-roots support in the area , you are an irrelevant sect with no link to working class people in the area .
Standing against the SSP is simply splitting the left and helping the forces of capitalism.
It's this kind of reactionary action that stops the working class from supporting socialism . "
Dan

Our candidate from the 1997 Livingston election has replied :

Hi Dan ,

I dont think you know us for starters .

We stood in this consituency in the General election of 1997, and largely predicted the form of the New Labour administration and the subsequent disillusion which the " left " are now trying to capitalise upon .
We are not a part of this " left " . We are opposed to measures which tinker with and attempt to reform capitalism .
The left on the other hand have kept their agenda well hidden , if it has a discernable revolutionary current , it isn't obvious , indeed , even their active supporters appear afraid to engage with any discussion about what socialism * is * .

However , it has been a " left " tactic in the past where they are hypocritically asking workers to vote for a parliamentary party to get reforms which you know you can't get , on a road which they dont support , to socialism ,which is not defined except , that it is recognisable as another state capitalism . The Socialist Party is opposed to such trickery of workers .
This you call socialism...Such cynicism and hypocrisy allied to political opportunism is breathtaking.
It started quite early this , Sheridan , at a radical book fair held in Edinburgh outlined his view of socialism which was nationalisation - with the maximum and minimum permitted wages of worker being in the ratio of 4 - 5 : 1 , he added , that this lessening disparity of income was realistic as a society where equality of income existed wasn't realistic .
Besides making him a socialist who doesn't believe in socialism , the society he mentions retains every feature of capitalism mentioned above , and therefore could only ever be a bastardised capitalist society .
I was there and I heard it . Simply , the "left" are not socialists , " yir airse is oot the windae " , as we say , if you think you're socialists . Lesson number one for would-be leftists...
** Even limited equality can not be achieved , while retaining the profit motive - It is economically impossible .**

We on the other hand are quite explicit that socialism is , " the common ownership and democratic control of all the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and on behalf of the whole population " . In other word a free access society . We stand for the original idea of socialism .
Untrammelled by statist failures , indeed we predicted all of these failures . The " left " appear to want to administer capitalism with minimum levels of wage slavery permitted in this , and inasmuch , the SSP , declare £9 an hour as an ok situation , worth workers striving for , worth a socialist party having as an objective.

Far from splitting the " left " , we despise the "left " for its political cowardice , ( being unable or unwilling to describe socialism to workers and nail their true colours to the Socialist mast ) , of opportunism , ( interference in workers struggles and grass roots movements to subvert them to their cause ) , and for its pretensions , ( of assuming to know what socialism is , and presenting itself as a leadership to-wards it) .

As the only Socialist Party in the Livingston by-election we urge workers to " Abolish the wages system " . We insist that Socialism as defined above is an immediate and practical possibility , requiring only a majority of workers who know what it is , who desire it and are willing to organise as equals , without a vanguard of political leaders forming an elite and a cadre of misinformed workers , as their expendable cannon fodder and irrelevant pawns , (our job is to inform , relay , and assist in this ) unlike the Leninist - Trotskyite , and former CP-er Stalinist Left , we dont , as Lenin said , regard workers , " left to their own devices as being only capable of achieving trade union consciousness "

( I give a line by line detailed answer to your post below)

What exactly is the purpose of the SPGB standing in the Livingstone by-election ?
To put the case for Socialism , as no others do this , made by workers seizing control of their own destiny and working for socialism , without the leadership of vanguardist organisations or any other leadership .

The SPGB has no grass-roots support in the area, you are an irrelevant sect with no link to working class people in the area .
The Socialist Party ( SPGB ) does not look for support or supporters , rather we insist that on the contrary workers learn what socialism is , and join us as equals to bring it about .
We dont wish to lead them . They will not need leadership if they make themselves socialists . Far from having no link to working class people in this area , we are the working class in this area who are organised for socialism as we define it , admittedly pitifully small , though we are , but we dont lie to workers by pretending, that by voting for reforms , or any other measure they are supporting socialism . We do not intervene in workers struggles , except as workers in struggle .

Standing against the SSP is simply splitting the left and helping the forces of capitalism .
We are standing against * all * the capitalist parties , this inevitably includes the SSP as they support a reformed capitalism with them as the new bosses , retaining wage labour capital , government control , and their platform reflects this . The SSP and the Left ARE the forces of capitalism . Simply put , we are the only revolutionary alternative to capitalism in this election...

It's this kind of reactionary action that stops the working class from supporting socialism .
It is by insisting that SSP style reforms can ameliorate the conditions of workers , and that this equates to a " socialist " response , the SSP and any and all others who so mistrust the workers , that they can't describe the socialist alternative to them , are indeed the reactionary element , leaving workers confusedly equating socialism with these tired and out-moded tried and failed remedies of the last century . ( The Labour Party , The Communist Party , Social Democrat Parties of all stripes ) .
The Socialist Party ( SPGB ) has an honourable record since 1904 of never selling socialism short , and insisting it is an immediate and practical goal , requiring no other minimum demand , now that the vote has been won , that it can only be brought into existence by the workers themselves , comprising a majority , who know and understand what socialism is , a free access global society , without nation states . We dont pander to nationalist sentiments like the SSP , following slavishly Lenin's silly " Imperialism as the highest form of capitalism " dogma .
Our demand is the world for the workers and not for some new state-capitalist entity , or permissible level of wage slavery . In fact , the SSP's platform is even less radical than the Old Labour one , where mistakenly , they thought they were ushering in a new era , and piously mouthed phrases such as " we are the masters now " , and " socialism will come like a thief in the night " .

Yours for real socialism ,
Matt Culbert
( Edinburgh Branch , West Lothian Socialist Discussion Group )


The West Lothian Discussion Group meets at the Lanthorn Community Centre , Kenilworth Rise , Dedridge , Livingston , 7-30pm every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month .
Edinburgh Branch Meetings are the 1st Thursdays of each month 8pm at Quaker Hall , Victoria Terrace , Edinburgh

The Annual Labour Party Show

According to the media, the Labour Party conference is being held in Brighton this week. And these days all it is is a media event at which the various party leaders vie with each other to see who gets the biggest applause. No policy is made, so all the talk by the delegates is just that. Mind you, even in the days when it was ostensibly a democratic policy-making event, the leaders never felt bound by what the delegates voted for, arguing, especially when they were in government, that they must have a free hand to do what the circumstances demanded.
This year is likely be the year that the Scottish windbag, Gordon Brown, consolidates his claim to be Blair's successor -- as if that will make any difference except that the cry at anti-war and other demonstrations as in London yesterday will change from "Blair, out, out, out" to "Brown, out, out, out". But Brown has now realised that his luck has run out and, after claiming the credit for when things happened to go right for him as chancellor, is now not accepting responsibility when things happen to be going wrong but is blaming hurricane Katrina and the gnomes of Europe. Actually he isn't responsible either for his "success" or for his failure, since governments don't govern how the capitalist economy works, neither at national and certainly not at world level, but can only react to the ups and downs of the world market.
The one good thing about the Labour Party these days is that it no longer pretends to have anything to do with socialism. Perhaps they realise that if they did people wouldn't believe them anyway. They are not even the left-of-centre "labour" party they once were, but are an openly illiberal and populist party that has stolen all the Tories's clothes. Not that "Old Labour" was any better when in government, imposing wage freezes, cutting benefits, opposing strikes just like all governments of capitalism as an economic system that imposes that profits must come before people.
Socialism meant, and still means, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, where goods and services are produced directly for use and not for profit and where every member of society has access as of right to the things they need to live and enjoy life. Nobody who wants such a society would dream of voting for the Labour Party.