Defend the free bus service from attack

by Sandra Webster

In the SSP we believe that public transport should be free for all – and that it should meet public needs. We recognise the barriers that are experienced by our communities. On the West Coast and in so many other areas across Scotland, transport has been placed in the hands of private companies who put people before profit. Where I live in Paisley, an example is McGill’s – a local bus company’s decision to stop a direct service to the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. Instead, in addition to a two hour bus trip – there is now an additional 20 minutes walk to the children’s hospital. My family relied upon the direct service to make these frequent trips easier.

There was no direct accountability into a community’s needs – they simply made a unilateral decision based on profit over all.

I read today the Scottish Government are putting out another consultation about the blue concessionary bus passes. These offer so much freedom to people with disabilities and adults over the age of 60. People who may be socially isolated and on a restricted income can travel without concern about the spiralling costs of public transport. Access to a bus journey can be a lifeline for many isolated folk.

The Scottish Government’s transport secretary, Humza Yousaf said he wants to extend the pass to include apprentices. This is to be welcomed, but they may decrease the availability of the card – based on age from 60 to 70. He said Westminster cuts were the reason for this. Yet the Scottish Goverment seeks to use £150m to half Air Passenger Duty – this is a tax cut for frequent fliers.

He urged those affected to “be involved”. This may prove difficult. Most consultations rely on online submissions and many older people may find this process confusing, offputting and inconvenient. Who will then answer the consultation? I do not think it will be those who will be mostly affected.

Older people have contributed so much to our society in paid and unpaid service. There can be a huge issue between the ability to access public transport between the age of 60 and 70, Yousaf states folk are living longer but even a cursory glance of health statistics show those in the poorest communities live shorter lives – and therefore are disproportionately hurt from raising the age requirement. The bus pass is often colloquially known as “a freedom pass” and that is what it offers. Why take that away?

A few weeks ago, I attended a carer’s consultation where Jeanne Freeman – Scottish Minister for Social Security – spoke passionately about Scotland creating its own welfare system. Part of this is the right to free travel for older people. I hope eventually all of us can benefit from this – but let’s not reduce what we already have.

The right to free access public transport is an important part of the kinder, fairer society we want for all of us. I urge the Scottish Government to show they can make a difference and invest in our communities. Older adults and people with disabilities are among some of the most vulnerable groups in society. Do not harm them.

I am an optimist but, for political reasons, I expect the results of the consultation will not be known until after the local elections. I urge the Scottish Government to have conversations with those who will be most affected and listen to their vital and experienced voices.

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Trump and the U.S. Election and What Lies Ahead

by Robert W McChesney in the US

For the past eight weeks, almost everyone on the American left—or to use the vernacular, the progressive community—has been addressing the Trump election, the impending Republican total control over the federal government, and how best to resist it.

The fascist currents running in Trump’s agenda and program are not difficult to locate: full throttle jingoism and militarism; nods to white supremacists and bigots; minimal interest in civil liberties or the rule of law; contempt for science when it interferes with political and economic ambitions; routine dismissal of all criticism from the news media or otherwise as “lies” combined with routine outrageous lying; contempt for the dispossessed and blind worship at the alter of wealth and privilege.

As with all right-wing “populists,” those seemingly anti-establishment progressive planks crucial to drumming up votes before the election—e.g. anger at Wall Street and corporate power; criticism of mindless imperial wars; concern about attacks on the working class standard of living; plaintive wails about the corruption of politics in Washington and its domination by moneyed interests—are immediately thrown overboard once the election is won.

Indeed, even before his inauguration, Trump has launched an administration committed to dismantling the generally quite popular social welfare state and rolling the nation back to the Gilded Age, as well as becoming the most singularly corrupt and ethically challenged administration in American history.

Narcissist

All this is aggravated by Trump himself, and his rather frightening personality. He appears to be a classic narcissist, with sociopathic traits. He has no apparent ability to make fun of himself or laugh at himself.

He is exceptionally thin-skinned and deals with criticism like a three year old child. He has no apparent capacity to distinguish truth from falsehood, and elicits no concern about being able to do so.

It is not clear if he actually has any friends, as his only true loves appear to be amassing personal wealth and power and receiving praise for his infinite talents and greatness.

He emits virtually no sense of doubt and little recognition of the need to learn from others. In other words he is the polar opposite of what a democratic leader should be. He is entirely lacking in wisdom.

For many on the left all of the above contributes to a morbid fear of how a Trump administration will respond to the next domestic terrorist attack.

Trump’s call for ending Muslim travel to the United States and having a registry for all Muslims residing in the United States after the Paris attacks in November 2015 fuelled his campaign success and scared the hell out of everyone else.

The prospect of martial law is a legitimate concern which suggests just what a radical departure the Trump administration is even from earlier Republican governments. Nothing in Trump’s brief history in politics suggest civil liberties are much of a concern.

American Left

For those on the American left, like our sisters and brothers battling similar currents worldwide, it is all hands on deck time.

What is already being forgotten is how entirely unexpected a Trump victory was as recently as October 2016. When Trump announced his campaign in the summer of 2015 it was roundly if not universally regarded as a publicity stunt for a grand egotist, seeking to jack up the value of his brand as he negotiated subsequent reality TV shows and book deals.

Much of the lavish free publicity he received from the news media was due to his outrageous entertaining style and was driven by commercial concerns; no one in the news media or anywhere else in the world of politics took him seriously.

There is little doubt that Trump’s dominance of airtime and blanket coverage in the news media was central to his rise.

Had he been ignored like other celebrity “candidates” in the past—Pat Paulsen , anyone?—Trump almost certainly would have washed up to shore before the first primary, as he did in 2012.

But that alone is an insufficient explanation for his success. Trump was also able to capitalise upon the anti-establishment, anti-status quo sentiment that exploded in 2016 after many years of percolating across the nation.

His criticism was often of Republicans almost as much as the hated Obama, and this was extremely attractive to a significant chunk of the electorate, including downwardly mobile working-class whites. (This criticism of the GOP was disliked by many mainstream Republicans who regarded Trump as an evil foreign virus who had somehow entered the grand old party.

But almost all these Republicans ended up voting for Trump, their loud grousing notwithstanding. Their keen desire to grab power and use it to advance their agenda overwhelmed their putative “principles.”)

Anti-Establishment politics

But it would be 100 percent incorrect to say that the political mood in the nation in 2015-16 is captured by saying a neo-fascist wave swept the country. To the contrary, this is a period of general turmoil, which accords to a faltering economic system that is dealing a bad hand to tens of millions of working class and middle class Americans, and the vast majority of young people, all the while the political system has been captured in toto by the billionaire class.

The anti-establishment politics of this period was best represented by Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign as a democratic socialist for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

It would be difficult to convey exactly what a breakthrough Sanders made and the stunning success he enjoyed to people who only knew of Sanders and his campaign from mainstream news media.

He routinely drew crowds of 7,000-15,000 people on only 72 hours notice. Most politicians, and this was the case for Hillary Clinton, generally play to crowds of just a few hundred people.

His support among Americans under 30, arguably even 40, was overwhelming. The Sanders stump speech was a 70 minute elaboration on social democratic policy issues.

In poll after poll young Americans have been looking favourably upon the term socialism as the capitalist economy grows more stagnant and decrepit. Sanders’ stunning popularity would have been unimaginable a generation, even a decade, earlier. Much of the left was pinching itself in disbelief at its good fortune less than a year ago.

That Sanders did lose the nomination to Hillary Clinton was due more to how well Clinton rigged the process behind-the-scenes with the Democratic National Committee, big money donors, and the establishment, and how she used her contacts to dominate mainstream news media coverage as the inevitable and appropriate candidate for the Democrats.

It was obvious in the primary season that she was an unusually weak candidate—and regarded as the candidate of the failed establishment—but that point was rarely discussed in the mainstream news until the votes were being counted on election night and “journalists” were scrambling to determine how they could have been so wrong.

The difference in enthusiasm and activism between Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters was like the difference between a living person and a corpse. And among young people, Trump, too, had little support. Indeed, in the 2016 party primary elections, Sanders received many more votes from people under 30 than Clinton and Trump combined.

Yet as weak a candidate as Hillary Clinton was, she still won the popular vote by three million votes. That is not a typo.

Because of the obscene winner-take-all-in-each-state electoral college system—put in the constitution in part by Virginia slaveholders so they could get credit for their massive slave populations without having to let slaves have the right to vote—Trump won entirely by winning razor thin majorities in a few states and getting all of those states “electoral votes,” while getting demolished by landslide proportions in many other states.

Democratic contempt

The United States has not become a more right-wing country among the people, not at all. Yet here we are.

And this is where the severe contempt for democracy of Trump and the Republicans becomes painfully clear. They are acting as if they won a world historical landslide in November 2016 and using that as a mandate to overturn virtually everything progressive enacted in the past century.

They care not that on most if not all of their extreme moves, the vast majority of Americans oppose what they plan to do.

Instead, they are content that they can spin what remains of the “free press” to good effect and that through voter suppression, the elimination of ethics rules, the flood of money into politics, and packing the courts with their crony operatives they can lock in their vision for the United States, the people be damned.

So this is where we are at on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. It is the worst outcome for the United States and the world and leaves us in a perilous situation. It is impossible to predict what is to come, which means what the left does and does not do can make all the difference in the world.

Robert W. McChesney writes books on media and politics and teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His latest book, with John Nichols, is People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (Nation Books, 2016). McChesney was co-editor of the socialist magazine Monthly Review from 2000-2004.

This piece was first published in issue 489 of the Scottish Socialist Voice – out today. You can subscribe to the Voice online, or buy issues from party stalls.

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Submission covering letter to Draft Independence Referendum Bill

The SSP submitted a contribution to the Draft Independence Referendum Bill. While the questions were largely technical in nature, we included a covering letter to ensure that our thoughts on a second referendum are clear and unambiguous.


While it is important to review arrangements for the organisation of the next Independence referendum, the Scottish Socialist Party believes that thought needs to be given to the political context of that referendum. The issue of independence is not simply a constitutional question; in which independence is an end in itself. Rather, it should be seen as a means to an end. The purpose of independence is to provide a vehicle for the transformation of society; to create a Scotland radically different from what we have at present. This approach should also inform the next referendum campaign.

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Victory to the Cuban Revolution

by Connor Beaton

Today, 1 January 2017, marks the Triumph of the Revolution in Cuba, a public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of the victory of the Cuban Revolution 58 years ago.

The Scottish Socialist Party stands in solidarity with all the peoples of the world who are fighting oppression and exploitation, including the Cubans, whose Revolution offers many lessons to socialists in Scotland and further afield.

LESSONS

Cuba’s life expectancy, at 78.45 years on average, is among the highest in the world – on par with Western Europe and ahead of the US. There is universal, free access to health care and, in 2015, Cuba became the first country in the world to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Cuba abolished illiteracy in the immediate wake of the Revolution and now boasts a literacy rate of 99.8 per cent, tenth highest in the world.

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What do you really want this Christmas?

Roz PatersonIn the run up to holiday week, Scottish Socialist Voice contributor Roz Paterson offers a comradely reminder to remember that which matters most to people and planet.

When you put out the bin bag on Boxing Day, the one groaning with squelchy, uneaten food and scrunched up wrapping paper, think on this; for every bag’s worth of rubbish you chuck out, there are 70 more, hovering and clanking like Marley’s ghost, comprising all the resources that went into making the rubbish you are now dumping.

The midwinter festivities, once a bleak and flickering light in the long, medieval darkness, is now an overlit, overspent, overstuffed turkey of waste and regret.

Like Away In A Manger, you probably know the words, but here goes… deep breath.

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Only Independence ensures Scotland’s Future is in Scotland’s hands

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government’s paper ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ SSP national co-spokesperson Colin Fox said:

“You have to feel for Nicola Sturgeon in her attempts to influence Scotland’s relationship with the EU. She is reduced to making promises she cannot possibly keep.”

‘I will ensure Scotland’s vote is respected and we remain inside the EU’, Sturgeon insisted in the aftermath of June’s vote to Leave. This was then relegated to mean ‘I will ensure Scotland has a place in the UK negotiations’. Now it is merely ‘I will show how Scotland can stay inside the EU Single Market even if the UK leaves’.

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Scottish Socialists lay out key Leave demands

by Hugh Cullen

The SSP seeks to build an economy based on fair pay, in high skilled jobs, high productivity and good conditions instead of cheap labour, poverty pay and insecure employment. We disagree with the Scottish Government’s bids to keep Scotland in the single market and the UK, as these options are either not practical nor desirable for working people.

We called for a remain vote in the 2016 EU referendum, as the least worst of two neoliberal options, but the Left knows the EU is and remains an undemocratic bosses’ club. Our demands, if kept, will help ensure that the Tories do not use the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity to attack the conditions of workers living and working here.

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Class Conflict at Christmas

by Richie Venton

Christmas is seen by all as a time for rest, escape, family life, a bit of indulgence – regardless of which religious belief or atheist views subscribed to. A time of comfort and warmth in the deep mid-winter, rooted in pagan rituals of light and food amidst darkness and hunger. But capitalism has transformed it into a debt-fueled spending spree, a binge of commercial consumer spending to feed the insatiable appetite for profits for big business. And it’s workers who suffer the downside.

Christmas 2016 is no exception. Capitalist exploitation carries on regardless of the ‘season of goodwill’ – a quality noticeable for its absence on the part of many employers, or the media outlets that lash out with venom at workers who dare to resist being deprived of even basic rights at Christmas, or indeed all year round.

Spare a thought for all those hundreds of thousands of workers who get barely any break over the festive season, but are then vilified as wreckers, the architects of mayhem, when they dare take action to improve their lot.

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