John MacLean – Part III: From imperialist war to socialist revolution

In 1916, John MacLean in Scotland and Karl Leibknecht in Germany were imprisoned for their opposition to imperialist war. That year Lenin identified these fighters as representing ‘a trend of revolutionary internationalism...To this trend belong the Bolsheviks of Russia’.[1]

War and revolution

Within a year this revolutionary internationalist trend had become an unstoppable current in Russia. The Bolsheviks were to lead the working class to power in a torrent of revolution which altered the course of world history. From the cities and glens of Ireland to the steppes of Russia, oppressed nations and the working class served final notice on imperialism and capitalism. War had inevitably sharpened the economic, social and political contradictions within the system to breaking point. Such a general observation was incontestable amongst revolutionaries. However Lenin’s genius lay in recognising the particular significance of actual material developments in the imperialist heartlands and the oppressed nations.


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John MacLean – Part IV: accuser of capitalism

MacLean’s release in June 1917 had been preceded by a dangerous deterioration in his health. He had been moved to Perth Prison infirmary at the beginning of the year.

Since beginning his sentence at Peterhead Prison in 1916, MacLean had contended that his food was being drugged. These allegations have never been taken seriously but were used instead as evidence of the comrade’s ‘mental instability’. Conveniently, this so-called delusional behaviour was then used to explain his subsequent political action and development. John MacLean’s principled record and conduct demand that this be challenged.


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John MacLean – Part V: The class war on an International Scale

Released from prison on 3 December 1918, MacLean had requested a quiet return to his city. It was not to be. A huge crowd had gathered in George Square, Glasgow and he was lifted up onto a carriage where, waving a massive red flag, he called for cheers for the German socialist revolution. That red emblem which now flew over the public buildings of Moscow and Petrograd was unfurled over the skies of Berlin.

A month earlier, the sailors at Kiel in Germany had mutinied, leading to a general strike and the formation of Councils of Workers, Soldiers and Sailors Deputies. Karl Leibknecht was released from gaol to proclaim the Republic as the Kaiser fled. Another ‘crowned head’ had fallen! The revolution against war and the vile profit system which had spawned it was spreading.


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John MacLean: Revolutionary communist

75th anniversary 1879-1923

30 November marked the 75th anniversary of the death of John MacLean (1879-1923), Glasgow schoolteacher, socialist and one of the leading figures in the history of the revolutionary working class. MacLean came from the same Marxist tradition as James Connolly, worked alongside James Larkin during the Belfast Dock Strike of 1907 and was often cited by Lenin – for his active condemnation of the 1914-18 imperialist war – as a revolutionary example. Throughout his life, MacLean championed the causes of Irish self-determination, the unemployed and working-class Marxist education. In 1918, he was appointed as Honorary President of the first Congress of Soviets and Bolshevik Consul in Scotland, while campaigning tirelessly for the socialist revolution in Britain.


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John MacLean – Part VII: Organise for the working class: Organise against Labour

From Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 152 Decmber 1999 / January 2000

MacLean only broke with the Labour Party in the last year of his life. His political work amongst the unemployed, radicalised by the experience of war, led to this critical and progressive development. While Labour gained in municipal and general elections, its completely reactionary character became clear to the poorest sections of the working class. Labour councillors and MPs ignored, manipulated and conspired against the poor and those who stood with them.

Political progress for the working class means more than just withdrawing support for Labour. It means organising consciously against Labour. MacLean was successful in beginning to draw hundreds of people into an open fight against the Labour Party. Then and today, this struggle represents the only way forward for the mass of the working class. Labour represents the privileged minority of the working class in alliance with the middle class, an alliance cemented by imperialist profits. MacLean’s most important contribution as a communist was to challenge the political representative of this corrupt, decadent and violent alliance – the Labour Party. This challenge remains the central political issue and is the foundation of our organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Group.


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Glasgow: Asylum seekers to be moved ‘within days’

asylum seekers to be moved within daysOver 1,000 Glasgow based asylum seekers have been informed that they could be removed from their homes and sent to unknown destinations with just a few days notice.

FRFI has been told that letters sent to asylum seekers by the UK Border Agency over the weekend of 6-7 November state: ‘We must inform you that as a result of the change of your accommodation provider you may be required to move to alternative accommodation in the Scotland region. Whenever possible, you will be given three to five days’ notice of the
move to give you time to get ready. At the moment we cannot give you an exact date for any potential move. However, it will be sometime within the coming weeks. You will be allowed to take two pieces of luggage per person to your new accommodation.’


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A fair deal for fast food workers!

(Local police discuss protest with KFC management)

On 9 October, a worker at a local branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Pollokshaws on the southside of Glasgow – a supporter of FRFI and the Govanhill Defence Campaign – was suspended pending an investigation into what management termed the causing of ‘unrest and disruption’ amongst fellow KFC workers and for leaving ‘early’ on a previous shift. This disruption related to a current KFC policy which does not guarantee payment for any work done after midnight yet still expects left over work to be completed. Due to the amount of cleaning up work, KFC employees frequently don’t finish their shifts until 1am or after, thus working unpaid for an hour or more – a clearly illegal and exploitative practice. And yet, for raising this unfair treatment inside the shop, a worker has been victimised and suspended, with a ridiculous charge of ‘bringing the name of KFC into disrepute’! The worker was warned that he was not allowed to contact any of the other staff at KFC, which is a clear move designed to block the threat of others joining the protest. Though this warning not to contact fellow workers holds no legal basis, it serves as a useful way of intimidating other KFC workers away from communicating with the suspended individual for fear they might too be suspended.


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Policing politics in Glasgow

After six months of consistent work by FRFI in the working-class community of Govanhill on the southside of Glasgow, local police began attempts to shut down our stalls outside Lidl supermarket on Victoria Road. This was the first time in recent memory that police have tried to prevent a political stall taking place in Govanhill or indeed any part of Glasgow, where many left groups every week sell and distribute political literature openly in the city centre without permits. Ian MacInnes, community councillor and a long-time resident of Govanhill, told FRFI: ‘For 30 years people have used this Victoria Road location to promote their party, their campaign and have erected paste tables to make a stall for this purpose. By custom and practice this public space has become recognised as an alternative source of info and opinion and almost as a sort of speakers’ corner in Govanhill.’ Joseph Eskovitchlreports.


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James Connolly: A rebel ‘till the end'

james-connolly 1910On 24 August, FRFI held a meeting in the Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre, Glasgow to celebrate the life and work of the Edinburgh-born, Irish Marxist James Connolly, revolutionary socialist and a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916. The well attended meeting highlighted the importance of James Connolly’s contribution to the anti-imperialist, trade union and socialist struggles of his day and the lessons for our own.

A lively discussion followed the introductory talk. Points were raised about links between the Irish rebellion and the class struggle on the Clydeside around the time of the First World War and the continuing refusal of the British labour movement to split with imperialism to this day through its funding of the Labour party. The role of Ireland as a testing ground for the British ruling-class in counter-insurgency was also highlighted. The Public Assemblies Bill recently proposed in the north of Ireland – restricting the right of citizens to hold protests and meetings of fifty people or more without receiving permission thirty-seven days prior – is but the latest example.


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Death in Custody - Tayside


On 28 November 2007, 17 year old Kristoffer Batt was found dead in the cells at Tayside Police Headquarters in Dundee. Three years later a Fatal Accident Inquiry has now reported its findings and they show a disgusting and corrupt lack of concern for the young man. Alarm buzzers in the cells had been switched off “some years ago” but nobody “knew exactly when, by whom or why”. The custody assistant had positioned himself out of sight of alarm lights while he surfed sports and social networking sites. Stuart Lewis ignored one light for 49 minutes and, responding after 15 minutes to a second call, he did not ask the young man as to the cause of his request for assistance. Lewis then deliberately failed to cancel the light making it impossible  for further help to be summoned.  Kristoffer had smuggled heroin into his cell and by dawn had fatally overdosed. Lewis has kept his job despite being shown to have falsified custody records.


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Oppose political policing in Govanhill

govanhill 7 august 2010Strathclyde police are stepping up harassment against Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in the Govanhill area of Glasgow. On Saturday 7 August the police once again intervened, seizing political material and cautioning and charging a supporter of FRFI for selling the newspaper. He is now the third FRFI supporter to be charged with this alleged offence following a similar attack on 13 July. These charges come at a time of increased harassment and threats of violence, including death threats emanating from local loyalists and racists, who have also increased their attacks on FRFI in recent weeks in the area.


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Voices of Resistance, 10 July 2010, Glasgow

glasgow-meetingOn 10 July, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! organised a lively and well attended dayschool in Glasgow city centre under the title ‘Voices of resistance: fighting imperialism across the world’. The meeting saw over 60 people attend throughout the day, with FRFI members and supporters from Glasgow, Dundee, Newcastle, Sunderland and Manchester. There were also representatives from various Irish republican organisations, people from the Basque country and individuals from as far a field as Germany and Latvia as well as many local people met on the streets of Govanhill and elsewhere. Members of Republican Sinn Fein provided security in the wake of loyalist threats against comrades leafleting in the run-up to the meeting.


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Sighthill – a deadly way to live

FRFI 163 October / November 2001

In the early hours of Sunday 5 August, Kurdish asylum seeker Firsat Yildiz, who had been in Glasgow for less than a fortnight, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack as he returned from the city centre to his home in Sighthill with a 16-year-old companion. Later that day, 1,000 asylum seekers held a spontaneous protest march from the impoverished estate to George Square in Glasgow city centre. On Monday there was another demonstration during which asylum seekers staged a sit-down protest at the Council Chambers to demand protection from daily racist attacks in Sighthill. Despite the media spotlight, an Iranian man was stabbed the following night.


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How the SSP forgot Labour’s imperialism

No war, no more carnage, Mike Gonzalez, Scottish Socialist Party, September 2001.

At the beginning of this pamphlet Mike Gonzalez, a longstanding SWP member, offers to ‘lead us to understand and explain what happened on that terrible 11 September and strike at the real causes of violence and terror across the world’. He fails completely.


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Fighting poverty pay for nurses

5,000 nursery nurses have been on all-out strike across Scotland since 1 March. Having had no pay review for 16 years, these predominantly women workers have gone into battle challenging poverty pay conditions. The nurses have a starting wage of £10,000 per year, reaching £13,800 after 10 years’ service. They are fighting for a wage of £18,000 – and that is still £7,000 less than the average male wage.


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Defend asylum seekers

As the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill 2005 goes through Parliament, the Labour government is stepping up its drive to deport more ‘failed asylum seekers’ and tighten controls on anyone entering the country to claim asylum. The latest Bill formalises the ending last August of ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status. It criminalises employers who take on workers without permits, reduces appeals yet further and increases the powers of border control officials to check identities, require fingerprints, obtain information about passengers and share information with the police, Immigration Service and Revenue and Customs department.


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Asylum seekers organise in Scotland

Following a period of relative quiet, brought on partly by consistent protest, the Labour government has resumed dawn raids and deportations. At the same time, the increase in repression has given rise to a qualitatively new stage in the struggle: the formation of a union of asylum seekers. Ironically for the state, it is some of its most punitive policies of containment and ‘dispersal’ of asylum seekers that have provided the conditions in which they are now both forced to and able to unite and organise.


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John Maclean - Part III

From imperialist war to socialist revolution

In 1916, John Maclean in Scotland and Karl Leibknecht in Germany were imprisoned for their opposition to imperialist war. That year Lenin identified these fighters as representing 'a trend of revolutionary internationalism...To this trend belong the Bolsheviks of Russia'.


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Asylum seekers fight ghettoisation

Following a call by the Home Office to transfer more of the accommodation for asylum seekers to private housing providers, a new National Asylum Support Service (NASS) contract has come into force in Glasgow. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) snapped up a 10% stake, while another 10% went to the Angel Group, a London-based corporate housing provider, already notorious in England for providing asylum seekers with sub-standard flats in squalid condition while cashing in on the profits. Angel was investigated for fraud last year. DOROTHEA FORSBERG reports.

Since the introduction of the dispersal scheme, Glasgow City Council has been contracted by NASS to provide housing for asylum seekers through the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) which manages council housing on its behalf. Asylum seekers have usually been accommodated in tower blocks, many of them already earmarked for demolition.


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Glasgow asylum seekers fight against Labour repression

At 6.30am on 4 October, Kurdish asylum seeker Cem Coban stepped out on to the balcony of his 20th floor flat in Cardonald, Glasgow. He threatened suicide as a Home Office snatch-squad moved in to kidnap his family and return them to Turkey, inducing a heart attack in his wife. Asylum seekers, local working class residents and activists gathered on the estate below to protest against the family’s removal. As Cem Coban was eventually seized at 11am ‘dozens of protestors... attacked around 20 police officers, jumping on the roof of a van and throwing themselves in front of vehicles...Two ambulances were called from the scene as the riot erupted. Witnesses said at least one woman had to be treated by paramedics after being knocked to the ground by police’. (Daily Record) The family had lived in Scotland for five years; one of their children was born here.


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Home Office targets asylum seekers and activists in Scotland

On 8 January Ugandan asylum seeker Zahra Byansi and her two sons, aged 5 and 12, were detained at Brand Street Immigration Centre in Glasgow and subsequently transported to Yarls Wood Detention Centre in England. The family had been detained and threatened with deportation in March 2006, but freed after a successful campaign in Glasgow.

Zahra Byansi is one of Glasgow’s leading asylum seeker activists, consistently involved in demonstrations, protests and marches for the last 15 months. She was a prominent speaker at many demonstrations held by UNITY and spoke last year at FRFI protests in the city centre. She has been a leading member of the Kingsway Asylum Group and was involved in the early morning vigils against dawn raids that prevented immigration officials entering the Kingsway estate (see FRFI 194). Her kidnapping is a conscious attempt by the Home Office to hunt down activists and intimidate Glasgow asylum seekers.


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Housing: racism and poverty in Glasgow

‘The housing shortage is no accident; it is a necessary institution and it can be abolished together with all its effects on health, etc only if the whole social order from which it springs is fundamentally refashioned.’  Engels

In May 2008, for the first time in 20 years, Glasgow City Council forcibly imposed a closure order on a private property. Infested with cockroaches, damp, with no heating or hot water, sinks unconnected and no working toilet, the two-room tenement flat was home to a Slovak Roma family of four adults and seven children.


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Scottish debate on sectarianism cloaks attacks on Republicans

In recent months a debate has began in Scotland surrounding religious discrimination and sectarianism. Scottish politics reflect that of the north of Ireland, with a working class divided along the same lines: a fascist Orange section on the one hand and a strongly pro-Republican section on the other.

These differences are reflected in support for the two major Glasgow football clubs. Rangers draws its support from the loyalists and Celtic from Republicans. It is not only Ireland that divides the working class: Rangers supporters often wave the Israeli flag at football matches whilst Celtic supporters are strongly pro-Palestinian. However, this new debate over sectarianism is a coded attack on Republicanism.


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Sectarianism in Scotland

On 17 June Glasgow City Council set the ground for an attack on political freedom of speech outside Glasgow’s four main football stadiums. Under new street traders’ licensing conditions the sale of items containing any ‘design, insignia or words which have a political, racial, religious or sectarian content’ will be banned. The catch-all ban was concealed in an apparent clampdown on sectarianism. In reality, as subsequent actions of the City Council show, it is an attack on all forms of progressive politics.


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Scottish Socialist Party – impressive advances for the left


Dear comrades
As usual I enjoyed reading the latest FRFI (173). The articles on the rise of racism and the response of the left were particularly interesting, and bear some parallels to experiences here in Australia over the last seven years or so. The far right as both a ‘stalking horse’ for, and a by-product of, government racism, is a concept that many don’t see. A number of Marxist groups in Australia fell into the trap of campaigning against small (and very marginal) groups of neo-Nazis when the One Nation right-populist/racist party was just beginning its three year ascendancy; following that, parts of the left and the vast majority of the (small-L) liberal swamp focused all their fire on One Nation’s crude racism, and meanwhile serious opposition to the government’s racist policies towards asylum seekers only really got going in the last three years or so. Serious campaigning for the poor who are being fooled by racist politics is weaker still, even though we are making a start.


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SSP debate concludes

In defence of the SSP

After reading Michael MacGregor (FRFI 173) and Paul Mallon (FRFI 174) on the SSP I feel that I, as an SSP member, must respond and separate fact from fiction. Michael says that ‘the fact is that at no point in the election contest did the SSP campaign on the principled basis of demanding a no vote for the Labour imperialists.’

What the SSP did do is stand in every first-past-the-post seat (except against Jean Turner (hospital campaigner), Dennis Cavanagh (Independent) and John McCallion (Labour), and in every list seat, plus a large number of council seats. We called on the electorate not to vote for any of the big business parties (Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Tories). Our propaganda also made clear that to vote Labour was to endorse their warmongering. In an electoral contest, and that is what Michael was talking about, I would call that opposing Labour. With regard to John McCallion (an extremely prominent anti-war campaigner), the local branch decided at the last minute, by one vote, to stand down (which constitutionally they are allowed to do) in his favour. It was not a popular decision within the SSP. Interestingly, if FRFI members in Dundee had remained inside the SSP (they were in its precursor the Scottish Socialist Alliance) the vote would have gone the other way.


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The election and the Scottish Socialist Party

In the 10 June election to the European Parliament the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) polled 61,356 votes or 5.2% of the overall ballot. It failed to get anyone elected. By contrast, in the May 2003 election to the Scottish Parliament, six SSP members were elected and the party received 128,026 votes (7.7% of the ballot). But in the European election there was only one vote per person, forcing people to choose between SSP and Labour. In the 2003 election, it was possible to vote Labour as first choice and then vote SSP as second, allowing voters to support the SSP without opposing Labour.


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Scotland: resistance grows as repression continues

State repression of asylum seekers can intensify only so much before the fear and weakness wrought by the brutality of dawn raids and deportations gives way to anger, organisation and resistance. In April and May around a dozen families were dragged from their homes, including those with small children. But all of the last five families to have been snatched and incarcerated in detention centres have been returned to Glasgow following successful campaigns.


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Attacks on the working class in Scotland

The living standards of the working class across Britain are being attacked on all fronts as the bourgeoisie scrambles to extricate itself from the inherent contradictions of capitalism. In Scotland the process is particularly intense, and the Scottish proletariat faces the worst levels of poverty of the entire British working class.

A joint study by the University of Bristol and the University of Sheffield, published last year, found that health inequalities were the widest in Britain since Victorian times and exposed a ten-year difference in the life expectancy between the best and worst areas. The upper-class residents of Chelsea and Kensington live for 82.4 years on average; the population of the overwhelmingly working-class area of Glasgow City a mere 72.9 years.


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Rising from the ashes ... another bourgeois party for Scotland

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has split following a high-profile defamation case taken by its former leader Tommy Sheridan against the News of the World. On 4 August, Sheridan won £200,000 in damages in response to allegations the newspaper made in 2004/05 that he had cheated on his wife, frequented sex clubs, used prostitutes and participated in orgies.

The trial was the first of its kind heard in a Scottish court. In total 11 leading SSP members gave evidence against Sheridan, telling the jury that their former leader had admitted to them that he had attended a swingers club. Their testimony that Sheridan had lied about his private life severely damaged the SSP and laid the basis for Sheridan to launch a breakaway party, ‘Solidarity’, with an identical political programme and himself again in charge. Announcing its formation, Sheridan argued that another left parliamentary group could gain support in Scotland: ‘We’ve got a huge constituency. I’m not interested in just the 7 per cent who voted for the SSP but that 51 per cent who didn’t vote and the 30-odd per cent who voted Labour who are now very disillusioned’. Just as the SSP have courted the second preference votes of Labour Party voters, so will Sheridan’s Solidarity at next year’s May elections to the Scottish Parliament.


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Scottish elections: no advance for the working class

The elections to the Scottish Parliament on 3 May saw the Labour Party defeated in Scotland for the first time since 1955. Amid electoral incompetence and confusion, which saw the largest number of rejected ballots – 142,000 – in British electoral history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) emerged as the biggest party, winning 47 seats to Labour’s 46. SNP leader Alex Salmond was appointed as First Minister to lead a minority government in coalition with the Greens.

While the defeat of this imperialist, racist Labour Party is to be welcomed, an SNP government will see no real change for the working class in Scotland or for those oppressed by Scottish-owned businesses abroad. The nationalists have received political and financial backing from millionaire capitalists such as RBS chief Sir John Matthewson and Stagecoach owner Brian Souter. The heads of some of Britain’s biggest monopolies only support the SNP because they see an independent Scotland providing better conditions for exploitation and profit-making. The SNP’s manifesto promises to cut corporation tax to just 20% and says it wishes to join the ‘Arc of Prosperity’ which includes Ireland.


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