Jeremy Corbyn visited Scotland last week as part of his leadership election campaign. Two well attended rallies took place in Glasgow and Dundee, in addition to a hustings debate between Corbyn and Owen Smith. Reports from Socialist Party Scotland members.
Over 600 attended a Jeremy for Labour rally in Glasgow last Thursday. The numbers would have been larger if the venue had been in the city centre and not at 5pm when people are still in work.
A large part of the attendance was new members, including a few young people from across the West of Scotland who have joined since the attempted coup by the Blairites. For some this was their first Labour meeting, with no local meetings allowed bar nomination meetings.
There were also older rejoiners and reactivated members. Socialist Party Scotland received a warm response selling 65 copies of the Socialist and distributing 600 of our “Defeat the Labour Right – No comprimise with austerity and war” leaflet.
We provoked discussion with our petition to “Deselect the Blairites”. A significant number signed and a larger number wanted to discuss the issue, especially with the news of the purge of Bakers Union leader Ronnie Draper and others that afternoon.
A few of those new members who had joined in Glasgow and Lanarkshire raised the need to get rid of councillors who just implements cuts.
One young college student from the Lothians who had just joined Labour commented to the Socialist, ” I saw Peter Taaffe on the TV and all the issues that are coming up are interesting. I think we should be opening up not shutting people off who are socialists and anti austerity”.
Corbyn spoke on a platform with disabled rights activists, trade unionists and recently a recently elected councillor from Ayrshire. The loudest applause came when he called for renationalisation of the railways and enhanced trade union rights at work.
While attacking the SNP for implementing cuts from the Scottish government to the NHS, local authority budgets and in councils like Dundee where they form administrations, Corbyn and the speakers did not address the issue of Labour councils carrying out cuts in Scotland or outline a strategy for opposing public sector cuts.
A clear call for a mass campaign built around no cuts budgets the return of the funding stolen by Tory austerity would create more momentum and support for Corbyn in Scotland.
The issue of independence was also not commented on at the rally. Corbyn’s approach on this issue, in opposition to independence, is still a barrier to radicalised workers and youth coming towards the campaign.
250 people took part in the public meeting on Friday evening in Dundee. There was a fair smattering of non-Labour members in attendance who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. As well as long-standing party members, newer “Corbynistas” also took part.
Significantly, over 70 people signed the Socialist Party Scotland “Deselect the Blairites” petition – almost one third of the audience. Many made a a beeline for the stall when they saw the posters or were asked to sign by our members, showing that there is deep-seated support for decisive action to be taken against the Labour right if, as is hoped, Jeremy wins the election.
Unfortunately, the pro-Corbyn left in Scotland at present seem particularly opposed to such a democratic instrument being available to Labour Party members. They instead are still seeking the impossible; unity with the Blairites following the leadership election.
Willie Shields, a former shop stewards convener at the Timex factory in Dundee and a member of the Dundee Pensioners Forum, made some very important points about the anti-working class and pro business record of Owen Smith, Blair and Kinnock. He went on to say that when Jeremy Corbyn wins we can no longer be caught unawares…“this is an almighty battle… We can no longer afford Labour Party proposed cuts to public services… We can no longer allow lazy councillors settling for an easy life… Every constituency Labour Party should be based on an anti austerity agenda… We need to Educate, Agitate and Organise.”
In response, Labour MSP and Corbyn’s Scottish campaign organiser Neil Findlay insisted there was no place for “muck-racking and personal attacks and “I’ll say that to everyone, even you, Willie.” This was an unnecessary criticism as Willie Shield’s points were a justified political criticism of the Labour right’s collaboration with capitalist policies and austerity, and were in no sense of a personal character. Indeed it was clear from the audience response and the reaction on social media that Willie’s comments were widely supported.
Over 200 Socialist Party Scotland leaflets were distributed. 42 copies of the Socialist were sold and over £30 in donations from those signing the petition were also received. In addition, four people filled in Join Socialist Party Scotland cards on the night.