Report by Matt Dobson
More than 1200 people packed into the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak at a rally over the bank holiday weekend.
The turnout was the largest at a Corbyn rally in Scotland since his election as Labour leader and a broad section of Labour activists from all over the country were in attendance. Young people and workers enthused by the radical left policies in Corbyn’s manifesto but who are not Labour members also turned out. Confusion as to whether people had to register to attend led to around 100 being turned away.
This event was a Scottish Labour campaign rally but Socialist Party Scotland spoke to a significant number of people who attended who are not Labour members and were even involved in the 2014 independence campaign.
Some had supported the SNP previously and feel pulled towards Corbyn as they are interested in socialist ideas and energised by his left radical policy program. Nevertheless, this layer do disagree or at least are sceptical towards Corbyn’s position on the question of independence.
Representatives of the right wing of Scottish Labour were also there, including ex-Glasgow council leader Frank McAveety. The other platform speakers were Labour candidates from the left who support Corbyn. The right wing were not on the platform. However, Corbyn thanked Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale for her work in the election campaign.
The rally had an intensely electric atmosphere. There was a sense of urgency about getting rid of the Tories from all present. The need to support Jeremy as a principled fighter against the establishment was vocalised by many attendees.
Corbyn’s radical policies got a great reaction. There was also a euphoric feeling among some Labour activists that such a large rally had taken place in Glasgow, a city where the SNP have made big recent electoral gains.
Corbyn’s radical left manifesto policies were expressed at the rally. Christopher Rimicans, the 18 year old Labour candidate for North Ayrshire and Arran, got huge applause when he began his speech by saying “I am a Socialist”. Christopher also made a call for a publicly owned rail network and an end to privatisation and profiteering and taxation of the wealthy 1% in society.
Corbyn got massive applause when he made the following points “ This is a historic opportunity to build the kind of society that transfers wealth and power to the many, offering hope to everyone. We have committed to paying people a real living wage of £10 an hour; a policy that I know will benefit nearly half a million people in Scotland.”
“We have vowed to ban zero-hours contracts; which will benefit nearly 60,000 Scottish workers who currently don’t know how much they will earn from one week to the next. That insecurity… it’s got to stop.” And when he called for nationalisation of the railways.
It would have been good also to hear more policies that are in the manifesto on public ownership such as Royal Mail and also the “day of reckoning” for the bankers, big business and the rich in the taxation of the 1%. This would have got loud applause in Glasgow as it has in cities across the UK.
Corbyn rightly attacked the SNP government for failing to use their financial powers to fight austerity and tax the rich. However as highlighted in Socialist Party Scotland’s material, Labour in councils in Scotland have implemented Tory cuts and have not used their powers to set no cuts budgets.
Corbyn got loud cheers from sections of the audience when he attacked Nicola Sturgeon who is “more interested in another independence referendum than opposing austerity or standing up against the Tories”.
While this appealed to many in the audience it jarred with a layer who attended the rally. Many working class and young people who are generally sympathetic to Corbyn in Scotland still see independence as a possible way out of austerity and support the democratic right to a second referendum.
Corbyn’s Twitter account was more explicit saying independence means “turbo charged austerity”. While it’s clear the SNP mantra of saying that Labour cannot win and they are the only alternative to the Tories is not the real situation, his position on the national question is a significant barrier to defeating the SNP.
Socialist Party Scotland intervened with our campaigning material at the rally; our new issue of the Socialist newspaper, leaflets and our socialist general election manifesto.
We received a very warm reception to our position of supporting Corbyn winning the election on socialist policies. There was an openness to our arguments that the nationalisation program should extend into major parts of the economy to end the dictatorship of the markets.
We sold 55 papers and got details from young people who want more information on the party. Our material also stated our socialist position on the question of independence. In opposition to the SNP we call for the powers of independence to be used for far reaching socialist policies that benefit the 99% based on public ownership. We defend the unity of working class people across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland through a voluntary socialist confederation.