A small selection of news items and reports that have a particular relevance to Scotland or Scottish workers and our communities.
Angela Davis, a radical black feminist, political activist and academic, told a packed audience in Belfast City Hall today of the struggle ahead to oppose the policies of newly elected US President Donald Trump. Ms Davis was in Belfast for an event organised by Reclaim the Agenda on International Women’s Day.
This short audio track of Angela Davis being interviewed on radio by Seamus McKee is a segment from BBC Evening Extra 8/3/2017. The last minute or so is a collection of women saying what International Women's Day means to them personally, recorded at the Bread and Roses event in the City Hall.
(Image of woman with hair of butterflies from freepix.com)
IRELAND, and the north of Ireland in particular, has lost one of its stalwart communists and trade unionists with the sudden and untimely death of Joe Law on September 28, one month before his 70th birthday.
Joe came from Belfast’s radical Protestant tradition and fought against the sectarian state for workers’ unity and for socialism.
In this he was from the same mould as Henry Joy McCracken and the other northern United Irishmen of the 18th century.
An industrial worker who was active as a shop steward in the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) Joe was an executive committee member of the Belfast Trades Council in which he was active for 30 years.
He worked in a number of heavy engineering companies, including Mackie’s Foundry, Shorts and Rolls Royce.
But it was his initial experience as a young seaman in the 1960s which opened his eyes to the injustices of the world.
His experiences of apartheid when his ship docked in South Africa set him on a journey which led to his active trade unionism and membership of the Communist Party of Ireland.
Following redundancy as a riveter with Shorts Aircraft factory in Belfast, Joe made a major contribution to confronting sectarianism as a tutor and educator with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) anti-sectarian unit, Counteract.
He then became a founding member of Trademark, an organisation which later became recognised by ICTU as its official partner in confronting sectarianism.
Through engaging with trade unionists and managements in a wide range of employing bodies, Joe, in his unique and direct way, successfully challenged long established practices and encouraged people to confront their own prejudices.
Trademark also developed a political economy education programme which is highly regarded by trade unionists north and south of the border.
Unlike many, Joe also understood imperialism and this understanding was at the centre of all his work.
Joe also co-operated with his comrades in the Hope Not Hate Glasgow campaign and contributed immensely to strengthening relations between comrades in Scotland and the north of Ireland.
A Junior Orange Lodge member in Belfast in his early youth, Joe Law travelled a monumental distance and was proud of the contribution of the Irish members of the International Brigades who valiantly fought the fascists in Spain.
He was active in anti-apartheid solidarity work, confronted sectarianism on hostile shop floors in difficult and dangerous times and held the banner high for peace, independence and socialism.
He has left us much too soon. Our sincere sympathy to his wife, partner and soulmate, Brenda.
Brian Campfield is president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
ANTI-FASCISTS and trade unionists came together in Glasgow on Saturday to commemorate the International Brigades with speeches and music before laying wreaths.
Vera Dehle Thaelmann, granddaughter of renowned German communist and anti-fascist leader Ernst Thaelmann, led the tribute at the La Pasionaria statue, saying the German-speaking brigade members had named their battalion after Thaelmann because of his “unwavering courage” in the face of nazi persecution and imprisonment during the Spanish civil war brought the brigaders close to him.
She said the nazis feared her grandfather due to his ability to “mobilise working-class communities against fascism.”
Even though the nazis kept him in solitary confinement for 11 years, she said they “couldn’t break him” and “he is in our hearts and in our actions” to struggle for a better world.
Ms Thaelmann said the struggle that the International Brigades led against fascism 80 years ago is just as relevant today, highlighting the anti-refugee policies of many EU states and warning that fascism and racism feed off desperation in times of austerity.
She called for unity against the far-right to honour the legacy of the International Brigades in their struggle against fascism.
From Morning Star Monday 12 Sept 2016 http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-dd2d-International-Brigade-heroes-honoured-in-Glasgow#.V9bQJvorKUk
Download the report here:
Chair’s Opening Comments:
Head of Unite Scotland’s Politics, Research and Campaigns Unit
Morning Star Circulation Manager
Readers and Supporters Groups
Tony Kierney and Sandra Trotter reported from Dumfries RSG. Arthur West reported from Ayrshire RSG
Reporting: a Voice for the Movement
Zoe Streatfield, Morning Star Scottish Reporter
Building sales in the Trade Union Movement
Tom Morrison, Secretary Clydebank Trades Union Council and Communications Officer for West Dunbartonshire Unison
THE name of Tony Chater, whose funeral takes place in Luton today, will forever be linked with the battle to defend the political and organisational integrity of the Morning Star.
The paper became a battleground in the 1970s and early 1980s where differences within the Communist Party of Great Britain were played out.
Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) conferences held discussions on the paper’s content, its political orientation and the responsibility of party members to support it.
A self-styled Eurocommunist minority was hostile to the priority given by the Morning Star to trade union activities to raise workers’ living standards, terming it “economism.”
The paper’s generally positive attitude toward the Soviet Union, despite various criticisms, also attracted hostility, although it was well known that the Soviet Communist Party bought several thousand copies of the Morning Star each day.
The difficulties of publishing a left-wing daily paper in a hostile capitalist environment spawned countless ideas of how to overcome this, but, as the Eurocommunist trend gained traction within the party leadership, these were distilled into a single demand that the editor should go.
Chater incurred the wrath of the party leadership by inviting Communist Party industrial organiser Mick Costello to respond in the paper to an article in the Marxism Today journal that attacked the shop stewards movement as corrupt.
This culminated in an invitation to Costello to return to the Morning Star as industrial correspondent without discussing his redeployment with the party’s general secretary Gordon McLennan.
The executive committee ordered Chater and his deputy David Whitfield to stand down and be replaced by diplomatic editor Chris Myant and editorial assistant Frank Chalmers respectively.
Chater and Whitfield were supported in their refusal to do so by many party organisations and by the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS) management committee, which, then as now, stewarded the assets of the paper and had responsibility for appointing the editor.
The Morning Star and the management committee wanted to head off what was already looking like an all but inevitable split by seeking discussions to allow co-operation based on respect for the paper’s autonomy, but the party leadership was intent on resolving a political question by administrative methods.
Both men and other party members on the management committee, including its chair Ken Gill and chief executive Mary Rosser, were expelled from the party in 1985.
Party individuals and organisations that sided with the paper and its management were expelled, suspended or reorganised, resulting in a loss of thousands of CP members.
Despite the disciplinary onslaught and CPGB leadership’s efforts to change the paper’s management through mass attendance to vote at annual PPPS shareholder meetings, the majority, comprising an alliance of Communists, Labour Party members, militant trade unionists and international solidarity groups backed Chater and his comrades.
Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill told the Manchester section of the PPPS AGM that the Morning Star’s crime had been to defend “the working class and socialism.”
the Morning Star’s crime had been to defend “the working class and socialism.
Chater and a number of supporters then set up the Communist Campaign Group (CCG) as a means to keep these expelled members together and, in 1988, believing that the CPGB was about to give up the ghost, set up the Communist Party of Britain in what they called a “re-establishment congress,” claiming the mantle of the party set up in Britain in 1920.
To this end, the CPB adopted the same party programme and rules — with one exception. It reinstated the recently dropped rule that all members should buy and support the Morning Star.
The CPGB lingered on for another three years before dissolving itself into a short-lived talking shop known as Democratic Left.
Chater had been a loyal party member since joining while still at grammar school in Northampton shortly after the end of the second world war.
He studied chemistry at Queen Mary College, London, gaining a First and, while studying for his PhD, met his future wife Janice who was reading chemistry and maths.
They went to Canada where he had a research studentship at a government experimental farm in Ottawa, studying what happens to proteins in leaves in freezing conditions.
Chater then received a British Council grant to study radioactive techniques in research in Belgium before returning to teach first in Norwich and then at Luton Technical College.
He stood as a parliamentary candidate for the CPGB four times in Luton before taking up full-time work for the party in its press and publicity department in 1969, working alongside Nora Jeffrey.
Five years later, he and Morning Star editor George Matthews swapped jobs, with Chater taking up the helm at the Morning Star at a time of acute class conflict.
The release of the Pentonville Five from prison, the jailing of the Shrewsbury pickets and the Grunwick dispute in the 1970s gave way to the women’s occupation of Greenham Common, the Falklands war, the 1984-5 miners’ strike, the Wapping dispute and the carnival of reaction that was Tory rule under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
The Morning Star under Chater gave voice to the workers’ cause, to the peace activists and to all fighting for human rights
The Morning Star under Chater gave voice to the workers’ cause, to the peace activists and to all fighting for human rights, despite internal Communist problems.
He encouraged the development of closer political working with the left of the Labour Party, including Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Ken Livingstone, Eric Heffer and a young parliamentary entrant in 1983, Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour’s annual conference agreed that same year to “support our media,” urging the movement to back existing titles Labour Weekly, Tribune and the Morning Star.
Close working with Foot helped to secure a brief breach in the ban on the Morning Star receiving government advertising as prime minister Harold Wilson ordered that ads should be placed.
Former parliamentary correspondent Roger Bagley recalls that senior civil servants failed at first to comply, saying: “It must have been like something out of Yes Minister with the civil servants refusing to authorise them until Wilson laid down the law.
“Mind you, Wilson was crafty, so the first ads were about the government incomes policy that the paper opposed.”
Chater gave the go-ahead for Bagley to break the strict embargo on the Queen’s 1982 Christmas Day message in response to the government’s decision to give her a speech that went beyond the usual platitudes to a pro-war stance.
“The Queen is set to plunge into political controversy with a Christmas Day message glorifying the Falklands conflict,” the Morning Star splash opened, setting off a political storm.
Three years later, during the Wapping dispute, industrial correspondent Mick Costello blew the whistle on Rupert Murdoch’s plot to engineer a strike by print workers as a means to sack them without compensation, having got his hands on a letter from Murdoch’s legal advisers.
Costello had first met Chater when they both worked at the party’s King Street HQ.
“I knew him as a consistent propagandist for the fight for peace and against the dangers to it from aggressive military alliances — in the first place Nato,” he says.
However, he worked most closely with him at the Morning Star, where “he did not tolerate the use of shoddy or loose terminology that might dilute the paper’s clear editorial approach to news and comment.
“Tony ensured that the team at the paper kept to the political path charted by the Communist Party programme Britain’s Road to Socialism, with its strategy for building a broad anti-monopoly alliance rooted in the leading role played by the working class,” says Costello.
“I will remember him for his rigorous thought, hard work, uncompromising commitment to principles, devotion to the fight for peace and socialism and also for rows with him and then sharing a joke and a pint.”
David Whitfield, who was Morning Star features editor and deputy editor under Chater’s editorship during the 1970s and ’80s, recalls him as “single-minded and steadfast” in defending his strongly held views.
“He was convinced the trend of Eurocommunism aimed to destroy both the Marxist party and close the Morning Star as a daily campaigning focus and voice of ordinary people. He put himself stubbornly in its path, often at great personal stress to himself.
“And it is largely down to Tony Chater’s focus that the Morning Star continues to publish daily.”
And it is largely down to Tony Chater’s focus that the Morning Star continues to publish daily
Whitfield says that, “in lighter moments, Tony Chater would chuckle that his strategy was Sitzfleisch,” which translates as “buttocks” and was deployed by Albert Einstein to explain his refusal to leave a problem until it was resolved, but this was rendered by Chater as “the one with the fattest arse sits longest.”
He insists that Chater could not be provoked. He would just become more stubborn.
“It took personal courage. Tony Chater was not at all an aggressive man. Indeed, he was sensitive, gentle and patient with those of lesser experience, political imagination, learning, reading or mettle. He could be charming, witty, always erudite and generous.”
Many commentators speculated, with the reduction and then cancellation of Morning Star sales in the Soviet Union, that the paper would go out of business in 1991 or shortly afterwards.
However, sacrifices by staff and supporters, assisted by new sales and influence in the trade unions and the Labour Party, especially since Jeremy Corbyn’s election, have confirmed that there remains a material basis for the Star’s existence.
As Chater said in 1985 when the paper changed to tabloid format, “the Star will continue not just to report events but to be a weapon in the hands of the movement to shape events — in favour of ordinary people.
“The Star is a mobiliser, educator and agitator.”
The Star is a mobiliser, educator and agitator
Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths, who got to know Chater when they worked together in the CCG and then in the CPB leadership, says that his “commitment to working people and class politics rescued the Morning Star from those whose class collaboration would have destroyed it.
“He also helped devise the ‘re-establishment’ strategy which saved the existence of a Communist Party anchored in the labour movement and implacably opposed to imperialist militarism and war.”
Chater retired in 1995 and stepped back from activity, spending his time with family and reading voraciously, looking over his life, especially his political involvement.
“Tony spent 21 years as editor. A large part of it he enjoyed, but it got too much towards the end. The disappearance of the Soviet Union really upset him,” says his wife Janice.
“He reviewed everything. He was reading and reading. I wouldn’t like to say he regretted everything, but he said that there had been some bad mistakes.
“In his latter days, he suffered from vascular dementia which robbed him of the ability to concentrate. It was very sad to see. He had a very good mind and it just went towards the end.”
As well as wife Janice, Tony Chater leaves sons Martin, John and Simon and a number of grandchildren.
Morning Star political editor
Venue: STUC Building (above Stand Comedy Club)
333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG
Notices of the 2016 AGM resolutions etc can be found here:
The Morning Star is proud to be the only daily newspaper owned by its readers via a people's shareholding democracy called the People's Press Printing Society. Each Spring, the PPPS holds its Annual General Meeting in several different venues around the country to encourage the maximum possible number of shareholders to attend. Shareholders may attend one meeting only.
The AGM will discuss the critical issues of the day, receive the minutes of the previous AGM, receive a report from the Management Committee, approve the audited accounts and, vote to reappoint the auditors, consider resolutions and amendments, and elect one third of the directly-elected seats on the Management Committee.
It doesn't matter whether you have just a single share or a thousand, all shareholders have equal rights and get one vote each.
The Morning Star is the only socialist daily newspaper published in Britain. It has a long and proud history.
Originally called The Daily Worker, the Morning Star was founded by the Communist Party and first published on 1 January 1930. The aim was, in Lenin’s words, to provide “an economic and political tool of the masses in their struggle”. Since 1945 the paper has been owned by a broad-based readers’ co-operative, the People's Press Printing Society (PPPS). The paper’s editorial line remains anchored in the political programme of the Communist Party but it offers a broad left perspective on political, industrial and international issues. The Daily Worker was renamed the Morning Star in 1966. The Daily Worker/Morning Star has experienced many challenges since its foundation, experiencing a wholesaler boycott within weeks of its establishment; ongoing police surveillance and harassment; prosecution and imprisonment of its journalists; an outright ban during part of World War Two; an ongoing boycott by commercial advertisers; and a constant battle to cover production, distribution and staff costs. But through all this it has continued to chronicle the struggles of the British working class and champion progressive movements around the world. At its peak, during WW2, had a weekend circulation of over 100,000. Management of the paper rests with the shareholders via their Annual General Meeting (which is held at different locations around Britain to ensure maximum participation) and election of the PPPS Management Committee. The Management Committee appoints the Editor and Company Secretary. Shares in the PPPS cost £1. No dividend is paid and no person or organisation profits from the Morning Star. It is the only national daily wholly owned by its readers rather than a tax exile millionaire. Nine national trade unions and one trade union region have seats on the Management Committee: Community, CWU, FBU, GMB, NUM, NUM North-East, POA, RMT, UCATT and Unite. This means that more than half of Britain’s trade union members are now represented on the Management Committee. The other, individual members of the Committee are elected by the shareholders and are subject to regular re-election. The Morning Star is the only paper that actively campaigns for working-class politics. The only paper that supports the People’s Assembly and reports authoritatively on what is happening in Cuba, Palestine, Ukraine and elsewhere. It offers a unique, non-sectarian perspective on national and international news not offered by the mainstream media. No other daily newspaper carries such a range of voices from the left — trade union leaders and activists, left Labour MPs and the Communist Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the anti-fascist campaigns Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism, the Green Party and more. We also feature distinctive arts and sports coverage unavailable elsewhere.
(taken from http://civicrm.morningstarserver.co.uk/)
Congratulations to the folks who recreated the Kinder Scout Trespass today (Sunday 24 April 2016) to fund raise for the Morning Star daily leftwing newspaper! The original action in April 1932 involved many of our readers then - led in large part by Benny Rothman of the Young Communist League (YCL) of Manchester. It still remains one of the most successful acts of civil disobedience in modern British history
As a notable act of resistance, it helped spark the modern movement for rambling. It has been interpreted as the embodiment of "working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands" to shoot grouse.
Well done all!!
To coincide with the annual Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), which took place in Dundee this year, The Morning Star Readers Group and the 1916 Rising Centenary Committee (Scotland) organised a joint evening of music and songs about James Connolly's life and times. The music was performed by a talented duo of musicians called Jimmy Ross and Finlay Allison. Keith Stoddart opened the proceedings by welcoming the assembled delegates and visitors. He then introduced the historian, Stephen Coyle, who spoke about James Connolly’s connections with Dundee, and the city’s proud record of providing practical support for the cause of Irish freedom during the War of Independence.
Keith then introduced the musicians who described the events surrounding the Easter Rising and its aftermath in word and song. They performed a range of well-known songs about the period, and included two of their own songs about Margaret Skinnider who was the only women to be injured in the Rising, and the Limerick Soviet. Arthur Johnstone, the acclaimed folk singer performed several songs of struggle later in the evening.
Among the trade union members who attended to show their support for the event, were the following: Eddie McGuire Chairperson, Musicians Union Scotland; Denise Christie Scottish Treasurer, Fire Brigades Union; Sean Hoyle RMT President; Phil McGarry, RMT Political Officer Scotland ;Mark McHugh Scottish Organiser The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union; Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union; Assistant General Secretary - Peter Bunting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Brian Campsfield (NIPSA) President Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Tommy Morrison, Clydebank Trades Council, and representatives from the Education Institute of Scotland, Unite, Scottish Pensioners Forum; Glasgow, Fife, West Lothian, Edinburgh and Midlothian Trades Councils. The Campaign for Socialism, Communist Party of Britain, Scottish Labour Party, Scottish National Party and the Socialist Workers Party were also represented. A particularly welcome guest was Jorge Luis Garcia, Political Counsellor from the Cuban Embassy in London.
Keith Stoddart of the Morning Star Reader’s group stated:
“In this centenary year of the Rising, it is especially important to recognise the key role played by James Connolly, the leading socialist and trade union organiser, who is the most obvious of the Scottish connections to the that pivotal episode in Irish history. It was right and fitting that so many high ranking members of the labour and trade union movement, should show their support for the event”.
The badge was especially produced by Dundee Trades Council, to highlight James Connolly's links with the city.
Jeremy Corbyn leads tributes to ‘wise and witty’ former Morning Star editor Bill Benfield
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has led tributes in honour of the Morning Star’s “wise and witty” former editor Bill Benfield who sadly passed away yesterday.
Mr Benfield, who edited the paper for three years from January 2009, died in the early hours aged 69 after a long-running battle with a respiratory illness.
“The passing of Bill is very sad,” said Mr Corbyn who described him as “a real stalwart of socialist journalism,” writing on all the subjects that many other papers would not touch.
“Reading through some of his older articles I was really struck by his perceptions and challenging orthodoxy,” Mr Corbyn said.
“He used the endless media hype of Black Friday shopping to challenge Walmart and its employment practices, his challenges to the orthodoxy and misery of the Osborne budgets and his wonderful tribute to Mandela, Farewell Madiba, showed his knowledge and strength of writing.
“Left-wing journalism needs an outlet and the survival of the Morning Star has often been a challenge and Bill as a long-term editor knew that so well.
“He also realised we had to not be challenged by social media but embrace and use it, hence the strong presence of the Star online.”
The Islington North MP credited Mr Benfield for giving him the opportunity to contribute a weekly column since 2005, writing over 500 articles over more than a decade.
He added: “Thanks Bill, for keeping the Star going, keeping writing so well and giving us the legacy of communicating with each other, and bringing forward a new generation to struggle for real justice.”
Mr Benfield was employed in various roles at the paper for almost 25 years.
He took the top job from John Haylett, who edited the paper from 1995 and now works as its political editor.
Mr Haylett said: “Bill Benfield had no appetite for boasting about the role that he played at the Morning Star, but no individual had a greater claim to safeguarding its continued existence.
“His ability to think outside the box, as deputy editor and head of production when I was editor, and thereby breathe fresh life into a clapped-out typesetting system was nothing less than miraculous.
“Bill’s dedication to our paper and his personal loyalty through difficult times will stay with me forever.”
The newspaper’s current editor Ben Chacko remembers Mr Benfield as a “wise and witty man” who taught him “a great deal” before and after taking the helm.
“Bill was always at the end of the phone when I needed advice, which was all the time,” Mr Chacko said.
“He continued to help out at the paper after his retirement whenever I asked, most recently on Budget day just two weeks ago.
“Everyone who was privileged to have worked with Bill at the Morning Star will miss this outstanding editor and great communist.
“Our thoughts are with Helen and the family at this time.”
Mr Benfield leaves behind his partner Helen and two grandchildren.
For decades, bazaars have been one of the main fundraising activities for the Daily Worker and now the Morning Star. Each city would have neighbourhood events throughout the year. The highlight though would be a grand city centre Christmas bazaar.
In Glasgow, we’re revived the tradition in a way which combines both the earlier formats. For the last 15 years, Morning Star supporters have been holding Christmas bazaars in a many of the city’s neighbourhoods. This year’s was held in Partick on 12 December and netted £1,100 for the people’s paper. As well as fundraising the event was an opportunity to promote the paper widely through door to door leafleting, posters and street sales.