The Point
Last updated: 11 December 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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The Peoples Army - The 1915 Rent Strike

As the anniversary of the Rent Strike passed last month, Chris Bambery  writes for The Point on the strike that has became known as an iconic moment in the history of the Scottish working class. Chris is the author of "A Peoples History of Scotland"

 

Whenever Red Clydeside, that extraordinary period of working class insurgency which lasted from 1915 to 1919, is discussed attention generally centres on male shop stewards in Glasgow's giant engineering plants and on leaders like John Maclean and Willie Gallacher. Yet the greatest victory chalked up by the working folk of Glasgow came early, and central to its success were some remarkable working class women, that was the 1915 rent strike. Long before the outbreak of the First World war the city's housing conditions were a time bomb waiting to explode. War lit that fuse.

At the turn of the last century Glasgow's housing conditions were the worst of any British city. The rapid expansion of the city and the availability of cheap labour from rural Scotland, particularly the Highlands, and from Ireland meant employers were under little pressure to provide decent housing, property developers threw up poorly built tenements with one or two room apartments and landlords could charge high rents and ignore any repairs that were needed.

The first real census to record details, in 1861, found 34 percent of the population lived in a single room, 37 percent in just two rooms. Two thirds of the population lived in a single end or a "but-and-ben." A two roomed cottagei In 1881 a quarter of Glasgow's citizens still lived in such cramped conditions, and 50 percent in a room and kitchen.

By 1911 half of all Scots still lived in one or two bedroom homes. In England and Wales the figure was seven percent.

In 1908 the Glasgow socialist, John Wheatley, published an index of infant mortality across the city and argued: "You may see at a glance that the infant death-rate in working-class wards is three, four and almost five times higher than in Kelvinside [in the affluent west End]."

Yet Glasgow boasted it was the "Second City of the Empire." The contrast between rich and poor was shocking:
"Between the middle class residential area of Pollockshields and Blackfriars, the most congested slum in Europe, the distance was two miles. But the health figures were life-miles apart. The respective figures per thousand were: death rate, 10.3 and 29.2; TB [Tuberculosis] 1.4 and 3.9; infant mortality, 27 and 28."
Those figures come from 1881. In the first year of World War One not much had changed:
"The general death rate that year was 16.6 per thousand. In the elegant West End district of Kelvinside it was only 8.7, while in Broomielaw, part of Glasgow's dockland, it was 24.3! For the infant population, Broomielaw and Blackfriars, were an express journey to Paradise."

The outbreak of war in August 1914 brought a further influx of workers into the city to meet the demand of its engineering works and shipyards, all with full orders from the military and the navy.. Rents were higher than elsewhere in the UK and with accommodation in demand landlords raised rents. Existing tenants, who could not afford the extra, faced eviction, even the families of those away fighting in the trenches.
The government found in October 1915 that at least 33.9% of rents had increased by 5%, while in "Govan and Fairfield, the centre of the storm, all the houses...suffered rent increases ranging from 11.67% to 23.08%."

Across Glasgow and the west of Scotland a network of Independent Labour Party branches, tenants groups, Co-operative Society branches, the Govan and Glasgow Trades Councils, trade union activists and socialists were able organize a rising groundswell of discontent.

The "Partick and Maryhill Press" reported the 1915 May Day rally in Glasgow thus:
"Over 165 labour and socialist organisations took part... and Glasgow Green was crowded with thousands of spectators. There were 12 platforms. Among those represented were those of the Socialist and Labour Party, Internationalism, Glasgow Housing Committee, the Anarchist Group, Socialist Children's School and Women Trade Unionists."

Women would take the lead in winning the single greatest victory notched up on Red Clydeside. One of the organizers of the Rent Strike, Helen Crawfurd, had been a radical suffragette who had been jailed three times before the war for actions which included smashing the windows of the Ministry of Education in London and the army recruitment office in Glasgow. Seán Damer notes: "The Glasgow suffragettes had a tradition of militancy which includes blowing up all the telegraph and telephone cables, cutting the wires around the city."

Mary Barbour arrived in Govan in 1896, a newly married engineer's wife, and became active in the Independent Labour Party. She began organizing over rents by holding meetings, large and small, in kitchens, in closes, and in backcourts attracting her audience with a football rattle.."

In April 1915 the family of a soldier serving in France was evicted in Govan which was met with angry protests as Willie Gallacher, a leader of the shops stewards movement on the Clyde describes: "In Govan, Mrs. Barbour, a typical working class housewife, became the leader of a movement such has never been seen before, or since for that matter, street meetings, back-court meetings, drums, bells, trumpets – every method was used to bring the women out and organize them for struggle. Notices were printed by the thousand and put up in the windows: wherever you went you could see them. In street after street, scarcely a window without one: WE ARE NOT PAYING INCREASED RENT."

One landlord had applied for an eviction order against a mother and family for non-payment of rent at a time when the man of the house was fighting in France and a son was recovering from war wounds. The Court supplied the necessary authorisation despite an offer from the local miners' union to repay the rent debt within a week. However, the attempt at eviction was successfully resisted by a large crowd which had to be restrained from physically attacking the landlord."

Similar scenes were repeated across the city, for instance in Partick:
"... a 70 year old pensioner living alone was due to be evicted on a warrant issued by Sheriff Thomson for refusing to pay a rent increase. The old man barricaded himself in his tiny tenement flat and a large crowd gathered outside in his support, making his 'castle' impregnable. Again no official showed face."

Gallacher records that "the factors [agents for the property owners] could not collect the rents."xv When a factor turned up in Partick in late October, the "Glasgow Herald" reported "he was pelted with bags of peasemeal and chased from one of the streets by a number of women, who upbraided him vociferously."

The Landlords then applied for an eviction warrant from a judge and the task of carrying that out fell to the city's Sheriff who asked the police to carry out the task:"But Mrs. Barbour had a team of women who were wonderful. They could smell a sheriff's officer a mile away. At their summons women left their cooking, washing or whatever they were doing. Before they were anywhere near their destination, the officer and his men would be met by an army of furious women who drove them back in a hurried scramble for safety."

In every window of every house there were 1/d notices which read: 'We are not removing.' Within weeks thousands of notices were displayed in street after street. Soon all of Glasgow was involved: from Parkhead to Govan, Pollokshaws to Calton.

The turn out on the May Day march and rally that year reflected the mood and confidence of the Clydeside working class. The "Partick and Maryhill Press" reported:
"[It] was organized on a larger scale than on any previous occasion. Over 165 Labour and Socialist organizations took part. There were 12 platforms. Among those represented were the Socialist and Labour Party, Internationalism, Glasgow Housing Committee, the Anarchist Group, Socialist Children's School, and Women Trade Unionists."

Throughout 1915 John MacLean, the leading revolutionary on Clydeside, spoke at meeting after meeting outside the shipyards and other workplaces demanding action on rents. On Sunday nights he addressed huge open air meetings in Bath Street while his Marxist night class had an average attendance of 493, mainly shop stewards. In October he was brought to court under the Defence of the Realm Act for opposing the war and was bound over on agreement he would not speak publicly on the war, though he made it clear he would still speak out over rents. Because of this conviction MacLean faced the sack from his teaching position.

By October 1915 15,000 were refusing to pay rent increases, and a month later it was 20,000. That month a factor took 18 tenants to court, providing a focus for the movement, as Mrs. Barbour's women marched on the City chambers. Tom Bell would write that on route:
"The women marched in a body to the shipyard and got the men to leave work and join them in a demonstration to the Court." "Forward" estimated the crowd outside the city chambers as being 4,000 strong.  John MacLean was among those who spoke, denouncing the evils of capitalism. His arrival was unusual:
"On their way from Govan one contingent marched to the school where John Maclean, already under notice of dismissal from Govan School Board, was teaching. He was taken out and carried shoulder high through the streets to the court."

Helen Crawfurd would remember: "I will never forget the sight and sound of those marching men [from the shipyards]. Thousands of them marched through the principal streets to the Sheriff Court and the surrounding streets were packed. John MacLean MA... was one of the speakers, who from barrels and up-turned boxes, addressed the crowds."

The government in London was worried by the scale of the protests and that the eviction of rent strikers might be the spark for a walk out in the Clyde yards. It responded quickly, hurrying through the Rent Restriction Act of 1915, which returned rents to pre-war levels. This was a major victory for working class people of Britain, won by the working women and men of Glasgow.

The rent strike coincided with the creation of the Clyde Workers Committee, an unofficial group of shop stewards from across the city's engineering plant committed to defending conditions, under constant attack from employers with full order books, and wages, being eroded by war time price rises. Their union leaders had signed up to Britain's war effort and had agreed to a ban on strikes.

It is another magnificent chapter in working class history, but one which has often overshadowed the achievements of the rent strikes organisers.

In this centenary year there has been a demand for a statue to be raised to Mary Barbour. I agree, but I'd like her to be beside Helen Crawfurd too. But in many ways the person who needs to be honoured are those unknown women in Partick who chased the factor out of their street, covering them with peasemeal. Across the city women like that stood up to rack renting landlords and made a wee but significant piece of working class history.

 

 

Adapted from "A Peoples History of Scotland (Verso)" Chapter on Red Clydeside

Thomas Muir of Huntershill

As plans get under way to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of often overlooked republican and democratic revolutionary Thomas Muir - who some have labeled 'the father of Scottish Democracy,  The Point republishes an updated version of Graeme McIver's look at the incredible life of Thomas Muir of Huntershill.

This is a story that reads like a cross between a political thriller, a courtroom drama and a boys own adventure. Were it to be presented to a group of Hollywood script writers it would likely be rejected as being unbelievable. Yet the incredible tale of this giant of the Scottish reform movement, a revolutionary hero in America, appointed Minister of The Scottish Republic by the French Revolutionary Government, inspirer of Robert Burns, friend of Thomas Paine and the leading figure of the Scottish Political Martyrs is known to fewer than a relative handful of people in his native land.


My name is Thomas Muir as a lawyer I was trained
But you’ve branded me an outlaw, for sedition I’m arraigned
But I never preached sedition in any shape or form
And against the constitution I have never raised a storm
It’s the scoundrels who’ve corrupted it that I want to reform
Remember Thomas Muir of Huntershill

(Words Dick Gaughan)

 

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Dead Whales...and the Myth of Darien

 

 

 

Kirkcaldy Bay, where 31 whales beached themselves as the Act of Union was signed

 

 

The Whales of Kirkcaldy

Or

The tragic deception of Darien, a rumination on the Acts of Union

 

                             

“After the Darien disaster, Scotland was bankrupt. We had to go into union with England because we couldn’t survive on our own.”

 

These gloomy words were blurted out by a “No” supporter in the audience of Question Time a few weeks ago. It is a familiar refrain, buried deep in the Scottish psyche, even among many who are only vaguely acquainted with Darien and its apparent consequences. In my own school days, I well recall our history teacher repeating the mantra that Scotland’s ludicrously vain attempt to establish a colony in a swampy jungle left our misguidedly over-ambitious country bankrupt and with no choice but to unite with the far more competent and powerful England.

I don’t blame my teacher – she was repeating the received wisdom of hundreds of historians.

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A Historical Magnum Opus?

Gary Fraser reviews historian Tom Devine’s The Scottish Nation: A Modern History

 

T.M. Devine’s The Scottish Nation:  a Modern History is a book that is already gaining a reputation as the definitive modern study of Scottish history. In regards to the referendum, this is a book that both sides of the debate should read. It is not a polemic but a careful exploration of the historical facts.

Of course, in a post-modern age, where 'only dogmatists believe in certainty', Robert Burn’s “facts are chiels that winna ding” is a problematic assertion to say the least, none more so than when analysing history in order to make sense of Scotland’s current historical moment. Devine notes, with a slight nod to post-modernism, that history is always an ‘interpretative process’.

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Downfall of the Spanish Republic – the civil war within the civil war

In the second of his articles on the Spanish Civil War, Conor Cheyne looks at the bitter legacy of division and totalitarian control that crippled the Republican side from within.

 

There have been many discussions and opinions on what caused the Spanish Republican loss in 1939. Some put it down to the lack of professional soldiers, others have argued they had no great tactical mind. The most interesting argument, though is the one in which the Republicans were defeated from the inside, by those thought to be their own.

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Courage and Selflessness - Scotland and the International Brigades


Conor Cheyne looks back at a dark period of the Twentieth Century and finds a lesson of internationalism, solidarity, and hope.

 

1936 was a year that will always be notorious in memory. The year the Fascist states flexed their muscle and showed the rest of the world the strength that they had. It was also the year that one of the most influential wars in modern history took place and what has become one of the most important, world changing civil wars in recent history.

At the start of 1936, Germany and Italy had fascist leaders who had cemented their power within Europe not only by fear, but by winning over the hearts of many of their people. This fascism spread throughout the world, with rallies being held in support of fascism in the UK, the USA (Madison Square Gardens – See picture below) amongst others. This period was on the backdrop of one of the worst financial crises the world had ever seen and one that tore apart countries following the turmoil that ensued after World War One. It was these two factors which lead to the growth of support for fascism in Germany, Italy…and Spain. Curiously, despite the increasing power of fascist dictators, it was in this year, on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, that comradeship, solidarity and principles reached their peak.  In these dark times, a small but bright light shone that still today is remembered and will not be forgotten – The 30,000 Comrades from 53 countries who made the long trip to Spain to fight for democracy and for their fellow man against Franco.

Comrades from all around the world saw the threat of Fascism and the dangers it caused.  When General Franco and his fellow Army Generals rebelled against the Socialist Spanish Government, these men and women could not sit back and let yet another nation fall under the rule of Fascists, particularly a nation with a democratically elected government.

The idea of International Brigades was proposed by the Soviet Union. Due to the Non-Intervention Pact which was currently in place, the Soviets did not wish to put their own soldiers into the war but they understood that the Republicans would need reinforcements from somewhere. The Italian and French Communist Parties were the first to set up Brigades although they were not the first too have foreign fighters participate in the war. POUM had members join their ranks at the very outbreak. It should also be noted that while it was an idea of the Soviet Union to start International Brigades, it has been much debate on whether or not that it was the Stalinists themselves who were responsible for the downfall of the republican side. This is due to the civil war inside a civil war in which the Stalinists were taking out rival groups within the republic such as POUM and Anarchist CNT. Much of this took place in Barcelona where Stalinist oppression was terrible and can be viewed from a first hand stance in George Orwells “Homage to Catalonia” although that is another article all together.

Communists who decided to join Brigades had their transport to Spain arranged by their Party, although many who were not Communists, or at least not a member of a party, had to complete the gruelling task themselves, via the Pyrenees Mountains or by boat. The sheer willingness of these comrades - who left jobs, families and livelihoods - knowing they may never return, cannot be underestimated. The affiliation they felt for their brothers and sisters in Spain and the comradeship which this invoked, is something that will always be reflected on with optimism, especially by those on the Left who will regard this as a benchmark of self sacrifice for your fellow  man, a stand that hasn't been repeated in a similar way since, and may never again. This was summed up brilliantly by one Scot who fought, on the TV programme “The Scots Who Fought Franco

If I leave this earth tomorrow, will leave with the sense of knowing that I’ve done something on behalf of my class, on behalf of my kin”

There was an estimated 2,400 British volunteers that took up arms and marched to Spain in order to support The Republic, though despite counting for only 9% of the British Population, 20% of these volunteers were Scots. While many Scottish volunteers came from the poor, poverty stricken areas of the country, there were men from all walks of life who despised fascism who joined. Most of whom were communists, trade unionists and anarchists who not only seen the rise of fascism as a world problem, they seen that by fighting in Spain, they may inspire change back home. In Daniel Gray's “Homage to Caledonia”, one Glasgow Volunteer had written to his son back home and said:

Whenever I see thousands of Spanish children streaming along the road away from the Fascists, my thoughts revert back home, and I can see you, and your brothers in the same circumstances if we don't smash the Fascist monsters here”.

Though to fully appreciate Scottish involvement, you need to look back and understand what was happening in Scotland, Glasgow in particular, during this period. From the 1910's until the mid 1930's, there were massive strides forward within the Labour movement across Britain, but Glasgow became the forefront of this in what became known as “Red Clydeside”. This began with the working class opposition to the First World War but soon became a radical movement for social change at a time when Communism and Socialism were both becoming popular around Europe. The culmination of which – in Scotland - was The Battle of George Square in 1919 and the election of 6 Red Clydesiders as MPs.

With the fight for social justice losing momentum and no signs of their demands being met, some became disheartened. But, there were others who wouldn't let that stop them and when the call came from Spain, it was seen as a chance to re-ignite the fires in Scotland. The great depression and the growth of Mosleys British Fascists had men ready to join the fight for freedom before it had even begun.

                                           

The first Scots to join an International Brigade were those who were members of the Tom Mann Centuria which was created in August 1936 though who were later incorporated into the German Thalmann Battalion. This small group of British volunteers was made up of men who had already been in Spain prior to the War breaking out or left to join just after.  Another group in a similar position were those who joined the Commune de Paris Battalion. In this group, Jock Cunningham, a miner from Coatbridge who went to Spain in November 1936 and would play a key role in the Battle of Jarama just a couple months later. December 1936 also saw the First Scots to die in the War, Henry Bonnar who died of his injuries in Colmenar de Oreja and Martin Messer who died in Boadilla.

                                                  

December 1936 saw the first introduction of the British Battalion. The brigade started when little over 100 British volunteers set out for Spain and joined Company No.1 Marseillaise Battalion.. They fought in skirmishes in Cordoba during the early weeks of their deployment and around Madrid during the early weeks of 1937. The British Battalion then received reinforcements to boost their ranks after heavy loses at the Madrid Front. Vast majority of these new recruits were either British or Irish and so the name of the battalion stuck. With these new men, a further 3 companies were formed. The group were soon to be incorporated into the 15th International Brigade along with Abraham Lincoln Brigade which, together with the British Battalion, held the majority of Scots fighting in the war.

February seen Scottish fighters get their first taste of battle in what was one the bloodiest of the war. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade hadn't yet seen any fighting but was thrown straight into the deep end along with the British Battalion. After one day of fighting in Jarama, there were over 250 British asualties. With his battalion commander injured, Scottish Jock Cunningham took control of the British Brigade who had lost over half their strength after only the second day of the battle. On the third day, Frank Ryan, leader of the Connolly Column (Famous group of Irish volunteers who fought with the Abe Lincoln Brigade) then joined with Cunningham and 140 men, marched back to recapture positions left later in the day after a massive nationalist attack. Knowing that they were all that stood against the nationalist army possibly winning the battle, the two leaders took an astonishing risk with a very small force and managed to accomplish their target. Cunningham was injured shortly after making the rank of captain in August 1937 though is remembered as being one of the most influential Non-Spanish combatants to fight in the War.

We set out from Glasgow, to the war torn Spain”

Scottish/Irish folk band, The Wakes sung “These Hands” which tells of a young Glasgow man going off to Spain and fighting in the Battle of Jarama.

After 5 months on the Jarama Front, The Fifteenth International Brigade was moved to the west of Madrid in order to protect what was seen as the weakest part of the line. After securing the two first objectives, the British Battalion moved onto their third and final which was capturing a small but well defended village. After a hard fought battle, the village was finally captured nearing midnight. The following day the troops were moved onto their primary objective. It was here that the battalion faced horrendous loses, as when the battle of Brunete  was over, they had lost 299 men. It was on the first day, while trying to take the final village that Glasgow Born Alex McDade died. He was injured during the Battle of Jarama but continued to fight on, determined that the cause he was fighting for could not fail. McDade is not only remembered for his courage, but for the famous poem, “Valley of Jarama” which was later edited slightly and sung by Woodie Guthrie.

The rest of the war saw Scottish volunteers fight in Aragon, Teruel and during the Ebro offensive. During this time, men such as Ash Francis and Robert Cruikshank from Glasgow, Airlie Frank from Bellshill and Archibald Dewar from Aberdeen. Peter Kerrigan, a communist from Glasgow and Communist Party of Great Britain’s representative to the Comintern. During the Spanish Civil War he served as a commissar for English-speaking volunteers, he was present when the British Battalion were targets of a massive artillery strike during the Ebro Offensive in September 1938:

“I could give dozens of individual acts of heroism but what is the use. The list of citations which I enclose, tells in brief official terms of the acts of deathless glory which were played out against a background of the cutting to pieces of our very bravest. I saw what No. 1 Company. came through at Córdoba and I will never forget when I was told what our casualties were in those first 3 days at Jarama. But nothing can compare with the end of our battalion”

After the announcement on 21st September by the Spanish Prime Minister that all foreign fighters would be sent home, the International Brigades prepared to head back to their homes which they had left in order to fight for this country that they had no attachment to what so ever. 17th of October saw the International Brigades farewelled through the streets of Barcelona. Here, cheered by thousands including Spain President and Prime Minister, the volunteers waved goodbye, though not before a speech from Dolores Ibarruri or La Pasionaria in which she shouted: 

 “Comrades of the International Brigades! Political reasons, reasons of state, the good of that same cause for which you offered your blood with limitless generosity, send some of you back to your countries and some to forced exile. You can go with pride. You are history. You are legend. You are the heroic example of the solidarity and the universality of democracy… We will not forget you”

Here, if no where else, we can see for ourselves how cherished these volunteers were to the Spanish people. They understood that these men came to fight in order to keep Spain safe from fascism and help the Spanish people, a people most had no affiliation to at all. For many who fought Franco’s forces in Spain, it would not be the last time they would face such an enemy. Soon enough, the world would be plunged into chaos by the by the same powers and ideology that these courageous men volunteered to face in the towns, cities and fields of Spain.

Now, in 2013, the legacy of the International Brigades is kept alive and well. At memorials all around the world - such as the one in Glasgow, shown below – services are held to remember those who selflessly went to fight dark reaction. There are songs-aplenty telling the tales of men who made the trip to take Franco head-on and books charting the stories. Scots who fought during the International Brigades should still have as much meaning today for us as they did all those years ago. These men have inspired many other generations – and I include myself in that. The very idea is something that stirs the blood, particularly in those searching to be inspired in a time when morals and principle seem to have little say in the world.

During a period when society is crumbling, when thinking of your neighbour has become an unimaginable concept to so many, and the ugly face of extreme right politics is seen again on the streets of Europe, it is always good to look back to this period. It makes me smile to think of the courage it took, and the determination. There is no act braver than putting yourself in harms way for your fellow human beings and a better world, and that is exactly what happened.

 

                                                   

Conor Cheyne

Conor is a 20 year old Engineering Apprentice, a member of Highland Socialist Alliance, and active in Highlands No2 Bedroom Tax Campaign. 

Lincoln

                 
John Wight looks at the Oscar laden movie and the remarkable political story behind it.
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln provides an excellent though dramatised snapshot of one of the most seminal moments in US and world history, when slavery was formally abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution as the Civil War neared its conclusion.
It is hard to grasp, when viewing these events 150 years later, the monumental part that Abraham Lincoln played in ending slavery in the midst of a political environment which ensured that its abolition was far from certain right up until the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment was taken.

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Ultra Leftism and Crime

 

 by Gary Fraser

 

Readers will be aware of the ongoing crisis engulfing the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). For me, as someone with a background in criminology, the SWPs crisis raises interesting questions into how the far left thinks about crime. I will come to the SWP in a moment, but before doing so I want to explore why I think the far left has never been strong on the subject of crime. The reasons are complex. Yet, broadly speaking I want to argue that it comes down to this – the left has emphasised a purely sociological approach to the exclusion of all else, an approach known in the academy as ‘social constructivism’. Of course sociological analysis is a useful conceptual tool in understanding crime and why people commit crime, and few would dispute this; but a successful political project, which aims to win the consent of the people, cannot rely on sociology alone.

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Rock Stars, Revolutionaries and the Myth of the Sixties

Gary Fraser

         

‘Come together’

 

Two discourses informed the politics of the 1960s. The first was opposition to the Vietnam War and the second a series of social movements in America and throughout the Western World which included the demand for civil rights by African Americans, followed by the birth of the women’s movement and then the gay rights movement. What happened was a revolution in human rights and the accomplishment of a political project which had started with the European Enlightenment. Young people, especially students, were the lifeblood of these new social movements and by 1968 the movements had united into one amorphous mass ubiquitously labelled the ‘counter-culture’.

The counter-culture transformed the arts, particularly popular music and film. In the mid-60s, beginning with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and then culminating in the Beatles Sgt Pepper, rock music went through its golden period. We should also note the transformations in other music, especially music associated with black artists. Jazz is just one example, where artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman changed the structure of jazz; called free jazz it seemed to, unconsciously perhaps, represent the chaos of the changing times and the innate anger and frustration of the black artist.

 

‘You say you want a revolution’

 

Revolution was the word of the counter-culture. ‘Everybody knows the revolution is coming’ said rock musician Neil Young. According to the great beat poet Gill Scott Heron, ‘the revolution will not be televised’. ‘One solution, revolution’ was a regular cry of the Black Panthers. Meanwhile, an excited John Lennon sang, ‘we better get the revolution on right away’ in his anthem Power To The People. The word ‘revolution’ seemed to catch the spirit of what was taking place in the streets and college campuses across America. As early as 1966 there were signs that the anti-war protests, which had sprung up at university campuses were merging with anti-racist and feminist movements. By the end of 66 the revolution was heating up. Yet, during this crucial period the aristocracy of rock music were notably absent from politics.

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Gay Marriage and Religious Fundamentalism

  

Sean Robertson looks at the role of religion in modern day morality.

This summer, the Scottish Government announced that it would be passing a bill through Parliament legalising same sex marriage. For most forward thinking people in a modern society like Scotland this would have been viewed as a sensible and uncontroversial move. For the vast majority of Scots sexual behaviour between consensual adults should be none of their, or the state’s, business, and gay relationships, including marriage, should be afforded the same legal protections as their heterosexual counterparts.

It beggars belief then, when self- styled moral guardians of the modern world, like the Catholic Church in Scotland and the literalist Presbyterians in the ‘Scotland for Marriage’ campaign attempt to derail progress because of their own outdated religious beliefs and force the majority to accept these beliefs as their own:  Nobody is to be allowed to enter into a gay marriage because a minority of particularly fundamentalist religionists don’t like it.

American Christian lobbyists have also fought tooth and nail to prevent ‘ Evolution through Natural Selection’ being taught as an evidence based part of the science syllabus in US schools, and in some states, schools must give equal attention to the creationist view that the world was created in a matter of days, less than ten thousand years ago, by God.

These debates between the modern day and the past have brought into focus the role of religion today.  Does society require institutions such as the Catholic or Protestant churches, Islamic or Jewish faiths, as moral compasses? Should society give an equal voice to all religious belief when formulating laws, providing public services or setting educational curricula, for example?

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External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books