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Oct 19

SF leader speaks at Plaid Cymru conference

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald was recently invited to deliver a keynote address to party members at Plaid Cymru's annual conference in Swansea (New Worker 18.10.19).

McDonald denounced Toryism as a "clear and present threat to our well being." She also called for a "counter-political culture: a pan-Celtic, anti-Tory political culture that respects each other's sovereignty and right to nationhood."

And she sent a message to Boris Johnson -"we will not allow you to bully Ireland. Those days are over."

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  • Shinty is Scotland's traditional national sport. It is played throughout Scotland though particularly in the West Highlands and on Strathspey. The game arrived from Ireland about 1500 years ago and until the latter part of the 19th century games were played on an informal basis between neighbouring villages. In 1893 however the Camanachd Association was established to formalise the rules ("Camanachd" is the Gaelic word for "shinty"; the word "shinty" itself means "leap"). The first Camanachd Cup Final was held in Inverness in 1896. Kingussie were the winners. Teams have 12 players including a goalkeeper. The stick ("caman") is usually made of hickory, ash or birch. But unlike the Irish game of hurling there is no restriction on the swing of the "caman" -it is a tough, demanding sport and not for the faint hearted. www.shinty.com
  • When I was ill this summer I read many books. One of the best I read was Gerry Cairns's biography of John Maclean, "The Red and the Green." In the book Gerry argues that Maclean was a Green Clydesider as well as a Red Clydesider -a man with a particular affinity for the Irish people and their struggles. If so, when did this relationship start? Well, Maclean went to Belfast in 1907, the guest of the city's Socialist Society. He stayed with Jim Larkin. It was a time of industrial unrest and Maclean noted that, much to the consternation of the state and employers, Larkin was uniting Protestant and Catholic workers. Later Maclean witnessed the Gordon Highlanders fire on crowds on the Falls Road. It caused Maclean to describe the British, not for the last time, as "murderers" in Ireland. What else did he do? Well Nan Milton, Maclean's daughter, wrote that Maclean sent co-operative food parcels to Dublin during the Lock Out. He supported the Easter Rising -unlike many on the Left. And in 1918, whilst campaigning in the Gorbals, he raised the issue of two Sinn Fein prisoners Barney Friel and Joe Robinson, who he'd met whilst incarcerated in Peterhead. Robinson in particular was Commandant of "A" Company -the IRA in Scotland. What else did he do? Well in May 1919 he shared a platform with Constance Markievicz at a May Day event on Glasgow Green, In June 1919 he was invited to a Connolly Commemorative event in Dublin. There Maclean argued for a Connolly Memorial Workers College. And in 1920 Maclean continued to do what Gerry calls "sterling solidarity work" calling "Hands Off Ireland" meetings and distributing a pamphlet, "The Irish Tragedy: Scotland's Disgrace." The Disgrace was of course that Scottish troops were being sent to Ireland by the British Government to supress fellow Celts -the Irish people. Finally in 1920-21 Maclean was teaching at the Scottish Labour College. One of his students was Andrew Fagan, the IRA's Quartermaster in Scotland. Fagan learnt about Marxist economics. Maclean learnt even more about the revolution in Ireland. So Gerry was right. Maclean was indeed a Green as well as a Red Clydesider. The two should go together. And I will finish with the line Maclean used to finish many of his letters and articles with... "Up Ireland! Up Scotland! Up the social revolution!
  • Take Tower Colliery in Hirwaun, 25 miles north of Cardiff, South Wales. In 1994 British Coal shut it down claiming it was uneconomic. Local NUM branch Secretary Tyrone O'Sullivan and 239 mineworkers decided to buy out the pit with their redundancy money -£8,000 a piece. They also got a £2 million loan from Barclays (after the Co-op Bank turned them down!). The loan incidentally was only partly used and paid back within a year. They also got financial advice from Price Waterhouse -the accountancy firm used by the Tory Government to sequestrate NUM funds during the miners' strike. In any case, far from being uneconomic, the pit ran a handsome profit as it continued to supply coal to power stations and private homes until reserves finally ran out in 2008. The first colliery in "British" history to be owned and run by its own workers had 13 years of proving people wrong. As Sean Kippin (2009) reflects, Tower Colliery was a "triumph of co-operative action in the face of Thatcherism." But it is the international experience that provides us with the best example of workers' control and the contribution workers co-operatives could make to the economy of a post independence Scotland. Mondragon stands out as a case in point. *It's a federation of workers' co-ops. *Based in the Basque country, *Founded in 1956, in a town of that name. *Now it's the largest Basque business group. Over 80,000 employees, 85% of whom are co-operative members. *It reaches into agriculture, housing and education. *It is high tech. It has a training arm and its own research and development agency. *It's democratic, social dimension and its business success go together. *It shows that workers' self management does work. Marx wrote of transforming society into a "free association of producers," It's a vision worth fighting for. A society based on workers' control. Socialism from below.