Dec 212012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s David Innes reviews ¡No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass) – Scots In The Spanish Civil War (Greentrax Recordings)

Alas, there are few, if any heroes left of the International Brigade who fought for democracy in Spain in the 1930s. They were in the vanguard in fighting the inevitable battle against Fascism which would result in the slaughter and waste of a second World War in less than a quarter of a century.

Those who left the UK, and Scotland in particular, are enduring heroes of the left, and of freedom fighters everywhere.

There are memorials and books and commemorative gatherings for these brave socialists, but their dogged idealistic commitment and shared suffering led to great folk art.

Greentrax Recordings are to be commended for compiling the best of the Scottish Civil War songs and poems on a terrific and moving collection.

When the idea for the album was suggested, the compilers were staggered by the wealth of songs and poems available. They were heartened too, by the offers of new material on the theme. Editing the selection down to fifteen songs and a poem must have been a difficult task. Might we expect a second volume?

The collection veers between stirring anthems, none better than the joyous singalong Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa, the tender – Jamie Foyers and Si Me Quieres Escribir and simple stories of working class idealists who saw beyond the romantic adventure of the fight for freedom, yet still regarded it as a calling and their duty to enlist. Hasta Luego, a moving tale of a football fan leaving his younger brother at the turnstile to travel to Paris there and then, en route to Spain, is among the best of these.

A highlight for Aberdonians, though, will be local Brigadeer Bob Cooney’s Hasta La Vista, Madrid. Some of us were privileged enough to hear Comrade Cooney read this himself at meetings in the 1970s. This version, impeccably inhabited by Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson, gives wonderful and moving expression to a rich, celebratory poem full of defiance and hope, scarce currency these days.

It is a fitting coda to a heart-stirring and emotional tribute to the immortal International Brigade.

Tracks: The Peatbog Soldiers (The McCalmans); Jamie Foyers (Dick Gaughan); Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa (The Laggan); Another Valley (Geordie McIntyre); Si Me Quieres Escribir (If You Want To Write); (Christine Kydd); These Hands (The Wakes); Owt For Nowt (John Watt); Viva La 15th Brigada/Viva Nicaragua (Carlos Arredondo); Picasso Paints Guernica (Robin Laing); Graves In Spain (Eileen Penman); When The Call Comes (George Archibald & Ian McCalman); Salud International Brigade (Jim Brown); Viva Los Brigadistas (Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre); Hasta Luego (Frank Rae); ¡No Pasaran! (Gallo Rojo); Hasta La Vista, Madrid (Iain Anderson)

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Apr 062012
 

At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.

The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations  Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.

These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.

While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.

The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars:  many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.

The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.

There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.

David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.

Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.

Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:

“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”

Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.

• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment:  0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports:  1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms:  27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms:  54%

Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year.  In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.

Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world.  The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.

Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:

• 2007    9651 million   (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008    4367 million
• 2009    7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010    5819 million

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.

Columnist Will Self -  “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”

BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.

The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.

The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.

A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa  loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.

As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the  economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).

The study estimated that the cost  of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.

Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.

Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.

The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.

Nov 242011
 

With thanks to Brian Carroll.

Teachers, Local Authority Workers, Civil Servants, Community Organisations, Pensioners, Anti Cuts Alliances and members of the general public will be taking part in a Rally on Wednesday 30 November 2011 at 12 noon in the Castlegate, Aberdeen, as part of the National Day of Action.

It is expected anywhere between 2.5 and 3 Million Union Members will be participating in Strike Action against the Government’s Pension Proposals, as well as in support of Civil and Public Sector jobs and services.

This rally has been organised by the ATUC and is being supported by all Unions affiliated to the ATUC as well as by other organisations who support the ATUC.

Consisting of members from Unions such as Unite, Unison, GMB, EIS, PCS, CWU, UCATT and others, the rally will also have representatives from Community Organisations, Pensioners, Anti Cuts Alliances and members of the public taking part. This event will be the culmination of the National Day of Action in Aberdeen, with thousands of Union members having taken Strike Action and hundreds of Union Members having manned picket lines from 6am or earlier.

Speakers will be from Local Branches of National Trade Unions, representatives of various local community and anti cuts alliances and public service users.

Commencing at 12.30pm with people gathering from 12 noon, The Rally will end some time between 1pm and 1.30pm.

Everyone taking part has the common aim of working together to:

  • challenge poverty levels and campaign for the fair and equitable redistribution of wealth across Scotland and the UK
  • campaign to protect those hardest hit by service and benefit cuts
  • challenge austerity and call for investment in the UK economy which will create jobs, put Britain back to work, therefore boosting the economy and cut the deficit
  • protect pay, pensions, jobs and services of all civil, public and private sector workers
  • challenge the government to collect the £120 Billion tax gap of evaded, avoided and uncollected tax
  • get the banks working for the benefit of the country, to free up opportunities of investment, for them to start paying back the bail out money and to use the £850 Billion of banking assets the UK Taxpayer now owns for the benefit of the country as a whole.

They say that “we are all in this together” but the bankers and owners of big business are still getting their multi-million pound salaries and bonuses and the majority of the cabinet are millionaires.

The top 50 of the wealthiest people in the UK saw their personal worth increase by 35% in the last 2 years whilst middle and low income earners saw their income fall by at least 15% in the same period. It will fall by at least another 7.5% in the next year, if the Cuts agenda continues.

Jobs and services being lost now, will be lost forever !

Wednesday 30 November
Castlegate, Aberdeen.
Commences: 12.00 noon.
Ends: Between 1pm and 1.30pm. 

Nov 242011
 

Brian J Carroll, a long serving Aberdeen Civil Servant takes a look at the crucial role the Civil and Public Services play in our day to day lives and argues that this should be gratefully acknowledged.

Lets be thankful for Civil and Public Sector employees !

I have worked in the public sector for over 30 years and have reason to be grateful to the public sector for employing me but also have reason to be grateful for the services other civil and public sector workers provide to me, showing that they have a dedication, commitment and loyalty second to none, in the service I and others within and in other services deliver to the public on a daily basis.
Once these services are gone they will never ever come back again!

Lets hear it for all the hard working, dedicated, committed and loyal civil and public servants who have provided me and no doubt a lot of you with the services we need to see us through life from cradle to grave:-

  • My school teachers who taught me my letters and numbers, to read and write, english, arithmetic and maths, foreign languages, history and science
  • The nurses who came round and inoculated us against TB, mumps and measles
  • The Doctors and nurses in GP practices and hospitals who looked after me when I needed them
  • The air traffic controllers who saw to it that my holiday and work flights took off and landed safely
  • The benefit officers who helped me out when I was unemployed, skint and looking for a job
  • The registrar for doing their job in respect of births, marriages and deaths
  • The midwives who helped in the safe delivery of my nieces and nephews
  • The court officials, administrators and Procurator Fiscals who ensure that justice works on a daily basis
  • The radiographers who X-rayed me
  • Those at the blood transfusion service who helped me to help others
  • The firemen who put out a fire in a flat next to mine a number of years ago and the policeman who assisted in clearing the flats next to the one on fire
  • The gardeners who keep our parks looking nice
  • The refuse collectors, without whom we would be in a terrible state
  • The social workers who help and assist people daily with their problems and issues
  • The paramedics who answer our calls for help, day and night
  • The court officials who assisted me in dealing with my fathers estate
  • The physiotherapist who helped me after breaking my foot at rugby
  • The police officers who answer our calls for help day and night
  • The HMRC staff who assist with Tax Returns
  • The DWP staff who assist us in getting benefits and finding jobs
  • The librarians who provide a reading facility and library second to none
  • The museum officials who continue our learning of this country and the world
  • The grave diggers and others who give us a place to rest and a dignified send off

All these people are to have their nationally agreed pension rights cruelly slashed. The government says:

“They have to take the pain just like everyone else.”

Just because private sector employers who make billions of pounds of profit offer their employees such lousy pensions or no pension at all, does not justify underpaying public service pensions when they are affordable, fair and actually costing the country and the taxpayer less as time goes on.

The average public sector pension is £5600. The average private sector pension is £5800, The average company directors pension is £175,000 – they still have final salary pensions; that is the real scandal and rip off of pensions in Britain today.

Nobody joins the civil and public sector to get rich. They do it to serve the public. They have a public service ethos. We should value that and thank them for it – not vilify them at every turn on the back of government rhetoric and lies.

Oct 212011
 

An event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Fascism and Tyranny in support of Freedom and Democracy, took place in Aberdeen on Friday 14 October 2011 in the ATUC Club, Adelphi, Aberdeen.  Brian Carroll was in attendance and shares the occasion with Voice readers.

The event was well attended and kicked off with a talk by Neil Cooney on the Aberdeen Boys’ contribution to the fight for freedom and democracy in Spain to which 19 of them committed. It was no mean feat in those days to get from Aberdeen to Barcelona, traveling through France to be smuggled into Spain over the Pyrenees; and then to endure the depravity and inhumanity of war for the three long years it took the overwhelming forces of Franco’s men and machines to defeat the Republicans.

The Spanish Civil War raged from 1936-39

Nineteen of Aberdeen’s finest committed to this fight and five made the ultimate sacrifice to the cause, dying on the battlefields of Spain at Gandesa and Ebro.

The nephew and son of two of those who undertook this remarkable journey and adventure attended the celebration, They were Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar, nephew and son of Bob Cooney and Archie Dewar respectively. Neil Cooney gave a talk about the contribution of those from Aberdeen.

Bob Cooney survived the War and returned to Aberdeen to then fight in the Second World War, but Archie gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in action at the Ebro.

There was some poetry, music and a general discussion on the war, the events leading up to it and the policy of non-intervention by Britain and France, a policy which resulted in a Fascist/Franco victory. But the Spanish Civil War did sow the seeds of the beginning of the end for Hitler and Mussolini.

The flag you see in the photos is hanging proudly in the ATUC Social Club. It was the then Spanish Flag of the Republic of Spain, and the bodies of Archie Dewar and Tom Davidson were wrapped in this flag on their deaths. The flag was then sent back to Aberdeen by Bob Cooney.

Aberdeen Women’s Aid Committee sewed on the legend “From the Aberdeen Boys Fighting in Spain”.

An ATUC booklet produced for the war’s 60th anniversary, Remembering the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, was available to those attending the celebration. I requested both Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar to sign my copy, which was a very proud and emotive moment indeed, after hearing of the courage, bravery, commitment and endurance of those who volunteered to fight in Spain.

Footnote:
Bob Cooney was the Political Commissar to the British Battalion of the International Brigade, and he penned the poem ” Hasta La Vista Madrid” no doubt somewhat inspired by the words he wrote when he was requested to leave Spain by Prime Minister Negrin, when the defeat of the Republicans and their Democratically elected Government was inevitable:

“We went to Spain
Because of that great yesterday
We are part of that great tomorrow
Hasta LaVista- Madrid”
(Until we see Madrid again)

Oct 072011
 

Teachers, Local Authority Workers, Civil Servants, Community Organisations, Pensioners, Anti Cuts Alliances and members of the general public took to the streets of Aberdeen on Saturday 1st October 2011. With thanks to Brian Carroll.

The march and rally was organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS – the largest teaching Union in Scotland) and was supported by all unions affiliated to the Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

As well as EIS Members, the march consisted of members from unions such as Unite, Unison, PCS, CWU, FBU and others.

The march also had representatives from community organisations, pensioners and members of the public taking part.

In total 2000 marched down Union Street, the main shopping street of Aberdeen which stretches for over a mile, and the pipe band leading the march gave it all they had, as did the anti-cuts organisation, Aberdeen Against Austerity, which sang some colourful songs about fighting the cuts, and placing the ConDem government on a bonfire !

Key note speaker was Susan Quinn,  National Vice President of EIS.  Along with other speakers, she denounced the actions of the ConDem government in respect of their approach to civil and public servants, services, cuts, pensions, pay, jobs and services.

Support for action on 30 November 2011 was unanimous if the ConDem government does not enter into meaningful consultation and negotiation with all civil and public service unions.

The march in Aberdeen was the biggest in the City since an anti-cuts march which took place four years ago.  The march clearly showed that strong feelings against the cuts agenda.  Opposition to the pubic sector cuts is growing, gaining momentum and getting the support of the general public as they realise that once their services are gone, they are gone forever.

This march and rally coincided with and complemented the “People First” march and rally held in Glasgow on the same day, which was organised by the STUC and supported by all affiliated Unions and where 15,000 people marched.

Sep 302011
 

With thanks to Brian Carroll – PCS Union Branch Secretary of Scottish Courts Branch and ATUC Delegate for Scottish Courts Branch.

Civil Servants, Local Authority Workers, Community Organisations, Teachers, Pensioners, Anti Cuts Alliances and the general public are taking to the streets of Aberdeen on Saturday 1st October 2011.
This march and rally has been organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and is being supported by all Unions affiliated to the Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

As well as EIS Members, the march will consist of members from Unions such as Unite, Unison, PCS, CWU and others. The march will also have representatives from Community Organisations, Pensioners and members of the public taking part.

Marchers will assemble at Rubislaw Terrace (Opposite Harlaw Academy) at 10.30am, and will then march down Union Street at 11am to Aberdeen Arts Centre in King Street, where a rally will be held at 12noon.

The keynote speaker is Susan Quinn, EIS National Vice President, with other speakers scheduled to attend as well.

The rally will end some time between 12.45pm and 1pm.

This march and rally is an Anti Cuts event, coinciding with and complementing the “People First” march and rally being held in Glasgow on the same day, which is organised by the STUC and supported by all affiliated Unions.

Everyone taking part has the common aim of working together to:

  • challenge poverty levels and campaign for the fair and equitable redistribution of wealth across Scotland and the UK;
  • campaign to protect those hardest hit by service and benefit cuts;
  • challenge austerity and call for investment in the UK economy, which will create jobs and put Britain back to work: therefore boosting the economy and cutting the deficit
  • protect pay, pensions, jobs and services of all civil, public and private sector workers
  • challenge the government to collect the £120 Billion tax gap of evaded, avoided and uncollected tax and
  • get the banks working for the benefit of the country, to free up opportunities of investment. To get the banks to start paying back the bail-out money, and to use the £850 Billion of banking assets the UK taxpayer now owns for the benefit of the country as a whole.

They say that “we are all in this together” but the bankers and owners of big business are still getting their multi-million pound salaries and bonuses and the majority of the cabinet are millionaires.

The top 50 of the wealthiest people in the UK saw their personal worth increase by 20% in the last year whilst middle and low income earners saw their income fall by at least 10%. It will fall by at least that again in the next year, if the Cuts agenda continues. Not only that, jobs and services being lost now, will be lost forever.

 

Jul 012011
 

In a week where the media have been vilifying public sector workers taking strike action to protest at government cuts and pension changes, little coverage has been given to alternative proposals for dealing with the UK’s economic deficit. Patrick V Neville gives his views.

On June 30 we visited two picket lines and attended a meeting of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) to understand their feelings on cuts in public services and to show support for the workers who, against the wishes of the government, organised strike action.
Needless to say, PCS members we spoke to felt unhappy about our nation’s financial situation.

If the full cuts proposed are implemented, one in every five public service jobs would be lost, adding further to the UK’s unemployment rate. Not only could there be fewer jobs, but those who will still have a job available to them face cuts to their pension schemes.

Each worker in government pension schemes could see their contributions doubled or even tripled. To the best of my knowledge, this extra money contributed will initially end up in government funds – but with rising poverty, corporate tax avoidance and evasion and rising prices of consumer goods, will there even be money available for pensions in a few years time? If so, will the cost of living become too expensive for the average person to survive?

Investment in jobs and public services must be in place if we desire a future free from poverty and we could avoid the majority of public services cuts if we take the right course of action.

Corporate tax loopholes are estimated to be costing the tax payer £25 billion a year.

Since moving its headquarters to Switzerland, Boots has reduced its annual tax bill from £100m to £14m, a saving enough to employ 4000 NHS nurses.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/11/boots-switzerland-uk

Rather than closing tax loopholes, we are making cuts in the public sector.

Billionaire Sir Philip Green is to advise the government on how best to plan for the cuts, rewarding himself hugely in doing so. Sir Philip is the owner of the Arcadia retail group which includes Topshop, Topman, Burton, BHS, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. The company is registered in the name of Sir Philip’s wife Tina, who resides in Monaco and therefore pays no UK income tax. This arrangement has allowed the Greens to save around £300m in UK taxes.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/03/topshop-philip-green-tax-avoidance-protest

Tax evasion and avoidance aside, who have we bailed out?

The Royal Bank of Scotland was rescued with £45 billion of public money. This represents over half of the £81 billion planned in cuts over the next four years. Rather than being allowed to stay open, the bank should have come to terms with closure.

Public spending cuts are more damaging, and minimising them and their effect is more important than encouraging risk-taking bankers to carry on trading.

UK Uncut has leafleted members of the public near the premises of targeted retailers to inform them of tax avoiding measures taken by these retailers.
http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

I would encourage anyone wishing to preserve a future free from poverty to choose where they shop carefully, to write to politicians and businessmen, to contact journalists to demand coverage of tax avoidance and evasion and simply to consider bringing up these issues with friends and relatives.

Jun 292011
 

 With thanks to Mark Chapman.

Civil and public servants across the UK and from within Aberdeen & Inverness Revenue & Customs Branch, will be joining teachers, head teachers and university lecturers striking against attacks on pensions, jobs and services on 30th June.

The government wants to make public servants work at least:-

  • 8 years longer,
  • pay double or triple more per month
  • not get any benefit from that whatsoever to receive a reduced pension
  • accept real term pay cuts of 10% which is not only affecting the standard of living of public servants, but is already reducing the worth of their future pension entitlement

They say  ‘we are all in this together’ but the bankers are still getting their multi-million pound bonuses for failed banks owned by the taxpayer and the majority of the cabinet are millionaires.

In PCS Aberdeen & Inverness Revenue & Customs Branch we will be striking on 30 June.  There will be picket lines at all branch offices, but in Aberdeen as well as having a picket line, PCS representatives and members will also be joining together for a union breakfast followed by a cross unions meeting in the Aberdeen Trades Union Council Social Club at Adelphi at 12pm.

With inflation at over 5% in the last 2 years, the current pay freeze on Civil Servants pay actually represents a real terms pay cut of at least 10%. Probably more when you take account of rising costs. We have also had an increase in National Insurance contributions and VAT. Aberdeen PCS members’ standards of living have already been severely attacked and eroded and we are not prepared to accept any further cuts when they are totally unnecessary, especially when it is clear that the increased pensions contributions we are being asked to pay are going to pay off the deficit; these increased contributions are not being invested for the benefit of the employees.

There is £120 Billion of unpaid, evaded or avoided Tax to be collected and the UK, the 6th largest economy in the world, holds £850 billion in banking assets from the bailout of the banks – this is more than the national debt.

Mark Chapman, Branch Chair of Aberdeen & Inverness Revenue & Customs Branch of PCS Union said:

“The government admits that money cut from pensions will go straight to the Treasury to help pay off the deficit in what is nothing more than a tax on working in the civil and public sector. The very modest pay and pensions of public servants did not cause the recession, so they should not be blamed, punished or demonised for it.

“Unless ministers abandon their ideological plans to hollow out and attack the public sector in the way they propose, they will face industrial action on a mass scale on 30 June and beyond.”

An AO (Admin Officer), 38 yrs of age added:

“I’ve worked out that I will pay an extra £48.75 per month, have to work 7 years longer than I expected and will lose approximately £19,000 from my pension too.

“I cannot afford this. I already struggle to make it to pay day at the end of the month and this all because this government wants me and people like me to pay for a crisis caused by failed banks and the irresponsible non-investment decisions of those who run those banks.

“This is not equality of sacrifice, is not fair and is criminally unjust. This is on top of an expected pay freeze which is already making life harder for me and is already hitting the future worth of my pension”

There will be picket lines outside most major HMRC buildings and other Civil Service buildings, and services to the public will be disrupted.

Striking Aberdeen PCS Union members will join teachers, other striking workers and representatives from other Unions at various meetings and rallies up and down the country, showing support and solidarity for this action.

PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the largest Civil Service Union. It has over 290,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies throughout the UK. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS Union is the UK’s sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC.  For further info See: http://www.pcs.org.uk/

 

Jun 242011
 

In this third and final part of Bob Cooney’s amazing biography, written by his nephew – Aberdeen City Councillor Neil Cooney we learn that Bob having come home from fighting Fascism in Spain, returns to continental Europe to fight Fascism again as a gunner in the Second World War. We learn of his experiences in the war, changing attitudes towards Communism and his career as a folksinger.

On his return from Spain, his mother wept at the sight of him.

He was so thin and emaciated. For more than a year after his return he still bore sores in his arms and legs.
He had served his apprenticeship as an amateur soldier. Now the professionals conscripted him.

Conscription to W.W.2

In September 1939, the Second World War began. Bob was there as a gunner from the beginning to the end. He was sickened by the poverty he encountered in conquered europe. His eyes filled as he told of young German mothers giving their bodies for an egg to feed their bairns.

We are all losers in war. Bob was to campaign vigorously within the peace movement, but he was never a pacifist. There are times when we have to stand up and fight for a just cause.

1945 brought victory and the heady triumph for Labour in the election. Churchill with his cold-war rhetoric was dumped by the pro-Beveridge stance of Atlee. Socialism was at the front of the agenda. Gunner Cooney was deprived of his chance to help in the shaping of it by party HQ. That chance never came again although he flew the flag in the safe Labour seat of North Aberdeen in 1950 and picked up a creditable 1,300 votes.

By now he had championed a new group of friends, the squatters.

Housing was a key issue in the 1945-50 era. There had been an already acute housing shortage by 1939; wartime bombing had aggravated that problem by 1945. Nye Bevan was given the Housing portfolio as well as the Health one. Although he brilliantly negotiated a minefield of problems to set up the National Health Service, he failed to reach his housing target of 200,000 new units per year.

Shortages of men and materials made the task very difficult. The Tory jibe was that Labour had only “half a Nye” on the problem.

The Communist tag was no longer an asset after the outbreak of the Korean War

The houses that did get built, including the very popular prefabs, were constructed to a good standard, but there simply were not enough of them for all the newlyweds and their post-war baby boom.  Ever-lengthening waiting lists rendered the future bleak for thousands of Aberdeen families.

A short-term practical answer lay in organising squats in empty properties such as the old camps at the Torry Battery and Tillydrone. Bob was once again organising.

He was now a family man himself, with a wife, Nan, and twin girls, Pat and Pam. He had to be earning; he joined the building trade and was soon involved in unionising the men. These activities eventually got him blacklisted from his beloved Aberdeen.  There were no vacancies when Bob came to call. He was elbowed out of the dignity of work.

It was a particularly difficult time for him. The Communist tag was no longer an asset after the outbreak of the Korean War.

Under American influence, Commies were everywhere depicted as enemies, fifth columnists undermining the democratic process. Even the comic books had replaced the square-headed Nazi enemy with the square-headed Commie enemy. Stalin’s death in 1953 was accompanied by a torrent of horror stories about purges and gulags.

Bob’s messianic message was no longer marketable.

Folk Celebrity

He spent twenty years in exile in Birmingham where he found work as an industrial crane operator. He lodged with Dave and Betty Campbell and their close-knit family. The Campbells were old comrades from Aberdeen days. He was adopted into their family and he shared their love of folk music.

Second generation Ian and Lorna became leading lights in the folk scene.  Ian’s sons, the third generation, went on to take the pop scene by storm by founding UB40, just as the third generation of the Socialist Lennox family of Aberdeen produced the great Annie Lennox of Eurhythmics and, later, solo fame. Music had been a popular Socialist activity in the Hungry Thirties.

The definitive Spanish Anthem, however, was written by Bob himself for the 27th anniversary reunion of the International Brigade

Then ambitious shows were presented. The rehearsals kept the young unemployed busy. Little Alfie Howie, an unemployed comb-maker, recalled dozens of rehearsals for a star turn choral enactment of the Volga Boatmen. On the night, the rope was long, the line descending in order of size and the song was over and the curtains closed before Alfie had even reached the narrow little stage.

Bob even wrote a complete musical for Unity Theatre, but it was never performed: Fascists and Spain got in the way.

Bob himself became a minor folk celebrity, performing traditional Northeast tunes such as the “Wee Toon Clerk” and “McGinty’s Meal And Ale”. He was also frequently requested to perform his own compositions such as “Foul Friday” and “Torry Belle” or Chartist or Wobbly songs of American labour or the Spanish anthems such as Alex McDade’s “Song of Jarama” sung to the tune of Red River Valley:

There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama
It’s a place that we all know so well
It is there that we gave of our manhood
And most of our brave comrades fell.

Alex himself died for the cause at Brunete in July 1938.

The definitive Spanish Anthem, however, was written by Bob himself for the 27th anniversary reunion of the International Brigade. He called it “Hasta La Vista, Madrid”.  It is a prose poem that he would deliver with gusto. He reckoned, with good reason, that it was the best thing he ever wrote.

Our century had to be cleansed
So we went to Spain
Where the defeat of Hitler started……

No freedom fight is ever lost
While folk can learn
Each human mind’s an outpost
And the frontiers of freedom expand

Conquering minds and hearts
Prelude to the conquest of cities and states
Till the world will be wholly free
Then Folk will strive for higher freedoms still.

Bob even appeared on vinyl as a singer with the “Singing Campbells”. He also worked with Hamish Henderson in the epic folk collection.

When he retired back home to Aberdeen in 1973 at the age of 65, he was “adopted” by the Aberdeen Folk Club. They honoured him by publishing in 1983 a selection of his songs and poems, “When of Heroes we sing”.

That little booklet sums up his philosophy of life and the causes he so fervently supported. He was now 75 and his health was rapidly failing. His active mind kept him awake; insomnia wore him down.

He spent his last months in Kingseat Hospital, still humming his tunes and composing poems in his head.

He died in August 1984 aged 78.

He gave so much and seemed to get so little in return, yet he was happy in comradeship and lived a full life. Bob could be very shy in company until he got to know you, and then he could be quite gregarious. He could tell you jokes you had heard many times before, but he added his own little bits to milk the story for a few more hilarious minutes.

He wanted a world full of laughter; he challenged a life full of injustice. He won his fair share of battles and never shirked a challenge. The cause was always more important than personal comfort. It was a life of sacrifice in a huge effort to improve conditions for his fellow men. He didn’t always win but he did inspire others to take up the cause.

He had a rich life worth celebrating, and it duly was celebrated in the Lemon Tree with a folk night featuring Dick Gaughan. The Trades Council also organised a celebration of the International Brigadiers in November 1989. His name lives on in the Housing Association development at Berryden: not bad for a squatter and a born rebel.

Footnote:

Aberdeen Voice wishes to thank Cllr Neil Cooney once again for permission to publish this inspiring story of a fellow Aberdonian to whom we owe an infinitely greater measure of gratitude.