Sep 122014
 

scotland2By Keith Marley.

Now, I am not a politician or an economist. I have 2 o’levels, Arithmetic and Engerlish, so I hope you don’t mind if I offer a simplified view of the situation. No doubt some ‘learned’ person out there may be able to illuminate me with a bag full of numbers, but, this is just the way I see it.

There still seems to be some confusion about the currency, so what happens if Westminster says no to a currency union?

To me Westminster does not have a choice. Ask yourself what would happen to the pound without Scotland. At the end of June the national debt of the UK was £1,304.6 billion.

A figure which has continued to climb despite all the austerity measures put in place. In other words we are currently failing to pay off the debt and actually accruing more debt. Refusing Scotland to share the pound would mean the rest of the UK would have to service this debt themselves. This would mean the pound would have 4,000,000 less people helping to service a debt they are failing to meet at the moment.

They would also not have the massive benefit of oil revenue contributing to pay off this debt. Put in simple terms the debt would be unserviceable and the pound would be well and truly screwed. To refuse Scotland the pound would make the austerity measures currently in place seem like a walk in the park.

Of course we could use an independent pound in the same way as Tokyo uses the dollar, but we are told by the ‘No’ people that this would leave us high and dry because we had defaulted on our side of the national debt. Without the Bank of England as lender of last resort other countries would be scared to trade with us or loan us money because we have no track record or credit history.

However, the way I see it is if Westminster does not allow Scotland to continue to pay our side of the ‘debt’ then it is them who are defaulting.

It’s a bit like borrowing from a bank to buy a car, making your payments regularly and then the bank coming and taking away your car and then claiming you were defaulting if you didn’t continue making the payments…..I don’t flaming well think so!

As for the other scary side of this suggestion, ask yourself this question. Two people you know come to your door looking for a loan. One is deep in debt, regularly gets into fights with other people costing him a fortune, (Argentina, Iraq, Afghanistan to name just a few) pays a high price for personal protection (Trident) and is having trouble meeting the repayments he already has, he’s just lost his major asset, (Oil), which will only make it more difficult for him to earn the money he needs to service his current debts.

The other has no debt at all and has an asset which provides a good regular income (Oil), has no wish to get into fights with strangers and doesn’t have any need for personal protection.

Which one would you be happy to offer a loan to?

Speaking personally, I would choose to say stuff Westminster, we will use our own currency, however, Alex Salmond says we should share the pound, a currency union. Mr Darling says it’s not on offer. One thing they both agree on is that all the other options would not be as good for Scotland.

So what would happen if Scotland votes ‘Yes’?

Mr Salmond would press for a currency union, but what is more important is what would all the other Scottish politicians do? If they truly have the interest of Scotland at heart then they would have no alternative but to pursue a currency union as well.

So, if we vote ‘Yes’ we won’t just have Alex Salmond arguing for a currency union, he will also be backed by Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie, all their parties, as well as all the rest of the ‘No’ campers too who still have a job in Scotland.

The formation of a united ‘Team Scotland’.

Despite all the political posturing Scotland will have a currency union if it wants one and I suspect we will also get it on our terms too.

This is just my opinion and the way I see it.

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Sep 052014
 

FergieRisesfeatLast week, following the launch in Glasgow and a media launch at Hampden of author Michael Grant’s ‘Fergie Rises: How Britain’s Greatest Manager Was Made In Aberdeen’, the books publishers, Aurum Press, kindly offered Voice two prize copies of the book.

David Innes, who reviewed the release for Aberdeen Voice was charged with the task of setting a question for readers to answer.

David asked:

“Which then player and future Dons manager accompanied Fergie to the harbour to welcome back The Red Navy from the ferryboat St Clair two days after the ECWC final in Gothenburg?”

Aberdeen Voice are delighted with the response, and glad to report that every single entrant to the competition gave the correct answer. It was of course Mark McGhee.

However, there are only two prizes, the two winners drawn are Ian Wright, Cove, and Alistair Duncan, Banchory. Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winners. Your details will be forwarded to Aurum press who will post your prize copies directly to you.

Aug 292014
 

FergieRisesBy David Innes.

Following last week’s launch in Glasgow and a media launch at Hampden, Michael Grant, author of Fergie Rises: How Britain’s Greatest Manager Was Made In Aberdeen, launched his book in the city where Sir Alex Ferguson first tasted real managerial success.

Michael was accompanied by heroes of the Fergie era, Neil Simpson and Neale Cooper. A respectable turnout at Aberdeen’s Waterstones saw Michael host a lively Q&A session where anecdotes and reminiscences delighted and informed those attending, some too young to have lived through the era.

The garrulous Cooper, in particular, was at his entertaining best, prompted by Simmie whose recollections were slightly less manic and animated, but no less warm.

What came across was that Sir Alex (‘We still call him ‘Boss’’, said Cooper), for all his snarling, strange logic and mind games, is still revered by those whose careers he founded. The reminiscences were affectionate and respectful and the gratitude heartfelt.

The author was delighted by the attendance and he and the ex-Dons were kept busy signing copies of the book, having commemorative photos taken with fans and buyers and chatting animatedly with those with particular memories of their own.

The publishers, Aurum Press, have kindly offered Voice two prize copies of Fergie Rises.

To enter the competition, just answer this:

Which then player and future Dons manager accompanied Fergie to the harbour to welcome back The Red Navy from the ferryboat St Clair two days after the ECWC final in Gothenburg?

Send your answer to competition@aberdeenvoice.com. Since the publisher has volunteered to mail the prizes directly to the winners, you’ll need to include your postal address with your entry. Good luck.

Aug 292014
 

“Just the way I see it” writes Keith Marley.

scotland2As I understand it the Scottish Government is currently responsible for 7% of taxes raised in Scotland. However it does have the ability to reallocate some, if not all, of the funds it receives from Westminster.
As a result we have a superior education system at all levels, a not perfect but superior health service, free university places for Scottish students, free prescriptions, free travel for the elderly and have even done away with toll bridges, yet despite all these benefits I am not aware of any services or standards which are in any way substandard to the rest of the UK.

Our country has massive oil reserves with enough oil discovered in the North Sea already to ensure prosperity for at least the next 3 generations.

We are at the forefront of renewable energy technology with 25% of Europe’s tidal and wind potential. All this in addition to our successful, established industries in Whisky, Tourism, Manufacturing, Construction, Agriculture and the Creative industries from fashion to computer games which is enough to make us a wealthy country even if we didn’t have oil.

Here’s the bit I don’t understand……If we vote ‘Yes’ we will have complete control over our whole economy, but if we vote ‘No’ we may be given some more powers such as raising taxes.

I don’t know about anybody else but the promise of paying increased tax hasn’t swung my vote yet. As for these other ‘powers’ there seems to be much shuffling of feet and unconfirmed mumbled answers. Of course it will all depend on who is in power if and when Scotland actually becomes independent.

It seems to me that just as many in Westminster will take a ‘No’ vote as a good enough reason to put an end to the Barnett formula resulting in a decrease in money coming back to Scotland as well as fewer M.P.s which means less representation for Scottish interests.

If we vote ‘Yes’ we are told we will lose the pound, but I think, and I suspect the majority of Scots also think, that this will also be detrimental to the rest of the UK and simply political posturing. If not, there are other options many of which are becoming more appealing as time goes on.

We are told that an independent Scotland will no longer enjoy the status of ‘being a world power’ influencing international politics. That suits me just fine, I didn’t agree with getting involved in Iraq or Afghanistan any more than I agreed with the conflict with Argentina over the Falkland isles. If we are no longer a nuclear force then I am confident we will be no longer a nuclear target either.

We have been told by the ‘No’ campaign that we will be out of the E.U. which frankly, seems to be strange threat for 2 reasons.

Why would Europe not welcome a country with a strong economy, which already meets all the standards and criteria for acceptance as well as having Europe’s main oil reserves, wind and wave potential and is Europe’s main provider of fish as well as being an existing trading partner with strong import and export links already established? It seems to me that there will be a rush to ‘fast track’ Scotland as quickly as possible.

The second reason for my doubt about this being a potential threat is the fact that the UK government has already promised (if re-elected) to hold a referendum about staying in the EU which judging by the recent U-KIP wins could well result in Scotland being pulled out of the EU like it or not along with the rest of the UK.

I am not affiliated to any political party and my hope is that come independence and Scotland’s first general election I will be able to vote for a party that truly reflects my own opinions and desires.

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Aug 152014
 

FergieRisesBy David Innes.

I feel sorry for Aberdeen’s intensely loyal and still proud younger generation of fans. In the same way as I would listen in awe to older relatives recount the 1947 Cup triumph and the 1955 title win, these young people can now only gain an insight to the triumphs of 35 years ago through dewy-eyed reminiscences of washed-up, ageing curmudgeons like me.

To them, and to those of us who were there, Fergie Rises may be almost biblical, as it tracks the UK’s most successful-ever manager’s genesis as he turned the Scottish and European game on its head during eight riotously-successful and controversy-packed years.

Wordsworth was probably a Barrow or Workington fan, but he predicted the 1980s for Dons fans,  ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.

Michael Grant, Chief Football Writer at The Herald, has, for once, put aside his neutrality and written directly from his red heart about the most exciting time of our fitba lives.

Like his BBC colleague, Richard Gordon, Grant, on air, does not hide his allegiance, and whilst others purport to be fans of Partick Thistle or Dumbarton or St Mirren whilst toeing the media party line, the pair take the jibes in their stride and remain coolly professional, honest and unbiased. Fergie Rises has allowed this Highland loon the opportunity to cast aside neutrality and produce a labour of love.

The outline tale is familiar and bears no re-hashing here, but the author, as much out of interest as research, one imagines, has added significantly to the known narrative by interviewing those involved and several opponents of the era. With the benefit of elapsed time, the insights are fresh and new and the through-gritted-teeth admiration expressed by then bitter adversaries add a new dimension.

We weren’t popular, having shattered the incestuous and expected duopoly of you-know-who, but where there was bitterness, there is now an appreciation of Sir Alex’s single-mindedness in making Aberdeen the force that everyone feared, Scotland’s most successful-ever European representatives.

But above all that, it is Grant’s own passion that permeates and defines Fergie Rises and makes it the book that all of us would have loved to have written. Chapter titles like, ‘Be arrogant, get at their bloody throats’, ‘Ipswich fall to the Jock Bastards’ and ‘This season’s target is two trophies…minimum’ give a flavour of the content and the author’s personal buy-in.

Fergie Rises can rightfully take up position on your shelves next to your Leatherdale, Rickaby, Gordon and Webster tomes as an indispensible chronicle of the defining common sporting cause of NE Scotland.

Michael Grant will be signing copies of Fergie Rises at Waterstones, Union Street, Aberdeen on the evening of 27 August. We’re hoping to arrange an interview with him too

FERGIE RISES
Michael Grant
Aurum Press
ISBN 978 1 78131 093 9
319pp

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Sep 132013
 

Well, that’s Offshore Europe over and done with for another two years, and yet again it was a relative success, writes Fin Hall.

Taxis. Credit: Fred Wilkinson

The word relative is important here.

Thousands upon thousands of visitors, mainly males in light blue shirts, descended on the city and its surroundings, spending their company’s money on taxis, buses, restaurants, bars and ridiculously overpriced hotels.

There were keen ones taking photos throughout the city to show to their spouses and some might have bought a souvenir or two, if they were able to find the time between meetings, cocktail parties and free dinners.

After all, they were on business trips, and not (ahem…) an all expenses-paid party trip.

Personally, as a taxi driver, I thoroughly enjoy the experience, apart from the traffic jams of course, and not just for the extra business to my trade, although that does help.

I enjoy meeting people who tend to be here for the first time and are interested in hearing about the history of the city, and are fascinated by the grey granite buildings which look so much better in the really good weather that we had during the this year’s show. Some have even made up their minds to return for a holiday break with their wives.

There seem to be mixed feelings about the actual exhibition itself. Some say they don’t really enjoy attending, but do so because their boss tells them to, whilst others don’t mind at all. Some really enjoy it and get a lot out of it.

The general consensus is that there is very little, if any, business done inside the marquees and buildings, where the focus is mainly on a great deal of networking, exchanges of business cards and putting faces to names. There’s a lot of and catching up with old friends and making new ones.

I have been told that most solid deals and promises are done over dinner or, believe it or not, in the taxi queue.

But everyone agrees that the city makes them feel welcome and whole experience is really well run.

As yet, nobody has explained why the gates were locked

But….ah yes, there is always a ‘but’.

To return to the term ‘relative’ in relation to the Exhibition’s success, there were a couple of black marks against this year’s proceedings.

First was the well-publicised locking up of one of the overspill car parks, not only because cars were still awaiting to exit, but, for some inexplicable reason, concrete blocks were dumped on the ground inside the gate. This occurred after a car went on fire in the area, causing two hour delays, resulting in an extensive line of traffic.

This chaos was heightened by the fact that the Dons had scheduled a match against Viking FK of Stavanger with a 1900 kick off time.

As yet, nobody has explained why the gates were locked when cars were still inside. I know that the sign said that the car park was scheduled to close at 1900, but surely anybody with half a brain would have been aware of the situation? Also, what was the idea of putting the concrete blocks in place? I am aware that normally this empty lot is kept blocked off to restrict entry to it by travellers, but surely with 24 hour security in place, the need for laying blocks was totally unnecessary?

Not to worry though, the police finally managed to get somebody to nip over and relieve the blockade. After much persuasion, he grudgingly did the business. At 2300.

As for the P&J, I believe it was, pointing out that amongst the cars trapped inside there were even ‘Mercedes and Land Rovers‘.

How puerile and sycophantic was that? Should we be impressed or feel even more sorry for those vehicle owners than for the guys involved in the lock-in who had Mondeos or Skodas?

An edition of Aberdeen Voice seemingly cannot be published without the council coming in for criticism. This time, it is to do with their efforts in trying to lay on some free events for the visiting masses.

First of all was the three-day closure of Belmont Street for the country fair, which ran from mid afternoon until nine at night. On passing several times, it looked less than mobbed, although it was hard to differentiate between folk actually at the market and people coming and going from the street’s pubs and cafes.

The second laid-on event turned out to be an even bigger waste of your council tax

Why they insist on blocking off thoroughfares for this and the pseudo-continental market, when they have a ready-made market stance at Castlegate, and the larger Union Terrace Gardens, still mystifies most folk

The second laid-on event turned out to be an even bigger waste of your council tax, and that was the non-advertised free music shows held in the quadrangle of the Marischal College.

These concerts, which some of you may still not be aware of, consisted of an international evening, a Scottish evening and a jazz night.

Another faux pas here by our city fathers. Never mind that they seemed not to let anyone know about this, they decided to start the shows at 1800 and run until 2100.

This is really anything but an ideal starting time. It’s even worse than the free match at Pittodrie, since the exhibition didn’t end until 1800, and the taxi rank generally cleared of the remaining stragglers around 1945.

After a busy day, and before dining, the exhibitors and the visitors probably needed at least a half hour rest. So maybe if someone in the corridors of power, had really thought this through, then 2000 would have probably been a more sensible start time.

I picked up a man on Wednesday night who had been performing at the Scottish event, and he said that there were only around thirty people at the show. He also said that the line-up was ‘crap’, although he did use a stronger term to describe his fellow performers.

On passing the Thursday event in my car, it appeared that the jazz evening had a slightly larger audience than previous nights and there were even some people dancing. But overall I don’t think the term ‘success’ can be used to describe what should have been an entertaining affair.

Finally turning to my own profession, whilst most taxi drivers come out to provide a good service, and, yes, to make some extra cash, others decided that, and I quote, ‘I couldn’t be bothered’. Again, a stronger word was used.

It is unfair that some deride the industry which has helped stabilise the city through some lean years

What? You couldn’t be bothered providing a service? Couldn’t be bothered making some extra cash? Oh I see, it’s the idea that the regular Joe Public is being neglected whilst all attention is aimed at the high rollers. Well, in fact, the taxi companies make a point of servicing both their regulars and the visitors, being aware that once the Exhibition is over, life goes on.

It is unfair that some deride the industry which has helped stabilise the city through some lean years, when other cities have suffered high unemployment. The oil business is far from perfect and some feel that it should have been doing more for the city and the populace, but maybe history is to blame for that.

When the big companies first came here and wanted to build, the then council should have said, ‘OK, but first you must do THIS for the town’.

Is that too naive? I don’t think so. When Stewart Milne wanted to develop at Portlethen, Aberdeenshire Council insisted that his company build a new underpass and road system, which he did.

Contrary to this, many years ago, when a company moved into the big house on Howes Road and turned it into an office block, warehouse and yard, they applied to the council to build a road linking their new premises to Lang Stracht to save juggernauts trundling through the housing estate where children would be playing. Unsurprisingly, the council declined their offer.

I realise that this seems to be ending on a negative note, and that really was not my intention. I really wanted this to be a relatively positive piece. Hey, there’s that word again,

So what lessons should be learned from this week?

First of all, obviously, when organising something, make sure that it is well-advertised and that citizens and visitors are aware of it.

Secondly, organise events to start and finish at reasonable times and have them somewhere people passing by will come across them, like the top deck of St Nicholas Centre, or even Union Terrace Gardens.

And finally, make sure there are security or police at every car park exit until all the vehicles have departed.

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Mar 282013
 

Last  week marked the 242nd anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was one of the most important examples in history of people taking control of their own lives and reorganising their society. In the second part of Simon Gall’s two-part analysis of the Commune through the eyes of some important progressive scholars, we examine its destruction by the French government in May 1871, but learn how its legacy lives on and how it has influenced and inspired the generations since.

The Downfall of the Commune

On 21 May, Versailles troops entered Paris and spent seven days massacring “defenceless Men, Women and Children”.

They were “cut to pieces” and “shot down in hundreds by mitrailleuse fire”.

There were random street executions and accounts of people being buried alive after the firing squads had failed to do their jobs properly.

Marx wrote, “Even the atrocities of the bourgeois in June, 1848, vanish before the ineffable infamy of 1871” and continued, “the great problem…(was) how to get rid of the heaps of corpses…after the battle was over. About 30,000 Parisians were shot down by the bestial soldiery, and about 45,000 were arrested, many of whom were afterwards executed, while thousands were transported or exiled.”

Opinions on the Commune

The Communards were endlessly praised by socialist writers the world over for their determination and bravery in attempting to bring about a new society, but many also offered their own analysis of what went wrong. All realised that the cards were stacked against the Commune from the beginning.

Indeed the situation led Peter Kropotkin to write, “The Commune of 1871 could be nothing but a first attempt. Beginning at the close of a great war, hemmed in between two armies ready to join hands and crush the people.” Nevertheless, scholars gave their opinions on the movement.

Peter Kropotkin was both heartened and disheartened by the Commune.

He saw traces of Anarchism in its governance, “By proclaiming the free Commune, the people of Paris proclaimed an essential anarchist principle, which was the breakdown of the State” and recognised its historical importance when he stated that with the movement of the “Commune of Paris a new idea was born”, and that it was “to become the starting point for future revolutions.”

In the months following the fall of the Commune, the luxury of hindsight meant that he was able to ponder calmly what he felt went wrong.

The first problem he noted was, “It neither boldly declared itself socialist nor proceeded to the expropriation of capital nor the organisation of labour. It did not even take stock of the general resources of the city….nor did it break with (in practice) the tradition of the State, of representative government…..they let themselves get carried away by the fetish worship of governments and set one up of their own.”

He felt that the Commune went some way towards realising the vision of a stateless society

He felt that this led to elected representatives falling out of touch with the electorate. He proposed that they had lost the “inspiration which only comes from continual contact with the masses” and had become “paralyzed by their separation from the people” and that “they themselves (had) paralyzed the popular initiative.”

In 1892, he continued his observations on the Commune, noting that the hunger that plagued Paris had been instrumental in the downfall of the revolution, the “Commune perished for lack of combatants. It had taken for the separation of Church and State, but it neglected, alas, until too late, to take measures for providing the people with bread.”

Mikhail Bakunin joyously claimed that, “Revolutionary Socialism (Anarchism) has just attempted its first striking and practical demonstration in the Paris Commune.” He felt that the Commune went some way towards realising the vision of a stateless society. Federated Communes, delegates bound by the imperative mandate, and the concept of instant recall were concepts which Bakunin had been discussing since around 1848.

He continued, “I am a supporter (of the Commune), above all, because of it was a bold, clearly formulated negation of the State.”

Whilst being careful to never lay blame at any Communard door he observed, “The proletariat of the great cities of France, and even of Paris, still cling to many Jacobin (radical bourgeois) prejudices, and to many dictatorial and governmental concepts. The cult of authority – the fatal result of religious education, that historic source of all evils, deprivations, and servitude – has not yet been completely eradicated in them.”

To him, the influence of the Jacobins “was the great misfortune for the Commune” because “they were paralyzed, and they paralyzed the Commune….they lacked the time and even the capacity to overcome and subdue many of their own bourgeois prejudices which were contrary to their newly acquired socialism.”

Karl Marx wrote one of the most comprehensive accounts of the Paris Commune, praising the revolution with the best of words, “Working mens’ Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators’ history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.”

launching a resolute offensive against Versailles would have crowned its victory in Paris

He was immensely proud of what the Commune had achieved, despite being unconvinced about it at its inception. When he heard of the plan to overthrow the Government, he called the plan “a folly of despair.”

He changed his tune and began watching in awe as the proletariat of Paris took the reins. The movement had such a profound effect on their thinking that in 1872 he and Friedrich Engels edited the Communist Manifesto stating that, it was, in places out of date and declared “that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.”

Later, Marx would call the Commune “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.” After Marx’s death in 1883, Engels wrote in March 1891, “Look at the Paris Commune.That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” using the Commune to prove their thinking.

In a letter to Dr. Kugelmann, Marx pointed to two mistakes the Communards made.

The first was that “They did not want to start the Civil War”. This point was pondered by Lenin years later. He felt that the Communards should have marched on Versailles because “launching a resolute offensive against Versailles would have crowned its victory in Paris”. He wrote that the hesitation “gave the Versailles Government time to gather dark forces and prepare for the blood-soaked week of May.”

He felt that the Commune aimed to achieve something very important – anti-parliamentarianism

The second mistake in Marx’s eyes was that the Central Committee of the National Guard “surrendered its power too soon, to make way for the Commune.” Presumably Marx thought that the Central Committee should have kept things under tighter control for longer, or perhaps decreed more reforms before resigning.

Lenin too paid tribute to the people of the Commune.

He wrote that the events and their actions were “unprecedented in history. Up to that time power had, as a rule, been in the hands of landowners and capitalists, ie the hands of their trusted agents who made up the so-called government.” He noted its importance as a grassroots movement by stating that “no one consciously prepared it in an organised way.”

He felt that the Commune aimed to achieve something very important – anti-parliamentarianism. It was to be “a working body” that sought to combine the work of the executive and legislative branches of government into one.

This was vital for Lenin as it stopped Parliament from becoming just a talking shop for “the parliamentarians must themselves work, must themselves execute their own laws, must themselves verify their results in actual life, must themselves be directly responsible to their electorate.”

However, he criticised the Commune for not “expropriating the expropriators”. He noted that large organisations, such as the Bank of France had not been targeted. The Communards could have made use of the capital. Also, he wrote that there was “no workers’ party, the working class had not gone through a long school of struggle and was unprepared.”

Despite his criticisms, Lenin diligently noted that “the chief thing which the Commune lacked was time – an opportunity to take stock of the situation and to embark upon the fulfilment of its programme…The Commune had to concentrate primarily on self-defence…it had no time to think seriously of anything else.”

Conclusion

The Commune is held up as proof by both anarchists and socialists of how their ideas and theories work in practice. The anarchists saw it as a negation of the state and the socialists saw it as the functioning Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

It is still the subject of much analysis and discussion in academia and among activists and trade unionists around the world. It has been examined on numerous occasions by the arts.  La Commune Film is one example.

It has inspired and continues to inspire people in search of alternative ways of living.

References and further reading

M Bakunin        The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

F Engels          Introduction to The Civil War in France

F Engels          Reflection in Introduction

P Kropotkin      The Conquest of Bread

P Kropotkin      The Commune of Paris

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 – Marx’s Analysis

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Lessons from the Commune

V Lenin             In Memory of the Commune

K Marx               The Civil War in France

K Marx               Letters to Dr.Kugelmann on the Paris Commune

Mar 212013
 

This week marks the 242nd anniversary of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was one of the most important examples in history of people taking control of their own lives and reorganising their society. In the first part of Simon Gall’s two-part examination of the Commune through the eyes of some important progressive scholars, we take a look at how the Commune came about, its short history and its structure.

The experiment ended in May 1871 when it was destroyed by the French government, but its legacy lives on and it continues to inspire. The Commune was the subject matter of the Socialist and Anarchist anthem, “L’Internationale”

The Commune and its importance.

“Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators’ history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

“Paris inflicting a mortal blow upon the political traditions of the bourgeois radicalism and giving a real basis to revolutionary socialism (anarchism) against the reactionaries of France and Europe….Paris destroying nationalism and erecting the religion of humanity upon its ruins; Paris proclaiming herself humanitarian and atheist, and replacing divine fictions with the great realities of social life and faith in science.” – M BakuninThe Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

“It was an event unprecedented in history. Up to that time power had, as a rule, been in the hands of landowners and capitalists, ie the hands of their trusted agents who made up the so-called government.” V Lenin – Lenin on the Commune – 3 - In Memory of the Commune

The direct antithesis of the Empire was the Commune.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

 “The political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour.” – K MarxThe Civil War in France

Overview

In 1871, the citizens of Paris took control of their own destinies and sought to break with the idea of bourgeois government, by seizing Paris and moulding it into something new.

On 18 March, they proclaimed the Commune and began dismantling the old Bonapartist structures of government.

People grew excited at the prospect of being masters of their own lives as the Commune began promulgating revolutionary decrees. However, after only 72 days, the rebellion was ferociously crushed by Government troops in a seven-day massacre.

Tens of thousands lost their lives but the idea lived, and still lives on. The experience of Communards changed political thinking forever and provided a sort of blueprint, or the beginnings of a blueprint, for future revolutions.

Lenin wrote of the Commune,

“The significance of the Commune, furthermore, lies in the fact that it endeavoured to crush, to smash to its very foundations, the bourgeois state apparatus, the bureaucratic, judicial, military and police machine, and to replace it by a self-governing, mass worker’s organisation in which there was no division between legislative and executive power.”  – Lenin on the Commune – 6. Bourgeois Democracy

Who what when where why?

In July 1870, French Emperor Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon III) declares war on Prussia. However, only three months later, he and his General, MacMahon, are captured along with more than 80000 soldiers at the Battle of Sedan. On hearing the news, the workers of Paris storm the Palais Bourbon and force the legislative body to proclaim the fall of the Second Empire.

By evening, the provisional Government of National Defence (GND) is formed, “All Parisians capable of bearing arms had enrolled in the National Guard and were armed” and the Third Republic is proclaimed.

In the next few weeks, Bonaparte’s forces surrender and, by October 31, the GND is ready to begin negotiations with the Prussians, but the Parisian workers rebel. The enemy reaches Paris but is only allowed a small corner of the capital by the Parisians. The Prussians disarm the city’s Mobile Guard but permit the National Guard to keep their weapons.

The revolutionary sections of the National Guard form the Central Committee to coordinate matters inside Paris and the newly-formed government of Adolphe Theirs flees to Versailles in March.

On the 18 March, Theirs sends government troops to disarm Paris but the soldiers refuse to carry out their orders and instead turn their guns on their Generals Claude Martin Lecomte and Jacques Leonard Clement Thomas. Some soldiers join the Commune. Thiers is outraged and the Civil War begins.

The Paris Commune was elected through universal suffrage on the 26 March 1871.

The Structure of the Commune

The Paris Commune

made use of two infallible means. In the first place, it filled all posts – administration, judicial and educational – by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And, in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.” The maximum wage was set at 6000 francs, providing “an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism…even apart from the binding mandate to delegates to representative bodies.”

The Commune was to spread across France. It was to be the structure of even the smallest hamlets.

“Rural Communes of every district were to administer their common affairs by an assembly of delegates (with the imperative mandate) in the central town” and was to be a “working body, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.”

Marx noted that the Municipal Councillors were “naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class.”

Decrees and Actions of the Commune

28 March

The Central Committee of the National Guard dissolves itself after decreeing the abolition of the Police.

30 March

The Commune abolishes conscription and the Army and declares the National Guard, comprising everyone who can bear arms, to be the sole armed force.

The Commune remits all payments of rent for dwelling houses from October 1870 until April 1871, with the amounts already paid to be used as future rent payments.

Foreigners elected to the Commune were confirmed in office. “The flag of the Commune is the flag of the World Republic”

1 April

Maximum wage set for Commune at 6000 francs (£4)

2 April

The Commune decreed the separation of Church and State. It abolished all state payments for religious purposes (priests’ wages etc) and all property was to become national property.

5th April

In response to the daily shooting of Commune prisoners by Versailles troops it was decreed that NO prisoner of the Commune should be shot.

6th April

La Guillotine was brought into the street by the National Guard and publicly burned “amid great popular rejoicing.”

8th April

Religious symbols, pictures, dogmas and prayers were excluded from schools.

12th April

The Commune decides to destroy Napoleon’s victory column, made from smelted weapons captured from a fallen army, as a symbol of nationalistic chauvinism.

16th April

Review of closed factories with a view to organising worker’s control of those factories in the form of co-operatives. The co-operatives were to federate into one great co-operative union. In the end 43 factories were organised this way.

30th April

Pawnshops were closed as they were “in contradiction with the right of the workers to their instruments of labour and to credit.”

5th May

The Commune orders the razing of the Chapel of Atonement which had been built in expiation of the execution of Louis XVI

9th May

The Versailles army closes in on Paris and captures its first Parisian fort.

10th May

The Treaty of Frankfurt is signed by Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor, and Thiers the head of the French Government. The conditions were set out mainly by Prussia as they were in the strongest position. The deal was that France would pay Prussia 5bn Francs in indemnities over a shorter period of time than first agreed and Bismarck would continue the occupation of Parisian forts until he “should feel satisfied with the state of things in France”, making him the “supreme arbiter in internal French politics”. In return, Bismarck would release the remaining “100,000 French prisoners of war to help crush revolutionary Paris.”

References and further reading

M Bakunin        The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State

F Engels           Introduction to The Civil War in France

F Engels          Reflection in Introduction

P Kropotkin      The Conquest of Bread

P Kropotkin      The Commune of Paris

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 – Marx’s Analysis

V Lenin             Lenin on the Commune – Lessons from the Commune

V Lenin             In Memory of the Commune

K Marx               The Civil War in France

K Marx               Letters to Dr.Kugelmann on the Paris Commune

In part 2 of Simon’s brief overview of the Commune, he will detail its destruction, the lessons that writers and political historians have learned from it and how its influence still permeates radical and progressive thinking nearly 250 years later.

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Feb 182013
 

A debate on the desirability or otherwise of NATO membership will be taking place in Aberdeen on Friday, 22nd February. With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

The question of NATO membership became headline news when the SNP decided to overturn their policy for an independent Scotland not to join NATO at their conference in October.

NATO is a military alliance which was set up during the cold war in 1949 but has outlived the Eastern Block.

Since 1991 NATO has conducted military operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya as well as having a training mission in Iraq and deploying warships to protect maritime traffic in from Somali pirates.

Alex Johnstone is a North-East for the Scottish Conservatives and will be speaking in favour of NATO membership.

John Finnie is an independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands region who opposes membership of NATO and resigned from the SNP over their change of policy on NATO.

The debate promises to be both interesting and informative and should get to the heart of whether or not an independent Scotland should be neutral or a member of NATO.

The debate will take place at 7.30pm on Friday 22nd February in room 613 in the MacRobert building at the University of Aberdeen. It is being hosted by the University’s Politics and International Relations Society in partnership with Aberdeen Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Nov 092012
 

Who cares if the envious and small-minded accuse Aberdeen fans of ‘living in the 1980s’? Not Richard Gordon, for whom his book Glory In Gothenburg is a labour of love, nor Voice reviewer David Innes, a terrace veteran of the great 70s and 80s campaigns.

Who better, we opined when covering this book’s launch, to document Aberdeen’s greatest twin achievements than self-confessed Dons fanatic, yet fair-minded broadcaster Richard Gordon?
His own view is that whilst the story of triumph is well-known, there are many behind the scenes tales to be told, to paint an even more vibrant tapestry of what was the zenith of the Dons’ sometimes not-too-glorious history.

The author has succeeded in this objective and Glory In Gothenburg is a fabulous read where the passion drips from the pages.

On more than one occasion I had to swallow something hard and jagged as the emotions of the two year period covered by the book welled up in me thirty years on. Fitba, eh?

What makes it even more special though are the stories never heard before as told by the players.

Gordon’s dogged research has seen him hunt down everyone involved and get the inside line on what were the defining moments of his heroes’ careers.

Cleverly, each of the players quoted are linked to a particular match on the memorable run from Fir Park to the parade, as my late friend Alan said at the time, of Gunther Netzer’s P45 around the track at Pittodrie as the Super Cup plaque confirmed that the Reds were undisputedly the best club in Europe.

Among the surprises is Gordon Strachan’s claim that he didn’t really take in much of the detail and his admission that after watching the Gothenburg final on ESPN relatively recently, he phoned Alex McLeish to declare excitedly, ‘We weren’t a bad team, were we?’

Eric Black weighs in with a comment that beautifully encapsulates the confidence of youth, ‘I had nothing to compare it with obviously, I just thought that was how it was – you turned up, played a game, got shouted at a bit and won a trophy every year!’

There are moving passages about, for example, John McMaster, whose injury problems limited what should have been a sparkling career and which should have seen him capped ahead of others not quite so outrageously-gifted. Stuart Kennedy, by dint of not playing in the Ullevi Stadium, does not merit his own chapter, but he is showered with affection by his team mates throughout Glory In Gothenburg.

They knew, even better than we devotees did, that this was an athlete who contributed incalculably to results and the unique team spirit of that squad.

Even the formidable and fearsome Fergie is shown to have a soft side. Stuart Kennedy, on the bench for the ECWC Final reveals, ‘…at one stage he sent me out to warm up. When I asked why he’d bothered to send me out, he told me, ‘I gave you a run out in front of the fans and let them sing your name’ and I really appreciated that’.

Gordon also tells of his sorrow at losing his friend Phil Goodbrand, who at only 22, died during the final in Gothenburg and how annual celebrations on 11 May are always tempered by the memory of this inexplicable loss.

There have been attempts before to capture the effervescent, ebullient spirit of those days when we swaggered across Europe contemptuously dismissing those who had the temerity to think they could compete with us, but it has taken a highly-articulate and unashamed fan who makes his living from words, to put together this, the best and most heartfelt account of a time we are unlikely ever to experience again.

  • Note: the publisher has kindly offered three copies to give away as prizes in a reader competition that Voice will arrange in the next week or two. Thanks to Paul at Black & White Publishing. 

Glory In Gothenburg. Richard Gordon. Black & White Publishing. 276 pages £14.99
ISBN 978 1 84502 470 3