Siol nan Gaidheal

Discussion on Socialism

After reading various entries, it appears that not enough debate has been given to the philosophy which will affect the lives of our citizens after the fight for Independence has been achieved. This has also been discussed on other political forums and there does appear to be a lot of confusion, as to what, actually, Socialism is all about. For a start Socialism runs from the one extreme of Communism, through Anarchism right down the scale to Social Democracy with many shades of opinion in between. Let us start by defining these main ideas of Socialism.

1. State socialism: a political system in which the state has control of industries and services.

2. Social market economy: (also social market) an economic system based on a free market operated in conjunction with state provision for those unable to sell their labour, such as the elderly or unemployed.

3. Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the Community as a whole. Policy or practice based on this theory. (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of Capitalism and the realization of Communism.

The term 'socialism' has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state Communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammelled workings of the economic market. (Free Market) The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended towards social democracy, especially we should note Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark.

What we should be aspiring to is Social Democracy in which wealth is created not only for the wealth creators, but the disadvantaged members of society, thus making Scotland an 'Inclusive Society.' The old clan system was socialistic rather than paternalistic and for thousands of years Celtic society was based on the premise of, to each according to his needs, from each according to his means. Although the clans were mainly composed of warriors who were vitally needed to fight off the depredations of the Teutonic barbarians, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and any one else who wanted a punch-up, the clans did practice a social system that was very enlightened for its day and in many respects still is. The clan was made of many extended basic family units, who lived in one area and owed allegiance to their chief or Toiseach. The Toiseach would allocate plots of ground to each family depending on the numbers to be fed and animal fodder required. The Toiseach would also allocate the common grazings, the Starna Ceapach where the cattle, sheep and goats would be pastured, and looked after by more mature children to ensure the animals did not get among the growing crops. The head of the family had to pay rental for this land, both in kind, say 10% of his crops and in military service. In return he received the protection of the clan. Should he die in battle or in the service of the Toiseach, then his sons would be adopted and his wife and dependants provided for by the clan.

The clansman was responsible for maintaining the fertility of the land to ensure it was in as good condition as when he received it. Old people were revered for their wisdom and were always provided for, with a roof over their heads, food and fuel to keep them alive and warm. Surpluses were always distributed to the neediest members of the clan. Many's the time my pals and I would go fishing for mackerel in my grandfather's boat with home-made handlines and lures and when the fishing was good, the spare fish was always given to the widows and the old folk. I can still remember finding the wee parcels in the byre of a morning, a haunch of venison, or a side of salmon, even a brace of grouse or pheasants on occasion.

Things changed for the worse, when a succession of Scottish Kings and Lowland lairds imposed the Norman Feudal system on the clans, thus undoing all the good work of King Robert the Bruce in unifying the Highlands and Lowlands. So let us skip a few centuries forward to the Industrial Revolution and its effects on Scotland bringing forth the birth of the Socialist Movement.

The words Socialist and Socialism came into use in Great Britain and France soon after 1825, and were first seen in the writings of certain writers who were seeking a complete transformation of the economic and moral basis of society by the substitution of social for individual control and of social for individualistic forces in the organization of life and work. For many members of this forum, this lesson in history is not required, but so that we all sing from the same hymn sheet here is a wee jar of potted history. In Great Britain the followers of Owen officially adopted the name Socialists in 1841. The word Socialism was popularized as the antithesis to individualism by P.Leroux and J.Reynaud in their 'Encyclopedie Nouvelle' and in their other writings, and had come by 1840 to be freely used on the continent of Europe to describe the schools of Saint-Simon, Francois Fourier, Owen and others who attacked the existing system of commercial competition and put forward proposals for a new way of life based on collective control. Later these earlier schools of socialism were categorized by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as 'utopian socialism,' in contrast with the 'scientific socialism,' based on the materialistic conception of history, of which they were the pioneers. Karl Marx brought the seat of the International (communism) to the United States in 1872. Marx had a theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which the Bolsheviks put into force in the Soviet Union after 1917. The American Socialist party polled nearly 1,000,000 votes in the presidential election of 1912. Marx also wrote 'Socialism: principles and outlook. Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property.'

The Industrial Revolution was a time of sheer drudgery and virtual slavery for millions of Scots, working in the mines, iron foundries, shipyards, jute mills, linen weaving and building the infrastructure of Industrial Scotland, and the pervasive message of Socialism was extremely attractive to the downtrodden working classes who lived in the poorest social conditions in the western world. There are numerous records of whole families living in a single squalid tenement room, one child in five died before they reached 6 years of age. Many prominent men such as the Marxist John MacLean came into public view. Also in the 1920's and 30's the Labour Party managed to get its stranglehold on local politics which it is still maintaining without making any real impact for good in the lives or social conditions of our citizens, thus there is still much misery and deprivation today. During the 1950's to the 1970's, Labour Party dogma destroyed much of Britain's industry, and extremely high levels of taxation caused an exodus of wealth creators to shut up shop and move to more pleasant financial climates like Australia, NZ, Singapore, Canada, the USA, Japan and S.E. Asia. Many UK taxpayers were faced with anomalous tax demands for 1.03p in the pound on each 1 earned, which is the main reason the 'Beatles' moved to the US with its benign tax regime. Dennis Healey, the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a statement in Parliament that he 'would squeeze the rich until the pips squealed!' A week later the outflow of capital was unstoppable, the value of the pound went into a nosedive and six months later Britain was bankrupt, and sitting outside the World Monetary Fund with a begging bowl.

Next on the scene was Margaret Hilda Thatcher with her ideas on Free Market economics, which resulted in the unfettered march of Capitalism, which in turn was highly destructive towards community life and social cohesion. Market forces under the Toraidhs and New Labour Toraidhs with their emphasis on mass markets and globalization have been let rip and the ones who are suffering are the poor, the old, the disadvantaged and the disabled. To make my position clear, I am implacably opposed to unfettered market forces in just the same way that I have opposed Communism and the madness that some forms of Socialism engender. I believe that Scotland must have a caring Socialist Government harnessed to the wealth creation of Capitalism for the good of all our people. Our Independent government must create the right conditions for trade to flourish, (such as a Freeport), businesses to be created without taxation killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. We must have the long overdue fair treatment of our old people, that gives them a decent living pension, affordable, well heated yet cheap to run housing and the restoration of dignity by recognizing their contributions in the past. The Sick NHS, disabled, unemployed. Reducing the cost of housing by building more council housing and encouraging industrial firms to do likewise with tax breaks. In my vision of a Socialist Scotland, Railtrack is re-nationalised, Air Traffic Control remains under state control, Water is kept as a public utility. We will have a Health Service, free to all. Councils will be free to build more cheap housing and rid our countryside of the eyesore view of young families living in cramped insanitary caravans, by giving them modern homes. Remote communities will receive help to reduce ferry costs such as making the Fuel oil duty free, free berthing charges and abolition of passenger taxes. The building of a modern infrastructure, in roads, railways, ferry terminals, air links and digital communications.

All these things will cost a great deal of money, and it can only come about when the Social Democratic Government of Scotland works hand in hand with business to create wealth which lubricates the economy of all countries. The more wealth that is created, the greater the taxation revenue,p rovided Scotland is not greedy and does not levy extortionate rates of taxation. I would keep the basic rate at 20% for the first 10,000, 25% for the next 20,000, 30% for the next 20,000, 40% for the next 50,000 and 50% on all earnings over 100,000. I would restore the Married Couples allowance and give each person a personal allowance of 6,000, and a Married Couple with three children a personal allowance of 11,000 so that taxation does not take so much that second jobs are needed. Other socially useful ideas would be tax breaks for businesses using renewable energy resources. Initially all these reforms will be financed by Oil Revenues, but as these are finite, they must be replaced by trade. Scotland has historically been a strong trading nation and the Customs revenues from just three ports were often greater than all the revenues raised in England. No wonder English merchants financed Edward Ist's War against the Scots, they wanted the lucrative continental markets for themselves. We should take the example of Singapore, a Socialist country with a freeport economy, population of 4 million people on a landmass of barely 200 square miles. They have no natural resources so they exist purely by trade and if you wish to see how successfully, try the following URL.

We in Scotland have so much going for us, great natural and human resources, an entrepreneurial outlook on life, and great expertise in running other country's economies and banking systems for them (including England's). So we are uniquely placed to run the Scottish economy if only we were given the chance. OK, folks let's debate these points to get an indicator of the way forward.

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