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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Radical Burns Night

“If I must write, let it be sedition!”

Every year the narrow-minded, conservative, parochial Burns establishment ritually recite the same few poems and repeat the age-old propaganda myths about him (invented by his political opponents after his death) as an excuse to get drunk. 

Yet the real Burns opposed all they stand for. Here’s how he listed their traits: “ Ignorance, superstition, bigotry, stupidity, malevolence, self-conceit, envy – all bound in a masssy frame of brazen impudence!”
A poor farm labourer  and later public sector worker (today he’d be on working tax credit and housing benefit and denounced as a scrounger), he was a radical, independent minded, self confident fighter for democracy and equality who was hounded by political police spies. He died not from drink and debauchery but from the effects of poverty and hard toil in the fields in all weathers since childhood, compounded by the fear of unemployment and eviction. Hence even his poems on nature, like “To a mouse”,  are really about the human condition.

Although the secretly paid  government agents and propagandists assassinated the dead poet’s character and then sanitised him (burning much of his sexual and political writings), enough of his passionate hatred of injustice burns through to make him a voice for working class folk today.
Anyone feeling exploited by long hours, or zero hours, today will readily understand “Man was made to mourn”. If you want to know about racism, read “The slave’s lament”; on republicanism, “The Washington Ode” or “A dream”.

Burns was a supporter of the American and French Revolutions and an opponent of the Hannoverian monarchy and the corrupt, undemocratic “Parliament” of the bankers and landownwers. When a spy reported him for signing a French revolutionary song in Dumfries he was threatened with the sack from his exciseman’s job and told to be “silent and obedient”.

But recent books by Patrick Scott Hogg (The Lost Poems, The Cannongate Burns and The Patriot Poet) prove that he then went underground, building a secret network to get his “seditious”, anonymous poems and articles published in radical papers in Edinburgh and London. He was a member of the “Friends of the People” in Dumfries and personally sent 4 cannon to the French revolutionaries.
This was his answer to the anti-democracy wave of repression, including martial law and the outlawing of trade unions, by the Tory dictatorship under Pitt. When Burke, the father of  modern Conservatism, supported the French feudal aristocracy and opposed votes for 99% of ordinary Britons,  dismissing the people as “the swinish multitude”, Burns typically wrote:

Burke, both passionate and rude,
Calls us a “Swinish Multitude”,
Which some think defamation,
But I his meaning thus define –
That, if the People are all swine,
Hog –drivers rule the nation.

And then there is, of course, the best anthem to an internationalist, classless society ever written in English – A man’s a man for a’ that.

Alternative Burns Night Supper and Ceilidh
Saturday, 25th January
Royal Scott pub, Morton, Carlisle
Starts 6,45pm prompt, haggis, neeps and tatties (or vegetarian option) served at 7pm.
Followed by the Immortal Memory address, music by “Now and Again” and guest performers from Scotland and Cumbria, plus dancing.
All this for a suggested donation of £5 !
Tickets available from David 07717 625184
Organised by Carlisle Socialist Party – all welcome!

No to City Council cuts!

Yesterday, Grahame Higginson of Carlisle Socialist Party moved a petition at the Labour controlled City Council Executive calling for the City Council not to pass on Tory cuts to the electors. The folowing is the text of the speech he gave in moving the petition:

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in support of this petition, which asks you not to carry out any further cuts in Jobs or Services, and instead to set a Budget to meet the needs of the people of Carlisle District, in opposition to the orders of central government.

This is not a petition from a particular interest group, asking you to save a particular local facility or service, possibly at the expense of some other facility or service. This petition asks you to stop the process of cutting services generally, year after year, in ways which are increasingly damaging to the community which you are supposed to represent – which you have a duty to represent and to champion.

The petition was organised at short notice by Carlisle Socialist Party, and the signatures were mostly obtained on Saturday 11 January from people who were passing by our stall in the centre of Carlisle and took the trouble to find out why we were there. We were also collecting signatures on a petition to Cumbria County Council, and we tried to ensure that the Carlisle petition was only signed by Carlisle District residents, but I am afraid there are a few non-Carlisle signatures on this petition. Discounting them, we collected at least 75 valid signatures from residents of Carlisle District in little more than an hour, and I am sure that we could have obtained many more, given time.

These people are not an organised pressure group and most of them are not members of the Socialist Party and would not necessarily agree with all our policies. But they are quite clear that they want you to stop following the orders of a government which nobody elected, on an austerity programme which nobody voted

for, and which one of the parties now in government said it was opposed to at the general election. The people who signed this petition say “Enough is Enough – No More Cuts in Jobs or Services”.Because of the way in which Carlisle City Council has presented its proposed Budget, it is not at all clear exactly what amount of cuts are intended in 2014/15 or any subsequent years, nor exactly what services and facilities will be affected and how many jobs will be lost. But is clear that the overall level of cuts, nearly £4 million, is
substantial, and must have damaging effects on our community, especially coming on top of cuts made in previous years.

However, there does not appear to be any acknowledgement in your so-called Budget Consultation document, of the existing and future effects of these cuts. Instead the tone is smug and self-congratulatory, that you have been so “successful” in carrying out the cuts so far, and you have no doubt that your plans for further cuts will be equally successful. You seem to be quite happy to play your part in carrying out the government’s orders, whatever your local community thinks about the cuts.

We do not believe that Carlisle City Council, or any other local authority, is responsible for bankrupting the country, so why should the people of Carlisle be made to pay for an economic or financial crisis which was international, and caused by the reckless and irresponsible manner in which those who control the nation’s
economy conduct their business?

You yourselves know who is to blame. Last Friday our local newspaper quoted the opinion of one of Carlisle’s most experienced politicians, that “If they [the government] tackled tax loopholes, if they hadn’t cut taxes for millionaires, then the cuts wouldn’t be necessary.” That was said in relation to cuts in the Environment Agency, which threaten the safety of our community – but it applies equally to the cuts in other services, including the ones administered by this Council.

You will say that the cuts you are making are “necessary” because the government insists you make them, and you have no alternative. We say there is an alternative. There are sufficient resources in the economy not only to avoid these cuts but to reverse them, by investing in jobs and services which people need, to enable people

to be employed and earn a “living wage”, instead of having to rely on benefits or sink deeper and deeper into debt – but this alternative can only be achieved by a radical shift in national political and economic policies.

And we believe that as a local council you can play a part in bringing this about, by refusing to carry out the orders of the government, by setting a budget to meet the needs of the people of Carlisle, by explaining to them the true causes of the “national deficit”, and by assisting them, leading them, to organise against

If local councils like Carlisle, do not fight for the right to make their own decisions and to provide the services which their communities need, then local government ceases to have any meaning.

We ask you to stand up for Carlisle; stand up for local government and Democracy,

against central government and Dictatorship."