March 7th – Chile 1970-1973
A rising movement of class struggle, including land and workplace occupations, developed in Chile. This led to the election in 1970 of the Popular Unity government, a coalition including 'progressive' capitalists, the Communist and Socialist Parties (similar name but no affiliation to us!).
For the first time in the world someone claiming to be a Marxist, Salvador Allende, was elected President. His government took steps in favour of the working-class and poor, nationalising key sections of the economy and improving the minimum wage, housing and education and so on. Hostility grew from the rich and US imperialism, who funded the opposition and sponsored (via the CIA) a military coup led by General Pinochet on September 11st 1973. This ushered in decades of brutal dictatorship and turned Chile into a test-case of neo-liberal policies.
This discussion will ask what mistakes were made by the government? Will attempts to change society through Parliament always break up against the wall of the national and international capitalist class? Could a successful socialist transformation of society have taken place in Chile at this time, and what would have been necessary to achieve this? Initial reading: www.socialistworld.net/doc/5277
March 14th - Report back from Congress
This will be a report from our national Congress taking place from 10th-12th March.
March 21st – Scottish Independence
The direct interference of Britain’s Tory prime minister, David Cameron, into plans for an independence referendum in Scotland, sparked anger and outrage. It was seen as an arrogant attempt to dictate policy – and rekindled painful memories of the savage anti-working class policies of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The tactic immediately backfired, however, with polls showing increased support for independence or enhanced devolution.
For the first time since the partition of Ireland and the formation of the southern Irish ‘Free State’ in 1921, the British establishment is facing the possibility of the secession of a nation from the UK. Apart from Cameron’s colonial-type arrogance, the major resurgence of the national question in Scotland is due to a number of factors. A severe economic crisis, savage cuts in public spending, huge alienation by the mass of the people from the political elite, allied to the semi-radical populism of the SNP, have all led to this unprecedented conjuncture for the British ruling class.
The increasing centrifugal forces tending towards pulling apart the United Kingdom are rooted in the inability of a crisis-ridden capitalism to offer any viable alternative for the majority of the working class. Public support in Scotland for independence is still a minority, albeit a bigger minority than it was before Cameron’s crass intervention. A plethora of polling evidence shows that backing for an independent Scotland has risen to around 40%, with one or two showing support for independence as a majority. The SNP regularly displays two faces. On the one hand, a radical populism aimed at the working class. On the other, a determination to make cuts and prove itself as a safe pair of hands for capitalist interests. What position should socialists take on the question of Scottish independence?
Initial reading: www.socialismtoday.org/156/scotland.html
March 28th – The Russian Revolution 1917: February to October
In February 1917 a mass movement developed that overthrew the Tsar (Emperor). The Russian people were tired of the war, of hunger and of the super-profits being made by the capitalists. They formed Soviets, which were democratic mass organisations of workers, peasants and soldiers. After they got rid of the Tsar a halfway-house appeared, with a new government trying to defend the privilege of the capitalists and Russia's involvement in the war on the one hand, and the Soviets on the other. The return of Lenin in April started a process within the Bolshevik party that turned them toward the road of revolution. As the movement intensified the Bolsheviks gained strength and support for their policies of 'Peace, Bread and Land'. This talk will look mainly at how the Bolsheviks gained enough support to wage the October revolution. Initial readings: