John McAllion is one of the few outspoken and principled socialist MSP’s (Member of the Scottish Parliament) left in the Labour Party. He has voted against the leadership on a whole number of issues from the war preparations on Iraq to oppostion to privatisation and for the abolition to Warrant Sales in Scotland. Increasingly isolated in the Labour Party, John McAllion spoke to the International Socialist on his views on a potential war in Iraq and the state of the Labour Party.
Left Labour MSP speaks against war
You voted for an amendment, moved by Tommy Sheridan of the SSP, in the Scottish parliament which opposed a war with Iraq under all circumstances and called for civil disobediance against the build up to war. Why?
Some people in the Labour Party say they would support a war if the UN backed it. What do you think about that position .
"I don’t think it’s a position you can defend because the United Nations in the past has authorised unjust wars. People who put their faith in the Security Council are putting their faith in an institution that has caused more havoc and damage on the third world than any other since the second world war. We heard a number of passionate anti-war speeches from Labour MSP’s. But they then went on to vote for the Labour Party’s motion which gave Tony Blair the green light to pursue a war policy. "
What do you think is the potential for the anti-war movement?
"I’ve been surprsied by the size of the anti-war movement because in the press and media the anti-war case is not heard that often. The overwhelming majority of politicians, spokespersons and commentators tend to support a pro-war line. Therefore it’s quite staggering to see so many people rallying against the war. And that’s without the involvement of any of the four big parties. In Scotland none of the main parties have organised anything, it’s really all come from the grassroots. It’s touched a nerve with the public who are beginning to understand that the drive to war and the inevitable suffering that would take place is about control of Iraq’s oil.
"I also think that the hesitation of Bush and the pro-war clique is due to the scale of the anti-war movement which has put them on the back foot."
Why is there a different approach to say North Korea by the US that Iraq.
"Well Bush knows that North Korea can fightback whereas Iraq can’t. Iraq has been weakened enourmously since first the Gulf War and then the sanctions that have been imposed ever since. The disparity between the weapons that are held in the West compared to those in Iraq for example is enormous. Even in the last Gulf War the overwhelming firepower of the US guaranteed victory. The weapons inspectors will come up with something that will guarantee the war goes ahead."
How difficult is it for a socialist in the Labour Party now.
"The situation in the Labour Party is a result of Thatcherism or at least the reaction to Thatcher by the party. Initially the Labour Party but now the SNP have become more "professional" and more tied to big business. For years in the US with the Republicans and the Democrats we have seen both main parties being pro-capitalist parties. Now we see the same here as well.
"All the main parties are capitalist orientated. People in the street don’t see any difference."
What about Blair’s attitude to the firefighters dispute.
"The attacks on the Firefighters have been a disgrace. The government have been absolutley hardline refusing any type of compromise. And this is after the local councils agreed a deal of 16% back in the summer. The government are activley seeking to keep public sector wages low, low interest rates and low inflation. In other words acting on behalf of big business. In the long term that is going to undermine the Labour Party in the eyes of workers. They will say that’s not me. That’s not what I expected.
How do you think a new political voice for workers will be built.
"I don’t know. I not sure the SSP is neccessarily that voice. There are some people talking about a new independent Labour Party. But the link with the trade unions will always be the key. If they switched then you could see the baisis of a new party. I’m not talking about the tops of the unions, they are very supportive of New Labour. It’s the grassroots that are important.
"I think the FBU will dissafiliate from Labour at their next conference. They almost did at the last one and it was Andy Gilchrist that saved them. Now he is public Enemy No 1 as far as the government are concerned.
"I won’t leave the Labour Party voluntarily. I’ll need to be removed. But I won’t back down. I have a lot of loyalty to some of the activists in the Labour Party in Dundee, although in truth there are not many left now. The party has very few trade unionists there are virtually no young people, except those who come from the universities and they’re only interested in a career. "
"It will a drawn out process that could take some time. You might well see independent candidates of the left winning elections under the PR system for the Scottish parliament and working together as a group in the parliament alongwith the SSP and others. Out of that you could see a party develop. It would need to allow people to have their voice heard. Having a whip or a line all members had to put forward would not work in such a party"