Scotland: Packed rally for Solidarity in run up to election

Response shows clear socialist ideas can win support

Over 600 people crowded into Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall for a Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement election rally on 25 April. Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway left those attending enthusiastic for the final week of campaigning to elect socialist candidates to the Scottish parliament and local councils on 3 May.

Earlier in the week, open air meetings at two Glasgow universities had seen Tommy Sheridan speak to hundreds of students despite heavy rain and the night after the Glasgow meeting 70 people came to a public meeting in Dundee. These full meetings show the support of working class and young people for Solidarity.

The election rally started with a performance by Scottish rapper Eastborn but quickly moved onto the political speeches. The first was from a striking worker from Sunvic Controls where management are trying to massively cut wages and worsen conditions before selling off the plant. She thanked Solidarity for its support and compared it to a local Labour councillor who said he showed his support by tooting his car horn as he passed the picket line but didn’t feel the need to visit or talk to the workers.

Next up was Mohammed Asif, an Afghan refugee who thanked Solidarity members for supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow. He also condemned the NATO occupation of Afghanistan and called for the withdrawal of troops.

Tommy Sheridan spoke with his usual passion, raging against the poverty and inequality in Scotland today. He outlined Solidarity’s demands for free school meals, free education, the scrapping of the council tax and the scrapping of Trident. His speech electrified the room, receiving a standing ovation. George Galloway then gave his support for Solidarity in a funny speech in which he said that if Tony Blair is the Dr Evil of British politics then First Minister Jack McConnell is definitely his ’Mini-me’. Those waiting for improvements when Brown took over as prime minister were wasting their time as Brown and Blair were "different cheeks of the same arse".

The size and success of the rally shows the potential to rebuild the socialist movement in Scotland. This was boosted when the latest poll showed an increase in support to 3% for Solidarity. The same opinion poll showed the Scottish Socialist Party on 2%. Hopefully George Galloway will learn the lessons for Respect, that standing on a clearly socialist platform and appealing to voters on a class basis, including those from the Muslim community, does not scare working class people away from getting involved in politics but instead attracts them.

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May 2007