England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Nae Pasaran! Traditions of workers solidarity in Scotland

The Israeli regime must be fought with actions not words. Workers in Scotland have hit reactionary regimes where it hurts before, using our economic power in the workplace. In 1974 workers at the Rolls Royce aerospace plant in East Kilbride refused to repair aero-engines for the Chilean dictatorship, grounding planes which had bombed Salvador Allende’s presidential palace six months before.

As a member of the works committee recalled: ‘The only reason we could do what we did was because we were organised…We took strike action for the NHS, the Shrewsbury pickets, you name it.” This inspiring show of practical solidarity was immortalised in the 2018 documentary “Nae Pasaran”.

Scottish workers have long traditions of solidarity with struggles against oppression. The American Civil War blockade of southern slave plantations closed down the West of Scotland cotton industry. Nonetheless the first Scottish message of support for the Union came from trade unionists in a textile town.

As the war continued, workers raised money for unemployed weavers, consciously linking the fight against slavery in the US to struggles to reform the poor laws, extend the franchise, and win working class political representation at home.

Today this power should be mobilised to support the Palestinian masses. Mass demonstrations with verbal support from trade union leaders have highlighted the role BAE, which has facilities in Scotland, play in arming Netanyahu’s killing machine. Action by Workers for a Free Palestine actually closed down a BAE plant for a day.

But without mobilising the whole union movement, it will be all too easy for these merchants of death to cynically portray boycotts as a threat to ‘Scottish jobs’, something made easier by calls from unions like Unite and the GMB to protect the ‘defence industry’.

The Scottish TUC should call an emergency conference of arms, transport and other workers, building solidarity action from the ground up and campaigning for alternative employment for workers in the arms industry.

But we shouldn’t just wait for the STUC – we need action now to bring an end to Israel’s onslaught on Gaza.

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