Happy Christmas all. I hope all of your seasonal wishes come true.
The best, most festive wish for me, would be for the left in Scotland to update and announce again to the world its demand for a secular, fair and independent Scotland, fighting for and within a fair, equitable Europe. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of Christmas cheer, but within the fractured Scottish Left, I can only speak for me. And that is the point of the following ramblings. The current left in Scotland do not have a forum in which we can learn to trust each other again, and speak our minds without fear.
We should now be fairly well rested after our campaigning between 2011-14. I know lots of us are still exhausted, exasperated “indy survivors,” each with our tales of indy campaigning and different showers of shit thrown at us afterwards by so called allies etc. Bear with me – I am not going to blame anyone for the current crisis in the Scottish left. I had my part to play in that. I feel most on the left in Scotland acted for what they feel is the greater good in ways that are as much influenced by left culture rather than from individual ego. But I certainly feel silenced within a left that seemed to have its steering wheel grabbed by certain ambitious individuals and small groups after September 2014 and anyone they perceived as standing in their way by questioning methods and analysis were attacked and accused of things few were actually close to being guilty of – these methods again, coming from a left culture that has developed over decades.
After amazing “Yes” campaigns, our probably well meaning “leaders” decided to take us on a journey through drafts of declarations they conjured up for us to cheer, raise our fists and declare our alliance to or face accusations of “left sectarianism.” They then took us on a sleigh ride “Rising” and falling and then Brexiting and Lexiting and declaring us all as allies to a social democratic unionist project within the Labour party.
And more declarations have been published recently, from mysterious quarters asking us to don yellow vests in Edinburgh and London alongside known Nazi’s and fascists. Declarations of course, we can’t disagree with but were never consulted on. And there is the rub. The left I am part of has shattered and splintered and fallen into sects that really cannot be united by Brexit/ Lexit/ the British Labour party – nor the SNP, the SSP or the Greens (nor any other minor left grouping) or declarations that are meant to unite us dressed in yellow vests. The left that was once the most democratic political project in Europe, has been smashed apart by individuals who declare themselves our representatives, but who have never truly faced election within any larger group, since at least 2005.
I am still convinced that breaking up the British union is the most progressive thing activists in Scotland should aim for. I think a Corbyn government might change somethings for the better for the countries within the union, and who can deny what a gift from wise’ish men and women it would be for the Tories to be forced out of power in London in the new year (can anyone really imagine Gordon Brown, or even Corbyn remaining in power after similar chaos that the Tories have inflicted on us over the past nine years?). But I really don’t think these islands will prosper and be able to take a proper place in creating a more equal, and in the end, fair world until the Etonian, Westminster, archaic, aristocratic, class riven FEUDAL system is made history.
I believe Scottish independence will hasten an equitable British Isles, and in the long term, Europe for all of the same reasons I have been convinced of since the mid-1990’s. I really don’t think there is any other option. I’m declaring my continued, and in fact re strengthened want for an independent socialist (after a social democratic beginning) Scotland.
I have watched the left of which I am part of, straying widely from uniting campaigns in which it can be effective, for headlines within its own self reverential circle… with small undemocratic, and barely democratic groups proclaiming themselves “the Scottish Podemos/Syriza” and lately buying up hi-vis vests in order to look fashionably French. Groups that continually claim to represent me and the left I’m part of. They don’t. They can’t. My left is scattered across political parties and none. My left is republican and socialist and democratic. My left is green and European.
My left is the left that believes socialism is devolving power, and the economy, as much as is effectively possible and ensures at all times our “leaders” are led by us and not the other way round – and can be voted in or out, depending on how seriously they take democracy and their jobs of smashing poverty and placing power into the hands of communities long forgotten by our system.
I am an Irishman (at present it’s the only passport I have) who has lived in Northern Ireland, England and here in Scotland (26 years here with a year and a half in the middle in Wiltshire). I have lived in two parts of the UK which really never have had a bearing on the direction of the UK (although the dreadful DUP now have more destructive power than their bigoted politics have had since the mid nineties).
I voted once when I lived in England and that one vote had more bearing on what went on in Westminster than any other vote I have ever had. These kingdoms are not really politically united, or fairly represented, and that point needs to be hit home. The community that I work in is one that is now suffering hugely because of Tory policies like Universal Credit.
A community that has continually voted to break from Tory Britain, but who suffer from decisions made by people who deny their existence (at the very least). The most effective votes I have had have been in voting for the peace deal in Ireland, voting for a Scottish Parliament, helping vote the SSP into the Scottish Parliament in 2003, and the SNP and Greens in to that devolved parliament to mitigate arguably the most vicious right wing Government since before the First World War. Devolving power works… and the Scottish Parliament has proven that. More of this devolution can only help. The end game MUST be an independent Scotland in which we devolve power even further to communities in our country. We can be a beacon of fairness in the world. We can be a beacon of fairness within the faltering European project.
So how do we get there?
Brexit will disunite Britain further and impoverish communities hugely with consequences in England that may mean British politics actually swerving to the ultra right. And certainly what Cameron and his ultra right wing party comrades have unleashed upon us will have negative consequences here for decades to come.
The Yes movement is where our left voices are needed–those of us who want to tear down the Westminster system brick by brick, rather than render it in dodgy plaster that will only be patched up periodically (and tentatively because of the critical, destructive, right wing British press “foremen”) by a Labour government. It is where our message and politics are going to be most effective in the coming months. A shattered, confused Scottish left is really not going to be visible in the Brexiting UK regardless of how hi-vis our vests are. Our left can influence the Government we have voted into the Scottish Parliament to mitigate what the Tories are doing to our communities and, I fear, what they will continue to do generation after generation if we are to stay in this awful system.
A couple of weeks back, I went to the most inspiring conference I think I have ever been to. I am an equalities representative in the Scottish Teachers Union, the EIS. We all met in Edinburgh, alongside newly trained reps and those still training for courses in leadership and refreshing our commitments to equality. The group of around forty delegates, minorities from across BME, LGBTIQ and other groups was the most diverse group I have ever been part of. And we listened to each other, discussed, debated and laughed together for two days. Usually when I go to EIS conferences, it is depressing how many people LIKE ME (middle aged, white…) are there, speaking from the front, milling around in balding groups, speaking loudly, moving and voting for motions that effect a workforce as diverse as our population. At the Equalities conference, I was struck by how confident usually silenced voices were. Are. And that’s the thing.
Within my Trade Union, these voices are diluted, dispersed, silenced even. But this conference ensured that this will no longer be the case. The confidence we all gained as “minorities” sharing experiences and talking to each other will mean my huge union will HAVE to change. It struck me that this is how the left can change Scotland. We can, as individuals, make noise within the Yes movement, and we can link together as left voices within some sort of informal forum, gaining confidence, listening, debating and discussing – WITHOUT FEAR AND WITHOUT PREREQUISITES AND PRE-WRITTEN DECLARATIONS. That’s what we need to work towards. That’s where we can be. But we need to go there democratically, perhaps tentatively to begin with, or the left will never heal and have organised influence again.
So, one of my new years resolutions is to get fully involved in helping my local Yes group, put left arguments forward within this huge Scottish movement, helping others to unite campaigns like anti nuclear, campaigns for living wage, strengthening our NHS, free public transport, a greener Scotland, etc. That has been almost wholly given over to nationalists of different strengths of fervour. Another Scotland IS possible, but it is only possible if we all truly feel we have a voice. A voice that does not have to come from within the SNP, Labour or any political party. A voice that comes from the working class (a voice I wrote about back in 2011 – https://tinyurl.com/ycg6bprx ).
I might win or lose those arguments, I might gain or lose allies – but I am no longer prepared to let left demands go unheard within Scotland’s necessary, most progressive and radical movement while we wait for the left to get over its latest romantic fetish.